See Part One Here
See Part Two Here
See Part Three Here
Another afternoon, he said:
“Jenny, my wife, is re-reading Jane Austen to me every night. You must read or re-read Jane.”
I told him Pride and Prejudice was my favourite followed by Persuasion. We discussed the characters. I remember him saying that Jane Austen did not understand men at all and had them utter very few words in her books, it was all about the women, the clever women.
“I wanted daughters very much,” he said then, “And we lost our only child, a daughter. She was stillborn.”
He left the silence stretching out tautly around us. I felt my unborn child kicking in that long moment. I didn't hesitate for a second. I took his hand and placed it on my abdomen. He didn't say anything but left his hand there like a blessing until I got up and left.
We made each other laugh. He told me stories of his school days, fishing with his father, horse-riding with his sister. I told him old stories out of my grandparents, ghost stories, tales of my folk-singing days, of sailing days in endless sunshine in West Cork, of stage performances in operettas and when he teased me, sang the lyrics quietly to him.
Another day he asked could he touch my hair. He had never seen hair like it, he said and pardon him if he had to put his eyes up close to it, to see it properly, the different colours locked inside it, brown and gold and amber and red and some black, he would swear to the black when I protested there couldn't be. Yes, he insisted, there were a few threads of it in there. Rainbow hair, he said, the girl with the rainbow hair.
People went bald in the camps, he said, from malnutrition. If they didn't shave it off you first and sell it for wigs and mattresses. Women couldn't even get pregnant, he added, their monthlies stopped. Mercifully.
By that time I was getting closer to my delivery date. I don't know what he'd said to his partners and the staff but I continued to work there, converting files to the data management programmes that were then just beginning to loom on the business horizon.