‘You mind if I smoke?’ Paddy rested his back against the headboard. He’d woken early, hadn’t really slept, had thought of sneaking away, but then must have dozed and felt Sarah stirring beside him, her hand brushing against his hairless thigh and settling on his cock.
‘Umm, what time is it, anyway?’ Her head poked out of the quilt, her eyes still heavy with sleep. ‘It’s still dark.’
He checked his phone, ‘Not that early, half-five,’ but flinched as she took his cock in her mouth.
‘Mind if I have a shower before work,’ he said, afterwards, swinging his legs out of bed.
‘As long as you promise not to steal my bag,’ she joked.
He searched for his Y-fronts, peering at the floor and stirring his trousers and jacket until they appeared. Sucking in his stomach, he pulled them on and searched through his pockets for his cigarette packet and lighter.
‘You mind?’ he held the carton, tapping out a Regal King Size.
She turned on the bedside light and lifted her nightie, bra and nightgown and separating them out.
‘Only if you give me one?’
She leaned across, smiled, arched a shoulder and back. He put the filtered end in her mouth and gave her a light, before lighting his own.
Cigarette smoke seemed to draw them together. Her lack of false modesty thrilled him. He thought his wife Marie would loosen up a bit after they got married, for her a blow job was something you did to a Christmas balloon. True to form, she stayed much the same through thirty-years of marriage, every year adding more layers than the average polar bear on those programmes she liked to watch. Sex was a dirty four-letter word for her that begun and ended with duty and no kids. But they were married by Father McDonald in the Catholic Church and that meant something then. It meant a life sentence, but her cancer diagnosis meant time was short and there was enough guilt sloshing around to bury both of them.
Paddy had taken to the drink, when he was younger as the lesser of two evils. His problem had gone from being a gifted amateur that liked a couple of pints during the week and to splash out at the weekend and get sparkled to a full-time professional whose pores sweated booze and whose breath was twenty-percent proof. He’d been thinking about that. Thinking about it a lot, nostalgic for those better days, when at least he could have a laugh. The AA meetings were barely holding him body and soul together.
‘I’d like a drink,’ Paddy growled, relieved to be finally saying it. ‘I’d love a good fucking drink.’
‘No Paddy, don’t put that on me.’ She held up a hand in protest. ‘Because I fell aff the wagon, doesn’t mean you need to.’ She shook her head. ‘You’re my sponsor, yah stupid cunt, you’re meant to talk me out of drinking, not into it.’ Then she started rocking with laughter.
Paddy squinted. ‘Suppose.’ And he smiled. ‘But are you no being a bit hypocritical here. You and that other lassie. You were meant to be her sponsor.’
‘Aye,’ she said, no longer laughing.
‘And you ended up drunk and rolling about the bed with her.’
She took a long drag of her fag and stared up at him. ‘Stick the knife in Paddy, why don’t you?’
She angled her head looking over at the gap between curtain, kitchen window and the shuttered darkness outside and saying nothing for a few seconds. ‘You know Paddy, I think you’re jealous. And that’s your real problem.’
‘Och, don’t talk shite.’
‘Jealous that, finally, somebody else had taken an interest in me.’
‘Aye, and we know how that turned oot.’
‘Well, let me put it this way, my intentions were good.’
Paddy went over to the sink and ran the end of the dowt under the tap and dropped it into the sink with the others. ‘Well, you know what they say: The road to hell is filled with good intentions.’
She took a deep draw and held out her cigarette. ‘Be an angel, and put that out for me.’
‘Smartass, that’s always been your problem.’ He took the cigarette from her and looked at it frowning. ‘There’s still a bit left in that.’ He took a deep drag, the glow lighting his face, before turning to run it under the tap.
‘I’ll tell you this, if the road to hell is filled with good intentions, well, that’s the road I want to be on. That’s the only road I want to be on. I don’t want to be stuck on the road with all those sanctimonious cunts, like you, that wouldnae fart in a gale because it was smelly.’
He turned and watched her pulling on her nightie and housecoat, stumbling into her slippers.
‘Look,’ he said. ‘I just didnae think you were like that.’
‘I’m a drunk and a no-good slut,’ she purred in a low voice, hooting with laugher. ‘What’s not to like?’
She brushed by him, sticking the kettle on. ‘You want a cup of tea and bit of toast?’
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘But I’ll just get a shower first.’
‘Sure.’ She squeezed his wrist. ‘But I want to tell you what happened first.’
He shook his head, avoiding her gaze. ‘No, you don’t need to, if you don’t want to.’
‘OK, here’s how it went. I’ll cut to the chase. She told me something so awful I didnae have any answers. None. Anything I could have told her would have sounded like the worst kind of lie.’
‘Look, over the years, I’ve heard just about everything. Murders, rapes, suicides. The whole works. Nothing could surprise me.’
The kettle boiled and switched itself off.
‘Look Paddy, her wain was eaten by a fucking rat. If that doesn’t surprise you, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.’
‘Och, don’t talk shite.’
‘I’m telling you. She was absolutely devastated. Who wouldn’t be? I didnae know what to say. In fact, I was so upset she ended up comforting me, rather than the other way about.’
‘Is that what you call it?’
‘Paddy,’ she shook her head. ‘Away and fucking raffle yerself.’
‘Well, alright, listen.’ He looked behind him and towards the bed. ‘I’ll tell you what. You make a cup of tea and bit of toast. If what you’re saying’s true there’ll be something about it in the newspapers. Something about it on the internet. I’ll just get my phone and have a look.’
‘Right, you do that.’ She pulled the blinds and pulled the window open a little and searched through the bread bin. ‘I’ve only got brown bread.’
‘That’s fine.’ Paddy sat on the bed, phone in his hand, peering at the screen.
She sniffed the bread before putting three slices into the toaster and flicking it on.
‘Right, I’ve got something here,’ said Paddy, with an edge in his voice. ‘You’re right, a baby eaten by a rat. I kinda remembered it a wee bit, when you mentioned it.’
‘Told you, didn’t I?’ The toast popped up too soon and she put it back on for another minute or two.
‘Aye, but there’s only one thing.’ Paddy drifted across, cradling the phone and showing her the screen. ‘There’s a picture of the mother there and if I’m not mistaken that’s a wee half-caste lassie.’
‘That fucking cow Louise,’ cried Sarah. ‘I’ll fucking feed her to the rats.’
‘Aye, if that’s her real name.’ Paddy shut his phone down.