Friends, Italians, & the Irish Weather

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: March 14, 2019

Reads: 95

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 14, 2019

A A A

A A A

 

July, Friday, on a train heading for Kilcorran

I’m watching the Irish countryside whoosh past as the train rolls forward, wobbling on an ancient track perched on the cliffside which stretches out just far enough so you can see the massive drop into the sea below. Jay is hunched over the table, sipping lemonade and moaning – she is terrified of heights, water, and trains. So this is pretty much her worst nightmare. Beside her is Matthew, reading Emma with such concentration he may pop a blood vessel and sat next to me is Sam, wearing headphones blasting Jimi Hendrix but somehow fast asleep.

For those of you who don’t know, we’re on our way to Kilcorran, a tiny town in Kerry for the whole summer (yay!!), where we’ll be staying at my Auntie Cathleen’s house – which is just gorgeous – while she’s away. Kerry is down the south of Ireland, the land of rain, dodgy roads and a strange obsession with Dolly Parton. The train is currently on the last bit of the mountains, and then it descends into a little armpit area of relatively flat land and beach where it stretches out into the coast just by the Skelligs – which are basically two massive rocks sticking out of the sea; but they’ve become a popular attraction ever since they filmed the new Star Wars there, so Kerry will be packed this time of year with tourists - and then you’re in Kilcorran, the tiny coastal town inhabited by Irish pensioners.

Now, like me and anyone who’s ever been to Kerry, you will know that the roads perched right on the mountains are dodgy enough, but you can manoeuvre them grand with the right car and a map. But if the fog settles, you’re lucky if you can still drive straight. This morning was sunny and fog free, but that didn’t stop Jay from panicking and me from spending most of the four hour journey passing her paper bags to breathe into and looking on apologetically at the line of passengers by the toilet door as I wait for her to finish emptying her guts out – which happened far too many times than I’m comfortable with.

Just so you can get a good idea of the whole thing, there’s four of us going – me, Jay, Sam and Matthew. We’re all eighteen and have been best friends since First Year. The reason we’re going to Kilcorran is basically because we didn’t have anything to do this summer, and I thought it would be a good idea if we all went somewhere together for the craic before we go off to uni.

We decided on the train because Matthew and Sam both get car sick and I am a shit driver, so it was three against one, really. Plus, it meant I didn’t have to drive my rattly little hairdryer car with the broken horn for hours up the Irish countryside, being squashed by luggage and trying to figure out where to turn next while Matthew’s motion-sick indoor plumbing lets out scotch egg farts the whole ride and Sam dry-heaves out the window.

I swear to Christ I am the only one here with a normal stomach.

So here we are, off for our grand holiday adventure. The three musketeers and kawaii potato (Sam). People often say we look like siblings or cousins, but I don’t see it. We’re all different in looks – me, I’m small and skinny with wild shoulder-length brown hair dip-dyed a purple-blue (currently in a messy ponytail held up by a claw-grip), hazel eyes with little flecks of gold if you look close enough, which are wide as plates and always rimmed with smudgy eyeliner thanks to my MCR obsession, along with my summer spattering of freckles across my nose and cheeks, and matching tattoos on my forefingers of Rey and Kylo Ren’s lightsabers from Star Wars.

Jay is tall, slim, and freckled all over, with a bit of toned muscle from her tennis lessons (we’re always joking she’s so middle-class, which, to be fair she is - her mum’s a bloody cardiologist and her dad’s a banker for God’s sakes, though they’re lovely) but she’s the most down-to-earth person you’re likely to ever meet. To complete her look, she has striking fox-red wavy shoulder-length hair that’s always combed to perfection and sky blue eyes.

Matthew has dirty blonde hair flicked into a neat, Ryan-Gosling-esque parting that makes both boys and girls swoon, and towers over the rest of us at 6 foot 3”, heavily muscled from rugby but with a slight tan that’s miraculous seeing as he’s just as frigging Irish as the rest of us pasty nerds. And to complete the package, he’s blessed with blue-gold, deep-set eyes that sparkle ever so slightly in the right light.

