He pushed the heavy wooden doors to the bar open, and immediately felt the contrast of the hot, sticky, humid air on his skin, cold from the bitter Scranton night. Being St Patrick's Day, pretty much every bar in town was busy, but the Grafton Street Irish pub was by far the most popular. He pushed his way through the drunken crowd to get to the bar, pulling his thick winter coat off as he went.
"What'll it be?" the barman asked him.
"Um, a Guiness?" he asked. It felt appropriate on this night and in this bar to have a pint of Ireland's finest, even though he wasn't entirely sure he liked it. As he waited for the barman to slowly pour the pint, he turned around looking as if to see if he knew anyone in the pub. And that's when he saw her.
She was part of the small band sitting on the low stage in the corner, who weren't playing at that point, but chatting with each other. She was laughing at something the guitarist was saying, and even from the other side of the room, he could see her laugh was infectious. He wanted, needed, to get closer to her, but the godforsaken pint was still being poured, or being left to settle. Either way, he couldn't leave the bar.
As he continued to stare at her and wait for his drink, the band got up to play, what he assumed was some traditional Irish song. He leaned against the sticky bar on his elbows, and watched. She'd picked up some sort of a violin, a fiddle maybe, and sporadically played a note with the bow. It was clear she was new to this and nervous, but it made him smile that she was clearly trying. From the stage across the room, she caught him smiling at her and smiled back at him.
"Hi," she mouthed to him, with the fiddle still tucked underneath her chin. He felt his stomach muscles tighten at their interaction, and he instinctively lifted his pint and eyebrows as if to ‘cheers' her.
After the song finished and the crowd roared their applause, he watched the band make their way off stage and head towards the doors that he'd just come through only minutes before. He picked up his pint and followed her outside.
She was standing with the band, and a few other people who had joined them. He slowly made his way over to her, but before he got too close, she turned her head and looked directly at him over her shoulder, her green eyes sparkling and the loose waves of her auburn hair blowing slightly in the wind. Her smile widened, before she turned and walked over to him.
"Hi, I'm Pamela," she breathed, with a soft Irish lilt to her accent.
"Ahem," he coughed. "I'm, um, James, but uh, most people call me Jim."
"Where are you from Jim?" she asked, as she took a sip from her glass of amber coloured liquid. "I can't place your accent."
"Oh, I was um, born in London and lived there for a while, but I've moved around a bit and I've lived here in Scranton for a pretty long time, but uh, yeah I guess it's mid Trans-Atlantic maybe?" he explained.
"Oh you're an Englishman?" she asked, and he nodded back. "Sounded a little Australian there, but what do I know?" she breezed back.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"From Ireland, although I guess the accent kinda gave that away?" she said, and he nodded. "A town on the other side of Ireland from Dublin, called Galway. If you've ever heard of it?" she asked with a shrug.
"Can't say I have, I'm afraid." He took a sip from his pint and felt an awkward silence fill the air. He needed to fill it with something. He wanted to keep talking to her, rather than have her disappear back with her bandmates. "So um, you play the fiddle?"
She nodded and laughed a little. "I wouldn't really call it playing, but um, yeah, I've just sort of taken it up very recently. I work with those guys over there," she pointed behind her to the group she'd been with, "and they convinced me to join tonight. Connor, the guitarist, taught me a couple of notes and I've been listening to the songs whilst I paint. Um, I'm an artist," she said with a slight blush.
"Oh wow, what do you paint?" he asked her, before finishing the last of his pint with a wince.
"Um, a lot of different things really, I'm a freelance artist," she replied, pushing her hair behind her ear. "I'm working for the Irish Cultural Centre at the moment, doing a mural for them," she nervously said, dipping her head down to take a sip of her drink.
"Oh cool. Home away from home I guess?" he tried to joke.
"Something like that," she nodded. "It's been fun, something a little different. And I guess I got to learn how to play the fiddle a little which is cool." She rubbed her hands over her bare arms, having left her jacket inside, and shivered slightly under his gaze. They were standing close to each other, their breath visibly mingling in the frosty night air, almost like they were sharing a cigarette. "Do you play anything?" she asked.
He swallowed back a gulp, and tried to stop himself staring at her lips. "Um, not really," he blushed. "I kinda feel like I should play the guitar, I own one, but I've not really played it in years," he said, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck.
"Life got in the way?" she asked.
