"I’ve something to tell you, Gina.”
Donal Mannion took a sip of his scotch, the pathway to his courage and the herald of his greatest mistakes. It was wine that soothed his soul, and scotch that fired it. This had always been so, from the days of his first taste of each, a 13 year-old boy running the streets with his equally wild friends. He had formed a quick and lasting relationship with both, wine his confidant and scotch the instigator of mischief, of boldness, and, in the end, of honesty. Tonight was a night for the scotch.
Gina sat back in her chair and held her own glass. The banter of the evening had been tense from the start, none of the easygoing back and forth between lovers accustomed to the other’s moods and rhythms. Gina had prepared a simple dinner of salmon and rice, most of which Donal had uncharacteristically left on his plate.
“Something to tell me, is it? I can only imagine.”
“Ah, Gina,” Donal took one last sip, then leaned forward. “It’s hard enough to put it out there without your darts. Please just listen.”
Gina said nothing through a thin smile, then sat back in her chair, cradling the wine glass.
“Okay then, here it is. You know we’ve made something of a path together these past months. I’ve tried to tell you how I feel, tried to crawl inside that locked vault that passes for your heart. I still don’t know what’s in there, to be sure.
“But I’ll tell you what’s in mine,” he continued through another small sip. “You know me for who I am. All the flaws, all the tempers. All the losses. You’re perhaps the first woman I’ve ever known who’s seen me away from any romanticism or idealization. Not that there’s ever been much to idealize. So I know to you I’m no ideal, and God knows I’m no Adonis.”
Gina held up a hand. “Wait, Donal. Just wait. I don’t want this to go any further,” but Donal plunged on.
“You recall that afternoon when I took you to the airport when you flew home for your mother’s illness. I was trying to bark out these things then, but the time ran out and I lost the nerve. Same things on my mind today, and in my heart.”
“And I don’t want to hear them, Donal. Damn it, man. I’ve told you from the start that commitment leads to tragedy. We have no need to punish ourselves through a false bonding. So stop it, and let’s carry on as we are. There’s enough in that for both of us, I think.”
“Ah, Gina. I know all that. But this is you and me.” Donal paused, then continued slowly. “And next month the lease on my flat runs out and I was hoping maybe I could join you here, a place for the two of us.”
Gina Morelli sipped the last of her wine, fingered the round glass, then flung it into a far wall. The tinkling of shattered glass reverberated for several seconds. If this were not her own apartment, she would have headed for the door. Instead, she turned to her man.
“So what’s in your heart is rental space, is it, Donal? Perhaps a place where you can lay your head and ride your lover after she cooks you her meals and pays for the very place you claim as your own. Damn your ass, Donal Mannion. You’ve just put the blessing to all my notions. And all my fears.”
Donal sat back in his chair shyly, and let the quiet return. “It was just a thought, Gina. Just a notion. Might do us both some good.”
Gina nestled deeply into her chair, quietly brooding.
“Christ, you didn’t think I was going to suggest marriage, or something foolish like that?” He gave a small laugh. “I’m fond of you, lass, but I’m not suicidal.”
“No, Donal,” she sighed. “You’re not suicidal. Just a user. And very cunning at it.”
“Aren’t we all, darlin’ Gina? Here, you sit back. I’ll fetch the broom and pan, and get this mess cleaned up.”