Home > Don't You Forget About Me(12)

Don't You Forget About Me(12)
Author: Mhairi McFarlane

My gaze focuses again on the flowers and I see the words for the first time.

‘… IRN BRU?’ I ask.

Devlin turns to them, turns back. ‘Aha yeah, Dan loved Irn Bru. When we were brainstorming his favourite things it was Irn Bru, poker, booze and boobs and I didn’t think Co-op Funeral Service would agree to the others.’

I laugh, then check myself. ‘Sorry for your loss,’ I say, knowing from direct experience how inadequate those words are.

‘Ah, thanks Georgina, thanks,’ Devlin says, and I notice the charm of working for someone who remembers your name and uses it. It says: I know you are not merely my lackey and have a lively existence outside of this transaction.

‘No age, no age at all, but Danny was never going to make old bones.’

‘Oh …’ I say. ‘I am sorry.’

He shakes his head. ‘My best mate from my first job in a warehouse. Absolutely lovely guy, do anything for you, you know. But a thirsty one. Always on the hoy.’

I sense Devlin’s not easily offended and risk asking:

‘Was it … alcoholism he died from?’

‘Yeah. Well, yes and no. Got so pished he fell down some stairs, brained himself, massive bleed. Doctors said there was no bringing him back round. Not bringing him back round as Dan, anyway.’

‘Oh, God.’

‘Thirty-three, no age.’

‘Thirty-three!’ I put a hand to my face. ‘Awful. I’m so sorry. Devlin.’

‘My sister-in-law died a year ago at the same age so it’s been a grimy old time.’

I have no variant on gasping and mumbling sorry left available to me but we’re interrupted by a man with his Wranglers falling down his arse – in the old school, can’t be bothered to belt them properly way, not as a ‘look’ – holding a speaker.

I’m feeling less awkward now about my black t-shirt and jeans. I didn’t know if denim was too disrespectful a textile.

‘Where do you want this?’

‘Ah let’s see … by that door is fine.’

‘There’s going to be music?’ I say to Devlin.

‘Oh yeah. Can’t have a tear up without tunes,’ he says. On noticing my faintly puzzled expression he adds: ‘I should’ve said really, I mean, this is more of a party than a wake. Danny left strict instructions in the event of a sudden departure and we’re following them to the letter.’

Devlin pauses.

‘I mean, he was probably pissed when he wrote them, but still.’


I’m hugely enjoying something I didn’t expect to enjoy whatsoever, so the sense of enjoyment is potent – two and half times the strength of a scheduled pleasure. And I’m being paid.

In my defence, everyone here seems to be having fun. The music is blaring, the conversation is near-deafening but always good spirited, and everyone I encounter is polite, no matter how trolleyed.

Dan’s wake would surely have made Cousin Janet’s do look like a Quaker meeting, and I wish I’d met him, although I might’ve felt conflicted serving him drinks.

Devlin gave a short speech, during which tears rolled down his cheeks, about how much Dan hated grim-faced memorials.

‘He has absolved you from the guilt of still being here without him, and asks you celebrate the fact instead. Which was Dan in a nutshell. To Dan,’ he toasted.

‘To Dan,’ everyone said, as arms went up, and I felt my eyes well as I raised my glass and wiped my face with my apron.

Devlin said to me in the first hour: ‘Have one on the go for yourself throughout, won’t you? As long as you can see straight, it’s only fair and decent. Help yourself to the buffet too.’

I pour myself a champagne and barely get a chance to sniff it, but it’s that satisfying-to-the-soul sort of busy where the clock leaps forward rather than crawls and I get a glow from everyone being properly looked after, as if it’s my personal largesse I’m dispensing.

Devlin’s wife, Mo – ‘You’ll know her if you see her. She’s short, bleached blonde and will be giving me shit’ – keeps me stocked up with fruit and ice and otherwise I run the show single-handed.

I remember something I’d forgotten in the trenches of That’s Amore! – I’m a good worker. Having served a hundred of them in two hours, I can now draw you a shamrock in a Guinness foam with a flick of the wrist under the tap, while pushing an optic with the other.

As the crowd thins out, the middle of the space turns into a dancefloor.

