Crystal's StorySite


Mna Na hEireann

by Amanda Coleen.

September 2006


Chapter 1 – Ancient Battle

Micheal stared out the window at the goalposts as they stood like a giant H against the murky sky. Alternatively smashing the ball into the net or watching it sail from his boot between the uprights flawlessly over the black spot every time. His imagination was a good one. Around him in the classroom chaos reigned.

An age old debate which had started out as a discussion in an old tongue was now raging in the vernacular. The battle of the sexes was always likely to get heated, lack of fluency in their "native" language was never likely to hamper a group of hormone soaked feisty adolescents. Micheal however had not yet been drawn into the crossfire.

Instead he was on the field with the greats, the Gaelic football heroes he knew by heart. It had been his one bond with his late father, learning all there was to know about the game he was an inexpert off the field. What a pity then his physical prowess on the pitch didn't match the "grá" or love he had for the game.

Pitted against his peers he always came up short, not matching their rough and tumble, it is after all a man's game.

The school had reached the cup semi-final which they would contest tomorrow. Needless to say he hadn't made the team, though his knowledge and interest had allowed him the dubious honour of "Maor Uisce" or water-boy. It wasn't great, but at least he got to travel with the team, see the game and miss a class or two. One of which was 5th year Honours Irish, the scene of our ongoing battle.

"MEN ARE LIKE . . . Copiers, you need them for reproduction, but that's about it."

"MEN ARE LIKE . . . Parking Spots, the good ones are already taken and the ones that are left are handicapped or extremely small.", "Careful Sinead!" cautioned Ms. Sullivan the Irish teacher. "MEN ARE LIKE . . . Newborn Babies, they're cute at first, but you get tired of cleaning up their crap." The war had swung firmly in the feminine favour, always likely in a class which boasted 18 girls to a mere 3 boys and was chaired by Ms. Sullivan a noted feminist, "man-hater" and "rug muncher" depending on which rumour you cared to listen to.

"Hey, help us out egg-head!", Fergal's ruler expertly dispatched between the shoulder blades brought Micheal from his reverie. It had got pretty heated while Micheal was out of it. "Why did God create the man before he created the woman?", "Everyone makes a draft first!". "To do something with the leftovers!" jeered Barry. "I think you'll find it was to give him the chance to enjoy Heaven on Earth for a few moments." Piped up little Mickey in order to defend his gender and avoid another lashing from the ruler.

The glares now focused in his direction. His relief came soon as Fergal once again shot back into the firing line with the all-time classic "Why are women's feet smaller?" His side-kick Barry delivering the punch line, "So they can stand closer to the sink! Dirty bitches." High fives, it hurt to be that funny.

Just then the bell went, "Cuinis!" Ms. Sullivan brought the class again to order. "Since you all seem to have a view for tomorrow I want an essay titled "Mna na hEireann – Saol easca?" (Women of Ireland – easy life?)", "And boys drop it in to me tomorrow morning, the match is no excuse". The class was already halfway out the door.

As Ms. Sullivan went to pack her own belongings she was approached by Sinead. "That wasn't on Ms.", "Are you going to let them get away with the disgusting stuff they came out with in the class?". Sinead was the militant one, never one to be hushed, she was a prefect, captain of the All-Ireland winning Girls' basketball team, female spokeswoman and leader of an un-successful attempt to introduce trousers to the Girl's uniform. "Indeed I do not" was the teacher's final words.

Chapter 2 – The assignment

Micheal cast the crumpled pages into the bin. This was his second draft down the drain. It was not going at all well, he was a good student and never had much trouble with homework. The first had been a vicious tirade against womankind, hell those comments today were directed at him as well right but he could not do it and it too had ended up with the thrash.

Blessed was he amongst Women. Ever since his father had passed away he was surrounded by them, they were his world. His mum and two sisters, his aunt and first Cousin. His aunt had gotten pregnant young, was abandoned by her fella and was taken in by his mother and father even though his mother was carrying him at the same time. When his dad died on a building job he was the sole male left in the family circle. It never bothered him living with the girls and he knew their life wasn't easy.

He too had to play his part, even when his dad were alive he insisted Micheal perform as many household shores as the girls, "what was a man if he couldn't even cook and clean for himself" his father reckoned and his dad frequently donned the apron himself as his mum was often sick while pretending to the world he never had to lift a finger.

With his dad gone Micheal's chores increased. His aunt sometimes seemed jealous and resentful of him, piling on the domestic duties. He was never sure if this was a result of her own painful dealing with men or that she saw him as molly cuddled. After all his mother did lavish special attention on her son. He had been very ill as a baby, hence his small stature and the boy had lost his father.

His second attempt at his essay had turned into "in praise of women". As he read it back he realised he could never turn it in. Not with the risk of Ms. Sullivan reading it back to the class and given his good track record and the subject matter that was highly likely. Granted Barry would hardly understand, his Irish was deplorable, how he was still in honours Irish was anybody's guess, but Fergal would. He was smart, if also rude, crude, cheeky vicious and lazy and this essay was not what a guy already perceived by the lads as somewhat of a sissy wanted getting out.

