Katie Boylan started writing when she joined Tanya Farrelly’s creative writing group in Purple House Cancer Support in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Her personal essay ‘Emma’s Wedding’ was included in the Anthology of Short Stories ‘The Music of What Happens’ which was published by New Island Books to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Purple House.
She lives in Dublin with her two sound housemates, who also happen to be her parents, Basher and Trishie. In college she completed a BSc in Communications – Film and Broadcasting, but ended up working in advertising to pay the bills, and now works in a Sales House that represents local radio stations all around Ireland.
The creative writing group with Tanya is the highlight of her week but she also enjoys reading, painting, meeting her friends, going to the cinema, red wine, yoga and chocolate. However, the real love of her life is her black Labrador Rocky. He arrived as a therapy dog to help her recover after cancer treatment, he has chewed a few couches, eaten a lot of socks and destroyed Basher’s garden, but he’s here to stay.
The sound of the TV woke me, I stirred, unsure where I was. My neck stiff from falling asleep on the couch. Gingerly I sat up, my head throbbing, my mouth dry as a board. The empty wine bottle on the coffee table glaring back at me. I switched off the TV and the room was plunged into darkness. I stood up and stretched, the blanket falling to the floor and with it my iPhone went too. It crashed down onto the hard floor and I jumped at the noise. It was obviously on my lap when I was asleep and I didn’t realise.
Suddenly I heard the sound of a car driving up my road. It got closer to my house. I froze.
It better not be him calling to pick up his stuff I thought. .
I stood rooted to the spot in the dark room as I listened to the noise outside. The car slowed and I heard it pull to a stop outside my townhouse. The engine stayed running. Then the chatter of two voices, the bang of the door and suddenly the car drove off again.
The footsteps headed this way, I didn’t move. I listened and they got closer and closer to my door; just as I went to reach for my phone, I heard the footsteps disappear in next door.
I exhaled. The relief.
This is ridiculous, I thought. I was never this anxious – What had I become? What had he turned me into?
A rattling raving alcoholic obviously.
I grabbed my phone from the floor, thankful the screen hadn’t smashed. The screen lit up the dark room like a beacon and the time shone back at me. 5 mins past midnight.
‘Ok I wasn’t asleep too long’ I said to myself, as last night I had slept the entire night on the couch. At least tonight I’d get a few good hours in my comfy bed.
My comfy, cold, empty bed I thought as my eyes filled with tears.
In the space of a month my husband stopped loving me.
30 days. 4 weeks. 43,800 minutes.
Sure, it was the oldest story – husband leaves wife for a younger woman.
He said their relationship was platonic. He said I had nothing to worry about. I believed him. But then, my life became a cliché. My husband had an affair with his secretary. Mousy, short, average, normal Hannah. I think I’d find it easier if she was a 6foot super model, but Hannah??? We used to laugh at how straitlaced she was. Her desk was always so clean, not a thing out of place and every time I saw her, she was wearing the same thing: straight dark pencil skirts to just over the knee with plain white shirts tucked into them and flat black pumps.
When I met her first, I said to Michael ‘I bet she makes love to her husband twice a week at the same time every week’. He laughed and said I was probably right. Looking back, I realised that he never corrected me that she wasn’t married.
I walked into the kitchen and caught my reflection in the mirror. ‘Jesus no wonder he left you’ I thought as I took in my dishevelled look. My scraggly greasy hair needed a haircut, the bags under my eyes were down to my chin, the grey tracksuit I was wearing did nothing for me and my old cardigan had definitely seen better days.
I slowly went upstairs, each step seeming to get bigger and my steps slowed as the alcohol still floated around my system. I walked into my bedroom and threw myself on the cold bed, pulled the duvet over me, curled into a foetal position and started to cry.
Last month my life was good. I was happy, I had a good life, a great husband, a successful career, a nice house and plans. Plans for the weekend, summer holidays, the future, plans as a couple. Now time stretches out before me – empty.
I woke needing to pee at about 2am. All that wine had played havoc with my bladder. I stumbled into the bathroom. As I sat on the toilet, I looked around the en suite. When we moved into the house this was the first room that I insisted on doing up. He laughed and rolled his eyes as I came home with paint swatches, power shower brochures and so many tile samples that he started to use them as a door stop downstairs. Finally, it was finished and it was a little haven I could walk into every morning. It was the room I’d get ready for work, for nights out with the girls, for date nights; It was also the place where I’d remove my war paint, put on a face mask, blare a girly pop song and do my nails.
But this room also became the place I lost so many things. Lost hope, lost dreams. The negative tests, so many of them, one after another. Then last year we finally had one positive test after 3 rounds of gruelling IVF treatment. We cried happy tears and began to make plans. Pure elation. The day of the 12 week scan we our hopes were dashed ‘1 in 4 early pregnancies end in miscarriage’ the Consultant said as she handed me a leaflet with support group details. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to us and not someone else. I spent my time going to friends’ christenings, baby showers, children’s parties, so why not us?
Michael said he wanted to take a break from the treatment, I said no. I said we had to keep going, we had to make a baby, we had to make the relationship work.
