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Keeping 13: Chapter 82


It was September 1st 2005.

A brand-new term, and my first day of fifth year. Deciding to take the leap year option with Lizzie and Claire, I walked through the doors of Tommen for my second to last year of secondary school, dressed in a brand spanking new uniform – ironed to perfection, courtesy of Mrs. Kavanagh – with my best friends at my side.

Everything was different now. I wasn’t the same girl from nine months ago. I was a completely different person, with a new home and a new family. All because I made the reckless decision to take a shortcut through a rugby pitch and crash into the boy who had changed my life. The boy who had saved my life.

‘This is going to be our best year yet, girls,’ Claire declared, looking her usual pristine self, with her hips swaying and her blonde curls bouncing as she walked. ‘I can feel it in my bones.’

‘No. Just…no, Claire,’ Lizzie grumbled, trudging along beside her, looking like the angel of fury. ‘It’s way too early for your demonic optimism.’

‘Ladies,’ Ronan McGarry purred, stopping in front of us when we reached our lockers. ‘I heard you three took the gap year.’

‘I hope you didn’t,’ Lizzie shot back, releasing her glower on him.

‘I did.’ He smirked. ‘You’ll be seeing a lot more of me.’ Turning his attention to me, he winked. ‘Hey, Shannon.’

‘No.’ My lip curled up and I had to repress the urge to gag. ‘Just…no.’

Ronan’s face reddened and he stalked away, clearly furious.

‘That was epic,’ Claire laughed, throwing her arm over my shoulder. ‘Johnny would be proud.’

‘Yeah,’ Lizzie agreed, cracking an actual smile. ‘He would’ve loved to have seen you put that toe-rag back in his box.’

‘Don’t,’ I groaned, stomach twisting up in knots. ‘I don’t want conflict this year. I just want to get on with my life.’

‘Aww,’ Claire squealed then, distracting us both. ‘Look at him.’

Swinging around to see who she was pointing at, I smirked when Tadhg stalked towards us, scowling.

‘Oh, that boy is going to break some serious hearts,’ she added, pressing a hand to her chest. ‘I want to eat him up.’

‘Yeah, look at those baby first-year girls checking him out already,’ Lizzie chuckled, pointing to a group of young girls openly staring at my baby brother. ‘He’s going to be the man.’

‘No, he’s not,’ I said, horrified. ‘He’s not even thirteen yet.’

‘Look at the cute first year!’ Shelly and Helen said in unison as they rushed over to us. ‘He is so cute.’

‘That’s Shannon’s brother,’ Claire explained. ‘And yes, we’re aware that he is beyond adorable.’

‘Hey, Tadhg,’ I said, giving him a bright smile when he approached. ‘How are you finding everything –’

‘Don’t talk to me,’ he warned, giving me a horrified look. ‘Jesus Christ, you’re my sister. You don’t know me when we’re here.’

‘You’re in the wrong area,’ I shot back, eyes narrowed. ‘The first-year locker area is downstairs.’

‘Whatever.’ Rolling his eyes, he shouldered his bag and turned around, heading back towards the first-year common area, growling, ‘This school fucking sucks,’ before quickly backpedaling to us. ‘By the way, you can absolutely talk to me,’ he said, winking up at Claire, who was towering over him.

‘Uh, thanks?’ Claire laughed, grinning down at him.

‘Anytime, blondie,’ Tadhg replied before sauntering off.

‘Oh, yeah,’ Claire snickered. ‘Give him a couple of years, and he’s definitely going to be the man.’

‘Who’s the man?’ Gibsie asked, sidling up to us with Hughie and Feely in tow. He waggled his brows at Claire and grinned. ‘Are you talking about me again, Claire-bear?’

‘Nope,’ Lizzie answered for her. ‘You have competition this year, Thor.’

‘Oh, please.’ Gibsie made a pshhing sound and waved a hand in front of himself. ‘I’m the only competition around here.’ Looking thoughtful, he added, ‘I’m basically my own competition.’

‘Hey, blondie?’ Tadhg called out from down the corridor, causing all of us to turn and look at him. ‘Nice legs.’ Turning to Gibsie, he smirked. ‘You better up your game, lad. Because it’s on.’

