Actions

Work Header

But it's bad and it's mad/ And it's making me sad/ Because I can't be with you

Work Text:

So today was . . . Completely fucking mental.

I’ll never forget it.

I suppose it was memorable for a number of reasons, objectively speaking.

1/ We were attacked by the hammer-wielding ghost of our headmistress’ aunt’s husband.

2/ We bravely succeeded in subduing our foe, only to discover that he was not in fact a ghost named Robert, nor any relation of Sister Michael’s at all, but a (living) man called Declan, who was in the process of moving house.

3/ Sister Michael, thank Christ, managed to dissuade Robert Declan (who was absolutely raging, as if it wasn’t a mistake anybody could make!) from calling the Gardaí, by resorting to pity. Apparently, in the Republic, being from Derry isn’t considered a good thing (?)

4/ Because our only means of transportation back to Derry was out of action (seriously, Michelle, slagging off the Devil when we’d already been warned!?), we were forced to spend our entire Saturday with our headmistress, first tidying the dead aunt’s house (the right house this time), then awkwardly hanging around the wake of a woman we’d never met. The best thing I can say about that is it wasn’t as humiliating as our last wake, and nobody, to my knowledge, got their food spiked with anything illegal . . . Although Sister Michael actually looked fairly blocked by the end (which I think was overall a good thing, because so did Michelle, and I suspect it prevented her from noticing).

So, as a result of the above, we’re now spending a second night in Donegal. The good news is: this house, at least, doesn’t appear to be haunted. The bad news; it has Sister George Michael.

George (I’m sure it’s grand for me to call her that, seeing as it’s the weekend) says we’re “not wanted or needed” at the funeral tomorrow (which after everything we’ve done to help out I think is nothing short of ungrateful) so I suppose we’ll just have to wait around the house until that’s all done with and George (OK, I’ll admit it does feel a bit strange) can drive us back to Derry. That’ll be great craic. Michelle’s been trying to persuade us to find out if we can get a bus instead, and honestly, I’m tempted. Clare disagrees though – she doesn’t think we’re capable of surviving in the Gaeltacht by ourselves, due to our lack of Irish – and in fairness, she might have a point there too. She also pointed out that the last time we were stranded in the countryside, we killed a sheep, were chased by a band of gypsies Travellers, and spent most of the journey cacking ourselves over the possibility of being attacked by a polar bear. Michelle countered that the sheep "would have eventually been mutton anyway", that the Travellers "were a class group of lads who even offered to take James off our hands for good", and that "that fat furry Polish fuck has been recaptured, and if it ever escapes and tries to ruin any more cracker concerts, I swear to God I'll kill it with my own two hands". They argued about it for a while, and things were getting quite shrill, until George (ach, I can’t do it, Sister Michael!) came upstairs and banned us from talking, along with walking, step aerobics (Orla was at it again), and breathing too loudly. For once, I felt grateful to the old bag. It gave me time to think, and to write this. And I need to think. I really need to think.

Because, you see, the truly memorable thing that happened today, the thing I know for sure I’ll never forget, wasn’t being attacked by a ghost, or the ex-ghost (assumed ghost?) accusing us of theft, or the world’s longest wake. It actually happened before all of those things, and honestly nothing that has happened since has even felt real. . . OK, maybe excepting the ghost attack, when we were all cacking ourselves because we thought we were going to die (I mean, come on, the fella had an actual hammer!).

Anyway, my point is, I can’t stop thinking about it.

I still can hardly believe it now, writing it.

James told me he liked me. And then I kissed him. And he kissed me back. And it was . . . sort of perfect, actually.

As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time imagining my first kiss. Even practicing it, information which sadly is no longer just between you and me (thanks a lot Orla!).

I’ve imagined kisses under the stars, kisses in the rain, kisses at prom, kisses at the city walls, kisses inspired by the beauty of my poetry . . . And yeah, even just shifting with David Donnelly or John Paul O’Reilly or Conor Coyle in the back row of the cinema or at some house party like Michelle does all the time – no, I’m not proud of it, but I’m seventeen and had never been kissed before today, give me a break!

I’d never imagined it the way it happened though.

I’d never imagined it with James.

Except, thinking about it now, I’m not sure that’s true.

Just the thought should be laughable. James is a Derry girl, he’s English, and he’s one of my best friends. The fella pissed into a bin right in front of me on the first day we met, for God’s sake!

