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something about the way you look tonight (takes my breath away)

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“Were we actually invited?” Clare worries aloud for the umpteenth time, taking a small sip of Michelle’s vodka and immediately gagging.

 

“Ach, Clare, what have I always said?” Michelle says, ripping the bottle from Clare’s hands, “the most important parties to go to are the ones you aren’t invited to.”

 

Have you always said that?” Clare demands. “I don’t actually think you have always said that, Michelle.”

 

“Fine!” Michelle exclaims, taking a swig of vodka and then a puff of her joint in such quick succession Erin is surprised she doesn’t choke. “I’m sayin’ it now!”

 

“Sounds proper wise, so it does,” Orla muses, accepting Michelle’s offer of her joint.

 

“Say we get there though -” Clare continues, wringing her hands in agitation, clearly not satisfied with Michelle’s theory on which parties are the most important ones to go to.

 

Michelle interrupts in exasperation, “Christ almighty, Clare, but I’d forgotten what a craic killer you are.”

 

Erin and James are hanging back a bit from the group, watching in amused silence. They’ve been doing that for a while now – to the point where Erin could almost call it a habit. It’s usually Michelle and Orla heading the pack, Orla dreamily absorbing Michelle’s daily chaotic ramblings while James and Erin wander behind, her hand occasionally brushing his (totally by accident of course), his hip nudging hers when Orla or Michelle say something particularly funny. She likes being in on the joke with him, so much so that Michelle has accused her on multiple occasions of being a right bore these days.

 

Tonight’s show is especially entertaining on account of Clare being back in town for the weekend. Erin’s missed her – missed this, the five of them properly together, wandering through town on foot to Jenny Joyce’s leavers party. The air is particularly warm, her mind feels pleasantly hazy from the vodka and for the first time in her adolescence she feels like she has no one to answer to.

 

“What are you thinking about?” James asks, his voice soft so as not to be overheard by the others.

 

That’s another habit they’ve developed – James will ask her what’s she’s thinking and she’ll tell him, no holds barred, no matter how menial or silly it might seem. He always accepts it, carefully, like she’s presenting him a gift just by telling him her thoughts. She likes that about him – she likes it a lot.

 

“I feel like we’re on the edge,” she admits. “And tonight we could be anybody or do anything.”

 

It sounds more profound in her head but James nods, smiling. “I feel that too.”

 

“Oi, ball aches,” Michelle shouts, aiming her gaze at them and gesturing to her vodka, “are you having any more of this or what?”

 


 

Jenny’s party is actually raging. Erin gets the impression that that wasn’t entirely Jenny’s intention when she opens the door to them looking particularly harassed.

 

“Oh, hi guys,” she says, her bright tone brittle and just a little too high pitched to be genuine. “I’m glad to see your invitations found you!”

 

“They didn’t,” Michelle says shortly, crossing the threshold before Jenny has a chance to invite them in. She looks around approvingly before commenting, “Class party, Jenny.”

 

For a moment, Jenny looks sincerely thrilled to be throwing a party that Michelle Mallon might consider class, but then a boy to the left of them that Erin has never seen before in her life starts projectile vomiting into an expensive looking umbrella stand and Jenny looks ever so slightly less thrilled.

 

“Aye, shame there’s no chocolate fountain, though,” Orla comments, looking disappointed.

 

“Anyhoo,” Jenny says, closing the door behind them. “Better get back to it.”

 

With that she scurries off towards what Erin remembers to be the kitchen, no doubt in search of cleaning supplies.

 

“Right,” Michelle says when they reach the drinks table, each of them taking a cup of punch, “it’s everyone’s job tonight to find Calvin O’Donnell and point him in my direction.”

 

“What’s so good about Calvin O’Donnell, Michelle?” Erin asks with a roll of her eyes. It’s not the first time she’s asked the question but she’s yet to get a satisfying answer. “He’s not even that good looking.”

