The girls were sat, all three of them, flat on their arses under a huge rotating plastic screen. The ad above them kept moving: car insurance, coffee, hotels. Connie watched people strolling past. Ava kept gawking over at Connie. Leah melted into the airport, away off, somewhere else—daydreaming.
My tan is absolutely fucking atrocious, Connie said.
Mine too, Ava said.
You’re literally just saying that, Connie said
Connie went to stick a vape in her mouth.
Not in here! Leah said.
Connie rolled her eyes, said: ye going to be absolute wreck-heads now for the week?
The week before, a fire got out of control—in Ava’s housing estate. Mayhem. The residents’ committee had sussed a bonfire to get rid of old stuff. Mattresses and the like. The town had cooked in black smoke.
Once the firemen arrived, everyone was doing the innocent bit: sure, how were they to know the residents’ committee’s suss? Sure, lookit, only wanted to bate out a few of the kids’ old bunkbeds, clogging up the garage with them, seemed a bit pointless, you know yourself?
It was always hard, getting right down to it, to hear the truth.
There was an edge looming. Some final frontier of normal behaviour. Dangerous and uncharted territory—a show on telly about the North Pole, that kind of buzz.
Now, in Terminal 1, the girls were getting involved. Participating in what the politicians called: a substantial economic boom. They hesitated a second—Leah humming and hawing, making eyes at a rotten-looking salad place—before heading into McDonalds for quarter-pounder meals and Diet Cokes. Ava and Connie chomped away on gooey cheese while Leah licked the mayo from a veggie wrap.
I’m literally a vegetarian, she said.
You are in your hole, Connie replied.
Ava said: look.
A stampede of lads with faded haircuts and cloth shorts galore. You’d never see that, those shorts, in town. Only at the airport Mackie’s.
There was a feeling in the girls’ chests like a big night out. Flutter, a bounce. They squawked, flapping their hands around and gurgling on straws. They wore travel outfits, comfy and subtle. Tiny shorts and big hoodies in creamy colours. Shorts said: actual holiday. Hoodies said: chill, not like the other young ones going away, flashing bikinis at baggage claim. Sunglasses. Hair straightened. Airport lighting did nothing for anyone’s complexion. Grand.
The lads sat nearby. Connie twisted around, waved. Leah munched.
Does feel, she said, we’re on holidays?
Fuck off, Connie said, it’s the sugar.
Coke would actually, Ava said, get ye yipped.
Cackles all round. The boys looked on.
When the plane landed, everyone clapped. One young fella shouted about Offaly and the herd sweat got stickier. The heat was like a hot palm slapped right across your mouth. Near choking you, but in a nice way.
That’s the best bit, isn’t it? Leah said. Heat feeling.
Literally fuck off, Connie said.
There was a mistake with their shuttle bus: an hour walk—in 36 degree heat—along a fuck-off motorway. The bus, when they found it, was packed to the brim. Ava and Connie crowded down the back and Leah sat up front, bet in beside a huge man from Finglas. He kept saying: yis have to make yissir own fun in Majorca!
What does that even mean? Ava asked, when they got off the bus.
Haven’t a notion! Leah replied.
But his suggestion pumped the girls’ mania, made them feel: we’re on holiday.
Opening the front door of their apartment was like downing a glass of cold water. The bright tiles and glass doors blasted away all the stickiness and anger that had been getting going since they’d left the airport. The girls threw their bags down, burst open the balcony doors and flounced around roaring: make yissir own fun! In Majorca!
The complex was massive. Upstairs was already booming with the neighbours’ house music, and kids were roaring in the pool outside.
The lads above gonna hear you going at it later, Connie said.
Right, yeah, and you’ll be in on the couch watching telly and calling your Ma? Ava replied.
Leah laughed, a beat behind.
Well? Connie said. She was standing at the door.
A ceiling fan buzzed around. Roasting. They were all sweating.
Ava came in with: we getting drinks or wha?
Outside: blinded with sun, heat like being in a toaster. Only 11 am, their flight had been that early. People around the complex were just getting up. The girls trooped down to a local supermarket and fought with the woman about a sellotaped note.