Third time lucky he decided to play it safe, putting together nice balanced arguments he placed himself firmly on the fence. The safest place to be he reckoned, he finished up and packed his bag. Minor difficulty over, he had the match to look forward to and afterwards the upcoming trip to the Gaeltacht.

Chapter 3 – The fates conspire

3 O'clock proved eventful in the life of Micheal although he could hardly know it at the time. As the ball was thrown in and he frantically ran up and down providing liquid refreshment to his footballing betters, a jury of his peers was convening in Ms Sullivan's Irish class. And as matters on the field went from bad to worse so the fates of the missing members of Ms Sullivan's class being cast to the lions. A lesson had to be taught and Sully's girls were just the ones to give it.

As they contrived their cunning plans all hell had broken out on the pitch. Sinking further behind with no hope of retrieval Fergal had turned to the ally he knew well, the inner violence that had always got him his way. As his unsuspecting opponent once again flew past him he flung out his elbow, shattering the player's jaw, he paused to briefly stamp on the downed man before heading for the showers, not even waiting for the red card. Down to 14 men the schools hopes were ruined and shame was all that would be going home with them.

The final whistle sounded, so did the school bell.

Both had decisive results, neither were good for Micheal.

Ms Sullivan stayed behind as the girls departed with fiendish glee. Her phone rang and she was soon up to date on the disgraceful acts of the sports-field. Fergal was not only to be suspended from all GAA activities but would not be attending school for the foreseeable future either. He was already under investigation for an act of vandalism on Ms. Sullivan's car were Lezzer had been scrapped into the side. Ah well, it was one problem she would not have to deal with on the trip to the west.

Taking her pile of assignments she began to correct them. First up was Barry's from the single page she could tell it was not a work of excellence. A brief read confirmed her suspicions, another failing grade for Barry, he had several previous warnings, someone else would not be on the bus into the setting sun either.

Somewhat pleased with herself she remembered the girls' plan. Picking up her mobile she rang her friend Mrs O'Brien Priomh Bean an Ti of colaiste Brid that they would be attending. "That's right Mrs O'B, we've no need of accommodation for boys, just myself and 19 girls, they're the final numbers." The wheels were in motion.

As she continued through the corrections, she finally came across Micheal's, as she read it her heart did soften ever so slightly, it was good work, he had always been one of the few male students never to give her bother. On the other hand he had joined in the chauvinistic display, the girls had demanded their pound of flesh, and what harm would the lesson be. It might do him good.

Reading between the lines, she thought he might even enjoy it.

Chapter 4 – Into the West

Friday morning passed quickly for the Micheal and the girls of Ms Sullivan's honours Irish. The school was a buzz from the fallout of the football scandal and speculation was that Fergal wouldn't be seen in the school again. This was somewhat of a relief to Micheal. He had some fears for his health, being faced with living with the goon for weeks and now that burden had been lifted. There would still be Barry, but he was just an idiot and without his master would not be that much bother and he hoped to make some new friends at the college anyway.

At the pickup point he learned that Barry would not be joining them. Well he thought, "no big loss", he had enough friends among the girls, taking all honours subjects he found most of them overlapped with his classes, more than the boys did, so he knew them all fairly well.

They were still a little sore over the "battle of the sexes" but he had hardly participated. Half an hours fun on the bus and that would be forgotten.

He was to be the only boy on the trip, it was a role he was quite accustomed to. Little did he realise that nobody planned on Micheal making the Gaeltacht either.

Ms Sullivan said to leave the bags for the coach driver to load and soon they were on their way. Micheal took a seat near the front, proximity to Ms. Sullivan should ensure protection if there was any ill feeling towards him, he gazed at the beautiful scenery as they passed through the midlands and into the west, drumlins and bogs, lakes and rivers, soon he had succumbed to Morpheus' wiles and was sound asleep.

He was woken by the sounds of giggling and Ms Sullivan's voice "Girls what have you done!", confused he opened his eyes, a circle of faces crowded him smirking. "How's he going to manage with barely no eyebrows?", "its alright Ms. we can lend him makeup to draw his own". Howls of laughter, his stomach flipped, he'd been the victim of one of the oldest adolescent pranks, the razor had claimed most of his brows when not so much as whisker on his chin had yet had call to need the blade.

So much for teacher's protection.

He heard the crunch of tyres on gravel. They had arrived at their destination, least as far as the coach could take them, he Looked out the steam soaked window through the pouring rain to see some beautiful houses on the sea front. These were to be girls digs he thought, I hope I get somewhere as pleasant. "Everybody off and get their bags", cried Ms. Sullivan, "You too a stor" as she patted him on the head.

