The sun rays stroke my eyes like a sweet touch. Saturday morning, 20th of July, my birthday. I guess I'm 21 now, but I don't feel different or special. I don't know what I expected.
Then it hit me. A beautiful smell that was coming from down stairs. "Pancakes! " I say smiling while I drag myself out of bed. No time to change my PJ's, the smell and noise coming from the kitchen were waiting for me.
"Good morning!" I say almost whispering, not wanting to attract attention.
"Happy birthday Anna! This is for you!" My brother Elliot screamed and handed me a small pink box with a really big white bow.
"Wow..Thanks...but a kiss would have been enough, Elli" I say smiling.
"Well, I can do that too you know." He reached to kiss me and I noticed how short he was for his age.
"Happy birthday Anna! I hope you have a great day today and everyday!" Maria said in her sweet and calm voice, kissing both my cheeks. I loved Maria, she married my dad 8 years ago and made him really happy since.
At the counter was my dad, talking on his phone, with a white messy apron and a big spatula in his hand. He had flour all over him, but he didn't seem to care. He took a glance at me, winked his left eye and turned around talking on his phone.
My mom left us years ago and that destroyed my dad...and me. Elliot was to little to remember to much of her. Maria is the only mother he truly had. But I...I remember her. Tall and thin, with long chestnut hair and a big bright smile.
I don't really know what happened,but I remember that my parents seemed happy, and we traveled a lot, everything looked ok. I guess they weren't that happy, or at least my mother wasn't, eventually leaving us with just a letter for my dad. I remember a white envelope on the kitchen table that had wrote on it "JACK" and that after my dad read it, he made hundreds of pieces out of it. I never asked him what she wrote. She never contacted us, I never wanted her to. My dad talked to her several times on the phone, but that was years ago. She remained in New York and we moved to San Franscisco.
I love San Francisco.The people, the positioning of this town and I love the weather..You never know what you get, a nice sunny day or a foggy rainy one, or both.
"Anna,Anna!!!" My dad interrupted my thoughts. "Happy birthday, sleepy head!" He hugged me and I pushed him a little..."Dad...you're a mess." He looked at his apron and smiled.
"Open the box Ana, open it!!!" Elliot was jumping around with the box in his hands.
“Ok, let’s see what you bought me.”
“I didn’t buy it Anna. I made it for you at school and Maria helped too.”
“Oh, if you made it, I’m sure it’s great.” I opened the pink paper box and inside was a beautiful jewelry box made of wood and hand painted by Elliot: 3 white flowers and 2 little hearts on the middle and on the back my name written in pink. I wasn’t a fan of the color pink but I guess Elliot associates pink with girls.
“Thank you Elli, I really like it. I needed one.” He was so proud of himself, we all are.
“There’s something inside.” Maria said. The inside of the box was made of a soft tan velvet and there was a beautiful gold necklace with a round pendant that had my name engraved.
“You like it?” My dad said from behind Maria.
“Yes, yes, I like it a lot. Thank you, to all of you!” I really liked it and I asked Maria to help put it on.
“Sarah helped us pick the necklace too.” My dad said.
“Where is Sarah by the way?” I then noticed she wasn t there.
Sarah was Maria’s daughter from her first marriage. She was only two years older than me and was one of my best friends. She’s still in college and she also works as a waitress at the Harbour Restaurant down the bay. I’m guessing that’s were she was.
“She’s at the restaurant, she took an extra shift today.” Maria confirmed my thoughts.
After several banana and chocolate pancakes, I decided it was time to take of my PJ’s and change in to something more appropriate . I had some projects pending for school and I did my best to finish them in time for lunch. Art School was the best decision for me because I really liked painting, and crafting and designing all kinds of stuff. This was my second year and by the final of the year I had to decide my major and decide if I continue in San Francisco or leave to LA were I had more opportunities . I was trying not to think about it to much, leaving San Francisco and my family wasn’t something that made me happy and I still had 3 more weeks of this vacation.
