Chapter 1: Sister Michael
Derry Girls - The Baptism
I got this idea from an interview where creator Lisa McGee talked about a storyline they had no time for. All the characters are hers and I merely walk in the grand footsteps she created.
The story will be from multiple points of view. How many chapters it will be I know not yet. Some background can be found in my previous story “About That Wee Snog”.
WARNING!! SPOILERS AHEAD! If anyone has not seen Derry Girls Series 3 there are plenty of spoilers ahead so be warned.
Sister Michael looked at the five of them, her prime troublemakers the last few years. They stood before her desk in her office in Our Lady Immaculate College, panic on their faces, called from their lunch break to face her. Good, she thought. They don’t know why they are here. This was going to be grand.
“So,” she began. “The report is finally here.”
Puzzlement on all five faces, and more panic, especially on Clare Devlin’s face, as if wondering if she had forgotten to do a school report and would now get a failing grade. Finally Erin Quinn spoke. ”Report, sister? What report?”
“The archdiocese’s office report on you five…my troublemakers.”
Now they looked ready to faint. She smiled and took out a thick file and opened it. “Where shall I begin? Oh, yes. All the bother started almost three years ago with the arrival of you, Mr. Maguire.”
“What?” James Maguire said. “Me? Sister, if anything I am innocent of all this…whatever it is. In fact…”
His cousin Michelle Mallon interrupted. “Wise up, James. We’re all in this together.” Then she looked at Sister Michael. “You know you are right, sister. Us four were perfect students before my English dickhead of a cousin arrived.”
“I wouldn’t say perfect,” Orla McCool said. “Remember the time we…”
“Shut up!” Clare said. “If she wants to blame James then let her blame James!”
“Oh, thanks Clare,” James said in anger. “Throw me to the wolves, why don’t you?”
“Aye, let’s,” Michelle said with a smirk. “So, he’s all yours sister. Can we finish our lunch now?”
“Please, sister,” Orla added. “My sandwich is going off as it is.”
“Your sandwich is fine,” Erin snapped at her cousin. She looked at Sister Michael with pleading eyes. “I know we’ve been a…well…a wee bit of a bother…but James is…well…not totally innocent…but we should all take some blame…for whatever this is.”
Michelle scoffed. “Just cause you snogged him doesn’t mean you have to stick up for the dickhead.”
“Miss Mallon, enough of the language,” Sister Michael shouted. “Wait…you snogged him?” As she said this she made a distasteful face.
“I did,” Erin said proudly.
“Whatever possessed you?” Sister Michael asked in genuine distaste now.
“We’ve more than snogged,” Erin almost shouted, eyes flashing. “We’ve…”
“Honestly,” James said with a groan. “Erin, enough, please.”
“No, James. I am not afraid to tell her.”
Sister Michael now looked panicked. “You mean….out of wedlock!?! God almighty!”
“Jesus,” said Michelle. “You never told me that. God, I might just boke!”
“Wow,” said Clare. “Good for you guys.”
Orla smiled. “So, how was he?”
“Stop it, please!” James shouted, red in the face now. “We never did that!”
“Oh,” said Sister Michael. “Good. So…what we’re we talking about?”
“Before you all took a cack attack,” Erin said in her snarkiest way. “I was going to say James and I are dating, sister.”
Now Sister Michael felt her fury boiling up. “I will not have students dating on my watch!!”
“Why?” James asked. “It’s no one’s business.”
“It certainly is my business!” Sister Michael shouted at him. “When Our Lady Immaculate allowed you to enter its grounds I had a serious talk with your mother.”
“What?” James asked. “What about?”
Oh, this was awkward. “Well…she assured me there would be no…funny business. Well…this is so…she told me you were gay!”
“She did what?” James shouted and Michelle laughed, Orla made a puzzled face, and Clare looked furious.
Erin spoke first. “I can assure you sister he is in no way gay.”
Orla laughed. “That rhymes! No way gay!”
“He still might be bi,” Michelle added as she laughed again.
Erin stared at her. “Will you shut up for once!!?”
Clare was now glaring at Sister Michael. “Are you telling me that the only reason you let James in the school was because you thought he was gay?”
“Well, to be frank…yes.”
“I’m gay!!” Clare shouted.
Sister Michael sighed. “I know. The whole fecking town knows. And that’s lovely dear. I have long supported gay rights. Why do you think I let you lot wear those rainbow pins all this time? And let your issue of the Habit get published?”
“But you censored us,” James protested.
“Yes, yes I did. But in the end I let it go. And you would not believe how many gays are in the…well, never mind. And you were already here Miss Devlin so we couldn’t very well…kick you out.”
“Oh…right,” Clare said, seemingly confused. “I mean…yes. I…yes. Wait. What?”
“Do you think you are the first lesbian to ever go here?” Sister Michael asked.
“Oh. I thought I was.”
“Well, the first one so open about it,” Sister Michael told her. “But we’ve had a number of young ladies who were gay. Just…not so open. Like you. Not till after they left here at least.”
“Who was it?” Clare asked, her eyes sparkling with interest.
Michelle spoke up. “I know one. Do you remember Sheila from a few years ago?”
“No,” said Erin.
“Can’t recall,” Orla added.
“Big Sheila!” Michelle said. “Tall, red hair, freckles, a bit of a lopsided ear.”
“That’s not helping,” Clare said. “Half of Ireland has red hair and freckles!”
“She the one who made a pass at you in the loo?” James asked.
“Too right she did,” said Michelle with some pride. “She fancied the hole off of me. Of course I told her to fuck off, but still felt nice to be wanted.”
Sister Michael sighed again. No matter how many times she told her to stop swearing it never worked. God, I need a whisky. These five were maddening.
“Now back to the matter at hand…wait. Miss Devlin, are you dating someone?”
“Yes,” said Clare proudly. “But she doesn’t go here.”
“Oh, thank God. And your mother knows?”
“Of course. We all had dinner the other night.”
“Oh…fine. Now back to…”
“I can’t believe my mother said that,” James moaned.
“You’re lucky she did!” Michelle snapped at him. “Or you’d never be here.”
Erin looked at Sister Michael. “You’re seriously saying you would not have let James study here if you knew he was straight?”
“It was not my call,” Sister Michael answered. “The board of governors was against it, fearing having one of them…a man…among the innocent girls of this college.”
“Innocent girls?” Michelle said with a grin. “Stories I could tell you…I mean…never mind.”
“I think that is best,” Sister Michael said. “So, back to you two.” She glared at Erin and James. “I think I shall be ringing your parents to discuss all this.”
“Erin’s know,” Orla said. “Caught them snogging.”
“Aye,” said Erin. “Quite embarrassing all around.”
“Well,” said Sister Michael. “And your mother, James?”
“She…she’s in London. We don’t talk much.”
“I see. Well, I will have to take it on faith she did not know your sexual…what’s the word…Miss Devlin?”
“Ah…orientation I believe is correct sister.”
“Yes, fine. Or perhaps she knew and lied to me. So Mr. Maguire I expect to hear from your mother so I can shout at her a bit about misleading me about your sexual…orientation. Yes?”
“I’ll have her ring you then?”
“Quite so. That should be fun. Now Miss Quinn, Mr. Maguire. I cannot stop you from doing what you want…outside the school grounds. As long as your parents know. But there will be no funny business at my school!! No snogging, no hand holding, no hugging, no passing notes in class, no sweet whispers or smiles in the hallways, no secret rendezvous in the broom closet on the third floor!”
“Yeah, that’s a shite place to make out anyways,” Michelle said. “Ah…so I heard.”
She ignored Michelle again, hoping she would shut up for once. She glared at James and Erin. “Well?”
“Yes, Sister Michael,” they said in unison.
“Good. Now to the report.”
“I’d forgotten all about it,” said Orla. “Are we in it?”
“Aye,” Sister Michael told them. “It’s all about you five. And all the trouble you’ve caused me the last three years. Where shall I begin?”
All five were silent for once and she grinned, having their fate in her hands. This was that part she loved the best.
“So, Mr. Maguire. You joined us over two and half years ago. And do you recall what happened on that first day?”
He nodded. “We all got detention.”
“Correct. And Miss Mallon, why did you get detention?”
“Cause that miniature arsehole would not accept our apology.”
“No,” snapped Clare. “Because you bullied her and gave the finger to Jenny Joyce and… it was all your fault!”
“Wow,” said Sister Michael. “Déjà vu. Miss Devlin. I have heard this before. Please not again.” She looked down at the report. “And then what happened in detention?”
“Are you going to make us go through all this in detail?” Erin asked.
Erin huffed. “Fine! Sister Declan died of a heart attack at age 97!”
“And you lot were caught by me doing the most bizarre things around her dead body! You Miss Quinn were trying to climb out the window, going to God only knows where.”
“To see a concert!” Orla said.
“Orla!!” Erin snapped. “Shut up!”
“A concert?” Sister Michael asked. “Whose concert?”
“It wasn’t a concert,” Erin explained. “It was more of a gig, sister.”
“David Donnelly’s stupid band,” Michelle said. “Erin used to fancy him. Maybe still does, eh James? Some competition for you there.”
“What?” James asked in confusion. “Erin, is this true?”
“No! I fancy you!”
Michelle gagged. “Enough with the romance. Please stop.”
“Yes, please,” Sister Michael said. “As for you Miss Mallon, you were rifling through Sister Delcan’s purse. She stole your lipstick you claimed.”
“Too right she did.”
“Well, that was proven true. Still, I see you are often pushing the limits of allowable make up and jewelry Miss Mallon. Less is better. Understood?”
“Aye, sister.” Michelle said so quietly it was almost as if she hadn’t said it.
“Good. Now Mr. Maguire…”
“Do we have to go through this again?”
“You were pissing in a bucket.”
“English savage!” Michelle snapped.
“I was not permitted to use a toilet!” James protested. “And if my mum had not threatened to sue the school for violating my human rights…I’d still be pissing in a bucket every day.”
“Can we stop talking about the peeing?” Clare said with a distasteful face.
“Very well. Miss Devlin. You were eating Sister Declan’s sandwich. Claimed you were fasting for a charity for Ethiopia. A fellow named Wee Kamel was it?”
“So you broke your fast and failed Wee Kamel, didn’t you?”
“Aye,” Clare said with a guilty look.
“And finally Miss McCool. You were…playing with the corpse?” She read that from the report. “Well. That’s a bit much. We’ll have to change that wording.”
“Thank you, sister,” Orla said. “I just thought it funny she slept with her eyes opened.”
“She was dead,” Erin told her cousin.
“Aye, so she was,” Orla replied. “Nightmare all together.”
Sister Michael turned to the next page in the report. “Now, onto the next incident. We have heard about your adventures in the chip shop.”
“What?” asked Erin, in surprise. “That’s nothing to do with the school, sister.”
“Oh, it certainly does, Miss Quinn. What you do outside these walls reflects on the school in every way.”
“We’re screwed then,” said Michelle.
“So,” said Sister Michael. “Stole a notice board from the chip shop, then while cleaning said chip shop as punishment set fire to some curtains and then pretended to be tied up by the IRA. Is that about it?”
“No,” said Orla. “James tried to clean the windows with mayonnaise.”
“Orla!” James said in protest.
“Yes, that’s all sister,” Michelle said quickly. “What’s next?”
Sister Michael gave her a look. “What are you hiding?”
“Miss Devlin?” Sister Michael asked the group snitch. But for once she was quiet.
“No, that’s all sister.”
“Very well. May I ask girls what possessed you to steal the notice board in the first place?”
“We wanted to get jobs and make money for Paris,” Erin told her.
“Why didn’t you just take the notices off the board?” Sister Michael asked.
“That’s what I said!” James said in somewhat of a triumphant voice.
“Shut it, dickhead,” Michelle snapped at him. “What’s next sister?”
“Ah, let’s see. Oh yes, the worst of them all.”
“Oh, no,” said Erin. “Not the miracle?”
“The fake miracle you mean, Miss Quinn.”
“We explained all that,” said Clare. “We didn’t know the dog did it!”
“Miss Quinn did,” Sister Michael said.
“Aye, I did,” Erin admitted. “I feel really bad about all that sister. I mean…Father Peter quitting the church and all…”
“That had more to him being horny I think,” said Michelle.
“Well, it did, didn’t it?” Michelle shot back.
Sister Michael sighed. “Moving on. Oh, Miss Quinn again. Accusing one of our visiting Ukrainians of being a prostitute.”
“That was a misunderstanding sister,” Erin protested. “The lads were giving her money and I thought…and then I saw condoms in her purse, and she wanted to ride James, so…”
“What?” Sister Michael said. “She wanted to have sex with James?”
“I know, disgusting, isn’t it?” said Michelle.
“I liked the chocolate fountain at the party,” said Orla. Sister Michael ignored her as she often did. Orla was just…Orla.
“And you tried to stop her?” Sister Michael said to Erin.
“You had feelings for James,” said Clare.
“What?” James said. “Really? Back then?”
“No! I mean…not then…I think,” said Erin in small voice. “James, sorry can we talk about this...alone.”
“Of course,” he said with a smile.
“I think that is best for all,” Sister Michael said.
“Amen,” Michelle added. “So is that it? All done?”
“Certainly not! Now we have the…well, we already talked about this. The Habit. The board of governors was…and is…quite miffed about it.”
“Arseholes,” Clare said and then looked in shock at Sister Michael. “Sorry sister! It just came out!”
“No, you are right, they are a bunch of…well. And not as enlightened as many. And many parents had a word or two with me about that when their daughters brought it home. As did the bishop. Well…enough said. What is done is done. Let’s move on. The weekend pursuit with the Protestant boys.”
“Oh, God,” said Erin.
“Yes, oh God. More trouble than I needed. Having a party with those boys then all the drama of the next day. Well…we all know what happened. As does the bishop. Next…”
“Excuse me sister,” James said. “Sorry to ask, but is there a point to going over all this again? I mean we all know what we did.”
She sighed. He was right. It was too tedious. “Right. Let’s just skip ahead.” She turned some pages. “Miss Quinn shouting at me for supposedly firing Ms. De Brun. Ah, my statue of the Child of Prague almost kidnapped and then broken. Luckily repaired well enough. You lot suspended a week, a very peaceful week I must add.”
“Not for us,” Clare mumbled.
“And then flooding a house at a wake. Your fault I believe, Miss Quinn?”
“So it was, sister,” Erin said, clearly embarrassed.
“Right, and then the prom,” Sister Michael said. “A disgraceful act.”
“We were trying to save Jenny!” Clare protested.
“As we said many times,” Michelle added.
“It was fun, that prom,” Orla chimed in. “I got to dance!!”
“Fun, was it?” Erin snapped at her cousin. “You weren’t on stage all covered in tomato sauce!!”
“Of course,” said Orla. “I’m not stupid.”
“That’s debatable,” Erin mumbled under her breath.
“Enough!” Sister Michael shouted. Then she picked up a piece of paper. “Well…it seems we have a new report on Mae Chung…kicked out of the Catholic school system all together. Another incident at her new school. Tried to set fire to a girl for dating a boy she liked. Hmmm…vicious child. Well, good riddance to her.”
Clare trembled. “She tried to set fire to a girl! But…we got her kicked out of here. She swore vengeance!!”
“Let her try!” said Michelle.
“Aye!” added Orla. “I’ll take her on myself!! So I will!!”
“Let’s all just calm down,” James advised.
“Yes, please do,” said Sister Michael. “Now, we have the break in at the school where you lot were all arrested.”
“We helped the police catch those crooks!” Clare said.
“So you did,” Sister Michael agreed. “And your video camera Mr. Maguire revealed that all you were doing was trying to find your GCSE scores. Correct?”
They all looked down and nodded. “Right. Well, since I led you on about that mess…let’s just forget it. And you being witnesses did help us recover all the computer equipment. So…that brings us to…my aunt’s house.”
“Oh, no,” said James.
“Oh, yes. First a flat tyre on a school vehicle you were responsible for Mr. Maguire.”
“That wasn’t my fault,” James protested.
“Aye,” said Orla. “The devil did it.”
“She’s joking sister,” Erin quickly said. “It was just an accident.”
“As was beating that man in the wrong house?”
“Aye,” said Michelle. “As we said all just misunderstandings.”
“And what about the milk crate I found full of beer bottles and vodka and mixers next to the van?”
“Not ours!” all five said as one.
“Hmmm….luckily that did well for drinks at the wake. Now, is that it?”
“Oh,” said Orla. “And Erin and James kissed for the first time in the ghost house.”
“Orla!” James and Erin said in exasperation.
“I caught them at it,” Michelle added. “So disgusting.”
Sister Michael sighed again. “Well…that’s the end of it.”
“Thank God,” Erin said. “Can we go?”
“Certainly not. The reason I did all this was to give evidence so I don’t have you lot screaming in protest!”
“Screaming in protest about what?” Erin asked.
“That you are all on probation!”
“What?” asked James.
“I don’t understand,” Orla said.
“It means were fucked,” Michelle told them.
“You are correct in your own crude way Miss Mallon. You have been on probation in the past for smoking in the toilets. Tell them what it means.”
“It means if we screw up again we can be expelled.”
“NO!!” Clare almost screamed. “I knew it! I knew you lot would drag me down to your own level one day!!
“Calm down, Clare!” Erin said as she stared at Sister Michael. “How long is this probation? A few weeks? A month?”
“No, Miss Quinn. For the remainder of your time here. The bishop was quite clear on that. He and I are tired of all the shenanigans! And I will be making phone calls to your families. Now get out!”
There was nothing they could say. She had them dead to rights, the evidence against them too strong. She loved this part of the job. Time for a whisky.
They were on their way out when she stopped them. As they turned around Sister Michael picked up one more piece of paper from the file, looked and then stared at James. “Mr. Maguire, we do not have your baptismal certificate on file with the diocese.”
“Really? Didn’t my mum give you a copy when I registered here?”
“She said she would send it later. Never did and I clear forgot about it. Now the bishop says there is no record of you being baptized in Ireland.”
“But he was born in England,” Erin said. “Check there.”
“They did,” Sister Michael told them, a worried look on her face. “Nowhere in the British Isles is James registered as a baptized Catholic.”
They all stared at James now, worry on their faces. “What does it all mean?” he asked in a small voice.
“It’s not good,” said Michelle, tender for once.
“Aye,” said Orla. “Bad all around.”
“It means you can’t go here,” Clare said.
“She’s right,” Erin told him. “You’ll have to finish school somewhere else. And…oh, God…if my parents think you are not Catholic…”
“Oh, yes,” Erin said in a small voice. She turned to Sister Michael. “There must be something he can do?”
“The bishop’s report says he has a week to turn in a baptismal certificate.”
“How do I do that?” James asked in exasperation. “If I’ve never been baptized.”
“Well,” Sister Michael said. “Then I suppose it was time you were.”
Chapter 2: James
James has a lot to sort through, probation at school, his up coming baptism, an awkward call to his mother, and his growing feelings for Erin.
Derry Girls - The Baptism - Chapter 2 James
James sat in a daze for the rest of the day, the sound of Sister Michael’s voice echoing through his head. No baptismal certificate. Not a registered Catholic. Maybe kicked out of school. Maybe…separated from the girl that he was so terribly fond of.
