Dublin Diversion

An American tourist finds an unexpected romance in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day.


Holli Gill

Snow piled up along the street as people tried to avoid it.

In a small bar set snugly in the middle of Dublin’s busiest street, an elderly couple toasted each other over drinks on the most popular Irish holiday: St. Patrick’s Day. The bar around them was noisy and busy with the younger generation, but the two only cared about being there together.

Niall raised his glass towards Isla, a grin on his wrinkled face. “Sláinte, a ghrá.”

“Even after all these years, my love, your Irish tongue makes me giddy,” Isla giggled, tapping her glass against his.

“Well, you may have been born American, but I know your heart has always been Irish.”

Isla sighed and reminisced. “Do you remember the day we met?”

Leaning closer to his wife of twenty-eight years, Niall’s eyes gleamed as he replied, “It was this day thirty years ago. Even if my mind fades, I will never forget the day I saw the most beautiful girl in the world.”


(30 years ago)

Isla knew that Dublin would be busy on St. Patrick’s Day, but she didn’t think it would be this difficult to just walk the streets. All week, she had been able to comfortably roam the city; but it seemed the tourists had finally descended on Dublin for the famous day. The blizzard blowing through the city didn’t help matters, either. There was snow piled up on the edges of the roads, the sidewalks, and the buildings. No one wanted to walk through them or risk having the snow from awnings fall on their heads as they passed under.

She pushed past a crowd of drunken tourists spilling out of Madigan’s and shook her head at their shenanigans. Americans had a bad reputation for a reason.

When she finally made her way past the gaudy tourists in their tacky St. Patrick’s Day outfits, Isla sighed. She was just trying to get to the tattoo parlor that she had booked an appointment with and did not want to be late. Her GPS showed that she still had ten minutes of walking to get there.

A stout blond-haired man with a too-red face stepped into Isla’s path, slurring, “Where you goin’, sweetheart? Wanna have some fun?”

Isla brushed past the drunken American, risking falling into a snow pile, but stopped when he grabbed her arm. She pulled away from him, just to have him grab for her again.

She growled, “Let go of me. I’m not interested,” hoping her vehemence would make the man decide to focus his attentions elsewhere.

His face lit up in misplaced enthusiasm, “You’re American! Come on, have a few drinks with us.”

Isla scowled at the man, her heart starting to flutter in fear. “No, now I said to let me go, you buffoon.”

The man reached for Isla again, but was suddenly pushed back by a tall man that had appeared next to them. How the man had navigated the people and snow bewildered Isla.

“The girl said to leave her alone, mate. Go back inside,” the stranger said as he moved to stand protectively in front of Isla. The street in front of the bar was still crowded, and even with this protective man standing in front of her, Isla still felt vulnerable.

The drunk stood in front of them for a moment, and Isla feared there would be a fight. The two men stared at each other for what felt like hours; finally, the drunk shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “She wasn’t worth it anyway.” He stumbled through ankle-height snow and a crowd to return to the bar.

The protective stranger turned back towards Isla, looking down at her five-foot-nothing frame. “These damn tourists take over the city one day out of the year. You alright, love?”

As Isla looked up to the man’s face, feelings of relief settled like a cloud over her mind to see a warm expression looking back at her while wariness of strangers battled for the main spot in her mind. His blue eyes, much like her own, brimmed with concern. His reddish-brown hair was long but cut stylishly.

“Um, yeah. Thanks for that. I’m Isla,” she said, remembering to respond before things become awkward. She held out her hand to the stranger.

He took it and smiled at her. “Niall. And it’s no problem. Though you probably shouldn’t be walkin’ these streets alone. Normally, it’s fairly safe, but everyone’s drinkin’ in excess today.”

Isla shrugged. “I have somewhere to be and my friend wanted to stay in the hotel to sleep after the parade earlier.”

“Well, how about I see you to your place to be? Just to make sure no other hooligans mess with ya?”

“Oh, well, I don’t want to hold you up from anything. You can come along if you want, but I’ll be alright.”

Niall just waved his arm in front of him, signaling for Isla to lead the way. She turned, holding her palm against her chest to calm her nervous flutter of a heart and walked next to him. After looking at her watch, though, she stepped up her pace. As they walked along the street, Niall positioned himself between Isla and any drunken passersby they saw.

