Thursday, February 3, 2011

PS, I Love You [Part 12 & 13]

PS, I Love You

Part 12

SHARON, DENISE AND HOLLY SAT by the window in Bewley's Café overlooking Grafton
Street. They often met up there to watch the world go by; Sharon always said it was the best
window-shopping she could ever do as she had a bird's-eye view of all her favorite stores.
“I can't believe Gerry organized all this!” gasped Denise when she heard the news. She flicked
her long brown hair behind her shoulders and her bright blue eyes sparkled back at Holly

“It'll be a bit of fun, won't it?” Sharon said excitedly.
“Oh God.” Holly had butterflies in her stomach just over the thought of it. “I still really, really,
really don't want to do it, but I feel I have to finish off what Gerry started.”
“That's the spirit Hol!” said Denise, “and we'll all be there to cheer you on!”
“Now hold on a minute, Denise,” Holly said, changing the celebratory tone. “I just want you
and Sharon there, no one else. I don't want to make a big deal out of this at all. Let's keep it
between us.”

“But Holly!” Sharon protested. “It is a big deal! No one ever thought you'd do karaoke again
after last time . . .”
“Sharon!” warned Holly. “One must not speak of such things. One is still scarred from that
“Well, I think one is a daft cow for not getting over it,” mumbled Sharon.
“So when's the big night?” Denise changed the subject, sensing bad vibes.
“Next Tuesday,” Holly groaned, bending forward and banging her head playfully on the table.
The surrounding customers stared at her curiously.
“She's just out for the day,” Sharon announced to the room, pointing at Holly.
“Don't worry, Holly; that gives you seven days exactly to transform yourself into Mariah Carey.
No problem at all,” Denise said, smiling at Sharon.
“Oh please, we would have a better chance teaching Lennox Lewis how to do ballet,” said
Holly looked up from banging her head. “Well, thanks for the encouragement, Sharon.”
“Ooh, but imagine Lennox Lewis in a pair of tights, that tight little arse dancing around . . . ,”
Denise said dreamily.

Holly and Sharon stopped growling at each other to stare at their friend.
“You've lost the plot, Denise.”
“What?” Denise said, defensively snapping out of her fantasy. “Just imagine those big muscular
thighs . . .”
“That would snap your neck in two if you went near him,” Sharon finished for her.
“Now there's a thought,” Denise said, widening her eyes.
“I can see it all now,” Holly joined in, staring off into space. “The death pages would read:
'Denise Hennessey has tragically died, crushed to death by the most tremendous thunder thighs
after briefly catching a glimpse of heaven . . . ' ”

“I like that,” Denise agreed. “Ooh, and what a way to die! Give me a slice of that heaven!”
“OK, you,” Sharon interrupted, pointing her finger at Denise, “keep your sordid little fantasies
to yourself, please. And you,” she pointed at Holly, “stop trying to change the subject.”
“Oh, you're just jealous, Sharon, because your husband couldn't snap a matchstick between his
skinny little thighs,” teased Denise.

“Excuse me, but John's thighs are perfectly fine, I just wish mine could be more like his,”
Sharon finished.

“Now you!” Denise pointed at Sharon. “Keep your sordid little fantasies to yourself.”
“Girls, girls!” Holly snapped her fingers in the air. “Let's focus on me now, focus on me.” She
gracefully motioned with her hands, bringing them toward her chest.

“OK, Ms. Selfish, what are you planning on singing?”
“I have no idea, that's why I called this emergency meeting.”
“No it's not, you told me you wanted to go shopping,” Sharon said.
“Oh really?” Denise said, looking at Sharon and raising an eyebrow. “I thought you were both
coming to visit me on my lunch break.”

“You are both correct,” Holly asserted. “I am shopping for ideas and I need you both.”
“Ha-ha! Good answer,” they both agreed for once.
“OK, OK!” Sharon exclaimed excitedly. “I think I've got an idea. What was that song we sang
for the whole two weeks in Spain and we couldn't get it out of our heads and it used to bug the
hell out of us?” Holly shrugged her shoulders. If it bugged the hell out of them it was hardly a very good choice.

“I don't know, I wasn't invited on that holiday,” muttered Denise.
“Oh, you know the one, Holly!”
“I can't remember.”
“Oh, you have to!”
“Sharon, I don't think she can remember,” Denise frustratedly said to Sharon.
“Oh, what is it?” Sharon put her face in her hands, irritated. Holly shrugged her shoulders at
Denise again. “OK, I've got it!!” she announced happily, and began to sing loudly in the café. “
'Sun, sea, sex, sand, come on boy give me your hand!' ”
Holly's eyes widened and her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as people at the surrounding
tables turned to stare. She turned to Denise for support in silencing Sharon.

