Hey folks. As an avid Ballykay fan (really only the Peter-Assumpta
years, though) I'm sure I was one of the many people who hated the series
3 ending, where Assumpta is electrocuted just as she and Peter get together.
And I was sitting in school one day, bored out of my mind, when I thought
of an idea. I hate to use the term 'Alternate Universe' but I suppose this
is one. Assumpta lives, but only for a couple of years. Two years later,
the whole electrocution thing happens, and Peter leaves town . . . with his
baby son. If you've never seen Ballykissangel, you might still like this
I don't own Ballykissangel. I own Noel, but that's all.
Peter pushed the curtain back slightly, watching his son walk down the driveway
on his way to school. When he reached the gate, he turned and waved, as he
had done every morning of his schooling life. Peter smiled and waved back,
and the boy continued down the path. Peter's smile faded almost immediately,
reflected once again on the last few years of his life.
It was fifteen years since Assumpta's death. Fifteen years of raising his
son alone. Fifteen years of crying when his son was asleep, or at school,
or watching TV in the next room. It had been so hard without her. Not just
raising the boy, but also simply living was a struggle. When Assumpta had
died, it felt like the world had ended. Peter couldn't eat, he couldn't sleep,
and he couldn't be a good father to his baby. He was a wreck.
But that had changed, with time. It had been a few weeks before he had made
the decision to fix his life, and the life of his son. His son Noel. Assumpta
had chosen the name, a name that - for reasons she herself never knew - she
had always loved. Peter could not stay in Ballykay. He couldn't continue
to live above Fitzgerald's Pub, the pub where his son was born, where Peter
had lived for two blissful years with his little family. He could no longer
let his wife haunt him. He had to let go. So he packed up all his belongings,
gave Niamh - Assumpta's oldest friend - the keys to the pub, and left for
Dublin with Noel to start a new life.
He didn't cry all the time. In fact, his tears became far less frequent as
the years went on. He focused all his energy on raising Noel. The boy had
Peter's endless kindness and Assumpta's magnificent good looks. Noel looked
so much like Assumpta. Peter saw it more and more every day. He saw Assumpta
Noel laughed, he saw Assumpta cry when Noel cried, and he saw Assumpta angry
when Noel was angry. He also shared some physical traits with Peter, of course,
as his teachers and neighboring parents had pointed out, but it was not an
obvious similarity. Not in comparison to the one that Noel shared with Assumpta.
Peter had never returned to Ballykay, and therefore, neither had Noel. The
lad knew nothing of his birthplace, of how his mother died, or how Peter
had come to Ballykay in the first place. He didn't know that Assumpta had
been married before, and certainly didn't know that Peter was originally
the priest at St. Joseph's, Ballykissangel's Catholic church. It was too
much information for a young boy to deal with. Peter wanted to protect his
But Noel's not a little boy anymore, Peter had to remind himself. He's sixteen
years old. He needs to know the truth about his life. He needs to know more
about Assumpta than a photograph can show. He needed to know what a wonderful
woman his mother was, and how much she loved her baby boy. He needed to know
about her life, about the pub she ran, about the friends she had.
I'll tell him, Peter reminded. I'll wait until he gets home from school.
Then I'll tell him the truth.
"I'm home, Dad!" Noel Clifford called as he closed the front door behind
him, kicking off his shoes and dropping his schoolbag to the ground. As he
loosened his tie, he walked into the kitchen to make a sandwich. He found
his father sitting at the kitchen table, looking at a framed photograph.
Noel didn't need to ask which one to know. He knew every single detail of
the picture, every line and color. He had looked at it his whole life, wishing
he could remember that day, or any other day before . . . she died.
He had been a baby in that picture, only a couple of weeks old. He was in
his mother's arms, as she looked down into his little face. His father stood
behind her, with one hand on her shoulder, the other on his baby son's bald
head. They looked like the perfect little family, young, happy and beautiful.
