Hilary McGrath – Just working on my tan…

FIONAHilary McGrath is a language teacher and amateur flutist, who lives in Gascony, France. She studied languages at Dublin City University and creative writing with Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. She won the Writing West Midlands Short Fiction Competition  2013 with her story Kalashnikov for shoes, and her work has also featured on Irish Radio.

Just working on my tan…

Nathalie was the success-story from our year in school. I lost touch with her for a long time, but found her a few years ago on Facebook, and check up on her from time to time. I should have contacted her; we used to be great friends and just drifted apart.

The last time she updated her Facebook page was a few days ago. ‘Just working on my tan!’ She looked great, in a bikini top on the ski slopes, with a perfect figure, toned muscles, no flab like me. Oodles of après-ski photos too; lots of people having lots of fun.

When Nathalie took a year out in Australia, I was knee-deep in nappies. When she was working in Geneva, I made the huge leap into stay-at-home-motherhood. When there was a full-page article about her in the Irish Times, I was working part-time in the local supermarket.

I was the smarter one, but she was more outgoing and ambitious, as it turned out. I was a little jealous of her, if I must be honest. What does it matter now anyway?

Today I went to update my own page, when I saw all the messages of love and sorrow on Nathalie’s profile. They was an undercurrent; something they weren’t saying. I think she killed herself. How could that be possible?

Another girl put up a photo of Nathalie when she was at school. I was in it; the day we won the basketball final. After that year I lost her from my life.

I wonder if I have any photos of Nathalie. I doubt it. The ones I have on Facebook are more recent: there’s one at my sister’s wedding in June—we all looked so happy. Then there’s the picture of Kate’s fourth birthday party, and a cheeky Sam with chocolate all over his face. Does my life look as full as Nathalie’s to other people? There are no photos of my house looking like a bomb hit it, no photos of my tear-streaked face after Jim walked out.

I decide not to post a message. What’s the point if I didn’t bother when she was alive?

My photos have finished transferring from my camera. My mind clicks back to the purpose of my logging on. There’s photo I want to upload—a good one at last week’s Christmas party. I was out socialising for the first time since Jim left me. I’m laughing in the picture. I look happy. Maybe even sexy? I hope Jim sees it.

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