 

“When did you become so picky?” Michelle asks with an eyebrow raise, glancing between Erin and James. That’s a habit Michelle’s developed of late too – subtly hinting at their kiss in Donegal without actually telling the rest of the group.

 

“Erin’s been off boys for a year,” Orla replies without hesitation, “she’s working on herself.”

 

Orla is quoting directly from Erin’s diary, a fact that would normally irritate Erin no end, except in this (and any) instance where there might be suspicion she has feelings for James and it provides her a suitable cover.

 

She swallows a large mouthful of punch uncomfortably at the thought. She’s been careful to avoid documenting any James related material since it happened, primarily because of Orla and her total lack of understanding of the meaning of the word privacy, but also in small part due to the fact she’s so torn over it. She feels lightheaded and her heart hammers when she remembers the feeling of his mouth on hers because, while it’s James – English, gangly, awkward, James – she can’t recall any other boy sending her into such a tailspin before. Part of her fantasises about that morning in Donegal, except instead of Michelle interrupting them, the kiss continues, deepening, her hands resting against his chest, his tracing her lower back before finding their way under her shirt -

 

She stops herself, taking another mouthful of punch. There’s always a point where she stops, remembering James is her friend – one of her best friends – and the idea of losing him if things went wrong is terrible. Imagining a world where he doesn’t walk beside her and trade amused comments and smiles – his eyes crinkling at the corners in the way she loves – physically hurts.

 

“Are you alright, Erin?” Clare asks, her face concerned for a moment.

 

“Grand,” Erin declares, downing the rest of her cup. “Let’s dance!”

 


 

The five of them take to the dance floor as man, I feel like a woman blares through the speakers, the four girls screaming the lyrics word for word, James laughing and shaking his head at them as they do.

 

By the time the song switches to Doctor Jones, Michelle is grinding against a boy who is decidedly not Calvin O’Donnell (and, in Erin’s opinion, is somehow still a downgrade). Orla wanders off, presumably in search of food. Clare, James and Erin remain, James miming the male part (to Clare and Erin’s delight). This continues with Barbie Girl, Clare making up for her time spent away and monopolising James’ attention, the two of them performing an amusing duet. Erin watches on, her heart swelling with the music and the alcohol and the fact that they’re all together -

 

A hand on her waist makes her start. She realises abruptly it’s a boy – a tall and unquestionably older boy – attempting to pull her towards him, his smile suggestive. Erin smiles back in what she hopes is a flattered, apologetic manner, making to move away, before he pulls her back again, flush against his body. She recognises the song he moves them to – your woman by white town. It’s a good song and it is just dancing, so she goes along with it. But then his mouth starts to trail down the back of her neck and she jerks away, this time in obvious discomfort.

 

Another hand comes to rest on her lower back, pulling her away – she doesn’t need to look to know it’s James’.

 

“What’s yer problem?” the boy shouts accusingly at James over the music. “You already have a bird.”

 

He gestures to Clare, who’s now sculling a glass of water at the drinks table.

 

She sees James open his mouth to reply on her behalf, his expression uncharacteristically angry and she knows how this ends: James being beaten within an inch of his life for being an English prick - an English prick with the audacity to stop an Irish lad from scoring an Irish girl, no less. Erin acts on instinct and does the first thing she can think of to stop him from speaking in his stupid, English accent – she kisses him.

 

He’s surprised at first – the same kind of surprise he had when this last happened – but then he’s pulling her closer, his mouth opening and she doesn’t have to fantasise any longer about what it’s like to properly kiss James Maguire, the music muted, the world stopped on its axis, her pulse thumping in her ears. She links her arms around his neck and pushes herself against him harder, barely caring who can see them, until –

 

Erin? James?”

 

They break apart, Clare looking at them both in shock.

 

The boy harassing Erin looks between Clare, James and Erin and says, “not worth it,” clearly deciding he doesn’t want to be involved in what he must assume is a sordid, love triangle.

 

“We were just-” James begins, clearing his throat, dropping his hands.

