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EXTRACT: Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen



Our extract this week is from Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen


Thursday, 2 June 1994

74 days until results

Maeve Murray was just eighteen years old when she first met Andy Strawbridge but she knew he was a fucker the minute she laid eyes on him. In fairness, she’d expected it. He was an Englishman who drove into the town for work. Nobody knew him, but everyone knew of him. She’d heard the stories about him taking his pick of the factory girls, offering them lifts home where he’d park his Jag up some lonely lane so he could get a blowjob from whoever was belted into the front passenger seat.

She’d tried to listen to the stories with only one ear, for she knew the people spouting that shite about Andy would’ve said the same of Father Goan, who wasn’t fit to find his mickey for a pish. But when Maeve stood face to face with Andy Strawbridge in his office in the factory, she knew every last word she’d heard about him was true – and was probably only half the story. She’d come prepared, slouching in like she already worked there, with her hair scraped into a ponytail and not a lick of make-up on her face. She’d dressed in baggy grey joggers and one of the fleeces her mam bought by the dozen in the Primark sales.

She looked like a lump of dropped dough in that get-up. But Andy still looked at her like he’d fuck her. Like he’d already fucked her. Maeve stuck her hand out at him. ‘Hi, Mr Strawbridge. I’m Maeve Murray.’ Andy leaned back in his chair, smirking, his crotch bulging in the fanciest pair of trousers Maeve’d ever laid eyes on. She dragged her gaze back up to his face. He’d clamped a pen between his teeth the way Hannibal off The A-Team clenched a cigar. Now Maeve understood why Maria McCanny, Dervla Daly and the rest of them talked shite about Andy Strawbridge.

But she didn’t get why nobody’d warned her that he was a ride. Then she realised her hand was still stuck out and Andy had no intention of shaking it. She took a massive reddener, feeling even the cheeks of her arse glow. ‘Well, Maeve Murray. What can I do for you?’ The snotty English accent woke Maeve up. Fuck you, she thought – fuck you and the horse you rode in on. She sat down, took out her CV and tossed it on his desk. Then she took out a fag and lit up like she was the frigging boss. ‘I’m looking into the factory for a summer job. My CV will tell you everything ye need to know. If you want a reference, ye can chat to the principal out in St Jude’s.’ Andy didn’t touch her CV. Instead, he sat licking her with his eyes.

Maeve was well used to bucks his age gawping at her down the town, eyeing her up in the pubs. But most fellas that deep into their thirties were fat and filthy. Andy was in great shape. And he knew it. ‘Tell me. What’s not in the CV?’ Maeve blew a tunnel of smoke at his desk, playing for time, mulling over what she thought she knew about herself. She’d a suspicion she had terrible taste in men. She hoped she was smarter than she looked and more sophisticated than she sounded. She’d a notion she was good at blowjobs – a performance she’d perfected early in order to distract fellas from the Holy Grail of her Blessed Virginity. She dreamed in secret of writing for a fancy magazine in a swanky office in London by day and living by night with a depressed, darkeyed musician who’d only feel alive when he was alone with her. She couldn’t wait to get out of the shitty wee town she’d grown up in and had learned everything she needed to know about burning bridges from her sister, Deirdre.

She knew it’d be a bad idea to share too much of this information with Andy Strawbridge. ‘My A-level results aren’t in my CV yet. When they come out in August, I’m getting the frig out of this place.’ Andy leaned his chair back to tipping point. His shirt was open at the neck. Maeve’s eyes jumped from button to button, following them like stepping stones all the way down. He caught her looking. Of course he did. ‘You’re very sure of yourself, aren’t you?’ Maeve realised there and then that Andy Strawbridge wasn’t great at reading women. ‘Sure that you’ll get good results,’ he said. ‘That you’ll get what you want.’

Maeve raised an eyebrow at him – a look she’d spent years practising in the mirror – and she lied. ‘I usually do.’ Andy said nothing for what felt like a long time, then tossed his pen onto the table. ‘So tell me. Why should I bother hiring and training you if you’re going to walk out of my door as soon as you get your results?’ Maeve parroted what her mam’d said over breakfast. ‘ Maeve parroted what her mam’d said over breakfast. ‘I’d say your labour doesn’t come much cheaper than teenage girls still living with their mammies.’ Andy narrowed his eyes, then stretched into a yawn.

The sound of the leather chair creaking under his arse did something funny to Maeve’s lady garden. She crossed her legs and squeezed her thighs together to try and smother the feeling, which was a mistake. ‘You can start Monday. Go down to Mary in the office. She’ll fill you in on what to expect.’ Maeve mashed her fag out in the ashtray like she was used to smoking only half a cigarette instead of sucking it right down to the butt. Then she stood up and looked Andy dead in the eye. ‘See you Monday.’

Factory Girls by Michelle
Gallen is published in trade
paperback by John Murray
and is out now.