They had no idea that it would only last a few months.
Noel said nothing for a moment, standing awkwardly in the doorframe. He never
knew what to do or say when his father was thinking about his mother. Should
he admit that he missed her too? No, because he felt that he had no right
to miss her. She had died when he was only a few months old, and he couldn't
remember a single detail of her that had not been refreshed by photographs.
He never knew what to do or say when his father got upset about Assumpta.
What can you say to a man who has never got over losing the love of his life?
"You alright, Dad?" Noel asked pathetically. His father nodded quickly, dropping
the photo on the table and wiping his face.
"Sit down, son," he said softly. "Please. We have to talk." Slowly, Noel
sat opposite his father at the table. Peter was silent for a moment, before
placing a hand on his son's arm.
"Noel," he began, not entirely sure how to say this. "You're growing up so
fast, it's unbelievable. It's seems like only yesterday you were a little
baby crawling around the place."
"Dad . . ." Noel groaned, embarrassed. As much as he loved his dad, his sentimental
reminiscing was sometimes too much for a teenaged boy to take. Peter shook
"That's not the point, though," he continued. "The point is that I once thought
you had all the time in the world to learn the truth about where you come
from, and the next thing I know, you're sixteen. I've kept this to myself
for so long, when I should have shared it with you as early as possible.
I'm sorry, son."
"Dad, if this is the birds and bees talk, I already know," Noel said panicky.
His friends had once had a conversation about how mortifying it had been
when they got the sex talk from their parents. Noel had been thankful to
miss it, but was now worried that his father had realized he'd left something
"It's not that, Noel," Peter said, growing agitated. "I never told you much
about your mother, did I? How we met, who our friends were?"
"You met in Ballykissangel," Noel said quietly, knowing his father was right.
His father had lived in Ballykay for five years, his mother much longer,
and Noel couldn't name a single friend that they had there. He only knew
that his mum was the local publican. He didn't know what his father's job
had been. He had never thought to ask.
"That's true," Peter said. "But that's not all. There's so much more to it
than that. Noel, when I met your mother, we were mismatched right from the
start. Your mum was an atheist publican, and I . . . was a Catholic priest."
Noel said nothing, but the instant change in his face was enough to tell
Peter that he was certainly shocked. Neither of them knew whether to laugh
"So how did it happen?" Noel asked after what seemed several minutes. And
so they sat together for two hours, over five cans of Coke, two bars of chocolate,
and a couple of tears. Noel listened intently as his father told him of his
Assumpta's initial dislike of him, or rather, of the clergy. Peter told him
of their eventual friendship, about how - despite their religious opinions
- they were eager to help each other, whatever the problem. However, after
time, that friendship had developed into something else, something that neither
of them had ever expected.
"So what happened?" Noel asked at this point, on his second Coke. He knew
this was hard for his dad, but now that he had started, Noel just had to
hear the rest.
"Well, nothing at first," Peter said. "We both disappeared for a while. Separately,"
he added sharply, seeing Noel's mouth open to say something. The last thing
his son needed to believe was that his parents had had some sort of sordid
affair. It had been nothing like that. "She went to Dublin for a few months,
and by the time we had both come back, she had married somebody else."
"Married? Who?" Noel was aghast.
"An old college flame of hers called Leo McGarvey. It didn't last very long
though. After that I told her I loved her. I told her I'd leave the priesthood
for her if she'd have me. And she agreed. A married woman and a Catholic
priest!" He laughed shortly, but Noel could see tears in his eyes.
"It was going to be perfect," Peter continued. "And for a little while, it
was. I left the clergy, we got married, lived together in the pub, and then
you came along. Did I tell ever you that you were premature?"
"By seven weeks. Your mum was putting her feet up in the living room, and
I was serving a few late night punters out front."
"Let me guess," Noel said. "Brendan, Siobhan and Padraig?"