 

“Aye, we were-” Erin stalls, undecided exactly on what they were.

 

“Kissing,” Clare finishes for them. Her expression has shifted from shock to something almost smug. It panics Erin, that look – like it might mean that there’s some obvious attraction going on when in reality it is absolutely not obvious and absolutely not a good idea if they all want to remain friends.

 

“James was just saving me from that lad,” Erin says in feigned breeziness, not quite meeting Clare’s eye.

 

“Yeah,” James adds, although he doesn’t sound all that convincing.

 

“Right,” Clare says, clearly not sold.

 

Anyway, I need to piss, so…” Erin high tails it out of there, finding the staircase and taking the stairs two at a time. She hyperventilates as she reaches the second floor, the same pleasant haziness that’s permeated her evening now totally disorienting as her brain tries to understand what the fuck she just did.

 

What the fuck did you just do?

 

 She doesn’t really need to piss, but she continues the charade, standing in the hall down from the main bathroom where an array of people she doesn’t know are waiting to relieve themselves. She leans her head against the wall as she tries to slow her breathing. Her heart pounds with excitement but her mind races with panic, the phrase what the fuck did you just do bouncing around her skull.

 

She doesn’t want to risk her friendship with James (or anyone in the group, period). This she knows. Objectively. Still…

 

Still, the part of herself that she locked away on that morning in Donegal when she told James that Michelle was right (the part that fantasises about James more than a little bit, in a way that far surpasses anything she’s felt for any other boy in her life) breaks out of her imposed containment properly, pushing aside the fear she feels about losing him.

 

“Erin,” a soft voice interrupts her introspection, her heart somehow picking up its tempo with the realisation that it’s James and that he’s alone.

 

He leans his shoulder against the wall next to her, silent for a moment, the two of them indulging in their usual habit of observing others. She’s struck again by the fact that she recognises absolutely no one in the hall, their drunken chatter full of references to life outside of school, confirming Erin’s suspicions that word of Jenny Joyce’s party has spread across town like wildfire.

 

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” James’ voice is still soft, although there’s an edge of discomfort to it now too.

 

Erin looks up at him, dismayed he’s not meeting her eye, looking determinedly at his feet.

 

“Why are you apologising? I kissed you,” she says, confused.

 

“Yeah, but I…” He clearly struggles to articulate a polite way of saying stuck my tongue down your throat, his Adam’s apple bobbing in discomfort as he decides on, “responded.”

 

There’s a beat before Erin - in a voice as soft as his - admits, “I liked it.”

 

I like you, is what she really wants to say, as his eyes finally meet hers, his expression somewhat hopeful, his eyes imploring her to continue with her train of thought. She’s struck by how strong her desire is to kiss him, thinking she’s never wanted anything more in her entire life. The notion of their friendship dims the feeling for a moment, the same panic that drove her from the dance floor constricting her chest, but then James says, “I liked It too,” his thumb tracing her bottom lip and Erin’s just done, pulling his face to meet hers again, pleased there isn’t a single second of hesitation or surprise in his response this time.

 

He pushes her into the wall, his hand tracing the curve of her waist at first, before more firmly squeezing there, the other hand cupping her face. Erin lets out a contented sign despite herself, pushing back against him harder, her hands finding his shoulders and then the hair at the base of his skull. It’s not enough, not nearly enough, and Erin is almost relieved when a wolf whistle from the other occupants of the hall gives her an excuse to pull him into the first empty room she can find.

 

In retrospect, she’ll think she probably should have recognised the pink wallpaper and girly paraphernalia about the place – she’d been here before, after all, in a laughably contrary position. But it’s dark, save for the light from the street, and Erin is distracted.

 

They find themselves tangled on the bed, James on top of her, pressing himself into her in a way that she’s surprised to find feels even better than kissing. It takes James’ shirt to be completely unbuttoned and Erin’s top to be discarded over the edge of the bed for the thought to occur to her.

 

“Does that door have a lock?”

