Peter walked outside and headed for the church. He was glad to be back. He opened the door and walked in. The sound of his shoes echoed in the empty church. He loved the quiet peaceful feeling he got here. The candles flickered in the corner. He really loved St. Joseph’s. But even more than that, he loved the people. Yes, it was good to be home. He glanced around. Nothing much changed. As he looked up he noticed the window was still broken. Memories. The cut on Assumpta’s face. He couldn’t go there. File it away somewhere.
“Good morning, Father,” Kathleen said, surprised to see him.
“Good morning, Kathleen.”
“How is everything?”
“Oh, fine Father. Did you have a nice vacation?” she asked, starting to look through her sheet music at the organ.
“Umm, yeah, it was fine, thanks. He walked up to the altar and lifted the large bible from the table and set it underneath, on the shelf.
Niamh unlocked the pub. The sun was shining, for a change. She turned and watched Eamonn as he walked toward Fitzgerald’s from Hendley’s. “Hi, Eamonn,” she said, waiting for him.
“Niamh, are ya renting out any rooms?”
“No, Eamonn, not while Assumpta’s away.”
“Can ya tell me when Assumpta’s coming back?”
“Don’t know, Eamonn. Why?”
“Well, I have a business deal for her, when she gets back. I’ll have a diet cola, please, Niamh.”
“What kind of a business deal?” she said, setting his cola on the bar in front of him.
“Well, I can’t tell ya, Niamh. It might be unlucky and spoil the deal.”
“Ok, Eamonn,” she said, humoring him.
Ambrose walked in pushing Kieran in the pram. “There’s mammy,” he said, talking to Kieran. “He’s hungry,” he said, lifting Kieran out of the pram and handing him to Niamh.
“You tend, then,” she said.
The phone rang. She thought that someone would get it, so she continued to nurse Kieran.
“Niamh,” yelled Ambrose. “Phone!”
She picked up the phone. “Hello.”
“Assumpta!……….How are you?”
“I’m fine. How is the pub?”
“Well, you know how it gets, here.”
“Yeah,” said Assumpta.
“When are you coming home?” asked Niamh.
“Well, I’m not sure.”
“Are you sure you’re ok? You were awfully upset when you left.”
“Didn’t know that it showed.”
“Well, it did to me,” Niamh said. “What was the matter?”
“Oh, it’s ok, now. Niamh, I’m calling to tell you something.”
“Well, I ran into Leo last week,……. and he asked me to marry him.”
“What?………. What are you going to do?”
…………..“I told him yes.”
“Assumpta! I can’t believe it. When? Where?
“Now, don’t get excited. I think we will just get married here in London, probably at a registry office.”
“Assumpta…………Do you love him?”
She was quiet………..
“Assumpta……..Do you really love him?”
“I’m fine with this, Niamh. It’s going to be alright. But, Niamh,
don’t say anything to anyone,
Peter walked toward Fitzgerald’s. He wondered how long Assumpta would be gone. He didn’t know how he would feel once she had returned, but he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He steered away from any thought of her. Sometimes, the memory of the night out at Killnashee woods, would come as an unwelcome thought, and for just a moment that breathless feeling in his chest would return. But it was just for a moment. He put it immediately out of his mind, thinking about anything else.
He walked into the pub. Eamonn was coming out. “Hello, Eamonn.”
“Hello, Father. Welcome back. Did ya have a nice vacation?”
“Yes, Eamonn, thank you.”
Ambrose was tending bar. “Hello, Father, did you have a good……….
“Yeah,” interrupted Peter.
“What’ll you have?”
“I think I’ll just have a cup of coffee,” Peter said, sitting down.
“So, how have you been?” asked Peter.
“Oh, fine, Father. Just a bit busy, lately. I’ll sure be glad when Assumpta comes home.”
“So…….when is she coming home?” he asked nonchalantly taking a sip of coffee.
“I don’t know, Father, but she just called to talk to Niamh.”
Niamh walked out of the kitchen carrying Kieran. “Here,” she said, handing him to Ambrose. “That should hold him for a while. Hello, Father. When did you get back?”