All in all, he looks like a bloody Hollister model. But he’s completely oblivious to it - we have an inside joke in our friend-group where if we’re in public and we spot someone eyeing him (which, to be honest, happens a lot) we throw him into conversation with said person without giving him any clue as to what’s going on. I like to think it helps build up his flirting skills - he doesn’t see it that way.

And then there’s Sam. He thinks he’s short but he’s a good four inches taller than my puny 5”4, and has a lean build, storm-grey eyes sometimes framed by thick glasses for reading, a sharp jawline and messy brown hair that makes him look like a brunette Gerard Way at the right angle.

Hmm, maybe people say we look related because me and Sam are both brown-haired and Jay and Matthew are so tall. But other than that, there are no similarities.

‘I can’t wait to get there!’ Matthew says, finally looking up from his book. ‘This is going to be class!’

‘Yep, Kilcorran is the best,’ I agree.

My mind wanders back to memories of summers in Kilcorran when I was little, from a wee baby to twelve years old, tottering about the square with my parents and Auntie Cathleen and the rest of our family, laughing and grinning at everything. Kilcorran is a kooky little town on the coast, filled with cobblestone streets, shops and cafés, and a massive old Victorian library right in the centre, just across from the square. I remember that library was the one place I’d be happiest, sitting reading. In the evenings, we’d either sit at home and barbecue the dinner on the patio, or if the adults were just feeling plain lazy we’d go to Georgio’s, the Italian restaurant perched on a little cliff by the shore right outside the village. Auntie Cathleen made friends with the owner, Georgio, when he moved to Kilcorran from Sicily eight years ago, and then he met the rest of our family that summer. After so long, my dad jokes that Georgio and Cathleen are definitely going to end up together someday, and, I’ve got to admit; that would be pretty cool.

My train of thought is interrupted when I feel Matthew tapping me on the shoulder. ‘Come on, Ari!’ he shrieks in excitement. ‘We’re here, hurry up!’

I chuckle at his giddiness and elbow the snoring Sam next to me. ‘Wake up, short-arse, we’re here!’

He wakes with jump; ‘I didn’t do anything!

‘Get up, lazy,’ I snort. I then proceed to close my Mac, take off my headphones and stuff it all into my laptop bag, while grabbing my rucksack and suitcase, still keeping my stack of Millions well away from Sam, who’s trying to manoeuvre his guitar and duffel-bag over one arm and failing.

Sighing, I take his duffel-bag and drop it into his other hand. ‘This is why humans have two arms, dummy.’

‘Yeah, I was going to do that anyways,’ Sam mutters through a mouthful of my Millions. ‘But my stomach was calling, and I answered.’

‘Thief!’ I elbow him in the ribs, resulting in him nearly choking on the sweets.

Across the booth, Matthew and Jay, the latter who has perked up considerably at Sam’s disadvantage, are laughing at Sam, who’s gone into a mini coughing-fit. ‘Honestly,’ Jay splutters, ‘You two are like four-year-olds!’

Demented four-year-olds,’ Matthew adds, grinning like a frigging Cheshire cat.

‘How ironic,’ I reply, heading towards them. ‘You’re calling me a child, when you’re the ones who were about an hour ago doing Patrick the Star impressions.’

Matthew shrugs. ‘Everyone loves Patrick the Star.’

‘Yep, everyone under the age of nine,’ I counter, and smile in triumph when he fails to think of a comeback in time.

‘Okay, enough chitchat,’ Jay interrupts. ‘We’re supposed to be getting off!’

And with that, she strides towards the doors, the rest of us following. We step off the train, and into the hustle and bustle of the tiny train-station, which is filled to bursting with the usual flood of summer tourists, armed with fancy cameras and maps that aren’t all that accurate.

I glance back at my friends, who, five minutes ago, were completely calm, are now looking like lost waifs in amongst the crowd.

Jay goes to grab her suitcase, and gets swept into the fray by an elderly hen party decked out in hot pink and howling with laughter.

