Someone I used to know… (part one)
The laughter of the children running around the playground made Hannah smile. Her five year old daughter, Emma, squealed with the best of them, her small form darting between the wooden posts of the play equipment as she evaded another shrieking girl of the same age.
“That’s my Laura,” an older woman said, sitting next to Hannah. Glancing up, Hannah smiled at the dark haired woman.
“She’s chasing my Emma,” Hannah replied. The older woman gave her a scrutinising look over with one brown eye.
“You don’t look old enough to have a child.”
This was a comment she received all the time.
“I had her young.” She always responded with the same answer. Today it was said in good humour.
“You must have been very young.”
“I was eighteen.”
Hannah knew the woman was still looking at her in interest. She wondered if the woman thought she was just another silly young thing looking for hand-outs from the government, or if there was something more to her.
“It must have been difficult.”
“I’ve been lucky. I have a good family. They’ve helped me out a lot.”
“I don’t know if I would have managed having a child so young… Sorry, to be nosey, but does the father help out at all?” There was a slight disapproval in the older woman’s tone now, but Hannah knew it was not directed at her.
She smiled gravely when she thought of Emma’s father, Jack Madigan. Since that fateful afternoon they had shared together, she had not seen hide nor hair of him.
Jack had been twenty and at college – and she had been enamoured by the older boy. Jack had been her brother’s friend from college, and that summer nearly six years earlier still had a dream-like purity about it. The nine months that followed had been a nightmare – having to tell her parents that at seventeen she was up the duff was hard enough. Then for everyone at school to find out… The bright, academically motivated Hannah had surprised and disappointed a lot of people at the time. She had also shown them all wrong too, going on to get her degree and find herself a job, even though times were difficult.
“No. But I do alright on my own. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Jack Madigan may have deserved to have some part in Emma’s life, but Hannah wasn’t sure. He did not know about Emma, though it was not a choice of her making. Several days after her first sexual encounter, Jack had left Galway for Dublin, never to be seen again. He had left her no word of goodbye or regret. She did not know he had put in for a transfer to Trinity College, or that he was leaving – nor had her brother, Jessie. They did not find that out until last summer and after that, he seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth.
The sting she felt at being used still lingered, but years had softened its initial hard blow. He had broken her heart. But unlike a broken heart, he had faded away like a dream and sometimes she believed she had imagined him in her life for that short burst of teenage crush and lust.
No doubt he went on continuing to enjoy a life that was of simple pleasures, while she had been left, barely a grown woman, with the consequences of her first adult experience. But she was not embittered by it. The last six years had been the most difficult and yet happiest years she had lived. She had quickly learned there was no time to reflect on regret.
“Sometimes it’s for the best. Young men aren’t always the most reliable… She’s a pretty little thing,” the woman smiled, attempting to change the topic. Hannah guessed the woman was satisfied with her answers, although she cared little for what a stranger thought of her.
“She is,” Hannah said, as Emma whirred past, her bright blue eyes gleeful. She was a happy child despite having no father. She had plenty more reliable people in her life – her Uncle Jessie and grandparents for starters.
“Mammy! Watch me on the slide!” Dimples appeared in Emma’s cheeks as she grinned. Her eyes and dimples were the only reminders Hannah had that she was Jack’s child.
“Be careful!” Hannah warned, seeing that Emma was going to run up the slide instead of going down it. Emma was half-way up when she realised she was going to meet another child coming down. She quickly turned and slid down.
“I better get her before she hurts herself,” Hannah said to the woman beside her.
“I’ll let you on. I might see you again down here sometime,” she smiled.
“Sure, mind yourself.”
Hannah collected her daughter and the pair headed home. The walk would take fifteen minutes, but it was a chance for Hannah to run out the last of the energy Emma was gifted with. Holding her hand, Emma moaned that she was too tired to walk, but that she might be able to keep going if she had a sweet treat. Hannah could only laugh at her daughter’s attempts persuade her with guilt, but she conceded that at the next shop they came to, Hannah would buy her a Milky Bar.
Emma then prattled on about her new friends at the park. Hannah was happy to listen to her as they came along a shop. They went in, getting a juice and a chocolate bar and went on their way again. The street was busy, crowds of tourists and visitors making the cobbled shopping district crowded for a Saturday, but Hannah pulled in near the wall of the shops to help Emma put the straw into her juice pack.
“Hannah? Hannah Jones?”
Hannah lifted her head to the questioning and somewhat amazed sounding voice. Straightening, Hannah placed her hand on Emma’s shoulder, an instinctive move of shielding her daughter. She faced the man, all blood draining from her face when she saw him.
“Jack.” Her voice sounded flat.
“I can’t believe it! You look great… How are you?” he asked. Dimples appeared as he smiled at her. Hannah could not procure the same sort of reaction. She wasn’t sure whether to be afraid or angry in meeting him. The fact she had never expected to meet him again had her completely out of her depth.
“Fine. What are you doing here?” She knew she bordered on hostile and Emma started squirming under her hand. Hannah loosened her grip and Jack’s eyes lowered to look at the child beside her. She saw his blue eyes widen when Emma looked innocently at him, her eyes reflecting his own bright gaze.
“I’ve just moved back from London… Who is this?” his smile was fading as he looked at Hannah. She shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. “Is she Jessie’s?” he asked.
“No,” Hannah said. “She’s mine. I have to go Jack. Good luck with everything,” she said quickly. “Come on Emma.”
Taking Emma’s hand, Hannah turned and walked away. Her heart was bounding in her chest, her legs trembling with unexpected emotion. She was terrified he would realise Emma was his. They were not far down the road when Emma looked up at her.
“Mammy? Who was that man?”
Hannah looked over her shoulder and realised Jack was still watching them, his handsome face pale. Her stomach churned.
“No one, Emma. Just someone I used to know.”