Posted on June 05, 2015
The thing is, I didn’t want him to catch me. I definitely did not want that boy to catch me, cross
my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, I, did, not.
I’m the best runner in the school. And I don’t mind saying that, because it’s true.
Well, the best if you don’t count Jean Stewart. But she’s from the town, and also has those
special runners with loads of stripes on them everywhere, except on the soles of them, I don’t
think they’re there, but I can’t be sure because I never looked. Probably not. Who cares anyways.
I didn’t even realise that I was going to be the next one.
I peeked over at him, just in case, and he didn’t look like he was looking at me. The other boys
were in a circle around him, as if they owned him, which they don’t, even though they think they
They’ve stopped playing football in the playground during break since he came to our school.
They were all whispering to him about The Plan, real serious, like as if it was a war, and he was
listening, and nodding, but deciding for himself, standing all tall in the middle of the lot of them,
with his arms folded and his legs apart, like he couldn’t care less what they were saying to him
about The Plan, like he already knew himself what he was going to do and they were all just
bores that he put up with in case they were useful for backup with The Plan.
The girls spotted me looking across the playground at him and they says to me ‘What are ya
gawking at him for, are ya thinking about kissing him, do ya want him to catch ya, do ya fancy
him or something, do ya want him to marry ya?’ and I told them that there’s no way I’d let him
catch me, and of course I didn’t fancy him for Christ’s sake, but didn’t I have to watch out
because wasn’t I one of the girls not yet caught and mightn’t he decide to catch me today, so he
might, and there was no way I was going to let that boy catch me, ever.
But they were all snorting and sniggering at me like as if I was telling a lie, and that made me
cross after all my big explaining about everything, so then I knew I had to say something mean
Grainne is definitely the one who decides who is allowed be your friend in the school, the one
who’ll tell any one of your secrets to anyone she likes, but you still better have a few secrets to
tell her or she’ll think you’re being a smartarse, so the best thing to do is tell her something she’ll
think is a good secret and leave it at that. She’s the one who’ll laugh at your lunch just because
you don’t have the fancy Marietta biscuits with the margarine squeezing out through the holes,
you just have the stupid gooseberry jam sandwiches that your mother said ‘don’t come home
with those good sandwiches still in your lunchbox’ but you can’t flush them down the toilet
because the itinerants have already blocked the drains up with throwing the buns they get from
the teacher into them for the craic because they don’t care about buns and they don’t care about
So I turned to Grainne, who was looking at me with her fists tight on her hips all ready to have a
good laugh at me about looking over at Ricky, the new boy, from America, and all the girls
behind her whispering that they definitely saw me gawking at him and why should Grainne put
up with a sneaky liar? And I said to her loud and clear, right there in front of everyone, ‘I didn’t
exactly see ya sprinting away topspeed yourself when he was after you yesterday, Grainne, no, I
didn’t exactly see ya breaking your heart to get away from him with your big legs, now, did I,
Oh Jesus she went pure mad at how I could say that to her, like as if I wasn’t afraid of her, like
as if I didn’t realise I’d be hammered something wicked for saying stuff like that, and all the girls
listening with their mouths open. She made a grab for me, and with a big red raging head on her,
she roared ‘Wedding Bells for this one! This one wants to kiss him! This one wants to marry yer
man Ricky!’ She dragged me by the hair to over underneath the big fuchsia bush beside the field
at the edge of the playground, with the rest of the girls running behind, some laughing, some
screeching ‘Wedding Bells! Wedding Bells!’ over at Ricky and the other boys, some saying
things like ‘Ah go easy on her Grainne, we all saw ya yesterday, running away from him as fast
as ya could, she was only messing Grainne, sure ya didn’t let that fella kiss ya at all, she didn’t
see it properly Grainne, ya’d never let him go near ya, but that boy is so speedy Grainne!