For lunch, we decided to go to the Harbour so that Sarah could stay with us after her shift ended. The restaurant was full as usual, lucky for us we had an “ inside man” to book us a table.
Sarah joined us a couple of minutes after we arrived. “Happy birthday!” She said to me and hugged me like there was no tomorrow. She looked beautiful, even after a 8 hour shift her makeup was perfect, her black hair curled around her face making her blue eyes pop even more. She looked a lot like Maria, except the eyes. Maria had dark brown eyes.
I guess I looked a lot like my mother too. Long chest nut hair with some highlights made by the sun and the salty water, I was tall like her and my dad always told me that I had her eyes, hazel eyes. They were just green for me.
“Feeling special on your birthday Anna?” Sarah asked smiling and showing her bright white teeth.
“No, not really.” I was amused remembering I asked myself the same thing in the morning.
After we got home I heard Sarah asking my dad something but I didn't pay a lot of attention. I realized I didn't have my phone with me all day."10 missed calls and 2 texts?" Wow, I never get 10 calls a day, except on my birthday. Colleagues , friends calling to say Happy Birthday, and a text from a number I didn't know: "Happy birthday! You're 21 now, be wise! Claire E."
"Claire E.?" The only Claire I knew was my mother. But she didn't have my phone number...I think. I go down stairs wanting to ask my dad about it but I get distracted by Sarah.
"I talked to Jack, and he's ok with it. We're going out...You're 21 now and we are having fun tonight." I was confused... "We're going out? Who is we? Me and her?"
"I hope you girls have fun and don't stay to late ok Anna?" My dad said and I approved without really understanding.
I went upstairs to Sarah's room to ask her about the "going out" thing, but she was talking on her phone. As I waited for her to finish, I sit on a corner of her big bed. We were friends but we never went out together, we had different school schedules and different friends, plus she worked a lot so I was a little surprised by this.
"I talked with some of my friends and there's a new pub opening next to the Harbour and it's crazy, we have to go. Everyone is going to be there. We're leaving at 9." She said while browsing her stuffed closet.
"What should I wear?" I asked, seeing all of her clothes.
"A dress maybe with some nice sandals, but nothing to formal Anna. I know your style."
She was right. The only dresses I had were just right for a job interview or a funeral. "Do you think you can help me? It's a little over my head." I begged.
"Sure, but you have to promise you will were what I say. You know, for a person so creative as you Anna, you have no sense of style. Why is that?''
She was right again. I could draw beautiful dresses, design shoes, but I just couldn't seem to mix them so that they don't look like fallen from the sky. "I don't know Sarah." I said apologetic.
"Now go get ready, I'll take the dress to your room!" Sarah almost scolded.
I went to my room, it was 6 o'clock "I have plenty of time". Took a shower and as I was drying my hair I remembered of the text I got from Claire E. It was her, I'm sure. The E. must be from her new last name, maybe she got married, I had no idea. I took the mirror from my vanity and tried to find any resemblance with the memories I had of her. Big eyes, chestnut hair, mine was a bit lighter...I guess that's my dad's doing. He was almost blonde. Elliot looked a lot like my dad. But enough with this. "I have to get ready" I was cheering myself.
"Anna?" Sarah knocked at my door.
"Come in." I said.
"Almost." I just let my hair dry by itself and it curled a little at the ends, I applied some black mascara and a nude lipstick. "You look great Sarah." She had a short red dress and and beautiful silver sandals. Her hair was straight and up in a high ponytail. She was beautiful.
"I can say the same thing Anna. That dress looks better on you than me. You can keep it if ypu like."
She gave me a black short dress with wide straps and gold details on the waist, and I had some gold sandals that Maria bought me a couple of months ago. They were new, I have never taken them out of the box. " Well, thanks, I really like the dress."
"I' m glad, now let's go I called a cab for us."
