Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Michelle elbowed Erin: "There's David Donnelly"
"Oh aye" replied Erin barely looking up from the book she was reading.
The gang were in the café trying to cram for an test they had the next day.
"He's coming in Erin" Michelle elbowed her again.
Erin finally looked up: "I can see that Michelle" She returned to the poetry book she was reading.
What the hell was up with her? Thought Michelle. Any other time she would have been shaking like a shitting dog at even the mention of David Donnelly.
Clare had even picked up on Erin's lack of reaction: "Erin, he's comin over!"
"I haven't gone blind girls" replied Erin.
"He's looking at you Erin" it was Orla's turn to join in.
"Heyas!" said David.
"He's talking to ya Erin!" Orla continued.
"I can hear that Orla!" replied Erin in a low voice.
James felt a pang of jealously. He tried to observe Erin's reaction while pretending to read his physics book.
"Heya Erin, can I talk to ya?" he said placing a ciggie behind his ear.
"Of course, David"
Michelle, Orla, and Clare looked on.
Clare wondered whether she was on drugs. How was she so calm? Clare felt even more nervous than Erin looked.
David bristled; he had expected her to follow him to another table, but Erin was sat steadfast in her seat.
"Ok, so I was just wondering whether ya fancy going to this Hallowe'en thing. In town."
Michelle elbowed Clare and James with excitement.
James had fully abandoned the book and was hanging on Erin's reply.
"Oh, that's very nice of ya David. It really is, but I'm busy that night. Sorry"
"No bother, maybe another time yeah?" asked David.
"Aye, maybe. I really am sorry" Erin watched him leave the café. She risked a quick glance at James before returning to her book.
He had been looking. He quickly hid behind the textbook.
Michelle sat in silence for a moment. She looked at Clare and Orla and noticed the same look of shock: "Ok, what the fuck was that?"
"What Michelle?" asked Erin.
She knew exactly what she meant.
"You giving David Donnelly the swerve?" said Michelle.
"But I am busy Michelle. Sure, we said we'd spend Hallowe'en together"
She wished for once in her life that Michelle would shut up and let something go for once.
"Aye but there was a time you would have trampled your granny to go on a date with him?"
"Well, I've moved on Michelle" replied Erin.
"Since when?" asked Michelle.
"Do I have to run every thought past you Michelle?!" Erin looked up. Her eyes automatically went to James's.
He met her glance briefly and looked back down to his book.
The look didn't go unnoticed by Michelle.
She stared between him and Erin.
"Maybe she's not well Michelle? You haven't taken anything Erin, have you?" asked Clare.
"What?" replied Erin.
Orla reached over and placed her on Erin's forehead as if taking her temperature.
"Get off me Orla" Erin shoved Orla's hand away.
"Well, she's not burning up, but your face is all red Erin" she a grinning Orla.
"Aye, because you lot won't leave me alone" Erin packed up her bag and ran out of the cafe.
Michelle felt James move beside her to go after Erin, but she grabbed his arm to stop him.
"I'll go after her," said Michelle.
She went outside to see Erin flying up the hill. The young one could half move went she wanted to: "For fuck's sake! ERIN!"
Erin sped up but Michelle kept chasing her.
She was eventually able to grab on to Erin's bag, bringing her to a halt.
Erin froze and just stared at the out of breath Michelle.
"Wait..." Michelle was panting. She bent over leaning on her knees and held up a hand: "Give me...a second Erin"
"That's all that smoking has you like that Michelle"
"Is it fuck?! It was you running up this hill like a Ra head down the Shankill"
"Well, what did you expect Michelle when you wouldn't stop going on at me!" snapped Erin.
"What's got into you Erin?"
"Is this about my absolute prick of a cousin?"
"No, Michelle!" It was. But she couldn't admit it to her. She had done as she had asked. She'd left James alone. Why couldn't Michelle just leave her alone about this.
"I'm just not interested in David anymore, ok?"
"Because people change Michelle! Well, some of us do. Some of us grow up"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I did what you asked so will ya just leave me alone Michelle"
"What did I ask? Erin?" said Michelle.
God, she didn't even remember. Or she was pretending not to. Erin had nothing more to say to her. She turned around and walked up the hill to home.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Erin arrived home and hoped to God that she could sneak up to her room to stew in peace.
However, as soon as she walked in the door her Mam stuck her head into the hall: "Weans?? Oh, hiya love"
Mary was a little surprised that Erin had arrived home alone. Even without Orla. She wondered if something had happened. "Here's dishes waiting for you!" Well, she wasn't going to let her wallow in her room all night.
"But I haven't even eaten anything Mammy!" replied Erin.
"And you won't be eating anything unless these dishes are done, now!"
"But Mammy I have a test tomorrow, midterms" lied Erin.
"Well, you should have thought about studying before you left the dishes in the sink then"
Erin flung her bag in the hall. She couldn't even have the evening to herself.
She reluctantly followed her mother into the kitchen.
"Can we not get a dishwasher Mammy?" asked Erin.
"Sure, we already have one! You Erin" replied Mary.
"Hiya love, is Orla not with ya?" asked Sarah who was filing her nails at the kitchen table.
"No, I left early to get home so I could study Aunt Sarah"
Erin started filling the sink with hot water. Mainly so she could hide her face from the family.
"Ah that's nice for you" Sarah froze and looked at her. She placed her nail file down on the table: "Is that a new blush you're wearing love because you've got a great bit of colour in your cheeks there?"
Mary turned to look at Erin: "What are you doing wearing blush to school?"
"I'm not Mammy!" God could the ground just open and swallow her up, thought Erin.
Mary took out a tissue from her pocket and spat on it: "Come here to me!"
"Jesus, Mammy no! I'm not a baby. That's disgusting"
Erin tried to run but Mary grabbed her arm. She gave Erin's cheek a rub with the tissue. Nothing came off.
"For God's sake Mammy!"
Mary eyed her suspiciously: "What are you up to blushing?"
"I'm not Mammy. My face is just flushed from the walk home," said Erin.
"Aye she ran home after David Donnelly asked her out Mary" it was Orla.
"What is she the narrator?!" muttered Erin.
"Hiya love!" said Sarah. "David Donnelly? He's not the fella that stood you up love?"
"No that was John Paul, Sarah"
"Who's this David Donelly then?" asked Mary.
"David Donnelly who?" asked Granddad Joe as he walked into the kitchen with Gerry.
"He's the lad that asked Erin out Grandad," said Orla.
"Did you know about this?" Joe asked Gerry.
"How would I know that?" replied Gerry.
"Well maybe if you thought the tiniest interest in your weans!"
"Are you planning on seeing this lad love?" asked Gerry.
"Bit late now, ya useless wee shite" muttered Joe.
"No, I'm not actually for your information," said Erin.
"Aye, Clare was saying after you left Erin, that she thinks you're on drugs because you would have been tripping over yourself to go out with David Donnelly before" said Orla before she blew some suds from the sink off the palm of her hand.
"Would you shut up Orla!" snapped Erin.
"Are you on drugs Erin?" Mary was standing in front of Erin looking at her pupils.
"No, of course not Mammy. I'm just not interested in him anymore, ok? I've done the dishes so if you will excuse me UTV news are parked outside, and they want to ask me a few more questions" said Erin before she fled upstairs.
Why couldn't they all just leave her alone for once?
"Ach but isn't she in a quare mood so she is?" said Aunt Sarah.
"Aye" replied Mary. She couldn't tell something had been playing on her daughter's mind for the past few weeks. She had been far too quiet and far too moody.
She really wanted to go up to her room and question her, but she feared if she questioned anymore, she'd shut herself off completely.
It will all come out in the wash, she thought.
Upstairs Erin had taken out her diary while Orla was still downstairs. She hadn't written in it since it had happened.
"It's been 23 days since me and James kissed. I thought it would have been weird between us since, but it hasn't. If anything, James has carried on like nothing's happened. He's still friendly with me and chats to me. It makes me think it did happen because of all the tunnel stuff. The wee near-death experience he had had. Sometimes I catch him looking at me. Maybe because he finds it awkward as well, between us. He hasn't said anything. Since Donegal. When he said he'd wait. Sometimes I wish he would say something. Not even some grand romantic gesture. Just how he feels. Because I cannot stop thinking about it. I thought first kisses would be dead awkward especially with your best friend's wee English cousin, but it wasn't. It was nice. Really nice. I've never felt so alive nice. Then Michelle caught us. She was right. But I can't stop thinking about it and him. And I have no one to talk about it with. I can't exactly bring it up to Michelle. Clare, I love her but she's a mouth. And Orla's Orla. Mammy would be questioning me like the RUC and Granda would kill him. Still, I'm glad it happened, and it happened with him. I feel like I can be myself around him. Like I don't have to try as much not like with David sodding Donelly and John Paul. What was I thinking? Being interested in them two! Boke! With James I feel like I could just talk to him about anything, and he'd listen. Irony of ironies I wish I could talk to him about this..."
She was distracted by Orla opening the door: "Heya Erin"
Erin locked the diary and hid it under the bed. This was her private private diary. While the other contained her poetry and her views on the world.
The one that was currently locked under the bed contained the thoughts and feelings she would never share with anyone.
Orla sat down on the bed beside her and leaned in for a hug.
"Why are you doing that?" questioned Erin.
"Well, you looked sad" Orla was still squashing her in the hug.
Erin smiled. Orla was a weirdo, but she was her weirdo.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Sr Michael was taking them for English class since Ms. de Brun had left. They had had a few English teachers since then but like Ms. de Brun none had manage to last more than a few weeks.
"Part of your A Level English curriculum is to respond to a text of a particular genre. It is usually in the form of two essays however this year we're trying something a little different" began Sr Michael.
"Mostly so I don't have to sit through 40 god awful essays all saying the same thing" she whispered to herself.
She continued to the class: "This year you will be split in to pairs and will be given a text and a genre that you will have to give a presentation on at the end of term"
Jenny Joyce's hand shot up.
Sr Michael sighed: "Yes Ms. Joyce?"
"Well, I was wondering if myself and Aisling might be paired to..."
"For Christ's sake" muttered Sr Michael.
"Absolutely not. You will be paired off at random and there will be no swapping, or any complaints is that understood?" said SM.
The girls did not agree and cries of 'Ah sister please' rang out about the classroom.
"Girls. These assignments are not set for fun. If they were, we'd need locking up. However, they are designed to prepare you all for the real world. For university and the workplace. There you will have no choice who you work with. Trust me, I know myself. So please try and wise up and just get the work done. It 20% of your final grades. Now for the groups..."
Sr Michael began picking names out of a box on her desk.
"Michell Mallon and..." Michelle crossed her fingers under the desk.
"Ah for fuck's sake!" yelled Michelle.
"Ms. Mallon I understand your frustration" she looked at Jenny who looked utterly affronted.
"But do not swear in my class, is that understood?"
"Clare Devlin and..."
"Sorcha Ni Chuinn"
Sorcha looked over and gave Clare a big wave.
"There's a girlfriend for ya Clare," said Michelle.
"Stop it, Michelle!" replied Clare.
"Orla McCool and Aisling McGlynn" Jenny Joyce's friend.
"Cracker" said Orla who jumped out of her seat and sat beside a frightened looking Aisling.
"Erin Quinn and..."
"The wee English fella"
"No!" said Erin and James in unison.
"Excuse me?" asked Sr Michael.
"Just you can't put us together Sister" pleaded Erin.
"And why not?"
Because it would be dead awkward since we kissed 24 days ago, and I can't stop thinking about it and we still haven't talked about it properly and also Michelle will kill us both if anything happened. That was what Erin wanted to say.
But she settled for: "Well he's a fella like"
"Yeah" added James.
James was also afraid of how awkward it would be. It was taking all he had to try and be normal around her as it was without having to work with one another. Although part of him wanted that potential time to spend together.
"And?" asked Sr Michael.
Erin felt her cheeks burning and could sense Michelle giving her daggers. They hadn't really spoken since they had fought the day before.
"Just it might be awkward like. Having to work with a boy sister," said Erin.
Sr Michael rolled her eyes: "Well unless you can get one of the boys from St Cholmcille's to join the ladies over here at Our Lady Immaculate, I think you're stuck with him. He's English Ms. Quinn, he doesn't really count"
"What did I say about no swapping. That is the end of it, Ms. Quinn. Ok so this year's theme is...oh sweet suffering Jehovah. What have I done to deserve this.... The theme is love"
"Like riding?" asked Michelle.
"No Michelle, like Shakespeare's sonnets, Austen, EM Foster, the Bronte sisters" replied Erin. Why did she always have to be so coarse!
"This year's text will be Emma by Jane Austen," said Sr Michael.
Erin's dread was replaced with excitement. She looked over at Clare. She knew she would share her enthusiasm about the fact they were getting to read one of their favourite books: "Thank you Jesus!" said Clare.
James watched on as Erin animatedly chatted with Clare. He hadn't seen her that happy in a while.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
It was the following lunch time, and the girls were sitting in the locker room. James had been sent to the canteen by Michelle to get more snacks.
"Why did you not want to work with James Erin?" asked Clare.
She had noticed the weird looks between them and had been worried all morning that she had had a fight.
Clare hated fights, because fights meant taking sides and taking sides meant making decisions and she had enough on her plate with exams and assignments without having to make decisions.
"Who said I didn't want to work with James?" scoffed Erin.
"You did, to Sr Michael earlier? In front of the whole class" replied Clare.
"Oh, I just thought it might be awkward for him, being a..friend..you know with the theme and all I thought he might have preferred discussing that with a stranger like" fumbled Erin.
"That doesn't make any sense Erin. Also, Sr Michael didn't even give us the theme until after..."
Erin hoped Derry's wee answer to Angela Lansbury there would be distracted by James coming back.
"Orla they wouldn't do a cornflakes and crisp sandwich, but they give me a banana one I hope that's ok" said James as he handed over whatever monstrosity of a sandwich Orla was going to eat.
"No, no it is not James. I'm really disappointed," said Orla. "What am I going to do for my brunch now?"
"What's brunch?" asked James
"What am I gonna do girls? I'm stuck with that fucking whingebag Jenny Joyce," said Michelle.
"Hiya!" said a beaming Jenny. Seriously how could anyone be that cheerful all the time? Especially in school when nearly everyone including the teachers thought she was a dose.
"Fuck a doodle do!" exclaimed Michelle. "Speak of the actual devil"
"I was just wondering if you wanted to join me in the library for some pre-assignment prep," said Jenny.
"I was wondering if you could actually fuck off for 5 minutes and let me finish my lunch" replied Michelle.
"This will be going in my overall evaluation" replied Jenny as she scuttled off.
"Aye you can put this in and all" said Michelle giving her the finger.
Break came to an end, Orla, Clare, and James had headed to their other classes while Michelle and Erin walked to their history class.
"What was all that about in class?" asked Michelle in between eating a Dib Dab.
"Just thought it have been a bit awkward between us since...," said Erin. She was desperate to talk to someone about it all. Even if it was Michelle and even if she didn't approve.
"Since I caught the pair of ye suck the faces off each other" said Michelle.
Michelle stopped and stood in front of her: "Is something going on?"
"No! Do you think I'd be asking to swap groups if there was?" said Erin. She hoped that would stop her asking questions.
"I suppose not" Michelle only half believed her.
"I had almost kinda forgot it even happened to be honest," said Erin.
She hadn't. If anything, she hadn't stopped thinking about it. When she was around him. When she wasn't around him. Before she went to sleep. Right after she woke up.
"Good" Lying bitch thought Michelle.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
They had finally got through the school day and the gang were walking to the school gate.
The exam they had had in French turned out to be the least of Erin's worries.
"I better head off," said Michelle.
"Head off where?" asked Erin.
"Job interview. In 10mins. So, I need to go" said Michelle, pointing off towards town.
"You? Working?" said Erin. Michelle with a job? Was there somewhere they paid you to swear by the hour?!
"Yes, I need to go now. So, I'll see all you fucks later" she waved goodbye and ran off towards the town.
"Did you know about this?" Erin asked James.
"No, I did not" James was equally as baffled at this turn of events.
He couldn't quite picture Michelle working. She didn't even wash a cup around the house. He always ended up taking on extra chores. Partly to help out his aunt Deirdre and partly to keep Michelle off his back. The thing with Erin aside, they were actually getting on quite well.
Michelle had started to open up to him a bit more and the fact that she said she would choose him over Erin had meant a lot. Even though he'd never expect her to. Or what her to for that matter.
When had first arrived over from London he felt like she had resented his present in the house. Why wouldn't she? He had been dumped in Derry and had been moved into her brother's room. A brother whose absence she had barely come to terms with.
None of them had. They never talked about him since he went inside. He had heard a little from his mother when he still lived in London, but she hadn't wanted to dwell on the fact her nephew was in jail.
James was brough back to the present by Orla: "I have to go too," said Orla.
"Me and all girls," said Clare.
"What!" snapped Erin.
"Well, me and Sorcha want to get a start on this project with mid-term coming up and everything," said Clare.
"Oh, me and Sorcha now, is it?!" scoffed Erin.
"Aye, if we want to actually pass our A Levels and go to college Erin" said Clare as she marched over to meet Sorcha.
"And where are you off to?" Erin asked Orla.
"Aisling's. She's dead nice actually. She likes melting stuff as well" Orla gave them a wave as she wandered off in search of Aishling.
"Good to know" said Erin sarcastically.
She was suddenly aware it was just her and James left. They hadn't been alone since that morning in Donegal. Since...
"Um, how do you want to do this?" asked James.
"Do what?" asked Erin.
"The project? For English" replied James.
God she was blushing. How on earth was she going to get through this project: "Oh yeah, the project. Sure. No problem"
"So how do you want to start?" asked James.
"Well, I have read Emma before. It's one of my favourite actually. I've read all of Jane Austen's works," said Erin.
He liked it when she was like this. Rambling about something she really liked, a book or a poem usually.
"Well then why don't we start by you telling me what happens." suggested James.
"But you should read it, it's a cracking read James!"
"I will, I promise. Just catch me up with it so I know what I should be looking out for. The themes and all that. You're much better at all that than me" His request was in part down to the project but mostly because he just wanted to listen to her talk about something she really liked as they made their way home.
"Well, it's about Emma. This rich girl that lives with her father on their estate in regency England. Do you...?"
"Yeah, I know what that is. We did it in history. Back home..in England" replied James.
"Do you still miss it? Home, England?" asked Erin. They hadn't really discussed how he felt about Derry since he had decided to stay. She realised she just took it for granted that he would always be here. The realisation that he might not worried her.
"No, I think home is here now" replied James
"Really?" She wanted some confirmation that he wasn't leaving any time soon.
"Yeah, when I picture home, I think of Derry and you...you guys," said James.
"Good" said Erin with a smile. When she thought about it, she couldn't picture Derry without him. Her life wouldn't be the same without him in it.
"Shall we get back to Emma?" He had noticed she had become a little introspective.
"Oh aye. So, Emma says she'll never marry because she's happy the way things are. So plays matchmaker for her friends. She meets a new friend who Harriet who is engaged to a farmer but he's not posh enough for her friend to marry him so she breaks them up and tries to set Harriet up with the vicar, but the vicar loves Emma, but Emma rejects him, and he marries someone else. So, Emma tries to set Harriet up with another fella Frank who Emma thought she liked but actually she didn't, but Harriet is actually in love with Emma's best friend Mr. Knightley and Emma realises she actually loves him, but she thinks Mr. Knightley loves Harriet, but he actually loves Emma, and they get together, and Harriet marries the farmer..." Erin had barely taken a breath.
James could tell it was one of her favourite books. He started to smile, which because a laugh.
"Are you laughing at me?" asked Erin.
"No, it's just..."
"Just what?" asked Erin.
"I can tell it's one of your favourites. By the way you talk about it. I like listening to you talk about the stuff you like," said James.
Erin just smiled. For once in her life, she was actually lost for words. All because a fella had said he liked to listen to her prattle on about stuff.
"Do you like stuff? Books. I mean" Do you like stuff?! Burning for ya Erin! She said to herself.
"Yeah, but more non-fictional ones like about space and science and stuff like that. Boring really," said James.
"No, it's not. I couldn't even begin to understand all that stuff though," said Erin.
"I wouldn't be able to understand Beckett"
"No one does" whispered Erin.
She went to gather her hair behind her ear. In doing so she accidentally brushed against his hand as they walked. She was tempted to grab hold of it to see how he would react.
"Mine or yours?" asked James.
Erin was so caught up thinking about holding his hand she jumped: "Sorry, what?"
"The project? Do you want to go work on it in my house or yours?" said James.
"Oh, well we wouldn't get anything done with at my house between Anna playing and Mammy and Granda's questions. It's like living with Parkinson sometimes"
"Mine then?" asked James.
"Ok" said Erin.
They continued walking in silence towards James's house.
He let them into the quiet house.
"Is Deirdre not home? Or Martin?" asked Erin as it suddenly dawned on her that they would be alone in the house. She never had that in hers. There was always someone there.
"No, they are both at work. So, do you want to start this thing? We can go upstairs or not if it's weird?" asked James as he realised the potential implications of what he had just said.
"Weird, why would it be weird?" Why had she said that?! Of course, it would be weird!
However, part of her wanted to go up, the nosey part that clearly couldn't keep her mouth shut.
She followed him upstairs and to his room.
James took some books and pens from his bag and flung it to the floor before sitting down on it himself.