“Well, it was late last night. I’m not really sure of the time.”
Ambrose put Kieran into the pram. “Well, we’ll be off then,” he said. “Good to see you, Father.”
Peter raised his hand and waved slightly.
Niamh looked at him. “So, Father, how are you?”
“Fine, Niamh. Just fine……” he said, avoiding her eyes. “What’s happening here…?”
Niamh wiped the bar off. Peter turned and looked at her. Something was wrong.
“Have you heard from Assumpta?” he asked again trying to sound uninterested.
“Yeah,” she said, wiping the bar furiously.
“How is she?” he asked, trying to sound like he really didn’t care one way or the other.
Niamh didn’t answer.
The day had been very strange. He couldn’t put his finger on why. He guessed that it was probably because it was his first day back. He finished washing up and folded the towel. Upstairs as he got ready for bed, he thought about Assumpta. He couldn’t help himself. He remembered her teaching him how to drive. “Maybe I don’t want to see you kill yourself.” He shook his head, hoping to stop the memory. “Do you ever want what you can’t have?” “You surprise me.” “I do?” “Constantly.” He tried to stop the flow of memory before it got to the remembrance, of him touching her. They had taught him to meditate. He sat still on the chair. He went over and over the things that Father Blanchard had told him. Clear his mind of everything. Breathe deeply. Concentrate on Christ. Picture yourself talking to him. In a little while, he felt empowered once again. He got up from the chair and went downstairs to fix a cup of tea.
The tapping on the door got louder and louder. Peter awoke, wondering where he was. The tapping was getting more insistant. He hurried down the stairs. He opened the door. Niamh said, “I’m sorry Father, but I have to talk to you.”
“Come in,” he answered sleepily.
She came in and sat down on the sofa.
“I really am sorry, Father, but I need to talk to you.”
“I don’t know why, Father, but there is an urgency about this and I need to talk to someone.”
“Would you like some tea?”
“Tell me what’s bothering you.”
“I got a phone call from Assumpta, today.”
“Ambrose told me,” he said…….. “Is she alright?” he said, starting to panic.
“Father……….. she told me that she is going to marry Leo McGarvey.”
“She is….. what?” he said, trying to gather his thoughts.
“She is going to marry Leo. She told me that she met him last week in London and he has asked her to marry him Father, and she said yes.”
Peter didn’t speak.
“Father, I’m worried about her. I know that she doesn’t love him.”
……“How do you know this?” he asked, barely able to speak above a whisper.
“Because, I have known all along how she felt about Leo. I always thought that she loved someone. You know, when we would talk about things. I never knew who it was, but I knew it wasn’t him. I am so worried that she will do something stupid."
“Assumpta’s a big girl, Niamh,” he said, trying to get control of himself.
“I know, Father, but I don’t want to see her do something she will regret for the rest of her life.”
“Well, let’s think about it for tonight, and then maybe we will have some idea of what we can do tomorrow.”
He closed the door and turned and leaned against it. His heart was pounding. The memories came flooding back. He had reached for her hand. “Are you cold?” he had asked. “Yes………No,” she had said. “You feel cold.” Her hand in his. He had wanted to lift it to his lips. He had wanted to take her in his arms. He got up and walked back and forth, trying to think. Why would she do this? “Do you ever want what you can’t have?” she had said. God, yes, he thought. He imagined her marrying Leo. He tried to shake the thought, but it kept reoccuring. He imagined her standing beside him, dressed in white. He imagined her lying beside him. He imagined Leo kissing her, making love to her. That was more than he could handle. He ran up the stairs. The closet light was already on. He grabbed a pair of trousers and a shirt. He slipped on his shoes and his jacket. He had no right to do what he was going to do.
He stopped the car in front of Niamh’s house. He needed the address and phone number. He pounded on the door. Impatiently he pounded again. Soon the door opened and he went in. He came out quickly and got into his car. Niamh watched after him.
