I dashed out of my house just before lunch and headed to O’Flaherty’s Pub for my first date ever.
The moon shone brightly in the blue sky as I secured my ear buds. The scent of old lady perfume Chanel no. 5 filled my nostrils. Eighties music I had put together myself called ‘Aine’s tune-list’ played from the iPod. Music caused my heart to skip a few beats, just like Ciaran did. My mood soared with anticipation of our meeting and each beat brought me closer to seeing him. I was giddy with that expectation.
The wind twisted up a chill that ripped through me like a dull, old fashion, shaver. I tightened my classic stole to my shoulders and hurried along on the cracked sidewalk past the cobblestone walls of Main street. I loved wearing my retro-crocheted sleeveless sweater dress and vintage cork-wedge heels, but it didn’t hold off the blustery weather.
Arriving a few minutes early, I was greeted with the churning fan that waved the scent of nicotine with seafood paella around the pub’s dark flagstone.
I sank into an old wicker chair, to wait. My fingers twitched, and my thoughts wandered to kissing, and Ciaran holding my hand, and if he would kiss me at my door or at the end of our date. My stomach did flip-flops in that hope. Maybe, if the weather improved, we’d end up in the park. I pulled my phone from my Juicy cognac purse and checked to see if Ciaran had sent me a text. My stomach knotted, and half moons formed on my palms as I clenched my fists—ten minutes and no messages.
I jumped when my phone suddenly buzzed.
Sorry. Runnin’ late. Start without me, b there soon. Ciaran.
I stuffed the phone back in my purse and slid it across the table. Figures. Ciaran would be late, and I was the one who took an hour to straighten my dark hair. If he was going to be late, then I’d just have to make myself comfortable.
Chips and a tall glass of Guinness would be perfect right now—no better comfort food. I’d made friends with the bartender, Evelyn, and she happened to be working here tonight. Sometimes, it’s nice living in a country where the legal drinking age is eighteen. Of course, I wouldn’t hit that magical number for another year, plus a few months.
Luckily for me, Evelyn knew the owners, and they let her slide the legal age with me because they worked with my aunt in the catering business. My aunt had secrets in our “highly religious” town of mostly booze and, um, yeah, sex, but everyone knew your business, so she became intimate friends with the owners of O’Flaherty Pub. Walking to the counter, I leaned over the bar to catch her attention.
“Evelyn, could I order a plate of chips with Guinness?”
She twirled a glass in the air and appeared to ignore me. Her eyes shifted toward me. “Head back to your table. I’ll bring it to you.”
“Thanks Eve, you’re the best.”
My cheeks flared up, and my palms were sweaty so I fluffed off my stole.
When my chips arrived, I drenched them in ketchup and coated on a generous amount of salt, then had a taste of my concoction . . . Yum. I washed it down with my beer.
A gust of wind ruffled the napkins in the pub from the opening door. The scent of sandalwood waved right by me, and I caught myself watching the scented stranger who had just entered. Everyone had an eye on the six-foot-three man. All the patrons’ jaws hung open, and their eyes glazed over as they gawked.
His clothes slid over his sculptured body with suppleness and ease that only custom-made clothes could attain. His exquisite silk clothing covered his whole body. He appeared to skim the flagstone as if it were made of ice. His shoulders abandoned the normal movement of a human stride as though they belonged to a feline predator. I watched how his hand gestures moved people’s decision to choose their tables. A flick of his wrist and Rachael who usually sat in table number three moved to table number six. He saturated the bar with his presence. His eyes were hidden behind no-doubt-expensive shades.
His hair was dark, and he took his shades off to show his grey eyes. “Petron, straight up,” he ordered with an old-world Mediterranean accent. His chiseled jaw flexed.
That baritone voice ignited feelings of forgotten memories like I once knew him. This wasn’t like me, but somehow he seemed familiar to me. I tried to shake those emotions off. It… he… unnerved me.
Drink in hand, he swiveled when he took his seat at the bar.
Oh, crap! He caught me watching him.
He held my stare and brought his glass in a toast-salute. I raised mine. Where did I know him from? His eyebrow rose, and his dark gaze bore into mine. He approached my table. I took another sip of my beer and plucked at my top. At least he looked about my age, but he seemed to stir folks up – they withdrew from his approach. And me, I was welcomed with hugs and appeared to calm them down. We were complete opposites.
At the last minute, he took a sharp turn, and took a table adjacent to mine. I sighed. At that moment, I realized I hadn’t been breathing.
I didn’t like the effect that guy had on me so I turned my back on him and crossed and uncrossed my legs waiting for Ciaran.
A waitress was making rounds. I placed a takeout order of dessert with her. So when Ciaran arrived at the pub, we’d just eat outside.
Ciaran plopped into the seat beside me and startled me. The breeze carried the scent of his after-shave that always made my knees shake. Ciaran filled my waking dreams, I reminded myself, not the Petron-drinking god. I’d forgotten how beautiful he was.
