Mother Love--an excerpt



The Gallagher Post

Gai Lannigan’s Girl Talk
Baby Hunger
Lust for a guy is one thing. But lust for babies is a whole different story. And a lot harder to satisfy. The old clichĂ© about biological clocks is just a polite way to describe waking up one morning, realizing you’ve wasted your youth, and now you can practically feel your eggs shriveling. The viable ones, that is. The duds are probably sashaying merrily round your ovaries, snickering at their rapidly dissolving sisters.
If you’ve baby hunger but no daddy material on the horizon, you’re probably thinking, how can I joke about this? I see your point. Your average baby fanatic is actually a bit of an addict, with a terrible craving for her fix. The trouble is, like other common addictions—say, drink, drugs and gambling—the temptations of babies are everywhere. (Which only increases the baby longing.) Another painful truth is that baby-cravers often gravitate toward careers that provide maximum contact with babies, like pediatricians, or playschool teachers. Unfortunately, jobs like that give baby-lusters minimum contact with what they can’t do without: unattached sperm-providers.
You might be one of the lucky ones, though, with several paternal prospects to choose from. But what if you’re keener on having a baby than having a man? If word gets out, people will think you’re quite heartless, if not altogether mad. Which bothers true baby-lusters not a whit. Your road to motherhood couldn’t be simpler: You pick a fellow you know will drop his drawers for you, no questions asked. Unfortunately, any guy who’ll sleep with you at the snap of your fingers is a guy who’s had it off with every available female who’s crossed his path—not the sort you’d want condom-less.
You could always bide your time and wait for the perfect, baby-making love machine. But who knows how long that could take? So my advice is to go for a nice guy with a presentable gene pool, who won’t make a scene when you cool the relationship. After the deed is done, that is. Trouble is, nice men want to do the decent thing…    