The rain danced on the street. Inside the cozy home Peter was visiting quietly with his mother. She held his hand. Soon he got up and went into the livingroom, picking up the phone. “Is Assumpta Fitzgerald, there?”……… “When do you expect her?”…… “No, that’s alright. I’ll call back.”
Assumpta looked out of the bus window. She was sick of the rain. She was so miserable. She should be happy. She had finally made a decision. She was getting married in three days. What was wrong with her? She couldn’t shake the depression. Maybe it was the rain. God, did it always have to rain here!
The bus stopped and she got off. It was just half of a block to Mary’s, but she knew she would be drenched. She ran up the steps and quickly opened the door. “Sorry about your floor,” she said to Mary, who stood watching her drip.
“The floor is used to it,” she laughed.
“Assumpta, I called the pub to see about a party for Saturday night. They are available.”
Assumpta took a deep breath. “Ok,” she said.
“You don’t sound too keen,” Mary said.
……..“I guess I’m just tired,” she said, hanging up her wet coat.
“Someone called for you.”
“Who was it?” she asked, taking off her shoes.
“I don’t know. He didn’t say his name. He just said he would call later.”
Assumpta stopped. “What did he sound like?”
“I don’t know. Just a guy.”
She turned and looked at Mary.
“Was he Irish?”
“No, definitely not. He was English for sure.”
“Do you know who it might have been?” asked Mary, putting the coffeepot on.
“I can’t think,” she said, shaking her head.
Peter went up to the room. It was good to get out of the rain. The bus ride was long and tedious, but he needed time to think. Twenty-four hours ago he was sure he wanted to be a priest. A good priest. Now he was sure he didn’t. All he could think about, was Assumpta. He couldn’t believe that he thought he could live without her. He may still have to live without her, because she may really want to marry Leo. But he had to know. If she was marrying Leo and she didn’t love him, she would be miserable. He couldn’t bear that. He remembered the times when she was unhappy. His heart hurt for her. He loved her too much. He finally had to admit it to himself. God, how stupid could one man be? He realized that he may never have her, but better he be miserable than that she be. He didn’t know what he would say to her that wouldn’t make her angry. What if she really loved Leo? But Niamh didn’t think so and neither did he.
“What?” she said, turning over.
“Telephone,” said Mary.
Assumpta reached over and picked up the receiver, as Mary closed the door. “Hello.”
………………… “Peter?” she said, sitting up.
“Where are you?”
“Here in London.”
“Peter, what are you doing here?”
“I came to talk to you. I heard that you were getting married, Assumpta. I have to talk to you?”
“When do you want to talk to me?”
“When ever you say,” he said.
“What time is it?”
“12:30,” he said, glancing at his watch.
“There is a little outdoor café, not far from here. It’s called
Rudolfo’s. It’s open all night. I could
be there in a half an hour,” she said.
“I know where it is. I’ll be there at 1:00.”
He hung up the phone. What he was going to say to her, he had no idea. What could he say? “I’m your priest, Assumpta, but I love you and want to marry you?” God! He remembered what he had said to her in the kitchen. That was it. He was leaving to go on retreat. He was going to be the best priest he could be. He saw her tears. He had just walked out. What an insensitive ! He put on his plaid shirt and his jeans. No more priest’s garb. Even if she goes ahead and marries Leo, he won’t …..he can’t be a priest any longer.
She got up in a daze. She looked around. What in the world was going on? Peter wanted to talk to her. He had come all the way to London. She tried to think. Her heart was pounding. “He has come to see me.” She had no idea what was going on. And how did he know that she was getting married?…………..Niamh!
He sat under the umbrella. The rain drizzled down onto the sidewalk. No one else was there. The restaurant was open, but due to the rain, no one was outside. She was late. What if she didn’t come? What if she was so sick of him that she decided not to bother showing up?
He saw her from a distance. He recognized the jacket and hood. His heart started pounding. She came up the steps and sat down at the table. She pulled back her hood. Her dark hair fell about her shoulders. She looked at him and smiled and shook her head. “What are you doing here?”
“Niamh told me you were getting married.”
