Ode on a Grecian Urn
(This could fit about anywhere in the second or early third
Assumpta pulled the paper from Niamh's gift, a book with the title
"He's Just Not That Into You." Assumpta plastered a smile across her
face and gave a good effort to keep any hint of sarcasm out of her
voice. "Thanks Niamh."
"There's some sound advice in there," Niamh said somberly.
Assumpta groaned on the inside, what a fine birthday this was turning
out to be. She'd rather be upstairs with the blankets over her head.
And it wasn't because she was another year older. It was because the
surprise party Niamh had thrown her was turning into one of the most
uncomfortable evenings of her life.
Just yesterday there had been another awkward moment between her and
Peter, another reminder that the electricity between them not only
existed but had the capacity to burn her. But here he was at her
birthday party drinking a
pint with everyone as if yesterday hadn't happened. He was one damn
in her opinion because even she was beginning to believe him when he
nothing was there. She started to wonder at times like these if the
thing was in her head alone.
Niamh was rambling on, "It's a single woman's self-help book. It says:
you really like this guy but he's giving mixed messages. So you make
excuses, decide he's confused, afraid of commitment, and so on. But
there really is only one simple answer… he's just not that into you.
The author says stop kidding yourself, let go and look for someone else
who will be into you."
And there it was, exactly the advice Assumpta knew she should listen
to. Move on, he doesn't want you, you're better off without him. All
that sound advice that a smart, attractive, independent, successful,
young woman like herself should easily follow. But why wasn't it that
Padraig's gift was unmistakably a bottle of wine before she even opened
it. He toasted her, "Relax and have a drink on me for a switch."
She ran a bar, Assumpta thought cynically, what did she need another
bottle of wine for? She reviewed the last week in her mind briefly and
didn't recall Padraig purchasing a bottle of wine from her. "Did you
buy this in Cilldargan?" Padraig nodded. She narrowed her eyes and
clarified, "From my competitors?"
A sheepish look crossed his face, he obviously hadn't thought of it
that way until now. Brendan rescued his friend. "Happy Birthday
Assumpta." And he handed over his gift to her.
As she opened it she said, "My bookshelf is fillin' up." Brendan gave
her poetry each year for her birthday ever since she was eight years
"Keats is your favorite."
"Yes," she answered flipping the pages until she found it. `Ode on a
Grecian Urn' was her favorite, the poem about figures carved on an urn
and frozen forever that way. Keats contrasted the bittersweet
consequences of being stuck
in one moment in time. Like the lovers under the tree together, her
can never fade and he'll never leave her. Yet they suffer the cruel
of spending eternity only millimeters from each other's lips, always
but never allowed to reach that kiss.
Assumpta glanced up about to thank him, but past Brendan she met
Peter's eyes. He was looking at her in the way that always made her
heart stop ever briefly. And begin again at racehorse pace. She knew
what it felt like being stuck in that cruel tempted moment forever.
Forcing herself to look away she said to Brendan, "It's lovely," with
genuine affection. She was aware that to Brendan poetry was the most
meaningful gift one could give.
Siobhan handed over a box. "Here ya go. I didn't know what to get until
just a few days ago. Then it came to me."
Once the paper was gone and the box opened, Assumpta found a bell. Hers
had broken earlier in the week when the supplier set a crate on it by
accident and it cracked. The old bell had been a gift from Assumpta's
father to her mother. Siobhan knew beneath the couldn't- care-less
demeanor that Assumpta's heart broke right along with that bell.
"Siobhan, it's beautiful." As Assumpta took the new bell from the box,
its brushed nickel finish reflected the light from the fire nearby.
Padraig complained, "What're you encouraging last call for?"
Brendan quipped, "Yeah, whose side are you on Siobhan?"
Siobhan ignored them both and told Assumpta to turn it around. Assumpta
laughed as she read the engraved inscription and held it up for the
The Queen Has Spoken
With mocking in her voice Assumpta reminded them all, "And don't you
Niamh brought out the cake and they sang to Assumpta, Padraig the
loudest and the worst simultaneously. Peter hung at the back of the
group the entire time. Finally Assumpta came over to him with pieces of
cake. "Don't you want some?"
"Niamh outdid herself," Peter said as he reached for it. Their fingers
brushed as Assumpta handed it over. She felt the fireworks between them
travel into her fingers, through her veins, and trigger the long slow
pull in her belly.
