So, as with all the best fairytales, Joe stayed with Claire and they lived happily ever after. Or as happily ever after as anyone ever really does. As it turned out, despite her concerns, Claire found it easy enough to obtain a new identity for Joe. This was mostly because Joe proved, perhaps unsurprisingly, pretty adept at asking about a bit and talking to the right people. Indeed, before a month was up, he was back on the right side of the law, more or less.
It was obvious that he was never going to be able to settle in the city, so as soon as practically possible, they moved out to the country, where they knew Joe would find it easier to earn a living and Claire at least believed there would be fewer prying eyes. There they started a stud farm, and later on Joe opened a shooting range for tourists, specialising in vintage weapons. He'd never been particularly interested in firearms when forced to carry one, but he became rather fascinated by modern lightweight automatics, which to his way of thinking practically loaded, aimed and fired themselves. Mostly, he was quite content to remain on the straight and narrow, and very seldom did anything illegal, aside from smoking weed and getting involved in illicit games of poker. Not that he told Claire about anyway. He could generally get the better of her in an argument, but he preferred not to push his luck. He learned to drive – much to Claire’s annoyance he could immediately reverse better than her – but he never could bear driving around towns and cities, despite the fact that he could easily read maps without turning the book upside down. He absolutely refused to consider getting on a plane, even when Claire offered to take him on a trip to Ireland.
Claire found that there were distinct advantages to having Joe work very long hours in such a male-dominated environment. In point of fact, he adored her and would never knowingly have done anything to hurt her, but old habits die hard, and his delight in twenty-first century women only increased all the more when he found out what some of them meant when they approached him and asked if he was Orlando Bloom. After getting out of his depth once or twice when he said ‘yes’, he usually settled for telling them he was his long-lost twin brother. But never when Claire was in ear-shot.
Claire never did get back the fuchsia-pink bra she’d left behind with him. He’d kept it –somewhere – for a bit, but it wasn’t like his most precious possession or anything. He did buy her one for a joke one Christmas but was puzzled when she unwrapped it and burst into tears.
Of course Joe didn’t recognise his old pillow on Claire’s bed! He may have had the soul of a poet, but he was also a gun-toting outlaw with no interest in or memory for soft furnishings.
I don’t know if they ever had children. That would be another story. The idea that they were risking pregnancy doesn’t seem to have crossed their minds all through the preceding chapters – but maybe that’s because neither of them was quite sure the other was real in the first place. We can only hope they behaved less recklessly once this point was cleared up.
Claire went out of her way to conceal from Joe the existence of the film, and also the real story of the Kelly gang. If he ever came across the latter and felt his early life had been hijacked by an unfamiliar looking fair-haired man in an old photograph, he never mentioned it. He would undoubtedly have been rather stunned to stumble across the movie though, so we can conclude she was successful in at least that respect. 'Rather stunned' also describes the reaction of Claire's mother, who had seen the film a few times herself, when she first met Joe. For a year or so, whenever she saw him, she would stare at him, confused and apparently permanently on the verge of saying something she couldn’t quite put into words. Joe, who found this disconcerting, asked Claire if her mother was 'simple', and caused a bit of a row. Ironically, of course, Claire's mother also doubted her own sanity in regard to this new member of the family. So after a while, she resolved to push these strange thoughts to the back of her mind and went about just loving Joe for himself and for the sake of her daughter. And for those black curls of course.
Did Joe like living in an affluent part of the twenty-first century? Well, there were some things he liked very much - the food, air-conditioning and miniskirts were three examples. Others caused him a wry smile – gyms, vegetarian dinners and security systems in banks, for example. Some aspects he hated, and when these became too much, as happened every few months, he would take off on his own, back to the scenes of his childhood. There he would stay for a few days until the unchanging majesty of the landscape reminded him that, of all changes that life brings, the passing of years is sometimes the thing that affects us least.