This excerpt is a flashback piece where Amy recounts her first meeting with boyfriend Darren. I think she’s slightly embarrassed by the circumstances—they met at the circus; he was on a stag, she was trying to recapture a bit of childhood magic with her best friend Claire.

Although he’s very good looking Darren isn’t really Amy’s type. He’s big and sporty and the kind of chap who would say something like: “I only ever cried twice, once when me baby was born and once when Cavan won the All-Ireland”. However, because he is so attractive, when he asks her out her insecurity compels her to say yes, even though she doesn’t fancy him. She’s like: ‘Oh my God, someone as good looking as him likes ME. Must. Say. Yes.’ Maybe it’s harking back to when she was in school, desperately trying to get the attention of the sporty, popular lads.

Here, her friend Claire has run out with the candyfloss in a huff after one of Darren’s loutish friends insulted her. Amy is left to the less than tender mercies of the serving girl who wants her “Three eura plee-ase”. Enter stage right is Darren, who sees his chance…

AMY MEETS DARREN

Suddenly my panicked fumbling was interrupted by a deep voice.

“What do you need? Here, hold up, I’ve got change.”

It was the gorgeous guy. It was Darren.

Now I never normally accepted money from strangers—well actually, hold on, I hadn’t tested that theory before, strangers didn’t generally go around offering me cash. It was drinks I never normally accepted. I was too afraid it would be seen as an unspoken contract for a hand-job in the jacks or the like.

But I was so desperate to get the hell out of there that to my shame I nearly bit the hand off him for the three euro. “Thanks so much,” I said gratefully, grabbing the money. I gestured to the exit helplessly. “She just ran out and I’ve only got my card and when I tried to pay she said it wasn’t Harvey Nichols, it’s a van. Which I understand but I bought a 99 with my Visa card from the Popeye van last week and I just assumed it would be fine. I thought we had moved with times, I mean these days who doesn’t deal in electronic funds? Sorry, sorry I’m babbling like a lunatic.”

At this the woman at the counter rolled her eyes again. “Three eura plee-ase,” she said holding her hand out a tad aggressively.

I handed her the money with relief.

“Thanks again, thanks so much, I really appreciate it,” I said to my benefactor. “Erm… I’ll see you so, I must go out to my friend.” I pointed to the exit again. “Er… bye now.”

He looked at me for a second, nonplussed. “Oh, right so, see ya.”

I began to walk briskly towards the exit, afraid I had signed some bartering contract without knowing it. What was the going exchange for candyfloss? A toe-suck? A four-minute tongue sandwich. Doing a hem on his best pair of trousers?

Feck sake, I swore, if after all this hassle there was none of that candyfloss left I was going to choke Claire.

“Sorry, sorry, wait up!”

Shite, I thought, it’s Shylock, demanding his pound of flesh. I dithered dumbly for a few seconds before turning around and looking at him guardedly.

“Hi. I… eh… I just want to apologise for me friend there again. It’s no way to treat ladies like yourselves.”

“Ah no, that’s okay,” I said, relieved he hadn’t asked me to help whitewash his parents villa in the Algarve or something. “He was just drunk. Don’t worry about it. Besides you more than made up for it paying for the candyfloss. Thanks again. I thought she was going to deck me.”

We smiled at each other conspiratorially.

“Jesus yeah, she was a bit of a mad yoke. She’d ate ya without salt as me Granny would say.”

“My Nan says that too!”

He laughed broadly. “Auld wans, eh… they’re all mad.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Darren by the way.”

Immensely grateful he didn’t finish by saying: “… but my friends call me Daz” I took his hand and shook it.

“Amy.”

We smiled at each other and suddenly I felt extremely awkward. Hastily, I pulled my hand away and turned to go.

“No wait! Wait sorry!” he said again, walking closer to me.  “Listen I really came after ya because I was wondering would ya… ahm… I was wondering would ya give me your number?” The last bit came out in a tumble.

I blushed madly. I wasn’t used to men asking me out in the cold light of day. This wasn’t Paris. This wasn’t New York. This wasn’t… Seville. All right, I supposed we’d moved on from calling sex ‘relations’ and having said relations with the lights off wearing rolled-up-to-the-waist winceyette nightgowns, but this was still Ireland, a country where people only got together past eight o’clock—ten in the summer just so it’s nice and dark—and with drink taken.

“Here, I’m not a weirdo I swear, I just think you’re a stunnin’ lookin’ girl… and I’ve had a jar or two,” he said, winking.

“I… er… ”

I should have ran. God knows I should have ran. I knew him for all of five minutes and had already flagged ten reasons it was a bad idea.

Let’s recap shall we?

  1. He used the phrase ‘ a stunnin’ lookin’ girl’
  2. He used the word ‘jar’
  3. He was wearing a pair of baggy Kappa ‘gone out with the floods’ tracksuit bottoms
  4. He was at the circus
  5. He was on a stag
  6. He was on a stag at the circus.
  7. His friends were idiots
  8. He winked at me
  9. Someone had shouted “Nice diddies!” at the trapeze artist and for all I know it could have been him
  10. He looked sporty, and I hate sports so much I can’t even watch sport films unless you count The Mighty Ducks and The Mighty Ducks D2

All the signs were there for me to leg it. God above himself couldn’t have given me any more signs had I got down on my knees and cried to the heavens.

So why didn’t I? Why didn’t I say thanks but no thanks and run out to Claire so we could laugh our heads off about it? Why did I look dumbly at him, this tall, handsome, terribly dressed Lothario, and find myself squeaking doubtfully, my face burning with embarrassment: “Okay so?”

So that was that. I got picked up at the circus at twenty-seven years of age by a drunk lad at a stag in a pair of shiny tracksuit pants. Not exactly Pride and Prejudice but there you go.