“So.” The smile left her face.
“I have to talk to you, Assumpta.”
…….“So, talk.” She slouched in the chair and folded her arms.
He didn’t know what to say.
“Do you love him?” he said, surprising himself.
She looked at him. She didn’t say anything.
“Well?” he said. “Do you?”
“What do you care?” she said, staring intently at him.
………….“I don’t want you to be unhappy, Assumpta.”
“I’ve been unhappy for a long time,” she retorted. “You didn’t seem to care before.”
He lowered his eyes. “I have always cared,” he said, softly. “And I care now.” Her reaction was swift. She was on her feet. “How dare you say that to me, now that I have accepted Leo’s proposal? He loves me.” Her eyes flashed. As she turned to leave, he reached for her hand.
……………“I love you,” he said, looking up at her.
“What?” she turned to look at him. He stood up and held on to her arms.
“God, Assumpta!” I am trying to tell you that I love you. I thought I could live with me being the priest and you being the publican. I was so wrong. I was so selfish. If you marry Leo, it won’t change anything for me. I will love you for the rest of my life, anyway. But I don’t want you to be unhappy.”
She looked up at him……….. “Why did you wait so long to tell me?”
“Because I’m stupid.”
She smiled grudgingly. “Yeah, you are.”
They were both standing in the rain. He reached up and wiped some drops off of her face. He reached up with his other hand and held her face and kissed her mouth softly. In a moment she was in his arms. The passion that had been growing for three years finally exploded. They didn’t notice the rain.
Even they were shocked. Assumpta stepped back.
He leaned down and kissed her again. She looked at him with wonder.
“What?” he said, smiling at her.
She didn’t speak. He kissed her again. Again she responded.
“What?” she said, catching her breath.
“Speak to me.”
She let out a breath. “What do you want me to say?”
“Say something, please,” he pleaded.
“You kiss pretty good, for a priest,” she smiled, slightly out of breath.
He laughed and put his arms around her. With his face touching hers, he said. “Do you think you would ever be able to love me?”
“You really are dumb, aren’t you?” she said.
He just looked at her. She didn’t say anything.
“A lot of time wasted,” he said, holding her close.
She closed her eyes, drinking in the moment.
The rain had let up and the sidewalks were shiny with reflected light. They walked hand in hand. “What are we going to do?” she said, glancing up at him.
“What do you want to do?” he asked.
“Why ask me?” she said. “This won’t affect me as much as it will you.”
“Father Mac will be very surprised at what his retreat has produced,” he remarked.
He stopped to face her. He put his arms around her and kissed the side of her face. He felt her arms around him. What a marvelous feeling! He kissed her mouth and held her.
“What will you tell Leo?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt him. He has wanted me to marry him since we were at University.”
“What are you going to tell Father Mac?” she asked.
“The truth, I guess. It won’t matter what I say, the response will be the same.”
“When are you going to tell him?”
“As soon as he gets back,” he answered. “He’s gone for a month to Italy. I’m sure he is having a glorious time.”
“Will we have to keep this quiet for a whole month?” she asked.
“We’d better. I’d hate for him to find out while he’s in Rome.”
He picked her hand up and brought it to his lips. She turned her hand around and touched his face. He kissed her again.
She looked out of the second story window. He looked up at her and waved. Slowly she waved back. Suddenly she was filled with panic. “Wait!” she cried. Taking the stairway quickly she ran to the front door and opened it. She had taken her shoes off so she was bare footed. She ran across the wet grass and into his arms. They held each other tightly. Their lips met with almost the same intensity as the first kiss. “Don’t go,” she whispered against his face. “I’ve only just found you.”
He closed his eyes, letting what she had said, sink in.
“What if your friend sees us?”
“I guess she’ll realize why I wasn’t too keen on this wedding.”
She took his hand and led him into the living room. She listened carefully and didn’t hear anything. “I think she is sleeping, anyway.”
She sat next to him on the sofa, her back against his chest. His arms were around her. “Peter.”
“Yeah,” he whispered in her ear.”
