Summary: Seven weeks ago, Assumpta Clifford had a serious miscarriage. Ever since then, there has been tension and arguments between her and her husband Peter. Their two-year-old son Matthew, and their friends are worried. Is their marriage over? Or can the Christmas spirit and a bit of prodding change everything?
Disclaimer: NONE OF THIS IS MINE. Except Matthew
Matthew looked back and forth between his parents, who were sullenly eating their breakfast. His father looked tired and his mother looked cross.
“Finished,” he said proudly, showing his mother the empty plate.
“Good boy,” she said, attempting a smile. “I’ll be up to help you with your teeth soon okay?”
Matthew nodded and slid out of his chair. He padded into the bar area then went upstairs.
“Shall I wash up?” Peter asked, taking his plate and putting it in the sink. “Then I can open up if you want to play with Matthew.”
“Fine,” Assumpta said stiffly, placing her plate on the stack. “But I’ll be coming down to work later.”
“Assumpta,” Peter sighed.
“Don’t start,” Assumpta warned, heading upstairs.
The bar was still fairly empty by lunchtime, with just Siobhan, Brendan and Padraig inhabiting the stools. Peter had gone upstairs after his wife, who had stalked off in a fuming rage after he had told her to take it easy. The group flinched as angry words were exchanged upstairs, easily audible from where they were sitting.
“Stop treating me like a child!” Assumpta cried.
“Then stop acting like one!” Peter replied. “Assumpta, you nearly died seven weeks ago. You’ve got the scars to prove it. I seriously thought I was going to lose you. Michael told you to take it easy. He said leave the bar work to me, and just spend time with Matthew. I don’t want you collapsing and dying on me, you hear?”
“I am fine,” Assumpta answered. “I told you before we got married that I wasn’t the kind of woman who would be babied or dependant. I do not need you telling me what I can and cannot do.”
“No, that is what Doc Ryan is for.”
“Do not lecture me, Peter.”
Peter sighed. “I swear, sometimes I think it would have been easier to stay a priest.” He regretted it as soon as the words came out his mouth.
“Then why don’t you go back to being one?!" Assumpta yelled. She stomped out of the hallway and into the bedroom, where Peter flinched as the door was slammed.
Downstairs, Niamh had just arrived to hear the previous remarks, and she too flinched. “How long has this been going on?” she asked, nodding to upstairs.
“About an hour, give or take,” Padraig replied.
Brendan got up. “I better go talk to Peter.”
“Watch what you say,” Siobhan warned him.
“I’ll take the firebrand,” Niamh sighed.
Matthew thwarted her on her attempts to get upstairs.
“Stay over tonight?” Matthew asked, indicating his desire to stay with her.
Niamh sent a worried look to the duo left at the bar and placed Matthew in Siobhan’s capable hands.
“Peter?” Brendan said, hesitantly opening the door to the nursery.
Peter looked up. “Come in, Brendan,” he smiled weakly.
“Are you okay?”
“Heard every word down there, huh?” Peter asked, trying to make the situation light.
“Every word,” Brendan said grimly.
Peter nodded, looking almost lost. “I don’t know what to do, Brendan. I watched her when she had that miscarriage. I was there, hearing Matthew scream and watching her cry in pain. I saw her pass out, the blood and Michael calling an ambulance. I waited at that hospital, for hours, until Michael came and told me that she was going to be alright, but that she was very weak. I held her as we both cried for our baby. The first two weeks, I didn’t even touch her. I was so afraid that she might break. I listened as Michael instructed on proper care and exertion. Then, this situation started.”
“The fighting?” Brendan asked, sitting beside him.
“Yes. Did I do the wrong thing, Brendan? Did I ruin her life? Are we too completely different to be together?”
“Do you want to know what I think?” Brendan asked, waiting for a nod before he continued. “I’ve seen you together. I saw you when you first started dating, if you could even term it that. I remember when you two were embarrassed for anyone to catch you kissing. I watched you two canoodle behind the bar when you thought no one was watching. I saw Matthew born in this very pub. I saw both your faces when you were pronounced man and wife and when you found out that Assumpta was pregnant. I watched you nurse each other the first few weeks after the miscarriage. So, Peter, in a one-word answer to your two questions, no. And from my experience in life and what I’ve seen, this is a marriage worth fighting for.”
Peter looked up and smiled. “Thanks Brendan.”
Assumpta?” Niamh asked, poking her head around the bedroom door. “Can I come in?”
“I’m not going to bite, Niamh,” Assumpta replied, sitting on her bed.