Micheal descended with the others into the heavy shower, a frantic hustle for personal belongings ensued. Before too long it was apparent to him his bad was nowhere to be seen, he was already soaked from looking, most of the girls had already gone the 10/15 min walk to their various houses, the drowned rat turned pleadingly to Ms. Sullivan. "Don't worry a croi, come on up to Mrs O'Brien's", "We'll sort something out."

Running the rest of the way they were meet by Mrs O'Brien, "Go Bhfoire Dia orainn!" She grinned, "An creatuir bocht". (God save us, poor creature). Before long she had Micheal up the stairs and into the shower as she made away with his drenched clothing.

Chapter 5 – Coleen

As Micheal stepped out of the shower he suddenly realised he had a problem. His clothes were no where to be seen and he'd no bag to get some more to change into. He took the large bath towel and wrapped it round him from the shoulders down, he didn't want strangers getting much of a peak at him, and made towards the door. Sheepishly he called out, "Ms! Ms! can you come here a minute please?".

Ms Sullivan climbed the stairs. "err Ms. I have no clothes now". She had to suppress a titter. "As Gaeilge!" she reminded him he now needed to be conversing in Irish for the duration of the stay. "Nil aon eadaigh agam!", he repeated in the correct language. A gleam appeared in the teachers eye, "Ach!", she assured him she find something and told him she'd be right back.

Micheal returned to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. There he stood a scrawny excuse for a boy. He inspected the remains of his eyebrows and pulled back his shoulder length hair. Finances at home meant he had not had a hair cut for quite some time. He had a thought that he now looked quite like his sister and suddenly was quite homesick. This trip was turning into a nightmare.

A knock at the door made him jump. Ms Sullivan had returned with instructions to get dressed at meet them downstairs. "Ceart go leor!", he sighed and went to the door to collect his new clothes. Opening the door he looked around, there sitting on the landing was a denim skirt, ankle socks, knickers, pink top with matching pink trainers. There must be some mistake, but there were no other clothes to be found. He sat there in wonder till he heard Ms Sullivan call for him again. He had worn some of his sisters' hand me downs before, anyway money could be saved it was, but apart from the odd game of dress-up they were never overtly feminine like this. It appeared he now had no choice, pulling on the knickers and top he stepped into the skirt and bravely headed downstairs.

Taking a deep breath he stuck his head round the door and meekly queried the mistake regarding his clothes. Ms Sullivan told him to come in, there something they needed to discuss.

Micheal entered the room, he could feel his cheeks burn with each step he took into the chamber. Muffled giggles meet his ears, they might as well nave been the roar of an enormous waterfall in the mind of the now mortified boy, he focused on his new pink trainers to avoid making the eye contact that would confirm his humiliation but their very pinkness did as much to remind him of his condition.

Ms Sullivan began. He mentally adjusted his thought process to register what she was saying, firstly it was in Irish and secondly he was still reeling from shock. The situation was this as she saw it. They had two problems. Two? Micheal wondered. He had translated that right. His bag it appeared had never made it as far as the bus. That he was more than well aware of. But now it seemed there was another dilemma. Mrs O'Brien had checked all the houses and none of them were expecting another registered boy.

Micheal's heart sank again, could this get any worse, at this point he wouldn't mind having to go home, but the thoughts of the hard earned cash wasted were starting to make the tears well up in him.

Ms Sullivan continued, she had gone round the girls and collected enough clothes that should see him through. Had none of them jeans? He wondered, but at least his own should be dry tomorrow.

There was also apparently a solution to the accommodation problem. There may have been no-where near the college with room for a boy but Mrs O'Brien had a bed to spare in the girls' room. She looked at Micheal and said she always had room for one more "cailin". "Coleen!" exclaimed Sinead, "doesn't it suit HER!".

Chapter 6 – Making the girl

The two women went into more detail as to how things were to be. Micheal it seemed was not expected by the college, but as luck would have it a Mystery girl had failed to show. They'd agreed that Micheal or make that Coleen, should take her place, this meant that over the weeks he or rather she would be taking classes with the girls and would be involved in all their activities. And given that Coleen would have to dress as a girl for the duration, and the other girls had generously donated more than enough clothing, it solved the lost luggage problem as well. Two birds with the one stone, what could be more convenient?

"Right Missy! Lets get you sorted!", Coleen was led back up the stairs to her new room. On the bed was a huge pile of clothes but what was immediately apparent was the feel of the collection, it screamed femininity, not a pair of pants to be seen, it seemed Coleen was to be a girly girl for those were the clothes her peers took delight in parting with.

"Looks like she missed a job in the shower Ms.", one of the girls pointed to the fuzz on Coleen's legs. That would definitely have to go was the common consensus along with any underarm and body hair.