But for a while now . . . It’s not that I’ve been fantasising about kissing James. But I’ve definitely not thought about shifting David Donnelly or Conor Coyle or John Paul O’Reilly in a long time. OK, the last one’s understandable, given he’s a massive arsehole. But even my daydreams about Zack from Saved by the Bell seem to have dropped right off recently. Instead, when I think about kissing, it’s always with some nameless, faceless boy who just so happens to have curly hair. Or green eyes. Or an English accent. Shit. Since when do I fantasise about an English accent!?

Seeing all this written down on paper, I sound like a right dose. If this diary was a novel, I’d be reading it and laughing at the silly critter who obviously is in love with fancies her best friend.

But honestly, that’s not it. I’ve not been in denial. After all, I’m extremely self-aware. Self-knowledge is integral to being a great artist. “To thine own self be true”, as Hamlet said. At least I think it was Hamlet. Better ask Clare.

OK, so Clare claims it was some fella called Polonius. That can’t be right. Never heard of him. Maybe Clare’s lying because she’s annoyed I woke her up to ask? On the other hand, she’s actually read Hamlet . . . Whatever, it’s still Shakespeare, and he was pretty smart, for an Englishman.

Anyway. I think I’m getting distracted. Procrastinating.

I suppose it’s just hard to put it into words without sounding like I have been in denial.

Because the thing is, I’ve cared about James for a long time now. I know that. It’s been almost a year, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt that day, when he told us he was leaving. Like I couldn’t breathe – and I don’t mean not breathing in an Orla for Children in Need sort of way – I mean like I’d actually forgotten how. There were a million things I wanted to tell him, to make him stay, but I couldn’t even manage to say goodbye. I still think about that sometimes. What if Michelle hadn’t gone after him? What if he’d gone back to London and I’d never seen him again?

The letter I wrote to him that day. It’s still here, in this diary. I’ve never shown it to James, or to anyone. I’m not sure I ever will. But I look at it sometimes, to remind myself. That he’s still here, that he’s one of us, a Derry girl. And that I’ll never let him forget it, how important he is to us. How important he is to me.

So it’s not like I’ve been lying to myself, about how much I care about James. But I thought it was because he’s my best friend, a Derry girl, one of the gang. And all of that’s true, of course it is.

But it’s also more than that. It has been for a while now.

When I think back to last summer, and all the time we spent making our wee film – the final product didn’t work out quite as planned, if I’m honest, but I had a lot of fun, and I think a big part of that was because of James. It was nice for once to not to be the only one excited to work on something creative. I mean, the whole thing was James’ idea, and I was obviously the main artistic vision behind it all, but the others were . . . less dedicated. Michelle spent most of the time complaining that we were wasting a summer when we should be “getting blocked and riding cock”, a sentence I could happily go my entire life without ever hearing again, and Orla was Orla – she spent most of our first day of filming pretending to be a pigeon (?). In fairness, Clare was pretty keen at first, but the closer we got to results day the more she crumbled into permanent cack-attack mode – in the end, Michelle dissolved three sleeping tablets in her Football Special, which gave us ten hours relief, but led to a wee bit of an argument when she woke up. Anyway, what this all meant was that often the others would do their own thing and it was just me and James James and I – and that was . . . different. A nice different. Other than at the prom, we’d never really hung out by ourselves before, and I’d be excited to do so in a way I’d never be if it were just Clare or Michelle or Orla. We’d bicker a lot about the script and camera angles, but even that was sort of fun. Also, I kind of liked that James had become confident enough to stand up for himself – he never used to be.

Not that he’s not still easy to get a rise out of. I’ve always enjoyed teasing James – I mean, I’m not Michelle, it’s not my favourite hobby – but I get why she loves it so much. His reactions are so entertaining, much more satisfying than Clare getting all shrill and outraged, or Orla, who usually doesn’t even realise I’m taking the piss. James, though, offers much more variety. Sometimes he’s apologetic, other times he looks like a kicked puppy, occasionally he even loses it completely and rants like Mammy does when she’s had enough of us all. But whatever his reaction, he always sounds so earnest; his face always shows exactly what he’s feeling, even though he’s had years of us taking the piss at this point and must know we don’t mean anything by it. I suppose he’s just a very authentic person. It’s sort of cute, to be honest. Cute. James Maguire is cute. How long have I thought of him in those terms?

