‘To us getting the outcome that we need tomorrow,’ I say, keeping my fingers crossed and wincing a little hoping that my suggestion goes down well.
Granted I am feeling a little tipsy, so I have built the confidence to say more than I would have at the beginning of our dinner, however these are things that need to be addressed so I am glad to be the one that is doing so.
‘Cheers.’ Comes my thankful response and I am both relieved and happy that I dedicated this glass to the event.
‘You know, it’s going to be seriously difficult to see his face again. I always thought him a lovely lad but now, obviously, my opinions have changed entirely and I just want to rip him apart. I never thought I could kill, but now I know that I could.’
It is after Sheila has finished her miniature rant that I realise she too is probably feeling a little drunk and that is why the truth is all coming out. Being so reserved at first I thought this dinner was going to exhaust me but now the conversation, and the correct conversation at that, is coming so smoothly.
‘Did you know anything about the way he treated Brannagh?’ I ask her, genuinely shocked at Brannagh not asking her mother for help but rather coming to a total stranger in a different country – me.
‘Nothing,’ she pauses, and something appears to be on her mind. ‘I suppose occasionally she seemed a little distressed after seeing him or she would shut me off and just retreat to her room, but I always assumed that was down to her being on her period or that they had had an argument. It was never clear that something was actually wrong.’
‘That’s so sad that she couldn’t speak to any of us. I mean, she tried to tell me and I guess it’s easier telling an almost stranger than your mother but even then I am convinced she wasn’t telling me truly how bad it was.’
The service in the restaurant is great and I glance at my watch to check the time once we finish our mains. I can’t believe it is only half past nine, it feels as though we have been here much longer than that. I suppose the intensity of the conversation has prolonged time but still, I would have expected it to be at least an hour later than it is. However, we’re all tired and with a big day tomorrow we decide to take ourselves off to our separate beds, despite Eileen offering Sheila a glass back at her house.
I am glad Sheila declined this offer because I am tired but also wanted to debrief with my aunt on my own before tomorrow. We both feel that our meeting with Sheila went as well as it could have gone and that we covered many bases of difficult conversational topics. As a reward to us both for getting through it and to temporarily lessen our dread for tomorrow, we open a bottle of Champagne, a staple ingredient to the contents of Eileen’s fridge.