CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
"Elliot, it's me Anna."
"Elliot can you talk?"
"Anna is there something wrong, are you alright?"
"Fine I guess, all things considering."
"Anna you do know that itís five in the morning, or are you in a different time zone in Dingle?"
"Yeah I know, but the thing is they are all on my case here, tiptoeing around me and talking about me behind my back. Itís hard to cope with the emotional fall out. Anyway I rang to tell you how sorry I am and that I wonít be able to live if you donít forgive me."
"Run me through that again. What have you done?"
"Kissing you like that the night we went out. It could have been the drink or the food combination or the fact that I was leaving the house and I couldnít help myself."
"Anna itís ok."
"No its not 'cos you hardly looked at me at the funeral, acting all strange, and you canít do that when I need you."
"Go back to bed."
I guess you could say the Gods played their final joke on me when I, Anna Moran, inherited my uncleís fish shop plus a legacy of 50,000 on the condition that it was to be kept in the family name. There was no denying that Iíd been given the chance to do something else with my life but I suppose I couldnít be trusted in the driving seat. And so from beyond the grave my destiny was fixed and I was catapulted back to my roots.
The rest of Uncle Jimmyís estate was given to a buxom nurse that he had begun dating a year before he died. My mother on hearing that she was bequeathed Jimmyís dog and the sum of £5,000 took to her bed for a more prolonged stay this time. Why after all sheíd done for the miserable bastard, and my father said she shouldnít be speaking ill of the dead but when my mother rants thereís no stopping her. Still it took the focus off me for a while and for that I was grateful.
I didnít miss the job in Dublin, maybe the flash car but it was hardly me filling out forms and selling policies. I could only cope with that job as long as I saw it as a game and I had already grown tired of all the back clapping and back stabbing. My great adventure in Dublin was over and I was back home, not that gutting fish is the real me either.
Still itís not so bad. Bit different now that Iím the owner rather than the dutiful employee. Jimmy had modernised the shop before he died with a top of the range computerised system that looks after the stock and checks the weights of the fish when the fishermen bring them in. Monty, former employee of Jimmy has stayed on to work with me. A thin wiry man in his seventies Monty has more energy than anybody I know. He thrives on the gossip that flows in and out of here everyday and loves looking after what he regards as his customers.
Business has thrived since the BSE crisis with more and more people eating fish. Iíve decided to expand the range to include such delicacies as crabs claws and caviar but I refuse point blank to ever sell lobster. I open the shop around ten and close shortly after five. Maisie Oí Shea who comes to clean everyday is my window to life in the town. She fills me in on whoís dating and whoís screwing whom. Of course I held number one spot in the news here for many weeks but I reacted by keeping a very low profile rather in manner of a widow, only husband to be not dead only deleted.
I guess some mothers have locked up their sons but on hearing that Iím an heiress and Iím quite comfortable I am considered a great catch. However I refuse point blank to ever breed within my own gene pool. Besides I donít need a rebound relationship as part of my recovery process. I want this time on my own.
I very often feel as if Iíve never been away, my absence a mere hiccup in the overall scheme of things in the life here in Dingle. My mother eventually came around, saying that it was a good job my uncle Jimmy died when he did or he might have given that hussy the shop as well.
Anyway life goes on. I miss Dublin and Assumpta and Harry and Elliot. Funny how you get used to having people around you and you donít know what itís like to miss them until theyíre gone. I donít miss Connor at all. Iím glad in a way otherwise I would be paranoid with regrets and I donít need that. I miss Elliot the most and although we talk a lot on the phone its not the same as having the craic together.
I now live in my own apartment over the shop which is just as well as I couldnít bear to live with the pursed lips and palpable disappointment in the Moran household for any longer. I can do as I please, leave the wash up or hide the dirty pots in the cupboard when Nuala comes to visit which, thankfully, isnít very often. On a good day I enjoy the banter with the customers and the dirty talk of the fishermen when they arrive with their catch. I am a people person after all. But on a bad day when I have to listen to Monty humming the same tune over and over again I have to curb the desire to bone him out like a fish. Then I have to try to concentrate on more lofty thoughts like the words of Ovid when he writes about passion. Now thereís a guy who knows exactly what Iím talking about.
Oh the words, the words. They rescue me when reality gets too crippling. How else would I be able to cope with cantankerous customers who berate me for the prices of squid over which I have no control.
I never knew before what I wanted from a relationship, going from one extreme to another. I had gone from being a slut to a saint overnight and in that process I had learned quite a lot about who I was. Now I like to think that Iíve landed somewhere in the middle, although Iím loath to use the word balanced in relation to me. I no longer have that over riding desperation for a husband in my life. I think Iíll start with the man first this time and maybe just maybe husband later.
I sometimes find myself walking down the pier in the evenings and fancy myself in the role of the French Lieutenants woman gazing wistfully and longingly out to sea. I no longer obsess if Iím on my destined path, well maybe just a little bit. One thing I do know is that I made a big fuck up when I was in the driving seat. Despite everything I still believe in falling in love and that one special person who could well be the custodian of my destiny. That surely isnít a lot to ask for.
"Elliot, itís me."
"Hi Anna, are you ok?"
"Yeah. Not great if you must know. Not great at all."
"Whatís wrong? Is it the feeling that you want to die?"
"How can I when Iím already dead."
"No youíre not."
"Yes I am, stuck here rotting in a fish shop."
"Youíre an heiress my darling, a business entrepreneur."
"Of course you are."
"Thanks for listening."
"Thatís ok. Listen I have to do a recording down in Dingle with some of the trad lads down there so weíll be able to catch up. Did I tell you Assumpta has fallen big time, major big time for a junior doctor in her hospital and sheís talking marriage. Tell you all the goss when I arrive."