The terrified look on her face is so funny I have to clamp my grinning mouth shut with all my might as I grab her by the elbow and pull her back towards the group, then begin to shepherd my bewildered friends through the tsunami of people.

There’s crackly announcements being screamed over the loudspeaker, the porters are whizzing trolleys of luggage by at unsafe speeds and with no regard for whose toes get run over and I think I’ve lost my hair tie, but I’ve been coming here since I was born. I know how to navigate the madness. Sure, there are some obstacles - such as the American tourist who steps on my foot and then shouts obscenities at us for getting in his way, and Matthew is elbowed in the face by a mother carrying a screaming toddler, but eventually we reach the front doors and we’re out and onto the footpath.

Victory is ours!

I can see the town straight ahead, little and vintage, people already wandering through the square and browsing in the shops. It’s a sunny day, with a nice cool breeze drifting by occasionally, and for once, the usually choppy sea is calm. God, I missed this place.

‘We’re alive!’ Matthew exclaims dramatically.

‘I thought I wasn’t going to make it out back there!’ Jay pants. ‘How did you stay so bloody calm?!’

I just smile. ‘When you’ve been going here for years and had to deal with that kind of madness every time you step off the train, you get a lot of practice.’ No one says anything. ‘Come on, let’s get to the house.’

 

1:00pm, at Auntie Cathleen’s house

Every time I come here, I always forget just how lovely this place is. The house is sat on the outskirts of town, between a few fields along the winding country roads, with a little private beach out the back that you get to by walking down a path.

It’s more of a small beach-house than a large cottage, with white-washed walls on the outside, a wraparound porch with wooden railings, and a white picket-fence. There’s two floors, the first one holding the open-plan living-room which is connected a kooky little kitchen, a bathroom, and there’s sliding doors leading onto the patio at the back. The second floor is basically just two bedrooms – the master and one twin bedroom – and another bathroom.

Right beside the master bedroom, there’s an alcove with a staircase leading up to the attic, which Auntie Cathleen has tuned into a “hobbies room”, and it’s filled with two guitars (acoustic and electric, from her wild days as a teenager), a rickety piano, big, squishy armchairs, an art easel, a little 1960s TV that only plays in black and white, an ancient record-player plastered with travel stamps and stickers, stacks of vinyls, and on the back wall, a massive bulletin-board with loads of pictures of  years’ worth of summers in Kilcorran, some faded and wrinkled and more recent ones still shiny and bright. Right above that, there’s a ladder leading up to the roof. When I was little and none of us could sleep, me and my cousins would climb up there with blankets, and lie there the whole night, watching the stars and listening to the ocean.

Anyway, back to the present day.

We burst in through the front door, me first with my bags, just missing the slippery tiles which have been the cause of many childhood injuries.

‘Watch the-’ I try to warn the others who are barrelling through the door, but as they fly past, Jay’s man shoulders slam into me and face-plant me into the wall nose-first. Jesus, that hurt! ‘HOLY HELL, JAY, MY FACE!’ I shout in pain, stumbling backwards as my friend’s blurry figure dances in my eyes. I squint as my head rings. ‘JAY, THE TILES!’

'What?' her head whips around, but seconds too late and she loses her footing, skids on the tiles, head-butts the wall and slides to the floor in a heap. As if planned, the little oil painting hanging on the wall promptly falls off its hook and bonks her on the head, leaving me laughing so hard I’ve got tears streaming down my face. Then Matthew, poor, simple Matthew flies in after her, unaware of the carnage that awaits him. He trips, stubs his toe and lets loose a string of swear words that would make a sailor blush, but miraculously manages to keep his balance.

But I can hear Sam coming.

I turn around, and as soon as I see the skinny idiot flying across the drive, gangly limbs flailing uncontrollably and ready to wreak havoc, I know I will be powerless to stop the monstrosity about to occur. As tile-related accidents go, it’s pretty spectacular.

‘WHAT THE - OH SHIT!

