Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Yesterday’s Weather

Stories

by Anne Enright

“Arresting . . . Enright composes stories that tend to be straightforward, featuring working-class women with recognizable difficulties: infidelity, boredom, motherhood . . . the change of life or the absence of change. . . . Is Enright a grim writer? Not really. There is mischief in these stories, and some of them are quite funny, though a world-weary wisdom is the recurrent note.” —Christopher Benfey, The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date June 16, 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4432-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date September 16, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-5558-4850-7
  • US List Price $14.00

About The Book

Extraordinary stories of love—romantic or familial, triumphant and tragic—from the Man Booker Prize-winning, New York Times best-selling author whom the Los Angeles Times has called “part of a remarkable generation of Irish writers who have helped transform their country’s literature.” Winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Anne Enright’s novel The Gathering went on to become a national best seller acclaimed for its electrifying prose—“percussive one moment, liquid the next” (The Boston Globe)—and haunting emotional resonance. Now, in Yesterday’s Weather, Enright presents a series of deeply moving glimpses into the lives of ordinary men and women struggling with the bonds of love, family, and community in an increasingly disconnected and transient world.

The stories in Yesterday’s Weather show us a rapidly changing Ireland, a land of family and tradition, but also, increasingly, of organic radicchio, cruise-ship vacations, and casual betrayals. An artisan farmer seethes at the patronage of a former Catholic-school classmate, now a successful restaurateur; a bride cuckolds her rich husband with an old college friend—a madman who won’t take his pills, disappears for weeks at a time, and plays the piano like a dream. Still more startling than loss or deception are the ways in which people respond to them: a wife eaten up by rage at her husband’s infidelity must weigh the real stakes after his affair takes a tragic turn; confronted with a similar situation, a woman decides to cheat with, rather than against, her man. Sharp, tender, never predictable, their sum is a rich tapestry of people struggling to find contentment with one another—and with themselves.

Anne Enright has given us a rich collection of stories of loss and yearning, of the ordinary defeats and unexpected delights that grow out of the bonds between husbands and wives, mothers and children, and intimate strangers. Yesterday’s Weather exhibits the arresting, unforgettable images and upsets, the subversive wit, and the awkward tenderness that mark Anne Enright as one of the most thrillingly gifted writers of our time.

Praise

“After the first few stories in this superb collection, you may be tempted to polish off the book in one sitting. Don’t. Read each piece slowly to savor this Irish writer’s wry insights. . . . [Enright] gives her characters emotional and psychological heft. Each one is memorable.” —Vick Boughton, People

“[Enright’s] sentences have rhythm and snap. She’s tough. Honest. Never sentimental, but sometimes tender. She knows the lies we tell ourselves to keep ourselves going. And she can be funny, too. . . . Enright is getting better and better. Her characters are deeper, and capable, even, of surprising moments of grace. I would not read this book in one go. The best pieces in this collection are as intense and evocative as poems. They should be savored like poems, slowly, a few at a time.” —Elizabeth Gold, San Francisco Chronicle

“A powerful writer going free-range and operating outside the demands of a novel. . . . The stories are strong and hard bitten. . . . She is a confident writer, letting stories unfold at their own speed. Her best pieces have a fluid shape that feels close to the way we actually think, choose, muse. . . . ‘Caravan,’ for example, about a rainy family holiday on the cheap in France, is just the sort of cutting, generous, surprising story that Raymond Carver might have written, had he been an Irishwoman. . . . Yesterday’s Weather is a powerful book from a writer who speaks plainly and knows that hardly anything is quite as it seems.” —Peter Behrens, Washington Post

“Arresting . . . Enright composes stories that tend to be straightforward, featuring working-class women with recognizable difficulties: infidelity, boredom, motherhood . . . the change of life or the absence of change. . . . Is Enright a grim writer? Not really. There is mischief in these stories, and some of them are quite funny, though a world-weary wisdom is the recurrent note.” —Christopher Benfey, The New York Times Book Review

“When the Irish writer Anne Enright is at her best . . . she yanks her readers almost violently into a story. . . . Only her countryman John McGahern could accomplish so much so briefly. Enright’s narrators, meanwhile, have voices that are tight and idiosyncratic.” —Brendan Wolfe, The Virginia Quarterly Review

“A collection of 31 little gems . . . Enright observes and records the messiness of life in minute detail. She understands how we fight against the messiness and then miss it when it is gone, much in the way we miss a scabby wound that has healed, leaving only the shiny, smooth scar and the fading memory of the hurt.” —Nancy Connors, The Plain Dealer