Ciaran’s shoulder grazed my bare one. “Hey, Aine. Are you feeling okay?”
He sat across from me and set his elbows on the table.
My hand went behind my neck and trailed down my face. “I feel fine,” I said, brushing a stray hair from my face as my stomach clenched. My nose flared when I gazed up at him.”What was it that attracted you to me?”
He followed my hand and then locked with my eyes. His eyebrows arched, and his lips parted. “The role of your hips, square of your shoulders, and the saucy swinging of your arms at school.”
My voice hitched, and I blushed so I slid my chips towards him. “Ciaran, wow. ” I didn’t know what to say. He appeared so handsome with his curls down which he normally had pulled back in a nice leather thong at the nape of his neck.
Ciaran slathered the chips with ketchup before helping himself. I ran my fingers through his hair. His smile widened as he said, “I was afraid you wouldn’t come.”
It felt like static electricity zapped me so I pulled my hand back. My eyes shifted to the stranger, and it appeared that his energy seeped from him and touched me. It seemed as if I was sandwiched between two guys’ attention when the Petron God straddled his wooden chair.
I needed to ignore the Petron guy and pay attention to Ciaran, but somehow I felt like Petron guy had been there all along, waiting, and understood me for me and waited for my moment, to shine. Weird how I just knew. It was distracting.
I watched the empty glasses rattle as I clutched the edge of the table. They shattered to the floor. The tremor only lasted a few seconds, but enough to stop the live music. Eve tried to reassure the patrons it was a fluke.
Ciaran stood and snatched up our take out plate of dessert.”Let’s go.”
He tossed some bills down on the table, and I followed him into the street. He had obviously hit the gym since last I saw him; worked harder and thrown himself into sports more vigorously. I knew he was doing it so he’d be in better shape, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the perks. Ciaran had more definition in his chest and probably washboard abs. He was still slender and perfectly proportioned, but I could see the muscles in his arms rippling beneath the fine, cotton T-shirt. I gazed up at his refined features: his straight nose, high cheekbones, and full lips. In the light of the sun, his walnut-colored hair was streaked with gold and his almond-shaped eyes were like liquid blue azure.
My thought was broken when we bumped into a group of Ciaran’s friends from the soccer team in the street outside the cafe. I knew some of them by name and caught the tail end of their conversation.
“I can’t believe Ayden hooked up with Katie O’Connor,” a boy named Adam snickered. He was still bleary-eyed from whatever misadventure had taken place last night. I knew from gossip it probably involved a keg and willful damage to someone’s property.
“It’s his funeral,” someone muttered.
“Everyone knows she’s done more miles than my dad’s old Ford.”
“I don’t care as long as it wasn’t on my bed. I’d have to burn everything.”
“Don’t worry, man, pretty sure they were out on the garden area.”
“I was so drunk, I don’t remember a damn thing,” Adam declared.
“I remember you tried to hook up with me,” said a boy named Jack in his jigging accent.
His face contorted into a grimace.
“Whatever . . . It was dark. You could do a lot worse.”
“Not funny,” Jack growled. “Someone posted a picture on Facebook. What am I gonna tell Chloe?”
“Tell her you couldn’t resist Adam’s ripped body.” Ciaran pounded his friend on the back as he sauntered past. “He’s certainly built from all those hours on the PlayStation.”
I laughed as Ciaran pulled me down the street toward Town Park.
“So are you coming?”
“What?” I stared blankly.
Ciaran shook his head. “To the masquerade. Try to keep up.”
“Not sure,” I admitted. “I’m still working on it. What about you?”
“How do you feel about the Phantom of the opera?” Ciaran said with a wink. “I’ve always wanted to be a ghost.”
“You just want to pretend you’re a madman.”
Ciaran gave a wicked smile. “Damn it! You know me too well.”
When we reached Town Park, Ciaran leaned across and pressed his lips against my cheek. His kiss was soft and sweet. I felt the outside world fell away as I melted into him. His skin was smooth beneath my fingers and his scent, fresh as ocean air. It mingled with a touch of —orange and clove combined. Ciaran and me at school were never alone. And now we finally achieved some alone time on our first official date.
When Ciaran pulled me toward the trees, I snapped back to reality, like someone waking from a deep sleep.
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow night,” he said in a dreamy smile. “Same time as today.”
I stood in the tangled branches watching Ciaran until I saw the leaves vibrating with the sound of cymbals. I stopped and said, “Do you hear that?”
Ciaran cocked his head.
He pointed to the tree under which we stood. “Are you talking about the birds in the trees?”
I shook my head and walked toward the sound I heard. As the sun fell, a blend of reds reflected off the clouds and gave a magnificent backdrop for a wedding that was about to begin.
I didn’t have ominous premonitions of spending my time with him like this. I did, however, have an endless aching need for him. “You do see the wedding, right?”