Why do the British call cigarette flags

P.S. I love you. 3810501409, 9783810501400, 359651083X, 9783596510832, 3596509343, 9783596509348

Citation preview

Cecelia Ahern

P. S. I love you Roman

Translated from the English by Christine Strüh

2nd edition March 2004 The original edition was published in 2004 under the title "PS I love you" by HarperCollins Verlag, London © Cecelia Ahern 2004 German edition: © Wolfgang Krüger Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004 Typesetting: Pinkuin typesetting and data technology, Berlin Print and cover : Clausen & Bosse, Leck Printed in Germany ISBN 3-8105-0140-9

Holly's husband Gerry is dead. And Holly doesn't know how to go on living on her own. But then she discovers that Gerry wrote her letters during his last days. With tasks for Holly. To finally buy a bedside lamp, for example. Or sing karaoke in public. Tasks that bring Holly back to life. Holly mourns - and Holly celebrates. Holly is crying - and Holly laughs. Holly is having the hardest year of her life - and with Gerry's help one full of experiences, surprises, undreamt-of friendship and love.

3

One Holly pressed the blue cotton sweater tight to her face. When the familiar smell rose to her nose, it was like a punch in the stomach. An overwhelming pain seized her heart, her neck tingled, and suddenly she had a lump in her throat that almost threatened to suffocate her. Panic spread. Apart from the low hum of the refrigerator and the cracking of the heating pipes, it was quiet in the house. She was alone. Her bile came up and she ran into the bathroom, where she knelt in front of the toilet. Gerry was gone and he would never come back. That was the reality. She would never run her fingers through his soft hair again, never again laugh with him at a joke that only both of them understood, never again would she be able to hide with him when she came home from work and urgently needed someone who took her in his arms. She would never sleep in a bed with him again, never again be woken up by his morning sneezes, never fool around with him until her stomach hurt with laughter, never again argue with him about who had to get up and turn off the bedroom light. Nothing remained but a bundle of memories and his image in her head that grew paler every day. They had had a very simple plan: they wanted to stay together for the rest of their lives. A plan everyone had thought feasible because everyone knew that Holly and Gerry were best friends, lovers, and soulmates, destined to be a couple. But then fate decided to thwart this plan. The end had come far too quickly. After complaining of migraines for a few days, Gerry had reluctantly followed Holly's advice and gone to the doctor on Wednesday during lunch. They assumed it was due to stress or fatigue

4

At worst, because he needed glasses. Gerry hadn't liked the thing about the glasses at all. But he shouldn't have worried about that, because his eyes were perfectly fine. But a tumor was growing in his brain. The tiles were freezing cold. With trembling hands, Holly flushed the toilet and swayed to her feet. Gerry was thirty years old. Well, he might not have been the healthiest person in the world, but he was healthy enough that he ... well, he could assume he was living a normal life. When he was terminally ill, he bravely joked that he shouldn't always have played it safe. He should have been doing drugs, drinking a lot more, traveling, jumping off a plane and shaving his legs in the process ... the list went on and on. Yes, he joked about it, but Holly could see the regret in his eyes - the regret that he had never had time for so much, that he had never seen so many places in the world. He mourned for his future, all the experiences he would have liked to have had. Did he also regret the life he had had with Holly? She never doubted that he loved her, but maybe he thought he'd wasted time. Suddenly getting older became something worth striving for, instead of floating on the horizon as an uncomfortable, inevitable perspective as it used to be. How presumptuous they had been that they had never seen growing old as an achievement or a challenge! Holly wandered from room to room sobbing, and thick tears ran down her cheeks. Her eyes were red and burned, but the night seemed to go on forever. She found no consolation in any room. In the hated silence she looked around, half expecting the couch to reach out to her. But even that she seemed to ignore. I wouldn't like Gerry at all like that, she thought, took a deep breath, wiped her eyes and tried to come to her senses. No, Gerry wouldn't be happy with her at all if she let herself go like this.

5

The next day you could tell that she had cried all night. As so often in the past few weeks, she fell asleep from exhaustion at some point in the early morning hours. Then she woke up completely tense, always on a different piece of furniture. Most of the time, she was awakened by a phone call from a concerned friend or family member. They probably all thought she wasn't doing anything but sleep. But why didn't anyone call when she was wandering around the house aimlessly like a zombie, searching the rooms ... yeah, what exactly? What was she hoping to find? "Hello?" She answered dazedly. Her nose was constantly clogged from crying, but she had long since stopped looking brave for anyone. Her best friend was no longer there, no makeup, no fresh air, no shopping spree - none of that could fill the black hole in her heart. "Oh, sorry, dear, did I wake you?" Came the worried voice of Holly's mother over the phone. Always the same question. Her mother called every morning to see if Holly had survived another lonely night. She was always afraid to wake her daughter, but on the other hand she was relieved every time that Holly was still breathing and defying the ghosts of the night once more. “No, I was just dozing anyway. It's okay. ”The answer was always the same. "Your dad and Declan are not there and I was thinking of you, dear." Why did her eyes keep tears at the sound of that soft, compassionate voice? She could imagine her mother's face, her brow furrowed in worry. But that didn't comfort her. It only made it clearer to her why everyone was worried. It was not right! Everything should be normal! Gerry should sit next to her, roll his eyes and try to make her laugh while her mother babbled. How often had Holly shoved the phone into his hand when she had a laugh herself. Then he continued speaking as if nothing happened

6

disgusted, ignoring Holly, who hopped around the bed and made faces to distract him. But that rarely worked. With a lot of "Hmm" and "Aha" she somehow cheated her way through the conversation without really noticing anything. “It's beautiful outside, Holly. A walk would be good for you. A little bit of fresh air. ”“ Hmm, maybe. ”There it was again, the answer to all problems. "Maybe I'll call you later so we can have a chat." I'm fine. "Silence. “All right, then ... then just give me a call if you change your mind. I've got all day. ”“ Okay. ”Another silence. “Thanks anyway.” “Well… take care of yourself, love.” “I will.” Holly was about to hang up when her mother started again. “Oh, Holly, I almost forgot. Here's still the envelope for you, you know. Maybe you want to pick it up, it has been here for weeks. Maybe it's something important. "" I can't imagine. There's just another card in there. "" No, I don't think so, dear. It says something ... Wait a minute, I'll get it quickly ... "The receiver was put down, you could hear footsteps clattering across the tiles to the table, chairs shuffled, then the steps got louder again, the phone picked up ..." Are you still there? "" Yes. "" Okay, it says 'The List.' Maybe from your work or something. ”Holly lowered the phone.

7

Two "Gerry, turn off the lights!" Holly giggled as she watched her husband undress. He danced around the room as if he was going to perform a striptease and very slowly unbuttoned his shirt with his long, narrow fingers. Then he raised his left eyebrow, fixed Holly, let the shirt slip off his shoulder, caught it in his right hand and waved it over his head. Holly giggled again. "Turn off the light? So that you miss all of this? ”He grinned cheekily and flexed his muscles. Holly thought he had every reason to be vain, which luckily he wasn't. His body was strong and well proportioned, with long, muscular legs as a result of hours in the gym. He wasn't very tall at five foot six, but tall enough that Holly felt safe next to him at five foot six. She loved that her head came just below his chin when they hugged. Then she felt his breath gently brushing her hair and tickling her head. Her heart jumped as he pulled down his boxers, caught his toes, and flung it over to Holly. The underpants landed on her head. "Well, at least it's a little darker down here," she snorted. He always managed to make her laugh. When she came home from work tired and upset, he was always ready to listen to her whining. They seldom argued, and when they did it was mostly about some stupid little thing that later made them laugh. For example, who had left the porch light on all day or who had forgotten to set the alarm clock in the evening.

