Barry Laverty—Doctor Barry Laverty—stood in a jam-packed drawing room where the sound level was as intense as the racket of riveting guns at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard. Over the noise of many conversations the gramophone blared,
How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggely tail—
He smiled and squeezed Patricia Spence’s hand. Having her back home in Ulster was wonderful even if she had left it to the last minute to get here. He looked at her deep brown eyes, bent to her, and tried to make her hear. "Somebody really likes Patti Page. She made that one a hit in 1952. I was twelve."
So did Barry—and he smiled. Bertie and Flo Bishop’s 1964 version of their annual Boxing Day hooley was not a place for more than yelled small talk, and if Patricia hadn’t heard him, so what? It wasn’t as if she’d been disinterested when he had told her how much he loved her, how he wanted to start planning their future here in Ballybucklebo. Och well, a couple more hours of this wouldn’t matter then he would have her to himself and could tell her exactly what was on his mind. And, damn it, this was a party.
"I don’t suppose," he shouted into her ear, "Bertie thinks much of the Beatles or the Dave Clark Five, but I thought he might have a recording of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman."
She raised an eyebrow.
"I’d ask him to play it for you." He squeezed her hand again. Her return was feeble.
Barry sighed. Was he boring her? He couldn’t put his finger on it, but this morning she had seemed different from the laughing girl who’d headed off three months ago to study civil engineering at Cambridge University. She was more distant. More detached. He shook his head. She’d be still tired from travelling, that was all.
He looked round for space, somewhere he could talk to her, ask her if everything was all right, but it seemed the entire population of Ballybucklebo and the surrounding townland was in attendance and it had been de rigueur to come to this party. No one refused an invitation from Bertie, and indeed Barry was pleased to have been asked after only six months as an assistant to Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly. Being here was a mark of how well he was fitting into the little community in the north of County Down. Being accepted by the villagers was important. He’d only six more months to go until he became a partner in the practice.
Patricia inclined her head toward the door. Her raven hair fell away from her neck in a rippling wave. By watching her lips he thought he could understand what she was saying. "Let’s see if it’s quieter next door." She tugged his arm and began to force her way through the throng.
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