“ 'Ooh ooh ooh so sexy, so sexy!' ” Denise joined in with Sharon. Some people stared in
amusement but most in loathing while Denise and Sharon warbled their way through the tacky
European dance song that had been a hit a few summers previously. Just as they were about to
sing the chorus for the fourth time (neither of them could remember the verses), Holly silenced

“Girls, I can't sing that song! Besides, the verses are rapped by a guy!”
“Well, at least you wouldn't have to sing too much,” chuckled Denise.
“No way! I am not rapping at a karaoke competition!”
“Fair enough,” nodded Sharon.

“OK, well, what CD are you listening to at the moment?” Denise got serious again.
“Westlife?” she looked at them hopefully.
“Then sing a Westlife song,” Sharon encouraged. “That way, at least you'll know all the words.”
Sharon and Denise began to laugh uncontrollably. “You might not get the tune right,” Sharon
forced out between hacking laughs.
“But at least you'll know the words!” Denise managed to finish for her before the two of them
doubled over at the table.

First Holly was angry, but looking at the both of them crouched over, holding their stomachs in
hysterics, she had to giggle. They were right, Holly was completely tone-deaf and hadn't a note
in her head. Finding a song she could actually sing was going to prove impossible. Finally after
the girls settled down again, Denise looked at her watch and moaned about having to get back
to work. They left Bewley's (much to the other customers' delight). “The miserable sods will
probably throw a party now,” Sharon had mumbled, passing their tables.

The three girls linked arms and walked down Grafton Street, heading toward the clothes store
where Denise was manager. The day was sunny with just a light chill in the air; Grafton Street
was busy as usual with people running around on their lunch breaks while shoppers slowly
meandered up the street, taking full advantage of the lack of rain. At every stretch of the road
there was a busker fighting for attention from the crowds, and Denise and Sharon
embarrassingly did a quick Irish dance as they passed a man playing the fiddle. He winked at
them and they threw some money into his tweed cap on the ground.

“Right, you ladies of leisure, I better head back to work,” Denise said, pushing the door to her
shop open. As soon as her staff saw her they scarpered from gossiping at the counter and
immediately began to fix the clothes rails. Holly and Sharon tried not to laugh. They said their
good-byes and both headed up to Stephen's Green to collect their cars.

“ 'Sun, sea, sex, sand,' ” Holly quietly sang to herself. “Oh shit, Sharon! You've got that stupid
song in my head now,” she complained.

“You see, there you go with that 'shit Sharon' thing again. So negative, Holly.” Sharon began
humming the song.
“Oh, shut up!” Holly laughed, hitting her on the arm.

PS, I Love You

Part 13

IT WAS FOUR O'CLOCK BY the time Holly eventually got out of town and started heading
home to Swords. Evil Sharon convinced Holly to go shopping after all, which resulted in her
splashing out on a ridiculous top she was far too old to wear. She really needed to watch her
spending from now on; her funds were running low, and without regular income she could sense
tense times ahead. She needed to start thinking about getting a job, but she was finding it hard
enough to get out of bed in the morning as it was, another depressing nine-to-five job wasn't
going to help matters. But it would help pay the bills. Holly sighed loudly, all these things she
had to handle all by herself. The thought of it was just depressing her, and her problem was that
she spent too much time on her own thinking about it. She needed people around her, like today
with Denise and Sharon, as they always succeeded in taking her mind off things. She phoned
her mum and checked if it was all right for her to call around.

“Of course you can, love, you're always welcome here.” Then she lowered her voice to a
whisper, “Just as long as you know that Richard is here.” Christ! What was with all the little
visits all of a sudden? Holly had contemplated heading straight home when she heard that but convinced herself she was being silly. He was her brother, and as annoying as he was, she couldn't go on avoiding him forever.

She arrived to an extremely loud and crowded house and it felt like old times again, hearing
screams and shouts in every room. Her mum was setting an extra place at the table just as she
walked in. “Oh, Mum, you should have told me you were having dinner,” Holly said, giving her
a hug and a kiss.

“Why, have you eaten already?”
“No, actually I'm starving, but I hope you didn't go to too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all, dear, it just means that poor Declan will have to go without food for the day,
that's all,” she said, teasing her son who was taking his seat. He made a face at her.

