Ciara McGinnity is a non-scripted TV Producer, currently living in Vancouver Canada, originally from Belfast but calls Dublin home. During a six month(ish) hiatus to travel South America last year, she finally started writing – her stories are inspired by the complexity of people, relationships, and life.
Just Like Mam
By Ciara McGinnity
‘How was school?’ Claire lightly circled her wrist with her thumb and middle finger.
‘Boooorrrring,’ Shelly said. Her school bag hunched to the nape of her neck, as she heaved herself forward.
Paul was already on the corner ahead of them, on his scooter.
‘Wait,’ Claire reminded him as he wobbled on the curb into oncoming traffic. ‘That feicin’ scooter will be the death of all of us,’ she muttered.
Shelly outstretched her arm to Claire, who returned it with her hand to hold.
‘Mammy,’ Shelly recoiled. ‘What happened to you?’
Claire looked down at her purpled wrist. Jesus, she thought, as she pulled her cardigan down to cover it.
‘Oh, nothing sweetheart, it’s nothing.’
‘Lemme see it. Does it need a plaster?’ Shelly yanked Claire’s hand toward her.
‘Ah, no love, it’s grand. It was just an accident in the door earlier.’
Shelly skipped, painfully tugging at Claire’s arm with every leap in the air.
‘Do your mammy a favour and catch up with your brother there, help him cross the road safely.’
Claire buried her hand deep in her pocket.
‘OK. What we havin’ for tea?’
‘I think we’ll have the pasta with the peas and salmon, what dya think?’
‘If you’d like,’ she looked down at Shelly, her eyes stinging. ‘Go on now to Paul.’
Claire tried to hold herself straight, her left hip and thigh wavering under the pain.
The day was Tuesday and that morning had been like most Tuesday mornings;
‘Right you two, cereal’s on the table. You know what time it is!’ Claire craned her neck around the kitchen door, towards the stairs.
‘Comingggg! In a minutttte,’ the little voices sang out in unison.
Shelly was the first to appear. When people first met them together they’d say things like ‘well of course she’s your daughter’ and ‘sure you’re like twins’ or ‘she’s the absolute head off ya’. Although she knew they were meant as compliments, they festered an irritation within Claire, determined to dissuade them from the obvious comparison. But she could see it herself, physically at least; her hazel eyes and her dark hair that she liked ‘long like mam’s’, she even had the beginnings of her shape; athletic legs and shoulders, that met at her tiny waist, hinting at the outline of an hourglass.
‘Up at the table please.’ Claire placed two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, beside each of the bowls, on the floral, wipe-clean table cloth.
‘Mam,’ Paul came stumbling in pulling a t-shirt over his head. ‘I can’t find me jumper.’
‘Have ya looked?’
‘Yeah – loooooads.’ Paul clunkily pulled the chair from under the table, shoveling cereal with an overexaggerated hook of his arm.
‘Right, you two finish up here and I’ll get it. We’re out of here in ten – that means teeth brushed and beds made.’
As the kids gathered at the door, Claire lifted the shoulders of each of their coats, to ease their small bodies in, smoothing down their hair, before setting off. Their walk together, to and from school, was a constant in their lives; the small act providing structure and certainty to the day.
‘See you after school, OK?’, the din of matted shouts and screams echoed around the concrete yard.
‘Yep, see you mam,’ they chimed.
‘Excuse me? Paul?,’ Claire said with her arms outstretched to Paul as he bolted for his pals.
‘Oh yeah.’ Paul came running over to her and patted her back quickly, before heading for the gang of boys crouched on the ground, dealing Pokémon cards.
‘See ya, honey.’ Claire turned to embrace Shelly, closing her eyes for the tight squeeze.
Arriving in good time for work, Claire pulled up to the car park in the matte black BMW, with personalised plates. She hauled her bag from the boot and made her way to reception.
‘Claire Hawley,’ she told the receptionist, who eyed her long curled extensions. Claire tapped her pink glitter extensions on the desk as she waited.
‘There’s your room key, check out’s 12pm tomorrow. Room’s on the third floor, the lift’s just –’
‘Great, cheers,’ Claire smiled, heading for the room.
The heavy door dragged shut behind her, as she closed the curtains and started pulling items from her bag. The room smelled like brand new synthetic carpet. This was one of her usual spots; she had a few around the city, depending on her clients’ location. Both of her appointments today would be here as it made sense to get value for the room.
The sheer black stockings crawled up along her calf and onto her thigh, attaching to the suspender belt around her waist. Unpacking her bag, Claire laid a selection of toys on the bed; whip, vibrator, nipple clamps and a pearl necklace – she was hoping that the final one wouldn’t be required. They’d had limited interactions online but Shauny D (the name he used on the app) had made it clear he’d like to be dominated.
Claire laced the corset at the front and applied another thick layer of gloss to her lips, before
checking her phone.
‘In the car park,’ Shauny D had texted.
‘Room 315,’ she replied.
Meeting someone new always made Claire apprehensive; there was extra work involved to put someone at ease, find out what they enjoyed, really enjoyed. Some of the men, and sometimes women, that would book her just wanted to talk, some liked gentle, careful sex and some wanted something more extreme, as if trying to get their money’s worth. It wasn’t for Claire to judge what they wanted, but to make it happen. Claire knew she had a gift; she understood people. She noticed things most didn’t; eye contact held a fraction too long or broken a millisecond too early, a sixth sense on social cues that let her look deep inside someone – at their pain, vulnerabilities, their needs.
