I was on the Galway to Dublin train, departing Ceannt Station at 7.30 am. Stopping at Athenry, Ballinasloe, Athlone, Tullamore, Portarlington, Sallins and finally, Heuston Station in Dublin.
I wasn’t happy. I had a nice week at home, met the girls, went out, slept late, did nothing. Got fed, fussed over and shown off.
And to think, seven short days ago I was beside myself with bad mind. I didn’t want to waste my holidays at home. I wanted to head somewhere, anywhere as long as it was hot – and not home. But I was broke as usual and I had to take the days. The boss told me to. Now I was sorry to leave.
“Oh, you’re back!” said Mrs Fallon when I went down for the milk.
“Well, look who’s here!” said Ger Collins when I popped in for some wool.
“Well, the dead arose and appeared to many,” said Elizabeth Ward. I only passed her on the street.
“How’s the big smoke treating you?” asked Mr Hynes at the corner.
I swear, you can’t escape notice, comment or question at home, but you know I wasn’t too put out. It was nice to be a name as well as a face. Now it was back to the big smoke.
There were only a couple of people on the train. T’was quiet thank God. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything. Didn’t go to bed until 3 am trying to stretch out my final hours. I got myself settled and watched the station walls meld into gravel, grass and farmland. The rhythm was nice. I counted the cars heading to work along the old Oranmore road. It would be nice to be closer to home. I’m tragic – imagine – only a week ago I was like a demon at the thought of being home.
They got on at Athenry. First stop. 7.44 am. Six of them all female. Three young girls. They were teenagers but different ages. One looked about thirteen, the other, fifteen, the third, eighteen? Nineteen? They couldn’t have been friends heading to Dublin for the day. Too much of an age gap there. Didn’t look like sisters either. The other three followed in their wake. At first glance I knew the teenagers were cousins. Cousins most definitely. Each of them resembled one of the older women and the three women resembled each other. Those women had to be sisters. They had the look. Similar but different if you know what I mean. The tallest one was very smartly dressed. An expensive white shirt with some lovely detail around the collar. When she sat beside me I could see it was embroidered with a soft green vine that ran just around the rim. Her coat was beige. Her scarf was woven. A green thread amidst the beige background made the embroidered collar pop, co-ordinating the entire ensemble beautifully. Subtle and elegant. Naturally, when the coat came off the cardigan also matched.
The next one was glamorous. Shoulder length hair, perfect makeup, a long leather coat that billowed behind her purposeful walk. Her top was grey, cut on a bias, flowing, eye-catching. She smiled and nodded at me, as did her sister before her. I smiled back and pretended I was settling for a nap. Then came the third – the antithesis of the other two. Denim jeans, slightly too big, stripy shirt – slightly too big, matching cardigan – slightly too big, matching coat and scarf – slightly too big (the coat that is). The overall effect was slightly ruffled. Another grin, another returned. The elegant one spoke first.
“Where are you sitting? Ladies.” She swung round and gestured to the teens
“Sit back there will ye? All together. We’ll get something to eat when she comes with the food. I’d shoot my mother for a coffee?”
“Move your backside, I can’t get past”. The leather coat had an equally large and glamorous handbag.
“Maeve did you bring the cards?” Her name was Maeve.
“I thought you had them Finola. Feck. Hold on I’ll check my bag.” The elegant one was Finola.
“We can’t go without cards. Who has the cards? Have ye the cards back there?”
“Mum, can I have my ipod?”
“Wait a minute, I haven’t even my coat off.” The ruffled one was divesting herself with a flourish, heedless of Maeve who had to dodge the onslaught and sit at the same time.
“Jeez Emer! You nearly had my eye out. Will you hurry up and sit down before we get moving. You can take your coat off then.”Emer was the ruffled one.
“I have to do it now. I’m melting. Hot flush! Hot flush!”
” We’re moving,” said Finola.
” Sit, quick. Emer, you’ll survive ten more seconds for God’s sake. Will you sit!”
The train lurched throwing Maeve and Emer together opposite me. Finola plopped down beside me, carefully.
“Hello again,” she smiled.
“Take no notice,” she nodded in the direction of the other two.
“They don’t get out often.”
“Speak for yourself!”
Maeve leant across and grinned.
“You poor thing, this could be the longest journey of your life!”
“Offer it up to the Holy Souls,” chirped Emer.
And off we went.