She pulled her scarf closer round her neck and pushed the chair away from the table with the backs of her knees; she needed turf for the range in the kitchen to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. Ruari should have filled up the turf basket before he left that morning to hitch into town. It was signing on day and she had given him a list of things they needed from the shops. Until he came home, all she had was the heel of a loaf and the last of the cheese. He should have been back hours ago and the thought of him spending their dole money in the pub made her blood boil. Their rented bungalow was in the middle of nowhere and she had considered the five mile walk to Moira’s house. It would be warmer there and she could do with the company but she didn’t have a phone to check if she was home.
Outside it was chillier than she’d thought. The wind blew a fine mist of rain from paper thin clouds that filtered the pale autumn sun; there would be a clear sky later and Aoife looked forward to a full moon and thousands of stars. She opened the door to the shed and reached out to pick up a large sod to drop in the basket. It twitched and stared at her with beady eyes. A rat! Aoife leaped back as it flew off the turf pile and scurried across the garden towards the fields.
‘So, that’s what was scratching at the ceiling,’ she muttered aloud. ‘I think I’ll risk the walk.’
So it was the rat’s fault that she returned the empty basket to the kitchen, put on her walking boots, gloves and coat, and set off to Moira’s.
The road twisted and turned, rose and fell, and the sky darkened as evening crept up on her. She had done the walk so many times but she felt heavy and exhausted. The pregnant full moon seemed to be laughing at her and she found no solace in the stars. It was with a flood of relief that she rounded the bend and saw her friend’s cottage glowing with light, smoke curling out of the chimney. In the front window Moira was drawing the curtains. Aoife hastened through the shadows at the side of the house and let herself in the back door.
‘Jaysus, Aoife! I wasn’t expecting you. I’ll put the kettle on,’ said Moira, taking mugs off hooks and placing them on the kitchen table. ‘Why isn’t Ruari with you?’
‘The gobshite isn’t back from town yet,’ Aoife replied. Moira was used to her husband disappearing, sometimes for days on end, and both women knew that their men were probably propping up a bar somewhere or playing pool together.
‘In that case, sit down at the table and I’ll knock up something to eat. You must be starving.’
‘Come to think of it, I do have a bit of a belly ache,’ said Aoife. ‘I haven’t eaten since breakfast. But it feels like something more than that. I’ll just use your loo.’
She pushed herself up slowly from the table and at that moment she felt a trickle of liquid down her legs and a puddle formed on the floor.
‘Oh Janie Mack,’ said Moira. ‘Your waters have broken. Joe has the car. I’ll have to ring for an ambulance. I’ll stay here in case Ruari comes back with Joe.’
The Coombe maternity hospital was over forty miles away in Dublin and the ride in the ambulance seemed to take forever, with the paramedic telling her everything was going to be fine over and over. By the time they arrived, the baby’s head was showing and Aoife was gripping the guy’s hand so tightly she left marks. She resigned herself to the fact that she’d be giving birth with just a midwife.
Safely in the ward, with the baby in a cot beside her, Aoife was ready to kill Ruari. How could he be so selfish? But as soon as she saw his stupid drunken face, she couldn’t help smiling, and they celebrated the birth of their baby girl with a bottle of Guinness from the brewery.
© Kim M. Russell, 2016
Image found on www.beerinfo.co