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Ciarán West’s More Than Words, Full Chapter One #newfiction #irishauthor #boysofsummer3

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Just in case you’ve finished The Boys of Summer and Sweetness Follows and you’re hungry for more Irish nostalgionsense.

One

 

I always thought Richie and me would be together forever. Even though we met when we were really young; even though there were nearly two years between us; even though no one gave us a chance of lasting, I kind of believed in us. And he did too, I thought. Then, in September 1991, when I was fifteen, everything changed. And no matter what either of us wanted, or what either of us did, we’d never be able to change things back to how they used to be.

 

 

“Oh my God! Aw, lads! Ohhhhhh my God, turn that up, like! Turn it up, that’s my song!” shouted Jacinta, from over at the bedroom window, where she was having a fag.

“Really? I thought the last one was your song?” said Triona, rolling her eyes. They were like chalk and cheese, those two, but I loved the bones of them both.

“Yeah, well. This one is too. Turn it up!”

I leaned over to the stereo and put it up a little, but not too much, cos Mum was downstairs, and she’d probably start banging on my floor with the sweeping brush if I put it up too loud. I didn’t even know what song it was, but Jacinta was like that – she knew all the new ones. She spent half her life in DJ boxes, chatting to yer man about the tunes, and getting bought drinks. Triona leaned over to me.

“Any idea where we’re actually going, Mar?”

“Eh, I dunno. Wherever lets us in?” The three of us were fifteen, but you’d look older with the heels and the skirt and the make-up, so it was just luck sometimes. Some places were Over 21s though, so they always asked you for ID, and I hadn’t got a fake one yet.

“Ugh, somewhere shite then?” Triona was a bit of a muppet. She liked weird music; stuff you’d hear Dave Fanning playing on 2FM. She only came to the dancey places with us for the laugh and the few drinks.

“Cheers isn’t shite, you spa,” said Jacinta, back over from her fag. She picked up the bottle and tried to look through it against the light. It was that cider that came in a champagne bottle – the sort they gave out as a prize at a nightclub, pretending it was real champagne. The bottle was dead heavy glass, so you never knew how much was left in it. I liked the way it popped like the real stuff, though. And it was cheap as shit.

“Cheers is the epitome of shite, Jaz. If you looked up ‘shite’ in the dictionary, there’d be a picture of Cheers next to it,” said Triona, drinking back the end of her glass.

“A pit o’ what? Fucking hell, Caitriona Kelly, with your big words. If you looked up ‘gowl’ in the dictionary, d’you know what there’d be a picture of?” Jacinta turned the bottle upside down to double check it was empty, and a little dribble came out onto her knee.

“Let me guess, me?” Triona had a look that could wither a plant on the spot. She’d a few of them, actually.

“Yep. That’s what there’d be. Big picture of you, with ‘Goooowwwwwwl’ written under it.” It was hard to tell when Jaz was only slagging, or when she meant it, but she was usually only having a mess. She was if she knew you, anyway.

“Why do your dictionaries have pictures in them, lads?” I said, picking up the other bottle off the ground, and one of Mum’s tea towels. They looked at me funny for a second, then they both started laughing. We were all half-cut already, but that was a good thing. Adamski was on the radio now. Or Seal. They were the same song.

“Here, d’you want me to do that?” said Jaz, pulling her boob tube up and then down again. Them things never stayed on right for long, but they were all the rage.

“No, shur, you’re grand,” I said. I put the tea towel over the cork bit and twisted the bottle till I felt the pop inside my hand. That was the best way to do it, so’s you wouldn’t take someone’s eye out. One of Richie’s friends, Jonathan, showed me how to do it last Christmas. He was even younger than Richie, but he’d an old head on him, as Dad would say. And he was tall as well.

“Right, fill her up!” said Jacinta, sticking out her glass. Triona had an empty one too, but she was kind of quiet, so she wouldn’t actually ask; she’d just wait til I offered.

“Say when,” I said, knowing she’d never say when, and I was just gonna fill it up until it nearly started spilling. You’ve Got The Love came on the speakers, and she nearly jumped out of her chair.

