I kept walking until the sun got too hot and then went home.

I tried sitting on the porch, just thinking things over with a beer in my hand, but it was no good – my legs were used to doing my thinking for me and as soon as the day cooled down enough, I took to the streets again with that picture in my pocket. I had no idea where I was headed, but Mama Doyle’s seemed like a reasonable place to start.

When I got there, she was serving whiskey to her man and his friends, and invited me to join them. I took a glass to be polite and knocked it back because I don’t much care for the taste. The old boys took that to mean I liked it though and kept filling up my cup until I told them I had to go if Mary wasn’t there. Then I took Mrs Doyle to one side and pulled out the picture, explaining to her everything that Bertie had told me. She just nodded, glanced at her men folk and led me into the kitchen. In her soft, Irish drawl she told me Mary’d always looked that way and handed me a locket that she pulled from her neck. Inside was a painted picture.

It was a pretty, imperfect thing but I could see straight off who it was meant to be. The hand that painted it had stripped some of the puppy-fat from Mary’s cheeks, and had made her soft brown hair darker and thicker, but the eyes gave it all away. Those big black eyes that knew too much and never said a word.

Apparently, Mary and Agnes Doyle had lived together since they arrived on this side of the Atlantic back in 1898. Mary had come over with the Hart family as young Bertie’s nurse maid, and the newly wed Doyle couple were looking for employment on the railroads. Mary and Agnes took to each other on the boat over and had been inseparable ever since. According to Mama Doyle – a name that Mary coined when Agnes gave birth to her only son, Billy – the locket had been painted by Bertie and subsequently passed from shy Mary Ward to her best friend.

I tried handing it back when I heard that part, but Agnes shook her head and smiled. She told me I was the first fella to come looking after Mary in all the time they’d known each other and that she was just glad I was a looker with a decent job. I took the little necklace, wrapped it double round my wrist and thanked Agnes Doyle for the whiskey and the trinket before setting off into the twilight.

I decided to walk into town instead of going home – the drink was clouding my head a little and I got the notion to check if Mary was in any of the cafes. As usual, I didn’t find her, but I did see Betty leaving the cinema with Walter Davies and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Advertisements