In a split-second it happens. A blur of limbs and luggage flies into my line of vision as Sam comes rocketing in through the door, a look of glee which quickly turns to pure terror painted across his face as he realises his mistake, slips on the tile, tries to get his balance but fails and falls banana-peel style, slams into Matthew, knocking his legs out from underneath him and sending the two of them, Matthew’s duffel-bag and suitcase, plus the lamp by the door sprawling to the floor in a magnificent crescendo of swearing, shouts of pain and an off-tune CLANG!! from Sam’s guitar.

I roll on the floor like a hyperventilating walrus, tears of laughter streaming down my face as my friends glare at me from their tangled heap at the foot of the stairs. Oh my God… oh holy effing Jesus… I can’t stop laughing! Best…day…of my life! I’m going to piss myself!

Finally, I suck in a breath of air. ‘I… told you... to watch…. the tiles!'

I’ve just hauled the grumbling threesome to their feet and found an angle that doesn’t show the crack on the lamp when we hear a clatter, and Auntie Cathleen wanders in from the kitchen. There’s a note of silence. She takes one look at us, the carnage in her hall, and back to her Kindle with a slowly widening grin.

‘Anyone for a cup of tea?’

I think back to the last time I saw Auntie Cathleen. She hasn’t changed at all – same raven black hair held up in a loose bun, half-moon glasses dangling off a chain around her neck, and lively blue eyes creased with laugh lines.

‘Auntie Cathleen!’ I smile, dropping my bags.

She puts her hands on my shoulders, and her face breaks into a grin. ‘Oh my God!Look at you – my wee Ariadne all grown up; my God when’d you get so big - you look just like your mother, so you do, my God you’re the spit of her, absolutely beautiful! Och it’s just been an age! Welcome back, love!’ And I’m pulled into a lung crushing hug.

I should probably explain the whole “Ariadne” thing. See, my parents are professors of ancient history, and when they met, my dad was working in Dublin doing a project on Greek mythology, something both he and my mum were nuts about. Then – surprise, surprise! – five years later, they’re married and I pop out, and they come up with the quirky idea of naming me after a Greek princess. As a kid I thought my name was weird, but eventually it grew on me – plus, I can shorten it to Ari.

Finally, I’m released from Cathleen’s strangling and smile at my mental aunt. I gesture to Jay, Sam and Matthew. ‘Auntie Cathleen, I’d like you to meet the squad. These three idiots are my best friends - Matthew, Jay and Sam – you know, from school?’

Cathleen smiles warmly. ‘Of course!’ Then she looks at Jay, ‘Did I talk to you over the Skype once, love?’

Jay giggles. ‘Yeah, I think so – it was over the Christmas break, wasn’t it, Ari?’

‘Great to meet ya in the flesh, love!’ And Jay is yanked into a bear hug. I have to hold in my snorts of laughter at her petrified face as my aunt squeezes the life out of her. What can I say? Cathleen is a big hugger.

When Jay’s been released, Auntie Cathleen turns on her heel, squints at Sam and Matthew, then says something that makes us all blush.

‘So you’re these lovely girls’ boyfriends, now? Tell me, who’s with who?’

Matthew just stands there looking like a lost puppy, while Sam is glancing at me, as if to say: Well, this is awkward…

Yup, I silently agree.

Then, after a few more moments of silence, I come to the boys’ aid. ‘No, Auntie Cathleen, they’re just friends,’ I assure her, while trying not to smile at Sam and Matthew’s embarrassment.

Cathleen simply sighs, trying to hide a grin. ‘Pity. These two are good lookin’ lads, girls - got to snatch ’em up before they’re gone, ey?’

And cue more blushing.

‘Anyways,’ Cathleen continues, shaking off her last sentence as if it never escaped her lips, ‘I’m off in about half an hour for me train, but I think we’ll have time for a quick snack at the café and have a proper wee chat. Sound nice?’

‘Yeah, sure,’ I reply. ‘We just have to drop our bags somewhere and we can go.’

‘Och just bung them anywhere, love; God knows this place is a tip most of the time,’ Cathleen says, half to herself as she picks up her handbag and checks her suitcases.

