Play It Out


“We have one night, maybe less, maybe just an hour.”
“If it’s a sin, there’ll be no repeating it...” Assumpta leant in. They were alone in the hall. They had agreed that the only way that they were going to get to rehearse this scene was if they stole away to the hall alone. Assumpta’s hand cupped his face and she sighed gently as she closed the distance between them. Moments before their lips touched, her eyes closed, and she allowed herself to feel, making the make believe real just for a second. As their lips grazed, Assumpta’s heart raced and she moved to pull back, but he held her in place, seeking her lips again and again. Assumpta moved so that she was sitting on his lap, kissing him with all the passion she’d hidden inside for the past year. They slowly broke apart after several minutes, both breathing heavily.
“You tell me that was all acting and I’ll bar you.”
“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that!”
“Good.” Assumpta leant back against his chest and grinned. “There’s one problem here.”
“That being?”
“You’re a priest!”
“That can change. That will change! I’ll go and see Father Mac in the morning.”
“Am I dreaming?”

Assumpta woke with a start. Her dreams were becoming more and more vivid, and although the dreams were good, she wished they’d stop so that she could face him in the morning without the images of her dreams clouding her thoughts. She pulled herself out of bed and pulled on last nights clothes before grabbing Finn for his morning walk.

Peter stood at his window and grinned as he watched her walk past. It had become a sort of morning ritual, watching the beautiful publican walking her dog. Today, things were different. This morning he was dressed and raced down the stairs and out into the street to catch up with her.

“Morning!” His cheerful voice caused her to stop and smile.
“Hi. How are ya?”
“All the better now!” Assumpta laughed at the love-struck puppy look on his face.
“Last night wasn’t a dream was it?”
“You want it to be?”
“No, I was just trying to convince myself that it was so when you backed out on me this morning I wouldn’t care.”
“Oh, very nice!”
“Hey, I’m just protecting myself here!” They walked on in silence and as they approached the outskirts of the town along the River Angel, Peter reached out and took her hand.
“I’m going to see Father Mac today.” Assumpta stopped and smiled at him.
“Are you sure that that’s what you want?”
“Of course I am. Assumpta, I love you.”
“Ah, but will it last? Am I worth leaving the priesthood for?”
“You’ll never get to heaven if you break my heart...”
“That doesn’t answer my question Peter.”
“As far as I’m concerned I’d go to the moon and back for you. A little thing like leaving the priesthood doesn’t seem to matter compared to that.”
“I said before that I was protecting myself, will you let me protect you too? Stay a priest. Just for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, then, if you still love me, leave.”
“I’d be lying to my flock.”
“You’ve been lying to them for a while already...”
“True.” They sat on the rocks and let Finn loose. “A month’s only going to make me want to be with you more Assumpta.”
“I know.” Suddenly Assumpta’s face lit up as an idea struck her. “Ever thought of moonlighting?”
“Well, we want to spend some time, just the two of us. Moonlight. Help me clean up at the end of the night and we can talk, or whatever...” A cheeky grin crossed the publican’s face.
“Assumpta! I may be leaving the priesthood, but I am not leaving my faith behind!”
“Pity. You’re a good kisser for someone who’s been celibate for years, wonder what else you’re good at?”
“Honesty is the key to any successful relationship is it not, Father?” Peter groaned and pulled her into his arms, kissing the top of her head.
“You will be the death of me Assumpta Fitzgerald!”

Assumpta and Peter were getting ready for the play when Brian and Enda entered, announcing that Enda could perform. Assumpta and Peter exchanged a glance. It was for the best really. There was more chance of keeping their secret if they weren’t getting familiar onstage. As much as Peter told himself it was just acting, he couldn’t bring himself to watch her kiss Enda. He knew Enda was only playing this part because he ‘liked’ Assumpta. This was crazy. He wished that they could get it all out in the open but he knew he was trying to protect him as much as herself. After the play was over, Peter made his way backstage and shook hands with Enda and pressed a quick kiss into Assumpta’s cheek in congratulations before leaving the hall for the back door of the pub. His moonlighting would have to begin tonight.

Assumpta crashed noisily through the back door. She was not looking forward to the cleaning up that was left for her to finish. She hadn’t wanted to close any earlier than absolutely necessary. She smiled as she noticed Peter sleeping, his head resting on the kitchen table, the glasses all washed and away. She knew that they’d hung around at the hall for a while but didn’t realise just how long. She found a rug and threw it over the sleeping priest and gently kissed his head and left him to sleep.

