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Derry Girls - The Baptism

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Derry Girls - The Baptism Chapter 7 James

They were sitting in his kitchen when she said the words he longed to hear from her.

“I love you,” Erin said, her eyes heavy with emotion, and he felt his heart swell in joy. They were holding hands across the table, untouched steaming cups of tea in front of them, just back from his parish class.

“I love you, too,” he gasped and then they kissed and it was wondrous. “I have for a long time I think.”

“Aye,” she said with a beautiful smile. “I too…I was just afraid to admit it.”

“I know. Makes you feel…”

“Vulnerable,” she said.

“Yes.”

“I think it started when Katya kissed you. I…was jealous…so jealous.”

“As I was when I heard you had a thing for David Donnelly.”

“When was that?”

“Not long after I got here I think. Didn’t quite realize how I felt then but something made me a bit jealous.”

“Really? Well, I never snogged him, if you must know.”

“Oh…good. I mean…well, you knew him long before me, so I would not be surprised if you had.”

“Yeah,” Erin replied. “Knew lots of guys before you. I mean, but none I kissed like you or…you know.”

They both blushed at that, the memory of love making the day before still fresh in their minds and bodies. When he had asked her in for tea again she told him she was not ready to do it again. Her body needed to adjust she felt, to slowly ease into it. He understood and said let’s just have tea, for real this time. And Erin had no time to linger long anyway. Her mother was like a hawk keeping an eye on.

“Sorry…about Katya I mean,” James said. “I was off my head.”

“It’s okay. She was a girl and you are a boy and she wanted to…well…have sex with you. Any boy would have his head turned.”

“Yeah…and…well, you were right. She was using me. I couldn’t see that. So…you did me a favor. The first time should be special…and I don’t think that would have been near as special as being with you.”

She smiled at that. “Aye.”

They were quiet for a minute, sipped their tea and then she spoke again. “James…I’m sorry about my friends butting in all the time.”

“Our friends.”

“Right. Nosy idiots.”

“It’s okay. They were bound to find out. Michelle literally almost caught us.”

“Aye. It’s just so frustrating. No privacy at all. Parents looking over our shoulder. Orla basically blackmailed me into telling her what happened. Said she tell my Ma about us being here alone.”

“God, she’s so…”

“Weird?”

“Yes! Did she really ask to borrow me?”

“Aye. Said she was joking but still and all. I should have smacked her for that.”

James shook his head at that. “I think Orla’s not someone any of us should be smacking. Not after what we saw her do.”

“True. But now she stole your job!”

“Well, it wasn’t my job, it was a job, but she got there first so…let’s just let that be.”

“Right. Okay.”

“Besides, we have exams soon.”

“Yes…and then Christmas. What’s your plan for that?”

“Don’t know,” he said. “Was thinking to go to London to be with mum.”

“Oh,” she said, seemingly disappointed.

“But now…after all the hell she just put me through. I think I’d rather stay here…with you.”

Erin smiled. “Aye. That would be nice.”

The kitchen phone rang just then. “Christ, that will be my ma I bet!” Erin said in worry.

“I thought she was working?”

“Aye, but they got phones there too!”

James went to answer as Erin picked up her book bag. “Tell her you haven’t seen me since school!”

“I don’t want to lie! She’s going to be my godmother!”

The phone rang again. “Well…just say I met you, we walked here and then I just went home.”

He nodded and picked up the phone. “Hello…oh, Michelle. What’s up?” Erin sighed and sat down again.

“Erin there?” Michelle asked. “I am fucking bored off my tits. Business slow today.”

James looked at her and Erin shook her head. “No,” James said. “She’s not here. She walked me home and then went to hers.”

“Really? Sure you two love birds didn’t…”

“Bye, Michelle!” James said and hung up. “God.”

“She asked if we did it again, didn’t she?”

“Yes.”

Erin was angry. “I can’t wait to get away from them all for some peace and quiet in my life!”

