I was eight when I first felt Ireland calling out to me, and it took me twenty-five years to finally begin the adventure that I had spent my life planning.
I flew into Dublin and had just boarded the train that would take me to the coast when Finn found me. It was a single moment in time. A harmless question that forever altered the plans I had spent my life making.
“Excuse me, lass. Is this seat taken?”
He spoke with a thick Irish accent and had a strong jawline, accented with just the right amount of stubble. His dark hair curled over his ears and hung around his face in an untamed fashion, and he had green eyes that I firmly believe even the Loch Ness Monster would travel to Ireland to swim in.
Before I could respond, he sat down across from me and propped his feet up on the seat next to me.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” He asked, nodding to the window.
“Huh? Oh… Yes. It’s beautiful.” I realized that I had been staring at him.
A grin tugged at his lips, but he stopped it from forming. “American, eh?”
“Um… Yeah,” I admitted, self-consciously.
“Let me guess. You finally saved up and fulfilled your lifelong dream of riding the rail ‘round Europe?”
I laughed. “Well, just Ireland, but otherwise, yeah. Bit of a cliché, I guess, huh?”
He chuckled pleasantly. “Nah. Lucky guess.”
“Sure,” I said, knowing better. “What about you?”
“Me? I ride de rails lookin’ for pretty American girls to charm wit m' Irish accent,” he said, exaggerating his own accent.
I laughed, suspecting it was at least partially true and tried to ignore the fluttery feeling in my stomach from being called pretty.
“You a photographer?” I asked, nodding to the camera bag next to him as I sipped my tea.
He nodded almost imperceptibly. “Something like that.”
He sat with me for the entire trip to Galway, regaling me with stories of traveling around Europe, and I told him about my lifelong dream to see the coast of Ireland.
He was careful to avoid sharing personal details, but I surmised from what he did share of himself that he was a freelance writer and photographer and did not feel tied down to any one place or schedule. I found myself envying him.
He walked me to my hotel, and we sat together in the bar talking. I found myself being uncharacteristically charmed by his unusual mixture of guarded introspection and relaxed humor.
After a few hours, I was exhausted from beer and travel, and he helped me carry my bags to my room. He leaned against the door frame just inside the room and crossed his arms across his chest, watching me quietly before speaking.
“Tell me, lass. What made you desperate enough to come here all by your lonesome?"
I frowned, repeating those two words in my mind. Desperate. Lonesome.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” I replied, guardedly.
He unfolded his arms invitingly and spoke softly. “Try me.”
I shrugged, trying to find the words. “My whole life I felt somehow... tied to this place.”
I paused, searching for understanding in his face. “Like my soul was longing to be here–” I sighed. “I sound like a loon.”
He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “Not a complete loon.”
He stepped toward me and then paused, looking at me for a long moment before stopping. “Goodnight, Liz.”
I furrowed my brow at him. “Goodnight, Finn.”
I had not wanted him to stay, but I didn't want him to leave either. Though I had known him only a few hours, I had the same sense of being tied to Finn that I had always had with Ireland, and I had hoped he would give me some sign that we would see each other again.
I feared that he would disappear from my life as quickly as he had come, and I found sleep elusive and fitful. My fears were soon eased, though, when he knocked on my door early in the morning, inviting me to breakfast.
I held the door only slightly ajar in front of me in an attempt to hide my messy hair and bare legs. I agreed to meet him for breakfast, and as I closed the door, his eyes examined me, and a grin tugged at his lips.
After breakfast, he offered to show me around for the day. I accepted, telling myself it would be good to have a local show me around, but I knew that was not the real reason that I welcomed his company so readily.
I assumed that he would show me some sights around the city and, if I was lucky, maybe a pub in the evening. I was wrong. I soon found myself standing in front of him as he sat on a motorcycle, grinning up at me.
He held out his hand for me. “Don't you trust me, lass?”
I nervously took his hand and grinned back at him. “Not a chance.”
I huddled against his back for a couple of hours, marveling at the sights that zipped past us as we whipped through the misty countryside.
He stopped on the top of a cliff that overlooked the ocean, and I stood next to him with my eyes closed, breathing it in.
He led me down a narrow pathway, and I soon found myself standing beside him in a cove, surrounded by only rock and water.
I breathed deeply as the waves crashed in front of me, spraying my face with salt. I watched Finn as he stared out at the waves with the wind whipping through his hair and jacket.
He slowly turned and smiled at me. His eyes were the same dense green as the water, and the sun reflected off red highlights in his hair. He stood firm against the wind, peaceful, like he belonged to that place. I wanted to belong there, too.
