by Glenys Packer
One: Rain One
“Behave for the babysitter you two, OK?”
Assumpta said, looking down at her two children as she threw her jacket on. She
smiled at the babysitter. “I won’t be too late, I promise.” The babysitter
Her twelve-year-old son, Rowan,
rolled his eyes and said, “We’ll be fine, Mum. Just like we always are.”
Rowan’s six-year-old half sister
Kaylee grinned up at their mother. “Will you think about us when you sing,
Assumpta knelt down, putting her
arms around her children. “Of course I will, darlings.” She kissed them both on
the cheek, then stood up, said one last goodbye and headed out the door.
It was a chilly night, and Assumpta
decided to take a taxi to the coffee shop that she and her band were performing
at. As she leaned back in the seat,
watching the city flash by, she tried to think of the good things about her
life, instead of letting her pre-performance nerves turn into the depression
that constantly threatened to overwhelm her.
She had two children, a steady job,
friends, a band that she enjoyed performing with...she’d never have to worry
about being short of cash because her millionaire friend Addie always looked
out for her. And she still had Fitzgerald’s, and the people in Ballykay, even
if she knew she couldn’t live there again. So why did she feel like her life
The band was
all ready there when Assumpta arrived.
“Here she is,” said Serenity, the
back up singer and guitarist. “’Assumpta, we thought you were going to be
Assumpta rolled her eyes, taking off
her jacket. “Since when have I been late to a performance? That’s Mark’s job.”
She grinned teasingly at the male guitarist and singer, who stuck his tongue
out at her.
“We’ve got a pretty full house
tonight,” Serenity commented as she and Assumpta set up the mics. Assumpta
glanced out at the people seated around the coffee shop. She stopped, scanning
someone?” Serenity’s voice said, close to Assumpta’s ear.
“What?” Assumpta turned. “Oh, just
seeing if there are any good looking guys out there.”
“Hey,” Mark called. “What are you
looking out there for, there’s one standing right here.” He flashed Assumpta a
brilliant smile as she turned and raised an eyebrow.
“Ahm, no,” Assumpta said, rather
coldly. “I’m trying for something new and exciting. You’re old news.” She went
to test her mic.
Serenity said quietly.
“Hey, I try.”
Mark shrugged. “It worked once.”
“Ok,” Assumpta said into the mic.
“To finish off this evening, we’ll be doing our rendition of ‘Closer to You’
originally written and performed by Brandi Carlile.” She looked back to make
sure Serenity and everyone was ready. The audience quieted.
The drums and
guitar started, and Assumpta began singing.
“It’s hard to let the miles pass me by,
Yellow lines that blend together in my eyes,
And when the seasons change again then I will too,
I just want to be, closer to you.”
The door of the cafe opened, and a
man entered, ordering a cup of coffee at the counter, and then taking it to a
small table. He turned to face the stage, and Assumpta felt her heart skip,
could it be...? No, it wasn’t possible...
“I’m staring out at endless rows of green,
There are miles of hay like I’ve never seen,
Just when you think you’ve had enough and your dreams come true,
I just want to be, closer to you.
“Oh, my mind wanders through all that I’ve been hiding from,
I tried not to let you down.
Now I wonder if I’ve been doin’ something wrong,
Help me get my feet back on the ground.”
During the instrumental break,
Assumpta took another look at the man. He’d been watching her intently, and
when their eyes met Assumpta felt a jolt run down her spine. Never mind that,
though, it was time to sing.
“Tomorrow I’ll be lying under you,
With a heart of gold and arms to fall into,
I know that there might come a day
Where my life is through,
But I just want to be, closer to you.
“Oh, my mind wanders through all that I’ve been hiding from,
I tried not to let you down.
Now I wonder if I’ve been doin’ something wrong,
Help me get my feet back on the ground.”
It was him, it had to be! Even
squinting past the stage lights, even after the long years of only hearing his
voice over the phone, it was unmistakably him. How could she forget that face?
“Someday we might learn to tell the truth,
We might even find the fountains of our youth,
We all needed something real we all need proof,
I just want to be closer to you,
I only want to be...
Closer to you.”
As the song ended the audience
cheered heartily, Assumpta bowed and blew a few kisses to the crowd, before
thanking them and going to help the other’s pack up.
“Another stellar performance
Assumpta,” Serenity said, clapping Assumpta on the back. “You’re amazing.”
Dave, the drummer, congratulated her as well.
Assumpta smiled. “Thanks.” She
turned and looked back out at the tables, where people were now chatting,
eating and drinking while listening to the smooth jazz that now played over the
right?” Serenity asked, gently touching Assumpta’s shoulder.
Assumpta squinted. “I just saw someone I knew, is all.”
“Go over and
say hi, we’re not exactly running on a deadline here.”
“Speak for yourself,” Assumpta
mumbled. “I left Rowan and Kaylee with a babysitter, I don’t want her to have
to stay too late.”
Serenity rolled her eyes. “Sure, she
won’t mind. Go on and say hi to your friend.”
There was nothing Assumpta could do
to argue, no reason for her to. She wanted to see him, but... Before she knew
it she was winding her way through the crowd. Looking up, she saw that he had
spotted her, and they kept their gazes locked as she made her way over.
smiled weakly, not knowing what else to do.
her smile. “Hi, ‘Ssumpta.”
“You’re the last person I expected
to see here,” Assumpta said as they sat down, leaning closer to hear each other
over the sounds of the coffee shop.
“Oh...” Peter shrugged. “I was
passing through...I’d talked to Niamh on the phone and she said you were
performing here, I hope you don’t mind.”
Assumpta shook her head. “Why would I mind?”
Peter frowned, his voice almost
grudging when he spoke. “You’re the one who keeps pushing me away.”
down at the table. “None of it makes sense anymore.”
Peter reached over, touching Assumpta’s
hand lightly. She jerked her hand back, staring at Peter.
said, her gaze warning.
“’Ssumpta...” Peter said softly. “I
can’t do this anymore...twelve years...”
