Arkbound is very proud to introduce you to the work of the aspiring writer Rhiannon Walsh! Rhiannon has been working on her writing with experienced mentor Madeleine Mankey for the past six months and offered us the fabulous first chapter of her novel to share with you all:
It was a bitterly cold and wet day in Dublin where three friends were gathered snugly on the leather two-seater which commandeered the living room of a small and overpriced city-centre flat. The clock on the wall of the adjoining kitchen read the wrong time having not been changed when the clocks went back a few weeks ago and perched on the living room table were several lit candlesticks forced stiffly into old, cheap white wine bottles.
Saoirse removed the blanket draped over her and moved to kneel in front of the table as Raye shuffled blue and gold cards that were slightly curled at the edges. She set her wine glass down on the glass table and inhaled deeply at the thought of what was to come. As she did she realised she was a bit buzzed. She remembered that she’d had forgotten to have dinner. There was silence as Raye laid out three cards in front of them, aside from the clicking noise of Paul’s phone as he typed agitatedly and the ticking of the clock that was an hour ahead.
Raye laid out three cards and flipped the one on the closest to Saoirse’s left.
“Right, so this represents your past,” Raye said as she held the card up to her face and squirmed.
“What?” said Saoirse as she looked at the back of the card and squinted seeing if there was any tell for the look on Raye’s face.
“It’s the 10 of swords. How can I put it nicely? Abandonment. Feeling hard done by. Feeling like it’s the end of the world. But I suppose after the year you’ve had that makes sense.”
“Cheers for that, thanks,” replied Saoirse as she took a drink and looked at the card as Raye laid it on the table. She stared at the image of a man lying face down with ten swords in his back. She thought to herself, that while it was jarring, it didn’t feel a million miles away from what she’d felt herself in the past six months.
“The good thing is, that’s all in the past” smiled Raye, as she noticed Saoirse staring at the card for too long. “As for the present, however, we have…” Raye dramatically flipped the card over and trailed off.
“What now?” Saoirse groaned.
“Well, it’s just. I suppose. Well, Saoirse, it’s the devil”. Saoirse couldn’t be sure but it sounded like Raye whispered the last bit.
“Oh brilliant” replied Saoirse “and what’s he got to say for himself?”
“Well, he just says that you might indulge in some ill-advised or perhaps precarious activities in the next while. Be a bit selfish or act like a bit of a bitch. That’s all”.
“She’s already doing a good job of that one!” chimed in Paul as he finished up typing and filled up his wine glass instead.
“So in the midst of my abandonment issues, I’ll be consoling myself with a string of flings and A-class drugs is that what you’re saying?” Saoirse questioned, choosing to ignore Paul’s comment.
“Maybe. Only temporarily. We knew that already though, you’re probably just coming up to that time you should be getting on the rebound. The past and present don’t matter anyway, it’s the future that really counts”.
“Debatable but give me the bad news anyway”.
Raye flipped the card onto the glass table with an extravagant “Ta-da!” that knocked Paul’s glass over making a vibrating, high-pitched clang as it hit the glass table, spilling its contents on the tarot cards and onto the floor.
“Raye!” Paul shouted, “my wine!” as he stood up inspecting the rogue crimson splashes on his yellow mohair jumper. “You owe me €4.50”.
“Only you would have the price per glass calculated from your bottle of Sauvignon” she chuckled as she used a nearby tea towel to dab at the spill.
Saoirse stared at the card on the table that had narrowly escaped its burgandy blood bath.
“The tower,” she said absentmindedly “That sounds promising. Does that mean I’m destined to a life of luxury, fast cars and private yachts?”, she flipped her mousy brown hair over her shoulder exaggeratedly and fanned herself with her hand.
“Ehrm, you could say that” choked Raye as she attempted to soak up the wine dripping from the cards. Saoirse could see that she was trying to minimise the level of cringe on her face, but in doing so, her face looked even more contorted. “I suppose if that life of luxury was accompanied with turmoil, setbacks and calamity, then you’d be absolutely correct”
“Oh for God’s sake Raye!” replied Saoirse as she buried her head in her hands “I’m doomed from beginning to end.”
“I’m sorry, it’s not my fault” Raye winced “It’s the way of the cards. They know things”.
“Don’t give it much thought Saoirse. Raye did a reading for me telling me I was about to meet a handsome man with a name starting with the letter A eight months ago and I’m still waiting”, interjected Paul as he continued to investigate the condition of his jumper.
