Through the Fog (Chapter 25)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

Lisdoonvarna, home of one of the largest matchmaking festivals in Europe. Too bad I was a month early and with the wrong person.

The Rathbaun on Main Street gave us a room with nary a glance at my appearance. It was a tidy little room, so different from less expensive American hotels. Despite the fact that smoking wasn’t universally condemned here as it was in California, the room smelled more of pine cleaner than cigarettes. The Irish have always seemed fonder of open windows than Americans, especially near the sea. Windows without screens were the norm; fewer flying bugs.

Whatever the real cause, it was nice to be in out of the elements, nice as they were. The concierge had promised our clothes could be cleaned in the time it took to shower (I suspect Siobhan would be paying handsomely for such quick service.)

“You smell the worst; you can have first go at the bath.” She was awfully casual about the two of us planning on sitting around in nothing but hotel robes until our clothes were returned.

“Ladies first. I know; it’s not fashionable any more, but it’s the way I am.”

“Fine, but order some sandwiches and lemonade while I’m in; I’m famished.”

I sat in a chair in the corner. She sat on the bed with her back to me, and gathered up all the contents of her pockets, dumping them en masse into the bedside drawer.

She stood. “I’ll toss my clothes out, and then you can have all the privacy you want out here. When they pick up the clothes, make sure they know they’re to have them back right away.”

“Sure; I’m not wild about sitting around anyway, and certainly not dressed the way I’m going to be.”

I couldn’t tell if her look was confused or flirtatious or both. Must be that Venus/Mars thing again; she couldn’t possibly be flirting with me, especially under circumstances where I was in a position to call her bluff. Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

I heard the bathroom door open, and a bundle of cloth plopped onto the floor outside. The door was shut before it had finished unrolling.

Once the clothes were picked up with a solemn promise to return them post haste, I realized I should have bathed first. Now, I couldn’t grab my stuff from the drawer and run. Of course, if I’d been thinking, I could have just grabbed it all and left in my tattered smelly suit. One more wrong decision; one more opportunity missed.

Freud would have had a field day with me.

Siobhan came out of the bathroom, head wrapped in a towel, robe primly secured. “All yours, dearie.”

I sighed, and took my turn. When we used to go camping in the mountains outside San Diego, part of the experience was wearing the same clothes for the entire long weekend, then coming home and practically scraping the sludge off in the shower. Yeah, it was like that. I showered twice, just in case I didn’t get another chance soon enough. Even using my finger as a toothbrush, my teeth felt better after a good scrub. Hair was going to have to settle for a good brushing with my fingers as well. Good thing I keep it almost militarily short.

By the time I stepped from the steaming bath, our roast beef and Smithwick’s had arrived. Siobhan didn’t seem to miss her requested lemonade; I was hoping to take advantage of any opportunity to get her off her guard, and if a heavy lunch and a bottle of beer would help, I was all for it.

“Irish won’t even eat beef in the States, you know that? Hormones, chemicals of all kinds. In this country, we know where our food comes from. Do you realize in most towns you can walk up the road and have a chinwag with the bloke who raised the chicken you’re putting in the soup that night?”

“Funny how different Americans are; we say a lot about health, but then, you’re right, look at the scary things in any kind of meat we eat.”

It felt natural, sitting there in our robes, chatting about the food we were eating and the differences between our cultures. Once again, I didn’t want it to end. And then again, I did. Like yanking the band-aid off, the sooner I was gone, the better.

Our clothes arrived all too soon, and Siobhan took the bathroom again to change. “All done out here?”

“Yup.”

She came out, smiling like the sun. It made my chest ache. If I couldn’t get my papers from her by stealth, I’d take them by force, but I had to end the charade and get my life back.

“D’you mind if we nap a little before we move on? I’m thinking we might rent a car and head back to Galway, but I’d rather give it some thought first. And I’d rather do that with a clear head, after all that food.”

“What happened to your ‘keep moving’ philosophy?”

“We’re okay for a while, I should think.”

“Maybe I’m being all American again, but what about the credit card you used to get the room? Won’t they be watching for that?”

I could see the little tick tick tick behind her eyes in the second it took her to answer. If you’re going to lie, at least try to make it convincing.

“It’s a company card; doesn’t even have my name on it. We’ll be fine. Get some rest; I’m all in after sleeping in a field last night and walking way too much before and after.”

And then she handed me my freedom on a silver platter.

Opening the drawer, she gathered up the contents and stuffed the pockets of her coat.

And left it laying across the chair on her side of the bed.

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