The departure of the English couple in Suite 602 concluded the Monday morning checkout rush. The uniformed doorman, a streetwise Dubliner older than Moses, rolled their bags to a taxi and helped the driver load them into the boot. After subtly pocketing the guests’ gratuity, the doorman saw them off with a tip of his sleek black hat.
Andy watched from his station behind the polished reception desk. Eager to be gone himself, he tapped a pile of papers together and tidied the workspace. His shift ended in ten minutes. Once his replacement took over, he would make his escape to County Mayo for a long overdue visit home. He eyed the door to the Catering & Events office.
“Leavin’ from here?”
Andy jumped. He hadn’t heard the doorman return. “I am, Brendan. My rucksack is in the back office. My ride will be here any sec.”
Brendan’s grin displayed his even, pearly teeth. He’d told Andy he’d had them capped years ago, after he’d emerged victorious from a nasty pub brawl. “Best man at your father’s weddin’. An honor, lad.” He leaned over the desk, glancing left and right, though no one else was in the lobby. “If you’re short on singers, ’twould be no botheration at all to venture into the wild west and render a song or two for the happy couple. ’Tis ages since I’ve visited Westport and the lovely County Mayo.” He jiggled his bushy gray eyebrows. “Weddin’s are my speciality, y’know.”
Not for the first time, Brendan’s rascally humor triggered chuckles in Andy. “I believe you’ve mentioned it once or twice.”
When Brendan wasn’t conducting his concierge and doorman duties, he was either bragging about his decades of singing at various social gatherings or filling the lobby with tunes. Oftentimes, Andy sang with him, delighting the old man with his knowledge of vintage songs and harmonies.
Brendan took a deep breath and sang: “Says I, ‘My lovely colleen, I am tired of single life, and if you've no objections I will make you my sweet wife.’”
He pointed to Andy, who came in right on time. “Says she, ‘I'll ask my parents, and tomorrow you shall know…’”
They finished together in harmony. “…if you’ll meet me in the garden where the praties grow.”
Brendan reached across the desk and clapped Andy’s shoulder. “Good lad! I’m startin’ to think you know more songs than I do.”
“I doubt that, Brendan.”
“Still and all, keep me in mind if you want your da’s wedding to be a grand affair altogether.”
“I will,” Andy said, though he knew Brendan seldom ventured far from Dublin. “We could put you up somewhere, I’m sure.”
“Saturday night, is it?” Brendan rubbed his chin, as if he were seriously considering it. “I suppose you’ll be on the razz, bein’ home and all. Have a good time, but mind yourself. I’m off for a quick cuppa while it’s quiet. Toora, lad.” Humming away, Brendan breezed beneath the gilded arch to the hotel’s restaurant.
Andy glanced at the office door again. The last time he’d gone home to Westport, his witless friends had made snide comments about him being twenty-seven years of age and having no steady girl.
“Ignore them,” his father had said. “When the apple is ripe, it will fall. You’ve plenty of time. Wear out a few pairs of shoes and finish your schooling before you tie the knot there’s no untying.”
Good advice, as always, yet Andy desperately wanted to bring a date to the wedding. His family was gathering from all over Ireland. The Yanks from the States would be there as well. No better time to let them all know he had the attention of someone as fine as Orla.
Since he’d come to work in Dublin, he’d dated several young women he’d met through mutual friends. Comely girls all, well-formed and trim. He was hardly a rogue who’d divert a girl from her proper path, though he’d done the gripping and the groaning with a few of them. Yet he favored Orla, one of the hotel’s food and beverage assistants, a bosomy, buttery blonde with long, red nails, sky-blue eyes, and a spring-loaded jiggle that frequently left him harder than Irish grammar. When he pictured her holding his arm at the wedding, he smiled.
Orla, however, seemed to enjoy playing hard to get. Each time he’d asked her out, she would say she was busy, though he saw right through her. She liked him too, he knew it, could sense it from her glances and the way she pretended she cared not a pin for him.
The lobby was quiet. He steeled himself and left the desk. As he raised his hand to knock on her office door, it opened. Simon stepped out. His appearance startled Andy. What would Simon be doing in the catering office?
“Hey, Andy. All set to go?” Simon’s clipped Romanian accent failed to hide his overly angelic tone. He straightened his tie and shot a glance at a well-dressed businesswoman who’d entered the lobby, carry-on bag in tow.
Andy glanced at her too. “I have to change. You’re on, Simon.” Leaving Simon to deal with the guest, Andy entered the catering office.
Orla stood beside the chair, a mirror in one hand, a tube of lipstick in the other. She barely glanced at Andy. “Oh, hi. What’s up?”
Hanky panky in the ranks. “I wanted to talk to you about the wedding,” he said, feeling he might still have a chance.
“What wedding?” She continued her primping. “Oh, right. Your mother’s getting married.”
“My father, actually. This Saturday night. I was wondering…”
“Orla?” Simon had stuck his head in the door. “See you tonight?”
Her radiant smile charred Andy’s hopes. “Yes. I’ll be ready at eight.”
Simon backed out. Orla tucked the lipstick and mirror into the purse on the desk. “What were you wondering, Andy?”
Why was he such a dolt? He’d been so sure she liked him. Blind in one eye and unable to see with the other. “Um, is there anything special I should keep in mind about the wedding reception? The caterers, the food. Any tips?”
“Do you have a wedding planner?”
“Probably, knowing my father.”
“Then you’re all set. Have a good time. Oh, and wish your mother all the best for me.”
“It’s my—” Andy sighed. “Thanks.”
Maybe she thought him too much of a geek. Most girls did, when he told them he’d earned a degree in computer science. Lately he’d stopped telling anyone, though Orla knew because they worked together. But there was more to him than that. He was a passable athlete, he had a decent sense of humor, and he could sing a song or two. So why did the girls seem to go for foreigners like Simon?
Andy tramped to the back office and changed. Since his jacket and tie needed cleaning anyway, he stuffed them into his rucksack. Gary, his sister’s boyfriend, would be along any minute. Sure enough, when Andy returned to the lobby, Gary was there, chatting with Simon.
“Right on time,” Andy said, willing his gaze to annihilate Simon.
“Hey, Andy,” Gary said. “Let’s go. I’m parked in the taxi stand, and I don’t want the drivers after me.” He turned for the door, setting his dark red ponytail swinging between his shoulders. “We’re early enough that we’ll be out of town before we’re caught in the afternoon rush. We have one quick stop to make first, though.”
Andy caught up to him. “One quick stop for what?”
Behind them, Brendan’s voice pealed forth in song. “And my heart’s in the cottage in County Mayo. Home to Mayo, home to Mayo—”
Andy silently finished the line: Someone is waiting for me I know.