"Something like that," he replied. As he was thinking about what next to ask her to keep the conversation going, one of her bandmates came over, warning her that they were back on stage in a few minutes. "Can I get you a drink after your next song?" he asked hopefully.
"Would be a lot cooler if you did," she replied with her tongue poking out of her grin. He laughed at her reference, appreciating it. "Can I get a Jamie please?"
"Jamie?" he questioned.
"Jameson. It's an Irish Whiskey," she said, with a slight roll of her eyes.
"Cool, consider it done," he smiled. "See you later," he almost whispered to her.
"Definitely," she replied, before tiptoeing up to press a soft kiss to his cheek. He felt his stomach tighten again, and it took everything in him not to pull her to him right there. Instead, he watched her float back inside the pub with her friends.
He made his way back to the bar, and waited for his turn to order the drinks. Before he had a chance to get to the front of the bar, the band started up again. This time however, the fiddle was in her hands, not under her chin, and she was centre stage next to a heavily bearded guy, rather than to the side like before. She began by stamping her foot on the wooden stage to create a beat, and after a few moments the guy started singing. After the guy finished singing the first verse to a song that seemed to have confusing lyrics, she took over the singing. He was amazed by her voice. It was much softer and sweeter than her bandmate's, and it seemed to cut right to his core. She looked around the pub as she sang, until finally their eyes met. After that, it was like she was only singing to him.
The noise of the bar faded away. The other patrons disappeared. The lights seemed both brighter and darker simultaneously. He couldn't drink her in quick enough as he stared at her. Her eyes were piercing his soul, making his heart beat faster than he thought possible. He felt like he was falling. Until a tap on his shoulder brought him back to the bar. The guy next to him was motioning to him that it was his turn to order.
"Can I get 2 Jameson's? Neat, please," he asked the barman. Before he could even turn around, he heard the bar break into a rowdy applause. Craning his neck around, he saw the blur of her forest green camisole dashing off stage. He looked through the crowd to watch her making her way straight towards him. He tried to bite back his smile.
"Hey," she shyly smiled, tucking a loose curl behind her ear.
"Hey yourself," he replied with a smile of his own. He reached back to the bar to grab the glasses of whiskey that had been poured as he'd watched her find her way to him. He passed one to her, which she took, their fingers brushing ever so slightly. He felt the electricity of the slight touch ignite his entire body.
She held the glass up in the air and he copied her movement. "Sláinte," she said, raising the glass up slightly higher.
"Slawn-che?" he tried to pronounce, with a quirk of his eyebrow. She giggled and nodded at him, before throwing the whole drink back in one go. With his glass halfway to his mouth, he stopped and stared at her. She licked a drop of the whiskey from her lip, something that he wished he had been able to do, before motioning for him to do the same. He bit back a grimace from the harsh liquid and shook his head slightly to clear it from his senses.
"Another?" she asked him.
"You trying to get me drunk?" he asked with a sideways grin, kind of hoping desperately that that was exactly what she was trying to do.
"Maybe," she smiled at him.
"Same again?" he asked.
She shook her head. "How about a shot of Johnny?"
She shook her head again. "Johnny. Like John Powers? Powers Irish Whiskey. I'll take a single. And then how about a Jack and coke?"
"Sure thing," he replied. He turned to place the order at the bar, before returning to her gaze.
"Thanks," she smiled, before leaning closer to him. "I like men whose names start with J," she whispered, her warm breath close enough to leave goosebumps on the skin of his neck. He felt like a thousand butterflies had been let loose in his stomach. He visibly gulped, and he heard the faintest giggle from her throat, before she stood back up.
"So, um, you were really good up there," he stammered. "Do you sing much?"
"Not really, I'm kinda shy usually," she said, before biting her lip as she thought. "I think the last two times I've actually sung in public were when I did some terrible karaoke with a colleague, and at a funeral for a bird."
"Wow," he laughed. "I would have loved to have seen either of those."
"Yeah," she said, looking down at the ground. There was something about the way her voice cracked ever so slightly that seemed to hit his heart hard.
He picked up the shots and passed her one, wanting to get her laughter back. "To the shyest singer in Galway," he said, holding his glass up in the air.
Her smile came back as she repeated the toast, clinked her glass against his and then drank the warm liquid in one. This time, before her tongue could dart out, he brushed his thumb across her bottom lip to wipe away the trace of the whiskey. He watched her face flush, before a hint of a shy smile broke out across her face. She looked up at him before she spoke.