Coleen soon found herself back in the shower with a fresh ladyshave and foam. It didn't take a genius to work out what to do and before long her eyebrows were no longer the only body part that had been visited by the razor. Coming out she found a bottle of moisturizing lotion and began to treat her skin. Looking at her legs they no longer seemed like hers but those of a porcelain doll, the wonderful tingling feeling she got from them confirmed they were her appendages. Maybe there were some benefits to all of this if she would not yet admit them.

Reaching for her previous outfit she discovered the addition of a 36B bra, Coleen was destined to have some cleavage too on the advice of her peers. Some socks made for stuffing, and in combination with her little waist she was beginning to develop a figure.

Within minutes she was once again under the command of female frenzy. "time to finish those brows", "I have wonderful plans for her hair!", "I bags makeup!".

Over the next few of hours Coleen accepted her fate at the centre of this whirlwind, placidly allowing the women and girls mould her into her new self, the house mascot, the house doll.

When all died down and the doll was made-over, she was thrown in front of the mirror, make-up, clothes, perfect hair and thin arched brows, his sister once again came to mind but now he was her. The somewhat pretty girl looked back, yes Coleen was going to the college, Micheal had all but vanished.

Chapter 7 – Breakfast

Coleen awoke early, the fabulous feel of fresh sheets on her smooth legs reminding her of her transformation. She heard murmurings and before long the room was alive with girlish chit chat. She was flung a pink terry robe to cover her pink night dress, pink it was decided was be her colour, and she headed down to breakfast with the other girls.

As her head began to clear the nerves began to hit her. How could she play a girl for the stay? Surely she would be discovered, read, she had to be very careful that was for sure. She had been briefed and drilled last night in feminine behaviour and deportment, already she had crossed her legs unthinking and a lifetime living with girls must've registered something but she was terrified.

Last night her plan was to get into her own jeans and t-shirt as soon as possible and at least be comfortable in her own clothes but now she began to question the wisdom of it. Those clothes might make it easier for her to slip. What to do?

A commotion in the backyard was to make the decision for her, Mrs O'Brien could be heard yelling all sorts of infernal profanities. The girls all ran to the window and were just in time to see the poor women collapse in pursuit of the family goat. The Billy made good his escape and turned as if mocking his pursuer, and in the glimpse of that damned visage could be seen the remnants of denim cloth, one pair of boys jeans had made for a tasty breakfast. Coleen would be skirted for the duration.

Like every other misfortune that had befallen her what else could she do but accept it. She resignedly sat and listened to the schedules and rotas as she played with her soda bread and strawberry jam. She could barely drink her tea never mind eat and before long she was upped from the table, instructed in dressing by the conspirators against her, and was dragging herself down the road dismally following her fellow schoolgirls.

Chapter 8 – College days

When they reached the college all the pupils were separated into the various classes and informed how things ran, what was expected and the college rules.

Coleen sat and listened, more aware of her skirted exposure than anything that was being said but no-one seemed to paying her any exceptional attention. She was inspected by the girls, checked out by the boys, nothing more than any teenage girl would expect. She didn't know if she should be happy with her blending but at least she hadn't to endure pointing and laughing.

The first activity was a getting to know you session, Coleen was paired with two girls from another school, Anita and Lisa. All were shy at first, lack of fluency didn't help matters but soon they were chatting to the best of their ability. Both were very nice, Lisa more outgoing than Anita but they got on quite well. They'd many common interests in music, books and TV. Coleen began to relax, there was nothing here out of her dept and any hesitance in what could be considered the odd girly conversation was put down to the language barrier. It had not yet been 24 hours but Coleen was well on her way to becoming one of the girls.

Lunchtime came and Coleen stayed and eat with the girls having found their company very much to her liking. They inspected the board for what was scheduled for the afternoon. The first sporting activity of their stay, Gaelic football. Coleen allowed herself a smile, Anita was not so sure, she didn't really like sports but was hoping the other girls would look out for her. The girls had to go back to their houses to get changed but agreed to meet at the pitch later.

Coleen was back in shorts at least but the delicate legs emerging from them went no way to restoring any feeling of masculinity. He discovered Sinead and a few of the other girls from home were also playing and indeed were on the same team as Anita, Lisa and herself.

They were all queued at the gate now waiting for the boys of Colaiste Padraig to finish. At the final whistle they all came charging past determined to display their physical prowess to the "ceiling". They were encouraged in their boisterous behaviour by their mentor the notoriously sexist Mr. Clancy. He was last out the gate and couldn't resist comment, "girls playing football, he scoffed", "what next?" he laughed. " Look at this one" he grabbed Coleen round the shoulders, "such a pretty thing, much more suited to the Rose of Tralee lads". He made off to join his rabble. Coleen blushed, she'd seen the famous Kerry beauty pageant on more than one occasion with his sisters and cousin and now he was been touted as a participant, and they say a week is a long time in politics. A day had been ample to flip a lifetime.

