Fifteen-year-old Aisling and sixteen-year-old Kieran sat on the swings in
the playground, watching. It had been a long week and finally the weekend
was about to start.
“What have you got planned for the weekend?” Aisling asked her friend.
“Football... Mum says Dad always wanted to teach me but since he can’t, she’s
making me play.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t love it, Kieran! You’re the best one out there!”
“Yeah, I know. I just wish Dad was here to see it.”
“He’ll be watching, don’t you worry!” Aisling grinned, nudging him in the
“You coming to watch?”
“I dunno. Depends what Mum and Dad have planned. There was talk of some family
thing – which probably means them getting plastered at Fitzgerald’s and me
“Don’t knock it, I wish my olds were as cool as yours!” The teenagers laughed
as they watched three kids approach the play equipment. The oldest would
have been about Aisling’s age and the youngest only about five.
“Kieran? Do you know them?”
“Na, must be new around here. Hey!” The new kids turned around. The oldest
had long red hair that fell in waves around her face.
“Got a problem?” she bit back. “I’m not a dog!”
“Sinead? Who are those kids? Can we play with them?” the youngest asked.
“I’m Kieran and this is Aisling. What’s your name?”
“I’m Dearbhal Niamh, and this is my big sister, Sinead Siobhan and that is
my big brother, Cillian Brendan.”
“Nice to meet you all!” Aisling smiled. “You’re not from around here, are
“The olds are,” Sinead piped up, “but it’s the first time we’ve ever been
here. We were living in Dublin, but Mum decided she missed her home so moved
us all back here.”
“Where you living?”
“At Mum’s! I can’t believe she still has her place here! It's totally awsome,
we live above the pub!”
“Your mum is Assumpta Fitzgerald?” Kieran asked in awe. “When did you get
“Late last night. I don’t think anyone really knows we’re here yet. Although,
Mum did have some explaining to do to a woman who thought we were breaking
Assumpta smiled as she felt a pair of arms wrap around her. It was only a
matter of time until their peace and tranquillity was torn from them, and
they were determined to relish every moment that they had.
“Very, I only hope the kids aren’t out terrorising the community.”
“What? Like their mother did at their age?” Assumpta swatted her husband
and grinned up at him.
“The Fitzgerald Monster is a force to be reckoned with and our – charming
– children take more after me than their dear old Da.”
“Enough with the old, thank you very much!” They’d been married for fifteen
years and still the fun and excitement of the early days was still very much
a part of their every day life. The pub door crashed open and the sound of
little feet running caused Peter and Assumpta to break away from their moment
and focus on the children.
“You lot made friends already?” Assumpta laughed as her youngest wrapped
her arms around her waist.
“You’re really back?” the boy asked. Assumpta grinned at him.
“Who are you two then, ay?”
“You don’t recognise your own God-son then, Aunty A?”
“Gosh! Kieran! Last time I saw you, you were still a baby!”
“Yeah, well I’m sixteen now! You got a lot of catching up to do and advice
to give!” the boy laughed. “Oh, and this is Aisling Kearney.”
“Brendan’s daughter?” Peter asked, amazed that Brendan had married.
“Yeah, he and mum only got married about eight years ago. They’re a bit slow
off the mark around here!”
“I never pictured Brendan getting married. He was always the father to the
“He was my Dad...” Assumpta said wistfully, before explaining her comment.
“My own dad died when I was very little. He was like a father to me.”
“He’s a good man. But don’t tell him I said that! Listen, I’ve got to feed
the menagerie before we come back here for dinner. I’ll see you guys later.”
Aisling ran out the door, keen to get home and feed her animals, keen to
keep the secret to startle her parents. Peter and Assumpta turned their attention
“I take it you’ve met the brood then, Kieran?”
“Yeah, it’ll be good to have some more young people round here. I take it
Mum knows that you’re back?”
“Yeah, it was a bit of a shock though! I’m sorry to hear about your Dad.”
