Chapter 2: Lux

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I don’t go with Dad to London because Interesting Monster has a gig that night. No matter how much I want to see William Tracy play live, it would be shitty of me to miss a performance of my own band.

We’ve been playing two Fridays a month at Top Hat in Dún Laoghaire since last fall. It’s is a great gig — my dad played here with the Liberties, so the club owner knows me; the venue has plenty of room for dancing; our audience are handsome boys and pretty girls, all dancing, talking, laughing, drinking, to music that I wrote.

Many of those girls are gathered in front of the stage to moon over Eamonn, our front man. When he gets down on his knees or his back to play his guitar, their hands swarm over him as if he’s a rock god. I write the songs and make the arrangements and even got us this semi-regular gig, thanks to Dad’s connections to the local music scene, but Eamonn is the star of this band and I’m fine with it. I admire him as much as our fans, and I’m at home in the less showy place behind the drums.

Eamonn looks at me over his shoulder and winks, an enormous smile on his face. I grin back and lean closer to my microphone. We sing the chorus in unison: “Lover lover, when you gonna come my way?” Our voices harmonize like they have since we were in primary school, and some of the audience shouts it along with us, which makes me grin even wider.

Playing back-to-back with Eamonn, fingers nimble and steady on her bass, Bree smiles at me too, but ruefully. I do a trill on my drums in response, and she echoes it on her bass. Eamonn loses his place in the song a moment and gives us both a confused look, but then picks it up and goes on singing.

There are musicians who are good at playing music as-written, and there are others who are good at improvising. Eamonn rarely improvises, while Bree and me, we operate in the same wavelength when we’re on stage. I could — and have — do nothing more than count off the beat and she knows what song I want to play.

We finish “Lover Lover” to applause and cheers, and Eamonn looks at me for what we’re going to do for our final song. I start a quick, light, beat, and sing into the microphone, “Well, I took a stroll on the old long walk—” The audience joins in, “of a day-I-ay-I-ay,” clapping to the rhythm of my drums. Bree does, too, with a laugh, and Eamonn joins me on his guitar. He lets me carry the verses, though we all know this song backwards and forwards, having sung or heard it all our lives.

At the end of “Galway Girl” Eamonn shouts into the microphone, “Good night, Dublin! We love you!” The house lights come up and we leave the stage for the tiny green room, laughing and hugging each other. We’re joined by Neil, our manager-cum-roadie, as we open bottles of water and choose our favorites from the snacks he brought.

“Solid choice again tonight, Lux,” he says to me. “Nothing leaves a crowd happy like ‘Galway Girl.’”

“That’s why I like it.” I down half a bottle of water in a few gulps. Drumming is sweaty work. “It’s not my idea, though. Dad used to finish his home concerts with ‘Galway Girl’, back in the day.”

Lounging together on the tiny futon, Bree and Eamonn start whispering together — “No, you ask him–” but stop when Neil and I look at them.

Bree sits up straight. “We finish with ‘Galway Girl’ half the time we perform. What about trying something new? It doesn’t even have to be one of our songs — just something else everybody loves, like ‘Twist and Shout’.”

“I like ‘Twist and Shout’,” says Eamonn. “It’s a feel-good song.”

They both look at me expectantly as I drink my water. I have no objections to ‘Twist and Shout’ on a musical level. It’s a solid rock song, fun to both play and sing, and when you get a crowd of a hundred or more people singing along with you it’s like being borne up into the sky by the power of their voices.

But we always do ‘Galway Girl.’ The Liberties sang ‘Galway Girl.’

“We’ll talk about it at the band meeting,” I say, and both Eamonn and Bree look disappointed. “We need to collect our gear.” I leave the green room and go back to the stage.

The club is nearly empty, just a few patrons finishing their drinks or lingering near the stage. Some of the girls turn their backs or drift away when it’s just me. I climb up onto the stage and go to the drums, and put my sticks away in a pouch before I begin to take apart my drum kit.