Her mind strayed while watching him eat cake... How could he simply
ignore it? He must not feel the same? ...and the thoughts made her
heart sink. Assumpta scolded herself, That's what happens when you fall
in love with a priest. As if she had a choice in the matter. She fought
it every step of the way and yet here she was just the same. Assumpta
sighed deeply to clear her thoughts away and began gathering the now
empty dishes lying about.
"I'll do that." Peter came over and took the plates from her. He
carried them into the kitchen.
She followed behind protesting, "No, it's fine."
"The birthday girl shouldn't clean up after her own party."
"Niamh didn't plan that far ahead apparently."
Peter looked at her oddly. "She had to go, a few minutes ago Ambrose
called and said Kieran was running a fever. Doctor Ryan went with her."
Now she felt stupid. "Oh. I hope he's okay." Assumpta realized she must
have missed what was going on in front of her while she was daydreaming.
"I'm sure he's fine," Peter reassured. "Parents though, you know."
"I didn't get you a gift. I'm sorry I got busy with-"
She shook her head and cut him off, "It's alright."
"I should have after those driving lessons you gave me."
"That was more charity than birthday present, Father."
He gave her a smile and handed her the plate he'd just washed and was
now dripping wet. They stood shoulder to shoulder at the sink, he
washed and she
dried. As they worked they settled into a comfortable silence.
Suddenly Peter took the sink's water sprayer and pointed it at her,
squeezing the trigger and soaking the front of her. She froze and
stared at him in shock.
He paused, the mischief and amusement faded from his face.
"What was that for?" She was astounded.
"Ahm, revenge for the bucket of water you threw on me in front of
Father Mac." It sounded more like he was guessing then actually giving
"Right." Assumpta made an unexpected quick grab for the sprayer in his
hands. She'd caught him off guard so she had a chance to swivel it
around and spray him back in the face before he caught on. Peter began
fighting back then, the sprayer between both their hands spewing in all
directions as they pushed and pulled and struggled and she began to
giggle. Assumpta almost got it out
of his hands before he backed off with it.
"Truce?" he asked, laughing now as well. They were both soaked, hair,
face, clothes. She looked adorable to him in this moment. Young,
carefree, laughing, silly, wet to the point that her shirt clung to her
curves... Peter fought the emotions rising inside.
"Truce," she agreed. Then made a second lunge at him but slipped on the
wet floor. Assumpta landed hard, her left hand outstretched to stop her
fall but she fell on her bum. Very graceful, she thought.
"Are you okay?" Peter dropped the sprayer and rushed to her. He took
her right hand and when he pulled to help her stand, the momentum kept
her going and she stumbled forward into him. He caught her around the
waist to hold her steady.
"I'm fine," she insisted. But he let go with only one arm, to take her
injured hand and examine her wrist carefully. All the while his other
arm held her tighter against his body and Assumpta's heart began
"You sure you're alright. It's not broken is it?"
"No." It was said pathetically breathless she thought, damn him for
making her feel like this.
"Mum used to-" Peter interrupted his own sentence by kissing her wrist,
very gently, on the inside where her veins betrayed her racing pulse.
could feel her heartbeat beneath his lips it was incredibly erotic and
was instantly aroused. Warning bells went off in his head- back up,
her now and walk away or you may not be able too. But he didn't want
God help me, he pleaded in his mind.
Assumpta was trying to ignore the feeling of his lips on her skin and
took a hitched breath that she hadn't even realized she was holding.
for control and in an attempt to lighten the mood said, "I fell on my
too, you gonna kiss that?"
He smiled, "Don't we all? On a daily basis?"
He held her so close that she had no wiggle room at all. But instead of
fighting Peter off she wanted the opposite. It was her birthday and
was in truth only one gift she wanted from him at this moment. Assumpta
in and when he didn't protest or pull away, she took it as a sign and
his lips. And he wasn't just taking this, her mind reeled, he was
back greedily. It was hot and soft all at once. Until, "Assumpta!"
called from beyond the door and she drew back catching sight of Peter's
foggy with passion and need.
No amount of acting could hide that she thought, and whispered to
Peter, "Happy Birthday to me."
He seemed to gain a bit of himself back then, "That wasn't your gift."
"Oh, yeah? We're even I'd say."
She turned from him and pushed open the kitchen door saying to the
punters, "It's my birthday. For once can't you get it yourselves?"
Peter watched her go, his heart pounding in his chest. He spoke to the
empty kitchen, "And it certainly wasn't charity either."