“Peter...That’s just it, it’s
been...twelve years.” She paused for emphasis. “We’ve both changed. How do you
know we’d even get along?” She sounded like she was trying to convince herself
more then Peter. This time, when he reached for her hand, she didn’t pull away.
“We can try,”
Peter murmured. “We can try.”
The next day was Saturday, and in
the morning Kaylee was at a play date, so Rowan and Assumpta went to a park to
enjoy the fall weather. There were a lot of other families there, and Rowan sat
underneath a tree with his sketchbook open in his lap, watching the other
people while his mother stretched out on the grass with some paperwork that
Assumpta looked up and saw the sad,
longing expression on her son’s face. “Ro, are you all right?
“Mum...” Rowan looked down, twirling
a dead leaf between his fingers. “Are you ever gonna get married?”
“I don’t know...” Assumpta thought
of Peter, and Kaylee’s father, and Leo, and the handfuls of men she’d dated
over the past years. “I doubt it.”
looked up at her, his eyes narrowed.
reasons,” Assumpta said simply.
“The same reason we can’t live in
Ballykay, the same reasons you’re never happy?” Rowan certainly was observant.
“Mum what are you hiding from me?”
Rowan asked suddenly. “You might have gotten away with it when I was Kaylee’s
age...but I can tell there’s something you’re not telling me. Like why you
never mention my dad, like why when we go to Ballykay I feel like there’s
something you grown-ups don’t want to talk about around me. What is it?”
“I can’t explain it now...” Assumpta
said. “It’s, really, complicated, sweetie. Someday.”
Rowan let out
an exasperated sigh and turned his back to his drawing.
Assumpta didn’t usually put much
effort into dinner, the kids knew what they liked and it wasn’t usually
anything fancy. But tonight she sent Rowan and Kaylee off too play video games
while she prepared dinner, chopping, stewing, simmering...She’d rarely done
this much cooking away from the pub.
“I guess we’re
Assumpta turned from the stove to
see Rowan leaning on the granite topped island in the center of the kitchen.
“Yes,” Assumpta replied. “An old
friend of mine that used to live in Ballykissangel. Don’t worry, I’m sure
you’ll like him.”
“Oh, is he a candidate to be your next boyfriend?” Rowan said, showing his
inheritance of his mother’s sarcasm.
Assumpta turned around, her hands on
her hips. “No!” she said. “Ro, he was a priest when I knew him.”
“Rowan!” Assumpta sighed. “Look, I
ran into him at the concert the other night, I hadn’t seen him since before you
were born. This is important to me, so you can cut with the attitude!”
Rowan glowered at her, stomping off
to his bedroom. “God, I just don’t want to see you get hurt again, Mum...” he
mumbled, stomping off to his bedroom.
Assumpta turned back to the stove,
feeling strange. Just then there was a knock at the door, and she wiped her
hands on her apron before going to answer it.
said as Assumpta let him in. He looked around. “Nice place...”
The apartment was very modern, wood
floors, shiny hardware...The kitchen, dining room, and living room were all one
large room, the kitchen being a couple steps up from the dining room; at one
end of the living room huge windows looked out on the busy street below; and a
hallway to one side led to the bathroom and three bedrooms.
“Thanks,” Assumpta said, hanging
Peter’s jacket on the rack near the door. “My friend Addie owns the building,
so I get to rent it for pretty cheap.”
“Mmm.” Peter nodded. At that moment
Kaylee appeared at her mother’s side, staring up at Peter. Peter looked down at
Kaylee, she was a sturdy little girl, built a little stockier then Assumpta,
and had curly black hair, but she had her mother’s eyes, and looked at Peter
with that same penetrating gaze as Assumpta did.
“Oh, Peter,” Assumpta said, putting
an arm around her daughter’s shoulders. “This is my daughter Kaylee, I know
I’ve mentioned her. Kaylee, this is Mummy’s friend Peter.”
Peter smiled at
Kaylee. “Hello Kaylee.”
“Hi.” Kaylee flashed him a brief
grin then flitted back off towards the television.
“She looks like
you,” Peter commented.
Assumpta beamed. “The other one’s
around here somewhere, he’s probably hiding in his room. Rowan!”
Rowan came out
slowly, keeping his eyes on Peter as he approached.
“Peter, this is my son, Rowan.”
Assumpta said. “Rowan, I’d like you to meet my friend Peter Clifford.”
“Hey,” Rowan said, eyeing Peter.
Rowan looked very much like his mother; the same slender build, the same
delicate face. His eyes, however, were greener then Assumpta’s, and Rowan’s
dark red hair fell straight to his shoulders, rather then curling the way his
smiled. “Your mum’s told me a lot about you.”
“I thought you
two only just saw each other again.”
“We haven’t been completely out of
contact,” Assumpta explained. “We’ve been talking on the phone for the past
Rowan shifted awkwardly.
“Ahm...Ro, why don’t you go set the
table, OK?” Assumpta suggested. Rowan shrugged and went off towards the table.
Assumpta gestured for Peter to take a seat on the couch. “It’ll just be a
minute, I’m waiting for something to finish heating.”
Over dinner, Kaylee seemed to
instantly warm up to Peter. She was soon chatting with him comfortably about
school, the new toy she wanted that everyone else in her class had... Rowan
however stared down at his plate, purposefully ignoring the conversation.
Assumpta tried to steer it in a
direction that Rowan would find interesting. “Ro, did you know Peter used to
play on the Ballykay football team?”
This caught his
attention; Rowan loved football. “Really?” he looked up.
“Yep,” Peter grinned. “Comes from
growing up in Manchester, I guess. I’ve always loved football.”
A faint smile
passed over Rowan’s face.
Later, as he
was leaving, Peter lingered in the doorway for a moment.
“Thanks for having me over,” he said
quietly to Assumpta. “I had a great time...your kids are wonderful.”
“Thanks.” Assumpta smiled. “We’ll
have to get together more...Kaylee seems to like you a lot and I think Rowan
does too, he just doesn’t let on much.”