Erin stood just inside in the doorway and looked around the room. She realised she'd never actually been in his room before. They had all been in Michelle's the odd time but most of the time they usually congregated around her house.
It was not what she expected. Tidy and actually pretty grown up. Except for a couple of Doctor Who figures on his side table and a poster from the show on the wall.
"Do you want to sit down Erin?" asked James who had been watching her survey the room.
"Yes of course" Shit! Should she sit beside him down on the floor or on the bed?
James noticed her reluctance: "You take the bed, it's comfier. I'll take the floor."
She gingerly sat down on the bed and began taking out her books. She reached straight for Emma, she needed to distract herself from the fact she was on James's bed. James who she couldn't stop thinking about for the past three weeks.
"So, I was just going to start reading it and thought we go through it chapter by chapter?" suggested James.
"Sounds good to me" replied Erin.
Erin tried to sit up and read but five minutes later she was already uncomfortable: "Can I just?" She grabbed a pillow to prop herself up, so she continued reading.
"You don't have to ask Erin," James sat back against the bed and continued reading.
From where Erin was lying, she could almost look over his shoulder.
Ok focus Erin! She thought to herself. However, as hard as she tried to focus on the words on the page her eyes kept being drawn back to him. He watched him flick over the page and follow along the text with his finger.
He suddenly leaned further back so she could see the page: "What does gallantry mean?"
Her face was just inches from his.
She leaned forward even closer to read the passage even though she knew exactly what it meant: "It means.... like a politeness shown to women. That's how Emma realised that her neighbour Mr. Weston liked her governess, Miss Taylor. He was extra polite to her by handing her an umbrella after church..."
"Oh, ok. Thanks" It was James's turn to be mesmerised by how close Erin was and where exactly she was.
He tried to focus on the book, but he couldn't stop dwelling on how nice it was just being with her, even with neither of them saying anything. It was like being on his own. It was like he when he was by himself, and he could just be himself and not have to worry about what others were thinking of him.
The afternoon passed away in to evening in the same vein. With both of them trying to focus on the book whilst getting carried away by their own thoughts.
They both jumped as the door opened. It was Deirdre. They had been so absorbed in the book and themselves that they hadn't heard her arrive home.
"I was calling out, have ye gone deaf?" asked Deirdre.
Erin sat bolt upright on the bed on seeing Deirdre.
"Hiya love" she was a little surprised to see Erin sitting on her nephew's bed.
"Hiya, Mrs. Mallon," said Erin.
"Stop it, calling me Mrs. Mallon. I've known you since you were a wean, call me Deirdre. Is Michelle not with you?" Michelle was here, surely. They weren't on their own all day? thought Deirdre.
"No, she had a job interview, and she hasn't come home yet Aunty Deirdre" replied James.
"Michelle? A job? Our Michelle?" asked a shocked Deirdre.
"Aye, she wouldn't tell us what," said Erin
"Weird...hmmm" She hoped to God she wasn't up to anything. She only had a few more months of school to get through.
"Um, do you want some dinner love? You're welcome to stay?" asked Deirdre.
Erin looked at her watch: "Shit. Sorry. It's nearly 9. I didn't realise. Thanks, but I actually better be off home. Mammy will be going spare"
"No worries. Tell all your lot I was asking for them"
"Will do Mrs. Mall...Deirdre"
James jumped up to walk Erin out.
He had an idea: "Aunty Deirdre, can I borrow the car? To drop Erin home"
He wasn't? They weren't? Him and Mary's wean? She reminded herself to have a chat with Mary the next time she saw her.
"Ok, but I want the car back by 9.30. And if you see Michelle drag her home will ya?" She handed him the keys.
"Erin!" He called after her as she walked downstairs. "I'll give you a lift home"
"You don't have to. I can walk it's fine," said a flustered Erin.
She had been alright until Deirdre had come in. Then it had hit her. Deirdre would tell her mam and then she would question her about being over at James's on her own and she couldn't live with Mammy and the family raking over the one good thing she had in her life. It was bad enough walking on eggshells around Michelle.
Erin opened the door to see the rain pouring down and a drowned looking Michelle.
"What the fuck are you doing here Erin?" were the first words out Michelle's mouth.
"We were working on our project. What happened to you?" asked Erin as she looked her up and down.
"I got caught in the rain, didn't I?" said Michelle indicated to her soaked state.
"I can see but where were you? All day like?" asked Erin.
"I told you. Job interview" she looked furtively down at her feet. She was hiding something.
"All day?" said Erin.
"Aye. I had a trial shift"
"Where then?" asked Erin.
"I don't want to jinx it"
"I think you're up to something Michelle" said Erin eying her skeptically.
"Well how about you? What were you up to? Home alone with James all day?" said Michelle turning the tables on her.
"Reading" said Erin. And watching him reading. God she was going to turn purple.
"Oh aye. Reading. You's dirty perverts," said Michelle.
"Nothing happened Michelle," said James.
James had put a jacket on and was ready to drop Erin home.
"Where are you going fuck features?" asked Michelle.
"To drive Erin home?" replied James.
"Oh no you don't" Michelle stood blocking the door.
"Michelle!" said Erin.
"Well then I'll come with ye" Michelle folded her arms and wouldn't budge.
But before Erin had a chance to argue back Deirdre had appeared in the hall: "No you won't! Michelle Mallon, where have you been? Get in and get changed. See ya later Erin love, remember to say hi to your Mam"
"Aye, night Deirdre" replied Erin.
Erin could see Michelle mouthing 'Deirdre?! What the fuck!' before Deirdre had closed the door behind them.
Erin and James ran to the car to avoid getting drenched by the rain.
James was sat in the driver's seat ready to go but there was no sign of Erin in the passenger seat. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw her belting up the back.
"Are you not going to sit in the front?" asked James.
"Oh sorry, force of habit" said Erin went to hop out and go to sit in the passenger seat, but the rain seemed to be coming down even harder.
"Screw it" she squeezed herself through the gap in the front seat. Whacking James in the face with her bag as she did.
"God I'm sorry" she reached out to rub his face.
"Well, it was well worth getting smashed in the face if I got to spend today with you. Just you." Oh god. He didn't know where that had come from.
It was just that she was touching his face and it was nice and it had just come flooding out.
He really did want to come across as weird. She had said she didn't want anything to happen between them and he didn't want to push her.
She just smiled and took her hand away: "Well you better get going you have approximately..." she looked at her watch "27 minutes to drive me home and get back before Deirdre sends out a search party"
She was trying to play it cool, but he had said he had enjoyed being with all day. Just her.
The short journey to Erin's seemed even shorter with both of them immersed in their thoughts. James pulled up outside Erin's house.
"Thanks for the lift and today...," said Erin.
"It was nothing" replied James.
"It was though. Something. I like spending time with you"
"I like spending time with me too Erin. I mean you Sorry"
Erin laughed. It had reminded her of Donegal. Of that kiss. She wanted that again.
She went to lean in but felt a whack to her head. James had leaned over to hug her at the exact same moment.
"Oh god sorry. Erin are you ok" James held her face in his hands.
"Sorry, I was just...I was just going to" Erin stumbled over her words.
"Are you ok? You're not concussed, are you?" He still had her face in his hands. He was looking into her eyes to see if she was ok.
She matched him, grabbing his face, and pulling him towards hers.
There was that feeling again. Of being alive.
Erin and James jumped as there was an unmerciful bang on the window.
"Not again" whispered James.
"Oh, thank God. It's Jim from over the road" Oh did he see us she thought. He'd tell Granda Joe, and Joe would kill James.
Erin rolled down the window: "Are you alright there Jim?"
"Erin. All right son." He nodded at James who waved back awkwardly.
"Erin, love. Will you tell Joe I'll have the fry on for him tomorrow morning?"
"Is that a code?" asked James.
"I have absolutely no idea" whispered Erin.
"No problem, Jim"
"I'll be back over the road so" he nodded to her and James before crossing the street.
"Jesus" sighed Erin.
"No just Jim, from across the road" replied James.
Erin burst out laughing at his stupid little joke. She knew he had just said it to calm her down.
"I better head..inside," said Erin.
"Yeah, of course"
Erin awkwardly got out of the car. She got to the gate before turning around and jumping back in.
"Erin?" said James on seeing her get back in the car.
Erin cut him off with a kiss.
James could feel the rain on her face. It was like he was hyper aware of everything. Like he knew he might get a chance to kiss her again and he wanted to remember every second of it.
They finally broke apart. Erin still had her hand on his cheek: "I didn't want to leave with Jim disturbing us. Night James"
Erin walked to the hall door. When she got to the door she stood and watched him off before going inside.
"Where were you all evening?" Erin jumped as she heard her mother's voice from behind her. Could she not have a minute to process what just happened!
"I was over at Michelle's studying and it's only 9.30. I'm nearly 18 Mammy!" said Erin.
"Nearly 18! Still if you're living under my roof my rules! Did their Martin drop you home?"
"No, it was James. I better head straight up to bed Mammy"
She noticed that Erin couldn't meet her eye.
"Night Daddy! Night Granda!" Erin shouted as she ran up the stairs.
"Shit!" She popped back down when she remembered Jim's message: "Granda, Jim said he'll have the fry on for you in the morning"
"Oh, did he now?!" yelled Mary. Erin took that as her opportunity to escape to her room.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Things went on the same way for the following week. After school Erin and James would go back to James's to work on the project. Then he would drop her home and he would kiss her before saying good night.
They had been joined by Michelle and Jenny Joyce one of the days while they had been working at home.
Other than having to drop Jenny Joyce home before he dropped off Erin, nothing had changed. Plus, the drive all the way back from Jenny's to Erin's had been the perfect chance to have some more time together.
It was Thursday before mid-term and they were in James's room finally finishing off the book. Normally Erin would have read it twice over in that time, but she had been a bit distracted.
Michelle had been banished to Jenny's for the day because according to the bilateral Assignment Protocol 1997 that Jenny had drawn up. Michelle had to spend at least two of the days up in Southfork as they called Jenny's massive house.
Erin was in her now usual spot on the bed when she let out a loud yawn.
"You're not bored by Jane Austen Erin!" said James with mock disapproval.
"I'm just shattered. Orla has me awake half the night. She's stepicising in her sleep"
"I thought she lived next door?"
"Yeah, but our Sarah said the stepping was running her beauty sleep, so she sent her in to ours. More specifically my room. That's the crappiest thing. About being our age. We've absolutely no control on our lives"
"Not yet. But we will," said James. He pictured a future where he could date Erin without Michelle or anyone else sticking their oar in.
"Aye, when we all have jobs, and we all move away and become boring," said Erin.
"Well, most of the adults we know can hardly be considered boring," said James.
"But still, we're just replacing our parents with bosses and kids and bills to the point that none of us will have time for each other anymore. That's if we're even in the same place" the thoughts of college and leaving Derry had been on Erin's mind lately. The thoughts of moving away from James even more so.
"Well, I will always have time for you Erin. I promise. Come on" he stood up and sat back down at the head of the bed. He opened his arm and motioned for her to sit with him.
"We can't control the future. As much as we'd like to. But we can control doing a bloody good presentation and get good marks so we can choose whatever we want to do and go to whatever college we want to," said James.
She ducked under his arm and settled into his shoulder. She wrapped one arm around his and the other around his stomach.
He relished the closeness of her. He really wanted to kiss her again, but he felt like it would be crossing an unsaid boundary. Other than when he dropped her home in the evening it was like things were before with them, just friends.
While the hours spent in his room together had been emotionally charged it had always remained nothing but chaste.
But now she was in his arms.
He just tried to focus on reading out what was agreed to be the best part of the book. When the confessions are made and the characters true intentions were to be laid bare: "I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing. — "If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me."
"I always love that bit. That he literally loves her that much that he physically can't speak it," said Erin.
"Like me in Donegal. I like me. And in the car" He laughed to himself. It was the first time they had really mentioned Donegal. They had hung out and had snogged but that little moment in that house had been almost taboo.
He loved that he could joke about that with her.
"Was that how you felt? About me?" She knew he liked her but not so much that it had stopped him speaking.
"Yeah, it wasn't just being hit bit the van. That just made me realise I had to tell you. It had been going on for weeks, months, since..." James stopped himself. He couldn't admit that. It was too cheesy.
"Since?" She looked at him as he looked down at their entwined hands.
"Since the prom?" she asked.
"Yeah" he looked up and smiled at her.
"That's the nicest thing anyone has done for me, let alone a boy," said Erin.
"It was nothing Erin"
"No, it wasn't. I know you mostly did it because Mammy rang you..."
"I did it because I wanted to go with you Erin. I wanted to make you happy" replied James softly.
Erin reached up and pulled him to her.
It wasn't like their previous kisses, it was much deeper, like the connection between them was even stronger.
The pair of them jumped.
"You have to stop doing that Michelle" said James as he clutched his chest.
"No, you two absolute filthy sleeveens, have to stop this"
"Michelle, again. This is absolutely none of your business," said an exasperated James.
"Then why haven't you told anyone?" asked Michelle.
"Again, because it's no one's business. Except us," said James
"Us?!" said Michelle.
"So that's it" she addressed Erin. "Us! You'd choose him over me. After everything we've been through. He's barely been here a wet day!"
"I haven't chosen anyone Michelle" replied Erin.
"You have! You've chosen him by going behind my back. Sneaking around. God knows what the pair of you have been getting up to up here every day. You're so desperate Erin!"
"What?" replied Erin.
"You can't find a fella on your own, you have to pounce on my wee English prick of cousin"
"Thanks a lot Michelle" Erin pushed past her and out of the room.
"Well done, Michelle," said James.
Michelle pulled him back by his arm: "Where do you think you're going fuck features?!"
"After Erin!" replied James.
"Oh no you don't!" said Michelle who wouldn't let him go.
Downstairs Erin threw on her coat. She just wanted to go home. Did Michelle really think that little of her? Before she knew it, she was crying. Because of what Michelle had said but because she knew it couldn't happen. Her and James.
"You alright love?" It was Deirdre.
Erin wiped her eyes before turning around to face her: "Oh aye, I just tired with all the work"
Deirdre wasn't fooled. Something was going on with the three of them. Well between her and James at least. As she was working nights, she still hadn't been able to have a chat with Mary to suss out what exactly was going on.
"Do you want a lift? I can drop ya?" asked Deirdre.
"No, I'm fine. I don't mind the walk," said Erin.
"Are you sure love? It'd be no trouble," said Deidre.
"No, it's fine. I think I need a bit of fresh air" What she really needed was to hide the fact that she had been crying from her mother.
"Ok, well will you ask Mary to ring me, to let me know you got home ok. I've been meaning to catch up with her"
"Sure, night Deirdre"
James had eventually freed himself from Michelle and ran down to try and catch Erin. Michelle quickly followed behind.
However, Deirdre was stood alone in the hall: "I don't know what's going on between you three to upset that girl like that but so help me God you better sort it and apologise. Do you hear me!" said Deirdre.
"Thanks a lot Michelle" said James as he forced his way past her and up to his room.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
"Mammy, I'm not feeling too good," said Erin. She really didn't want to face Michelle or James in school after what happened the night before.
"Ah, love. Come here to me!" replied Mary.
Erin ran to her.
Mary felt her forehead: "No temperature. Have you been sick?"
"No Mammy but I feel like I might" replied Erin doing her best to sound poorly.
"Well then, you're well enough to go to school," said Mary.
"But Mammy what if I get sick in school" said Erin, laying on her sick voice even thicker.
"Well, they'll send you home won't they"
"But Mammy!" said Erin, dropping the sick act she had been putting on.
"Well, you seem to sound better now love" said Mary sarcastically.
"Why do you not want to go to school?" asked Mary.
"Nothing, it's just I've been working so hard lately I just feel very drained"
"Well tough, you're not missing school, end of. Go and get ready" Mary watched her go.
She wondered what had gotten into her. Had her and Michelle had a fight? When she had rang Deirdre the night before to let her know Erin had got home ok it felt like she had been fishing for information. Nothing straight out, just she had asked her how Erin was getting on.
Sure, she saw more of Erin than she did of late. She seemed to be always Michelle's working on that project.
Erin returned to the kitchen in her uniform and in a huff.
"Love, it's midterm nearly. Surely you and Michelle can take some time off this project of yours?" asked Mary trying to cheer Erin up a bit.
"Michelle?!" asked Erin. Why did her mother bring up Michelle? Had Deirdre told her, pondered Erin.
"Yeah, surely, she's the one you're doing the project Given you're around hers all day?"
"No, I'm paired up with James" replied Erin.
"Erin, are you coming? We need to hit Dennis's because I've out of cola drops!" called Orla from the front door.
"Aye, I'm coming" yelled Erin.
"Bye Mammy," said Erin.
"Bye, love," said Mary.
She wouldn't, thought Mary. Her and the wee English fella? Was he not gay? Or was it just an English thing? It would explain Erin's moods and Deirdre's interest. She'd have to keep an eye on that she thought.
Orla and Erin left and headed straight for Dennis's wee shop.
"Why were you lying to Aunt Mary about being sick Erin?" asked Orla as they walked down the hill to the shop.
How on earth did she hear that, thought Erin.
"I wasn't lying Orla. I am feeling quite peaky actually" Maybe it was all in her head, but her stomach seemed more unsettled the closer they got to school.
"Is it to do with James?" asked Orla.
"James?! Why would James have anything to do with me Orla! That's mad!" replied Erin. Orla didn't know. Surely, she of all people wouldn't have figured it
"Just he's been acting all funny recently. I thought you might have caught something off recently like monkeypox," said Orla
"We don't have monkeypox in Derry Orla"
"Not yet Erin..." replied Orla.
They made it to the shop and went inside to stock up on sweets for the final day in school before the midterm break. On entering they saw Michelle behind the counter. Dennis handed her something.
"What are you doing here?" asked Erin. "What are you doing there Michelle. What did Dennis just give ya? You're not riding Dennis are ya Michelle?!"
"Erin, wise up. Dennis has to be like 45?" said Michelle.
"I'm thirty fucking three" screamed Dennis.
"Same thing," said Michelle.
"Is fucking not!" said Dennis.
"Is fucking too!" Michelle shot back. "You might wanna calm down or you'll give yourself a heart attack Granda!"
"Then what are you doing there?" asked Erin.
"I kinda work here," said Michelle.
"In Dennis's shop?"
"What's wrong with working in my shop?" asked Dennis.
"Nothing. Just...it's Michelle" replied Erin.
"And..?" said Michelle.
Erin lowered her voice: "Are you really working here?"
"Why didn't you say?" asked Erin.
"Well, there seems to be a lot of secrecy going around" said Michelle as she pushed past Erin and left the shop.
Orla was too engrossed in picking out her favourite sweets to notice the tension between Michelle and Erin.
Orla finally picked out the sweets to do her for the final day of school before the weekend and the mid-term: "Do you want a cola drop Erin" asked Orla as they made their way to school.
"Aye, go on"
"Where's Michelle gone?" asked Orla.
"Oh, I think she had to meet up with Jenny Joyce about the project" Erin wanted to quickly change the subject: "So how are you getting on with Aisling"
"Good, she's actually such a nice girl"
"Oh aye" said Erin half listening.
"She keeps asking me strange questions about James though" replied Orla as she opened a sherbet fountain.
"Questions?" asked Erin, who was now fully concentrating on everything Orla said.
"Aye, like was he seeing anyone? And I said, aye he's English"
"What?" said a confused Erin.
"He's from England not blind Erin" replied Orla like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Ok, and what did she say?" asked Erin. She desperately wanted to know everything that had passed between them about James.
"Aisling, Orla!" said Erin, impatiently.
"Oh, just that he seemed really nice and sweet, and I said aye, he's cracker all right" replied Orla with a face nearly covered in sherbet.
Erin tried to process what she had just heard. She knew things probably couldn't go on with her and James after Michelle had caught them again. It wasn't just their friendship that would be ruined but they were family, and she was coming between them, and she just couldn't do that.
However, the thoughts of him and Aisling. What if they ended things and Aisling moved in on him? She couldn't bear it. She wanted him to be happy but not with Aisling. Or anyone else.
They arrived at the school gate and of the devil. It was a really smiley Aisling: "Hi Orla. Hi Erin"
God she was insufferable thought Erin.
"James isn't with us," said Erin. Dear god why had she said that. It had just blurted itself out of her.
"Ok" said Aisling, a red tinge had already appeared in her cheeks.
"Just in case, you might have been wondering" God why did she keep going!
"I wasn't I was just saying Hi. I better head in. I'll talk to you later Orla" replied Aisling.
Orla just smiled and waved as she was finishing off the sherbet fountain.
"See what a nice girl" said Orla as she had finished her sweets.
They walked through the school to the hall for the daily assembly.
They found Clare and James in their usual spot, but Michelle was nowhere to be seen.
Orla and Erin sat down beside them. Erin let Orla take the seat right beside James.
"Where's Michelle girls? Is she not with you?" asked Clare.
"Look, she's over there with Jenny Joyce" said Orla loudly. Almost as if she was calling over to Michelle.
Orla's voice in the quiet hall.
Michelle shot Erin a dirty look.
"Why is she with Jenny Joyce! Something is very wrong girls. The job thing and now this!" said Clare.
"Maybe she's joined a cult," said Orla.
"No, it's just this project agreement Jenny drew up. I think she has to discuss things with her for the project that's all," said James.
That wasn't true. She had wanted the pair of them to stand on their own, but he had refused. So, she had told him to fuck off and had stood beside Jenny to make a point.
