An Affair of the Heart

by Linda Suazo


Chapter 1

                He admitted to Brian that he had cheated for Assumpta. He had stuck the glasses down, so she wouldn't spill during the race. He couldn't bear for her to have lost the pub. Especially to Brian. He looked around. The pub was heaving. He loved this place so much. When he was sent here, he hadn't thought he would like it. He saw Niamh and Ambrose dancing. They looked so happy. This was a wonderful place. His heart was heavy. He was going to have to leave. All of a sudden he needed some fresh air. He went to the door and opened it. The cool air felt good on his face. He walked over to Hendley's, the rocks and gravel making a crunching sound under his feet. He sat on the steps. Looking down the road to the church, he thought about his time here. He had wanted to make a difference, but didn't know if he had. Life would go on without him and he wondered if anyone would really miss him.

                The door to Fitzgerald's opened. He saw Assumpta look over at him. She waved slightly. He waved back. If he were to admit it, she was the one he would miss the most. She was beautiful. Not just on the outside, for she was that. But on the inside, especially. He saw it, even if others didn't. She had become part of his soul. They were really very much alike.

                She walked across the street, came up the stairs and sat down next to him.

                "I'll miss you if you go."

                "That battle has been fought and lost."

                "I don't think so," she said, smiling and handing him a large roll of papers.

                He looked puzzled, but started opening the roll. Signatures. Hundreds of them. He looked over at her. She was looking at him with her beautiful eyes and smiling.

                "I don't know what to say," he said.

                "I'm sending this to the Bishop," she said, her eyes flashing.

                "Come on back in," she said, standing up and reaching for his hand.

                He reached up and took her hand. They walked down the stairs and she self-consciously let go of his hand and they walked back into the pub.

                The noise was deafening. She looked at him for a moment and turned to take care of the bar. He watched her walk away. For a moment, he was lost in thought. He didn't want her to leave his side. He wanted to ask her how she felt about him. He knew she thought of him as a friend. What more did he want? What more?..............Brendan came over to him.

                "Come and sit with us, Father, he said, indicating the far corner where Padraig and Siobhan were.

                He sat down and Peggy brought him a drink. "Is this ok, Father? she asked setting it in front of him.

                "Yeah, thanks, Peggy.

                He looked around once again. Maybe he wouldn't have to leave after all. He took a deep breath. He felt so good........

                "So, Father, did Assumpta tell you about the petition?" asked Siobhan.

                "She did," he said, smiling.

                "Are you glad to be staying?" asked Brendan.

                "Of course, if I really get to," he said.

                "Why wouldn't you? asked Padraig.

                "Well, if they really want me to go, I will have to," he said, taking a drink.

                "I'm sure you will stay," said Brendan. "You know, the whole thing was planned by Assumpta."

                Peter didn't say anything. He looked for her and saw her waiting on a table in the opposite corner. Her dark hair, curled about her face. Brendan leaned over and said, "You might ask her to dance."

                Peter looked at him. He nodded.

                He approached her. She had a dishcloth slung over her shoulder and was clearing off part of the bar. She looked up at him. A smile crossed her face. He reached over and took the dishcloth and laid it on the bar and with the other hand he reached for her. She looked questioningly at him and then understood what he wanted. She allowed him to lead her to the dance floor. The band had started and was playing a slow, beautiful song. He put his arm around her back and held her hand. She looked up at him and then rested her cheek against his. A moment later, he turned her hand and rested it against his chest.

                It took a moment for him to realize that the music had ended. Everyone was milling around, talking, and laughing, and waiting for the next song to start. He was still holding Assumpta......and she was letting him. He looked down at her. Nothing was said. The music started. He hadn't let go of her. All he knew was that he wanted her to stay in his arms... As the song was ending, Peggy came up to them. "Assumpta, we need some help. We have a bit of a problem........

                "Ok," she said, giving Peter a look, and turning to follow Peggy.