That’s literally a fiver, Connie said. You alright like?
People were watching from down the shop.
Can we actually not? Leah said.
Can you not, Connie said, be all weird?
They walked back lugging litre bottles of vodka, cheap mixer, crisps in unknown flavours, bags of sweet bread. It felt like being on a television set: unreal, fake, far away from normal.
Ava thought about being at the airport that morning, and now—they were here.
Mad, if you think about it? she said.
The others were silent.
Then, Connie said: wow, amazing, an absolute observation there.
They ate oven pizza. Whole bag of the weird bread.
By the time they got down to the hotel bar—sat out on the terrace—the evening felt just right.
Give us three Monster Margaritas, Sambuca each, one of those big foamy yokes and the sandcastle bucket thing? Ava said.
First night is always a banger! Connie declared.
They’d just sucked down the first Margarita when the lads came in. A whole pack.
What about, Connie leaned in—making her eyes big—the talent?
The girls looked.
Well that was real subtle, lovely work ladies! Making great use of yourselves there! Connie clawed for a cigarette in her tiny handbag.
Give us one, Ava said.
The lads sat across from them, then shouted something the girls couldn’t hear and started laughing.
Yeah, I’d say so! Connie called.
At that, one of the lads pulled himself up off the stool and sauntered over.
Something up with his gooch or what’s the suss? Ava breathed into her glass.
Evening ladies, he said.
That’s girls to you, Connie said. We look like a menopausal lot do we?
Ava pitched and grabbed Leah’s arm.
Your man didn’t blink.
I’d have said ye had a bit of class, yeah? he said.
He hunkered down at their table. Legs flexing out of his trousers. There was a little stripe in the back of his head, barber had cut him. His arms were huge and pale, freckled all over.
Ava widened her eyes at Connie.
You alright? he asked her. Grinning, he sucked a cigarette from the corner of his mouth, held it like an oul lad.
Connie sighed and said: don’t mind them, tell us about your big semi-final coming up? You all set? Nice run out with the lads, yeah?
He laughed. The girls recrossed their legs.
You’ve a bould head on ye anyway, he said.
Connie twinkled, her foundation shining under the red patio lights.
They all looked around the smoking area.
Never introduced ourselves! Ava faked distress.
Your man laughed and said: no rearing on ye!
Names jumped around the table.
Anyway, c’mere, ye’re looking a bit lonely, fancy joining? He was sitting in with them now, perched alongside Connie.
Ye look a bit bored there yourselves! Ava said.
Sick of them? Connie said.
He laughed. His friends laughed, at something else. Connie checked her boobs quickly. Leah pulled the hair at the back of her neck.
Look it, come on over and meet the boys, the lad said.
Your man’s name was Gary. His friends: boys from secondary school names. In no time, the girls were calling everyone by their nicknames.
The night swarmed along as usual. All headed back up to the lads’ apartment. Once there, the girls were acting up. Connie whipping up a bottle of Herbal Essences in the shower and roaring: who’s on the good stuff? All laughing, all falling. The lads stuck frozen pizzas in the oven and left them to burn. Drinks poured and spilled. Group photos out on the balcony. Trap music from someone’s phone. Every one of the lads took their tops off.
Unreal, Ava kept saying.
The three girls in the toilet. Leah sloshing like a racehorse. Connie swaying and shouting: I AM GONNA BE RIDING.
Ava woke with her face stuck to the pillow with sweat, and the bed sheets all jumbled around. Morning light was coming through the window and landing in stripes on the bed. The air looked bobbly, dusty bits floating in the sun. On the floor: clothes, empty bottles, towels. The room smelled like drink and skin. People upstairs were clomping around on the ceiling. Her mouth was crispy, her head was thumping. She wriggled and the sheets tightened. Gary was spread out like a starfish, snoring away.
She got out the door without him waking.
In the corridor, the apartment was dead quiet. Nobody up. She went through to the kitchen and found Connie asleep on the floor, in a hape.
Con, Ava said. She knelt and tapped Connie’s face.
Connie was breathing in big gulps.
Con, Ava tapped again.
