Ma Mary is the first to notice. When Erin comes home that day, she’s reserved and with a sort of quiet happiness.
“Mammy, I’m off to do my homework for school,” is all her usually neurotic and extremely talkative daughter says before she doesn’t see her for the rest of the night, and Mary knows.
Call it a mother’s intuition or simply the way Erin’s eyes light up when Gerry mentions asking James for some help on his Ford, but she realizes it’s finally happened.
Well, she rather likes the wee English boy. Has felt protective of him ever since his absolute arsehole of a mother came back, got his hopes up, and left again. Since he was the first one he could think of when her poor love got stood up at the prom by the bastard, and the fella had dropped everything and was there within minutes.
Well. Good for Erin.
Breakfast the next day is pancakes shaped like hearts and Mary smiles to herself as Erin gasps in sheer delight.
Ach, she might just get a sister in law in Deirdre after all.
Clare Devlin prides herself on being highly attuned to every minute detail of the world around her.
Which is why it surprises her that it’s taken so long to notice that James and Erin are head over heels in love with each other.
She was the only one still sleeping upstairs, so she didn’t quite understand the awkward atmosphere when Sister Michael had practically shoved them out of the house, but then she glances behind as they walk back to the van, and James and Erin are both hanging behind.
He’d probably said something grossly English to her and then turned to walk away, and Clare expected Erin to give the usual eye roll or snort of laughter, but she didn’t.
Instead, she smiled.
A small, hopeful smile with a look in her eyes Clare's never seen before.
One thing was clear: her best friend was in love.
Months later, after graduation, the girls sit down in a circle and reveal the higher education they’ve chosen.
Orla is first, Maynooth. It’s close enough and it’ll be easy for Granda to visit.
Michelle, Queen’s. She was surprised too, but it seemed as if all the extra work at Dennis’ wee shop and the work ethic Clare had forced into her had payed off.
And Clare herself got accepted at Edinburgh. After her da, and after her move to Strabane, she didn’t have much to go back to Derry for besides her friends.
When James goes, however(of course, Erin wanted to be the last to go), she breaks into a wide grin and slams head first into his chest and starts to sob. He lets out a small oof, and though he looks confused as anything, his arms circle around her instinctually and he awkwardly rubs her back as the girl’s jaws drop and Michelle looks pointedly away.
When she’s calmed down enough to speak, Erin explains she’s committed to Trinity College in Dublin, the same place James just mentioned.
Clare sighs, hiding how oddly happy this makes her. She will never understand heterosexual women.
Except, maybe, this one. Just a little.
Gerry is rather oblivious to the goings ons of his daughter and Orla, so it isn’t a surprise it’s taken him this long.
James and Erin are coming home for the summer, and he’s noticed some…rather odd things.
He ponders it quietly as he takes a plate of Jaffa cakes up to Erin’s childhood room.
Well, his lovely daughter is interning at BBC Northern Ireland, and he couldn’t be more proud. James, from what he’s heard, is starting nursing school in Dublin. He still does some filmmaking on the side, but has to be primarily at school— and so Gerry wonders exactly why they always call at the same time, come back at the same time, even look to be…
Oh, but it can’t be…
He swings open the door, his nervousness getting the best of him.
“Ach—! Shite, Daddy, you scared the bejesus out of me!” Erin shrieks, jumping away from James who looks shell shocked, and turns red, though it is doing nothing to cover up the love bites all over his neck.
“I—You—“ Gerry stammers, dropping some cakes in surprise, “I’ll come back later!” And he slams the door as quickly as he’d opened it, and rushes back downstairs.
When he tells Mary about it, she sighs and just pats him on the back. “Oh, but Gerry, you’ve always been so blind to these things. The weans have been seeing each other since Year 10, or so. Even Sarah knows,” and his sister in law nods sagely at him from the breakfast table. “Wise up, love.”
Before they return to Dublin, Gerry holds James back.
“So I’ve heard you’ve been seeing me daughter.”
A careful, timid nod.
He chuckles easily. “Relax, boy. The man you’ve got to be worried about is that one, not me,” He nods slightly at Joe, who is having a tearful parting reunion with his granddaughter. “You’ll be treating her right, of course?”
“Yes. With marriage intention. Sir.”
“Ach, well I didn’t ask that, but you have my future blessing, I suppose. Good man. Now you head back to her.”
James grins and nods again, sprinting to the car with Erin’s bags on his back.
Sister Michael realizes it at the seven year reunion.
