Assumpta was in the kitchen, mopping the floor. “Hiya,” he said, standing in the doorway.
“Hi,” she responded.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Well, you’re here,” she said, leaning on the mop, and looking intensely at him. She always made him nervous.
“Brendan and Padraig wanted me to ask you something, Assumpta.”
“Yeah?” she said, making him even more nervous.
“Ah,….do you suppose that I might……play the priest, Assumpta?”
“Have you been at the sacramental wine?” she said, her eyes piercing right through him.
“No…….but we have run out of people who can play this part and those that you will even consider.” She looked quietly at him. He wished he could read her mind. “If you won’t play it with me, then Brian will have spent over a thousand pounds for nothing. He isn’t going to be really happy.”
“Making Brian happy isn’t my job.”
“I realize that, Assumpta, but he has been very generous. I don’t want to do this any more than you do, but I don’t know what else to do.” He looked at her. He could see her softening to the idea.
“Oh, God! Ok,” she said. “But no sexy stuff.”
“I don’t think you need to worry about that with me, Assumpta,” he laughed, momentarily feeling relieved.
They sat at the table, going through their lines. Playing it certainly was different than directing it. He had come to feel the emotion that must have been felt by Matthew. Being a priest, condemned to death and being so very much in love with Mary. And thinking that what she had done, had been done in love, rather than sacrifice. Very moving stuff. And then to find out that she loved only him. Quite a play. They sat opposite each other. “I only care about you,” he said, trying not to feel what he was saying, torn between his desire to throw himself into the part, and the desire to keep himself separate from what was becoming too real.
He knew his lines perfectly. When they went over
them, he didn’t have to look anymore. They became automatic. Once in a
while, Enda would limp in to watch their rehearsal. Tonight, however, they
were going to have to meet at the theater and run through it to the end.
God, he was so nervous. That ending scene. They had only practiced the
words. Never had he touched her. His palms were sweating. He was beginning
to think that this had not been a really good idea. Could he keep himself
separated from it? He had no idea. Why had he thought that he would be
able to do this? This was not the time to be honest
with himself. If he were, he might have to admit some things.
The stage door creaked open. His footsteps sounded hollow as he walked across the darkened theater.
Brendan was sitting at the table. “You ready?” he asked.
“As ready as I will ever be,” he said, taking a deep breath.
“Good,” he said, taking the scripts out of his briefcase.
Just then the stage door opened and Assumpta walked
in. Peter glanced at her. Her cheeks were flushed and her dark hair curled
around her face. He had never seen her look so beautiful. She had a gray
skirt and jumper on. He must have been
“What?” she said, sharply.
“Nothing. You ready?” he said, casually.
“I guess,” she looked at him, trying to read something. He, of course, didn’t know what.
“Where’s Padraig?” asked Peter. “Doesn’t he have to be here?”
“He said he’d be late,” remarked Brendan. “Let’s get started.”
They were really good together. Even Brendan was impressed.
“I did what I had to do, Matthew. I’m not proud of it.”
“It’s alright. Nobody can blame you for falling in love,” he said, dejectedly.
“I didn’t fall in love,” she said, moving toward him. “Not with him.”
“We only have one night, Matt. Maybe only an hour,”
she said, turning to face him and touching his face with her hand. Her
breath was warm on his cheek. He looked into her eyes. God, she was so
beautiful. “If it is a sin…….. there’ll be no repeating
it.” The words echoed in his mind. She leaned down, raising the other hand and holding his face. He knew that this was it. Even if he hadn’t let himself think about it before, this moment was going to live in his memory forever, welcomed or unwelcomed. He closed his eyes. The touch of her mouth on his was soft and warm. His heart was pounding. His hands came up and held her arms. He released one hand and brought it up to her face (not in the script) and gently touched her cheek. Her skin was so soft. The kiss ended at the sound of clapping, which brought him back to the stage. Assumpta backed away, not taking her eyes from him.
“Bravo,” shouted Padraig.
“That was quite a performance, Father,” Father Mac hissed.
“Incendiary,” said Brendan. Peter tried to catch his breath. He looked at Assumpta. She was still looking at him. He quickly looked away.
Father Mac approached Peter. “Are you sure that was acting, Father?”
Peter said nothing. Assumpta excused herself and left for the pub. Brendan patted Peter on the back. “You’re quite the actor,” he said. “Enda couldn’t have done any better. Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off on opening night?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, smiling nonchalantly and picking up his jacket. As he stepped outside into the cool air, he began to breathe again. His heart was still pounding. As he walked by Fitzgerald’s he could hear music and laughter.
