Some swearing, suggestion of an extra-marital relationship.
A Date with an Irishman
“Listen, I don’t want to have to go to your husband with this. He’ll be devastated and it would pain me to be the one that tells him. Maybe we could come to some sort of agreement?” Her eyebrows were raised in question and as thin as they were had almost disappeared under dyed blonde bangs.
My knees were trembling a bit, so I sat down on the burgundy leather banquet seat. I couldn’t believe this was happening, how had anyone even seen us? We had driven two towns away to have this dinner out of sight of nosy neighbours or friends in my small Ontario town. We had chosen a table at the back of the steak house; it was dimly lit and perfect for our much-needed private conversation.
My companion had slipped off to the washroom just minutes ago and yet this intervention made it seem like forever. As my mind whirled with questions the first one that needed answering was who did this bitch think she was? I was fuming now, we weren’t doing anything that would annoy Tony, well much, well, not in the way this small-town harpy could grasp anyway. I stood up and away from the table, it’s empty plates and whiskey glasses a testament to dinner a deux. With my heels on I towered over her lumpy little figure. I sneered, a tight and dangerous lip stretch that had her back up a few inches.
I scanned her body from top to bottom, keeping the same smirk on my face. She was mutton dressed as lamb, a phrase my granny would use, it seemed apt. Mrs. Mark Streetfield stood there with her beringed fingers settled on more than ample hips. Her dress was baby-shit yellow and given the amount of material required, it was a lot of poop in bad shoes.
“What kind of agreement were you thinking Alice? Were you planning on blackmailing me or something? What is this, some kind of movie plot?”
I laughed and took another step toward her while I spoke. I was aware that the conversation in the restaurant had halved in volume but my business with this woman wasn’t quite over. She opened and closed her large mauve painted mouth before stage whispering.
“Everyone assumes you’re seeing someone else Tanya, I’m just trying to do the right thing for Tony, even if you’re not.”
“What’s with your sudden concern about my husband? I know he works for yours, but does that make him your business? Why don’t you spend more time worrying about what, or sorry who, your Frank is doing?”
“What? Frankie would never cheat on me, don’t try to shovel your sins on my marriage. You’re trash Tanya, everyone in town knows that the O’Connell’s are all uncouth and you’re no better despite your ‘good marriage’.” Here she decided to use the finger quotes. I hated those, so pretentious.
I lifted my eyes and saw Frank come towards us, he wore the expression of someone who’s wife was constantly upsetting others and he the one who cleaned up the messes. He was a handsome man in his sixties, sharp hazel eyes and a full head of white hair. We’d known each other for decades and he was one of the few in our town that didn’t judge me on my DNA.
“Hello Tanya, how are you tonight? You look beautiful in that dress.” Before I could thank him for his compliment he had turned to his wife and took her elbow.
“Are you finished with your conversation Alice? We have guests at the table wondering where you are. I know that Tanya is a delight to talk to, but it’s not fair on the Coopers to leave them hanging.”
Alice murmured an assent, but then turned back to me with a cloying smile.
“Say hello to Tony for us dear, and say goodbye to your dinner companion for me, I never did get an introduction.”
“Yes of course I will Alice, enjoy your dinner and make sure you keep a good strong hold on that handsome man of yours.”
I glimpsed a small muscle move in Frank’s cheek, and knew I’d hit the mark on what had just been a guess. I watched them walk back to their table and started when I heard my companion’s lilting Irish voice behind me.
“Who were they, and what man in the world would let their wife wear so much of that colour in public?”
I pivoted and giggled at my cousin Finn, he had the same sardonic humour as I did, and being only a year apart we were closer than siblings. It was so good to see him, he’d flown over from Dublin the night before to help with some family issues. I’d been trying to muddle through it myself, and as it was borderline unethical, I couldn’t get Tony involved. He was a lawyer in Frank’s firm, and I didn’t want to compromise his job.
“Let’s sit down Tan, we haven’t even begun our real talk. Now where’s that sweet colleen for the drinks?” He looked around and finding the eye of our server, raised two fingers and before long she came by with a couple more whiskeys. I never knew how he did that; I would have been sitting there thirsty for another ten minutes. We clinked glasses, took a sip, and sighed.
Two weeks passed before I saw Frank again, Finn had guided me through some initial steps I had to take before I could even go to a lawyer. I now had all the paperwork I needed, and I had Tony’s assent. The former was just procedural stuff, the latter was far more complex and personal. The adoption of my niece had been on my mind for months now. Shan was in prison for a laundry list of offences and because her husband had left her three years ago, her daughter had been put into foster care. It didn’t make sense for her to stay there when she had family in town. It was obvious that Shannon couldn’t care for her, we didn’t know who Cassidy’s father was and none of my other siblings had stepped up. They either had kids of their own that they couldn’t really afford, or their spouses had put their foot down.
I, well Tony and I, couldn’t have children. We had tried almost everything in terms of medical procedures, but it almost cost us our marriage, so we decided to stop and change our attitudes. Now I saw a solution to both problems. I was initially thinking of fostering Cassidy, but Tony was sceptical and worried. He was concerned that I would get attached and be unable to give her back when Shan got out of prison, and that we’d be on a merry go round if and let’s face it when, my sister got banged up again. We talked late into the night several times and I eventually convinced him that with our love, my determination and his legal abilities, this child would be ours.
