HE CALLS HER AS SOON as the London markets close. It’s been a jittery Friday, the futures markets all over the place, but Conleth never lets market emotion get to him. His own fluctuations today have been linked to another factor: to Aoi, who has been out of contact all day.
‘So, did you get my email?’
‘About Seán’s wedding. I texted you as well.’
‘Nope. I went shopping after work, I only just got in. The wedding’s next month, isn’t it?’
Conleth holds back from saying: ‘Why do you even carry an iPhone?’ because he’s given up on expecting Aoi to be geeky on account of being Japanese. Besides, he never reproaches a girlfriend: it’s one of his key strategies for dealing with beautiful women. And all his girlfriends without exception are beautiful, though he rates himself as severely challenged in the looks department. A tall thin body is one thing, but a tall thin face is something he works hard to mitigate, offsetting it with his mellifluous voice. And so Conleth simply says, in the calm reassuring tone he uses at meetings with jittery clients,
‘The wedding’s tomorrow, but not to worry. Just chuck a few things in a bag and grab a taxi to City. I’m going straight from work so I’ll be at the airport ahead of you. Can you make it by sixish, would you say?’
AT DUBLIN AIRPORT they hire a car. The journey’s shorter now thanks to the new road ― the motorway there’d been all those demos over because it goes past the Hill of Tara. The road doesn’t quite reach Navan yet but it will do soon, and with his valuer’s eye Conleth knows that if he wants to buy property in his home town, now is the moment to do so.
They turn off at a pub called Tara-na-Rí, and are soon enjoying the opulence of their hotel. At the end of a long treelined drive built for horses and carriages, the main house boasts a sweeping staircase up which a previous owner once charged his steed leaving it trapped for weeks in the attic. When the Anglo-Irish gentry ran out of cash in the years following independence, houses like this were either destroyed or left to rot, unless they were taken over by the church. Whatever fate it suffered, this particular house is in full swing once more, its present incarnation one of the many changes that have percolated across Ireland in Conleth’s absence. Staying here is not cheap but their vast room, with its ornate ceiling and tall Palladian windows, is worth every eurocent: last night Aoi said staying here makes her feel like the star of a big-budget movie. Right now she is adrift in an ocean of crumpled linen looking quite the sleeping goddess. So far, it’s been a pretty good movie.