This is a story set in the future. Assumpta and Peter are happily married with three children and one more on the way. The event that happens next wracks Assumpta with guilt and for the first time, Peter and Assumpta's marriage is shaken.
Assumpta smiled as four year old Christian ran rings around his little sister Caroline who was only 18 months.
'Christian,' she chastised.
His big blue eyes looked up at her, full of innocence.
'Didn't I tell you to be nice to your sister?'
'I'm playing ring a ring a rosy with her,' he smirked, staring back at his sister.
Assumpta walked behind him and snatched the skipping rope. 'But you don't need to tie her up!'
The front door banged and seven year old Kieran Egan trampled in followed by five year old Elly Clifford and six year old Aisling Kearney.
'How was school?' Assumpta asked them, picking Elly's bag off the floor and handing it back to her.
'It was okay,' Elly replied.
'It was great! Mr Kearney said that I can be the captain of the football team!'
Aisling rolled her eyes. 'You're so immature Kieran. It's no big deal.'
'Is too,' Kieran replied.
'Okay guys,' Assumpta smiled. 'Snacks are in the kitchen. Aisling, your mum is on a call at the moment and Kieran, your mum will be here soon.'
The kids nodded and ran into the kitchen to get their afternoon tea. Christian and Caroline followed them and Assumpta found some peace and quiet. That was, until her husband, Peter Clifford, snuck in and found her neck with his lips.
‘Welcome home,’ she smiled, turning around and kissing him firmly.
‘Mm. I missed you,’ he smiled back, kissing her again. He ran his hand down to cover the slight bump of her belly. ‘And how’s baby?’
‘Great,’ Assumpta told him, covering his hand with hers. ‘How’s your brother?’
‘He’s good. I love you,’ Peter told her, kissing her.
‘There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Go and see your kids.’
‘Daddy!’ Christian yelled, running into the room. Caroline and Elly followed him.
‘Guess what Uncle Peter?’ Kieran asked, as Peter picked up Caroline and hugged his children.
‘I got picked to be captain of the football team!’
‘Well done,’ Peter smiled. His eyes strayed over to his wife, who was smiling fondly at them all. He noticed she looked rather tired.
‘How’s Uncle Jack?’ Christian asked.
‘He’s wonderful. And there are heaps of presents waiting for you all! That includes you two as well,’ he smiled at Kieran and Aisling.
‘Yay!’ Elly cried and the children scampered out the front, where the car was.
Assumpta shook her head at Peter as they followed them out.
‘What?’ he asked innocently.
‘You spoil them,’ she informed him.
‘So?’ Peter asked, grinning wickedly.
‘Welcome back, Peter,’ Niamh smiled, coming across the street.
‘Hi, Niamh. Yes Kieran, that package is yours.’
‘Cool! A double decker bus! Look Mum!’
Niamh smiled and cast an eye over to Peter. ‘What are we going to do with you?’
‘Don’t try,’ Assumpta told her. ‘He’s like a big kid himself. Caroline, Christian and Elly Clifford, get right back inside and put those coats on!’
The children giggled, and clutching their packages, headed back into the pub.
Niamh nudged Kieran. ‘What do we say?’
‘Thank you for having me Aunt Assumpta and Uncle Peter. And thank you for the present.’
‘You’re welcome,’ Peter told him.
They heard a crash from inside and an ‘oops’. Assumpta groaned.
‘I’ll fix it,’ Peter told her, kissing her fondly on the cheek.
Assumpta watched him go and shook her head.
‘You’re a very lucky woman,’ Niamh told her.
Assumpta turned around and smiled. ‘Yeah, I am.’
Brian Quigley sat in his car, watching the pitiful attempts of Liam and Donal who were trying to unload some sporting equipment onto his field. It was too much to bear.
‘Eejits! You use the ramp!’
‘Oh. Right Mr Quigley!’ Liam called back.
Brian sat back in his car. It was freezing cold this winter. He hated winter. He was preparing an amusement park for the children and now that he thought of it, some indoor heated areas might be a good idea.