8

Gerry finished his striptease and dived into bed. There he snuggled up against her and stuffed his ice cold feet under her legs to warm her up. “Iiiih! Gerry, you have blocks of ice instead of feet! ”She knew perfectly well that in this position he was unwilling to move an inch from the spot. "Gerry," she said in a warning voice. "Holly," he mimicked her. "Haven't you forgotten something?" "Not that I know of," he replied cheekily. "And what about the light?" "Oh yes, the light," he said sleepily and began to snore loudly. "Gerry!" "I had to get up last night and turn it off, I remember that." "Yes, but you were standing right next to the light switch a second ago." "Yes ... a second ago," he repeated wearily. Holly sighed. She hated having to get up again when she was really comfortable in bed. You had to pound across the cold wooden floor to the light switch and then back again in the dark. She mumbled reproachfully. “I can't do this for you every night, you know, Holly. Maybe someday I'll be gone, and then what? ”“ I'll send my new husband off then, ”Holly replied from above, trying to push his cold feet away. "Ha!" "Or I just won't forget to turn the light off before I crawl into bed." Gerry snorted. “I don't think that's very likely, my love. I had to leave a note on the light switch before I passed away. "" How considerate of you. But I would prefer you would leave me your money. "

9

"And a note on the heater," he continued undeterred. “Ha, ha.” “And one on the milk carton.” “You're really weird, Gerry.” “Oh, and on the windows so you don't open them in the morning and set off the alarm.” “Hey, why leave behind Don't you give me a list of instructions in your will if you think I'm so lost without you? ”“ Not a bad idea, ”he laughed. "Well, I'll turn off the stupid light." Reluctantly, Holly crawled out of bed, grimaced when her feet hit the icy floor, and quickly turned off the light. Then she stretched out her arms and felt her way through the darkness back to the bed. "Hello?!!! Holly, are you still there? Is anyone out there, out there, out there? ”Gerry called into the darkness. "Yes, I'm here, aaaauch!" She yelped as she bumped her toe against the bedpost. "Shit, shit, shit, damn shit, stupid crap!" She heard Gerry giggle under the covers. "Number two on my list: watch out for the bedpost ..." "Oh, shut up, Gerry, and stop this morbid shit," Holly snapped, clutching her poor injured foot. "Shall I kiss your little foot so it doesn't hurt so much?" He offered generously. "No, it's okay," she said sadly. "If only I can stick my little feet here with you to warm them up ..." "Aaaaah! Damn it, they're freezing! ”“ Hi hi hi, ”she giggled wickedly. That was how the joke about the list came about. A silly idea that they soon told their friends about. Their closest friends were Sharon and John McCarthy. The two were too

10

They'd been together since school, and it was John who, when they were seventeen, walked up to Holly in the school corridor and put the famous question to her, "My buddy wants to know if you'd go out with him." After days of endless discussion and several crisis meetings with her friends, Holly had finally agreed. "Oh, come on, Holly," Sharon had urged, "he's really funny and at least he doesn't have pimples all over his face like John's." If Sharon agreed, then it was okay. How much Holly hated her right now! Sharon and John had married in the same year as Holly and Gerry. Holly had been the troop's baby at twenty-three; the other three were twenty-four. Some people had tried to convince her that she was too young and at every opportunity had lectured her that at that age one should travel around the world and have fun. Instead, Gerry and Holly had traveled the world together and enjoyed themselves together. When they were apart ... well, Holly always felt like she was missing a vital organ. However, her wedding day hadn't been the best day of her life. Like most little girls, she had always dreamed of a fairytale wedding: she in a princess dress, in the sunshine in a romantic place, surrounded by everyone who was dear to her and dear to her. She had imagined dancing with all of her friends, being admired by everyone and feeling very special. But the reality was very different. Loud screams woke her up at her family home. “I can't find my tie!” (Her father), “my hair looks terrible!” (Her mother), but the undeniably best contribution was: “I look like a bloody whale! There's no way I'm going to that stupid wedding like that! Mum look at me! Holly should kindly find another bridesmaid, because I'm not coming with you! Does not come in the bag! Jack, give me the stupid hair dryer back immediately, I'm not done yet! "

11

The last lecture came from Holly's younger sister Ciara, who regularly had tantrums and refused to leave the house because she had nothing to wear, even though her closet was overflowing. At the moment she was somewhere in Australia and only emailed them every few weeks at most.) For the rest of the morning everyone was busy convincing Ciara that she was the most beautiful woman in the world, while Holly dressed herself and doing it didn't feel well.Finally Ciara agreed to leave the house after her otherwise extremely calm father yelled at her with all his might: “Ciara, today is Holly's big day, not yours! And you will come with me, and when Holly comes down the stairs you will tell her she looks beautiful and I don’t want to hear any more peeps from you for the rest of the day! ”As Holly came down the stairs to the general cheers of admiration, Ciara looked at her Looked like an eight-year-old who had just been reprimanded by Papa at her with a trembling lower lip and said, "You look beautiful, Holly." Then all seven of them squeezed into the rented limousine - Holly's parents, her three brothers, Ciara and they - but remained in fearful silence all the way to church. The day now seemed like a dream that had passed by in flight. She had barely had a chance to speak to Gerry because they were constantly being dragged in opposite directions because Holly had to say hello to Great-Aunt Betty, who lived in some dump in the world and hadn't seen Holly since she was born, while Gerry was his Great-uncle Toby from America shook hands who had never been heard of before, but who suddenly became a very important member of the family. Besides, no one had told her that it would be so exhausting. At the end of the day, Holly's face was cramped from smiling and her feet hurt like hell from running around in those absolutely silly little shoes that were clearly not made for walking around all day. She would love to be

12

been at the table with her friends, who were obviously enjoying themselves. But as soon as she walked into the honeymoon suite with Gerry, the stress fell on her and it was all worth it ... The tears ran again and Holly realized that she had been daydreaming for hours again. She sat petrified on the couch, the phone still in hand. The time just seemed to pass her by without her realizing what time it was or even what day it was. It was as if she lived outside of her body, as if she were numb, but still constantly aware of the pain in her heart, her bones, her head. And she was so tired ... Her stomach rumbled and it occurred to her that she couldn't remember the last time she had eaten. Finally she got up and shuffled into Gerry's bathrobe and her favorite slippers - the pink "disco diva" slippers that Gerry had given her last Christmas - into the kitchen. He always said she was his little disco diva. Always first on the dance floor and last down again. Where was that Holly? Holly opened the refrigerator and stared into the empty compartments. A terrible stench hit her: rotten vegetables and yogurts that had long since expired. Nothing to eat in sight. She smiled as she shook the milk carton. That too was empty. The third item on Gerry's list ... Two years ago, just before Christmas, Holly went out with Sharon to buy a dress for the annual ball at the Burlington Hotel. Going shopping with Sharon was always a risky venture, and John and Gerry always joked that Christmas would mean they would miss out on Christmas because their wives were wasting all the money on themselves on shopping trips. They weren't entirely wrong about that. "Our poor neglected husbands," that's what Holly and Sharon used to call them. This time Holly spent a horrific sum at Brown Thomas on the most beautiful white dress she had ever seen. "Crap,

