Home > Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(11)

Rachel's Holiday (Walsh Family #2)(11)
Marian Keyes

‘Come on over and meet the rest of the lads,’ he invited.

And although we didn’t want to, because we were wasting valuable time when we could have been trying to get off with some of the lovely men there, we traipsed over behind him.

Where we had to do the Irish person meets other Irish person abroad thing. Which involved first of all pretending that we hadn’t realized the other was Irish. Then we had to discover that we had been brought up two minutes’ walk from each other, or that we’d gone to the same school, or that we’d met on our summer holidays in Tramore when we were eleven, or that our mothers were each other’s bridesmaids, or that his older brother had gone out with my older sister, or that when our dog got lost his family found it and brought it back, or that my father once drove into the back of his father’s car and they had a row on the Stillorgan dual carriageway and they were both due up in court for causing a public affray, or whatever. But our paths would have already crossed in some way, of this there would be no doubt.

Sure enough, within seconds, we found out that Joey and Brigit had met at Butlin’s nineteen years before, when they had come first and second respectively in the fancy-dress competition. Apparently the nine-year-old Joey had gone as Johnny Rotten and was so good that even Brigit agreed he had deserved first prize. (Brigit had wanted to go as Princess Leia, but she didn’t have a gold bikini or long hair. But in keeping with the Star Wars theme her mother made her go as Luke Skywalker instead. She wore one of her father’s white shirts and the bottom of her pyjamas and held a long white stick and when the judges came round she had to mumble ‘Can you feel the force.’ And they didn’t hear her the first time so she had to say it again. And one of the judges said, ‘The what, lovie? The fort?’ To this day, she says she hasn’t recovered from it. But at least she wasn’t as bad as Oisin, her older brother, who had to wear a black bucket on his head and breathe heavily and go as Darth Vader.)

A few seconds later, Gaz and I established a link. He said ‘You look familiar,’ and then proceeded to interrogate me. ‘What’s your second name? Walsh? Where do you live? Have you an older sister? Did she ever go to Wesley? Long hair? Huge pair of… er… eyes? Very friendly girl? What’s her name? Roisin? Imelda, something like that? Claire! That’s right! Yeah, I rode her one night at a party in Rathfarnham about ten years ago.’

A chorus of outrage erupted.

‘You can’t say that!’ we all exclaimed. ‘The cheek of him.’

We turned to each other with disgusted expressions. ‘The cheek of him,’ we nodded vigorously. ‘The cheek of him.’

I looked at Shake and he looked at me and we both said, ‘The cheek of him!’

Brigit turned to Joey and Joey turned to Brigit and they both exclaimed ‘The cheek of him!’

Luke and Johnno looked aghast and said in unison ‘The cheek of him!’

Melinda looked at Tamara and Tamara raised her eyebrows at Melinda and Melinda said ‘We must remember to buy some milk on the way home.’

‘Gaz, man,’ said Luke, when the hue and cry had died down slightly. ‘I keep telling you, man, you can’t go round saying things like that about the ladies, it’s not what a gendeman does.’

Gaz was puzzled and annoyed. ‘What have I done?’ he demanded.

‘You’re insulting her by talking that way about her,’ explained Luke gently.

‘I’m not insulting her,’ said Gaz hotly. ‘She was a great ride.’

‘Are you anything like your big sister?’ he asked, moving perceptibly closer to me.

6

I enjoyed talking to the Real Men. In New York I found it so hard to get men to show any interest in me that it was balm to the ego to be the centre of some male attention. Even if you wouldn’t touch said males with a ten-foot pole. In fact, Brigit and I were so popular that Melinda marched off in a huff, wriggling her six-year-old-child’s bum. The lucky bitch! Then Tamara flounced off a second later, looking as though her legs might break.

‘The blonde leading the blonde,’ I remarked. Which had everyone in stitches. Like I said, I hadn’t thought any of them were Einstein.

‘Poor Tamara,’ I continued. ‘She must have a terrible sex life.’

They all demanded ‘Why?’ Fair enough, as at least three of the lads present were responsible for Tamara’s horizontal fun.

‘Because,’ I explained, ‘Tamara never comes.’

Luke, Shake, Joey and Johnno nearly had to be hospitalized. Gaz looked bewildered and bleated plaintively ‘What does she mean?’ until Luke, doubled over with laughter, took him aside and explained it to him.

Eventually, the time came to say goodbye to the boys. It had been a pleasant interlude, but Brigit and I were on a mission. There were too many chiselled hunks in that room for us to be wasting time talking to this crowd of hairy eejits, nice and all as they were.

But just as I was about to slip my moorings, Luke remarked to me, ‘When I was nine, I wouldn’t have dared dress up as Johnny Rotten. I was more likely to have gone as Mother Teresa.’

‘Why’s that?’ I asked politely

‘I was an altar-boy then and I wanted to be a priest.’

With his words, a youthful memory ignited in my head.

‘That’s funny, when I was nine I wanted to be a nun,’ I burst out, before I could stop myself.

Straightaway, I was sorry I’d said anything. After all, this wasn’t something I was proud of. On the contrary, it was something I had kept well hidden and that I wished had never happened.

‘Is that right?’ Luke gave a big, amused smile. ‘Isn’t that a blast, altogether? I thought I was the only one.’

His relaxed attitude, as if it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, mollified me.

‘So did I,’ I admitted.

He smiled again, drawing me into an intimate little circle of identification. I felt a flower of interest begin to unfurl within me, and I decided not to leave just yet.

‘How bad did it get for you?’ he urged. ‘Because I don’t think you could have got any worse than me. Would you believe I was actually sorry that Catholicism wasn’t still banned because I would have loved to have been martyred? I used to fantasize about being boiled in oil.’

‘I used to draw pictures of myself covered in arrows,’ I admitted, on the one hand amazed at how bizarre my behaviour had been and on the other remembering how real and important it had seemed at the time.

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