For a few blocks, the sisters walked in silence. Around them rose the grid of London, just north of the Thames. They passed shopfronts and cafes, taking in English rock and roll, Indian spices, and English subsidiaries of Hong Kong banks.
“At least we can walk there now,” Zara said.
“So the glass is half full?” replied Branwen bitterly.
“I prefer to think of it as halfway to another glass.”
Around another corner, down another street, past another block, they saw it.
The brown-and-black brick building rose only three stories from the ground, but the squat, dark hulk spread over four square blocks of precious London real estate. Steam rose from the roof, creating a thin fog in the cool air that made the place unearthly, unreal, as if they stared at a dream through mist.
No matter how many times they came to it, Branwen’s heart beat faster.
Around the windowless brick building, with spiked bars ten feet high, ran a rusted iron fence, dotted with black spots of the original paint. Every ten feet a crumbling brick pillar interspersed the fence. The sisters walked along, staring through the bars.
They came to the gate and stopped.
Zara and Branwen gazed at the building beyond. The black doors through which only the best of the best could go—na Grúdairí.
Branwen looked at the engraved, dirty, tarnished brass plaque on the gate in front of her nose:
FIRST CALL BREWING COMPANY
A SUBSIDIARY OF DEEP INC.
GLOBAL OFFICES & LONDON BREWERY
Zara tugged on the gate, but it didn’t budge.
“It’s always locked,” Branwen said.
“You never know,” Zara replied. “Maybe one day it won’t be. How will we know if we don’t try?”
Branwen looked at her watch. “I know we’d better not be late today.”
“We’ll come back after work, stand here as long as it takes. We’re not leaving until they at least take the homebrew.” Zara smiled. “We will each be the best of the best of all brewers in all the world. We will each be a grúdaire of First Call.” She said it again, slowly, “Gruhd-uh-ruh,” savoring each syllable like a long swallow of stout. We’re going to make it, Branwen. I know it.”
“We’re already really good brewers, Zara.”
Zara nodded. “We are. But that’s not enough. There are brewers… and then there are na Grúdairí.”
With a last, longing look at the gate, Zara and Branwen continued walking to work, dreaming of the day when at last they would walk together through the gate, then the black doors. The first new members of na Grúdairí in decades. But not today.
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