He gets down on one knee and you can ’t believe it, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for y our entire life, you love him so much you instantly forgive all those late nights at the office followed by even later nights at the pub since the baby arrived, quickly point a chipped-polish, rat-bitten fingernail in the direction of the window and squeak ‘What’s that,’ stealing just enough time to pull off the baby-sick spattered brown cardigan you dragged out of the charity bag two weeks ago. ‘Waz wha?” he slurs, but his head has already swivelled back, glazed eyes still elsewhere, two knees on the ground now, that’s a bit over the top you think, one knee would have done, next thing he starts poking about under the kitchen table, saying ‘Juz a minute, iz here somewhere, threw it there earlier when your mother popped in, didn’t want the old hatchet head thinking I was a pervert’ while you’re trying to decide whether to post the video to Facebook or Instagram or both, cursing y our lack of insight on Valentine’s day of all days and –
‘Nigel, did you say ‘pervert’?’
‘Ah, found it, iz was lying under this smelly cardigan, yuck.’
Unpleasant words are about to fall from the tip of your tongue – but you won’t let them, it’s V Day and the box he’s holding is big, bigger – much bigger – than a ring box. He proffers it in your direction, pokes it into your ribs when you don’t move.
‘Open it! A trippy feeling of excitement and dread floods your bones.
‘What is it?’
A wide smile spreads across his face; you see your daughter in every crevice.
Strip by strip the heart embossed wrapping paper falls to the floor as Nigel holds his palms up as if in prayer, drumming his fingers together.
You squint at the conten ts of the box, then look up and squint harder – much harder – at your by the looks of it never-to-be-betrothed lesser half; bra ins is not exactly something Nigel’s ever been known for.
‘What is it?’ The words squeeze through the gaps in your teeth.
‘Baby, what do you mean, what is it? It’s an inflatable man. Remember you were looking for one with clothes painted on for Sarah’s Hen, ‘cause you said the naked guys were tacky? ’
‘Eh, yeah?’ You wouldn’t mind a naked guy now. When Molly was born you went from Lolita to the Virgin Mary overnight, according to Nigel. It’s a pedestal you feel crushed by.
‘You said you couldn’t find one anywhere, so I mentioned it to Jenny at work, and she found one for you! She even wrapped it and everything, isn’t she great?!’
Later that night and you’re sitting in the local getting legless. It’s been two years since you’ve seen the inside of a pub. You order another Valentine’s Day Wild Sex on the Beach for yourself, and a Manhattan for Gorgeous George beside you. He’s a bit quiet but the greatest listener any woman could wish for.
Best of all, no matter how much he drinks, he never gets drunk, making him the classiest guy you’ve never met, hands down.
Julia McNamara is an emerging writer from Cork who was delighted to have been shortlisted in the Kanturk Arts Festival Flash Fiction contest 2019. When she isn’t writing she is applying make-up as a form of inexpensive therapy/temporary disguise, while ruminating on where it all went wrong. Her favourite whiskey is Jameson. Say hello on twitter.