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Orla Finds Out

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July 1998


"Erin's out love," Mary said, as Orla ambled into the Quinn's kitchen. "Her and wee James are out working on their second Oscar winning script."

"Aye, the first one was cracker. This one I'm sure will be even better."

Mary rolled her eyes but didn't chastise her, Sarah's wean was really in her own world. Orla on the other hand was a little sad, Erin and James had been working on this script for weeks now, she had barely seen them. She didn't even know where they worked on it, they weren't at Aunt Mary's and they didn't seem to be at the Mallon's either. Where else in Derry was there? You couldn’t write a script on the walls could you?

Without much more of a word, she headed upstairs into Erin's room. It was a bit of a mess and it took a bit of searching but she found what she was looking for jammed under the loose floorboard between Erin's desk and the wardrobe. Really, who hid a good book like this under a loose floorboard? It's almost as if Erin didn't want her to read it. Orla thought on this for a moment, pulling a Chomp from her pocket. Erin was a writer though, she had made that clear many times, and what sort of writer doesn't want you to read their books? It was silly really, hiding this away.

It was a new diary, and had a weird lock on the front. Maybe it was a puzzle. It took a little wiggling but eventually the thing popped open and Orla was finally able to read the book. Perhaps this added to the excitement of Erin's normally quite over the top writing style, having to break in like a secret agent. She'd have to let her know it was.

She flicked through, looking for the most interesting bits. Erin didn't half babble on about not very much sometimes. Maybe that was what writers did?


"22nd August —

Mammy would go spare but we got picked up by the Peelers yesterday. Accused us of stealing computer equipment! Us! All we did was help load it into the van (by accident), and they caught the fellas that did it. Thank god for Uncle Colm, something I never thought I'd commit to paper. Really bailed us out of trouble there.


Can't believe Orla got the same grades as me! How! She's so... Orla!"


Orla was so Orla, she agreed. Who else would she be? Seemed silly to think she might not be herself and achieve exactly what she wanted to achieve. She thumbed through the next sections. A bit about their Stars in their Eyes performance. Bit about her Mam wanting to beat her to being the first person in the family to go to University, though Orla thought that was a bit unfair as she would surely know now that she’d be joint second with Orla herself in September if things went well. She didn't even get a mention! Second was a decent showing regardless.

The next couple pages were the usual stuff but then she hit a particularly long entry.


"3rd September —

So, we nearly killed James.

Got you! Good stories need a strong opening!

Sister Michael has asked us to clear out her Aunts house for her and obviously wanting to remain in her good graces we agreed. Seemed like a cracker way to have a few drinks, Michelle wanted to meet some Donegal rides (and Clare their famous lesbian farmers). James made a comment about wanting to pick up girls which is absolutely gross. James! All curly hair and green eyes and soft smiles, like a Donegal farmer girl is going to like that! Perv.

He is the one who can drive though, so he took the school van and we headed into the Free State. We did get slightly lost largely because nobody can speak Irish that well and Sister Michael's directions weren't that clear, though we have found it now. Creepy place.

Anyway, James stopped the van and somehow forgot to put the wee brake thing on. The one with the handle. He managed to basically run himself over with the van which must be a world first.

I was We were so worried about him, we had to carry him to this creepy house and for a time we thought he might be dead or concussed or something. He was okay, said something about a tunnel and a light? Who knows what goes on in that boys head. Just last week he was raring on about hot air balloons or something. Getting all cute and over excited about it.

We found some creepy messages and have holed up in the bedroom for now. Hopefully we will stay awake, firstly to avoid ghosts but secondly because I think Orla will want to sleep next to me and she has a tendency to spoon me in her sleep. Hope nobody snores."


Orla remembered that night, it was a real cracker. It had been a couple years ago now, before they had turned 18 and before The Big Vote. She liked the spooky house even though it turned out it was just some man’s house and he wasn’t that spooky at all. Sleeping in that big bed had been class, she didn’t know what Erin was complaining about with her spooning. It was nice to have a wee cuddle in the night she thought, especially when there were potentially ghosties and spirits about. She read on.