The atmosphere was so much more relaxed this time around, or maybe it had just been Holly
who was uptight during the last family dinner.

“So, Mr. Hard Worker, why aren't you in college today?” she said sarcastically.
“I've been in college all morning,” he replied, making a face, “and I'm going back in at eight
o'clock, actually.”
“That's very late,” said her father, pouring gravy all over his plate. He always ended up with
more gravy than food on his plate.
“Yeah, but it was the only time I could get to book the editing suite.”
“Is there only one editing suite, Declan?” piped up Richard.
“Yeah.” Ever the conversationalist.
“And how many students are there?”
“It's only a small class, there are just twelve of us.”
“Don't they have the funds for any more?”
“For what, students?” Declan teased.
“No, for another editing suite.”
“No, it's only a small college, Richard.”
“I suppose the bigger universities would be better equipped for things like that, they're better

And there was the dig they were all waiting for.
“No, I wouldn't say that, the facilities are top of the range, there's just fewer people so therefore
less equipment. And the lecturers aren't inferior to university lecturers, they're a bonus because
they work in the industry as well as lecturing. In other words, they practice what they preach.
It's not just textbook stuff.”

Good for you, Declan, Holly thought, and winked across the table at him.
“I wouldn't imagine they get paid well doing that, so they probably have no choice but to lecture
as well.”

“Richard, working in film is a very good job; you're talking about people who have spent years
in college studying for degrees and master's . . .”
“Oh, you get a degree for that, do you?” Richard was amazed. “I thought it was just a little
course you were doing.”

Declan stopped eating and looked at Holly in shock. Funny how Richard's ignorance still
amazed everyone.

“Who do you think makes all those gardening programs you watch, Richard?” Holly interjected.
“They're not just a crowd of people who are doing a little course.”
The thought had clearly never crossed his mind that there was a skill involved.
“Great little programs they are,” he agreed.
“What's your project on, Declan?” Frank asked.
Declan finished chewing his food before he spoke. “Oh, it's kind of too messy to go into, but
basically it's on club life in Dublin.”

“Ooh, will we be in it?” Ciara broke her unusual silence and asked excitedly.
“Yeah, I might just show the back of your head or something,” he joked.
“Well, I can't wait to see it,” Holly said encouragingly.
“Thanks.” Declan put his knife and fork down and started laughing. “Hey, what's this I hear
about you singing in a karaoke competition next week?”
“What?” Ciara yelled, her eyes nearly popping out of her head.
Holly pretended not to know what he was talking about.
“Ah come on, Holly!” he persisted. “Danny told me!” He turned to the rest of the table and
explained, “Danny is the owner of the place where I did the gig the other night and he told me
Holly has entered a karaoke competition in the club upstairs.”

Everyone oohed and aahed and talked about how great it was. Holly refused to give in. “Declan,
Daniel's just playing games with you. Sure everyone knows I can't sing! Now come on,” she
addressed the rest of the table. “Honestly, if I was singing in a karaoke competition I think I
would tell you all.” She laughed as if the thought were so ridiculous. In fact, the thought was so

“Holly!” he laughed. “I saw your name on the list! Don't lie!”
Holly put her knife and fork down, she suddenly wasn't hungry anymore.
“Holly, why didn't you tell us you're going to sing in a competition?” her mother asked.
“Because I can't sing!”
“Then why are you doing it?” Ciara burst out laughing.
She might as well tell them, she figured; otherwise Declan would beat it out of her and she
didn't like lying to her parents. It's just a shame Richard would have to hear it too.
“OK, it's a really complicated story, but basically Gerry entered my name in months ago because
he really wanted me to do it, and as much as I don't want to do it, I feel I have to go through
with it. It's stupid, I know.”

Ciara stopped laughing abruptly.

Holly felt paranoid with her family staring at her, and she nervously tucked her hair behind her

“Well, I think that's a wonderful idea,” her dad suddenly announced.
“Yes,” added her mum, “and we'll all be there to support you.”
“No, Mum, you really don't have to, it's no big deal.”
“There's no way my sister is singing in a competition without me being there,” declared Ciara.
“Here, here,” said Richard. “We'll all go so. I've never been to a karaoke before, it should be . . .
,” he searched his brain for the right word, “. . . fun.”
Holly groaned and closed her eyes, wishing she had gone straight home from town. Declan was
laughing hysterically. “Yes, Holly, it'll be . . . hmmm . . . ,” he said, scratching his chin, “. . .
“When is it on?” Richard said, taking out his diary.
“Eh . . . Saturday,” Holly lied, and Richard began writing it down.
“It is not!” Declan burst out. “It's next Tuesday, you liar!”
“Shit!” cursed Richard, much to everyone's surprise. “Has anyone got any Tipp-Ex?”
Holly could not stop going to the toilet. She was nervous and had gotten practically no sleep the
night before. And she looked just the way she felt. There were huge bags under her bloodshot
eyes, and her lips were bitten.