13

Sharon, that's going to be a huge drain on my budget, ”Holly said guiltily, bit her lip as she ran her fingers over the soft fabric. "Hey, Gerry's stuffing it up again," said Sharon with her infamous giggle. “And stop calling me 'shit-Sharon'. You do that every time you shop, and if you're not careful, I'll be offended at some point. After all, it's coming to Christmas, the feast of love, and so on. ”“ God, you're a really bad influence on me, Sharon. Actually, I should never go shopping with you again. The dress here costs me about half a month's salary. What am I supposed to live on for the rest of the month? ”“ Holly, which is more important: eat or look great? ”“ I'll take the dress, ”Holly said excitedly to the saleswoman. The dress was cut wide, which showed off Holly's pretty small breasts, and was slit down to the thigh so that you could see her slender legs. Gerry couldn't take his eyes off her. Not because it looked so beautiful, but because he just didn't understand how a piece of cloth could be so expensive. But at the ball, Ms. Disco diva went overboard with the alcohol again and ruined her dress by pouring red wine on it. She couldn't hold back the tears while the men at the table informed her, also more than slightly humiliated, that item fifty-four on the list specifically forbade drinking red wine while wearing an expensive white dress. Then it was decided that milk would be a suitable substitute because milk stains could not be seen on expensive white clothes. Later, when Gerry knocked over his beer and it trickled over the edge of the table onto Holly's lap, she tearfully but very seriously announced to her friends and some of the other tables: "Rule five hundred and fifty on the list: buy new and expensive white clothes!" The rule was universally accepted , and Sharon woke up from her coma somewhere under the table to applaud Holly's groundbreaking tip and her unqualified moral submission.

14

assure support. So (after the waiter dragged in a tray full of milk glasses) a toast was made to Holly and her latest important contribution to the list. "It's a shame about your expensive white dress, Holly," John hicked before falling out of the cab and dragging Sharon to her house next to him. Could it be that Gerry had kept his word and made a list for her before he died? But she had spent every minute with him. He hadn't mentioned any of it, and she'd never caught him writing either. No, Holly, pull yourself together. This is nonsense. She longed so much for him to come back that she was already imagining all sorts of crazy things.

15

Three holly ran across a beautiful meadow full of tiger lilies, a gentle breeze moving the silky petals, and they brushed their fingertips as they passed. The ground was soft and springy beneath the soles of her bare feet, and she moved so easily and effortlessly that she almost felt as if she were floating. Birds sang their happy songs around them. The sun shone so brightly down from the sky that she had to put a protective hand over her eyes, and with every breath of wind that brushed her face, the sweet scent of the lilies rose to her nostrils. She felt so ... so happy, so free. Suddenly the sky went dark and the sun disappeared behind a thick gray cloud. The wind grew stronger, the air cold and frosty. All around, the petals rushed wildly through the air, obscuring her view. Sharp pebbles appeared on the floor, digging into the soles of her feet with every step. The birds had stopped singing, they sat motionless on the branches, staring down at Holly. Something was wrong, she got scared. In the distance a gray stone could be seen in the tall grass. She wanted to run back, back to the pretty flowers, but first she had to look at the gray stone. As she got closer she heard a loud boom! Boom! Boom! She quickened her pace, running over the sharp stones and through the sharp-edged grass that scratched her arms and legs. At the gray stone she fell on her knees and when she saw what it was, she let out a cry of pain: Gerry's grave! Boom! Boom! Boom! He was trying to get out! He called her name, she could hear him! The loud knock on the door finally woke Holly. “Holly! Holly! I know that you are there! Please let me in! ”Sharon shouted desperately. Boom! Boom! Boom! Confused and still half asleep

16

Holly went to the door and found a completely distraught Sharon. “Man, what did you do? I've been pounding on the door here for ages! ”Still not quite up to par, Holly looked around the outside. It was light and fairly fresh, probably early in the morning. “Won't you let me in?” “Sure, Sharon. Sorry, I got some sleep on the couch. ”“ God, Holly, you look awful, ”Sharon said sympathetically, studying Holly's face after she hugged her tightly. "Thank you very much." Holly closed the door. Sharon didn't mince her words, but that's why Holly loved her so much. And that's why she hadn't visited her friend in the last month. Because she didn't want to hear the truth. She didn't want to hear that she had to get on with her life, she just wanted ... oh, she had no idea what she wanted. She was content to feel miserable. Somehow it felt right. “God, you suffocate in here! When was the last time you ventilated? ”Sharon marched around the house, tearing open the windows, collecting empty cups and mold-covered plates, lugging everything into the kitchen and turning on the dishwasher. Then she started cleaning up. "Oh, stop it, Sharon," Holly protested weakly. “I'll do it…” “When? Next year? I don't want you to rot here while we pretend we don't notice. You’ll take a shower for now, and when you come down we’ll have a cup of tea together. ”She smiled encouragingly at her friend. Take a shower. When was the last time she did this? Sharon was right, she must have looked disgusting with her greasy hair and her dirty robe. Gerry's bathrobe. But she didn't want to wash it either, never. Only Gerrys disappeared

17

Smell unfortunately gradually and was masked by her own body odor. “Okay, but I have no milk. I didn't get around to… ”Holly felt ashamed that she cared so little about the house or herself. On no account could she allow Sharon to look in the refrigerator, or she would have Holly delivered. "Ta-da!" Shouted Sharon, holding up a bag that Holly hadn't noticed. “Don't worry, I've already taken care of that. The way you look, you haven't eaten in weeks. ”“ Thanks, Sharon. ”Holly had a big lump in her throat and tears welled up in her eyes. Sharon was so nice to her. “Stop, stop! No tears today. Get in the shower now! ”When Holly came out of the shower, she felt almost human again. She had put on a blue terry cloth jogging suit and her long blonde hair (dark at the base) fell loosely over her shoulders. Downstairs in the house all the windows were open and the cool air rushed through Holly's head as if to drive away any bad thoughts. She laughed because her mother, ironically, was right again. Then she jerked out of her trance and involuntarily gasped as she looked around the house. It must have taken her no more than half an hour to shower, but in the meantime Sharon had tidied up and cleaned, vacuumed, fluffed pillows, and sprinkled air freshener in every room. She followed the noises into the kitchen, where Sharon was scrubbing the stove. The worktops were already shining with cleanliness, the silver fittings and the drip grille on the sink gleamed. “Sharon, you are a real angel! You couldn't have done all of that in such a short time! "" You were gone for over an hour, I was afraid you'd slipped through the drain. Could be as thin as you've gotten. ”She looked Holly up and down.