4th September —

OH MY ACTUAL GOD. I don’t know how to write this down. I can’t. Maybe I shouldn’t? I should. It’s important. I hope no one reads this. THIS MEANS YOU ORLA. I’ll have to hide my diary.

First: a small correction. 31 st August last year I stated John-Paul O’Reilly (wanker) had kissed me, and he did. On the cheek. I had previously been stating it was my “first kiss” but it wasn’t really. Not compared to.. well.

Before that though, I just need to say that we are sorry to the man who’s house we may have accidentally broken into. It was a genuine accident.

I got up early because, as previously stated, Orla was spooning me. The house was a different place in the daylight and significantly less spooky. I went to look downstairs to see if there was anything to eat and ended up looking at all the old photos .

James came down next, his hair was all mussed up from sleep and looking quite cute but he started to tell me something. I thought it was going to be about that hot air balloon again, stupid Erin. But it wasn’t, it was when his life had flashed before his eyes, he was all nervous stumbling over his words, and he’d been thinking about the things he’d not told people. Like the fact that HE LIKES ME. I didn’t know what to say. He said he’d liked me for a long time, and that he thought I was beautiful and it was just so... everything.

This is James! I know he saved me at the prom, and I have noticed recently that he is… a small bit… just a little bit… of a ride handsome. In his own way. I’ve certainly not thought about him like that. Not that much anyway. Just occasionally.  He was so sweet. He wasn’t expecting me to do anything I guess. But I had too, him turning away, he wasn’t leaving me like that after dropping that much of a bombshell.

So. I kissed him. James. I kissed James. I kissed James. And not on the cheek. There were tongues and everything. It was… it was. Well. It was electric that’s the only word I can come up with. I’ll need to get better at writing this sort of thing if I want to be a proper writer. If this is what all kissing is like then I have been missing out because wow. JPO’R (wanker) you are very much dropped from my “first kiss” stories in the future because I don’t think the real thing could have gone much better.

It could have gone better though because Michelle walked in on us and she was absolutely ripping. I’ve never seen her so furious. Told us we couldn’t get together, even though we aren’t together, because if we did get together, we would break up and then she’d have to not talk to me as I’d be her cousins ex-girlfriend or something. She denied everything when Clare and Orla arrived and I’m glad she did because it was awkward enough her knowing let alone the rest of them.

I didn’t know what to do. I love Michelle but I clearly love like James too. Like, a lot. And in a very different way. I had to let him down, and I think I might cry about it. He was so sweet, like he always is. He told me he would “wait” and I hope that I know what that means. It’s all such a mess.

I feel like I’m seeing him in a totally different light now. Maybe I’ll think about him some more now? Like not all the time, that would be obsessive, but you know. Just a bit more than occasionally. From time to time.

I hope he waits.”


Erin and James kissing! How did she not know about this! Orla was genuinely surprised by her reaction, a mixture of confusion and joy. 

James was always so nice to her and she liked him a lot, so the fact he really liked Erin was brilliant. Maybe they would get married and they’d be able to hang around together forever. She hadn’t considered it before but she had noticed Erin had seemed to have gone cold on the boys in the last year or so. No chasing the usual Derry lads she normally went after. Maybe this was what it was all about. But since their joint 18th she had been so happy, despite constantly sneaking off to work on this script. Had something happened? Had they worked it out between them? Maybe that explained where they had been all this summer. So much for a script maybe they were sneaking off together. Orla grinned at this information. Finally some leverage for Erin to lend her that cracker jacket she owned. Michelle was totally wrong then too, James and Erin being together was great, she'd argue that all day long. It would be so good!

Orla hoped they'd worked it out. It’d be absolutely cracker.

She couldn’t wait to tell her Ma.