Janet Pywell ellie Bravo“So, when are you taking me out on the Harley?” Lily asks. “When you’re eighteen,” I reply. She groans and leans dramatically across my desk. “Come on, Elly.”

I’ve been in meetings off-site all day and now I’m skimming the internet. It’s Friday afternoon and I have been worrying about how I will spend the weekend. I’m thinking I may take off on the Harley around Ireland for a few nights just to quell the loneliness that is seeping into my life. I haven’t been sleeping well and I think a change of scene would do me good.

Maria appears in the doorway. “Simon is buying white lab coats for the tekkies. He thinks it will be more professional like a uniform, and by the way, this proposal you’ve done for the Independent Travel Group seems pretty realistic but it does mean they will want a twenty-four-hour service seven days a week including bank holidays…”

“They will have to provide that if they want to be the core suppliers for the corporate market,” I agree.

“Simon’s insisting we take on someone with more experience to oversee this project so John’s hired a new tekkie. He’s due to start next week. His name is Mark Bowman and according to his references, he’s a whiz kid and a University Graduate from Glasgow. Simon also wants John to get an App specialist.”

“Great! Things are hotting up a bit.” I smile.

“You’re certainly making a difference around here.”

Maria ignores Lily’s bored yawn and she leaves the room.

“But what do you think, Elly?” Lily’s voice is persistent and whiney. “Do you think I should ask Charlie?”

“Ask Charlie what?” Maria walks back in and tosses a folder onto my desk. “You’re going to ballet now, so stop bothering Elly.”

Lily has kicked off her shoes. Her school blouse is creased and her blue tie hangs loose. She pushes her glasses up onto her nose. “I still don’t know what to get Charlie for her birthday,” she says with a dramatic sigh.

Maria perches on the arm of the chair and places her hand over Lily’s shoulder. They seem to mould into each other like two felines taking comfort in the body of each other’s embrace in a loose hug.

When I look up Maria is staring at me. “You look tired. Are you working too much?”

“No chance!”

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“Haven’t decided.” I begin to stack papers and tidy my desk. I am close to tears and I am annoyed that they are tears of self-pity.

“Do I have to go to the ballet tonight?” Lily says. Her eyes shine from behind her glasses. “We could go to the cinema instead, the three of us.”

“You have ballet, young lady! So, stop your antics!” Maria replies.

“What are you doing Elly? Do you want to come and watch me?” Lily says.

“No, she doesn’t! I’m sure Elly has better things to do. Something far more exciting.”

“Do you?” asks Lily.

“Of course.” I think of Auntie Annie’s empty house. Tonight is her bridge night. I swallow hard.

“You could join one of those singles clubs.” Maria stands up and pulls the unwilling Lily from the chair.

“What? And mess up my chance with the lovely John?” I blink back tears.

“Ugh! John! No way!” Lily puts a finger to her mouth as if to vomit and I laugh.

“Mum, Elly needs to be with someone really lovely, don’t you think?”

Maria stares at me and I am rooted, unblinking and trapped in the headlights of her smile.