18

One hour! Apparently she was lost in her daydreams after all. “Okay, I brought some fruit and vegetables with me, there’s cheese and yoghurt and of course milk in there. I didn't know where noodles and that sort of thing were going, that's why it's all over there. Oh yeah, there are some microwave dishes in the freezer. That should be enough for a while, probably a whole year, if you keep eating so little. How much did you lose weight? ”Holly looked at Sharon, overwhelmed. She was so nice to her that Holly was moved not knowing what to say. But what about losing weight? She looked down at her body; the tracksuit creased her bum, and although she had pulled the waistband as tight as possible, it still slid down to her hips. She hadn't noticed that she'd gotten so thin. Again, Sharon's voice brought her back to reality. “There are some biscuits for tea. Jammy Dodgers, your favorite. ”The biscuits overflowed and tears streamed down her face again. “Oh Sharon,” she sobbed, “thank you very much. You're so nice to me and I'm such a hideously lousy friend. ”She sat at the table weeping, and Sharon, who sat across from her, waited patiently for it to be over. That was exactly what Holly had feared - that she would cry in front of other people at every suitable and improper opportunity. But somehow she wasn't embarrassed now. Sharon sipped her tea calmly and held Holly's hand as if everything were normal. Finally the tears dried up. “Thanks.” “Holly, I'm your best friend! If I don't help, who will? ”Sharon squeezed her hand and gave her an encouraging smile. "Actually, I should help myself." "Pah!" Said Sharon, waving her hand defensively. “You can do that when you're ready. Do not care

19

all the people who want to convince you that after a month you should be like you were before. Crying is part of it. ”Somehow, Sharon managed to say exactly the right things every time. “Yes, but I do that already so much. I can't anymore. ”“ How can you! ”Said Sharon with mock indignation. "And your husband has only been underground for a month." That's exactly what I'm going to hear, right? "" Probably, but they can all slip your back. There are worse sins in the world than learning to be happy again. ”“ Yeah, probably. ”“ How's the onion diet going? ”“ Excuse me? ”Holly asked, puzzled. "Oh, you know: the 'I can't stop crying and I have absolutely no appetite' diet." "Oh, the one. It works very well, thank you. "" I'm happy for you, a few more days, and then you'll be completely gone. "" Yes. It's not that easy. "" That's right. I admire you. ”“ Thank you, Ms. Sharon. ”“ Promise me you'll eat today. ”“ I promise. ”“ Thanks for being there, Sharon, talking was really good for me, ”Holly said and hugged her friend. “I'm feeling a lot better.” “You know, Holly, it's good to be around people occasionally. Friends and family can help. Well, when I think about it, it's more like us friends than your family. "" Oh, I've realized that too. I just thought I could handle it on my own, but somehow it doesn't work. "" Promise me you won't sit around here all by yourself. That you at least go out of the house now and then. "

20

"I promise," Holly said, making a face. “You almost sound like my mum.” “Oh, we're just all worried about you. Okay, see you soon, ”said Sharon, pecking Holly on the cheek. "And don't forget the food," she added, poking her friend in the ribs. Holly waved to her car with a smile. Now it was almost dark again. They had spent the day talking and laughing about old times, they had cried and laughed and cried again. It had never occurred to Holly that Sharon and John had lost their best friend, too; she had been too busy thinking about herself. It was good for her to look at things from a different perspective, and she had enjoyed having a living person around instead of just the ghosts of the past all the time. Tomorrow was a new day and the first thing she'd made up her mind was to pick up that strange envelope.

21

Four the next morning, Holly got up early. Though she had gone to bed full of optimism, reality hit her again like a slap in the face. Again she woke up alone in a quiet house, and every single moment seemed like a burden that could hardly be handled.The fact that she had woken up without the help of the phone for the first time in over a month was progress, but, as always, she had to come to terms with the dreams of the last ten hours she had been with Gerry , were nothing more than - just dreams. She showered and dressed comfortably: her favorite jeans, sneakers, and a pink t-shirt. Sharon was right, she had become really thinner - the skin-tight jeans used to be not completely slip-proof even with a belt. She made a face at her reflection because she found herself ugly. Dark circles under the eyes, chapped lips, dull hair. The first thing she had to do was see her hairdresser. Maybe he could squeeze her in between somewhere. "Jesus, Holly!" Leo called out to her in horror. "So, what do you look like? Get out of the way guys, get out of the way! We have a twenty-year-old young woman here in extremely critical condition! ”He winked at her -“ Because of twenty! ”- made her way through the drawing room with grand gestures, pulled out a chair for her, and pushed her inside. “Thank you, Leo. I feel really attractive now, ”Holly muttered, trying to hide her purple face as best she could. “Don't even start, because you're totally neglected. Okay, mix up the usual for me, Sandra, get the foil, Colin, run upstairs and bring me my little bag of tricks, Tania, oh yes, and tell Paul he can forget his lunch today,

22

Because he has to take over my twelve o'clock appointment. ”Leo frantically ordered his employees around, waving his hands wildly and with an urgency as if he was about to perform an emergency operation. Perhaps the situation was comparable to that. “I'm really sorry, Leo, I didn't mean to mess up your whole schedule.” “Of course you did, my heart, why else do you come in here on Friday lunchtime without an appointment? To keep the world safe? ”Holly gnawed her lower lip guiltily. "I wouldn't do it for anyone but you, sweetheart." "Thanks." "How's it going?" He asked, swinging his bony little bum onto the counter across from Holly. Leo was already fifty, but still had flawless skin and, of course, a perfect haircut so that he could pass through thirty-five. With his blonde hair that matched his year-round honey-colored skin, he looked enormously young. He was also always very well dressed. Compared to him, it was easy to feel neglected. "I'm terrible," she answered his question. "Yes, you can tell." "Thanks." "Well, if you walk out of here, at least one of your problems will be under control." Holly smiled gratefully, because in his own way Leo was showing, that he understood her. “Tell me, Holly, when you walked in here, did you see the word 'wizard' on the door? Or was it not simply 'hairdresser'? This woman was here earlier, sheep disguised as a lamb. Already approaching sixty, I would say, holds out a magazine with Jennifer Anniston on the cover and says: 'That's what I want to look like.'

23

Holly laughed. Leo not only had very expressive gestures, his facial expressions were not to be despised either. “Oh dear, I said, I'm just a hairdresser, not a cosmetic surgeon. The only chance that you will look like the picture is that you stick it over your face. "" No! You didn't really tell her that, Leo! "" Of course I did! How else could I have helped the woman? Comes in here like a teen version of herself. ”“ What did she say? ”Holly wiped the tears from her eyes. She hadn't laughed like this in months. “There was a very nice photo of Joan Collins in the magazine, and I convinced the lady that it was more her style. She seemed quite happy with that. ”“ But Leo, she was probably just afraid to admit that she thought it was hideous. ”“ Oh, who cares, I've got enough friends. ”“ It's hard to imagine ”, Holly laughed. "Don't move!" Ordered Leo. Suddenly he was terribly serious and pouted in concentration as he parted Holly's hair to apply the paint. At the sight of him, Holly had another fit of laughter. "Well, pull yourself together, Holly," said Leo impatiently. "I can't help it, Leo, you made me laugh and now I can't stop!" Leo paused in his work and looked at his customer in amusement. “I've always suspected that you were supposed to be put in the madhouse. But nobody listens to me. ”She laughed even louder. “Oh, I'm really sorry, Leo, I don't know what's wrong with me either. I just can't stop. ”By now, her stomach was aching, and she could tell the other customers were staring at her, but she couldn't help it. It was almost like making up for all of the laughter that had escaped her in the past few months.

