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Term Dates (continued from preceding page)
 clothes, glad of the heated towel rail that she’d cajoled Brian into fitting. Naked, she stole a glance
at herself, saw her hair a little mussed where she’d struggled from her suit, drew a breath and looked at the inward turn of her stomach and poked at her hip as it swelled. She ran a hand down her bare leg, and felt only the bare rasp of it, where she’d shaved in the shower that morning. The rest of her could do with some tidying up, she though, but she’d the time for that later. She glanced behind her, at the back of her leg where the one vein bulged, dark at the back of her calf. But he’d not notice that. Not bad, she thought, considering the miles she’d put on the clock. Not per- fect but not bad, and she smoothed the hair, stepped in to the garments, felt the lace and unfamiliar cinch of the garter belt upon her waist.
She strained a moment to hear if there were move- ments in the house before, satisfied, unlocking the bathroom door and padding on stockinged feet into the bedroom. She felt the shuffle and slide
of herself as she walked, the feeling of the carpet rough beneath the thin veneer of silk. Marie crept
up upon the full length mirror from the edge where her bathrobe hung over it and extended a leg, like Mrs Robinson’s, out before her so she could see her foot, dark and different, hanging. Then she stood before the mirror, her weight cocked on a hip and flipped her hair, stood, in the half light of the lamp and looked up and down, enjoyed the shine of the cream silk in the dim light and the new shapes and textures wrought by the clothes. She nodded to her- self, stepped away, unclipping a garter as she went and, with the bang of the kitchen door beneath, sped back to the bathroom where she looked again. It would do, might even, she supposed, be fun to see the face on him when he saw her in that get up.
As the date neared, Marie began enquiring more often about the state of the herd, the nature of her hus- band’s work. “Is the new Charolais settling in alright now?” she asked him, puttering over the range early one morning. She’d surprised him, she knew, making his tea before the morning feed.
“Grand,” he said and nodded. “A moody beast but she’s growing thick.”
“Will you be out late tonight?”
“There’s ditches need clearing down by the lower road, near Flaherty’s that I’ve to do. I’ll take Stephen with me. Should be done by dark I’d say. Why’s that you ask now?”
“No reason,” she smiled. “But it might not be so awful to see you once in a while. How about later in the week? I’ve the good steak that I’ll be making when you’ve the time to enjoy it and a customer brought me wine for sorting out the mess that had been made of her mortgage. Might we not have a drop of that with it some night?” She laid a hand on his shoulder then as he sat, in his flannel shirt at the kitchen table. Marie kneaded the thick bunch of flesh at his shoul- der and stroked off the fleck of foam that lingered on the lobe of his protruding ear.
“Grand,” he said. “Now, I’ve work to do woman.” He stood but glanced back at her there in her dressing gown as he slipped his boots on at the door. “I’ll be back as soon as I can now.”
She watched him trudge across the dark yard, send- ing a splash of spray as he strolled right through
the puddles toward the feed store. Work to do in- deed. But that simple punctuation of “woman” in his speech was enough that he had registered a shift in tone, that the two months that she had shrugged off his fumbling advances with a roll and grunt might have thawed. He was not what you would call a de- monstrative man, Brian, she thought as she cleared the cup, rinsed the smear of jam from the plate where he had eaten toast. He wasn’t complicated. If he’d a scowl on him when he came home, a calf was sickening. If he returned smiling, the prices at the market had been good or the dinner was a favourite or the boys had won the hurling and he’d a pint or two inside him.
It was why she had picked him, when she had moved back to the village to look after her mother. He was older than herself, half a decade and more. She’d known him only by sight, the great hulk of him, red faced, a pair of ears like jug handles stuck to the side of his wide head. He was not a slick one like the city men her friends had married when she’d been in
the regional office, the wearers of hair gel, with their Saabs and their mobile phones. Brian had one suit in the wardrobe and that brought out only for weddings and funerals, the odd trip to the bank or the solici- tor’s office if a new field was bought.
That had been how she’d picked him, determined then that it was time, her friends all married already, giving up on their careers. He had inherited the farm and come in to her branch, in the town, to sort the finances of it out and sat there, embarrassed as she’d worked through the figures, the collar on his good shirt cutting at his thick neck. There was nothing wrong with those figures though. He was a good, steady man, she saw, solid of habit and property and

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