 

“Er,” James lifts his head from the crook of her neck and peers at the door, “I don’t think so.”

 

“Can we put the bedside table across it?”

 

James pauses, looking down at her, his expression suddenly serious, as if he’s just realised exactly where they are and exactly what they’re doing. “Are we…?”

 

“What?” Erin asks breathlessly, pushing her hair out of her face, frustrated with the sudden lack of contact.

 

“It just sounds like you’re saying you think we might… You know…” James frowns, obviously frustrated with his inability to say what he wants to say.  “I mean I didn’t drag you in here thinking that we’d do… That, you know…”

 

Erin didn’t either, to be fair, but the sudden insecurity that comes with his words – that he might not in fact want to sleep with her at all, ever – causes Erin’s face to flush with embarrassment, her voice unsteady and small as she asks, “would you not want to?”

 

“What?” James replies, before his face takes on an expression of horror, realising the conclusion Erin has drawn. “No, I mean, of course, I would, I really would, it’s just, fuck… What I’m trying to say is - I don’t want you to think that I would just assume that that’s what you would want, I mean-”

 

Erin grins, all embarrassment replaced with a warm, giddy feeling, her brain replaying his insistence of I really would a couple of times over, enjoying the implication more with each repeat that James would want to sleep with her. She’s suddenly struck with a somewhat intrusive realisation that she wants to sleep with James, and that she might want to do it tonight. She can see him still struggling with a way to word what she now realises is an attempt at respecting her virtue, or something equally stupid, and she pulls his face to hers again, kissing him so deeply that they both forget about the unlocked door situation and only revisit it again when Erin begins to slide her bra strap down her left shoulder, her mind – surprisingly - resolutely decided but her voice still a touch unsteady as she asks, “do you -” she pauses, forcing herself to say the actual words if she’s seriously considering the action behind them “- do you want to sleep with me?”

 

James looks taken aback, his eyes tracking her movements, his mouth parting slightly as her arm pulls free of its strap and she moves to pulling at the right side. “Like right now?”

 

She nods, her hands pausing, waiting for his response.

 

“Are you sure you want to?”

 

Erin is surprised again with the certainty she feels when she nods, leaning up slightly on her elbows and reaching behind her to unclasp her bra at the back. James eyes continue to follow her movements, his expression overcome when she discards her bra over the edge of the bed.

 

“If you’re sure, then… Yeah. Yes.

 

Erin looks him in the eye purposefully and says seriously, “I’m sure.”

 

James’ mouth drops to her chest, causing her to grasp his hair in her hand firmly, feeling almost embarrassed at the moan that comes out of her mouth (followed by a proper feeling of embarrassment when she remembers anyone could walk in at any moment).

 

“James,” she says firmly, pulling his mouth away from her chest, “door.”

 


 

In the time it takes James to move the bedside table from its position next to the bed to its new and improved position obstructing the door, Erin has pulled off her skirt and tights and has climbed underneath the covers, somewhat self-conscious. She hasn’t planned meticulously for this – which she supposes, is probably somewhat part of its appeal – but it also means she hasn’t carefully picked out her underwear or checked that she hasn’t missed that spot behind her knee she always misses when she shaves.

 

Sensing her discomfort, James hesitates on pulling back the covers. “We don’t have to-”

 

“I know,” she says, grabbing his hand. And she does know, truly, but she also wants to – and more than anything, she wants to give in to the part of herself that wants it.

 

“Do you have a condom?” she asks, pointedly. She’s actually a little bit surprised when he pulls one out of his wallet, finding she’s unable to stop herself from asking, “how long has that been in there?”

 

He gives her a look that she can’t quite interpret before he gives her an answer that explains the look entirely. “Michelle gives me a new one any time we go to a party.”

 

“She does not!” Erin exclaims.

 

“I wish I was lying,” he laughs, “She says it’s to stop the English breeding, but I think it’s mostly to make me feel uncomfortable about being a virgin.”

