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Hedge Leaping

by Kittymac 

Posted: 09 June 2008
Word Count: 2116
Summary: The story of a group of forty-something friends with eventful pasts and potentially interesting futures through the eyes of one of their number.

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T-Lav has a new man. I hate to be guilty of the overuse of hackneyed phrases but you could have knocked me down with a feather. The celibate one, the ‘I will never love another,’ matriarch has succumbed to the charms of a Gerry somebody.
At least in the spirit of the modern age, he is not so much new, as re-cycled. Someone, I am reliably informed by ‘number two son’ himself, from her dim and distant past.
Unashamedly, I provide food for ‘number two son’, so called because he lives next door but spends most of his time here, in the hope of further vital information. If Gerry somebody is part of T-Lav’s ‘dim and distant’ does it not necessarily follow, that he will be part of mine?
There was Gerry from St Aloysius, the one whose dad had the pub in The Big Smoke, and Gerry from college who had completely carrot coloured hair and the whitest of white skin, but he did once save T-Lav from the disgrace of being dateless at a really important event, the nature of which escapes me just now.
Or it might be Gerry O’Connor, who went prematurely bald from marrying one of the Devlin’s and is supposedly now available again. I shudder involuntarily at the thought of Gerry O’Connor’s availability and fervently hope it is not he.
Speculation at this stage, I tell myself, is clearly pointless, Gerry is a very common name in these parts and I don’t know how far dim and distant I need to go, nor indeed, in which direction.
Unfortunately ‘number two son’, or Sam to give him his proper title, is of no further use. He has made use of my musing time to locate his sidekick, AKA ‘number one son’, or Jack, and they are watching rugby in the living room. I ring the Angel.
‘Nobody told me!’
‘I have just told you.’
‘There’sa?’ I should mention at this point we are pronouncing this There’s a, as in There’s a thing, or There’s a silly woman or There’s a funny face. It is a throw back from our school days.
‘There’sa.’ I confirm.
‘Gerry who?’
‘That’s what we’re trying to establish here Angelina-o.’
‘Right, well, who’d have thought? It’s a small world isn’t it?’
Bless. I left her trying to figure it out and went back to pairing socks or whatever motherly duty I had been called from in the first place. Our house would not run like a well oiled cog if it were not for these small sacrifices I make of my time.

The phone rang. It was J-Lav, in hushed tones. ‘Next door now,’ she said, ‘we’re about to hear all.’
‘I can’t,’ I said, ‘Princess ‘Why Do We Live In The Middle Of Nowhere’ needs a lift to Youth Club.’
‘Bring her with you,’ she said, ‘the Flynns are lifting Marcus.’
I thought momentarily of the incompetent mother award this would earn me and said no, but J-Lav was at her sharpest. ‘There’s wine.’ she said.
I might still have stuck to my guns, but the sound of T-Lav shouting in the background, that I could stay in my own house and that I would hear nothing there of any significance, convinced me of the need to go and I consequently leapt the hedge between our gardens after reassuring Princess ‘I Need Heels Because You Passed Me The Midget Gene’, that Aidan Flynn would let her sit in the front in the full understanding that it was the only dignified way for a fourteen year old Princess to arrive at youth club, in a car load of second year boys.
The wine was open. T-Lav was perched matriarch-like on the corner of the couch with one of those chin tilts that plainly say, ‘I will tell you nothing, I don’t know why you’re here.’
J-Lav passed me wine and speaking in undertones said, ‘It’s her second glass, I’ve laid all the ground work.’
I had my doubts; sometimes ‘the T’ gets stroppy and won’t play beyond two glasses, especially on a work night and, at the best of times, ‘the J’ can be over optimistic about her ability to extract information from her sister. I decide on the both feet first approach, ‘Now my There’sa, what is all this nonsense Judith tells me about you chasing boys!’ I tut, ‘Will there be grave spinning do you think?’
T-Lav drew herself up to the full height of her dignity and I thought for a moment the direct approach had, for once, let me down. ‘I hope you don’t mean my sainted mother,’ she iced.
‘Don’t be daft T, I mean mine. The saints can’t help her, she was a Patterson.’
If I say so myself, reminding T-Lav of a phrase coined originally by her firstborn was a stroke of close to genius. He had been learning about religion at school and come home somewhat perplexed.
‘Mom,’ he had asked, ‘are we Catholics, or are we Pattersons?’
If you live in Northern Ireland, this is funnier than you think!

She gave me one of those looks that say you are incorrigible and then she said, ‘Robbie you’re incorrigible.’
At least I didn’t get my proper name, that was a fairly good sign, and who wants their proper name when that happens to be Robina? My father’s name was Robin and they had hoped for a boy. I think this was my mother’s way of letting him know she was done with bearing children. As someone who studied the mechanics of language for a living you would think she might have spared some thought for how it sounded with Greene, Robina Greene, too many eeee’s!