Crossing the River Liffey’s O’Connell Bridge was difficult. The snow had made the walkway slick, and people liked to stop mid-stride to stare across the water. As they weaved their way through pedestrians—intoxicated and sober alike—Niall helped Isla regain her balance when she slipped. It wasn’t easy to maneuver through people and snow, but once they did, Isla and Niall were able to slip down a side street to cross another canal. Isla glanced at her GPS every so often to make sure that she would not be late—and that they were still walking the right way. They came back out on a main street with traffic, and Isla spotted her destination. When they came to the door of the shop, Isla paused, not sure how to say goodbye and thank Niall again.

Much to her surprise, he pushed open the door to the shop and gestured Isla in. Contrasted to the wintery chill of the day, the shop was warm and cozy with music playing and people drinking coffee.

A young woman at the front desk of the tattoo parlor greeted them as they walked in, “Niall! Hey, man! What are you doing here? You’re not on the books for today.”

Surprised, Isla turned towards Niall.

“Oh, I’m just seeing this lovely thing to her destination, Marla. She had a bit of a run-in with a drunken tourist round the corner.” Niall grinned toward Isla, and her cheeks started to turn redder than they had when the pair had come in from the cold.

Marla nodded her understanding and turned to Isla. “You have an appointment? Normally, walk-ins are welcome, but with it being St. Patrick’s Day, tourists come flooding in.”

Isla nodded and gave the woman her information before sitting down in a chair in front of the desk with a cup of coffee. Niall and Marla conversed like old friends and Isla tuned them out. She wouldn’t have to worry about talking to the man anymore if Marla occupied him.

After a few minutes, the tattoo artist she’d made the appointment with approached Isla and welcomed her, motioning for her to go to a station in the back. Her Asian features were a stark contrast to her bleached, dreadlocked hair.  She didn’t have as many tattoos as some of her colleagues, but the ones she did have were extremely detailed, ranging from portraits to intricate designs that would require skill and precision.

Isla sat as still as she could while the artist tattooed Isla’s design of a stamp of Ireland on her shoulder. After the tattoo was done, Isla paid and thanked the team, walking out of the shop. She hadn’t seen Niall inside, so she assumed that he had left. She looked down at her phone and groaned in dismay. It was dead, and she needed to order a car to get back to her hotel.

“More problems, love?”

Isla gasped and nearly dropped her phone. She looked over to see Niall lounging against the side of the shop, smoking a cigarette.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked, exasperated.

Niall smiled and flicked the cigarette into a bin.  “Well, I was enjoying my smoke, but now that you’re here, I’m hoping you’ll allow me to accompany you where you need to be.”

Isla hesitated but needed a way back to her hotel.

“Do you know your way around the city?” she asked him, just to be sure.

“Born and raised right here in The Pale.”

Isla had been warned with horror stories of American girls abducted while in European cities, but she decided to take a chance on this kind stranger who had already helped her once that day.

Her heart pounded, whether in fear or excitement, Isla couldn’t tell. “I need to get back to O’Connell Street. I can find my way back to my hotel from there, but I’m not sure how to get there.”

Niall nodded and held out his elbow like a gentleman from a different time. Isla glanced it warily before placing her hand in the crook of his arm and they set off towards their destination.


Isla came out of the memory to see Niall still grinning and leaning towards her. The bar had filled in more in the few minutes that she had zoned out. She took a sip of her wine and placed her hand in Niall’s.

“I’m glad I took a chance on you that day. I worried you might abduct me.”

Niall’s face turned solemn and he had an odd gleam in his eye. “Well… I thought about it.”

Isla nearly choked on her drink and gaped at her husband.

“What on earth are you talking about?” she asked him.

Niall let out a deep laugh and placed both hands over hers. “Well, I couldn’t be letting the most beautiful girl in the world leaving me all alone, could I? Thought about just telling you to stay and hiding ya in my closet!”

Isla laughed along with him, realizing that her husband was joking and the gleam in his eye was his normal mischievousness. “It’s a good thing I came back, then, isn’t it?”

Niall looked Isla with all the love and adoration in his heart showing in his gaze. “I would have traveled the world just to see you again. But you came back, and I was whole.”

“And now here we are, as we should be.”

The elderly couple raised their glasses to toast to the fateful Irish holiday and their love.