Peter pointed out.
laughed quietly. “Yeah, like me. How long are you here for?”
“As long as I
like,” Peter replied.
“Well,” Assumpta said, “I work
tomorrow, and the kids have school...but if you want to do dinner again later
on, or something, just give me a call.”
“Great.” Peter smiled. “I’ll get you
the number of the hotel so you can contact me as well.”
“I missed you.”
They stared at each other for a
minute, as if each was expecting the other to do something. Peter finally
looked down, said good night, and turned, walking off down the hall. Assumpta
leaned in the doorframe, watching him, then finally turning and closing the
Assumpta usually went out to lunch
with the rest of the band at least once a week while the kids were at school.
This week as they were leaving their usual lunch café, Serenity and the
drummer, Dave, were in the lead talking, and Assumpta and Mark followed. Mark
pulled Assumpta aside.
“Can we talk?”
he asked, moving out of the way of the sidewalk traffic.
“Sure.” Assumpta half expected him
to want to discuss their latest song or something.
“You doing anything Saturday night?”
Mark stuck his hands in his pockets and pretended to be nonchalant.
Assumpta stared at him incredulously.
“Saturday night,” Mark repeated. “I
just wanted to maybe take you out for dinner or something.” His voice dropped a
notch. “You know, like we used to.”
Assumpta sighed heavily. “Mark, we
broke up for a reason, it just wasn’t working.”
“I thought it
was working out fine.”
“Look,” Assumpta said. “We had fun
together, but really, I realized I have to be thinking about what’s best for
Rowan and Kaylee. And I really hate to burst your bubble, Mark, but you’re not
exactly the most responsible person alive.”
“What, and the guys who got you
pregnant are?” Mark snapped before he could stop himself. Assumpta gave him a
disgusted look and turned to leave, but Mark grabbed her arm gently. “Assumpta,
I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that...Look, I just...If you’d give me a
Assumpta shook her head. “It
wouldn’t work, Mark, I’m sorry. I think just staying friends will be better for
both of us.” She turned to walk away, then said, “Besides, we have practice on
2: Fall Comes Quickly
The next day Peter called while
Assumpta was home from work and asked if they could go out for lunch. Assumpta
agreed, Peter picked her up and together they went to a little sidewalk café.
For a few minutes they sat in
awkward silence, but then Peter asked how the kids were getting on in school.
“They’re doing good,” Assumpta said.
“Like I’ve said, Rowan’s a bit of a loner, but he enjoys his classes.”
“And what about you?” Peter asked.
“Last time we talked on the phone was a year ago...how have you been doing?”
“Good,” Assumpta replied, fiddling
with the napkin. “I’m getting along. The band is fun, and I’m not exactly
pinched for money anymore. I suppose I’m leading a relatively good life.”
Peter frowned slightly. Assumpta was
putting up that hard exterior again, but he could see something was troubling
her. “But you’re not happy.”
her mouth, then closed it again, shrugging.
“Do you want to
“I can’t,” Assumpta said, looking
down at the table. “You know that.” Peter sighed, looking sadly across the
table at her.
Friday morning rolled around, and
there was pleasant weather predicted for the entire weekend. Rowan was in a
slightly touchy mood, however, when he got home from school that afternoon.
“Hey, Mum, you know what I want to
do?” Rowan said, walking over to where Assumpta was sorting through sheet music
at the island.
Assumpta asked, not looking up.
“Go on a picnic or to the zoo or
something tomorrow,” Rowan said. “Just you me and Kaylee. We haven’t done that
sweetie, I can’t, not tomorrow,” Assumpta replied.
expression darkened. “Why?”
“Because, I’ve got a gig coming up.”
Assumpta straightened some papers and looked up at her son. “And we’ve got
Rowan let out a
disgusted noise. “You’re always busy!”
“Ro,” Assumpta said
“You never want to do anything with
me and Kaylee anymore!” The volume of Rowan’s voice was getting louder. He’d
had a rough day at school, and this seemed to be the final straw for him.
“You’re always too busy!”
“Rowan, I have
a lot -”
“You don’t care about us!” Rowan
accused, his temper rising dramatically. “You don’t care about doing anything
with me and Kaylee.”
Assumpta was beginning to lose it as
well. “Rowan Brendan Fitzgerald, I will not be spoken to like that!”
“Good!” Rowan shouted. “Because I
hate you and I never want to talk to you again anyway!” He turned and stomped
into his bedroom.
It hit Assumpta like a punch in the
gut. Rowan had been angry with her before, but never like that, never said
anything so scathing. For a moment she sat there trying not to cry, but the
urge became too strong and she buried her face in her arms, her body shaking
with quiet sobs.
Kaylee, who had heard the argument
from the living room, stood nervously on the steps of the kitchen, not quite sure
how to react to her mother crying. A worried look on her little face, she
turned and charged to her brothers room.
“Ro!” Kaylee screamed, pounding on
the door with her tiny fists. Rowan didn’t reply, so Kaylee wrenched open the
door. She spotted her brother standing by the bed, looking annoyed. “You’ve
been really bad, Ro!” Kaylee said accusingly.
Rowan snapped. Kaylee ignored him.
“You made Mamma
“I don’t care!”
Rowan cried. “She deserved it.”
“No!” Rowan put
his hands on his hips. “Get out of my room!”
Kaylee, in a fit of six-year-old
rage, rushed forward and tried to push her brother, unsuccessfully. Rowan
retorted with a shove that sent his little sister stumbling back into the
dresser and banging her head. She began to cry.
Assumpta came rushing in when she
heard the crash. “What the hell is going on in here?!” she exclaimed, scooping
Kaylee up into her arms. Rowan just scowled at her. Assumpta opened her mouth
to say something, but there was a sharp knock at the front door of the
apartment. Giving Rowan an “I’ll deal with you later” look, Assumpta went to
answer it while trying to comfort Kaylee.
“Oh, it’s you, thank God!” Assumpta
said, opening the door to see Peter standing there.