"Oh no wonder she looks in a foul mood" replied Clare.
James caught Erin's eye. She knew what he had said wasn't true, but she was glad that he had been able to convince Clare and Orla at least.
Also, it amused her that they had bought come up with the same excuse.
It was such a shame that it had to end between them. She looked over at Michelle.
No, it couldn't go on like this.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Erin decided to corner Michelle before break. She knew Michelle had history upstairs and that they had French together on the ground floor, so she hung about on the main stairs hoping to nab her.
After a few minutes of some of the other girls going past she spotted her. With Jenny Joyce and Aisling trailing behind. Shit!
They headed down the stairs towards her.
Michelle's face lit up on seeing her: "Oh heya Erin. Girls, I have something really important to discuss with Erin here so"
"Ok" replied Jenny as she remained where she was standing alongside Aisling.
"Alone" said Michelle.
"Oh, girly gossip is it! We'll leave you two to it then" said Jenny has she finally left them alone.
Erin noticed Aisling giving her a funny look as they walked off. God why hadn't she kept her big mouth shit this morning. Maybe she thought they were talking about James.
"What do you need to talk to me about Michelle?" asked Erin.
"What?" said Michelle.
"You told Jenny you needed to speak to me?" said Erin.
"That was because I wanted them to fuck off Erin. I'm surrounded by dick heads" She gave Erin a look which implied she was one of the said dick heads.
Michelle went to walk off, but Erin pulled her back: "I'm going to end it, Michelle. Nothing had actually really happened, just kissing..."
"Lalalala" Michelle covered her ears "I do not want to hear the sordid details of you dry humping my wee English geebag of a cousin"
"But it wasn't like that Michelle," said Erin.
"It's not like you actually like him. Like anyone would!"
"But Michelle...," said Erin. She wanted more than anything to stand up for him. Because she did like him. More than she had liked anyone. David Donnelly, John Paul, they were nothing compared to James.
"Like I do sort of love him. But that's because he's fucking family and I have to," said Michelle. "But another human being. A girl with all her faculties...liking James? I don't think so. His mother doesn't even love him"
"Jesus Michelle" said Erin.
Erin had a feeling that his mother wasn't capable of loving anyone but herself, but she'd never say it out loud. She had felt sorry for James when his mother had come back to take him home. He had looked so happy to see her, but it was clear she was only using him. How could anyone do that to their kid? Especially such a nice youngfella like James.
"It's true. She's my aunty I know but she's a right bitch is our Cathy"
Erin just looked at her feet. She knew she had done the right thing in agreeing to end things, but it felt like shit. She hadn't even had a chance to talk to James yet. God that was going to be even worse.
"I'm sorry Erin" said Michelle quietly.
"For what?" asked Erin.
" you were desperate. You're not really. Like not everyone can have to with like me and I know I should help you more. To get your hole like. But mistakes happen. Like snogging a randomer or someone you shouldn't. Like James. No one should be going there. But promise me this is it?"
She wished she could tell Michelle that it wasn't a mistake and that it was going to happen whether she or anyone else liked it or not. But she didn't.
She saw how it had already driven a wedge between the three of them. She wanted their friendship to change. She wanted things to stay the same. The time they had left together this before college and jobs.
"This is it. I promise," said Erin.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
"What's going on?" asked Erin. Michelle and Clare were standing outside the record shop in town while a yob of a lad and his mates seemed to be squaring up to James on the street below.
Her and Orla had only popped home to get money for tickets. Fat Boy Slim tickets!
After Clare who had practically been shaking with excitement had told them that Sorcha's sister's boyfriend's brother had heard that Fat Boy Slim was doing a one-off show in Derry on Hallowe'en night.
"James is fighting those lads for Fat Boy Slim tickets" replied Michelle before she returned to chanting James.
"What?!" Erin ran towards the fight.
"For fuck's sake!" sigh Michelle as she went after her. She loved her friends dearly. But let's face they were dicks!
"What are you doing Erin?" said James as he tried to push Erin out of the way of the lads.
She batted him off and turned to the lads: "Oi. You!"
The main guy approached her until he was towering over her.
Jesus, she thought. Your man is quite big actually. Maybe she should have kept her mouth shut. James was English and wily enough, right?
"Is she talking to us?" said the main .
"Yes, she is. You better not touch a hair on his head! You hear me!" said Erin. She decided she may as well go full crazy to try and scare them off. She was up to neck in it either way.
"Erin please just go!" pleaded James as he tried to wrestle her away.
He'd rather the lads did beat him up rather than see Erin being hurt.
However, Erin wouldn't budge.
"She is talking to you actually!" said Erin to the big lad.
"Here, you'd want to tell your girlfriend here to butt out" said the lad as he looked past Erin to James.
"Excuse me! Have I gone invisible? Am I a ghost?" asked Erin.
"If ghosts don't shut the fuck up!" the lad approached Erin.
He crouched down to speak to her: "Listen here youngwan you'd want to save your energy for looking after your boyfriend over there when I'm finished with him"
Erin shrunk back a little, but she still stood her ground: "Well you'll have to get past me then!"
The lad just tried pushing her out of the way. Erin struggled against him before she fell to the ground.
"Leave her alone!" yelled James.
"What are you going to do about it?" asked the lad. He started poking at James's chest.
"This" said James.
He grabbed the lad's finger and bent it back until the lad fell to his knees.: "Ow . What the actually fuck?"
The lad tried to fight against James's hand, but it made it hurt even more.
"How the fuck is he doing that?" asked one of the lad's friends who just stood looking on.
"I dunno. Some of that kung fu shit man" replied the other.
"Apologise!" said James.
"Fuck off would ya!" replied the lad.
James just bent his finger back even more.
"Ow ow ow fucking hell. I'm sorry," said the lad.
"To Erin!" said James.
"The mouth?" asked the lad.
James bent his finger back even more
"Ok, fine. Here youngwan, I'm sorry," said the lad. He was very much aware that half the town as well as his gang were watching on as some skinny wee fucker had him on his knees with his finger.
He just wanted to get the fuck out of there and he would deal with the English prick and his friends another time.
James reluctantly released him.
"You can have the tickets ya fucking weirdos," said the lad.
"Thank you" said Orla, completely oblivious to the danger James and Erin were just in.
"But I will see you around" he said pointing at James. "All of ye" he pointed to the rest of the gang.
"But I didn't even fucking do anything?" Michelle shouted after him.
He just flipped her off in response as he strutted off.
James immediately went to Erin: "Are you ok?" asked James.
Erin responded by whacking him the chest: "What were you thinking?!"
Clare looked on shocked. She had never seen Erin that angry: "Jesus Erin!"
"Yeah, Erin what the fuck," said Michelle.
James just pulled Erin into a hug until she calmed down and stopped thumping him.
She eventually hugged him back. It had frightened her. The thoughts of him being hurt by those lads. That along with all the anger she had about not being able to being with him just spilt out.
"Oi, give the girl some space to breathe you fucking pervert" said Michelle forcing the two of them apart. No, none that was happening again on her watch. She knew it Erin said she was finishing it but the pair of them clearly had no self-control.
Michelle was aware of Clare and Orla looking on in confusion. She needed them not to find out about Erin losing the run of herself and her dickhead pervert of a cousin.
If they found out, then all this would actually be happening, and she would lose Erin and probably Orla too and God knows whose side Clare would take.
Probably James. Those wee gays stick together.
"We've got the tickets girls! Fat Boy Fucking Slim," said Michelle.
"Are we going to yet again, ignore the elephant in the room?" yelled Clare.
"Fuck" whispered Michelle.
"It's nothing really Clare I.." began Erin who was now really aware that James still had his arm around her.
"How did James do that? That lad was massive, and he barely touched him?" said Clare in one breath.
Orla leaned around James: "Can you show me that finger thing?"
"She about that kung fu shit James pulled!" said Michelle. She continued: "Not like actual..."
"We get the picture Michelle," said Erin.
"It's a karate thing. I used to go with my stepdad" explained James.
She was barely following the conversation now that Clare was busy interrogating James on self-defence.
She couldn't stop thinking about the hug and how right it felt and how she was going to end things with James.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
The gang had spent the rest of the day discussing their plans for Hallowe'en night.
They had decided to dress up as angels inspired by Claire Dane's costume from Romeo + Juliet. Actually, it was Erin's idea and she had insisted they all went along with it.
Romeo + Juliet. Bit ironic, thought Erin, given her current situation with James.
She hadn't had a chance to speak to him alone all day. She hadn't had the chat.
She had tried to enjoy the afternoon and the excitement of planning how they were going to hit the shops over the weekend and make their costumes. However, she couldn't.
She thought that maybe they would naturally drift apart after a few days, and he would get the message. He had to know it couldn't go on after how Michelle had reacted. The trouble it had caused. Michelle would never back down.
But he deserved more than that. He deserved her telling talking to him in person and saying it to his face.
"I'm going down for some more crisps does anyone want anything?" asked Erin.
The consensus had been Tayto cheese and onion all round. With Orla opting for salt and vinegar.
"I could do with some water actually," said James. So quietly he could be barely heard over the Fat Boy Slim cassette they were playing.
"I'll get you some." suggested Erin.
James stood up: "I'll come with you"
Michelle was too engrossed in debating whether the mad lad from the fight in town was actually 'a bit of a ride' or not with Clare to notice them sneak off.
Erin stopped him in the hallway. The hallway where she had been so happy to see him the night of the prom. She felt like she was breaking that lovely memory in to pieces by doing what she was about to do.
"It can't happen anymore James" said Erin in a whisper. She knew Granda and her parents were watching Coronation Street the other side of the wall.
"Do you really care that much about Michelle thinks?" asked James.
"She's right in a way. Look at today, all of us not talking. And that's just now but what if it goes on and if this doesn't work out then we won't be friends anymore and I'll lose you and I can't do that. So, I can't do this ok. You don't have to wait anymore because it can't happen" said Erin resolutely.
"That's how you really feel?" asked James.
"Yes, I'm sorry. I..."
He reached out and rubbed her arm: "It's ok. I'm disappointed but it's ok"
They stood in silence.
"I better go home," said James. He knew if he went back upstairs, he wouldn't be able to hide how miserable he felt.
"I'll get Michelle. I'll say Deidre rang and wants you home," said Erin. She started to cry. She felt like if she didn't get away from him, she would turn in to blubbering mess in front of him.
"Ok. I'll see you tomorrow I guess?" asked James.
It really hurt. The fact they couldn't be together like that. But he needed to make an effort to be her friend and to have her in his life. No matter how awkward it would be.
"Yeah, bye James" replied Erin as she ran up the stairs to get Michelle.
"Bye Erin" said James ruefully.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
They had hit every pound shop in Derry, as well as Primark that Saturday morning. Well, more like early afternoon as Michelle had refused to get up earlier than 10am on her first day off for mid-term.
They had gathered everything they needed and spent the afternoon in Erin's room transforming all the glitter, fair lights, and feathers they had bought in to angel's wings.
Erin tried to put on a brave face around the others after she had ended things with James the night before.
Much like before, to the outside world no one have guessed what had happened. James still treated her like the others.
However, Erin did notice he looked sad sometimes. When he thought her, or the girls weren't looking.
A few days had passed since that Saturday, and it was the night of the concert.
The sadness hadn't gone away. If anything, it had gotten worse for both of them. They both missed those little moments they had spent together alone in James's room or during the drive home to hers.
No one other than James and Erin knew the absolute agony they were in.
Why did she have to go and fall for her best friend? Classic Erin!
She couldn't have a nice fella she could go on dates with. Someone uncomplicated. No, she had to choose a boy that if they broke up it could destroy her whole friend group and lose her best friend. Two best friends because she would lose him too.
She didn't even want to go to the concert anymore. She knew he'd be there, but he would be closed off from her in a way that broke her heart.
However, she really didn't want to have to face a grilling from Clare, Orla and even her own family as to why she wasn't going anymore. Especially her mother who had given her the £20 for the ticket.
The gang were currently gathered in her bedroom. Orla was covering James in glitter. She liked that about him. That he was comfortable with all that girly stuff.
A lot of the lads in Derry wouldn't even go in to Boots because they sold make up.
Any other time it would have amused her, seeing Orla practically pour a whole tub of glitter her over him, but not after what had happened.
Why couldn't things be different? Simpler.
All the feathers they could find in Derry had turned them all into angels. Not swans as Granda had said. Well, he'd never seen Romeo + Juliet, so what would he know, thought Erin.
They managed to get ready and make the concert by the skin of their teeth. Mainly due to Michelle spending ages bargaining with Dennis over the price of the cheap vodka he kept under the counter.
They had necked it on the way. Even Clare had took a swig. Probably for liquid courage as the girl she fancied and who she had already had a cack attack in front of at the record shop was going to be there.
When they arrived at the venue, they hung around together for a bit as the concert began but Michelle soon went off looking for 'the biggest rides in the place' while James helped Clare track down the girl, she fancied from the record shop. Erin watched on as he led Clare through the crowd.
She was soon distracted by Orla who grabbed her hands and starting dancing with her. Erin smiled as Orla's joy was contagious. They danced together for a bit and for a few minutes Erin forgot all that had happened between her and James.
"I'm just going to get more sweets. Do you want any?" asked Orla.
"No, I'm fine Orla" replied Erin.
Orla left her on her own. She made her way to the edge of the hall. She watched on as the mass of people danced together.
Then she saw them. Was that Aisling? Jenny Joyce's wee sidekick. Dancing with James? What was she even doing at a Fat Boy Slim concert! Did her and Jenny not have a piano recital they should be attending.
She watched on as he spun Aisling around. While she leaned in as whispered into her ear. Erin felt sick. James and Aisling? This couldn't happen.
The room felt like it was spinning and not just because of the vodka she had downed on the way there.
Erin backed up. She had to get out of there. On doing do she backed into someone carrying several drinks which crashed very noticeably to the floor. Some of the crowd had noticed the fracas. Including James and Aisling.
"Well, if it isn't the wee mouth" it was the lad that James had fought off.
"I'm so sorry"
She took out her purse and took out £10 and tried to hand it to him: "Please just take this and let me go please" pleaded Erin.
"You're not as cocky when your boyfriend's not around to fight your corner aren't ya?" asked the lad menacingly.
"Please just let me. I don't want any trouble"
"You're lucky I don't fight little girls then. Tell your boyfriend I'll be seeing him won't ya" he stood aside and let Erin pass.
"He's not my boyfriend" she muttered as she ran outside to the foyer.
"Erin!" James ran after her.
He caught up with her in the foyer: "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine James. Go back to Aisling. She's pining for you" spat Erin. God Dennis's cheap vodka was really kicking in.
"Who? What are you talking about?" asked James.
"Aisling, James!" said Erin.
"Aisling? But I was just talking to her"
"You were dancing with her! You were practically glued to each other!" said Erin slurring.
"Yes, as a mate. And the place is packed Erin. Everyone is glued to each other" replied James.
"Well, you had to be glued to her!"
"Yes! Because apart from you and Michelle, Orla, and Clare, she's one of the only people I know here. I thought you wanted this" he really regretted the last bit as soon as he said it.
He hadn't danced with Aisling with any agenda. He just wanted to try and have some fun after a horrible week.
"Wanted what? You and Aisling? Give my head peace James," said Erin.
"No, us just being friends Erin"
"Not like that. Not with you dancing with Aisling. Or anyone else for that matter," said Erin.
"Then that's not really being friends is it Erin" replied James.
For a really smart girl she could be incredibly thick sometimes. As much as it infuriated him. He still wouldn't change it.
Well maybe in this second so she wouldn't be tipsy in hallway yelling at him. He laughed to himself.
"Are you laughing at me?" asked Erin sadly.
"No, I am laughing at this. Us" he held out his hand.
"What are you doing?" asked Erin.
"I'd much rather be dancing with you. I'd much rather being doing anything with Erin"
She took his hand. She was going to kiss him again. He didn't know it yet neither did her body as it was yet to catch up with her heart and her head but was going to happen.
That's when seen him over James's shoulder.
"Daddy?!" What was her father doing there? He was walking in with one of the security guards. Why did he look so worried?
James looked around. He could see from Gerry's face something wasn't right. He also became really aware that he was still holding Erin's hand. She didn't let go as Gerry approached them.
"Daddy, what's wrong?" asked Erin.
"It's your grandfather love" replied Gerry.
"Granda?" she replied in a soft voice.
"He's in a bad way. He's had a heart attack. He's up the hospital. We need to go. Where's Orla?" asked Gerry.
"She's inside..." replied Erin.
"I'll go get her...," said James.
Erin wanted him with her: "I'll go with you. I..."
James put his arm around her and led her through the crowd.
The bumped into Michelle of the concert hall with a lad: "Where the fuck did you two get to? What the fuck's this?" she pointed to James's arm which was still around Erin's shoulder.
"Michelle!" said James sharply.
"It's Granda...Daddy's here for me and Orla. I need to find her. We need to be with him..." Erin had started to cry.
"Fuck. I just saw her a minute ago. You two stay there and I'll go find her and Clare," said Michelle.
"We need to go now. I'll go with you," said Erin.
"Erin, it's heaving in there and you're in bits. I promise I will shift Orla's hole and you can get out of here. You stay here with James," said Michelle.
"Here what about me?" asked the lad.
"Oh you? You can fuck off!" said Michelle.
Michelle went back inside and focused all her attention on finding Orla. She was trying to stop herself crying. She was by no means an over emotional person but seeing her friend so upset and the thoughts of losing Joe were enough to get to her.
"Fuck!" cried out Michelle as she tried not to cry. She had no grandparents left herself. None since she'd been wee but Joe had been like granda to her ever since she'd been pals with Erin.
She spotted Clare chatting up a girl. She headed straight for her: "Have you seen Orla?"
"I'm a bit busy Michelle" replied Clare abruptly.
"It's Joe. He's not well. Erin's da is outside"
"Oh my god!" replied Clare.
She turned to the girl she had been talking to: "I am really sorry. My friends need me"
"Go, honestly, it's fine. I'll see you around. I promise. I hope your friends are ok" she gave Clare a kiss on her cheek.
They spotted Orla dancing near the stage. They forced her way through the crowd to get to her. Even Orla could tell by their faces that something was wrong: "Has something happened?" all the joy that had been on her face while she had been dancing had vanished.
"You have to come outside with us," said Michelle.
"Did something happen to Erin? Or James? What's wrong?" Michelle wanted to avoid breaking the news to her in the middle of the crowd.
She followed them out to the hall.
She saw Gerry comforting Erin who was sitting with James.
Gerry looked up and ran to give her a hug.
"Uncle Gerry what's wrong?"
"It's your granda love. I'm sorry. He's not very well. We need to get up the hospital"
They managed to get Erin and Orla outside and into Gerry's car.
"I'm sorry I can't take the rest of ye," said Gerry.
"Are you not coming? I want you there" Erin asked James sadly when he didn't get in the car with her.
"I'll drive Michelle and Clare and I'll be there I promise" said James reassuringly.
Erin sat in the back of her father's car in silence, watching Derry fly past. She could feel that this was one of those moments that would separate her upcoming adulthood from the childhood that was rapidly being taken from her.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Erin was sat in one of those horrible plastic chairs they always had in hospitals. She wondered was the discomfort purely from the chairs themselves or the fact they always reminded people of hospitals and the sadness and fear that was associated with them.
Erin kept watching the door to the waiting room. She was waiting for a doctor to update them and for the others to arrive.
She knew James would have to go home to get his aunt’s car before picking up Michelle and Clare.
She just wanted him there. He had been the only thing that had stopped her totally losing it earlier.
She felt like she was going to cry but she didn’t want to be upsetting her Mam and Sarah.
The door opened and Erin looked up to see the others finally arrive.
James sat down beside her in one of the chairs. She immediately grabbed his hand.
Michelle noticed but didn’t say anything. She just wanted Joe and her friends to be ok. She couldn’t deny Erin a little bit of comfort like that at a time like this.
She sat down beside Clare and Orla who rested her head on Michelle’s shoulder.
“What’s happening?” asked Michelle. Her voice cut the silence in the room. “Sorry, it’s just…” she was worried and just wanted to know if Joe was going to be ok.
“It’s ok love” replied Gerry. “They are just operating on him. We’ll know more after”
“An operation?” asked Clare, the alarm evident in her voice.
“This is Joe. It’d take a lot to keep him down girls” said Gerry trying his best to reassure them.
He continued: “Sure I might ask the nurses to tell him I’m here and he’ll be up and running me out of here in no time” That brought a smile to all their faces.
“I might, now I hope you all don’t mind me saying, tell him that I’m going to go in to talk to him because I can go on so I can…” said Uncle Colm.
Everyone braced themselves for another one of Colm’s long-winded stories, but none came.
It was clear that his brother’s predicament had got to him.
It was already gone 11. It was going to be a long night. All they could do was wait and hope.
They all settled down in their respective corners of the room. Mary and Sarah in one, Gerry and Uncle Colm in the other, while the gang had a group of seats to themselves.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Erin woke up with a start. She had been crying in her dream. Someone had died, she couldn’t make who and she was crying.
She rubbed her face. Her cheeks were damp. She dried her eyes. She must have been crying in her sleep. That had never happened to her. It was like the panic and the sadness from the dream had followed her into reality.
She was still in the hospital waiting room. She looked around at the others who were all there and all still asleep.