“Why does it even matter?” Erin asked as they sat in an empty classroom and finished their interrupted lunches, most with sandwiches and some snacks from home, and soft drinks bought from the hallway vending machine. “James is a Catholic. He goes to our school, our church, believes what we believe. End of story.”
“No, it’s not,” Clare informed her. “Without being baptized he can’t get into heaven.”
“God,” Michelle said in disgust. “Bloody Church and their rules.”
“Michelle!” Clare said in shock. “You can’t slag off the Church!”
“Why not?” Michelle shot back. “Let me ask you something. Have you even considered the Church’s view on gays? Huh?”
Now Clare looked pale. “I know. I heard all about it from Laurie. It’s not good folks. In America she told me it’s worse. They even have places where they try to convert you!”
“Convert you?” Orla asked as she munched on her sandwich. “You mean make you Protestant?”
“No,” said Clare. “Try to make you not gay!!”
“How can they do that?” James asked. It sounded idiotic. “If you’re gay you’re gay. Right?”
“I don’t know about other girls,” said Clare. “But I’ve always been gay. And always will be!”
“Bloody fucking Americans,” Michelle said. “They got more gays in San Francisco than all of Ireland I bet. And they still get on their high horse and knock your lot down.”
“I know,” said Clare. “And what did Sister Michael mean when she said they can’t kick me out? Did someone suggest I should be kicked out for being a lesbian?”
“She said a lot of things, Clare,” Erin replied. “I don’t think she meant that. What a furor that would cause.”
“We’d riot!” Orla said. “No worries, we got your back.”
“Thank you!” Clare said. “It’s so class to have such good friends.”
They could all agree on that at least. But James still had worries. “So…I can’t get into heaven. So where do I go when I die?”
“Limbo,” Michelle said.
“What? Limbo? You mean like the dance?”
“Not at all,” Clare explained. “It’s like a big nothing...kinda floating through space in darkness…I think. Kind of like hell but without the eternal flames, pain, and devils.”
“It sounds nice,” Orla said.
“It’s not nice, Orla,” Erin said to her cousin. “Were you even awake in Sunday school?”
“Wait. Sunday school?” James asked. “What’s that?”
“Jesus Christ!” Michelle said. “Didn’t your ma make you go to Sunday school?”
“No…I don’t even know what it is.”
“Lucky you,” Erin said.
“School on Sunday,” Orla told him. “In the parish hall. A real drag. Used to miss the Disney hour.”
“A real drag, indeed,” said Clare. “Where the nuns would scare us wains half to death with tales of brimstone and fire if we cursed or hit our friend or stole a sweet from the shop. We also learned about all the things we had to do to be good Catholics. And then confession…oh, that was the worst.”
“You mean the best,” Michelle said with a grin. “Always liked it when the priest gasped in shock at my sins.”
James now felt more left out. He knew about many of the Church’s rituals but hadn’t taken part in almost all. “I’ve never been to confession,” he admitted.
“What about First Communion?” Erin asked.
He shook his head. “No…never. Not the ceremony at least.”
“God,” Michelle said. “Did you even go to mass before you came here?”
James sighed. “Not often. Christmas and Easter. I did get communion then. Just got in line with everyone else and no one said I couldn’t. Those few times were with my step-dad. A funeral once, too. His father. My mum and step-dad we not very religious. I think my mum was mad at the church cause of their views on single mothers.”
“Aye,” said Erin. “They are right strict about that too. And abortions. Kind of a Catch-22. We don’t want you to be a single mother but we won’t let you have an abortion. Idiots.”
“That’s why Cathy moved to England,” Michelle said with a smirk. “They’re not such tight arseholes there. Well, least on abortion. Luckily for you James she never went through with it!”
“That joke is getting old,” Erin said in defense of James.
“Ach, sticking up for your man, is it?” Michelle shot back.
“Aye, I am! So leave it.” She gave James a look and he smiled and she smiled back and if made him feel warm all over. It was going to be so hard to follow Sister Michael’s rules.
“Stop arguing,” Clare said. “We have to figure all this out. And if you haven’t forgotten we are all on probation! I really don’t want to go home and face my mother.”
“Aye,” said Orla. “It’ll be rough.”
Erin scoffed. “Your ma hardly ever punishes you. Mine on the other hand.”
The girls then bantered on about whose mother gave them the worst punishment ever and James just sat there and listened. His mum had hardly ever punished him. He thought he had been lucky in that regard. Now he realized maybe she just didn’t care enough to bother.
“Can I just ask something?” he finally said.
“Sure,” said Erin. “What’s up?”
“This baptism…what exactly do I have to do?”
They were silent for a moment, looking at each other. Clare finally spoke. “Ah…well, we were all babies when we did it so. Not really sure.”
“They drown you,” said Orla.
“What?” James said in shock. “Drown you?”
“No, they don’t,” Erin reassured him. “But you get water sprinkled on your head. I think.”
“And you get godparents!” Michelle added.
“Godparents? You mean like a godfather?” James asked, a little excited. The Godfather was his favorite movie.
“And a godmother,” said Clare.
“I’ll be your godmother,” Orla said. “No sweat.”
“What?” Erin said. “You can’t be his godmother!”
“Why not?” asked Michelle. “It just can’t be your ma and da. Anyone else can be it.”
“Well, you certainly don’t want Orla!” Erin said. “You want someone responsible, who’s not half mad!”
“Oh, and you would be better?” Orla shot back.
“For a certain!!”
“I’ll do it,” Clare said with a smile. “Please, James. I want to be a godmother!”
“Ach, you’re all talking out your holes,” Michelle shouted at her friends. “I’m his cousin. I get first dibs!”
Before they could argue further a bell rang. Five minutes to next class. “That’s us,” said Michelle. “To be continued ladies.”
They started to pack away their lunch boxes in their bags and head for the door. “What’s first for you lot?” Erin asked.
Clare gave her a look. “For all of us. Computer class.”
The new computer room was all the rage at Our Lady Immaculate. Twenty computers, the latest upgrades and best of all…the Internet!
They trooped into the room and quickly grabbed five chairs and five computers near the back. Then in came their two enemies, Jenny Joyce and her friend Aisling. James was never really sure how the war started between these two and his friends but he knew why it continued. Jenny Joyce was the most annoying person he had ever met in his life. She came from money and had a condescending attitude that just rubbed people the wrong way.
“Hiya guys!” she said in her sing-song voice.
Michelle glared at her. “Buzz off, Jenny! We’ve enough on our plate without you adding to it.”
“So I’ve heard. Probation, is it?”
“How did you hear that?” Erin asked in shock. “We just found out.”
“Well, as you know, I am a prefect. So Sister Michael informed me of your circumstances. Told me to keep an eye on you. Make sure all was on the up and up.”
This day was just getting worse. Clare of course was the first to kiss Jenny’s ass. “All is up and up, Jenny. You’ll have no problems from us!”
“Ass kisser,” Michelle said under her breath. “Like I said Jenny, buzz off!”
“Well,” Jenny said in a huff. “I don’t think I like your attitude, not one bit!”
“Michelle, if you give her the finger I will kill you,” Erin said out the side her mouth. “She’s sorry, Jenny. Just had a bit of a shock we did. Still trying to absorb it. Now if you do not mind, we want to study.”
Jenny nodded. “Very well.”
Aisling spoke up, looking directly at James. “Have you used the Internet before?”
“Never,” James told her.
“Well,” she said with a grin to him. “I have it at home so if you need some help just ask.”
“You have the Internet…at home?” Clare asked in awe.
“So do I,” Jenny said with pride. “It’s all the rage, girls. Just get your parents to hook it up. Goes straight to your computer in your bedroom.”
“We don’t have a computer in our bedroom,” Orla told them.
Jenny and Aisling looked shocked. “What…none of you?” Aisling asked.
“No, we don’t,” Erin informed her. “And you lot would not have them in this room either if we hadn’t solved the crime of the century!”
“But you were also breaking into the school with the robbers, weren’t you?” Jenny asked in her snide way.
“We were,” said Orla. “The door was open though. So no breaking. Just entering.”
“Not with the robbers,” James said. “After them. And then…well…”
“You helped them load our computers into their van?” Jenny said.
“Yes, okay!” Michelle said. “Don’t tell me you’ve got an uncle in the RUC?”
“Of course I don’t,” Jenny said in a huff. “They don’t take Catholics!!”
“They got two,” Orla said. “And a wee Jewish fellow who’s lovely.”
The teacher came in then, and told everyone to sit down. He was a young man, who had just graduated from university in computer science. After he set up the computer room the school offered him a job to teach and he took it. He was handsome in a way and all the girls were gaga over him, Michelle most of all.
“What a ride,” she said as the teacher began to explain to them how to hook up to the Internet.
“Please, Michelle,” Clare said. “Not now!”
“What? He is a massive ride. I’ve no problem telling him that.”
“He’s a teacher!” Erin said. “Just keep your heads down girls. Only a year and a half to go.”
God, it was only the first hour, James thought. They would never make it.
They learned how to use the World Wide Web and their first assignment was to find a web page they liked and print it out.
Erin sat next to James as he worked. So close yet so far. But she had something on her mind. “So, what’s with you and Aisling?” she whispered.
“What?” he said in genuine surprise. “Me and Aisling?”
“Yes! I saw the way she looked at you. Offering to help. Grinning.”
“Really? You think…no…”
“Yes, I think!”
“Come off it, Erin. She looked at me, so what.”
“Cause I know that look,” Erin said. “I’ve given that look to many boys.”
“Many? Like who? David Donnelly I suppose.”
“Yes. And John Paul. And…and…”
“So…are you jealous?”
“What? No…well…maybe a bit.”
“I like you and only you,” he reassured her. “And Aisling is just too…stuck up.”
“I would say bitchy but that’s the Jenny rubbing off on her. She used to be nice once a long time ago.”
“Are we done with this?”
He smiled and she did too. Orla leaned over from where she sat on the other side of Erin. “Sister Michael said no sweet smiling.”
“Shut it, Orla,” Erin snapped. “Get back to your…what’s that? Monkeys?” She was looking at Orla’s computer screen. “You found all those pictures of monkeys?”
“Aye. You can find most anything. Time to print my monkeys!” Orla clicked her mouse a few times and then bounced up and went to where the printer was in the corner. A few other students were already lined up by it.
“Orla’s already done. We have to get cracking,” she told James. She looked at his screen. It was a page about baptism rites. “Good,” she told him. “We need that.”
“Yes, we do.” James clicked his mouse a few times and stood and went to the printer where Orla was collecting pages of colored monkeys.
“I do love monkeys,” she said.
“Isn’t this grand,” Michelle said from behind them. “Mine’s next!”
Out came pages with a spread of images of Robbie Williams, handsome front man for the band Take That. Half of the pictures he had hardly any clothes on. “Oh, Robbie, you bad boy,” Michelle hissed as she picked up her pages.
“Miss Mallon,” came the voice of the teacher behind them. “I told you no images of this nature.”
He grabbed the pages from her. “But teacher…that’s what I like. You said print what you like.”
“Within reason I said. No, this will not do. Start over.” He dropped the pages in the garbage bin next to the printer and turned and walked away while looking at what other students were doing.
“You…you…” Michelle almost exploded.
James grabbed her arm. “No, Michelle! This is what they are talking about. We’ll all get kicked out!”
Michelle took a deep breath and looked at the pages in the garbage. “I’ll be back for you Robbie!”
Eventually the school day ended and they all got the bus home, glad it was Friday and the weekend was here, but wrung out from all that had happened and worried about facing their families. And James had one more thing to do. Call his mum.
After they got off the bus and walked to the estate of homes where they all lived Erin was still fuming about Jenny.
“Of course she has a computer at home! Of course she has the Internet! What’s next? A car? Her own private airplane?”
“How much are they anyways?” Michelle asked. “Computers?”
“Almost a thousand pounds for the best,” James told them. “About five hundred for an average one.”
“Christ!” Michelle said. “Well, I guess we’ll have to do without. At least I got what I wanted.” She pulled the pages of Robbie Williams’ pictures out of her bag and showed them off.
“Can I have one picture?” Orla asked and Michelle handed her one. “This is going on my wall. With my monkeys.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do with it,” Michelle said with a grin.
“What?” Orla asked. “What would I do that you wouldn’t do?”
“I…did I say that right?” Michelle asked.
“Yes,” said Erin. “Orla she means…well…”
“It means behave yourself,” said Clare. “Be good. Don’t be bad.”
“How can I be bad with a picture of Robbie Williams?” Orla asked.
“I can think of a few ways,” Michelle said.
“God, Michelle,” Erin said. “Don’t be so coarse.”
“Come on girls, we’ve all done it. Right?”
Silence. “Well, I guess that’s an answer. I know you’ve done it, James,” Michelle said. “All boys your age do it or they’d explode. Probably to Robbie Williams pictures too. Or was it Gary Barlow?”
“Will you just shut up for once?” Erin said in anger before James could defend himself.
“Yes, please,” said Clare. “And for your information, Michelle, I have done a lot more than that!!”
“I haven’t,” said Orla.
Michelle stopped and looked at Clare. “You mean…you and Laurie…?”
“Stop it now, please,” James said. “This is private. Let it alone. Please.”
“Aye,” said Erin. “Leave it be everyone.”
“Christ girls, it’s just sex,” Michelle protested. “Why can’t we talk about it?”
“Because it’s no one’s business but those doing it,” Erin said.
“From the Virgin Mary herself,” Michelle shot back. “I’m not afraid of it. And Clare, do you want to talk about it?”
Clare hesitated. “Ah…well…not now. Erin’s right. It’s private. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Well,” said Michelle. “When the time comes I am all ears.”
They came to Clare’s street first and said goodbye and good luck, and then it was time for James and Michelle to head home.
“Call me later?” Erin asked him.
“For sure. What time is good?”
“Well, it’s Friday night so we’ll send to the chippy around 6, so…hmm…maybe 8 is best.”
He leaned forward, she did too, and both hesitated. “Oh, for fuck sakes give her a kiss and let’s go home,” Michelle snapped.
James quickly pecked her on the lips and she smiled and said bye one more time and she and Orla went off on their own.
“You really need to work on your kissing,” Michele told him as they walked home. “So fucking embarrassing.”
“I thought you said it made you boke.”
“Ach, I’m getting used to you two. But work on the snogging, please. You look like two frigid fucks on an iceberg. What happened to all that passion I saw at Donegal in the ghost house?”
“That was our first kiss. Of course it had passion. And we thought we were alone.”
“Well, you weren’t.”
“I would like to have some measure of privacy in my life for once,” he said in anger. “But given the circumstances, I suppose that is asking a lot.”
“Aye, too right it is. We’re no better than little wains in our parent’s eyes. Something to be cross at and to worry over. Look, James, if you want to be with Erin alone you’ve got to plan it properly. The movies is a good place for some in the dark snogging. But too many idiots around you so not much privacy.”
“Right. Where else?”
“Parks are good in the day. But too many young fellows getting off with each other there at night.”
“The best is a friend’s home or her or your home when the parents are gone. You got a room, a bed, privacy. And don’t forget your French ticklers.”
“Condoms, you idiot!”
“Are you talking about sex? Me and Erin? I meant just some…snogging, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s what all lads say. Just a wee snog, Michelle, please. Well, it all ends in one place so be prepared.”
“Right…ah, thanks for the advice.” She was being nice to him when alone as usual.
“I weren’t doing it for you. I was doing it for Erin. If I know her if she has a bad first time she’ll stay a virgin the rest of her life. And Christ, I can’t have that. So you best be up for the job.”
“Good. Now come on, what we going to say to my parents about all this probation and baptism business?”
But James couldn’t concentrate much on that, not while thinking about all Michelle had just said about him and Erin. Sex…wow. Could it be? He wasn’t going to die a virgin?
His Uncle Martin and Aunt Deidre weren’t home yet so they had some peace for a bit. After they changed out of their uniforms and got a cup of tea Michelle checked the phone answering machine in the living room and there was a message from Sister Michael asking her parents to call her, a message which Michelle promptly erased.
“What? The later the better. Let that old penguin call them a hundred times as long as I can intercept the messages.”
“Oh, and what if she shows up here?”
Michelle pondered that for a minute. “Well…right. Best get it over with. I’ll tell them myself. So. Call her.”
“She’s at work now.”
“So call her office.”
“Can I have…?”
“No, dickhead. I’m going to listen to it all. See what lies she has for you this time. On speaker if you please. Call her.”
With some reluctance James sat by the phone while Michelle sat in an armchair opposite, cup of steaming tea in hand. He punched the numbers into the phone key pad for his mum’s office and then hit the speaker button. The phone rang a few times and then his mother answered. “Bespoke Gift Labels, Cathy Maguire speaking. How can I help you?”
Hesitation. “Oh, James, how lovely. Listen dear, I am so busy, can I call you at the weekend?”
He was about to say yes but Michelle shook her head vigorously. “Listen mum, this can’t wait. I’m in a bit of trouble here.”
More hesitation. “Oh. What happened?”
“I got probation at the school.”
“Well, a number of things, but they also said you never gave them a baptismal certificate.”
A long silence. “I see. Well.”
More silence. “Mum? Was I ever baptized?”
A sniff. “No, James, I am sorry. It’s the Church! It’s all their fault. You were born…out of wedlock and…” More sniffs. “So they refused to let you be baptized.”
“Bollocks!” Michelle said under her breath.
“Oh,” James said, not sure if that was true or not. “I see. Well…I’m going to be baptized this week.”
“But how can you be? They won’t allow it.”
“Seems you were misinformed, mum. They do allow it.”
“Oh…well, eighteen years ago they did not. So, I guess they changed the rules. Well, good for you son. Well, if that is all…”
“No, wait! The school. Sister Michael the headmistress wants you to call her.”
“For heaven’s sakes why? I am so busy, simply swamped. You did get your allowance this week, yes?”
“Yes, mum. Thanks. Mum, the sister said she needs to speak to you because…well, I am dating a girl at the school.”
“What? Really? Well…good for you, but what’s that to do with Sister Michael? Or me?”
“She claims you told her I was gay so I would be allowed to enter the school.”
“What?” came the shrill response. “That is a total lie! A fabrication of her imagination! They never liked me those nuns. Even more so when I became your mother!”
He could never tell when she was lying but this time he was almost certain she was. “Well, sorry, but she needs to speak to you about all this. Said they only let me in the school because you said…that. And now I am dating a fellow student, a girl, so…”
She sighed. “Very well. I will call her on Monday. Is that good enough?”
“Yes. Thanks. Sorry to bother you.” Michelle rolled her eyes at this.
“So…who is this lovely young lady? When can I meet her? Maybe you can come to London.”
“You’ve already met her.”
“When you were here last year in Derry.”
Silence, then a small gasp. “Not…one of the McCool girls’ daughters, is it?”
“Yes, mum. Erin Quinn. Mary Quinn’s her mother.”
Silence. “Oh, well…good for you. I am sure she is lovely.”
“Good. Just…be careful. Those McCool girls…well. Enough said. So, is that all?”