“What’s wrong?” Peter asked, noting
Assumpta’s frazzled expression. He followed her into the apartment then reached
out to take the now quiet but still upset Kaylee, she didn’t object, resting
her head against his shoulder.
Assumpta ran a hand through her hair. “Rowan.”
“He pushed me,”
Kaylee whimpered. “An’ I banged my head.”
said, gently rubbing the back of Kaylee’s head.
“Could I ask
you a favor?” Assumpta asked, letting out a tired sigh.
“Sure,” Peter replied, feeling that
he owed Assumpta whatever she could ask of him.
“Would you be able to watch the kids
for just...half an hour at the most, while I go cool off?”
problem,” Peter said, shifting Kaylee’s weight against his hip.
Assumpta looked immensely relieved.
“Thank you.” She leaned over and kissed Kaylee on the cheek. “I’ll be back in a
After Assumpta left, Peter deposited
Kaylee on the couch with her favorite movie playing on the television. Then
Peter went to check on Rowan.
“Do you mind if
I come in?” Peter asked, knocking lightly on the open door.
“Whatever,” Rowan mumbled. Peter
came in and sat next to Rowan on the bed.
pretty upset,” Peter said.
“Huh,” Rowan grunted.
“What did you
say to her?
Rowan sighed and shrugged. “I told
her she doesn’t really care about me and Kaylee. And then I told her that I
Peter bit his lip, no wonder
Assumpta was so upset. “You didn’t mean it, though, did you?”
A pause, then,
“You know,” Peter began, slipping
back into his priest voice, “your mum’s done a lot for you, she loves you and
Kaylee very much. It really hurts her when you say things like that.”
“She knows I
didn’t mean it.”
“It still hurts.” Peter looked at
him pointedly. “But I also know that you can’t go through life and not argue
with your mum. So...what did she say that got you so mad?”
“She never has time for me and
Kaylee anymore. She’s always working on something.”
“That must be
hard on you.”
“Think about it from her point of
view, though,” Peter suggested. “She’s been raising you and Kaylee all on her
own, and that takes a lot of work.”
you’re right,” Rowan mumbled reluctantly.
Peter smiled and patted him on the
shoulder. “When she gets back, I think you should apologize and tell her how much
you really do love her.”
Rowan nodded thoughtfully. Then he
gave Peter a sideways look. “How do you do that?”
“Be so easy to
talk to. Mum’s never like that.”
Peter laughed. “She never was.” He
shrugged. “I guess I can relate to people because I was a priest…It was my job
to talk to people, to help them. It’s not something I can stop doing.”
Rowan nodded. They heard the sound
of the front door open. Rowan looked at Peter, then got up and left the room.
A few days later Peter arrived at
the apartment and was happy to find balance restored, Rowan and Assumpta were
on speaking terms, and all was well.
That night, Peter took Assumpta out
to dinner. It was nice, but pretty uneventful. Rowan and Kaylee were staying
with Addie for the evening, so the apartment was quiet when Assumpta and Peter
"Would you like something to
drink before you go?" Assumpta asked, turning on lamps. She was wearing a
satiny black dress that came to just below her knees.
"Sure." Peter followed
Assumpta into the kitchen. He sat down on one of the stools at the island while
Assumpta poured two glasses of wine and then joined him.
"Funny how we always end up
together drinking wine, and then having an awkward situation," Assumpta
mused. She'd already had a bit to drink at dinner, and this always loosened her
tongue a bit.
"Cheers," Peter said,
chinking his glass against Assumpta's and then taking a sip. "We're older
and wiser now, aren't we?"
"Ahuh." Assumpta rolled
her eyes. They sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping their wine, lost in
you have to pick the kids up?" Peter asked.
"I said sometime before
midnight," Assumpta said, checking the clock that hung on the wall.
"So we've got a while."
Peter nodded, but didn't say
anything. Assumpta was looking at him in a thoughtful manner, her expression as
unreadable as ever. Perhaps that was why Peter misread it. He put out one hand,
touching Assumpta's cheek lightly. Assumpta stiffened but didn't outright
resist until Peter leaned in to kiss her. Then she put both hands on his
shoulders, pushing him away.
"Peter, no!" she said,
standing up suddenly, her breathing agitated. "No. It's not..." She
shook her head and looked away, a pained expression on her face. "I'm sorry."
Peter felt rather foolish.
"It's OK...I didn't mean to - I'd better go." He stood and smiled
weakly at Assumpta. "Goodnight." Without waiting for a response he
turned and left.
When she didn’t hear from Peter for
a few days Assumpta called him on the telephone.
“Are you OK?” she
asked when he picked up.
Peter replied. “I just thought you’d want some space.”
Assumpta sighed. “Look, we were both
tired...I wasn’t mad at you, or anything.”
was an awkward silence.
“Ahm,” Assumpta said. “My band's
playing at the coffee shop tomorrow at seven, if you want to come.”
“I’ll be there.”
Towards the end of the performance
the next night, Assumpta was singing a duet of “Ring of Fire” with Mark. She
was enjoying it, Peter was there, and she took every opportunity to shoot him a
“Love is a burnin’ thing,
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire --
I fell into a ring of fire.
I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher,
And it burns, burn, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of
Assumpta looked out and she spotted
Peter sitting at a table fairly close to the stage. He grinned and gave her the
“The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet.
I fell for you like a child --
Oh, but the fire ran wild.”
Suddenly Mark leaned over and kissed
Assumpta on the cheek. She stopped dead, giving him a dark glare before
flouncing back stage.
Serenity watched with a worried
expression, then quickly stepped up to take Assumpta’s place and finish the
When it finished, Serenity went
looking for Assumpta. She found her perched on a crate beside the back steps,
morosely smoking a cigarette. Clicking her tongue, Serenity reached out and
pulled it from between Assumpta’s fingers. She dropped it on the ground and
stomped it out.