“Turn that up! That’s – ”

“Your song?” said Triona, winking at me, and then “Thanks, Marian,” when I poured the cider into her wine glass.

*****

“Have ye nothing downstairs ye could rob?” said Jacinta, about an hour later. The drink was finished, but it was still a bit early to be heading out. It was a Saturday though, and it’d been a hot day, even though it was September, and we were back in school on Monday. Dad always said the weather got hot again in the first week of school just to annoy the kids. It’d been raining all week before, so maybe he was right.

“Like what?”

“Like a nice bottle of Kia-Ora. What d’you think I mean, you spa? Booze!”

“Ah, I don’t think so, like,” I said. We didn’t have a liquor cabinet or anything like that, so the only time there’d be spare booze around was Christmas.

“Fuck’s sake, Marian. Do I’ve to do everything around here, do I? Bloody…” Jacinta got up and went towards the bedroom door. Triona give me a look, but she didn’t say anything.

“Where you going now?” I said, looking at her tiny silver mini-skirt and the boots that went nearly all the way up her legs. She’d a great figure and lovely legs, so she could get away with dressing like that without looking too much like a slapper. Even though she kind of was one.

“D’worry ‘bout me. Back in two shakes,” she said, and off she went. I made a face at Triona like to say I didn’t know what was going on at all.

“She’s a complete looper, her,” said Triona, but she was smiling, so she didn’t mean anything bad. We all knew each other from Salesian’s, but me and Triona had been in primary school together too, we went way back. She lived in Caherdavin, same as I used to. We’d to move to Kennedy Park when my Dad’s business went bankrupt, then we came to Thomondgate a couple of years ago. I missed living in Caherdavin, even though I hadn’t lived there since I was eight. I wasn’t really like most of the people around here. Except Richie, maybe. I wasn’t anything like Jacinta, but she was sound out, and it was good to have a friend I didn’t have to get on a bus to go hang around with.

“Ah, she’s great all the same,” I said, but I knew Triona thought so too, so it wasn’t really us arguing or anything. I stood up and had a little stretch.

“Right, will we get you something to wear then?”

“I’m wearing something already,” Triona said, doing one of her faces. I looked her up and down in her tackies, her black Levis, and her Queen t-shirt. I’d seen Freddie on a thing on TV the other day. He looked gaunt, my Mum said. He did and all. Pure thin. And no moustache.

“You are. And they’re lovely, like. Don’t get me wrong. But we’re going pubbing and clubbing, Triona, and you’re not coming dressed like that. Come on, let’s look through my stuff and we’ll find you something.” I wasn’t taking no for an answer. She’d thank me later when all the boys were trying to ride the hole off her.

*****

“Ah, now. I think it’s lovely, I do. Pure romantic, like.” Jacinta was leaning out the window for another fag, so it was like we were talking to her arse. She’d come back with half a bottle of Smirnoff from her house across the green. I’d gone down for Coke from the fridge, dodging Mum on the way, in case she started trying to talk to me or something.

“Shut up, Jaz. It is romantic. Richie’s lovely. So what if he’s only thirteen, like?” said Triona. I’d got her into a tartan skirt and a belly top – she actually looked really good. She was at my dressing table mirror, trying to do her eye-shadow with drunk hands. I’d have to help her in a second, she was no good at stuff like that.

“Nearly fourteen,” I said, cos it was true.

“Exactly. Nearly fourteen. That’s hardly no difference at all,” Triona said, tutting at the eye-shadow brush and putting it down so she could have a drink of her vodka and Coke. It was Diet Coke, cos that was all we had down there.

“Ah, yeah, but… I mean, he can’t come out with us, can he, Mar? He wouldn’t get into the Henry Cecil, or Cruise’s Hotel,” said Jaz, turning around with the fag still in her mouth. It didn’t really matter, cos Mum knew I smoked, but I didn’t want the bedroom to be stinking; that’s why I said we’d to do it out the window.

“Well, no, but that won’t be for long,” I said. She had a point, though. It got annoying. I wondered how long I’d have to wait until he could do normal things with me, sometimes. I loved him, though. I had for a long time, now.

