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Lent

by Sharon Dempsey

Francie made a dart for the social club door, trying to bypass the big brute of a doorman, Minto. He thought for second that he’d made it, until a claw of a hand came down hard on the scruff of his neck and hoisted him backwards, near popping the buttons of his new shirt.

     “Yo, Squeegy where da fuck to you think you’re going?”

     “Ahh Minto come on. I’m off the hard stuff, I swear dya. Ask anyone.”

     “You wee fuck, if I catch you sticking needles in your fuckin eyeballs, I’ll fuckin mess you up big time.”

     “Thanks Minto. It’s good to know you care. I’ll buy ya pint for looking out for me.”

     “No thanks. It’s lent,” he pointed to the black cross smeared on his forehead by way of explanation. Ash Wednesday.

     “Aye, right, so it is. I’m giving up sweets. No kit kats and crème eggs for me until the big man rises from the dead.”

     Minto gave him a friendly shove and Francie entered the black cavernous hole of the Bangers social club. His eyes slowly adjusted to the low lighting before he clocked Dervala Magennis holding court at a table to the side of the makeshift dance floor. He dandered over, making sure to lift his narrow shoulders, and make every step count, like he’d seen big John Wayne do in a film, he once watched with his Granda Mackey.

     “All right,” he gave a jolt of his chin, in an attempt to look easy going and cool.

     “Francie.” She said it deadpan like she couldn’t give flying fuck, but he knew she was playing the game too. She didn’t lift her eyes from their far away gaze, hovering somewhere in the direction of the fire exit door. He liked a challenge. Girls that handed it to him on a plate never felt worth the effort. Dervala Magennis was different. She acted like she was better than him, and stupid fuck that he was, he liked that.

     Two could play at that game, though. He slithered in beside Big Bernie and let his arm drape behind her on the sticky plastic seat cover. Bernie turned to him and smiled, showing her crooked over-lapping teeth and her dimpled cheeks that made him think of a weeun, drunk on its mother’s milk.

     “Bout ye Big Bernie? How’s it going?”

     “Aye grand Francie. We’re having a wee celebration. Dervala here’s only gone and got herself a job.”

     “A job, is it? Fuck’s sake next ye’ll be telling me you’re getting a mortgage and moving to Dunmurray.”

     Dervala didn’t take the bait. She sat smiling like the fucking Mona Lisa, like she knew more than the lot of them put together, and she sure as shite wasn’t going to share it.

     “Well if we’re celebrating, I’ll have to buy a round,” he made a big show of taking his nylon Nike wallet out of his back pocket, and flashing a twenty-pound note.

     “Yo, Mickey,” he called over to the barman, “I’ve a thirst on me here. Come and get these girls a few shandies.”

     “Shandies, my arse,” Dervala arched one perfectly groomed eyebrow, the highlighter on her cheek bone glimmering like the scales on a mackerel. “Double gin and slimline tonics, with a slice of lime.”

     Francie cursed his slim wage packet. Double G and Ts would make a big dent in it. He’d have to do a bit of dealing on the side to make it through to next week. His ma wouldn’t sub him again. Still if he played it right he might get somewhere with Dervala, this time. 

 

Three rounds in and the tunes were crackin. They’d already had a sing along with Galway Girl and some shite Republican song about dead comrades. The twenty quid was long spent, but Dervala was worth it. He caught her eye and gave her his best come here look with a tilt of his head. She bought it, for the next thing he knew she was taking his hand and leading him out the fire exit door.

     He could hardly believe his luck. Those narrow hips and the skin-tight jeans sent him wild. He would buck the fuck clean out of her, up an entry or not. She had her back against the red brick wall, locally known as Shifters Corner, and he pressed up against her doing his best to shield her from the over flowing bins.

     “Francie,” she said all breathless next to his ear, making him go mad with the thrill of it. He worked away at her, chewing on her mouth and darting his tongue in and out, like he knew the girls liked. “Francie?” she murmured again, between tongues.

     “Yeah, what is it Dervala? Don’t worry, I’ve got the condoms with me.”

     “No, it’s not that. It’s just, it’s Lent and I promised my Ma, I’d give up fellas for Lent.”

     “Give up fellas?” he pulled away from her neck where he was doing his best to leave an impression.

     “Aye. I don’t mind a quick snog, but I’m not up for anything else.”

Francie cursed silently and mentally hoisted up his jeans. In his head, he was half way to getting them down round his ankles.

     “Lent, you say? Aye right, so it is.”

Sharon Dempsey's writing career began in journalism, and she has written for a number of publications including the Irish Times. She has also published four non-fiction health books.

 

“For the past six years I have been working in the creative arts field, designing and delivering therapeutic creative writing classes for the local charity Cancer Focus, Queen's University, Stranmillis College and others. I also work with young people and run the Young Scribblers workshops through the Crescent Arts Centre. I love helping others find creative self-expression and it is a privilege to hear their stories. It is a great honour to be part of someone’s creative experience.” 

 

Sharon studied Politics and English at Queen’s University before moving to London to study Newspaper Journalism at City University.