“Far as I know, Assumpta, you don’t
smoke,” Serenity said in response to Assumpta’s scowl. “And I don’t think you
should start, you don’t want to ruin that beautiful voice.”
sighed, resting her arms on her knees.
“You’re right, as always.”
“Damn right I am,” Serenity said,
nodding. “Now, what’s the matter? You’ve never run off stage before.”
“That man.” Assumpta shook her head
slowly. “He can’t take no for an answer, he can’t just accept that there’s
nothing between us.”
“Oh don’t give me that.” Serenity
rolled her eyes. “We all know you two were sleeping together for like, a year.”
Assumpta stared at Serenity for a
long, pain filled moment, before standing up and walking back into the cafe.
She marched right past Peter and out the front door and into the darkened
street. Frowning, Peter got up and followed her. When he caught up with her he
spun her around.
tears running down her face.
matter?” Peter asked, feeling pretty sure he knew the answer.
“I don’t know who I am anymore!”
Assumpta sobbed. “Who am I, Peter? Sure as hell not the woman who gave you a
lift fifteen years ago!”
Peter stared at her. She appeared
the same as she had the night before Peter left Ballykay; sad, lost, confused,
hurt...But Peter wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Cupping Assumpta’s face
gently in his hands, he said the words that could have saved them both from
years of trouble and pain.
“You know who you are, ‘Ssumpta?”
Peter said quietly. “You’re the woman I love more then anything in the world.
And I was a fool to ever let you go.”
Assumpta gaped at Peter for a
moment, then leaned against him, wrapping her arms tightly about his body.
Peter let out the breath he’d been holding and rested his cheek against the top
of Assumpta’s head, holding her close.
The rain that had been threatening
to fall all day finally came down, surrounding them in curtains of water.
Peter drove Assumpta home. The
babysitter had already put the kids to bed, and so Assumpta paid her and she
Peter and Assumpta sat together on
the couch, neither saying anything. Peter reached out for Assumpta, and she
moved so she was leaning against him, settling so naturally against his body.
“I wish none of this had ever
happened,” Assumpta said suddenly. “Every night I hope that I’ll wake up to
find myself back in my bed in Ballykay, with nothing changed.”
“But if none of this had happened,
you wouldn’t have Rowan and Kaylee,” Peter reminded her.
“Yeah,” Assumpta agreed. “I am
grateful for them. But for the pain that’s surrounded them?” She shook her
“You did your best,” Peter said. He
sat there for a moment, just gently rubbing Assumpta’s arm with one hand.
“Look, we made our mistake, and now we’ve paid for it.”
sighed. “We’ll never stop paying for it!”
“I think we will!” Peter replied.
“Why not go back? Give it a second chance? Don’t you think twelve years will
have given them enough time to cool down?”
“Peter, they still look at me
strange when I go there!” Assumpta said, trying to keep her voice at a level
that wouldn’t wake the children. “And it’s not just because I’ve had two
children out of wedlock…they remember!”
“Do your friends do that?” Peter
asked. “Niamh, Brendan, Siobhan...Do they look at you funny?”
silent for a moment. “No.”
“I think you’re just being paranoid,”
Peter told her. He hugged her tighter for a moment, then got to his feet.
“Anyway, it’s late; I’ll talk to you tomorrow, OK?”
4: The Passing of an Age
Assumpta slept late that morning.
She was awoken around ten by the phone ringing. It was Serenity saying they
were meeting at Mark’s for a short conference.
“Can I trust you two to stay here
alone for a short time?” Assumpta asked her children, pulling on her jacket.
“Or should I call Peter and see if he’d watch you?”
“Mum, we’ll be fine!” Rowan assured
her, putting an arm around his sister’s shoulders, as if to show what a caring
older brother he was.
“Ok.” Assumpta smiled at them. “I’ll
be back in an hour, tops.” She turned and left the apartment.
She arrived at Mark’s apartment to
find the rest of the group there. Dave was sitting on the couch, looking bleary
and drinking a cup of coffee. Serenity was sitting next to him, and Mark stood
by the coffee table.
Mark confronted Assumpta the minute
she stepped in. “What the hell was that last night?” he demanded.
Assumpta stared at him. “I could ask
you the same question!” Serenity and Dave exchanged half exasperated half
“What is your problem?” Mark cried.
“You can be so immature! Running off stage, taking it out on the group because
you didn’t like something I did.”
“Don’t you dare turn this around on
me!” Assumpta retorted. “Just because you can’t stand it when a woman tells you
“Oh, I’d hardly call letting me
screw you telling me ‘no’, Assumpta,” Mark said coolly.
Assumpta stared, feeling something
close to nausea bubbling up in her stomach. She glanced at Dave and Serenity
who were staring at her and Mark disbelievingly. Assumpta could feel her face
“Why the hell are you bringing this
up in front of them?” she said quietly, her voice shaking.
“Oh come on,” Mark said, grinning
now that he’d touched a nerve. “Stop pretending to be shocked, I can’t be the
first man to say something like that to you! How many men have you had these
relationships with over the years, four? Five?”
“Mark, stop it,”
Serenity said quietly. Mark glared at her.
Assumpta took a deep breath,
mentally counting to ten, trying to calm herself. When she spoke her voice had
a dangerous, shaky edge to it.
“My life...is my business, Mark,” she
said through gritted teeth. “Just because we once dated does not give you the
right to speak to me like that. I’ve
been through more hell then you could imagine.”
“Oh, poor Assumpta,” Mark said
sardonically. “Looking for pity, even though it’s her own fault she’s a single
mother with two children. Look, I have every right to talk to you that way. And
as leader of this band, I have every right to say we have no room for stuck up
bitches like you.”
Before anyone else could object,
Assumpta retorted, “And I can say I don’t want to be in a band led by a self centered bastard like you!” She turned,
flouncing out of the apartment, and managed to make it into the elevator before
letting out a cry of rage.
Serenity was waiting for Assumpta in
the lobby, panting as though she’d run all the way down the stairs.