“S’pose, yeah. Well, I’ll tell you, I couldn’t do it.” Jaz smelled the Coke before taking a sip of it. I didn’t know why. She’d poured it herself, and anyway, there was no smell off vodka. Not really.

“Couldn’t do what?” said Triona, trying the eye-shadow brush again. She was making a balls of it. I’d have to take it all off for her in a minute and start again.

“Go out on the tear and not be able to shift whoever I wanted, like. Look at me, shur – All that effort, for nothing? No thanks, like.” She waved her hand up and down herself to show us how glam she looked. The fake tan looked all right just after the summer like it was now, but she’d still be that orange at Christmas, cos that was Jaz for you.

“It wouldn’t be for nothing, though. You’d have a boyfriend, like. Mar just goes out the same way any other girl who’s not single goes out. It’s not all about boys, going out. Well, it isn’t for me, anyway,” said Triona, rolling her eyes again, and then blinking lots, cos her mascara probably wasn’t dry yet. She should have put that on last, in fairness. She really wasn’t any good at it.

“Yeah, well that’s lucky then, isn’t it?” said Jacinta. I gave her a glare like to say “Don’t you start,” but she just stuck her tongue out at me.

“I get plenty, thanks, Jaz. Don’t worry about me. Mar! I give up. Come do my face, will you?”

“Plenty of lezzers, probably, yeah,” muttered Jacinta, reaching over for the bottle of Diet Coke, cos she’d necked her drink already.

“Is that your subtle way of asking me out, Jaz?” said Triona, with her eyes closed now, while I took the shadow off her lids with a wet pad.

“In your dreams, love. I’m way out of your league,” said the other one, pouring herself one last double before we hit the road. I was ignoring them both, cos I wanted to do a fancy smoky blend with the brown and the gold, and I had drunk hands too now as well.

*****

“Morning.” Richie was sitting on the edge of my bed. Mum must’ve let him in. She was grand with him being in my room alone with me. He’d been with me more than two years now. She’d raise an eyebrow at me the odd time, but we’d had the talk, and I told her we weren’t doing nothing up there. Even though we were, usually, just not… what she’d be worried about.

“Oh, hello. Jesus…” My head was splitting. It was ten in the morning on Sunday. Way too early.

“Jesus?” Richie looked nice. He always dressed nice on Sundays, even though he didn’t go to mass anymore, and he’d no Mum around to make him.

“Ah, just my head.” I looked around for the glass of water, but it was empty. I must have drank it in the night.

“Oh right. Had too much last night?” He was doing the face again. He was always a bit funny with me mornings after I’d been out without him. It was annoying.

“Ugh, just a bit, yeah. Sorry, my breath is stinking. Have you a mint?” He usually did, cos of smoking.

“Nah, you’re grand,” he said, but he still gave me a Wrigley’s out of his pocket.

“Thanks.” I felt better then, cos he was only being nice. It must’ve smelled like dog shit. He had his hand on my hip, through the quilt. I got a bit of a nice feeling.

“Your Mam and Dad are gone out…”

“Are they? How do you know?”

“They were going when they let me up. I’d say we’ve the place to ourselves for a few hours, like.” I knew what he was getting at, and I didn’t mind. I always felt  dead horny when I was hungover. I didn’t know why. I asked the girls about it once, and they said the same. You’d get really sort of… wanting to have a cuddle, and wanting to do more. But you were sort of numb down there too, so you couldn’t ever really… get to the end.

“Well then, what are you waiting for?” I lifted the quilt off my legs. I’d changed into my silky nightdress thing the night before. No bra or knickers under it. I liked the way his eyes sort of lit up when he saw me under there. Richie always made me feel gorgeous, even if I looked like shit, with no make-up on, like now. He started kicking off his shoes really fast, God help us. I did a little stretch like a cat would, and the silk felt really nice against my skin. He didn’t know whether to look at me or get on with taking off his shirt and stuff, the poor thing. He got all stuck in his top when he was pulling it over his head. He had a nice back. He had a baby face, but the rest of him looked older than he was, I thought. I moved my knee up towards my chest to give him a little flash, and he tore off his socks like they were on fire or something, bless him.