‘Mr Quigley!’ Liam called. ‘Donal’s stuck his fingers to the slide!’
Assumpta picked up Caroline from her position on the sofa and headed to the little girls' bedroom. She smiled fondly at the crib that stood in the corner, ready for the new addition. Peter had built that crib when they discovered Elly was going to be born. Niamh was indeed right. She was a very lucky woman. She undressed Caroline and got her into a clean nightie and covered her up. She pressed a kiss to her daughter’s forehead. ‘Sleep well, my angel.’
Caroline murmured something that Assumpta didn’t understand and placed her thumb firmly in her mouth. Assumpta smiled and headed for the door.
Peter was wrestling with Christian in his bedroom and Christian was clearly winning.
‘Christian Brendan Clifford, what are you doing to your poor father?’ she asked him.
‘Nothing,’ Christian replied innocently.
‘Christian, if you aren’t in those pajamas in five minutes..’ Assumpta warned.
‘Yes ma’am!’ Christian saluted and went under the bed, searching for his pajamas.
‘What did you feed him while I was away?’ Peter asked, flopped out on the little boys bed.
Assumpta raised an eyebrow. ‘Surely you don’t think this was my fault?’
‘Absolutely not,’ Peter told her seriously, his grin giving him away.
Assumpta smiled back and kissed him softly. ‘I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t.’ She frowned suddenly. ‘Where’s Christian?’
‘Still under the bed?’ Peter wondered, getting down and looking under there. Christian was there alright, but he was sound asleep.
‘Not again,’ Assumpta moaned, as Peter carefully laid the boy in his bed.
‘He likes to sleep under the bed. I found him there two mornings ago.’
‘Did you ever sleep under the bed?’ Peter asked her, tucking Christian in.
‘Why is it always from my side of the family?’
Peter smiled. ‘We better get Elly in bed soon.’
‘Don’t forget to leave the light on in her room,’ Assumpta told him.
Assumpta nodded. ‘She thinks they’re living under her bed.’
‘It’s time for another monster extermination?’ Peter asked.
‘I think so,’ Assumpta told him.
‘Dad! What are you doing?’ Niamh asked, watching her father scrabbling under Kieran’s bed.
Brian moved suddenly and bumped his head on the bed. ‘Niamh! I was just uh.. trying to find Kieran’s pajamas.’
Niamh narrowed her eyes. ‘Dad..’
‘Alright, alright. I hid some stuff under here.’
‘Dad!’ Niamh said, horrified. ‘This is Kieran’s bedroom!’
‘I am very well aware of that Niamh,’ Brian replied. ‘But it won’t get him into trouble.’
‘Then why are you hiding whatever it is under there?’ Niamh asked.
‘Because Dad might find it,’ Kieran told her, sitting on his bed.
Niamh looked at her father.
‘Kieran, remember what we agreed?’ Brian asked.
Kieran clapped his hand over his mouth. ‘Oops. But I didn’t tell her it was money that Liam and Donal found.’ Realising his mistake, he clamped the hand over his mouth again.
‘Kieran, go and play with your father,’ Niamh told him.
‘Sorry Grandpa,’ Kieran told Brian, and left the room.
‘So, Donal and Liam found $1000 dollars just buried?’ Assumpta asked, as she and Niamh had a cup of tea.
‘Mhm. And Dad thought the best place to hide it from Ambrose would be under Kieran’s bed.’
‘That’s a classic,’ Assumpta laughed.
‘It’s not funny Assumpta! That money could have come from anywhere!’
‘Niamh, I don’t see what there is to be so worried about!’
‘Remember One Tooth Tommy?’
Assumpta groaned. ‘Niamh. Leave it. I’m sure your father will get himself out of this mess. He’s good at that.’
The phone rang at that moment and Christian bellowed his request to answer it.
‘I’ve got it, Christian,’ Assumpta smiled, answering the phone. ‘Hello?’
Assumpta started for a moment. Nobody had called her that for over five years. ‘Yes?’
‘This is Mrs McGarvey. I’m afraid Leo is dead.’