Connie stirred and grunted: Jesus
Let’s go, Ava said.
Jesus, Connie said again.
Ava got her up and scouted around for their stuff: bags, shoes. In the bathroom, Ava found Connie’s knickers hooked around the toilet scrubber.
Why they here? Ava asked.
Connie shrugged but her eyes were flicking around.
Don’t know, she said. You remember much?
Ava shook her head, pulled at her hair in the bathroom mirror.
Not really, she said.
Connie rubbed both hands all over her face.
They looked at each other in the mirror’s reflection.
Fuck you, Connie said.
She went out to the corridor and slammed through the apartment.
What’s it? Ava said.
The door clicked behind them.
The walk back to their own apartment was silent. Sun already belting down. Shoes in hand and tiles sticking underneath their bare feet. As they passed the pools, filters bubbled. The sound felt too loud.
Ava could feel it, coming from Connie: embarrassed, raging. Left to sleep out on the floor.
You’re an actual prick, Connie said.
They stopped, standing at the stairs up to their apartment.
Go on? Ava said. She hadn’t meant to sound intense.
Ava couldn’t put her finger on the trouble. The night was still furry, gone mouldy round the edges. She remembered Leah leaving, being all: I’m in an actual relationship.
You fucking knew, Connie said. You knew, I’d said he’s the one I was after.
Ava closed her eyes; blood was bouncing around in little worm shapes.
Can we actually, she said, leave it?
Ava’s heart was jumping around, watching Connie.
Connie was raring to go; arms crossed tight.
Their apartment was bright and airy, with the balcony doors thrown open and all the curtains pulled back. It was clean, too. Leah had had the hoover out. Their plates and cups from the evening before were propped up drying. There was music going, tinkling away from a little speaker. Leah there sitting out on the balcony reading a book. Wet hair, all showered.
Leah marked her book with a dog-ear and looked up.
Heya! she said.
I cannot be dealing with this, Connie said, and she slammed the bedroom door.
Ava sat out on the balcony.
Get the ride so? Leah asked.
Ava ignored her.
Slam. Connie back out again.
What’s it? Connie snapped.
Ava get the ride? Leah said again.
She did yeah and isn’t she absolutely thrilled, just delighted! Connie said.
There wasn’t room for three on the balcony.
Leah sighed, eyes glued to the book. Connie was standing at the doors. Leah turned the page and scratched at her leg.
You alright there? Connie said.
Leah nodded. Read another bit.
Ava closed her eyes, had a hazy vision: getting Connie and fucking her right off the balcony, taking Leah’s book too and throwing it down. Fuck them. Fuck Connie. It was all a joke. Something had to be done, who’d do it?
Leah was reading with one hand propped on her forehead.
A good read? An absolute thriller? Connie asked. She’d all her teeth on show with no smile.
Are you absolutely fucking transfixed there? Connie said.
Ava imagined the crack of someone’s head hitting the tiles.
She felt suddenly sick.
Here, Con, I’m going in, Ava said, standing. You can sit here.
Leah jumped up and said: you’re grand, I’m boiling anyway.
She went inside.
Ava and Connie sat on the balcony. Eyes closed. Ava was dropping in and out. Tight feeling in her head. Anxious. Connie watched the pools, spat a hack of phlegm out, pulled at hair extensions. Ava couldn’t look at her, could feel her.
Any good so? Connie finally asked.
Ava sighed and stretched her neck out to each side, making the joints click. Then, she slowly held up her fingers—using thumb and pointer—to make a gap the size of a crayon.
Not ideal, she said.
Connie snickered and coughed.
Yis— she shouted.
Have to— Ava bawled.
Make yissir own fun—
They both roared laughing.
After showering, the girls settled hair and straps so everything hung nice, then slapped in plastic flipflops down to the loungers at the pool. The heat was colossal, strangling, like a cup of tea gone down the wrong way. Scalding your throat, mixing you up. Dribbles of sweat gathered between their boobs and along their bikini bottoms. It was hazy. Swirly patches in the air over the pool.
Kids kept splashing; cold water sprinkling over the girls’ backs.
Little cretins, Connie said.