24

Leo put his comb and scissors down, went back to the mirror, sat down on the counter, and looked at Holly. “You don't need to feel guilty, Holly, laugh as much as you want. Laughing is good for the heart. ”“ Oh, I haven't laughed like this in ages, ”Holly chuckled. "Well, you didn't have much to laugh about either," said Leo with a sad smile. Gerry and Leo had gotten along very well; they liked to kid each other. Finally Leo pulled himself up again, jokingly tousled Holly's hair and kissed her head. "But you'll be fine, Holly Kennedy," he assured her. "Thank you, Leo," she said, and gradually calmed down under his concern. He went back to work, but when he put on his concentration face Holly promptly started giggling again. “Oh, you're still laughing now, Holly, but just wait until your hair is streaked. Then we'll see who's laughing. ”Holly finally regained her composure. “Well, that gave you something to think about now, didn't it?” “Oh Leo, you're wrong if you think you're just doing something for your hair. You're good for the heart, too. ”“ Yes, that's an extra twenty euros, thank you. ”“ Do you just color the beginning or everything? ”“ Lord of Mercy, I can't believe you're asking such a thing. Walk in here like an upside-down pint of Guinness, what do you think? ”“ How did I walk in here? ”Holly's laughing muscles were exposed to another attack. “Like a reverse Guinness. Black above, white below. It's the other way around with Guinness. Don't you know the line? ”“ No, you made it up yourself, didn't you? ”“ You did. ”“ How's Jamie? ”Asked Holly, desperate to change the subject before going on like that again let.

25

"He dumped me," Leo replied curtly, kicking the lever on the chair hard to lift Holly up, giving her a good shake. “Oh, Leo, I'm sorry! You were such a nice couple! "He stopped pumping and said," Well, we're not a nice couple anymore. I'm afraid he's meeting someone else. So, I'm going to work in two shades of blonde, a golden blonde and whatever shade you had so far. Otherwise your hair will get that strange shade of copper that should be reserved for hookers and strippers. ”“ Oh, Leo, I'm really sorry about Jamie. If he's got a bit of sense, he'll soon notice what's missing. "" Then he probably has no sense, because we broke up two months ago and he still hasn't noticed. Or he noticed it after all, but thinks it's a good thing. Anyway, I'm fed up with the men. I just get straight. ”“ It's the stupidest resolution I've ever heard… ”Holly wanted to dance out of the drawing room, excited about her new hairstyle. Leo had been so funny all along and had improved her mood enormously. When she wanted to pay, he didn't want to take any money from her. Hard shell, soft core, that applied to Leo like hardly anyone else. At least Holly knew now that she could survive a visit to the hairdresser without Gerry. A couple of men looked after her, which made her so uncomfortable that she ran quickly to her car. Here she was safe and could still prepare a little for the visit to her parents. So far the day had gone well and it had been a great idea to go to Leo. Although he was lovesick himself, he had done everything to cheer her up. She would remember that. She parked in front of her parents' house in Portmamock, a suburb of Dublin, and took a deep breath. To her mother's astonishment, she had been the first to call earlier this morning and arranged that she would come over. It was now three thirty, Holly was sitting in front of the door in the car with butterflies in her stomach. Apart from the visits her parents had paid her last month, was

26

she has not been with her family lately. She found it terrible to be in the center of attention like that, she didn't want people firing curious questions at her all day - how she was doing and what she was up to. But it was her family, after all, and her parents were worried about her. Her parents' house was right on Portmarnock Beach, with a blue flag flying over it as a sign of its cleanliness. Holly grew up here, lived here until she moved in with Gerry. She had loved waking up in the morning when the waves hit the rocks and the seagulls screeched excitedly. It was wonderful to have the beach practically as a front yard, especially in summer. Sharon had lived just around the corner, and on warm summer days they'd strolled along the beach in their fancy summer outfits and inspected the boys. Holly and Sharon were quite different types: Sharon had brown hair, blue eyes, extremely light skin, and decent breasts. Holly, on the other hand, with her blond hair, had started lightening early on - although she was also blue-eyed, she turned brown quickly and had little bust. Most of all, Sharon was extroverted and went straight to the boys she liked, while Holly kept her mouth shut and just flirted with looks; she fixed the boy who interested her most, but quickly looked away when he noticed her. Actually, not much had changed since then. Holly didn't feel like a long visit, she just wanted to chat a little and, most importantly, finally take the envelope with her. She wanted to get the crazy idea out of her head that it might be a message from Gerry. So she took another deep breath, rang the bell, and put on a demonstrative smile. "Hello Darling! Come in, come in! ”Her mother called in the usual cordial tone. “Hi, mum. How are you? "Holly stepped into the house, where a comforting, familiar smell hit her. "Are you alone?"

27

"Yes, your father went out with Declan to buy paint for his room." "Now don't say you're still paying everything for him." Declan is going to work at night and has some pocket money. There's never anything left for things like his room or anything else in the house, though, ”she giggled as she and Holly went into the kitchen and put on the tea water. Declan was Holly's youngest brother, the baby of the family, so his parents still loved to spoil him. Her "baby" was now twenty-two, studied film production at university, and kept walking around with a video camera in hand. “What kind of job does he have?” With a resigned look her mother answered: “He's joined some band. ›The Orgasmic Fish‹ they call themselves, I think. I'm really fed up with it, Holly. If I have to go back to who was there at the gigs, who they supposedly promised to sign the group, and how famous they all will be one day, I'll go crazy. "" So he wants to still be Kurt Cobain? "" Well, if he's not careful, his parents will probably explode first. "" Oh, poor Declan. Don't worry, he'll be sensible at some point. ”“ I know. Funny actually, I'm the least concerned about him of all of you. He'll find his way. ”They took their tea mugs into the living room and sat down in front of the television. “You look great, dear, your hair is beautiful. Do you think Leo could cut it for me, or am I too old for that? ”“ Well, as long as you don't want to look like Jennifer Anniston, you shouldn't have any problems. ”Holly told the story of the sixty-year-old woman in Leo's drawing room and they both laughed heartily.

28

"But I don't like Joan Collins either, so maybe I should get my hair done elsewhere." "Sounds like a wise decision." "Do you have any prospects now?" Her mother sounded easy-going, but Holly knew she was holding back but would have loved to squeeze her daughter thoroughly. "No not yet. To be honest, I haven't even started looking around. I don't even know what I want to do. ”“ You're absolutely right, ”her mother nodded. "Take your time and think about what really matters to you, otherwise you'll just make another hasty decision and after a very short time you won't like the work like you did last time." Holly was amazed at her mother's assessment of her. But at the moment she was often seeing such surprises. Maybe she had just seen some things wrong. Most recently, Holly had worked as a secretary for a dreadful little slut in a law firm. When the guy didn't understand that Holly needed more free time to care for her dying husband, she'd quit without further ado, and of course now she had to find something new. However, the thought of going to work in the morning still seemed completely absurd. Holly and her mother chatted for a while, then finally Holly took her heart and asked for the envelope. “Oh, of course, dear, I almost forgot about it. Hopefully it's nothing important, he's been lying around here for so long. ”“ Oh, it's not that bad. ”They said goodbye, and now Holly couldn't get out of the house fast enough. Outside she sat on the meadow above the golden sandy beach, looked down at the sea, and turned the envelope thoughtfully in her hands. Her mother didn't have it very well

29

because it wasn't actually an envelope, but a thick brown package. The address was typed on a sticker, so you couldn't guess the sender from the handwriting. But above the address there were two words in bold and bold: the list. Her stomach went sick. If the package wasn't from Gerry, then she had to accept the fact that he was no longer there, out of her life for good. She tore open the tape with trembling fingers. Then she turned the package over and shook the contents on her lap. The result was ten individual little envelopes, the kind you sometimes get with a bouquet of flowers, and each of them said a month. Her heart skipped a few beats when she recognized the familiar writing on a sheet of paper from under the envelopes. Gerry's writing.