We all dash upstairs, and me and Jay make a mad dive for the master bedroom with the best view. We dump our bags beside the wardrobe and run back out, nearly crashing into the boys on the way back down the stairs.

We hop into the car, me helping Cathleen heave her ancient suitcases in the boot first, and Cathleen swears as the old Beetle coughs, sputters and dies. She tries again to no avail, then one more time and finally the old battered engine revs into life. We reach The Sweet Café, a cute little café in in the square which is the renovated bottom half of an old Victorian townhouse.

‘Oh, I remember this place!’ I exclaim, getting out of the car.

Cathleen laughs. ‘I especially remember the time you were four and snorted your water out your nose!’

I blush at the memory of four-year-old me shooting water out my snout, when we hear a shout from the doorway. ‘Cathleen! And wee Ari!’

I look up, and break into a grin. It’s Pat Docherty, an old friend of the family who runs the café. She’s a lovely lady, with candy-floss-like white hair, and always dresses in bright flowery dresses and cardies paired with a crisp white apron.

‘Ach well, Pat,’ Cathleen says warmly, hugging her. ‘Haven’t seen you since last week – how’s your George? Back still bothering him?’

‘He’s still a lazy fecker if that’s what ya mean,’ Pat replies in her thick Athlone accent, ‘But sure that’s husbands for ya!’ Her and Cathleen chuckle.

‘We’re just nipping in for a cup a tea,’ Cathleen says, ‘and Ari’s brought her friends for the holidays, you know, summer break and the like.’

‘Ooh, lovely,’ coos Pat, waving us forward into the cafe. ‘Don’t be partyin’ all night, now, young Ari, and look after your auntie’s house now, d’ya hear me?’

‘I will,’ I barely squeak out as she pulls me into a lung-crushing hug.

She pulls back and smiles at me. ‘It’s good to see you, love.’

We go inside, the brass bell tinkling as the door opens. I take in the old pink wallpaper, shabby-chic white wooden tables and chairs with the pristine lace doilies, flowers in a vase on each one, the framed pictures of kittens, old customers and a black-and-white photo of the original owner, Pat’s granddad, in its frame in a place of pride above the till, next to a grainy black-and-white picture from her and George’s wedding day, her grin nearly splitting her face. The café is full to bursting, with families with young children in summer clothes and hats, old people sipping tea, and the regulars bustling in and chatting with the waitresses.

Pat fixes us up with tea for Cathleen, and Coke and cakes for us “wains”, as she calls the rest of us. ‘Oh…my…God,’ Jay moans a little too loudly as she eats her cake. ‘I’m in heaven!’

I laugh. ‘Yeah, it’s good cake.’

Jay’s mouth falls open, which isn’t a pretty sight. ‘Good cake? Good cake? This is the stuff of miracles! It’s like eating a unicorn fart!’

We all burst into giggles, even Cathleen, who barely has time to keep her mouthful of tea down. I snort uncontrollably as I try to keep my cake from flying across the table. ‘That’s an interesting way to describe food!’

‘It’s true!’ Jay protests as I try to get my breath back and knock over my Coke in the process; ‘Oh, shite!’ I exclaim, Cathleen cackles with laughter, and at the sound of all the commotion Pat takes off from her place at the counter so fast you’d think she had a bolt of lightning fired up her arse and plows her way to the table with an expression painted on her face as if someone just threatened to let off a bomb in the tiny café.

‘Jaysus Mary and Joseph, who’s havin’ a heart attack?!’

‘No one, love,’ Cathleen giggles, trying to get her breath back. ‘Just some silliness.’ She grins at me as I try in vain to mop up the spill on the table with napkins.

‘Honestly!’ Pat grumbles, but she’s slightly smiling. ‘The antics of the pair of ya! You’ve got her streak, Ari.’

‘Then she’s bloody blessed,’ Cathleen grins, earning herself a swat on the head with Pat’s handkerchief.

