The curtains floated inward like ghosts as I walked the wide oak planks to the foot of the bed. The wrought iron bed seemed somehow incomplete without Deirdre’s boots beside it. Those boots, so out of place in this part of the Cape, they’d caught my attention. One heel resting provocatively on a stool’s middle rung. Glimpses of freckled legs between boots and skirt and red hair spilling over bare shoulders. I’d sat mesmerized as she tipped a Bud Light to her lips, then laughed at something Jimmy, the bartender, said. One of those opportunistic Emerald Islers drawn by the cash-crop of summer folk.
I’d come with someone else. My usual catch. A tourist from my charter boat. A preppy college girl, who wanted a chance with the sunburned local and was willing to overlook the lingering smell of fish. I didn’t mind being a fling, someone she could tell her fancy friends about. I didn’t even mind that my date kept glancing at another guy on the dance floor with a braided belt and loafers. Until I saw Deirdre.
Blaming my departure on an early morning start, I’d followed Deirdre outside. I found her blowing smoke into the fog and reached for her cigarette.
“Aren’t you forward,” she teased, in that erotic Irish lilt. She watched with amusement as I took a long draw. “Your date doesn’t smoke?”
I passed her cigarette back. “She’s just a friend.”
“So, what will you tell her when you leave with me?”
At my grandparent’s house, I gave Deirdre a beer and a tour of the cottage.
“Oh, I love this bed,” she said, ducking under the eaves to caress the black iron twists on the frame.
“I’m glad you like it,” I said, moving closer. “I like your boots.”
“Ta,” she said, sitting on the bed and raising a leg. “Aren’t they exquisite? I got them in Kentucky.”
For the rest of the season, we were inseparable. Deirdre nannying city brats, and me leading charters for the best fishing money could buy. We shared a disdain for the summer people, regaled each other with stories of their daily embarrassments. And when they were gone, we swam naked, the sunsets ours alone.
I started to believe I might marry this girl—that our shared work ethic would propel us to new heights. My Aunt, a realtor who grew more like the summer people with each house she sold, chided, “She’s too good for you,” but I knew she was also charmed.
As the days grew shorter, Deirdre persuaded me to come home with her to Ireland for Christmas. It was only when we turned down the driveway to her family’s estate that I realized she wasn’t like me at all.
“I hadn’t intended to stay so long…until I met you,” she whispered while her parents sidestepped me, as if I was something rotten just washed ashore.
“The money was good,” she said, flipping her hair, “but that’s not what’s most important.”
Easy for you to say, I thought.
How did I miss the signs of polish? The thick paperbacks she toted to the beach, the expensive toiletries filling my bathroom shelves. I’d been her own summer catch. Certainly no match for a girl who rode horses and attended Trinity. And there was no school waiting for me, only the endless expanse of blue.
Returning home in a bleak January, I discovered my aunt had convinced my parents to sell. They were headed to Florida and the lure of marlins.
I would have fought to hold on to the house for Deirdre but, now, it was just a tear-me-down for some rich schmuck, and I wondered if they’d keep the bed. It wouldn’t be easy to move.