My St. Patrick’s Day started like ever other day. I awoke in my small, dreary apartment to the sound of my leaky bathroom faucet dripping slowly. I sighed and then I crawled out of bed and put on my green-colored clothes because it was St. Patrick’s Day. I pinned a small, round button on my sweater which said, KISS ME I’M IRISH! I was only going into the office, but I thought maybe Charles would notice it, and that old spark of excitement would return to his eyes.
I grabbed a container of strawberry yogurt, and headed out the door. On the first floor of our building, I literally ran into my neighbor, Jack Diehl. He was coming out of his apartment reading a book as I hurried by, trying to eat my breakfast on the run. Neither of us saw the other until it was too late.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, as I tried to catch my tumbling container of yogurt.
After reaching down to pick up his book, Jack smiled a warm smile, and insisted the accident had been all his fault.
That wasn’t the truth, but I didn’t have time to stand around and disagree with him. I mumbled, “That’s okay,” and raced to the door, leaving Jack standing there with his mouth open as if he were about to continue the conversation.
My old car made its way into the city, until I arrived at my usual parking space.
My legs were sore as I walked up the stairs because they hadn’t yet recovered from the aerobics class I’d started two days earlier. Our old building had two sets of elevators, and both were out of order. “I need a change!” I muttered, thinking of how each day seemed a little worse than the one before.
“Denise,” my friend, Claire, said. She tapped my shoulder, as I pulled my swivel chair out from my desk and sat down. “His majesty wants you in his office. Now!” she said, rolling her eyes. Claire also lived in the same building I did.
His majesty was Charles Baldwin, our department head, and my boyfriend for the past seven months. He was the best-looking guy in our office. He was so gorgeous, and he was popular with all the girls.
In our department, however, Charles’s good looks couldn’t make up for the demanding boss that he was.
“I’d expected those new account reports on my desk yesterday,” he said, barely looking up from the papers in front of him, as I walked into his office.
“They’ll be ready today,” I told him, annoyed that he was so cold. “You didn’t tell me that you needed them yesterday. They would’ve been here,” I tried to say in a forceful voice.
Charles and I had agreed when we’d started dating, that our working relationship would not change. But lately, I felt as if Charles expected twice as much work from me as he did from the others in our department. It seemed that nothing I did was right.
As I turned to leave, I remembered that we had plans to go to a small, Irish pub that evening. We had been planning our St. Patrick’s Day date for a long time. We had decided that we would stand in line for several hours, if that’s what it took to get into the little pub that was known for its good food and great music.
“What time are we going this evening?” I asked.
Charles stood and turned to face the file cabinet that was behind him. “About tonight,” he said.
He didn’t need to finish. I knew he was canceling our date again, but he continued and muttered some excuse about helping his sister and her husband to install new living-room carpeting. I knew it was a lie.
He turned back to face me. “And take that silly thing off!” he said, pointing to the small, green pin I’d placed on my sweater, hoping to perk him up.
My eyes began to sting with tears, but I fought to hold them in. If Claire saw me leaving Charles’s office upset again, I was afraid she’d march in and throw a large stack of his precious account folders at him.
I grabbed the doorknob and began to pull, just as Cecily Dawson stepped in. She’d started work six weeks before, and my heart went out to her. She looked so young, and I guessed that it was her first job. It’s too bad she’s been placed under the supervision of such a tyrant as Charles Baldwin, I thought, as I left the room.
I headed straight for the water cooler hoping Claire wouldn’t notice me. She couldn’t believe that I was still seeing Charles after what a jerk he’d been. In fact, Claire couldn’t believe I’d ever started dating him. “He’s not your type, Denise,” she’d said, shocked when I’d first told her I was going out with him.
She was absolutely right. Charles wasn’t the type of man I’d usually gone out with. That had been one of the reasons I’d found him so attractive I was the girl who’d barely had a date through high school, and things really never improved. I’d been known for turning bright red if any reasonably good-looking guy even spoke to me.
When Charles had first asked me out, I’d nearly fainted. I couldn’t believe that this handsome guy, who could have his pick of any girl in the office, was interested in me.
I’d forced myself to remain calm, and for once I’d manged to throw my shyness aside and accepted his offer.
As I went back to my desk, Claire stopped me and asked if I was plat going to the St. Patrick’s Day party that was being held in the party room of our apartment building that evening.