On the field Coleen began to come into her own. Years of practised skill were now useful as they were not overawed by sheer strength due to the non-contact nature of the ladies code. Indeed she was building up an on-field rapport with Sinead the fulcrum of their team. It was a very close game, keenly contested and neither side fancied losing. Approaching full time Coleen's team were 2 points down, only a goal worth 3 points could save them now. Sinead had won the ball at midfield and had released Coleen, feigning right and left she glided past her opponents the goals opening up in front of her. Her lifelong dreams of glory were there for the taking, one well placed kick and the goal and match were hers. Just as she was about to dispatch the coup de grace she spied the till non un-noticed Anita in an advantageous position. Just as the keeper dived in anticipation of Coleen's shot she squared the ball to Anita, with shock the girl gathered it, she had time and prepared to kick, maybe best compared to a hen's kick but no matter, it trickled over the line regardless. It was a goal, Anita was the heroine and the game was won.

As the girls gave their congratulations to Anita, Sinead approached Coleen. "Hey chick" she said, somehow Coleen felt there was more fondness than malice in the name. "I saw what you did there babe, it was cool, really sweet." "I really enjoyed playing with you, you're alright hun!." She walked away smiling, "You know we're playing Camoige later this week, I bags you for my team girl, and you'll look so cute in the little skirt!" She winked. Coleen should have been upset, she wasn't, she could only laugh.

Chapter 9 – Little helper

The girls finished in the college and headed home for the evening.

Coleen even had a little skip in her step as she headed back, despite all her fears the day had turned out quite well.

Posted on their room door was the chores rota, all the girls rushed to view it to audible moans and groans. In her turn Coleen checked the list, hey it was not as bad as home, even if she was on straight away and seemed to be on twice as much as the other girls. She might check that later but for now she was feeling happy, she had new friends and had fun, even if it was in a skirt, no rain could fall on her parade.

Mrs O'Brien was waiting in the kitchen for Coleen to come and help her. Well to be honest she fully expected to have to go and get her. Ms Sullivan had warned of some cocky boys that needed a lesson so was surprised to be meet a smiling helper, the only survivor of the original tricky trio.

She listed what she wanted done and was again shocked when Coleen proceeded to perform all tasks like an old pro. She had been expecting a kitchen virgin. You could have knocked her down with a feather when she heard the girl begin to hum. Surely this was not the insensitive thug she was expecting.

In due time all that remained was for heat and time to do its duty, Mrs O'Brien took advantage of the drop in urgency and decided to take the opportunity to cross examine the erstwhile villain of the peace.

Starting with the day's events she was astonished to find Coleen had enjoyed herself in spite of her dress. Admitting as the day wore on she had mostly forgotten her attire. She heard of her new friends and the match and how she was looking forward to tomorrow. Before long she had the girl singing her life-story and even had to mop away a tear as it unfolded. This was no rogue she thought, this was a sweetheart. Guilt suddenly enveloped her, she had mapped out a harsh regime for the taming of an ego, she suddenly realised it would not be necessary.

"That rota", she began, "its merely a first draft, not every Coleen is you dear, I just have to fill some of those spots yet". Coleen smiled, this day was getting better all the time. "Go and call the rest of the girls for dinner a stor, though I must say I fear they'll not be as good a little helper".

Chapter 10 – Education continues

Coleen hung the tea-towel on the dresser, bid goodbye to Mrs O'Brien and went off to relax for the evening. On climbing the stairs she discovered the girls waiting to pounce. "Hey Girlie!" they cooed, something told Coleen she should turn tail and run. Any avenue of retreat however was soon blocked off and she was ushered into the bedroom. "You put in a fine performance today Missy", she was told, "but it has been decided there is always room for improvement". Coleen had thought her lessons for the day were over, how wrong she was, she was about to be enrolled in the Gaeltacht's very own Ladies' Academy and finishing school for girls.

Her room-mates had decided that dressing a boy in the morning was one task they could do without, duvet lovers that they were. Coleen would have to learn how to pick her own outfits and do her own hair and makeup and the sooner the better. And besides these sessions made quite a good way of filling an otherwise tedious evening when TG4 had nothing to offer.

Coleen had frequently watched the women at home go through the routine but never realised there was so much to it. Make-up 101 had introduced her to a whole new world. The girls had made a collection and presented Coleen with a new make-up bag.

She was told her collection should never be without Concealer, Foundation, Eyeliner, Mascara, Eye-shadow, Blush, Lose Powder, Lip-liner, Lip-Stick, Gloss and Lip-Balm. At this stage she barely knew what half those things were, but before the night was over she had a pretty good grasp. Doing well with the theory, she learned how to hide a pimple. All about liquid, cream and powder foundations. When applying eyeliner to start from the inside corner of the eye and work your way out. Even the best way to remove mascara, holding a tissue under the bottom lashes and closing her eyes. Then rolling a cotton bud dipped in cleanser over the lashes, taking the mascara down onto the tissue.

