by Myles Abroad
Choices are never easy.
"Whatever you do, do not open that red door!" blared the wall mounted TV in their cramped office, disrupting Evelyn's last book entries. A stupid gameshow. If only choices were that easy.
Finished. Evelyn dumped the accounts ledgers into the file cabinet and snatched her purse. Her lips prickled as she kissed her father's three-day stubble, interrupting his phone call.
"I've to meet Michael at six. Tell Ma not to put out dinner for me."
Her father palmed the telephone receiver, looking bewildered as he glanced at the clock. "Sure, it's only half five." She didn't stop to argue. "Will ya tell him, we'll need him on Saturday. And slow down. All this rushing about is not good for ya, Evy," he bellowed. His words trailed after her as she stepped into the spine-tingling sunlight, leaving behind the smell of paint, saw dust and oil. O'Callaghan & Sons Hardware would survive without her the rest of the day. After all, only the sons were mentioned. Why should she bother.
Tiernan's was quiet when she arrived. Michael sat at the bar listening to Huey. Few paid the mad old fella any heed, but Michael engaged him with earnestness. A nod, a pat on the shoulder and she knew how Huey must feel. Like he was valued, his words all that mattered. She loved Michael for that. He was the kindest soul she knew, if a little nae, but he was hers.
A lazy smile formed on his face when he saw her. "Here's Evelyn, now," he said to Huey who turned his glittering blue eyes on her and stammered. Michael stubbed out a cigarette. "Will you have a glass of wine, Evelyn?"
"Sure, I haven't eaten yet. It'll go straight to my head."
"Go on. We'll get a bite after. We're celebrating."
"You must be in good form if you're buying." She laughed and nodded. "Go on then. And what's the occasion?"
Mary Tiernan placed a glass of white on the bar and winked at her. "I wouldn't turn down a free meal."
"Who said I was paying?" Michael said. He waved a brown envelope at her. "Once you hear what's in this, you'll be wanting to pay." He raised his eyebrows. "I can promise a life of adventure."
Carrying their drinks, he led her to the snug. Evelyn couldn't wait to hear his news. Offered a job? Had to be. He deserved it, studying so hard in college and then nothing. Odd jobs and whatever scraps of work Da could give him. She reached for the letter as he placed it on the table, but he trapped her hand.
"Aw, stop teasing. Is it a job?"
He beamed, nodding his head. She knew it. They could build a life together now. Get married. Have their own place. Here?
"Where's the job, Michael. Not too far away, is it?" A shadow crossed his face. Evelyn's stomach lurched. Probably bloody, Limerick. She hated that grey city.
"I enlisted in the US Air Force. The job could be anywhere in the world," he said triumphantly as he placed a small jewellery box on top of the table. "This is our chance. We can make a future for us now."
Evelyn stared, stunned. The pub spun, and she hadn't tasted her drink yet. "Enlisted?" she finally gasped.
The idiot's smile started to fade. "Yea. You know I went to see the recruiter a month ago and did all the tests."
"But." Words stumbled. "You... You said you only wanted to see what they'd offer?"
His smile vanished. Maybe the dope realized all was not well. "It's all I have, Evelyn."
"And you've gone and raised your hand and all that."
"At the embassy, today." He tapped the letter. "It's all in there."
Evelyn took a deep breath and whispered. "And you leave, when?"
The stunned fool glanced around, then swallowed. "In a month."
"And they can send you anywhere?"
He shook his head. "Evelyn. Not just me. Us," he said nudging the box towards her.
"Us." Her voice lifeless. "And this is your idea of a marriage proposal."
"Eh. Maybe I should have planned this better." He opened the box, revealing a diamond ring. A small one. She didn't care. It was hers. And from the man she loved. A tear slipped down her cheek. His warm hand clasped hers. "Will you marry me?"
"Before I go."
She pulled away and covered her face. "How could you do this to me, Michael."
"What's wrong? I thought you'd be delighted."
She dropped her hands in her lap and glared at him. "Yes, I wanted to marry you, but not like this. You didn't even ask me if I wanted to go abroad."
Michael's eyes grew to the size of pool balls. "I'm sorry Evelyn. I never thought... Do you?"
"No," she yelled. "Who do you think you are, arranging my life without even bothering to ask me." She looked away, heaving in grief. "Stay Michael. I'll talk to Da. He can find you work. We'll settle here."
Facing him again, she saw panic in his glistening eyes even as he set his jaw in stubbornness. "I can't do that, Evelyn. I need to make my own way."
No longer able to look at him, to listen anymore, she stood up, teetering. "Well do it without me." She grabbed her purse and fled.