Disappearing people

She signed her maiden name for the last time, though her maidenhood had vanished seven years ago. In his car, fumbled condoms, new understanding of guilt mixed with thrill and disappointment. Why you haven’t got married before now I don’t know, her mother had said in the run up to the wedding.

She held her hand still, pen touching the paper, because when she lifted it, it would be done. Done, gone, whatever.

Her mother. Was she still her Mam? Brigid Kelly didn’t exist anymore. Her mother had named her, her father had gone, gone already, gone again. He kept departing throughout her childhood, constant in his unannounced goings. She thought that if she could see the pattern, spot the shift in violence, the element in the argument, the one word too many, that one more drink that let him release, she might understand, she might be able to control it. She might be able to avert his hand, close Mam’s mouth as she played her role, stop the slap and that step and the next one. She never worked it out, and it was right that he was absent today too.

“You’re making a blot,” the registrar said, so she lifted her hand and waited to see if anything changed, waited to see if she was still here. She’d read a joke once. What can travel faster than light? The answer was monarchy. It wasn’t funny, so maybe it was a riddle, not a joke. She waited to see if, in the moment of signing her name, like the moment of a king’s death, something passed at speed. Where had Brigid Kelly gone? Had she gone? Did she feel the same?  Her skin prickled.

She looked down at the ink sprawling across the page, black on white. And it spread across her dress, oyster silk shimmering into a negative, and Eoghan’s hair was white, not brown, his skin greyed out, hers too.

Maria’s hand touched her arm. “Bree?”

She blinked, and wondered if it had all happened already, perhaps she’d missed it, too wrapped in saying ‘I do’. Maybe Brigid had left ten minutes ago and no-one had noticed, not even …not even … who was she then?

Brigid Kelly.

He called her Bree now, all her friends did. Brigid had been her grandmother’s name, and even she had always been Bridie. Brigid slipped away from her too. It had been a shock when she heard her own name at the funeral, time after time, by an unknowing priest.

Now she was Bree Smith.

She pushed away from the table, her dress catching on the chair.

“Just pick up the pen again, love, one for the camera.”

They hadn’t even captured it on film, the moment Brigid Kelly vanished. She had to do it again. Fake pose, imitation smile, counterfeit signature. What could she sign away now? She saw the ink at the tip of the pen, the blot on the page that had already obliterated Brigid Kelly’s last traces. If she touched it again, would she connect?

“Come on Mrs Smith. Smile please.”

Mrs Smith. New name, new person. Maternal bulges in a worn tweed, shopping bags, something nice for his tea, love. She shook her head.

“Just Bree,” she said, and forced a smile to slide across her wedding make up.


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