“There’s a $20 dollar tip in it for you, Ashok, if you get me there in ten minutes.”
Sinead O’Brien was rarely late, no matter where she was going. The only female partner at the law firm of Callahan, Epps, and Kaplan, she was known not only for her punctuality, but also for her sharp intellect and history of getting successful outcomes for her clients. Sinead believed whatever success she had came from working her tail off, which is what she’d been doing today, despite it being Sunday. Her parents called it “workaholism.” Sinead called it dedication.
Her parents’ lack of appreciation for her dedication baffled her. Irish immigrants, they’d broken their backs for years—seven days a week, year in, year out— to make the Wild Hart a success. She realized part of their concern stemmed from worries about her health, but she was a big girl and could take care of herself.
O’Brien Sunday dinner together stretched as far back in her memory as she could remember. The whole family would go to Mass, and then come home for a large, early afternoon meal. Now that she and her siblings were grown and living their own lives, it was a way for them to come together once a week catch up.
She walked into her parents’ kitchen, girding herself for a steely glance from her mother. Everyone but Liam, her younger brother who lived in Ireland with his wife, Aislinn, was here: her older brother Quinn, a successful journalist, and his French wife, Natalie; her sister, Maggie, and her husband, Brendan. Their baby, Charlie, sat in a high chair between them. Sinead ducked her head sheepishly as she slid into the sole empty seat at the table.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, reaching for the steaming bowl of mashed potatoes in the middle of the table. She was famished.
“I thought maybe you weren’t coming,” said her mother coolly.
“I would have called.”
“I don’t like it when you work on Sundays,” said her mother.
“It’s the Lord’s Day of Rest,” Sinead, Quinn, and Maggie chimed together in unison.
“Will you listen to that?” her mother said to her father with mock indignation. “Making fun of their own mother.”
“If you can’t mock your mother, who can you mock?” asked Quinn.
For a split second, Sinead’s eye caught Maggie’s, and Maggie smiled tentatively. So did Sinead. Their relationship had cooled a bit since Charlie was born. Sinead desperately wanted children; her ex husband, Chip, was initially on the fence about the issue. When they were finally in accord and ready to start a family, Chip, who came from a wealthy family, had very traditional ideas about child rearing, namely that Sinead should give up her career. Sinead disagreed and proposed a number of compromises, all of which Chip rejected. They started to fight vehemently—about everything. Eventually, they both admitted that their differences were irreconcilable, and divorced. But that didn’t mean Sinead’s hunger for a child went away, and seeing how happy her sister was with Charlie made her envious. It was painful.
Her father studied her face. “You look tired.”
“Dad, you say that every time you see me,” Sinead said, amused. “I’ve looked tired for years. There are circles under my eyes in my first Holy Communion picture.”
“You need a holiday,” her mother declared. “When’s the last time you had a holiday? When’s the last time you were up at your weekend place?”
Sinead was silent as she speared two pieces of ham and put them on the plate.
“Thought so. Maybe you should go visit Liam and Aislinn.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“That means ‘Get off my arse, ma,’” her mother said with a sigh.
“Yup, it does.”
Maggie cleared her throat nervously. “I was wondering,” she began, looking at Sinead, “if Brendan, Charlie, and I might use the house one weekend? Just to get away for a bit.”
“Of course,” said Sinead. “Just let me know when and I’ll call the caretaker to come air it out and clean things up a bit.”
Sinead had always let her siblings and friends use the house. In fact, Quinn and Natalie had their wedding there. It made her feel better about spending all that money on a place she didn’t use as much as she should.
Dinner conversation turned to the usual subjects: gossip about relatives and pub patrons; chat about favorite TV shows and various familial health ailments; the occasional heated political discussion. And of course now that baby Charlie had joined the family, everyone, especially Sinead’s parents, focused a lot of attention on him. It made sense: he was their first grandchild, after all. Sinead thought Charlie was cute, but she didn’t know how to connect with him, exactly. She was awkward with him. It made Sinead wonder if she was cut out for motherhood at all. Shouldn’t this stuff come naturally?
When dinner finished, Maggie went off to nurse Charlie, and the men went into the living room to watch the Jets game. Typical.
Eventually it was just Sinead and her mother alone in the kitchen as Natalie went off to annoy Quinn with questions about football.
“You know, I noticed something at dinner,” her mother continued.
“You didn’t hold Charlie. Not once.”
“I’m not good with babies, ma, okay?”
“I think you’re afraid to hold him.”
Sinead swallowed painfully. “Could we not talk about this?”
“Maggie misses you.”
“Stop meddling, mom. Please.”
“I just worry about my girl. You seem so unhappy.”
“I’m fine, ma. Honestly.”
“But you must be getting a bit lonely, no?”
“Don’t start,” Sinead begged. “Please.”
“Don’t you think it’s time to find a good man?”
“I’m not sure there are any,” Sinead lamented. “And I’m certainly not going out looking for one.”
“Is it because you’re afraid of getting hurt again?”
“So you made a mistake. Big deal. Live and learn, I say.”
“If it’s meant to happen, it will, mom,” said Sinead, hugging her mother tight. “Now stop fretting and hand me that dish.”