“Thanks. I don’t really remember him anyway, Sean’s my Dad now.” Sinead watched
at the boy talked bout his dad as if he didn’t matter. She couldn’t imagine
her life without her dad. Her heart bled for Kieran and she smiled sadly
at him. There were times that she wondered about why things happened as they
did. She was sure that God would not have wanted this boy to suffer. Besides,
he was kind of cute...
Aisling sat with her parents in Fitzgerald’s watching Kieran talk with Sinead.
They were constantly laughing. She snarled slightly and went back to her
“Who’s that girl talking to Kieran, Ais? I haven’t seen her around before,”
Brendan asked his daughter. Being the headmaster of the school he thought
he knew all the kids and the village and surrounding area.
“Sinead.” Aisling said the name like it was poison.
“How the Hell would I know?” Brendan and Siobhan exchanged a glance and smiled.
Their little girl was growing up. She was obviously put out by this new girl
spending so much time with her friend.
“Jealousy isn’t a flattering quality,” Siobhan said with a smile.
“Save it for the sheep, mum.” Brendan and Siobhan exchanged a look. The ‘terrible
twos’ were nothing compared to the terrible teens! Niamh grinned as she noticed
all the ‘regulars’ sitting around the bar and went into the kitchen.
“You two ready to give them all a heart attack?” she laughed. Assumpta and
Peter grinned at each other.
“Let’s do it!” Assumpta laughed. Now that she was home she wondered why she’d
ever left. Time had changed people physically, but there was still the same
warmth and love in their hearts, or at least, she hoped there was! If Niamh
could forgive, surely everyone else would welcome them back with open arms.
Assumpta followed Niamh out of the kitchen, securely holding onto her husband
as they went. Quietly, Assumpta poured the regulars their usuals and deposited
the drinks in front of them.
“On the house, guys!” Brendan looked up startled then quickly enveloped Assumpta
into a tight bear hug. Siobhan looked on smiling. She knew how much her husband
has missed the feisty publican he’d always thought of as a daughter.
“When did you get back?” he asked, shocked and elated to see her again. Assumpta
“Last night. God, it’s good to be back! And I met your daughter this afternoon.
It’s a bit scary that my ‘Da’ has a daughter the same age as my eldest!”
“Whoa! Back it up, you have kids?” Assumpta grinned.
“Three kids and a gorgeous husband. You may know him.” For the first time
they looked behind Assumpta where Peter was standing, grinning.
“Hiya!” Peter shook hands and received hugs and well wishes from all of the
“So where are these kids?” Brendan was dying to find out what had happened
in his ‘daughter's’ life in the last fifteen years.
“The youngest two are in bed, Dearbhal’s six, Cillian’s nine and Sinead turned
fifteen the day before yesterday. Sinead!” Assumpta called. “Come and meet
some people.” Sinead got up from her spot talking to Kieran moved over to
her parents, staying on the other side of the bar.
“Ade, this is Brendan and Siobhan, Aisling’s parents. Brendan was my teacher
at school. And this is...” Peter and Assumpta went around the pub being welcomed
back by so many remembered faces and introducing their eldest child to the
people they hoped would come to mean as much to her as they did to them.
Kieran and Sinead sat watching her younger two siblings play on the play
equipment. They rocked slightly on the swings and talked. Kieran reached
out and took her hand. She looked up and grinned. They turned their attention
back to the kids and continued talking.
“Kieran!” Aisling called, walking into Niamh’s house. The front door was
open and she knew Niamh and Sean were both at work. Aisling wandered into
the lounge and rolled her eyes. Kieran and Sinead were making out on the
lounge, the movie on the TV obviously forgotten.
“For Christ sake, Kieran! You’ve known her what? Five minutes? And you’re
throwing yourself at her!” Aisling’s anger got the better of her and she
turned on her heal and stormed out of the house, tears forming in the corner
of her eyes. Kieran and Sinead looked at each other shocked both by Aisling’s
outburst and their own actions. Kieran cringed. He’d just wanted to kiss
her, just once. She was beautiful. He didn’t think she’d even let him, let
alone respond with all the conviction she did. Sinead settled against his
chest, determined to focus on the film. Kieran’s hand gently ran up and down
“I’m sorry,” he muttered.