“The stories in Yesterday’s Weather offer up surprise after surprise. They’re quite short, as short stories go, yet they contain whole worlds inhabited by complex, contradictory characters. . . . a fascinating slide show of one very gifted writer’s development. Enright belongs to a younger generation of Commonwealth writers—among them Kate Atkinson, Rachel Cusk, Helen Dunmore, Tessa Hadley, A.L. Kennedy, Andrea Levy, and Zadie Smith—who depict the ordinary lives of contemporary women and (sometimes) men in sensuous, energetic, in-your-face prose that retains the intelligence and gleam of the British literary tradition. . . . Enright’s words make ordinary, daily moments new. . . . Enright’s images distill moments of feeling in a way that fuses their ordinariness and their intensity. . . . These voices, stiletto-direct in their honesty and generous in their reach, read as successive takes on a single sensibility at different times and in different situations. It’s not that Enright’s characters are interchangeable; rather, their individuality goes so deep it hits bedrock. . . . Its richness makes Yesterday’s Weather a book to be read over time, story by story, allowing each its own claim on your eye and ear. The 31 stories form a sort of Advent calendar, tiny jeweled windows that open onto their own deep worlds, let us savor them for a moment in all their unresolved, ambiguous beauty, then shut again.” —Anne Harleman, Boston Globe

“Darkly humorous Irish writer Anne Enright thrusts readers straight into the midst of her characters’ struggles with desire and betrayal. The stories are brief but incisive. The characters rarely love the ones they are supposed to, when they are supposed to, and for the most part, they make no apologies.” —Elizabeth Floyd Mair, Albany Times Union

“The[se] 31 stories, some old and some new, often place us right in the middle of a situation in which expectation is not quite matching with reality. . . . Throughout the collection, we read mainly of women—mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends—having their social and moral expectations challenged. All set in modern Ireland, the stories in Yesterday’s Weather are domestic dramas, not the romantic fare about the absentminded postman in the quaint village. There is no question or doubt about Anne Enright’s ability to write. Her deft sentences often contain a simplicity that is bonded by an amalgamation of irony, honesty and humor. In many respects, she is a terrific method actor, climbing under the skins of characters from all walks of life and all sets of circumstance, and bringing them voice. And while the stories often read more as vignettes, there still is a sense of completion about them, one that takes us into dozens of ordinary yet complex lives, and then challenges us to see ourselves within them.” —Adam Braver, The Providence Journal

“These 31 stories, illuminated by a dark vision, are strikingly intimate. Enright, who does much well, is at her best at exploring the human condition, focusing on small moments to illustrate larger complications. . . . The majority of the stories in the collection are surprising and affecting. And Enright has a gift for the unexpected bon mot, summarizing a character and situation with enviable brevity.” —Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

“A beguiling collection of 31 short stories. Love—of partners, children, friends, siblings, the afflicted—is the hallmark of this group of rich, often short vignettes. Fury, tenderness, incomprehension and impulse illuminate scenes of modern life (work life, family life or a solitary life), highlighting the gulf and yearning stretching between men and women as they deal with attraction, procreation, money and mortality. . . . Eloquent images light up these overlapping stories like flares—a line of tulips flattened by the wind; a swarm of bees on a gatepost; a dusting of flour on a carpet. And, as always with Enright, there is mesmerizing language that can switch from comic to lyric in a blink. Voiced predominantly by female narrators, these stories spill over with warmth, wisdom, earthiness and an exceptional vision. Another tour de force from a writer whose voice and perspective mark her as one of the cherishable talents of our era.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A remarkably wise portrayal of the human condition. Clearly, Enright’s fort . . . is the depiction of relationships, not only between male and female but also between family members and friends. . . . Eulogizing the illustrious James Joyce at his funeral in 1941, a British dignitary noted that Ireland would continue to enjoy lasting revenge over England by producing literary master-pieces. Anne Enright joins a long line of Irish writers who prove that prediction accurate.” —Katherine Bailey, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

“Beguiling . . . We are privy to the innermost thoughts and, at times, the darkest dreams of middle-class Irish people of all ages, as they struggle with infidelity, guilt, resignation, illness, and death.” —Kera Bolonik, Bookforum

