The woman goes back to scrub at the gunk on Evie's face with a paper napkin that shreds itself on her sticky skin. Seán watches this for a few seconds. And then he looks over to me.
These things happen all the time. You catch a stranger's eye, for a moment too long, and then you look away.
I was just back from holidays - a week with Conor's sister in Sydney, then north to this amazing place where we learned how to scuba dive. Where we also learned, as I recall, how to have sex while sober; a simple trick, but a good one, it was like taking off an extra skin. Maybe this was why I could meet Seán's eye. I had just been to the other side of the world. I was looking, by my own standards, pretty good. I was in love - properly in love - with a man I would soon decide to marry, so when he looked at me, I did not feel afraid.
Perhaps I should have done.
And I can't, for the life of me, recall what Evie looked like that day. She would have been four, but I can't think how that would play on the girl I know now. All I saw that afternoon was a child with a dirty face. So Evie is just a kind of smudge in the picture, which is otherwise so clear.
Because the amazing thing is how much I got in that first glance: how much, in retrospect, I should have known. It is all there: the twitch of interest I had in Seán, the whole business with Evie; I remember this very clearly, as I remember the neat and indomitable politeness of his wife. I got her straight off, and nothing she subsequently did surprised me or proved me wrong. Aileen, who never changed her hair, who was then and will always remain a size 10.
Reprinted from The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright © 2011 by Anne Enright. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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