“Just you wait” Raye said as she waggled her finger in Paul’s face “Mr. A is just around the corner”.
“You’ve been saying that for the best part of a year”.
“Love comes to those who are ready to love”, replied Raye “What can I say?”.
“Okay Ru Paul” mocked Paul as he raised his eyes. “Anyways, I think I better be getting back. This stain is looking like it’s going to set in and I did not just purchase this last week for €230 in the Brown Thomas sale for it to be stained with a Cab that if I’m honest, smells of feet.”
“Oh Paul you’re such a drama queen” Raye remarked as she slapped his knee “but I do have an early start tomorrow as well and we have to get the last DART”.
“God you really are like an old married couple” remarked Saoirse “But wait, Raye, how intense is this going to be? Should I just batten down the hatches and call it a day until some time next year?”
“There will likely be an end of some kind Seersh. Some decay, maybe some disaster. But it’ll all be for the greater good. A new beginning. A stronger you”. She placed her hands on Saoirse’s shoulders and wrapped her up in a warm embrace. She whispered in her ear “Good change is coming, I promise”.
Saoirse looked into Raye’s deep brown eyes and maybe it was Raye’s knowing and wise beyond her years’ demeanour or the alcohol she’d consumed, but at that moment, she believed her. Or at least, she’d hoped that Raye would be right.
After her friends left, Saoirse spent a while cleaning up, finding popcorn kernels down the side of the sofa and using carpet cleaner on the spills on the rug. She shared her flat with Leni, a German exchange student who had come to Dublin at the start of the year, but because of her extreme homesickness, she spent the majority of her free time flying back to be with her family or with her rugby fanatic boyfriend from Sligo. She didn’t see her much, except when there was a problem with the flat or Saoirse’s clothes had been left in the washing machine for too long. She mostly just got passive aggressive post-it notes like “Please don’t drink my oat milk again – Leni.” and “Please remember to pull the shower chord next time after you have a shower. – Leni”. Saoirse always wondered who else Leni would think was writing Saoirse post-its in a flat they only shared together.
Although Saoirse enjoyed the company of her friends, in their departure and with only herself for company, she felt worse than she did before. Her slight tipsiness had begun to turn into a wine hangover already from only a couple glasses of white wine spritzer she’d made herself from Tesco’s cheapest Pinot Grigio and own brand lemonade. The tarot reading her left a feeling of uneasiness within her like a small weight was sitting on her chest. She wasn’t even sure if she believed in that sort of thing but Raye did predict that their friend Jill was going to be broken up with on her birthday.
Saoirse dragged herself to the bathroom and as she washed her makeup off she stared at herself in the mirror. She traced her slim fingers around the bones in her face, her high cheekbones and her deep eye sockets. She couldn’t be sure but it felt like they had gotten more prominent in the past while. She looked into her eyes that were bloodshot from the alcohol but the red veining seemed to make the green of her eyes pop. She smiled and opened her mouth exaggeratedly, looking at her teeth and the underside of her tongue in the magnified mirror. She ran her tongue over the gap in her front teeth and round to the back where her silver fillings hid.
What a strange thing the human body was, to be made up of bone and blood and enamel for chewing and tearing. She’d seen a photo only the other day of how deep teeth go into the jaw and it made her wonder about what her exoskeletal system looked like and how it compared to other peoples, and how despite maybe living eighty years with it, she’d probably never get to see it, at least when she was here. But it would get exposed, beneath the dirt, for all the world to see, when she wasn’t.
Saoirse put on her moisturiser, took out her contacts and looked at the blurry face staring back at her. She knew she had changed over the past year, but she didn’t quite know how much. She wondered if the her from two years ago would recognise her now. Probably. But would she be happy? Or would she say “Yikes” like she’d stumbled on a “Where Are They Now” article about a child actor who makes their living temping as a Christmas elf?
She wasn’t at the point where she didn’t recognise herself, physically at least but there were definite changes. Her skin felt dull. She was so pale that her light brown freckles looked stark and drawn on. Maybe this is what getting into your almost mid-twenties was. A downhill battle from here. She crawled into bed, set her alarm, attempted a meditation from a free app she’d installed last week but got bored so looked at other people’s lives online instead until she felt sufficiently numb enough to turn off her phone and go to sleep.