Cascading red curls caressed the wood as she moved her head to the music.
He wanted to stand there and stare at her profile all night, but he had to approach her.
“You’ve been stood up, pretty girl!”
Clodagh Kenny turned around. What the hell! He was drop dead gorgeous.
From his coal black hair curling sexily on the collar of his jacket all the way down his long, long legs. She flicked her curls and eyeballed him, grateful for once for her height.
“Are you talking to me?”
“Indeed I am… Clodagh Kenny I believe! James Murray at your service.”
“Is this some sort of joke? Has my sister put you up to this? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen her in a while. She’s probably hiding somewhere nearby, laughing at me.” Clodagh looked down at the spacious hall, convinced that
Claire had planned this whole scenario.
“I hope you’ve been well paid. You’re not going to strip I hope! I’ll kill that sister of mine. She knows how much I hate surprises.”
“Relax, no shedding of clothes, I promise. I haven’t been hired by anyone, but maybe I should consider it as a side-line. The security business can be unreliable at the best of times!”
“I don’t think so and if that is your idea of a chat up line…! Anyway I have a date tonight and Richard will be arriving soon.” Clodagh looked down over the side of the spiral staircase again, hoping to see her boyfriend.
James came and stood beside her.
Chips in a Bag, Classy Mr Murray
“Actually you’ve said the magic word… Richard is the reason that I know so much about you. He told me to look for the tallest, most beautiful stunning girl with long, long red curly hair and a smile that would light up the darkest night… so you were very easy to find.”
“He said all that about me? How sweet!” Clodagh blushed and James had the grace to look guilty.
“Well, most of it. I added in the bit about your hair... stunning... tall. I’m sure he would agree with me but he is a man of few words. He gave me this.”
He produced a photo from his inside pocket.
“I hate that dress. It makes me look like a blade of grass!” Clodagh was horrified.
“Oh my God! I’ll throttle him. Why do you have this?” she continued.
“I’m afraid Richard won’t be coming tonight. He really wanted to but he was needed at home. One of the cows was due to calve or something. You know how much work he does on the farm since his Dad died and his mother depends on him so much. She is also very, very devout so I suspect that she didn’t want him to go out during Holy Week. He is too nice to upset her so he asked me to keep you company. He knew I was coming here and he didn’t want you to be alone on your birthday. Maybe we can sit down over here and get to know one another a little better.” He spotted an empty couch under the huge gilt mirror.
“Imagine being stood up for a cow on my birthday! That has to be a first,”
Clodagh burst out laughing.
“It was a very valuable cow! Anyway it’s your birthday so why don’t we do as he wanted and celebrate it. Happy seventeenth birthday Clodagh Kenny.” He kissed her on the cheek.
“You know my name, you have my photo, and you know that it’s my birthday, and my age. I’m wondering how much more you have been told. I wouldn’t be surprised if you knew my shoe size as well!” said Clodagh.
“Ah, now you are expecting too much! Give me a chance. I’m only an innocent Kerryman! What do you call those things anyway?” he asked, glancing at her footwear.
“You really need to update your shoe knowledge! They are called platforms. It is the late seventies. You need to move with the times! These are the latest.”
Clodagh cocked her foot up so he could have a closer look.
“Those things are so high, you would need a stepladder to climb into them. It’s no wonder you are as tall as I am.”
“You sound just like my father. What age are you anyway?” “Well, what age would you like me to be?” he asked.
“Well twenty would be nice, but I’m guessing that the last time you saw that number was printed on a door.”
“The lady bites! Nasty, but true.” He laughed.
“Just as well I’m thick-skinned, and like girls with attitude. I’m only twenty-four but that must seem ancient to a young one of seventeen. Hopefully my charming personality will compensate for you having to spend the evening with an older man. You can tell your parents that I was only standing in for Richard. I wouldn’t want your father chasing me with a shotgun.” James declared.