The practical proved more tricky but she was improving with practice. The girls just told her to remember that you always apply makeup to accentuate your inner beauty, not to exaggerate, do natural for the beginning, and with experience she would learn more technique, that before long she'd be able to do smoky eyes and other cool things. Coleen wanted to point out that the experience would be ending as soon as she made it home but somehow it wouldn't come out.

Hair proved easier, she had often played with her sisters after all. The girls were quick to grant Coleen a passing grade, concentrating instead on becoming Coleen's very own Trinny and Susanna, just like on TV. Despite their claims of not wanting to have to dress Coleen it appeared they just didn't want to dress her in the morning. Before She knew it they had planned her wardrobe for the week. She was going to look pretty, feminine and sexy. Maybe Too sexy for her liking but being who she was she submitted to better judgement.

Now she only had to think girl & be girl and till the wee small hours were spent adjusting her perspective.

Chapter 11 – Dancing Queen

The next few days flew. Coleen really started to bond with the girls, especially Lisa and Anita. She enjoyed the college and the activities and gradually with the constant use of Irish her thinking started to change. Before an effort had to be made to change the Irish back to English in her head before it registered. Now the tongue was becoming natural. She felt it flowing round her brain, freer, more spiritual and artistic, romantic and musical even. It was becoming second nature.

She even now dreamed in Irish.

What she failed to notice was that language was not the only nature of her thought patterns that was changing radically. More and more "Coleen" was becoming her natural self. The female mannerisms become more apparent, hands flowed with the rhythm of the native tongue. She reflected the other girls intonations in her speech. They had her automatically copying their movements.

And those Irish dreams had a young girl in them.

Coleen also felt free to now express her sensitive caring side. Where Micheal repressed his talents Coleen like to share them for the benefit of all. A bright young thing, she coped on quickly and was never slow to help those around her. Be it with tricky Irish grammar or lending a finger to help stick something in the crafts class. She was fast becoming a favourite of most of the girls and her instructors.

She had even pulled her first starring role. Naomh Brids and Naomh Padraigs had a series of communal events. One of these was a traditional dance show a sort of amateur riverdance. The girls had been practising hard all week, and were competing for the leading roles.

Sorcha, for want of a better word the class BITCH, she had herself odds on for the part. Indeed it was very much looking that way, she was even planning her moments on stage with the Padraigs boys. The dance teacher asked for any more pretenders for the title of "Dancing Queen". None seemed apparent when Lisa threw the still shy and reserved Coleen's bonnet into the ring.

Coleen had mentioned in their getting to know you session that she had been a champion Irish dancer and although she had never had the famous ringlets it was not a word of a lie. Coleen's mother had known the local teacher and she had been willing to take her girls for nothing, not missing the chance of cheap betterment Micheal had accompanied them. They told him it would improve his football. The only boy had received special attention and had medals galore to prove his skill.

For once in a setting with her peers Coleen started to dance without fear of ridicule. Like everything else this last week it was all so natural. Sorcha had been good, Coleen was better. She finished to universal applause, Sorcha slow clapped. The ice queen had been dethroned by the newest princess. Coleen would take to the stage.

Friday night was her big debut. The hall was filled with the students of both the boys and girls colleges and their mentors. Coleen waited nervously backstage, and for the first time dancing she would indeed have those coveted ringlets. She was also beautifully adorned with a tiara and fabulous dress with Celtic Motif that Mrs O'Brien had magically produced for her. She felt special, tingly, her heart skipped a little, she really did feel the queen she looked.

Mr Clancy appeared backstage with the boys and gave a whistle. "Told ya lads, isn't this way more becoming for our beautiful rose". The boys laughed. Coleen threw her eyes to heaven and gracefully moved away from the lecherous louts.

Already she had enough of boys.

The production went well, the girls performed in a troop followed by the boys. Coleen then took to the floor, cleared her mind and let the music guide her. She didn't miss a beat, took her final position and bowed to the crowd. The enthusiastic clapping told her it went well. As she stood there a tall handsome boy took to the floor. She remained in place as he danced his routine around her. He too was a dancer of some ability. Coleen glanced to the side, her enthralled housemates were glued to the boy and the lust from Sorcha was palpable. The music reached a crescendo as she watched him approach her. In a flash she'd been scooped into his arms and he planted a kiss on her luscious made-up lips. The music stopped, the applause followed and the flowers rained down. Coleen's cheeks blazed. She'd just had her first kiss and it was with a boy.

Chapter 12 – One of our own

The after-show refreshments were a daze. Coleen was still reeling from the shock. Her Casanova had repeatedly made moves in her direction but she had so far managed to avoid them. Her task was made easier by the girls willing to take her place, Sorcha especially.

Anita and Lisa did however manage to catch the star. Both were eager to quiz her but for once her command of Irish was suddenly letting her down. With the end of the evening Coleen bid the girls adieu as they had to leave for their own house. She waved them goodbye and set off for her own. She had just turned the corner of the hall when she was pulled to one side and pushed to the ground. This was not the first time in her life she eaten dirt and a familiar feeling of dread returned to her stomach, one she had not felt since Coleen's arrival.