“Yes. Thanks. Love you.”
“As I you. Bye!”
And she was gone.
“Fuck me sideways,” Michelle said after James hung up. “What a lying bitch!”
“Michelle, please. She’s my mum.”
“I know, but she claims she never knew you could be baptized? All lies. And what nerve she has to slag off Sarah and Mary and their family. Them two been almost like second mothers to us lot.”
“I know. Almost like a first to me.”
Michelle looked at him with tender eyes. “Well…that’s all sorted. Now we just need to get you baptized. And I will be the godmother, yes?”
Before he could answer Michelle’s mother stormed into the house still in her blue nursing uniform. “You two! Probation, is it? What in hell is going on, Michelle? And James? Not baptized, is it?”
“Does the whole town know?” Michelle asked.
“Aye, by now most likely,” Aunt Deidre said, calming down a bit. She looked at James, her eyes softening. “She never baptized you?”
“No, it seems not.”
“God almighty that sister of mine. What am I going to do? I can’t disown her. Can I?”
“Don’t think so ma,” Michelle said. “How you find out?”
“Sister Michael called me at work. Wait till your father hears if not already. What a scandal.”
“Sorry,” James said
“Ach, not your fault.” She looked at him more closely. “So, she lied about the gay thing too, right?”
“What?” James said as Michelle laughed.
“Cathy. Told us all you were gay so they’d let you go to school with their daughters. Christ, what gall she has.”
“Is that why everyone round here thought I was gay for the last two years?” James asked in shock and slight anger.
“Aye. Seems we were wrong. Snogging wee Erin Quinn, is it?”
“Yes.” He said it proudly.
“Well, good for you. But be careful with her family. The McCool clan. Poor Gerry Quinn has had to suffer seventeen years of abuse from that lot. In his own house, mind you.”
“He’s not marrying her ma,” Michelle said.
“Not yet. Never mind all that baptism business, James. We’ll sort it out. I think a visit to Father Peter on Sunday after mass is in order. Right. Let’s get some supper.”
“Not the chippy…please,” James begged. He hated the greasy food they served.
“They do a nice chicken burger,” Michelle said.
James sighed. “Fine. But no chips!”
Aunt Deidre looked at Michelle. “So, don’t think I’ve forgotten. What the hell did you two do to get probation?”
“It’s a long story,” they both said at the same time. James and Michelle exchanged looks and then he felt better, knowing he had someone in his life on his side. And he also felt such deep disappointment in his mother. He knew in his heart now that she had never wanted him. But he would be all right because of the love her felt from the people around him now, from his aunt and uncle, from his cousin, from his friends…and most of all, the love he knew was growing for Erin, and the love he knew she would one day return.
Chapter 3: Erin
Erin must face the music at home, dealing with her parents about school and especially about James. On top of that her nosy friends keep interfering with her social life.
Derry Girls - The Baptism Chapter 3 Erin
The long day was finally over but it was still a ways to go yet before Erin would have any peace. Sister Michael put her and the rest of her gang on probation for all their past sins. And now it was time to face their mammies. Worse still her new boyfriend James might be kicked out of school unless he found a way to get baptized in less than a week. And how was she going to explain to her parents that James might not be a Catholic?
“So, how is he?” Orla asked as they walked away from James and Michelle to head for their homes.
“What?” Erin said, coming out of her thoughts. “How is he? You mean James…kissing?”
“Grand.” He truly was.
“Didn’t look like it just now.”
“Well, that was just a peck. When we were alone…those…few times…it was grand. I thought…well…it was like…” She was at a loss for words. Course, Orla supplied her own.
“Kissing your brother?”
“No! And I don’t have a brother.”
“James is like our brother, isn’t he?”
“No…well…stop putting thoughts in my head! You have no right to talk about us like that. God, have you even kissed a boy?! Ever?”
Erin stopped in her tracks as Orla walked on a few steps. David Donnelly had been Erin’s crush for years and she had never even came close to snogging him. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Orla turned around. “In last year of primary school. I snogged him on the playground. By the swings. At lunch break.”
“What…and he snogged you back?”
“No, not really. Kind of surprised he was.”
“Why did you do it?”
“See what it was like. Nothing special he was.”
“Maybe it was you that wasn’t special!”
“That was years ago and you’re just telling me?”
“Aye…well, I knew you liked him. And why do you care? James’ your man now, right?”
“Yes, right, but…Jesus Christ. Orla! How could you keep a secret that long?”
“I have lots of secrets.”
“If I told you they wouldn’t be secret, now would they? Come on, I want a Pop Tart.”
She walked on as Erin stood still, not quite believing it. “You kissed David Donnelly?”
“I thought you hated him now cause he did the dirt with Katya the Russian.”
“Ukrainian! And yes…I…you read that in my diary!!”
“Of course. But is it true?”
“So I was told.”
“Then forget about him. He’ll go on the list.”
“The enemies list, of course! Come on. I want that Pop Tart!”
Erin ran to catch up, unable to match her long strides in walking. “I don’t think we have any at home.”
“I have some in my cupboard.”
“Enemies list! What the hell is that?”
“I’ll show you.”
They reached the house that Orla and her mother supposedly lived in, a beige colored house right next door to her own red house. Supposedly, she thought, because Orla and her ma Sarah were always at Erin’s house. Day, noon, and night. It drove her mad sometimes, and she knew her father was no fan of it all, but her Ma and Granda loved it so they mostly stayed quiet about it. One more thing to deal with in her mad family.
They went into Orla’s house, and the thing that always surprised Erin was how neat and uncluttered it was compared to her own home. No piles of laundry everywhere. No sink full of dishes. Of course not cause they ate every meal at her house! No baby’s toys everywhere. No babies…well, except Orla.
“I want mine toasted,” Erin said as Orla got two Pop Tarts from a box in the cupboard.
“They’re better untoasted. Come on.”
She felt like protesting but took the Pop Tart and followed Orla upstairs to her room.
Of course her room was like a mad house, like Orla herself. Pictures everywhere, posters of monkeys, and boy bands, and plenty of stuffed animals, and pics of her favorite sweets, and a collection of sweet wrappers and packages pinned to a bulletin board, and the craziest thing of all…the enemies list.
“God almighty!” she said as she saw the chart on the wall next to her desk. At the top of all it said “PEOPLE I DON’T LIKE VERY MUCH” in bold black outlined with red.
Enemies list indeed. Jenny Joyce was #1…aye, of course. “What about Aisling?” Erin asked as she nibbled on the cold Pop Tart.
“She’s just a follower. No followers.”
Erin wanted to argue that since Aisling seemed to be flirting with James but let it go. “Right. So…Sister Michael #2. I can see why.”
“She’s always messing with us. Might even put her #1 after today.”
“Yes, true. Hmmm…Mae Chung #3. Good enough.”
“Yeah, she swore vengeance on us all. Even though I had nothing to do with her getting kicked out. But I have to protect you lot. Might even take up karate.”
“I see. #4 John Paul O’Reilly. Why?”
“He stood you up.”
“Right. Thank you. #5 Dennis. Who? Dennis the wee shopkeeper?”
“Aye. He’s always yelling at us. All the quid we spend in there. And at the video shop, too.”
“I suppose so. #6 the Protestant boys. The…Orla, you mean the Protestant boys we had that weekend pursuit with? Why them?”
“Cause they don’t like Catholics.”
“They never said that.”
“One of them did.”
“He has a hearing problem. He misunderstood Clare. And she him.”
“Not him. Another one. Later. When we had that scuffle. So got to put them on. Won’t change my mind.”
“Fine. #7 the Ghost of Robert? What?”
“From the ghost house in Donegal. Member?”
“There was no ghost! It was a man. Named Declan!”
“Right. Ghost Robert was his Granda.” She took a black pen from her desk and scratched out “Robert” and wrote “Delcan” with “ghost” still in front of his name.
“He weren’t a ghost! He let us go without calling the police. He’s not an enemy.”
“Fine!!” She scratched out the entry all together. “Now I have to fix the numbers.” She quickly changed all the numbers for the rest.
“So,” Erin began again. “New #7. The Mad Tayto woman? What? Who’s that?”
“Remember on the train to Portrush? The crazy woman who said James ate her crisps?”
“But that was you! You ate her crisps!”
“Aye, so I did. Salt and vinegar they were. I prefer cheese and onion.”
“That crazy woman was after James for something you did!”
“I know! That’s why she’s on the list! To protect…”
“James. Yes, I get it. #8 Fra…Fra…oh yeah. Train guy. Idiot.”
“He took advantage of my good nature and stole that money.”
“We got it back, Orla. Maybe you take him off the list?”
“Hmm, okay.” She scratched out Fra’s name. Then she wrote “David Donnelly” in its place. “Good enough?”
“Yes. So #9 Mad Stab…Mad…oh Christ, not that nutter that wanted to beat up James for those concert tickets?”
“The one and only. After we jumped him at Halloween he swore to get us all. We have to be on the lookout.”
“Right. So that leaves…#10…God.”
She turned and looked at Orla in shock. “God!! You put God on your enemies list!!”
“What in the name of sweet Jesus for?”
“He took away Clare’s Daddy.”
Erin was stunned. It was so…Orla…to do something like that. “Orla…God had nothing…”
“Aye, he did!” Orla said, mad now. “Left our friend heartbroken he did! She puts on a brave face but she’s still hurting.”
“Of course she’s still hurting. It’s only been six weeks since he passed. Maybe you should take it down?”
“No…never. He stays.”
Then came the sound of a door opening below. Then an angry shout. “ERIN! ORLA!!!”
Her mother. “Time it face the music. I think we need God on our side about now.”
Erin and Orla were dragged to her house and sat on her living room sofa as her mother, her Aunt Sarah, her father, and Granda Joe let them have it. But it was mostly her mammy.
“Probation!” her mother shrieked. “What in heaven’s name did you lot do this time?”
“It weren’t our fault!” Erin said with a pout and a whine in her tone.
“No, it never is,” her Ma Mary shot back with heavy sarcasm. “Well?”
Orla answered. “It was an accumulation of all the things we done in the last three years.”
“What?” Da Gerry said in surprise. “They put you on probation for all the hijinks of the last three years? And you were punished for most of that already. That’s a bit harsh.”
“Aye,” Erin said. “It’s not fair! Half that stuff we weren’t to blame.”
“Course you weren’t,” Aunt Sarah said, the ever present cigarette in hand. “The nerve of that school. Blaming our wains.”
“It weren’t the school so much, mammy,” said Orla. “It were the bishop.”
“What?” Ma Mary said in surprise. “The bishop got involved? Heaven help us.” She crossed herself as she said this.
“I think it’s time to call our lawyer,” Granda Joe said.
“We don’t have a lawyer, Da,” her mother answered.
“No, cause your drip of a husband is too tight to keep one on retainer!”
“That’s enough of that, Da!” Ma Mary said. “We’ve more than enough on our plate. Well, girls. I guess you’ll have to keep your heads down and noses clean till you finish. Cause there will be hell to pay if you get kicked out!”
“Fine!” Erin said. She knew they would never fight the Church for them. Too scared the lot of them, too afraid of more scandal.
“Okay, Orla, off you go,” Erin’s mother said. Orla grinned and got up and Erin started to rise as well. “Not you. Sit.”
“Sit! Gerry, your turn.”
“Let me,” Granda Joe said.
“No, Da. It’s Gerry’s job.”
Her Da Gerry sat next to her on the sofa and spoke in his soft voice he reserved for bad news. She knew what it was about before he spoke. “Erin…love…about you and James…we think it best…”
“No, you can’t.” She felt her heart sinking.
“Just hear me out. We know you are fond of him, and he is a nice lad…”
“For an Englishman,” Granda said.
“He’s more Irish than English,” Erin said.
“Aye, he’s a Derry girl now,” Orla added.
“Just now,” her Da said. “So much going on, probation now, getting ready for A levels, then university, just maybe hold off on the dating…for now.”
“No!” Erin said. “A week ago you said it was fine! You are only doing that now because you think he’s not Catholic!”
Silence and awkward looks so she knew she was right. “I see. Sister Michael told you all. Well, in less than a week he will be baptized.”
“Will he?” her Ma said.
“Yes! We already started to look up the information. It can be done.”
“Sure it can be done,” Sarah said. “Anyone can be baptized. Shona Sharkey’s second cousin from America were baptized when he was almost thirty, sure enough.”
“Weren’t he a Communist?” Granda asked. “Not Catholic?”
“Aye, he was,” Sarah replied. “But then he joined the Church so he is now a Communist Catholic.”
“How can you be both a Communist and a Catholic?” Erin’s father asked.
“The point is,” Erin said quickly before they all went off into outer space with Aunt Sarah. “James can be baptized and will be a full Catholic!!
Erin’s mother and her father exchanged looks and her father nodded. “Well…in that case,” her Ma said. “But no funny business!!”
“Of course not, ma!” Erin said, knowing what she meant. “We hardly have a moment to ourselves as it is.”
“Good,” said her father.
“Don’t be so sure,” Granda added. “Thon boys will do anything for…”
“Da!” Her mother nearly shriek. “Enough.” She turned back to Erin with steel in her eyes. “And if your grades slip one bit young lady or there is more trouble, the last you’ll ever see of James or any other boy will be from your bedroom window with the doors locked!! I don’t care if he’s even the Pope!! Now come on. Girls get out of them uniforms. We’ll send to the chippy then it is time to decorate for Christmas.”
The rest of the evening passed uneventful, their supper over, and the decorating begun, when the phone rang at 8 PM. Erin had forgotten James was supposed to call then. She dashed for the hallway phone but her father picked it up in the kitchen first.
“Hello,” he said and then listened. “Ah…just a moment.” He looked at Erin. “For you.”
“I’ll take it in the hall.”
“Who is it?” her mother asked.
“The boyfriend,” her father said. Her mother gave her a look. “Not all night!”
“Fine!” Erin said as she picked up the hall phone. “Da!”
He got the hint and put down the phone in the kitchen. “Hello. James?”
“Hi. How’s it going?”
It was good to hear his voice. “Bit rough. The probation thing.” She’d never tell him about the rest. “And you?”
“Same. I called my mum.”
“Oh? How that go?”
He sighed. “She said she didn’t know the Church allowed children born like me to get baptized. And she claims she never told the school I was gay. I can’t tell if she is lying or not.”
Another voice chimed in. “She is definitely lying!” Michelle shouted.
“Will you get off the line!!?” James shouted back.
“Jesus, Michelle! Leaves us be!” Erin joined in.
“Aye,” said Orla. “I can’t hear them if you keep talking Michelle.”
Erin looked in the kitchen and there was Orla on the phone listening. “Orla!! Ma! Get her off the phone!!”
Orla gave her a look and hung up the phone. “Michelle?” she spoke into the phone.
“She’s off,” James said. “But sitting right in front of me now.”
“No privacy at all!”
“I know. Well, I’ve been looking up the baptism rites.”
“It’s pretty straight forward. Just need to get a priest and a church to agree to do it. And pick a godfather and godmother.”
“ME!!” she could hear Michelle shout in the background and they ignored her, as James continued.
“Then, well, as an adult they usually dunk you in water. I mean, like a lake or pond or something.”
“Christ. It’s December!”
“I know. Going to be cold. And I have to wear a white sort of robe. Like altar boys wear I think.”
“Well…it’s worth it,”
“Aye…I mean yes.”
“You are becoming more Irish!”
“Suppose I am.”
“So…what’s the weekend plan?” she asked.
“Ah…nothing yet. Homework for sure. What you have in mind?”
“Well…we haven’t officially gone on a date yet.”
“Right! Oh, well…movie? Café?”
“How about both?”
“Sounds good,” he said. “When is good for you?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. About 2 PM. The café in the mall. The multi-plex theater is there as well. I’ll get my homework done in the morning so Ma has no reason to keep me here.”
“Good. I’ll do the same.”
“Erin!” her mother shouted. “That’s long enough. Come help your sister put bulbs on the tree.”
“In a sec!” she shouted back and then spoke in the phone again. “We’re decorating over here. Christmas time.”
“Right. Well, have a good night.”
“You too,” she said. “See you tomorrow. Bye.”
“Bye, James,” said Orla who was on the kitchen phone again.
Erin hung up and stormed into the kitchen. “I think it’s time I made my own enemies list,” she snarled to Orla in a low voice. “And guess who will be number one?”
“Squirrels,” Orla said. “They are such arseholes. I was going to put them on mine but had no room.”
Erin was about to shout at her but her mother called to help decorate the tree. Hours later she went to bed, exhausted by the day’s events, but happy things were on track with James again.
Her head whirled with all that had happened. Feelings she had run through the day were numerous and overwhelming. Fear that they would get kicked out, frustrated at the unfairness of it all, worry about James, jealous of Aisling who she was sure was flirting with him, more fear and anger dealing with her parents. More jealously of Jenny and Aisling and the money they had. Well, one day she would…
The day came and her homework was done and she took a shower, did her hair nice, brushed her teeth, applied some lipstick and other makeup, wore her best jeans and a nice top, put her gloves and hat and scarf in her bag in case it got too cold.
“I’m off,” she told her parents at the door. They came and looked at her, all serious.
“Your homework’s done?” her mother asked.
“Aye, I showed you already.”
“Where you meeting him?” her Da asked.
“The café in the mall. It’s just coffee and a movie, Da.”
“Right. So…have a good day.”
She smiled. “Thanks.”
“Home by 7!” her mother said in her stern way.
“Fine,” she replied and left before they changed their minds.
Her father followed her outside. “Erin, wait a moment.”
She stopped and saw his out stretched hand. In it was a ten pound note. “Take it, quick,” he said.
Erin snatched the note and stuffed it in her pocket. “Thank you! But…why?”
“I was a teenage boy once too. Always worried about money for dates. Maybe help pay for yours, yes?”
“Ta. Have fun.”
“He’s a good lad, Da.”
“I know. You could do worse. Especially around these parts. Don’t mind your mother. She worries, is all. You’ll be 18 in a few months, an adult. Let her keep her little girl a bit longer.”
“Sure. But there is Anna to come.”
He sighed. “Aye. 15 more years of being a father.”
“You’ll always be a father. Mine anyways.”
He smiled, gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Right. Off you go. Don’t be late for your man.”
She wasn’t late but he was there early. Erin smiled as she saw James in the café sitting at a table, a newspaper in front of him opened to the page with the movie listings. He looked up and there was no smile, no hint of joy in his eyes. She stopped cold and wondered what was wrong…and then she saw.
Erin stormed over to the table where Michelle, Orla, and Clare were sitting with cups of coffee and some donuts.
“What the hell are you lot doing here?” she almost screamed.
Clare was first to speak, her face a mask of panic. “I’m sorry, Erin. I didn’t know. Michelle called and asked if I wanted coffee, so…here we are.”
“I didn’t know you were coming here,” Michelle said. “Honestly! James never told me.”
“You heard him speaking to me on the phone!”
“All I heard was café and a movie. I didn’t know it was here.”
Erin didn’t believe her. “Yeah, right. This is where we always go! You knew! ”
“I knew,” said Orla.
“Christ,” Erin said. “Look, just go. Please.”