Much longer than just since last summer, now that I think about it.

Even going back to the night of the prom, I remember thinking he looked handsome, with his curls all slicked back and wearing his wee scarf.

I thought it was going to be the worst night of my life. Sitting in the kitchen in that stupid dress that didn’t fit me, that I’d bought to impress a boy who didn’t even like me, I felt like the biggest dose in Derry.

And then the doorbell rang, and James was there, and everything was just . . . better.

The moment I saw him, I knew there was no-one in the world I’d rather be standing on my doorstep. Even David Duchovny, or Zack from Saved by the Bell.

OK, maybe David Duchovny. We’ll call it a draw.

My point is, I wasn’t disappointed it was James and not John Paul, not even for a second.

We had such a good time that night, even with the whole Mae/tomato juice incident. I told myself then it was because he’s one of my best friends, someone I felt completely comfortable with. That was definitely part of it. But when I think of the way he looked at me when I came back downstairs in my Easter dress, I know now that definitely wasn’t all of it.

I felt beautiful that night because of James. No boy had ever made me feel that way before. It’s a really good feeling.

I felt it again today, when he told me I was beautiful, before we kissed.

I don’t think it’s something anyone’s ever actually said that to me. Well maybe Mammy or Daddy, once or twice, but they don’t count (although, y’know, I could still stand to hear more often?).

I suppose I’m OK looking. Even Michelle has said before that if I’d only change around eighty percent of my personality, I’d be a ride. But when every boy I’ve ever shown an interest in has ignored me, or turned me down, it’s hard to feel that way.

Or at least it was.

But now I know that James thinks I’m beautiful even when I’m wearing ratty pyjamas and haven’t showered in over a day.

And I now also know that he thought I was beautiful almost a year ago, with my eyes red from crying and wearing a dress I’d rejected for not being pretty enough. In fact, I think I knew he was thinking it even then.

Because that’s another thing James told me this morning, that he’s liked me a long time.

That shocked me when he said it, but now I’ve thought about it, it does sort of make sense. There were signs, I just didn’t want to see them. In hindsight, he must have liked me since at least the time of the prom.

Even back then, part of me wondered. How could I not? James had been banging on about his creep convention for weeks, but he’d missed it, for me. If it had been anyone but James, I’d have said it was easily the most romantic thing anybody has ever done for me. And deep down, although I wouldn’t even let myself think it, I knew it still probably was.

But he’d have done it for any of us, I told myself. And aye, that’s probably true. James is a pretty class friend like that.

But then again, he didn’t for Clare? She’d asked him to be her date, but even though he’d said he was sorry, he didn’t offer to sack off his creep convention then. And yeah, the circumstances were different; Clare had plenty of time to find another date for one thing. She wasn’t sitting in her kitchen like a loser, trying not to cry, while all her friends were having the time of their lives at the dance.

Still. James had cancelled his plans, for me – not Clare, or anybody else. And that made me feel happy, even though I couldn’t quite put a finger on why.

I told myself it was because it felt good to have a friend who cared about me so much that he’d give up something he’d been looking forward to for ages, just to make me feel better. I told myself that was the reason I’d been feeling weird in the days leading up to the prom, about James not being there, because he was my friend and it wouldn’t have been the same without him. All of that was true, but it definitely wasn’t the whole truth.

The whole truth is this: I think I might have liked James for a long time too.

Jesus, even when I think back to Katya . . . If you’d told me then that I was jealous of her because of James I’d have laughed in your face. Sure, I knew how it looked. I’d seen enough rom-coms. But I told myself that wasn’t it. Stopping Katya from sleeping with him had nothing to do with jealousy. I just wanted to prevent James from doing something he’d regret, with someone who didn’t care about him.

Which, incidentally, I still stand by. Even if she wasn’t actually a prostitute, but I’m at least 70% certain I didn’t actually call her that anyway.

And OK, maybe I could also admit, even then, that I didn’t want James to have his first time without before me.

That none of the others gave a shit about any of that should probably have been a hint. And aye, it all seems obvious now, why I cared so much, when they didn’t. Why James kissing Katya made me want to boke, why the thought of him kissing any other girl still does.

