The Love Object

The Love Object by Edna O’Brien

Book: The Love Object by Edna O’Brien Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edna O’Brien
Eithne had just taken hers out and her hair, dyed blonde, stood out, all frizzed and alarming. She reminded Mary of a moulting hen about to attempt flight. She was, God bless her, an unfortunate girl with a squint, jumbled teeth and almost no lips; like something put together hurriedly. That was the luck of the draw.
    ‘Take these,’ Doris O’Beirne said, handing Mary bunches of yellowed bills crammed on skewers.
    Do this! Do that! They ordered her around like a maid. She dusted the piano, top and sides, and the yellow and black keys; then the surround, and the wainscoting. The dust, thick on everything, had settled into a hard film because of the damp in that room. A party! She’d have been as well off at home, at least it was clean dirt attending to calves and pigs and the like.
    Doris and Eithne amused themselves, hitting notes on the piano at random and wandering from one mirror to the next. There were two mirrors in the parlour and one side of the folding fire-screen was a blotchy mirror too. The other two sides were of water-lilies painted on black cloth, but like everything else in the room it was old.
    ‘What’s that?’ Doris and Eithne asked each other, as they heard a hullabulloo downstairs. They rushed out to see what it was and Mary followed. Over the banisters they saw that a young bullock had got in the hall door and was slithering over the tiled floor, trying to find his way out again.
    ‘Don’t excite her, don’t excite her I tell ye,’ said the old, toothless man to the young boy who tried to drive the black bullock out. Two more boys were having a bet as to whether or not the bullock would do something on the floor when Mrs Rodgers came out and dropped a glass of porter. The beast backed out the way he’d come, shaking his head from side to side.
    Eithne and Doris clasped each other in laughter and then Doris drew back so that none of the boys would see her in her curling pins and call her names. Mary had gone back to the room, downcast. Wearily she pushed the chairs back against the wall and swept the linoleumed floor where they were later to dance.
    ‘She’s bawling in there,’ Eithne Duggan told her friend Doris. They had locked themselves into the bathroom with a bottle of cider.
    ‘God, she’s a right-looking eejit in the dress,’ Doris said. ‘And the length of it!’
    ‘It’s her mother’s,’ Eithne said. She had admired the dress before that, when Doris was out of the room, and had asked Mary where she bought it.
    ‘What’s she crying about?’ Doris wondered, aloud.
    ‘She thought some lad would be here. Do you remember that lad stayed here the summer before last and had a motor-cycle?’
    ‘He was a Jew,’ Doris said. ‘You could tell by his nose. God, she’d shake him in that dress, he’d think she was a scarecrow.’ She squeezed a blackhead on her chin, tightened a curling pin which had come loose and said, ‘Her hair isn’t natural either, you can see it’s curled.’
    ‘I hate that kind of black hair, it’s like a gipsy’s,’ Eithne said, drinking the last of the cider. They hid the bottle under the scoured bath.
    ‘Have a cachou, take the smell off your breath,’ Doris said as she hawed on the bathroom mirror and wondered if she would get off with that fellow O’Toole, from the slate quarry, who was coming to the party.
    In the front room Mary polished glasses. Tears ran down her cheeks so she did not put on the light. She foresaw how the party would be; they would all stand around and consume the goose, which was now simmering in the turf range. The men would be drunk, the girls giggling. Having eaten, they would dance, and sing, and tell ghost stories, and in the morning she would have to get up early and be home in time to milk. She moved towards the dark pane of window with a glass in her hand and looked out at the dirtied streets, remembering how once she had danced with John on the upper road to no music at all, just their hearts beating, and the

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