30

Five Holly stared at the letter with bated breath. There were tears in her eyes and her heart was pounding wildly. Carefully she ran her finger over the words. The last person to touch this paper had been Gerry, and he would never write anything again. My dearest Holly, I do not know where or when you will read this letter, I just hope that you are well, that you are healthy and happy. You once told me that you cannot go on living alone. You can, holly. You are strong and brave and you will get through this. We had wonderful times together and you were ... You were my life. I don't regret a day. But I am only one chapter in your life and there will be many more. Don't forget our shared memories, but don't be afraid to add new ones to them. Thank you for being my wife. For that and for everything else I am eternally grateful to you. And remember: I am with you whenever you need me. In love forever your husband and best friend Gerry P.S. I promised you a list - here it is. The envelopes must be opened for the exact month indicated on them and you must do exactly what it says.I'm watching you, nothing escapes me ... Holly couldn't go on. She was overwhelmed by grief. But at the same time she felt comforted and relieved, because now Gerry would be with her for a while longer. She leafed through the little white ones

31

Through envelopes and looked for the months. It was April now, but she had missed March, so she picked up this envelope first. She opened it very slowly to savor every single moment to the full. Inside was a small card with Gerry's handwriting on it: You can do without bruises - buy a bedside lamp! P.S. I love you. She began to smile through tears: Gerry was with her again! She read the letter over and over, trying to bring Gerry to life. Finally she couldn’t make out the words from sheer tears and looked out to sea. Even as a child, Holly would run across the street to the beach when she was confused and needed to think, and her parents always knew where to look for her. She closed her eyes and breathed in and out to the gentle, rhythmic sigh of the waves. It was as if the sea was breathing too: with the inhalation it pulled the water towards it and with the exhalation it pushed it back onto the sand. Holly felt her pulse normalize and calm down inside her. She thought of how in Gerry's last days she had lain next to him and listened for his breath. She would have preferred not to leave his side at all, because she was afraid that he would leave her when she had just got up to go to the door or to the toilet or to get something to eat. When she came back, she always sat rigid and afraid for a while on the edge of the bed and stared at his chest to see whether it was still rising or falling. But he hadn't slipped away in her absence. With his strength and his will to live he astonished the doctors; he was determined not to leave the world without a fight. He kept his sense of humor to the end; he was very weak and his voice was almost inaudibly low, but Holly had understood his new language.

32

learned to stand like a mother her baby, who is just learning to speak. They giggled together until late at night, then again they held each other and cried. Holly stayed strong for him too, because it was her job to be there for him when he needed her. In retrospect, it almost seemed to her that she needed him more than he needed her. She needed the feeling that he needed her so that she wouldn't have to stand idly by what was happening, so that she wouldn't feel completely helpless. At four in the morning on February 2nd, Holly held Gerry's hand tightly in hers and smiled at him as he took his last breath and closed his eyes. She didn't want him to be scared, nor did she want him to think she was scared because at that moment she wasn't. Relief, relief that the pain was over, relief that she had been there and seen how peacefully he had died - that was the predominant feeling at that moment. She was so glad to have known him, to love him, to be loved by him, she was glad that her face had been the last thing he had seen, with a smile and the encouragement that it was okay, when he left. She had only vague memories of the days that followed. She'd been busy preparing the funeral, meeting up with Gerry's relatives and old school friends she hadn't seen in ten years. Because these were all clear, unambiguous requirements, it was not difficult for her to remain strong and calm, and she was grateful that Gerry's suffering was finally over after all these months. At that time she hadn't felt anything like anger or bitterness, any of what she felt now. She only realized that her whole life had been taken away when she picked up the death certificate for her husband. But then the realization hit her with unexpected violence. As she waited in the clinic waiting room for her number to be called, she began to wonder why Gerry had had to say goodbye to life so early. you

33

sat wedged between a very young and an older couple; on the one hand, a picture, so to speak, of how she and Gerry had been before, and on the other, a view of what might have become of them. And suddenly she realized how terribly unfair it was. The children's screams became unbearably loud, she felt crushed between the shoulders of her past and her lost future, and she couldn't breathe. It dawned on her that she was in a situation she just didn't deserve. None of her friends deserved this. None of her family. Maybe nobody at all. Because it wasn't fair. After presenting official evidence of her husband's death to the banks and insurance companies - as if the look on her face wasn't evidence enough - Holly returned home to her nest and hid from the rest of the world, for this one World held hundreds of memories of their lost lives. The life that had been so happy and that she hadn't once complained about. Why had someone else put another on her now, one that was so much worse? That was two months ago, and until today she had not left the house. And how was I received, she thought as she looked down at the small envelopes with a smile. Gerry was back and everything was looking a little brighter. Holly was almost bursting with excitement as she dialed Sharon's number with trembling hands. After dialing the wrong number a few times, she finally calmed down a bit and focused on the number. "Sharon!" She shrieked as soon as the receiver on the other side was picked up. “You never know what happened. Oh my God, I just don't believe it! "

34

"Uh, no ... this is John, but I'll get Sharon." A little worried, John ran away. "What? What's going on? ”Gasped Sharon breathlessly. "What happened? Are you okay? ”“ Yeah, I'm fine! ”Holly giggled hysterically. Suddenly she didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and she couldn't get a coherent sentence out. John watched as Sharon sat down at the kitchen table and tried, with a rather confused face, to make sense of Holly's stammering. Somehow it was about Ms. Kennedy giving Holly an envelope with a bedside lamp. "Stop!" Sharon finally called, much to Holly and John's surprise. "I don't understand a word, so please shift down a gear and start all over again, okay?" She said very slowly. Suddenly she heard soft sobs from the other end of the line. “Oh Sharon,” Holly said softly, “he wrote me a list. Gerry wrote me a list. ”When John saw his wife's eyes widen, he quickly pulled a chair next to her and stuck his head over to the phone. "Okay, Holly, come over as soon as you can, will you?" She paused and shooed John's head away like an annoying fly. "Is that ... is that good news?" Snapped, John got up, started pacing the kitchen, trying to guess what had happened from the scraps of words. "Oh yes, Sharon," Holly sobbed. “It's wonderful.” “Well, please make sure you come over here so we can talk about it in peace.” “Okay.” Sharon hung up and sat in silence for a while. "What's going on now?" Asked John.

35

“Oh, I'm sorry, honey. Holly is on her way here. She ... uh ... she said that ... uh ... ”“ So what? ”“ She said Gerry wrote a list for her. ”John stared at her, studying her face intently. Sharon's worried blue eyes met his gaze, and he realized she was serious. He sat down next to her again and they stared at the wall for a while, lost in thought. "Wow," was Sharon and John's only comment at first. The three of them sat around the kitchen table and stared at the contents of the package Holly had spread out in front of them. In the last few minutes they had hardly said anything, but had tried very hard to get their feelings together. The conversation was limited to sentences like: “But how did he manage it…?” “But why didn't we notice that he…? Well… madness. ”“ When did he… what do you think… now and then he was briefly alone, right…? ”Holly and Sharon stared at each other for the most part in silence, while John stuttered and stammered, trying to figure out when with scraps of sentences , where and how his terminally ill friend had managed to put this idea into practice all alone and secretly. "Wow," he finally repeated, after realizing that Gerry must have actually pulled it off without letting anyone know. "So you two had no idea at all?" Holly asked again, just to be on the safe side. "Well, I didn't have a clue, but it looks like John, the mastermind, is behind it," Sharon said ironically.