They were silent. Warmth soaking in from outside, filling them up.
Ava dozed and dreamed about the backdoor of her Ma’s house, seeing the dog through the glass, calling for her mother. When she woke up, Connie was gone and Leah was texting.
Who you on to? she asked.
Himself, Leah said.
Leave it, sure, can get him back later, Ava said.
Leah looked up at her.
They’d been best friends in secondary school—the two of them. Then Connie had arrived. She had been thrown out of the Pres and got into their school on a wait list. People said Connie’s Da knew people in actual gangs. Or maybe it was Connie’s Da, himself, in the gangs. Anyway, she decided Ava would be her best friend.
It was, Ava had thought, probably the best thing to ever happen her. But Connie thought Leah was dry: a gobshite, a limpet.
You know limpets? she’d said to Ava, they cling on to stuff, real tight, and never leave off.
At night in her room, Ava could never sleep: thinking. She wanted Leah and Connie, but they each needed her alone.
The solution was simple: they became three friends, not two.
At the pool, an old wrinkle creased into Leah’s forehead. She gawked at Ava.
Said I’d text like, Leah said.
Ava shrugged. Grand yeah, she said.
After a beat, she added: he’s your problem, sure.
They listened to kids bawling in the pool.
How could you literally forget how to talk to someone? Ava thought.
She and Leah had nothing to say, the gaps always got too deep to fill up with anything.
Open up, ugly cunts, Connie shouted.
Two older women looked over, a boy watched from behind foggy goggles.
She was pounding back across the tiles with three ice lollies.
Unreal, Ava pounced up.
PAWS OUT, Connie said, throwing icy packets down into the girls’ hands.
The cold stung. Ava cut her finger on the wrapper and blood gooped out, dripping onto her chest. She sucked her fingertip, metal mixing round with freezing sugar.
Sexy out, Connie said.
They sat in silence, no sound except tongues sucking and the fuzz of conversation around them.
That evening, the air-conditioning blasting, the apartment felt too small. They were too close together, could reach out and touch each other and it made everything seem tiny, zoomed in. Connie lay flat on the couch, while Ava and Leah sat on kitchen chairs. Ava was right under the air-conditioning fan and her toes were freezing.
Going to call Himself, Leah said and left for the bedroom.
Everyone was prickling, tired, sick of it, already, and it only the second night. Connie moved and signalled Ava to sit on the couch.
The other apartments were too quiet, no music. And there was a fight floating around, on the air, Ava could feel it.
They could hear Leah laughing on the phone, all muffled. The apartments walls felt very thin. Nearly see-through, if you thought about it.
It was impossible to get plastered, the drinks just slid down and sat in their stomachs. They blasted cigarettes and chugged. Nothing, no buzz at all. Queasy feeling, too dry, their sunburns crackling.
Ava’s phone was sitting on her thigh. It buzzed with a message. Connie saw the name flash up before Ava flipped it upside down: Gary was onto her.
She knew that she’d had her phone there—flat out on her leg—so Connie would see. It was weird, knowing why you’re doing things and doing them anyway.
So, this a thing with you now? Connie asked, staring at her.
Ava didn’t look up.
Take someone else’s fella and then have him on? All texting and chatting?
Fuck off, Ava said.
He’s obviously not yours, Ava said, looking at the wall opposite.
We met them last night like, Ava said.
You’d want to watch it like, Connie said.
Going bed, Ava said, standing up and wobbling.
Fuck this, all dry heads on ye, Connie said, the sentences running together.
Leah came out, said: we play cards?
I’m going, Connie said, up to the lads.
Ava lay in bed boiling, the sheets sticking. She heard Connie spray on more perfume then head upstairs. Outside on the balcony, Leah was munching cereal.
The next morning was scorching. Leah made coffee at breakfast but it was too hot to drink.
Craic last night so? Ava said, watching Connie make toast.
You come home? Ava said.
Wouldn’t you love to know my dear! Connie said, scooping jam out of a jar.
There was a burst of laughter from the neighbours, and they all jumped. Leah was reading the back of the milk carton.
A good read there? Connie said.
Ava clacked her spoon against her teeth.