“Assumpta!” Serenity said. “We won’t
let him do that, he can’t. We’ll chuck him out before we lose you. You’re
completely right, he is a self centered -”
But Assumpta shook her head. “It
doesn’t matter, Serenity. I…I’m leaving...I need to go home.”
blinked. “I thought this was your home.”
“No matter how far away I go,
Ballykay will always be my home,” Assumpta replied. “No matter how long I stay
in another place I’ll still be homesick.”
you,” Serenity said softly.
Assumpta managed a weak smile.
“You’ll have to visit. And Dave. Maybe we can do a gig at the pub sometime.”
Serenity nodded and gave Assumpta a
tight hug. Together they walked out to Assumpta’s car.
“I’ll keep in touch, Assumpta,”
Serenity said. “I have a feeling this is the end of the band though, Mark’s
just gone one step too far.”
“Ah, the ravages of unrequited
love,” Assumpta said sadly. “I wish I could have given him what he wanted, but
I don’t love him. Not anymore.”
Assumpta got into the car, rolling
down the window so she could have a last word with Serenity. “I’ll come by and
see you before I leave...it won’t be for a while yet.”
“Ok.” Serenity reached over, patting
Assumpta’s shoulder before stepping back so her friend could pull away.
By the time Assumpta got back to the
apartment she’d gone from angry to depressed. She barely even noticed Peter
sitting on the couch as she went into the kitchen to get a drink.
“Mum, what’s wrong?” Rowan asked,
looking up from where he as working at the dinning room table.
Peter, who had followed Assumpta,
looked at Rowan, putting one finger to his lips and shaking his head. Rowan
watched quietly as Peter went up to Assumpta and put an arm around her.
Assumpta said, her voice choked.
Peter put his
other arm around Assumpta, pulling her into a close embrace.
(A few weeks
“Rowan,” Assumpta called, standing
in the doorway of the apartment with Addie. “I want you to go do a last check
in your room then go wait in the car downstairs with Peter and Kaylee.”
replied, trotting off to his room.
to Addie. “Thank you so much, for everything.”
“Sure, it was no problem,” Addie
replied, hugging Assumpta. “Now, you take care of yourself, OK?”
Assumpta reassured her. “I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, you’ve got that big handsome
man looking after you now, eh?” Addie said, referring to Peter.
laughed. “Yeah, sure...”
They both turned as Rowan came out
of his room. He said goodbye to Addie, then headed downstairs. Assumpta took
one last look around the place that had been her home, and yet not her home,
then handed Addie the keys. They hugged one last time before Assumpta went
downstairs to her waiting children and Peter.
The drive to Ballykay was pretty
uneventful. It took nearly four hours, and Assumpta and Peter took turns
driving. They didn’t say much, not anything they wouldn’t want the kids
hearing, but some meaningful glances were exchanged.
At one point while Peter was driving
along an open stretch of road, Assumpta looked in the backseat and saw that
both kids were fast asleep. Not saying anything, she reached over and gently
ran her hand along Peter’s leg. Without taking his eyes off the road, Peter
took her hand in his, raised it to his lips and softly kissed the backs of her
fingers. Assumpta leaned back in her seat, still holding Peter’s hand, and now
with a smile playing across her lips.
They arrived in Ballykissangel late
in the afternoon. As they drove over the bridge, Peter looked like he was about
to cry. They parked in front of the pub and got out. Peter hesitated before the
Assumpta came up beside him,
carrying Kaylee against one hip and followed by Rowan. She put one hand on
“Are you ready for this?” she asked
quietly. She’d told Niamh on the phone that Peter was coming back too, but
Niamh supposedly hadn’t told anyone else.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Peter
replied, and together the four of them went into Fitzgerald’s.
The pub was nearly empty, Padraig
and Siobhan were sitting in their usual spots, and Niamh was behind the bar.
“I swear you two haven’t moved since
the last time I was here!” Assumpta exclaimed. “Have you no homes to go to?”
“I’d know that sarcasm anywhere...”
Padraig said, looking up from his pint. “Welcome back, Assumpta.” He and
Siobhan both got up, doing a double take when they saw Peter.
Clifford?” Siobhan said disbelievingly.
“It’s just Peter now, Siobhan,”
Peter replied, unable to stop the smile that was spreading across his face.
Finally he felt like he was back where he belonged. “But yes, it is me.”
“Niamh never said you were coming
back as well!” Siobhan said, giving both Peter and Assumpta friendly hugs.
Kaylee let out a happy squeal and held her arms out to “Auntie” Siobhan, who
Assumpta smiled that Kaylee seemed
so happy to be back. Rowan too had sat on one of the barstools and was looking
“We were trying
to keep Peter a secret,” Assumpta explained.
Padraig nodded. “Well maybe if you
hadn’t Brendan would have been able to find time out of his busy schedule to
come down to the pub.”
“I did tell him,” Niamh said,
frowning. “I know you wanted me not to, Assumpta, but I just thought he should
know. Funny him not being here.”
Assumpta shrugged, but she couldn’t
help feeling that something wasn’t right.
Before she had a chance to think on it long, however, the door opened
and three children entered the pub.
The first was a tall boy with curly
brown hair and bright blue eyes. He looked to be about Rowan’s age, and Peter
recognized that it was Kieran, much older then the last time Peter had seen
him. The second was a girl, maybe a year younger then Kieran. She had red hair
and rather plain, but pleasant, features. Peter guess this must be Aisling,
Brendan and Siobhan’s daughter. The third, a young girl of Kaylee’s age, had to
be Niamh and Ambrose’s second child, Sinead.
The children were all introduced to
Peter, but they seemed far more interested in seeing Rowan and Kaylee again.
All five children soon ran off, leaving the adults in the pub.
“So you two met
up in Belfast then?” Padraig asked.
“Yep.” Assumpta nodded. “Peter
showed up at one of my concerts.” She shot a glance at Niamh who grinned.