Great. Elliot coming to visit. No big deal. Weíre friends. Mustnít get too excited or show him Iím so desperate for friends that Iíve befriended Bernadette, sister to Sharon Foley. Well now that I have money Iím popular with such ilk and I need someone to go out for a drink with on Friday nights.
I want to look nice when Elliot arrives so that he doesnít think us country girls go to seed once we leave the big smoke. Shower, shave and exfoliate. I must get rid of that harsh overhead light in the bathroom or give up smiling, develop bland expression on face or invest in some anti wrinkle cream. Wear. What will I wear? What the hell am I obsessing for? Itís only Elliot. Do I look thinner in the black top or the grey top. Grey too drab? Mournful? But it cost me an arm and a leg. No Iíll wear my red satin pants but Iíve only a boob tube and I canít wear that here. Fuck just wear your jeans. But then heíll think I only dress like a scruff since I came back to live in Dingle. No Iíll wear my black dress and leather jacket. Too funereal? Ok compromise. Red dress and leather jacket.
Do I mention the kiss or will I let it just hang there between us. I know I mentioned it on the phone but its different in the flesh. What if I canít be myself Ďcos thatís all I can focus on. How will I say it?
"Look Elliot about that kiss, I should never have crossed the line," or "Elliot remember that kiss in the kitchen did you feel it could have destroyed our friendship?" or "Elliot remember when I spoke to you about the kiss and you said it didnít matter is that cos you think Iím unattractive? Doomed to wander the planet alone forever?" or "Elliot I want to clear the air before we go out. About that kiss."
Why oh why canít my brain just churn out one possible way to ask the question. I need to stop obsessing. It canít be healthy.
Elliot arrives in his car at eight oíclock. My heart is beating quickly only because I have to clear this kiss issue first. Itís only Elliot for Christ sake.
"Moran is that you?"
"Of course itís me. You donít think Iíve changed into some fat-mobile since you last saw me."
"On the contrary you look amazing. I donít think Iíve seen you in a dress before. Hey crazy dreamer arenít you going to give Elliot a great big hug. How long has it been? Three months?"
Great big hug and friendly peck on cheek. Heís probably too scared to kiss my lips in case I read more into it and respond like a nymph.
I have a meal booked for us at Lynchís restaurant. They have the most amazing seafood here. I notice the way Elliot opens the door for me. Sure didnít he always do that. We sit down and Elliot asks me to order for the both of us. This is his treat he insists. A lot of work has come his way recently and heís been asked to record one of his own compositions which is remarkable considering the high level of competition in this country.
Elliot has lovely lips, a sensuous generous mouth. Elliot has a slight oriental look with lovely olive skin. Elliotís eyes dance and twinkle when he speaks.
Elliot is speaking and I can only barely concentrate on what heís saying.
"Assumpta has fallen in love with this guy Anna. Iíve met him. Heís pretty cool, a junior doctor, few years younger than her..."
Elliot is my best friend but I canít stop noticing his lips, his eyes, his broad shoulders, his lovely long fingersÖ Shut the fuck up Anna. Elliot is your friend.
"And she claims she wants this guyís babies. Can you imagine our Assumpta. Babies? Sheís like a woman possessedÖ"
Calm yourself Anna. Itís only Elliot and youíre just so excited about having a date with anybody cos its been so long. Did I say excited? I feel excited as in my tummy is flipping over but itís all because of that kiss and Iím a bit nervous of mentioning it. That is all.
"She says youíll be her bridesmaid and that she wants a huge wedding with Ö"
Anna concentrate on what Elliot is saying and try to be more responsive than nodding and smiling like a lobotomised Cheshire cat. I think its for the best that I donít go on and on about the kiss or heíll think Iím being obsessive which I am but I wonder if it was lust or what. Did he kiss me back. Yes he did. He responded but then he pushed me awayÖ It had to be the drink, thatís all.
"And Cecil has a girlfriend. Imagine. He met her at mass when he was at home some weekendÖ"
Could it be that I was so fixated at being in the driving seat all along that I failed to notice who was sitting on the passenger side? I was staring straight ahead and although Elliot was always a part of my life I had never considered him other than my best friend. But who loves the crazy Anna? Elliot. Who listens to the crazy Anna? Elliot. Who knows Anna? Elliot.
I flash back to all the fun times we had together in Dublin, the trips to the beach with Homer, the meals we shared, the movies we watched, the teasing, the arguing and the laughing til we almost cried.
"Anna hey whatís wrong? Youíve hardly said a word. But Iíve been rabbiting on so long you havenít been able to get a word in edgeways. Now what do you see happening in your future?"
"My future is this yawning abyss, that looms threateningly before me andÖ"
"Anna youíll have a great future."
"How do you know?"
"Because youíre Anna."
We leave the restaurant together and walk down towards the pier. Will I mention the kiss before we reach the pier or will I wait til after we go to the pub orÖ
"Anna, about that kiss?"
"Elliot I was just thinkingÖ"
"Shh. Thatís it Moran, donít think."
Elliot bends down and silences me with a kiss. Just like that. Not a brotherly kiss. Not a friendly kiss. A loverís kiss. A lovers touch. And one by one my crazy thoughts dismantle and line up to rearrange themselves. Oh my Gawd. Elliot, my sweet, gentle Elliot. Also very good looking and rugged Elliot. Mmmm. We kiss and we kiss some more. And some more after that. This feels right. This feels good. Elliot and Anna. Anna and Elliot.
Earth calling Anna. Iím home.
Itís not possible to unravel the future for destinyís pattern can only be revealed after the event, when our choices and decisions are already made. I used to believe that destiny was a fixed point, a one way journey straight to my star but you know what it can shoot off in another direction just when we least expect it.