Leah said: ten out of ten
The neighbours laughed again.
Thought I heard you coming in? Leah said, turning the milk away.
Connie tipped her head back and closed her eyes.
Don’t think so, she said.
Not late so? Ava said.
Connie slurped her coffee.
That’s roasting, she said.
The overhead fan buzzed, Ava scratched at her leg and the skin crackled. Outside, someone was on the phone—chatting away in another language.
Leah’s phone rang once before she clicked it off.
Ava glanced at Connie.
Himself? Connie said.
You not up for a chat? Ava asked.
Leah wasn’t listening—away off—looking out the balcony doors.
She said: is it too early to start on that?
Wha? Ava said.
Leah nodded at a bottle of vodka sitting near the sink.
Connie shouted: sure, she’s mad for sauce!
They poured out big tumblers of vodka mixed with 7UP and lay around sipping all afternoon. Evening came suddenly and Connie was moaning for food. They ordered Chinese stuff and ate sitting on the kitchen floor—chomping boxes of noodles and spring rolls.
Tonight, Connie declared, is our first proper night.
Girls’ night! Ava said, and Leah whooped.
No lads, no fights and absolutely no riding, Connie said.
Leah was bubbling, all engaged, promising to make up for no-shows.
I’m actually buzzing for chats, she said.
Connie slung an arm around her, got the tan mit out, started at Leah’s back.
Ava blasted her holiday playlist. It was too warm, their hair all furry with humidity. She sat on the tile kitchen floor, a lovely coldness on her arse and the back of her legs. She popped out her make-up stuff, and used an eye shadow palette mirror to put on foundation. Powder, bronzer: it was all the same. Exact routine as the night before, and the one before that. Her skin was choking underneath. Eyes, next. She couldn’t tell if anything looked good. All the palette’s colours were too heavy.
They’d thrown open the balcony doors but there was no breeze to be found. People outside were roaring. Next door were watching Spanish TV at an ultra-high volume.
Connie and Leah were laughing in the bathroom, she could see the back of Connie’s head. She’d a twang of it—jealous, pissed off, left out. Leah kept high laughing and wriggling to reach the tan bits.
This always happened on holidays, though. That thought, feeling: why we here again?
The bar was outdoors and lit in bright colours. They were twisted.
Since leaving the apartment the hours had flicked by and the drinks had flowed: cocktails with strange bits inside, bright and annoying, clumps of pineapple, sweaty melon, tiny fuck-off umbrellas.
Ladies, Connie said—raising her sangria—here’s to our exotic holiday!
Cheers, the others chimed.
I would not, Ava said, want to spend this exotic holiday with any other people!
They tinkled their glasses together again, sloshing stuff.
I wish, Connie said, to ride some young fella with a double-barrel name and a signet ring!
Hear, hear! Leah roared, crashing her glass down onto the table.
Cocktails splashed and pooled along the plastic top.
Not tonight! Ava said, GIRLS ONLY!
Here’s to— Leah said. She was goggling at the foamy top of her cocktail. Here’s to, best friends!
Fuck off! Connie shouted, puffing smoke.
New bar: the girls got set up at an outdoor table, read the plastic menu and shouted for suds. The waiter stood silent, then read the order back to them while Ava and Connie smirked.
Yeah grand, like, Ava said.
Thanks a million, Leah jumped in.
What’s his fucking problem? Connie said when he’d left.
You’d think he’d be on some buzz, Ava said, working here, young ones hanging out of him all night.
Would ye? Connie asked.
They watched him head behind the bar inside. His hair was black and long, pulled in behind the ears, he’d a shark tooth necklace bashing against his chest.
You know, probably yeah, Ava said.
Connie spat out a mouth of margarita.
You twisted? Connie said.
Ava shrugged: defo has like a surfboard and a book shelf, know what I’m saying?
And an absolute ornamental vase, she added.
I’d say he’s ripped, all the same, Leah said.
He’d be right up your alley now Leah, big dry head on him, she said.
Ava sucked air from the end of her glass.
An actual intellectual? That what we call them now? Connie said.
Okay, Leah said.