One

“You don’t think Gai really wants a baby, do you?” Justine Egan tapped the screen of her mobile, then drained her pint.
“Don’t tell me you’re reading that blog again.” Crunching a shortbread finger in a dim corner of O’Fagan’s, I stared enviously at Justine’s glass. A pity I’d no head for drink. Today of all days, I’d have liked something to take the edge off. “Aren’t you meant to be checking recipes for birthday cake?”
“Not now.” Justine thrust her phone across the scratched wood table. “Check out today’s Girl Talk.”
“I came to the pub to relax,” I said as she went to the bar for a refill, “not read about angsty girls with too much time on their hands.” But to please Justine, my flatmate and best friend, I scanned her favorite blog, helping myself to a third biscuit. As if a self-induced sugar coma might help me forget why I was mainlining the stuff in the first place.
You know how it is—the day your ex-boyfriend gets married, it’s like a huge insect squished on the windscreen of your life. It’s not like you care or anything, it’s just that the oul‘ bugger is blocking your vision.
O’Fagan’s wasn’t the best place to clear your head either, with strings of Guinness flags hanging listlessly from the ceiling and ancient, smoke-stained paneled walls. And today, the place felt more claustrophobic than usual—a far cry from the flower-bedecked, sun-drenched nuptials I could see in my mind’s eye half a world away. Not that I wanted to be shackled to some guy for life, but there’s something about people you know tying the knot that gets you pondering your own future. Even if it’s a wedding you’d no interest in attending, if they prostrated themselves at your feet and begged you.
“Is that Girl Talk you’re reading?” Eamonn winked at us from behind the taps. “What’s she on about today?” 
“Getting pregnant,” Justine told him. “With the right guy.”
“And before your ovaries wither like raisins,” I put in.
“Aw, Grainne.” Eamonn shuddered. “Who wants to hear that female stuff?” In a former life, he’d attended seminary, even if he hadn’t lasted long.
“Well, you asked.” I took another bite of shortbread. “Although,” I added under my breath, “there’s something to be said for ignorance is bliss.”
“Amen to that,” said Eamonn. Really, the man had ears like underwater sonar. He resumed his glass polishing and pint-pulling and whatever else a barman does at Dublin’s least trendy and most morgue-like pub, on a late spring afternoon. “Sure, I can’t see why The Gallagher Post publishes such rubbish, though.”
“Because it’s trendy,” Justine retorted. “And every girl I know reads it.” She returned to the table with her second pint, and plucked her mobile from my hands. “So, what do you think of the post? The baby bit is rather strange, but when she mentioned the perfect man—”
“No such thing,” I said. “That’s why most girls end up settling for good enough.”
Justine took a sip. “Sure, I’m not looking for the perfect guy.”
Maybe you should, I wanted to say, but kept my mouth shut. She’d a here-and-there thing with a tosser who worked close by, currently in the “there” status, as he hadn’t rung for a week. Worse, though, was that Justine was secretly hung up on another guy who didn’t know she was alive, except as a friend. If that wouldn’t doom a girl to misery, I don’t know what would.
My own #1 Relationship Rule: a bloke can put me first or not at all. But if you hadn’t been so keen to cut and run, a little voice answered, maybe you’d still be with—
I jumped up from the table, setting my biscuit down. “Enough of this lounging about. Time for some craic.” Really, hanging around this right mortuary, even if it was our usual meeting place after work, was no way to get out of a funk.
Justine pulled a face. “Count me out—I was thinking of leaving a comment on this post—”
“C’mon, a few throws won’t hurt you,” I coaxed. Justine had apparently forgotten why I could use a little distraction—after all, today was my ex’s wedding day—despite the fact he was her brother’s closest friend.  “Up you go.”
Heaving a long-suffering sigh, Justine picked up her glass and dragged her feet to the cleared floor in front of the dartboard. “I don’t know why you like this eejit game—”
“How else will you get a culturally approved pass to throw lethal weapons?” I asked, pulling darts off the board, and dumping them onto the nearest table.
Justine rolled her eyes. “Or why you’d play with someone as desperate at sport as I am. I’d rather sort out Gai’s take on the perfect man.”
“Who’d want someone too perfect? He’d probably be a right pain in the arse.” I chose a dart, rolled my right wrist to loosen things up, and threw a warm-up. “But if I read it right, she’s talking about perfect for fathering a child.”
“Oh.” Justine looked thoughtful. “Like someone who doesn’t go for the booze?”
“That’s it,” I said. “He should have pristine DNA, not pickled in drink. And he’ll be certified STD-free, of course.”
“Must you blather about such things?” said Eamonn. He was a great one for shameless eavesdropping. “I’m trying to run a business here.”
“That pair’s not going anywhere,” I told him, glancing at O’Fagan’s two other patrons, slumped at the far end of the bar. One male of indeterminate age seemed ready to fall asleep into his pint, while the second, wearing a long black coat like Neo in The Matrix, roosted on his bar stool like a giant crow. I turned back to Justine and handed her a dart, since she clearly wasn’t going to do it herself. “Ready for a go?”
