BY STEPHEN BOURKE
Mary rolled out of bed, opened the curtains and let moonlight fill her room. In an instant she was outside. The smell of sea air was refreshing.
She gazed into the universe, exploring distant worlds. “Can you see me?” she said, waiting for a reply.
A gust of wind rustled her hair, bringing her back to Earth. The moonlight had been extinguished by a cloud and the darkness was unnerving.
The moon re-emerged, leaving a path of white light that led to the coast.
She was always happy to see the moon, a friend who shone light in dark places.
The moon left orbit and grew closer to her. Her cottage lit up and a crowd gathered behind it. Some were familiar, others she did not know.
Turning back to her big white friend, it came closer and closer. A hand gripped her on the shoulder, giving her a fright. She threw her arms around her husband.
“I have missed you so much!” she said passionately, not wanting to let him go.
The smell of his woollen jumper put her at ease and happiness flowed through her like a warm pulse.
“I wish we….”
“It’s alright.” And he disappeared in her arms.
“...could stay together.” she whispered.
Glancing back at the moon, it loomed over her like a big planet. It was in touching distance. She reached up, standing on her tippy toes and grasped it. A shock bolted through her and she fell backwards.
Mary awoke from her slumber, withered arm outstretched in the morning light. A tear rolled down the side of her face, meandering through her aged and wrinkled skin. Wiping it from her chin, she sat up and stared out the window. The sea was choppy; the noisy seagulls had come inland and rain approached the coast.
“I should take in the washing” she muttered, as her clothes flapped on the rusty old washing line.
Putting on her coat, she ventured out to save her clothes from the impending shower. One by one she removed the pegs as the wind swept off the coast against her cottage.
“Today’s Tuesday” she thought, as she threw the last pair of leggings over her shoulder.
Her pace quickened, as fast as her old limbs would let her. Excitement started to fill her heart. She threw her washing on the bed, hung her coat on the door and closed it over. Pausing for a moment, the remnants of the night before drew emotion. The smell of her husband’s jumper filled her nostrils, but quickly passed. There was a new man in her life now and he was due to drop over soon.
Tea was on and the cups sparkled beside the stove. Biscuits, milk and sugar lay on the table with an option of orange juice on the side. “Almost done.” she muttered, as her knife scraped out the last of the marmalade that clung to the jar.
“Christ I’m not even dressed yet!”
There was a quick change, followed by enough hairspray to build the foundation of Tullamore radio mast. Her diamond hard hair was now a perfect purple wave standing atop her head.
The weather broke and sunlight filled her cosy little kitchen. A small unit and sink faced the window, with her range cooker to one side, warming the tea. The light shone on her perfectly set table, with two wooden chairs either side.
She turned on the radio to listen to the news, as her racing heart began to mellow. If life could be sustained on brown bread and marmalade with a cup of tea, she had it down. She was sharp for her age and could con money out of a con man, then leave him thinking he got a great deal. Years of working the market had honed her skills, but love was different. This was showing her true self and that made the proud woman so nervous.
The pebbles in her driveway crunched as his van rolled up to the door. She leaped out of the seat and emerged from her daydream. There was a quick dart from one side of the room to the other.
“Oh me nerves.”
Knock, Knock, Knock.
She didn’t move, not wanting to be too eager but she was buzzing inside. She strolled to the door nonchalantly and opened it, greeting him with a hug. Over his shoulder she gazed at the blue milk van, feeling content. Mary had her own toy boy at the age of, should I say?…. 84. The young sprightly 70 year old milkman took off his hat and hung up his jacket.
“I’ve been dreaming of this cup a tea all morning!” said Colin.
“Well sit yourself down there and have a biscuit, I’ll put on the toast.”
She popped the brown bread into the toaster and shuffled over to get the tea pot.
“Tell me when.”
“When” joked Colin, trying to draw a smile out of Mary’s nervous face.
Mary smiled just enough to be seen and went back to the toaster. Colin was a very bubbly and talkative man. She could listen to him talk about Galway united for hours and not have a clue what he was on about. Just the sound of his voice and enthusiasm made her smile.
She placed the toast on the table and sat down. The conversation went from the morning showers which drowned him to the fact that Miss Kelly had to have her milk before half seven. They gazed into each other’s eyes and talked till the tea went cold, slowly falling further in love.
“So what do you think about a bit of a picnic?” asked Colin.
“Is it not a bit chilly out there?” said Mary, not looking for an excuse but maybe a different option.
“We’ll be grand if it gets a bit cold, we’ll have a picnic in the van.”
“Ok so” said Mary as she took the last sip out of her cup. “Let me get my coat and we’ll go.”
Colin watched as she left the room and wondered what would have been if they met years before. He munched on the last biscuit and washed it down with a cool gulp of tea. Mary emerged from her room, storm jacked on and ushered him to the door.
“Right so let’s go.”
“Yes Mam” said Colin in his finest American accent.
Mary looked at him fondly, got his coat for him and placed his hat on his bald head.
Outside the sun shone high in the sky. She gazed up, eyes squinted and whispered to the moon “I’ve a new friend who can light up dark places”.
For Stephen’s Instagram see @the_tattooed_man