It must have been morning as the sun had begun to pour in through the only window in the small waiting room.
James mumbled in his sleep. She had fallen asleep on his shoulder. His arm was still around her shoulder. It tightened around her as if he unconsciously felt her moving away.
She leaned back into his shoulder. Looking for comfort. Her movement must have woken James as he shifted in his chair and turned to face her.
The worry was plain on her face.
“You ok?” he asked in a whisper.
“As much as I can be” she replied softly.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to...” James went to move his arm from around her shoulder.
Although she had spent all night holding his hand, he didn’t want to cross a line with her or make her uncomfortable.
“Don’t!” said Erin as she snuggled back into him.
She didn’t care if the others woke up and seen them. Even Michelle. She just wanted him to hold her and make her feel like everything would be okay.
“He will be ok Erin” whispered James.
“I dunno. It’s been all night, and no one has told us anything” replied Erin.
“If anyone can survive something like this it’s your granddad,” said James.
“True” replied Erin with a sad smile. Granda Joe wouldn’t go anywhere without a fight.
They both jumped as the door to the waiting room opened. It was Gerry.
The fright Gerry had given James and Erin seemed to wake up the others.
“You can go up and see him girls,” said Gerry. He gave them a small smile which gave Erin hope.
“How is he daddy?” asked Erin.
“He had to have a small operation,” said Gerry.
“On his heart?” asked Erin.
“Yeah, but it went well. He’s doing well. You can see for yourself come on” said Gerry with a reassuring smile.
Erin had been afraid of seeing him. Seeing him in pain and not well.
She instinctively reached for James’s hand as they followed Gerry up to the ward.
They all headed inside. Joe was in a room on his own and was partially propped up in the bed.
His face lit up with a smile as he saw them. Especially as they were still in their angel costumes from the night before.
“Have I died and gone to heaven?” remarked Joe.
“Don’t say things like that Daddy. He’s only flying on the drugs they’re pumping into him,” said a worried Mary.
“Granda?” said Orla quietly. She could be away with the fairies at times, but Joe’s heart attack had really affected her. It had pulled her back in to the real world where really terrible things can happen.
“Come here to me weans” Erin and Orla ran and to give Joe a hug.
Even Clare, James and Michelle lined up after them for a hug.
“You gave us some fright so ya did Joe. Not gonna lie” said Michelle as she hugged him.
“I can’t believe you ruined the weans’s night and frightened the poor craters like that ya useless wee gobshite!” snapped Joe at Gerry.
“You had a heart attack Joe!” replied Gerry.
“It was nothing” said Joe as he rubbed Orla’s cheek.
“They had to resuscitate you, Joe!” said Gerry.
“Who hasn’t had to be resuscitated?! Maybe if you got off your hole once in a while, you’d need resuscitating!” replied Joe.
“That makes no sense!” argued Gerry.
Erin smiled to herself. Maybe everything would be ok. Granda was half back to normal already.
“You make no sense!” said Joe.
“Gerry just leave it. He’s not meant to get stressed. He’s just had heart surgery!” said Mary.
“But he’s the one…”
Mary gave him a look that could have cut the tongue straight out of him.
“Ok fine” muttered Gerry.
“What’s going on here?” yelled the nurse. “Where did all ye come from? There’s far too many of you in here. There’s meant to be only two visitors at a time”
“It’s just our weans...” replied Sarah.
“I can see that but why is there so many of them in here at once?” asked the nurse.
“Well, they don’t come separately sister,” said Sarah.
“Ok, two minutes and I will have to ask them to leave. Of matron will have your and my guts for garters”
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
The nurse had been true to her word. She had promptly come back and had thrown them out of the room.
They had said their goodbyes to Joe and the family, and Erin and Orla, who had told them to go home and get some rest.
James, Clare, and Michelle were standing the hospital corridor deciding how they would get home.
“I might stay,” said James.
“Really? Why? Are you not shattered James?” asked Clare as she let out a yawn. The mention of being tired had set her off.
“I think one of us should stay. You guys go home and get some sleep and some food and then you can come back” replied James.
“Ok, good idea. I can make sandwiches and tea and we can take turns while Joe is still in hospital,” said Clare.
“And I can bring…” No way she was cooking. Not even for her mates. She’d probably give them food poisoning if she did. “...Sweets from Dennis’s. Orla will need them” suggested Michelle.
Michelle knew exactly why James had volunteered to stay but she refrained from her usual slagging. Just this once.
It was sort of sweet. He obviously really cared about Erin.
She remembered how him and Erin and been around each other the night before. Maybe they weren’t just messing about. That was a conversation for another day.
In that minute what Michelle needed was a shower, a cup of tea, and a nap. Probably not in that order.
Michelle and Clare hugged James before walking downstairs to the lobby to ring Clare’s dad to come pick them up.
James made himself comfortable in the waiting room. He settled down in a chair and looked for something to read or to amuse him.
There were a few leaflets and magazines on the small table in the centre of the room.
‘Diabetes: The Warning Signs’ No thank you thought James.
He eventually settled on one of those gossipy magazines which featured stories like ‘I married a ghost’
His Aunty Deidre and Michelle often had them around the house. He was convinced that most if not all of the stories were made up while Michelle had thought they were real.
A fight had left them not speaking to each other for an entire day one weekend after him and Michelle had argued over whether a woman’s dead dog had appeared at her wedding.
Michelle had been convinced it was true. She had heard of a woman in Lifford whose recently deceased pet Parrot had appeared at her grandmother’s funeral. James smiled at the thought of Michelle, of all people believed in ghost pets.
He sat there for what must have been an hour or two reading one crazy story after another.
A few other people had come and gone in the waiting room. But he was the only that had remained.
He really wanted to be there for Erin. Orla too. Especially after the fight they had and how she had held on to him after she had heard about her grandfather.
He hadn’t been that tired, so it made sense to send the girls home for a rest.
He knew that while Joe was now stable, he still wasn’t out of the woods yet. Also, he would have to stay in hospital for a few days leaving Erin and Orla hanging around. The least they could do was to have someone with them.
He heard the door open. He looked up from a story to see Erin.
“Hey” said James.
“Hi. What are still doing here?” said Erin as he sat down beside him.
“Reading a fascinating story about a women woman who had quintuplets,” said James.
“Five weans? At once? How did they all fit?” asked Erin.
Erin let out a little laugh: “No like I thought you would have went home with the others”
“Michelle and Clare went home to get some food and some sleep. They’ll be back up later. I said I’d stay. Just so someone would be here for you and Orla” replied James.
Erin said nothing. She just looked at him as if examining him, looking for something. For a minute James couldn’t breathe as he just looked right back at her.
She leaned in and kissed him.
When they broke away James looked down are they hands. Hers were in his: “Erin…I can’t do this…”
Erin’s heart started pounding. God maybe she had totally ruined things between them.
James continued: “I can’t do this back and forward. I really like you and I want this but if we do this, I want it properly. I want us to date and be a…”
Erin breathed a sigh of relief: “...a proper couple?” she added.
“Yeah” grinned James. He rubbed her thumb with his.
They didn’t notice Gerry enter the waiting room. He froze on seeing his daughter hand in hand with the wee English fella.
He thought Mary had said he preferred the lads. Not by the looks of it as he saw them kiss.
On the one hand he had an urge to storm in and march the wee English shite out of the hospital.
On the other, he noticed how Erin looked happy. Truly happy.
She was looking at the youngfella the way Mary had looked at him. Still looked at him sometimes when Erin, Joe and Sarah weren’t about.
And as lads go it could be worse. He had seen how much James had cared for the girls. The fact he was still here waiting for them showed that. He wasn’t a bad lad.
Gerry decided to back out of the room and pretend he hadn’t seen anything.
If push came to shove and he hurt Erin, he could always kick him across the Irish sea and back to England.
They broke away again: “Sorry, I don’t want to put any pressure on you. With everything that’s going on. I just wanted you to know how I feel. I said I’ll wait, and I will,” said James.
“I don’t want to wait. Look what happened last night. Thank God Granda is alright. But life is so short, and I don’t want to waste it, James. I was scared. Scared of growing up. Scared of losing you. But I’ve never liked anyone like I like you. I can’t stop thinking about you. When I saw you with Aisling that hurt me”
“I honestly wasn’t doing it to make you jealous,” said James.
He really hadn’t. He liked Aisling as a mate. Especially when she wasn’t with Jenny. But he didn’t like her like that. Like he liked Erin. He had never liked anyone like that.
“I know. It just made me realised that it should have been me dancing with ya. That I had messed it all up saying we had to stop this. That I should be with you,” said Erin.
“What about Michelle?” asked James.
“She’ll have to get used to it” said Erin adamantly.
“Or we could move. I heard Timbuktu is nice” said James jokingly.
They both laughed. They knew it would take some convincing to win around Michelle, but they knew it would be worth it.
Erin leaned in for another kiss. She stopped herself just before her lips met his: “I like me, James” she said with a mischievous grin.
“I like me, Erin” he said mimicking her. “I’m never going to live that down, am I?”
“Nope” replied Erin before she kissed him again.
They were doing this. Really doing this.
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
It was the Monday after midterm. Granda Joe was still in hospital but very much on the mend so it was decided that Erin and Orla would return to school.
Orla had a free class as her art teacher had been ill, so she had taken off to town in search of sweets.
Clare was in the library swatting up on the dative case in German as she had been marked down for one mistake during the mid-term tests. She had been obsessing about it all morning since they had got their grades back.
Erin and James were preparing themselves to face Michelle. They had met up over the weekend and in between kisses they had decided to come clean and tell her.
They found her sitting in her usual spot in the locker room eating crisps and reading Smash Hits.
They stood in front of her: “Michelle…” they said in unison. Shit.
“I thought I was going to start” whispered James.
“No, I was go…,” said Erin.
“Are you going to tell me mammy and daddy are getting divorced, but they still love me very much?” asked Michelle sarcastically.
“No?” said James.
“Then why don’t you both sit the fuck down then?”
They sat down across from Michelle. They both stared at her, not knowing how to start.
“Well, is one of yas going to get on with it?” said Michelle.
“On with it?” asked Erin.
“Yeah, We’re sorry Michelle blah blah blah. We can’t help our feelings blah blah blah. We hope it won’t change anything between us yada yada…” said Michelle as scoffed her bag of Tayto.
“You know?” asked Erin.
“That you two were back shifting the face off each other? Yeah” said Michelle in between bites of her crisps.
“How?” said Erin.
“Because I have a pair of eyes in my head. I noticed James sneaking out of the house yesterday. Lucky for you in the long run Erin, he’s a shit liar,” said Michelle.
“And?” asked James.
“And what?” asked Michelle.
“How come you’re not going mad?” said Erin.
“Because that worked out so well the first two times, didn’t it? You’re like them two from that film. You know the one? The one you like Erin because you think it makes you seem smart, and you pretend to like James because you want to impress Erin and you fancy the girl from it,” said Michelle.
“Romeo + Juliet?” asked Erin.
“Aye, they tried to keep them two apart and it all kicked off”
“I really do like it for the story and the themes actually Michelle,” said Erin.
“Aye, ya do Erin” replied Michelle with a smirk.
“So, you’re not mad?” asked Erin.
“Well, there’s not much I can do, can I? You won’t keep away from each other. And I’ve seen how much you seem to like each other and while that makes me get sick in my mouth. You have my blessing yas pair of pricks”
“Thank you, Michelle,” said Erin as she lunged at Michelle and gave her a hug.
“There’s a couple of conditions,” said Michelle.
“Oh god,” said James.
“One, you keep all the shifting and hand holding shit to yourselves. All that mushy vomit inducing stuff is frankly disgusting, but it also effects the dynamic of the group. It’s no longer me, you, fuck features, Clare and Orla hanging out. It’s me, Clare and Orla hanging out with you pair of eejits. And two. You don’t tell the others. As far as Orla and Clare are concerned nothing has changed. Again, to maintain the group dynamic. And C…”
“Do you mean 3?”
“Don’t interrupt me James”
“Ok sorry” the conversation had been going pretty well so he didn’t want to annoy her.
“If this all goes tits up you two can go it alone on your own. I get custody of Clare and Orla”
“But Orla’s my cousin Michelle!” replied Erin.
“Aye, but I have a feeling she would choose me though, just saying,” said Michelle.
Michelle stood up: “I hope for once in your lives you don’t fuck this up because I fucking love pair of ya. Fuck knows why. Now, I’m off for a piss”
Michelle absolutely hated opening up and sharing her feelings like that. Giving a shit gave other people power over you. The power to make you happy but also to feel like crap. So, she escaped to the bathroom.
Back in the locker room James looked at Erin: “That went surprisingly well”
“Maybe Michelle’s mellowed,” said Erin.
“Or maybe not…” as they looked down the corridor saw her elbowing a first year who had tried to get in the bathroom before her.
They started walking back to class after as break had come to an end.
It was exciting being at school together and having no one other than Michelle knowing they were together.
They were so distracted by each other’s presence that they nearly walked into Sr Michael: “What has you two looking so happy? You’re final year A Level students you shouldn’t look that happy? It’s only day one of the new term. I hope to God you are not up to anything?”
“It’s because my granda is coming home from hospital today actually sister” replied Erin. While the news had brightened her day it hadn’t been the real reason for her happiness in that moment.
However, if Sr Michael found out they were dating James would be banished to the boys’ school over the other side of town. Or even worse Strabane.
“Ok, send him my best…” said Sr Michael as kept a suspicious eye on them. Sr Michael actually did like Joe McCool. She had met him at a few things down the years. Bit of a man after her own heart.
“Straight to class you two…What class do you have now?” asked Sr Michael.
“French sister” replied Erin.
“Maths” replied James.
“Isn’t A Level Year 12 maths not upstairs?” asked Sr Michael.
“Oh yeah, you’re right sister” replied James, feigning ignorance.
“Then shouldn’t you be going the other way to get upstairs?”
“Yes, sister,” said James. He had only been walking that way because wanted to walk Erin to class.
They obviously couldn’t kiss or hold hands in school, but they still wanted to be around each other and spend as much time together there as they could.
“Then chop chop,” said Sr Michael.
James gave her a quick wave before heading off to class. Erin watched him walking off and smiled.
Sr Michael stared at her: “Class Ms Quinn”
“Yes, of course sister” Erin hurried off to French class. Sr Michael didn’t know, did she?
She found Michelle standing outside the classroom: “Your fella not with ya?” she asked loudly as she approached.
“Michelle!” said Erin as she looked around to see if anyone had heard.
“You’re grand. Everyone thinks James likes the lads anyway. Imagine if they knew though. You having a fella going to catholic school with you. Under the noses of all the frigid nuns. I know James only half counts, but you’d still be a legend Erin…”
“Well, I won’t be because no one can find out Michelle. If Sr Michael or anyone gets with of it, they send James to the boy’s school,” said Erin.
“Maybe the separation might knock a bit of sense in you. I know I said I’d give my blessing. Seriously James, Erin? You could do way better”
“No, I couldn’t Michelle. I really like him. I’ve never liked anyone like this”
“Aye, you said the same thing about David Donnelly, John Paul, Fergal McCallum back in 2nd year, Anthony Byrne back in 5th class”
“But this isn’t like all of them Michelle,” said Erin.
“Oh aye, ya love James!” said Michelle.
Erin didn’t reply. Did she? What did love even feel like? Like she loved her family and the girls, but love love?
“Oh my god you do love him!” said Michelle.
“Oh, give over Michelle!” said Erin.
“You do Erin! You’ve gone scarlet!”
“No, I have not” now that Michelle had mentioned it, she felt her cheeks burning.
“I dunno. I really like him, and I can just be myself around him and I think he feels the same but like is that love? What does being in love actually feel like?” asked Erin.
“Fucked if I know. I do shifting and riding and that’s about it”
“God Michelle!” snapped Erin
“I thought you having a fella might have made you a little less…frigid” said Michelle.
“Oh, for god’s sake Michelle”
“Have you and James…?” asked Michelle.
“We are not going there Michelle. We are never gone there!” said Erin.
She was saved by the bell ringing and the teacher leading them into class.
“I did have a fella once who said he was in love with me” said Michelle in a whisper as they walked into the class.
“Oh aye?” said Erin.
“Yeah, you know Tommy O’Brien. He said he loved me and couldn’t live without me. He even turned up outside the gaff with a guitar and all”
“No way!” replied Erin quietly.
“I never told yas at the time because I was burning for myself. It was mortifying” whispered Michelle.
“And what happened?” asked Erin.
“We’re married with two kids! What do you think happened? Our Niall threatened to kneecap him, and I haven’t seen him around since”
From what Erin knew of Michelle’s brother she didn’t blame him going AWOL.
Class began but all Erin could think about was Michelle had said about love.
How did you know? Was it sensation that built like a crescendo? To a point you just knew.
Maybe she was already and didn’t know it like Emma.
“Ms Quinn, if you would stop daydreaming and take out your books and maybe even a pen if you can manage it,” said Ms Fallon, their French teacher.
Michelle smiled raised her eyebrows at her.
Erin tried to turn her attention back to her French class, but her mind still insisted on going elsewhere.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
It was mid-December and the week before the Christmas exams. Tensions were running high throughout Our Lady Immaculate College.
Clare was back on the Red Bull and was shaking like a leaf. She had a presentation, assignments, exams, and now a girlfriend that she had to deal with all at once.
She had managed to get back in touch with Laurie from the record shop and they had gone on a few dates and were now going steady as Clare put it. Even though it made Michelle practically boke every time she said it.
“Is she a teenager in 1950s America?” Michelle had asked after Clare had excitedly told them the news.
It was also the day of the dreaded presentation, and they were all sat in their English class waiting their turn.
Michelle and Jenny had been up first. Jenny’s hand had shot up as soon as Sr Michael had asked who wanted to go first.
Michelle had sighed and followed Jenny up to the front of class. At least she would get this pile of shit over with she thought.
Their presentation had actually gone pretty well. Jenny had been the only one in the class who had a PowerPoint presentation. Something she had only delighted about and had bragged about making on her father’s laptop computer.
“My dad’s a surgeon at Altnagelvin. He has a laptop. Oh boke!” said Erin mimicking her. Which made James laugh. He entangled his foot with hers under the desk. They were sat at the back of the class so no one would notice. She smiled back at him.
They had been together just over a month, and it was going well. Apart from having to hide it all from Clare, Orla, and their families.
Erin suspected her mother knew but she hadn’t said anything outright but when she had been extra inquisitive of late whenever she left the house without Orla or Michelle and Clare.
It had been hard, at times, trying to meet up alone without raising suspicion but they luckily had the project as an excuse.
Their attention returned to Michelle and Jenny. Actually, mostly just Jenny. In reality Jenny had done the entirety of the presentation to ensure Michelle wouldn’t make her drop a grade.
Michelle’s entire contribution had been typing out the crap Jenny dictated at her during their ‘study sessions’ as Jenny had called them.
Although Michelle had written a paragraph about how the book was about love, death, and finding yourself. She hadn’t even read the book but that was what every single book was about. She thought that was quite deep when she thought about it.
Jenny had adapted into the presentation and had given Michelle cue cards that she wasn’t allowed to deviate from.
The presentation had ended with credits:
Script: Jenny Joyce
Research: Jenny Joyce
PowerPoint: Jenny Joyce
Graphics: Jenny Joyce
Performed by: Jenny Joyce and Michelle Mallon (in the tiniest font)
“Thank you, girls…that was very…PowerPointy,” said Sr Michael. God did she really need to give them a response every time.
“Up next Sorcha Ni Chuinn and Clare Devlin,” said Sr Michael.
Sorcha began: “Welcome to our presentation I’m Sorcha…”
“…and I’m Clare….” said Clare as launched herself into what could only be described as a Red Bull fuelled rant about the book.
“Jesus Christ Clare!” muttered Erin.
“You’d swear she bought a few yokes for the lads in town. She is flying” whispered Michelle.
Clare eventually drew breath and let Sorcha do the rest of the presentation.
Afterwards she kept apologizing to Sorcha.
“It’s fine Clare. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. We hit all the points we needed to. You were just a bit…animated that’s all. Probably just nerves,” said Sorcha.
“It was the Red Bull. She does this all the time when she’s stressed. She’s already enough of a shite the tights as she is,” said Michelle.
Sorcha laughed: “Well you can relax now Clare”
“Relax?! Relax?! Our second last set of exams before our A Levels start next week! Second last!” said Clare.
“Erin, you better calm her down or I’m going to snap!” said Michelle.
“Clare give me the Red Bull! Clare!” Erin tried to wrestle the can from her hand.
“Ok, up next. Erin Quinn and James Maguire”
Erin left Clare to her drink and went to the front of the class with James.
They were delighted themselves also. Like Jenny they had thought of something completely different from the other presentations: a video.
Erin really enjoyed the look of disgust on Jenny’s face when she realised, she had been outdone.
The idea had come to them when Erin had asked James about the video he had been making since the previous summer. She had wanted to see it, but he had said he was still trying to finish it but when he did, she would be the first to see it.
However, he had suggested that they make a side project for the presentation.
Nothing in the guidelines had said they couldn’t, and Sr Michael had allowed it as a visual aid.
Mainly to spice up the mind-numbing tedium that was presentation day. She wondered to herself could this video top Ms Devlin’s performance.
It began with Erin on camera, the walls of Derry behind her: “When we think of love, we think of the love between ourselves and another person. But what about the love we develop for ourselves?”
“Like wan…” began Michelle.