‘Cathleen Richards, the feckin’ cheek of you,’ Pat tuts. ‘No wonder the nuns at school couldn’t stand ya. My mam told your mother so she did, she told her; “You watch that child, Mary – she’ll be running circles round those poor women!”, and she was right.’

Cathleen snorts with laughter. ‘Oh for Christ’s sake, “poor women” my arse! They were old bitches!’

That sets them both off. Pat hoots with laughter and sets a hand on my shoulder. ‘At least ya didn’t get her mouth, missy. I’d bloody well wash it out with soap!’ And she bursts into a round of giggles that sounds like a giddy owl.

After we’ve all calmed down, Pat joins us at the table. Jay is on her third bit of cake, happily serene, reminding me of my cat Mangetout when he’s asleep. The boys natter on about football or the like, and Pat and Cathleen are discussing her holiday.

‘When are you leaving, then?’ Pat muses, cradling a cup of tea in her hands.

‘About half an hour – I have to get the train all the way up to Dublin, then to the airport for me flight,’ says Cathleen. She rolls her eyes, ‘Traffic’ll be horrendous, of course.’

Pat nods in agreement, ‘Sure isn’t it always; I remember me and George tryin’ to get down the motorway in Spain - ya know, about two years ago, went to Barcelona so we did, feckin’ boilin’ down there so it is - well the poor man was halfway down the bloody thing when we realised it was one-way!’ She and Cathleen giggle and sip their tea.

‘Aye,’ Cathleen nods. ‘But sure it’ll be grand – Georgio’s drivin’ me up to the airport.’

I raise an eyebrow. ‘Georgio? What’s he doing in Dublin?’

Cathleen sips her tea. ‘Oh ya know, picking up some stuff for the restaurant and the like. He offered to leave me off – I said no at first, I’d get the bus, but he insisted. It’s very nice of him.’

I grin. ‘Yeah… very,’

Cathleen chuckles and swats me on the shoulder. ‘Oh, you and your Da’s feckin' gossip. It’s just a favour.’

‘You’re so lucky, going to Paris,’ I say dreamily, picturing the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and the Opera Garnier. ‘I’d love to go there one day.’

‘One day, chickie,’ Cathleen says, bopping my nose with her finger. ‘Maybe I’ll live there and buy a lovely apartment overlooking the Seine with a little balcony to eat me breakfast on, and we can tour together, just you and me taking in the sights.’

‘And see the Louvre,’ I add.

‘Ah yes,’ she says, then glances at her watch. ‘Ah Jaysus, look at the time - right, I’d best be on me way.’ She stands up, grabbing her handbag and fishing out a tenner. ‘Here’s the bill, Pat - right, Ari, I’m leaving the car with you, so be careful, love. I’ve left some money in the jar in the house, enough to do you for three weeks for petrol and food and the like-’

‘Cathleen, it’s okay, Mum’s given me money-’ I try to protest, but Cathleen stops me with a raised palm. ‘Now, now, that’s your money, missus, you keep it, don’t you dare be wasting it on the house. And for God’s sake, ring your parents and me, okay?’ She pauses, rubbing her temple before smiling. ‘Just…keep us posted, love.’

‘Okay, don’t worry,’ I assure her, patting her hand. ‘We’ll be grand, Cathleen.’

Cathleen smiles nervously, then shakes it off and composes herself. She hoists her bag onto her shoulder, and fixes us a bright, determined grin. ‘Take care of yourselves, kiddos. Or I’ll have to come back and beat the livin’ daylights out of ya!’

For a moment my mates look genuinely terrified, then Cathleen cops on and laughs. ‘Sorry, loves, I’m only joking!’

She quickly glances at her phone, then me. ‘I’ll give ya a bell when I get there, Ari, and if anything goes wrong, ring Pat or Georgio, or  Anne across the road – you know Anne, don’t you, Ari, she’s a right bitch so she is but I’ve had to give her the spare key, did I tell you about last week down the shops-’

‘Yes, I know Anne,’ I laugh, stopping her before she can launch into one of her hour-long stories. ‘We’ll be fine, don’t worry. Now come on, you’ll miss your train!’