“Letting that get out of hand. I should have had more control.”
“Kieran, if I didn’t want that to happen, you would never walk again. Don’t
ever apologise for feeling.” Sinead felt like her mother saying those words.
How many times had she heard her mother say them to her father when he felt
guilty for putting his feelings first? Kieran remained quiet.
“Kieran? Was anything going on with you and Aisling?”
“Na, we are, were, friends. At least, that’s all it is for me.” He shrugged.
Sinead looked up at him and smiled. She leant up and kissed him before standing
up and straightening her clothes.
“I’m going home. You know where I’ll be if you want me.” With that Sinead
walked out of the house and back to the pub.
Her room was starting to look more like home. She had helped her father paint
the walls and buy furniture to deck it all out. The purple walls made it
feel warm and cosy and the furniture was simple and served its purpose. Under
the window sat her desk, already stacked with books and pens and the like.
Along the opposite wall sat her new queen-sized bed. She’d begged so hard
to be allowed a big bed! She kicked her school bag into a corner and grabbed
her gym clothes. She had energy to burn and she wasn’t going to do that sitting
around here doing nothing. Running along the River Angel was both relaxing
and thought provoking. The gentle flow of the water made her grin, the steady
thump of her feet on the ground lulled her into a peaceful rhythm. She marvelled
at the trees and realised, not for the first time, how lucky she was to be
living here. Then Kieran entered her head. He was never far from it these
days. She turned from the river and up a path that led to the main road leading
to the town. The sound of her feet changed as she thudded along the asphalt
road. She stopped as she reached the church. She knew that her father had
once been the priest there and she smiled. Her father always put others before
himself. She could see him as a priest! She grinned to herself as she jogged
back down the road to the pub.
Kieran smiled as he watched her. She was stretched out across her bedroom
floor stretching out her tired muscles as she stared at her homework sheet.
With one leg stretched out either side of her body – in second position for
any dancers – she rested her upper body on the floor reading contently. Kieran
cringed at the thought – surely that couldn’t be comfortable! She rolled
her body up, her homework still in her hand, and rolled around to sit in
the splits. Again she rolled her body down to lie along her leg. He knew
he shouldn’t, but Kieran loved watching her move. She didn’t so much take
care of her body as feel confident in her ability to move. She rolled up
again and turned to be sitting in the splits on the other leg. She started
noticing Kieran in the doorway.
“How long have you been there?”
“A while,” he shrugged. “I didn’t realise how flexible you are!”
“Years of dancing. It becomes a routine. I like stretching.” She rolled down
onto her leg as she spoke. “I hate sitting in chairs and love being able
to feel every muscle in my body.”
Kieran grinned at her. “You’re certainly a unique girl around here!”
Sinead smiled. “You coming in or are you going to stay over there forever?”
Kieran slowly ventured into her room. Sinead pushed herself up off the floor
and shook out her body. He cringed as she moved. There was something about
her that made him think thoughts he shouldn’t.
“How are you finding senior school?”
“I wish I was in classes with you!”
“That’s not what I asked, Kieran,” Sinead laughed.
“It’s alright, a lot of work but it’ll all be over in another eighteen months
and I’ll be wanting it all back!”
“I can’t wait to get out of school.”
“What do you want to do?”
“When I leave school?”
“I want to perform.”
“Yeah, act too. Drama’s where my heart is. Mum did drama at uni. I’m going
to do my teaching qualifications though. What about you?”
“I don’t really know. I’m tossing between guard and teaching.”
“Have you ever watched a kid’s face when they master something you’ve been
trying to teach them?”
“Na, I’ve never had much to do with kids.”
“Back in Dublin I did some volunteer work with a drama school for disadvantaged
kids. Watching them realise their potential is something I will always treasure.”
“You sound like you really love it.”