*****

We’d hit the town straight after we finished the vodka. We walked it, cos it was nice out, and you’d be waiting ages for a taxi to come on a Saturday night. Triona was struggling in the heels I lent her. We were the same size, she just wasn’t used to them.

“I should have got a loan of a jacket off you, Mar,” she said, hugging herself and pretending to shiver.

“Will you go away ou’that, shur. It’s lovely out.” Jacinta. She’d be freezing later, though, so she couldn’t say nothing.

“Yeah, Treen. Grow a pair of balls, will ya?” I’d a warm shrug in my handbag, so I’d be okay if we had to stand waiting for a cab later. I’d been clever.

“Pffft. If I had balls you’d probably be able to see them in this…” She looked down at the skirt I’d lent her. It wasn’t even that short, it was just short for her, cos she normally wore big long hippy things. As long as our school skirts. The winter ones.

“Where’ll we go? Mickey’s?” I liked Mickey Martin’s. They’d comfy seats and we never got ID’d. The toilet was weird, though.

“Jesus, what? Mickey’s again?” Jaz gave me a look. She’d heels on her that must’ve been about six inches. I didn’t know why she did that; fellas didn’t like you being taller than them. Richie didn’t, anyway. I was smaller than him though, so I could put on three inch ones and still be grand.

“What’s wrong with Mickey’s?” I sparked up a fag, cos I hadn’t had one in ages.

“She loves mickeys, don’t mind her,” said Triona, but she wasn’t talking about the pub. I sniggered.

“Better than loving fannies, like you do, you lesbian,” Jacinta said. We were in Thomas Street now, and she was leading the way, so she was coming to Mickey’s anyway, no matter what she was saying. We turned into the alley where the front of it was, and it was packed already. They’d a few tables and chairs outside, cos it still felt like the summer, even though it wasn’t. Not in Ireland, anyway.

*****

Richie and me were really good at doing stuff, probably cos we’d been together for so long. He knew what to do with me, I’d trained him well, as the lads said. I remembered when I first met him and he didn’t know anything really, and I’d to show him how. It was kind of sweet. He picked it up really quickly, though. He wasn’t clueless anymore.

He was under the covers with me now, just wearing his jocks. Mum and Dad were hopefully gonna be out for a good while, so I wasn’t worried about them coming back and catching us. Mum wouldn’t open my door without knocking first anyway. But, if she did, there was no way there’d be time for him to get dressed before she started asking me to open it. It was grand, though. We were probably safe for a while.

I still had my nightie on. There wasn’t really any reason to take it off, he could get to everything anyway. Easy access, as Jaz would say. The hangover thing was definitely happening – I was really up for it, but no matter what he was doing, I couldn’t quite get there. And the more I thought about it, the more it got worse. Like I was putting pressure on myself, or something. He was kissing my neck now, and along my collarbones, making me shiver in the warm. I’d forgotten my headache for a bit, but it’d probably come back in a while. I’d have to rob some tablets from the bathroom cabinet. I felt him kissing down me and I wondered were my armpits a bit pongy from dancing last night, but it was too late to do anything about that now. I’d just let him get on with it. I looked over at the chair where I’d thrown my clothes after coming in. Nice bra and normal, white knickers. I always did that when I went out without him. It was like a little ritual. Like I was saying to myself “No one’s gonna be seeing you in your bra and knickers, so there’s no need for them to being matching or look nice.” It was weird, obviously, but it was my little thing, and it made me feel better.

*****

We got a table in Mickey’s, with some boys. There was no seats in there, but Jaz marched right over to where the guys were sitting, and talked us in there. She was like that – dead brazen. It came in handy lots.

“And what year are ye in, in the Crescent, then?” She was asking the guy sitting nearest to her. A tall rugby jock looking fella, with a bumfluff beard.

“Shhhh, will you? You’ll get us thrown out,” said yer man. He looked like he was going red, but it might just have been the lights in there.

“Ah, g’way, you handicap, you. No one’s listening.” Jacinta had a straw with her bottle of Stag, cos she didn’t give a shite about barmen thinking she was too young.