“What about your vocation?” His arms were wrapped around her.
“I have agonized over this,” he said. “Before I went on retreat I was so confused. I knew how I felt about you, but I was so torn. While I was there, I spent long hours in meditation, believing that it was a question of getting control of my mind.” He kissed the side of her face. “When Niamh told me you were going to marry Leo, my carefully constructed world came down around me. My mind couldn’t control my heart. On the way here, I sat on the bus and examined how I felt. I know I love God. I know He loves me. I began to see this not as a temptation, but as a gift. I have no doubt, Assumpta that this is the right thing for me.” She turned to face him. She reached up and touched his face and kissed him.
They had talked and kissed until almost dawn. She was so tired and so was he. “I’ll see you on Monday,” he said, running his hand down the side of her face and kissing her cheek. “I’m going back up to Manchester to see my mum. She wasn’t feeling well.”
“What,” she said, looking around and wondering where she was.
“Wake up, girl. Leo’s here.”
Assumpta sat up. “Oh, God! What time is it?”
“It’s nearly 11:30,” said Mary.
“Tell him I’ll be down in a minute…….no, make that half an hour.”
“Ok,” she said, shaking her head.
Assumpta came down the stairs. Leo was waiting in the living room. When she came in the room, he got up and went over to her. He put his arms around her and kissed her cheek. He felt her slightly back up.
“You ok?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, putting her jacket on. “Where are we going?”
“I thought we’d go over to Rudolfo’s for lunch,” he said.
“Oh,” she said.
“Is that alright?” he asked, ushering her to the door.
…… “Yeah,” she said.
Peter opened his eyes. Back in his bedroom at home. Boy, what
a lot of things have happened since he lived in this room. He got
up and looked out the window. The sun was trying to shine.
His memory of the night before came back. Assumpta, walking in the
rain. Her mouth, her beautiful face. She loved him, too. That
wonderful, ornery, stubborn, beautiful girl loved him. He couldn’t
believe it. He hadn’t anticipated that she would feel the same way
about him that he felt about her. She probably didn’t. How
could she love him as much as he loved her?? Now to tell his mom.
He had told her a little bit before he left for London. But now he
had to tell her everything.
“What happened, Assumpta,” he asked, trying to make sense of it.
“I realized that it would be a mistake, Leo. We have been friends for a long time. I thought that I could somehow feel that way about you, after we were married, but I don’t think I can.” She reached over and touched his hand. “And you deserve better than that.”
“Maybe you could, Assumpta, if you just gave it a chance.”
…….. “No, Leo. Now that I have had time to think, I can see that it wouldn’t work.” She wasn’t going to mention Peter. She couldn’t hurt Leo that way.
It was going to be a long day.
“The wedding is off?” said Mary.
“Yeah,” she said, taking off her coat and hanging it over the chair.
“So, how do you feel about that?” asked Mary, arms folded, leaning against the sink.
“Relieved,” Assumpta remarked.
“You know, Assumpta, I didn’t see any passion. I couldn’t really understand why you were marrying him, other than the fact that he IS gorgeous. But your heart wasn’t there.”
“Well, you are right. I just thought that maybe it would work out.”
“That’s kind of an “iffy” way to start something as important as a marriage.”
“Oh God, I know.”
Mary studied her.
“What?” said Assumpta.
“There’s something different about you.”
“Is there something you would like to tell me, Assumpta?”
“I can’t right now, Mary. But I promise I will as soon as I can. Right now, I have to get packed. I’m going home.” Her eyes lit up and she smiled.
Mary just shook her head.
Assumpta came down the stairs as Niamh was opening the pub door.
“Oh God, Assumpta, you’re home!” she exclaimed.
Assumpta just smiled.
Niamh looked at her. “So?”…….. “Are you getting married?”…. “Where’s Father Clifford?”……….. “Where’s Leo?”….
“Whoa…..slow down. No, I’m not getting married. Peter is up visiting his mother, and Leo is in London.”