James took her hand and she stood and he hugged her tight. “All will be well. We’ll figure it out.”

“I know,” she said quietly. “I just want to be with you. Always.”

“Aye, so do I. It’ll happen. Let’s just go slow. Okay?”

“Aye.”

She pulled back and kissed him tenderly. “I better go.”

He walked her to the door and after one more kiss she was gone.

James came back to the table and sat again. He had to sit for his head was spinning with all that had happened. The taste of her tender lips were still on his and the fresh smell of her was in his nose and thoughts. He had never imagined he would ever feel this way about someone but now he was deeply in love.

And then the phone rang again. Who was it this time? He stood and answered. “Hello?”

This time it was Mary Quinn. “James? Is Erin there?” She had a serious tone in her voice.

“No, Mrs. Quinn, she walked me home from the parish hall and then went to your place. Just ten minutes ago.”

“Right…good.” Now she seemed more relaxed. “So, how are your lessons, son? With Father Peter I mean.”

“Learning a lot. Think I will be ready for Saturday.”

“That’s good. Will your mother be there?”

“No. Can’t get away from London.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.”

“It’s okay. She had her chance 18 years ago to see me baptized.”

“Aye, so she did. Just, don’t be too hard on her son. She was a single mother and back in those days, well, even still today. You can’t imagine the scandal.”

“I guess so. Still, she could have done that one thing for me.”

“Yes, I suppose she could have. Well, I’ve got to go back to work.”

“Okay, good bye Mrs. Quinn.”

“Mary, call me Mary, son.”

“All right. Thank you…Mary.”

“Have a good day.”

“You, too.”

After he hung up James stood by the phone and sighed. They were so nice to him, all of them, well…maybe not in the beginning, but still he felt like part of a family now. He hated to think it, but more now than he ever did in London.

As that thought came to him he was reminded of what had happened in school today. After he exited the male staff toilets, the only toilets on the premises he was permitted to use, he ran into Sister Michael in the corridor.

“Ah, Mr. Maguire, just the person I wanted to see.”

“Yes, sister?” He always hated talking to her, mainly because she made him nervous, and also because she was so…odd. You never knew what she was going to say or do.

“Your mother, did you pass on my message asking her to call me?”

“I did. Yes, last Friday after you told us all of…that.”

“I see. Well…” And James knew what it was about, fearing this.

“She hasn’t called you, has she?’

“Indeed not. And I was so looking forward to scolding her. For the lies she told I mean.”

“Right. Well…I hate to say this but she is not a big fan of…well…you…I mean…nuns in general.”

“Really? I wonder why.”

“Something to do with how she was treated as a single mother.”

“Oh…I see. Yes, we do not look kindly on all that.”

“And yet single pregnant women cannot get an abortion here.”

She gave him a stern look. “This is a conversation we are not going to have. Tell her to call me.”

“It won’t do much good, sister.”

“Not even if I threaten to throw you out?”

“What? It’s not my fault!”

“Well, I suppose you are right. I shall have to make the effort myself. Give me her number, home and work please.”

“Doesn’t the school already have them…in case of emergencies?”

“Yes, right. So…what are you waiting for? Next class is in one minute, off you go!”

And so the week went. Days he studied in class, late afternoons were with Peter, and nights he prepared for exams. He hardly had time to say hi to Erin and of course at school they weren’t allowed any physical contact. And it also got quite annoying at school as almost everyone knew he and Erin were dating. More girls than ever smiled at him and said hi and wanted to talk to him and it grew maddening. Erin was ready to kill them all and even thought about grabbing Miss Mooney’s PA microphone and making a school wide announcement to leave James alone.

“Don’t be daft,” Michelle said to Erin after Erin had mentioned her PA plan at Friday lunchtime in their regular spot in an empty classroom. “Anyway, nothing you can do about it. It’s a natural thing.”

“What’s natural about it?” Erin asked sharply.