‘Oh my god,’ Helen and Shelly giggled. ‘He’s got spunk.’

‘Too much of it,’ I muttered under my breath.

‘That little shit,’ Gibsie hissed, stepping around us to hunt after my little brother. ‘You better keep your pre-pubescent eyes off my baby mama, fucker. Or you won’t have balls to drop!’

‘I have bigger balls than you, fatty,’ Tadhg called back, laughing his ass off. ‘Just ask your mother.’

‘I’m not fat!’ Gibsie roared. ‘And you leave my mother out of this!’

‘I’m coming for your girl, Gibs,’ Tadhg continued to taunt, thoroughly enjoying driving Gibsie crazy. ‘Fair warning.’

‘I’m going to kick you all the way back to primary school,’ Gibsie snarled. ‘Fair warning.’

‘Simmer down, Gibs,’ Feely laughed, dragging him back by the scruff of the neck. ‘He’s a first year.’

My phone started to ring in my pocket, distracting me from Gibsie’s comical outrage, and I hurried off to one-side to answer it. ‘Hello?’

‘Shannon like the river,’ Johnny’s familiar voice purred down the line, setting my pulse racing. ‘How’s my girl?’

Grinning, I bit down on my lip and swallowed a moan at the sound of his husky voice. ‘Hi, Johnny.’

‘Hi, Shannon.’ He chuckled softly down the line. ‘How’s your first day going?’

‘Good, how’s yours?’


I smirked. ‘Oh really?’

‘Yeah,’ he replied, and there was a teasing lilt to his voice. ‘See, I had this amazing dream last night about my sexy girlfriend.’

Leaning against the locker, I glanced around to make sure my friends weren’t listening before whispering, ‘Keep talking.’

‘She tiptoed into my room in the middle of the night,’ he continued. ‘And then she climbed under the covers…and when she took her clothes off, she started doing things to my body that made those pretty cheeks of hers turn pink.’

‘Oh, wow.’ Squirming, I blew out a shaky breath. ‘That sounds like a great dream.’

‘It was the best.’ A pair of arms came around me from behind, pulling me flush against a chest of hard muscle. ‘But it wasn’t a dream, was it?’

Grinning, I spun around and openly ogled my boyfriend in his Tommen uniform, looking like the best thing my eyes had ever seen. ‘No, it wasn’t.’

‘These late-night visits are getting out of hand, Shan,’ Johnny purred, stooping down to press a hot kiss to my lips. ‘I almost slept through my alarm for training, and Ma was watching me like a bleeding hawk when I came down for breakfast.’ Grinning, he added, ‘I think she might be onto us.’

‘Oh, you think?’ I laughed.

‘Hmm.’ Nodding, he leaned down and kissed me again. ‘We’re going to have to get a little more inventive this year.’

Sighing in contentment, I wrapped my arms around his waist and hugged him, thanking god that he had made the decision to delay his signing for another year so he could finish off his leaving cert here at Tommen. With me. It gave us one more year together before the big decisions had to be made. It gave us breathing space. It kept us together for a little longer, and I was savoring every one of those minutes. I felt guilty for being so ecstatic that Johnny had decided to stay. I also felt a huge swell of guilt and responsibility for him making that decision. I had feared he was staying out of duty to me, or because he was scared I wouldn’t cope. When he explained that he wasn’t ready, that he didn’t feel like he could walk away from his life yet, and that he had thought it through with his usual precision and attention to detail, I relaxed. He needed this year. Some more time to just grow up and live a little before he moved on to the pros. He was talented enough that he was in the position to make that kind of decision and still have the full support and backing of not only his trainers at The Academy, but the Irish coaches, too. Of course, his mother was beyond delighted to have him home for another school year, but I had a feeling her excitement was quickly wearing off considering she had upped her spy patrol on our relationship, roping Sean into the mix, too.

‘What’s that for?’ Johnny chuckled, dragging me from my thoughts.

‘I just missed you,’ I whispered, nuzzling my cheek against his chest.