The room had been changed over the years, given a new wallpaper and softer lighting. It also now housed a king sized bed, with a cross hanging over it, which Assumpta had given her assent to.
“After that recent performance, I’m not too sure,” Niamh answered, coming in and sitting beside her.
Assumpta scowled. “How much did you hear?”
“Just the last few snippets. However, the rest of the gang heard the past hour of it.”
Assumpta’s frown deepened and she crossed her arms. “I don’t need a lecture, Niamh.”
“I’m not here to give one,” she answered. “I’m just here to remind you of how you feel about him.”
Assumpta groaned. “Please don’t start on me, Niamh.”
“I’m not,” Niamh told her. “Just think about what you are doing to each other. I watched you get married, Assumpta. I’ve watched you both for a long time. Now, over a silly quarrel, your marriage is falling apart.”
“It is not falling apart, Niamh,” Assumpta said crossly, heading over to the window.
Niamh walked over behind her. “Okay, then how long is it since you’ve slept in the same bed?”
Assumpta continued staring out the window. “Leave me alone, Niamh, please.”
“Matthew’s miserable. He asked if he could stay with us tonight. Peter’s miserable. He loves you, Assumpta.”
Assumpta turned around fiercely. “Did I not hear you say that you heard the last remarks of our conversation?”
“Asssumpta, everyone says things in the heat of the moment that they don’t mean. I’m sure that Peter is more happier being married to you and having Matthew than he ever was as a priest.”
Assumpta turned back to the window. “He’s babying me, Niamh. He promised me that when we got married, he wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“Think of it from his point of view, Assumpta. He watched you slowly bleed and become unconscious. He heard Matthew screaming in the background and Michael calling the ambulance. He waited in that damn hospital for hours until they came to say you were okay. You scared him really badly, Assumpta. What do you expect him to do? Ignore you and let you go on doing everything the same.”
“Yes,” Assumpta growled. “Because it’s easier for me.”
Niamh nodded. “That’s it, isn’t it? You woke up in hospital to be told that you had lost your baby. Then you’ve come back here and tried to shut it all out.”
“Niamh, please leave,” Assumpta said.
“Please,” Assumpta told her.
Niamh nodded and left Assumpta to her thoughts.
Brendan, Siobhan and Padraig sat in the bar as another fight raged on upstairs. It had been two days since the previous fight, yet each day hostility had been in the air.
“For heaven’s sake,” Siobhan said, putting her glass down. “It’s the week before Christmas. Poor Matthew is so upset he’s practically living at Niamh’s. Is this what it is going to be like over Christmas and the New Year?”
“I hope not,” Padraig said glumly. “Christmas is supposed to be happy. Matthew will probably actually be more aware about this one. How good is it going to be if all he remembers about this Christmas is his parents fighting all the time? They probably haven’t even gone present shopping.”
“Both of them have been holed up here all the time, so I doubt it,” Siobhan said. She sipped some more of her drink then looked up, as if she had had an epiphany.
“What?” Niamh asked, who had come in a few moments ago.
“Maybe they need to get away. Just for a day trip or something. Just the two of them.”
“In their state?” Brendan asked. “They’d kill each other.” He put his paper down and looked upstairs. “I’ll be back.”
“Don’t make it worse, Brendan,” Padraig warned him.
Brendan waved that idea away and continued upstairs.
“I’m very capable of taking care of our son, thank you very much,” Assumpta said fiercely. “I am not deciding between running our pub and taking care of our son.”
“I’m not asking you to do that!” Peter told him. “I am simply asking you to take it easy.”
Brendan poked his head around the door. “Everything okay?”
“It’s fine, Brendan. Thanks,” Peter told him, rubbing his forehead.
“Alright. If you want anything…”
“We’re fine. Thank you, Brendan,” Assumpta forced out.
Brendan nodded and pushed the door back to again, going back down towards the bar. He winced as the arguing started again.
“Hello, everyone,” Fr Mac said, coming into the bar.
“Hello, Father,” they all said politely.
Fr Mac looked upstairs, to where the yelling was coming from. “Still going on?”
Brendan nodded grimly. “They’ve been at each others throats for weeks.”
“I hope they don’t get a divorce,” Niamh said, worried.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Niamh,” Siobhan told her. “That’s true love up there. After everything they’ve been through to get together…not to mention us, they better not split up.”
“Surely things are not that bad,” Fr Mac said, raising an eyebrow.
A particularly loud yell emitted from upstairs and all eyes in the room were on Fr Mac.
“Point taken. Loud and clear,” Fr Mac answered, rubbing his forehead. “Perhaps I better talk to them.”
The group in the room sent worried looks to each other.