“Follow me,” he motioned to the water in front of us.
I warily followed him as he hopped from one rock to the next deeper into the water. We followed the shoreline as it curved around the cliff, stopping on a large boulder in front of me, surrounded by water and the rock face in front of him.
I watched in wonder as he slid his hand along the smooth stone face of the cliff, before jumping off of the rock. He disappeared around the corner of the cliff with a light splash, and I stared incredulously after him.
“Finn?” I called out with growing apprehension.
He leaned around the corner with only his head visible. He was grinning and reached his hand around the corner to me.
“What’s wrong, lass? Don’t you trust me?”
“Not a chance,” I grinned back at him, taking his hand.
I took a deep breath and ran my hand along the cliff as I jumped. As my feet left the rock, he firmly pulled me toward him, guiding me around the corner. He wrapped his arms around my waist, steadying me.
I held onto him as I waited for my heartbeat to slow. He was tall and agile, but as he held onto me, I also felt his strength. He slowly released me, and I self-consciously adjusted my sweater hem, trying not to think about how good his arms felt around me.
He grinned and looked around. “Well?”
I became aware of my surroundings and turned in slow circles, mesmerized. The water had carved out the middle of the cliff and formed a small cave that was shaped like a bowl that had been tilted on its side.
It curved around our sides as well as over our heads, blocking out the wind and view from above but allowing the sun to peek through. It shone down on us, warming my wind-chilled bones, and I felt as though the cliff had reached out and embraced us in its stony arms.
I looked at the waves crashing just beyond our feet and bit my lip, imagining the tide rising around us, filling the cave with us in it.
He read my mind. “We have about four hours before the tide becomes a problem. But you might not be able to escape with dry feet on the way back.”
I shrugged and closed my eyes, smiling as I breathed in the salty air. I didn’t care if we had to swim our way out. There was no other place in the world I would rather have been than in that cave with Finn.
I was aware of him watching me, and I shivered, realizing I was hidden from the world in a secret cave with a man I had just met, but it was not fear or a chill that sent shivers down my back.
“It’s breathtaking," I said softly as I looked up at him.
He grinned and pulled a blanket from his bag, laying it on the ground. He then withdrew a bottle of Merlot and some small cakes and sandwiches.
I watched silently, wondering if a picnic with wine meant the same thing in Ireland. He poured wine into a tin camping mug as I sat next to him.
He locked eyes with me as he sipped the wine and, then, offered me the cup. I smiled self-consciously as I drank from his mug with him watching me.
I felt as though he could see right through me and read my thoughts, and heat rushed to my cheeks as I held his gaze, allowing myself to be vulnerable to him.
After a long moment, he smiled and slowly looked away, pointing to the west of us, “I grew up a little farther west of here. Spent my youth exploring these cliffs and caves.”
I followed his gaze, sensing the meaning behind his words. It was the first time he had volunteered something of his past, of himself. I knew that he had chosen to trust me, to allow himself to be vulnerable to me.
I nibbled my lip nervously as I slowly moved closer to him. I sensed him watching me, but I stared out at the water as I huddled against him.
“Thank you for bringing me here, Finn.”
“Well, you know, I bring all the girls here,” he said, shielding himself with humor.
I turned and kissed him softly on the cheek, whispering into his ear, knowingly. "Not all the girls."
He paused, looking at me before laughing softly. “Nah. Guess I don’t.”
We sat together for a long while, eventually eating and sharing more wine. When the sun sank lower in the sky, he wrapped his arm around me, sharing his warmth.
“Couple more places I could show you tomorrow… If you’re flexible.” He spoke carefully, hopefully.
I smiled and closed my eyes. “I’m flexible,” I whispered.
He stood, gently pulling me up with him, and wrapped his arms firmly around my waist. He leaned down and paused just before our lips met, looking into my eyes.
"You trust me, lass?"
I grinned, my heart racing. “Not a chance.”
He smiled. “Good.”
I melted into him, barely noticing the water that washed over our feet as he kissed me.
I yelped softly when he lifted me into his arms and carried me through the water. He set me down gently on the boulder at the entrance to the cave.
I waited there for him as he waded back through the steadily rising water to retrieve our bags, and I knew that if he would ask me, I would happily follow him wherever he led me.
As we stood on the beach, watching the sunset together, he took my hand in his, and I leaned against him, sharing my warmth with him.
I finally understood that it had been more than the land that had been calling out to me. It was not a place that my soul had been longing for.
About the Creator
Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose
Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker
Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker
Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer
Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love