Neil joins me. “Everyone does love ‘Galway Girl,'” he says. “But the band wants to stretch, Luxy.”

“I’ll write some new songs,” I reply as I fold up the high-hat. “I’ve always got new songs burbling around.”

“Yeah, and that’s good,” says Neil. “Everybody loves your songs. But for final songs and encores, you could always do something that’s just fun.”

“Like the Beatles,” I say.

“Everybody loves the Beatles, just like they love ‘Galways Girl’.”

He has a point. When we started performing live, Dad said to always finish a show on an energetic note, so the audience feels good when they leave and want to come back.

“We’ll talk about it in the band meeting,” I say again, and Neil exhales, almost a frustrated sigh.

“I’ll bring ’round the van.” He stands and leaves the stage.

The club has mostly cleared out now, and the few remaining people seem interested in chatting to each other rather than me, so I’m alone with my thoughts. I try to have a few new songs every show, since the same people are coming to see us every fortnight and they may get tired of hearing the same songs over and over. We could do more covers, I suppose, even U2 do covers in their concerts, and we could do a cover for the encore just to shake things up.

Dad teases me sometimes that I get stuck in my ways — “like an old man,” he’ll say, but I can’t help it. I like knowing what’s to come. It’s why I’m going to university here in Dublin, and why I’m still friends with people I’ve known since primary school. It just feels good, things staying the same.

Having William Tracy and his family here will be change enough for now, I think as I carry my drum kit outside to the van. There are rumors about the Tracys, that the Tracy parents are high-strung and demanding, and that William is a diva. But Cynthia Beecham really wants William to stay with us while the Tracys are here, and Dad has agreed for some reason. I do want to see William perform someday, but that doesn’t mean I want to live with the guy.

Outside, I’m happy to see Neil is selling copies of our CD to a couple of fans. He gives me a nod and opens the back door of the van for me to pack away my drums.

One of the girls drifts away from the other fans to lean against the side of the van. “Lux,” she says, and I smile at her. I’ve seen her at shows before.

“All right, lovely?”

“All right,” she says. She could be the Galway girl herself, with hair so black and eyes so blue. She’s dressed stylishly, too, with a black leather jacket, short skirt, and tall boots. “Where are you off to next tonight?”

“Just home. We’ve having guests tomorrow so I need to sleep.”

“Oh,” she says with a disappointed pout. “Some of us are going to meet up for a party. Won’t you come?”

“Not tonight, darlin’,” I tell her, and swing myself down from the van. “Maybe next time.”

She starts to speak again, but I’m saved from having to turn her down again by Bree and Eamonn coming out of the club with their instruments.

“Who’s this?” Eamon says at the sight of the girl.

She turns up her nose a little. “‘This’ is Maura,” she says. “Some of us are going to an afterparty. Come with us.”

“Go ahead without me,” I tell them.

Bree makes a face. “No, thanks,” she says simply and climbs into the van to put away her bass.

Eamonn says, “Where’s the party?”

Maura names a neighborhood not far from mine. “Just stop in,” she coaxes us. “We’d love it.”

Neil rejoins us, carrying our amps, and I get back into the van to fit them in, relieved to leave the girl to Eamonn. Neil says to me under his breath, “Want me to get rid of her?”

“She’s all right,” I say. Neil takes his job as our roadie-slash-manager very seriously. “The party might even be fun.”

“Do you want to go?”

“Nah,” I say, “I’ve got all that prep to do tomorrow.”

“Oh, right. The cellist.” He stands on the edge of the van, holding the frame to keep himself steady, and says, “Oi, Eamonn! You coming or not?”

“Coming.” Eamonn climbs into the van — and then so does Maura, planting herself beside him in the center seat. From either end of the van, Bree and I exchange looks.

Neil hops out of the van and shuts the rear doors, and I climb into the last seat as he shuts the other doors. When Neil gets into the driver’s seat he does a double-take at Maura. “Oh. Hello.”