"Oh, they were there," Peter said laughing, missing his friends. "Them, and
Brian Quigley, Niamh, and Doc Ryan, luckily. The regulars. Then Assumpta
came out, and said that she thought she was in labor. Now, your mum was fiery
enough, but she wasn't the kind to cry wolf, if you know what I mean. Anyway,
Doc Ryan told her to sit down and sure enough, her water had broken."
"Did you take her to the hospital?"
"No," Peter laughed. "You were born right there and then, on the floor of
your mother's pub! If I hadn't been so scared, it would have been one of
the funniest things I've ever seen. Your mum was screaming more profanities
than I had ever heard from one person in my life! The doctor said, while
she had been the most
difficult birth he could remember, you had been the easiest."
"The irony," Noel said, finding it hard to believe he was born on the floor
of a rural town's local pub.
"Things were just great after that," Peter said, talking to himself more
than Noel now. "I had my own little family, and even with Father McAnally
glaring at me every day of my life, I'd never been happier. It was wonderful.
And then, one night, we were holding a pub quiz when the lights went out.
The stupid fuse box never worked properly. Padraig offered to get it, but
your mum was too stubborn. She went down to do it herself and . . ." Peter
stopped suddenly, swallowing the brick-like lump in his throat. He had to
"The lights blinked back on, but then went out again. I ran down to the cellar,
and she was just lying there, looking white as a sheet. Doc Ryan and the
others did their best to help her, but it was no use. She was gone."
"I'm sorry, Dad," Noel said sincerely.
"Don't be, son," Peter said, gripping his shoulder across the table. "I never
would have got over that if it wasn't for you. To know that somebody still
needed me was enough to keep me sane." He sighed deeply, trying to change
"How about I cook us some dinner, you get out a video, and we have a lad's
night in?" His voice was too cheerful to be real, but Noel didn't argue.
They ate the meal in silence, concentrating on the movie they were watching.
Or at least pretending to for each other's sake. Peter's mind was still full
of the old memories that he had shared with his son; while Noel was trying
to envision his mother from the new information his father had given him.
It wasn't enough though. He had to know more. When it ended, Noel turned
to his father, admitting what he wanted to do.
"I want to go there, Dad," he said. "I want to go to Ballykissangel."
White collar, he wants her
('A Thousand Years of Evolution' by Picturehouse)
Every time she opens her mind
Comes to him for consultation
Secret midnight visitation
He wants her, she's showing off again
The show's just for him
His promises of God's forgiveness
Gives himself unfinished business
Noel instantly turned off his Walkman when he heard these lines. He usually
loved this upbeat, catchy song, sung by his favorite band - Picturehouse
- but now the words made him uncomfortable. Though he never knew for certain,
he always believed that this song was about a priest lusting after one of
his parishioners. Noel decided then and there that, even if he were wrong
about the lyrics, he would never listen to this song again. It just made
him think more about his father's revelation, and made his life look like
the result of some sordid little affair.
He slouched in his uncomfortable bus seat, gazing out the window. He noticed
a road sign - Ballykissangel 5 Miles. It wouldn't be long now. He glanced
around the bus at the other passengers. As he glanced, he noticed a woman
about his father's age staring at him. When she saw him looking, she turned
away quickly. Noel went back to the magazine he was reading, but peered back
around a few seconds later. The woman was looking at him again.
"I'm sorry," Noel began politely. "But is everything alright?" The woman
picked up her bag, and moved over to the spare seat next to him, as if trying
to get a closer look. She looked as if she had seen a ghost. When she finally
spoke, Noel realized that, in a way, she had.
"You're the image of your mother," she breathed. "I always knew you would
be, as you got older. As a baby, you were more like your daddy, but I knew
you'd turn out like Assumpta eventually."
"You knew my mum?" Noel asked in disbelief. He hadn't expected to find anyone
who knew her until he reached town, and he certainly never expected to be
recognized as her son. The woman laughed incredulously, as if Noel's question
was the most shocking thing she had ever heard.