                Peter stood watching her walk away, then walked back to the table. Brendan was dancing with Siobhan and Padraig was dancing with Margaret O'Hara. He sat alone, watching everyone, looking for Assumpta and trying to work out what he was feeling. He knew, part of it was joy. He was going to stay. The other part..........was something else. He knew it had something to do with Assumpta........having her in his arms. The feel of her skin.....the smell of her hair....The nagging thought kept coming in.........'be can't go there'.......But it was a small thought...................He never gave it full reign. The love that he felt for her, had been there almost from the start. She really was his best friend. But his feelings for her had changed. He couldn't discern the subtile difference, or when it had happened.

                "I would appreciate you getting right to those things," said Father Mac, walking to his car.

                "Yes, Father," said Peter, watching as the car pulled away. He didn't know what Father Mac's reaction would be to the petition. He stood a moment, gathering his thoughts. He was having a hard time concentrating these days. He found himself waking up in the middle of the night. Sometimes not able to get back to sleep. The day was warm. He found himself heading for Fitzgerald's. He hadn't seen much of Assumpta, since the dance. He was very sure he would never forget that night. It had created such a longing within him that sometimes it left him breathless.

                The pub was quiet. He went in. "Assumpta," he called...................................... He heard a loud 'pop' and the lights flickered and went out. The cellar door was opened and he quickly put 2 and 2 together. He ran to the top of the stairs.

                "Assumpta," he shouted.

                "Assumpta," he shouted again. He was half way down the stairs, before he heard her say, " I'm ok."

                It was almost total darkness. He was at the bottom of the stairs. "It's ok, Peter," she said.

                He reached for her, grabbing her arms. "Oh, my God, Assumpta, you could have been killed," he said, putting his arms around her. "Don't ever mess with that again, " he whispered against her face. She didn't say anything. She was still in his arms.

                "Hello," came a voice from the top of the stairs.

                "Padraig," is that you?" cried Peter.

                "Yeah, what's going on?"

                "Assumpta almost got electrocuted on this damn fuse box," Peter said, helping her up the stairs.

                Padraig held out his hand to Assumpta and helped her up. When Peter saw her face, it felt like someone hit him in the stomach. The flash had knocked her into the stone wall and one side of her face was scraped. He held her face tenderly. Padraig said, "I"ll go get Michael."

                "No, I'm fine," said Assumpta.

                "Go get something to put on her face," said Peter. "I'll wash it off."

                Peter took her into the kitchen and made her sit on a chair. He ran the water until it was warm and then took a soft, clean cloth from the drawer and wet it. He held the unhurt side of her face and began cleaning the wound. She flinched a bit.

                "Oh, God, Assumpta, I'm sorry." He looked at her. He could see the pain in her eyes.

                "Quit fussing over me, Peter," she said.

                He leaned over and kissed her cheek. It was spontaneous. He hadn't thought to do that. She stared at him. He touched her hair. Her eyes filled up with tears.

                "I'm sorry, Assumpta. I'm sorry," he said, taking her hand. Just then Padraig came in, bringing a jar of ointment.

                "I think she'll be alright," said Peter, opening the jar and softly spreading the creme on the wound.

                Just then the pub door opened. "Will you take care of whoever is out there?" asked Peter to Padraig.

                "Yeah," he said, walking through the door.

                Assumpta had a cup of tea and felt better. Peter sat across from her. "Padraig is calling his cousin to come and fix the fusebox. Don't ever do that again," he scolded.

                She smiled. "I won't," she said. "I have been dealing with that thing for years. It never reacted that way before."

                "Well, it could have killed you."

                "Well, it didn't, so don't think about it," she reached over and touched his hand.