Assumpta didn’t feel anything. Leo hadn’t been seen since the formal announcement of her engagement to Peter and she certainly hadn’t heard from him. But she didn’t feel sorrow, or pain and that made her feel guilty. ‘I’m very sorry for your loss.’
‘Thank you. We will be holding the funeral in a few days time and we need you to be present for the will.’
‘I can’t see why. I doubt very much that I am a benefactor. Mr McGarvey and I didn’t part on very good terms.’
‘I have reason to believe that you are a benefactor. Leo loved you right up until the day he died.’
Assumpta felt rather uncomfortable. ‘I’m afraid that even if I wanted to, I could not attend. I’m pregnant and my doctor would prefer I didn’t travel too far.’
There was silence for a moment. ‘What if the reading of the will was held in Dublin? Would you be able to get there?’
Assumpta found herself agreeing before she had a chance to think it over.
‘Thank you very much. It’s not Miss Fitzgerald anymore is it?’
‘No. It’s Mrs Clifford.’
‘Okay Mrs Clifford. We will see you in Dublin at the hall on the 23rd. Goodbye.’
Assumpta was numb and it wasn’t until she felt Caroline tugging at her skirt that she came back to the real world.
‘Daddy?’ Caroline asked, as Assumpta picked her up.
‘No sweetheart,’ Assumpta answered, fixing a stray red curl. ‘It was someone Mummy used to know a long time ago.’
‘No baby.’ Assumpta carried her into the front of the bar and sat back at her seat across from Niamh.
‘Assumpta, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!’ Niamh hurriedly took Caroline from Assumpta’s arms. ‘What’s the matter?’
Caroline started to wimper and Christian ran in. He noticed his mother was upset and took on his fatherly role. He placed his tiny hand over Assumpta’s hand and stared up at her with his big green eyes. ‘How can I make it better?’
Assumpta almost burst into tears..something she would later chalk down to pregnant hormones, but kissed him gently. ‘I’m fine darling. Why don’t you take Caroline and go and watch for Elly?’
Christian nodded and taking his little sister by her little chubby hand, escorted her off to the front of Fitzgerald’s. After they had gone, Niamh turned to Assumpta.
‘Leo died,’ Assumpta told her.
‘Oh God,’ Niamh muttered. ‘Assumpta, I’m so sorry.’
Assumpta stood up and started pacing. ‘I don’t get it! Why does everyone want to condole me! It’s been over six years since I last heard from him. He’s not a part of my life anymore!’
‘That doesn’t mean you can’t be upset.’
‘But that’s it! I don’t feel anything. Nothing!’
Assumpta groaned. ‘No! And God knows, it makes me feel terrible that I don’t, but that’s it. I don’t.’
Niamh sighed. ‘Are you going to the funeral?’
‘It’s in London, so no. But apparantly they want me to go to the reading of the will, in Dublin.’
‘You better tell Peter.’
Assumpta narrowed her eyes. ‘Why do you sound disapproving?’
‘I don’t mean to be,’ Niamh answered. ‘Sorry.’
Assumpta shrugged. ‘No problem.’
The front door slammed and the patter of feet entered.
‘No more talk,’ Assumpta told Niamh, as she went to greet her daughter.
Peter walked in after getting the shopping from Cilldargen. After distributing sweets to the kids, he kissed his wife and then saw her face. ‘What happened?’
Assumpta glanced at the children. ‘Guys, go and wash up for dinner okay?’
Elly and Christian nodded and shepherded Caroline upstairs.
‘Well?’ Peter asked.
‘Leo was murdered the other night, Peter,’ she told him.
Peter drew his breath in sharply. That was a name he hadn’t expected to hear again. ‘I’m sorry.’
Assumpta groaned and went on making the dinner.
‘What?’ Peter asked, not knowing what he had said.
‘Everyone who knows has said that but I’m not sad! I’m not even upset!’
‘Maybe it’s delayed shock,’ Peter suggested.
‘It is not delayed shock!’ Assumpta answered crossly.