The big day had arrived, her worst nightmare, singing in public.Holly wasn't the kind of person who even sang in the shower, for fear of cracking all the mirrors. But man, was she spending time in the toilet today. There was no better laxative than fear, and Holly felt like she had lost a stone in just one day. Her friends and family had been as supportive as ever, sending her good luck cards. Sharon and John had even sent her a bouquet of flowers, which she placed on the draft-free, heat-vent-free coffee table beside her half-dead orchid. Denise had “hilariously” sent her a sympathy card.

Holly dressed in the outfit Gerry had told her to buy in April and cursed him all throughout.
There were far more important things to worry about right now than irrelevant little details like
how she looked. She left her hair down so it could cover her face as much as possible and piled
on the waterproof mascara as though it could prevent her from crying. She could foresee the
night ending in tears. She tended to have psychic powers when it came to facing the shittiest
days of her life.

John and Sharon collected Holly in the taxi and she refused to talk to them, cursing everyone for
forcing her to do this. She felt physically sick and couldn't sit still. Every time the taxi stopped at
a red light she contemplated jumping out and running for dear life, but by the time she built up
the courage the lights would go green again. Her hands fidgeted nervously and she kept opening and closing her bag, pretending to Sharon she was searching for something just to keep herself occupied.

“Relax, Holly,” Sharon said soothingly, “everything will be fine.”
“Fuck off,” she snapped.
They continued on in silence for the rest of the journey, even the taxi driver didn't speak. They
finally reached Hogan's, and John and Sharon had a hell of a time trying to stop her ranting
(something about preferring to jump in the River Liffey) and persuading her to go inside. Much
to Holly's horror, the club was absolutely jammed, and she had to squeeze by everyone to make
her way to her family, who had saved a table (right beside the toilet as requested).
Richard was sitting awkwardly on a stool looking out of place in a suit. “So tell me about these
rules, Father, what will Holly have to do?” Holly's dad explained the “rules” of karaoke to
Richard and her nerves began to build even more.

“Gosh, that's terrific, isn't it?” Richard said, staring around the club in awe. Holly didn't think he
had ever been in a nightclub before.
The sight of the stage terrified Holly; it was much bigger than she had expected and there was a
huge screen on the wall for the crowd to see the words of the songs. Jack was sitting with his
arm draped around Abbey's shoulders; they both gave her a supportive smile. Holly scowled at
them and looked away.

“Holly, the funniest thing just happened earlier on,” Jack said, laughing. “Remember that guy
Daniel we met last week?”
Holly just stared at him, watching his lips moving but not giving a damn about what he said.
“Well, me and Abbey got here first to keep the table and we were having a kiss and your man
came over and whispered in my ear that you were gonna be here tonight. He thought we were
going out and that I was doing the dirt!” Jack and Abbey laughed hysterically.
“Well, I think that's disgusting,” Holly said and turned away.
“No,” Jack tried to explain, “he didn't know that we were brother and sister. I had to explain . .
.” Jack trailed off as Sharon shot him a warning look and silenced him.
“Hi, Holly,” Daniel said, approaching her with a clipboard in his hand, “OK, the order of tonight
is the following: First up is a girl called Margaret, then a guy called Keith and then you're up
after him. Is that OK?”

“So I'm third.”
“Yeah, after . . .”
“That's all I need to know,” Holly snapped rudely. She just wanted to get out of this stupid club
and wished that everyone would just stop annoying her and leave her alone to wish evil
thoughts on them all. She wished the ground would open and swallow her up, that a natural
disaster would occur and everyone would have to evacuate the building. In fact, that was a good
idea; she searched around frantically for a button to raise the fire alarm, but Daniel was still
talking away to her.

“Look, Holly, I'm really sorry to disturb you again, but could you tell me which of your friends is
Sharon?” He looked like he was afraid she was going to bite his head off. So he should be, she
thought, squinting her eyes.