I find a crate of fizz that’s been lost in the melee and mention it to a flushed and expansive Devlin.

‘Call me Dev! I am only ever Devlin to my mother and the police. Thanks for letting me know.’

He taps a flute with a fork.

‘If I can have your attention! Our wonderful barmaid has found more of the Moët. I always say, get the decent stuff out once the riff-raff have gone home. Let’s all have another glass and toast dear Dan.’

A roar.

‘And while we’re at it, a round of applause for Georgina and her tireless efforts tonight.’

Devlin points at me, everyone claps and whistles and I blush and think: well, at least Esther’s going to have no cause to mither that I’ve made Mark look bad.

As the night wears on, I’m exhilarated, I feel I’m half Gaelic now, in a superficial and appropriative way – like Rose in that bit in Titanic where she can somehow blend seamlessly into the revelry below decks by hitching up her skirts and dancing a jig to a tin whistle.

As I assemble a cluster of goblets and start doling out the second wave of champagne, I become aware of a man who’s walked in to the party, with a portly, sandy-coloured dog in tow.

He’s tall and dark in a navy jacket with its collar turned up. He has curling, jet black hair, just long enough to scrape behind his ear. I realise what’s drawn my gaze is that he’s not greeting anyone or joining in, but doing a studied, sulky performance of ‘brooding’, a modern disco’s answer to Mr Darcy at a ball.

These rowdy, twenty-first century commoners are swaying to Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ while he stares into the middle distance.

I get a funny feeling, watching him watch the room through the throng of people who keep blocking my view: should he even be here? Usually if you walk in alone you’re trying to get someone’s attention to announce your arrival? And why turn up this late to a wake anyway? Is he the wake version of a wedding crasher? But why would you make yourself conspicuous by bringing a dog? No. He must belong. I wonder what his story is, if he was close to Dan and can’t quite stomach the disrespectful raucousness.

His eyes move toward me and I quickly busy myself.

Ooh, Blondie’s ‘Atomic’. I dance a little while I tidy the bar.

‘Excuse me, blondie?’

I turn and laugh. Devlin beckons me over at the side of the bar and offers me a wad of notes.

‘You’ve been absolutely solid tonight, can’t thank you enough.’

I thank him and say honestly it’s been my pleasure and then flinch at the inappropriate phrasing when we’re marking a hideously premature death.

‘Listen. I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing over who to hire to run the bar full time because I hate interviews and CVs and that bollocks, I’d far rather meet someone and work with them. Get a sense of what they’re about. But holding auditions didn’t seem fair. How about if this was one, in retrospect? Would you be interested?’

‘Yes!’ I say. Then, with less windy desperation, more determination: ‘I’d be very very interested, thank you.’

‘Great. I’ve got to sign it off with my brother but it shouldn’t be a problem.’

As hope surges, I remind myself that job offers made verbally when three sheets to the wind are not binding.

Devlin turns back to me and I notice Lonely Glowering Man is now stood at his elbow, trying to get Devlin’s attention. He’s quite the knock-out, now I can see him fully: dark sweeps of eyebrow, sulky mouth, lightly stubbled movie star jawline, the works.

Hang on. I freeze. I realise I know this face. The terrain is altered, and it’s a long time since I’ve traced its lines, but it’s not as I’d thought, completely unfamiliar. Far from it.

The split second of recognition is a punch to the heart.

My breath stops in my throat as his gaze meets mine.

Blondie’s vocals soar as she sings about beautiful hair.

Devlin says: ‘Meet my brother, Lucas.’


‘Luke,’ Lucas says, hand outstretched for a brisk, brief shake as I chew air and murmur a vacant hello and the word Georgina.

(I bite back an irrational cry of: ‘Luke? Since when?’)

My skin is basted in a sudden flop sweat which I hope arrived after we made contact.

Lucas starts speaking closely into Devlin’s ear in a confidential way that doesn’t invite contribution, and after waiting enough seconds so it doesn’t look like I’m fleeing, I escape to the loo.

I’m glad of it being empty, a place where the air is cooler and the music pounds through the wall.

I lock myself in a cubicle, sit fully clothed on the toilet and stare at the partition between myself and the empty stall next door.

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