THE only thing Matt has learned from Irish is that Caoimhe Mulcahy is like a cool version of Niamh from Tír na nÓg.
Instead of fair hair, hers is darker than obsidian. Instead of riding a horse, she plays PlayStation. Her eyes are brown, narrowing when she talks as if testing you. She half smiles, somethings dimpling left, sometimes right. She often looks at Matt like she doesn’t give a toss, and everyone knows that’s a sign he’s in with a shout. There’s no debating she’s the best-looking girl in Cork. Definitely Mayfield.
“I didn’t know you could sing, Matt,” she says, stretching her leg on the wall underneath the railings.
“I, um, you know, um, just, maybe a little.”
“You’re pretty good. Like someone out of The Commitments.”
“Ah, maybe, I wouldn’t go that far, but yeah, maybe...“
“What’s the story with this beautiful fella?”
She crouches and Dodger licks her knees. Thank God he’s gotten over wearing the lead.
He pulls Matt very close to her. She grins, fixing her hair over her ear, and she smells like a cool minty chewing gum.
“We’re, uh, minding him, for our neighbour, Mrs Higgins. He likes running around town, don’t you, Dodger?”
Dodger barks and tries to catch the lead in his mouth.
“That’s class. Really nice of you.”
“Ah well, sure tis no big deal.”
She stands up and scratches Dodger’s ears.
“I’m heading over to Merchant’s Quay to meet me Mam.”
“We’re heading that way too.”
“Matt,” Barra mumbles.
Matt goes to him, smiling too much. This is turning into the best day ever. A new PlayStation 5. Caoimhe Mulcahy chatting to him. Everything really does work out in the end.
“We’ve to go, like. School’s out. An hour to bring Dodger back.”
“Relax. Plenty of time. Can’t miss out on talking to Caoimhe.”
“Ah, feck off, we’ve loads of time. You’re no- one to go on about being early.”
“Are ye coming or what?” Caoimhe calls, already walking towards Drawbridge Street.
“Here, take Dodger.” Matt holds out the leash.
Barra almost trips over and shakes his head like he’s being asked to babysit an elephant.
“Nah, man. Nope. Not happening, like.”
Dodger bites on the lead, nuzzling it in the corner of his mouth for better grip. Matt yanks it out and Dodger growls.
“Here, he doesn’t like me. Cop on, Crunchie, you’re embarrassing us.”
Barra takes the lead, whines worse than the dog, and Matt turns away before he changes his mind.
He falls into step with Caoimhe, glancing back at his pair of pets. Barra lets Dodger pull away from him as far as possible, and it’s like they’re balancing an invisible object on the lead. Matt rolls his eyes. They’ll pass on dog sitting in future or Barra will have a heart attack.
They pop into Twilight News and buy a couple of bags of blue and pink bon bons. At Merchant’s Quay they walk down the footpath in the building’s shade.
“Did ye end up buying a PlayStation?” Caoimhe asks.
This is it. The opportunity for time alone and making sure that fecker James Murphy has absolutely no chance with her.
“We did. After all that.”
“Yeah?” She looks back at Barra, his face lined with pain as Dodger nibbles at his heels. “Where is it?”
“Oh, we bumped into Barra’s mam. She’s lugging it around.”
She stops at the entrance. “Meeting me Mam here.”
“See you tomorrow so.”
“Yeah, can’t wait to hear about the Play-Station.”
She smiles, the left side of her mouth dimpling and Matt’s legs wobble. F**k, she’s beautiful.
After she leaves, Barra rushes over. “Take him, take him now.”
“Alright, one sec’.”
A woman pushing a buggy passes; Dodger barks, Barra squeals and drops the leash. Dodger takes off, burrowing through legs like a rabbit.
No. No No No No No.
“Are you kidding me!”
They look at each other and run after their menace.