Edel’s first experience of teasing.

Edel stood in the background and watched in silent amusement as Katie squealed and made a fuss. As far as Edel could tell, there was nothing to be upset about. The slug looked harmless enough.

Katie shrieked as Jay picked up the slimy creature in his hand and chased her through the house.

“Jay! Stop it!” she yelled, although she laughed between her screams and shouts.

She ran to the kitchen and slammed herself up against the counter. “Jay! stop it!” she yelled as he advanced on her again.

Edel watched as Jay thrust his hand under Katie’s nose and she slapped him hard on the chest. “Stop it! It’s not funny. Get it away from me!”

Edel felt anger rise in her chest. The girl had struck Jay and even though she knew he wasn’t hurt, she felt a need to defend him. She held her breath and waited for this unfamiliar sensation o pass, reminding herself that Katie was about as physically strong as a wet tissue, and Jay was laughing, totally unhurt.

Kate ducked under Jay’s outstretched arm and ran for the bathroom. “Stay away from me!” she screamed.

Jay laughed manically as he lurched his body toward her, but Edel’s focus was suddenly on Katie. All the humour she was displaying before had evaporated, and the poor girl was showing signs of genuine fear. Edel felt herself stuck somewhere between sympathy and disgust. How could anyone be afraid of something so small and harmless as a slug? It had no teeth, no venom, no claws. It was a totally benign creature, yet Katie was terrified.

Edel continued to watch, feeling increasingly sorry for the girl. Couldn’t Jay see she was afraid? Edel could smell it. Taste it even.

Jay continued to laugh as he closed in on Katie. By now, she had stopped resisting. She silently shook her head as she backed up against the wall, and there was pleading in her tear-filled eyes.

“Are you crying?” he asked.

When he spoke, Edel couldn’t place the tone. It sounded like he was disparaging her, but there was distress in his tone, too. Perhaps he felt bad? It was a mystery to her.

Jay dropped his hand and marched back to the kitchen. He wrapped the slug in a paper towel and deposited it in the trash. “It’s just a slug, Katie!” he muttered under his breath, shooting her a sly smile.

Katie’s expression did not alter. She glared at him with a look of hatred, then with a flick of her silvery blond hair, she stomped to the door without another word. She yanked open the door and disappeared through it . Jay rolled his eyes, but followed her, yelling, “Katie! Come on, it was only a bit of fun!” He shot Edel a pained look as he left.

Edel remained exactly where she was. She had not moved throughout their entire bizarre interaction, and she didn’t know what to make of it all. This behaviour wasn’t unusual whenever Katie was here. She usually left upset or angry and Jay always seemed to be chasing her down to apologise, but she couldn’t help thinking Jay deserved Katie’s anger this time.

Edel didn’t know much about love or relationships, but she was certain of one thing: Danny and Gemma never acted like this.