“No offence, Father,” Padraig said, “but I don’t think that would go down very well.”
Fr Mac nodded. “You’re probably right. I just wish I could do something to help.”
“Maybe they could renew their wedding vows?” Niamh suggested.
“I don’t think that would work either,” Padraig said.
The two women looked crossly at Padraig.
“You think of something then,” Siobhan told him crossly.
“Maybe things will simmer down after awhile,” Padraig suggested.
The whole group turned to look at him.
“Alright, alright, maybe not.”
“They need to talk instead of argue,” Brendan said thoughtfully.
“Like mediation,” Fr Mac said quietly.
“That’s it,” Padraig cried, getting out of his stool.
“What’s it?” Siobhan asked him.
“One of us is like a referee while they talk it out.”
“Yeah, I’m sure they’ll love that,” Brendan muttered.
“Assumpta would kill us all!” Siobhan said.
“That’s quite true,” Padraig admitted.
“But they do need to talk,” Brendan asserted.
“That’s true also,” Padraig added.
Liam and Donal came into the bar.
“The bartenders unavailable?” Liam asked.
“They need to remember what brought them together in the first place, and try and talk about what’s bugging them,” Donal said, looking profound.
“You know, Donal,” Siobhan said, “that’s not a bad idea.”
Niamh looked at Siobhan oddly. “Don’t be ridiculous, Siobhan. It’s a silly idea. We can’t reenact how they got together. We don’t have a priest anymore, remember?”
Fr Mac coughed. “I wouldn’t mind lending a helping hand.”
Brendan looked confused. “What precisely are we going to do?”
Padraig looked equally confused. “Here, here. What are we going to do?”
“All will be revealed,” Siobhan said, looking mysterious.
Assumpta sat in her kitchen and took a couple of aspirin. She had a terrible headache and felt really sick. But she wasn’t going to tell Peter. Then he’d just baby her even more and then they’d yell even more and Matthew would be upset.
“Assumpta!” Padraig cried. “Customer!”
“Of course,” she muttered to herself. “The minute I get a minute alone, Peter isn’t to be found and there’s a customer.”
She came out to the front desk but could see no one there. “Padraig, if this is your idea of a funny joke, I’m not laughing.”
Brendan appeared. “Assumpta, if you would come with me.”
“Go on, Mummy,” Matthew prodded. He took one of Padraig’s hands and they left the pub.
“I can’t leave the pub,” Assumpta said stubbornly.
“For God’s sake, Assumpta, the place can close for a few minutes. This is important okay?” Brendan told her. “Now come on.”
“Explain to me again why I’m here,” Peter asked Siobhan, who sat him down in the local hall.
“All will be revealed,” Siobhan told him, using her now over used catchphrase.
Peter sighed and looked up at her. “Assumpta will be furious. I was supposed to be watching the pub.”
“The pub’s closed,” Brendan said, bringing Assumpta in and sitting her down beside Peter.
“I swear Brendan, if you are trying to matchmake or anything silly like that, you will be barred for life.”
“This was all Matthew’s idea,” Brendan told her simply.
“Brendan, he’s two,” Peter replied.
“Well, he helped,” Niamh told them.
“What is this all about?” Assumpta asked, folding her arms.
“We thought you might need a reminder of how much in love you both used to be,” Siobhan informed them.
“We still love each other,” Peter tried to convince them, albeit unsuccessfully.
“We’re sure you do,” Brendan said. “But somewhere along the way, you’ve stumbled. And it’s not only upsetting your son, it’s upsetting all of your friends. We all watched you both fall in love, date, get married, have Matthew. And at the moment, your marriage leaves a lot to be desired.”
“Thanks a lot,” Assumpta muttered.
“Do you remember when you first met?” Padraig asked.
“Of course we do,” Assumpta replied. “I was driving back home in the rain and Peter was walking along on his way to Ballyk.”
“All is not lost,” Brendan smiled.
“Look,” Peter said. “Assumpta and I remember everything, okay? But that has nothing to do with what is going on between us at the moment. It is something that we need to work out together.”
“Well, you’re not doing a very good job of it, are you?” Niamh asked.
“Niamh, this is none of your business,” Assumpta said, standing up. She picked up Matthew. “I have a pub to run.” She turned to her husband. “Coming?”
“Halt,” Fr Mac said, coming out into the room. “We tried it their way, now we do it mine.”
“Perfect,” Assumpta muttered. “After what you did to my parents, and the hell you gave Peter and I when we wanted to get married, I sincerely hope you do not intend to lecture any of us.”
“Oh sit down, Assumpta,” Brendan told her.