"Assumpta Fitzgerald - I mean Clifford - was the best friend I ever had,"
she said to him. "Why do you think she made me your godmother?" Realization
dawned on Noel, as his father's story of Ballykay was still fresh in his
"You're Niamh?" he asked. She nodded, and shook his hand warmly. "Nice to
meet you," he said lamely.
"Jesus, I can't believe it's you!" she said, looking him up and down. Noel
smiled shyly, not entirely sure of what to say next. As it turned out, he
didn't need to say anything. Niamh was full of questions for her estranged
godson. What was he doing in town? How long was he staying? Did he have any
accommodation organized? What was his father up to? And several more.
Noel answered each question gladly. His father was in good health, but was
too busy with work to make the trip. He wasn't yet sure how long he would
stay in town, but had come to find out some stuff about his parents. He didn't
have any accommodation planned as of yet, but his father had given him an
address for Quigley's B&B.
"Well, you make sure my father treats you well," Niamh said, referring to
her businessman father, Brian Quigley. She didn't ask why Peter hadn't told
him to go to Fitzgerald's. She didn't need to ask. As much as Peter had loved
his time living in the pub, what father would want their son staying in the
place where his
mother had died?
"What do you plan to do?" Niamh asked him.
"Well, I took the last week of the term off school," Noel explained. "I think
I'll stick around for a little while, maybe get some work or something. Then
again, I might just stay a few days. Really, I just want to find out some
things about my mum."
"What sort of things?"
"Things that my father can't - or won't tell me," Noel said hesitantly. "She
lived here for so long, much longer than my dad. There's only so much he
could know about her. You know, how she grew up, what she was like when she
was younger. Also . . ." Noel paused for a second, but remembering that this
woman was one of his parents' closest friends, continued.
"Dad gets upset sometimes," he admitted. "He misses her so much. It hasn't
been easy for him, doing all this alone. I don't like to ask too much." He
looked up at Niamh and said, "I know he was a priest. And I know she was
"He told you?" Niamh asked, not really surprised. It wasn't in Peter's nature
"Just a few days ago," Noel pointed out. "He wanted to wait until I was old
"Well, you certainly are that," Niamh laughed, getting off the subject for
the boy's sake. "You must be sixteen now."
"I am, yeah," Noel said, the hissing sound as the old bus distracting him.
Niamh grinned as she saw the boy's face as he looked out the window, trying
to keep the look of childlike excitement off his face.
"Welcome back," he heard her say next to him.
"I'd love to stay and make sure you get settled in, Noel," Niamh said hurriedly.
"But I have some work to do up at the pub." After she said it, she could
have kicked herself for mentioning the pub, but Noel didn't seem to mind.
"I might pop up later, if that's okay," Noel asked. Niamh nodded eagerly,
and surprised Noel with a quick, but warm hug. Noel smiled and waved goodbye
as she headed up the road. Noel looked down the other direction to where
Niamh had told him that Quigley's B&B was. He was about to make his way
down the road, when a blue van pulled up next to him, and a woman poked her
head out. She was a sturdy woman about ten years older than her father, which
would have meant she was in her mid-fifties. There was a girl of about Noel's
age in the passenger seat.
"Are you lost, son?" the woman asked. Her voice was gruff, but friendly.
As she drove up the road, she had seen the boy standing alone in the street,
and presumed he was a tourist.
"Um, I'm not entirely sure," Noel admitted sheepishly. "I'm looking for Mr.
Quigley's B&B. Am I going the right way?" The woman didn't answer Noel,
but stared at him in shock. Noel knew where this was going, and prepared
for some serious blushing.
"Jesus Christ," the woman gasped. "Little Noel Clifford!?"
"Yes, miss," Noel said politely. "Although I'm not as little as I was when
"Aisling," the woman said to the girl next to her. "Shift over a little bit."