“Not till we’ve had our coffee,” Michelle said as she picked up a donut. “We’ve paid for it already. And then I got a date of my own, if you must know.”
“Who with?” Clare asked.
“One of the fellows I took to the prom. Called me the other day. Going to the pub. So not to worry Erin, I will not be interfering with you and lover boy over there.”
“Good. And Clare? Where’s Laurie today?”
“She’s working now. I’m meeting her later. To see a movie…here.”
“Jesus. James and I are going to see a movie here.”
“I know…could I get the listings off him…when he’s done of course.”
“Fine. And Orla? Maybe just go home, will you?”
“I want to see a movie too. There’s a new mouse movie.” Her face was half covered in white sugar powder from the donut she was eating. Michelle handed her a napkin.
“You mean a Disney movie?” Clare asked.
“No, it’s called ‘Mousehunt’,” Orla answered. “Saw the advert on TV the other day. Looks cracker.”
“Is ‘Titanic’ opened yet?” Michelle asked.
“No,” said Clare. “Maybe next week in America. I heard they spent a lot of money on it.”
“It’ll be a fucking bomb,” Michelle said. “Everyone knows the boat sank! Who wants to see a movie where we know what happens in the end and everyone dies?”
“I still want to see it,” Clare said.
“So do I,” James said from behind Erin. “James Cameron is a genius.” Erin turned and looked at him, panic in her eyes for sure.
“Sorry…I didn’t know.”
“It’s fine,” he said with a reassuring smile. “May as well sit.”
They sat with their friends and got some coffee and discussed the movies that were playing. In the end Michelle left, Clare went off to meet Laurie, and Orla went to see her mouse movie which started a half hour before the movie James wanted to see, a new Quentin Tarantino movie called ‘Jackie Brown’.
At last they were alone, in the theater in the dark, and at last they could touch hands, hold hands, and snuggle up together, and even kiss a few times. Not as much as she wanted cause there were other people around them, and he was absorbed in the movie, which was quite good, though crime dramas were not her thing.
As they came out of the theater, Erin got a shock. John Paul O’Reilly and some girl he was with that Erin didn’t know were waiting to watch the next showing. John Paul looked at her as if he didn’t know her.
“What’s wrong?” James asked.
“That’s John Paul.”
“Oh, right, the guy who stood you up. I need have words with him.”
“What? James! Wait!” But he didn’t listen and strode right over to them. Erin felt her stomach twist in knots. What was he going to do? James was not a fighter. The incident with Mad Stab proved that beyond a doubt.
She quickly followed, worried to death. “Hello,” James said as he stuck his hand out to John Paul.
“Who are you?” John Paul asked in surprise.
“Oh, I am James Maguire and I just wanted to say thank you.”
John Paul looked at him like he was crazy. “Thank you? For what?”
James dropped his hand, turned and looked at Erin. “Remember her?”
John Paul nodded. “Aye. Hello, Erin.”
“Hi,” she said back.
“Well,” James went on. “Last year you stood her up for a date.”
“That was a misunderstanding,” John Paul said quickly. “I never promised to go with her.”
“Bollocks!” Erin said, getting angry. “You humiliated me!”
“Well, if I did, I am sorry,” he apologized. Well, Erin thought that was decent of him anyways. A year too late though.
“Good,” James said. “So I wanted to thank you because you did me a big favor.”
“How’s that? I don’t even know you.”
Erin at last knew what he was doing and she smiled. “You did us both a big favor John Paul.”
“Yes, indeed,” James said. “When you stood her up, I stepped in and took her to the prom. And that my friend is how Erin and I got to know each other a lot better.”
“A lot better,” Erin said. Aye, it was true. That made her see him in a whole new light.
John Paul was taken aback by all this as was the girl he was with. “Well…glad to help. Now if you don’t mind, we’ve a movie to see.”
“Jackie Brown?” James asked.
“Aye,” John Paul said.
“It’s fantastic,” James said. “The best bit was when Sam Jackson kills Robert DeNiro.”
“What? Bloody hell!”
“Enjoy!” Erin said as they start to walk fast away and then run and giggle and finally they were in the mall parking lot, now dark on a late December afternoon.
She grabbed him and hugged him tight and never wanted to let go. “That was fantastic!” she yelled. “God, I have wanted to do that for ages!”
But their joy was short lived.
“YOU!!” came a rough voice from behind them. At first Erin thought it was John Paul. But it was much worse.
It was Mad Stab…alone thank God, but still…
“Oh, shit!” James said.
“Aye, oh, shit indeed!” Mad Stab yelled. “You’re the fellow I’ve been looking for since Halloween!!”
“Wait!” Erin said as she stepped between them. “That was all a misunderstanding!!”
“I don’t care! He’s mine! Get out of the way girlie or you’ll get some too!!”
“Erin…step aside. Let him hit me and be done with it.” No, she couldn’t…she wouldn’t.
“Aye,” said Mad Stab. “One punch is all it will take….” But then suddenly Mad Stab grunted, and doubled over and his hands went down to his crotch and he grabbed his balls in agony.
“FUCK!!!” he yelled in pain. “Who?? Jesus Christ!!”
It was Orla. She had kicked him in the balls from behind, sneaking up on him in the dimly lit parking lot. And now she had her hunting knife in hand and had it at Mad Stab’s throat.
“Listen to me, you piece of shit,” she growled in a terrifyingly menacing tone. “Mad Stab, is it? I’ll give you mad stab! Leave my friends alone or you’ll get some steel. Got it?”
He nodded vigorously, real fear in his mad eyes. “Got it…crazy bitch!!”
Orla stood up, looked around, put her knife back in her bag, and all the while James and Erin stared at her in shock. Luckily there was no one else in the parking lot to witness what had happened. This was exactly the sort of thing that would send them to jail and get kicked out of school to boot. If their mammies didn’t kill them first.
“Thanks,” James finally managed to say as Mad Stab lay on the ground still groaning in pain.
“No sweat,” Orla replied. “Shall we go home? Been waiting for you.”
“Yes…home,” Erin gasped. “Let’s get the hell out of here before the whole RUC comes down on us!! Or his friends!”
“There’s the bus!” James yelled and they ran across the parking lot and leaped on board.
As they sat there Orla smiled and took out some chocolate. “Want some?”
“No,” Erin and James said as one, looking at Orla, now so cool and calm. Erin always knew something was not right with her cousin and today proved it beyond any doubt.
“How was the movie?” Orla asked next, still calm.
“Fine,” James said. “And yours?”
“It was so cracker!” And then Orla spent ten minutes explaining the whole plot, in such detail they would never have to see it.
Then they were quiet as Orla munched the rest of her chocolate. Finally Erin had to say something. “Orla…you wouldn’t have…I mean…you couldn’t…”
“Aye, I could!” Orla said in a fierce tone. “James is family now! Anyone who messes with my family gets what’s coming to them! You’ll no have to worry about that one again.”
Erin didn’t know what to say to that so said nothing. Her cousin was a real nutter…but she was her nutter. And that at least made Erin feel a bit warm inside. Just another crazy day in Derry. Was there any other kind?
Chapter 4: Clare
Clare must deal with drama at home and drama with her friends as decisions made beyond her control may change her life forever.
Derry Girls - The Baptism Chapter 4 Clare
Clare Devlin made her way through the rainy morning to the local church, a bit late for Sunday morning mass, her thoughts awhirl with all that happened the last few days. As she entered the church and she shook out her umbrella and then took a seat in a pew near the back, Michelle caught her eye and nodded for her to come forward and sit with her and her parents and James. Clare didn’t want to, wanting to be left alone with her thoughts and God, but Michelle looked she was about to shout at her so she walked forward, made the sign of the cross and sat next to her friend.
“God save me, Clare,” Michelle whispered as Father Peter read his sermon from the pulpit. “I think I’m going to boke. Didn’t get home from the pub till almost midnight. Shots all around is last thing I remember.”
“God, Michelle, you stink of liquor!”
“I know. No time for a shower this morning.”
“Shut it!” Michelle’s mother said from the other side of James. “You’re in the house of God now. And you’re going to confession, Michelle. Crawling home at all hours of the night!”
“Fine,” Michelle said with a smile. Clare knew Michelle liked confession. Liked to shock the priests with her sins.
Clare was no fan of confession. She was starting on a new life as an out lesbian but the Church had stifling views on such a life and so she was torn between wanting to tell the truth in the confessional box and keeping her mouth shut. Telling the truth had always been what she had done, more so because she was a terrible liar and always got found out so long ago she decided to come clean on everything. But now that wouldn’t do anymore.
As she thought on this she looked around the half full church and saw on the other side of the aisle and a few pews up were the McCool/Quinn clan, Erin, Orla, Gerry, Mary, Anna, Sarah, and Joe. Erin looked back at them and she wondered if it was to look at her and Michele or just James, her new boyfriend. Erin smiled and gave a little wave and Clare waved back.
She was happy for her and James. She knew something had sparked between them ages ago, but all this was somewhat of a surprise…a good surprise. Erin seemed happy for once, and James was in love, you could tell by the look on his face when he saw her. Maybe Erin was in love too.
It was time to kneel and pray and as she did so Clare’s mind was awhirl. How was she going to tell them all what had happened to her the last few days?
On Friday afternoon she had said goodbye to her friends and made her way home, dreading the conversation she would have with her mother about the probation Sister Michael put them all on. If anything would ruin her life and more it would be that, getting kicked out and having to go to another school and prepare for her A levels among strangers.
But her life was already ruined. She fought back the tears as the image came back…the fresh taste of a beautiful woman’s lips on hers, joyously celebrating with her friends outside the night club…then Erin’s father Gerry walking towards them. A look on his face of devastation…and then the words that broke her heart…
And her world shattered.
An hour later she fell to her knees in a hospital waiting room as her friends hugged her tight. Her father was dead, felled by a silent killer, a burst blood vessel in his brain…nothing the doctors could do…no warning…no signs of trouble…one minute he was fine, driving his car back home, and after he got out of the car at their house he collapsed on the front steps. And that was that.
She didn’t remember much of the next few days. The funeral was a blank, and all she knew was that her four friends surrounded her with love and took care of her and helped her as much as they could. She was given a week off from school but after three days she could stand it no more and went back.
Her mother was still in shock, the love of her life gone so young, only 42 years old. It was the way of their land, so many young ones taken away or maimed for life in the strife. But he was healthy, robust, strong, a hard worker, a man hardly ever sick, so full of life…until he wasn’t.
When she got home more news awaited her. Her mother and her Aunt Susan waited in the kitchen. Her mother’s older sister was from Strabane, and had come to stay after the funeral for a while and visited often in the six weeks since. They sat at the kitchen table, cups of tea in front of them…along with two envelopes, unopened.
“Clare,” her mother said and she stood and hugged her tight as if she never wanted to let go. “How was your day?”
“Uh…did anyone call you?”
“Yes,” said Aunt Susan. “Sister Michael called. But that can wait. Sit, love.”
She nodded and put down her bag and sat with them. “What’s going on? What’s with the envelopes?”
“They’re from your father’s insurance,” her mother said. “One from his work, one from his private life insurance.”
“God…I didn’t know he had insurance.”
“Aye, the work one I knew about,” her mother answered. “Not the private one. Kept that under his hat, he did.”
“Well…what do they say?” Clare asked.
“We don’t know,” Aunt Susan said. “She wanted to wait till you were here.”
Her mother nodded and picked up an envelope and opened it. “From your father’s work insurance,” she said as she read the letter. A bank cheque fell out and Clare picked it up and got a shock.
“How much?” her aunt asked.
“25,000 pounds,” Clare said in awe.
“Jesus,” her aunt replied. “That’s not bad.”
Clare’s mother did not think so. “For a good man’s life it is nothing.”
“Open the other one Geraldine,” her aunt said, seemingly excited.
Her mother sighed and opened the second envelope and then she just stared in shock at another cheque. She said nothing, dropped it on the table. Clare picked it up. 80,000 pounds.
“Mother of God,” Clare gasped. Her aunt took the cheque and looked. “Sweet Jesus!”
“It’s yours Clare,” her mother finally said. “All of it. For university and such.”
“No, mammy…he meant it for us, both of us.” Clare reached out and took her hand.
“Blood money,” her mother said in disgust.
“No, Geraldine,” her aunt said as she took her other hand. “He wanted it to protect you from the evils of the world. How many mothers and children got nothing and ended up depending on the goodness of the state to feed and clothed them?”
Her mother sighed. “Aye, he did right by us. It don’t change the fact that he isn’t here.” She looked around. “I can’t…I can’t do it anymore.”
“Do what, mammy?”
“Stay here…this house… his house… he bought when you were a wain. This town. Too many ghosts.”
“Aye,” Aunt Susan said. “Well, if you a mind, you’re both welcome to come stay in Strabane with us for a while.”
“Maybe so,” Geraldine said.
“What?” Clare said in shock. “Strabane? That’s too far!”
“Its 20 minutes down the road luv,” her aunt said. “There’s some nice houses for rent if you find ours too crowded. Get yourselves back on your feet.”
“Aye,” said her mother, seemingly warming to the idea.
“But it will be Christmas soon,” Clare protested.
“I can’t do Christmas in this house,” her mother replied. “He loved Christmas.”
Oh, no. She meant to do it. “But…I have school and my friends…and…” She was going to say Laurie but her mother suddenly came to life.
“Speaking of school. What’s all this about probation?”
“It’s not my fault! All the trouble the others caused!”
“Aye, your friends indeed. Maybe time apart from them in a new school will make you fly straight for a while. Time to buckled down and do your A levels proper.”
“No buts, Clare. I’ve made up my mind. We’ll go to Strabane for Christmas. And over the holidays see if you can transfer to another college.”
“But it’s only 20 minutes by bus. Why can’t I stay here?”
“Weren’t you listening?”
Her mother sighed. “She’ll understand love. You can see her on weekends if all goes well.”
“If she loves you,” her aunt added. “She’ll understand.”
Clare felt another shock. “Not sure if she loves me,” she confessed. “I mean…we haven’t talked about that…yet.”
“Well, maybe it’s time you did,” her mother said. “Now, go get changed and we’ll have a nice supper. And on Monday we’ll go to the bank and open up a new account for you for your university.”
“I thought university was free?” her aunt asked.
Clare shook her head. “The government is planning to end all that this year.” It was a big controversy among all the parents and her friends. For the last few decades almost everyone who went to university need not pay tuition fees. Now all that would change. “We heard it might be up to 3000 pounds a year per student.”
“That’s a bit steep,” her mother said.
“Aye,” Clare added. “And if I study in say Belfast or Dublin I’ll need to pay for rent, and food, and books, and…maybe need a computer too.”
“Well,” her mother said. “You’ll no have to think on all that yet. Let’s get through Christmas first.”
Her aunt had one more thing to say about the money. “Listen, girls, say nothing to nobody about this money. If anyone gets a hint of it they’ll be like vultures wanting a piece. Ah, just a wee loan they’ll say. I’ll pay you back soon, luv. Ha. It won’t last long that way. Be careful.”
“Aye, we will,” her mother said.
There was nothing more to say, Clare thought. If her mother wanted to leave she would follow her. She could never leave her side now. The money came as a shock, but she said a small prayer to her father that night thanking him for his fore thought and hoping he was smiling down at them now and forever.
Saturday came and she made plans to meet Laurie at the mall after Laurie finished work, to have dinner, and maybe to see a movie. Clare was not looking forward to it. She would have to tell Laurie she was moving.
But before that happened Michelle called her to see if she wanted to meet her and Orla for coffee at the mall.
“What about James and Erin? Are they coming too?” Clare asked over the phone.
“Don’t think so,” Michelle said. “The love birds going on a date. Don’t know where, and don’t really care. Forget about them.”
“Okay…see you there.”
Forget about them? They were her friends, how could she forget about them? Things were not going well.
And of course at the café she got a bad surprise when she saw James sitting by himself with a newspaper.
“Oh, hi,” she said.
“Hi, Clare. How are you?”
“Fine…ah…did you see Michelle?”
“No…no, don’t tell me. She’s meeting you here?”
“Aye. And Orla too. Are you meeting Erin?”
“Yes! Supposed to be our first date. Hoped for a little privacy. Michelle knew I was coming here!”
“Sorry, James…oh, there they are.”
Michelle and Orla walked in. “Well, look who it is,” Michelle said with a smirk to her cousin.
“Honestly, Michelle,” James said in exasperation. “You knew we were coming here.”
“Nope. But Orla did.”
“Aye, I did,” said Orla.
“Well, this is grand. Can’t you lot leave us alone for once?”
“Fine!” said Michelle and she walked over to another table and sat. “Come on girls, let’s get some coffee, and never mind my English ball ache of a cousin.”
James just shook his head in disgust and turned back to his newspaper.
“Michelle, we should leave,” Clare said with worry. “He’s right.”
“Look, we’ll just have our coffee and be off. I got plans anyways. Don’t you?”
“Yes,” Clare said.
“I don’t,” Orla told them. The waitress came over and they ordered some coffees.
“And donuts!” Orla said.
Not long after Erin came in and was very angry at them for ruining her date. But not long after everyone began to go their separate ways.
Clare met Laurie at five o’clock at a small restaurant at the far end of the mall that did a nice fish supper, hamburgers, hotdogs, nuggets and some pasta and salads.
She always felt a bit giddy when meeting her girlfriend. Just thinking of it made her flush. And the things Laurie and she had done…well…best not think of that or I’ll never be able to get through what had to be done.
Laurie was more brazen about her sexuality than Clare was and cared not who knew. She bounced into the restaurant and planted a big kiss on Clare’s lips. “Hello, darling,” she said with a smile.
“Hi,” Clare said with a grin.
Two old ladies at the next table gave them a look that said they did not approve. Laurie smiled at them. “Hello, darlings. All right now?”
“You should be ashamed!” one said to them. “Carrying on in public like that. It’s disgraceful.”
“As if you never ate minge on a Sunday afternoon,” Laurie shot back.
The old woman was shocked to her core and she and her companion soon left. Clare and Laurie had a good laugh about that.
They ordered food and as they waited Clare began to explain it all. Laurie sat and listened and nodded. “Ach, I can see why your ma wants to go. Strabane isn’t that far, is it?”
“No…about 20 minutes if the traffic is good.”
“Well, I don’t see why that should bother us. They got buses. I got my driver’s license and might be able to borrow my da’s car someday. Go on a little picnic somewhere. Just the two of us.”
“That would be grand. Might be a bit cold now though.”
“Aye, true enough.”
“Just…I won’t be here for Christmas,” Clare said with worry.
“Maybe we can meet up on Boxing Day?”
Clare smiled. “Yes! Let’s do that. I…oh, shite.”
Clare had just gotten a shock. “That fellow…the one from the first time I met you. The crazy one wanted to beat up my friend.”
“You mean Mad Stab?”
“Aye! I think I just saw him walk by in the mall.”
They both looked but could not see him. “Well, might have been him,” Clare said.
“That one’s a real nutter,” Laurie said. “I heard he might be up on charge for hitting a guy in a pub few weeks ago. Put him in hospital. Might go away for a few months.”
“Good, I hope he does.”