“Actually my mother would welcome you with open arms and a large slab of apple tart. My Dad is ten years older than her and she is determined to ensure that my sister Claire and I end up as happy as they are. I’m not sure what the age thing has to do with it.”
“Well in that case Miss Kenny we should hit the dance floor. I’m pretty good so please try not to step on my toes with those ladders.” He smiled and held out his hand.
“You really are full of yourself, Mr Murray!”
“I’ll give you that one as a birthday present. Ready?”
Chips in a Bag, Classy Mr Murray
They walked to the top of the spiral staircase and were about to walk down when James spotted his friends heading up towards them.
“These are the noisy lot that I came here with tonight. Let me introduce you to them. They will vouch for the fact that I am not an axe murderer and that you are quite safe in my company.”
“Hi James. Looks like you are glad you came after all. Who is your new friend?”
She turned to Clodagh.
“I’m this fellow’s sister Mary and these are Conor, Kate, Jimmy, Angela, Mark, Paddy and lots more. You are?” Mary smiled.
“This is Clodagh and you lot are drunk.” James retorted.
“Ah brother, don’t be such a killjoy. How often does a sensible married woman get a chance to let her hair down? You are the baby in the family so act like it. Conor will be going away tomorrow so let’s have fun. I’m heading for the bar. Who’s coming with me? Nice to meet you Clodagh.” Mary waved and headed off, followed by all but one of the girls.
“You not going with them Kate?” James asked
She shrugged and sat down on one of the chairs by the wall.
“I’ll stay here for a while with you. You did promise me a dance once you had completed your good deed for the night and spent some time with Richards’s young one.” She turned to Clodagh.
“I presume you’re the object of his Act of Mercy. Hope you don’t mind if I steal him away. I’m sure you have some young friends around here somewhere! James and I have some catching up to do.” She slipped her hand through his arm.
Clodagh stepped back. “I’m not anyone’s Act of Mercy and have plenty of friends here. Enjoy your night. Thank you James for passing on the message.” She skipped down the stairs and disappeared into the crowded dance floor.
“What did you do that for? It was rude and totally uncalled for. I haven’t seen you since Mary’s wedding and didn’t even know you were coming tonight. We definitely didn’t have any arrangement to dance.” James fumed.
“Ah relax. I could see that you wanted to be rescued. Mary told me about Richard. That poor eejit is so scared of his mother that he couldn’t even take his girlfriend out on her birthday. Why would you want to spend the evening with a teenager when you could be with a real woman!” she caressed his arm.
“I think you have had too much to drink Kate. Your boyfriend would thump me if he thought that I was within half a mile of you, not to mind what your old man would do. Thanks for the thought but I liked her company and now
I’m going to see if I can find her and apologise to her. You sit here for a while and I’ll find Mary to keep you company. Good night Kate.” James followed
Clodagh into the crowd.
Clodagh was furious. That cheeky bitch Kate. Even if she was his girlfriend, she had no right to be so rude. James was nice and she had enjoyed his company. She couldn’t find Claire anywhere. The music was lovely and she was itching to dance.
“I’m sorry Clodagh.” James appeared beside her.
“You startled me. Where’s the girlfriend? I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her again.” She looked over his shoulder.
“She’s not my girlfriend. She never was. She works with my sister and I haven’t seen her for ages. She decided I needed rescuing but she was wrong. I promised you a dance so I hope you will agree. I will be gutted if I have to go home without having danced with the most beautiful girl in this ballroom, even if I am just standing in for one of the luckiest boyfriends in the country.”
She smiled and held out her hand.
“I take that as a yes then Miss Kenny. Just for one evening let’s become part of the magic of this beautiful hotel. Shall we have our first dance together?
We might even get as far as having a bag of chips later just to celebrate your birthday.” They moved onto the floor. She looked him in the eye.
“Chips in a bag! Very classy Mr Murray.”
Chips in a Bag, Classy Mr Murray