Assumpta smiled. Her breathing was shallow and ragged and her body exhausted.
She felt her lover’s arms around her body as she drifted into a contented
sleep. As a smile played on her lips in sleep, her lover kissed her once
and left the building.
Assumpta woke alone. It was all a dream. A wonderful, vivid dream, but a
dream all the same. She buried her head in the pillow and smelt his smell.
She knew then and there that they would never talk about this, it never happened.
About 7 weeks had passed since that night, and she’d been right, nothing
had been said – it had never happened. Assumpta’s face contorted as she felt
her stomach doing back flips. Something wasn’t right. She hadn’t been able
to keep anything down for the last couple of days. She quickly finished pulling
Brendan’s beer and dumped it unceremoniously on the bar before running for
“Keep an eye on the bar, Brendan!” she called. Brendan looked at Siobhan
knowingly. They’d known Assumpta was never forthcoming but thought that she’d
have told them by now.
“Do you think she’s…?” Siobhan let the question trail off.
“I’m sure of it. But the question is does she know? And who’s the father?”
Siobhan shrugged. There was more to this situation that met the eye. Assumpta
came back into the bar her shoulders slumped and her demeanour quiet.
“Everything OK, Assumpta?”
“Have you seen Doc Ryan yet?”
“No, Brendan.” Assumpta smiled inwardly at his protectiveness. He really
was the father she’d never had.
“Go. We can cope here.” Brendan moved around the bar and gently pushed her
towards the door.
Assumpta’s face was tear-stained as she returned to the pub. Brendan and
Siobhan knew better than to say anything. Some of the others were not quite
“Assumpta? Is everything ok?” Peter asked. Assumpta’s face split into a sarcastic
smile as she sauntered over to him. She picked up his beer, smiled, and tipped
the contents over his head.
“Like you give a shit, Father!” She turned and stalked upstairs. The silent
bar let out the breath it had been holding as they heard the door slam upstairs.
Peter stood up and made towards the stairs.
“Ah, I wouldn’t Peter. Leave her for tonight.” Brendan’s knowledge of her
made him someone to be trusted when it came to the mind of Assumpta. He knew
when to retreat! Peter smiled sadly and walked out of the pub.
Assumpta threw the last of her bags into the back of her van and tears rolled
down her face as she looked at the pub bearing her name. She knew she’d be
back eventually – no one could ever stay away for long – but it would never
be the same place to her. Her hand resting protectively over her stomach
she pulled her van onto the road and out of Ballykissangel.
Two years had passed since that night at the pub and Peter had never once
stopped thinking about her. He said mass and all he saw was her face, grinning
sarcastically at him and rubbishing the church, he slept and she haunted
his dreams. She possessed him. As the last of the congregation filed out
of the church, Peter returned to the sacristy and removed his robes. He sighed
and rubbed his hands over his face. He was tired. He was always tired. He
had aged considerably since she’d left. They knew she was ok, she’d left
Niamh a letter telling her so. But he still worried about her every day.
He picked himself up from the chair he’d collapsed into and made his way
down to the pub. As usual, it was busy. He’d never quite worked out why people
would go straight from Sunday mass and into the pub. He shrugged. It wasn’t
important. He picked his way through the crowd to his normal position with
Brendan, Siobhan and Padraig at the bar.
“What will it be, Father?” Niamh asked from behind the bar.
“Lager, thanks, Niamh.” Peter put his head in his hands and rubbed his face.
“Mass that tiring, Peter?” Brendan asked.
“It’s not so much mass but everything that goes on behind it. There’s so
much to do and I don’t feel my heart is in it at the moment.” Peter had grown
to trust these people and spoke to them as he would his Bishop. Trust and
honesty is what made this community work. That’s where Assumpta had let them
all down. When he wasn’t working, Peter spent most of his time in the pub,
reminding himself of the beautiful red head, knowing that if she was ever
to return, this would be the place that she’d come.