Their food came and they ate and had a nice time and went to a movie, and snuggled up in the dark together and she hardly knew what the movie was about.
They started to say goodbye at the bus stop. Laurie kissed her with passion and Clare felt herself melting on the spot. “I want you bad Clare,” she whispered.
“Aye…so do I.”
“Come back to my place. My folks be out at a party for a while.”
Clare gulped and nodded. “Aye…let’s go.” In the past she might have made an excuse and said no, but now she felt like life had to be lived to the fullest while she still had time.
And now on Sunday morning in church she felt a shudder go through her as she thought on all they had done. Things she would never confess to anyone and if God did not like it too bad.
She was alone today because her aunt had gone back to Strabane and it was just her and her mother again. And her ma was not so in love with the Church anymore.
Her ma had given her a sharp look at breakfast.
“You got in late.”
“It was just ten.”
“I worried. Call me next time you stay over at your girlfriend’s house.”
Clare was sure she turned red. “I…I…yes…I will.”
“Good. How she take the news of the move?’
“She’s fine with it. She can drive. And there’re buses.”
“Well, that’s good. Be happy love.”
Her ma smiled at her, the first smile she had seen in weeks. “Are you going to mass?”
The smile disappeared. “Not yet…I can’t be there yet. I’m sorry.”
“Not to worry. I’m going to get ready.”
“Might rain. Don’t forget an umbrella.”
And now mass was almost over. She took communion and sat and prayed for her father and mother and all the rest of the people suffering in the world.
As the people started to file out of the church she stayed behind and met her friends by the entrance. Her friend’s parents had gathered up by the altar and were speaking with Father Peter.
“So. Good date?” Erin asked her.
“Aye, was grand. And you?’
“Bit of drama,” James said.
“Why? What happened?” Michelle asked.
“I kicked a fellow in the balls,” Orla told them with a grin.
“You did what?” Clare asked in surprise.
“That nut job came after James!” Erin said in a low whisper. “And Orla got him by surprise and saved us.”
“Which nut job?” Michelle asked. It was a fair question as they had more than one enemy.
“Mad Stab!” James said.
“Jesus!” Clare exclaimed. “I thought I saw him in the mall!”
“I bet it was him,” Erin said. “He came after us in the parking lot after the movie.”
“And you kicked him in the balls?” Michelle asked Orla. “Fuck, I wish I had seen that!”
“He’ll be twice as mad now!” Erin said. “Not sure it’s safe for James around here.”
“I got some gossip about him girls,” Clare said.
“Spill,” Michelle said.
“Laurie said she heard he put a guy in hospital and is up on a charge. He’s going to prison!!”
“Jesus!” James said. “What a nutter.”
“You no have to worry,” Orla said. “I got your back. He’s scared of me.”
“Is he?” Michelle asked with a smirk.
“I think he is,” Erin said. “Shut up about all that. Here come the parents.”
Their parents and Father Peter approached them. “Well, James,” Father Peter started. “So I have been told of your situation by Sister Michael and now your family here. It seems we have some work to do.”
“Work?” James asked.
“Yes,” said Peter. “As an adult who wants to be baptized you need to study a bit about the Church and the…well…the spirit of Catholicism. I have some things for you to read.”
He handed James some booklets. “And you will have to come here every day after school this week to study with me in the parish hall.”
“Every day?” James asked in surprise.
“Aye,” said his Aunt Deidre. “If you want it you do it.”
“Yes, of course, it’s just…” he shot a quick glance at Erin. “Yes, I understand.”
“When can we do the ceremony, Father?” Erin asked.
“Well, normally we take all the adults who wish to be baptized in a ceremony at Easter.”
“Easter!” Erin said in shock. “But Sister Michael said it must be done this week!”
“Calm down, Erin,” her father said. “Listen to the man.”
“Yes, normally we do it at Easter,” Peter said. “But this is a special case, so I have some leeway. We can do it on the Saturday coming. That should be good enough for the bishop and the college.”
“Good,” said James with relief. “Thank you, Father. So…is there anything else I need to do besides study with you?”
“Yes. You must ask someone to be your godparents.”
James looked around at all of them and everyone was smiling at him. “Ah…anyone?” James asked.
“Well, not your mother and father of course,” Peter answered. “But anyone else is fine.”
“And do my mother and father have to be there?” James asked. “At the ceremony I mean.”
“No,” Peter said. “Only if you want them there.”
“Okay. Thanks for your help.”
“That’s why I am here.”
As they left the church the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to come out.
“Well, have you decided son?” Joe McCool asked James as they walked down the street to where they turned off for home.
“Ah, no sir, not yet.”
“He’s going to pick me,” said Michelle.
“Why would he pick you?” her father Martin asked. “You’re his cousin.”
“There’s no restriction on that is there?” Michelle asked.
“No, Michelle,” her mother said. “But I think James might want someone who doesn’t tear him up and down every chance she gets.”
“Ach, you do the same, ma! None of us is free of that sin.”
“Aye, suppose we aren’t,” admitted her mother. Clare had heard James’ aunt slag him off more than once. What a nightmare it must be for him living with them.
“I don’t tear him up,” said Clare proudly. “Please, James…I’ll do it.”
“No!” said Orla. “It’s me! He owes me!”
“You’re all off your rocker!” Erin said. “If it’s any of us it will be me! Cause…well…
“Enough!” her ma Mary said. “Leave the poor wain alone the lot of you. Enough on his mind.”
“Thank you,” James said, seemingly harassed.
“So, are they going to dunk you in the river?” Sarah McCool asked as she lit a cigarette.
“He never said, did he?” Joe said. “I remember a fellow year’s back, got baptized late. In a lake it were. Almost drown him they did.”
“Not sure,” James said with worry. “In America they do that. I’ll ask Peter when I see him.”
“Well, it will be all over soon,” Gerry Quinn told him as he put a hand on James’ shoulder. “Now…you’re 18, yes?”
“Yes, sir. Last month.”
“Good. Martin, Joe? Time we took this wee fellow to the pub, aye?”
“Aye, indeed,” said Joe McCool. “I’ll give Jim across the road a ring when we get to the pub. And then let’s see if this lad is as Irish as Erin says he is.”
“What?” James said with worry.
“Granda,” Erin pleaded. “Go easy on him, all right?”
“Not to worry,” her father said. “Martin, you coming?”
“Aye,” said Martin with enthusiasm.
“Not too late,” his wife said.
“I’m 18 too,” Michelle said.
“You had more than enough last night,” her mother said with a withering glare. “I can still smell it on you. And don’t think I forgot you missed confession. Next week for certain.”
As the men went off to the pub and good byes were made the ladies all went to the Quinn house for tea and biscuits and gossip. The main topic was not James or his baptism but the news that the students might have to pay up to 3000 pounds for university starting next year.
“So they are going to make it law, are they?” Mary asked in worry.
“Aye, mammy,” Erin said in a glum tone. “It’s true.”
“Jesus,” said Deidre. “It if don’t rain it pours.”
“Nightmare, so it is,” said Sarah.
“Is the price the same everywhere?” Michelle asked. “I mean a place like Cambridge or Oxford must be more.”
“No, think it’s the same everywhere,” Clare said.
“You not be worried about Cambridge or Oxford,” Michelle’s mother said sharply. “With your grades you’re lucky if Ulster University takes you.”
“Ach, who wants to study in England anyway?” Michelle said.
“Well, girls,” Mary said. “If you want it, you have to earn it. Might be time for you all to get part-time jobs.”
As they babbled on about this, Clare felt bad. On Monday she would have more than enough money in the bank for university and beyond.
Later the girls retired to Erin’s bedroom to listen to music and for some peace away from their mothers.
“Your ma still not going to mass?” Michelle asked Clare as she sat by the open window with a cigarette in hand, blowing smoke out the window.
“She’s not ready yet,” Clare said.
“I can understand,” Erin said. “So ladies…who’s it going to be?”
“Be what?” Orla asked as she sniffed one of the cigarettes from Michelle’s pack.
“You want it light it up,” Michelle said to Orla.
“I just like the smell. Mammy always smells like this.”
“No wonder,” Erin said with an eye roll. “Now come on. We have to decide who is going to be James’s godmother. Personally I think it should be me.”
“Not a fucking chance,” said Michelle. “You’re going out with him. How would he feel boinking his godmother?”
Erin turned slightly red in the face. “We are not…doing that.”
“Yet,” said Michelle. “Me and him had a long talk on it.”
“What?” Erin said in shock. “He talked to you about me?”
“No…about sex. Well, mostly I talked and he listened. Poor lad is green as grass. As are you. So, perfect couple.”
“What else did he say?” Erin asked. “About me, I mean.”
“He got it bad for you sister.”
“Aye,” said Clare. “I bet he loves you.”
“Aye,” said Orla. “He’s got the look.”
“What look?” Erin asked in worry.
“The ‘I want to be with you’ look,” Michelle said. “So wise up and get cracking.”
“Jesus,” Michelle said. “Do I have to explain everything about sex to you lot?”
“Not to me,” Clare said before she could stop herself.
“Oh, is that so?” said Michelle. “So tell us this Clare. How does a lesbian lose her virginity?”
“Same as any woman,” Clare shot back, tired of her superior attitude. “And I have made love to a woman for your information! And it was grand!”
They all stared at her with big smiles. Then Michelle put up her hand for the high five slap. “Give me some my wee little sex maniac!!”
Clare happily slapped the hand and they all hugged her and said congrats.
“So, how is she?” Orla asked.
“Fabulous. I never…in my life…oh…I saw stars, girls. Felt like I was l floating in space. I won’t even care if the bus takes all day long as I can be in her arms at the end of it.”
Confused looks. Oh no, she had said too much too soon. “Bus?” Erin said. “What bus in Derry takes all day?”
And so Clare told them. “Strabane?” Orla said. “Where’s that?”
“Down the road,” Erin said. “Been once. Not bad. But not Derry.”
“So you’ll still go to our school?” Michelle asked.
“Maybe not,” Clare said in a small voice. “Look girls, I know it sounds bad. But my ma needs this.”
“Aye,” said Erin. “So…we’ll make it work. There’s phones, and buses, and James can drive so might be able to get a car and…we’ll make it work. Now back to the godmother thing.”
They were still arguing an hour later when the door opened downstairs and there was a ruckus of loud male voices. They rushed downstairs to see all the men with the look of drink in them.
James was not as bad as the rest. Joe and Jim from across the road flopped down on the sofa, faces red and laughing about something. Gerry Quinn sauntered into the kitchen and kissed his daughter Anna’s cheek and then took his wife in hand and did a little dance with her.
“You’re drunk,” Mary said to him.
“Aye, and in love,” Gerry said and she smiled and kissed him once.
Martin sat with his wife at the kitchen table and kissed her as well. “All right, love?”
“You stink worse than Michelle,” she said. But half in jest.
The girls all looked at James who seemed to be handling his booze well. “How was it?” Erin asked.
“Grand,” he said. “I kind of had fewer than them. Played darts mostly.”
“He’s a great darts player,” Jim said. “Might have to get him on my team.”
“Well, long as you had fun,” Erin said and she came up to him and hugged him.
“Well, this is all fine and dandy,” Mary said. “You lot out having fun while we sit here with the worry of the world.”
James pulled a bottle of nice whisky out of his bag and put it on the kitchen table. “What’s all this?” Sarah asked.
“A gift,” said James.
“A gift? For what?” Mary asked.
“Listen to what he has of say, luv,” Gerry said. “Go on, son.”
“Mrs. Quinn,” James said in a slightly nervous tone. “I would like to ask you to be my godmother.”
She was shocked Clare could tell. As were all the girls, especially Erin. “My mammy!” Erin said in anger. “You want my mammy to be your godmother!”
“That’s enough of that!” her father said.
James came to Erin’s side. “I’m sorry, Erin. Girls. All of you. If I picked one then the others would be mad. Might cause trouble. So…I pick none of you. Do you understand?”
Erin’s eyes softened. “Aye…I understand. You did the right thing.”
“So I am a consolation prize, am I?” Mary said in anger.
“God almighty!” Gerry said. “Give the lad a chance, will you?”
“Don’t be talking to her like that you!” Joe said.
“Is it always like this here?” Martin said in a not so quiet aside to Sarah.
“Speak son,” Gerry said to James.
“Mrs. Quinn…,”James began. “Since I moved here, I felt…well abandoned…my mum dropping me at my aunt’s doorstep and leaving…me…here…I was terrified…and then I wasn’t. I made friends…”He looked at the girls. And his eyes fell on Erin. “And I found happiness. So much I never want to leave.” Erin smiled at him and then nodded and he looked back at Mary. “And you of all people have been more of a mother to me than my own mother. So I would like it very much if you would be my godmother.”
With trembling eyes Mary walked over to James. She took his shoulders in hand and looked at him with tears on her cheeks. “I would be honored son,” she said as she hugged him tight and kissed his cheek.
Clare felt her eyes get wet and she heard sniffs from Orla and Michelle as well. “You’re crying,” Orla said to Michelle.
“No, I am not,” Michelle said with a sniff.
“Well, that’s settled then,” said Deidre at last. Clare wondered if she would be miffed by what James had just said about Mary being like his mother but she seemed fine. “Now you just need a godfather,” Deidre added.
“All taken care of,” Gerry said.
“Who is it?” Erin asked.
Gerry smiled. “Me.”
“Christ,” said Joe. “When was that decided?”
“When you were in the loo I think,” Martin told him.
“Which time?” Jim asked.
“I’m an old man,” Joe said in protest. He stood on unsteady feet and clapped James on the shoulder. “Come on now, son. Open that bottle and have a taste of the creature and prove to me once and for all you are Irish. Someone get some glasses!”
The bottle was opened and drinks and toasts made and Clare was happy to be here with them all and wondered if times future she would remember this time as a good time, for all the heartache she still felt. She had love, she had friends, she had hope for the future, and for now that was good enough.
Chapter 5: Michelle
Michelle's confronted with the future as questions about university and a career clash with her own desires to just have fun. Meanwhile, she discovers a shocking secret about one of her friends.
Derry Girls - The Baptism Chapter 5 Michelle
“Fuck,” Michelle Mallon moaned as her dickhead cousin knocked on her bedroom door and said it was time to get ready for school. “Monday morning. Jesus Christ.”
Slowly she came to life, a slight hangover from the whisky consumed at the Quinn house yesterday. That was a first, drinking and her ma not yelling at her. Of course her ma had a few shots as well.
As Michelle took a hot shower she thought on all that had happened yesterday, everyone in a frenzy over trying to get James baptized before the school kicked him out. James, her idiot English cousin, who had never been baptized. Two thirds of the world had never been baptized she was sure. Why was he so special? Christ, they had all been in tears when he had asked Mary Quinn to be his godmother.
And now her best friend in the world was all gaga over James. That was a shock. Seeing them snog in that ghost house in Donegal.
She had been coming down the stairs, looking for a drink of water, and wondering if the milk crate of booze they left by the school van was still there, when she heard voices and then James say, “I think you’re beautiful.”
God, what a sight it was to see them snogging. Her hands on his face, eyes closed, lips locked, a moan from Erin, passion out the roof. She had been too stunned to speak and then just had to stop it all before she boked.
Erin later told her she had told James it was over, nothing more to it, but that hadn’t lasted long, just a few weeks. She couldn’t help herself and James was so clearly in love with her it was maddening.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want them to be happy. But she thought they never could be and that would destroy their little gang. It did feel a bit like incest though James was her cousin and not Erin’s. Yet he was almost like a brother to the four girls in the gang, so it was weird all around. But maybe she was wrong. Now that they were dating she was getting used to them. And she knew James would never hurt Erin. He was too fucking nice. And in love.
She came down for breakfast after putting on her school uniform and doing her makeup. Less is better, Sister Michael had said. Fucking penguin. As if she ever had to worry about what a man might think of her. The only man she every thought on was God. Another student once told her she had heard Sister Michael call God ‘she’ but that couldn’t be right. Only a man would bollocks up the whole universe so badly everyone was always trying to kill each other.
Her father was already gone to work, his job as a building contractor taking him away at odd hours all the time. At the kitchen table her mother sat with the morning newspaper in her blue nurse’s uniform, drinking coffee while James ate a bowl of cereal. A pile of buttered toast was on a plate and a cup of hot tea was already at Michelle’s place. She sat and took some toast and put some jam on it.
“All right you two,” her mother said as she put the newspaper down. “I need have a word before you head to school. We were up half the night talking on it.”
Oh Christ, what did we do this time? She glanced at James and he seemed as surprised as Michelle.
“About university,” her mother continued. “And the cost. I know it’s not for a while from now but we have to start making plans in case the English bastards make all this university tuition thing law.”
“I think my mum will take care of mine Aunt Deidre,” James said.
“Let us hope. My sister didn’t take care of much where you are concerned James. I’ll be ringing her later to have a word about all that. Meanwhile you two best start thinking about the future. Time to earn your keep.”
“You mean getting jobs, right?” Michelle said. Something had been said about that yesterday.
“Aye. You might want to come to the hospital and volunteer,” her mother said.
“They don’t pay volunteers,” Michelle answered. “Do they?”
“No, but it could lead to a proper job. Once you get familiar to the place they might consider you for an opening.”
“The hospital? Look, no offense ma, but I can’t stand the thought of changing some old biddies’ nappies and watching grandas drooling in their fruit cups.”
Her mother stared at her. “Right. And you think that’s all I’ve been doing there for 15 years? I’m a surgical assistant. I’ve helped save lives!”
“I know,” Michelle said. “But that will never be me, ma. Come on, you know that. Besides I haven’t the grades in Biology or Chemistry to enter nursing school.”
“Aye, I suppose not. So what will you do with your life?”
“Jesus, can I just eat my toast in peace?”
“No. It’s time to make decisions. Well?”
Michelle was taken aback. All she wanted to do was have a good time. Thinking about a career made her get a headache. “Maybe something in fashion?” she said just to please her mother.
“Then you don’t need university for that. Go to beauty school.”
“Christ, no,” Michelle said. “Look, I want to go to uni, just…James! For fuck’s sake, say something!”
He snapped awake from whatever he was thinking about, probably Erin, the English pervert. “I think you should have a look at the brochures and web site for the local university and see what suits you.”
That was a good answer. “Right. So, ma, to be continued.”
“Very well. And James? Any thoughts on your future?”
“I want to take film studies at Ulster University.”
Michelle laughed. “What the hell? You think you’re Steven Spielberg or Francis Ford…whatever his name is?”
“Coppola,” James said. “Francis Ford Coppola. And no, I don’t think I am as good as those geniuses. But it’s what I want to do.”
“Least you have an idea,” Deidre said. “But why Ulster? You might have the grades for a school in Dublin or England?”
“He wants to be close to his woman,” Michelle said with a smirk. “And what if Erin goes off to some far away school?”
“Christ, Michelle,” her ma said. “Leave the poor lad alone.” She finished her coffee. “I’m off. James don’t forget to see Father Peter after school. We’ll both be home late so you two get your own supper. And do the bloody dishes for once!”
And then she was gone.
“Fuck sakes,” Michelle moaned. “Jobs? University? Christ.”