 “What about the guy as a person?” Holding her pint in one hand, Justine absently lobbed the dart—and barely hit the board. “That’s got to count for something.”
“Well, you’d want to start with a bloke who has a few brains in his head.” I slipped over to our table and popped the last of the shortbread into my mouth.
“For decent genes, I suppose,” Justine said. “Jaysus, you’re overwhelming me with the romance of it.”
“There’s the genes, sure, but you’ve got to be interested enough in him make it to bed,” I said. “So you’ll want someone who’s intelligent, without lording it all over you, though witty enough so your eyes don’t glaze over every time he opens his mouth.” 
“Sure, a fella hardly needs conversational skills for what you’ve in mind,” Eamonn said to no one in particular.
If you ask me, it seemed only polite to chat up the bloke before the knickers come off. “He should be in decent shape too.” I said, and selected another dart. “Not that he’d need washboard abs or anything, but I read somewhere that men with big bellies have low-quality sperm.”
“Grainne Larkin!” Eamonn’s crew cut seemed to stand on end. “Spare us the gory details, will you?” 
“It’s not gory at all,” I said, and threw. Not bad—middle of an outside pie. “We’re talking about the health of future generations.” Picking up three more darts, I gave one to Justine. “But let’s not forget the guy’s face—for reasonably cute offspring, you’d want to stay away from the out-and-out Quasimodos. But no sense in holding out for an Adonis that you’d have to drag away from the mirror to get in bed.”
“Well, yeah, but back to Gai—do you think she really wants a baby?” Justine wrinkled her freckled nose.
“How should I know?” Just for fun, I threw with my left hand, then grinned triumphantly. “Look at that! An inside pie!”
Justine paid no attention. “She doesn’t seem the sort.”
I refrained from asking, What sort is she, then? I didn’t want to encourage Justine’s tiny girl crush on some anonymous blogger. “Will you get on with your throw?”
Justine raised her arm, then dropped it without throwing. “Maybe Gai’s just nattering on about babies ’cause it’s a popular topic. You know, what a lot of girls our age are thinking about.” Looking relieved, she flung her dart. It bounced off the board then clattered onto the nearest table. Naturally an empty one, though Eamonn let out a gasp.
Justine giggled, apparently unfazed by her hideous throw, and took a slurp of her pint. “Gai left out the most important thing—all the guy needs is a working rocket.”
“Girls!” Eamonn looked scandalized. “That’s it, the last straw—”
“Jaysus, Eamonn, if you’d mind your own business you wouldn’t be getting your boxers in a twist,” I said. Then to Justine, “Right, getting pregnant isn’t rocket science. But let’s hope our man’s aim is better than yours.” Taking a deep breath to get centered, I threw—and almost touched the bull! Who says I was in a mood! “One last go?” I asked Justine.
She shook her head. “Are you finally done, with requirements for your donor bloke?”
“Actually, there’s one more thing,” I said. “The guy should be from out-of-town—or better yet, out of the country altogether.” I chose my final dart. “It’s a win-win all round. You’re spared the meddling in-laws, and the expense of the medical donor process too. Then, once you’ve hit your bull’s-eye—your positive test—you can go your separate ways. And with no embarrassing chance encounters.”
Justine appeared lost in thought. “Right, right,” she said vaguely.
“Of course we’ve been talking about a fantasy guy,” I pointed out. “If you want a baby right away, it’s no time to hold out for Mr. Perfect. Like I said before, he doesn’t exist.”
Justine’s eyes took on a mischievous glint. “Oh, but he does.”
I laughed. “In your imagination, maybe.”
“No, a real guy. For you. Who’d be grand even though you don’t want a baby.”
I casually rolled the dart between my thumb and forefinger. “Who is it?”
“Smart, great smile, and not too keen on the drink,” Justine ticked off, without answering me. “No STDs either—no germ would dare come within five miles of him.”
“And where’d you meet this paragon?”
“Oh…around,” she said, smiling mysteriously. “He’s even taller than you. Some might consider him off the market, but if anyone can talk round a fellow, it’s you.”
I tightened my hold on the dart.  “Will you just get on with it and tell me?”
“And he hasn’t a big ego, despite having looks and talent and pots of money and every other reason to think he’s God’s gift to womankind,” Justine said, still teasing me. “In fact, he’s quite nice.”
 Really, if by some miracle there was such a thing as the perfect guy, this one sounded close. Then Justine’s grin widened. “Okay, I get it, you’re having me on,” I said crossly. “He’s too perfect. He can’t be real.”
“He’s real, all right. And though he’s visited Ireland a lot, he lives far away. As in…” she paused, “Seattle.” I forgot to breathe as she giggled again. “You know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you?”
I gulped for air. “You are so mad.” Feeling my wrist go floppy, I turned and threw.
“The ideal man,” Justine pronounced as my dart missed the board entirely and skidded under a table. “My cousin Rafe.”                                                                                      
                                

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