“I do. Drama – and even dance to some extent – is about telling a story and
getting your message to your audience. Seeing them understand and take that
on board and come out the other side is incredible and more important and
worthwhile than the adrenaline rush onstage.” Kieran smiled. She was an incredible
girl and he felt lucky to know her.
It was a Saturday night and as usual the pub was busy. The tourist season
was beginning and they were crying for live entertainment. Sinead inspected
her make-up in the mirror and grinned. Her feet protected by foot-thongs
– a piece of leather across the ball of her foot secured by elastics. She
heard the hush fall across the bar as her mother turned off the stereo and
grinned as she walked out to the small raised section that had been constructed
for these occasions. Her father winked at her. Both her parents were so proud
of her ability to perform. Every Saturday night she performed two dances
at separate times throughout the night. Every Saturday there was a different
style to her dances. Traditional Irish was always a big hit in tourist season,
but got a bit tedious for the regular Irish clientele so she always mixed
it up with contemporary jazz, jazz, street funk and ballet. Tonight she was
dancing contemporary. This allowed her to explore her emotions. She grinned,
looking over her shoulder as the music began. Her movement explored the fine
line between sexy and socially controlled. Kieran was sat in a corner watching
her as her body rolled provocatively down to the floor before taking on a
childish innocence. Once finished, there was silence amongst the crowd for
a moment before Brendan started clapping and cheering loudly.
“You’d never believe she was the daughter of a priest!” he called, laughter
filling his voice.
“Even if he does give sex talks to children!” Siobhan laughed along with
Sinead smiled as she absorbed the congratulations of the crowd for a few
minutes before excusing herself. She climbed the stairs to her room and quickly
pulled a dress over her leotard and ballet stockings. Someone clapping in
her doorway startled her. She smiled at Kieran.
“You were incredible! I think you nearly gave your parents a heart attack
though!” Sinead laughed.
“That wasn’t my intention! I wanted to do something different and unexpected!
Besides, it's fun flirting with an audience...”
“And here I was thinking that you were dancing just for me...” Kieran’s voice
dropped as he moved towards her. They stood mere millimetres apart, Sinead’s
breathing still heavy from the exhilaration of performance.
“Kieran, I’d move away from her before her mother kills you.” The teenagers
jumped apart quickly and looked sheepishly at her father.
“Dad...” Peter smiled at his daughter.
“Well danced, sweetie. Next time you want to do something as provocative
as that, warn us!” He held his daughter tightly. Although he had some hesitations
when his daughter first started contemporary dance, he had come to realise
just how incredibly talented his eldest child was. He may not agree with
the sexy nature of dance, but he can see how much his daughter loves it.
Assumpta had told him that they should let their children grow up doing what
they love as long as it was legal and didn’t endanger them.
Kieran watched as Sinead stood in the doorway to the church hall. She was
smiling and laughing as the children filed out. At just 17, she had a successful
business. She and Kieran had been together for over two years now and he
was travelling back and forth between Bally-K and Dublin where he attended
the University of Dublin’s Trinity College where he was studying a Bachelor’s
degree in Education. He was going to be a primary school teacher. Watching
his girlfriend with her performance students, he knew he had made the right
decision. Sinead was showing a girl a few dance steps they had obviously
been working on. Kieran watched as her feet moved to an invisible beat and
she ended en pointe. The girl copied her movements stopping before going
en pointe. Kieran was so proud of the work that Sinead’s studio was turning
out. Mr Quigley was almost tempted to put on a festival every month to build
up business. There was enough talent in the small community to cover the
timetable for a hundred festivals. Sinead looked up as the child walked away
with her mother. She caught Kieran’s eye and smiled, signalling for him to
follow her up to the hall. By the time Kieran caught up with her, Sinead
was back in the hall, music blaring out of her CD player. She walked through
a dance that she’d choreographed for her junior high school classes. Kieran
watched in awe as she danced without effort, still achieving more that he
could ever hope to achieve. They were still young, but Kieran hoped that
they would remain this happy for the rest of their days on earth, that they
would be eternally happy.