‘I would walk a mile on my knees on broken glass just to drink a pint of her bathwater’
So what’s he like?” Sorcha goes. I look up from my eggs Benedict with a New Orleans twist. I have genuinely no idea what she’s talking about. I’m there, “What’s who like?”
And she goes, “Er, the new intern?”
I feel my face instantly redden. My wife is under the (mistaken) impression that Shred Focking Everything’s new unpaid employee is a man, when in fact it’s a woman. And a not unpleasant looking woman either. I would walk a mile on my knees on broken glass just to drink a pint of her bathwater. I keep that to myself, though. Marriage does not thrive on full disclosure. I’m like, “Yeah, no, good,” hoping that will be the end of the conversation.
But Sorcha is nothing if not dogged. Ipsa scientia potestas est, as it says on the Lalor family crest. She goes, “What’s his name?”
I suddenly realise that I can’t look my wife in the eye and lie to her. So I start taking a sudden interest in the nutritional information on the side of the Tropicana carton and I go, “His name is Johnny.” She’s like, “Johnny? Johnny what?”
I’m there, “Johnny, em. . . Johnny Sexton. ”
For fock’s sake. I’ve got rugby on the actual brain.
She’s like, “Johnny Sexton, as in the Johnny Sexton?”
I’m there, “Now you’re being ridiculous, Sorcha. Yeah, no, it’s just another dude who happens to be also called Johnny Sexton?”
“Bit of a coincidence, isn’t it?”
I shrug my shoulders. I’m like, “I hadn’t actually thought about it that way,” and then I go, “Although I have to say, I wish he had the great man’s work ethic!” because it’s important to throw in little details when you’re lying to your wife. Women love details. I’m actually congratulating myself on an excellent covering job when Honor all of a sudden appears in the kitchen. The first words out of her mouth are, “He’s lying to you.” Sorcha’s like, “Lying to me? What are you talking about?”
Honor laughs in a really, like, cruel way? “Oh my God,” she goes, “you’ve been married to him for how many years and you still can’t read the signs? His face is red and he’s acting all shifty. And Johnny Sexton? Hashtag, puh-lease!”
Sorcha looks at me for an explanation. I’m trying to think of something to say when Honor adds “It’s obvious that this new intern is a woman.” Sorcha’s like, “A woman?” her voice full of concern. I’m thinking, give a dog a bad name.
Honor goes, “Think about it. He’s up for work at, like, half-seven in the morning. And he’s wearing Acqua di Parma, which, by the way, he calls his scoring aftershave. . .”
I laugh. I’m like, “Honor, you have an amazing imagination. I was actually saying that only yesterday to Johnny Sexton – the one who works for me, rather than the one who works for Racing Metro. I was like, ‘My daughter has an amazing imagination, Johnny.’ ”
“Plus,” Honor goes, “my granddad told me it was a woman? Her name is Phaedra.”
My old man has a mouth like the Port Tunnel. So does my daughter actually.
“Okay,” I go, trying to rescue the situation, “I’m admitting that it’s a woman. The old me would have kept up the act that it was a man called Johnny Sexton. I think that shows how much I’ve possibly matured.”
Sorcha cuts straight to the chase. She’s there, “Is she good-looking, Ross?” Her tone is accusing. I’m there, “The thing is, Sorcha, with the whole equality in the workplace thing, you’re not actually allowed to define women as good-looking or, you know. . . cat.”
She goes, “Is she good-looking?” except she roars it this time.
I’m there, “I personally don’t think so. I genuinely, genuinely do not think so – in so far as I’m any kind of judge,” and I suddenly stand up from the table. “Anyway, I’m already late. We’ve got a collection at half-eight.”
I give Honor a filthy on the way out the door and she sort of, like, sneers at me and out of the corner of her mouth she goes, “Busted and disgusted!” Phaedra is waiting for me on the Upper Glenageary Road. I think I might have mentioned that she looks like Emily Ratajkowski and I’m only saying that as a statement of fact.
Into the van she climbs. She’s like, “Hi, Ross!” and she smiles at me and straight away I’m in Sugartown.
I’m like, “Phaedra – how are we this morning?” laying on the charm in a major way.
She goes, “I’m a bit tired,” as we drive off. “I had an – oh my God – major row with my ex-boyfriend last night.”
I’m there, “I don’t like the sound of this dude.”
“I haven’t told you anything about him.”
“Well, I’m just getting a vibe that me and him wouldn’t exactly see eye to eye.”
“He wants us to get back together.”
“That’s mad talk. Yeah, no, you’re better off staying single for as long as possible. Take it from someone who knows.”
I’m suddenly aware of something like a flicker in the corner of my left eye. I look in the rearview mirror and I notice that the cor behind us is flashing its hazards. It’s no ordinary cor either. I recognise it straight away as Sorcha’s Nissan Leaf.
“That woman behind us is trying to tell us something,” Phaedra goes.
I’m like, “Hmmm,” trying to ignore it.
She goes, “Ross, maybe you should pull over.”
I’m like, “That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that I should possibly try to outrun her.”
I suddenly put my foot down, except Sorcha does exactly the same. Like I said – dogged.
“Ross,” Phaedra goes, “I really think you should pull over.” And that’s what I end up having to do. Sorcha pulls in behind us.
“Okay, cards on the table,” I go, “it’s actually my wife.”
I watch her in the rearview getting out of her cor and approaching the van on the passenger side.
“Your wife?” Phaedra goes. “You said you weren’t married.”
“I don’t remember saying that.”
“You did. At my job interview. I thought it was a strange thing to say.”
Sorcha’s face suddenly appears in the front passenger window. She doesn’t say a word to me. She just stares at Phaedra, possibly as overwhelmed by her beauty as I am. And through the glass, I watch her mouth just three simple words: “No! Focking! Way!”