Chapter Four. Jack
I stayed in the courthouse with Rossie for hours that night. I asked her about her family, and she listed their names; Al, Suzie, Jonathan and Noreen. She last-minutedly added the name Helene. I had expected her to go into a little more detail, but before I could ask any more questions, she asked me what my family was like.
I was apprehensive as I started talking.
"My parents are both doctors," I told her. "My dad's a midwife and my mam is a surgeon."
"Educated!" said Rossie, with a grin. "I was going to be a surgeon for a while. But life got in the way, you know?"
This threw me into a shocked silence. "How old are you?" I demanded.
"Nineteen. I did my Leaving Cert. before the summer."
"Really? How did you do?"
I raised my eyebrows. I was about to ask her why she hadn't gone on to college to be a surgeon, but then I snapped back to where we were; in an old courthouse that was currently her home.
"What year are you in?" she asked.
"Fifth," I said. I also told her how I had no idea what I was going to do when I finished school.
As I'd been talking to her, I took in her appearance more thoroughly. Her clothes definitely wouldn't have given away the fact that she was living in these conditions. Neither would anything else really; she didn't smell bad and she wasn't underweight. And now she'd attended school and sat her Leaving?
What had happened to you to end you up in this place?
Rossie asked me what time it was.
"Half past nine," I said, checking my watch.
She suddenly seemed flustered. "Um, Jack, you'd better get going," she said, getting to her feet.
"Why?" I asked, looking up at her.
"Al will be home soon. And if he knows you know we're living here..." She shuddered and shook her head. "You won't tell anyone, will you, Jack?" Panic started to leak into her tone, her eyes becoming wider with fear. "You're not going to go to the Gardai? You won't tell your parents about us?"
I go to my feet and instinctively touched her arm. "I won't," I assured her. I'd hoped my reassurance that her secret was safe with me would convince her to let me stay longer, but she still bustled me across the room towards the gap in the corner of the wall.
"Oh!" she gasped, looking at the bracelet on her wrist. "This is really pretty," she said. "The girl you bought it for is really lucky to have a boyfriend with such good taste."
I looked at the bracelet and shrugged. "I'm not her boyfriend. I don't even think I..."
I watched her turn her hand over and start to unfasten the bracelet.
"Hang on to it," I said. She started to protest, but I interrupted her. "I'll gte it from you tomorrow, yeah?"
Her soft brown eyes smiled. My insides melted. I couldn't believe this was the same girl that just hours ago had been about to kill me.
We said bye, and I crawled back through the grass and weeds.
As I continued on home in the dark that evening, Rossie... even though I knew the amount of crap I would face when I got in... My heart was lighter than it had felt in a long time.