 

Erin feels emboldened with this admission – not that James has ever given her a reason to believe he’s already had sex, but she knows he can be secretive about certain things, their kiss in Donegal included.

 

He settles next to her under the covers, kissing her more softly than before, his hand tracing patterns on her stomach. He removed his pants and shirt before getting into bed and is subsequently as naked as she is, a fact that she’s acutely aware of as she pulls him closer to her, hand behind his neck, urging him on a bit. It doesn’t take that much encouragement before he’s rolled on top of her again, resting between her legs, his hand pulling at her thigh and his mouth at her neck. He grinds into her and she gasps, realising he’s hard against her and relishing the feel of it. They continue like that for quite some time, James occasionally stopping and working his way down her throat and past her collarbone before stopping at her breasts, his mouth encircling each nipple in turn. The third time he does it, he rolls off her slightly and his hand moves slowly down over her abdomen, stopping momentarily just at the waistband of her underwear, before dipping underneath, touching her slowly. It takes him a few minutes to work out what feels good, but when he does she bucks her hips, pulling his mouth back to hers, sucking at his bottom lip as he touches her. It builds over time into a sensation she’s only read about (and occasionally written about, before instantly shredding the evidence lest Orla or Ma Mary find it) rather than experienced, her legs trembling, her breathing fast.

 

James mouth moves back down to her breast, pressing kisses softly against her skin before swirling his tongue around her nipple. She can barely concentrate on exactly what he's doing, her senses overwhelmed, her left fist clenching the sheet beneath them. He moves lower with his fingers, pushing into her gently at first, before coming back up and touching her again, slowly, before building pace over time and then pushing back inside her. He repeats the process a few times, to the point Erin thinks her heart might actually explode out of her chest, but then -

 

“Fuck,” she gasps, the sensation peaking all at once, her mind suddenly blank with the intensity of it. She pushes James’ hand away several moments later, overly sensitive – he looks at her concerned for a second before she reassures him, laughing, “it’s grand, don’t worry.”

 

He smiles back at her and it’s all the incentive Erin needs to reach down, pushing her underwear down over her thighs. “Do you want to get the condom?”

 

Erin watches with equal parts curiosity, excitement and nervousness as James mirrors her actions, pushing his boxers down and reaching for the condom wrapper. She isn’t quite sure what to expect and is perhaps a little bit surprised when it appears he does in fact know how to put it on.

 

“Did Michelle walk you through it?” Erin asks in slight amusement.

 

He raises an eyebrow disbelievingly. “Maybe let’s not talk about Michelle right this second?”

 

“Aye, fair play,” Erin concedes, leaning forward to kiss him, exploring his mouth languidly to bring his attention back to where it was before. She lets her hand wander and returns the favour, his turn now to let out a string of expletives as she runs a hand along his length. It gives her a surge of confidence, enough that she pulls him back down against her.

 

“If it’s uncomfortable-” James begins but she cuts him off.

 

“I know,” she reassures him, “I’ll tell you.”

 

He seems assured, kissing her thoroughly, to the point that she feels breathless, before he presses himself into her slowly. It hurts more than she expects, and he clearly senses her muscles tensing, pausing to look at her critically. She pulls his mouth to hers once more, kissing him until she feels herself relax and then nodding her permission for him to push into her more deeply, the pain subsiding into a pressure. He thrusts experimentally and Erin nods.

 

“God, Erin,” he groans, burying his head in the crook of her neck, his movements less guarded. The pressure is still a bit uncomfortable, but she likes the closeness of it and how intense it feels - particularly when he lifts his head and kisses her, his mouth desperate for hers. He pulls at her thigh and, emblazoned with the feeling of having heard her name on his lips once already, she wraps her leg around him so he can thrust deeper, an action that causes her to gasp. It’s not the same as him touching her, but it’s enough that she knows it might be, if they did it again. She moves to kiss him this time, surprised with herself that she’s already considering that this might happen a second time – or a third even – when James comes, mouthing the word fuck against her throat. He pulls out of her to some protest – subsequently explaining why, her protests abating considerably - but lets his body collapse against hers, his head resting on her chest, mumbling an apology against her skin for not lasting longer. Erin shushes him, running her fingers through his hair, enjoying the feeling of his body returning to equilibrium against hers, his breathing slowing to normal, his heart – initially pounding against her abdomen – lessening in its intensity. She feels blissful – which is not a feeling she was warned to expect when Michelle regaled her with the details of her own sexual exploits.

