I’ve decided to take the pickpocketing musicians, Patrick and Brian, up on their offer to see some live music down on Sheriff Street. While I’ve enjoyed the solitude of walking around a foreign city by myself, I haven’t really talked to anyone in days. Unless you count Kitty, but she handily forgets who I am each morning. Not exactly meaningful conversation. Not that I’m looking for a heart-to-heart with a couple of thieves, but part of this experience involves getting outside my comfort zone. Getting back in touch with old Willa, while learning who she can be on her own. Since I would normally rather saw off my own arm with a rusty blade than go out with the sole intention of making new friends, this is a huge step, especially without the crutch of Evan’s affable personality to help me.
Faith is watching me hopefully, and I know she’s fishing for an invite to wherever I’m going, be it a pub or the Moon. My first reaction is to just ask her along. I’ve been here a little over a week, and I’ve witnessed the girl working herself ragged. Waiting tables, cleaning rooms, stepping behind the bar when Orla has to take a phone call. Yet her personality never dips below a rapturous-sunshine level. I don’t know how she does it, and dammit, I kind of like her.
Still, I’m incredibly aware of Shane’s warning to stay away from his sister. It’s not that I don’t want to anger him—I’m afraid of what comes with that anger. Him getting up close and personal. More of his irritation directed at me. More of mine directed at him. We both appear to be volatile people, and I don’t want to find out what will happen if we get too close again. Just thinking about it gives me an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.
On top of this very valid reason not to risk The Wrath of Shane, part of me wonders if he’s right. If she and I become friends, will my returning to Chicago affect her somehow? The thought leaves me feeling uncomfortably crummy. Hurting Faith would be like kicking a puppy. Like kicking…Evan.
I don’t know if I can take on any more guilt without capsizing.
“I’m, uh…” Still trying to decide what to do about the situation, I sit down on the bed and shove my other foot into its boot. “Probably nothing. Just going to walk around, maybe catch some musi—”
“Oh, I love music. All kinds. Are you a line dancer? I Googled Nashville and it said right there on the computer that you all just love it. Did you know Colin Farrell used to teach Irish people how to line dance? I’m not making that up—I saw it on the telly. Can you imagine? Now he’s famous.” She sighs dreamily, and I think she’s finished talking. I’m trying to decide which part of that to respond to, when she starts up again. “Did you bring a cowboy hat along? Can I try it on? I reckon if I wore it in the pub, I’d make quite a splash. What do you think about that idea?”
“The cowboy hat.”
I shrug. “Fashion equals risk?”
Faith lets loose a bubbly laugh. “You’re gas, Willa.”
“Likewise.” I rise from the bed, knowing I can’t bring this girl out with me to hang with a couple of thieves, in a neighborhood I know nothing about. “Listen—”
“Sure! I’ll get my coat.” Her shoulders slump when she catches a glimpse of my expression. “Oh wait, you weren’t going to invite me?”
Shit. Watching as uncertainty replaces the sweet, outgoing attitude from seconds before, I feel like an epic ass**le. At that moment, I want to kick Shane. I also need to understand why this girl who is only one year younger than me apparently never gets out. I know it isn’t my business, but in that moment I don’t care. It seems depressing and unfair. Despite the resolve I’d arrived in Dublin with, the determination to remain detached, I can’t help wanting to fix this one little injustice. “It’s chilly out, so wear layers. That’s all I was going to say.”
A squeal traps itself inside her throat, but she struggles to looks serious. “Deadly. I’ll just meet you ’round back, then.”
I nod, then frown. “Wait, why around back and not in front?”
“To avoid Shane, of course,” she calls over her shoulder, all businesslike now.
I’m pretty sure I’ve just been had.
Nighttime Dublin whizzes past as our black cab maneuvers in and out of traffic through slim gaps between taxis and pedestrians. We fly over the Liffey on one of the many bridges spanning its dark, calm length. Droves of people pass in front of the cab every time we stop at a red light, but as we get closer to our destination, those crowds begin to thin.
Before I can express my concern, Faith distracts me with her easy chatter. “You’ll have met our ma by now, so. What did you think of her? She’s off her trolley, isn’t she?”
“Off her trolley?”
“Senile. Crazy. Gone ’round the bend.”
“Aha.” I shake my head. Faith is growing on me rather quickly, especially after that stunt she pulled back in my room. I’m keeping an eye on her now. “Maybe. But a lot can be overlooked when someone brings you toast in the morning.”
She smiles. “Who do you think makes the toast?”
“Shane.” Her right leg starts to jiggle. “He doesn’t like her operating the toaster. Or anything with a plug attached.”
I don’t know why, but the fact that I’ve been eating toast prepared by Shane’s distinctly masculine hands makes me simultaneously mad and anxious. “Oh. How does he plan to stop her once he leaves?”
Faith shrugs. “I suppose I’ll just do it.” Her legs stops bouncing. “How did you know Shane was leaving us?”
Okay, I really need to stop letting my guard down around Faith. She’s a lot smarter and more observant than I’ve given her credit for. “I think Kitty mentioned it one morning in passing.” Sure, Willa. Pin it on the crazy lady. Class-y.
She watches me curiously for a moment. “She must have been having one of her good days. Most of the time she pretends Shane never left in the first place.”
For some reason, that makes my throat ache. “Maybe he’ll change his mind,” I say offhandedly, praying she’ll change the subject. I don’t want to know any more about this family than I already do. Every new piece of this dysfunctional jigsaw puzzle that slips into place adds to my curiosity.
“Not bloody likely,” Faith answers brightly. “He has a need. A need for speed.”
“Top Gun. Nice.”
She stares back at me blankly.
Our cab pulls up in front of O’Kelly’s on Sheriff Street. Faith reaches for her wallet, presumably to pay the cab driver, but I reach over and stop her. I’ve heard the expression “dive bar” many times and have at least a passing idea of what they look like. That term is pitifully inadequate to describe this run-down excuse for a legal establishment. Watching two men pour out onto the sidewalk trading punches, I heave a laugh. “Oh, no. No. Keep driving, please.”
Faith gasps. “But we came all the way here. Surely we can have just one drink.”
“Not in there we can’t.”
She glances over my shoulder, her conviction wavering before my eyes. “It looks grand to me. You can’t blame the lads for working out their troubles amongst themselves. They even had the decency to go outside. That’s all you can reasonably hope for.”