Peter ran up the main street of Ballykissangel on his return from his morning
run. It had become a kind of ritual. As he ran past Fitzgerald’s he noticed
a blue van parked out the front. He was about 50 meters up the road before
it registered. That was Assumpta’s van! His heart beat fast as he turned
and sprinted down to the pub. It had been two long years but he was finally
going to see the woman he loved again. He crashed into the car, steadying
himself before moving around it. In the back seat he noticed a toddler’s
car seat. She had a child. She was probably also married. Peter felt like
his heart had stopped beating. He stood still, debating whether he went in
on not. Silently, he sat on the benches outside the front door. On the one
hand, he’d be able to see the woman that he’d missed so much, on the other,
if she was married, what would he do? He slunk forward and groaned to himself.
Resolutely, he stood up and moved to push the front door open just as it
was yanked from his hand. Suddenly, he was face to face with the woman he
loved. He was face to face with Assumpta. She stood still, staring at the
priest, one arm holding the door, the other cradling a toddler on her hip.
“Ah, hi.” Peter smiled slightly and blushed.
“Hi. Ah, come inside. We can talk. Don’t want the gossips starting already.”
Peter looked over his shoulder and noticed Kathleen supposedly sweeping the
front of her shop. He took the weight of the door from Assumpta and followed
her inside. He followed her to the lounges near the fireplace. In a corner
there was a box of toys that as soon as Assumpta put her down the child ran
“She’s beautiful.” Peter grinned, smiling at the child.
“Yeah, she is. Thankfully her temperament takes after her father, not her
mother.” They both laughed at this.
“Did your husband come with you?”
“I’m not married.”
“Oh.” There was silence as they watched the child play.
“Mamma? Sheep?” The little girl held up a sheep toy.
“Yeah sweetie. Why don’t you show Peter what noise a sheep makes?”
“BAAAA!” Peter laughed.
“Well done!” He turned to Assumpta. “What’s her name?”
“Chloe. She’s 17 months. I can’t believe how quickly she’s growing up.” Chloe
had pulled herself up and was watching Peter intently.
“Da?” she asked. Assumpta’s head snapped around.
“What’s that, sweetie?”
“Da!” Chloe toddled over to the dresser on which stood a photo of Peter and
Assumpta. She pointed at the photo. “Mamma. Da!” Assumpta closed her eyes,
silently offering a prayer to the Gods that she’d be able to talk her way
out of this one.
“Wel,l we weren’t exactly careful, were we? Passion just… overtook us.” Peter
just looked at her.
“Why did you leave?”
“Why do you think? So you wouldn’t feel trapped. I hoped I could come back
and everyone would just assume I’d met someone…”
“Something like that. I didn’t realise how much she’d put together so quickly.”
“She’s smart, just like her mum.”
“She’s a great kid. Never cries or complains… like her dad.”
“She’s beautiful like her mum.” Peter smiled and pulled her into his arms.
“God, I’ve missed you so much!”
“Me too, Peter.” Tears began to roll down both their faces. As they slowly
pulled apart, they smiled through the tears.
“Can I hold my little girl?”
“Chloe? Can I have a cuddle?” Chloe looked at him quietly and toddled over,
her arms outstretched, begging to be picked up. “You’re a beautiful girl,
you know…” From her spot next to them, Assumpta smiled. Peter caught her
look and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. There was something precious
about this, being with both his girls. Since seeing Assumpta again, he’d
virtually forgotten that he’s a priest.
“You ok?” Assumpta asked, looking up at him from her position resting on
“Just thinking. I’m going to have to go and see Father Mac and leave the
“You don’t have to do that. I never wanted to force your hand. I’m happy
to lie to the community and let you continue as you are.”
“I can’t. If you walked away again I don’t think I’d cope. And if you took
Chloe with you, that would be the end of it… I want to leave.”
“Only if you’re sure.”
“I think I’ve been looking for an excuse for a while now.”
“Then, when you’re ready, do what you have to so you can be a part of our
“I’ll be a thorn in your side forever, Assumpta. You will be the light in
my life for as long as you want to be.”
“Then I guess you’re stuck with me forever. I’m not going anywhere if I’ve
got you.” Chloe was wriggling and Peter let her go, watching as she toddled
over to the toy box again. She pulled out a red dog.
“FINN!” Peter and Assumpta laughed. The dog, hearing his name came bounding
into the lounge area. He gently nudged the child with his head and seemed
to smile. This is what Peter had been missing. Why had he let her walk away?
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
“I love you,” he whispered in her ear and pulled her closer into him.
“I love you, too.”