I went down with Sarah and Maria was waiting for us at the front door.
"Here are some money, and call me if you need anything ok girls?" Maria seemed genuinely concerned.
"Sure mom, don't worry we're not 12. See you later." Sarah said and gave her a fast kiss on the cheek.
"Don't worry Maria ok?" I said trying to comfort her. "Good night!" I screamed while I walked out of the house.
At our arrival I was surprised to see so many people outside the pub there we're more than 100 people waiting to get in. I wonder how many were inside.
"Hope's Pub" Sarah said sarcastically. "Who names a pub HOPE's PUB? Captain obvious..." She rolled her eyes. " We'll wait outside for Christy and Mandy, ok?"
"Sure." I agreed. I liked the name of the pub and I was sure it has a story, the person who named I had a reason to name it like this. Maybe the owner's name is Hope...
"Christy just texted me, they're already inside. Let's slide in Anna."
Slide in? How? There were a lot of people trying to do the same. I noticed at the door that a lot of them were underage and that's why they were still outside. We got in really easy. The hallway at the entrance was wide and there were gold stripes all over the walls. I could see a big round bar in the middle of the pub and to smaller hallways, one was going at the bathrooms and one had a big brown door at the end.
Our table was close to the bar. The pub was huge, it didn't look this big from the outside.
"Here we are." Sarah said, showing me the table with two colored cocktails on it. Mandy and Christy greeted us and smiled at me saying Happy Birthday like a duet.
"Thank you." I murmured.
"Let's sit Anna. So what are you girls having?" Sarah said sipping one of the drinks."It's delicious!"
"I don't know what the name is but that cute bartender over there recommended it . It' s the pub's specialty." Mandy told us but didn't move her eyes from the bartender.
The pub wasn't as crowed as I thought. I was quite nice and I started seeing all the gold details. The inside was a combination of new and old but with really good taste.
"Anna here you are.." Sarah put the same kind of cocktail in front of me. I didn't even notice her ordering anything.
"Does it have alcohol ?" I ask Sarah. She nods " I would prefer a orange juice."
" Orange juice with vodka maybe..." Mandy said and they started to laugh.
"It' s just champagne and some fruit juice Anna. Don't worry." Sarah said trying to make me feel better about my drink.
I took a sip...it really was delicious, sweet bubbly champagne with just a little bit of strawberry juice and maybe pineapple, but I wasn't sure. It matched so well with the pub's theme.
As the girls started to chitchat about someone I didn't know I stopped listening to them. I started to listen to the music...there were several genres combined. Even the music matched the theme of the pub.
"I heard he's a real lady's man. He has a girlfriend in every town he goes and he travels a lot if you know what I mean. He always wears black and he doesn't talk to anybody unless he thinks that person deserves it." Christy was talking about the same person they were talking a minute ago.
"Who are you talking about?" I asked trying to look interested of the answer.
"Theo Evans, the owner of the pub." Sarah answered. " I heard that he looks really upset all the time and that he has a lot of pubs and restaurants all around the country." She continued.
So the owner's name isn't Hope....Maybe his wife's name...
"I wonder how he looks like, he could be standing next to us and we wouldn't know." Mandy said.
"Why don't you search him on the internet? I'm sure there is a picture of him somewhere." They looked at me like I just gave them the best idea ever.
Christy took out her really pink phone and started typing. She found what she was looking for and even more in just a second.
"Look at him. He must be in his early thirty's. He's really handsome." They all stared at the phone. "And he's not married and never was." Christy added.
Our cups were empty and I couldn't see the waiter anywhere. I was thirsty. Was it because of the cocktail?
"Can you see the waiter Sarah?" I asked. It got crowded so fast and people were dancing everywhere.
"Do you girls want something else to drink?..I'm going to find the waiter." I stood up and got really dizzy.
"More cocktails Anna." They screamed.
"Ok Anna, concentrate" I said to myself...Where was that waiter anyway?