But the thing is, it wasn’t obvious. For one thing, if I have a flaw, it’s that I’ve always been a wee bit too possessive protective of my friends. Seriously, though, can you blame me? They’re all liabilities! I mean, Michelle would start a fight with a lamp post, James would somehow lose the fight with the lamp post, Clare would start cacking herself and run headfirst into a second lamp post, and Orla would probably congratulate the lamp post(s) for managing to beat us up!

So really, it’s up to me to look out for them all, and while occasionally – very, very rarely – I may take it a bit too far, I’m usually right to worry about them. Exhibit A: Mae. Aye, I may have behaved like a bit of an arsehole . . . but, at the end of the day, I wasn’t wrong about her. So I suppose I’ve always thought of the Katya incident as the same kind of situation – whilst it might have looked, to an outsider, as though I were jealous, really I was just worried for my friend.

In hindsight, though, that’s pretty much all balls.

Sure, I was trying to look out for James, but the reason I was so concerned, when I’ve never cared about Michelle shifting fellas by the dozen . . . Well, it pretty much boils down to jealousy. I just didn’t realise it was jealousy.

I mean, it still feels sort of crazy to even acknowledge that I like him, to be honest.

I’ve had crushes before, but the boys I’ve liked were nothing like James. In fact, he’s almost the exact opposite of the kind of fella I usually like. It’s no wonder I didn’t realise how I felt. James, on paper, should not be someone I fancy.

The boys I’ve liked before, like David Donnelly or Conor Coyle or John Paul, they were cool. They’re in bands or play rugby or date models. James, objectively speaking, is not cool. He’s not in a band, would probably die if he ever attempted to play rugby, and he’s definitely never dated a model. He likes Doctor Who and Take That and The Princess Bride. (Although, I also like Take That and The Princess Bride. Hell, even Doctor Who wasn’t that bad when James made us watch it that time – those evil levitating dustbins were hilarious. Shit. Am I also not cool?). He’s also not what you’d call classically masculine, unlike those other lads – I mean, he literally attends a girls’ school! In fact, I’m fairly confident Michelle, Clare, Orla, and I could all beat him in a fight, given James is scared of pretty much everything we encounter – soldiers, my Granda, Big Mandy, ghosts, gypsies Travellers. I’m pretty sure Granda still thinks he’s gay, which given he’s dressed up as Scary Spice, and Daphne from Scooby Doo, and has worn mascara on at least four different occasions in the last year, is an understandable mistake. And then there’s the whole English thing. Before I met James, I’d have said that was enough to put me off on its own.

Now though . . . none of these things matter to me anymore. I don’t care that he’s not cool. None of my friends or family are, and they’re the people I love most in the world. And I kind of like that he has a feminine side. It means he fits in naturally as one of the girls, even though I definitely see him as more than that. As for the English thing – well, it’s still great craic to tease him about it – but it’s something I stopped caring about a long time ago. We all did. Also, I don’t quite know how or when it happened, but I’ve come to really like his accent. It’s part of who he is, and honestly, I wouldn’t change anything about him.

OK, that sounds really corny, and is definitely not something I’d ever say out loud, but the thing is, I know he feels the same way about me.

With James, I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. He’s seen me angry and in tears and sick and hungover and clattered in tomato juice and boking into a toilet after too much of Michelle’s vodka. And he still likes me, just the way I am. When I think about that, it feels pretty amazing, to be honest. But it’s made things confusing too, because normally when I like a boy, I feel like I’m going to cack myself whenever I’m within ten metres of them. Around James, though, I feel comfortable. Like myself. And just sort of happy, really.

Jesus Christ, I’m going to have to sleep with this diary from now on, because if Orla finds this entry and shows it to the others, I think I might actually die.

Anyway, I think it’s because I feel so comfortable around James, that this whole having feelings for him thing has really caught me unawares. Because whilst it might seem obvious, now, that I’ve liked him for a while, it’s not felt like any crush I’ve had before, and so I didn’t realise to was a crush at all – and that’s why, when James told me he liked me this morning, it still wasn’t something I was expecting.

In my defence, he told a while to get to the point. He was talking about all the things he hadn’t done, and not wanting to have any regrets, and I honestly thought he was banging on about hot air balloons again (he was really mad for them at one point), until he came out and said it.

Well, what he actually said was “I like me, Erin”, but I got the gist.