“Nervy, unsparing . . . Enright was a well-kept secret for years—much-admired by those who’d stumbled upon her work but little known outside that slim fan base—until she won the Man Booker Prize last year and became famous for her compelling but savagely dark take on the world. . . . Yesterday’s Weather is sure to add to her accolades, and it should also add nuance to her perceived bleakness. These stories, written over the course of twenty years, are astonishing: moving, emotionally accurate, sly, and laugh-out-loud funny at times. Her depiction of the humdrum satisfactions of married life, the tensions in old friendships, the childhood rivalry that will not die, are pitch-perfect and set against the rapid changes in Irish life. Enright completely inhabits these characters, and somehow conveys empathy for their frustrations and limitations without a tinge of sentimentality. The opening of ‘Until the Girl Died’ illustrates her ability to surprise and provoke. . . . It’s Enright at her best—crafting a superbly satisfying story that peels back layers of denial and history to reach a stark truth.” —Elaina Richardson, O Magazine

“Anne Enright is a fantastic novelist. . . . She is one of those rare writers who brings the same sort of attention to every sentence she writes—whether it is in one of her novels or her stories. . . . The stories in Yesterday’s Weather . . . are all jam-packed with insights; they are saucy, hard-edged, gritty, provoking and full of unexpected gusts of vulnerability and intimacy. And there’s a recognizable voice. I feel certain that if Anne Enright were standing beside me in a supermarket line talking to the cashier, I’d know right away it was her. There’s a stamp on every sentence . . . . It’s not just the Irish idiom, turns of phrase that have what people like to call lilt. Rather it’s a blend of tart wit, cadence and vigorous scrutiny. Warm and sharp by turns, often funny. . . . Enright’s plots are complex and intuitive, double-jointed and flexible, held together with an idiosyncratic logic, a mix of metaphor and image patterning, dips into the past triggered by the sense-world of the story, all the turns of memory and the emotional ebb and flow of every day, the flux and flare of ordinary and piercing moments and passions (rage, awe, hurt, desire) in their turn. . . . Enright [is] a pleasure to read.” —Lisa Moore, Globe and Mail (Canada)

“[Enright] offers, for our comfort, the predictability of the human condition. Yes, there will be pain—in any family configuration, in every phase of life—but at least you can count on it. Many of these 31 stories are like one-person plays. . . . It’s good to have so many stories in one collection. There’s room for voices to echo, ghosts to flit in the corners and characters to change shapes and roles.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“Enright’s talent lies in her ability to tweak an ordinary situation and create something that is at once unique and universal: two wives coming to different conclusions about their husbands’ infidelities in ‘Until the Girl Died’ and ‘The Portable Virgin,’ an examination of elevator and pregnancy etiquette in ‘Shaft’ or the permutations of sexual desire in ‘Revenge.’ Other standouts such as ‘Little Sister’ and ‘Felix’ resonate because of their tight focus.” —Publishers Weekly

“Dazzling triumphs of love . . . breathtaking detail. . . . Enright has been rightfully praised for her imaginative and stylistic powers. She is more than a gifted technician, however. She shows her readers how opportunities for grace emerge from the humdrum details and obsessive crises that make up our lives, and as such, she is one of the most distinctive and necessary authors writing today.” —J.G. Matthews, Library Journal (starred review)

“Working mostly in the first person, Enright endows her unhappy sorority with as much quiet power, fierce intelligence and virulent honesty as ever—enough to make popular American images of female alienation look utterly infantile. . . . The new Ireland Enright shows us is promiscuous but unfulfilled, parsed but not liberated, moneyed but not really enjoying it, godless but without a replacement. . . . But above all, Irish women are speaking up more; and Enright is there, with her perfect pitch, to capture their different accents. . . . When she ventures into the grungier side of life, Enright can even sound like Raymond Carver . . . [though] Enright feels closer to Joyce than Carver—or his master, Chekhov—in her colder authorial distance from the wretches she impersonates.” —Peter Heinegg, America Magazine

“Enright offers snapshots of middle age, marriage, mourning, mistakes and the difficulty of resurrecting the past. . . . These well-made stories are most powerful when depicting illness, grief, instability, the ‘much less reliable place’ of a mother’s body after childbirth. But amid the damage there is also the possibility of recovery, that all might be well again, and Enright’s is, finally, a generous and spirited vision.” —Anita Sethi, The Independent (UK)

