Touchy Subjects

Free Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue

Book: Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue Read Free Book Online
Authors: Emma Donoghue
the moment was the baby, so all she could contribute was the odd robotic syllable.
    Rose, for her part, seemed to be learning to resist the temptation to give advice—which left her with nothing but platitudes. "Hang on in there," she'd say, squeezing her daughter's shoulder. "It'll be different when she's more active; she'll suddenly get the hang of day and night, wait till you see. One of these mornings you'll wake up after a good night's sleep, you'll hardly believe it!"
    Una nodded, as if talking to a mad person at a bus stop.

    The morning she was to fly back to Dublin, Rose woke early, for her, and pulled out her earplugs. She lay listening to the beautiful silence till she heard Silas pulling the front door closed behind him. She put her dressing gown on and peeped round the other bedroom door. There lay the baby, in the cot attached to her parents' bed, and there was Una, flat on her back, her arms uncurled, as if drifting down a stream. Her face was peaceful, almost young again.
    Rose must have stood on a creaky floorboard as she backed out, because suddenly Una was bolt upright, eyes wild. She snatched up the baby, who began to shriek.
    "Good morning," said Rose, like some nervous chambermaid. She rather wished she'd stayed in bed.
    "Jesus. Jesus Christ," Una said into Moya's fuzzy scalp. "It's light out."
    "It certainly is. Twenty past seven."
    "I thought she'd died in the night." Una's face was contorted with tears again.
    Rose suppressed a sigh. "She's grand. She's had a lovely long sleep, that's all."
    "I don't believe it. Could she have been crying and I just didn't hear her?"
    "There wasn't a peep out of her," said Rose firmly, not mentioning the earplugs.
    Una managed a weak laugh.
    "Didn't I promise you things would get better?"
    "You did."
    "Now, don't be expecting her to pull off a trick like this every night—"
    "I won't," Una assured her mother. "I don't care if she doesn't do it again for months. Now I know it's possible—" Faith glittered in her eyes.
    "So how do you feel?"
    "Fabulous."
    "I'll bring you up a cup of coffee," said Rose.
    "Decaf," said Una, with a smile, sinking back into the pillows with Moya.
    That hadn't gone quite the way she'd planned, Rose thought as she went down the stairs. She'd meant to move from told-you-so to a cheerful confession that she'd given the baby half a teaspoon of her cognac last night.
See,
she'd intended to say,
it did you good, and it didn't do her a bit of harm!
But something in Una's eyes had made her reconsider this morning, and perhaps discretion was the better part of motherhood, after all.

Do They Know It's Christmas?
    Trevor could barely see the traffic light through sheets of rain.
    "Quick, before it turns red," muttered Louise.
    "It's amber."
    "Amber means go if you can. Go on!"
    It was red now; he hit the brake and felt it judder. The wipers kept up their whine.
    A small sigh. "Sorry I snapped," she said.
    "That's OK." Leaving Limerick, they'd been snarled up in Christmas-shopping traffic for the best part of an hour.
    "I should have rung Mrs. Quirk to ask her to look in on the babies," Louise muttered.
    "Mallarmé hates her," Trevor pointed out.
    "I know, but it's better than leaving them alone on such a hideous evening. I'd try her now, but the phone's acting up again. Hey, we could ask your folks for another one for Christmas."
    The mobile phone had been unreliable ever since Proust had ripped the charger out of the wall. "Proust's always so curious about things," said Trevor. "Do you think he's the most intelligent of the three?"
    Louise turned on him. "That's not a fair question."
    "I know, I know, I don't mean it ... divisively."
    "They're all really bright in their own ways. Light's changing," she pointed out.
    His tires squealed through the puddles. "You think they're all perfect," he accused her fondly.
    "No I don't. Well, nearly," she conceded. Nose pressed to the blurred window, her tone sank again. "I wish we were home."
    "Twenty

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