 

After a few minutes – and with considerable difficulty - James pulls himself away, taking advantage of the wee bathroom to clean up. Erin watches him as he walks back towards the bed, thinking to herself, James is actually a bit of a ride. Despite her – now glaringly obvious – attraction to him, she realises that particular thought has never occurred to her before. When she had allowed herself to admit to it in the past, (mostly post-Donegal, but she’d had the odd thought before then to be sure) the word she’d used was handsome. Although back then she’d been applying words to a James who was fully clothed, which, when she thinks about it, really wasn’t a fair assessment.

 

James returns to the same position against her chest, oblivious to her internal musings and the fact that they’re making her blush.

 

“Can I ask you a question?” she says, running her hands through his hair once more.

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“How do you know how to… you know…?”

 

He lifts his head and raises an eyebrow at her in an indication he doesn’t know.

 

She huffs, hating that she’s forced to say the words out loud. “How do you know how to… get a girl off?

 

He rests his head back and sighs. “Being forced to listen to Michelle’s frankly offensive ranting has its uses.”

 

Erin giggles, properly amused that a large chunk of James’ sexual education has been informed by Michelle’s complaints about other members of his sex. “Remind me to thank her sometime.”

 

“Please don’t,” James says darkly. “Can you imagine? I’d never hear the end of it.”

 

Erin laughs again, tilting his chin upwards to catch a glimpse of the abject look of horror on his face; as she does, he reaches up and tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear gently, his look of horror turning to one of admiration, his mouth upturning at the corners into her favourite, wide smile, his eyes crinkling. Lying here in her totally blissed out, post-orgasm state, she’s never been less motivated to move in her life.

 

That is, until the previously closed door hits against the bedside table they’ve wedged against it with a surprisingly loud bang, followed by the unmistakeable voice of Jenny Joyce demanding, “Who’s in there?!”

 

Erin looks around wildly, wondering how the fuck it hasn’t occurred to her before now she’s not actually in one of the million spare bedrooms she discovered last time – she’s not even in the master bedroom, which all things considered, would probably be preferable to her current situation – she’s in Jenny’s bedroom, in Jenny’s bed, with James, naked.

 

“Fuck,” she shrieks, as they both jump, scrambling for lost items of clothes. Erin’s panic hardly helps her in her efforts to get dressed, and she’s barely pulled her underwear on before Jenny clearly decides she’d rather destroy the door and whatever furniture is wedged against it than put up with another minute of party chaos, banging the door against the bedside table forcefully to allow her more leverage to shift it.

 

“Where the fuck is my bra?” Erin exclaims in a whisper. James mouths I don’t know, his panic mirroring hers, fishing through the sheets frantically, his jeans evidently still unbuttoned.

 

“Fuck,” Erin mutters, extending the word for emphasis, only just locating it under the quilt and hooking it over her shoulders as Jenny pushes the bedside table with a groan against the hardwood floor, allowing enough of a gap in the door to push herself through.

 

Erin has approximately one second to take inventory of their state of dress – James is faring better than she is, but his shirt and pants are decidedly unbuttoned and his hair is a mess. Erin hasn’t made it any further past her bra and underwear, grabbing desperately for a pillow in lieu of actual clothes, patting her hair down with her hand lest it look as bad as James’.

 

“Did you…? In my room…?” Jenny looks between the bed and the two of them a few times before something inside her clearly breaks and she shouts, “get the fuck out of my house!”