In hindsight, he must have been broke to the bone, but I can’t say I even noticed. I was in too much shock. It was like the day he almost left Derry. I couldn’t say a word.

And James kept on talking, saying all those wonderful things, about having liked me for ages, and thinking I was beautiful. He said I didn’t have to say anything, and I still couldn’t. I wanted to, though. I really wanted to. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always regretted that I never said more, the day James almost left. Unfortunately, my voice still wasn’t working. So I had to let him know how I felt another way.

Like I said, I’ve imagined my first kiss a lot.

But this was so much better.

This was James.

It was nothing like the kisses I’d imagined under the stars, or in the rain, or up on the city walls – it was just my best friend and me, in our pyjamas, in the dusty old living room of a probably haunted house.

It was a kiss with someone who I know cares about me, properly cares about me. And I know that whatever happens, I’ll never regret that my first kiss was with someone like that.

Also – and yes, I know I don’t have much to compare it to – James is a really good kisser.

Once he started kissing me back, I didn’t want him to stop. I don’t know if we would have stopped.

Only we were so caught up in it all, we didn’t even hear Michelle coming downstairs. Until, that is, she started yelling at us and accusing us of incest. Which, as James rightly pointed out, was simply factually incorrect. As, incidentally, were her allegations that we had only kissed in the first place due to concussion (James) and possession by malevolent spirits (me).

Unfortunately, the rest of what Michelle said sounded a lot less crazy. She said that if we got together, we’d break up, and what then? She’d be forced to choose between us, and best friend or not, family comes first.

I’m not going to lie, that scared me. It scared me because it made me start thinking.

Most first relationships – hell, most teenage relationships, full stop – don’t last.

Five minutes previously, I hadn’t even realised that I fancied James.

Now I was having to confront what that meant. If I made the wrong choices, I could lose Michelle. I could lose James. Our whole group could be torn apart.

I didn’t have time to process much more than that, because Michelle’s rant was interrupted by the arrival of Orla and Clare. Did they hear any of it? I’m not sure, but they must have realised something was up. They might even have confronted us, but it was at that moment the raging Robert Declan appeared, and by the time he started breaking down the front door with his hammer, it’s fair to say all thoughts of what had just happened had vanished – even mine.

But whilst Sister Michael’s uncharacteristically timely arrival probably saved our arses, the fact that the imminent prospect of all our deaths had rescinded, meant that ten minutes or so later, I was back to thinking about James. And they weren’t happy thoughts.

I knew I had to be realistic. My history of success with boys was fairly dire, if I was honest. Dire, as in the boys I like tend to end up standing me up on what is meant to be the most romantic night of my life, or rejecting me only to start dating my traitorous Ukrainian former houseguest. Taking that into account, the odds of things actually working out with James, given everything we’d have going against us – angry cousins, potentially ruined friendships, the whole English/Irish Romeo/Juliet factor etc. – were probably quite slim. And if they didn’t . . .

I thought of Michelle again, then. It was difficult not to, considering her words were still echoing in my head. Now Michelle gets angry a lot, but I’d rarely seen her so raging. That only tends to happen when she’s hurt.

She wasn’t the only one who’d been upset – I’m not going to lie, when she’d said she’d pick James over me, it had stung a bit – we’ve been best friends since we were three (!) – but now I had time to think about it more rationally, I understood. I’d do the same for Orla, dickhead though she is. How could I begrudge James that, when his own ma had never once put him first? No, I was happy for James, that he now had family in his life who would always choose him, even if it meant choosing him over me. Michelle would never admit it, but it’s obvious how much she loves him. She might give him more shit than anyone, but he’s as much her brother as Niall is. Maybe even more, considering. As for James, well, Michelle’s more his family than his ma ever was. We all are. Although, shite, that does sound a little weird now that I know what kissing him feels like. Is that what Michelle meant by incest? Bokeorama.

Anyway, the point is, I understood why Michelle was so upset. Even if things did work out between us, things would change for her. And if they didn’t, well, she’d spelt out what would happen pretty clearly. Michelle would stick with James, Orla would stick with me, and poor Clare would be caught in the middle (and probably die of heart failure from all the stress, the critter). The whole gang, my best friends in the world, would be split up, maybe for good. Whatever I feel for James, is it really worth risking all that?