Finn’s barking and the door closing woke Peter the next morning. He looked around him and remembered falling asleep in the kitchen at the pub the night before. He glanced up and saw Assumpta smiling at him.
“Morning sleepy head.” She kissed him firmly before letting Finn off his lead.
“You already taken him for a walk?”
“Yeah, you were still out to it when I left.” Peter stretched his body up, working out the kinks from sleeping hunched over the table.
“You should have woken me when you got home last night.”
“Ah, but you looked so cute!” Assumpta laughed, her hands moving to his back, working on the kinks that were so obviously bugging him. He groaned slightly at the magic her hands were working.
“Your hands are magic!”
“Why thank you Father.”
“Don’t, don’t call me Father...” Assumpta smiled apologetically and kissed him. He pulled her down on to his lap and continued to kiss her. Slowly they broke apart and she settled into his embrace.
“Thanks for cleaning up last night.”
“Anytime.” Together, they sat in silence for several minutes, exploring the new-found comfort they had in each others arms. The sound of a key in the front door caused them to break apart. Peter kissed her quickly and stole out the back door.
“Niamh! What are you doing here so early?”
“Early? It’s eleven o’clock.” Assumpta looked at her watch and groaned. She was still in yesterday’s clothes and she hadn’t even begun getting ready for the lunch rush.
“Ah, time seems to have gotten away from me. Do you mind getting set up so I can change?”
“Sure. Did Finn need a good stretch this morning?”
“Something like that...” Assumpta mumbled as she headed up the stairs, smiling slightly as she thought of Peter asleep on her table.

About a week later the pub was heaving as everyone descended to congratulate Niamh and Ambrose on their news. Peter and Assumpta smiled every time they caught the others eye. When Assumpta had a minute, they met at one end of the bar and were talking quietly. Assumpta smiled as she looked over at Niamh and Ambrose.
“Is that what you want, Assumpta?”
“One day... right now I’m just happy to explore.”
“Yeah... I hear that there are a lot of areas that need exploring...” Peter laughed. Their public conversations were deliberately ambiguous. They’d become skilled at hiding their true meaning in case they were overheard.
“Would you like a hand clearing up tonight?”
“Thanks! That would be great. I don’t think Niamh will be much help tonight!” Assumpta winked at him before moving on to serve another customer.

Peter and Assumpta sat curled up together on the lounge. Their hands exploring and their mouths fused together.
“I love you,” Peter whispered as they broke apart. “I want to be free to be with you.”
“You’ll never get to heaven if you break my heart.” It was something they said to each other often, appropriated to suit the situation.
“I’ll never break your heart. Promise!”
“If this doesn’t work out, will you regret leaving the priesthood? Will you blame me?”
“Assumpta? Is that why we’ve waited so long? You think I’ll blame you if it turns sour?” Assumpta looked quietly at her feet.
“Assumpta, I love you and I will always love you. You and me, together, against the world.”
“I’m going to see Father Mac tomorrow and we’ll get things sorted.”

“You’re doing what?!” Father Mac was not impressed with his curate’s behaviour.
“I spoke to the bishop this morning and he’s prepared to release me from my vows immediately. He doesn’t seem to have the same concern as you do.”
“I’m sure you didn’t tell the bishop why you’re leaving.”
“Actually, I did. I’ve met and fallen in love with a woman who I cannot get out of my system. I have prayed and asked for guidance and all signs are pointing to Assumpta.”
“It’s your funeral MR Clifford. Just don’t expect any support from me or the community!”
“Thank you Father Mac. Your support and understanding in this difficult time is very much appreciated!” Peter stormed out the door, slamming it behind him.
“God help us! He’s even beginning to sound like her!”