"Well what have we here, Slut!". Coleen felt spittle clog her ringlets. She recognised the shoes in the direction it came from, she had even complimented them earlier. In spite of this she was about to discover she was not universally popular with all the girls. Sorcha and her sidekick were about to let her know being a nice girl can bring you enemies too.

She felt a vicious yank on her hair and the tears approaching. "Think its time we taught this trollop a lesson don't you", "Dirty Whore!". "I think we should strip the bitch and let the filthy tart go home like the Madame she evidently is." Coleen could hear a zip, her head screamed, she could see stars and was starting to lose consciousness. Not only were these girls going to shame and humiliate her they were also going to discover her secret.

Just as she was about to succumb to darkness she heard another voice, "I wouldn't do that if I were you", "In fact, I'd be very careful about how you deal with one of my girls, we're like sisters see and I don't take kindly to one of our own being touched, isn't that right girls?". Coleen lifted her head to see Sinead and several of her classmates bearing down on the bullies. "Get em!". The weight lifted from her shoulders and Coleen rose just in time to see her abusers running off down the hill pursued by a wailing band of Amazons. With every stride they made gain but the evil girls looked as if they would make escape as they made into the next field. She felt arms round comforting her, no matter she was safe.

Just then they heard a burst of machinery followed by howls of laughter. Two dripping figures could be seen like brown soaked Carrie doubles. "Go bhfoire Dia orainn!", "What on earth were you doing there girls?", Mrs O'Brien climbed from the tractor, the muck spreader was working now, just ask Sorcha.

Chapter 13 – Just rewards

Saturday was a free day and Coleen was woken by a call from Lisa. Word had spread of the night's ordeal and she wanted to make sure her friend was alright. She also had news of how a still stinking Sorcha was seen boarding the bus for home rather than into town shopping. Shopping, that brought her nicely round to another reason for her call. Her mother had called to see her and wanted to take her and her friends into town for a treat. Lisa was an only child and her mother liked to lavish gifts on her. She had more money than sense.

She told Coleen to get ready she and Anita would call for her in half an hour. They were hitting the shops.

In fact, it wasn't all that they hit. Lisa's mum was regaled with wonderful stories of how lovely Coleen had been all week helping her daughter and the misfortune that had occurred to her the night before. Her heart secretly ached for the impoverished background the girl came from too though she did not want to mention this to Coleen. She just wanted to give her a little pleasure.

She booked the girls into a beauty parlour, where they had the works. Coleen was blown away with the attention. As the earring-gun popped she suddenly remembered that maybe this was going too far and was a bit too permanent. There was a boy that had to explain this at home. As the second pop went she looked at her now styled and high-lighted hair, it was a bit late for that now. She would cross that bridge when she came to it.

The local boutiques were next to receive a visit. Coleen tried to object but with each "suits you", "That's fabulous!" she found she had another bag to take home. In fact she needed to buy just that, a new bag. By the time they returned to the house she had nearly enough clothes to return those she had borrowed yet strangely she still had the same chic feminine style. Micheal it appeared had been lost somewhere along the way.

Chapter 14 – Trath na gciest

The remaining days of the stay were going far too quickly. Coleen had never felt so satisfied and happy and knew she was really going to miss her knew life and friends. Each new day brought fresh joy, friends and delight, Before long it was the middle of the final week.

Wednesday evening brought them once again to the hall and the boys of Naomh Padraigs. Tradition had dictated that every year the boys and the girls faced off in a Trath na iciest, or quiz for high stakes. The final Friday saw a "Ceili Mor" or final dance and the wining side had the pleasure of having the losers serve them and watch them cleanup for the night. As far as anyone could remember the boys had always had the victory.

Rather than prove any sexual superiority, the results might have had more to do with the question master, one Mr. Clancy. He had been setting the questions for as long as anyone could remember as well.

The teams squared off against each other starting with general knowledge, initially both scored well with the girls opening up a slight lead. As the rounds progressed, that lead had turned into a commanding one. Anita was a music & film buff and they had done exceedingly well in those rounds. By the time the last round of individual questions came around only 2 points were needed for the girls to secure victory. Mr Clancy announced the topic "Spoirt!". No biggie the girls were as clued up as the boys when it came to that, surely they would have the two points to claim victory.

The round started and the first girl Lucy missed hers, no problem they had plenty more chances. The boys looked surprisingly relaxed and answered their questions correctly. Sinead was next up, no problem, she aced it. Only one more point needed. The next boy got his. The questions then began to become more obscure, a specific rather than a general knowledge being required. A knowledge which seemed to have been gifted to all the boys.