Bizarrely, it was Orla I thought of then. I was pretty sure she hadn’t realised what was up earlier, but she’d known something was. Orla’s more sensitive than people think. And she hates conflict. Not being attacked by ghosts or polar bears kind of conflict – she thinks that’s cracker – but emotional conflict. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why she spends so much time in her own little world, because it’s a sort of safe place for her, where she can escape all the arguments and bickering. If the gang ended up splitting up because James and I did, she’d be heartbroken. And even if we didn’t break up    . . . I’m just not sure she’d understand us being together in the first place. Orla doesn’t really ‘get’ romance – I mean, she took Granda to the prom, for God’s sake! Would it all be too much change for her? Forget breaking up, could just us being together ruin things for the whole group?

Clare would probably think so. Much as part of me liked to think at least one of my friends would be supportive, I knew I had to be realistic – if Derry run an annual competition for Miss Shite-the-Tights, our Clare would have the title wrapped up every year. If she even suspected James and I had kissed, she’d probably still be having the world’s longest cack attack, and panicking about who got to be godmother to our future children if we stayed together, and who got to keep Orla if we got divorced! But even if she’d be panicking about all the wrong things, that didn’t mean she was wrong to panic . . .

I thought again of the look on Michelle’s face when she’d found us. It was more than shock or anger or disgust or even hurt, although she was no doubt feeling all of that too. She was afraid, and I had to consider why. I suppose the thought of potentially losing her three best friends in the world would be enough on its own. But I also couldn’t help wondering if that was the only reason she seemed so scared. She’d never admit it in a million years, of course, but I think she was also afraid for James. Most of the time, Michelle pretends not to give a shit about her cousin, but at this point, she’s not fooling anyone – she loves to slag him off about every little thing, but when it comes to the big ones, she’s incredibly protective of him. When James’ ma never rang him last Christmas, Michelle was off the Riptor scale about it for days. Was she scared that I’d end up hurting him like his ma has, so many times?

When I thought about that, I started to feel pretty scared myself. I’d never say this to James, but I hate Kathy Maguire. I have done ever since she tried taking James back to London. Not because she almost took James away from me us – although I’ll admit, at the time, I hated her for that too – but because she makes my best friend feel like he doesn’t matter.

For a long time, I never realised that she made him feel like that – to be honest, I didn’t really think about Kathy Maguire at all, until I actually met her last year. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about her. About how James had seemed so happy to see her; I’d never seen him smile so much – he was like a different person. And also about the reason he was smiling so much, the reason he was going to drop his entire life in Derry at no notice whatsoever – all because he was desperate to please her, so that she’d love him like a proper ma should.

And how does she treat him in return? One visit in over two years – and even that was only because she wanted him to help her flog her fecking stickers! She hardly ever calls or writes, but sends him the occasional expensive present, as if that’s enough to make up for it all.

I used to think I hated Jenny Joyce, but I don’t really. She’s just a pain in the hole. Kathy Maguire, though, I really do hate. I think she’s the first person I’ve ever properly hated. Like, I actually want to physically hurt her, for hurting James the way she does. Only, that’d probably hurt him too . . .

At the same time, though, a selfish part of me is glad she’s such a terrible mammy, because if she wasn’t, I never would have met James in the first place. He’d never have become a Derry girl, and there’d be a hole in my life, in all our lives, even if we didn’t know it.

But that hole in my life, there are other ways it could happen. It could happen because of me, if I end up messing things up with James.

I want to think that I could never hurt James like that. Not so badly I end up losing him for good. But what if I did? Let’s face it, whenever I’ve liked someone in the past, it’s ended in disaster. And with James, the stakes are so much bigger; this isn’t just some silly crush.

Thinking about all this made me realise how much I like him. All the stuff I wrote about earlier, it hit me then.

I thought about how I feel so comfortable and happy around James, and about how I never have to pretend to be someone else around him, I can just be myself.

I thought about how sweet and scared and earnest he had looked when he told me that he liked me, and that I was beautiful, and how good it had felt to kiss him, and how much I wanted to do it again. And I admitted to myself, for the first time, that James Maguire is sort of a massive ride.

I thought about all the boys I’d liked before, and how James is so much kinder and funnier and better than all of them. About how even when I’d done that stupid quiz ages ago to see if I’d liked David Donnelly, all the answers had pointed to James, even if I hadn’t realised – or wanted to realise – it at the time.