The waiter arrived, laden down with goblets of fizz and sticky stuff.
That will be €45.60, he said.
Connie beamed at him.
Can you actually, like, put that on our table, she said, way too slowly. We will pay you later, when we’re leaving?
The waiter was staring at the wall behind Connie’s head.
Cash or card please, ladies? he said.
Connie glared at Ava. Leah rooted around in her bag.
Here, she said, tap away!
Ladies my hole, Connie said.
The waiter unloaded the drinks, not spilling a drop, then set up his card machine. Leah watched his face, blank as a dinner plate.
Every drink made their voices louder, hands jab around higher, eyes wider. Big talk: pills, periods, boyfriends. Emotions, memories, school. Deeper, down into the old days. Ava welled up and tears poured. All holding hands. Leah told them how her boyfriend kept timings—on his phone notes—of how long she took to do stuff.
Like? Ava said.
Going shop, Leah said.
Ava choked on her drink and Connie said: fuck that.
Do you not say anything? Ava asked.
Connie was ripping up a beermat.
Yeah, no, Leah said.
Her eyes were gleaming.
You know that’s insane? Connie said.
They watched her swipe the beermat pieces onto the floor.
Sure, what can ye do? Leah said.
Ava turned to Connie.
Literally anything, you can do anything, Connie said.
A woman at the next table was singing.
Belting it out there, Ava said.
Connie talked about her Da. The others were silent. Watching with caring faces. She said her Da had five different phone numbers and never answered any of them to her. Leah kept sparking the wrong end of a fag. A glass dropped and smashed. Connie powdered their faces, sprinkling dust into the drinks. Everything was sticky.
I’m off for fags, Leah said
Go on, get me some? Connie replied.
Yeah grand, Leah said and headed out.
An hour bled past, all wavy. The bar filled up and emptied out, people kept popping out for cigarettes and smoky clouds floated around. The waiters stood chatting at the bar. A girl was screaming into her phone. Ava and Connie kept drinking, chatting and gradually slumping down into their seats at the table.
A! Connie shouted, standing up.
Ava looked up from her phone.
Jesus, what’s it? she replied.
Come toilet? Connie asked.
They stomped around, looking for their bags.
Where d’fuck’s my lighter? Ava was saying.
In your bra? Up your hole? Connie said.
Everything seemed stretched very tight, music was playing but sure they couldn’t hear it.
Inside, the bar was dark and warm. Yellow lights dotted around all over the floor, the music soft. It was—the girls gawked around hard—petty empty. Stools on tables. Tills clicking away.
What’s time? Ava asked a woman mopping.
No response at all, just a weird quietness.
Connie poked her. The woman spun round and starting roaring.
Jesus, Ava said, and stumbled. The whole place surged around, Connie slipping in her shoes.
The bathroom was freezing, silent. Connie pissed and Ava sat on the ground.
Connie Connie Connie, she said.
The echo bounced round.
Yeah? Connie replied, her eyes closed.
Ava had a jump-feeling inside her: look after Connie, make it all good.
I love you, Ava said.
Connie picked her nose, then said: yeah.
Someone was washing their hands outside the cubicle.
A picture of their apartment flashed in Ava’s head. The long walk.
Connie, listen, know what I’d love? Ava said. Know what I’m gagging for?
Connie laughed, coughing.
A big— Connie said.
Ava pursed her lips, then mimed, grabbing something in both hands, stretching her mouth open wide, chomping down with her teeth, tongue out.
Connie shrieked and fell down again on the toilet.
Yeah! she shouted.
They held hands. Actual water leaking from Connie’s eyes.
Saw a Mackie’s on the way, Ava whispered.
Out of the cubicle, back to the bar: Leah was sat in behind the bar, perched up on a stool. The waiter was leaning on the taps. He moved his hands around, chatting, a low laugh.
Fuck off, Connie said.
Jesus, Ava said.
She’s going to cheat on her fucking dry arse boyfriend, thank absolute fuck, Connie said.
The sentence took a while to come out.
Jesus, Ava said, again.
The waiter mauled around under the counter, pulled up his phone, tapped a bit, held the screen out to Leah.