“Where are you now?” Assumpta had the cordless phone wedged between her head and shoulder as she pulled Brendan’s pint.
“Cilldargan. I’ve got some things to do considering I need to find a place to live and need to get my life out of the poverty stage.”
“You know you can always stay here?”
“Yeah I know.”
“Assumpta, will you tell him to get back here so that you can actually concentrate on pulling pints?” Brendan asked loudly enough to be heard by Peter on the other end. Peter laughed.
“Tell Brendan I’ll be back within an hour. And thank you for everything beautiful. I love you.”
“You too. I’ll see you soon.” Assumpta’s smile was firmly etched into her face as she hung up the phone.
“So what’s going on with you and our esteemed priest?” Brendan asked, watching her face.
“He’s no longer a priest.”
“He left? For you? You’re one lucky woman. You two both deserve each other.” Brendan kissed her cheek and smiled.
“How did you know?”
“Blind Freddy knows! We’re happy for you, on one condition. You let me walk you down the aisle when you finally get married.” Assumpta laughed.
“If he ever asks me then you’re the only one I want, Da!” Brendan grinned. It was very rare for Assumpta to admit her feelings. She had never actually told Brendan how special he was to her. It was on these rare occasions when she let it slip how she felt that Brendan felt his heart soar.
“Now, what are we going to do for Peter? Assumpta, have you got any decorations? Let's get this place looking festive looking and get everyone in here to surprise him.”
“Good idea!” Siobhan confirmed. “I’ll get on the blower and get everyone down here.” Assumpta remained stationary for several minutes before springing into action and grabbing the box of decorations from the other room. This was going to be one hell of a night!

The pub was silent as Peter walked through the doors. The lights were out and he groaned as he picked his way in the dark towards the bar.
“Where are you? Don’t tell me your electrics are shot!”
“There’s nothing wrong with my electrics!” At that moment, Padraig flicked the lights on and half the town jumped from their hiding places.
“Congratulations Peter!” they chorused. Peter smiled and turned to Assumpta.
“You are in so much trouble!”
“Hey! I can’t take any of the credit! That all belongs to Mr Kearney over there!”
“Can I get you a drink... MR Clifford?”
“Peter will do fine, but yes, thank you. And thank you for organising this. At least now I won’t have to worry about how to tell everyone.”
“So what’s the deal? Are you absolved of your vows immediately?” Assumpta asked, her eyes smiling at him while her face attempted to remain blank.
“Father Clifford has performed his last mass.” Assumpta’s face broke into a smile.
“Good! I can finally do what I want to then!” With that, Assumpta joined Peter on the other side of the bar and kissed him soundly. “Love you.”
“Love you, forever.” Lost in their own little world, the happy couple were oblivious to the cheering going on around them until Ambrose clapped Peter on the back.
“It’s about time you two!”
“Well, I suppose while you’re all here I should say a few words!” Peter called. “Firstly, thank you for welcoming me so warmly into your hearts and community. I only hope that I have not lost any of your support and respect in leaving the priesthood. Secondly, it appears that most of you know why I’ve left. I left after much prayer and contemplation and realised that God sent me to Bally-K for a reason: to meet and marry Assumpta Fitzgerald. So without further ado,” Peter dropped to one knee in front of Assumpta and pulled a ring box out of his pocket, “Assumpta, will you marry me?”
Assumpta stared at him lovingly but didn’t move to answer.
“Just say yes already!” Brendan called. Assumpta said nothing but pulled Peter to his feet and kissed him, wrapping herself tightly around him. The crowed cheered loudly as Peter put the ring on her finger and picked her up, spinning her in a circle, laughing.

“Looks like you get your wish Brendan!” Niamh had taken over behind the bar with the help of Peggy and Assumpta had not left Peter’s arms.
“What wish?” Peter asked confussed.
“I get to walk my girl down the aisle. I suppose I’m going to have to do the whole fatherly talk at some stage, but I don’t suppose you’re going to hurt her, are you?”
“I wouldn’t dare!” Peter grinned and pulled his fiancée closer. “I love her to pieces Brendan. And if I hurt her, I’d kill myself before you got to me!”
“Don’t even joke about it Peter! That’d hurt me more than anything you could do!”
“So, Peter, where are you going to live now?” Siobhan asked.
“I hadn’t really thought that far yet. Possibly here, depends if the landlady will have me.”
“We’ll have to see with that one! The town would talk.”
“And they’d have us to answer to!” Padraig said indicating to the full pub.
“Thank you guys, you have no idea how much this means to us.” Peter was beside himself with the amount of love, respect and understanding that the town was showing to him tonight.

As Peter put the last glass away, he smiled. One day they would have all this and more. He watched as Assumpta sighed and sank onto a step.
“Assumpta!” She laughed.
“I didn’t mean any funny business. I don’t want tonight to end here and I’m exhausted.”
“Come on beautiful.” Peter led her upstairs where they got ready for bed and Peter crawled into her bed behind her. He kissed the top of her head and wrapped his arms around her.
“I love you, Peter, so much.”
“I love you too. Sweet dreams.” Assumpta’s breathing had evened off and she was alseep before he finished speaking. He smiled, kissed the top of her head again and snuggled down into her body, holding the most precious gift in the world in his arms... Forever.