Assumpta opened the pub door. Niamh leaned over the bar. “So, how did it go?”
“Ok,” she said, walking into the kitchen. She didn’t want to talk about it. She had never spoken of her feelings to anyone and she wasn’t going to, now. She wasn’t sure if she was ever going to recover from this. She knew she had wanted to do that, but never really thought it would happen. God, her heart was still pounding.
Niamh came into the kitchen. “You ok?”
“Your cheeks are flushed. Do you feel ok?”
“I’m fine,” she said, hanging her jacket over the back of a chair.
She looked at the clock. 3:25. She got up and got
a drink of water. She couldn’t even bring herself to think about what she
had done. Whenever that breathless feeling came into her chest, she quickly
thought of something else. But the thought kept reoccuring. What had she
done? Something that was just an imaginary desire had become real and tangible.
Something she could feel and see, if she closed her eyes. And she would
have to do it again, the night of the performance. “Oh God!” The feeling
between them had been something she couldn’t describe. She lay back down
and closed her eyes. Her face felt warm.
Surely they couldn’t do that again. Maybe Father Mac would stop the whole thing. She took a deep breath.
Saturday morning came. It had been three days since the rehearsal. Peter hadn’t been to Fitzgerald’s since then. He hadn’t stopped thinking about it. Where he was at, in his life. Where he was going. If he wanted to be there. And what had happened to him at the moment of that kiss. It was almost as if he had been transported into another world. Tonight was the performance. She was going to kiss him again. He didn't know if he could handle it.
He opened the stage door. Backstage was busy as Peter walked in.
“Sit here, Father,” said Niamh, indicating one of the chairs in front of a mirror. “Here is your shirt,” she said. “Put it on now, so you won’t have to pull it over your head, with all of your make-up on.” He looked at himself. Not much sleep the last few days.
Assumpta walked in wearing her costume. Her hair was around her shoulders and Niamh pointed to the other chair. She sat down, not looking at Peter.
“Hiya,” he said, glancing over at her.
“Hi,” she answered, not looking at him.
“Ouch,” he muttered as Niamh scrubbed some make-up onto his cheek.
“Don’t be such a baby,” she said.
“I don’t need this stuff,” he said. “Yes, you do, so quit complaining.”
Brian, Padraig and Brendan walked in. “We have a surprise for you,” said Brian, speaking to both Peter and Assumpta. Enda walked in and stood smiling at Assumpta. She looked at Peter. “Well, great, Enda, how did you manage to get back on your feet?”
“I had Doc Ryan rub some snake oil on it,” he laughed. “It should last for the performance, anyway.”
“Well,” said Peter, standing up and giving his chair to Enda. Assumpta looked again at Peter, and saying nothing, returned to fixing her hair.
The theater filled up quickly. Peter helped seat people as they came in. He remained in back, thinking that he would take one of the back seats when the play began. Father Mac came in and smugly said to Peter, “Well, I’m glad to see they got the REAL actor back on his feet.” Peter just smiled, and seated him down in front.
Enda had done a good job. As the end drew near, Peter became increasingly nervous. He got up out of his seat and went to the back of the theater to stand. What was the matter with him? He began to realize that he couldn’t stand to see Assumpta kissing Enda. Just couldn’t. “We have only one night, maybe only an hour,” she said, cupping Enda’s face with her hand. Peter turned and walked quietly out of the room, listening to the music and the applause.
“Well, they make a strong couple, I’d say,” said Father Mac.
“Yes,” said Peter. The people began coming out, talking about the play. Some people congratulated Peter on his directing skills. Others were surprised that he wasn’t playing the lead. “Well, ha ha, you couldn’t very well be kissing the leading lady, ha, ha,” said one man, overhearing the questions of one of the ladies.
“No,” said Peter, smiling.
Brendan came out and stood by Peter. “It was great, Father.”
“Yeah,” said Peter, smiling at the people walking by.
“Brian is taking us all out to dinner in Cilldargan.”
“He is?” asked Peter.
“Yeah, he made a bit of money extra and said that he thinks that cast and crew should be rewarded. He’s even talking about doing it again.” Peter shook his head.
Peter drove one car and Brian took his Landrover. As they were heading to Cilldargan, the rain that had been falling in the early evening, stopped and the moon came out. Siobhan and Brendan were in the back seat and Padraig was in the front. The afterglow of the play kept them talking about various scenes and possible mistakes, until they reached the restaurant.