“Life catching up to us.”
“Bloody hell. How we going to pay for uni?”
“My mum will,” James said.
“You think so? Keep dreaming. I know she sends you fancy cameras and all but don’t depend on her for that much quid.”
“Right. Might be best to have a backup plan. I think I might ask Dennis for a job at the video shop.”
Michelle almost laughed and then smiled. “Maybe. He’s a bit of a prick but might do. He’s always banging on about how he needs help at the wee shop in the evenings and on weekends.”
James looked at the clock on the wall. “We’d better go.”
As they walked to the bus stop James had something on his mind. “Did Erin ever talk to you about her uni plans?”
“Just that she wants to study literature or writing or…something to do with English.”
“Right. That makes sense. But not where?”
“Look, her family is as poor as ours. So the best bet for all of us is to pray we get into Ulster University right here in Derry. That way we don’t have to worry about dorm fees and food and want not. God, four more years living with them. I think I’ll go mad.”
At lunch that’s all they talked about, jobs and university plans. “Going to uni right here in Derry is the best we can hope for,” Erin agreed with them. Michelle looked at James and could see that made him happy.
“And still where the hell we going to get 3000 quid?” Michelle asked.
“They have loan plans,” Clare told them. “The banks I mean. For students. The interest rates are not that high.”
Erin scoffed. “Aye, as if our mas will go into debt so we can go to school.”
“It’s not our mammys,” said Orla. “It’s us. We go into debt.”
“What?” Erin said. “Where did you hear that?”
“At the bank,” Orla said.
“What were you doing at the bank?” Michelle asked. Orla was always off in her own little world, doing things that always surprised them. Like kicking that sick fuck Mad Stab in the balls.
“I was just sitting there in the lobby one day reading the brochures while mammy was doing things,” Orla told them. “It’s nice in there. Comfy chairs.”
“So about these loans, Orla?” James asked.
And then Orla went off on a spiel about interest and numbers and how much you had to pay back and what happens if you defaulted and on and on and it was making her head spin.
“How the fuck you remember all that?” Michelle asked.
Orla took out a bank brochure from her bag. “I read it again this morning. Here, have a look.”
Michelle shook her head and Orla passed the brochure to James. “No, thanks,” Michelle said. “I’m going to get a job first. A loan will be a last resort.”
“Where are we going to get jobs?” Erin moaned. “We can’t steal a notice board from a chip shop again!”
“I’m going to ask Dennis for a job at the video shop,” James told them.
“That’s a good idea!” Erin said. “Maybe he needs help at the wee shop too.”
“Stall the fucking ball!” Michelle said. “I got first dibs on that job if there is one.”
“Says who?” Erin shot back. “I said it first!”
“No, I did. James!”
James sheepishly nodded. “Yeah, Erin, she did. This morning she said it.”
Erin huffed. “Right…well. I guess it’s all yours. Man’s a nut job anyways.”
Clare spoke up. “Why don’t you ask your ma to get you a job in Woolworths?”
Erin shook her head. “I asked this morning. There’s no openings now. And if so said she can’t. Be taking a job away from someone with a family.”
“You can say that about any job,” Michelle told them. “Clare, what about you?”
“Ah, well…I’ll be in Strabane so no sense me getting a job in Derry.”
“Right,” said Michelle. Then she saw someone down the hall looking at them. Someone short and by an open locker, a girl she didn’t know, brown hair, maybe a first or second year student, obviously trying to look at them and listen, turning quickly away when Michelle spotted her. “For fuck’s sake.”
Michelle stood and went straight to the girl, who now hurriedly closed her locker and was trying to put the lock back on when Michelle grabbed her by the shoulder and pushed her up against the lockers.
“Who fucking sent you?” she snarled at the terrified girl.
Clare had a cack attack. “Michelle! What are you doing?”
“This midget was spying on us girls. Ain’t that right?!”
“No!” squealed the girl. “I was just getting my books.”
“Michelle, let her go!” James said as he looked with worry up and down the hall.
“Not till she tells us the truth.”
“I’ll get it out of her!” Orla said with menace.
“Stop it!” Erin told them. “Let’s just get out of here.”
“It was Jenny Joyce, wasn’t it?” Michelle asked the frightened girl.
“No, honest!” she protested.
“Orla,” Michelle said. “Have a go.”
Orla stuck her face right up to the wee girl’s and gave her the craziest look. “Tell us all you know…or else.”
“I…I…it was Jenny Joyce!” the girl confessed, almost in tears. “Told me to keep an eye. That’s all. Keep an eye and report anything strange.”
“I fucking knew it,” Michelle said. “That bitch!”
“You alone?” James asked the girl. “Or are there others?”
“Ah…yes…she asked a lot of us. This morning before class.”
Erin pulled Orla back from the girl. “Go,” she said. “And never stick your nose in our business again. Tell the others the same!”
The girl ran away as fast as she could.
“Right!” Michelle said. “Come on girls. Time to nip this in the bud.”
“What are you going to do?” Clare asked in fright.
“Kill Jenny Joyce of course! This been coming for years!”
“Stop!” James said. “Look, we all know who put Jenny up to this. And there is nothing we can do about her so let’s just move on and fly straight.”
Michelle knew who he meant. “Right. Let’s see about that. Come on!”
Sister Michael was not pleased to see them. Her secretary Miss Mooney tried to stop them from entering Sister Michael’s office but Michelle just barged right past her.
“What in the name of sweet Jesus is all this?” Sister Michael asked in anger as she stood from behind her desk.
“You sent spies after us!” Michelle accused her.
“I certainly did not!”
“Well, your pet Jenny Joyce did,” Michelle told her.
“I gave her no such orders. What are you on about?”
“We caught someone trying to listen in on us while having lunch,” James told her. “She said Jenny put her up to it.”
“Really?” Sister Michael said. “Hmmm…maybe a good idea.”
“That is a violation of our rights, sister!” Erin said.
“Miss Quinn, this is convent school. You have no rights!”
“Come on girls. Let’s just go,” Clare said in fright.
But Michelle was not done. “You want us out, don’t you?” she told Sister Michael.
“If I wanted you out you’d be out by now! Look girls, you’ve only yourselves to blame. All the trouble you’ve caused.”
“We know,” James said. “But there must be trust. We promised to be good. But Jenny having other students spy on us is going over the line sister.”
Sister Michael nodded. “Very well. I’ll have a word with her. Leave it to me. Now get out! You’ve ruined my nap time!”
The bell for next class soon rang. History was first for the five of them. Of course Jenny and Aisling took it as well.
As Jenny came in the classroom Michelle stood and confronted her. “Bitch!” she snarled in a low voice.
Jenny was taken aback. “What did I do to deserve that?”
Erin stood as well. “You sent spies after us!”
Aisling defended Jenny. “Why would she do that?”
Just then the PA system chimed to life. “Will Jenny Joyce please report to Sister Michael’s office immediately?” came the voice of Miss Mooney. “Jenny Joyce to Sister Michael’s office.”
Jenny turned pale as Michelle smirked. “You’re in for it now. We caught one of your spies!”
Jenny left without a word. Aisling stood there dumbfounded. “She didn’t, did she?”
Erin snorted. “Christ Aisling, how can you ask that? You know her better than any of us.”
“Aye…right. Well…so…time for class.”
“Not yet,” Erin said. “I want a word about James.”
Aisling blushed a little. “What about him?”
“He’s mine!” Erin snarled in a low voice so no one but Michelle heard her. “Stay away!”
“Aye, I know you’re dating. The whole school knows.”
“Well…good. So…stop flirting with him.”
“Yeah, right. Oh, I’ve the Internet at home. Oh, do you need some help?”
“That wasn’t flirting,” Aisling protested.
“Don’t even talk to him!” Erin snapped, a crazy look in her eyes.
“All right!” Aisling said in exasperation. “God, you must really love him.”
“I…ah…” Erin fumbled, now turning red. Erin was saved by the teacher arriving and class beginning.
Hours later school was over, thank Jesus. James went off towards the parish hall where he would have his lessons with Father Peter. Clare headed home and Orla went off to her step aerobics class which she always had on Monday. Erin wanted to wait for James to finish so with time on their hands Michelle and Erin headed to Dennis’ wee shop to check on the job situation.
“No, there’s no fucking jobs here,” Dennis said in his typically rude way.
“I thought I heard you moaning about never having a break?” Michelle said.
“Aye, but I can’t afford to hire anyone. Times is tough girls.”
They looked around. Times didn’t seem so tough. The shop was full of kids heading home after class, buying sweets and crisps and sodas and all the rest of the junk Dennis had for sale.
“What about part-time?” Michelle asked. “After school and on weekends.”
“What the fuck do you know about running a shop?” Dennis asked.
“Let’s see,” Michelle said. “Oh, you sell things, you take their money, you give them change, and then if they piss you off you yell “get out!”. That about right?”
“Aye, about so.” He looked at Erin and then back to Michelle. “Only one opening, girls.”
Erin shook her head. “No, thanks. Not for me.”
“Then get out!!” Michelle yelled in her loudest voice. Everyone in the shop stopped what they were doing as Erin gave her a look. Michelle smirked and looked back at Dennis. “Well?”
“Good one. You’re hired.”
“Stall the ball. How much?”
“Two pound an hour.”
Erin snorted. “Two pound? That’s not even the minimum wage!”
“Aye,” said Dennis. “But this is fucking Derry where jobs are scarce, so take or leave it.”
“Five pound,” Michelle said.
“You’re off your nut. Two pound fifty.”
“Fuck no. Four pound.”
“Christ, the cheek. Okay. Three pound. That’s it!”
Michelle smiled. “Right. I believe that is the minimum wage.”
“Aye, it is so,” Erin said.
“So come on, get to work,” Dennis said.
Michelle was taken aback. “Now?”
“Aye, now! Get back here so I can show you how to use the register and then I need to have a piss.”
Michelle came around and in a few moments Dennis gave her the gist of the cash register and he went off to the back bathroom. Erin stood there eating sweets while Michelle served the customers and she even got to see Michelle tell one cheeky brat to ‘get out!!’
“Well, have fun,” Erin said. “Think I’ll go wait for James to finish. Laters.”
“There’ll be no one at home at our place. They’ll both be late from work.”
Erin seemed to gulp. “Really…no one home?”
“Aye. Just saying if you want to be alone with him, now’s your best chance. And tell that idiot if he don’t have his own then there’s rubbers in my room in the top desk drawer.”
She looked pale. “God.”
“That’s what you’ll be screaming. Well, maybe not the first time. For fuck’s sake go!”
Erin stumbled out of the shop in a daze. Michelle really hoped those two idiots got their shit together.
Two hours later Dennis told her to go as the customer rush died down. He’d pay by the week he said, in cash, no paper work, and fuck the English and their taxes that bled small businesses dry. That suited Michelle just fine.
As she walked home near her street turn off a red car pulled up ahead of her and stopped. A tall girl in a school uniform got out of the passenger side…Orla.
As Michelle was about to shout to her a tall man got out of the car, dark haired, and looked like he was in his forties. He yelled, “Orla, love, your bag.”
Orla turned around and took her school bag from the man and then to Michelle’s utter shock and horror the man hugged her and kissed her cheek. “See you next week,” the man said.
“Aye, see you,” Orla answered.
“For fuck’s sake!” Michelle gasped.
The man got back in the car and drove off…leaving Orla standing there…looking at Michelle.
“All right now?” Orla said. “Going home?”
“Aye…Jesus, Orla. You’re not doing him, are you?”
“What? No. That would be very odd now, wouldn’t it?”
“Too fucking right it would. He’s old enough to be your father!”
“Aye, so he is.”
“What?” No, she didn’t mean it.
“He’s my Da.”
“No thanks. Come on.”
As they walked Orla explained. “I tell everyone I do step aerobics on Monday’s but I sometimes go to his house or meet him for coffee. I found him about two years ago,” she said. “Mammy never wanted me to find him, of course. Got her pregnant with me and then went off and left us by ourselves. Or so she claims. Never talked about him much. And Granda promised to kill him so…that was that.”
“How you find him?”
“I found my birth certificate in mammy’s things. His name was on it. Sean O’Brien.”
“Good Irish name.”
“Aye, so it is. Do you know how many Sean O’Brien’s there are in just Derry? Twenty-four.”
“Well, I am sure some of them are too old or too young to be your da.”
“Right. But ten of them fit the bill. So I started digging. Took a while but I found the right one. I also found a picture of him and mammy together at some dance. Showed him that and he nodded, said it was him.”
“He never knew about you?”
“He knew. Was told to stay away, so he did.”
“Christ, Orla. That’s awful.”
“It is what it is.”
“How he take you showing up on his doorstep?”
“Weren’t a doorstep. Met in a café first time. Still, a bit of a shock. Took things slow. Waited a few months to meet his family. He were nice about it all. Could have told me to go to hell. But he didn’t.”
“Aye. I asked him why they never married. He said mammy didn’t want that.”
“He was willing?”
“Think so. Anyways he is married now. Got two sons and a daughter a few years younger than me.”
“Wow. Like a second family.”
Orla smiled. “Aye. We get along.”
“What’s he do?”
“Christ, maybe my Da knows him.”
“Does anyone else know?”
“Two years! Fuck that’s a long time to keep a secret.”
“Aye.” Now Orla stared at her with steel in her eyes. “And it stays a secret, Michelle. You saw me by chance. I no want any bother at home. It’s my life.”
“Right. Well, as you wish.”
“Good. Now why you walking home late?”
Michelle told her all about her new job and then it was time to part. When she walked into her house there was James and Erin in the kitchen, at the stove, cooking something, both smiling and laughing and talking like an old husband and wife.
“Oh, Michelle,” Erin said in surprise. “Just…ah…cooking supper.”
“Right,” Michelle said. “And where’s your school uniform?” Erin was wearing a football club T-shirt and very baggy track pants. James’ clothes she was sure.
“Jesus,” James said.
Erin turned red. “Ah…well…it’s…”
“On the floor of James’ bedroom?” Michelle asked with a smirk.
“Fine!” Erin said. “Yes, if you must ask we…we…”
“Had sex? Bumped uglies? Did the nasty? Played hide the wiener?”
“Do you have to be so crude?” James snapped at her.
“Well, sorry. So, how was it?”
“Christ!” Erin shouted. Before she could say more the phone rang. Michelle answered it. “Oh, hi Mary. Why yes, she’s right here.”
Erin took the phone. “Yes, ma….yes…we were just having tea….yes…ten minutes. Bye.”
“I gotta go,” she said after she hung up and then she ran upstairs.
“What’s for supper?” Michelle asked as she looked at the pot James was stirring.
“Just making some chicken soup. My step-dad taught me how to make it.”
A long silence. Michelle had to ask. “So?”
“So…it was fine,” he said. “I mean, first time jitters and all. But fine.”
“You used a condom?”
“It gets better you know. First time is always bad.”
“You clean the sheets?”
“In the washer now.”
“Good. Get them done before they get home.”
“Well, I guess there is nothing more to say. Welcome to the club.”
A few minutes later Erin tore out of there and James walked her to the door where Michelle was sure they had a nice long snog.
As they ate their chicken soup with ham and cheese sandwiches Michelle had to ponder it all. Her friends were seemingly so happy. These two nut jobs falling in love. Orla finding her da. Clare slowly rebounding from her father’s loss, happy in the arms of a woman she probably loved.
And what about Michelle? Life was getting too real. School ending. University looming…maybe. Career to think about…all of it happening fast. And most of all, she wondered what would ever make her as happy as her friends?
Chapter 6: Orla
Orla finds it tough to navigate through life but as long as she has friends, family, and sweets, and a positive happy mind, all is well. Yet times are changing. Exciting new possibilities appear but at the same time the past begins to catch up to her.
Derry Girls - The Baptism Chapter 6 Orla
Orla McCool said bye to Michelle and made her way home. Well, not her home, but her Aunt Mary and Uncle Gerry’s home, which was kind of like her home, since she spent so much time there, but was not really her home, since she lived next door with her mammy. But her mammy spent so much time there too, well, it was like their home too.
In fact, when she was wee she thought it was her home, their home, meaning Gerry and Mary’s home…Gerry and Mary…ha, that rhymes, and she sometimes thought her cousin Erin was her sister, cause it would be class to have a sister, or a brother, or both. Clare and Michelle were also like sisters but not really, and James was like a brother, but also not really, and now he was snogging Erin he was really not their brother. But snogging Erin made him and her seem happy, so that was fine. But not having brothers and sisters was not fine.
But now she did have them. One sister and two brothers. Well, half-sisters and brothers. And it was grand. And it was not. She could never tell anyone about them.
But now Michelle knew her secret. She’d better keep her mouth shut. Or on the enemies list she would go. All the way to number 1. Well, maybe number 2. Cause Jenny Joyce would always be number 1. Bitch. After today sending spies after them, there was no way she’d ever be knocked out of first place.
The enemies list was her way to fight back against the injustice of the world. People had always been fucking with her since she was a child. Orla knew she was different but didn’t care. Yet the world was full of arseholes that always reminded you that you were not quite like them. She had been the butt of jokes and snide comments for years, until the summer before last year of primary school when she had shot up three inches and was taller than all her friends and classmates. She didn’t know it then but she got that from her Da, who was well over six foot tall. In June her clothes had fit well and by the end of August they didn’t. First day of school some girl made a crack about her trousers ending above her ankles and Orla had punched the girl so hard she had two teeth knocked out. She got detention and a good scolding from mammy over that but no one had ever fucked with her after that. Least not in that school.
“All right mammy?” she said with a smile as she entered the Quinn house and dropped her school bag by the inside door. Her mother was at the kitchen table, smoking as usual, still in her white top from the hair and nail salon where she worked.
“All right, luv,” her mother said.
Aunt Mary was cooking dinner, and Granda Joe was watching TV and little Anna was on the floor coloring in a book.
Anna looked up. “Orla!”
“Hiya, little wain,” Orla said as she reached down and picked her up and Anna giggled.
“How’s school, luv?” her mother asked as Orla walked into the kitchen with Anna in her arms.
“Jenny Joyce sent spies after us but we caught one and she squealed and Sister Michael gave Jenny a talking to so…all’s well. Is there any biscuits?”
“I wanna biscuit,” Anna said.
“She did what?” Aunt Mary said from the stove as Orla opened a cupboard and got a packet of biscuits. “Spies? The nerve!”
“What the blazes is going on in that school?” her Granda asked as he walked into the kitchen area and Orla and Anna sat at the table. “Probation! Spies! I’ll telling you girls, it’s not worth it! Time to move on!”
“Da,” Aunt Mary said. “It’s just a rough patch. We’ll get through it. Now, where’s Erin?”
Orla shrugged. “Don’t know. Had step class, then came home.” It was a lie but she didn’t care.
“Christ. She should have been home by now,” Marry said in worry. “If she’s at James’ place there will be hell to pay!”
Mary went to the phone and called Michelle’s house. “Michelle, is Erin there?...Get yourself home!...It’s almost supper time…bye.” She hung up and sighed. “Well, Michelle was there…so…never mind.”