Well, it’s not exactly a reunion. More like Jenny Joyce’s wedding to some Protestant lad called Dave or Dee or…well, she can’t be bothered to remember.
She’s hung on to her role at Our Lady Immaculate for long enough, longer than she’d ever thought she’d’ve been able to. But retirement: well, that’s looking pretty good right about now.
When the Quinns arrive, the annoying blonde one is buried into the side of the only Englishman to ever attend her college. Said man makes terrified eye contact after a double take and she nods neutrally, trying to hide her smirk. The power really never leaves.
Ach, she should’ve known, is all she can think as Erin and James separate from their group to give her painfully awkward greetings. Erin’s a surprisingly well known author, while James does well enough for himself at the St Vincent's University Hospital. Erin brags loudly about the films he’s made starring her and he blushes, as Sister Michael tries her very best not to boke.
Later, when Jenny throws the bride’s bouquet into the throng of eager twenty to thirty somethings, Erin Quinn dives in without hesitation, and after a few boisterous minutes, comes up with the smushed bouquet in her clutch.
Hair ruined and grass stains on her cheek, she proudly presents the flowers to James. He doesn’t take a look at them, his eyes focused on her. Lovesick. And in front of the guests, Ireland, and God, dips her deep, and kisses her in a disgustingly passionate way.
For the record, it was a revolting, distasteful and shocking display of public affection and Sister Michael did not smile.
Orla, bless her heart, only finds out when they kiss right in front of her.
It’s been ten years now, since they were eighteen, and James has just moved back with Erin to Derry because she’s missed her family.
“What are you two doing?”
James sighs as they break apart. “Oh, Orla. We’re engaged. You know that, you helped me with the proposal, remember?”
“What did you think, us roaming around together all these years, you eejit?” Erin demands.
“I thought you adopted him,” Orla says in a small voice. “English men are very sought after on the adoption market these days, you know,” She adds reproachfully.
Erin just shakes her head.
When they leave to get ready for the rehearsal dinner, Orla smiles a secret smile.
Her cousin takes her for granted sometimes.
She knew it from the day Erin looked at James when she asked Michelle “Who owns the fella?”
Granda Joe has been living in some alternate universe where his granddaughter doesn’t get married to the English Gerry 2.0.
He has had enough to deal with Gerry all these years, and now another one? So, he’s pretended for more than a decade that this one doesn’t exist. Erin knows the state of her precious Granda’s high blood pressure; surely she wouldn’t do something like this to upset his poor heart.
But as the days pass, days turning to weeks, weeks turning to months, and months turning to years, Joe notices things. He notices the way James, that quiet English boy he’d never taken much notice of before, takes Joe’s place walking on the side nearest to the road while with Erin. How he takes over the phone calls when she cries out of missing Mary. How the boy looks at his little Erin the way Joe only ever looked at… well.
It’s why, when James Maguire asks to take a small break with a reassuring nod to his worried wife to be, and walks out of the church, Joe follows, angry at what he’s made him believe.
“You aren’t thinking of walking out on me granddaughter, are ye, son? Because if you are, I’ll tell you—”
“My mum isn’t coming.”
“Mother. Ma. My… my ma isn’t coming. To my wedding. To see the woman I love.”
Joe is quiet for a moment. Ah, Kathy.
“Y’know,” He says slowly. “My Marie’s ma never came to ours either.”
“Sure. Always said I wasn’t good enough for her daughter. South Dublin princess meets Derry trailer scum. It upset me, but not my love, no. She always wanted to get married. Didn’t care where it was. Who it was in front of. ”
“What did you do?”
“I realized it didn’t matter.” Joe grins. “I already had my real family beside me.”
Slowly, the boy starts to smile, and he walks him back in.
Joe sees the full formal kilt, the Claddagh ring he’d toiled for years to save up for, and James’ effervescent smile—it’s almost as if he’s transported back in time.
He decides the wee English fella will do.
“No. I know what you’re trying to do. Trying to enchant me with it, get me to forget about the incestuous shite you lot’ve still got going on. Well, it won’t work!”
James sighs, as he tenderly kisses the top of his love’s head, and she rocks their daughter in her arms.
Erin grins, knowing her cousin-in-law will break anytime soon. “Michelle, meet the newest member of the family, Michelle Maguire.”
And then little Michelle is transferred into her arms.
“Michelle? Oi, you dickhead—!”
The baby gurgles happily up at her, interrupting the string of colorful curses she’s about to let out.
She stares down.
“Well, I’ll allow it, I suppose. For the wee thing.”