A hurried knock on the door rapped Claire to attention, as she stood and smoothed down her corset, gripping the whip in her hand. She eyeballed the peephole, sprouts of hair on top of a balding head magnified in the concave perspective.
‘Git in,’ she said, adopting a German accent for the role play, giving the whip a light tap against her leg.
‘Jesus,’ said Shauny D, eyeing the corridor. ‘You didn’t have to come to the door like that,’ he pushed past her.
‘Zit dowwwn,’ she said, whipping the duvet so the air released with a ‘poof’.
‘Ah now, this is a bit much,’ he said, stepping back from the array of devices on the bed.
‘Shut up and sit down.’ Claire cracked the whip off the dresser, but with less confidence than before. She had been clear in their messages that role play would begin as he entered the door but as Shauny D cowered she tried to gauge whether this was a character or if he was genuinely uncomfortable. Shauny D’s nostrils flared anxiously as he looked from Claire back to the bed, making what Claire could only describe as a whimpering sound. She was sure he was younger than he looked, his hairline and posture adding the perception of age. His shoulders hunched, like he was collapsing in on himself. Claire wondered if he still lived with his mam.
Shauny D tweaked at the curtain, skirting his eyes around the carpark.
‘Zee Curtains stay closed.’ Claire used the whip to fold the curtain over the chink of light streaming from the outside.
‘Yes, yes, sorry, Missus Kennedy,’ he said, sitting on the edge of the bed, a grin creeping out from one side of his mouth. This was the name he’d requested to call Claire.
In that moment, Claire realised Shauny D had requested a name for Claire to call him, but when she tried to think of it there was nothing there.
‘You should be sorry, you’re fuckin’ pathetic. Now by zee time I turn around I vant you naked.’
‘Do I have to Missus Kennedy?’ Shauny D intonated in a child-like voice, unbuttoning his shirt at the neck.
‘You must do as you’re told.’
‘Yes, Missus Kennedy.’
With her back turned, Claire slipped her hand subtly into her jacket on the coat stand, for her phone.
‘What the fuck do you think you’re doin?’ Shauny was on his feet.
Claire turned to face him with her phone in her hand, a different man who she had turned her back to – heavy set brows, looming over her, with a strong, wide frame. She could smell the sweat from his pit stained shirt.
Shauny D’s heavy fist smashed down on her wrist, pinning it to the dresser, sending her phone spinning, to an unreachable spot.
‘Were you takin’ my fuckin’ picture?’ Shauny screamed. She could see the dangling lump at the back of his throat, reverberating like a boxer’s speed ball.
‘What? No. Jesus, no. I was, I was checking my phone for your code name,’ she said.
‘Ya fuckin’ weren’t. You were trying to take me fuckin’ picture.’
‘Shauny,’ Claire searched for a soothing tone. ‘We didn’t agree to this scenario so I’m going to have to ask you to release my arm now.’
‘Who’ve you been talking to?’ Shauny grabbed at Claire’s corset, the wall shaking as he slammed her against it.
‘No one, I haven’t been talking to anyone.’
‘You fuckin’ liar, you fuckin’ slag.’ Shauny raised his fist back and landed it in Claire’s stomach, winding her to the ground.
‘You’re fuckin’ disgustin’.’ Claire shielded her face as his thick boot stamped down on her pelvis.
Gasping, she lunged past Shauny for the landline, mashing at the pad.
‘Hello? Hi. I’ve a…a…code 6 up here.’
‘Who the fuck are you callin’?’
‘They’re on their way up.’ The shaking receiver clattered off her hoop earring.
‘Fuck sake.’ He swiped for his leather jacket slamming the door behind him.
Claire sprang after him, bolting the door, a thick film of sweat covering her body, as she slid to the floor. Her torso folded against her legs, snapped up like a folded deck chair, gulping at the air for some sense in what had just happened.
As the door closed behind her, the room remained oblivious to its afternoon events; the bed virtually creaseless, the complimentary biscuits uneaten – the only evidence of guests was the distant bleep of an unanswered dial tone.
Paul switched on his starry night lamp and Claire reclined beside Shelly on her bed, looking up at the shimmering ceiling.
‘And then the prince and the princess lived happily ever after,’ she finished the made-up fairy tale, Shelly’s toes wiggling with satisfaction, under the duvet. Shelly insisted on whatever story was being told that it had to end with a woman being saved by a man; sometimes it was a princess, sometimes a farm girl and often it needed to be a girl just like her. Claire worried about when the time would arrive, for her to tell Shelly that this man she was waiting for wasn’t coming.
‘Night, love you. Night, love you.’ Claire kissed each of the kids on the forehead, tucking the duvets precisely around each of their delicate outlines.
Claire filled the bath, peeling back the layers of clothing, braving herself to expose the marks of the day – the visible ones. Her hip was bruised and swollen to a near perfect outline of the boot that had tried to stamp her out. As she touched at her side, she flinched with the pain and the damage she’d allowed to be done to herself, cursing the clues she’d missed along the way. The Epsom salts spilled hypnotically into the steaming water, settling to the bottom of the bath. She lit her candles and turned off the light, gently lowering herself in. As she sat in the near boiling bath, a sharp line emerged along the waterline, on her skin, separating red and white. She let her head slide back, sinking deeper and deeper, her tears unnoticed by the salty bath water.