“These are simple stories—although no less powerful for all their simplicity. . . . Enright’s older and newer stories are marked by a wry sadness that . . . reminds the reader of James Joyce at his best and most intelligible. As she ages, Enright’s literary speciality becomes the family, buoyed by love as much as it is weighed down by memories of betrayal and the ghosts of unfulfilled dreams. . . . A strong collection from a strong writer—an author whose work proves her worthy of literary accolades she has received since first published 19 years ago.” —Peter Chomko, The Temple News

“We’re all the richer for [Yesterday’s Weather]. . . . Enright [has a] mastery of the opening sentence. . . . A collateral bonus of Yesterday’s Weather is that the stories, taken as a whole, function as a social history of Ireland at exactly the time when the country underwent its unlikely transformation from western Europe’s poor sister to an economic powerhouse.” —Ian McGillis, The Gazette (Montreal)

“Enright . . . harbours a voice so strong and stirring that you don’t want her stories to end. . . . Like all great writers, Enright’s work is visually stunning, shiny with anger and loneliness, with hope and beauty and regret, her language as rich and lusty and chewy as the self-revelations that tell the stories of us all.” —Shelley Fralic, The Vancouver Sun

“A true boon . . . Particularly impressive is Enright’s ability to inhabit the fug of repetitive tasks, and fleeting moments of clarity, rage, and ambivalence that accompany the roles of mother, wife and daughter. She excels at capturing instances of both pure love and unadulterated irritation, often within one sentence. . . . But if Enright infuses the quotidian with grace and humor, it is her honestly while describing the shock that accompanies great loss that sets her apart as a writer. . . . Deep sorrow expands into a near-magical connection to the larger world—a keen horniness not just for another person, but for the very fact of living. . . . Check out Yesterday[‘s Weathjer for a deeper sense of Enright’s work. The collection will provide welcome exposure to the dexterity of her prose and the complex range of her human concerns.” —Heather Birrell, The Toronto Star

“As a writer of short stories, [Enright] always found her stride. . . . these candid tales of compromised marriages and mid-life miscarriages . . . leap from the page. As always her style is intimate, humorous and to the point.” —Emma Hagestadt, The Independent (UK)

“Thirty-one stories . . . will leave Enright’s American fans salivating for more. When the protagonists of these stories examine their everyday lives, what others might dismiss as ‘yesterday’s weather’ becomes strange and mysterious. Unflinching in her honesty, unapologetically lusty and affronted by human suffering, Enright’s contemporary Dubliner has a nose for humor but never glosses over the pain. . . . Enright’s prose, while possessing a natural, spoken quality that can make readers feel they are opening their hearts to a friend, will impress the most sophisticated literature aficionado. . . . the language brings Enright’s characters to life. . . . it’s hard to find a page that lacks some moment, however small, of genius.” —Karen Laws, Metro Silicon Valley

“Thrilling . . . Enright is a master of the short story. The shape of her words and sentences creates a cadence that is a pleasure to read and her ability to convey sop much with a word appears effortless. It is the mark of a writer at the top of her craft.” —Judith Meyrick, The Chronicle Herald (Canada)

“Unimpeachable quality . . . Yesterday’s Weather is the sort of book that can best be called a gift. It’s a remarkable, stirring collection that is often dizzyingly good. . . . Enright is a singular talent, and has been since the beginning of her career. . . . I was struck by how consistent her voice is and by how sure of herself she was, even as a neophyte writer. . . . Enright writes powerfully of deeply held emotions, of thoughts and opinions that are sometimes denied even by those who have them. . . . Haunting moments of beauty and grace in lives of turmoil and emotional uncertainty—this is the fundamental nature of human life itself, rarely chronicle quite so well or so honestly.” —Robert J. Wiersema, The Vancouver Sun

“Each gem, chock-a-block with showstopper phrases that sum up the everyday disasters of human relations, deserves solitary pondering. Enright unerringly hits the heavy heart in her tales. . . . And yet, Yesterday’s Weather is not a single-toned blur; many characters speak here, and the author takes care in shaping the characters’ voices. . . . Even the stories she wrote when she was younger feel very, very true. Perhaps this is because all the stories follow their own internal logics and float successfully in their own worlds. . . . a terrific read. The burdens of our selves might feel a tiny bit lighter after Enright’s roistering turns of phrase crowing out the familiar, yet always stunning, dawn of feeling.” —Amy Halloran, Rain Taxi

Awards

A 2008 New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
A 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A 2008 Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year
A 2008 Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

Excerpt

Until the Girl Died

The girl died.

