It was raining when Kate Sullivan left Mercy Hospital. She was exhausted after her 12-hour shift, a bit short-tempered and very sweaty. All she wanted was to get home, peel off her scrubs, shower and go to sleep.
Usually Kate walked the seven long city blocks to her apartment in Soho just to clear her head, grabbing a donut on the way. Even after a nightmare of a shift, walking was better than riding the New York subway. Her Crocs and scrubs had been splattered with enough bodily fluids at the hospital; she had no desire to be subjected to the lascivious Neanderthals who rode the train.
But walking home this morning in the pouring rain was not an option. Stepping out from under the protective awning of the hospital, Kate hailed a taxi. As if by magic, one appeared almost instantly. “Thank God” she sighed, praying the cabbie wasn’t one of those chipper talkative types. She just wanted someone to drive her home in silence.
“Good mornin’ to ya, miss. And where might ya be goin’?” The cheerful driver’s greeting sounded like angels singing.
Kate groaned quietly and rolled her eyes. “I might be going home if you’d just start driving’’ was her clipped response.
“Yer wish is my command! Where to?” the cabbie asked, undeterred. In a matter-of-fact voice Kate gave the driver her address.
“I’ll have ya there in a jiffy!” he replied and began humming a tune, one which was vaguely familiar to Kate but she couldn’t place it.
How could anyone be so cheerful at the ungodly hour of 5:00 AM? Kate glanced over at the cabbie’s ID card taped to the tinted plexiglass that separated the front and back seats. She read his name was Declan O’Murphy; could it be any more Irish? His photo depicted a rather handsome man, probably early-thirties with tousled brown hair and a shadow of a beard. He wore a somewhat serious expression but there were deep dimples threatening to break out, almost as though he had a private joke to share. His eyes stared back at Kate and she felt goosebumps doing a jitterbug up and down her arms.
Kate sat back in her seat, took out her phone and quickly checked her schedule. Damn! Another 12-hour shift tomorrow night. She peeked over the top of her phone to steal a glimpse of the driver and immediately looked away when she saw he was looking at her in the rearview mirror. He grinned broadly showing dazzling white teeth. He looked extraordinarily handsome.
“Are ya a doctor, then?” he asked, eyes dancing.
“Pfft!” Kate exclaimed. “No, I work a lot harder than most doctors I know. I’m an ER nurse; just came off an all-nighter and have another one tomorrow.”
Declan whistled and pushed his cap back a bit. “ER. That’s pretty heavy-duty stuff now, ain’t it? Well, I’ll leave ya be; just relax. OK if I put on some music?”
Kate shrugged and mumbled “whatever”; she found herself smiling slightly at Declan’s charming Irish accent. She was surprised when rock music filled the taxi. Kate recognized the song as the same one Declan was humming and found she really liked what she was hearing. She was sure she’d heard it before but just couldn’t place it.
She leaned forward a little, talking over the music. “I like this song a lot. Who is it?” she asked.
Declan jokingly gasped and smacked his hand across his chest as though mortally wounded. “Ya can’t be seriously tellin’ me ya don’t know the best rock group to come out of Ireland? Why, this is the one and only Thin Lizzy. Here … take a look at this” and he passed Kate the jacket for the CD ‘Jailbreak’ through an opening in the plexiglass. “That there’s the great singer Phil Lynott, gone too soon like so many before and after him.”
Kate really enjoyed the CD, especially “The Boys Are Back in Town” and before she knew it they had arrived at her apartment building. Was that disappointment she was feeling?
“Here we are, safe and sound”. Declan offered to walk Kate to the front door with an umbrella but she said that wasn’t necessary and asked how much she owed him for the ride. They settled up and Kate made a dash for the front door. Declan watched her disappear into the building, then drove off in search of another fare.
It wasn’t until Kate was in her apartment that she realized she still had the CD jewel case. She frowned wondering how she’d be able to get it back to Declan. He only had her address, not her name or apartment number and she didn’t notice which cab company he worked for. “Well, I’ll think of something” she thought. “Right now I need a shower and sleep.”
When she was done, Kate got into bed, reached for her phone and clicked the YouTube app, searching for Thin Lizzy. She fell asleep listening to ‘Jailbreak’.