“Hello,” she says, natural as anything.

“Am I dropping you somewhere?”

“Lux’s place, please.”

Neil looks at me. “Lux?”

“Yeah, okay,” I say, bewildered, but willing to see where the night goes. Bree rolls her eyes at the lot of us while Eamonn looks delighted, and he punches me in the arm. I scowl at him.

The city — our part of the city — is quiet at night, and we don’t talk much on the drive. It’s part coming down from the adrenaline of performing, and part having a stranger amongst us.

I eye Maura as we drive, and she watches the streets go by with wide, lively eyes. She’s pretty and clearly keen, but I have no idea how I feel about a girl just pushing her way into my life. Girls approach me sometimes, but when they don’t get the response they want they usually turn to Eamonn or Neil. Eamonn doesn’t respond to them either, but that’s because he and Bree have been going out for two years and show no signs of getting tired of each other. As for Neil, he ;hasn’t had a girlfriend for a while, but he doesn’t go out with these girls either. I once asked him why and he just blushed and muttered something about promises.

I don’t have a girlfriend. I never have. I’m not sure what I would do with her if I had one.

Eamonn sinks lower in the seat and says, “Hey, Luxy. Since your dad’s out of town, could Bree and I stay the night at your place?”

I have a laugh to myself. “Yeah, all right. You’ll have to change the sheets in the morning. All our guest rooms are going to be occupied by Monday.”

“Thanks, Lux!” He smacks a kiss on my cheek and then practically throws himself over the back of Bree’s seat. “We’re staying with Lux tonight!”

She smiles at him, and says to me, “Thank you, Lux.”

“All for you, Bree, love,” I reply, and she laughs. Maura looks at her and then at me, and then sighs as she faces the front of the van.

“So we’re all going to Luxy’s?” Neil calls back.

“Yes,” I say. “We’re all coming to mine.” So much for me getting to bed early tonight. I rub my hand over my face, and wonder if Maura is reconsidering her decision to come along tonight.

At the drive to my house, Neil stops the van so I can climb out and enter the security code into the gate. Neil drives through once I open it, and follows me up the cobblestone drive to park at the side of the house, by the door nearest our music room.

Bree climbs out of the van, and once we start unloading instruments again, so does Maura. “I’ve never been inside any houses around here,” she says, and decides to help by carrying my drumsticks.

Bree gives me an exasperated look — she’s got her bass on a strap over her shoulder and is carrying the snare drum from my kit — and leads the way to the music room when I unlock the side door. She knows where everything goes.

“Are you coming?” I ask Neil when he climbs back into the driver’s seat.

He glances at the house. “Nah. I’d just be a fifth wheel.”

“Fifth wheel—“ I almost laugh. “Maura and me, we’re not a couple.”

“I think she wants to be.” He inhales and says quickly, “And I don’t want to watch Bree snogging Eamonn all night.”

“Me neither,” I mutter, and then it hits me. This is why Neil doesn’t date other girls. He wants to go out with Bree.

Neil starts up the van. “G’night, Luxy. See you Monday.”

“See you.” I shut the door for him. He waves to me and backs out, and I shut the gate behind him when he drives away.


“Weird not having your dad around,” Bree says when I come back into the music room. The instruments are put away, and Eamonn and Bree are sprawled together on the sofa while Maura wanders around the music room and lets her fingers linger on the upright piano. “He should be popping in to offer us tea and tell us stories about the Clash.”

“We’ll do it next time you’re over and he’s home,” I say. “I hope he’s enjoying London.”

“What’s he doing there?” Maura asks, and flicks her fingers against the cymbal to make it shimmer.

“Meeting a musician he’ll be producing soon,” I reply. “A cellist named William Tracy.”

“A cellist? Wasn’t your dad a punk back in the day?”

“He was,” I say, “but he producers all kinds of genres now.” How exactly Dad got involved with classical musicians is a good story, but everyone else already knows it and I don’t particularly want to tell this stranger about it.