Gerry Dillon, the new man’s name is, and I cannot remember having heard of his existence even once before in my entire life. I feel cruelly diddled.
I wake early, as I sometimes do, and lie listening to the birds expressing their joy of life in my garden. One is either particularly close to my window or, has a full PA system rigged up. He, or possibly she, to steal a phrase from the Princess, is ‘giving it stacks’. I imagine him in headphones alternately twiddling knobs and playing air guitar with his head back and his eyes closed, it makes me smile. I call him Eric, Eric and the band.

I go back to T-Lav and Gerry and I worry, in a selfish sort of way. I am truly delighted and couldn’t be happier that my dear friend has met someone to share her life with, no one deserves more to be the light of some bloke’s life in a cherished and adored manner, but I know her and I know what this will mean and nothing will be the same any more.

When we were at school and the rest of us had crushes on a select few of the lads from St Aloysius sixth form or the first fifteen at the rugby club and were happy to settle for hanging out in a large group and irregular snogging, T-Lav went steady with Dan from fourth to sixth year. They were quietly committed. They went for walks, did homework and nursed J-Lav, Kate and the Angel and me through severe trauma when some heart throb failed to show at the rugby club disco. They broke it off sensibly when he went away to University because they were too young for anything serious.
At college there was Pete and quiet commitment again, for two years, until she caught him cheating with a student nurse.
And then, finally, there was Francis and quiet commitment turned into marriage and kids and a mortgage. She didn’t do casual, our T-Lav, it was quiet commitment or nothing. And this, I could see already, was quiet commitment. Before leaving the house I applied the crunch test, would Gerry be in Donegal at Easter? The answer was yes. Quiet commitment. Done and dusted.

So they would be together, T-Lav and her Gerry. Would he move here? Would he come and live here, with her and amongst us so that we could maintain a semblance of our current state? I am sure there would naturally be much less hedge hopping and no Sunday morning coffee in nightclothes in her house or mine but at least they would be here, next door, in a neighbourly way.
Or would he want to whisk her off, her and the boys, to The Small Smoke that was Ballela, or even The Big Smoke that was Belfast? Where was he from anyway, had that been mentioned?

I momentarily wallow in ‘poor me’ before asking myself whether I am bothered more that he exists or that she never told me about him originally. My There’sa, she of the inner sanctum, had kept him a secret from us all. She had met him when she was in Dublin for six months training. I knew about that, I had frequently been to stay, what I didn’t know was that she and this Gerry had been, ‘close’. Nothing had come of it, she was seeing Francis and they were quietly committed and the T-Lav would never have entertained any ‘behind the back’ action.
‘Exactly,’ J-Lav declared, ‘unrequited, until now, after all this time!’ She raised her eyes to heaven before beaming at us all.
‘I think its lovely T.’ Angela said, in her dreamy way, ‘Just like a story.’ Bless.

It is lovely, perfectly lovely and I wish them well, I really do, but what on earth would I do with new neighbours? In the summer, just before the Princess turns fifteen, we will have been five years in this house and the Laverys will have been five years next door. It was Theresa who found them, two perfect houses right next door to each other and not far from town, the small local one that is. It was also Theresa who did all the difficult stuff, bidding, closing, bank details, removal men. She did packing, unpacking and the picnic lunch in the garden in the middle of it all, with the children helping out. I was useless. I was useless because a year after burying my husband it finally hit me that it wasn’t all some sick joke and he wasn’t coming back to take care of us at all, and I cracked up for a little while.
Theresa McSensible, of course, had dealt with it all at the time and properly. At the time, that is, when our two dearly beloved husbands got swept down the side of a mountain in an avalanche and left us young, well youngish, and widowed.

Who ever heard of a skiing week for a stag party? We usually did the skiing thing in one big team, kids and all. Maybe if we’d been there the two ejits would have stayed on the piste, none of the others had gone, just her Francis and my Paddy, off piste skiing. And like I said, avalanche, came home in a box.
While T swore undying love and faithfulness, I was all white rage and anger at the selfishness, the thoughtlessness, the recklessness and the leaving of two children without a father.
If there’d been a film they’d have called it ‘Two Funerals and a Divorce.’ Theresa and I buried our husbands and Judith divorced hers. The reason he had not been off piste skiing with the others was because he was in Paris, France, with his secretary. We did not know this at the time. She kept his name though, for Marcus’ sake, Judith Laverty, J-Lav, sister of Theresa Lavery or T-Lav, or when en famille, the Tees and the Rees. If I’d thought for one minute that my husband was party to this deception, I’d have killed him myself.

I listen a while longer to Eric, my bird friend, who clearly hasn’t a care in the world, and wonder how long it will take poor Gerry to realize what he has let himself in for. If he is of reasonable intelligence at all, I decide, Donegal should do it.

Even in the cold days of winter when the North Wind blowing off the sea howls around the house and chills the bones, we manage Donegal at least one weekend every month but from spring through to autumn’s end we go often, sometimes all of us sometimes not. Easter is a must, we none of us like to miss it and we have passed this to our children. Easter, the July bank holiday and Halloween, you could count on one hand the number of times any of us have missed being there.

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