"Do you wanna play some pool?" she asked.
"Absolutely I do," he replied with a smile.
He grabbed their drinks and they pushed their way through the crowd to reach the occupied pool table. As they waited for the players to finish their game, they sipped their Jack and cokes, and he said a silent prayer for the milder tasting drink. She noticed him smiling after taking a sip.
"What?" she asked.
"Oh, it's nothing," he replied, blushing slightly that he'd been caught. She quirked her eyebrow, as if she didn't believe him. "Um, it's just this one's a bit easier on the palate," he said, as he held the glass up slightly higher.
She giggled at him. "You'll have to come visit the Centre, the guys there introduced me to the good stuff," she said, before taking her own sip. "Don't tell them I prefer this too though," she whispered to him with a little laugh. "So, uh, are you any good at pool?"
"Honestly, I think the last time I played, I was kind of on this weird double date, and the game kinda got hijacked. So I can't really say I am, unfortunately."
"No hidden tricks up your sleeves?" she asked.
He held up his forearms, with his dark shirt sleeves rolled up, looked at each of them and shook his head. "Definitely not. I think I have one trick, and that is definitely not going to help me at pool."
"What is it?" she asked.
"Have you got a pen?"
She dug around in her purse that she'd placed on the floor by their feet and eventually found one. He placed his drink down on the high table that they were standing next to and then took the pen from her. He put the pen between his nose and top lip, and then leaning back slightly, he slowly moved his hands away, leaving the pen balanced there. "I do this when I'm bored usually, especially if there's no one to entertain me" he said slowly so as not to disturb the pen.
"That's hardly a trick," she laughed, but grabbed the pen from under his nose. She then reached for his arm, and pushed his shirt sleeve up to his elbow.
"What are you doing?" he asked, as she uncapped the pen with her teeth and began to write on his arm.
"Ne'er ooo ind," came her muffled reply. He tried to watch through her unruly curls what she was writing, but couldn't work it out. When she was done, she recapped the pen and slid it back into her purse. "There you go," she said, showing him his own arm.
"Nuair is gá dom fháil bhaile, is tú mo réalt eolais," he tried to pronounce, but failed miserably. "What does that mean?"
She leaned forward and tiptoed up to his ear. "I'll tell you later," she softly said. He couldn't get enough of her voice, and what it was doing to his body. He felt like he was glued to the floor.
As the pool table became free, he shook himself awake. He watched her walk about the table to get two cues for them, and then began to roll the balls from the pockets over to where he was standing. He racked up the balls before rolling the white ball over to where she stood. She pulled back her hand, hitting the white ball with force, but completely missing the coloured triangle of balls.
"You are terrible at this," he laughed. He rolled the white ball back to her. "Try again." She took another shot and managed to break up the triangle. "So you never told me your hidden talent," he said, as he leaned down to hit a ball, but missed.
"You're not so good at this yourself," she laughed. "Ummm," she said as she thought. "Other than painting, I guess maybe it would be getting pieces of paper into coffee mugs. But I haven't done that in a while. Used to have a lot of fun doing that," she smiled. She bent towards the table and managed to not only hit a ball, but to knock it into a pocket. She stood up to move around the table to take her next shot, smiling at him with her tongue between her teeth, eyes shining bright.
"I take it all back," he laughed. Over the sound of the rowdy pub behind them, and the clack of the balls in front of them, they got to know each other, him making sure to elicit the sweet sound of her laughter as much as possible. As she finally hit the black ball into a pocket, he put up his hand from the other end of the table. "Nice job," he smiled, with his hand in the air.
"Thanks," she smiled, before raising her own hand for an air high five.
"Wanna play some darts?" he asked, hoping to keep talking to her.
"Absolutely I do," she mimicked his earlier response and he smiled at her.
"I've gotta warn you, I've never actually played darts before," he said. "The closest I've come is throwing paper airplanes, if that counts? And I was terrible at that."
She nodded, but it looked like tears were stinging her eyes at the thought of paper airplanes. She shook her head ever so slightly and blinked back her smile.
"You ok?" he asked.
"Yeah, just thinking how I'm not so hot at throwing paper airplanes myself," she laughed. "Let's see how we do."
