Chapter 1: Andy

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Sometimes I have that nightmare where I show up at work or school naked, on display for everyone to stare and laugh. I never studied psychology or sociology, or whichever -ology that fit into, but I could say with some confidence it more than likely related to feeling vulnerable.

Exposed.

Everything I wanted to guard from the outside world was illuminated, offered up for judgment. Then again, maybe it was from eating questionable Chinese food before going to bed.

Meeting Patrick Walsh was exactly like that: a waking naked-at-work dream.

"How would you adapt the roof geometries of a Queen Anne for maximum rain water catchment while keeping it historically accurate?" he barked. 

It didn't matter that the ink on my Master of Architecture degree from Cornell University was barely dry. It definitely didn't matter that I wasn't quite twenty-five, or that I was a woman in a field where men outnumbered me four to one. I was good, and I knew it.

"What's your approach to handling conflicts between strict preservation guidance while also meeting LEED Green specifications?" he asked.

I'd been fantasizing about this for years—Walsh Associates was the ultimate apprenticeship and interviewing was my jam.

But Patrick wasn't nearly as excited about the interview. No, Patrick interrupted before I offered any substantive comments, glowering from across the rectangular conference table. He squinted at me while I spoke, stripping away the artifice of interview and openly dissecting my words. His lips twisted into grimaces while his eyebrows quirked and furrowed. He even rolled his eyes when I discussed my passion for original Bostonian masonry.

Everything about Patrick was assertive. Staring into his hazel eyes, I immediately knew it wasn't limited to architecture.

"Walk me through your approach to construction waste management. Specifically, CFC-based refrigerants."

I left my friends' apartment this morning pleased with my edgy-conservative outfit that avoided all manner of architecture school chic—no corduroy, no khakis, no ponytails, no wrinkles. My confidence was swinging high when I arrived at the hallowed halls of Walsh Associates, though I never noticed how frizzy the dry winter air turned my long, raven curls until I felt Patrick's eyes cataloging every errant strand.

He made little effort to manage his reactions and he clearly took issue with my appearance. I was unapologetic about my wardrobe and its shades of black simplicity—I was a charter member in the 'selective pops of color' cult—yet he repeatedly drank in my black skirt suit, pearl gray shirt with delicate beading around the neck, and black knee-high boots, with an arched eyebrow and blatant scowl.

I wanted him to glance at my résumé, leaf through my portfolio—anything to take his piercing hazel eyes off of me long enough to regroup and strategize. Something about his fierce gaze—how he'd stare, scowling, his jaw rigid—made my thoughts freeze and words dissolve into a fumbling, garbled mess.

Missing out on this apprenticeship was not an option. I didn't work my ass off for the past five years, fighting for every tedious assistantship, internship, and design fellowship, to blow it when I finally got my shot. I wasn't surprised when Shannon Walsh's assistant called to schedule my interview; I was perfect for their firm. Now it was just a matter of getting this interview back on track and them believing it as much as I did.

Despite the fact Patrick was annoyed that I was taking a second of his time, I would happily pluck my eyelashes if it meant learning from him. He didn't have any National Preservation awards—yet—or much more than a decade in the industry, but he transcended it all with his talent. It wasn't every day that early thirty-somethings received the type of acclaim Patrick earned from the start. No one bothered to tell him or his siblings—his partners in this work—it should have taken them longer to achieve this much success.

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