“You got a man, well, as much of a man as James can be, so all the single females are jealous of you. Which basically means the whole fucking school is jealous of you…well, except Clare here.”

“I’m not jealous of Erin,” Orla said. “Are you?”

Michelle laughed. “He’s my fucking cousin. Course I am not jealous.”

Clare shook her head “Well, you could be.”

“You’re talking out your hole!” Michelle shot back.

Clare would not be put off. “Not in this situation, cause he’s your cousin. But in a similar situation where a man you know has a new girlfriend. I think it’s more like, they are not jealous of Erin so much, it’s just that suddenly because James has a woman on his arm…”

“They can’t touch in school,” Orla reminded them needlessly.

“I mean because Erin has him for a boyfriend,” Clare continued. “James’ appeal has risen a lot. Girls see him in a new light. Like, wow, he got a girlfriend. Maybe he’s not such a weirdo after all.”

“Thanks a lot, Clare,” James said.

“He never was a weirdo!” Erin said in James’ defense,

“Keep dreaming,” Michelle said. “Remember the creep convention? Where you get all this stuff from anyway Clare?”

“From reading. This one book says in primitive societies in the past a man who successfully mated with a woman or many women had greater appeal to all the unattached women. And even today if a man has a steady girlfriend or gets married, then other women see him in a new light. They see him as stable, resourceful, a breadwinner. Basically not a loser.”

James smiled. “Right. So…has my appeal gone up?”

“Wise up,” Michelle said. “Of course not. You’re still a loser.”

“Nice,” James said. She would never give up on trying to bring him down.

“I don’t know, “Erin said. “What else explains all these girls coming at him?”

“They’re just horny!” Michelle said with a smirk. “Now, Clare, what does all your reading say about how all this works in the lesbian world?”

“Still researching,” she said. “There isn’t a lot on lesbians in the library.”

“Maybe online,” James suggested.

“Aye,” Clare replied. “I might do that when I get a computer for home.”

They all stared at her. “You’re getting a computer for home?” Erin asked.

Clare now seem flustered. “I...well…no. I mean my aunt has one in Strabane.”

Orla wasn’t buying it. “You said you were getting a computer for home.”

“Aren’t they like a thousand quid?” Michelle asked.

“About half that for an okay one,” James said. “I told you that last week.”

“Right. So, Clare….what’s the story?” Michelle asked.

Clare gulped and was getting flustered and finally blurted it out. “I…I came into some money girls.”

“How much?” Orla asked.

“That’s rude,” James said and suddenly he knew why she came into some money. “Clare, you don’t have to talk about this.”

She stared at him. “You know?”

“I have an idea.”

“Then tell us!” Michelle almost screamed.

“Leave off,” Erin said to Michelle, and James knew she could see the look of concern on his face. “If Clare wants to tell us she will.”

Clare took a deep breath. “Well, you’re going to find out some day. May as well be now. My father had…some insurance…and last week it came through.”

They were all silent now. “Oh,” Michelle finally said. She looked at James. “How did you know?”

“My step-dad’s father died and had some insurance. My step-dad gave me about 500 quid out of it. Years ago.”

All was quiet again and then Clare spoke. “It’s enough for university and a computer and…and…” And then a tear fell and she quickly wiped her eyes and she tried to speak again but then a big sob came out of her. “I wish it was gone!” she cried. “I wish he were back!”

They surrounded her and hugged her tight. A long while later Erin spoke. “Aye we all wish he were back. Clare. But naught we can do about it. And he left that money for you to have a future. So be grateful he had the sight to see it done.”

“I know,” she said as she wiped her eyes. “That’s what my aunt said. My ma called it blood money. God. Just…it’s Christmas too…my ma said she can’t do Christmas here.”

They were all taken aback by this news. “You won’t be here for Christmas?” Orla said in disappointment.

“No,” Clare told them. “I’m going to try to come for Boxing Day. Maybe we can meet then.”