‘You saw me this morning, Shan,’ he reminded me. ‘And at dinner yesterday evening.’ His voice turned huskier when he added, ‘And last night, when you had your lips –’

‘I remember,’ I choked out, blushing. ‘You don’t need to give me a verbal recap.’

‘You need to control that ward of yours,’ Gibsie announced, drawing our attention to him. ‘I’m serious, Johnny,’ he added, still scowling. ‘He is getting right on my tits.’

‘He’s a kid, Gibs,’ Johnny drawled, arching a brow. ‘You can handle him.’

‘Oh, I know I can,’ Gibsie replied, still glowering. ‘But my version of handling him is very different to yours, and will most likely land me in a prison cell. Therefore, it’s a good thing you decided to stick around until June, Cap, because you’re going to need to stop me from bulldozing this year.’

‘By the way, Johnny, I saw your mother and father go into the office earlier,’ Helen said. She blushed and batted her eye lashes as she spoke to him. ‘I hope everything’s okay.’

‘Yeah,’ Shelly agreed, joining in on the eyelash batting. ‘I hope it’s nothing serious.’

‘Why are you two still here?’ Lizzie asked in a flat tone.

‘Liz,’ Claire snickered. ‘Be nice.’

‘I am being nice,’ Lizzie countered. ‘I could have said fuck off.’ She gave the girls a pointed look.

‘You should buy a muzzle for that one, Claire,’ Shelly huffed, glaring at Lizzie. ‘She has issues.’

‘Big ones,’ Helen agreed before they stalked away together, arm in arm.

‘Was that necessary?’ Claire asked, still laughing. ‘They’re harmless.’

‘They’re annoying,’ Lizzie corrected. ‘And catty, and bitchy.’

‘They are,’ Gibsie agreed. ‘And we only have room for one catty bitch in this group.’

‘Thor, you better not start with me this morning,’ Lizzie warned. ‘I’m trying to be cordial here, but your face is just setting me off.’

‘Oh, Jesus, come on, Shan,’ Johnny muttered with a shake of his head. ‘It’s too early for their shite.’ Catching ahold of my hand, he tugged me down the hallway after him.

‘What do you think your parents are doing in the office?’ I asked, hurrying along next to him.

Johnny shrugged. ‘Sorting out your brother’s enrolment, I suppose.’

‘Yeah.’ I blew out a shaky breath, feeling nervous and anxious for him. ‘Do you think he’ll be okay?’ I asked. ‘Do you think he’ll make friends and settle in here at Tommen?’

‘There’s only one way to find out,’ Johnny mused, pulling me to a stop just outside the girls’ bathroom. ‘Here we go,’ he added, tone light and full of humor, as he pointed to the front entrance.

My breath hitched in my throat when my eyes landed on the boy standing in the doorway, dressed in the Tommen uniform, looking hard, and beautiful, and a little lost. A gear bag was slung over one shoulder, and a hurley was clutched in his other hand. His white shirt was untucked, his red tie was hanging loosely. His blonde hair was ruffled, and his expression was one of fuck the world and everyone in it. He looked thinner, darker, more haunted, but his green eyes were sharp and focused again.

‘Oh my god,’ Claire choked out, running up to us, clutching her chest. ‘Is that –’

‘Joey,’ I filled in with a small nod. ‘Yep.’

‘When did he get out?’

‘Last week,’ Johnny told her.

‘But you guys never said,’ she replied, frowning.

‘We weren’t sure what he was going to do,’ I explained, clutching Johnny’s hand as I stared at my brother. ‘If he was going to take Johnny’s parents up on their offer.’

‘But he’s here!’

‘Yep,’ Johnny and I both replied. ‘He’s here.’

‘Who is that?’ Shelly squealed, joining us once more. ‘Sweet baby Jesus, I’m in love.’

‘He’s the new sixth year,’ Helen explained with a dreamy sigh. ‘The new boy of Tommen.’

‘Well, shit,’ Gibsie mused, coming to join us. ‘This year is going to be eventful.’

‘It’s going to be something alright,’ Johnny replied.

‘Yeah,’ Gibsie laughed. ‘Let the madness begin.’


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