                The night was too warm. He was awake again. He got up and went to the window. The air was warm and still. He walked back and forth in front of the window. No cool air. His mind wandered here and there, always coming back to Assumpta at the dance. Then the touch of her hand on his, in her kitchen. How did she feel about him? How did he feel about her. Oh, God! He was a priest. He had taken the vow of celibacy. Did he love her? God, yes, he did! But he had always loved her. She was his best friend. When did this overwhelming emotion start? He walked over to the window again. Not even a breeze. The night was dark and quiet. He did love her. He did. He wanted her more than anything he had ever wanted in his life. He had heard something once that kept coming to his mind...........'The knowledge blooms in me, like a rose, filling my chest.....with thorns. What would be the best to do? Tell her?? Keep it to himself? Tell Father Mac? No, he wouldn't do that. Pray?? Yeah, of course, pray. What if he had made a mistake, becoming a priest? His father was against it. For different reasons, of course. He walked back to the window. Maybe it was cooler outside? He walked to the closet and pulled on a pair of jeans.

                He went downstairs and opened the door. There seemed to be a slight breeze. Oh good, he thought. He walked to the bridge. He went down the side to the Angel. It was much cooler, down by the river. He skipped some stones on the surface of the water. Why was life so difficult? He heard a stone rolling down the hill. He turned. Someone was coming down.

                "Hi," she said. "What are you doing out here at this hour."

                "It was too hot to sleep," he said. "I thought it would be cooler out here. What about you?"

                "I saw you walk by. I was awake, too," said Assumpta, brushing her hair back from her face. She looked at him.

                "Assumpta, I have to talk to you."

                "Well, I'm here."

                All of a sudden, he knew what he had to do.

                "Assumpta, I care a great deal for you," he said, throwing another stone in the river.

                She watched the river.

                He looked at her, waiting for her to say something.

                She didn't say anything................She slowly moved over to where he was sitting. She sat next to him, their shoulders touching. She reached for his hand and held it in hers. And slowly brought it up to her lips. In a moment, his arms were around her. He kissed her face, her neck, her eyes and then her mouth. It was her response that encouraged him to go on.

                "I love you so much," he whispered, between kisses.

                "Peter, do you know what you're saying?"

                "I'm telling you the truth.......I've thought about nothing but you, day and night, since Niamh's wedding. I think about you every minute of every day," he said softly.

                She looked down at the sand. "Peter......please think about what you're saying."

                "Do you think I haven't thought about this? I'm not a teenager, Assumpta, I'm 36 years old. I have thought about my vows, the priesthood, my mother........It's all I ever think about. The only thing I wasn't sure of, was how you felt about me."

                She looked at him. She stood up and held out her hand to him. He reached for her hand and stood up. The rain started softly. They walked up on to the bridge and towards the pub. She didn't speak. She just held on to his hand. She hadn't told him anything. But she had responded to his touch and his kisses. She opened the door and held it open for him. He looked at her questioningly. She just kept the door opened and he went in. The fire was smouldering in the fireplace. She walked ahead and threw a log on the fire. They sat next to one another. The crackle of the flames was the only sound. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, " talk to me, Assumpta."

                She reached up and put her arms around his neck. His mouth found hers. The kiss was deep and passionate. "I love you," she whispered.

                They lay on the sofa, their bodies touching. He felt the softness of her skin next to his.

                "Peter," she said, softly, " what are you going to do?"

                "I'm going to love you," he replied, running his hand down her side, and pressing her closer to him. "I'm going to love you like no one has ever loved you before........because, I do.

Chapter 2

                She awoke. The rain had stopped. The moon was shining in the window. She remembered..... turning suddenly. The bed was empty. The blanket folded down. Had she dreamed it? Just then the door opened slowly and Peter came in. He crawled in beside her. She could tell that he thought she was still asleep and was trying not to wake her. He looked over at her. "Hi," she said, softly.

                "I thought you were still sleeping," he said, reaching over to touch her face.

                "For a moment, I thought I dreamed it all," she said.

                He leaned over and kissed her softly on her mouth. She responded, putting her arms around his neck and holding him against her breast. He could feel her heart beating.

                "Peter," she whispered.

                "What?" he said not moving.

                "What are we going to do?"

                "We're going to make love, again.........I hope," he said, smiling.

                "You know what I mean," she said.

