Daimhin was sitting on a bench in the park. The wooden bench was under a large oak tree, and from the bench he had a view between two buildings and then as if in perfect symmetry there was the steeple of a church.
Violet sat on the backrest of the bench, her feet on the seat.
They were watching the people strolling or hurrying past.
He looked sideways up at Violet. “It never gets old watching them, does it?”
“M-m,” she agreed.
“Are you still ignoring me? Stop being so difficult, Violet.”
“I am not going to talk to you ever again until you fix what you have done. This is a very serious situation you find yourself in my friend, and since I started talking to you seventeen years ago, it had also become my problem. My deliverance hearing is coming up in sixty years, and I don’t want to jeopardize anything.”
Unsure he started, “Mine is this weekend.”
Shocked she dropped the leaf she was tearing to bits, vein by vein. “You are joking – right?”
“I was just as surprised when Ahern told me.”
Curiously she asked, “How did you die Daimhin?”
“It’s personal. How did you die?”
“I drank. I climbed behind the steering wheel of a car. I killed a couple of people. A short sad story, very sorry story.” The birds fluttered in the leaves of the tree above them as an uncomfortable silence hung between them until she asked again, “How did you die? Tell me, I want to know what the special circumstances are that entitles you to have your hearing before mine.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Well, Sunshine, not to burst your bubble, but you don’t have much else to do.”
“I killed myself.”
She does not even blink an eyelid. “How does your sorry story entitle you to have your hearing before mine? I have been here so much longer than you.”
A flashback filled his mind. His dad beating him within an inch of his life because he was crying. Crying only because he missed his mum.
“Tell me, Daimhin.” She looked at him mockingly. “Did life get too difficult for you and so you decided life was too much to handle, and now a higher power is giving you special treatment. It’s so not fair.”
Softly he said, “Yes. You hit the nail right on the head.”
Apologetically she said, “Sorry. I am only being mean.”
He nodded his head.
After long moments of silence, she said, “Sometimes I do see the purpose of why I have to do this, why I have to escort souls across The Valley, but sometimes I don’t. How do you learn to appreciate life when you have to take life continuously all day long?” She looked at him briefly. “If you knew then what you know now, would you have changed anything?” She asked softly. The question almost seemed rhetorical.
“Nothing would have changed.”
“It might have.”
“I could never be the one he wanted.”
There was pain in the soft rumbling of her voice when she said, “I am sorry.” She shifted her body uncomfortably. “I should never have gotten into that car that night.”
“You couldn’t have known what would happen.”
“My friend.” She laughed cynically. “Actually, my boyfriend, the love of my life wanted to stay home for dinner, but I wanted to go out. We had an argument, and I do not know why I made such a big issue of something so insignificant and I should have just stayed at home.” She smiled forlornly. “He even had something romantic planned. He tried to stop me when I stormed out of the house, but I was raging mad, so I drove to the nearest pub.” She waved her arms dramatically through the air. “And the rest is history.”
He turned to look at her. Pity shone brightly on his face.
She warned him, “If the word sorry leaves your mouth, I’ll beat you to a pulp.”
“I have to go,” he said as he started to stand up from the bench.
“You going to Taylor?”
He nodded his head.
“This is so ill-advised and don’t ever tell me I never warned you. What do you expect to get from her?”
“I don’t know. I’ll see you later okay?”
She ignored him and picked another leaf from a branch above her head.
Taylor did not know it would be Daimhin on the other side of the door when she opened it and confused she invited him in.
As he walked past her into the hall, she backed into him, by accident. After her nap, she felt a little shaky.
He reached to steady her.
Quickly she closed the door, and then found herself stuck between Daimhin and the door. His hand wrapped around her arms as his fingertips touched her softly.
She could have shrugged away from him and broken the connection. It would have been an easy move. However, with the feeling of his chest against her back, she could not seem to move. She wanted to lean back into him, to listen to his heart and to hear if it was possibly beating as fast as hers.
He backed away from her.
She dropped her gaze, uneasy about what he might see in her expression.
Her mother called from the kitchen, “Who’s at the door, Taylor?”
Taylor lifted her eyes and his intense green eyes send a weird sensation up her spine.
“Taylor …” Just her name, in that low, deep voice, was like a caress.
She had hardly enough breath to say, “Yes?”
Only a few centimetres separated them.
He stepped back. “We can’t do this.”
“No.” Taylor shook her head for emphasis.
With a hand lightly pressed in the small of her back, he steered her toward the kitchen.
