It's a Wonderful Life

By loquita

"It's not what's in your head I need to hear." After Assumpta stormed out and narrowly missed being run over by Brian, she stopped in the middle of the street and considered. Tears were close to the surface and she didn't want to be seen by anyone in her state, so Assumpta went inside St. Joseph's instead of going home straight away.

She felt like praying. Thinking of how that would send certain people into cardiac arrest, Peter being among them, she smiled slightly. Assumpta chose a pew about a third of the way up the aisle, and sat there thinking deep heavy thoughts in silence for quite some time. She wanted to say something to whatever, whoever it was up there looking down at her. Directing her life or laughing at it, perhaps both.

"I never asked to fall in love." Assumpta spoke aloud, almost angrily to the empty church as her eyes looked up. "It would be better for him if I wasn't here to get in the way. I don't want to ruin his life."

"You really believe not being here would help him?" It came from a disheveled man sitting a few pews back, Assumpta saw as she turned suddenly. She wasn't sure how she'd missed seeing him there before. She didn't recognize him as from Ballyk and her eyes betrayed her mistrust.

"Clarence," he introduced himself. "Very pleased to meet you."

"I was just lookin' for-"

"A little peace and quiet, I know." Clarence smiled at her. "I know more about you than you realize."

Assumpta felt this was becoming a little bit too creepy. Maybe this man was some lunatic stalker, she considered.

Clarence continued, "You don't pray often. But you're one of the few who never prays for yourself. It's always for someone else… mighty unusual."

Yeah, Assumpta thought, definitely a lunatic. She started to judge whether she should make a run for it, or if she called out for Peter would he hear her?

"Assumpta, you're at a crossroads. There are more than a few options and ways this could go. Are you sure you want to pick that particular one for you and Peter without really thinking it through carefully?"

Her eyes narrowed, she didn't like him speaking of her and Peter with such authority. Peter only kissed her a few hours ago and no one could have seen, how could the gossip get round so quickly? She started, "I don't know who you think you are-"

"I'm an angel." This stunned her, her mouth hung open mid-sentence as he spoke, "Your guardian angel actually."

"Oh, yeah," Assumpta's sarcasm snapped at him, "well you look about the kind of angel I'd get. Sort of fallen angel, aren't you? What happened to your wings?"

"I'm trying to earn them."

"Right." She shot a laugh at him and shook her head. "My guardian angel... do a lot of sleeping on the job don't ya?"

He was taken aback. "No. I don't have the power to prevent your parents from dying or to keep the pub's pipes from bursting if that's the sort of thing you're thinking. I'm only here to guide you and my boss felt this moment in your life was much too critical for me to guide you from afar. He sent me down here to help you. There's more at risk than you realize."

"An angel... your boss," Assumpta repeated, still thinking he was a madman.

"You believe more than you admit to folks. You argue with Peter Clifford not because you don't respect his faith but because it's the one thing keeping him from you."

Her eyes snapped to him, it was dead on. And she'd never spoken those thoughts out loud to anyone, how could he know?

Clarence continued, "You need proof, Boss warned me you'd be difficult." He stood and offered a hand. "You've been given a great gift, Assumpta Fitzgerald, a chance to see what the world would be like without you."

She reluctantly took his hand, not sure what else to do. Suddenly everything was spinning and the walls of the church melted and she felt as if she were flying. Fear gripped her; "Peter," she tried to call out for help, but her lips wouldn't move.

And then they landed behind a tree. Assumpta could see a lake shimmering in the sun between two peaks. She saw herself and Peter walking and as they got closer she could hear the conversation: "You must know how I feel about you... Assumpta, dogs on the street knew." She watched the entire thing, even Peter reaching for her, taking her in his arms.

But she was behind the tree, not in his arms. This had to be some kind of narcotic drug the creepy Clarence gave to her. She was high right now, yeah? Assumpta started to ask Clarence for an explanation but he took her hand again and they were spinning once more.

Suddenly she landed in grass on her bum. "Ouch!" she complained and glared at Clarence, "stop doing that would ya?" He only put a finger to his lips to quiet her and pointed to Father Mac and Peter coming around the side of the building, walking and talking together. Father Mac made a remark about the country "being full of Assumpta Fitzgeralds." That seemed to abruptly remind Peter of something.

Next she landed in her own kitchen, Clarence had her peek through the doorway and watch Peter enter the pub, longing in his eyes and bursting to tell her things. But her other version wasn't alone in the pub, Brendan, Padraig and Siobhan were there helping her set up, so he left.

Clarence said, "Hurry, outside."

"What?" Assumpta was dragged along behind him. "Tell me what is happening. Why? How are you-"

But Clarence cut off her protests. "Shh, listen to this." He stopped just short of where Peter stood at the payphone. "He's talking to you."

And with that, Assumpta heard Peter say into the phone, "I think there's only one of you and I can't let you go…I love you. I want you in my life and I'll do everything it takes, whatever you want. Just don't run away from me."

Clarence turned to Assumpta and whispered, "My favorite part, it gets me every time." Then took her hand and they did the spinning thing again. Assumpta was starting to feel motion sickness coming on. This time Clarence took her to see a conversation by the river Angel. She watched the other Assumpta talk to Peter in the most open, relaxed way they ever had. It was natural and flirty and the happiest conversation of her life. Peter promised her, "I know what I'm doing."

And before long they were inside the pub again. The food fair was going on around her and Peter said to her, "I love you." Assumpta watched her other version melt at those words and understood the feelings, she was feeling the same thing just watching. Suddenly the scene froze as if someone had pushed pause on a video.

Assumpta turned to Clarence. "Why did you stop it?" she demanded.

"Because this is where your prayer earlier matters, so I'm pausing for dramatic effect."