Maura sniffs like she disapproves — another reason why I don’t want to talk to her about my dad — and says, “This room is like a music store. How many of these do you play?”

“All of them,” I say, “some better than others.” I’m really good on percussion instruments as well as string, not so good on wind. We’ve also got some oddball instruments from around the world, like a didgeridoo from Australia and a dulcimer from Norway.

Again Maura sniffs, disbelieving, and Bree’s annoyed expression increases. Before she can say something, Eamonn hops to the piano and opens the lid. “Play us a tune, Lux.”

I sit on the bench and play a scale to warm up my fingers. “What do you want to hear?”

“Something classical,” says Maura.

She probably expects me to dive into something impressive like Rachmaninoff or Beethoven, but instead I place my fingers on the keys and start to play Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1. It’s a quiet piece, peaceful, and whatever mood everyone else is in I want something relaxing.

Bree sits on the bench at my side. Eamonn moves to stand behind me, and puts his hands on my shoulders. My hands tremble but I don’t miss a note — I know this song too well for Eamonn’s closeness to throw me.

“Gorgeous,” he whispers when the song is done.

“I love that one,” Bree says, and we smile at each other.

Maura says, “Can I get some water?”

“Sure,” I says with a sigh, but before I can stand to fetch her a drink Bree gets up from the bench.

“I’ll show her the kitchen. I want a drink, too.”

Both girls leave the room, and Eamonn sits on the bench beside me and pokes his fingers into my side. “Tonight’s your night, Luxy, my boy,” he says. “Say goodbye to your virginity!”

I wave his hands off. “What are you talking about?”

“You and Maura,” says Eamonn. “You don’t think she followed you home to listen to you play piano, do you?”

“I don’t know why she came along,” I mutter.

“She fancies you,” Eamonn says. “She might even want to go out with you — and you, m’boy, need a girlfriend to write your songs about.”

I shrug, non-committal, and put my hands on the keyboard again to play “Für Elise.” I tell him, “My songs aren’t really about anybody. Not anybody real. Just a daydream.”

“Even better. You don’t have to just have a daydream anymore. Thomas is away, you’ve got the house to yourself, and Maura’s hot, here, and willing.”

The girls come back to the music room, carrying glasses of water. Bree gives her glass to Eamonn. “Share with me.”

“Thanks, darlin’,” he says and drinks, holding her gaze. Bree blushes and sits beside me again.

“What were you boys talking about in our absence?” she says and starts playing with my hair.

“Beethoven,” I say.

She gives my hair a tug. “Cheeky.”

“Just gabbing, love.” Eamonn offers her the glass and she takes it.

Maura holds out her glass to me. “Lux, would you like some water?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

She nods and drinks again.

“Well…” Eamon drawls. He stretches out his arms and yawns. “I’m sleepy. Lux, which room can we have?”

“Take the grey one.”

“Good night, Luxy. Good night, Maura.” He holds out his hand to Bree, and they pelt down the hall, Bree giggling the entire way. The house originally had a master suite on the ground floor, which is now the music room. Dad’s bedroom is on the top floor, and the three guest bedrooms are on the first floor. Mine is in the tower.

Alone with Maura, I turn back to the piano and start playing a little bit of nonsense that’s been in my head lately. Maura sits on the bench beside me. “That’s pretty. What’s it called?”

“No name yet.”

“Oh! It’s a tune of your own?”


“Brilliant.” She puts her hand on my back.

I should kiss her. Eamonn’s right, I’ve been hanging on to my virginity for too long and for no reason. I could kiss her, shag her, maybe even have a girlfriend in her.

But she doesn’t stir anything in me. Eamonn and Bree, they touch each other all the time, and his eyes light up when she comes into a room. He plays with her hair, or they hold hands and plays with each other’s fingers.

I don’t want to do any of that with this girl. I would with Eamonn.

“Maura,” I begin.

“Lux,” she answers and kisses me.