She laughed, all pretty like, nodding and smiling.
Fuck off! Connie shouted, bursting out towards the bar.
Leah and the waiter looked around.
You know she’s like a minor? You know that! Connie shrieked.
The waiter smiled.
I’m twenty-three, Leah said.
Ava grabbed at Connie and said: we’re going food now.
So you can come or we’ll leave you with this fucking pervert? Connie said, her words were slushing together—trying to make the sentence go up at the end, to say: I can’t believe this.
Right, Leah said. The waiter laughed.
Leah, Ava said, making her face go very still and obvious.
I’m staying, Leah said.
Ava focused on the air in her nose.
Do you want him to fucking rape you? Connie said.
The woman mopping was watching them.
Leah got up, popped her bag up on her shoulder and said: sorry about them.
The waiter took his phone and wallet. They were heading off.
What the ACTUAL fuck?! Connie roared. Sorry about THEM!
The bar was empty, closed, in fact. Ava and Connie left by the emergency exit door, pushed out into the night. Outside, a girl was bawling. The streets were dark and the Mackie’s closed. Drive through only, the woman said.
Sure, we drive through? Ava asked.
The woman slammed her window closed.
They walked for ages, got lost, asked directions, cried. They took off shoes, put them on again. Finally, a taxi brought them to the hotel and they leapt out without paying. He didn’t follow them.
In bed, the whole room bounced around.
Morning, Ava’s stomach was scrunched up and her eyes wouldn’t close, though they couldn’t have been open?
Where was she?
Vomiting into the kitchen sink, a thought: they’d left Leah.
She pictured her own mother, watching RTÉ news, tucked on the sofa at home. Eating biscuits and crumbling some down for the dog. On the screen, beach resort (stock photo) newsreader shuffling papers, headline: young Irish woman found dead in Majorcan resort. The woman’s body had been recovered, newsreader saying, after she became separated from her friends, on a night out.
You up long? Connie said, cracking the fridge open. Her voice was crackling with the hangover and sounded like it was coming down a tunnel.
We’re those people, Ava said. The ones who leave their friends with strange men.
She couldn’t breathe.
I’m absolutely fucking langered, Connie said.
Leah, Ava said.
Her throat closed over, and her breathing hurt.
As she ran out the door, she heard Connie roaring for her, running behind, but she kept going. Down the stairs, past rows of blank doors, crashing out the emergency exit. She was heaving. The sun was painful; everything was too bright.
Leah, Leah, Leah, she said out loud.
A cleaner was watching her.
Leah, she said again.
The cleaner moved away, trundling his trolley.
Someone from an upstairs balcony let out a roar.
The blood banged round her face, and she headed for the pools.
Jesus, she said.
She clattered down the steps. Empty, early morning. The sun loungers hadn’t been set out, except for one. The vending machine noise sounded massive in the silence; the pool was grey.
Leah lay on her side, covered in an unfamiliar jacket.
The sun lounger was in a stripe of morning sun. Leah’s feet were bare and tucked up under her, arms crossed over her face—like she always slept.
What Ava decided she’d tell everyone: she looked just like she was asleep, resting, so peaceful.
Body still warm. Skin burnt with sun.
Leah rolled over and stretched.
What, Leah said, the actual fuck?
Leah laughed, croaking, dry from drink. She pawed at her face.
What? she said.
Ava lay face down on the sun lounger beside her, said something into the plastic.
Wha? Leah said.
Ava rolled over.
It’s boiling, she said.
They watched a woman come parading down to the pool, arms full of towels.
What happened? Ava said.
Leah shrugged. It was absolutely roasting so I came down to sleep.
Their last night was confusing.
How’d it come already? Ava said.
The girls had used up all their tan, four full bottles. Ultra-dark. Leah couldn’t find her phone charger.
Where d’fuck? she kept whining.
They’d missed a day, somewhere. Ava felt like she’d lost a chunk of something: her life, a movie. What had happened? Where were the lads? They’d fucked it. No fags left, though they were literally flat out buying them.
We’ve fucked it, she said.
