joy fitzgerald

“She’s still dainty, isn’t she?” Joy hopped Effie’s bunny toy across the rug and burrowed it into her tummy to a delighted, full-belly baby cackle.

Céilí shrugged. “The doctor has her on some specialist formula. I don’t know if it’s doing much. She has another appointment, uh…sometime. I don’t know.”

Joy settled back on her heels to watch her granddaughter play, but her eyes flicked to Céilí, the disengaged way she sat herself back from the little rug Effie played on, how she was looking at her daughter but not; she was staring at a spot on the dolls’ house and her gaze didn’t move once to Effie’s face in the time Joy watched them.

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One of the assistants Céilí had forgotten the name of burst into the sitting room, flailing her clipboard madly and shrieking. “Hoons!” She screeched. “Hoons! In the cathedral!”

“Whatever’s the matter?” Joy stood and helped the woman into a chair, passing her a glass of water. “No one can understand you when you’re wailing like a harridan, pet. There now.”

“Hoons,” the woman continued weakly. “We’ve been gate-crashed by a gang of hooligans. They’re trying to get into the cathedral. They came on -” Her face grew deathly ill. “On motorcycles.”

Céilí grinned, her spirits lifting. “Those would be my friends.”

The assistant - Petra, that was it - looked aghast. “But Lady Beatrice -”

“Will have to let them in. I’ll call her.” Céilí smiled sweetly and dialled her mother-in-law’s number. “Beatrice? Céilí. I hear there’s been a bit of trouble; it looks like you’re trying to bar my friends from attending the wedding. Their names are on the guest list, there should be six of them. What a hilarious misunderstanding! Yes, let them in please.” A high pitched noise became audible from the phone and Céilí drew it away from her ear. “The ones with the tattoos, yes - there’s a lamb; oh, terrible reception Beatrice - the line’s going, must be off now.” She ended the call and grinned at the other women.

“Come on then, let’s go to a wedding.”

2

“Mum?” Céilí took a sip of her drink and tried to look as casual as she could. “How do you know if you’re in love? I’m - asking for a friend.”

If her mother’s eyes could glow, they’d have been lighting up half of London at that point. “Do you - are you-?”

“Mum if you’re going to be weird about it let’s just stop talking. This is embarrassing.”

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2

“I just don’t know how she’ll cope on three legs. She’s so young. She’s always running about.”

“She’s not too young that it’ll hinder her. I see a hundred dogs a year running about on three legs. You should see mine; he doesn’t let it stop him. …How long til you have to pick Lola up?”

“Not until three.”

“Right. Wait here, give me five minutes.”

“Why don’t you go have a bath?”

“Have you ever seen Free Willy? It’ll be like that except instead of the whale jumping gracefully over the bar thing it’ll just flail about trying to get out of the tub and slosh all the water over the side and then you’ll have to come and pull me out and it’ll be like that episode of Grey’s except I’m not drowning I’m just shaped like a stubby hippo.”

“So it’s a no on the bath then?”

He must be able to tell I’m about to protest because he gives a pointed look to the tea. I take a sip, and he a deep breath like he’s readying himself to deliver the lines he’s just rehearsed. “You were acting like a single parent. It’s what you’ve always been, really. You’re not used to relying on someone when it comes to your children. Whether you meant to or not, you were dealing with it the way you did with Ian - on your own.”

“I don’t think you’re like -”

“I know you don’t. Habits are a hard thing to break, though. Hey, it took me two months before I realised I should be telling you if I was coming over after work or not.”

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3

“You jump like a girl, Katie.”

“I am a girl, you dweeb, and that’s not my name. I wiped the floor with you. Your pony’s legs are shorter than mine and I’m pretty sure it can’t even get off the ground.”

“Shut up! Acorn can jump.”

“But you can’t. I’m going to make you a ribbon for coming first of the losers. Because you always lose. Big old loser. Looooser.”

“Shut up, shut up!”

“What, are you crying?”

“I’m not crying! I’m allergic to jerks!”

“Céilí, sweetheart, pumpkin; it’s your weekly riding lesson, not a competition.”