‘Alright!’ Peter replied, putting his hands up. He sighed and headed upstairs to check on the children.
Assumpta heard him go and berated herself for being so cross with her husband. Then she sat down and poured herself a glass of wine.
‘Assumpta! What are you doing!’ Niamh asked, snatching the glass away.
‘What?’ Assumpta asked, frowning at her friend.
‘Do you not remember what Doc Ryan said? No more alcohol till the baby’s born.’
‘What do you mean, oh yeah!? This is your baby you’re talking about!’
Assumpta stood up. ‘Quit lecturing me Niamh.’
‘I’m just trying to understand Assumpta. Ever since that phone call yesterday you’ve been out of sorts.’
‘Assumpta! Service!’ Padraig called.
‘Coming Padraig!’ Assumpta replied. She turned back to Niamh. ‘Leave it Niamh.’
Niamh watched her friend go and sighed.
Caroline Clifford stared at her mother, and then at her father again. For a change, the dinner table was silent. Elly and Christian weren’t fighting over who got a better knife and her parents weren’t talking about the baby. She reached out to play with her mother’s ring but her plate landed on Christian who started grumbling.
‘You’re an idiot, Caroline,’ he told her, heading upstairs.
‘Christian Brendan Clifford!’ Assumpta cried. ‘Get right back down here and apologise to your sister!’
Christian’s eyes widened and he turned around, staring at his mother. Elly and Caroline also stared agape at her. Assumpta hardly ever yelled. Peter had noticed it to and placed a hand on her arm.
‘I’m sorry Caroline,’ Christian said softly and headed back upstairs.
Caroline whimpered and shed a tear. Elly climbed out of her chair and picked up her baby sister, sensing that her parents needed a moment alone. Peter looked at his wife of six years. She looked tired, worn-out.
‘Don’t look at me like that, Peter,’ Assumpta told him.
‘You rarely yell at the kids, if ever,’ he said gently. ‘What’s gotten into you?’
‘Nothing!’ Assumpta said, starting to clear the table.
‘Look me in the eye and tell me that,’ he asked her.
Assumpta moved away and headed to the door. ‘I better get Caroline ready for bed.’
For the first time that night, Peter didn’t have Assumpta in his arms. They slept on either side of the bed, turned away from each other. Peter didn’t sleep most of the night. He was too worried about his wife.
Brendan looked from one to the other. Usually at the bar, it was a normal thing for Assumpta and Peter to be kissing, or hugging each other as they went past. But today, apart from the buzz of the crowd, they were silent and hardly looked at each other.
‘I notice it too,’ Siobhan told him.
‘What?’ Padraig asked.
‘Assumpta and Peter,’ Brendan explained.
‘Well, I know one way to find out,’ Siobhan told them.
‘And how’s that?’ Brendan asked.
‘Ask one of the kids,’ Siobhan said.
‘Christian!’ Brendan called, beckoning the little boy to him.
‘Hi uncle Brendan,’ the boy smiled, as Brendan sat him on his lap.
‘Christian, do you know why your mum and dad are upset?’ Siobhan asked.
‘Well, Mummy got a phonecall that made her sad and aunt Niamh was mad with her later,’ Christian said. ‘Don’t know who the phonecall was. Mummy said I didn’t know who it was.’
Brendan nodded and Christian ran back to play.
‘Niamh next?’ Siobhan asked, getting up.
Padraig nodded and they followed Siobhan out.
‘Why are your mum and dad mad at each other?’ Aisling asked Elly.
‘They’re not mad,’ Christian defended them.
‘Then why are they hardly talking to each other?’ Aisling inquired.
‘They’re..tired,’ Christian answered.
‘Can we come in?’ Siobhan asked Niamh, who was sweeping the porch.
‘Sure,’ she smiled, moving to let the trio in. ‘What is it?’
‘What’s the matter with Assumpta and Peter?’ Brendan asked bluntly.
‘Nothing!’ Niamh replied, a little too quickly.
‘Come on, Niamh,’ Padraig said. ‘The tension is so thick over there that you could cut it with a knife.’
