• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 01
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Dublin, 11:34 p.m.

When Maria can be sure his breathing has slowed enough and he is securely held by sleep, her work begins.

Padding gently downstairs, one hand on the bannister, the other cupping her slowly swelling belly.

How many years has she been here? Yet this late at night, alone and surrounded by silence, she is still slightly unnerved by the thick carpet she finds her toes in.

“No one at home has carpets,” she had told him, what feels like forever ago. Smiling over the rim of a glass of red, settling into his sofa.

His reply, typically practical. “You don’t need them. It’s warm. We’re a people who need to think about the cold here.”

A brief stop in the kitchen to collect the big scissors, before another flight towards the cellar. Slower. Suddenly becoming very conscious of her steady heartbeat, of the growth of the other heart below it. The cool concrete against her soles, and quickly shrugging on a cardigan, waiting for her over the back of her chair.

She quietly waits for the bulb to warm up properly and show her the details of their world.

At first, she couldn’t work out why she had kept it hidden down here. It wasn’t as if it was anything to be ashamed of, anything improper. But maybe dredging up so many memories and remaking them, turning them into something you could touch... Maybe it was somehow wrong. Maybe these things shouldn’t be tangible.


Dublin, 11:34 p.m.

In the end, she decided she didn’t want to explain it to Conor. His rational, calm way — the assuredness with which he would plant a hand either side of her face and look at her. Actually look at her, which isn’t something he does as much any more. His long fingers locking into the edges of her dark curls. His eyes, a shock of blue, always so direct and inscrutable all at once.

She chooses to inhabit her dreams. He is so much a part of this world, so confident of his place in it. Even if she knows that confidence is hard-won.

The bare bulb casts a hot, July-like light over the little paper lighthouse of her childhood in Sardinia — the core of a toilet roll, baby blue cardboard, even the lightest lick of red Chanel polish. If she squints at it long enough she can almost hear the sea. Smell it. The light looks less warm in the corner of Conor’s infancy, harsher, more like a searchlight or a floodlight. The peace wall, with each brick painstakingly drawn by hand in graphite. She had never seen it in real life. Plenty of time to remember his early stories, so reluctantly bestowed upon her, as she sat pulling apart a steel scourer from under the sink to make barbed wire as midnight came and went.

“None of this is very beautiful really,” she murmurs to her little one. “But it is ours, and it is yours.”