36

"Ha ha," John replied dryly. "But he kept his word, right?" He smiled at the two young women. "I guess you can say that," Holly said quietly. “Are you okay, Holly? I mean, how are you doing about it, it must be pretty ... pretty weird for you? "Asked Sharon again, with evident concern. "I'm fine," Holly replied thoughtfully. “Actually, I even think that nothing better could have happened to me right now! Funny that we're all so completely surprised when we've been talking about this list all the time. I mean, we should have counted on it! ”“ Yeah, but that he really did ... ”said John. "Why not?" Asked Holly. “That's why we made the list in the first place. To help the people you love when you're gone. "" I think Gerry was the only one who really took it seriously. "" Sharon, Gerry is the only one of us who died. Who knows how seriously we would have taken it in his place. ”Silence. "Well, let's take a closer look then," suggested John, suddenly perking up. "How many envelopes are there?" "Hmmm ... ten," counted Sharon, who was now getting into the game. "Well, what months are we?" Asked John. Holly sorted the pile. “It starts in March, that's the envelope with the bedside lamp that I've already opened. Then April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December. "" Oooh, look, Holly, how big the envelope is for July. Much thicker than the others. There's probably a wad of money in there, ”laughed Sharon. “I've already thought about that. But there could also be many little things, one for each day in July ... "

37

Holly beamed at her friends. No matter what Gerry had prepared for her, one thing he had already achieved: She felt almost normal again. Laughing with John and Sharon as they puzzled over what might be in those envelopes was almost like Gerry was with them again. "Wait!" Shouted John solemnly. "What?" John's blue eyes flashed. “It's April and you haven't opened the envelope here yet.” “Oh yes, oh God, oh yes! Shall I open it now? ”“ Yes, go on, ”said Sharon. "We don't want to risk Gerry coming back as a ghost and reminding us, do we?" Holly took the envelope and tore it open carefully. After that there were only eight left, she had to be careful and enjoy each one before it was just a memory. Slowly she pulled out the little card. A disco diva always has to look really good. Buy something nice to wear, because you will need that next month! P.S. I love you. "Ooooh," John and Sharon called out of one mouth, "now he's getting really mysterious!"

38

Six Holly was lying on the bed, turning the bedside lamp off and on with a slightly insane smile. In a shop called Bed Knobs and Broomsticks in Malahide, she and Sharon had finally agreed on this one. The lamp had a beautifully carved base and a cream-colored shade, which went perfectly with the decor of the bedroom, which was also kept in cream and wood (of course it was also the most expensive, but they couldn't just break with tradition). Even though Gerry had not been physically with her while shopping, she still had the feeling that they had chosen the lamp together. To test the new acquisition, she had drawn the curtains in the bedroom. The room looked softer and warmer in the light from the bedside lamp. How easily a lamp could have ended the nocturnal arguments between them. But maybe neither of them wanted that. It had almost become a dear habit for them, something familiar that brought them closer together. Holly would have given anything to see such a little argument again. She would have got out of her comfortable bed for Gerry and pawed over the cold tiles with glee. She wouldn't even have minded bumping into the bedpost in the dark. But that time was over, once and for all. The sound of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" jerked her back to the present. Her cell phone rang. "Hello?" "Hey, I'm back-aa!" Shrieked a familiar voice. “Oh my God, Ciara! I didn't even know you wanted to come home! "

39

“Well, neither do I, but I ran out of money and I thought I'd surprise you all!” “Well, you probably did it with Mum and Dad.” “Yes, Dad fell in the towel when he got out of the shower. ”Holly covered her mouth with a hand. "No, Ciara, you made that up!" "I couldn't even hug him," laughed Ciara. "Oh dear, let's change the subject, I'm getting visions," Holly chuckled. “Okay, what I wanted to tell you - I'm back, as you've probably noticed by now, and Mum is organizing a dinner tonight to celebrate the day.” “What is she going to celebrate?” “That I'm still alive. "" Oh, okay. I thought you had something to announce or something. ”“ Yes, I'm alive. ”“ All right. Who's coming? ”“ The whole family. ”“ Did I mention that I have to go to the dentist urgently? I get all my teeth pulled, I really can't come, I'm sorry. "" I know, I know, I told Mum that too, but we haven't all been together in ages. Do you remember the last time we saw Richard and Meredith? "" Oh, dear old Dick, he was really in great shape at the funeral. Had lots of comforting advice for me, like, 'Have you ever thought about putting Gerry's brain into medical research?' He really is a wonderful brother. "" Oh God, Holly, sorry, I had the funeral I forgot. ”Her sister's voice changed. "I'm sorry I wasn't there."

40

“Ciara, don't be silly, we've both decided unanimously that it's not worth coming from Australia and flying back straight away. So we don't talk about it anymore, okay? ”Holly said firmly. "Yeah, okay." Holly changed the subject. “When you say the whole family, do you mean…?” “Yes, Richard and Meredith are bringing our adorable little niece and adorable little nephew with them. But Jack and Abbey are also coming, I'm sure you'll be happy. Declan will be there physically, if maybe not mentally, Mum, Dad and I are there, of course, and you just have to come too. ”Holly groaned, but as much as she nagged her family, she had a crush on her brother Jack very good relationship. He was only two years older than her and he had always protected her. Their mother used to call them "my two little elves" because they played their pranks all over the house (mostly aimed at their eldest brother Richard). Jack was very much like Holly in appearance and character, and in her opinion he was also the most normal of her siblings. Of course, it also helped Holly get on well with Abbey, who had been Jack's girlfriend for seven years. When Gerry was still alive, the four of them had often met for dinner or in the pub. When Gerry was still alive ... Ciara was a completely different caliber.Jack and Holly were convinced that she came from the planet Ciara, where there was only one living being, Ciara herself. With her long legs and dark hair, she came after her father. She had brought back a wide variety of tattoos and piercings from her travels around the world. A tattoo for every country, her father would sometimes jokingly say. Holly and Jack were more likely to believe that it was a tattoo for every lover. The eldest of the family, Richard (or Dick, as Jack and Holly called him), had absolutely no sympathy for such madness.

41

Richard was an adult from birth. His life revolved around rules and regulations. As a boy he had a boyfriend with whom he fell out when they were both ten. Holly couldn't remember ever bringing someone home, having a girlfriend, or doing anything with anyone after that. She and Jack couldn't explain how and where he had met his joyless wife Meredith. Probably at a meeting of the anti-fun association. Holly didn't feel as though she'd caught the worst family in the world, it was just such a strange mixture. The personalities were so diverse that clashes often broke out on the worst of occasions, or, as Holly's parents put it, "heated discussions." Basically they got along, but only if everyone tried hard. Holly often met Jack for lunch or a drink. She liked being with him, and to her Jack was not just a brother but a good friend too. They hadn't seen each other as often lately, but Jack knew that Holly needed time and space to herself. Holly only learned about the life of her younger brother Declan when he happened to be home alone. Declan didn't talk much and never really felt comfortable around adults, so Holly knew little about him. A nice boy who mostly floated in other spheres. Ciara, Holly's sister, had been away all year and Holly had missed her very much. Although they weren't the kind of sisters who constantly swap clothes and giggle at boys, their tastes were far too different - but as the only two girls in the family, they got along very well. Ciara was very close to Declan, they were both somehow dreamers. So there was always one left, namely Richard. He was the underdog in the family, and Holly suspected he somehow liked the position. Holly was always waiting for his boring, annoying lectures, and she especially hated his un-