“Thank you, Ms Mallon” whispered Sr Michael.
Erin’s voiceover continued over clips from romantic scenes from their favourite films. They had spent a fortune renting them out from the video shop and recording them off the screen, but they had been happy with the final result: “A bit like relationship with another person. It’s a relationship that takes time to grow. Some argue that before we can love someone else, we must truly love ourselves. We must get to know who we are before we can open up to our potential soul mates. Like Emma, as teenagers, young adults we are on a similar journey”
It went back to Erin at the walls: “Before Emma realises that she loves Mr Knightley she has to look within herself. Sometimes she doesn’t like what she sees. We have all been there. We’ve all said something we should have. Done something we regret. However, it is how we move on and grow from it that determines our future happiness”
It was a bit like her and James. When she had first met him, he had been Michelle’s annoying cousin who had called her out on things and had always told her the truth even though she might not have wanted to hear it. But he had always been the first person to support her.
Like with that film they had made during the summer. She would have never thought that her work was good enough. The she would have been able to write a whole script for a film.
While she usually put on a front of confidence, she was really self-conscious about her writing.
However, James had encouraged her, and they had become closer. That confidence had made her trust in herself and her instincts.
And now she could she what had been right in front of her ever since that day they had met at the bus stop.
James was on a similar page. At first Erin had just been Michelle’s loud, annoying mouthy mate. Then he had got to know her and while she could still be infuriating, he wouldn’t change anything about her.
He had realised he couldn’t if he wanted to. She was stubborn as hell but with that stubbornness came a passion that he wished he had.
That’s where the film had come from. While he loved science or all that ‘nerdy virgin shit’ as Michelle had called it. He really loved film and tv, but he had thought he wouldn’t have been able to make a film. Even one just for his friends. It had been a stupid dream to him, but Erin had encouraged him to make it.
It had also been a chance to hang around with her. At the time he still hadn’t work out how he really felt about her, but he had a need to be around her and to know what she thought and anything and everything.
While they hung around most days as a group, they had met up the odd time to work on the script and what they were going to film next.
He had begun to see a different side to her when she wasn’t with the others. She was no longer the girl he had a crush on but Erin, his best friend who he cared for really much.
Now she was his girlfriend. Well, he thought she was. As they were still keeping it secret from everyone expect Michelle, they had never really put labels on what they were.
Whatever they were he hoped it continued. Because he loved her. He realised it while he was standing in front of the class giving a presentation. He loved Erin.
The video had ended, and Erin had said her closing points. She looked over at James who was staring at her. Although he was looking right at her intently. He seemed miles away.
“James is going conclude…James!” said Erin. James didn’t reply.
“James!” said Erin loudly.
“Sorry…I love you” It had just come out.
Had he just said he loved her? Or was he just quoting the book?
Maybe it had been another ‘Like me’ moment.
“Did James just say, ‘I love you’?” whispered Clare.
“I dunno. Wait what?” Michelle had zoned out and had been pondering in which order she snog the faces off the Backstreet Boys.
Just because she had given them her blessing, she didn’t need to shit through their romantic shite.
“Is……” began James but it felt like every word he knew had just disappeared.
“I…” repeated James. It had probably been a matter of seconds since he had blurted it out, but it felt like hours.
“Is he ok?” Sr Michael asked Erin.
“I….” Erin had no reply either. He looked like a rabbit in the headlights. “James?”
“I love you…I mean…’If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am’ is what Mr Knightley tells Emma. Because he had come to know himself and his feelings for Emma. Emma as she really was. After being her friend, her confident and her critic. He had seen her at her very worst and her very best. He knew he couldn’t change her. He didn’t want to. He learned to be there to help her grow and to love all of her” James gulped in a breath.
“And that is the end of our presentation,” said Erin. That had covered all the points they needed to, and she just wanted to sit down and be out of the gaze of the class and Sr Michael.
“That wasn’t half bad. I’m rather shocked actually,” said Sr Michael.
Erin made a face. Shocked was she!
James darted back to his desk with Erin following swiftly behind.
Erin looked at him. He was blushing and was clearly mortified. He gave her a quick look before turning his attention to the desk in front of him.
Erin returned the gesture from earlier and curled her foot around his. She saw him relax a little and even smile, but he didn’t look up.
Orla and Aisling were up next. Erin was surprised how good their presentation was. Orla had made some decent points. She wondered how much was actually Orla’s own work rather than Aisling’s.
Maybe Orla was actually smart smart? Like one of those savants or child prodigies. That was the only thing that would explain her getting the same GSCE grades as her.
The other presentations seemed to go on forever. Erin couldn’t wait for class to end so she could talk to James.
As soon as the bell did ring, he leapt from his seat: “See you all later” was all they heard as he dashed from the room.
Erin jumped up and ran after him. She managed to catch up with him on the stairs.
“What was that, James?” asked Erin as she followed him downstairs.
“What was what?” said James. He knew exactly what she meant but he was still embarrassed, just blurting it out like that in front of the whole class and Sr Michael.
“You know what I mean” said Erin softly. She didn’t want to embarrass him further, but she had to know if he had meant it.
James paused on the stairs with his back to her.
She turned him around to face her: “Did you mean it? Or was it just you mixing up your words?”
“Of course, I meant it…God it’s so embarrassing saying it like that. If front the class…I’m sorry,” said James. He covered his face with his hands.
The first time he actually cared for someone like that and had fallen in love with someone, and he had told her in the middle of a presentation in class. What an idiot!
“Say it...,” said Erin. Her voice was no more than a whisper.
“No, please” she placed her hands on his chest.
“I love you Erin” he said shyly. He couldn’t look at her. His heart was pounding. She must have felt it.
“I love you too,” said Erin. A bit like James’s declaration in class, she didn’t even have to think about it.
From the moment he had said it she had known that she loved him too. Even when he was declaring it in front of their entire class.
Rather unusually for school they were alone on the stairs. She leaned in and kissed him. In that moment she truly didn’t care if anyone saw them.
They broke away just before a bunch of first years stormed down the stairs.
Thank God she thought. He loved her. She couldn’t have him being banished to the boy's school for the last two terms after all.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
It was late April and the week before Erin’s 18th birthday.
“I can’t believe she won’t let me have my own party. It’s not fair!” said Erin as she paced up and down in her room.
“It’s only three weeks Erin,” said Michelle.
“But it’s my 18th birthday Michelle! You had a party! James had a party! Clare had a party! Yet I have to share with Orla again. No offence”
“None taken” said Orla as pealed open her Cheese Strings.
“Why don’t you have your own party?” suggested James.
“I can’t afford the hall James. That’s what has me in this position. My cheapskate of a Ma doesn’t want to fork out on two parties!” replied Erin.
“No like somewhere else. Like just go out? For a meal or to a club or something?” said James.
“What about it girls? My birthday. Thursday night?” said Erin.
“Oh no!” whispered Clare.
“Em…” said Michelle.
“What?” asked Erin.
“Well, me and Laurie are having dinner at her parents. It’s my first time meeting them,” said Clare.
“Do they know about the lesbian thing?” asked Michelle.
“Yeah, they’re quite supportive as well actually” replied Clare.
“Nice” said Michelle in reply.
Orla put her hand up.
“Yes Orla?” said Erin.
“I have a stepacise competition that night Erin, so I won’t be there sorry”
“Great!” she said sarcastically.
Even Orla. Her own cousin was standing her up on her 18th birthday!
“What about you?” Erin asked Michelle.
“Well, I told Dennis I would close up the shop that night and the weekend. He has a judo thing in Limavady” said Michelle.
“Dennis? Judo?” scoffed Erin.
“Aye. You wouldn’t think it would ya? He’s a right fucking weirdo,” said Michelle.
“Well thank you both very much!” snapped Erin.
“Maybe if you had have given us a bit of notice!” said Michelle.
“My birthday is the same date every year Michelle!” snapped Erin.
“You could have at least given us some notice that you were planning something. Anyway, surely you and James would want to spend it together now anyway,” said Michelle. She hadn’t even realised she had said it.
Erin and James remained silent.
“What do you mean want to spend it together?” asked Clare.
Shit thought Michelle.
“Doctor Who!” yelled Erin. “James got me in to Doctor Who there last year when we were doing that project together and his mam sends over the tapes, and she sent over a new one with the…Da..recks?”
“...lecks” said James.
“Yeah, Daleks. And I am only dying to see what happens,” said Erin.
“You? You like Doctor Who?” asked Clare.
“Yeah, it’s actually quite good” It really wasn’t her thing, but she liked watching it with James and watching him getting really excited at certain bits.
“There it’s settled then. You and James can watch Doctor Who and nerd out and then we can go wild at your actual party in three weeks. You better invite some serious rides to it Erin,” said Michelle.
Michelle was right. As disappointed as she was that the girls wouldn’t be there, she had James.
It had become harder to have some time together with their exams hanging over them. They were either studying or hanging around the group. So this would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time together.
In strict accordance with Michelle’s rules neither Clare nor Orla were still unaware of their relationship.
Given that it was nearly their 6-month anniversary it had been some feat.
However, it was getting harder and harder to hide.
Like Michelle they had become so comfortable with each and their relationship being a thing they sometimes forgot themselves while around the girls or their families.
It had been little things like a look between them or holding hands or the time James had forgot and had nearly kissed her goodbye. They had tried to pass it off as a miss timed hug rather than a kiss.
Erin sensed they would have to come clean soon. She wanted to do it during the summer. After their exams and before they all went off to college.
It would be easier then. They could balance their time between themselves and the group when they didn’t have school monopolising their time.
That would satisfy Michelle and her rules on not disrupting the group. Also, it would allow them to make most of the time they had together like this.
She couldn’t feel everything changing. She tried to savour every moment of how things were because she knew in a matter of months it would be gone forever.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
James knocked at the door of Erin’s house. It was the night of her 18th. He was dressed in the suit he had worn to the prom, along with his Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf.
“Oh, hiya love” it was Erin’s mam.
“Good evening, Mrs Quinn” he could hear Michelle in his head calling him a dick.
“I hear you all off out for her self's birthday?” asked Mary.
“Yes Mrs Quinn” replied James.
“Where are you all off to?” asked Mary.
Erin had been in a foul mood because she wasn’t getting a party of her own. So, she hadn’t been very forthcoming with the details of their night out.
“Em…Marcos in town” replied James.
“Marcos? That fancy Italian restaurant?” asked Mary. She had been hinting at Gerry to take her there for months.
“Yeah, it’s meant to be nice” replied James. Hurry up Erin! He thought.
“Is Michelle not with you?” asked Mary.
“No” replied James. Here we go he thought. For the love God Erin please hurry up!
“No Mrs Quinn”
“Are they making their own way there?” asked Mary.
“Em..” said James.
“Hiya James, I’m ready. Bye mammy” said Erin as she bolted down the stairs. She could tell by James’s face that her mother had been grilling him for information. Michelle had been right. He was a shit liar.
James had never been so happy to see her. Not just because he thought she looked beautiful but also because he didn’t think he could withstand Mary’s questioning any longer.
“Wait a minute,” said Mary.
“Can’t Mammy. Table’s book for 8 sorry. I’ll see ya later” she bundled James out the door and ran to the car.
“I think she knows,” said James.
They looked up at the house to see Mary and Sarah observing them from the sitting room window.
They both jumped back behind the net curtain when they saw Erin and James looking back at them.
The meal had been lovely, and it had all felt ridiculously grown up. It was mad how quickly they had gone from being teenagers with absolutely no control or say in their lives. To young adults that one foot in the grown-up world of college, meals, and work.
They hadn’t wanted to go straight home so they walked the long way back to the car. They had ended up at their usual spot where they could look out over Derry.
Erin had been right about the walls; they were spectacular thought James.
“Are you not going to open your presents?” said James.
“Presents?” said Erin, putting the emphasis on the fact there was more than. She didn’t expect all that from him.
The fact that he had been there and made her birthday so special was like a present in itself.
She opened the gift bag he had given her earlier. She had been so caught up in their conversation and the meal at the restaurant she hadn’t had a chance to open them.
Inside there were three presents all wrapped up. She went for the smallest one first. It was a heart necklace. Like one of the ones that she and the girls had. The one she was wearing at that very moment.
“I know you have that one” he said pointing to it. “I know how much it means to you, but I just wanted to give you this one from me. My heart. You don’t have to wear it. I just wanted you to have it. Because you have it. My heart” he looked down at his feet.
She rubbed his cheek which made him look up at her. She leaned in and gave him a quick kiss.
She could tell James was a little embarrassed after that declaration, so she moved to the next present.
It was a tubed shaped box. She guessed that it was a picture or a poster.
She removed the lid and found a poster. She gasped as she unfurled it.
It was a signed Murder She Wrote poster. She loved Murder She Wrote!
The signed poster had come with a note. She read it aloud: “Dear Erin, First of all Happy Birthday! I have been told you love Murder She Wrote, and you are a writer yourself. I hope to read one of your stories and perhaps see them on screen in the future. Many happy returns and best wishes for the future, Angela”
“Angela Lansbury! THE Angela Lansbury knows who little old me is?!” said Erin ecstatically. “How?!”
“I manage to find the production company who put me on to her agent and I told her how much you love the show and that you never miss it and they said they would pass it on to Angela. I think she lives in Ireland actually…,” said James. He was happy with how excited she was.
“Yeah, in Cork. Not that I know where she actually lives or anything” She totally hadn’t tried to look up Angela’s phone number in the Cork phone book she had found in the library. Angela probably has a mobile thought, Erin.
“Ok, this is the last part of your present,” said James.
“Honestly, you didn’t have to get me all this. Do all this,” said Erin.
“Yes, I didn’t have to. But I wanted to. Here…” he handed her the present. It was clearly some sort of a book.
Erin opened it to find a beautiful leather-bound diary.
“I know you have your diary…”
“I swear to God if Orla has been reading it out from it again…” interjected Erin.
“No, she hasn’t. As far as I know anyway. But this…” he covered her hands which were holding the diary “This is for that story, the first of many hopefully, that will show the world how amazing you are. We all know by the way but the people out there. Go out and show them”
“I have ideas, but I never think they are good enough. I know I shite on about my poetry and stuff but just sometimes I don’t feel like I’m good enough…,” said Erin.
“You are good enough. You’re just starting out. You’ll find your story and you’ll write it and get published and sell millions of copies and have it made it into a film. It might not be your first one. The one you’ll write in here, but you’ll do it Erin” replied James.
She pulled him in for a kiss. She hoped to herself that he’d be there by her side along the way.
She was blown away by his gifts. The trouble he had gone to and how each one had shown her how well he knew her.
“Come on!” said Erin as she grabbed the lapels of his jacket. “You’ve pulled”
They made their way back to James’s house. They didn’t want to say goodnight just yet.
James snuck Erin up to his room. He doubted Deirdre and Martin would mind but neither of them wanted to go through the rigmarole of telling all the family yet.
They were sat on the bed. Like they first had many months ago when they had got lumped together for the project. Like they had many times since: “Do you want to watch a film or something?” asked James.
“Can you read to me?” asked Erin, she had her head on his shoulder.
James got up and went over to the side table. He returned with a book in hand: “Unless you want to hear all about laws of thermodynamics it’s going to have to be Moby Dick. Clare must have left it around the house. It’s not mine or Michelle’s”
“Michelle probably borrowed off Clare thinking it was about something else. Not a giant whale” joked Erin.
James sat down beside her and pulled her to him: “Not really very romantic is it, Moby Dick?”
“It has potential, with you reading it to me. Go on. Chop chop. I’ll have to go home soon…” said Erin meeting his eye.
“Or I could stay for a bit maybe…,” said Erin.
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
Something was banging. Loudly. As Erin drifted in and out of her sleep.
“Wakey wakey! Oi! Fuck features!”
Was that Michelle? What was Michelle doing at her house?
Oh shit! She quickly became aware of her surroundings.
It had happened. That night. And now Michelle was currently trying to knock down James’ bedroom door.
She gave him a shove. How the hell could he sleep though that racket?
“Ow! What?” said James.
“James! For fuck’s sake if you’ve died in there, I swear to God I’ll kill ya!” said Michelle as she resumed the banging on the door.
“Hide!” whispered James to Erin.
“Where?” said Erin looking around the room.
“Under the bed. Quick!” as threw on some clothes.
“Shit” Erin grabbed her bag and some the stuff she had left on the floor before jumping under the bed.
“James!” yelled Michelle.
“Ok ok” he checked to see Erin was fully hidden under the bed before opening the door.
“What Michelle?” asked James.
“Breakfast’s ready, mammy sent me up to raise you from the dead. Nice night had ya?” said Michelle as she swanned in and plonked down on the bed.
“Jesus” said Erin as it gave her a fright. Luckily, it was quiet enough, but Michelle still heard it.
“What was that?” asked Michelle.
“It was me, Michelle. Jesus! Waking me up like that for breakfast” he noticed one of Erin’s shoes at the foot of the bed.
He kicked underneath the bed and it hit Erin in the head. This time she managed to stay quiet, but she was now convinced God was punishing her for last night.
“What has you so tired ya lazy prick?” asked Michelle.
“Nothing. I just got home late after dropping Erin home” replied James.
“Oh aye? Did she like the necklace?” asked Michelle. He had run the idea past Michelle before he had given it to Erin. Michelle had thought rather sweet and completely nauseating.
“Yeah, she loved it”
“Surprised it wasn’t your birthday after last night” said Michelle as she stood up and elbowed him.
Erin rolled her eyes under the bed.
“Seriously Michelle!” said James.
“Right, get your arse in gear because it’s already 8.30 and I am not walking to school!” said Michelle as she headed downstairs.
James locked the door behind him: “Jesus.” He leaned against it and breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t been found out.
He got down and helped Erin up: “You, ok?”
“I…I…achoo” said Erin as she sneezed in his faced.
“Oh god. I’m sorry. Just dust and…,” said Erin.
James stopped her with a kiss: “Morning…” he said as the broke away.
“Not exactly how I expected this morning to go,” said Erin.
“You alright?” asked James.
“More than alright” said Erin with a smile. She had never looked so beautiful to him.
“As much as I’d love to stay here with you, we better go before Michelle comes back and smashes door the down again” said James.
“Ok, but can I ask one little thing?” said Erin
“Sure...” He would have granted her any wish and anything she wanted in that moment.
“Can I have a shower? Please!” asked Erin sweetly.
“But we literally have 10 mins and I’m going to have to sneak you out Erin!” said James.
“5 minutes. No 2 minutes. I promise” pleaded Erin.
10 mins later she emerged from the bathroom and ready to go: “Shit my uniform! I can’t go to school without my uniform! What am I going to do?”
“Could you just go without it?” suggested James.
“Like this?” she indicated to the pretty and rather formal dress she had worn the night before. “They would send me straight home. With a note. Or even detention and 5 decades of the rosary”
“Can you run home and get it? I can’t give you a lift. Michelle will know and we’ll never hear the end of it,” said James.
“I’ll have to. And mammy will know, and she will ground me, and I will never see you again until I’m 25!” said Erin.
“Well, you better get out of here quick, before Michelle comes up!” said James.
Erin looked down the stairs. The coast seemed clear. She tried her best to be as quiet as she could climbing down the stairs on hey tippy toes. She realised she was creeping along like a cartoon character. Anything to get her out that house unseen.
Thank God. She took a big breath in relief as she made it to the door without being seen.
“What the fuck are you doing Erin?” It was Michelle. She was stood in the hallway with her arms crossed.
“Oh hiya, Michelle. I just…James…said he’d give me a lift to school” said Erin.
“You live nearer to the school than we do…And where’s you uniform Erin?”
“Well, I just…Now that you mention it..I must have forgotten it. Shit!” said Erin. God she could cringe for herself.
Michelle just stared at her waiting for an explanation as to how she could leave her house with her uniform. She let Erin fumble over her words.
She heard James coming down the stairs.
“Oh, hi Erin. What are you doing here so early?” said James.
“Cut the crap! You dirty pair of pricks. You” She pointed to James “Under my ma’s roof and you Erin, do you have no self-respect?”
“Michelle!” said James.
“Oh, hiya love…What are you doing here so early?” it was Michelle’s mam.
Erin froze: “I…I...”
Michelle rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe she was going to cover for these two. She had been doing this for six long months. She was sick of it: “Erin stayed over in my room. She’s given me help with the French verb stuff”
“Oh, right. That’s nice of you Erin. Our Michelle needs all the help she can get God bless us. How’s your Mam getting on with the big bowl?” asked Deirdre.
“Great. Fantastic. It’s a cracking bowl Mrs. Mallon” replied Erin.
Deirdre ducked back into the kitchen and left them to it.
“Thank you, Michelle,” said James.
“You don’t deserve it. Come on!” she barrelled them both out the door.
They walked out to the car.
“I can’t believe…you two…fucking disgusting,” said Michelle.
“I thought you were ok with us?” continued James.
“Not that…you two losing your virginity before me. That is just really shaming,” said Michelle.
Erin pulled Michelle back by her blazer: “You’re still a virgin? Since when?”
“Well technically only half a one. In fairness I was waiting for someone good looking enough and worthy enough to fully lose it but sure that takes time in Derry. All the good-looking fellas are pricks or in the RA” replied Michelle.
“Aye” agreed Erin.
They all hopped into the car.
“So, you are, ok? With us?” asked James.