So, here I was in a club chair in the law office of ‘Streetfield and Associates’ waiting to hear about the court date and to tie up any loose threads. I had dressed conservatively today. My outfit, tailored pants with a blouse and cardigan, low heeled shoes and only my wedding band and small gold hoops in my ears for jewelry. I wanted to be the lawyers wife today, not a member of the wild Irish family people looked down on. While I waited, I went through the paperwork again and found the picture of my niece that the social worker had clipped to the file. A sweet little face, blonde wavy hair, and sea green eyes. I was so looking forward to her company
The legal secretary picked up the phone on her desk, glanced at me and hung up. Just as she rose, ostensibly to escort me to Frank’s office, his door flew open, and Alice came storming out. Her face was flushed under thick pancake makeup, her eyes flashed angrily and flared even more dangerously when she spied me in the outer office. I had risen in anticipation of my appointment so was noticeable. She stopped in her tracks and raised a pointed finger at my face.
“You! How did you know, who told you? Or has it been you this whole time, you Irish slut, what more could anyone expect?” She half sobbed as she bolted toward the elevator doors, I didn’t know what to do or say. The secretary was looking at me aghast. Frank paused in his doorway; we could all hear the bawling from the cage all the way down to the main floor, but there was still silence among us three.
A few seconds later life started again. Frank ushered me into his tastefully decorated office and lowered himself heavily to the seat behind his desk. I could hear that his admin assistant had returned to her typing, and I sat there in shock. This was the second time in a fortnight that I’d been accused by that woman of being immoral. I took a cleansing breath, brought my papers from within my bag and silently lay them on Frank’s desk. I took my measure of him.
He was clearly stunned. Having a scene like that in the office was hugely unprofessional and I wondered what had brought it on. When I had taunted Alice in the restaurant it was an impulsive comment from a hurting woman. I didn’t know anything about their marriage at that point, I’d never given the time or had the interest to be honest. I’d had my own issues to deal with. It was in my face now though, big time.
“Is it true Frank? Have you had a relationship with someone that Alice knows about, now?” I added the last word as a question of timing. “Is this going to affect my case for adoption, should I seek another lawyer?”
“Why would you do that Tanya? This, this marital thing has nothing to do with your legal situation. I said I’d help you and Tony; I think the world of you kids and this is a good thing you’re doing. Shall we get a start?” He visibly shook his whole body as if to cast off the energy and flipped through the papers. I watched as he read through them and so was on alert when I saw him drop his head into his hands. I was sitting close enough to the desk to see he was on the page with the family history listed. It had the picture of Cass, her birth details, Shannon’s criminal record and a report by and on the current foster parents.
I leaned back into the chair and crossed my legs in studied non-chalance.
“Can I ask you a personal question Frank?” He looked up; his hazel eyes flooded with tears. He just nodded and I sighed, what a tangled web we had here.
“How well do you know my sister Shannon? Is there any chance in hell that you could be that child’s biological father? I glared at the top of his head. It was still bowed so I could see where Cass had inherited the waves in her hair.
“We met a couple years ago, I represented her on a minor offence, we just, I don’t know how it happened, your sister is a stick of dynamite. All that red hair and her figure, she just floored me. Alice and I haven’t, well. No, that’s not an excuse. When Shannon called me to tell me about the baby, I turned her away. She started acting out after that.”
“Shannon has been acting out since she was a child, you can’t blame yourself for that. What you can do is accept responsibility for hurting your wife and abandoning both your lover and your child. I don’t understand you Frank, did you want to get caught? Did you not think that with Tony and I applying for adoption of your child that this wouldn’t have come out eventually? It’s a small city, and this is a massive conflict of interest, I’m not going to participate.”
I stood up and reached for the papers on his desk, his large, tanned hand thumped down across the pile stopping me from picking them up.
“Frank, you can’t be the solicitor on this case, you know that, give me the papers and I’ll find someone else to represent us.”
“I just want to keep the photo, please Tanya, it’s all I have of her.” I picked up the photo and moved it off the file folder to the side of his desk then scooped up the pile into my purse. I walked out of his office in silence. His quiet sobs being the second painful weeping session within thirty minutes.
Two years later, and we’ve had our beautiful little girl for over eighteen months. Shannon had to be convinced that we were the best parents for Cassidy, I had gone to the prison, and we really talked for the first time in many years. We discussed Frank and how the whole affair had progressed into a pregnancy. When she realized how much Tony and I would love and take care of her daughter she approved the adoption. The social workers recommended us to the courts and while all that seemed to take forever, we knew Cassidy would be worth the wait.
Shannon is out of jail and doing well in a halfway house for women in a city north of Ottawa. Frank and Alice are divorced now, she took him for everything and to reduce his stress he made Tony partner. My cousin has moved here from Ireland and is working on a local newspaper. He and I meet for dinner from time to time, but we always sit in a well-lit part of the restaurant.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.