“Fifth year,” said the guy, nearly whispering. I looked over at Caitriona. She looked a bit uncomfortable, and not just from the clothes. Yer man next to her looked like a right swot. He probably thought it was his birthday. She looked like a ride after we’d done her make up for her, and she was thin, so the belly top looked nice on her, even though she’d no boobs.

“FIFTH YEAR?!” Jaz said, way too loud. The fella’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, and he snuck a look over at the bar, but the lad there was busy pulling pints.

“Shush!” He put his head down, like he was trying to hide behind his pint. I was drinking a Long Island Iced Tea, cos I wanted a cocktail, and we’d said we were going to Wiseguys after this, but no one seemed to want to move.

“Jaysus, will you look at you, like. Pure para. Who’s gonna think you’re under eighteen? Big lump of a youngfella. You’re grand. Calm down. You’ve to buy me a drink in a minute, shur.” I saw her drop her hand under the table and give his leg a squeeze. I hoped it was just his leg, anyway. He suddenly looked like he’d forgotten to be worried about the barman throwing him out. Yer man sitting next to me leaned in to say something. He smelled like too much Lynx.

“So, where are ye going after this?”

“Huh?” I’d heard him, I was just being a gowl.

“Ah, uh, are ye going out-out?” He was very boring looking. Not that I’d have been interested if he wasn’t, or anything.

“Uh, yeah. I dunno where, though. You’d have to ask Jaz.” I nodded over at the boss. She still hadn’t taken her hand back up. She was earning her free drink, definitely. Yer man next to me, Simon he was called, looked over at her, then back at me.

“She’s a bit scary,” he said, looking kind of worried.

“Yeah, she’s fecking terrifying. She’s all right, though. If you know her.”

“Haha, I suppose so. Can I buy- can I get you a drink?”

“Nah… I’ve got one. Thanks, though.” I wouldn’t have minded another one, but you didn’t want to be giving them the wrong idea. When they started getting the wrong idea, you had to start dropping the word ‘boyfriend’ into the conversation, and then they got all sulky looking, and they stopped talking to you.

*****

I could feel Richie getting a bit frustrated with me, in the middle of everything, cos of me being so numb from the hangover. I didn’t think he realised that was what it was, I’d never talked to him about it before. He’d been moving away down there with his hand for ages, and I was making nice noises, but he knew what I was like when I actually finished, and he knew it hadn’t happened yet. I looked at him a couple of times and he looked dead serious, like he was concentrating hard on an exam, or trying to figure out a jigsaw. It made me want to giggle, but I couldn’t do that. You couldn’t laugh at a boy when he was doing stuff to you; they didn’t ever take it well. I felt him move down me, and he lifted up the bottom of my nightie, kissing my stomach. I knew where he was going, and I got paranoid about not having a shower yet, and maybe did I smell, but I couldn’t really tell him to stop, cos he got dead sensitive when you did that – he took it really personally, like I was saying he was doing it wrong, or it was rubbish, even though it never was. Sometimes I just didn’t fancy that sort of thing, or sometimes I just wanted him to come up and kiss me again, cos I missed him. You couldn’t explain that to him, though. He was a funny one sometimes, but all boys probably were.

He was on his way down now, he’d be there in a second, so I had to do something quick. Maybe I should just let him get on with it, though. It might be nice. It was usually nice. But maybe he’d be down there for ages without coming up for air, and nothing would happen, and then he’d just get annoyed. With me, or with himself. I was starting not to care about whether I was stinking now. Fuck it. He started doing what he went down there for, and I pushed my head back into the pillow. We were good together. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else, really. Felt weird even trying to picture it. He wasn’t perfect; no one was. He’d get strange and moody sometimes – like he did when I asked him to go to the mass for my Uncle Pat’s 2nd anniversary a month back – or a few other times – but I wasn’t perfect either. We were perfect together though; even Jaz said that, sometimes, but she’d usually make a vomit noise after it.

