–One–

I was first in the queue for the toilet, when Jenny crawled up the stairs and looked at me mournfully. She looked to have brought too much peach schnapps to the party. Chivalry demanded I let her go in first while my trembling bladder made competing suggestions. What swung it was her hair and face; long and raven black, pretty and pale. I nodded my assent and she scuttled in past the vacating tenant, still on all fours.

Audible, was the first horrible heaving of pure alcoholic vomit; then a choked retching and some heavy breathing. The toilet flushed. She turned on the taps and moaned. There was a clatter of something falling, then silence.
Time fidgeted by. The cross-legged queue conveyed their disapproval at me for letting her in.

‘It’s been fully nine minutes,’ declared a suede waistcoat with a goatee beard and a digital watch.
‘Bitch should’ve had to wait just like everyone else,’ said the three nose studs.
‘That’s right’, ‘Yeah,’ ‘We’re all bursting!’ said a chorus of agreement. The queue shifted from a line into a circle; around me. I kept my head down. The waistcoat had to shout to be heard. ‘That’s fully eleven minutes, now!’
The bathroom door opened and there was a chaotic push of bodies to stake a claim. As three or four of them scrummaged in the doorway, some lad bellowed, ‘Well, I bags the sink anyway. Twill do me grand.’ His hand was already at his zipper.

Looking none the worse for her illness, Jenny was gamely sucking a polo mint and a smile. Without formal introduction we walked downstairs holding hands. We slow danced to a fast song and then we snogged. My bladder was the unsung hero.

–Two–

Her father met us off the train. He insisted that Jenny sit beside him in the passenger seat. I sat alone in the back seat and was interrogated all the way home by the shiny bald back of his head. ‘Are you anything to the Lawlors from outside Claremorris?’ ‘Did you know Liam Sheedy who hurled with the Tubber Junior B’s for a spell?’ etc, etc. I formed the impression that he didn’t trust me.

The mother was warm and welcoming. Looking just like an older version of her daughter, they were only told apart by the mother’s domestic uniform of v-neck jumper, tracksuit bottoms, furry slippers and apron. She was a fabulous cook and foddered me with second and third helpings till I was fit to bust.

They put us sleeping on different storeys but we managed a rendezvous at 4am in the main bathroom, the only room in the house with a lock. That wasn’t our only security device though. By now she was on pills that had control of her ovaries. For my part, I clutched a foil-wrapped condom.

We were shagging on the fluffy bath mat when the door handle turned. It wouldn’t open. It turned and turned again. Through the frosted glass a silhouette suggested her father. Jenny was close to orgasm but somehow managed to shout: ‘Daddy, tis me and I’ll be here a while. Do your business on the lawn and go back to bed!’

He did.

–Three–

We were at a fancy dress party; me dressed as a lion, she as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Occasions of sin were everywhere; lads trying to chat her up. A guy dressed as the Tin Man approached. I overheard his syrupy opening line.
‘I’ve come looking for my heart, Dorothy. The one you stole when I first laid eyes on you!’ She laughed dismissively but talked to him nonetheless, smiling in a way that I didn’t like.

I was enraged and quickly determined that he was a few inches shorter than me. My only worry was his stainless steel axe. He left it against the bar and headed for the gents. I followed.

He was at a urinal when I shoved him in the shoulder and growled, ‘Who do you think you are coming on to my girlfriend?’

His reflex reaction was to turn around and defend himself raising both his hands. His penis squirted its remaining trickle at random. It made a hot wet slash across my brown furry knees. Incensed, I punched him, aiming at his nose. I hit his left ear.

Afterwards everyone fussed about Tin Man’s superficial injury with not a thought for my fractured knuckle. I expected sympathy from Jenny but instead we had a shouting match on the street and I had to walk to Casualty on my own. Left hours waiting, I dozed off in the chair until awoken by a hard-pressed nurse. As she wrote down my details, I noticed the top button of her blouse had gone astray. She leaned closer to take my pulse and I looked inside. Mmm… They were bigger than Jenny’s.

–Four–

Getting ready to attend our fourth wedding of the summer, we were in the tiny bathroom of her bedsit in Grove Pk. Jenny was drying off in the shower and I was shaving. She asked the awkward question.