She turned back to Noel, and motioned for him to get in. Noel hesitated,
knowing that he was not yet old enough to ignore the warning "don't get into
cars with strangers." When she noticed his hesitation, the woman gave a hearty
"I'll be having words with your father if he hasn't told you about me," she
said in a mock threatening tone. "I'll give you a hint. To this day, I'm
a regular at Fitzgerald's, along with Brendan and Padraig?"
"Siobhan?" Noel asked, still unsure. "The vet?"
"In the flesh," Siobhan said. "Now get in, son, before it starts to rain."
Noel glanced up, and saw large, dark clouds forming in the sky. Typical Irish
weather. He nodded thankfully and went around to the passenger door, climbing
in next to Aisling.
"Thank you," he said as Siobhan started to drive again. He stole a quick
glance at Aisling, who was virtually sitting on his lap in the squashed front
seat. The memory of his father's story indicated that she was Siobhan's daughter,
even though they did not look much alike. Aisling was a slim, pretty girl
with very light brown - almost blonde - hair and smooth, slightly tanned
skin. Peter had told him briefly of the girl, born just a couple of months
before Noel. She was the result of a night of drunken passion between Siobhan
and Brendan - who had always been just good friends. After the initial shock,
Siobhan and Brendan had worked together to raise her. And had done a good
job, by the looks of things. In a strange way, she felt familiar to Noel,
even though the last time he had seen her they had been babies.
"So you're staying at Brian's?" Siobhan asked him, interrupting his thoughts
about her daughter.
"That's right," Noel said. "You don't know what he charges, do you?"
"Too much," Siobhan scoffed. She and Brian Quigley had never been particularly
fond of each other. "If you're short of pocket at all, our door's always
"Thank you," Noel said, privately surprised at all this hospitality. Noel
loved his father, and his unknown mother, and knew what good people they
were. Nevertheless, he was amazed at how nice everyone was being just because
he was their son. For all they knew, he could be an awful kid, full of psychotic
overtones. You can't know too much about a person by his parents or his behavior
as an infant!
"This is you," Siobhan said, pulling in outside a detached cottage with a
thatched roof. Noel was surprised that he couldn't hear Irish dance music
blaring from inside. The house alone was painfully superficial and stereotypical,
and clearly intended for tourists. Noel got out of the van, smiling politely
at Aisling. He was slightly disappointed that he hadn't had the chance to
talk to her, but knew that - in a small town like this - he would see her
"Take care, Noel," Siobhan said. "Why don't you stop by the pub later? We'll
all catch up." She paused for a moment, as if suddenly remembering that Noel's
mother died in that pub. "I mean, if you don't . . ."
"I'll see you there," Noel promised, keen to see both the pub, and Aisling
again. As Siobhan's van moved away, Noel turned and went into the cottage.
As soon as he entered, he actually did hear the Irish music blaring. Noel
was a bit of a musician himself, and as such he knew the good stuff when
he heard it. However, he couldn't help but wince at the up-tempo disco version
of 'Danny Boy' pounding into his brain.
"Top o' the morning to you!" he heard a voice bellow. Noel looked up to see
a man in his sixties wearing a business suit and a farmer's cap, with a green
Irish scarf around his neck. "Failte go hEireann!" Noel smirked to himself
as the man welcomed him to Ireland in Irish. This must be the famous wheeler-dealer
Brian Quigley, and this must have been part of his tourist show.
"Go raibh maith agat, a dhuine uasal," Noel said, thanking 'sir' in his native
language. Quigley sighed, frustrated that he had humiliated himself in front
of a native. He tore off the scarf and hat, tossing them on a nearby table.
"Right then," the man said gruffly. "I suppose there's no need for the formalities."
He took a closer look at Noel, and the boy got ready to go into his whole
yes-I-am-the-son-of-the-former-priest-and-dead-publican bit, but didn't need
"How old are you?" Quigley asked suspiciously. "Because I have rules here,
you know. If you're under eighteen, I need consent from a parent or guardian
. . ." He paused as Noel reached into his jacket pocket, taking out an envelope.
