Tanya Farrelly is the author of three books: a short fiction collection When Black Dogs Sing (Arlen House), which was longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and named winner of the Kate O’ Brien Award 2017, and two psychological thrillers: The Girl Behind the Lens and When Your Eyes Close (Harper Collins), both Amazon bestsellers. She holds a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from Bangor University, Wales, and teaches at the Irish Writers Centre, Dublin. She is the founder and director of Staccato Literary Salon and Bray Literary Festival. Her second short story collection is forthcoming from Arlen House in 2020.
It had been going on for years and he’d failed to notice. All those mornings, Barry had rung the bell, and he’d gone out and exchanged pleasantries as he signed for the package, then came back in and propped it on the mantlepiece where she’d see it when she returned from one of her walks.
‘Another one for herself,’ Barry would say. And he’d scrawl his signature, barely noticing his wife’s name on the package, never so much as glancing at the postmark or wondering what was inside.
Ada was always reading. He never asked her what. Never assumed that the packages he signed for were anything other than the books that she’d ordered online. Sometimes, if something she was particularly excited about arrived, she’d show it to him – but he had no interest in books, and paid no attention to the cover or any other detail as she lay next to him in bed, propped up by an extra pillow.
It was only after Ada that he discovered. The bell rang and given how early the hour was he knew it could be no one other than Barry. ‘It’s for Ada,’ Barry said. Trace of discomfort in his usual easy tone. He turned the alien package in his hands and nodded. ‘She must have ordered it,’ he said. ‘Suppose I’ll see a lot less of you now she’s gone. Only bills you’ll be bringing.’ He signed his name and went back inside.
He propped the package on the mantlepiece, went into the kitchen and made himself a cup of tea. He was used to being alone at this time of the morning. Ada usually took a walk and didn’t get back before ten. Except last time she didn’t get back at all. A man out walking his dogs had found her. He’d called an ambulance, but he knew even before the paramedics had got there that she was dead.
He drank his tea and stared at the package willing the last month to disappear, to slip away as easily as his wife had. And then with a curiosity he’d never had before, he drained his tea and tore it open.
Inside was a novel by a writer he’d never heard of. He turned it in his hands, read the blurb and then opened the cover. On the title page in black felt pen he read ‘For Ada – kindred spirit – I hope you like this one as much as you did the last. Love, Alex.
He stared at the inscription. Then picked up the package and held it close to see the postmark, but it was only stamped Portlaoise and that was where the sorting office was, so it told him nothing at all.
He walked out in the hall, the book in his hand. He paused before entering the room that for years had been his wife’s study. Ada’s books lined the walls, they’d grown so tall they almost reached the ceiling. They teetered dangerously, and he knew if he were to take one out, the whole pile might come crashing down. They were stacked on the floor too, heaped in untidy mounds, some of them spilling out like upset shopping bags.
On Ada’s desk though, was a neat row of books. They fitted together like dominoes, no more than ten to a bunch. He pulled out his wife’s chair and sat at her extraordinarily neat workspace. Her laptop was there, lid closed. A small lamp to the left, and a set of drawers, on which sat a family photo, to the right. And all of those books so neatly arranged at the back.
He leaned in, picked one up and opened it. For Ada – this one made me laugh and cry and so much more… yours always, Alex. Ada’s husband sat there and opened book after book. Spines creasing beneath his fingers. For Ada… with love, For Ada… with huge admiration. For Ada. Ada. Always. X