Her mother looked up shocked when she saw Daimhin following Taylor into the kitchen. She struggled for words, as her eyes darted toward Taylor.
Taylor smiled reassuringly. “Mum, this is Daimhin.” She said it as if she had known him for a lot longer than just one morning.
Her mum continued looking at Taylor concerned.
Daimhin stepped forward. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Fergusson. Taylor has told me so much about you.”
Unsure her mother said, “Okay?”
“Can Daimhin stay for dinner?” The words left her mouth before she had time to reconsider the idea.
Her mother noticed Daimhin’s quick glance in Taylor’s direction. There was a radiance in his eyes when he looked at her. Her mother smiled slowly, the edge of her nervousness dissipating. “Of course.” She looked at Daimhin apologetically. “It’s nothing fancy, I’m afraid.”
“It smells delicious, Mrs. Fergusson.”
“Please. Call me Michelle, you make me feel a hundred years old.”
Her mother turned around and pulled another plate from the cupboard and soon after they sat down together around the small round oak table.
Taylor ate every morsel on her plate. His presence at the table sharpened her hunger, intensifying the taste of the food in her mouth. At the same time, she could barely remember what she ate.
When she caught Daimhin staring at her, she blushed. “Sorry, I seem to be either starving or queasy.”
“No need to apologize. I am happy you are eating.”
These words made Michelle’s heart squeeze tight. She looked at him quizzically as she realized that he cared about Taylor. He was someone who could make sure she was safe when she insisted on going out for a walk. Michelle did not want to insist she stay indoors, especially this weekend. Soon she will be going into the hospital, and then how long will it be before she would be able to come home again. Michelle asked Daimhin, “Did you go to school with Taylor?”
Quickly Taylor said, “He did. He was a year ahead of me. We saw each other again this morning in town.”
Daimhin smiled. “It was nice to be seen by Taylor again, after such a long time.”
“That’s nice. It’s always nice to run into old friends,” Michelle said as she pushed away from the table.
Daimhin pushed his chair away from the table as well. “Let me help you with the dishes, Michelle.”
Michelle replied flustered, “Thank you, that’s very kind of you, but I’m just going to put them in the dishwasher. Why don’t you and Taylor go into the lounge and watch TV?”
When he moved toward Taylor, every nerve in her body seemed to come alive. Quickly she turned and walked away toward the lounge.
As he walked into the lounge behind her, his gaze scanned the cosy living room. Taylor had grown up in this room, watching television sprawled on the same sofa while doing her homework. She sat daydreaming for hours in the little window.
He sat down on the sofa next to her and his arm pressed against hers. She wanted to run away from him and she wanted to lean closer to him.
She switched on the television and they both stared at it unseeingly.
Michelle walked past the door and called in, “Good night Taylor.” She poked her head past the door-jamb, giving Daimhin a pointed look. “Don’t stay up all night, Taylor. You need your rest.”
“Good night, Michelle.”
“Good night, Daimhin. It was nice to meet you. I am happy Taylor met up with an old friend again.”
They listened as Michelle walked up the stairs, and then they heard her walking across the creaking floorboards above them.
Daimhin lifted himself from the sofa. “I better get going.” Taylor stood up with him, and they walked to the front door together. “Can I see you again tomorrow?” He asked as she opened the front door.
She nodded. She wanted to be with him. Wanted to walk close enough beside him so that she could feel his warmth, smell his scent and hear the sound of his breathing. Completely wrong. Absolutely inappropriate.
He stood on the sidewalk outside her door, watching her as she started to close the door. Just before the door closed, he lifted his hand and waved.
She answered his wave, darting a glance at him. She closed the door and then leaned against it. She had seen something in his eyes, a promise, but with everything in her life being temporary, she did not think she could add the complication of Daimhin.
Taylor flicked off the hall light and started climbing up the stairs to her bedroom.
Once she had changed into her pyjamas, she settled into the familiar hollow in her mattress and felt her heart beating fast in her chest. She was afraid of liking someone too much because she knew nothing would come of it. She had waited for death to come and fetch her for the longest time, but when she was with Daimhin she forgot about death lurking around her every corner. When Daimhin was standing in front of her it was as if time stopped. So long had she been alone and she could only believe that fate and destiny brought her and Daimhin together. So that she could have this one experience. The one thing that she had always wanted. The one and only thing on her bucket list. To be loved, no matter what the consequences. She never believed it would ever happen. He did not love her, he only felt sorry for her. She could not allow hope to enter her heart.
Before sleep claimed her, a feeling of inexplicable loneliness settled over her.