by H.St Vincent Beechey

 

I got to Shannon Airport in good time to meet Bonnie’s plane; too early in fact, and after I parked the car I wandered through the overseas terminal pondering on the sameness of airports. I found a bookshop. As a result, I nearly missed her arrival.

It is always the way: I arrive an hour early and feel that there is plenty of time. Before I know it I am late. I rushed to the arrivals lounge to see that Lufthansa 153 had landed five minutes ago. I positioned myself so that I could see the automatic doors as people came drifting through. I found myself suddenly nervous, remembering our last conversation. What would she do? What would I say? I was soon to find out.

Bonnie came through the doors. She was wearing a new outfit, a white tailored costume with a daffodil yellow shirt and was talking animatedly in German to a young Lufthansa officer. He was hanging on her every word and carrying her cabin baggage.

She looked up and saw me. She smiled a dazzling smile at her escort, took back her luggage and dismissed him. How do they do that!

‘Charlie!” she cried and advanced toward me, her arms extended. Seeing that they were carrying bags, I relieved her of them, thus encumbering myself and avoiding such things as hugs or embraces. She was looking very physical but I retreated into practicalities.

‘We’ll pick up your luggage and then get something to eat,” I said. ‘We are driving back to Killarney, I’ve booked you a room.’

Our meal was an uneasy one. Bonnie had eaten well on the plane, she claimed and vowed she was not hungry. I had not eaten since breakfast, seven hours before, and ordered a substantial meal. Strangely, though, I had little appetite.

We made small talkÑthe weather, it was raining again; the flight, it was right on time with true German efficiency; yes, Ireland was unbelievably green, and we looked in silence out of the wall of windows at the light rain sweeping in flurries across the tarmac. Ground staff in their bright yellow rain gear busied themselves round a big Boeing Jumbo. I was lost in thought…

‘Well?’ said Bonnie. She had a slightly desperate air, as though this reunion was coming unglued.

‘Well, what?’ I asked

‘Charlie Quinn, you haven’t been listening to a word I’ve said.’ There was a touch of the old bossy Bonnie in her tone. With an effort, she sweetened it. ‘I was saying it’s wonderful to see you again and have you had a good holiday?’

‘Thank you, and yeah, not bad I suppose.’ I relapsed into silence again.

I had a feeling that Bonnie was beginning to suspect that something was seriously wrong. Being completely ignorant of my past two days she immediately assumed that the problem related to the events in Eisenberg. Charlie,’ she said, ‘About Fritz…’

‘Forget it,’ I said. ‘That’s water under the bridge. I’d almost forgotten about him.’ And, honestly, I had. Meeting Helena had driven everything else out of my mind.

On the journey back things were not much better. I was very wet from fetching the car to the terminal exit. I had come to Shannon via Limerick but had decided to return using the ferry across the Shannon and I got lost.

‘Why don’t you just ask someone?’ Bonnie was using her reasonable voice.

‘In case you hadn’t noticed,’ I said, ‘It is belting down with rain. And besides, I don’t ask! We have got a map. Why don’t you do some navigating; you are supposed to be the travel expert.!’

‘I’ve only been in the country for an hour.’ She complained, ‘but give it here, and stop at the next signpost.’

Safely on the car ferry, we were able to relax as it made its way to Tarbert, two or three kilometres across the Shannon estuary. I apologised to Bonnie.

‘It’s about sixty k’s to Killarney when we get off the ferry. You’ll love it.’ I said. ‘Our hotel is really comfortable. There are some other Aussies staying there.’ I broached the subject gently. If I was right in my estimate of Gazza, Jezza and co, they would move in on Bonnie like bees round a honey pot. ‘Nice crowd, they invited me to their ANZAC Day party last Thursday.’

We had driven through Tralee and still had about thirty kilometres to go before we reached Killarney. Bonnie had kept up a desultory conversation along the way though I am afraid I had made it hard going for her. I was concentrating on driving in the rain and kept my eyes on the road. I always do that. I hate to be a passenger in a car whose driver feels it is necessary to look me in the eye when speaking. Now, somehow, it was an advantage, and when Bonnie sought to raise the question of our relationship I found it a relief to look straight ahead.

‘Charlie,’ Bonnie spoke softly, ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you. I was a fool. I should have never listened to Fritz, but you were so busy hiding from Magda that you hid from me too. Even when I was with you seemed to have withdrawn to someplace I couldn’t reach. I started off to make you jealousÑbut you didn’t even notice. You made me so mad!…’

Looking through the windscreen made my answers easier. The swish swish of the wipers helped sooth the nervous knot in my stomach. I tried to explain somethingÑsomething important. But how to say it…?

‘You didn’t hurt me, Bonnie. You did what you did. I did being hurt It is hard to explain. Look, I take responsibility for my feelings. Feelings are something I am doing, therefore I am responsible for doing them, right? When I am angry, I am angry with myself for being angry! When I am sad, I am sad about being sad. Feelings are terribly confusing for me, but they are my fault, not yours. I should never let myself give in to them.’

‘But Charlie, everyone has feelings.’

‘And look where it gets them! Well, don’t worry. I am not angry at you. It is not your fault that I thought I was in love with you. Well, you are off the hook. If it took Fritz to teach me, so be it. I am cured. All my feelings are back in the box. Let’s resume our professional relationship’Bonnie, for once, seemed to be at a loss for words. I felt a little guilty at not tackling the matter of my feelings for Helena, but “sufficient unto the day” as the saying goes. If I could get things back to basics with Bonnie as my Personal Assistant it would be a good arrangement. I looked contentedly past the hypnotic windscreen wipers.

© Copyright H.St V.Beechey October 1996

Next Episode: Good Weekend

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