Nobody’d blame ya if ya got caught by accident! That boy is a good catcher, Grainne! It
wouldn’t be your fault if he had got ya! We all saw ya racing like mad, trying your best to get
away from him, Grainne!’, talking like this as if they were the ones in trouble, as if they were the
ones with a big wad of their hair caught tight in her hot fist, and her dribbling with rage at having
been caught out by the likes of me.
She didn’t listen to any of their soft talk, she didn’t even hear it. With a hard mad face on her,
she flung me on the wet ground in front of the big fuchsia tree and grabbed its drooping
branches, swinging them over me, some of them snapping and falling. I stayed dead still, head
down, feeling the wet cold ground coming up on me, thinking to myself ‘She’s bullin’ at ya so
don’t get up, wait til they’re finished and gone, it doesn’t matter, he can’t see ya here, on the
dirty ground, looking the sorry fool.’
All the girls were copying her, roaring ‘Wedding Bells, Wedding Bells’ and pulling at the poor
oul tree. Its branches rained down cold water and wet, red confetti flowers all over me, the eejit
bride, sodden and quiet on the mucky ground.
I waited for it to be over, and playacted like I was sorry so that she’d quit and leave me lying
there, all drenched and covered with broken flowers like the birds had shat berries all over me. I
looked over, through the loud pack of swarming girls and falling bits, to where he had been
Oh Christ, wasn’t he staring right back, eyes tight, getting ready to run at me! And all the boys
lined up behind him, ready for The Plan!
I leapt to my feet because I knew what was coming next, what was happening at last, and I
didn’t give a damn about Big Grainne and all the roaring girls, nor the muck all over me, nor the
damp red flowers, crushed and clinging to my cold skin like stickers from a comic book. I
shoved through them, and they all laughing because they thought I was scared of them and their
stupid Wedding Bells.
I ran like the clappers, to show him how much I didn’t want him to catch me, to show him what a
good runner I was, to show him how special I was, to show him how hard it would be to catch
me, to show him only a really fast, really strong boy could maybe do it, not like the snotty boys
running behind him, pushing and pulling at each other.
I ran, and him fast after, catching up on me.
I ran, just out of his reach, looking back a few times to make sure he was still there.
I ran to the field beside the playground, because if he was going to be able to catch me, that
would be the best place to be caught. That was the plan I had made, ready if this ever happened,
ready for a long time.
He was close now, so I stopped looking back, just scarpered forward through the air like I was
flying, like I had special powers none of the other girls had. My hair was all wet, whipping like
mad tails on fire behind me, and the fuchsia flowers were still stuck on my skin, as if I didn’t
care what kind of a gobshite I looked like. I tried to rub them off and he grabbed me by the hair. I
fell face forward, him falling right on top of me with a hard thump.
I lay there, the smell of the squashed grass in my face, not sure what to do next, the heart nearly
bouncing out of my chest, the feel of his fast breath on the back of my wet neck, his grip on my
hair, everything quiet like it didn’t exist.
I think he wasn’t sure what to do either. He loosened his hold and said my name. I couldn’t
believe he said my name, just like that.
I turned around to face him, the other boys still snorting miles behind, the girls all squeaking
under the fuchsia, craning their necks to see what would happen so they could tell each other
after. He put his hands on my arms and was saying nothing, just breathing, and so I wriggled a bit in
his hold to show him that he had caught me fair and square, that he had me if that was The Plan,
and I thought; I better try throwing him off me here or he’ll think I want him to kiss me and the
runty boys are nearly here and they’ll tell the girls I let him kiss me and that’ll be the end of me
forever,’ and I looked at his face and his mouth and the truth is he was so lovely and I smiled at
the good of it all and then he kissed me on the lips as if we were married and I heard the others
coming up the field roaring that Ricky had got me and so I gave an almighty shove and threw
him off, shouting with all my might ‘Let me go, Ricky! Would you ever just let me go, Ricky!’,
his name licking around me like a mad runaway flame, my eyes dancing and my heart racing like
I could die right there and then, and I wouldn’t give a damn.