“I’m suppose I have to be. What’s done is done. Even if it does make me boke. You better end up getting married because I’m not dealing with either of you if it goes tits up between you now that you’ve consultated the whole thing!” said Michelle.
“Consummated Michelle,” said Erin. God she couldn’t believe she was discussing this with Michelle. Her and James hadn’t even talked about it.
“I am not choosing between you both,” said Michelle.
“I told you said you’d pick me?” asked James.
“Aye, but then you did the deed under mine and my ma’s nose,” said Michelle.
“And you can’t tell Clare or Orla still!” said Erin.
“What? I’m not lying to them. Not after this! It has been bad enough covering for the pair of you all these months without two getting your bits before me. You’re going to be practically feral now,” said Michelle.
“But Michelle, we don’t want them knowing yet,” said Erin.
“You kept it a secret up until now,” said James.
“Yeah, but lads it’s been six months nearly and Clare and even Orla is going to know something is up from the pair of ya. The heads on yas this morning” They looked at each other. What did she mean by that?
“Please Michelle…just not yet. We promise we’ll tell them soon. Really soon,” said Erin.
“Ok. You have…up until your birthday party. Otherwise, I’m telling them both. Here, James! Wise up! You’re going the wrong way” said Michelle as she noticed they were driving away from the school.
“I have to go and get my uniform” said Erin.
“For fuck sake, now I have to cover you and get in trouble for being late,” said Michelle
“Well Mammy is going to actually kill me this time,” said Erin.
“No, she won’t Erin. You’re so fucking dramatic. You always say that, and she never does,” said Michelle.
“No, Michelle. I think she knows. About me and James like. I never told her I’d be out all night” replied Erin.
“Oh, shit! She’s defo gonna kill you!” Michelle leaned forward to look at James in the front. “You’d want to watch your back too if Joe knows. You’ll be the new Gerry”
“Aye” said Erin.
They arrived at Erin’s house and reluctantly got out of the car.
Before they could reach the front door, it was flung open: “Where were you all night so help me God Erin Quinn?!” shouted Mary.
Michelle sighed. Neither of these fuckers deserved her help: “She stayed at mine Mary. She’s helping me with French because I’m really shite...sorry crap at it”
“How come you never mentioned that before Erin? How come you never picked up the phone to tell me? I even rang Michelle’s house, and nobody answered!” asked Mary.
“My Ma is still on nights and my da is dead to the world after 10. And with the tutoring I was kinda embarrassed to be honest with you Mary,” said Michelle.
Mary looked at them with suspicion. It still didn’t ring true.
“I thought you were going out last night Erin? You” she pointed at James “Came to pick her up?” said Mary. She thought James would crack before either of them.
“Well…” began James.
“Well truth be told Mary. We did but after I started panicking about the A Levels and Erin came back to mine and we did some...what’s that thing called??”
Shit thought Erin: “Revising” she added.
“Aye, and I felt much better then Mary,” said Michelle.
“And does Deirdre know about this French tutoring?” asked Mary.
Well played thought Erin. She had to give it to her mother. She knew with one threat of a phone called to Michelle’s mam she could get them talking.
“Aye, she thought it was nice of Erin to help me because I’m so shit” replied Michelle. She aimed the last bit at Erin.
Check mate. She could bullshit parents all day.
“You are very late for school? Did your alarms not go off?”
Touché. Mary wasn’t giving up without a fight.
“I think the power might have went Mrs Quinn” replied James.
Who put 50p in him thought Michelle.
“In just your street? Because I didn’t hear about a power cut. Our lecky was fine all night?” asked Mary.
“It can happen,” said James.
“And it did last night. So, if I could go get my uniform before miss the whole day of school” said Erin running past her and up to her room.
Michelle and James took their opportunity to escape to the car and avoid another grilling from Mary.
Erin threw on her uniform and tried to run past her mother who was still guarding the door.
Mary blocked her way: “I want you home. Straight after school”
“But I’m 18 now Mammy!” said Erin determinedly.
“18 and under my roof Erin” replied Mary.
“Ok, bye Mammy” said Erin as she ran to the car.
Mary slammed the door behind her.
“Yeah, you’re dead Erin” said Michelle they pulled away.
They made it to school late, but the teacher had let them off with a warning. She hadn’t wanted to send them to Sr Michael who was up to her eyes with planning the exams and the end of term.
Erin nearly blessed herself. She still had to face to her mother later on so she would gladly take the warning.
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
It was break time and it had been Erin, Michelle, and James’s first chance to catch up with Orla and Clare that day.
“Where were you this morning Erin?” asked Orla.
“She stayed at mine. She’s giving me grinds. In English,” said Michelle. Here we go yet a-fucking-gain she thought to herself.
She decided to change it up a little this time. Clare wouldn’t buy the French grinds thing. Erin had only was only a little bit better than her in French but not by that much.
“Her?!” said Clare pointing at Erin.
“Who is her? The cat’s mother” muttered Erin. God she was turning in to her ma.
“It’s just I thought you would have asked me given I am the smartest and clearly the scholar of the group,” said Clare.
“Stop calling yourself a scholar Clare!” scoffed Erin.
“Aye burning for ya Clare. Can you see why I why didn’t ask you?”
“Well don’t coming crying to me when you fail Michelle,” said Clare.
“It’s English Clare, I might do shite but I’m hardly gonna fail am I?”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it past you Michelle,” said Clare.
Orla was staring at James.
“Are you alright Orla?” asked James.
“Aye” she leaned towards him, inspecting him until her face was just inches from his. “You just seem different James”
“Ok” said James nervously. He tried to hide the smile that had been plastered all over his face all day.
Orla sniffed him. Life an animal surveyed its prey: “Aye, I’ll be watching you James,” said Orla.
“Ok...I guess” replied James
“Does she know?” whispered James to Erin.
“I don’t think so, but she’s always had a weird six sense for things,” said Erin.
The group fell into a weird silence, like they all sensed that there was some tension in the air.
“I better get to...,” said Erin
“I’m going to head to the…,” said James.
They had both spoken at once. God, could they embarrass themselves anymore this morning and make it even more obvious.
“I’ll see you guys later” said James as he walked off to class.
He gave Erin the quickest of smiles. She watched him go. After all that happened the previous night, she had been really disappointed that they hadn’t had a moment to themselves.
She thought back to the night before. It had been perfect from start to finish. Including that.
She had imagined it happening like it did on tv after some big dramatic moment between them.
But in reality, it had been more simpler. There had been no big dramatic moment.
It hadn’t been like what she had pictured it would be. In way it was better. It had been a little awkward but nice. Really nice.
She had felt happy and safe, and she had experienced a closeness with another person she had never felt before.
She was glad it had happened and that it had happened with James.
“Erin!” Michelle snapped her fingers in her face. As if trying to wake her from some sort of trance.
Erin jumped: “Jesus Michelle!”
Michelle just laughed and gave her a knowing look. God, she really had it bad.
“Don’t mind her,” said Michelle. “She was up all night shiteing on about your man that really loves bins”
“I hope you don’t mean Beckett Michelle! The man was a genius!” replied Erin.
“He was boring as fuck, that’s what he was” replied Michelle.
The bell rang and brought their break to an end.
“Come on Erin, shift your hole” said Michelle as she practically drag her to class.
Erin began counting the minutes until school was over for the day.
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
James left his maths class. He saw Erin down the corridor, and he ran to catch up with her.
Without thinking James grabbed her hand.
“James!” Erin pulled her hand away.
“Maybe we should just do it. Go public. Who cares what they think,” said James.
They only had three weeks of school left. They were hardly going to send him to boys’ school that soon before the A Levels.
“I do James,” said Erin.
“But what’s the big deal if they know?” asked James.
“I just don’t want people knowing yet,” said Erin. Things were going so well between them, why did he want to go and jinx it all of a sudden. They had even discussed about telling Orla and Clare let alone anyone else.
“It’s been 6 months Erin”
“Yeah, exactly. So, we can wait another 3 weeks”
“So, it’s not because you’re ashamed of being seen going out with the wee English fella?” said James.
“No, I’m not! I just don’t want half of Derry knowing all my personal business. And why are you in such a hurry to tell everyone all of a sudden?” said Erin.
“I’m not. I just think it would be less hassle” replied James.
“Or maybe you want everyone to know you’re no longer a virgin?” said Erin.
“No, it’s not Erin. I just want to be able to hold your hand in school and walking around town. God you can be so childish sometimes Erin” he began to storm before as Michelle appeared.
Me childish Erin thought. At least she didn’t want to go bragging around the school!
“Ach the face on you James!” said Michelle. She looked and saw it mirrored on Erin’s.
“For fuck’s sake. Five fucking minutes! See I warned the pair of ye”
“Just leave it Michelle” said James as he walked off.
“Didn’t I tell you! That the pair of you couldn’t last 5 minutes without falling out”
“Michelle, please can you just let it go for once. I really don’t need you shoving it back in my face right now” It was Erin’s turn to march off.
“You immature wee fuckers the pair of ye!” yelled Michelle just as a nun walked by.
“Sorry sister. We’re rehearsing for a play based one of your man Roddy Doyle’s books. He has some tongue on him doesn’t he”
Michelle ran before the nun could draw breath. Fuck! She knew this would happen.
Chapter 22: Chapter 22
James and Michelle drove home that afternoon in silence. She had a day off from the shop for once and she had hoped they could all hang out, but no her dopey English cousin and her stupid best friend had to have a fucking falling out. Not just any fall out. One with feelings involved. Selfish pricks she thought.
Erin had headed straight home with Orla. While Clare had sensed some sort of tension so to avoid taking sides she decided to go meet up with Laurie.
Michelle was fed up with it. Only this morning to two of them had been giddy and had been grinning like Cheshire cats. A few hours later they were at each other’s throats. Both of them storming off in a huff like a pair of weans.
“What the fuck happened earlier?” asked Michelle.
“I said, just leave it Michelle”
“No, because what I said would happen has happened”
“Your medal is in the post Michelle” replied James.
That was one of her put downs! That little prick had been spending way too much time with her she thought.
“No really. James. This is causing shit in the group and with Erin. You obviously said something to upset her earlier”
“Me? It wasn’t me. She’s ashamed of me Michelle!” said James.
“Erin? James, I know they say love is blind and I love Erin like a sister and all, but that girl literally has no self-respect for herself, so I don’t think she’s ashamed of you James,” said Michelle.
“Then why didn’t she want to be seen with me? I tried to hold her hand today and she pulled away from me” replied James.
“Maybe because everyone knows everybody in this town, and she didn’t want the whole town knowing what the pair of you got up to last night. Like it’s a big deal James. I know it shouldn’t be, but it is and especially for a girl like Erin”
“Still…she accused me of wanting to brag about it and I wouldn’t Michelle. I can’t believe she would think that,” said James.
God fellas really were thick thought Michelle: “But you can see how maybe Erin of all people might have jumped to that conclusion?”
James didn’t reply. She was right. He hated when Michelle was right. He had been an idiot.
“You know she’s proper mad about you? She’ll tell everyone in her own time. Trust me when she’s ready she will be telling everyone who will listen. And as fellas go, I couldn’t have picked a better fella for her, even though you are a prick. And if you tell her or anyone else that I said that I will drive you to Donegal and bury up a mountain” said Michelle.
“You can’t drive Michelle” said James cheekily.
“Well, I’ll make you drive me up there before I kill ya. Go and talk to her. After you drop me home though. I’m not walking from here”
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Erin was at Dennis’s with Orla. She was trying to put off having to go home. She was also still annoyed about her the row she had with James, and she knew her mother would give her a grilling as soon as she walked in the door.
Probably before she even got to the door.
After such a lovely night how had it all gone so wrong and so quickly.
“Are you not getting anything Erin?” asked Orla.
“I’m not hungry Orla”
They left the shop and headed home.
She had hoped Orla would have fancied a dander around town, but she had wanted to put her feet up and watch the telly after her stepacise competition the night before.
Erin wondered how those competitions even worked. Was it the last one left stepping?
Just as she thought Mary had been watching and waiting for them in the sitting room window.
She ran to the door when she saw them walking up the road.
“In now!” said Mary sternly as she stood with her arms folded in the doorway.
At least she didn’t have the dreaded wooden spoon thought Erin.
“I think Aunt Mary is annoyed with you Erin” said Orla as they walked in the door.
“No way Orla!” sarcastically.
“Orla love, would you run upstairs a minute. I need to have a word with this one. Alone”
“No bother Aunt Mary” said Orla as she ran upstairs.
Erin shouted up after her: “Don’t you dare touch my diary Orla!”
“Your diary is the least of your worries Erin. Kitchen now,” said Mary.
“But Mammy!” pleaded Erin. She really didn’t need all this.
Erin followed her to the kitchen.
“What happened last night, and you can cut the grinds nonsense. I didn’t float don’t the Foyle in a bubble,” said Mary.
“Honestly, Mammy I did stay over at Michelle’s,” said Erin. It technically wasn’t a lie.
“Oh, I don’t doubt that, Erin. But I don’t you think you stayed with Michelle” replied Mary.
Erin could feel herself turning purple. She was eighteen for God’s sake! Legally an adult. Surely, she didn’t have to put up with her poking around in her personal life.
“I take it by your silence that I’m right?” said Mary.
“It’s not like what you think Mammy,” said Erin. God this was excruciating.
“And what do I think Erin!” replied Mary.
“I really liked him Mammy. And he’s not liked the other lads and I should know I have fancied a fair few eejits in my time. He loves me Mammy and cares for me, and I trust him. He’s the nicest person I know” It made her think about their fight. Maybe she had overreacted a bit.
She hadn’t really thought he that wanted to brag about it, deep down. And she wasn’t embarrassed of him. Quite the opposite.
However, she had been scared. If everyone knew and it didn’t work out, it wouldn’t just be her sadness and pain, but it would be out there in the open for everyone she knew to see.
Mary was a little taken aback by Erin’s declaration. She thought it was just a teenage crush that would work itself out eventually, but it was clear from Erin’s reaction it was more serious that she first thought.
“Well for the love of God just don’t come pregnant Erin,” said Mary.
“Mammy, Jesus!” replied Erin. This conversation had to be up there with the worst she had ever had.
“I mean…Love we’ll be there for you no matter what but go out and live before you tie yourself down Erin”
“Do you regret it? Having me so young? I know you said before about not going to university” asked Erin.
“No, I do not Erin. I love you, your father, and wee Anna. I wouldn’t change it, any of it honestly. But it’s big world out there and I want you to see a bit of it. Get out there at least before you settled down and have kids or don’t have kids. But at the end of the day, whatever you decide to do in life, we’ll be here for you” she put her hand on Erin’s.
She hadn’t realised how grown up her daughter had become. Up until that moment she had still looked upon her as kid. She had been so busy raising her and Anna and with everything else that she hadn’t seen it.
But looking at her daughter she saw a young woman. One that she would have to let go out in the world and make her own mistakes and create her own victories.
“You won’t tell Daddy and Grand will ya? Granda would kill him” asked Erin.
“I won’t tell them, but I ask one thing. Talk to me. Tell me where you’re going. Don’t leave me going spare like I was last night. I know you’re grown up and need your independence, but I still worry Erin”
“I promise Mammy”
Mary stood up and gave her a hug. They both started crying. They had both felt the shift in their relationship that came with growing up.
They were interrupted by the doorbell ringing.
“Stay there, I’ll get it. You can grab one and I mean one Tunnock’s from the Christmas cupboard. But you do not tell Granda or your Da you hear me,” said Mary.
“Thank you, Mammy!” Erin leapt up excitedly from the kitchen table.
Mary left Erin to hoke about the cupboard and went to open the door.
She was no sooner gone than she returned to the kitchen.
Erin had just opened her teacake when her mother appeared back in the kitchen.
“You have a visitor love,” said Mary.
James appeared behind her in the kitchen: “Hey”
Erin gave Mary that ‘please please can I go out’ look.
“Go on,” said Mary. “But ring and let me know Erin or I swear to God, I will make you come straight home from school for the rest of term”
“I will Mammy. I’ll see you later” She kissed Mary on the cheek and went outside with James. They started to walk down the street, towards town.
They really had to stop doing that. Talking in unison. They would be finishing each other’s sentences next.
James began: “Erin, I’m sorry. I know how what I said must have come across. I didn’t think. And I shouldn’t have stormed off. I really didn’t want to brag. Not that you are not braggable about. I mean I still can’t believe you’re going out with me”
“Really?” said Erin.
“Yeah, you’re beautiful, funny, clever, kind” replied James.
“Seriously?” replied Erin.
“Yes!” replied James.
“I know we all slag you and everything, but I do proper fancy ya and you’re a lovely fella James. You could have the pick of the girls around here. Even with the English thing. Obviously don’t like…”
“Don’t what?” asked James.
“Go after the other girls,” said Erin.
“Oh. Why would I Erin?”
“I dunno. I just. Sorry I tend to ramble a bit when I’m nervous. Also, I’m sorry too for earlier. I know you’re not like that. Like other lads bragging about who they’ve been with. It was just…” She paused for a second as tried to think how to explain it without sounding like a right clingy bitch.
“Go on,” said James.
“Just if everyone knows and this doesn’t work out, it would be even more painful. That’s why I panicked this afternoon. It wasn’t because I was ashamed of you James. I’m not,” said Erin.
“What if it doesn’t not work out?” asked James.
Erin just looked at him with that confused face she did. He loved that you could nearly tell every exact emotion she was experiencing just by looking at her face.
“I mean, I know we are still young and first love and all that, but I really do love you and I think that this is worth taking a chance on. The chance of people knowing, the chance of maybe getting hurt. I think it’s worth it to experience this. To experience how I feel when I’m with you, to feel how I did last night. I’m not saying we’ll never break up ever, but I think I’d regret it more if we didn’t even give this a shot Erin.”
He held out his hand to her. She took it and leaned into him, placing her head on his shoulder as they walked along.
James savoured the moment. Just walking along holding her hand. He didn’t care if people saw.
He hoped it really did work out. He couldn’t imagine feeling like this about anyone else.
He knew he was still a kid that hadn’t experienced of much and the world outside Derry and England before that.
But Erin was his best friend. She brought the best out of him and in turn didn’t judge the worst of him.
He rested his head on hers as they continued their walk.
All the worry about exams and telling everyone and whether things would work out in the future were all but forgotten.
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
It was the week before Erin and Orla’s party. The gang were in the local church hall decking it out for Erin and Orla’s joint Literary Heroes and Monkeys themed birthday party.
They had really gone all out on the theme, pooling all the money could in order to compete of Jenny’s JennyWood party and her champagne and hors d'oeuvre. The rich bitch thought Erin.
She would have to have her party on the exact same night. She was a right dose.
Erin slumped down on one of stray chairs in the hall. She was pure sick of it. Sick of everything. Of Jenny, of sharing with Orla, of not having any time alone with James and of course the monkeys! For Christ sake!
And then to top it all off this referendum had really stolen her thunder!
“Why are you sitting there with a face like Ian Paisley chewing on a wasp Erin?” asked Michelle.
Michelle had noticed a change in attitude in her friend that wasn’t purely down to the party decor.
Decor that currently consisted of a cardboard cut-out of Jane Austen which looked like it was getting friendly with a cardboard cut-out of a gorilla.
“What face?” snapped Erin.
“The face you’ve had on ya since Dennis brought up about Niall in the shop earlier” Dennis had been slagging Michelle.
That after sharing a counter with her all day the shop, if was her brother Niall he’d be asking them to keep him locked up. Rather than sharing a house with her and her mouth.
“No, I haven’t Michelle. This is just my face!” replied Erin.
That wasn’t completely true. She hadn’t been thinking about what Michelle had said about Niall getting out of jail if the Good Friday Agreement was passed.
“Yeah, whenever you are turning your nose up and something,” said Michelle.
“Like what? What I would be turning my nose up to?” asked Erin.
“Niall getting let out” replied Michelle.
“Well, he won’t be getting out, won’t he?” replied Erin.
“Why not? He might. If the vote goes through. They said he might”
“But he killed someone Michelle,” said Erin.
“He didn’t mean to Erin,” said Michelle.
“I’m sure that makes it all ok!”
“Um, I think we should stop this now,” said James. He placed a hand on Erin’s shoulder.
“Yeah, guys we still have a lot of monkeys and a lot of authors to put about the place. And some of them aren’t even monkeys girls. I think gorillas are actually apes!” said Clare.
Erin spun around to face James: “No I don’t think we should James. I think we should talk about it!” said Erin.
“Please Erin,” said James. He knew this wouldn’t end well.
Orla watched on and put her hands over her ears.
“It’s not black and white Erin. You know that!” said Michelle.
“Is that what they’ll tell that poor man’s family? We’re letting his murderer out, because you know it’s not black and white, is it?” spat Erin.
“Do you know what Erin? Go fuck yourself and your fucking shit party. I thought of all people you wouldn’t be a cunt about this. Come on James,” said Michelle. James went to go with her.
Erin grabbed his arm as he passed: “You’re going with her?” asked Erin.
He saw the hurt in her eyes: “I think I have to Erin. She’s family Erin. Niall is my family too” he said softly.
“JAMES!” yelled Michelle.
“But I didn’t…mean it. I just…I mean I am right about it being not being right James,” said Erin.
“I don’t think any of this is about being right or wrong, Erin. I think people thinking that caused a lot of this. I better go…with Michelle” he followed after her.
“James…” she called after him. “Shit” she slumped down in the nearest chair and started crying.
