She wore a silk jersey dress, patterned in diamonds of blue and white. Her hair was a blunt bob, cut in around the ears and the back of her neck. She had a slight overbite, which leavened her beauty, vulnerable and approachable, were it not for the fierce, bright light in her eyes. Coltish legs and a small, high bosom.
The date on the back of the photograph reads a single date.
11th November 1975.
She had gone out, nineteen years old, spending the money she worked all week to earn. Her priorities were to have a dance, a few drinks and a laugh.
Simple pleasures, strung together like christmas lights.
He held court at the bar, a tumbler of scotch in one hand, cigarette between the fingers of his left hand as he gestured for emphasis. His hair was thick and black, with long, simian sideburns, a spade jaw and a deep cleft in his chin. She stood in the doorway and their eyes met across the pub with the propulsive force of chemical reaction. He wore a paisley shirt with a wide collar, unbuttoned to the chest, showing the broad, furred expanse like a mating display.
His wink had a seismic impact upon her, a brutish authority leavened by the melodic, poignant burr of his voice. The anecdote continued and she joined her friends in their hurry for amusement.
They danced in a circle, stiff and embarrassed, fending off suitors with practiced humour but with a few drinks and some good music, they found themselves, liquid and alive. It was during Somebody To Love by Queen that he came over and introduced himself.
Billly MacDonell brought them a round of drinks. He regaled the group, ignoring her until she twisted and seethed with his wilful ignorance of her attraction. She touched his arm and he laughed it off, telling her she should not touch what she could not afford. His tone bordered on contempt but his eyes were a slow burn, offering her a test of her character and will.
She willed. Billy slipped away from the dance floor, with her heart in his pocket. He slipped his arm around her, suffusing her in a sensation equal parts danger and comfort.
He was a good Catholic boy. She was on the pill.
I never asked the details. It was enough to know they collided, flesh, chemicals and lightning.
The family doctor confirmed it She imagined his delight, the scenario playing out a million times in her head as she rang him from the phone box, asked him to meet her at the cafe on the high street.
His face fell when she told him. She was privy to a rare sight.
Billy McNamara. Speechless.
His glib charm sought to assert itself and failed. He set his mug of tea on the table.
‘I’ll pay for ye to take care of it.’ he said.
The cold edge in his voice cut her deep. He tried to explain that it was just fun, he could not be a father but he could do the decent thing.
She looked away, eyes damp with unshed tears as her insides burned with regret.
‘So, that’s it? That’s all you have to say?’ she said.
Billy’s eyes twinkled and he went to take her hand but she snatched it away.
‘My sweet, can’t you please see the longer picture here?’ he said.
She thought about correcting him. A small riposte to the injury he had delivered. She touched her stomach for reassurance. Her act of courage had been to meet his eye, but there was more to bear, and she had a choice to make, there and then.
I have her eyes.
His glib charm but it’s leavened by experience.
She chose me, despite all the doors it closed to her.
When I sat there, running my thumb over the silver blister packs of tablets, mustering the courage to just stop suffering, I remember that girl and her faith in me. I got up, wiped my eyes and flushed them down the toilet before I made a phone call.