‘Katie Daly!’ Miss Dorgan, their English teacher, swayed at the top of the steps of the West Cork Hotel.
‘You’re like a swan,’ she slurred before Mr Cashel, the head, took her by the arm, probably saving the woman from a tumble that would have brought the graduation dance to a standstill before it even got going.
‘She’s half-cut already,’ said Conor, who Katie had hardly been able to look at since he’d arrived at her home to collect her, armed with a beautiful rose to pin on her dress and a box of chocolates for her mother. In his brother’s car, the poor boy had tried his best to make conversation as they sat apart in the back seat.
Transformed as he was with that snazzy haircut and the mandatory tuxedo he’d complained at having to wear, he’d gone from simple gangly country boy to James Bond understudy. Other girls had insisted their partners wear coloured bow ties and matching triangles of handkerchiefs, but Katie made no such demands. After months of agonising over how she would ever find a partner who wasn’t one of the
male cousins suggested by her mother, not to mind listening to the conversations at school of the girls who had it all sewn up and thought they knew who every one of the boys would end up with, Conor Fox had done two miraculous things in one night – he’d asked her to dance at the hurling club disco and he’d asked her to the ball.
Not that he was a hurler. Although happy to support his brother and the local team from the sidelines, the game held no great interest for him. The clash of the ash, they called it. A fierce fast-moving game, the ash sticks held aloft, belting a leather ball at lightning speed, not
a helmet between them. No, Conor was refined, happier with a book in his hand…