Western Mail - - WM OPINION - By Alys Con­ran

“TELL her?” he says.

There’s a long si­lence. Then he laughs, a low laugh.

“It’s good to see you, Iola,” he says.

It’s good to see him too, even though he’s old and hope­less. It’s good he has no ex­cuses.

When I tell her, she’s sit­ting in her room in front of the dress­ing ta­ble, brush­ing her hair.

“I know,” she says, with­out miss­ing a stroke with the hair­brush.

I watch her face. It doesn’t flinch. I stand there watch­ing.

“Don’t tell any­one will you?” she says to me.

“I al­ready have,” I say. “Sort of. I’ve told Cher. Pi­geon’s mam knows, and Pi­geon.”

She puts down the brush. “That’s too many peo­ple, Iola!” “And Dafydd,” I say qui­etly. “Dafydd?” she says. “Yep. He found out. He threat­ened to tell you.” “Threat­ened?”

I nod.

She’s look­ing at me, straight at me. “He’s a nasty piece of work isn’t he?” she says.

I nod.

“I saw him with some young girl in town the other day,” she says. “All over her, he was.” She looks like she’s go­ing to cry. But in­stead, she stands and comes to me, puts her arms around me. Her warm arms.

“Out on his ear, he is,” she says qui­etly, “Out on his ear.” And she goes to the record player which has sat there for so many years, wait­ing to play our mu­sic again. She takes out a black disk, sets it on the turntable and places the nee­dle against it. A slow waltz, ghostly like half a me­mory, but sweet too, like long-lost Sun­days, plays into the room, and we be­gin to dance to­gether. My sis­ter and me. We dance slowly, and I hold onto this rare time when I feel hon­est and true and safe.

WHEN he vis­its her, Pi­geon’s mam lies in a cold bed. The bed where the mer­maid lies is placed in the cen­tre of the room. There’s no in­di­ca­tion which end is which. The bed where she lies has no head and no foot. It’s dis­ori­en­tat­ing, cold; a bed base, mat­tress, white cot­ton sheet. The bed where she lies has no pil­low.

> Pi­geon is the win­ner of the Wales Book of the Year and the Rhys Davies Fic­tion Prize. Pub­lished by Parthian

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