Later on that evening Peter got to
meet Orla, who wasn’t living in Ballykay any longer, but just back to visit her
brother, who was still the curate at St. Joseph's. Even Fr. Vincent, busy with
duties as the parish priest, managed to stop in to meet Peter, and greet
“Times certainly are a changin’,”
Padraig commented. “Assumpta’s on good terms with not only one, but two
priests, and she’s becoming softer around the edges each year.”
“Yeah well...” Assumpta wrinkled her
nose. “Motherhood does that to you, I guess.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“Speaking of which, where are the
kids?” Peter asked, it was dark outside all ready and he’d only seen the troop
of kids briefly when they’d stopped in to ask Niamh something.
at my place watching a movie,” Niamh told him. “Don’t worry.”
A little while later Aisling popped
in to ask if they could all have a sleepover at her house. Assumpta and Niamh
both said it was fine as long as Siobhan was OK with it.
“Sure, it’s fine by me,” Siobhan
said. She smiled at Peter and Assumpta. “Give you two a chance to rest up on
your first night back. Anyway, I’d better get that lot settled. G’night all.”
She headed out with her daughter.
Soon everyone else filtered out of
the pub, and Peter and Assumpta were alone. They sat together on the couch
before a blazing fire.
“I can’t believe we’re back,”
Assumpta said happily, resting her head on Peter’s shoulder.
He put an arm around her. “Don’t I
know it! I feel better all ready...Like I can finally relax after years of hard
“Yeah...” Assumpta frowned slightly.
“I’m just worried about Brendan, though. I mean, if he knew you were here, why
didn’t he come?”
“Who knows...” Peter shrugged,
letting the conversation trail off. He turned his head to look at Assumpta, her
face illuminated by the soft glow of the firelight.
She hadn’t changed much in the past
twelve years. She still had the buttermilk skin, the dark red hair, the fairy
like features. The biggest difference was the sadness that always darkened her
face, the look of lonesomeness. Peter’s heart ached, feeling that it was his
fault that it was there, and wishing only that he could bring the happiness
back to her expression.
him staring at her. “What?”
just...” Peter took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
twelve years…everything...It was all my fault.”
Assumpta clicked her tongue, putting
one hand against Peter’s cheek. “Peter, it wasn’t your fault. We may not have
done the right thing, but it wasn’t your fault.”
“No I didn’t
mean...that...I mean us being apart.”
“I know. It wasn’t your fault.”
Assumpta gently rubbed her thumb against his cheek.
“Every morning when I woke up and
knew I wouldn’t see you...” Peter said. “It was like slicing open the old
wounds. The pain got duller as the years went on, but I don’t think it’ll ever
really go away.” He sniffed. “I wish it hadn’t ever happened.”
“I do, too,” Assumpta said. “But we
can’t change the past, we can only try and make the future better.”
Peter nodded, staring longingly at
Assumpta. “Can I kiss you?” he asked quietly.
Assumpta smiled, her eyes lighting
up for the first time in ages. “Yeah,” she replied, leaning in to meet Peter’s
lips with her own.
And then the thing that had once
nearly ruined his life was suddenly the thing that made Peter remember all the
joy of loving Assumpta. In the past years he’d never dared to dream that he’d
even see her again, let alone make love to her. But there he was, and as the night
got darker and darker, Peter lay dozing in Assumpta’s arms, feeling that he’d
finally found the place he’d been searching for all those long, painful years.
5: The Sins of the Father
The next day Assumpta went about her
work at the pub like nothing had changed. For once she was happy to be back
behind the bar, pulling pints, changing barrels. Only now did she realize how
much she’d missed the steady routine of working the bar at Fitzgerald’s.
Peter helped as well; his cooking
skills had improved a lot over the past years, so he took over the kitchen. The
customers didn’t object, they seemed to love the food.
The children were hardly seen all
day, except when they all trooped in for lunch. They were enjoying their last
bit of weekend before going back to school. Though, Rowan and Kaylee were
excited about getting to go to school with their friends.
At lunchtime on Monday, Padraig
commented on the strangeness of Brendan not being there. Assumpta wondered if
he was sick, maybe, but Michael said that as far as he knew Brendan was fine,
and Padraig had just seen him Sunday evening. Assumpta decided to go talk to
When she arrived at his house,
Brendan appeared very happy to see her. He gave her a hug and invited her in.
“So you want to tell me why you’ve
been avoiding the pub?” Assumpta asked, folding her arms and arching one
“I’ve been busy,” Brendan replied
with a shrug. Assumpta glared at him. Brendan glared right back, and then
turned and leaned against the counter, letting out a heavy sigh. “All right…I
just couldn’t stand to see you with him.”
confused. “With who?”
just his head and stared at her. “Who do you think?”
“You don’t...” Assumpta’s voice was
strangely timid. “You don’t mean Peter do you?”
stared out the window.
“Let me tell you something, Assumpta,”
Brendan said. “When your mother was in the hospital, those last couple weeks,
she made me promise her something. She made me promise that I would never let
any man do to you what your dad had done to her. Not to ever let any man treat
you that way.”
“So you’re holding a grudge against
him for something he did twelve years ago?” Assumpta said sharply. “A mistake
he made because he was hurt and confused?”
“He was confused?! He was lost? So I
suppose that makes it OK that he got you pregnant and then ran away, is it?”
staring at Brendan, unable to say anything.
“I figured that out a long time ago,”
Brendan said walking over to the door and opening it. “Now if you’ll excuse me,
I have to get back to class.”
Assumpta took the hint and flounced
out the door. She arrived back at Fitzgerald’s in a quiet, almost pensive
manner. This seemed to alarm Padraig more then had she been in a fuming temper.
Assumpta went into the kitchen just as Peter was coming out with a plate of
sandwiches for some customers.
“Does she not get properly mad
anymore?” Padraig asked, giving Peter a worried look.
Peter grinned and shook his head.
“Don’t I wish! No.” He looked worriedly at the kitchen door. “Something’s up,
I’ll go talk to her.”
