The first thing I noticed about the Red Rose café was that it was so not a café. Well at least not like the cafés of my experience or description. If anything it was more like a pub. Dark wooden floors that stretched half way up the wall to be met by old-fashioned wall paper. Cool green paper with burnt golden ferns scattered the paper with a few, tiny red roses on the ends. Maybe it wasn't old-fashioned, maybe it actually was just old. Like most things in Ireland, I really couldn't tell what was authentic and what had been designed to fit the style. Tables and massive wine-barrels were situated seemingly randomly around the room. There were three different bars, two on opposing walls and one I could half see through a door leading further in. But not one person to man any of them. Shit. I glanced back around the room, the tables didn't have chairs with them. The lights weren't even on. The place wasn't open.
I swung back around and was pulling the heavy door open when I heard footsteps. I glanced to the back of the room and could see the bottom of a set of stairs. And a shadow on them. I had barely begun to resume pulling the door when I heard a voice.
I froze. I should just walk out – they clearly weren't open.
The footsteps got louder and then I recognized the different sound signaling the person landing on the floorboards.
"You right there?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Didn't realize you were closed," I replied with my back still turned. I had the door open but the rain had whipped itself into a mini storm during my minute absence. The cold rain and wind felt like it had slapped my skin and I gasped instinctively.
"We're not closed," The voice said, coming closer. "You can't go out in that. Its pissing rain!"
I stepped back from the lashing wind and let the door close, my face already dripping. I wiped my eyes and half-turned. When I saw the owner of the voice, I wanted to wipe my eyes again. Or at least check out the window and make sure I hadn't been magically transported to Kansas. The voice was gorgeous. A man, tall, lean with ruffled reddish hair. Even in the dim light, I could make out two large green eyes.
I could not stop my reaction. I laughed. Could I find a more stereotypical Irishman?!
Irishman gave me a confused look and raised one eyebrow. "Too late. It seems its washed away your sense."
Which of course led me to laugh again. He had the classic Dublin street accent – the kind you had to squint to understand first off.
"Sorry," I giggled.
Irishman observed me a second longer before shrugging as though giggling, drenched people were common occurrence. "We're not closed," he said again.
There was an awkward beat.
"Oh," I said. I quickly glanced around the empty room.
"We're not very busy today. Most wouldn't shirk the rain when it's said to be a storm on the way," he continued. "We've tables and service upstairs." He motioned with his head in a king of nod towards the ceiling. He had a strong, defined jaw line.
I nodded, mute and stupid. And wet.
A slow grin spread across his mouth. It made him look a lot younger. "You coming?"
A few minutes later I was seated at yet another bar, this one upstairs. This room was very similar to downstairs but a lot brighter, with windows making up one wall. Despite the rain – which I could see definitely had storm potential – it gave great light to the place. Despite Irishman's statement that the café wasn't closed, there was no one else up here. At least the tables had chairs and settings on them.
"What are you having?" Irishman spoke from behind the bar. He must have caught my dubious glance around me. "I promise we're open. I'd show you the opening hours but they're printed on the door outside."
My earlier fit of giggles having deserted me, I was once again shy. "Um… Coffee?"
"Irish coffee?" He flashed me another stellar grin.
He chuckled, "Sure."
I unwound the scarf from my neck as the coffee machine fired up. I relaxed to the sounds of the milk frothing. I didn't have to say anything with that noise going on and Irishman concentrating on making my drink.
Too soon he finished, presenting the latte to me. It was massive. The mug looked more like a bowl and the milk froth was designed in the shape of a rose. "Nice," I said, before I could stop myself.
Irishman nodded as he wiped down the bar. "Kinda a given." I assumed he was referring to the name of the place.
I looked around again. While this room had tables made up with glasses, plates, knives and forks it still looked like a pub. There were massive booths with cushions that looked like they'd suck me in. And old fashioned oil-burner lamps were centered on the tables. There were photo frames, currency and posters stuck to the walls. Even a few book shelves way in the back.
I felt awkward. Clearly I had interrupted Irishman. He'd had no customers before and was probably enjoying the break. Having worked as a waitress before, I knew that a quiet day could be a blessing to get caught up on some homework or reading. Conscious that he was probably waiting for me to leave, I reached for my mug/bowl. It was absolutely delicious. Hot and creamy. I rested my hands around the mug, trying to steal its heat.
I made eye-contact with Irishman and felt compelled to speak.
"What's Irish coffee?" As usual, I said the first thing that popped into my mind.
Irishman let out a loud laugh. It made his chest rumble. I frowned, confused.
"What is Irish Coffee? Irish coffee is a shot of coffee with a shot of whiskey."
Of course it was.
"It warms the cockles. Especially on a day like today." Again, he motioned his chin in the direction of the windows and the rain. I noticed his strong jaw line for a second time. In the light I could see that it was covered in stubble.
I took another gulp of my coffee. "Seems a strange thing to serve in a café."