 

Erin drops the pillow, grabbing at her shirt and pulling it over her head. She shrugs into her skirt as Jenny continues to shout obscenities at the two of them, James pulling at her arm, his voice urgent in her ear, “come on, Erin.”

 

She leaves her tights, pulling her shoes on over her bare feet. Jenny follows the two of them down the stairs and into the living room before descending on Orla and Clare, who are at the drinks table, watching Jenny march towards them in confusion.

 

“You as well,” Jenny shouts, grabbing them by the arms and pushing them towards Erin and James. She looks around the room wildly before spotting Michelle, who’s pushed up against a wall by the lad she was dancing with earlier and otherwise occupied, until Jenny pulls the lad back by his shirt collar.

 

“Oi,” Michelle exclaims.

 

Out!” Jenny shouts, in a voice that even Michelle understand shouldn’t be messed with, pulling her by the arm and frog marching her to the others before directing them out the front door.

 

“Don’t ever come back here!” she shouts in parting, slamming the door in their faces.

 

“What the fuck was all that about?” Michelle demands, looking to the others.

 

Erin is freezing – her jacket is still in the coat cupboard, and she has goose bumps on her bare legs. She crosses her arms, trying to pretend she’s not shaking and says in feigned indignation. “I have no idea!”

 

“I did eat quite a few canapes,” Orla admits.

 

“Maybe she realised she didn’t invite us after all,” Clare says.

 

James scratches the back of his head, shrugging and offering weakly, “she seemed quite anxious about all the people in her house – maybe she was just looking for someone to take it out on?”

 

“But why us specifically?” Clare says, perturbed. She looks between James and Erin a few times before asking, “where were you two?”

 

Erin says “bathroom” at the same time that James says “kitchen.”

 

“And what, Jenny just marched up to you and told you to leave? Randomly?”

 

“Yep,” Erin says, before adding pointedly, “quite in the same way she did to you, Clare.”

 

“Aye, Jenny is well odd,” Michelle concludes, before moving on, clearly uninterested in the workings of Jenny’s mind, “well come on then, we better find somewhere else to drown our sorrows.”

 

“Do we have sorrows to drown, Michelle?” Orla asks curiously.

 

“We bloody well do - Calvin O’Donnell wasn’t at that party.”

 

“Ach, you looked really cut up about it, Michelle,” Clare says pointedly.

 

James and Erin take their usual position at the back of the group, lagging ever so slightly further behind than usual. When Erin catches a glimpse at James, he’s grinning at her.

 

Shut up,” she says, a grin pulling at her own lips.

 

He nods, looking back down at the ground a bit sheepishly, his hands in his pockets, but the grin remains. “I assume we’re never telling anyone the real reason Jenny kicked us out of her house?”

 

“Never,” Erin agrees. “It goes with us to the grave.”

 

They walk along in contented silence for a bit before it must become obvious to James that Erin is freezing her tits off, because he rounds on her, blocking her from view from the others.

 

“What are yer doing?”

 

He takes his coat off and puts it around her shoulders.

 

Erin nestles into it, trying to get warm, before looking up at him and admitting softly, “tonight was really nice.”

 

“It was,” James agrees, smiling at her before surprising her by saying, “I’m glad it was you, by the way.”

 

“You’re glad what was me?”

 

“I’m glad it was you I lost my virginity to in Jenny Joyce’s house, and not Katya,” he flushes a bit when he says it, but he’s still smiling none the less, “I probably owe you some thanks for putting a stop to that.”

 

“Aye, so you do,” Erin says with a soft laugh, although her expression is serious when she adds, “I’m glad it was you too, you know.”

 

She can’t help but think he looks the happiest she’s ever seen him when she says that, and for a moment the two of them just stand there, looking at each other, Erin wondering if James is going to take another of her firsts, in the form of some kind of love declaration or something, when -

 

“You two are so fucking slow!” Michelle shouts from a distance, “hurry up, there’s drinking to be done!”