He went into the kitchen to find
Assumpta noisily filling a teakettle with water. As she stood at the sink Peter
came up behind her and put his arms around her waist, kissing her lightly on the
cheek. Assumpta turned her head and gave him a quick peck on the lips.
“Are you OK?”
Assumpta forced a smile. She was
upset about Brendan, but she didn’t want to drag Peter into this yet, she
wasn’t ready to tell him. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Good.” Peter could tell she was
hiding something, but didn’t press the matter.
Rowan stood on the bridge, gazing
out across the river with a thoughtful expression on his face. He didn’t notice
that Niamh had come up beside him until she spoke.
“You OK?” she
startled. “What? Oh, I’m fine, Auntie. Just…looking…”
in particular?” Niamh asked, smiling a little.
This took Niamh
by surprise. “You mean your mum never told you?”
“No.” Rowan looked
at her. “Do you know who he was?”
Niamh shook her head. “She didn’t
tell me either. I always assumed he was someone she met in Belfast.”
“Yeah, but...” Rowan looked back out
across the river. “I felt like he was part of the reason Mum didn’t want to
come back here. I don’t know why, I just did.”
“Well, I don’t know who he could
have been.” Niamh’s mind immediately flashed to Peter, but she told herself
this was stupid, Peter had been a priest. She didn’t voice this thought to
Rowan, the poor kid seemed confused enough.
“I just wish Mum wouldn’t hide so
much from me,” Rowan said sadly. “Kaylee knows all about her dad and why he’s
not here anymore, but Mum just goes all quiet when I ask about mine. So I just
stopped. It makes me mad.”
“Have you told her?” Niamh asked.
“Did you try telling her how it upsets you?”
“It wouldn’t do
any good.” Rowan’s tone was bitter.
Peter decided to go up to the
church, just to see his old haunts. St. Joseph's had hardly changed, and Peter
felt himself sinking back into the memories as he slipped into one of the back
rows of pews.
Fr. Aiden came in a little while
later. Peter smiled at him. “Good afternoon, Father.”
Peter.” Aiden came over. “Mind if I join you?”
“Not at all.”
must have many memories for you,” Aiden said, sitting down.
“I was so grateful that I could come
here, and that I was able to stay as long as I have.” Aiden gave Peter a
sideways look. “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“No, go ahead.”
“Why did you
Peter sighed, looking down at his
clasped hands. “I often ask myself the same question. I guess...because
something happened, and the priest in me knew that for the sake of everyone
involved, I should just leave.”
“So you broke
your vows?” Aiden wasn’t being nosy, just curious.
Peter smiled lightly. “You know,
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing what had happened, I don’t think I’m ready
to relive it again.”
Aiden shook his head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“It’s OK.” Peter looked at his
watch. “Anyway, I’d better be getting back, Assumpta will be wondering where I
Aiden stood up with him. “I’ll see you around, Peter.”
On his way out
of St. Joseph's, Peter passed Kathleen.
Clifford?” She sounded surprised to see him.
“It’s just Peter now,” Peter said.
He was beginning to feel like a broken record. “How are you, Kathleen?”
“As well as is to be expected,” she
said. “I’m surprised you’d come back here.”
Peter knew what she was referring to
with that tone of voice. “Ballykay is my home, it’ll take more then gossip to
keep me away forever.”
“Hmmm.” Kathleen narrowed her eyes
at him. “And I suppose you came with Miss Fitzgerald?”
“Yes, not that
it matters,” Peter replied.
Kathleen harrumphed and stalked into
the church, leaving Peter standing there doubting that things would ever be the
Rowan and Kaylee seemed to fit in at
the Ballykissangel national school for the most part, until one Wednesday when
a group of bullies decided to bug Rowan at recess. He was leaning against the
wall talking to Aisling.
“Oh look,” said the leader of the
group, a boy named Kean Sullivan. “It seems that misfits attract to each
“What are you talking
about, Sullivan?” Aisling said, rolling her eyes.
“Well, look at you two,” Kean
sneered. “Aisling, your parents don’t even live together, and Rowan, heh, don’t
even get me started on the things I’ve heard about your mum.”
narrowed. “What about my mum?”
Aisling said quietly. Rowan ignored her.
What about my mum?”
“Oh come on.” Kean rolled his eyes.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard. She’s got two kids and hasn’t ever been
married. She doesn’t even stick with the same guy for more then two weeks. My
dad says she’s a right little whore and shouldn’t have ever come back.”
Rowan charged forward and grabbed
Kean by the front of his shirt. “Take that back!”
“No, it’s the truth,” Kean replied
coolly, knowing his cronies would prevent Rowan from doing any real harm.
Mum isn’t like that at all!”
Kean looked him straight in the eye.
“Then you tell me why you don’t have a father.”
Rowan stepped backwards, a hurt look
in his eyes. When he spoke it was in a weak, uncertain little voice. “He left…”
”Yeah, after finding out about all
the other men your mum was sleeping with.” Kean was advancing on Rowan now.
“Why don’t you just go back where you came from, Fitzgerald? You don’t belong
Rowan turned and ran into the
building to seek solace in the quiet emptiness of his classroom.
Brendan got back early from his
lunch break and saw Rowan sitting at his desk, working hard to keep the tears
“Rowan are you all right?” Brendan
asked, going over to sit next to him. Brendan cared as much about Rowan as he
did Assumpta; he certainly wasn’t going to blame the boy for what his father
said I don’t belong here. He was right, wasn’t he?”
“You most certainly do belong here!”
Brendan said. “And don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.”
“He was talking
about Mum too…he called her a whore.” Rowan mumbled.
“Look, Rowan, there are a lot of
people in this village who don’t like your mum,” Brendan explained gently. “But
there are a lot who care about her too. You just have to learn to ignore the
ones that don’t. There are enough people that care about your mum for you to
“I just wish she’d tell me things,”
Rowan said passionately. He’d decided to subtly press everyone for answers,
perhaps someone who was close to his mother would eventually let something
slip. “About my dad, about her. I know she’s hiding things from me and I wish
not saying anything, not trusting himself to.