House For Sale
By three o’clock, they had seen all the Dublin they wanted to see. They had been to Moore Street and bought a bag of peaches, they had had their dinner in the self-service in Woolworth’s and had been to Eason’s where they bought comics and books. The boys were tired now as they sat in Bewley’s waiting for Fiona. Nora believed that the only thing keeping Conor awake was the idea that you could take as many buns as you liked from the two-tiered plate.
‘You have to pay for them,’ Nora said.
‘How do they know how many you’ve taken?’
‘Most people are honest,’ she said.
When Fiona arrived the boys became excited and bright again, wanting to talk at the same time. To Nora, Fiona seemed thin and pale as she sat opposite her.
‘Do you want to hear a Dublin accent?’ Donal asked her.
‘We were in Moore Street,’ Nora said.
‘Get the ripe peaches,’ Donal said in a sing-song voice.
‘Look at my “buke”,’ Conor added.
‘Very funny,’ Fiona said. ‘I’m sorry I’m late, the buses all come in twos and threes and then you have to wait for ages for the next one.’
‘I want to go upstairs on a double-decker bus,’ Conor said.
‘Conor, let Fiona talk for one second and then you can talk,’ Nora said.
‘Are you having a nice day out?’ Fiona asked.
Fiona’s smile was shy, but her tone, Nora noticed, was adult and confident. She had changed in these few months.
‘Yes, but we’re all tired now and it’s nice to be sitting here.’
Neither of them seemed to know what to say next. Nora realized that her answer to the last question had been too formal, as though she were talking to a stranger. Fiona ordered coffee.
‘Did you buy anything?’ she asked.
‘I didn’t really have time,’ Nora said.
Nora noticed how briskly and efficiently Fiona had ordered the coffee, and now she noticed her looking around the cafe, her eyes sharp, almost critical, and then changing her expression as she began to talk to her brothers, becoming sort of girlish again.
‘We’re selling the house,’ Conor said to Fiona suddenly in a loud voice.
‘And are you going to live on the side of the road?’ she asked, laughing.
‘No, we’re going to rent a caravan in Curracloe,’ he said.
Fiona looked at Nora.
‘I’m thinking of selling the house in Cush,’ Nora said.
‘Nobody mentioned that to me,’ Fiona replied.
‘I didn’t decide until recently.’
‘Decide? I thought you just said you were thinking of it.’
Fiona had never spoken to her like this before. Nora sipped her coffee and did not answer. The boys did not move or speak.
‘Does Aine know?’ Fiona asked.
‘I told you that I’ve just decided.’
‘So you have decided?’
Once more, Nora did not reply.
‘I was hoping to go there in the summer,’ Fiona said.
‘I thought you were going to England in the summer.’
‘I am, at the end of June, but I finish at the end of May. I was going to spend the month of June in Cush.’
‘You had it all planned,’ Nora said drily.
‘So did you, obviously.’
Nora brought Conor with her to find the toilets. And when she came back she ordered another coffee. Fiona’s attitude as she sat down was almost hostile.
‘Who are you selling the house to?’
‘I’ve had an offer, but it’s private at the moment.’
‘I know,’ Conor interrupted.
‘You don’t know, Conor, and that’s enough,’ Nora said.
Donal nudged him and put his fingers to his lips.
‘In two years’ time, I’ll be earning a salary,’ Fiona said.