‘Alright,’ Cathleen says. ‘Come on then,’ she jerks her head toward the car, ‘Give me a hand with me with bags, will you?’

We troop out to the car, and I open the boot, mindful of the dodgy lid that has two settings: Painstakingly Slow or Would You Like Your Head Taken Off? I heave Cathleen’s battered suitcases out, and sit them on the road as the others watch from the doorway.

Cathleen pecks me on the forehead. ‘Be careful, okay?’ She pauses, then glances over to the steady stream of people coming out of the train station. ‘Right, I’d better be going.’

‘See you in four weeks, and have fun!’ I say, hugging her.

‘I’ll try my best.’ She sets off walking down the road with her suitcases. ‘Bye, love!’

‘Bye!’ We all shout back, as I join the others in the doorway. We hear a train whistle blow, and watch as Cathleen disappears into the fray of people.  

 

 

6:38pm, in the living-room, Auntie Cathleen’s house

After we left the café we drove back home and now we’re all just sitting around, most of the gang still in shock from the whirlwind that is Cathleen, who called around five o’clock, squealing down the phone about Paris so loudly the neighbour’s dog started barking.

Me and Sam have been taking turns making soup and garlic bread for dinner, but now I’m on my break, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross blaring on the TV. Matthew watches half-heartedly and Jay is already snoring her head off on the old brown sofa. I can’t really blame her – the thing is like a big cushy hug. It’s going to take some pretty big pots and maybe an earthquake to wake her up for dinner.

I curl up on the fluffy sheepskin rug by the old stone fireplace, working on my art while Sam handles the garlic bread. I didn’t think I’d have any time at all during the holiday to doodle, but Jay convinced me to take my art stuff with us just in case I got inspiration while we’re here.

I hear footsteps on the tiles. Sam flops down beside me on the rug, guitar in hand. I give him a questioning look.  ‘Aren’t you supposed to be cooking the garlic bread?’

‘Don’t worry, I put it in the oven ages ago,’ he says as he attempts to tune the guitar. ‘You said forty-five minutes, right?’

I nearly drop my pencil. ‘Sam, I said fifteen minutes…’ This cannot be good. And then, as if on cue, a heavy, choking smell starts to drift past our direction.

Sam’s eyes widen. Without a word, we make a break for the kitchen, running straight into a gust of smoke.

‘Oh, for God’s sake!’ I sigh, grabbing the oven-gloves and flinging the door of the Aga open as the smoke-alarm starts bleeping. Inside, a length of something that looks vaguely like bread sits on the tray, sizzling quietly. ‘Who on earth puts bread in for forty-five FRIGGING minutes?!’

‘Lots of people!’ Sam argues indignantly. ‘Although it may have had something to do with the temperature of the oven…’

‘I thought I set it!’ I say in confusion.

Sam’s face has now turned a striking shade of pink. ‘Well, you know… bread sometimes needs warming up…’

Matthew comes striding in, coughing from the smoke and looking at us accusingly. ‘Alright, which one of you tried to make toast again?’

A glare from me silences him. ‘That was one time!’

Matthew’s face lights up jokingly. ‘Yes, because it was the one time you could actually remember how to work the toaster.’

That sets both of them off. So I graciously fling a towel at them and leave the giggling twosome to sort it out by themselves.

Twenty minutes later, I and Jay are flopped on the sofa, having abandoned Jonathan Ross and switching to Miss Congeniality. The boys come in a while later, carrying bowls of soup and some seriously over-buttered toast. Very funny, Matthew.

I stare down at my toast. ‘Is this a joke?’

‘No,’ Matthew replies, ‘but after the chef over there,’ he points at Sam, ‘pretty much killed the garlic bread we had to come up with a quick bread substitute.’

‘And you couldn’t have just used bread?’ I say.

‘Toast is homelier.’ Matthew argues, sitting the bowls on the coffee-table and settling into a chair.

‘You can’t dip toast into your soup.’

Jay sits up, looking confused. ‘Why are you even arguing this?’

