In my blissful reunion with Helena, I had almost completely forgotten about Bonnie. It was several days before I even thought to look for e-mail. My mind was on other things. On the day of our departure for Dublin, before completing our packing, I thought to check. There was a message.

I printed it out with the baby bubble-jet. I must be a throwback, but somehow I find it hard to believe a message unless it is in black and white and on real paper. I passed it across to Helena. ‘What do you make of this lot?’ Helena put on her owl glasses.

‘I think you should take it seriously. Tell her you will see her in Dublin.’

‘But Helena…’

‘Look, admittedly her contract is with the Trust, but your acceptance of the prize has possible implications of compliance with the conditions. One of the conditions was that you should have the assistance, and guidance, of a personal assistant for one year. You have already run out on her twice.’

‘With good cause!’ I said.

She softened. ‘Charlie,’ she ruffled my hair. ‘Charlie, you are a lovely man, but so innocent. You have six million dollars at stake.’

‘Much less by now, I have spent quite a bit on this trip.’ I said defensively.

‘How long has it been? You are probably a lot richer now than when you started out. Do you realise how much interest, even ordinary bank interest, six million dollars will earn in that time. Charlie, you are a very inexperienced millionaire.

‘Bonnie is a very smart lady. Twice you have put her in a difficult position by running out on her. Somehow she has been covering that up; but now she must be getting desperate. Her story will be that you have broken contract by abandoning her in Europe.’

‘But I paid all her expenses in Frankfurt…’

‘But how about Killarney?’

‘I was so mad about how she drove you out that…’

‘That you just left her there! You have driven her into a corner. Just tell her that you will meet her in Dublin and sort it all out. Don’t worry. I’ll be with you. Don’t forget, I have a score to settle too. That young woman needs a lesson she won’t forget.’ Her expression was grim. She changed the subject. ‘Tell me more about Joe and Kitty, I’m dying to meet them.’ And Helena smiled at me. And the sun shone.

Joe and Kitty welcomed us with open arms, clichéd but literally, somehow I didn’t have to explain anything. Kitty looked at me looking at Helena as I introduced her. ‘Give the dear man a drink, Joe. I will make Helena a nice cup of tay. Better still, take him to the pub, I’m sure Helena and I have a lot to talk about.’ And she bustled us out. ‘Women’s talk. Y’know.’

Joe’s local is a cosy pub, a timeless place redolent of rich dark beer and the ghost of old tobacco, though there seemed to be very little smoking going on. Perhaps even Ireland is succumbing to social pressures.

Joe insisted on buying first, probably because his offer of a drink at home had been gazumped by Kitty. He seated me at a corner table and went to the bar.

As he stood there waiting for the rich black porter to settle, I looked at his honest round face with a sudden surge of affection. It was good to see him again, almost like coming home – home to a family.

Home! Suddenly, from out of nowhere, there came a poignant feeling of loss. I thought of my little house in suburban Melbourne, its books unread, its computer asleep, and the answering machine mindlessly taking messages which would remain unanswered.

Normally I don’t think about such things; Home is where I am. I used to boast to Bonnie ‘Give me an hour in a room, and I’ll have been there forever.’ The ritual disposition of my bits and pieces – my travelling clock here, my little pile of current reading there – and I was “at home”. But this was different. My real home was calling me.

‘A panny for y’ torts.’ Joe set the brimming glasses on the table, the heads of yellow cream crowning the black beer. For a moment I regarded him blankly.

‘A Penny …? Sorry Joe, I must have been daydreaming.’

We fell into easy conversation and I found myself telling him all about Helena, and especially about her intention to return to Sydney in just over a week.

‘And she won’t even let me go with her. I offered to buy the whole of First Class if necessary, but she says she has work to do and I’d be a distraction!’

‘Seems to me that you’re very much alike’ said Joe shrewdly. You both need your space, and you both like to get away so you can tink tings over quietly. If she’s the one for you, you’ll find her again. And if you’re the one for her she won’t be letting you get away.’ Joe spoke with all the authority of a Dutch Uncle.

‘Thank you, Mijnheer!’ I said. ‘But what shall I do? I don’t see myself traipsing round Europe and certainly not with Bonnie.’

‘Who sez you have to go anywhere?’ Joe raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘From the way you tell it, Bonnie’s contract was to give advice when asked and to act as a guide when needed. Just tell her that you are putting her on hold, and you are the wan to tell her If and When.’

‘But that still doesn’t help with what to do when Helena goes.’

‘You can stay with us as long as you like. Maybe you will take it into your head to go back to Melbourne. You could deliver a crate of Guinness to young Kevin. He has kept in touch, by the way. The whole family is very grateful to you.’

We had consumed two pints of Guinness each and Joe got to his feet:

‘About time we checked up on the Ladies. Don’t worry about your meeting with Bonnie; just don’t let her take advantage of your good nature.’ We left the pub.


© Copyright H.St V.Beechey May 1997


Next Episode: Good Deal

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