He handed it to Brian, who quickly tore it open.
"I'm an expert on forgeries, you know?" he lied, trying to scare the boy.
The last thing he wanted was some juvenile delinquent on his hands. But as
he read through the letter, he knew that there was no reason to suspect the
Dear Mr. Brian Quigley,
If you are reading this, then it means that my son has arrived safely
at your undoubtedly excellent accommodation. I assure you that he has my
full consent to be there, and will not cause you or your numerous businesses
any trouble. And I know for a fact that you will treat him well.
Humblest regards, old friend,
Brian felt his jaw drop, but promptly hid it from Noel. He nodded formally
and folded the letter again, handing it back to the boy, who - when Brian
had a good look - was obviously Assumpta's child. The letter was typical
Peter, as Brian remembered. Formal and solemn, yet Quigley was certain that
Peter was laughing when he wrote it, just thinking of how the reader would
react. Very funny, Clifford!
"The prodigal son returns, eh?" Brian muttered. He grabbed a folder of some
sort off the table, and handed it to Noel. "Sign here. Your room is the last
on the left upstairs, en suite included. No doubt you'll be joined by some
real tourists in the next few days. We'll be swamped." Noel smiled, uninterested,
as he had noticed that his name was the only one in the ledger.
"Welcome back to Ballykay," Brian said dryly, walking out abruptly. If Peter
hadn't given Noel such an accurate description of the man, Noel would have
been shocked. He picked up his bag again, and headed upstairs for a much-needed
shower and change of clothes.
"I'm glad everything's going well, son," Peter said down the receiver. He
tried to keep his tone light, for Noel's sake, but the truth was, he was
lonely. It was the first time since Assumpta's death that he and Noel had
been apart for more than a day. Noel had rung to tell his father that he
had arrived safely in Ballykay. Peter would never admit to his teenaged son
that he had in fact been waiting by the phone, biting his nails, dying for
that call. His life had been miserable without Assumpta, but he had survived
the agony because of Noel. Without Noel, there would be no point to his life
"I'll phone again tomorrow, Dad," Noel promised. He knew his dad would worry
if he didn't. Noel didn't like to worry his father, but he had been on the
phone with him for over an hour now, telling him every little detail of his
arrival in town. He knew his dad didn't want the conversation to end, but
it had to eventually. Peter and Noel would always be close, but Noel was
growing up, and now was a good a time as any for them to be apart. Noel was
sixteen and had never been away from his father. It was too long.
"Look, I really have to go, Dad," Noel insisted gently. "I'm meeting some
"I'll let you go then," Peter said, wondering if he would ever really be
able to let him go. "I love you, Noel."
"Love you too, Dad," Noel said, hanging up. After a quick shower and a change
of clothes, the post-travel laziness was gone and Noel was ready to face
the locals. He was a bit nervous, terrified actually. He was about to go
back to the pub where he was born and his mother had died. He still couldn't
get over the fact that he had been born on the floor of a pub!
He glanced at his bedside locker, which held nothing but a lamp and a photo
of his infant self and his parents that he had swiped from a photo album
before leaving Dublin. He picked up the photo and examined it again. God,
he wished he had known his mum. He knew only what his dad had told him -
she was kind, but quite feisty, very anti-religion, and yet had somehow fallen
in love with the Catholic priest. She also loved her son. Peter had stressed
this fact repeatedly, hoping that the message was getting through to the
boy. Noel knew his mum had loved him, but that only made him miss her more.
If she had been a neglectful, cruel parent, his affection for someone he
had never known might have lessened. But the fact was that Noel couldn't
remember the feeling of a mother's love, and it left a void in his life.
"Wish me luck," he muttered to his photographed parents, leaving his room.
He crept downstairs, hoping not to get caught by Mr. Quigley. No such luck,
"Clifford!" Brian bellowed from the living room. "If you come back drunk,
I'm locking you out!"