42

sensitive questions. Today she would have to endure him for Ciara, and at least Jack would be there. But she really wasn't looking forward to the evening. Holly knocked reluctantly on the door of her old home and immediately heard the tinkling of little feet rushing to the door. “Mummy! Daddy! It's Aunt Holly, it's Aunt Holly! ”It was her nephew Timothy, it was her nephew Timothy! But his cheerfulness was quickly stopped. (It was unusual, anyway, that Timothy should be happy to see Holly - he was apparently even more bored today than usual.) "Timothy!" Came a stern voice. “What did I tell you about running around the house? You can fall and hurt yourself! Now stand in the corner over there and think about what I said. Have I made myself clear? ”“ Yes, Mommy. ”“ Come on, Meredith, how is he supposed to hurt himself on the carpet? ”Holly chuckled: No doubt Ciara was home. The door opened and there was Meredith. She looked even more surly than usual. "Holly," was all she said, and nodded in greeting. "Meredith," Holly replied in the same manner. In the living room she immediately looked around for Jack, but to her disappointment could not see him anywhere. Richard stood in front of the fireplace, amazingly in a brightly colored sweater. Maybe he was planning to really go wrong tonight. His hands buried deep in his pockets, he bobbed back and forth on the footballs like a professor at a seminar. The victim of the lecture was his poor father, Frank, who crouched uncomfortably like a scolded schoolboy in his favorite armchair. Richard was so absorbed in his speech that he didn't notice Holly. She threw her father a kiss, because there was no way she wanted to be drawn into this conversation. Her father smiled and caught the kiss.

43

Declan was lounging on the couch in ripped jeans and a South Park T-shirt, puffing a cigarette, but found himself - obviously involuntarily - in the clutches of Meredith, who was giving him a curtain sermon on the dangers of smoking. "Oh really? I didn't know that, ”he said in a worried voice and stubbed out the cigarette. Meredith was already looking satisfied, but Declan reached for the box with a wink and lit the next glowing stick. “Go on, I'm dying of curiosity.” Meredith stared at him indignantly. Ciara was hiding behind the couch and bombarding Timothy, who was standing in the corner and didn't dare to turn around, with popcorn. Abbey was held on the floor by five-year-old Emily and a mean-looking doll. She caught Holly's gaze and mouthed, "Help!" "Hi, Ciara." Holly stepped up to her sister. "Great hair." Ciara immediately jumped up and hugged Holly tightly. "Do you like it?" "Yes, pink is really your color." Ciara looked satisfied. "I tried to make those over there understand that too," she said, staring at Richard and Meredith with narrowed eyes. "How's my big sister doing?" She asked softly, stroking Holly's arm lovingly. "Oh, you know, I'll just keep going somehow," Holly replied with a faint smile. "Jack will help your mum in the kitchen if you're looking for him, Holly," Abbey announced, followed by another silent cry for help. Holly raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Really? So isn't it great that Jack is helping in the kitchen? ”“ Oh Holly, don't you know how much Jack loves to cook - you can hardly get him out of the kitchen, ”Abbey said sarcastically. Holly's father laughed softly, which made Richard stop abruptly in his lecture. "What's so funny, father?"

44

Frank shifted nervously in his chair. “I just find it remarkable what happens in such a small test tube.” With a disapproving sigh, Richard replied, “Yes, but these organisms are tiny too, you see, Father. Fascinating. You react with the ... ”And he started again, his father leaning back in the chair, desperately avoiding Holly's gaze so as not to have to laugh again. Holly tiptoed into the kitchen, where her brother was sitting in a chair with his legs on the table, chewing something. "Ah, there he is, the 'naked chef' himself." Jack grinned and stood up. "My favorite sister!" He wrinkled his nose. "So I see you were lured here too." He walked over to her with outstretched arms and hugged her tightly. "How are you?" He said softly in her ear. "Very well, thank you," Holly replied with a sad smile, and kissed him on the cheek before turning to her mother. "Dearest Mum, I'm here to offer you my help in this difficult phase of your life," Holly said, kissing her mother's hot cheeks too. "Oh, how lucky I am to have such attentive children," said Elizabeth, a little sarcastically. "Tell you what: you can drain the potato water." "Mum, tell us about the famine when you were a little girl and there were no more potatoes," Jack said in an exaggerated Irish accent. Elizabeth waved the tea towel at him and replied in the same tone, "Listen, my son, this was long before my time." "Are you sure of that?" Asked Jack. "Yes, of course," said Holly. The other two looked at her. "How long has the word certainly existed?" Laughed her mother. "Oh, shut up, both of you." Holly sat down at the table with her brother.

45

"I hope the two of you don't have any nonsense before tonight, because I'd like the house to be a no-argument for a change." "Mother, I'm shocked that you get any ideas like that," Jack replied, winking at Holly. "All right," said her mother, who of course didn't believe a word he said. "Well, I'm sorry, children, but there's nothing more for you to do here. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes. ”Elizabeth sat down at the table with the children and they all stared at the kitchen door, thinking the same thing. “No, Abbey,” Emily was heard screaming, “you have to do what I tell you!” Then there was a loud howl. A moment later Richard was heard roaring laughing - he had probably been joking because he was the only one laughing. "Everyone, listen, dinner is ready!" Elizabeth announced, and everyone went into the dining room. As with a children's birthday party, there was a moment of chaos because everyone was trying to get a place with nice neighbors. Holly was pleased; she sat between her mother and Jack. Abbey grimaced: she had got the seat next to Jack, but Richard was on her other side. Declan sat across from Holly, next to him was an empty chair that was supposed to be Timothy, then came Emily, Meredith and Ciara. Holly's father had the buck between Richard and Ciara at the head of the table, but he was such a laid back person that he was the best of all for the job. Under oohs and aahs, Elizabeth was serving the meal, and the scent soon filled the room. Holly had always loved her mother's cooking; Elizabeth kept experimenting with new spices and recipes - her daughter passed them on. "Hey, Timmy is still starving out there," Ciara called to Richard. "The poor boy has had enough punishment by now." "His name is Timothy," Meredith corrected her stiffly. "You really like these punishments, don't you?" Ciara persisted. She knew it was putting her on thin ice, but

46

she loved risk, and she loved teasing Richard even more. After all, she had been gone for a year, and she had a lot to catch up on. "Ciara, it's important that Timothy knows when he's done something wrong," Richard said. "Yeah, but can't you just tell him that?" The rest of the family had to stop laughing. “He has to learn that his actions have certain consequences, so that no undesirable behaviors become embedded in him.” “All right,” said Ciara, raising her voice, “but now he's missing all the delicious food. Hmmmm, mjamm, mmmm, ”she smacked. "Stop it, Ciara," said Elizabeth. "Otherwise you'll have to stand in the corner," added Jack sternly. The whole table burst into laughter, apart from Meredith and Richard, of course. "So, Ciara, tell us about your adventures in Australia," Frank quickly threw himself into the breach. Ciara's eyes lit up. "Oh, it was really great, Dad, I recommend it to everyone." "It's an awfully long flight," said Richard. "Yeah, but it's worth it." "Do you have new tattoos?" Holly asked. "Yes, look here." Ciara stood up and pulled down her pants to reveal a butterfly on her rump. Her parents, Richard and Meredith protested indignantly while the others laughed. When Ciara had finally apologized and Meredith was able to take her hands from Emily's eyes, everyone calmed down again. "I find them disgusting," said Richard, disgusted. "I think butterflies are pretty, Daddy," said Emily, her eyes wide, innocent.

47