                "I know," he admitted. "But I don't want to think about anything right now. All I know is that I am so in love with you, that nothing else really matters to me."

                She stayed quiet. Stroking his face, softly. She couldn't believe this was happening. There were no words to describe what she felt for him, so she didn't try. She just gently touched his skin, holding him closely, reveling in this incredible emotion. Suddenly he moved up, his face close to her's. He put his hands on either side of her face. He touched the scrape on the side of her face. She smiled at him, remembering how he had taken care of her. That seemed like years ago, instead of last week. She had thought that she loved him, before. She knew she loved him, when Father Mac was trying to send him home, although she hadn't recognized it for what it was. Looking back, of course, she could see it. Those feelings were nothing compared to what she felt for him now. She was amazed.

                "I'm going to have to leave soon," he said, touching her face.

                She didn't say anything. She put her hand on his face and leaned over to kiss him. The stars twinkled and the moon shone down and no more words were said.

                "What is the matter with you, today," said Siobhan. "I don't think you have heard anything I have said."

                "Sorry, Siobhan, what did you say?"

                "I said, I would like a sandwich," she said...

                "Oh, sorry," she said, turning to go into the kitchen.

                "You must have had a lot to drink last night," she said, loudly, from the bar.

                "Yeah, I guess I did," Assumpta said, trying to sound truthful.

                Just then the back door opened. Peter came in. She looked up. He looked intently at her, walked up to her, took her in his arms and held her closely. He kissed her face and whispered, "I love you."

                She smiled, looking furtively out toward the bar. He smiled too. "I know," he said. "Is it alright if I come back later?" She smiled, and nodded. God, yes, she thought. He walked to the door and turned and looked at her. She put the sandwich down and walked over to him. She put her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest. "I love you, Peter," she whispered.

                He walked out of the pub, heading back up the street to the church. His life had changed so much in the last week, that he almost didn't recognize it. The guilt was there, of course. But it was overshadowed by the incredible passion he felt for her. He remembered when he thought he was in love, at Uni. She was a delightful person. He recognized it, now, as just an attraction. He was young, undecided as to what he would do, idealistic. And it was soon forgotten. This was as different as night was to day. This was something that sprung from their friendship. He had an appreciation of her from the start. He couldn't really put his finger on when it changed. But changed, it had. He had never loved anyone as much in his life. He loved her so much that he was willing to compromise his vocation, his reputation, his relationship with God.......everything. And after last night, he knew there was no turning back.

                Peter opened the door and went in. His footsteps echoing in the quiet solitude. He walked up to the front, genuflected and sat down. He knelt, putting his face in his hands. Now the long, arduous process of deciding what to do. He would talk to her later.

                Back at the pub, Assumpta walked out into the bar, carrying Siobhan's sandwich. She was still breathless. Padraig had come in and Liam and Donal, as well. Get a grip, girl, she said to herself.

                The pub was heaving. Niamh had come over to help her. Ambrose was on duty and she was glad to help. Assumpta was filling the cooler with soda. The pub door opened and Peter walked in. She glanced up, and their eyes locked.

                "Hey, Father, come over here," said Brendan.

                He walked over to the end of the bar and sat down between Brendan and Padraig.

                "So, Father, how are you?" asked Padraig.

                "Just fine, Padraig."

                Assumpta walked over to him.

                "What'll you have, Peter?" she said.

                "A pint, thanks," he replied, as he glanced up at her, trying not to allow his eyes to linger.

                She set the drink in front him. He was saying something to Brendan. But his eyes drifted over to her. He could barely take his eyes from her. He watched the movement of her body. He saw the sparkle in her eyes as she laughed and talked with the customers. 'She loves me,' he thought. SHE loves ME! How did this wonderful thing happen?