Well, what was that to me? The girl died. And it was nothing to do with us, with either of us. She died the stupid way that people do—in a car crash, in Italy. Where, presumably, she was driving on the wrong side of the road.

Silly twit.

If the girl had not died then she would not have mattered in the slightest. She would have been a lapse; my husband is prone to lapses—less often of late, but yes, once every couple of years he does lapse, after the office party say, or travelling on business. I don’t think he visits prostitutes—I mean, some men do, some men must. Or quite a lot of men must, actually—but my husband doesn’t. And I know, I know, I would say that, but . . .

I’ve thought about this a lot over the years; things catch my eye in articles, in magazines.

I have wondered, What makes them go and what makes them stay, what do they want, men? It’s the great mystery, isn’t it? What men “want.” And the damage they might do to get it.

The things you read in the papers.

“Oh, sure they’re all the same.” Isn’t that what your mother used to say? “They’re all the same.”

But they’re not. They have their reasons and they have their limits. They have hearts, too. And I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that my husband is not the kind of man to buy sex in the street. He likes intimacy. That is what he craves. My husband is the kind of man who will always look you in the eye. He loves women—even older ones. He loves to talk to them, and make them feel good, and he loves to kiss them, and be a little dangerous; he loves the melancholy of all that, it makes him feel so young. And he also loves me.

He is not a bastard, that is what I am saying. I am saying that he is a fantastic man. My husband is a fantastic man. And until the girl died, beetling along in her little Renault Clio on the wrong side of a road in Tuscany, until the girl died, that was enough for me. To be married to a fantastic man who loved me, and was prone, once in a long while, to a little lapse and a lot of Catholic guilt about it. Oh, the bloody bunch of flowers and the new coat in Richard Alan’s sale. Isn’t it worth it? I used to say. Isn’t it bloody worth it for a trip to Brown Thomas’s and a long weekend with the kids, all of us together in Ballybunion, walking the winter beach, a couple of bottles of wine and more conjugal antics than is decent at our age, with my wonderful husband, home again after his little lapse; some overambitious young one who will Shortly. Be. Fired. Thank you darling and, no, I know you will never do it again.

But actually I hated it. It was like living on a page of some horrible Sunday newspaper. Horrible people. Horrible people with their horrible sex lives and their horrible money.

No.

He works hard, my husband. And I have always been a great asset to him. And we are ordinary people. And I am proud of that too.

Ke . . . I can’t say his name. Isn’t that funny?

It is quite an ordinary name, I say it fifteen times a day. Mind you, he never calls me anything back. Isn’t that the way of it? What do men call their wives. “Em . . .” Like every woman on the planet was christened Emily.

“Em . . .is that shirt clean?”

The girl was called—listen to this—Samantha.

Not that I knew this at the time. Not that I knew anything at the time.

And she was only called “Samantha” because she died. If it hadn’t been for the car crash she would have been, and always remained, that young one in IT, or even that slapper over in IT. O’Connell Street might be full of slappers, but if one of them slaps off, pissed, in her mini skirt and high heels, and gets herself run over, then she’s—what?—she’s a fine young woman, who liked to wear white.

I’m sorry.

But.

The poor child, who thought it was a laugh to sleep with my husband—and it is a laugh, God knows I have laughed enough myself—the poor child, who thought it was a laugh to sleep with the father of my three children, did something worse than all that. She went and died on him too. She went and died on us all.

Of course, I didn’t have a clue.

He came home—when I think about it, it must have been the day he’d heard the news—and he sat in the sofa, and for the first time since his mother’s funeral, I saw him cry. The children saw him cry. I had no idea what he was crying for. I felt like calling an ambulance. Then I put two and two together and realised he must be lapsing again, he must be mid-lapse. And I panicked.

I know that. I did panic. And it’s not like me. He lifted his head to speak to me and I said,

“I don’t want to know.” That was all. “I don’t want to know.” And I said it really fast, like I was talking off the record, here. Like what was happening was not actually happening. Or he’d better make bloody sure it wasn’t happening because I wasn’t having the mess of it all over my beautiful, hard-won house. And he pushed his face around to clear away the tears—not hot tears, not outraged, grief-stricken tears, just that leaky, worn-out water you find on your face sometimes, when you are sick or defeated—he wiped the tears away and then he just sat.

My fantastic man.