“Are you ok Erin?” asked Clare as she approached where she was sitting.
“No! James hates me. Michelle hates me. I didn’t mean to upset them. It’s all this vote thing. I just don’t think there’s an excuse for killing people” said Erin.
“But as Michelle said none of it is black and white Erin. That’s why we’re having this vote. To stop all the killing happening again. If letting some people out of prison can put an end to the violence it might be worth it,” said Clare.
“What if it doesn’t work? And those people get away with what they did for nothing?” asked Erin.
What of James and Michelle never talked to her again?
She had never seen Michelle that angry. And James had gone with her. What was that look he had given her? Disappointment? That was even worse than hate. What a mess she thought.
She looked around the hall. What was the point of the party now? Michelle wasn’t talking to her. She probably wouldn’t be able to see James. Michelle would probably barricade him the house to stop him seeing her.
They had barely had any time to themselves over the last two weeks. Let alone time to repeat what had happened on her birthday.
Now he had chosen Michelle over her.
She had forgot that Niall was his family too. Of course, he would choose them over her and her big mouth. She shouldn’t have even put him in that position.
But she had to say how she really felt about everything. She felt it was unfair. She wouldn’t want to see her father or mother’s murderer being let out of jail like nothing had happened.
She could understand Michelle missing her brother, but would she still want to be around him after what he did?
Could she forgive Orla like that? Maybe. Maybe not.
“Come on Erin,” said Clare. “Maybe we should call it a day here. We can come back tomorrow and get back at it and maybe Michelle and James might have calmed down by then”
Erin doubted it but she hoped Clare was right.
Chapter 25: Chapter 25
With two days until her and Orla’s party Erin hadn’t heard from James or Michelle. They hadn’t even spoke to her in school.
Well James had acknowledged her and said hello, while Michelle had completely blanked her.
Erin had sat with Orla for the week in class, during assembly and at break.
Clare, however, had sat on her own. Refusing to take anyone’s side.
She had even taken to calling herself ‘Switzerland’ to emphasise her neutrality whenever she bumped into either pair in the corridor or in class.
After the fifth day of Michelle and Erin blanking each other, she had given up on being neutral and had tried to trick them all in to meeting the cafe one afternoon after school.
Her plan had ended up with Erin uninviting Michelle to her party.
It had partly been an accident. Michelle had overheard Erin taking about Jenny Joyce’s party not hers and Michelle obviously got the wrong end of the stick.
Erin had got to the cafe with Clare and Orla before Michelle and James had arrived.
She had been sitting ranting about Jenny Joyce inviting the whole school when Michelle and James walked in unseen behind her: “She can shove that invite of hers where the sun doesn’t shine!”
“Well, I was just coming here to give ours back to you Erin. Thanks, but we have better plans. I’m sure two of other many many mates you have will be only begging for an invite to shitest party of the year” said Michelle as she flung her and James’s invite at her.
She stormed out of the cafe with James reluctantly following along behind her. He had given a brief look before he had went after Michelle. Almost if he was apologising for Michelle returning their invites.
“I wasn’t even talking about her!” snapped Erin. “Well Clare the next time you see her tell I didn’t even want her there actually”
“Tell her yourself! I’m not some a UN peacekeeper Erin!” replied Clare.
Erin knew she was being completely unreasonable. Especially with Clare. She had only been trying to help.
Erin had just been taking all her sadness and anger out on anyone that came near her.
She hadn’t spoken to James in days. He had still said hello and was polite to her if they bumped into each other in school. Other than that, there had been nothing. No other contact. The closeness between them was gone. All because of her big mouth.
She was also annoyed at him. If things were finished between them the least, he could have done was pick of the phone and tell her. At least she had tried to talk to him at school.
She was still hoping that he would turn up to her birthday and they could talk, and she would apologise. She didn’t think they could go back to being…what even had they been.
Had they been boyfriend and girlfriend? They had been together for 6 months and had behaved like boyfriend and girlfriend when they were alone.
However, they had never officially confirmed it.
If they had have been boyfriend and girlfriend, they weren’t any more.
Chapter 26: Chapter 26
It was a disaster. Erin had waited three weeks for her big night only to have to share it with not just Orla but also a bunch of weans making their first holy communion.
Even all the decorations they had pooled together to buy had been taken down except for one stray cardboard cut-out monkey that had gone unnoticed at the back of the hall.
It almost seemed to be staring at her. Taunting her with the grin on its face.
It was mortifying. How could her mother do this to her?
Worst of all Michelle and James hadn’t shown up. Neither had anyone else from school but it was only James and Michelle that she had really cared about appearing.
She could understand Michelle not being there. But she thought James would have at least shown his face. Even for Orla’s sake, not hers.
“Maybe, they are just late? You know Michelle” said Clare, trying to cheer them both up.
They were sat at a table surrounded by weans in their best communion frocks.
“They’re not coming Clare” replied Erin sadly.
“James will be here,” said Orla. “He wouldn’t not come”
Erin’s heart broke for herself and for Orla. She had ruined the one relationship that had really meant something to her.
She had loved him, and she had ruined it and to top it off she had dragged Orla into her misery.
Orla was extremely fond of James, and she couldn’t bear to tell her he wouldn’t be there. All because of her.
“Orla, I’m sorry. He won’t. And it’s all my fault,” said Erin.
Orla reached over and gave her a hug.
“He’s never going to speak to me again. It will never be like it was before” she started to cry.
Clare wondered what she meant by that. She hadn’t thought that they were particularly close.
Erin noticed the weans looking at her. God, she had to get out of there.
She stood up to go outside. She really didn’t want to start bawling in front of everyone: “I just need to get a bit of air”
Clare went to follow her out, but Erin stopped her: “Thanks Clare, but on my own” She gave her a quick hug before going outside.
She stood outside the hall and hugged herself against the cold air of the night.
“Are you ok love?” it was Deirdre.
“Yeah, just a bit emotional” Erin looked to see if Michelle and James might have been with her.
“Sorry love, neither of them have said anything but I could tell there was a falling out between you. I think they’re up at Janette Joyce, formally O’Shea’s wean’s party if want to find them” Deirdre squeezed her arm.
They had gone to JennyWood! She knew they were still angry with her, and she hadn’t done herself any favours but going to Jenny Joyce’s birthday party over hers and Orla’s.
She was tempted to go up there and them a piece of her mind. But it was miles to Jenny’s place. Her big, massive gaff was practically out in the middle of nowhere.
Erin spotted one of the wean’s bikes. It wasn’t tied up. She could just borrow it to get her up there and then she could put it back after she spoke to the traitors.
After a wobbly start, she began making her way across Derry and to Jenny’s house.
As she cycled up to Jenny’s all she could think about was the fact that James had gone to Jenny Joyce’s party.
Michelle, yes. She wanted to get back at her.
But James. She thought he had loved her. And while she had said something stupid, she didn’t think he would have betrayed her like that, going to Jenny’s party over hers and Orla’s.
“Jesus” yelled Erin. She was barely halfway there, and she was already out of breath from the cycling. Why did Jenny have to live up a bloody hill!
She gave up on the bike and started walking with it instead. She would be sweltering by the time she got up there.
She finally managed to reach the gate of Jenny’s mansion. After a mix-up with the guest list and then the gate she was inside and covered in mud.
She wandered around the house looking for James and Michelle. It reminded her of the time she had tried to stop James and Katya from getting together.
She really was an idiot. She hadn’t realised it at the time. It hadn’t been so much about Katya using him but the fact she didn’t want to see him with Katya or anyone.
Even the thoughts of him with someone else now made her stomach churn.
The irony of it all would have amused her before their falling out.
The fact that in the end, it had happened with her, not Katya.
“James!” she found him in one of the bedrooms prattling on about Cool Runnings to one of Jenny’s mates.
“What are you doing here Erin?” asked James.
“What are you doing here? Who’s your new pal?” said Erin.
“I’m not his pal. He just cornered me up here and won’t stop going on about some film...Cool Runnings. I’ve never even seen it,” said the lad.
“Cool Runnings? Really? You’ve never seen Cool Runnings?” asked Erin.
“What is with you people! You can take over so” said the lad as he made his escape.
“Are you ok?” asked James. He looked her up and down.
“Of course not! What?” Erin noticed his gaze. She looked down at the fancy satin suit she had bought for the party.
It was covered in mud and snags from when she had climbed over the wall.
There had been a bit of a misunderstanding about her name not being on the list. So, over the wall she had went.
Just before the gates had opened because Jenny had approved her presence.
The poor suit had paid the price. It had been one of the nicest outfits she had bought herself. Unlike the fancy dress from the prom.
This had been fancy but it had been her and now it was ruined.
In a way it was the perfect metaphor for her life at the moment.
Just as she was gaining some control in her life everything felt like it was falling apart and there was nothing, she could do to stop it.
“I had to climb over the wall,” said Erin quietly.
“Why? Did you not see the gate?” asked James.
“There might have been a mix of with the guestlist, but I was left with no choice if I wanted to come up and confront you pair of…turncoats!” She poked him in the chest.
James tried not to smile at her use of ‘turncoats.’
Any other time James would have enjoyed one of her indignant speeches but not tonight.
Erin approached him. Her voice was no more than a whispered when she spoke: “How could you come here, James? I can understand you not wanting to see me or to come to my party. I do. But to come here instead and to rub my nose in it. And Orla. She was gutted, James. I know it’s my fault but even still…”
“I didn’t want to come here. I’m in a difficult position Erin” he placed a hand on her arm.
“But I thought you and me were…” Erin placed her hand on his chest.
She just wanted him to hug her and tell her that they would get through this.
Were…thought James. Was it really over? He had been annoyed with her about what she had said about Niall.
The fact that she could hurtful things like that and barely even realise it.
But he knew she never intend to hurt Michelle; it was just her way of going about things and her stubbornness that caused her to say things like that without thinking.
But he had wanted to talk to her, but a day had turned into two then three, then a week.
A week of Michelle declaring her friendship was over with Erin. How it was just her and him now.
So, he had been stuck between talking it out with his girlfriend or losing his cousin.
He had chosen the cowardly option. Going along with Michelle and barely talking to Erin at school, not even picking up the phone to her to tell her how he felt. And now what they had seemed to be gone.
He stood looking at her. They were only inches away from each other. He just wanted to kiss her and tell her he was sorry, but he felt like it was too late.
They were in the very same room where she had tried to barricade him to keep him away from Katya. That’s partly why he had ended up there. It had reminded him of Erin. He didn’t even want to be at Jenny’s party, but he felt like he could fight Michelle about going.
“I’m just glad Orla isn’t here, to see how you betrayed her James,” said Erin.
“Alright Erin…” said Orla as she strolled into the room.
James and Erin sprang apart from each other. Erin looked at her to see if showed any signs that she had noticed just how close they had been standing.
Orla however seemed more interested in the various food items she had collected throughout the house.
“You left our party and all?!” asked Erin.
“Aye, it was crap Erin” replied Orla.
“It was crap,” said Erin. She directed it at James.
“How did you even get up here Orla?” asked Erin.
“Clare’s girlfriend dropped us on her way home,” said Orla.
The door flew open again and Clare marched in: “Girls this place is even more of a maze than I remembered”
She looked a bit startled at seeing Erin and James alone in the room together until she saw Orla scoffing sweets in the corner.
“Well, it’s a good thing we are leaving,” said Erin. Erin linked arms with Orla.
Clare rolled her eyes she had barely caught her breath after running around the house looking for her.
“So, James you can go to Michelle and you both can enjoy the canapés and the champagne and the tiny horse,” said Erin.
“There’s a tiny horse?” asked Orla.
“Yeah, I saw it grazing as I came in” replied Erin. God she was trying to storm out!
“Cracker” replied Orla.
“I’m sure the pair of you will have a fantastic time! Come on Orla!” said Erin.
“We won’t. We aren’t Erin,” said James. “Come here and look” he led them to one of the bedroom windows where they saw Michelle sitting alone on a bench in Jenny’s garden. He had been right. She looked miserable.
Chapter 27: Chapter 27
They headed downstairs to Michelle at the bench. She quickly dried her eyes as she saw them approaching.
Erin sat down beside her: “I’m sorry Michelle, for what I said about Niall. He’s your brother, he’s family. It’s not like you can turn off your feelings and stop caring. I shouldn’t have...”
“No, in fairness you had a point, Erin. Do you think I am proud of what he did? Did you think any of us are? We never talk about him. My ma and da barely mention him. We never go to see him. I know he writes but my ma never lets me see the letters. But he’s still my brother and I know it might not happen, but I would love nothing more to see him get out and make a new life for himself and move on from all this shit. All of us move on from this shit. Because I don’t want to spend my life at checkpoints, or with bomb scares or watching the news and being scared shitless that my ma and da or you one of you lot are caught up in another bombing or another shooting. We have a chance to stop it. Stop it happening to another man. Stop another kid growing up with their da. Stop kids like our Niall from getting caught up with all the violence and hatred. Do you not think it would be all be worth it for that?”
“Of course, it would be worth it,” said Erin. She just wanted life to be normal for once. Well as normal as it could get living in Derry.
“Do you know what girls?” asked Michelle.
“What?” replied Erin.
“Can we please get the fuck out of here?” said Michelle.
Erin stood up and pulled Michelle to her feet.
Michelle pulled her in to a hug: “I’m sorry I missed your birthday”
“You can still make it Michelle, come on” replied Erin.
They made their way out through Jenny’s massive house.
As they reached the gate Erin looked around: “Shit where’s Clare?”
Suddenly everything went dark. All the fairy lights that had lit up the garden went dark. They could only see each other from the light of the moon.
Then they heard her. Screaming like a banshee.
“Run girls!!” yelled Clare as she dashed past them.
“Oh, my fucking god Clare” said Erin as started running after her.
Chapter 28: Chapter 28
“I can’t believe you had it in you Clare,” said Michelle.
They were standing at their usual spot at the walls.
They were all still trying to catch their breath from scaling the wall of Jenny’s house and running all the way across Derry.
Clare had managed to flip all the trip switches on the way of Jenny’s house so everything including the sound system she had rented for the girl from The Commitments had gone out.
“This past week has just got to me girls. Between school, the falling out, the monkeys and seeing that poor wee horse tied up on Jenny’s lawn I honestly think I just snapped,” said Clare.
“You’ve not been hitting the Red Bulls again have ya?” asked Michelle.
“No, Michelle. That back there was pure adrenaline!” replied Clare.
“Jesus calm down there Rambo,” said Michelle.
“It was a cracking party in fairness,” said Orla.
“Thanks, Orla” replied Erin sarcastically.
Orla continued: “She had everything. Your one from The Commitments, champagne, more sweets than Dennis’s…”
“We get the picture Orla,” said Erin.
“Even that poor wee horse. But I realised something when I was cracking into one of Jenny’s Dip Dabs, I’d rather be standing here stuffing my face with sweets with you lot. I love it,” said Orla.
Erin realised it too. All the moaning. All the decorations. She had had all she needed all along.
“Come on let’s go home. Maybe Mammy might let us raid the Christmas cupboard,” said Erin.
They walked back to Erin’s. They didn’t mind the long way back since they were all friends again.
Erin had ended up walking alongside James but neither of them said anything. For the moment they both were just happy to be friends again.
When they reached the house James called Erin back in the hallway as the others headed to the kitchen in search of food and drink.
“Erin…I” began James.
Erin’s heart started pounding in her chest. She hoped to God that he wasn’t about to fully end things between them.
She knew things were likely over between them, but she couldn’t help holding out some hope that they could fix things.
“I...” It was as if he was struggling to find the words to speak to her.
In truth, he wanted to apologise and tell her he should have spoken to her about what had happened. Like adults.
But he was afraid if he did, she would confirm that things were really over between them.
“Yeah?” replied Erin.
He reached into the pocket of his jacket and took out a videotape: “It’s the film. From the summer. I promised you’d be the first to see it”
“Oh…” replied Erin.
She was wrongfooted. She hadn’t been expecting it. She didn’t know what to say. What did this mean?
“If you still want it…I can understand if don’t…,” said James.
Maybe this was a bad idea he thought. If it was over the film would be one big reminder of how happy they had once been.
“No, of course, I want to see it. I can put it on now if you…” suggested Erin.
“Maybe not while everyone is here” He looked down at his feet.
Erin smiled. He was clearly embarrassed about debuting it in front of all their family and friends.
“Ok, thank you” She went to try and hug him but was distracted by the arrival of Uncle Colm and her mother’s cousin Eamon.
“Where did you get to? You didn’t try and escape your own 18th did ya?” asked Eamon. “I wouldn’t blame ya. Trying to get away from all of them aul fogies” He elbowed her conspiratorially like he wasn’t classed as an aul fogey himself.
James gave her a knowing look before they headed into the kitchen to join the others and to avoid getting captured by one of Uncle Colm’s stories.
She placed the video in her bag for later and placed it on the bannister and went inside.
The kitchen ended up being full with family, friends, and food after Gerry had been sent down to Fionnula's to get 20 bags of chips, 10 sausages and 25 onion rings before she closed up for the night.
Chapter 29: Chapter 29
The kitchen had become almost unbearably warm with the all the guests gathered in there.
Some of the party had spilled out to the garden while Erin had escaped to the hallway.
Erin was sat on the stairs with her head in her hands.
The night had worked out in the end, she had been surrounded by her friends and family. The people she loved and who loved her in return.
However, things between her and James still occupied her mind.
He had spent the evening laughing and joking with her.
Even dancing with her and her little sister before she had fallen asleep but there was so much still unresolved.
She thought back over the time they had been together. Over the last six months. Six amazing months.
She never thought she could feel like she did about another person. Then to have them love her back.
After years of trying to meet the other lads’ expectations, almost changing her whole personality to make them like her. James had got to know who she truly was and had loved her for it.
Then the fight had happened. She had let her mouth get the run of her. Like she always did.
So much so it had had them all at each other's throats again.
She wanted to get back with James, but could she risk that all over again?
They all had so little time together before they all went off to college and would be all over the country.
Her and James had talked about going to college down in Dublin together and had put colleges down there on their CAOs, but nothing had been settled.
What if they went down to Dublin and something like this happened again and they were both left down there miserable and alone?
“What’s wrong with you love?” It was Granda Joe. He had noticed that Erin wasn’t with the gang and had gone in search of her.
He had found her looking forlorn on the stairs. With an expression he had seen on her face all week.
It broke his heart. This should be a happy time for her.
“Nothing. Everything. Have you worked out the referendum?” she pointed towards the notice board he had made up. Mary had made him leave it in the hall so the guests wouldn’t be put off by it.
“I have and I have realised it doesn’t matter one bit” replied Joe.
“You’re not going to vote?” asked Erin.
“No, I am. But it doesn’t really come down to me. Or my generation, does it? It’s about the future it’s about you lot,” said Joe.
“What if it happens and it doesn’t work? What if they let all those prisoners out and it all falls through? What then?”
“At least we tried. I think we would regret it more if we never even tried,” replied Joe.
“But what if people get hurt Granda?” said Erin. Joe sensed she was no longer focused on the referendum.
“Sometimes in a weird way it can be a good thing. Hurt can change things. Sometimes we have to feel it to know we’re alive. It makes us realise what’s important to us. Because if things didn’t hurt, like growing up or losing someone or falling out with someone it would mean that those things didn’t really matter to us. To change, to grow, to love, you have to have some hurt in there too love” Joe gave the briefest of looks up to the picture of his wife which was hung up on the wall.
“As much as it hurts to be without her, every single day. I’ll gladly take it for the love I knew with her,” said Joe
Erin noticed his gaze and grabbed his hand.
“Love, take it from an old man. Don’t let a fear of getting hurt hold you back. Go out there and live and if you get hurt and you will, we’ll be there for you, your friends will be there for you, do you hear me?”
“Thanks, Granda” replied Erin.
“Now come in and I’ll give you a drop of my single malt. Once you promise not to tell that father of yours where I hide it”
Erin wiped her eyes: “I promise. Just give me a second Granda” She pointed to her watery eyes from when she had been crying.
She grabbed her bag which was hanging on the bannister to get a tissue. God her face was now a mess as well as her suit.
She reached inside and found a pack of tissues and the tape that James had given her.
She noticed that everyone including James was distracted in the kitchen with all the food and drink.
She decided to sneak into the sitting room to watch it. He had told her to wait until later, but her curiosity had got the better of her.
She noticed that a post-it note was stuck to the cover.
“A piece of Derry to keep with you always, Love James x”
She placed the tape into VCR and turned on the television.
As if on cue everyone else had decided to descend on the living room.
Erin tried to shut it off, but Michelle had grabbed the remote.
“What are we watching?” Michelle plonked down beside her on the sofa.
“Michelle turn it off please” pleaded Erin.
“You didn’t you get a bluey for your 18th did ya?” said Michelle.
“No, it’s just priv…”
“He fucking finished the thing then,” said Michelle on seeing it was the film they had made the summer before.
“Oh, I love that actor, so I do. I wish they were in more stuff” said Orla pointing at the screen as she sat down on the floor between Erin and Michelle’s feet.
“That’s you Orla,” said Erin.
James walked in and saw the film starting up.
Oh god, he really didn’t want to watch it back with all their friends and family there.
He was proud of it, and he hoped Erin would like it, but he just found it embarrassing.
Like all his ideas and thoughts were being put on display on the screen to be judged.
He stood in the corner almost hiding from everyone else. He was tempted to hide in the kitchen, but he really wanted to see Erin’s reaction.
