I called in next door.
It was all very odd.
Dómhnall’s dad answered the door in a pair of jeans that looked too big for him, wearing a tie as a belt, and a faded red sweat-shirt with Cocaine scrawled across the chest. I’m guessing he hadn’t shaved in a while and his new beard was a strange gingery sort of colour that didn’t match his salt-and-pepper hair.
Until recently he left the house at 8.45am, Monday to Friday, in a charcoal suit, clean-shaven and perfectly groomed. I realised when he was standing in the door in front of me that I hadn’t seen him, or his wife, leaving the house for quite a while.
For a second he looked at me blankly. Then he glanced behind him and sidled a little closer to the door.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Sorry for bothering you. I was just wondering if Dómhnall was around? I haven’t seen him for a couple of days . .’
‘Dómhnall,’ he said, as though he wasn’t quite sure who I was talking about.
‘Yes,’ I said finally. ‘Your son - Dómhnall. He’s been helping me . . with the computer . . and stuff. Normally he calls in (and eats all my food, I thought, but I didn’t say that bit out loud). I was just wondering if he’s okay - which is stupid - of course he is, but normally he’d call in, and I just thought, you know, what if something’s happened, -‘
Dómhnall’s father backed a little further inside.
‘Dómhnall’s grand,’ he mumbled finally. ‘He’s . . he’s gone to stay . .with some friends of his for a couple of days.’
‘Oh,’ I murmured, feeling like a fool. ‘Okay . .thanks.’
I wandered back over to Aunt Dee’s house and sat on the front step.
He hadn’t said anything about going away.