*****

We’d ditched the lads by the time we got down to Arthur’s Warehouse. They were going to Doc’s anyway, and that was pretty hard to get in on a Saturday night, cos they weren’t desperate to get people in there, like they would be on a Sunday. Arthur’s was grand, cos Jaz knew all the bouncers on the door. She gave one of them a hand-job in the toilets one night. Not even to get in his good books or anything. She just did it cos she wanted to. Mad tart.

Triona was steamed. She was up dancing and everything, so you knew she’d had a few. They were playing 80s songs for a bit. Absolutely sad. But we were dancing to them anyway, cos what the hell. Jacinta came bashing through the crowd in her big heels. She’d been over talking to the DJ for ages; flirting with him for free drinks. He was ancient. He dyed his hair black, but that made him look even ancienter, I thought.

“Mar! Mar! There you are! Quick! I’ve a emergency.”

An emergency,” said Caitriona, who was still sober enough to be a gowl.

“What’s wrong, Jaz?”

“Just come with me to the toilet, Mar. I’m not joking. Seriously, like. Come on.” She dragged me away by the wrist. We nearly knocked over a few people dancing on the way. The glass boy outside the doors of the toilets was supposed to stop you going in with drinks, in case you spilt one, or someone got glassed, but he didn’t say anything about me taking my bottle in. He probably didn’t have time, Jaz was dragging me in there so fast.

*****

“Hey. Penny for them?” I was lying up on Richie, after we’d finished messing around. In the end, I’d just pretended, made the right noises, and then I sorted him out. That didn’t take long at all, cos he wasn’t hungover, and cos it never took long if he’d been doing stuff to me first. Or maybe I was just brilliant at it, or something. He’d never complained, that was for sure.

“How d’you mean?”

“I mean whatcha thinking?” I liked this – the cuddle after. Made me feel safe, cos that’s when I wanted to feel safe the most. When I wanted to feel okay, and good, and liked, and not dirty. I’d have hated it if Rich was one of those boys that just did their business, then got all funny and awkward, and got dressed, and tried to make an excuse to get out of there. We had a while yet before my folks came back, though. And we’d hear the car coming in around the back.

“Eh, nothing really. Did you get on… was last night all right?”

“Yeah… Drank a bit too much, danced a bit too much, spent a lot too much.” I tried to keep the answer jokey, in case the question had been serious, or something. He got funny sometimes, about me being out without him, but I’d figured out ways to stop it before it started, usually.

“Where’d ye go, then? Talk to any – meet anyone ye knew?” His tone of voice was weird, like he was asking one thing and meaning something else. I didn’t wanna get into all that shite now. My headache was back, and I was tired again.

“You’ve nothing to worry about, Rich. You never do. You know that, right? You trust me, don’t you?” I looked him right in the eyes when I said it, cos I read that somewhere – that people believed you more if you looked them in the eyes when you said something. And it was true, anyway.

“Ah, yeah. Yeah, I do. I’m sorry, it’s just…”

“It’s okay.” It kind of wasn’t okay, really. Nothing worse than someone not trusting you when you hadn’t done nothing wrong.

“I just – it’s not you I don’t trust, Mar. It’s other fellas. Fellas are awful, like, sometimes. All the time. I should know, I’m one of them. They’d only be after you for one thing, you know?” He was trying to be nice about it, in his own stupid little way, but it still annoyed me.

“Yeah, I know, Rich. And they won’t get it off me, cos I’m not interested in anyone else. You should know that by now.” I knew I sounded dead huffy, but I didn’t care. We’d had this before, loads of times, and it still never went into his skull. Made me want to clatter him sometimes.

“I know, yeah, but, I mean – what if you met someone, like – someone you liked better than me, like? I just… I just do be worried about you, sometimes. Out there, on your own, dressed up all… nice, like.” He had his sulky face on now. I couldn’t believe he’d started all this, after what I’d just done for him. But I had asked him what was up, so it was half my own fault.

“Well, that’s not gonna happen any time soon, babe. Cos I love you, and just you. And, even it was gonna happen, you can’t keep me locked up in a… box, to stop it. That’s just life, shit happens, but it’s not gonna happen, okay?” I’d nearly said ‘up in a trunk, so no big hunk’, cos of the Cliff Richard song, and that made me want to giggle too, even though I was a bit cross. I looked at him, and the sulky face turned into a better one, then he put on a smile, kissed me on the top of my hair, and gave me a nice big squeeze.