"I won't, Mr. Quigley," Noel said obediently, secretly giving the bossy man
the finger. It was late evening, but the approaching summer meant that the
sun was only beginning to set. He made his way up the road to Fitzgerald's
- his mother's pub, still bearing her maiden name fifteen years after her
death. Taking a deep, nervous breath, he prepared to go in. When he reached
the door, however, he froze.
"That handle jammed again?" a voice called behind him. He turned to see the
girl from the van, Siobhan's daughter Aisling walking towards him.
"Um . . . no," Noel stammered, fully aware that he was blushing. He was glad
it was getting dark, and that she couldn't see. "It's just . . ."
"Scary," Aisling finished for him. "And you haven't even seen them drunk
yet!" Noel appreciated her joke, but it didn't do much to help his confidence.
"Look," the girl said gently, standing next to him at the door. "My parents
told me about your mam, about this place. I know you're nervous, but if you
don't like it, you never have to come back. It's that simple."
"Is it?" Noel scoffed, then turning to her apologetically. He didn't mean
to sound rude. Thankfully, Aisling seemed unfazed.
"Give it an hour," she advised. "One hour of meeting and greeting all your
former neighbors. If it doesn't agree with you, there's plenty more attractions
in Ballykay." She paused sheepishly. "I just can't think of any of them right
"Thanks," Noel said appreciatively, smiling genuinely, if shyly.
"I don't agree with letting my mother do all my introductions, and although
we have technically known each other our whole lives - I'm Aisling Kearney."
She put her hand out for him to shake, and he did so gladly.
"Noel Clifford," he said smiling, happy that he was making friends already.
With new bravery, he walked into the pub with her. They were greeted by a
hum of voices, a bit of music, and all the usual sights and sounds of a rural
Irish public house. Behind the bar, Noel saw Niamh serving a pint of stout
to a man in his fifties. She waved cheerily to him and motioned for him to
come over to the bar. He did so, sitting down next to the man with the stout,
and Niamh asked what he would like to drink.
"A coke, please," he said politely. The man next to him turned and slapped
a heavy hand down on his shoulder.
"This must be the man of the hour," he said cheerfully. "Long time no see,
Master Clifford! I see you've met my daughter." Noel clicked that this was
Brendan, Aisling's father and a dear friend of Peter's.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Kearney," Noel said.
"No need for formalities, Noel," Brendan said. "Call me Brendan." Brendan
was kind enough to pay for Noel's coke, and introduced him to the other locals
cluttering up the bar: Padraig, the mechanic, Liam and Donal, the somewhat
dim but likeable handymen, and Sean Dillon, Niamh's husband. Sean and Niamh
had married after Niamh's first husband Ambrose - the father of her son Kieran
- had died. Noel shook hands with all of them, and respectfully declined
their countless offers to buy him another drink. There were only so many
bottles of Coke his system could handle.
"So how long are you planning on staying, Noel?" Sean asked, refilling Noel's
"I'm really not sure, to be honest," Noel admitted. He noticed that the whole
pub got considerably quieter every time he spoke, as if they were hanging
on his every word. He wasn't used to all this attention, and it embarrassed
"Well, if you're planning on being around for awhile, I'm sure we have a
couple of odd jobs around here for you," Sean offered. "Just something to
keep you busy and in pocket."
"That's right," Niamh said, eager to encourage Noel to stick around. "There
are a few repairs and things that need doing. Fixing some shelves and things
like that. Can you use a hammer and saw?"
"Yeah, sort of," Noel said. "I do woodwork in school . . ."
"Then you're more qualified than our local carpenters," Sean muttered, motioning
to Liam and Donal. "So have we a deal?"
"Yeah, thanks," Noel agreed, smiling at Sean and Niamh. He looked around
the pub, at all the people who knew and cared about his parents, and felt
a strange sense of belonging and familiarity, almost like he had never been
The only two people missing were his mother and father.