‘So when will we be the ones getting married?’ I could see her smirking in the mirror.

I cast my eyes down to the sudsy water and pondered for a moment how honest to be? Should I tell her I was no longer so sure that marriage was our destiny? Should I itemise my complaints about how our sex life had deteriorated into routine infrequency? Tell her of the unclean thoughts which had begun to infect me? How no shop assistant nor bargirl was safe from my careful scrutiny of her face and figure. Out on the streets, fashion was flowing in the direction of skin-tight bottoms, raised hemlines and tops that struggled to reach the bellybutton. Should I admit I could hardly hold the drool in my mouth? I was convinced there was oceans of sizzling sex available if only I wasn’t stuck going out with someone.

I said none of these things.

‘I suppose…’ I began and trailed off to concentrate on the bristles under my nose. She stood for a minute dripping wet but holding off on the towelling to catch my reply. When it didn’t come she bolted out past me and was furious for the rest of the day.

–Five–

Contemplating break up, I felt guilty and uncertain. I actually daydreamed about her having a quick and painless fatal accident. After the funeral, (a) I’d be free to indulge in the oceans of sex waiting for me, and (b) people would feel sorry for me and be nice instead of condemning me for initiating the split of a golden couple.
Inconveniently, she continued to live.

‘I think, maybe, just possibly, we should take a break,’ I said and the very next night went to Copper’s, well known as a disco you couldn’t fail to score in. Overly eager, I arrived when it was empty. When at last the place began to fill, I decided not to make a fool of myself on the dance floor. I perched on a stool two yards from the door of the Ladies toilet and stared at it intently; careful to look casual.

In two hours a procession of all female life passed through my radar. Skimpiness and seethroughness were the order of the day. I saw several square metres of naked midriff, thigh and cleavage. Though I wasn’t specifically checking, the girls probably all had faces too.

The DJ announced that we were into the final hour of the night and time to make a move. I eyed the most shaggable girls as they emerged from the toilet but the supermodels did not reciprocate. They bustled past oblivious to my warm and interesting personality. I set my sights lower and finally managed to get a second glance from a girl. She smiled shyly and pushed past in the direction of the dancefloor. I followed without finishing my drink.

Like a person who can dance, I waved my arms and flexed my knees. I manoeuvred to within two feet of her and gazed as the song finished and another began. We exchanged more shy smiles and then again forty seconds later. The song finished and another started and another and another. I was scared to make the leap between us of just twenty-four inches. I stared, hoping it would somehow get easier.

The ‘moment’ evaporated. Her friend received her silent signals and came between us, turning her back to wall me off. When the song finished they trooped off the floor quickly and beat a hasty retreat to the Ladies.

I went back to Jenny.

–Six–

It had to be a two-bedroom flat for her father’s sake, theoretically he saw us as brother and sister. Newly built, the Clarendon Street apartment featured wooden floors and stylish light fixtures. It was unfurnished so we frequented hardware stores and I paid out good money for a laundry basket. Principal amongst our purchases was a king-size four-poster bed. The evening it was delivered we lay down together and had a nice bit of sex for twenty-five minutes.

Before long we had organised rotas for cooking, laundry, ironing, grocery shopping and even cleaning the bathroom. The clothes dryer did have a tendency to shudder violently like it was going to knock the house, but it was a minor quibble.
On the emotional front things were better. We realised that it was essential to ‘work at our relationship’. We even had sex regularly. Specifically every Wednesday evening.

On an August morning, I walked through the door of McGowan’s jewellers and emerged clutching a small but extremely expensive green box. Inside was a large tear-shaped diamond mounted on a band of gold. I decided to ask her the question that Saturday, her birthday.

On Friday, her parents turned up unexpectedly as I was putting on a load of colours in the washing machine. They’d come to stay overnight because they were flying out to Alicante very early the next morning. A very pleasant evening followed as we had three bottles of wine between the four of us. We stayed up talking and even her father was friendly to me. Finally Jenny went off to brush her teeth and I drunkenly whispered to the parents about my plans to propose on the morrow. I showed them my hiding place for the ring down behind the yucca plant. They were delighted.