“I don’t think so,” I whined, still wounded by Charles’s words.
Despite the condition of our old apartment building, the tenants had decided to all pitch in and go to work refinishing the party room. We usually had a party for every possible occasion, making sure our hard work had been for a good cause.
“Why not?” Claire asked.
“I thought I’d stay at home and work on that leaky faucet,” I told her, trying not to sound whiny. I didn’t want another lecture about how I should stop seeing Charles.
“Yeah. You sure wouldn’t want to go out to some stupid, little party when you could be at home working on your plumbing!” she said.
I had to smile. Claire always had a way of making me smile. I guess that’s why she’d been my best friend since fourth grade.
“I’ll stop by for you,” she said. “We’ll go down to the party room together.” She finished her sentence, and walked before I had a chance to refuse.
I knew it would be a good idea to go to the party. Charles certainly wouldn’t be sitting at home all evening.
Then I remembered Jack Diehl. He’d only moved in three months before. Claire was always telling me what an interesting guy he was. According to her, he’d been all over the world to study sea animals, and then he wrote about his findings. He’d started teaching a course about his work at our local university.
I decided I’d like to talk to Jack. I was also very interested in sea animals. I’d even taken some courses in sea farming at the university. Of course, I didn’t know interested Jack would be in talking with me. After all, how exciting could I make my boring job sound to someone who’d traveled all over the world and really experienced life?
Claire and I decided to go to the little diner across the street for lunch. I usually had lunch with Charles, but ever since he become so distant, he preferred to stay at his desk and eat.
I tried not to think about him, as we prepared to leave. I knew he had a great deal of responsibility as supervisor of our entire department. He’d probably been overworked lately, I decided.
Claire noticed Cecily Dawson sitting at her desk behind a tall stack of folders as we headed for the door. “Do you think we should ask her to come along?” Claire asked.
I nodded, once again feeling sorry for the young woman. She looked like she could really use a break.
“Thanks. But I can’t,” Cecily said in a whispery voice. “If I leave my desk, I’ll never finish all of this.” She pointed to the papers piled up in front of her.
Claire and I shook our heads in disbelief as we left the building. We couldn’t believe that Charles had given her so much work.
After we each ordered soups and salads, Claire filled me in on the details of the party our neighbors had planned. There were going to be plenty of games, and it was going to be a lot of fun.
Our conversation was going fine, until Claire asked me if I wanted to invite Charles. I told her he was going to be busy and wouldn’t be able to make it. She suddenly remembered Charles and I had been planning our St. Patrick’s Day date for a long time.
“What excuse did he give you this time?” she asked, as she buttered one of the hot rolls that had come with our lunch.
“He’s helping his sister,” I said.
“Sure he is!”
We ate without talking for a few minutes, until Claire felt that it was her responsibility to warn me about Charles again.
“He can’t be trusted, Denise,” she said. “Remember Debra Fulton and Susan DeMayo?”
I nodded. Charles had been dating Debra when I started working there. Everyone in the office expected the two of them to get married. They seemed so happy together. Then all of a sudden Debra started showing up for work nervous and upset, and she’d break into tears at the least little thing. That lasted about two weeks, and then she told us she was leaving work.
Susan was gorgeous. She started about a week after Debra’s departure. It was obvious to all of us that she and Charles were an item right from the beginning. They were both so good looking. Everyone thought for sure they were a match made to last. But after a few months, there seemed to be trouble in paradise. Then Susan shocked us with the announcement that she was quitting her job and going to marry an actor from our town.
“But we don’t know what really happened with Debra and Susan,” I said. “It could have been just as much their fault as Charles’s,” I argued, trying to defend him.
Claire just rolled her eyes and sighed loudly.
Charles had asked me out a few weeks after Susan had left. I’d figured he wouldn’t want more than one date with me anyway, so I was safe. On our first evening together, I’d made it a point to ask Charles what had happened with Debra and Susan. He’d tried to explain, but he got so upset that he couldn’t. I’d figured he’d been truly hurt by those breakups. So when he asked me out again, I accepted.
The first few months we were seeing each other, Charles was wonderful. He always made sure we were doing things that I enjoyed doing, and going places that I liked to go. When he began to change, and insisted on planning all of our dates around the things he liked to do, I had no complaints. After all, we’d been doing everything my way for some time. The real trouble started, when Charles began canceling our dates at the last minute, or didn’t show up for them at all. And when we were out together, he seemed distant and cold. On the job, he’d become more demanding than ever.