He’s kind of perfect for me, and I hadn’t even admitted it to myself until today.

But that was the problem, I realised. I care about him too much. I couldn’t bear it if I hurt him, really hurt him like his ma has. I couldn’t bear it if we stopped being friends.

I like him so much; I can’t be with him.

Wow, that’s so powerful.

My life really is like a novel. Or a Cranberries song.

Oh my God, it’s ‘I Can't Be with You’. My favourite song! Dolores and I have so much in common.

Anyway, I knew then what I had to tell James.

I also knew it couldn’t wait, otherwise I might be tempted to follow my heart, instead of doing what was right for James, what was right for all of our friends. And so I told him, as we were leaving Robert Declan’s house, that I thought Michelle was right.

I was worried he’d be upset, maybe even a little angry. After all, I was the one who’d kissed him – and now, less than an hour later, I was telling him we couldn’t be together – talk about mixed signals!

I should have known better. This was James. He smiled at me, and it only looked semi-forced. He made a stupid joke. He told me it was OK.

And all of that would been have enough, about the best I could have hoped for, really.

But then he said he’d wait for me, and I swear, my heart actually stopped for a few seconds.

As he walked away, I could feel myself beginning to smile.

I was feeling it again. That special feeling. That James feeling.

I’ve imagined it plenty, but I’d never really known what it would be like, to have a boy like me, until today. It’s a pretty class feeling. I think it’s an even better one when it’s a boy like James.

A big part of me wanted to run after him, turn him around, and kiss him. That would have been a very bad idea, of course, so I didn’t. But God . . . the fact he likes me enough to wait for me, like I’m someone worth waiting for . . . I’m smiling again now.

In spite of everything, I’m pretty sure I’ve been smiling a lot to myself today.

I know I shouldn’t feel so happy about it. In fact, James waiting for me should be the exact opposite of what I want. I should want him to move on and find some other girl he wants to kiss. Even if the thought makes me want to boke.

Anyway, the point is, what he said shouldn’t change anything.

All the reasons I had for not being with him are still valid. And I can’t see them changing anytime soon. It’s not as if Michelle’s going to suddenly wake up one day and be fine with the idea of us dating. And it’s not as if the risks – of ruining our friendship, of splitting up the gang, of hurting James like his ma has – are going to disappear with time either.

To want him to wait for me when, logically, there’s never going to be a good time for us to be together, isn’t fair on him.

And yet I can’t stop thinking about it. Picturing stupid romantic things I’ve never before dared to imagine doing with James. Kissing him again. Holding hands. Going on a date. Going to another dance together, but this time as a real couple. Just being with him, and all our friends and family not caring. Maybe even, y’know, being happy for us!

I know I need to wise the fuck up. Nothing like that can ever happen between us. But my brain just won’t listen to me. I don’t know how I’m going to get any sleep, and not (just) because Michelle won’t stop snoring. It’s already so late, I’m going to be wile tired tomorrow – I must’ve been writing for hours. This is definitely my longest ever diary entry. And the craziest thing is, I could still write pages more. I probably shouldn’t; this diary is meant to document my journey as the greatest Irish writer of my generation, not my sudden angst over my feelings for my best friend.

Although I suppose being unlucky in love could be part of that journey. It certainly seems to happen to Dolores, a lot. In fact, it inspired some of her greatest work. I doubt we’d have had Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? if Dolores hadn’t had her heart broken a few times, and where would Ireland be culturally, then!? Frankly, if a bit of heartbreak is all it takes for me to produce a masterpiece like that, then I’m all for it!

Not that I’m heartbroken. Really.

Ok, so I’m a little upset. It’s just all a bit confusing. I always assumed that when I finally kissed a fella I’d at least have the option of kissing him again . . .

I almost wish James had never said anything now, that I’d never discovered what it’s like to kiss him. Then I’d still be pretending that he’s just a friend, and everything would be normal. I wouldn't know what I've been missing out on.

Things would be so much easier then.

And yet I can’t bring myself to wish away what happened. It was the perfect first kiss and I’d never want to take it back. Even if we can never do it again.

Even if I really, really want to do it again.

I know we can’t. I know that Michelle was right. I know I shouldn’t want James to wait for me; that it’s not fair on him, and that the right thing to do would be to tell him so tomorrow.

But I also know that I won’t.