“Her over there.” Holly pointed to Sharon. “Hold on, why?”
“Oh, I just wanted to apologize for the last time we spoke.” He started to walk toward Sharon.
“Why?” Holly said with panic in her voice, making him turn around again.
“Oh, we just had a minor disagreement on the phone last week.” He looked at her confused as
to why he had to explain himself to her.
“You know, you really don't need to do that, she's probably forgotten about it completely by
now,” she stammered. This was the last thing she needed.
“Yeah, but I would still like to apologize,” and he headed over to her. Holly leapt from her

“Sharon, hi, I'm Daniel, I just wanted to apologize about the confusion on the phone last week.”
Sharon looked at him as though he had ten heads. “Confusion?”
“You know, on the phone?”
John placed his arm protectively around her waist.
“On the phone?”
“Eh . . . yes, on the phone.” He nodded.
“What's your name again?”
“Em, it's Daniel.”
“And we spoke on the phone?” Sharon said with a smile appearing on her face.
Holly gestured wildly to her behind Daniel's back. Daniel cleared his throat nervously. “Yes, you
called the club last week and I answered, does that ring a bell?”
“No, sweetie, you've got the wrong girl,” Sharon said politely.
John threw Sharon a dirty look for calling him sweetie; if it had been up to him he would have
told Daniel where to go. Daniel brushed his hand through his hair and appeared to be more
confused than anyone else and began to turn around to face Holly.
Holly nodded her head frantically to Sharon.

“Oh . . . ,” Sharon said, looking like she finally remembered. “Oh Daniel!” she yelled, a bit
overenthusiastically. “God, I am so sorry, my brain cells seem to be going a bit dead.” She
laughed like a madwoman. “Must be too much of this,” she laughed, picking up her drink.
Relief washed over Daniel's face. “Good, I thought it was me going mad there for a minute!
OK, so you remember us having that conversation on the phone?”
“Oh, that conversation we had on the phone. Listen, don't worry about it,” she said, waving her
hand dismissively.

“It's just that I only took over the place a few weeks ago and I wasn't too sure of the exact
arrangements for tonight.”
“Oh, don't worry . . . we all need our time . . . to adjust . . . to things . . . you know?” Sharon
looked at Holly to see if she had said the right thing or not.
“OK then, well, it's nice to finally meet you in person,” Daniel laughed. “Can I get you a stool or
anything?” he said, trying to be funny.
Sharon and John sat on their stools and stared back at him in silence, not knowing what to say
to this strange man.
John watched with suspicion as Daniel walked away.
“What was that all about?” Sharon asked Holly as soon as he was out of earshot.
“Oh, I'll explain it to you later,” said Holly as she turned to face the stage. Their karaoke host
for the evening was just stepping up onstage.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” he announced.
“Good evening!” shouted Richard, looking excited. Holly rolled her eyes up to heaven.
“We have an exciting night ahead of us . . .” He went on and on and on in his DJ voice while
Holly danced nervously from foot to foot. She desperately needed the toilet again.
“So first up tonight we have Margaret from Tallaght, who is going to sing the theme to Titanic,
'My Heart Will Go On,' by Celine Dion. Please put your hands together for the wonderful
Margaret!” The crowd went wild. Holly's heart raced. The hardest song in the world to sing,

When Margaret began to sing, the room became so quiet you could almost hear a pin drop.
Holly looked around the room and watched everyone's faces. They were all staring at Margaret
in amazement, including Holly's family, the traitors. Margaret's eyes were closed and she sang
with such passion it seemed she had lived every line of the song. Holly hated her and
contemplated tripping her up on her way back to her seat.

“Wasn't that incredible?” the DJ announced. The crowd cheered again, and Holly prepared
herself not to hear that sound after her own song. “Next up we have Keith, you may remember
him as last year's winner, and he's singing 'America,' by Neil Diamond. Give it up for Keith!”
Holly didn't need to hear any more and rushed into the toilet.
She paced up and down the toilet and tried to calm herself, her knees were knocking, her
stomach was twisted in knots and she felt the beginnings of vomit rising to her mouth. She
looked at herself in the mirror and tried to take big deep breaths. It didn't work, as it only made
her feel dizzy. The crowd applauded outside and Holly froze. She was next.

“Wasn't Keith terrific, ladies and gentlemen?”
Lots of cheers again.
“Perhaps Keith is going for the record of winning two years in a row, well, it doesn't get any
better than that!”
It was about to get a lot worse.
“Next we have a newcomer to the competition. Her name is Holly and she's singing . . .”
Holly ran to the cubicle and locked herself in. There was no way in this world they were getting
her out of there.
“So ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Holly!”
There was a huge applause.

to be cont'd

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