"Will all this happen?" she asked carefully, afraid to believe, "or is this a dream or a trick?"

"No, it's one of many things that could happen. It depends on his choices. And yours."

"What he said, a moment ago…" Her eyes watered, Assumpta longed to know it was real. Hearing him say those words was more than she allowed herself to hope these last few years. She knew he loved the church. She always believed his feelings for her paled in comparison.

Clarence smiled and patted her hand. "My boss is prepared to fulfil your prayer. He agrees life may be too difficult for Peter if you remain near him while continuing to have doubts. If you keep thinking Peter would be better without you... my dear, things won't go very well for you both." With that the scene played again and the real Assumpta held Clarence's hand and followed everyone else down to the cellar. She watched as they tried CPR and finally as Peter anointed her body and preformed the sacrament once called last rites.

Assumpta was so stunned at what she was watching she didn't even fume at what Peter had done. And after she once specifically asked him not to. But Assumpta couldn't be angry when he was so clearly falling apart. Outside, Peter stood soaked with rain and threw his collar over the bridge and into the river.

Assumpta yelled and ran to Peter, "I'm here." She tried touching him, wanting to hold him.

"You're not here," Clarence reminded her. "He can't see you or hear you. This is the future and you aren't with him any longer." Her own words echoed back at her sounded childish and cruel. "You can't get in his way."

"How can you do this? You're no angel." She cried. "Look at him, please let him go from it." Tears were streaming down her cheeks now.

Clarence raised his eyes heavenward, "There must be some easier way for me to get my wings." And next took Assumpta to see Peter sitting with her body, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand. Assumpta's heart broke at the sight of his care for her even in death. It was then she realized he didn't just say those words. He meant them, he loved her.

She saw the fight between Peter and Leo at the statue of the virgin. Leo accused him of meeting her here and having an affair. She knew the words stung Peter even before he threw the punch. Assumpta wasn't sure if she felt more like crying or laughing that Peter was defending her honor this way, with his fists. Leo wanted to know if she loved Peter. Peter struggled, tried, but couldn't answer the questions.

"How could he not know?" she wondered aloud to Clarence. Assumpta knew she carefully hid things as much as she could to protect herself. Her love for him had the capacity to hurt her so she tried to shield herself from that pain. But somehow protecting herself had become shutting everyone out. And Peter never knew her heart, not completely.

She watched the wake and saw the sadness in her friends but also the sense that they would move on in their lives. But not Peter, Assumpta could see it in his eyes, he was pretending for their sake. Peter was hurting on a level now far worse than the confusion of trying to choose between her and the church. Confusion could be resolved but his grief might last a lifetime. The scene paused again and Assumpta asked Clarence, "What happens to him?"

"I don't know. His choices and paths are only known to his angel, Alicia. She's hot." Clarence wiggled his eyebrows.

Assumpta gave him a look of `you have got to be kidding me.'

"Hey, we have fun too. And Angel Parties got infinitely better when Elvis joined the two Beatles up there. Talk about rock." Clarence took her hand and everything spun again, until she landed outside St. Joseph's. He said to her, "Think it through, very carefully this time." With that she felt a pull as if she'd gone up the tube of a Hoover and she popped out the other end and into her body, sitting in the pew. She felt a little dizzy and took a gulp of air.

Assumpta still wasn't convinced she hadn't fallen asleep or was drunk or drugged but she wasn't going to take any chances. She thought for several minutes then spoke aloud, "I want him to be happy. The happiest, most fulfilled he could possibly be in life. Whatever it takes for him-" She took a breath. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes for his happiness." She would be willing to give her life if necessary but she doubted that was what it would take. Assumpta sent a glare heavenward. "But I'm calling the electrician in the morning just in case."

Peter had fallen asleep but tossed and turned and woke every few minutes. He kept wondering if he should talk with Father Mac tomorrow and what he should tell Assumpta. If only he had solid evidence of her feelings, not hints and clues and then going and marrying someone else. He knew she cared, but how much? She pushed him away when he kissed her, but then stormed in demanding to know if he wanted her. But what did she want? Why was she always sending those mixed messages? If Assumpta would tell him her true feelings Peter knew
he would have no doubts about what to do.

He heard a knock, quiet but persistent. As he opened the front door she threw her arms around him and hugged tight. Peter swung the door closed behind her and closed his arms around her in return. Assumpta didn't say a word for a long time, just clung to him like she'd seen a ghost. Peter stroked her back to calm her and drank in the magnificent feel of her so close.

Finally she took a deep breath and spoke to his chest. "I want you to be happy. I know you don't think it's that simple. But for me it is. Only I don't know what I can do to make you happy. I've tried everything, pushing myself on you, pushing you away, and nothing seems to work. You become more miserable the more I try. Tell me what to do."

He closed his eyes, `say you want to stay like this forever.' But he couldn't say it out loud.

"Peter..." Her head lifted from his chest and Assumpta locked eyes with him. The current that ran through her every time their eyes met was speeding her pulse again now. This was the most difficult thing she would ever do. She was setting herself up to fall even harder and hurt even more if he rejected her. He had rejected her before. But if she died tomorrow at least he'd know. "Peter, I love you."

He looked a bit dazed but he held her tighter and asked, "What is it you want, Assumpta? I'll give you whatever you want, whatever will make you happy. You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down."

"I don't want the moon." She smiled at his nervous rambling. "I want you."

Realization and happiness spread across his face. He leaned in, but then stopped short just a breath away from her lips. As if unsure it was all just a dream, "You love me?"

"Why don't you kiss me instead of talkin' me to death?" And as they kissed in the early dawn light, the bells of St. Joseph's rang out.

***The End***