Niamh came over and took Matthew.
Both Assumpta and Peter sat back down again.
“Do you know how many priests leave the priesthood?” Fr Mac asked them, sitting at a table in front of them. “Not a lot. Mainly, because they either don’t have the stamina or they are very unsure of their future. Very few leave for love and even fewer remain in that relationship. It is true that when Peter first told me he was leaving because he was in love with Assumpta, that I was furious. I had resolved when I became a parish priest that I would not let any priest leave from under my wing. Then I caught the two of you kissing down by the lake. It was not the kiss that caught my eye, but the pure love that resonated between the both of you. Then when Assumpta had that near fatal accident in the cellar, most of the town witnessed Peter’s emotions then. He cried because he thought he’d lost you. Now I understand that you lost a child and nothing can change that. Nothing can bring that child back, or fix the hurt feelings that lay inside of you. But you both need to compliment each other with your feelings. Assumpta, you nearly died when you had that miscarriage. I was actually present at the hospital because they were not sure whether they would need me to say the last rites or not. You have to understand that it scared, pardon the expression, the hell out of everyone. Particularly your husband. And I understand that it is difficult when someone wants to take care of you. Peter learnt that when I had my heart attack. But Assumpta, instead of seeing it as a burden, see it as Peter showing the immense amount of love he has for you. And Peter, Assumpta does not need a mother, she needs a loving husband. Someone to help her get through this time.” Fr Mac sat back in his chair and smiled. “The pub will be closed tonight. Matthew is spending the night at Niamh’s and the two of you need to talk.” He looked at everyone around the couple. “Well, why is everyone still here? As Assumpta is particularly fond of saying…have you no homes to go to?”
Assumpta and Peter sat in their room, looking at each other awkwardly.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been all alone, hasn’t it?” Peter mentioned.
Assumpta nodded. “Do you think our marriage is over?” she asked quietly.
“Do you want it to be?” Peter asked.
“No,” she replied.
“Neither do I,” Peter agreed. “I was so scared, Assumpta. I thought that it was over. I thought I was going to have to raise Matthew by myself, run this pub without you, never see you again, hear you talk or tell me that you love me.”
“Sounds like what it’s been like lately,” Assumpta murmured. “Look, Peter, I understand that you were scared. But, and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with him, like Father Mac said, I don’t need a mother. I need my husband. I need a lover. For God sake’s Peter, we haven’t made love for over a month. We used to never be able to keep our hands off each other. Even when Matthew was gone, we were sleeping together a fortnight later. I miss you. I love you.” She stopped and looked down at her hands.
There was a movement and the next time she looked up, Peter was looking into her eyes. “I love you,” he said. “And I promise that I will let up on the mothering…as long as you agree to obey doctor’s orders.”
Assumpta nodded and smiled.
Peter’s lips found hers for the first time in over a month and the kiss quickly turned passionate with desire that had been dormant for so long. Assumpta moaned and wound her arms around his neck, laying back on the bed and pulling Peter to her. Assumpta’s top and bra were quickly dealt with, as was Peter’s shirt as the desire began to escalate. They realised that they were all alone now, no Matthew to be calling for them, no one calling from the bar, and no arguments to prevent them from being together. Peter placed kisses along her neck and Assumpta pressed herself closer to him and Peter groaned as he began to kiss her mouth again. Soon, Peter’s hand brushed against the scar that now adorned her belly. Assumpta’s hand instinctively went down to cover it, but Peter pulled it away.
“Don’t,” he told her.
“Peter,” she said.
“Assumpta, don’t hide it. It’s part of you, part of us.” He bent down and
kissed the scar gently. “You’re beautiful.”
The next morning, Niamh opened the door to the bar. Matthew held her hand tightly as they walked inside. All was silent.
“Sounds good, doesn’t it?” Niamh asked the little boy, who grinned and nodded his head furiously.
Upstairs, Peter heard the door being unlocked and looked down at the tousled red hair that lay on his chest.
“Assumpta,” he nudged.
“Mhm?” came the reply.
“I think Niamh has brought Matthew home.”
Assumpta nodded and the events of last night came back. She smiled. “Suppose we better get up.”
Peter grinned. “You know, if we stayed quiet, they might think we are still asleep.”
Assumpta smiled at him and pressed her lips to his. “Sounds good to me. Do you think we can stay quiet.”
“Only if you promise not to squeal,” Peter answered, tickling her gently.
“Peter Clifford!” Assumpta said. “I’m shocked. Nice boys certainly do not talk like that.”
Peter rolled her over onto her back and kissed her again. “Yes they bloody