“I was so worried about you. I knew you shouldn’t marry Leo. I’m sorry about betraying your confidence and telling Father Clifford, but, honestly, I didn’t know what else to do.”
“It’s ok, Niamh. It’s okay. I’m glad you did.
“What did he say to you?” she asked, stuffing her jacket under the bar. “He was so upset when he left to find you.”
“Oh, well, he just made me see that I would never be happy, married to Leo.”
“What did he say to YOU?” asked Assumpta.
“Well, at first he said that we should just think about it and then maybe we would be able to come up with a plan the next day. But it wasn’t a half an hour when he came pounding on my door wanting your phone number and address. Then he just left.”
Assumpta smiled. “Well, are you here to work, or what?”
“Hi,” he said. “Sorry I haven’t called before this, but my mum has been really ill. We took her over to the hospital this afternoon.”
“Oh God, Peter, I am so sorry. Is she going to be alright?”
“The doctor doesn’t know until he runs some more tests,” he said.
She thought he sounded tired.
“Are you ok?” she asked, sitting down at the desk.
“Yeah, I’m ok. Just tired.”
“Did you tell her?”
“Peter…….what did she say? Is that what made her sick?”
“No, Assumpta, she wasn’t well, even before I came here.”
“I’ll tell you everything when I get home,” he said.
God, he sounded so distant. Her heart started skipped a beat. What if he was having second thoughts?
Eamonn shuffled in and sat down. Assumpta came walking out of the kitchen carrying a case of cola. She turned around and set the case on a stool behind the bar, wiping her face with her sleeve.
“Assumpta………..could I have a word?”
“Sure, Eamonn, what is it.”
“Well, you know the piece of land next to the river that I own?”
“Yeah, what about it, Eamonn?” Assumpta said, impatiently, wanting to get back to what she was doing, but trying to be patient.
Eamonn hesitated again.
“Eamonn, what is it,” she asked, slowly.
“I know you like it, and I’m not doing anything with it. I was wondering if you want it?”
“You want to give it to me?”
“Yeah,” he said, rubbing his watery eyes.
“Ok, Eamonn, what do you want?”
He leaned over the bar and whispered something to her.
“You want to what??”
He leaned over again and said something in her ear.
“Eamonn,” she said, shaking her head. “Not in my pub!”
Eamonn looked cresfallen. Assumpta looked at him.
“God, Eamonn, sometimes I wonder.”
Eamonn said nothing.
“Oh all right. One night only. How many???
Eamonn brightened up. “Just two.”
“Just two,” Assumpta repeated, shaking her head. “Saturday, next?”
“Yeah,” nodded Eamonn.
“I get the whole piece, right.”
Eamonn spit on his hand and offered it to her.
The Friday crowd had left. Assumpta cleaned off all of the tables and the bar. She couldn’t concentrate. Her mind kept going over and over the last phone call from Peter. She didn’t know how his mother was. She didn’t know how he was. Every time she thought about him, it felt like someone hit her in the stomach.
Had he changed his mind?? How would she go through that?? She loved him so very much. For three long years she had been in love with him. Looking back she saw it. She remembered his first few months in Ballyk. She smiled as she thought of how out of place he had seemed. She remembered the fights they had had. She thought of how awful she had been to him. Looking back she could see it happening, but she didn’t know then. She had to stay in Ballyk then. She couldn’t leave him. He had never given her any indication that he felt anything for her except friendship. Except once……….in the van. Out at Kilnashee. But that was later. She had never felt anything so strong. His hand holding hers. He caressed it and touched it to his forehead. Oh, God, she remembered that night. She had cried herself to sleep. The day he had told her he was leaving…..going on retreat. That was it……….She cried herself to sleep that night too.
The bar was clean. She went into the parlor and threw another log on the fire. She curled up on the sofa. Her thoughts were drawn back to the night in London. He had come to find her because he had heard that she was going to marry Leo. He reached for her hand. “I love you……” he had said. Tears came.