Mr. Clancy worked his way through the teams, Coleen had been elected girls captain and would answer the final question. When it reached her the teams were tied. She had the last question. Mr Clancy began to speak. "Ce a bhi ina captean foireann peil an Ciarrai i 1985?", who was Kerry football captain in 1985?

Coleen could hear the girls groan, the smirks from the boys were beaming across the hall. The question brought her flying back to her dad, thank goodness he couldn't see her now. She felt ashamed of herself suddenly and emotional.

Mr. Clancy was calling again for an answer. She remembered learning by heart the names of those Kerry greats. She knew the answer. "Paidi O'Se" she replied. Mr Clancy's jaw dropped. What? How? "Paidi O'Se, I saw him on the Rose of Tralee once" Coleen quipped, at the same time shrugging off her shame. "Ta an ceart agat!". She was correct. The girls went into raptures, Ms Sullivan let a cheer and the boys were left quarrelling as to who would be wearing the rubber gloves.

As the girls surrounded her in jubilant emotion, she spotted the dancer, he winked and proceeded to leave the hall.

Chapter 15 – Ceili Mor

Friday was frantic. The house was in turmoil with all the girls preparing for the dance. Blood was nearly spilt for hot water and you could lose a limb trying to get mirror space. Lisa had popped round earlier with one last surprise from her mum. Coleen opened it to find her very first little black Kitten dress. "Every girl should have one" the note read. She took it out and hugged it to her. It was beautiful, She felt just like a princess. It may be her last night as a girl but she intended to enjoy every minute.

The hall was a buzz. A curious mix of excitement and sadness. This would be the last time many would see their new friends. Phone numbers were exchanged, hugs and tears flowed. Coleen and her friends had already exchanged such vital details. They had made it their business to have one last night of craic. Time to bring the house down.

The house lined up like Ireland of old. Boys on one side girls on the other. The music started and the dances followed. Everyone had become adept at ceili dancing through the course of their stay. It wasn't that sexy, but it was fun. Coleen was somewhat relieved on that front, she thought it was her imagination at first but now it was obvious one particular tall dancer seemed to be stalking her. Her friends noticed this too. This brought about mirth and giggles and after shy introduction retreat to the ladies. "He's cute, but I don't want to break his heart", was Coleen excuse. The girls wanted her to go for it.

The girls returned as the stage was being filled. This was the boring part of the night, the speeches. All the various organisers had they're say. Sponsors we're thanked and credit was given. The college principle then announced they had a new departure this year. A generous donor had awarded a prize for the student of the year. The winner's school would receive a scholarship for the next year and the lucky student would get €500 to spend on themselves.

Coleen drooled at the thoughts of what her mum could do with the money. In fact she was still drooling as her name was announced as the winner. Luckily she had tided herself up for the picture for the local paper. She started the night a princess and ended it a queen.

Congratulations flowed for the rest of the night. Questions abounded, would the money go on cds makeup or clothes. She could scare take it in. Finally her unwanted beau approached to offer his congratulations, again taking her unawares though this time with a peck on the cheek. "Now I know where u come from Princess" he joked. "I've an aunt lives there, maybe you'll give me a call sometime", "See you around babe". He placed a note in her trembling hand and kissed her goodbye. She was speechless. Her courtesans delirious.

Chapter 16 – Return of the Queen

The day of departure finally came. Coleen was never so sad. She never knew she could cry so much. She'd miss Mrs O'Brien, the fun and most of all her new friends. Both the girls had called before leaving, promising to meet again, it was heart wrenching. Coleen bawled like a baby as she waved them goodbye. Would Coleen be seen again let alone Lisa and Anita. The tears would not stop. This time as she boarded the bus it was in the bosom of her classmates who comforted her and with a heart of sadness and fear of what would be, she let the tears flow all the way home.

As the bus pulled into the schoolyard Coleen dried her tears. It was good to be home she supposed. Then she remembered it was Micheal's home not hers.

Fate awaited her down those coach steps.

All had descended, it was time to bite the bullet. Into the breach.

The now familiar sound of applause greeted her as she stepped down.

The school principal, her Mum, aunt, cousin and sisters were all waiting to meet her. She sound found herself in a massive group hug. Again the tears flowed.

Her aunt broke the silence. "I always knew you'd better yourself, COLEEN!".

"When Cora told me I knew you'd be divine." Cora? Ms Sullivan? Things were starting to add up now. "You!", she mock scolded her aunt yet wanted to thank her. A photographer delayed the decision. She was being clicked with her teachers and family for the local rag. Guess that went the hopes of Coleen's secret. So much for bringing glory to the school.

The travellers began to break up an the principal thanked the girls for the honour they brought the school and wished them all a speedy trip the rest of the way home. "We have something special planned Monday." she said. "Be there bright and early". "And Sinead that means in uniform with skirt!" . Everyone Laughed, Sinead snorted. "You too Coleen!", Sinead led the cheers. Seemed our girl was not done with skirts just yet.




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