Kieran smiles as he walks toward us casually. His hands are deep in his school pants pockets. The sleeves of his navy jumper are pulled up to his elbows and the white of his collar looks brilliant against his tanned neck. His jumper hangs loosely on him, but I can actually imagine his shoulders and biceps under the fabric. I remind myself that a rush of hormones does not constitute love, probably the main reason why love never lasts, because it is too often misjudged as love.
Shannon calls out to Kieran, “Kieran, what’s your hi-story.” She starts to laugh hysterically at her own joke, and I start laughing as well.
Kieran grins as he comes to stand next to me. He glances at me again as if he knows me, and I stop laughing self-consciously.
Dermot blows smoke up into the air. “Yeah, Kieran, what is your history?”
Kieran pulls his shoulders back. “Well. In sixteen ninety-two, I lived in a small town called Salem.”
Shannon interrupts him, “You are so full of it. What is your real history? Where are you from?”
Seriously, he says, “Before moving here, I lived in South America for a while.”
Dermot throws the cigarette stub onto the ground and grinds it to death with the toe of his shoe.
“Thank goodness,” I exclaim. “I thought you would never finish that. Can we get lunch now?”
I move forward just as Kieran takes a step. I move into him by accident and I bump up against him. My face is close to his and he looks into my eyes, he looks at me as if I am his whole world, which causes me a brief moment of panic. This is the first time a boy has looked at me so intensely, so deeply it actually stirs my soul. I feel a hot flush push up my face. He smiles charmingly, and then he gestures for me to walk ahead of him.
I move away from him and for the entire break and the rest of the day, I make sure Shannon and Dermot are walking between him and me. I successfully avoid looking at him for the rest of the day.
After school, I say goodbye to Shannon and Dermot and I walk to the train station alone, as I do every day. Just another normal day, except it is not normal because in twenty-four hours from now my dad will technically no longer be a part of my family unit.
His sudden voice next to me startles me, “Hi, Heather. Mind if I walk with you.”
“Which direction do you go?” He looks at me puzzled, so I smile. “On the train. Do you go South or North?”
Understanding brightens his eyes.
Although love scares me a little now, I cannot help it when I feel a small twinge in the pit of my stomach. He is absolutely gorgeous and the way he looks at me makes me feel wanted and loved. Obviously, this whole divorce thing is playing havoc with my emotions because I met this boy only a few hours ago and already my mind is telling me he wants and loves me.
He says, “North. I saw you on the train this morning.”
“Yeah. You were sitting a few seats ahead of me.”
I nod my head as I say, “Okay?” I wonder if my previous prediction is correct and he is not looking at me with want and love, but with psychotic needs and desires.
As if he can read my mind, he declares, “Don’t worry, I am not a psycho. I recognized your school uniform.”
I smile, hiding my relief.
He continues, “I didn’t see you at school yesterday.”
“I know. I was feeling a little off.”
He frowns briefly. “Hope you are feeling better today.”
“I’m okay.” I grin sheepishly.
We reach the station and wait on the platform together.
He is looking out across the railway lines, across the stonewall on the other side, toward the blue, motionless ocean. He asks interested, “Do you go to the beach often.”
“In summer, we go regularly. Not now though, it gets too cold.”
The train rumbles into the station and then we walk a little forward. The doors swoosh open and I step up into the carriage while Kieran follows me in. I find a seat and he sits down across from me. There is not a whole lot of leg space, especially when he slouches down into his seat. The fabric of his grey school pants rubs against my leg and I am not sure where to put my legs. For the first time ever, in all of my sixteen years, I am feeling shy and uncertain in the presence of a boy.
He stares out of the window at a point just beyond my face and I feel unsure of myself. I do not know where to look, so I look up and read the boring advertisements pasted across the light fittings near the roof of the carriage.
I have memorized the importance of brushing my teeth when he breaks the silence between us. “Almost there.”
I sit up, feeling uncomfortable with his warm leg pressed against mine. Not uncomfortable in a weird way, but a nice way. I cross my legs at the ankles, slide them in under my seat and look out the window. The houses on the outskirts of Drogheda are flashing past.
As he stands up, he scoops his hand through the handles of his satchel. I get up as well and follow him to the standing area by the door. The train stops with a jerk and I knock into him. He takes a deep breath as his arms come around my waist to steady me. Smiling shyly, I move away from him.