I made my way through the crowd, but they were all moving, dancing, spinning and I felt someone take my hand and I started spinning too. I was dancing like crazy, absolutely forgot why I got up in the first place.
My crazy dancing wasn't the best idea. I felt so dizzy, I could collapse any minute but I couldn't stop, until I turned and saw him. I knew exactly who he was : tall, handsome, his eyebrows made him look upset but his eyes betrayed him. Black shirt, black pants, he was so full of himself. "Theo Evans" I said so quiet that not even I could hear it, and then he turned his head like he did hear it and looked at me. His black eyes were piercing mine and his eyebrows relaxed, he almost smiled...and then everything turned black and silent. I couldn't hear or see anything and my feet couldn't hold my body weight anymore.
"Anna! Anna! Open your eyes!" I could hear Sarah screaming, but I couldn't open my eyes. It was really quiet, did the music stop?
"I'll call an ambulance." An unknown male voice said quickly but very calm. I realized I should open my eyes at least.
"No, she's fine. Anna are you ok?" Sarah's expression was a combination of frustration and panic. I ruined her night out.
"I'm fine, I'm sorry, I got dizzy." I tried to move and I realized I was somewhere else and not next to the bar like I imagined. It was a room that had an L shaped wall made of glass and you could see inside the pub on one side and outside the pub on the other. I was standing on my back on a brown leather couch that had two matching armchairs next to it. There was a big mahogany desk in front of the glass wall. This room hand nothing to do with the pubs theme, but it was really well put together.
I tried again to get up and managed to this time. Sarah was standing next to me expecting for me to say something.
"Don't get up. Bring her some water." The unknown voice said. I saw the waiter I was looking for in the first place, storming out of the room on that big brown door I saw at the end of one of the hallways.
"She can stay here until she feels better. No need to hurry." The man said to Sarah while I was still focusing at the door.
"I'll go tell the girls we are leaving ok?" Sarah asked me.
"OK." I said a little to loud.
I saw Sarah leaving the room and the waiter entering with a bottle and glass. He poured me some water and handed me the glass almost shaking.
"Are you ok?You're shaking." I asked him almost laughing. He looked me in the eyes and said nothing.
"You can leave, thank you." The man said. I turned my head to see him while the waiter was leaving.
It was him, the tall, dark man I saw before I collapsed. He was standing next the desk with both his hand in his pockets. I sipped my water while I saw him studying my reaction.
"Thank you ...I feel better." I said trying to get up on my feet.
"Sit down please. Your sister will be right back." He said demanding and I listened. I couldn't keep my balance, but I wasn't dizzy anymore. " Did you consume anything else than alchool?" he asked frowning.
"Anything else?...No!" I said almost screaming. Why was I so defensive?
"Ok. Do you have someone to take you and your sister home?'" His voice was deep but so calm, and his face...his beautiful face showed no emotion.
"We'll take a cab." I just couldn't stop staring at him. He was staring at me and I just couldn't take my eyes from him.
"I'll call one for you." He picked up his phone and called someone but he was still looking at me. Did I have something on my face? I must have messed my makeup and looked ridiculous.
Sarah came in and we both looked at her. "Ok let's go."she said. "Can you walk to the door Anna?"
"I feel fine Sarah, don't worry." why was I screaming? Or maybe I wasn't screaming.
I got up and reached for her extended hand.
"Thank you for everything and sorry about the disturbance." Sarah said smiling really weird. Was she flirting with him? Why was it bothering me so much?
"I called a cab for you and don't worry I'm used to see drunk people all the time." he said not showing any emotion what so ever.
Drunk people? Did he just insult me? Who does he think he is? The SUN.. and everything goes around him? I wanted to say something but all I could do is look at him with sarcasm while Sarah was giggling.