The first time it happened, at a guess, was when the children were small. I was up to my tonsils in nappies and mayhem, falling asleep before my head hit the pillow, fat as a fool. Anyway. They feel “excluded,” fathers; isn’t that what the articles say? They have the weight of the world on their shoulders, and after a while—I’m convinced of this—they start to resent you, maybe even to hate you. Then, one day, they love you madly again and you realise—slowly, you realise—that they have been up to something. They’ve had a fright. They’ve come running back home.

Which is nice, too. In a way.

Oh, what the hell.

The first time it happened, my father was in having some tests, actually, and I was far too busy to shout at my husband, or go through his pockets, or sniff at his clothes before I put them in the washing machine. I had more important things on my mind. In the end, everything went so well, Daddy didn’t even have to have chemo—after which, I was too relieved to double back and start shouting at my husband, or sniffing at his clothes. It was over by then, and besides, I had learned something about myself. I’d learned that I was not that sort of woman—the sniffing sort, the type to rage and scream. And that was an odd kind of feeling, I must say. Because I grew up with the same dreams as every other girl, but when the chips were down . . . When the chips were down, I kept my head held high.

What was I supposed to do?

One part of me thought he deserved a holiday, to be honest; that if I had the chance I might take one myself. Another part of me thought, “Someone must die.” I really thought I might kill someone for this. I might kill her. Or I might kill him. Or I might leave them to it and kill myself. Well, that’s no use, is it? This stupidity, this incontinence of my husband’s was too small to bother about. And it was too large to leave us all standing; all still alive.

But maybe it was in my head, from that time. In both our heads. The idea that someone must die.

So what are we looking at? Two or three more, over the course of the years? A scattering of “accidents,” and then, one day, this, whatever it is. A man crying on the sofa. Grief.

It was half past five. The children were watching telly before tea. I cleared them out of there—my daughter, the apple of her father’s eye, welling up a bit herself at the tragic look of him, with his coat thrown beside him and his briefcase still in the other hand.

Kids bury that sort of stuff very deep. I thought it would be better if she talked about it, but when I asked her, a week later, about her father crying on the sofa she just looked at me, like I had landed in from outer space.

“What sofa?” she said. “Which sofa?”

That’s Shauna for you, who is nine. There’s no point talking to her brothers about it, they’ve already gone into the grunting phase.

And then I think, Why not? Why not talk to your sons about things? Why not rear men who can speak?

Because there’s my husband, collapsed against the oatmeal-coloured linen mix, staring mortality in the face. And what else? His own smallness. Looking as though he had killed her himself, although he had not killed her, he had not even loved her. Thinking (as I imagine) about some beautiful part of her, mangled by the door or bonnet, and turning already to clay.

And there is no one he can talk to about this. No one at all.

Men don’t have friends like that—guys you might ring and say, “Take him out for a drink. Talk it over. Sort him out.” No. The only friend he has is me.

And he can’t tell me, because I really do not want to know.

All this in hindsight, of course. At the time, I looked at him and I thought that our marriage was finished, or that he was finished. I was looking at extended sick leave and then what? My husband crying on the sofa was forty-nine years old. And if you think forty-nine is a tough station, try fifty-five.

I was looking at a long future with a man who had forgotten what he was for.

So when he pushes the tears off his face with his hand, and when he lifts his face to tell me all about it, there is only one thing I can say to him, and that is:

“I don’t want to know.”

How did we get through the next week? Normally, at a guess. That’s how we did it. We got through the week in a completely normal way. While I waited for some hint or clue. The back page of the paper that he stares at too hard and too long. And then, on Tuesday morning, I come in from the school run and he’s still there, in his dark suit, putting on his funeral tie.

“Who’s dead?”

“Some girl,” he says.

“What girl? Someone’s daughter?” He doesn’t answer. He brushes his shoulders off in the mirror.

He says, “We only get them trained and they’re gone.”

“Well, I’m sure she didn’t mean to.”

Round and round goes the funeral tie, down through the knot. Pull it tight, ease it a little loose again. Kiss the wife goodbye.

“You don’t want me to show?” I say, because I am raging now. I know what has happened, now. I want to twist the knife.

“No,” he says. “She was only in the door.”

“You sure?”

“No, no.” Pick up your briefcase, pull your phone off the charger, check for your keys.

“Home for tea?” I say.

“What is it?”

“I thought I’d grill a bit of salmon.”