Nobody was listening. They’d stopped talking, in normal sentences. Wasn’t even a big deal, no need to actually respond to each other, when they knew the noises. Grunts, whines. Sighs.
Connie lay all afternoon on the couch watching videos on YouTube, sucking rum—straw bet down into the bottle’s neck.
You mixing? Leah said, or was it Ava? Sound of a voice down a well, far away.
No, Connie said.
She leaned over and poured out more rum into plastic cups.
Here, she said.
Ava and Leah sipped. Then, glugged.
That last word stayed hanging. Big silence covered them up. Nobody wanted to break it, be the one to go in swinging, making moves. They let it grow, fed it. Drank in different positions, all alone. Outside, a cat was screaming. They all listened; nobody was listening. It was the end, that floaty feeling: shit-faced in the afternoon. Like a Friday down the park, back at home.
Shit-faced, Leah said.
Her voice clomped down into the quiet with a bang.
Something would happen, Ava had this feeling, whirling in her stomach. No lights on in the apartment, except Connie’s laptop. Was getting dark. Shadows on the wall were massive and spiky—weird, but like you’d seen them before, maybe in a dream? Somewhere dangerous.
Everything looked dangerous. Connie kept holding her breath in her throat, letting it rush out. Leah sang to herself. Something off about it: was there someone weird in the apartment?
Something off? Ava said. They jumped. A voice: the shakes of it.
The girls got ready. Leah and Connie were in the bathroom. Ava stretched out on the kitchen tiles.
The fake marble was freezing. Could feel the rum flowing in her, mixing around in her blood.
What the actual fuck! Connie shouted.
Ava shot up and said: what?
Literally, you looked dead, honest to God thought you were after having a heart attack and died, right there, imagine, Jesus Christ, imagine, Majorca, like, what the actual fuck!
Leah was still in the bathroom, she peeped out with one fake eyelash strip on.
Fast movement up made the alcohol gush around inside Ava, her head whooshing.
What? she said.
The talking, all of it, actual sentences, made them weak—throats hopping from fags. Connie’s voice scratching in Ava’s head.
Imagine you literally died in this apartment, what the actual fuck, Connie said.
Can ye actually cop on, Leah said.
The bathroom light was behind her, face all dark.
Hurry on will ye? I’m dying to get my tits out, Ava said.
Her voice didn’t hit them. The girls stood gawping at her. The bathroom fan clicked.
The tattoo place was dirty, to be fair. Unclean. Their last night, their final hoorah, had to have something. A topping off, bit of a hooley. They’d been drinking for hours, weeks? Not right.
Get me on your neck, Connie was saying.
Leah blinking, wha?
Get CONNIE on your neck.
Connie was still holding a sandcastle bucket with straws hanging out the side.
The others stared.
Here, Con, Ava spoke. Hoor of a job getting the words out, all stuck down inside her.
The light of the tattoo place was scalding. Chemical. Like a slosh of bleach down your Ma’s toilet. Too white. The girls looked too bright. Could see the tash growing on Connie’s upper lip, flaky bits of Leah’s skin all clumped in between her eyebrows. Ava looked at herself in the tattoo man’s mirror. Wasn’t her—couldn’t be. She slapped herself straight cross the face.
Leah squealed at the noise.
Stop being, Ava said, such an eejit.
The tattoo man was back, measuring needles, wiping stuff. He plonked down into a swivel chair.
Gawking up at her, his eyes were black.
Leah was crying.
Fuck’s sake, Connie said. She was banging on, talking at them.
Ava forced herself to look at the mouth but couldn’t see any words. They were coming out too fast, Connie’s lips twisting around them. It was very hot, then absolutely Baltic. She looked down at the dirty floor—spotted her toes out on the lino. Tattoo man’s clock: 3 a.m.
Where, she said.
Connie had leaned in, cheek to cheek with the tattoo man—giving him the full spiel, telling secrets. Leah’s eyes were closed, lips parted, absolutely panned out on the couch.
Lads, Ava said, again, trying to get someone to look. Nobody heard.
Is this real? she said.
Your man was getting set, dipping a needle down into something, nodding at Connie.
Leah was crying again.
Lads, Ava said.
Where my shoes?