He motioned for her to lead the way to the dart board. She took his hand in hers, and weaved through the crowd, pulling him behind her. Her hand fit into his perfectly, as if it was a jigsaw piece that he didn't know he'd been missing. He never wanted to let it go.
As they reached the dartboard, he felt her hand slip away from his as she reached to take the darts from the shelf. He instantly missed her touch and prayed that he'd feel it again that evening.
"I've no idea how to play darts," she admitted as she threw her first dart. It wildly missed the board, hit the wall and fell to the floor.
"Makes two of us," he laughed, as he picked the dart up and handed it back to her. "How about we make up our own game of darts? Whoever manages to get closest to the centre after 3 darts wins? We can call it Middle Dart and this will be the championship final."
"You're on buddy," she replied. "But that first go didn't count, ok?" He nodded his agreement and she threw her next first dart. The game was over pretty quickly, with neither doing very well, but she proclaimed herself the winner.
"How'd you figure that?" he asked, looking closer at the board. "It's a tie if anything."
"Tie goes to the girl," she said, but seemed to stop herself abruptly. He smiled at what he thought she might have been about to say.
"Alright, I'll let you take this one," he conceded. "So what's next?"
She took him by the hand, leaned close to him and said, "I just want to dance."
She placed a soft kiss on his neck, before turning to head to where the music was coming from. Feeling like every bone in his body had turned to jelly, he somehow nodded and followed her to where people were dancing. Something Irish sounding, a slow song, was being played from a jukebox against a wall. As soon as she stopped in front of him, she turned, slipped her arms up around his neck and pulled herself flush to him.
He could only stare down at her, mesmerised by this woman as they swayed slowly to the music with his arms wrapped around her waist. The rest of the room slipped away as he took a deep breath and then slowly lowered his head to press his lips to hers. He had a vague awareness of the music changing and people shouting about a ‘brown eyed girl' around him, but his whole world consisted of the softest lips he'd ever felt, opening up to him. He felt her moan into his mouth as one of her hands travelled down his back and slipped into the back pocket of his jeans. He cupped her head, pushing his fingers through her loose curls to deepen the kiss. He stopped his hands from wandering further when he remembered there were other people in the room. They eventually pulled apart breathless, foreheads resting together, faces plastered with smiles, unable to stop staring at each other.
A loud bell being run finally snapped them out of their trance, along with various people pushing past them to get their last order in.
"Do you want one more drink?" he asked, stroking her arms lightly.
"No thanks," she replied. "If I have anymore, I think I'll be up on the bar dancing a céili," she laughed.
"A what?" he asked.
"A céili," she repeated, "it's like an Irish folk dance, kinda like tap dancing, but you only move your legs.
"Well this I have to see," he chided.
"Uh uhh," she replied. "I'm not dancing, I'd much rather you take me home."
He felt his knees give way, and it took everything in him not to crumble onto the floor. "Ok," he eventually managed to croak out.
They made their way over to her bandmates and colleagues so that she could grab her coat and say goodbye. He saw the guys in the small group eying him as she explained to them that he was taking her home and he blushed at their looks, kind of wishing that the ground would open up and swallow him. As she walked over to him, she turned to wave once more to the group and with the other hand, slipped it into his.
They pushed through the doors, wrapped up in their own little world, when the cold air of the night hit them hard. She pulled her jacket close under her chin, and tucked herself closer to his side, causing him to smile and press a kiss to the top of her head. They walked for a little while, but when the cold became too much, he hailed a cab. She jumped in and gave the address as she slid across the leather seat so that he could join her. They held hands across the centre seat and smiled at each other, afraid of what may happen on the backseat of the cab if they moved any closer to each other.
Finally, the cab arrived at their destination. She opened the door and got out, while he paid the driver. After leaving the back of the car, he lightly jogged over to where she was standing by the front door. With her key in her hand, she tiptoed up to him to kiss him a final time, and he tightly pulled her to him.
"Do you wanna come in?" she breathlessly asked him when they finally pulled apart.
"Absolutely I do," he smiled back.
She carefully slid the key into the lock, twisted it and opened the door. She motioned for him to follow her.
"Hey mom, we're home," Pam called out in a loud whisper, doing her best to appear sober. "How were the kids?"
"Not a sound out of either of them," Helene replied. "So how was it? Was he surprised?"
"I had no idea she'd been learning the fiddle!" Jim exclaimed. "That was definitely a shock. No wonder the mural is taking you so long. Does your boss know you're messing about taking music lessons instead of finishing the painting?" he joked.