Maybe I’m not the only one who needs a change, I thought. Charles had been working awfully hard. He could probably use a nice, relaxing vacation away from the hectic pace of work.
After we finished lunch and started back across the street, Claire told me that Jack Diehl had been awarded a grant from the government to study animals in the Atlantic Ocean. She said he’d be taking off once again at the end of the summer. This time to spend a year aboard a boat.
“Now, that’s a life,” I said, thinking of how Jack would be out in the vast, blue ocean carrying on his work.
As soon as I reach the office, I thought, I’ll march right in and suggest to Charles that we take our vacations and head south where we can find some hot, sandy beach to lounge on.
Charles’s door was closed when I reached it. That was his signal that he didn’t want to be disturbed, but I felt my news was too important to wait. I was hoping that he’d become as enthused about a vacation as I was.
I knocked once and then quickly pushed the door open. I don’t know who was more surprised, Charles and Cecily, or me. Cecily was perched comfortably on Charles’s lap. Apparently, she and the boss had decided her large stack of work didn’t need to be completed so quickly after all.
Cecily slowly slid off Charles’s lap and slipped out of the room with a smile of satisfaction on her face.
“Denise,” Charles said. “Come in and sit down. Please.”
But I didn’t feel like sitting down. I felt more like walking over and knocking Charles off his chair and onto the floor!
“That won’t be necessary,” I told him, trying to keep my voice from cracking or the tears from starting. “There’s no explanation for the way you behave, and I don’t want to hear anything you have to say!” I walked out of his office, and slammed the door as hard as I could.
Everyone was staring at me with looks of sympathy on their faces. I guess they didn’t have to be geniuses to figure out what had just happened. Claire rushed over and started to put her arm around my shoulder, but I stopped her.
“I won’t be seeing Charles any longer I told her. I walked to my desk, sat down and started working.
That evening as I dressed for the partyI tried not to think of Charles and Cecily but of how I was going to fulfill the promise I’d made to myself.
Maybe I can go back to school and continue my studies in sea farming, I thought. Or maybe, I can move to a new town, start a new job, and meet new people.
I was concentrating on all of my options when the doorbell rang. I wondered who it could be. It was still too early for Claire to be stopping by.
I was surprised to find a deliveryman standing there with a large arrangement of flowers. “Denise Madison?” he asks
“Yes,” I said, and he handed me the large bouquet.
I ripped open the tiny envelope, anxious to find out who had sent them. The card read: Sorry about bumping into you this morning. I hope you’re coming to the party tonight. It will make my St. Patrick’s Day something special if you’re there, Jack Diehl.
I took out a vase and began putting flowers in it. I weaved the delicate baby’s breath and tiny shamrocks among them. It was a beautiful arrangement, and a very special one. I actually began to feel that a different and exciting life was possible me.
When Claire arrived, I was dressed in green and had placed a small flower from Jack’s bouquet in my hair.
“Wow!” she said. “You look great!”
“I feel great,” I announced, as Claire studied me with surprise.
“What’s this?” she asked, noticing flowers.
I handed her the card to read for herself.
She didn’t say a thing. She just smiled and I knew she was happy for me.
As we started for the door, I asked her to wait a minute. I ran back to my room and grabbed the small pin I’d worn to work that day. Maybe Charles didn’t appreciate my St. Patrick’s Day enthusiasm, but someone else might.
That evening, my life really did change. Jack was so kind and sensitive. Between games, he explained his work to me, and I was pleased to find that the classes I’d taken did help me to keep up with him. He also listened carefully as I explained what a fool I’d been to trust Charles.
Before we realized it, the party had ended. Claire told us they were turning off the lights and leaving the cleanup until the next evening.
After Jack walked me up to my apartment and we stood by the door to say goodnight, he looked at the pin I was wearing. The pin that proclaimed, KISS ME I’M IRISH!” May I,” he said, before leaning and kissing me tenderly.
After that St. Patrick’s Day, my life was busier than ever. I worked each day, and spent each evening at the university taking classes. When Jack Diehl went off to at the end of that summer to continue, work, I went along with him as his wife, Mrs. Diehl. Now all of our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are special, whether on land or sea!