They were leaning against the length-of-legs school wall, having a smoke before classes. All a bit amazed to be there at all.
Manda leaned round Kylah, took deep breath, and said, It’s been brought ma attention that Ah might’ve been nicer bout the whole lezzie thing.
Fionnula tutted and stared at her, wondering if that was supposed to be an apology.
Ahm sorry, Manda went on. Kay’s no bad. For a swot.
Ta, Kay whispered from other side Manda.
For a swot. Fionnula snorted but also smiled. It’s alright. Yur sister’s bit lezzie too.
Shut up, Manda said, but she said it with a grin.
The Sopranos (and Kay in the middle) laughed.
I’m glad you came wi, Fi. No sure I could’ve done this alone.
Hey, Fionnula says, squeezing her hand tightly. Ahm no going anywhere. Whatever ya need, Ahm here.
The nurse came in then and looked at them.
Well, right outside. Remember Little France. Didn’t leave then, did Ah? She leaned over and pressed a kiss to Kay’s forehead then stepped back and headed out to the waiting area.
She supposed it was meant to be all warm and inviting out there -- grey carpeting and comfy sofa and chairs. Fashion mags and books and pretty pictures on the walls. But it was still a clinic and Kay was still in the back room with some doctor they didn’t know. Worried her parents would find out. Fionnula fidgeted in her chair wishing she could have a smoke or a drink or something. She thought she might be more nervous right now than Kay.
Kay. Jesus. She was head o’er heels for the girl. It was crazy. Kay’d be leaving for Uni in the fall and where would that leave Fionnula? Alone.
She didn’t tell anyone, but she was thinking about Uni. Thinking maybe she could stay with Kay, in her room, find a job somewhere as a shopgirl or wait tables or something and just get out of the fucking Port. Go to school one or two classes at a time.
She wanted to be with Kay forever, all happy and such. But Kay said she liked blokes, liked cock, and Fionnula knew that whatever was between them right now was just now. She told herself she was alright with that. She was a good liar.
She fidgeted some more in her chair then sighed, got up, and went outside. She pulled a pack of Marlboros out her bag and lit up. She wished they were in Capital again to hit the pubs and stay night in a hotel. Sleep in tomorrow in a strange bed. But they were going back on the afternoon train. Kay’s parents were away again, but she wasn’t going to be in condition to party even if they could stay.
Miss. Fionnula turned around to see the nurse in the doorway. Your friend would like to see ya now. It’s all done.
Fionnula dropped her fag and ground it against the stoop with the heel of her boot. She alright? It seemed too soon.
Aye. Doing fine.
Fionnula nodded and followed the nurse inside and back to a different room from before. Kay was sitting on a cot, staring out a window at nothing. Fionnula quietly thanked the nurse then moved over to sit beside her. She took her hand. Alright?
Alright. The word a whisper. Her voice thick with unshed tears.
Ahm here, she said. Long as you’ll have me and Love you she kept to herself.
Kay swallowed and nodded then lay her head on Fionnula’s shoulder. Ta.
To Orla, came round the table. Five heads tipped back, mouths full a Sambuca set fire with cigarettes.
Forth Let the Cattle Roam someone yelled.
Teera leera lira, they sang and laughed. Tee-ra leera fucking lira.
Can’t believe is over, said Chelle.
Kylah snorted. Can’t believe we survived.
The year was over and no one the girls kicked out Our Lady of Perpetual Succor. Even Orla’d sort of finished, though with hospice last month. Fionnula thought she’d stuck it out to be with them.
The Sopranos (an Kay). Once they’d done, Orla was done. Gone in sleep, all peaceful. Was good that.
Kay reached over an squeezed Fionnula’s hand. Alright?
A nod, a squeeze back, Yeah, alright. Looked round the group and said, Again, as she raised another shot.
Three rings of Sambuca shots sat before them like so many months before. Slainte heard all round table, then the clinking of glasses, more flames.
It was a good night at the Mantrap. Kylah talking to some musician at the bar about making a demo tape with her. Chelle and Manda dancing slow songs and snogging with a couple sailors. (Another submarine in the Port, this time no dead body.) Fionnula and Kay dancing slow songs and snogging each other and whispering promises about the Capital and Uni in the fall.
Fionnula turned from her customer to see Kay at other end the bar. She smiled. Hey.
What’s a sexy barkeep like you doing in a place like this? She waved her hand around the bar at men snogging other men, women dancing with other women.
Fionnula laughed. It was an old joke between them now. She’d been working at Tarantula for almost two years now. Kay coming in most every night, sitting in the corner, waiting til close to walk home with her.
Makin a living, she said. How bout you? What’s a respectable solicitor doin in a dive like this?
Getting drunk if ma girlfriend’ll let me.
Girlfriend? Ah thought ya likes em stiff, Fionnula teased as she put a gin and tonic in front of Kay.
Oh, aye. Ah do indeed. She took a sip. Mmm, nice and stiff. But after the day Ah just had, Ah need a Slammer or three.
Oh no, Fionnula said. No Tequila Sheila tonight. Ah got exam tomorrow. Need ya to quiz me later.
Kay rolled her eyes. You always ace exams. You’ve turned into a swot, ya know.
Aye. She giggled then downed half her drink in one go. Ahm a horrible influence.
So why the need for a stiff one? What happened?
Got this bloke. Fifteen. Caught stealing bunch of CDs out Woolies. Says it wasn’t him. Says mistaken identity, right?
Cept they got him on video and stopped him at door with the CDs in his jacket pockets.
Fionnula laughed. Mistaken identity?
Yeah. I says, Not hardly, right? But he just insists it wasn’t him. Says some guy out there looks just like him, goes round stealing. I told him he should take a deal but he keeps saying no. Then he says, You a lezzie?
Ah know, right? He says, You a lezzie? and Ah says, What? and he says, Well yous all uptight. Just thought maybe ya haven’t had a good fucking by a big hard cock lately.
The little fucker.
Right? Says he can give it me good. Got just what Ah need. Loosen me up. Ah swear, Fi. Fifteen. Kids getting bold these days. Kay shook her head and downed the rest of her drink just as Fionnula slid over another one.
Kids these days. Ah got some girls in here today. Hated to not serve them cause one girl was terrified just setting foot in here and could use a drink, but they was clearly too young. Gave em Cokes, told em they could hang out. Just need somewhere to be themselves.
Kay smiled. You gonna adopt all the little gay girls and boys of the world when ya finish school?
Fionnula blushed and shrugged and said, Just remember what it was like. Being so scared.
And then ya found me. Kay batted her eyelashes and blew her a kiss.
Aye. She got lost in the memory. They’d been friends for years now. She’d never forget that first night, that first kiss, the first time she thought it might be alright to be into girls more than guys. She thought about all the girls she’d been with since. And all the girls (and boys) in and out of Kay’s room in the flat they shared. She’d never loved anyone way she loved Kay.
Fionnula looked up. Aye?
Come home with me.
I live wi you. How many drink you have fore here?
Kay rolled her eyes. No. Come with me, Fi. To my bed.
What? She could feel heat rising in her cheeks and ears. They’d done this before. Sex now and then when they didn’t have no one else. It wasn’t enough. She said, Got to study then sleep, Kay.
I know. We can cuddle up under the covers. I’ll quiz you. Then sleep.
We never just sleep when I come to your bed, Kay.
Maybe it’s time that changed. Was thinking you should sleep in my bed every night.
Fionnula didn’t know what that meant and Kay must’ve realized because then she said. Permanent.
Aye. Forever, Fi. You an me.