"Stop!" she laughed, pushing him slightly. She reached out her arms and yawned, to which her mother took the hint and started to gather her things.
"I'm glad you two had fun tonight, I'll see you on Sunday for brunch?" Helene asked. They both nodded and thanked her for looking after the kids for the evening. Pam walked her mom out to her car, hugged her goodbye, before coming back into the house to look for Jim.
"Where are you?" Pam whisper-giggled, trying not to wake her sleeping children.
"I'm in the den," came Jim's reply. Pam walked into the room to find him sitting on the sofa with a bag of Doriotos in his lap and two glasses of white wine poured out on the table in front of him. She sat down next to him, stealing the Dorito in his hand just before he was able to eat it.
"Hey!" he shouted out. She shushed him with a cheesy flavoured kiss. "So you sure as hell surprised me tonight,"Jim said, before taking a sip of his wine. "Where did that accent come from?"
"I've been surrounded by Irish people for like every weeknight for the last three weeks, plus the last four weekends, it's starting to rub off on me. Don't say it," she warned, pointing her finger at him as he smirked. "I thought it was pretty good actually." Jim nodded his agreement, before stealing the chip that she was about to eat. "A hell of a lot better than yours anyway."
"Hey!" he protested through this mouthful. "I wasn't expecting some role playing thing to happen tonight, you put me on the spot! I wasn't about to try and do Michael's ‘Ping' and I had Bridget Jones stuck in my head from when you made me watch it the other night, so I thought I'd channel my inner Hugh Grant," he said a little bashfully.
"You sure you weren't thinking of Hugh Jackman babe? You sounded way more Australian than English," Pam giggled.
"That's enough out of you," he laughed, pushing her backwards to kiss her. "But, I really did have a lot of fun tonight," he said breathlessly. "It's kinda been a long time since we went out and really let loose, you know? Whiskey, a lot of whiskey," he raised his eyebrows with a smirk, "darts, pool, time alone with you. It was so awesome Pam."
She nodded her agreement. "It felt good to have fun with you again. Not like office pranks kinda fun, but just you and me fun. It was nice to be able to dance together again."
"You mean sway together?" he smirked and she whacked him with a cushion.
"Hey watch it buddy, I'm pouring my heart out here!"
"I'm sorry," Jim said, lightly laughing, "do continue."
"I'd just missed you, I'd missed us, so much and for so long. And I know we're good now, but tonight just reminded me how much I love you and I'm so thankful we never gave up on us," Pam said, willing herself to stop the tears that were spilling down her cheek.
Jim pulled her into a tight embrace, murmuring into her hair, "I love you so, so much Pam." They stayed like that for a while, just holding each other, feeling their hearts beat in sync. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm never going to let myself forget that." He kissed the top of her head, before he loosened his arms and she looked up at him. "And I thank god that you're not really from, where was it, Galway?" Pam nodded. "Because then we'd have never found each other." She giggled at him, and wiped her final tear away. "How did you even come up with that?"
"Oh it was Connor. That's where he's from, and I was going to pretend he was my brother if it came up at all. I thought it made a good backstory," Pam shrugged. "And there's this thing about meeting a girl from Galway and it meaning you've found your muse, or you're about to fall in love." Jim smiled at her as he took her hand and kissed the back of it.
"Oh wait, you never told me what this means," he said, pulling his shirt sleeve up to reveal the words Pam had written on him earlier in the evening.
"Nuair is gá dom fháil bhaile, is tú mo réalt eolais," Pam read out. "It means ‘when I need to get home, you're my guiding light'. It's from a song I heard at the Centre one day, and it just reminded me of you. Wherever you are, that's my home. It always has been, and it always will be, no matter what. As long as we're together, that's all that matters to me."
His lips crashed against hers before she'd even finished speaking. Their hands were everywhere, their breathing heavy as they showed their love for each other. Just as quickly as he had kissed her, Jim's mouth disappeared, leaving Pam wondering where he had gone. He returned quickly with his laptop, opened iTunes and found the song she'd spoken about.
"What are you doing?" she asked as Irish and English accents began to fill their small room.
"I just want to dance with my Galway girl," he said, holding out his hand to her.
She smiled, before standing and taking his hands in her own. Silently, they swayed together, her head on his chest, his chin resting gently on her head, thinking about everything they'd been through to get to their perfect night.