“For sure,” James said.

Then a bell rang. Time for computer class again. Today they started to learn word processing, how to make documents, save, edit, and print and so on.

“Wow,” Erin said from his side. “This would make writing my novel a lot easier. No more pens or bloody typewriters.”

Orla was sitting next to Erin on the other side. “Erin, you’ve been writing that novel for years. When will you finish?”

“When it’s done!” Erin snapped her cousin. “And don’t go looking for it!”

“Aye, I won’t again.”

“What?”

“I found it already. Too boring if you tell me.”

“It is not boring!” Erin said. “Someday you will eat those words Orla when my novel becomes a literary masterpiece.”

“If the words are made of chocolate then for sure,” Orla said with a grin.

James had to laugh at that. “Don’t encourage her,” Erin said to him.

After computer class as they walked to the next class, English, Orla had some more vital information than about Erin’s novel.

“We got ‘The Fifth Element’ into the video shop yesterday,” Orla told James. “Ten copies. I can hold one back for you if you get there by 5 PM.”

James was about to say okay, really wanting to see the sci-fi action movie with Bruce Willis, but then remembered something. “I’ll be so busy tomorrow with the baptism I won’t have time to return it tomorrow.”

“Not to worry,” Orla told him. “I am in command. I have to work the afternoon anyway so I’ll take it back. So you’ll come?”

“Why don’t you just take the video to James’ place after work?” Erin asked.

Orla shook her head. “Won’t get off till 10 PM. Friday night is busy night in the video world.”

“That won’t leave any time to watch it,” James said in disappointment.

“I’ll get it,” Erin said.

“All set then,” Orla said. As they trooped into English class Clare hung back and touched James’ arm.

“Can I have a word?” she asked, a bit nervous.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“I…well…I wanted to ask Laurie to come to your baptism tomorrow. If that’s okay.”

“Why wouldn’t it be? Of course she can come.”

Clare smiled, “Grand!” Then her smile fell a bit. “Oh, I am so nervous. It’s the first time everyone will meet her. In person…I mean…together…with family. I mean your families. My mum already knows her.”

“Right. I am sure everyone will get along fine.”

After school James had his last lesson with Peter but this time it was in the church. They stood by a font that was filled with water.

“So after your godparents answer the questions about renouncing Satan and embracing Jesus, you approach…” Peter continued explaining but James interrupted him.

“Like Michael did in in the Godfather. Renouncing Satan.”

“Yes, but hopefully Gerry and Mary Quinn are not planning to secretly wipe out their enemies during this ceremony.”

“Don’t think they have any….right, sorry. Go on.”

“Then I will three times pour water from the font over your head. As I pour the water each time I will say ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’. You say nothing, and just bend slightly and let the water drain off of your head back into the font.”

“So I’ll be wet all day after that?”

“No, I will give you a towel.”

“Oh. Good. Ah, I thought this was supposed to be done in a river or lake? And my entire body is submersed?”

“It’s December, James. I don’t think you’d like that very much.”

“No, not at all.”

“And that is more of an old fashioned way to baptize someone.”

“But I saw in this movie…”

“This is not a movie.”

“Right. Sorry.”

“Not at all. And then I say a few more words about welcoming you to the Church and that will be the end of the ceremony.  Finally, from our conversations I understand you never did confession.”

James gulped. “Confession?”

“Yes. In our lessons you learned that confession is a way of cleansing the soul, to rid it of all the burdens you carry.”

“Right…you want me to confess now? Here?”

“Well…usually we sit in the booth over there with a screen between us and there is a level of anonymity. But that won’t do in this case since we are both aware who we are talking to. Why don’t we just talk here?”

“About what?”

“Your sins, of course.”

“Not sure I have any.”

“Everyone has sins, James. Even me.”

“Really? Like what?”

Peter smiled. “You first.”

James thought and then nodded. “Well, sometimes I’d like to strangle my cousin Michelle. Is that a sin?”