                The night went like that. Both tried not to notice one another. Just pleasantries past between them. She would glance over at him and find him laughing with Brendan and Padraig. Finally everyone began to wander out. Peter left with Brendan and Padraig, without saying anything to Assumpta. She closed up and started to clean. What was going to come of this? This affair. God, she couldn't believe that she was having an affair with the PRIEST. It would have been laughable if it had been someone else. But she wasn't laughing. She had never felt this way about anyone. She turned the lights out. She left the back door unlocked. She didn't know when he would come, or if. She knew she was letting herself in for a great deal of pain. This waiting and wondering. She brushed her hair and put her t-shirt on and crawled into bed. The memory of last night was ever present in that room. Was it possible to love someone this much? She wondered if Niamh loved Ambrose this way. If her mother had loved her dad like this, at one time. What was love, anyway? Why did people fall in love? Was it chemical? Spiritual? Maybe it was a form of insanity. She laughed to herself.

                There was a flash of lightening and a crack of thunder. She awoke, suddenly. She sat up. The lightening lit the room. She was alone and apprehensive. Just then, she heard a knock on her bedroom door. She got up and walked to the door.

                "I was worried about you," she said, helping him off with his wet jacket.

                "I'm sorry. Padraig had something he wanted to show me and so I went over to his place. You know how he goes on and on. Then he drove me home, and wanted to stay and have a drink. You know.........................

                "Yes, I know Padraig," she said, putting the jacket over the chair.

                She sat down on the bed, watching him take off his wet clothes.

                "I hurried as fast as I could," he said, taking his shoes off. The flashes of lightening, cast lights and shadows around the room. When he was down to his underwear, he stood up and walked over to her. He reached for her hand and pulled her up, putting his arms around her. "Are you sorry, it's come to this?" he asked, against her face.

                "No," she said, softly. "Are you?"

                "No," he said, running his fingers from her neck down to her breast. His touch was electric. She felt it course through her. She reached down to the hem of her shirt, lifted it up over her head and flung it into the chair.

                She lay down and he lay down beside her. "I couldn't think of anything but this all day," he said, turning to face her and tracing the line of her cheek. Lightening flashed and the thunder growled. "I want to talk to you, Assumpta........but not right now," he said, holding her face and kissing her. "Not right now," she agreed.

Chapter 3

                He opened his eyes. For a moment he had forgotten where he was. He turned to look at her. Her eyes were closed and her dark hair curled about on the pillow. He still had a hard time believing that she loved him. But love him, she did. Why, he had no idea. She could have her pick of anyone. She was so beautiful. He reached over and touched one of her dark curls. The sun shone in the window.

                "Oh God," he said, jumping up and pulling his jeans on.

                Assumpta sat up. "What......?"

                "It's morning!" he gasped.

                She got up and looked out of the window. He picked up his shirt and shoes and ran around the bed, grabbed her, held her closely, kissed her, and said, "I love you."

                She just looked at him as he bolted through the door and down the stairs. She sat back down on the bed.......shook her head, and laughed. She wandered over to the window. "God, I hope he gets home without being seen."

                She loved him. It had been almost a month, since he had first slept in her bed. He had slept with her every night since. She tried never to let herself examine too closely, how really desperately she loved him. She knew that somewhere down the road, there was going to be an incredible amount of pain, but she didn't want to look at it, until it got there. And she was helpless to stop it, anyway. They had spent many hours laying next to one another, talking about the past. But never about the future. She knew he hadn't wanted to make any decisions. She would never ask him to. Knowing that he loved her was enough. She turned the tape on. Riverdance. Lift the Wings. There was something so beautifully poignant about that music.

                He closed the door. He hoped beyond hope that no one had seen him. He hated the secrecy. He would have liked to have shouted to everyone that he loved Assumpta Fitzgerald and that she loved him. He hated leaving her every morning. She had become the most important thing in his life. He knew.........he knew he would have to make a decision. But right now, he had to deal with Father Mac. He had to take care of the paper work he had asked him to do a month ago. He had chewed on him yesterday about it. He also told him that he didn't want his curate spending so much time at the pub. Of course, he had no idea exactly how much time Peter actually spent at the pub. Father Mac disliked Peter intensely. The petition had only made it worse. He went upstairs to his room. His bed hadn't been slept in for nearly a month. He sat down heavily on the bed. He had to go to Cilldargan this afternoon with the completed paper work for Father Mac. He hoped he could concentrate on the job at hand. He showered and got dressed and went next door to the church.