Orla was about to say Michelle had just gotten there but something in her brain clicked, and she knew it was not the right thing to say. Erin had her secrets too.
“I wouldn’t worry about her too much,” Orla’s mammy said. “I don’t think the boy has it in him.”
Granda snorted. “You well know all boys have it in them, Sarah. I’ll be keeping an eye on them two if I were you, Mary.”
“God, she’ll be 18 in two months, Da,” Mary said with worry. “What will I do then? Hard enough to control her now. Sweet Jesus, and he’s already 18.”
“James would never hurt her,” Orla said. “He’s too nice.”
“Aye, that he is,” Mary agreed.
“And he loves her so,” Orla blurted before she could stop herself this time. That happened often.
“What?” Mary almost shrieked. “Really? You think so?”
“Aye,” said Sarah. “See the way the boy looks at her. It’s love for sure.”
“But does she love him?” Mary asked.
Orla nodded. “Think so, but she never said it. Well, he didn’t either so…” Or maybe they had and no one else had heard it. She’d have to have a go at Erin’s diary again soon.
“Christ,” Granda said. “We can’t have him marrying her Mary. Imagine having one of them in our family! Bloody English bastards!”
“Da!” Mary said in surprise. “You were drinking whisky with the lad just yesterday and calling him Irish!”
“Aye, I suppose I was. Totally forgot.”
“And no one is getting married,” Mary said and then she crossed herself. “Not yet, I hope.”
“Sure and all, it’s just beginnings,” Sarah said. “Now Orla luv, how about you? Got your eye on a fellow?”
“No, mammy,” she said. “Don’t really care either.” It was true. She was never as boy crazy as Michelle or Erin.
“Well…that’s not very fun,” her mother replied.
“Count yourself lucky, Sarah,” Mary said from where she stirred a pot of stew. “My nerves.”
“Do you not like boys?” Orla’s mother asked her.
“Aye, some,” Orla said as she took a bite of biscuit. “Not all.”
“Of course not all,” Sarah said. “But I was asking is…well…there’s no shame if you don’t.”
“God, Sarah,” Mary said. “Why you asking her that here in front of us?”
“We’re family,” Sarah replied. “And I think it would nice to have...one…in our family. Make us kind of special. Sometimes I envy Geraldine Devlin.”
“Jesus save me,” Mary said in exasperation as she went back to her cooking.
Orla laughed, knew what she was getting at now. “No, mammy. I’m not like Clare. I’m not gay.”
“Not that there is anything wrong with that,” Granda said.
“You got that from Seinfeld, Da?” Mary asked.
“Aye, so I did. Great show.”
Orla’s mother looked at her. “So not boys so much, not girls…well, what else is there?”
Orla smiled. “The whole wide world. And sweets. I love sweets.”
“Me, too,” said Anna with a mouthful of biscuit.
Mary grabbed the packet of biscuits off of the table and put them away. “Don’t ruin your appetite,” she said as Orla and Anna gave her cross looks.
Erin came in then and dropped her book bag on the floor next to Orla’s. “Sorry,” she said, out of breath as she took off her scarf. “We got caught up talking about uni plans and forgot the time.”
“Aye, supper’s almost ready,” Mary said. “Go get out of those uniforms girls.”
“Where’s Da?” Erin asked.
“He caught a double shift,” her mother told her. “Christmas time, so many deliveries. Be home late. Now come on. Get changed.”
Orla and Erin grabbed their book bags and headed for the hall. As Erin was about to go upstairs Orla grabbed her by the arm and whispered. “She was suspicious of you being alone with James there.”
Erin looked stunned. “That why she called?”
“Aye. I know Michelle just got there cause I met her in the street on my way home.”
“Jesus. Does mammy know?”
“No. All is good.”
Orla grinned. “So…you and…”
“Orla! Not now!
“Get a move on!” Mary shouted from the kitchen.
Orla was afraid they might bring up the topic of James and Erin being alone at supper but all Mary asked was how he was and was he getting ready for his baptism.
“Aye,” Erin answered. “Had his first lessons with Father Peter today.”
“Went well?” Orla’s ma asked.
“Guess so,” Erin said. “Sounds boring. Like Sunday school all over. Oh, James said he might try to get a job at the video shop.”
“Is that so?” Granda said. “Well, least the lad is industrious.”
“You two should follow his lead,” Mary said. “Christmas time is busy time at Woolworths. We need hire four more people for the holidays starting next week. Get yourselves down there after school tomorrow right quick and I’ll try to save you a spot.”
“Really?” Erin said. “But just this morning…”
“I know what I said this morning. Things have changed. They need two in gift wrapping. Evenings and Saturday all day. You two can handle that, aye?”
“Yes,” Erin said. “Thanks!”
“Hold on. What’s it pay?” Orla asked.
“Three pound an hour.”
“Minimum wage, is it not so?” Sarah asked.
“Aye. So it is,” Erin said. “Save some money for Christmas gifts at least.”
“Good, it’s settled,” Mary said.
Then Erin’s face fell. “We got exams week before Christmas holidays.”
Mary sighed. “Well…right. Exams are more important. Never mind all that work stuff. Study hard and do your best.”
Just then Uncle Gerry came home, tired from working all day. As he sat for supper Erin and Orla went to Erin’s room to do some homework.
“Midterm A level mock exams soon,” Erin said as she sat at her desk opened her history book. “We better get cracking on history.”
“Shame we can’t get those jobs,” Orla said.
“We can’t do both.”
“Cause there’s only 24 hours in a day, Orla. And exams are more important.”
“Come on, we got as far as the French Revolution.”
But Orla had other things on her mind as she settled into a comfy chair. “You were alone at Michelle’s house with James?”
“Not for long. Come on, let’s study.”
“No. I want to talk about this.”
“Well, I don’t! And keep your voice down!”
But Orla would not be put off. She wanted to know. “I think I’ll go have a word with Aunt Mary about you and James being…”
“Jesus, Orla…all right! If I tell you will you shut up and study?”
Erin took a deep breath. “So…right…well…I met him at the parish hall…and…”
“Skip ahead to the good part.”
“Let me tell it my way or not at all, okay?”
“Right so…where was I?”
“The parish hall.”
“Yes. So we walked to his house and outside his door he asked me in for tea.”
“To get you in his house.”
“Right…what? No…well…yes. So…we went to the kitchen and he started to fill the kettle with water and, well…neither of us really wanted tea.”
“You wanted to be naked together in bed?”
“Who made the first move?”
“I did. I said, ‘James, I don’t want tea…I want you.’”
“I thought so. Well, he kissed me...and then some more…and then we went to his room…and…well…I said can we take our clothes off…and I thought he would faint, but we got past that and soon they were off…and well…we…you know…”
“No, I don’t know. Please explain in detail.”
“In detail? God, no!”
“Just answer one thing…did it hurt?”
“Aye, a bit…not too much. He was gentle and we went slow…and he kissed me a lot…and touched me…in places I never have been touched…and…it was nice.”
“Well. No…it was brilliant.” Now Orla could see her cheeks were pink from the memory of it.
“Aye, it was.”
“Maybe it’s time I did it as well.”
“Aye…but with who?”
“Can I borrow James?”
“What!? Jesus Christ, no!”
Orla laughed. “Just a wee joke.”
“Aye, it was dead funny.”
“So, you going to do it again?”
“I hope so.”
“Well, your mammy worries about that. If she had called and Michelle hadn’t answered I bet you would be in for it. And you know where I came from, so, and how I got here, so.”
“What are you on about?”
“God, Erin don’t you know about the birds and the bees?”
“Of course I do! But I don’t know how you got here. No one ever talks about how you got here. Sometimes I think God made you from spare parts and dropped you among us. But for sure some man had sex with your mammy 18 years ago and nine months later you were here. That’s all I know. Do you know more?”
“Well, I’m fair certain they didn’t used a condom.”
“Aye, that makes sense.”
“Did you two?”
“Yes. Of course. We’re not idiots.”
“Good. Okay, I heard enough. Let’s study.”
As Orla opened her history book Erin just stared at her. “What?” Orla finally asked.
“Nothing. Just…thanks for listening.”
“Not a problem. I’m glad for you.”
“Do you love him?”
Erin blushed. “I…well…I think so.”
“Good. Cause he definitely loves you.”
“Really? He said so?”
“No. It’s his face when he looks at you.”
“Aye, Clare said the same the other day. He got the look.”
But Erin was too wound up to study much so they talked about this and that, some of this and a bit more of that, and a lot about James. And then school and that got them back to studying at last.
Next morning on the bus Erin and James sat together while Michelle, Clare, and Orla sat behind them.
“So,” Michelle teased. “World seems a lot nicer today, eh?”
“What?” James asked. “What does that mean?”
“Sky bluer, birds chirping, flowers blooming, you know?”
“It’s December,” Clare said. “There are no flowers blooming.”
“Aye,” said Orla. “And it’s cloudy, looks like rain.”
Erin fumed. “Michelle, if you say one word to any one, I will get Orla to kick you where it hurts!”
“What’s going on?” Clare asked in worry. “What happened?”
Michelle grinned. “These two are no longer virgins.”
“Honestly,” James moaned.
“Orla! Kick her, please!” Erin commanded.
“Maybe later,” Orla said. She had enjoyed kicking that nutter Mad Stab, but was sure she couldn’t kick one of her friends.
Clare was pleasantly surprised by the news about her friends. “Really? Wow, that’s great!”
“Be quiet!” Erin said as she looked around in worry. “Sister Michael will kill us first and then tell our parents if she gets wind of this!”
“Relax the cacks,” Michelle said. And then she looked at Orla. “You’re the last of us. Got to get you fixed up.”
“I asked Erin if I could borrow James but she was dead set against it.”
“Jesus,” James moaned. “Someone shoot me now, please.”
“Don’t say that around here,” Erin told him. “Bad luck. And Orla, can you for once keep quiet about things we talked about that I thought were private? Same goes for you Michelle!”
“It were just a joke, Erin,” Orla reminded her.
“Good one,” Michelle said. “I bet I can fix you up. I know a few lads might have a go.”
“No, thanks,” said Orla. “Don’t worry yourself. I’m fine. Don’t want a lad having a go.”
“Really?” Clare said, seemingly all excited. “Cause if it’s not a boy you want, I know…”
“She’s straight,” Erin interrupted. “Aren’t you?”
“Aye, I am,” said Orla. “And if I find a boy I like, like you did with James here, then I am all for it. But I don’t want some random drunken arsehole pawing me all over.”
“Why not?” Michelle said. “It’s fun.”
“Doesn’t sound like it,” Clare said.
“Don’t tell me if some hot girl fancied you that you won’t go off with her?” Michelle asked.
“No, I wouldn’t!” Clare said. “I am in a relationship now. I am a one woman girl!”
Erin nodded. “Aye, Clare. Good for you. Jesus, Michelle, why don’t you get a boyfriend? One that lasts for more than one night at least?”
“You don’t think I’m trying!” Michelle said. “I did fancy the arse off that Prod boy, but he had that fucking purity bracelet. Then there was Hans from the robbery, but well, he’s doing time now I am sure. Not sure if that was his real name or not.”
“What about your date from the pub last Saturday?” Erin asked.
Michelle snorted. “Him? He ended up in the loo boking his guts out. Forget it. I’ll just have to keep my eyes opened. Opportunity will strike girls.”
Opportunity did strike at school. But not the kind Michelle was hoping for. Before the usual morning assembly Jenny Joyce approached the gang.
“What do you want?” Erin asked in anger.
Jenny cleared her throat. “I have been asked…well, ordered…by Sister Michael…to apologize for the incident yesterday.”
“Well?” Michelle said. “Then fucking apologize!”
“Right. So, I am sorry.”
“For what?” Clare asked.
“For…asking students to spy on you. Sorry.”
“Aha!” Michelle said in triumph. “I knew you put her up to it!”
“Of course we knew,” James told her “The girl admitted it.”
As Jenny crawled away the whole gang felt a sense of enjoyment. “Is that the first time she ever apologized to you?” James asked.
“Think so,” said Michelle.
“Doesn’t mean much,” said Clare. “We are still on probation! She’s still a prefect who can rat on us.”
“Aye,” said Orla. “Top of the list.”
“What does that mean?” Michelle asked.
“Jenny Joyce. Number one enemy,” Orla explained.
“Oh, right. Definitely.”
The day slowly crawled by, with most of their time prepping for the exams they would take in a week’s time. Nothing dramatic happened which was good for a change. After class James went off to see Father Peter again and the rest went to the wee shop where Michelle had to work.
“Right, it’s all yours,” Dennis said to her. “There’s no one covering the video shop so I gotta go open up.”
“Do you need help at the video shop?” Erin asked Dennis at the doorway.
“Aye. Why? You want it?”
“No, but my…ah…James wants to know if there is a job opening.”
“James? Who the fuck is James?”
“The wee English fellow always with us,” Michelle explained.
“Mouthy one, never pipes down?”
“That’s him,” Orla said.
“He know anything about movies?” Dennis asked.
“Tons!” said Erin. “He loves movies.”
“Aye,” added Clare. “He even has his own camera and tried to make a movie last summer.”
“Right. Well, where is he?” Dennis asked.
“Ah…he’s busy till the weekend,” Erin explained.
“Well, I need someone right fucking now.” He looked at her. “You’ll do. Come on.”
“What? Me? I got exams soon.”
“I’ll do it,” Orla said.
“Then let’s fucking go,” Dennis told her.
Orla grinned. “I got a job.”
Erin was mad. “That were James’ job!”
“He can have it when he’s ready,” Orla said. She didn’t know why Erin was mad. James was not available and she was.
“But you got exams, too,” Clare said.
“Fine!” Erin said, but Orla was not sure if all was fine or not.
Dennis looked at Michelle. “There’s a delivery coming soon. Ice cream man. If I’m not back in time sign for it. But make sure you get what the inventory says!”
“Jesus, Dennis, I can’t be handling deliveries and customers.”
“Then get some help from these two!” He nodded to Erin and Clare. “Fuck, do I have to think of everything! Come on you!”
Orla left with him, walking the two blocks to the video shop quickly. Dennis unlocked the doors and turned on the lights.
“Here’s the fucking cash register,” he said and in a few minutes explained how to use it. “Make sure they have a video membership card. Membership is free so any one wants one give them one. But no kids! Age 18 and up. Get their name, address, phone number, and fill out one of these forms and have them sign it. And check their ID. No membership, no rentals. All rentals are one day only. There’s the drop box for closed time drop offs.”
He went to the box that had an opening outside so people could drop off videos anytime. He opened it up from the inside and there were seven tapes there. He handed her the tapes and told her to put them on the counter. “You know how to use a computer?” he asked.
Dennis turned on a computer at the desk and after it warmed up he explained to Orla how to enter the customers’ membership number and enter movies taken out and movies brought back and how to keep track of the fees paid. As he watched Orla took care of the seven returned tapes and he was satisfied she could do it.
“Late fee is a pound a day. They have till closing time the day after rental to return it. But shop is closed on Sunday so if a Saturday rental is in the drop box Monday morning that’s fine. And if the fuckers don’t rewind one hundred fucking percent it’s a 50 p fine. And if they don’t pay their fines they can’t rent vidoes anymore.”
“Cool,” Orla said and it was cool. “So…how much I get?”
“Three pound an hour. And since this is a franchise shop I have to get you to fill out an employee form for taxes and all that fucking bullshit. We’ll do it tomorrow. You 18 yet?”
“No. Just 17 till May.”
He thought for a moment. “Fuck it. As far as the Brits go you are 18. Right. Any questions?”
“Aye. Can I watch movies while working?”
“Sure. Always have a movie playing. Just make sure it’s nothing new. Any old ones I don’t care. Also you have to play the coming attractions video once an hour. Company policy. But I only play it when the shop has people here. No sense otherwise. Got it?”
“One more thing. If some fucker gives you grief tell the cunt to get out!”
Orla smiled. “No sweat. Can I hit them?”
“Christ, no. Only if they attack you. And believe me, some people get mighty pissed when told the movie they want is out. But you’re covered if they try some funny shit. Look up there.”
Orla looked up to where he was pointing. There was a camera on the wall. “Sees all,” he said. “So mind yourself and what you do. The bosses from Belfast come around once in a while and check the books but I’ll be here for that. Get new movies once a week too. And…that’s it.”
“Wait. Can I get a membership?”
“Aye. And any movie you want to take home for free as long as it’s at the end of the day and no one wants it.”
“Cool. I got it. No worries.”
“Right. Got ice cream to worry on now. Fuck, the day never ends. The shop is yours. Don’t fuck it up!”
As soon as he left Orla had one worry. Exams. When would she have time to study?
But that was soon not a worry. No one came in for the first hour so she went over her history homework. Only two people came in the second hour, both to drop off movies. And by supper time she had only seen six customers, three drops offs and three rentals. Dennis came back then with a hamburger and chips and a Coke from the nearby burger stand.
“Your supper,” he said. “Comes out of your wages. All right?”
“Aye, but…I thought I’d go home?”
“Go home? No, no, fuck no, I need you here to eight at least when the wee shop closes.”
“Right, okay. Yes, I will stay. Can I call home?”
“Aye. Not too long.”
He stayed a while after she called home and explained what was up and that she wouldn’t be home for supper. After she hung up Dennis told her to stand and he had a measuring tape in hand.
“What’s all this?” she asked.
“For your company uniform.”
“Class! I get a uniform.”
“It’s no fucking class. I hate the thing.” He took her measurements and wrote it all down. “Right, that should come from Belfast in a day or two.”
Dennis left again and then a customer came in. Orla looked up and got a shock.
It was her Da.
“Hiya,” she said. “All right now?’
“Aye,” Sean O’Brien replied. “Just dropping off these movies.” Orla took the tapes from him and his membership card. “Since when you working here?”
“Just started today,” she said as she entered the info in the computer.
“Well, a job. That’s interesting.”
Orla smiled. “I think it will be. I like movies.”
“So you do. How’s school?”
“Fine. Got exams soon.”
“Right, so you said yesterday. Got time for both a job and exams?”
“Got to make money, Da. Government is planning to take away free tuition.”
“So, needs must.”
He nodded. “Well…I might be able to help there.”
She looked at him in surprise. “How?”
“I do all right. And…well…I never gave you much.”
“You gave me a life.”
“Yes, but…since then…God…sorry…just I feel like…”
Then the door opened. “Orla, luv, I got your…supper.”
It was her mammy. As she took in the scene she looked like she had been hit by a sledgehammer.
“Hi, Sarah,” Sean said to her quietly.
Sarah was stunned into silence and finally found her voice. “Hello, Sean.”
A long embarrassing silence.
“Right,” Sean said. “I’ll be off. Thanks for the movie tips, Orla. I might get one of them for the weekend. Have a good one.”
Her ma seemed to let a long breath go and then approached and put a paper bag on the counter. “Just a sandwich and a juice box, luv.”
“I already ate, ma.”
“Oh, well… so… a new job. All exciting.”
“Aye. So…you know Mr. O’Brien?”
“Sean? Oh, years ago I knew him,” she said, not looking Orla in the eye. “Haven’t seen him in a long time. I heard he got married.”