We got out of the pub and a bright white car, that had a little small TAXI sign, was waiting. He has his own taxi cars? How ostentatious. Sarah didn't say much on the way home and I didn't even try to talk. It was late and all I wanted to do was to sleep. In my head I had so many questions to ask her: why was I in that office, who told her I was there, but they all had to wait.
Next morning I woke up really early, no one was awake yet. I was feeling great, not as hangover as I expected but I guess I wasn't that drunk either..and then I remembered: "... I see drunk people all the time..." His voice and his words were so clear in my head. Why did he have to say that? Did he think I was that drunk or was he just teasing? I hate him anyway. He's so arrogant, he thinks he knows it all. I couldn't wait any longer and I went to Sarah's room, she was still asleep. I needed some answers.
"Sarah..." I said whispering in her ear.
"What....What time is it Anna? Why are you here?" she didn't seem to upset that I woke her.
"I need to talk to you. I can't sleep."
She rubbed her eyes, put her hair in a high bun and lifted her blanket so that I could scoop next to her. "What is it?"
"What happened last night? Did you see me collapse?" I was so curious.
"No, I saw you dancing and and you were having a good time, so I thought you were ok."
" I was ok. I was just a little dizzy and after I started dancing and spinning I got even more dizzy, and I just felt that my feet can't sustain me anymore. But how did I get in that office?"
" I was talking to the girls and the waiter that served us came and asked about you. I told him that I am your sister, so he took me to that office. You were already there on the couch, and Theo was holding your hand and taking your pulse."
"Theo?" I knew who he was, I didn't know they were so familiar.
"Yes, the guy we talked about, the owner of the pub remember? Apparently he saw you collapse and he took you there. He was really nice." She was smiling from ear to ear.
"He didn't seem nice to me, actually he was rude." I frowned.
" Oh..come on. He took you to his office and took care of you until I got there. He even introduced himself to me."
"He was afraid I was dying in his new pub what did you expect...." I was so upset that I stood up and left Sarah's room without saying anything else. She was mesmerized by him.
Sarah fell asleep after our short conversation, but I couldn't sleep anymore. I went to the kitchen to have some coffee. i usually don't drink coffee but I felt like I needed one. After a few minutes my dad came and I made some coffee for him too.
"So how was last night? Did you have fun?" He asked, precautious, as he sipped his coffee noticing my cup.
"Yeah, we did have fun." I didn't look him in the eyes.
"You're drinking coffee I see." He smiled.
"I can't sleep and felt the need of some coffee, don't know why."
We didn't speak for a few minutes and I saw that he was preoccupied with something.
"Is everything alright dad?"
"Yes, I just have a lot to do tomorrow at work. Maria and I are managing this new construction site and some of the paperwork is not ready. To add to that, the CEO is in town and his going to be there every day . And they can be a pain in the ass." Maria and my dad had a small company "Clark Managing" and they were both really good engineers. My dad had done a lot of work around town so when a new company wanted to build something he was the first to be contacted. They were a good team and people respected them for their hard work. "We'll be there all day so please take care of Elliot tomorrow."
"Sure don't worry....Dad, I wanted to ask you something." I remembered about the text Claire sent me. "Do you think Claire has my phone number? Because I received a text from a Claire E. yesterday for my birthday, and i don't know any other Claire than her." He knew I was talking about my mother.
" Yes she has your number from me. She called a couple of days ago to ask for your number."
"Oh..ok. I didn't know she changed her last name. She always liked how Claire Clark sounded."
"She got married last year, but I don't know the name of the guy." My dad looked a little bothered about our discussion, so I didn't continue. I knew everything I wanted to know.
I went to my room and tried to finish some of the sketches I had started months ago, just random things, but eventually I fell asleep all over them.
"Wake up, wake up!" Elliot was jumping all over the bed.
"Stop!" I felt like he was jumping on my head.
"It's almost dinner time and you're still sleeping. Wake up Anna!"
Yes... wake up, Anna!!!!
Thank you for reading!