He walked quietly in. A small light was burning in the parlor. He could see someone on the sofa. As he got closer, he could see Assumpta’s dark hair against the pillow. He looked at her beautiful face. He could see where tears had run down her cheeks. She was sound asleep. He knelt beside her. He looked at her….. so beautiful…so vulnerable…. She woke with a gasp.
“Oh… God, Peter, you frightened me, ” she said, reaching for him, putting her arms around him. He leaned down and held her. He touched her face where the tears had run. “Were you crying?” he said, holding her tenderly. She looked at him and said nothing.
He kissed her face where the tears were. “Why were you crying?” She didn’t answer. “Assumpta, please tell me.”
“I was worried about you,” she said, touching his face. “How is your mother?”
“She is better. Home now.”
“Oh, thank God,” she said, sitting up and moving over for him to sit next to her.
He took his jacket off and laid it on the table in front of the sofa, as he sat down next to her. He put his arm around her.
“We have another two weeks to wait until Father Mac gets back,” he sighed. She nestled next to him and put her arms around him. The smell of his cologne. The warmth of his arms around her. She didn’t care about Father Mac. She just wanted to stay right here, with him. Peter held her. Her face buried in his shirt. He didn’t notice the tears, slipping out of her eyes and down her face. She didn’t know why she was crying. Maybe from relief. Maybe from stress. Who knew?? Peter looked down. He looked at her face. “What’s the matter, ?” he whispered.
“I don’t know,” she said, softly. He held her tightly and stroked the side of her face.
“Oh, Assumpta, don’t cry, darling, please. I’ll never leave you again. I promise you.”
The reservoir of tears needed expression and slipped silently down her face, while he held her.
She held the trap door while he climbed the dusty stairs and stacked the cases on the floor beside the opening. She dropped the door and picked up one of the cases and followed Peter over to the bar to put the bottles away.
“Are you nervous?” she said, wiping the dust off her hands on her jeans.
“About what?” he said absently.
“You know……Father Mac coming home tomorrow.”
“Oh that. No….I’m not nervous,” he said, taking the empty case over to the door.
“I am,” she said.
“What are you nervous for?” he smiled.
“Well, not for myself, that’s for sure.”
“Don’t worry about me, Assumpta. I really can hold my own with Father Mac.”
“You didn’t used to.”
“That was then, this is now. A lot of things have happened to me since then.”
“What?” he said.
“I wonder what everyone will think about this.”
He walked over to her and put his arms around her. “I don’t care what anyone thinks. I love you and I think you love me.”
“What do you mean…. you think?”
“Well, you never have told me, you know.”
She smiled and her eyes twinkled.
“Well,” he said.
“Well what?” she said, laughing.
Just then Brendan came in. “Fix me a sandwich, will you Assumpta?”
“Yes, Brendan,” she said, smiling at Peter and turning toward the kitchen.
The pub began to fill for the evening. The door opened and Eamonn came in with two large sheep tied around the neck with ropes. “Whoa” he said to them.
“Oh God, Eamonn,” said Assumpta. “Take them over to the stairway.”
Padraig looked at Brendan and they both looked at Assumpta. She rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll tell you later,” as she walked over to the desk.
“Eamonn, they better not make a mess.”
“Assumpta, dey are very well behaved.”
Assumpta looked at him. Shook her head and gave him the key. “It’s the one at the top of the stairs.”
“What is that all about?” asked Brendan.
“Well, you know that piece of ground by the river, that I have always wanted?”
“He gave it to me, if I would let him bring two of his sheep here for tonight.”
Brendan shook his head. “What for?”
Padraig sat staring at both of them.
“It seems that there is a show on tonight that THEY want to watch.” She laughed.
“The sheep want to watch?” said Brendan………“Why doesn’t he just let them watch on his own television?”
“Well, it broke and he had to take it into Cilldargen. They told him it would take at least a month and it seems that tonight’s show was the last of three in a series and they had all watched the first two.” With that they all burst out laughing.
The door opened. Assumpta glanced up to see Father Mac walking in. Her heart thudded in her chest.
“Well, Assumpta, it’s been quite a while since I was here last.”