“Yes. Wishing to do bodily harm to another is a sin. Now why do you feel this way?”

“She is constantly insulting me and putting me down. And she leaves me no privacy at all.”

“Hmmm, I wonder why?”

James was confused. “Are you asking me why or do you know why?”

“I have a feeling.”

“Can you share that feeling?”

“What do you know about your cousin Niall?”

James was taken aback. No one ever talked about Niall. “Ah…I know he is in jail.”

“Yes. For a terrible crime.”

“I heard. Don’t know the details.”

“Few do. Now, just over three years ago Michelle’s brother goes to prison. Shortly after that you arrive and I would venture are sleeping in his room.”

“I am. And…oh…I see. Michelle is mad at me for replacing her brother.”

“Yes, in some ways that may be true. She is taking out her anger about her brother’s crime on you.”

James shook his head. “I don’t know about that. Even when we were young she was always giving me a hard time when we visited.”

“Really? Well maybe there is a lot of resentment built up. How did she treat you when you first arrived here to go to school?”

“Like a thing she had to drag around and look out for so I did not get in trouble.”

“Ah, now I understand. Your arrival placed a higher level of responsibility on her shoulders. So, her treating you badly is her way to get back at you. From what I know about Michelle she seems like someone who just wants to enjoy life.”

“You’re not wrong there.”

“Right. So, how does it feel to talk about that?”

“Good…a little.”

“And that is what confession is for. To talk about things we may have done and to unburden ourselves. So, what else is there you need to unburden?”

“Well…I sometimes swear.”

“So does everyone. You ever listen closely to Sister Michael?”

“Yeah…try not to too much."

"Yes. So, any more sins?"

"Oh, I once stole two pound from my mum’s purse.”

“Good. I mean not good, but good you mentioned that. Theft is a serious sin.”

“I know. But I was a kid and I wanted ice cream from the shop.”

“Still not a good reason to steal. So, what else?”

“Hmmm, can’t think of anything off hand.”

“Right. Okay, well it’s a good start.”

“I can go?”

“No. We haven’t touched on your relationship with Erin Quinn yet.”

James gulped harder. “Ah…what about it?”

“I hear you are dating. Boyfriend, girlfriend. Yes?”

“Ah. Yes.” Jesus, did the whole town know? “But dating is not a sin. I mean if it were then the whole world would have ended with Adam and Eve.”

“True. No, I just wanted to ask you how you felt about dating her.”

“It’s great. For the first time in a long time I don’t feel lonely.”

“Good. It is nice to find someone you care about.”

“We do care about each other. A lot.”

He nodded. “I understand that feeling. As you know, well…I had a bit of a trial myself a few years back.”

“Yes, I remember the hairdresser.”

Peter looked uncomfortable. “Yes…tempted me away from my work with God. We are all only flesh, weak flesh, James! So, my advice to you is…be careful…and don’t be tempted.”

“You mean about sex, right?”

“Yes!!”

James sighed. “Look, I think that is no one’s business but ours. Even the Church. Besides, we are both of a proper age.”

He gave him a long look. “I see. And do you remember how you came into this world James?”

“Of course. My mum…oh, right.”

“Yes. An unwed mother. So, just be careful.”

“I will be. Thanks. I care too much for Erin to ever let something like that happen.”

“Good. She is special.”

James smiled. “I know.”

“Good. Well, I think we are done.”

“Can I go?”

“No. Two Hail Mary’s and three Our Father’s for your sins.”

James knelt in the front pew and said the prayers and then crossed himself as he stood. “See you tomorrow morning. Thanks for everything Father.”

“See you James. I look forward to it.”

As James exited the Church he felt somewhat better for talking to Peter about all that. And maybe most of all he felt better because tomorrow at last it would be over with and all his fears would be put aside and then he could start on his new life…and he wanted most of all for that life to continue to be happy with the one he loved more than anyone else in the whole world.