Irishman's expression turned confused for a second before he shook his head. "Ah you mean the name? The Red Rose Café? We're not an actual café." He said the last sentence kind of slowly, like he was speaking to a young child. Like it was obvious.
"You're a pub." I tried to say this with confidence though I wasn't even sure that was right.
He nodded, leaning against the back of the bar, folding his hands loosely across his chest. "The reference is a little obscure I'll admit. I don't suppose you know who The Fureys are?"
I shook my head, embarrassed at my further lack of knowledge. He smiled at me though. "Absolutely no one does. But my Ma and Da refuse to change the name. I suppose by now there's no point now. Though I'm guessing we're more famous than they ever were." Irishman seemed to realize that I still had no idea what he was going on about so he quickly elaborated. "They're a band. Or were. A few decades back."
I absolutely loved his accent, which wasn't surprising. I loved everyone's accent over here. But his voice was dark and deep. I wanted to hear it again. "Never heard of them."
It worked. "They didn't reach any real fame, only in Dublin. One of their more famous songs is about The Red Rose Café."
"So there's another one? The original Red Rose Café?" I asked.
Irishman shook his head, which redistributed his ruffled hair over his brow. "My parents first date was to a Fureys concert. My Ma loves them. When she and Da came into the city for the day they searched everywhere for the place. This is before Google Maps of course. Then someone tells them there no café. Its just a lyric. So when they bought this place, they named it after the song." He ended with a little self-conscious shrug.
"That's so sweet," I smiled. He smiled back, seemingly relieved.
"It's a bit confusing – families and couples come in here of a night, thinking this is their haven in a city full of pubs but then find that this place is more oft than not filled with drunken renditions of the Pogues greatest hits." I laugh a little at that. "Ah so them you've heard of. Where are you from anyway?"
I don't know what happens – probably an unconscious reaction to the first person being genuinely nice to me in days. But it comes out. I tell him that I'm from Sydney, Australia and that I moved here to be a nanny. Of course my version is a lot longer than that, with descriptions that I really should've edited out. He was clearly only asking out of politeness. Maybe he's slipped some alcohol in my drink for the in-depth answer I give him.
But Irishman is apparently also a gentleman. He listens to my ramble without complaint and even asks questions once I'm done.
"You're from Australia? Really?" His green eyes have a spark of boyish enthusiasm. Then he frowns. "Why on earth would you leave Australia for Ireland? You do know that it rains about 85% of the time right?"
I wince. I don't like being reminded of the one thing I don't enjoy about Ireland. I always was, and always will be a Sun kind of girl. "Yeah… But you guys have history. And castles. And artists. And writers."
He snorts. "You were inspired to move here after reading Ulysses?"
I blush. "Le Fanu actually," I murmur.
Now Irishman frowns. "You know Le Fanu?" I nod. "I didn't know that anyone under sixty even knew that guy's name."
"So that would make you about sixty-eight then?" In defense of one of my favorite authors, my reply comes out harsher than I intended.
Irishman barks out a laugh and pushes himself off the wall, coming to lean close to me over the bench. "Perhaps." He's so close now I can see the dark lashes that frame his eyes. "So then, is the Dublin of Le Fanu living up to your expectations?"
I fidget in my seat. "Its… beautiful," I manage to answer.
"But?" He prompts.
"It really is gorgeous," I reassert firmly. Irishman's eyes are locked to me and he nods. His expression seems charged and I'm not sure what's happened so I go on. "I do love it here but – I don't know. Its probably just teething problems. I'm still settling in and all that."
"How long have you been in our fair city?"
I scrunch up my face for the mental equation. "About… sixty… eight hours."
Now Irishman is looking shocked. "Not even three days! Wow."
I don't know what to reply so I take another sip of my drink.
"Do you have family and friends over here then?" Irishman asks.
"I don't know anyone. Except the people I work for." I answer.
"Really? You moved to the other side of the world and don't know a soul. That's very brave."
"Or very stupid," I counter.
"No – no. I think its brilliant. It's the ultimate fresh start. Clean slate."
I nod. A fresh start does sound good. A chance to reinvent myself and be anyone I want, without any history holding me back. But it also means I don't have any friends or support. While my friends back home may be annoying; they knew me. Knew my fears, my moods, my favorite foods. And my mum – my heart gives a slight pull at her being so far away. Right now, Stupid seems a better adjective than Brave.
"And now you know one more person," Irishman holds out his hand. "I'm Cullen."
Ahhhhh! Hello there everyone! I am so disgusted that its taken me this long to update. But in my defense – new country! And I've taken to it a bit easier than I expected. Going out a lot and having lots of experiences that I intend to turn into chapters; stalkers, body shots and haunted scares!
But I have a routine now and I fully intend to write every day when the girls are napping. So hopefully updates three/four times a week!
Does anyone want EPOV? I was thinking of going one for one but I can make it all BPOV if you prefer.
I miss you guys. Traditional Rose xx