                He opened the door and walked in. The church was dark, except for the candles in the front. He knelt down and bowed his head. He didn't know what to say to Him. To ask for forgiveness for something he wasn't sorry for.........he couldn't do it. Understanding. He would ask Him to understand.


                The guilt settled on him like a cloak. What was he doing? He had gone beyond feeling guilty about sleeping with her. The sin, he was sure, wasn't in loving Assumpta, it was in not making a decision. If he needed help with anything it was that. What if.......what if? God, he was sick of it.

                Peter walked down the polished halls of the Church. He hated dealing with Father Mac. What was there about the man? He carried the case containing, he hoped, everything that Father Mac wanted. He knocked on the opaque window of the door.

                "Come in," said a voice.

                Peter opened the door. Father Mac sat at his desk. The look on his face, told Peter how this meeting was going to go.

                "Well, it's about time," he said, smugly.

                "I'm sorry it took so long, Father," said Peter, setting the case down on his desk.

                Father Mac gave him a dark look.

                "Father Clifford, I have just had a long talk about you to the Bishop."

                "Oh........about what?"

                "About your unsuitability for this parish."

                "I thought we were through with that," Peter said, hopefully.

                "We will never be through with it," Father Mac said, slightly raising his voice.

                "The Bishop and I both have agreed that you will be sent back to England, in spite of that pitiful attempt at influencing the Church."

                Peter said nothing.

                "Any comments," he said, smiling.

                "When do I leave?" Peter said, tightening his jaw.

                "Next week," he smirked.

                Peter turned and walked toward the door.

                "I haven't dismissed you yet," Father Mac said loudly.

                Peter turned back and looked at him. He reached for the door as he was still looking at him, opened the door, and walked out, slamming it, as Father Mac began his tirade.

                He poured himself another drink. He was still so angry that he didn't want to go to the pub, for fear of what he would say. It was dark. He hadn't turned on the light. There was a knock at the door.

                "Hello, Peter," said Brendan, as Peter backed away from the door, letting him in.

                "Hi, Brendan," he said, indicating a chair.

                "Just wanted to see how you are," said Brendan, noticing the bottle on the table.

                "Want a drink?" said Peter.


                Peter got up and disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a glass. He poured the drink and handed it to Brendan.

                "So, Peter, how is everything?"

                Peter didn't say anything.

                "I know......." said Brendan.

                Peter looked at him. "You know what?"

                "I know about you and Assumpta," he said, taking a drink.

                Peter looked at him, questioningly. "How.....?"

                "I've known for a long time that there was something between you two."

                "How.....? Peter repeated.

                "Well, I'm not stupid.....Besides, I saw you this morning. You're going to need to be more careful."

                ".......I'm sorry that your priest is such a failure."

                "Failure! What are you talking about? You've been a great priest."

                "Well, look at me now..........!"he said, pouring another drink.

                "What are you going to do, Peter? Do you love her?"

                "Oh, God, Brendan. I am so in love with her......."

                "Does she love you? As if I didn't know that."

                Peter looked up at him. "Yes, she do you know that?"

                "So, what are you going to do?" he said, ignoring the last question.

                "I've just been going over that in my mind. I've been a priest for so long, I don't know what else I can do. However, Father Mac told me he was sending me home in spite of the petition. I know I need to make the decision, but there are so many considerations.......What I will do for a living.....what the people of Ballyk would think of me....what they would think of Assumpta."

                "I wouldn't worry about what the people will think of you.......your close friends know anyway."

                Peter stared at him. "What do they know?"

                "They know that you two love each other."