I had to make my marriage work.
Because the truth was, I had lost so much already when I married Michael. He was never mine to begin with. He was hers.
Michael was my sister Suzy’s boyfriend first. They met in work. She came home and gushed about this tall, handsome boy who was in the same tax department as her. Soon they were dating and he was invited home for tea. Michael said afterwards that the minute he walked into our house to meet the family he knew he was dating the wrong sister. He dumped her the following week. Suzy cried for 3 months straight, she wouldn’t eat and barely left her room and when she did her eyes were red raw from crying so much. ’At 17’ by Janis Ian was played on constant loop for weeks on end. She threatened to leave her job and never leave the house again until my Mother told her to cop on and no man was worth this.
A few months later Michael came into the shop I where I worked part time during college. I was surprised to see him. But even more surprised to feel butterflies in my stomach as I saw his face smiling back at me, the crinkling brown eyes asking me for a drink. I said no. I couldn’t.
He persisted. I resisted. But eventually I gave in. And soon I became obsessed with him, I could see why Suzy gushed about him. He was like a drug I couldn’t get enough of. I wanted to see him all the time and when I wasn’t seeing him, I was thinking of ways I could see him. We snuck around for a full year. A whole year of pretending I was at friend’s houses; at work; in the college library or on a weekend away with the girls. But the truth was I was with him.
Soon my mum grew suspicious. She knew something was up with me, mother’s intuition maybe? She found a text on my phone from him that left nothing to the imagination. I tried to be annoyed that she had looked in my phone but she pointed out quite rightly that that was the last thing I should be worrying about. I had to tell my Sister.
I’ll never forget the look in her eyes when I told Suzy. She stared at me disbelieving then
‘WHAT??’ She shouted at me?
‘You don’t mean MY Michael?’
I couldn’t meet her eyes and stared at the floor. I mumbled a low ‘yes I do mean Michael’
I couldn’t say ‘your Michael’ to her as he was my Michael now. I couldn’t bring myself to refer to him as ‘hers’ but also didn’t want to hurt her even more by calling him ‘mine’ to her face. But he was mine now.
Suddenly before I could say or do anything, she launched herself at me and knocked me to the floor. Her arms flailing about trying to hit me. She was crying and shouting at me at the same time as well as trying to hit me and pull my hair. I kept shouting at her to stop. Mum tried to pull her off me but she wasn’t strong enough.
At that exact moment Dad walked in the door from work to this scene of chaos and shouted at the top of his voice ‘WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??? Suzy get off your sister immediately’.
Suzy obeyed, still sobbing and raging all at once.
‘It’s all her fault’ she shouted at Dad ‘She’s ruined my life’
‘Can someone please tell me what’s going on here?’ Dad replied
‘Go on Lucy, tell him what you’ve done to me’ she taunted me.
Dad’s face fell when I repeated what I had said to Suzy. He couldn’t speak with shock. I tried to explain to them all that we fell in love and didn’t mean to. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with’ I kept saying.
Suzy ran out of the room and upstairs, the slam of her bedroom door almost caused the whole house to shake.
‘I hope he’s worth it’ Mum spat at me and left the room. My Dad looked at me, shook his head and walked into the TV room. His silence said it all.
Over the next few months, the tension in the house was unbearable. When I walked into a room, Suzy left. Mum barely spoke to me and every evening threw meals down in front of me. I could feel her anger rising like the steam off my plate. Dad spent more and more time in his office or TV room. I was tearing the family apart and I didn’t care. Yes, I was upset but I didn’t want to end things with Michael. I thought they’d all come around.
But after 6 months they didn’t. Mum told me to move out. They’d help with the rent. I cried for weeks; she was kicking me out. Suzy was always her favourite.
Then Michael got a job in Cork. He asked me to move with him so it made sense to go. ‘Let’s start a fresh he said, just me and you, nobody else interfering’.
He made it sound so romantic. But the reality was I broke Suzy’s heart, my family stopped speaking to me, I tore our close family unit apart and then left them. All for Michael.
Michael who’s now living with boring Hannah 20 mins away.
My friend from school used to have a T-shirt that said ‘Karma is a bitch’ – Is this what Karma is?
My head was pounding. I stood up, wiped and flushed the toilet. I stumbled back to the bed and picked up my phone. I searched for the number I wanted and dialled.
‘Hello’ a groggy male answered
‘Suzy? He asked
‘No….it’s not Suzy, it’s Lucy…
‘Lucy…what do you want? Are you ok? It’s 2.30 in the morning????’
‘Do you believe in Karma Dad?’ I asked, knowing that I sounded drunker than I was.
‘Why are you ringing, what’s going on? What’s happened?’ He said. I hadn’t rung their number in so long, I heard the confusion and alarm in his voice.
‘Goosey?’ he said into the silence.
Tears rolled down my face as I heard the old familiar nickname, I was always Lucy Goosey to him.
‘Answer me, do you believe in Karma?’ I pressed.
Silence. I could hear My Mum asking who’s on the phone.
‘Yes Lucy, I do believe in Karma……’
Before I could say anything else the phone suddenly went dead and I was left on my own in the dark.