Janet Pywell ellie BravoSeveral days later we are eating lunch in the cafe beside the office and I have a Ciabatta halfway to my mouth.

“I’m having terrible trouble with Lily,” Maria says.

She is wearing a lavender blouse that has drained all colour from her cheeks, leaving her face drawn and exhausted. There are dark circles around the hollow of her eyes.

“What’s wrong with her?”

Maria gazes out of the window, her sandwich lays untouched and her coffee is growing cold.

“Michael wants us to move to Dublin. He says that property is cheaper now down there and we could afford to move. He says it would save him commuting but Lily is having none of it. She is stomping around the house saying she isn’t going and she’d prefer to live here with Grandma.”

We stare at each other.


I put the Ciabatta on the plate.

My appetite has disappeared.

“How do you feel about moving?”

She shakes her head. “I’m confused.”

I want to take her in my arms and hold her close.

“I’ve had a weekend of it,” she says. “Arguing and discussions; Michael is insisting, Lily is resisting and I’m in the middle.” She places her thumb to her lips and nips at the nail with her teeth.

“Do you want to move?” I hold my breath.

“No!” She slams her fist on the table and her eyes bore into mine.

I breathe again.

“My mother isn’t helping,” she continues, “When I tried to discuss it with her, she insists I must go with Michael…”

“What about your job, and your life here?”

“She doesn’t seem to think that counts.”

“Why am I not surprised?” I cannot hide my sarcasm but she doesn’t seem to notice.

“It’s awful!” Maria places her face in her hands.

I pull a tissue from my bag and pass it to her.

“Michael’s been so awful recently, so that doesn’t help.”

“With you?”

“And with Lily.” She dabs her eyes. “He’s not at home that often, but when he is, he’s always finding fault with her, with me, the house or something. I assume it’s the stress of commuting between here and Dublin and over to Galway.”

“Lots of people commute. They don’t have to turn into an asshole.”

The words are out. I can’t help myself. But if she heard me it doesn’t stop her from speaking.

“Pat is on Michael’s side; my sister’s always had a soft spot for Michael, and now Connor and Kate have got involved. They say it’s me being difficult and that I must get around Lily. I have to tell her that we’re moving and not take any of her tantrums.”

“So, the whole of your family have an opinion!”

“He brought it up again over Sunday lunch with the family. I think he does it on purpose. He knows they all adore him and he can do nothing wrong.”

He sounds a creep, but this time I show restraint and I say.

“It’s not easy Maria. Don’t worry, everything will work out in the end.” I make my voice light and encouraging. “Concentrate on one step at a time. Explore all angles and you’ll do the right thing.”

She picks up her cold coffee and smiles with tired eyes.

“You’re right! Thanks for listening, Elly. I’m pleased we’re friends again. It means a lot to me. I don’t know what I would do without you.”