Niamh sighed. ‘Alright. Assumpta has been requested to go to the reading of Leo’s will. Apart from that, I have no idea what’s going on.’
‘That’s a first,’ Padraig said.
Niamh glared at him.
‘We’ll be off now, Niamh,’ Siobhan sighed.
‘Promise me you’ll stay at a hotel in Dublin if you’re tired,’ Peter told Assumpta.
‘Fine! I promise,’ Assumpta replied crossly.
Peter hugged her. ‘I just worry about you, that’s all.’
‘I’m fine,’ Assumpta answered. ‘I don’t need to be worried about.’
Niamh looked on at this exchange with displeasure. The children were quiet, having already said goodbye earlier.
‘Call me if you want me to come up,’ Peter said.
‘I won’t need you up there. I’ll be fine,’ Assumpta said. ‘I really should get going.’
Peter nodded and closed the door after her.
‘Bye Mummy!’ the kids called, as Assumpta drove off.
Peter shepherded them back inside and heaved a sigh as he began clearing up the breakfast things. Niamh felt this was a good time to have a chat with him.
‘You’re letting her drive up by herself?’ Niamh asked.
Peter turned around. ‘As if she’d let me drive her to something like this. Even if I wanted to.’
‘She wouldn’t let you?’
Peter shook his head. ‘I did offer, but she said it would be easier without me.’
‘And you left it that?’
‘Niamh, Assumpta is not the sort of woman you can argue with when she’s made up her mind. You know that.’
‘You’ve always seemed to get through to her very well.’
Peter stacked the plates by the side of the basin. ‘This is something that wouldn’t have worked. She wouldn’t have listened to me.’
‘Is that so? You surprise me. You’ve never given up this easily before.’
‘I’m not giving up, Niamh. Assumpta made it very clear it was something she wanted to do on her own and I respect that. I may not agree with it, but I respect that.’
Niamh stood up. ‘Alright. But I still think you’re wrong.’
‘Fair enough,’ Peter replied.
Assumpta hugged her jacket around herself as she waited for someone to show up. She placed a hand protectively over her protruding stomach and wondered what they were up to at home. Elly should be at school and Peter was probably getting ready to open up. Caroline and Christian were no doubt, making mischeif.
Assumpta started out of her reverie and turned around. ‘Mrs McGarvey. I am so sorry.’
Mrs McGarvey nodded and took Assumpta’s hand. ‘I’m just so glad you’re here. Your husband didn’t come?’
‘Uh, no. He had to watch the children and the bar.’
‘You’re raising your children in a bar?’ Ms McGarvey asked, eyes wide open.
Mr McGarvey walked up then, saving Assumpta from saying something she may regret later. ‘Assumpta, thankyou for coming.’
‘Hello, Mr McGarvey.’
‘How many children do you have?’ Mrs McGarvey asked.
‘Three,’ Assumpta replied. ‘Two girls and a boy.’
‘Leo always wanted children,’ Mrs McGarvey said, getting a little sniffly.
‘Now, dear. Let’s go inside and sit down,’ Mr McGarvey said.
Assumpta wondered where they had got the idea that Leo had wanted children and followed them in.
‘I’m just afraid that their marriage is going to fall apart,’ Niamh told Ambrose at lunch.
‘Niamh, all married couples have fights. We do,’ Ambrose answered, trying to eat his lunch.
‘Ambrose, Peter and Assumpta are different. Have you ever known them to be as cold to each other as they were yesterday? It was like ice in there.’
‘I do admit, that was a first,’ Ambrose nodded.
‘See! We’ve got to help.’
‘I don’t like the fact you said we there,’ Ambrose answered.
Niamh sent him a dirty look. ‘They helped us when we had problems, Ambrose. They made sure we got married. We owe them a lot.’
‘True,’ Ambrose replied.
‘We need to get Peter up there.’
‘Niamh! Don’t be ridiculous. Assumpta would be very upset and it would make things worse!’
‘Well, what’s your idea, genius?’
‘Let me think over it Niamh. Don’t do anything rash,’ Ambrose said, getting up.