She gave a fake smile. “What would you like?”
“Well, now, I am wondering if you have seen my curate?”
“Tall man, dark hair. Yes, I think I have seen him several times.”
Father Mac gave her a dark look and turned and asked Brendan and Padraig.
“No Father,” said Padraig. Brendan just shook his head.
“Well, if any of you see him, please tell him I would like to see him in my office.” With that, he turned and walked out of the pub.
“I thought he wasn’t due back until tomorrow,” she said, more to herself than to either of them.
For some reason the pub was heaving. It was late, but no one seemed to want to go home. Closing time was a while off yet so Assumpta was enjoying the money she was making. They hadn’t seen anything of Peter all evening. She was beginning to worry. There was a live band and the noise was deafening, which was good as it kept her mind off of what had happened to Peter. As she came out of the kitchen she saw Peter at the bar talking to Siobhan and Brendan. She walked over to him and whispered in his ear that she could use some help. He smiled at her and said something to Brendan and got up and followed her into the kitchen.
“Thanks,” she said, handing him some glasses on a tray and laying some towels over his shoulder. He leaned over and kissed her face, and went back into the bar.
Liam had had just enough to drink to want to sing with the band. And Donal was asleep in the corner with his head on the table. The band, much to Assumpta’s relief stopped to take a break and Liam went back to the table to try and wake up Donal. Niamh came in and went behind the bar and started pulling pints with a grateful look from Assumpta. Even without the band it was noisy. Peter was serving some bar snacks and Padraig said, “Are you changing jobs, Father?”
Everyone who heard it, laughed. Peter smiled and said, “Yes, I am.” It got a little quieter. The people on the outskirts looked to see where all that quiet was coming from. Peter took a deep breath and stood on the chair. “Here, here, Father,” was heard round the bar. “I have something to tell you,” he said. Clinking of glasses was heard and voices became subdued. “I have been your priest, here, for almost three years,” he began. “And you have all become my good friends.” “Cheers to the priest,” was heard and everyone responded. “Wait, my friends. After I tell you what I have to tell you, maybe you won't be so happy with me.” The room got very quiet. Assumpta looked over at him. What was he doing? He had to talk to Father Mac first. Peter continued. “I am not going to be your priest any longer.” The room was very quiet. “I have decided to pursue another course. I am leaving the priesthood as of this very night.” Everyone was quiet. A few minutes went by. Peter got off of the chair. “What will you do, Father?” said Padraig. Niamh stood beside Padraig with her mouth open.
“I’m not all that sure, Padraig.”
“Why?” asked Padraig. The room was still quiet. People gathered closely to hear what the priest was saying.
“Because I am in love with someone. I have had to choose. But I know I have made the right choice.” Assumpta moved closer to him. This was news. The room remained quiet. “Who are you in love with, Father?” said a woman sitting at the bar. Niamh looked at Assumpta, who was looking at Peter, recognition playing on her face.
“I really don’t want to say, because she may not want me to.”
“Is she from Cilldargan, Father?”
“No,” he said, quietly.
Brendan looked at Padraig and Siobhan. Assumpta looked at all of them. They knew.
Peter walked around the bar and into the crowd of people. He sat down at a table and the people crowded around him.
“Are you sure, Father?” one man asked. “What will Father Mac say?”
Peter nodded his head. “I’m sure,” he said. “And I have already told him.”
The people started talking again. No one seemed hostile. All of a sudden, Assumpta pushed her way through the crowd to Peter. He looked up at her and smiled. She smiled back and shook her head. To the crowd’s surprise, she leaned down, held his face in her hands and kissed him. Those closest to them, heard her say, “I love you.” He grabbed her and pulled her down to his lap and put his arms around her. A great roar from the crowd. Suddenly the crowd parted and Eamonn came walking through. He walked up to Assumpta and was a little lost for words, when he saw her sitting on the curate’s lap. “Yes, Eamonn?” said Assumpta.
…….."I wonder if I could have an extra blanket……please Assumpta.. I’m one short." The laughter started and so did the band.