‘Because he doesn’t know the rules of food!’ I say accusingly, pointing a finger at Matthew.

‘Everyone has different tastes-’ Matthew starts, then looks at the TV. ‘Why the hell are we watching this?’

‘Because it’s brilliant,’ I say.

‘No, it’s unrealistic,’ Matthew grumbles. ‘What bad guy would target a beauty pageant?’

‘A feminist who doesn’t think women should be pressured to be beautiful?’ I suggest.

‘No villain is ever a woman,’ he says.

I scoff, ‘Hypocrite! You’ve told me loads of times you wish they’d get more female villains on board!’

‘Yes,’ Matthew replies calmly, ‘but they don’t. Because audiences come for the eye-candy, not the story. The movie industry’s corrupted, Ari.’

‘There are plenty of women villains,’ I argue determinedly, but my subconscious is murmuring; Are you sure? I tell it to shut up.

Matthew raises an eyebrow. ‘Name three.’

‘Maleficent, The Snow Queen and Captain Phasma.’

‘Dammit.’ Matthew huffs.

‘I say we change it,’ Sam quips.

Jay eyes him suspiciously. ‘To what?’

‘I dunno; one of the Bourne films?’

Matthew turns his head towards him, probably to keep the TV out of his line of vision. ‘Which one?’

‘Um, the last one?’

I immediately shake my head. I put down my charcoal pencil next to the drawing of the Phantom’s mask. ‘No, no, no. Absolutely no way. Nuh-uh.’

Sam looks at me. ‘Why?’

‘Because Matt Damon has a grumpy face. I’m not spending well over two hours watching it.’ I huff and cross my arms for effect.

Matthew snorts. ‘Sure, his face you don’t like, but you make me sit with you and gawk over his arse for ages…’

I throw my pencil at him. ‘Shut up.’

Eventually we settle for 21 Jump Street, which has us all in stitches. Jay predictably eats all the chewy Cola bottles sweets, Sam falls asleep and I take the opportunity to kick him off the sofa to make room for my feet. Amazingly, he hits the floor and snoozes on.

After a while, Matthew goes to bed. Like the good friend he is, he takes Sam by the feet and drags him up the stairs, his head hitting each step on the way up. He may wake up tomorrow with a concussion.

‘Come on,’ I groan, picking up discarded sweet wrappers and chucking them into the bin. ‘I’m going to bed.’

‘K,’ Jay mumbles, dragging herself off the sofa. ‘Oh bloody hell, we didn’t unpack, did we? I’ll have to get my pyjamas.’

‘Wow, you have to open a suitcase and take out clothes,’ I say (insert sarcasm here). ‘You’ll sleep like a log after that.’

We amble up the stairs to our room. I pull on my cosy purple pyjama-shorts with cartoon kittens on them and a grey tank top, and go into the bathroom to brush my teeth. I climb into bed, Jay already with her head under the covers, and roll on my side, closing my eyes.

Silence.

The curtains drift slightly open. I can hear the boys snoring their heads off in the next room. Aah, I think, this is great. A big cushy bed, we’re on holiday-

Toot.

My eyes shoot open. There’s a moment of silence, and then I hear muffled tittering under the covers.

Oh Jesus…I think. Let’s just hope this is the first and last of that. For those of you who are confused, yes, I’m fully aware that all people fart; it’s a natural body function, but you do not want to be there when Jay lets one rip. It’s nose-assassination, like cheese-and-onion crips mixed with some unholy nuclear chemicals the government probably had to throw into outer space for the sake of health and safety, and the result is eye-watering.

I hold my breath in anticipation. PLEASE,PLEASE, not now…

Ppaaarp…!

‘Stop it,’ I say, kicking Jay on the legs.

She stifles a giggle. ‘It wasn’t me.’

‘Yes it was - quit it.’ I grumble, and that’s when the smell hits me. ‘Oh, sweet suffering- fuck, that’s strong!’  Jay bursts into giggles as I begin to gag. ‘What is wrong with you?!’


© Copyright 2019 Zoe Grant. All rights reserved.

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