I still get excited about my birthday, even though I’m not a kid any more. Da keeps saying I need to grow up and wise up, and he’s right, I know he is. But all the same, turning 18’s one of them milestones, it’s a big one. Like I can go and get blocked legally now, brilliant. No more fake ID shite and running around back streets and shitty clubs. I’m doing OK, got a wee job in Burton’s in Castle Court, and I’m seeing Lynz more now she’s got shot of that ballbeg Drew from the Shore Road she was going with. Crues supporter; lame as fuck. Dunno what she ever saw in him.
So, like I was saying, I was kinda excited when I got up this morning, it being the big 18th. Da was already up and away to the depot, but he’d left me an envelope on the mantelpiece with a twenty pound note in a card; sweet. And ma was on good form too, gave me a big kiss, sat me down and made me a massive Ulster Fry with pancakes and everything. I suppose she reckoned I’d need a good feed to give me a bit of ballast because I’d probably be out at the band hall or getting spackers on the beer with the lads after work. But I’d already made a decision and took da’s advice, so tonight was going to be about me and Lynz. Grown up and wised up.
So I rang her and told her to get dolled up and I’d pick her up in a taxi on the way down the road. When we pulled up outside her house in Sugarfield Street the taxi driver dooted the horn, and she came to the door looking like a million dollars. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Nor could the taxi driver; he was all You goin’ wi’ her? No harm mate, but you’re punchin’ well above yer weight there. I had to agree with him – I mean I’m a good drummer, and I can make her laugh, but… well you want’ve seen her. Like a movie star. She was wearing this dress that was so tight it looked like it was sprayed on, and right down the front was this zip, and the way she had it was showing a good bit of cleavage. That zip was going to mess with me all evening, no doubt about that. It’d be hard to look at her without my eyes straying, and already all I could think about was unzipping it. I can tell you I was praying like fuck I’d get a chance later, and we’d go all the way tonight, it being my birthday and all. Some present that’d be.
Whenever she got in the cab, she gave me a wee kiss, and a big smile, and said Happy birthday pet, what about ya? Having a good day? I caught a whiff of vodka on her breath, despite the chewing gum; she must have had one or two back in the house to get warmed up. Must be on for getting blocked, I thought to myself, happy days. Her perfume filled the cab; it had to be expensive gear, she smelled totally class. Of course, as soon as we got talking she was noseying away, trying to find out where we were going, but I kept it tight and didn’t tell her even when we got into town. When we pulled up outside the Crown Bar I paid the driver. As she went to get out of the taxi, Lynz rested her hand on my leg for a wee moment, and gave it a quick squeeze before she climbed out. I tell you, I could feel the blood rushing through my veins, and I thought to myself, That’s a good sign. Maybe tonight’s the night, maybe it is. Taxi driver winked at me as he handed me the change, and said Your birthday, son? What age are ye? When I told him he pressed a pound coin into my hand and said Here, have a good night big lad. Enjoy yourself with that there lassie, you’re some lucky pup. When I got out of the cab, it wasn’t a bad evening, spitting rain but not cold or nothing. So, where we goin’ then? she asked, you gonna tell me now? but I didn’t tell her, just grinned at her and said Come on this way.
Her face dropped a wee bit when we didn’t cross the road, and I wondered if she’d thought we were going into the Europa, but she brightened up when I took her into the Crown. It being early on a Friday the place was busy with ones in suits just out of work, and we couldn’t get a snug to ourselves. But it didn’t matter; the boys we sat in with were sound, and good for a bit of banter. Of course they were all eying her up any chance they got and Lynz knew it, but it didn’t bother her and she slagged the fuck out of them when they got too cheeky; you’ll not beat a Shankill girl at that game.
We only had a few drinks like – I had three pints of Guinness – and then I took her to the restaurant, just up the street, a wee bit before the BBC. We’d neither of us been there before, and it was spot on. Lynz was really happy with it, said it was perfect for her first dinner out with a boy. I didn’t tell her it was my first time too. I had a gigantic T-Bone steak, with thick-cut chips and Lynz had some thing with shrimp and rice, said it was really tasty. We had a bottle of red wine as well. By the end of the dinner Lynz was getting rightly, laughing at all my stories and touching my hand across the table, and I kind of knew things were going well. So we sat on, and ordered more wine. I didn’t bother with dessert, not my thing, but Lynz went all out for the chocolate cake, and started telling me all about how chocolate has the same effect on your brain as sex, and I said I’d prefer the sex thanks very much, and she looked straight at me and said I wonder what it’s like if you have both, and I couldn’t wait to pay the bill and get out of there.
And then we’re standing in the street at the traffic lights opposite the Europa, and the rain’s off, and the street’s busy with ones going home, and while the lights are red she takes my hand, and I pull her to me, and she puts her arms round my neck and we kiss, and it’s amazing, and out of the corner of my eye I can see two blokes coming towards us but I’m not really paying attention, cos Lynz is pressing herself up against me, then it’s all happening really quickly: one of them stops and bends down, puts this case he’s carrying on the pavement, then he opens it up, stands next to me, and starts playing some romantic waltz or something like that on his violin, and for a split second I think he’s taking the piss, and he’s obviously a fenian as well, and I want to punch him, but Lynz is still kissing me, and I wise up and relax, and it’s so brilliant, feels like we’re in Paris or Italy.
And when he stops I give him the thumbs up, and she takes my hand and puts it back on her arse.
Love this one! Captured the voice of teenage so well. Awareness of everything, the tension, the nerves! I really enjoyed this.
Thanks for your feedback. I don’t know if you’re aware of the political background to this story as well – there’s also some sectarian tension in there.
Oh no I don’t know too much of the politics in the area. Will re-read!
Tricky if you don’t know about the sectarian geography of Belfast, or the political situation. Basically, the narrator is a protestant, the fiddler a catholic.
I like the faceless musician at the end. Do things like that really happen in real life? In Belfast?
Brilliant how you capture the spinning headrush a kiss like that can give.
One of my favourite descriptions is when they get out of the taxi. I have a particular spot of the road beside the Crown in my head when I read that; I can vividly see Lynz easing herself out of the taxi, hair and heels intact, in the spitting rain.
Thanks for your feedback, Susan. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.
Of course things like that happen in real life; and especially so in Belfast! I also wanted there to be an element of unease and threat in that passage as well.
Cool the way you’re picturing Lynz: all I mentioned was her dress…
I’ve never even been to Belfast, Jason, but when I read your stories I feel like I’m actually there. That’s a sign of success! I like the narrator’s voice, too: very strong and realistic.
Thanks so much for the feedback Mari. This one was quite challenging. ..
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You’ve captured the teenage sexuality fastidiously Jason! He’s certainly chomping at the bit… and Lins plays her prescriptive gender role to perfection! “…Telling me all about how chocolate has the same effect on your brain as sex.” So subtle! I can envisage some rather gauche love-making later on. And this disturbs me. Thanks for that. Haha!
Thanks for your feedback Sarah 🙂