A Bit on the Side

A Bit on the Side by William Trevor

Book: A Bit on the Side by William Trevor Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Trevor
Tags: Fiction, General
too. ‘For you,’ he says. ‘For you.’
    In the bus, on the way to the dolls’ museum he talks about Egypt. So hot it could make your skin peel off, so hot you have to lie down in the afternoon. One day he’ll bring me with him; one day he’ll show me the Pyramids. He takes my hand when we walk the last bit.
    I know the way, but when we get there the doll I like best isn’t on her shelf. Unwell, the man says, getting better in hospital. It’s his way of putting it, my father says. He asks the man: that doll, the Spanish doll, will be back next week. ‘Well, we can come again,’ my father promises. ‘Who’s going to stay up for the party?’ he says when we’re back in the house.
    The party is tonight. In the kitchen the wine bottles are laid out, two long rows all the length of the table, and other bottles on trays, and glasses waiting to be filled. Charles comes specially early to help when there is a party. There always is when my father returns.
    ‘You sit down there and have your sandwich.’ Mrs Upsilla’s grey head is bent over what she’s cooking; she’s too busy to look up. Charles winks at me and I try to wink back but I can’t do it properly. He passes close to where I’m sitting and then the sandwich I don’t want isn’t there any more. ‘Oh, there’s a good girl,’ Mrs Upsilla says when she asks if I’ve eaten it and I say yes. And Charles smiles. And Davie giggles and Abigail does.
    Abigail and Davie aren’t real, but most of the time they’re there. They were that day, when the door opened and my mother and her friend came into the drawing-room. ‘It’s all right,’ my mother said. ‘She’s not here.’ And Davie giggled and Abigail did too and I made them be quiet.
    ‘My, my,’ Charles says in the kitchen when Mrs Upsilla calls me a good girl. He says it so often it annoys Mrs Upsilla. ‘Why’s he saying that?’ she asks me every time. ‘What’s he on about?’ And Charles always laughs.
    I thank Mrs Upsilla for the sandwich I haven’t eaten because she likes me to thank her for things. On the way upstairs I remember that when the person in the café said as rich as a candy king I heard my father repeating that to my mother afterwards; he said that maybe what the person meant was he was rich to have so beautiful a wife. Or you could take it differently, Mrs Upsilla said when I told her: the person in the café could have been referring to my mother’s inheritance.
    Upstairs, my father is standing at the door of their bedroom, my mother is tidying the bed. He has brought her a handkerchief too, bigger than mine, and already she wears it as a scarf. ‘So beautiful you are!’ my father says and my mother laughs, a sound that’s like the tinkling of a necklace he gave her once. The bath taps are dribbling in the bathroom, turned low for my mother’s bath. ‘Who’s going to help me take the corks out?’ my father says, and my mother asks him to open the window at the top. Her lips are soft when she kisses my forehead, her scent makes me want to close my eyes and always be able to smell it. ‘Good darling,’ she whispers.
    In the kitchen my father draws out the corks and I make a pile of them, and count them. The red bottles are really green, he says, but you can’t see that until they’re empty. He cuts away the shiny covering over each cork before he puts the corkscrew in. ‘Well, that’s all done,’ he says and asks how many and I say thirty-six. ‘You take me to the picture gallery next time?’ he says, and the dancing ladies come into my head, and the storm at the cricket match, and Saint Catherine, and the portrait of the artist. ‘That to look forward to,’ my father says before he goes upstairs again.
    We play a game in my room, Abigail and Davie and I. We pretend we are in Egypt, climbing up a pyramid, and Abigail says we should be wearing our cotton sun hats because the sun can burn your head even through your hair. So we go down for them but then

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