The following night her shift was just as hectic as the night before. At 5:00AM, dog tired, achy and hungry, Kate left the hospital for her trek home. No rain today and the pre-dawn streets were still deserted except for an occasional car and the lights from a 24/7 donut shop. She was about to stop for a sweet chocolate glazed when she heard two short honks from a nearby car. Looking over her shoulder she recognized Declan’s taxi and immediately smiled.
The window slid down and Declan’s sing-song voice rang out: “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, lassie. Might ya be lookin’ fer a ride home?”
Kate laughed and walked to the cab. Easing into the back seat, she teased Declan a bit, asking if he was hoping to find her or his CD case. Now it was Declan’s turn to laugh. ”Could be I was hoping to find both.”
They exchanged friendly banter all the way to her building; there was even a little flirting going on. Kate asked herself if she could be falling for this guy after two short rides in his cab. What was really weird was she never got a clear look at Declan but she realized to her amazement that didn’t matter. For once she was attracted to a guy for his personality, the things he said, his sense of humor and his appealing Irish accent – not his looks. Usually that was the first thing that drew her to a man but this was different.
“Hey, Declan, you know what I just realized? You don’t know my name!”
“Well, I was hopin’ you’d tell me cos I have something to ask ya” he replied.
“My name is Kate. Kate Sullivan. What do you want to ask me, Declan?”
“Ah, a wee bit o’ the Irish in ya, is there? I knew it! Well, Katie, there’s a Thin Lizzy cover band playing tomorrow night at Paddy Maguire’s and I was thinkin’ it would be grand if we went together.”
Kate didn’t hesitate for a second. “I think it would be grand as well. I’d love to go, Declan. I want to get to know more about you.”
“Aye, Katie, that you will. I’ll pick you up right here tomorrow night at 8:00. And, Katie – my friends call me Murph.”
No one ever called her “Katie”; she felt little butterflies in her stomach when Declan called her that.
Kate wanted to look great for her date but didn’t want to look like she tried too hard. She chose a sunny yellow camisole, her favorite pair of skinny jeans and dangerously high-heeled sandals. She hoped Declan would appreciate her look.
At that same moment Declan sat in his taxi waiting for Kate; he was so nervous he got there 20 minutes early. This was a bold move for him, rarely acting so impulsively, but he felt he and Kate clicked after spending only half an hour riding in his cab. He thought about his grandparents who met on a train in Belfast and were madly in love by the time they reached Dublin. He hoped Kate wouldn’t be disappointed.
When Kate spotted Declan’s cab, she stopped for a minute to compose herself; she hadn’t been this excited about a date in eons. It was crazy – she barely knew the guy. Declan saw her standing in the doorway of her apartment building and his heart started pounding; she looked amazing, so understated yet elegant.
Kate started approaching the cab. “Well, it’s showtime, boyo” Declan whispered to himself as he got out of the cab and walked around the front to greet Kate.
“Wow! You’re a fine thing tonight, Katie!” Declan said breathlessly.
Kate stared at Declan in disbelief. “And you’re … you’re …”
“Ah, so you’ve noticed I’m a little person, have ya? All 4 foot, 5 inches of me.” Declan gave her a crooked smile. “Achondroplasia; I’m sure yer familiar. Katie girl, if this is a deal-breaker, I understand.”
All Kate could do was stare. Neither one spoke. Kate laughed nervously and said “Yeah, this is quite a surprise. Oh, damn! I just remembered something.”
Before Declan could respond, Kate ran back into her building. “Well, I suppose that’s it then, ya eejit! Shoulda said something before now!” he chastised himself. He shoved his hands in his pockets and started walking back to his side of the cab.
“Murph! Wait!” It was Kate calling out to him. Declan turned around to see Kate running back to the taxi. Catching her breath she said “Here. I forgot your CD case.”
Taking the case from her outstretched hand, the first thing Declan noticed was Kate had switched her high heels for flat sandals. He looked up at her and she smiled broadly.
“Declan O’Murphy, if you think a little thing like this is going to change how I feel about you, you’re dead wrong. Now drive. Our night is just beginning.”
NAR © 2022