‘Me?’ Niamh asked innocently.
‘This is my will, my final testament. I ask for my trusted friend and lawyer William McNeil the third to be the executor. I request that those present be my family and Assumpta Fitzgerald. I ask that my home in London and its contents be left to my parents. I ask that my home in Dublin and its contents be left to Assumpta Fitzgerald along with the lump sum of 750, 000 dollars.’
Assumpta gasped and looked straight ahead. ‘Are you sure that’s what it said?’
‘That’s what it said ma’am,’ William said.
Assumpta was in shock.
Peter tucked Elly in bed and kissed her goodnight. He headed for his and Assumpta’s bedroom as the phone rang. He ran for it and got it.
‘It’s me,’ came the quiet voice on the other end.
‘Assumpta? What’s the matter? Are you okay? Is it the baby?’
‘Peter...can you come up here? I need you.’
‘I’ll just get Niamh to watch the kids. I’ll be there as soon as I can.’
‘I love you,’ she said gently. ‘And I’m sorry.’
Peter felt something tug at his heart. ‘I’ll be there soon. I love you too.’
Ambrose went and answered the door. ‘Peter? What can I do?’
‘Is Niamh here?’
Niamh came bustling out. ‘Peter? Are you okay?’
‘Assumpta wants me up in Dublin. The kids are in bed. I was wondering..’
‘I’ll go over there now,’ Niamh nodded. ‘Go to her, Peter.’
Peter nodded. ‘Right. Thanks.’
He went out quickly.
Ambrose turned to Niamh. ‘Did you do anything?’
‘No!’ Niamh said. ‘But I’m glad she did. I’ll see you soon.’
Assumpta sat in the hotel room, on the bed, her arms hugged around herself. She closed her eyes. All she wanted now was Peter and his arms around her, kissing her and telling her everything was fine.
‘Assumpta?’ his quiet voice came.
She looked up at him. As soon as he saw the look on her face he made his way over to the bed and held her close to him. ‘I love you,’ he said gently.
‘I love you too, Peter. So much.’ She moved her lips to cover his and pulled him closer to her. ‘I missed you so much.’
‘We’ve been stupid,’ Peter said, deepening the kiss. He moved slightly and gently kissed her neck.
Assumpta sighed softly at the emotions coursing through her. But she had to tell him first. ‘Peter,’ she said, gently moving away. ‘We need to talk first.’
Peter nodded and looked at her. ‘Go ahead.’
‘Leo left me the house in Dublin, its contents and 750,000 dollars,’ she said slowly.
‘Okay. What do you want to do?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know. I mean, we could use the money but I feel so guilty!’
‘Why?’ Peter asked, brushing a lock of hair from her face.
‘Well, Leo must have really loved me. But we had grown to far apart...and I had fallen in love with you...it wouldn’t have worked!’
Peter saw his wife was distressed and hugged her tight. ‘Assumpta, I’ve known you for over nine years and we’ve been married for six of those. I feel I know you as well as I know myself. And I know,’ he said, emphasising his words, ‘that you’ll make the right decision.’
Assumpta nodded and leaned into his embrace. She moved back a bit. ‘You’re wet!’
Peter nodded bashfully. ‘I was so worried about getting to you that I forgot to bring an umbrella. It was pouring of rain and I got soaked.’
Assumpta felt truly touched by his words. ‘Come on, we’ve got to get you out of those clothes.’
Peter agreed and undressed. Assumpta looked at him and pulled him over to face her. ‘I love you so much.’ She ran her hands over his chest and arms and Peter kissed her neck.
‘I love you too,’ he said, meeting her lips again in a deep, loving kiss.
And as the wind and rain raged outside, Peter and Assumpta were united
by their intense love, that was strong enough to conquer the world.
I hope you liked it. I know we never heard Assumpta's decision but I thought that was best left up to the imagination. The point is, they made up and they trusted each other enough to love and to understand what each other needed. And Peter trusted Assumpta enough to encourage her to make a decision that SHE felt was right.