Forget where your good coat is kept, open one door of the wardrobe, the other door of the wardrobe, look to your wife who says, “It’s under the stairs.”

Look your wife in the eye as she says this, reach out to touch her neck and hair.

Say, “Thanks,” then off you go.

Oh, I know what you are thanking me for.

The front door clicks shut on my husband in his funeral tie and I wander downstairs to tidy away the breakfast things and make my usual cup of coffee. I fill the kettle and plug it in. I take out my mug and put it on the counter. And then, before the water is boiled, I have the recycling bin spilt all over the floor, and I’m going through the old newspapers for death notices.

Samantha “Sammy” MacHale, tragically, abroad. Easy. I get out the phone book and look that up too.

The church is in Walkinstown, so that’s her family off the Cromwellsfort Road. She might have lived at home still, at twenty-four—the price of everything these days. I could go there now, if I wanted to. I could drive there in my little car. I wonder do her parents know what she got up to? I have a shameful desire to tell them—so sharp, I have to stand still until it subsides.

I am not that kind of person.

No.

I make my cup of coffee and I calm down.

Still, I wonder what she looked like. What school did she go to; do they have pictures in the corridors, of former girls in a row, the class of—what year would she be?—the class of 1998.

So young.

Who could be that young?

All the time I am loading the dishwasher and pulling out the hoover and doing my morning round, the funeral is happening in my head. But I am not going to jump in the car and hack my way across town to Walkinstown. I am not that kind of person. I am not going to panic at the last minute and show up at the cemetery to check the faces at the grave and pick up a few words here and there, about what a fine girl she was, “irrepressible,” “full of fun.” Bloody right she was full of fun.

Or not. Maybe she was shy, unassuming. Easily impressed. She might have been a quiet kind of girl. A girl who was anxious to please.

No.

I am not going to find this out, or anything else. Because that would be obscene. I am not going to show up like a ghost at the wedding—what’s the opposite of that?—like a flesh and blood wife, at this last dance with the dead.

We had the salmon when he came home. Potatoes. A bit of asparagus.

“Lovely,” says my husband. “Delicious.” Then he gets up afterwards and makes himself a sausage sandwich, cold from the fridge. Butter, mayonnaise, the lot.

And I say, “Why don’t you stick some lard in there, while you’re at it?”

This is the last real thing I say to him, for a long while. Where’s the gas bill gone when will you be home would you pick up Shauna from her ballet? We could do this for ever. After a few weeks of it, my husband gets a nervous cough: he wonders if it could be lung cancer. His toe is numb, isn’t that a sign of MS? And I just say, “Get it checked out.” Because the girl is dead. So let’s not bother with the fuss and foother of getting back together. Let’s not do all that again. Not this time. This time let us mourn.

I am too proud. I know that. And in my pride I watched him—my fantastic, stupid man—lurch around in his life. And I did not offer him a helping hand.

Where’s the key to the shed when will you be home would you buy a pack of plastic blades for the Flymo?

The girl was with us, all this time. Dead or alive. She was standing at the bus stop on the corner, she was sitting in our living room watching Big Brother, she was being buried, night after night, on the evening news.

I think that milk’s gone off when will you be home I really don’t want the children having TV sets in their rooms.

After a month of this, I looked at my husband and saw that he was old. It did not happen overnight; it happened over thirty nights or so. My husband shaking hands with death. And what else? Thinking about it. Thinking it wouldn’t be so bad to be dead, after all. Like she was.

Whenever I woke in the night, he was awake too. Once I heard him crying again; this time in the shower. He thought the noise of the water would cover it. I listened to him snuffling and choking in the spray and I realised it was time to put my pride away. It was time to call him back home.

On Saturday, after the supermarket run, I put on my good coat and my leather gloves. And a hat, even—my funeral hat. And when my husband said, “Where are you off to?”—because God knows I never go anywhere without drawing a map—I said, “I’m going to visit a grave.”

I had a beautiful bunch of white lilies, all wrapped up in cellophane. I picked them off the kitchen counter and walked past him—I cradled the lilies against my shoulder and I walked past my husband, who was now old—and I did not look back, as I went out the door.

She did not matter to him, I know that. I know she did not matter. So I went to the cemetery and sought out her grave. I wandered through the headstones until I found her, and I put the lilies on the ground under which she lay, and I told her that she mattered. Then I went home and said to my husband. Then I went home and said to Kevin:

“Let’s do something for Easter, what do you think. Something nice. Where would you like to go?”