                "For heavens sake, Peter, we're not blind, you know," he said, pouring himself another drink. "I mean...she got the petition signed....she wouldn't have done that for anyone else...I think I realized it, back when your little friend Jenny came here to see you. Remember? It was raining and we were all sitting in the pub......she noticed the key that she had given Jenny was still here....she went out in the rain to bring the key to didn't register exactly, but when she came back soaking wet, I asked her where she had gone and she mumbled something, but I began to watch her. I would watch her eyes light up whenever you came into the pub, even when she was angry. I would watch you too, just to see if you noticed." He laughed. "You never did."

                Peter stared at him.

                "I noticed you, too," Brendan said, laughing and pouring another drink

                "What do you mean?" Peter said, taking another drink.

                Brendan just shook his head. "I used to watch you watching her. You were so transparent."

                "Did everyone know?"

                "Not at first, but eventually everyone came to the same conclusion. By everyone, I mean the regulars. Niamh, Siobhan, Padraig, Ambrose. I am the only one, however, who knows how far it has gone."

                Peter looked relieved. "And you don't mind?"

                "Mind? Why should I mind? You two love each other. I'm just glad that you finally figured it out," he laughed.

                "Thank you, Brendan. Thank you for that," said Peter.

                With that Brendan got up, finished his drink and said, "Well, I'd better be off. I just thought that you should know how I felt. No matter what you decide, it's alright with me."

                Peter got up too and walked him to the door. He reached for Brendan's hand. "Thanks for being a friend," Peter said.

                Assumpta awoke. The clock said 2:35. Where was he? This was the first night he hadn't slept beside her. Was this the beginning of the end? Was it here now? The end of everything. She couldn't call him. She had made up her mind when this first began. She would never make him do anything that wasn't his idea. She got up and walked to the window. The night was dark and slightly windy. She put on her jeans and shirt and slipped on her shoes. There was no way she was going to sleep. The pain was beginning.

                She slipped out of the door and across to the river. She went down to the spot where she had first met him, the night he had kissed her, the first night that they had made love. It was chilly. She sat down with her back against a tree. There was no moon, so the night was very dark. She hadn't seen him all afternoon or night. Part of her worried about something happening to him. The other part knew that he was on the verge of making a decision about their relationship. He couldn't go very much longer in the limbo that he had created for himself.

                The sound of a stick cracking brought her back from her reverie. All of a sudden she was frightened. What if someone had followed her here. She sat quietly, not moving. She could see a dark shadow moving. It was coming toward her. It was an animal of some kind. For a moment she was too terrified to move.....Then Fionn jumped up on her. She thought her heart had stopped for good. "God, Fionn....." she said, trying to catch her breath. She sat down on the ground again, trying to breath. "How did you get out?" she said, petting him and breathing heavily. Just then she heard someone speak.

                "Fionn," the voice said, softly.

                "Peter?" she said, quietly.

                "Assumpta! My God, where have you been? I've been looking everywhere for you. I finally let Fionn out, hoping he would find you," he covered the space between them and held her closely in his arms, kissing her face. "Thank God!"

                "I'm sorry, Peter. I couldn't sleep so I thought I would go for a walk, and ended up here."

                He just held her. "Assumpta..............Assumpta, will you marry me?"

                She stood back to look at him in the dim light. "But how.........?"

                "Let's just say that it's been decided. I talked to Father Mac tonight. Actually, I called him at about midnight and told him that I was through being a priest. And that I wasn't going to go anywhere but here."

                "Why............was he sending you away, anyway?"

                "Yes....he told me today that in spite of the petition, he was sending me back to England and the Bishop agreed with him."

                "And now, there are a million questions I have for you? But the first would be, will you marry me?"

                The tension and the fright and the worry had left suddenly and were replaced with tears. They ran down her face. She didn't even try to stop them.

                Peter was distraught. "Assumpta, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have sprung this on you."

                She put her arms around him and the tears continued to flow. She pressed her face to his and whispered, "Yes, I'll marry you. I love you."

                "Let's go home to bed," he said, kissing her eyes and cheek.

                "Yes, let's go home.