Colm O’Shea: an extract from [Untitled]: (a meditation)

Week Two.
– There were rabbits here last night, I tell her, here in the garden.

Three. Three rabbits, all around the same size, adults, I think. They came out in the evening, right around now, possibly a little earlier. They stayed around for a while and disappeared again.

– They might be waiting for us to go in so they can come out again, I say.

I tell her I spotted the rabbits while I was on the phone. She didn’t arrive until this morning. I got over yesterday afternoon. I sat in the garden, in the same white plastic garden chairs, but further out, still in the afternoon shade. I was reading a book. It was hot. I didn’t want to get burned, but I wanted something of the warmth and the fresh air. I positioned one of the white plastic garden chairs, placing it within reach of the plastic garden table, positioned it so I was still in the shade of the cottage but had the warmth and the air around me and could see out over the hedgerow and the fields while I read. Later I spotted the rabbits through the kitchen window and nearly mentioned them to the person at the other end of the line.

We laugh, that would have been silly, she says. I’m not meant to be anywhere near rabbits.
I’m not meant to be anywhere near the countryside, let alone in another country. It would
have been silly. Or at least it would have required a convoluted lie on my part to explain it. It wouldn’t have been the first time. But I said nothing. I finished my call and hung up. I went into the living room of the cottage and sat down and relaxed, and waited, waited for the morning and for her to arrive.

It is a nice little garden. The hedges divide us from the farm, from the fields. The family who owns the farm live in a larger house behind us, we’re facing the other way, neither seeing nor hearing anything of them. I did spot the father of the farmer yesterday evening, I had been told he was likely to be about. I did see the farmer, a man probably around my own age, this morning when I drove out to collect her. But apart from that we are alone. It is a very pretty cottage. I think it was probably the original farmhouse, the family house. One half of it has been converted now into a holiday cottage. The other half is closed off at the moment. In correspondence before I arrived the owner, the farmer, told me they were, they are, hoping to renovate the other half of the old house into a separate cottage. It is a pretty location, and I can see the appeal. Though it may lose part of its charm if two groups end up staying so close together.

She spotted the place online. Well, she found a few similar cottages in the area, on the island, and I followed up, eventually choosing this one. It is very pretty4.

After dinner we decide to sit outside for a while before going to bed. It is peaceful here. It is quiet here. Somewhere in the distance, I guess somewhere straight in front of us as we look, we hear a motorbike passing, running loud, running fast. The main road, or as close to a main road as there is in the area, runs somewhere past the hedge, and the field, and the other fields, in front of us. The sound of the motorbike fades in the distance.

It is peaceful here. It is quiet everywhere now. But it is peaceful here.

It’s nice to just sit outside. We pull the chairs close together so we sit side by side. I can hold her hand. I can stroke her arm. I can lean over and kiss her. We sit looking at the garden and the hedgerow and the fields. It is peaceful.

She asks me if I’m still hungry. I say I’m fine. She thinks the meal may have been too small.
She made a risotto which she brought with her and reheated. I tell her it was delicious. She
gave me the larger portion as she isn’t very hungry at the moment. I tell her I’m fine. I tell her it was delicious. It was delicious. For something she made at least a day ago, packed in a plastic container and brought here in her case and reheated, it was delicious.

She’s conscious of her stomach. She is in some pain, but she says she’s fine. She is a little
bloated, but she says she’s fine. She’s seen a doctor and has been prescribed tablets, but she
says she’s fine. She wonders about taking a half or a whole of one of her tablets, a laxative, I think. I think she worries. No, she does worry. I think she worries about spoiling the time for us, for me. I’d told her that if she were feeling unwell we could cancel. We can do this again if she needs. She says she’s fine. We sit and enjoy the evening. It is a lovely evening. It has been a lovely day.

She tells me she brought the dress. A pretty green summer dress with little white flowers
she’d worn for the first time when we last met. It was the first time I’d seen her wearing that dress and I told her at the time it was stunning. I told her she looked so beautiful in that green dress with the little white flowers. She brings the dress along this time too. We change before dinner. It has been warm, and we have been walking. We change before dinner. But when she
tries on the pretty green summer dress with the little white flowers, she finds it is a bit too
snug, a bit too tight. She is feeling a little bloated today, and the pretty green summer dress
does not fit properly. She has another pretty dress packed anyway, something slightly looser, and she wears that instead5.

Sitting beside me in the evening, looking at the garden and the hedgerow and the fields
beyond. She looks so beautiful. I tell her. She is conscious of feeling a little bloated. I tell her it will be fine. She has been to the doctor. She has done what she is meant to do, she has seen a doctor and has been prescribed medication. She walked, we walked further than she thought she would be able to earlier today and she feels fine about it. We have enjoyed a lovely meal and I am more than content.

I lean across and kiss her again. We are talking about something, I can’t think what, and I
make her laugh. I lean across and kiss her on the cheek.

We will sit here a little while longer until it starts to get cooler and until we want to go up to bed. It is peaceful and quiet, and she is beautiful and happy, and I am more than content.

3 After: So many of these little things over the years, the little omissions. Memories of places I don’t share because I’m not meant to have been there. Even in this case, looking at rabbits outside a kitchen window. My kitchen does not have a window.

4 After: ‘Pretty’ is a word I rarely use, except in the context of her, it is so very much her word.

5 After: She planned ahead, bringing a second dress just in case. It would have really annoyed her not to be able to dress for dinner. For her own sake I’m glad she was able to feel pretty.

Colm O’Shea

Colm is 50 years old and currently lives in Dublin where he works as a civil engineer. His short fiction has appeared in gorse, Winter Papers (#7), The Stinging Fly, 3AM Magazine, Firmament, The Tangerine, Liminal Review, Lunate, Hotel, Fallow Media, Juxta Press, and Solas Nua (View Source), and broadcast on RTE Radio. He was one of the inaugural winners of the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair competition in 2012. He won The Aleph Writing Prize 2019.

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