‘A chill goes through my body as I notice her – get this – kissing an actual boy’
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: Honor lasted the course in the Gaeltacht – and that’s suspicious
Sorcha tells me to slow down. She goes, “You’re driving about 20 kilometres per hour above the speed limit. I know you’re keen to see your daughter, but it’s not worth getting into an accident.”
We’re heading for Tralee to collect Honor after her three weeks in Irish college. And – yeah, no – like Sorcha said, I’ve missed the girl, but there’s also a little bit of me that’s also, I don’t know, worried?
I’m there, “Do you not find it a bit suspicious that she lasted the full course?”
Sorcha goes, “What are you talking about?”
I’m like, 'Whatever she’s done, we’ll pay for the damage. You haven’t phoned the Gords yet, have you?'
“As in, we both know Honor? Isn’t it a bit weird that she wasn’t thrown out after two or three days for bullying? Or trying to murder one of the teachers?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Ross. Do you know what I think happened? I think she came down here to Kerry and she met a bunch of girls and boys who didn’t know her and didn’t pre-judge her. So she was able to fit in a lot better than she does at school, where everyone always expects the worst from her.”
“It could be that. Or it could be that she’s been planning some big spectacular for the final day – possibly involving high explosives.”
“You know,” she goes, “you really should stort giving our daughter the benefit of the doubt, Ross.”
And then 30 seconds later, she goes, “Okay, maybe put your foot down on the accelerator, just in case.”
Twenty minutes later, we swing into the cor pork of Tralee station to witness a scene of emotional cornage. There’s kids everywhere, hugging each other and crying their eyes out.
I get out of the cor and I walk up to the first adult I see – a woman holding a clipboard.
I’m like, “Whatever she’s done, we’ll pay for the damage. You haven’t phoned the Gords yet, have you?”
She’s like, “Gabh mo leithscéal?” which obviously means nothing to me.
I feel a tap on my shoulder. It ends up being Sorcha.
“Ross,” she goes, “look!” and she’s pointing at our daughter, who, I notice, is surrounded by other girls, each of them taking it in turn to hug her and tell her tearfully that they’re going to miss her.
“I will never, ever forget you,” one goes, then adds, “so I won’t,” because she’s obviously from the country.
Sorcha goes, “What did I tell you? Being away from home has given Honor the freedom to be her best self! Oh my God, Ross, this could be, like, a definite corner turned?”
Another girl throws her orms around Honor and goes, “You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life, so you are.”
And I’m suddenly like Tom Cruise in one of the Mission Impossibles, looking around the cor pork, wondering where would she hide a bomb?
She spots us then? And she’s instantly embarrassed. She mouths the words, “Can you wait in the cor?” and Sorcha goes, “Come on, Ross, let’s give our daughter some privacy.”
It’s only when I sit back into the driver’s seat that I realise why she wanted us out of the way? Seriously, a chill goes through my body as I notice her – get this – kissing an actual boy.
“Oh! My God!” Sorcha goes.
I feel my two hands tighten on the steering wheel. Hey, I’m like any other parent in that situation – I’m wondering who is this dude? And what does his old man do for a living?
After a minute or two of saying goodbye, Honor wipes the tears from her face with the palm of her hand, then she finally gets into the cor.
I can see that she’s devastated, so I say nothing. I just stort the cor and I point it in the direction of Dublin.
Sorcha just can’t leave it alone, though. Honor is leafing through a copybook, I notice in the rear view mirror, and Sorcha goes, “Aw! Did all your friends write messages in your exercise book?”
Honor’s like, “Yeah,” except she says it in, like, a defensive way?
“You’ll treasure those words forever,” Sorcha goes. “I know I still have mine from the three times I went to Irish college and the twice I went to French college!”
She doesn’t, by the way. I used them to light the fire one night when I couldn’t be orsed going out to the shed to grab a bag of kindling.
“The lovely thing,” Sorcha goes, “is that it’s – oh my God – so much easier to stay in touch with the friends you’ve made these days, what with texting and WhatsApp and Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram and -”
I shoot Sorcha a sideways look to tell her to maybe stop talking and give Honor a moment to – I think it’s a word – process? So there’s just, like, silence in the cor for ages, while Honor reads the entire copybook over and over again with occasional tears.
I consider asking – as any responsible parent would – whether the boy we saw her kissing at the train station goes to a rugby school. But I decide to just give her the space to properly, I don’t know, acclimatise to the real world again.
Sorcha can’t let it go, though. “I’m sorry,” she goes, “can I just say, Honor, that it was lovely to see you back there in Tralee, surrounded by all those friends who obviously adored you. It was actually like having the daughter I always dreamed you’d be.”
And Honor, out of nowhere, goes, “Can we pull into the Obama Plaza?”
Sorcha’s there, “Oh, good idea, I actually need the bathroom.”
So I pull in. And while Sorcha goes inside for a slash, I watch Honor get out of the cor, rip her copybook into tiny pieces and stuff it into the bin next to petrol pump three.
Then she gets back into the cor and I say nothing as she takes out her phone, even though I know that she’s deleting all of her new contacts.
“What are you focking looking at?” she says to me, catching my eye in the rearview mirror. And I don’t have the words to tell you how good it feels to have her back.