Orla wanted to scream at her but held it down. “I wouldn’t know. Just another customer.”
“Right. So when you off? Soon?”
“I’ll wait for you.”
A while later Dennis came and told her it was quitting time and she left with her mother, walking the not too far distance to their home. Her mother went on about some customers in her shop and some gossip she heard and Orla listened politely but inside she was torn in two, wanting to scream about her father.
Her mother wanted to go next door and talk to her sister but Orla had enough for the day and went to her home. After she brushed her teeth and washed her face, she went to her room.
On her wall were lots of pictures of boy bands, and famous actors, and monkeys of course, and her favorite sweets.
But under one picture of cheese and onion Tatyo crisps she had another picture. It was of her Ma and Da when they were young, a picture she had found in her mother’s things, and she wondered why she had kept it all these years. And she wondered most of all on what had happened in those days long ago that led her mother and father to never marry and never have contact again, to the point where they were so shocked at seeing each other by chance.
Or maybe they were shocked because they had met in front of Orla, their daughter, and for the first time ever the three of them were together in the same room.
Orla lay on her bed and hugged her big stuffed toy of a gorilla she had named Fred. “All I want is a normal family and life, Fred,” she said to her gorilla. “Is that too much to ask?”
In her mind Fred said, “No, it’s not. You deserve to be happy.”
“Aye. Thank you, Fred,” Orla said and she kissed his cheek and held him tight and finally drifted off to blissful sleep.
Chapter 7: James
As the day of his baptism draws closer James must deal with one more obstacle...confession!
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.
“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.”
“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…”
“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.”
“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?”
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?”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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?”
“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?”
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.
Chapter 8: Erin
Erin discovers Orla's secret which threatens to tear their little gang apart on the eve of James' baptism.
Derry Girls - The Baptism Chapter 8 Erin
It was finally time for James to be baptized and the crisis of the week would be over. At least this one would be. For a new crisis had started, just the night before, when Erin went to collect the video of ‘The Fifth Element’ that Orla was saving for James at the video shop.
As she walked in Orla was busy with a customer so Erin went and looked at the wall where they had the new releases displayed. Nothing got her interest at all so as she turned back to collect the video another customer came in, a girl, maybe their age, in a school uniform, not their school, one from across town. She was a bit tall and had dark hair.
“Hi, Orla,” the girl said in a cheery voice.
Hi, Orla? Who was this now?
Orla looked past the girl at Erin and had a worried look and then spoke to the girl. “All right now? Got that video you wanted.”
She pulled up a video tape and put it on the counter. “Oh, darn,” the girl said. “I forgot da’s video membership card.”
“Not to worry,” Orla said. “I know the number. Just a sec.”
Orla bent to the computer keyboard and typed in the information. As she waited the girl spoke.
“So, you coming around this weekend?”
What? Coming around? Who is this girl?
“No, sorry,” Orla said. “Bit busy. Work and exams.”
“Right, of course. Me, too. Exams, I mean.”
“Okay, all set.”
The girl paid the rental fee and took her change and then smiled at Orla. “Thanks a bunch. Have a good weekend.”
And the girl took her movie and was gone.
Erin approached the counter. “Who was…?”
“Nobody,” Orla said before Erin could even finish the question.
“Well, I think she was somebody. She knows you and all.”
“Just a customer.”
Orla glared at her. “Let it be. It’s nothing to get bothered about.”
“God, Orla, what’s going on?”
“Nothing! Now you want that tape for James or what?”
“Fine! I am sure you know James’ video membership number as well as that girl’s da’s?”
“I do…there…all set.”
Erin paid the fee and then looked at her cousin for a long moment. “Secrets hurt people, Orla.”
“Yeah, you’re right. But if people knew this one it would hurt even more. So let it be…please.”
Erin did not know what to say to this. “Right…so…goodbye.”
All the way to James’ place Erin pondered who it could be and could think of nothing. For a brief moment she thought Orla might have been fooling them all and she was in fact gay and had a girlfriend but no, that couldn’t be it. Or could it?
When she got to James’ place Michelle was there was well, both in the living room watching TV while waiting for her to arrive with the movie. James thanked her and eagerly took the tape to the VCR and put it in.
As Erin sat on the sofa she looked at Michelle. “Not working?”
“He told me to knock off early. I think he’s trying to cut back my hours to save money. Don’t know why. Shop does well. I think.”
“Did he at least pay you for this week?”
“He did indeed,” Michelle said with a grin and pulled a wad of bills out of her pocket. “Pub, guys? I’m buying.”
“No,” James said as he sat by Erin. “We’ve got to be up early tomorrow. Baptism at 10 AM.”
“Right,” Michelle replied. “Looking forward to see you get dunked in the Foyle River.”
“Ha, ha,” James said. “Get dunked by the water font in the church you mean. Peter took me through all the steps today.”
“Christ, that’s boring,” Michelle said. “I was hoping to hear you scream and have icicle’s form on your nose.”
“Thanks. So all set for the movie?” James asked as he picked up the remote control for the VCR from a nearby coffee table.
“Just a sec,” Erin said. “Guys, something really weird happened with Orla.”
“Well, if it’s weird and it involves Orla it’s nothing special,” Michelle joked.
Erin quickly filled them in on what she saw and heard. “Who could it be?” she asked when finished.
“Probably her sister,” Michelle said and then a look of shock crossed her face. “Fuck. I wasn’t supposed to say that!”
“Her sister?” James said in surprise.
“God,” Erin said. “It makes sense. She did look a bit like Orla.”
“Did she?” James said. “But I thought Orla was an only child.”
Erin stared at Michele. “What do you know?”
“Orla swore me to secrecy.”
“I think that cat is already out of the bag,” James told his cousin.
“Fine!” Michelle said. “The other day, I was coming home late and I saw this car drop Orla off. And it was a man driving…and he hugged her goodbye. I thought she was having it off with some old geezer but she told me it was her da.”
“Holy Christ!” Erin almost shouted. “Her father?”
“Aye,” Michelle said. “Sean O’Brien.”
“Who?” James asked.
“That’s her da’s name. She found her birth certificate. His name was on it. So she tracked him down. Married and all with a family.”
“When did all this happen?” Erin asked.
“Two years ago.”
“Jesus! Two years!” Erin said in surprise. “She kept it secret all this time. How?”
“Step class,” Michelle said. “She sometimes skips it and goes to their house.”
“The sneak!” Erin said. “Who else knows?”
“No one!” Michelle told them. “And let’s keep it that way!”
“Right,” said James. “Not our business anyway.”
“Exactly,” Michelle agreed. “Erin?”
“I mean…this is huge, massive…”
James shook his head. “Erin, it’s her life, her business.”
“But…well, I mean, she’s got a family we don’t know about.”
“Yeah, sister and two brothers she has,” Michelle told them.
“And two brothers as well!” Erin said in shock.
“Look,” Michelle said. “You go blabbing about this to your ma and da and Sarah, it’s nothing but trouble. For me too. I swore not to tell anyone.”
“She’s right, Erin,” James said. “We can’t tell anyone. Imagine how Orla will feel if everyone finds out?”
They were right she knew, so agreed to keep the secret and then James started the movie. The only interruption was when Erin’s Ma called to find out where she was and Michelle answered and all was well. But Erin could hardly concentrate on the movie as all she learned went through her head.
After the movie she said goodbye and said she would see them bright and early at the church tomorrow. James gave her a quick kiss and she walked home.
At home everyone except Orla, who was still at work, was sitting to a fish and chip supper so she changed out of her uniform and joined them, sitting in a daze the whole time.
As they ate everyone was going on about James’ baptism on the morrow.
“You know what you need to do?” Sarah asked Erin’s ma. “As godparents.”
“Course,” Ma Mary answered. “Father Peter gave us these little note cards about where to stand and what to say. And after it’s done the main things is to pray for James regularly and show him a good example of Christian living.”
“Is that us?” Erin asked. “A good example of Christian living?”
“Yes,” Da Gerry said. “Why wouldn’t we be?”
“Don’t know,” Erin said. “Suppose we are all sin free, are we?”
Her mother gave her a sharp look. “I certainly feel I am. Have you done anything lately to think you are not?”
“No, ma,” Erin lied, knowing what her mother was getting at. “Just we are not the most religious family on the block.”
“Aye, that would be the Doyles down the road,” Granda Joe said. “Always in mass.”
“The Murphy’s too,” Sarah said. “Wanda Murphy is always praying for the lucky number for the lottery ticket.”
“I don’t think that counts,” Ma Mary said.
Erin had enough of their banter. “I’ve homework to do.”
“It’s Friday night,” her father said.
“Busy all day tomorrow, da. And maybe have a date on Sunday.”
“Right. Good enough.”
She went to her room and tried to settle into studying at her desk, but her mind was still awhirl with the news about Orla. About 8PM her mother knocked on her door.
“Come,” she said. Her mother walked in holding two dresses, a pale blue one and a lime green one.
“Which do you think is better for tomorrow?”
“Hmmm…the blue. It’s winter…so…yeah the blue.”
“Right. I thought so as well. Sarah thought the green.”
Erin thought she was done but she came in and lay the dresses on Erin’s bed and sat on the edge of it. “So, James all ready for tomorrow?”
“Aye. Think he just wants it done so there’s no more fuss.”
“Poor wain. His mother never did much right by him.”
“I guess she had it rough as well…being a single mother and all.”
“Aye, it was quite the scandal.”
“I suppose we had a similar scandal in our family.”
Her mother took in a sharp breath. “We did and all.” She stood and then picked up the dresses. “Well, that’s all.”
“Ma…why do we never talk about it?”
“Her, I mean. Orla. Who’s her da and all?”
Mary sat down again heavily. “What do you know about it all?”
“Nothing,” she lied. “No one ever talks about it. What happened?”
“Well…it was a time when such a thing brought shame on a family. Maybe even so today. And we had no access to abortion…well, there was some secret places, but none too healthy and we heard rumors of girls who died.”
“Aye. James’ mum went to England where it was possible and safer…but changed her mind. Here…your aunt decided she wanted the baby. She fought with our parents. So much arguing and crying and screaming. They wanted her to put Orla up for adoption. That’s what usually happened in those situations. But Sarah wanted her own child. I was already pregnant with you and married. So…Orla was born…and we kept her…and that’s it.”
“That can’t be it. Who’s her da?”
Mary sighed. “A man…”
“Yeah, I figured that much.”
“Give me a chance, will you? Cheeky.”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“She didn’t love him…I don’t think so anyway. Sarah just wanted to have a good time. In those day after leaving year girls like us had few options. Oh, some went to university and some married doctors like Jenny Joyce’s ma. And most of us tried to find work. Our fun was the weekend, chasing boys…that’s how I met your Da.”
“I know. He was here visiting his cousin and you met in a pub.”
“Aye. Well, Sarah met Orla’s da same way and well…you can figure the rest.”
“What’s his name?”
“Sean I think. Can’t remember the last name.”
Erin went fishing. “Orla ever meet him?”
“No. Never as far as I know. Now that’s enough of that. Just take this lesson from it. I know you and James are fond of each other…”
“We love each other,” she blurted out before she could stop herself. Jesus, brain, stop and think once in a while.
“What? Really?” her mother replied, a clear look of surprise on her face.
“You’ve said the words to each other and all?”
Her mother smiled. “Well…fine. Actually, that’s grand. He’s a fine lad.”
“I know he is.”
“Just…I know soon you’ll be 18 and not much I can do about controlling you anymore. Just be careful and if you love each other then make sure you don’t mess up your futures. Understand?”
“Aye, we will be sure to be careful.”
“Good. There, that’s done with. Now get some rest, big day tomorrow.”
“See you in the morning. Don’t stay up too late.”
Morning came and after breakfast everyone put on their Sunday best…well Saturday best in this case. The baptism was at ten and after they would go to the pub for a celebratory lunch.
Orla was strangely quite at breakfast and when they were alone for a moment she cornered Erin in the hallway. “You said nothing to nobody about that girl?”
“No,” Erin lied.
Orla gave her a sharp look and then sighed. “She’s my sister,” Orla finally said. “Half-sister really. We’ve the same father.”
Erin just nodded and Orla gave her another look. “You know already?”
“Then why aren’t you surprised?”
“Cause…cause I figured it already. I mean she looks like you and all.”
But Orla wasn’t buying it. “Michelle!! That big mouth!! She told you everything!”
“Yes. Top of the list for her!”
“It weren’t her fault! I dragged it out of her!”
“Who else knows? James? Was he there?”
Erin said nothing and Orla fumed. “Never tell ma or your folks. Leave it be…please.”
“Yes…of course…not even Clare?”
“What’s all this?” Granda Joe asked from the hall doorway. “Whispering in the hallways?”
“Just…school talk,” Erin said.
“Right. Come on everyone or we’ll be late. You don’t get to see an Englishman drown in the Foyle every day.”
“They aren’t drowning him in the Foyle, da,” Mary said. “Wetting his forehead in the church at the font is all.”
“Ach, what a shame,” Granda said. “Was looking forward to hearing him scream.” He gave Erin a look and a wink. “Just kidding, luv.”
Erin smiled and was glad someone still had their sense of humor this morning.
As they walked to the church they ran into Clare, her girlfriend Laurie, and her mother also on their way. “Morning, Geraldine,” Mary said. “Come to see the ceremony, aye?”
“Yes,” Geraldine replied. “I guess it was time I rejoined society. Or so my daughter tells me.”
Mary gave her a hug. “You are always welcome any time you want to talk.”
Geraldine nodded. “I know. Thanks. I will make do of that I am sure. But soon we’ll be in Strabane.”
“So Erin told us,” Mary said. “I hope it’s not permanent.”
“We’ll see. For now I just need to make some space between me and here.”
“I understand, luv.”
“Least you’ll have the wheelie bins in Strabane,” Sarah said.
“What?” Da Gerry said. “Wheelie bins?”
“Aye, they got them in Strabane already,” Mary reminded him. “Months ago.”
“One thing to look forward to,” Sarah added.
Erin just rolled her eyes. Her family.
“Who’s the lovely young lady with you Clare?” Granda asked.
“This is Laurie…my…my…”
“Girlfriend,” Laurie said in a loud voice.
“Yes,” Clare said, finding her voice. “She’s my girlfriend.”
“Oh, so you’re a gay too, are you?” Granda said. Jesus wept.
“I am,” Laurie said proudly.
“That’s grand. I’m Joe McCool,” Granda said. “Nice to meet you. Now who’s your family?”
And on they chattered about Laurie’s family and this and that and the weather and the football score and would they have enough space at the pub for everyone and then they were finally at the church.
James, Michelle, and her ma and da where already there. So was Father Peter, of course, and Sister Michael as well. James was in a nice suit with a necktie. He smiled when he saw her and came up to the gang at the back of the church.
“All set to become one of us, son?” Gerry asked him.
“He is one of us, da,” Erin said. “This is just a ceremony.”
James handed Erin his video camera. “Can you shoot it all?”
“Sure enough,” Erin said. Then she had a thought. “Is it allowed? For a baptism, I mean.”
“Don’t see why not?” her father said. “They do it for weddings all the time.”
Michelle came over and Orla gave her a dirty look. “What’s with you?” Michelle asked.
“I need have words with you later,” Orla said in a low menacing voice.
“About what…oh, shit. Erin!”
“She dragged it out of me!”
Clare looked from one to the other. “Dragged what out of who? What’s going on?”
Father Peter saved them. “It’s time everyone. Please take your places.”
And so it went. James wore a white robe and Erin’s ma and da renounced Satan and promised to look after James’ Christian spirit and then three times James was doused in water and Peter said the right words.
And then it was done. Peter filled in the baptism certificate and gave it to James. Erin video recorded it all with James’ own camera. After it was over Sister Michael promptly snatched the certificate out of James’ hand.
“You’ll get it back on Monday,” she told him. “The bishop is waiting for this. Good day all.”
Everyone congratulated James and Erin even gave him a kiss which caused a few looks but a smile from her ma, which was nice. Then her da tried to make a joke about being the “Godfather” and “Making someone an offer they can’t refuse” but it fell flat and there was even a groan from James. ‘The Godfather’ was his favorite movie, Erin knew, and he hated anyone making fun of it.
Off to the pub they went, where everyone had food and drinks, and a good time…mostly. Orla was still pissed at Michelle but no one outside the gang noticed anything wrong. Michelle avoided being alone and so Orla had no chance to rip her eyes out or kick her where it hurts. After an hour Orla left for work, Saturday a busy day in the video business.
“What’s with Orla?” Clare asked as she found herself with Erin alone for a moment. “She seemed mad about something.”
“Nothing much. So how’s Laurie?”
“You’re evading the subject, Erin!”
“Fine! But you can’t tell anyone.” She bent low to Clare’s ear and whispered, “Orla found her da!”
“Aye! And Michelle found out and told me and James.”
“But…why is she mad?”
“Cause she doesn’t want my family to know. There was some bad blood back in the day when she were born.”
“Right. Yes, I can understand that.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Michelle asked and then she knew. “Erin! You…oh, I give up. Clare too?”
“She’ll find out anyways,” Erin said. “Besides, she’ll be in Strabane soon.”
“Just after exams end,” Clare said.
Erin felt a shock. “So soon?”
“Aye… Christmas is soon after.”
“Well, maybe you’ll be back for New Years.”
Clare shook her head. “My ma is already looking at colleges down there I can transfer to.”
“What?” James said as he joined them. “You staying there for good?”
Clare sighed. “Look, I know it’s not good but it’s only a short drive down the road.”
They all agreed but didn’t feel so good about it at all.
And so it all went. Michelle eventually made peace with Orla, and no one told anyone else about Orla finding her other family.
Orla took Dennis’ name off her enemy’s list one day. “Can’t be having my boss as an enemy,” she said in all sincerity.
And one day after Christmas they all met Orla’s sister who was named Joanne and they all had a nice time.
Clare and her mother moved to Strabane after exams finished. She came back for Boxing Day but then gave them the news the move would be permanent. She had already signed up with another college and would start in January after the holidays ended. They were sad about this but promised to see each other as often as possible.
Life went on in Derry. Erin and James became closer than ever, seeing each other as often as possible, which wasn’t that often since they had parents looking over their shoulder all the time. At school girls still flirted with James and Erin wanted to kill them all but they had no more incidents and shortly before Erin’s birthday in February Sister Michael told them the probation was over, but to also keep their noses clean or back on they would go.
Erin’s only wish was to have an 18th birthday party all her own but besides a cake and a little ‘happy birthday’ rendition at home there was nothing. Her mother said they would have a combined big birthday bash when Orla also turned 18 in May. James agreed with Erin it was not fair but there was little they could do about it.
And then came the news everyone in Northern Ireland dreamed about. Peace negotiations between different sides in the internal strife were reaching a climax and finally an agreement was reached. But many were not happy with the details and it was decided to put it to a vote. A referendum on what was being called The Good Friday Agreement would be held in late May. All residents of voting age of 18 and older would have a chance to decide the future of their land.
And Erin hoped for once and for all things would turn out for the best, for she was happy in her life, and wanted the same for all those who she loved and for her neighbors and those who made her little land so special in her eyes.