It takes me by surprise, enough that I can’t breathe. She takes my breathlessness as encouragement and climbs into my lap, still holding my face and kissing me. It gives me a moment to gasp in a breath, and then she’s kissing me again, hard, pushing her tongue into my mouth.

I put my hands on her shoulders and push her away. She blinks at me. “Maura,” I say again, “you’re a lovely lass and some bloke would be lucky to go out with you, but I’m not looking to date anybody.”

“Why?” she says with genuine confusion. “You’re so fit!”

I blush and shrug. Maura takes hold of my face again and kisses me, gently this time, and then starts giving me little kisses around my face. It’s nice. That’s all it is.

“You’re gorgeous,” Maura whispers, “and talented, and nobody writes songs like you do. You’re going to be big, Lux Costigan. I can’t wait to see how big you get.”

She’s still kissing me. I still feel nothing. I don’t want to kiss her back. I take her hands from my face and say, “You’re sweet. But I’m just not — I don’t want to sleep with you.”

Maura stiffens. “Oh,” she says, her tone cool.

“If you want to sleep here tonight there’s an empty guest room. I can take you home, if you’d rather.”

She gets off my lap and straightens her skirt. “I’ll see myself home.”

“I’m happy to take you on my Vespa. It has to be safer.”

“I can take care of myself,” she says in such a tone that I don’t doubt it. “Don’t bother.” Her back straight, she leaves the music room, and a moment later I hear the side door slam shut.

I sigh, and then pick up her glass to take it to the kitchen. I dump the rest of the water into the sink and place it in the washer, and when I turn to leave there’s Eamonn, shirtless and looking sheepish.

“Bree is thirsty,” he says, holding up the empty glass.

“Help yourself,” I say.

“Sure. Where’s Maura? Upstairs?”

“She left.”

“Oh, Luxy,” he says. “Tell Uncle Eamonn everything.”

“There’s nothing to tell. She kissed me and it was like kissing my gran. I told her I don’t want to go out with her or anyone, and then she left.”

Eamonn shakes his head at me. “You need somebody to love you, Luxy. I hate seeing you lonely. You’re my oldest friend — I want you to be happy.”

“I am happy,” I say. “Plenty of people love me. Dad, Mrs. Leary, my mum’s family, Dad’s family, Bree, Neil, you–”

“Then why do you keep writing all these love songs? You want to be loved. Everybody wants to be loved but you’ve told half of Dublin.”

He’s right about that. I’m maybe not as blatant as Morrissey and his “I am human and I need to be loved,” but I’ve been honest about my yearning for someone to call my own.

I haven’t been quite so honest about who I want that someone to be.

He’s looking at me, waiting for me to respond, and I don’t know what to say. I can only do — I can only cross the kitchen and take Eamonn’s face in my hands and kiss his mouth.

Startled, Eamonn pulls back, and we stare at each other for a moment before he kisses me back, his lips parted.

I didn’t expect that but I love it. I’m smiling as I kiss him. I think he’s smiling, too, or at least he’s not frowning and not pushing me back and not telling me to stop. We kiss, breathing hard, our hands on each other’s faces or shoulders or chests.

He finally pulls back again, his chest heaving under my hands. “Lux, I’m with Bree.”

I step back. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just — I just wanted to kiss you.”

“How long have you been wanting to do that?”

“I don’t know. Forever.”

“Oh, Luxy,” Eamonn says, and holds my face a moment. He pats my cheeks and lets me go. “I do love you, Luxy. Just — not like how I love Bree.”

I nod. My face is aflame. “I love you too, Eamonn,” I say. He nods and refills Bree’s glass, and goes back to the grey room.

I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t think I’m going to sleep, even though I know I need to. I put on my leather jacket and get my Vespa out, and take off in the direction I think Maura went, toward the nearest bus stop.

There’s no sign of her, which I hope means she got safely on a bus or found another ride. I drive around aimlessly for a while, until I’m in the hills outside of the city.