He was still unsure how things stood between them.
He watched on as she sat on the sofa watching it with the others. His eyes were glued to her not the screen.
The rest of the party were all squeezed into the room watching the film.
With the girls laughing at the silly bits. Shushing each other at certain moments and hiding their faces in the sofa cushions when they appeared on screen.
Erin could see how much they had changed in the past year. They were no longer the same kids on screen prancing about Derry.
The film came to an end and the screen read: “Dedicated to Erin”
It was the perfect present.
No matter where she ended up in the world, he had captured that perfect moment for her, and she would treasure it forever.
Erin saw how happy there were. How happy they still could be.
She thought about what her Granda had said.
The reason she had always been so miserable when they had a fight, was because what they had mattered to her. James mattered to her. Really mattered to her.
And she was scared. Scared that it wouldn’t work out. Scared she would lose him.
But looking back at the past six months. They had been the best six months of her life. There had been so much more happy times than sad ones.
She would regret it. If she never gave what they had a chance.
Erin stood up and walked towards where he was standing in the corner of the room.
She took his face in her hands and kissed him.
At first, James barely reacted. He had been wishing he could kiss her again for the past week but in that moment, he was painfully aware that practically all their family and friends were stood watching them.
Eventually, he relaxed and kissed her back.
God, he had missed her. What had he been thinking the past week!
“Thank you” she whispered against his lips.
She led him back to the sofa. Ignoring the shocked faces of her friends and family. She pulled his arm around her as they sat down.
James was still startled by the fact everyone now knew and were watching them like hawks.
“Oh my god. Oh my god” Clare was hyperventilating down the other end of the sofa. “Did that just happen? Or have I had too many Bacardi Breezers?”
Michelle rolled her eyes. Her and her Bacardi Breezers. They weren’t even a proper drink. They were basically pop!
Clare looked at Michelle. Why wasn’t she surprised at all? Why wasn’t she going mad? It was her best friend and her cousin. Shifting.
Michelle saw Clare looking at her: “Oh…what the fuck!” trying to pretend she was taken aback by what had just happened.
The rest of the party were still watching on stunned.
“You’re very quiet Mary? Did you know about this?” asked Gerry.
“Maybe” replied Mary. “How come you're not surprised yourself?”
“Maybe I might have known also,” said Gerry.
“Since when?” said Mary.
“Not long,” said Gerry.
“How long?” asked Mary.
“Since your father was in hospital”
“And you never thought to tell me? I knew there was something up with her. I was worried sick Gerry!” replied Mary.
“They looked happy. I didn’t want to ruin it”
“And I’d ruin our daughter’s happiness, would I?” asked Mary.
“I just thought you might overreact like,” said Gerry.
“Overreact? Overreact?! When have I ever overreacted Gerry?” replied Mary.
“Right now, for a start!” replied Gerry.
“I thought he was gay like our Clare?” said Geraldine.
“He might be one of the trisexuals,” said Sarah.
“Bisexuals Sarah” Mary corrected her.
“No that’s people that want to be British and Irish. The little booklet said so Mary” replied Sarah.
Deirdre didn’t say anything. She had suspected that something had been going on for months. Ever since she had walked in on them studying.
She was pleased for them. James wasn’t a bad youngfella and Erin really seemed to care for him.
They all watched on as Joe approached Erin and James.
James froze as he looked up to see Joe towering over them.
“Son…” said Joe, indicating for James to stand up.
James gave Erin a quick look before he stood up. Her face wasn’t exactly reassuring.
Joe held out his hand. James hesitantly shook it.
“Welcome to the family son” He patted James on the shoulder as he walked off to the kitchen.
He nodded as he passed Gerry who was looking on gobsmacked.
Joe smirked to himself. That would wind up the wee Free State shite for another while.
Chapter 30: Chapter 30
A guitar and a fiddle had been found somewhere in the house, so the party had turned into a shindig with various friends and family getting up to sing their party pieces.
When someone had launched into The Black Velvet Band, the gang took their cue to go and hide in the garden to avoid being called upon to perform.
It was nearly 2 am and it had gotten even chillier, but they still had some heat in them from the party as they sat on the kitchen chairs that had been brought outside earlier that night.
James took off his jacket and placed it around Erin’s shoulder before she perched herself on his lap. A gesture that didn’t go unnoticed by the others.
Clare was relishing the opportunity to interrogate Erin and James.
No wonder she had put Law at Queens down on her UCAS thought Erin.
“So, what are you like a couple now?” asked Clare.
“Yeah, well we haven’t exactly put a label on it because we were keeping it a secret like,” said Erin.
“And no one else knew?” asked Clare.
“Well…Michelle did,” said James.
“Big mouth!” muttered Michelle.
“You knew Michelle and you never told us!” said Claire.
“Aye, well you wouldn’t either if you had have walked in on them twice. I’ve been trying to forget ever since. No three fucking times technically!”
“On them...??” asked Clare.
“Just shifting thanks be to actual Jesus” replied Michelle.
“When?” asked Clare.
“First in Donegal…,” said Michelle.
“In Donegal! It’s been going on since Donegal!” squealed Clare.
“Yeah, that time I put it down to the concussion and Erin was possessed by the banshee or something” replied Michelle matter of factly.
“Thanks, Clare!” said James.
Erin looked at him reassuringly and rubbed his shoulder.
“Then the next time was during the project,” said Michelle.
Clare counted the months on her hand: “Six months and you didn’t bother to tell me or Orla. She’s your cousin Erin!” said Clare.
Orla put her hand up.
“What Orla?” said Clare.
“I knew actually so,” said Orla.
“You knew Orla?!” asked Erin.
“Aye, well it was pretty obvious!” replied Orla.
“Obvious? Obvious?!” questioned Clare. Her voice had been getting higher in pitch the more it had dawned on her that she had been the only one that hadn’t seen it coming.
Orla thought it was obvious. Orla had worked it out and she hadn’t! Orla!
“Also, I read about it in Erin’s diary. How James was her first kiss and how nice it was and…”
“ORLA SHUT UP” snapped Erin.
But Orla ignored her: “...how she was glad it had been with James because he was nice and not like the lads she usually went after. Wait not lads I think you said buck eejits…”
“I swear to God. If you quote any more from my diary. I am going to smother you in your sleep Orla!”
“You can’t blame me, Erin. It’s a cracking read,” said Orla.
“But I had it hidden! That was my private private diary!” cried Erin.
“Well, it wasn’t hidden enough Erin” shrugged Orla.
“I am going to get the diary and shove it where…” Erin tried to leap up, but James grabbed her to stop her from launching herself at Orla.
“Ach sure, what’s the matter weans?” it was Aunt Sarah who had come outside to have a smoke.
Mary wouldn’t let her smoke inside with the guests and the food.
“Erin’s Diary, Mammy, it has me gripped so it does,” said Orla.
Mary followed her outside to put some empty bottles in the bin.
“Mammy, will you please tell Orla to stay away from my diary!” yelled Erin.
“Maybe if you put it away properly Erin! You never put anything away after you!” replied Mary.
“I do Mammy. Oh, I hide it Mammy and yet she still finds it. She’s like a sniffer dog! It’s not fair!”
James wrapped his arms around her and tried to calm her down.
“Aye, that must be nice for ya Erin,” said Sarah indicating to her and James.
She continued: “But I would have been sure he was gay now but sure you’d never know these days. Probably just the English thing that confuses people. Michelle, you don’t have any more cousins for our Orla?”
If anyone else had said that they would have been convinced it was a joke, but Sarah seemed dead serious.
“It’s not Little House on the Prairie Aunt Sarah,” said Erin.
“Mammy I don’t think I’d have time for anyone with my stepping and going to get my sweets every day. It really takes it out of me, so it does,” said Orla.
“Ach, do you hear her? If she wasn’t real, we’d have to invent her. I’m going to head back inside weans” Sarah put out her cigarette and went back to the house.
“Good luck marrying into that James!” said Michelle.
“Michelle!” said Erin.
“If I did, they’d be your family too Michelle,” said James.
Erin grinned. He was more concerned with the fact that she had forgotten that they were related than the fact she had suggested they would get married. Not that she wanted to get married. Well not yet anyway.
If she did, she hoped it would be someone like James. Preferably James. God that was all far too grown up to contemplate further. She just wanted to enjoy being together for the time being.
Whatever will happen will happen. She couldn’t really change it other than take chances whenever she could and not shout her big mouth off without thinking.
“Oh yeah, you’d be my… cousin-in-law Erin?” said Michelle.
“You’d be my cousin-in-law as well Erin,” said Orla.
“We’re already cousin cousins Orla,” said Erin.
“What about me!” yelled Clare.
“What about you Clare?” asked Michelle.
“You’re all cousin-in-laws? What happens to me? I have no family status. I’ll be the first to get pushed out of the group! Well, thank you all very much” said Clare as she folded her arms in a huff.
“First of all, this is all hypothetical Clare. Second of all, we couldn’t get rid of you if we tried. And fucking third of all, you’ll be their weans’ favourite wee lesbian aunt who brings them to the cinema and the theatre and buys them, Dr Martens. While I’ll be their cool aunt slash cousin that buys them drink. They can stay at mine when Erin’s doing their wee heads in,” said Michelle.
“And I’ll teach them to melt stuff,” said Orla.
“Are you seriously talking about getting our imaginary kids pissed Michelle?” asked Erin.
“Someone will have to, with you two as parents,” said Michelle.
“That has to be the most Michelle thing you have ever said,” said James.
“Come here to me. You all better promise me, girls. Whatever happens, we’ll all still be friends? I know we are all going off to college and everything, but we have to stick together. Because I love the bones of all of ye and it scares the living shit out of me that we might not all be like this again. Ever.”
Michelle gathered them in for a hug.
“Things will never be the same again, will they?” asked Orla.
“No Orla. Things will be different, but they will be better,” said Erin.
Chapter 31: Chapter 31
The party eventually wrapped up around 4 am.
Michelle and Clare’s parents had headed home leaving the gang to fall asleep up in Erin’s room.
Mary had been concerned about James staying over but allowed it because the girls would be there too.
Erin fell asleep curled up with James on her bed. They would still have to talk about everything but at least they were back together.
Erin woke up as the early morning sun streamed in through the window. It was just gone 8 am.
The gang were all still asleep. Clare and Michelle had slept on the floor while Orla had fallen asleep down the other end of the bed.
Even though she hadn’t gotten much sleep Erin knew she wouldn’t drift off again that morning.
She was too excited about being back with James and the future. Which would hopefully involve him.
She lay there and watched him for a while. God, she really had it bad. The fact of simply watching him sleep made her that ridiculously happy.
She was afraid he would wake up and catch her.
Eventually, she had to get up. She really didn’t want to untangle herself from James, but she needed the loo.
She manoeuvred herself out of the bed without waking him. She went to the bathroom before heading down to the kitchen for some water.
She didn’t exactly have a hangover. Well, at least she didn’t think she did. She had never had one before.
She just felt a little groggy and her mouth felt like she hadn’t drunk anything in a whole day.
If this was a hangover, then Michelle had been really exaggerating down through the years.
She was glad they were back friends. As much as she had been annoyed at her and vice versa that world had seemed at odds when they weren’t talking.
The house was still quiet with everyone still asleep except her.
She poured a glass of water and sipped it as she looked out at the back garden.
A group of starlings were hopping about on the lawn.
She liked how their feathers appeared to be different colours depending on which way you looked at them.
She heard a faint movement on the stairs.
She could almost sense him looking at her before she turned around.
She spun around to face him: “I didn’t wake ya did I?”
“No, I woke up and you were gone” He walked over to her: “This is giving me a strange sense of deja vu,” said James.
Donegal felt like ages and ages ago. However, James still remembered every second of that morning.
“£120 by the way,” said James.
“What is?” asked a confused Erin.
“A hot air balloon ride. I looked into after…,” said James.
“Really? Like per person? Or for the whole thing?” asked Erin.
“Per person, I think”
“That is really expensive actually” replied Erin.
She hopped up to sit on the countertop and pulled him towards her: “I’ve missed this” she said as she pulled him into a hug.
“We fell asleep like this Erin?” said James.
“No, I mean. Me and you. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you. I’m sorry about what I said” said Erin.
“It’s ok. I’m sorry I should have talked to you about it. Instead of ignoring it and trying to sit on the fence,” said James.
“I shouldn’t have put in that position though. They’re your family…”
“And you’re my girlfriend and I should have talked to you about it” said James.
“I’m your girlfriend?” asked Erin with a shy grin.
“Well, I just thought…After…” James panicked. He hoped he hadn’t put his foot in it again. Last night felt like they were back together.
“No, it’s just I’ve never heard you say it. It’s nice,” said Erin.
“I thought I’d lost you, Erin”
Erin heard the fear in his voice and a vulnerability that he only really showed around her.
“You’re not getting rid of me that easily,” said Erin.
James smiled before leaning in to kiss her again.
They slowly broke away. Erin placed her chin on his shoulder.
“James…” her voice sounded worried. She rubbed the nape of his neck.
“Yeah?” he pulled back from her so he could see her face.
“We have an audience” she pointed over her shoulder.
Not again thought James. The deja vu had turned into a full-on flashback.
It was Erin’s little sister Anna.
“Hello,” said James.
“Hiya,” said Anna softly. “I’m hungry”
“I’m sure we can find some food” replied James. He bent down to speak to her: “What do you like to eat for breakfast?”
“Sweets,” said Anna innocently.
“Eh, I don’t think your mum would like that” replied James.
“Mammy would go spare. She’d be jumping all about the place with all that sugar,” said Erin.
Erin watched on as he scooped Anna up in his arms.
“How about some cereal?” asked James. “Where is the cereal?” he asked Erin.
“You guys are on your own. No clues!” she replied teasingly.
James lifted Anna up and allowed her to open various kitchen cupboard doors until they found some cereal.
“Rice Crispies?” he asked.
“Yeap, and some oran juice” replied Anna.
“Please!” Erin reminded her little sister. “I’ll get the orange juice!”
Mary walked in as she approached the fridge.
“Morning you two” she eyed them sceptically. Two courting teenagers hanging around her kitchen by themselves the night after a party. She wasn’t born yesterday. What were they up to?
“Morning Mrs Quinn,” said James.
Her suspicions were quelled on seeing James making Anna’s breakfast with her.
“More crispies!” demanded Anna.
“I think that might make your tummy feel bad. If you’re hungry after you finished that you can have some more, ok?” said James.
“Ok” replied Anna as she tucked into the cereal.
“You didn’t have to do that,” said Mary pointing to her youngest.
“It’s fine” replied James.
Erin gave him a smile as she poured her sister some orange juice.
“I better get the breakfast on for the rest of them,” said Mary. She raised her hand to her forward. It was non-stop lately.
“I’ll give you a hand if you like Mrs Quinn,” said James.
“Are you sure love? I can manage on my own” replied Mary
“Yeah, just tell me what I can do”
Mary looked at Erin who raised an eyebrow at her.
A teenager, a youngfella at that, offering to help thought Mary. Erin had landed on her feet there. She could barely get Gerry to boil an egg.
Erin could tell he was doing it with no ulterior motive but purely because he just wanted to help her mother.
He really was the nicest person she knew, and he was her boyfriend.
She couldn’t have imagined saying that nearly three ago when he had first arrived in Derry.
However, now it felt like the most obvious thing in the world.
She hoped her mother saw what she saw in him.
She knew that she had been fond of him before. Even to the point of despising Cathy Maguire purely because had left him in Derry with barely a goodbye.
However, she hoped that her and the family would approve of him as her boyfriend.
As she watched James and her mother chatting, she couldn’t believe that she had nearly lost him. Him and Michelle.
She was now determined to do her best to make it work between them. She wanted to be a better friend to him and Michelle.
The rest of the family and the girls joined them for breakfast.
It was a bit of a squeeze trying to get them all around the kitchen table, but it had been a cheerful affair. Erin thought about how much she would miss this. Everyone gathered around at her house.
Erin had ended up sitting on James’s lap. He was afraid of Erin’s family’s reaction that he had barely eaten. Only when no one said anything did he begin to eat his breakfast.
Over breakfast they had all agreed to meet up that evening for something to eat.
Erin and Orla had assured Michelle that her being there last night had made up for their falling out, but she had insisted on them marking the occasion properly. Or ‘I’m getting ye both proper steamin’ as she had put it.
After breakfast, Michelle, James, and Clare planned to head home. Michelle to catch up on some sleep and Clare to study for the A-Levels. James had hoped to do both.
Michelle and Clare had said their goodbyes to Orla and Erin, while James had stood at the front door awkwardly.
Erin found it sweet that he was still a little shy around the others.
Michelle gave James a little push.
“Get on with it then dick head,” said Michelle as her and Clare walked to the gate to give her and James a moment together to say goodbye.
“I could pick you up a bit early. That’s if you want to…” asked James.
“I’d like that” Erin cut to the chase and pulled him to her. Just like she had in Donegal and in the car all those months ago.
Orla watched on from the hallway. She was sucking on a lolly and observing them the way David Attenborough his subjects.
Michelle gave them a full minute before she legged it back up the steps and pulled him away: “Erin, for fuck’s sake put him down!” She rolled her eyes.
“Michelle!” yelled James as she dragged him away from Erin. They had only been back together for a matter of hours and Michelle wouldn’t let them have two minutes to themselves.
“Just fuck off for a second would ya!” said Michelle to James.
Erin smiled at him as he turned to walk away in a sulk.
“Ok. Fine!” he muttered.
“Are we ok?” Michelle asked Erin.
“Course, Michelle,” said Erin as reached to give her a hug.
James went to hug Erin again, but Michelle grabbed him by his jacket before he could reach her.
“Come on fuck features,” said Michelle as she pulled James out of the garden.
“But I wanted to say goodbye to Erin, Michelle!” said James grumpily.
“God leave the poor girl alone for five seconds ya clingy fuck! You’ll see her later James,” said Michelle.
He just waved and gave Erin an apologetic look.
Erin couldn’t help but laugh.
“I’ll see you later” she shouted after James.
She blew a kiss to him.
“You look really happy,” said Orla as she wrapped her arms around her cousin.
“I am really happy Orla” replied Erin as she hugged Orla back.
It was the night of the referendum.
Erin had already been to cast her vote alongside her friends and her family.
It felt like the world she knew was changing forever but in a good way.
Not just in Ireland but in her own life.
They had also finished up in school for good that day.
It had been a day of mixed emotions.
Relief at not having to go to school and wear the horrible uniform ever again.
Fear about the upcoming exams that were less than two weeks away.
And sadness that that chapter of their lives was coming to a close.
Erin was sat in her room thinking back over the day and the past few months.
She looked up at the photos pinned to her wall.
She unpinned one of the pictures of the five of them together. It was taken back during the summer when they had gone to Portrush.
She was glad she had got to spend that part of her life with them. Part of her wished that she had appreciated that time of her life more.
However, she found comfort in the fact that she would be heading out into the world with them by her side.
Even though they might not be all in the same city come September they would all still be there for each and of course, they would return to Derry every chance they got.
There were still more adventures to be had together. And some trouble knowing her friends.
Speaking of adventures.
Erin opened her desk drawer. She took out the leather-bound diary that James had got her for her birthday.
That was one thing she was really looking forward to. The prospect of them going to college together.
Well, not the same college but the same city at least and the freedom that would bring.
No more having to try and sneak in and out of each other’s houses. She had got that good at hiding, tip toeing, and climbing out of windows that she could probably take up burgling.
Back to the writing, she thought. She was always so distracted these days. Mostly in a good way, with James or the gang.
She thought back to the days when she spent hours scribbling her ideas in her diary. Mostly shite ideas now that she thought about it.
She had dug out one of her old diaries. From about the time James had arrived.
She picked it up and flicked through it.
She cringed on seeing all the ‘I ❤ David Donnelly’s she had adorned the journal with.
God, what had she been thinking going after him?
She couldn’t believe he was still with Katya. The last she heard was that they were moving to Berlin to live together. Good riddance she thought.
She spotted where she had practiced writing her name ‘Erin Quinn-Donnelly’. She was burning for herself.
She then came across a passage about James. She had written it right after they had first met.
“English fella. Not much to look at. John, I think she said his name was. Seems like a bit of a drip.”
Had she really thought that about him? It actually hurt to read it back.
How wrong she had been.
How far they had come.
She popped the old journal back into her desk drawer and locked it. She had gotten her dad to put a lock on it.
She really hoped Orla hadn’t learned how to pick locks.
She placed her hand on the cover of the new journal.
She didn’t know where to start.
A bit like her life right in that moment.
She had all these ideas in her head but getting them onto the page was the problem.
A story was just like life. It was what you made of it. You just had to jump at it and take a chance. That first leap into the unknown.
Just like life you had to grasp it.
She finally opened the new diary.
On the first page, she wrote: Erin Quinn ❤s James Maguire.
She knew it was a little childish, but she couldn’t help it. James was much more deserving of her scribbles than David Donnelly and the others had ever been.
He had given her this new adventure both in life and in her writing.
He had been the first person to ever actually encourage her to write.
She turned over to the next page.
She would never be Derry’s answer to Beckett if she never actually wrote anything down.
Here goes nothing she thought.
She put pen to paper.
She was ready to tell her story.
Thank you for all your lovely comments.
I really loved writing this story. I hope you enjoyed it.
I hope to write a short follow up in the future. So please keep at eye out for that 😊