“You’re right. I’m sorry, I’m just being an eejit, Mar. Sorry.”

“You are being an eejit, yeah, you spa. Anyway, d’you think I give amaaaaazing blow-jobs like that to just anyone?”

“Haha, no. No, you don’t.”

“Exactly. Just to you. And Patrick Swayze. And your Dad.”

“Hahahaha, you bollix, you.”

He whacked me over the head with a pillow, and we were back to normal again.

*****

“Oh, for God’s sake, Jaz!” The both of us were squashed in together in one of the cubicles in the jacks. We were lucky there was one free when we got in, normally you’d have to queue.

“What???”

“That’s not a fucking emergency. I was picturing some youngone half-dead on the floor in here, and you asking me to give her the kiss of life, like.” I was rooting through my handbag, but I couldn’t find the thing I needed to get for her yet.

“It’s a fucking emergency to me, like. Coming on in the middle of Arthur’s on a Saturday night, and I no jamrags with me? If that’s not an emergency I dunno what is.”

Jamrags… you’re something else, you are.”

“Yeah, well. Fucking gutted now. Tis lucky I always have a spare pair of knickers in my bag, like. Be prepared, they says. We can fucking flush these other ones, like. Looks like a butcher’s hanky, that does.”

“Jaz!!!” She was disgusting. It was one of the things I loved about her.

“Fucking gone, they are. Weren’t even cheap, them, either. Got them in the North last year. They’re Top Shop. English knickers, Mar. Have you found me a pad yet, like? Or are you looking for the Lost Ark down there?”

“I don’t have any pads.” I’d never said I had pads to her.

“You don’t have any – what you mean, Mar?” She flushed the knickers, but they wouldn’t go down. She tore off a load of tissue and threw it down into the bowl on top of them.

“I only have tampons.” I didn’t ever use pads. They felt like nappies.

Tampax!? What are you, a Protestant? For fuck’s sake, Mar. I’ll never get one of them up me.”

“Jesus, there’s been plenty of bigger things up there, Jaz, according to you anyway. Cop on, will you?” I found one. An applicator one, still in the little packet. Three drops on the side. That’d have to do her.

“Ah now, fuck off, yeah. I’ve just… I’ve never used one, like. How do you – do they hurt?” She was being serious as well. Some girls were really funny about using them. When we did our talk in school they hardly mentioned them. It was all pads and stuff. I’d got my first ones off my Aunt Sarah, but she lived in England, so maybe it was just an Irish girl thing.

“Of course they don’t… look, there’s applicator thing here, and… do you want me to put it in you and everything, is it?”

“Feck off, Mar. I wouldn’t be into that now at all. You’re mixing me up with Triona, like.” She was always going on about Triona being a lesbian. You’d swear she fancied her or something. I could have told her a few tales there, but I didn’t, cos that’d be lousy on Caitriona. And Jaz might end up thinking I was a bit… as well.

“Look, it’s either this, or you can spend the rest of the night… holding it in, like. Up to you, love.” I handed her the little packet.

“Ah, Jaysus, no. It’d be like a slaughterhouse floor out there in ten minutes, says you. Just… tell me what to do, and feck off out of here and let me do it, yeah?”

“Yeah, you’re welcome, like.”

“Sorry. Yeah, thanks, Mar. You’re sound out. D’you think I won’t pull now? They can tell, fellas, can’t they?”

“Tell what?” I could hear loads of voices outside the door. Probably girls waiting for one of the stalls to be free. We were probably making them piss their knickers, we were taking so long in there.

“When you’ve come on. They know, don’t they?” She took the yoke out of the packet like it was going to bite her or something, and squinted at it.

“No. How would they know?”

“Dunno. Smell of twopences off your gowl?”

“Hahahaha, I love you, Jaz.” Someone tried the handle of the cubicle door, and started swearing when it wouldn’t open. I had to go out there in a minute, and they’d think it was free, until Jacinta locked it again behind me. That’d be fun.

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