The road is a familiar one — it leads to one of my favorite places, the old Hellfire Club where famous people were once said to hold Satanic rituals. It’s said to be haunted as hell, so sometimes my friends and I go to stay overnight and catch a ghost.

I’ve never been by myself, though, and everybody says it’s not safe to be there alone. I don’t know if I believe that, but I still turn the Vespa back to the city. I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave enough to do that.

I think as I drive home that I’ve hit my limit of bravery for the night, maybe even for the week. I kissed Eamonn.  I kissed my first boy. I should be elated but instead I’m just sad, because now Eamonn knows I want to be with him and he still wants to be with Bree — which I understand, she’s great, I love her too — and I’m still alone. My daydream will have to remain that, a daydream.

I stop before I get back into the city — where the Liberties used to be, where people lived just outside of the law — and park my Vespa. I shout, “I am human and I need to be loved!” at the top of my lungs.

There’s no answer, not even a “Shut your fucking gob!” I huff at myself, get back on the Vespa, and drive home.


The ringing phone wakes me. I groan and pull a pillow over my head, and then throw it aside and hop out, remembering that it might be Dad. He’d also be the only one who’d call this early, unless it’s an emergency.

I pick up the receiver and say severely, “Do you have any idea what time it is, young man?”

“Long past time you should be out of bed,” Dad replies. “I tried calling last night but I suspect you were still at the show. How did it go?”

“It went well,” I say. “The crowd enjoyed the original stuff, we sold a few CDs, the usual. We finished with ‘Galway Girl.’”

“Always a good choice,” says Thomas in approval. “We’d finish our shows with it sometimes, if we were in Ireland or Boston.”

“Maybe our next album will be traditional,” I say, smiling. “How were the Tracys?”

“The concert was good,” Dad says. “William’s technique is flawless, and Isabel is pretty damn near.” He pauses. “Everything Cynthia has told us about Mr. and Mrs. Tracy seems to be true. Mr. Tracy hit William before the performance.”

“Oh, shite.” I knew already that Cynthia wanted to get the Tracy children away from the Tracy parents, but I never really knew why before.

“Will all of the guest rooms be ready by this afternoon?”

“I’ll help Mrs. Leary if there’s anything that needs to be done.” I feel a start of guilt — I need to clean up after last night before Mrs. Leary gets here. I don’t want to give her extra work. “Eamonn and Bree stayed over last night.”

“Well, that’s fine. If you’re going to have guests there’s no one I’d prefer. Are you all right, Luxy?”

“I’m all right, Dad.” I could tell him about Maura, but there’s nothing, really, to tell. And I’m not telling anyone about kissing Eamonn. “What time will you be home?”

“My flight lands at ten-thirty. The Tracys and Cynthia are taking the ferry so they’ll be here later this afternoon. Cheaper with the cellos, apparently.”

I huff. Transporting instruments is never cheap. “Can I meet you?”

“Of course,” Thomas says. “Would you rather take a cab or have Mrs. Leary drive you over?”

“I’ll catch a cab.”

“All right.” He pauses. “Lux, about William Tracy … be kind to him while he’s staying with us, will you?”

“Dad,” I begin.

“You don’t have to be his best friend,” Thomas says. “Just be kind. I know you can do that.”

“Ah, Dad, you’ll ruin my reputation,” I mumble and he laughs.

“I’m sure your friends think you’re very tough,” he says. “I love you, Luxy. See you soon.”

“Love you too,” I say, and we hang up.

I start some water for tea, pondering. I can be kind to William Tracy — with most people, it’s easy to do.

I know there’s violence in all kinds of families — there’s violence all through Dublin, and I know I’m extremely lucky to have a father who doesn’t use me as a punching bag — but I’d never thought of it being in a family of classical musicians.

But I’ll be kind, I think as the kettle begins to boil. William Tracy will be safe in this house. And I hope we’ll work out a way to be friends.

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