We gave them the master bedroom and trooped off to sleep in the box room. Officially Jenny would take the bed and I’d kip down on the floor. Instead we squished in together and relived the deprivations of our youth. After a quick cuddle and a whisper, we lay on our sides, back to back. I could hear the clothes dryer rattling even worse than usual in the background but went off to sleep smiling.

During the night I went to the bathroom for a piss. Drunkenly I went back to bed on autopilot and walked into the master bedroom. The light was on so I immediately realised my mistake. Jenny’s parents didn’t however. I suppose they were undisturbed by my entrance because (a) he was looking the other way, (b) her eyes were closed and (c) there was much heavy breathing and moaning making my small startled gasp quite undetectable. I didn’t leave immediately; I stood for a moment to stare.

Jenny’s father was lying on his back but upside-down in the bed. His shiny bald head was pointed toward me and was bobbing up and down feverishly. His feet, still in socks, were burrowing unhygienically amongst the pillows. His hands were clamped desperately around the wide hips of his wife.

She was on her knees and straddled across his groin, facing me. Eyes closed, her face wore an adorable smile but it was lower down that my attention wandered. Totally naked, she had a scribble of varicose veins on both thighs but they were still curvaceous and inviting. Her breasts drooped to each side but they were heavy and jangled seductively. There were folds of flesh where a smooth belly should be but her bellybutton glistened with a droplet of the most forbidden bodily substance: sweat.

–Seven–

The birthday girl served us muesli and croissants. I kept my head down and pondered the evidence. The clothes dryer had not been run so the racket I’d heard early in the night must have been them having sex as well. I looked over at the father chomping on a piece of brie cheese and narrowed my eyes in grudging admiration for the old badger.

The mother was now resplendent in pyjamas dotted with penguins, but nocturnally she had proved the real revelation. My brain was branded with extremely clear images of her physical attractiveness. What was more exciting still was her obvious full-blooded enthusiasm for sex. I dearly wanted to invite her to shag me.

Please please please.

*

‘Here you go, young man,’ said the father proffering a little green box. ‘I think you might be needing this today.’
His wife was in the bedroom packing the bags; his daughter had slipped down to the shop for more Factor 15.
‘Listen,’ he added in a whisper, ‘I was wondering would you pop the question before we go. I know the wife would get a great kick out of being here to congratulate her little girl.’

I nodded to be agreeable.
‘Good man,’ he said and strolled to the kitchen to make another cup of tea.

Shell-shocked by my predicament I lurched down to the bathroom. I locked the door and sat on the edge of the bath. Outside I heard Jenny arriving back and her father announce mischievously, ‘No, there’s no rush, darling. I think we’ll stay another ten minutes. I have a feeling that something really nice is about to happen.’

I realised I was not the man I thought I was. Twenty-four hours before, I’d been happy with infrequent amounts of subdued sex. The nocturnal encounter with her parents had shaken me, suggesting that it didn’t have to be that way. Yet those same parents now stood outside the door expecting me to anoint the moment in gold for all eternity.

Scrambling for inspiration, I took out the ring from the little green box. I held it up to count the sparkles but it fell from my grasp and into the open toilet. Frantically I followed, but all was well. Though underwater, it lay on the pristine white porcelain awaiting my rescuing hand.

I’ve never been squeamish about sticking my hand into a toilet when necessary.

This time I hesitated. I lay my weary chin on the seat and stared at it glumly. Then I put my hand on the flushing lever and thought ‘If this flush carries it away, then that is a sign!’

I pulled.
When the cascading waterfalls had run dry, when the swirling eddies had receded… the ring was still there, faithful and true, still awaiting my rescuing hand.

Jenny knocked on the door so sharply that I banged my head off the cistern.
‘Hey Buster, are you going to be much longer?’ she inquired, ‘I want to brush my teeth.’

Unconsciously, my hand went back to the lever. I pulled again thinking, OK, best of three!

*

On the fifth flush the ring disappeared, carrying a month of my salary into the city’s sewer. I stood up. Outside that bathroom was a girl whose birthday I was about to ruin. Also outside were a woman whom I desperately wanted to shag and a man who, I now remembered, had in his youth boxed at national level.

I twisted the key, turned the handle and opened the door.