When they walked into the restaurant, Brian, Ambrose, Niamh and Assumpta were there already. Enda had driven his own car. Liam and Donal weren’t coming as they had other plans. Peter walked up to the table and Brian indicated where he should sit. The dinner was good and the conversation was mostly about the play, its brilliant writers, its brilliant actors, its brilliant actor/director, and most of all, its brilliant benefactor. Peter watched the body language between Assumpta and Enda, Father Mac’s words coming back to him. Enda was definitely attracted to her. He couldn’t read her, very well. When it came time to go, Peter watched with dread as Enda offered Assumpta a ride home. Brian and Niamh were talking as was Ambrose and Brendan and Siobhan. He saw Assumpta get up and leave with Enda. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to her all night. A feeling akin to despair came over him. Everyone was getting up and ready to leave. Why hadn’t he talked to her? As he turned around, she was standing behind him. He hadn’t seen her come back in.
“Can I have a ride home?” she asked, smiling.
“Oh….. sure, sure,” he said, hoping that his eagerness wasn’t showing.
Siobhan and Brendan decided to go home with Brian.
Padraig climbed into the back seat and Peter opened the front door for
Assumpta. The ride home was great. Padraig talked and talked, which made
it easier for Peter to say nothing. Assumpta didn’t say much either. As
they crossed the bridge, Peter drove by Fitzgerald’s and took Padraig home.
“See you later,”
said Padraig, getting out of the car.
He didn’t know what he would say to her, but he knew that he wanted to be with her more than anything he had ever wanted in his life. “Do you mind if we go for a ride?” he asked.
She was quiet for a moment.........“No, I don’t mind,” she said, quietly.
He drove in silence, until they came to the turn off to the lake. She looked at him but said nothing. As he pulled along side the sandy beach, he looked at her. ……… “Do you mind, if we talk for awhile?”
“No,” she said, looking at him. He opened his door and got out, going around to open her door. “Let’s walk,” he said. She said nothing but picked up her jacket and started walking with him. They walked for a while in silence. The moonlight shimmering on the lake. “It’s a beautiful night,” he said. She still said nothing. “Assumpta, I have to talk to you.”
“I guess I don’t know where to start.” Still she said nothing, which really was her way, when she didn’t know what the other person was thinking.
“Assumpta, when you………kissed me at play practice, did you feel anything?”
………….“Yes.” God, that was an understatement.
He looked at her. “What? ….What did you feel?” he asked, stopping and turning to her.
What was she going to say?? How could she explain what she had felt? Her heart was pounding. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” he said. “No, I have never felt that before,” she said, turning to look at the moonlight on the water.
He just shook his head. He reached for her hand. She let him. He held her hand in both of his. “Assumpta,” he whispered. She turned and started walking back toward the car. “Assumpta,” he hurried after her. He grabbed her arms and turned her toward him. The moonlight glistened on the tears in her eyes.
“Take me home,” she said.
“Please, can’t we talk?”
“Please, take me home,” she said, turning away from him, and opening the car door. He hurried around the other side and got in. He looked at her. She was staring straight ahead. He started the car and turned it around. Then just as quickly as it started, he turned it off. He turned to look at her. The moonlight shone in the window. “Come here,” he said.
She looked at him. “What?”
“Come here.” He reached for her. She came willingly into his arms. He held her so tightly she could barely breathe. “I love you,” he whispered. “I don’t know what this is, but I know how I feel. I love you very much. I don’t know how you feel about me, but I can’t go on feeling this way without telling you.”
She took a deep breath, and hung on to him. He could feel the pressure of her arms on his back. The incredible feeling when their lips met for the second time. There was nothing else in the universe except them. “Assumpta………..there are mountains to climb, Assumpta. Will you climb them with me?"
…….“Yes,” she said, as their mouths met once again.
When he had taken her hand, and held it, she was so frightened. Thoughts of him doing something terrible and blaming her, ran through her head. Doing something that she was helpless to stop, because she wanted him so badly. But he hadn’t done anything really unforgivable. He had kissed her. He could just go to confession for that one. He had told her that he loved her. He could blame it on the moonlight, or something. She had to think of a way out of this for him. He would be so miserable today. He wouldn’t know what to do. She had kissed him. It was a selfish act. Even though it was in the script, she might have made it less real……... She couldn’t. She was as captivated as he had been. After the kiss in the theater that night, she hadn’t been able to sleep. She had felt such a connection with him. It had run clear through her whole body. After the dinner in Cilldargan, he had held her in his arms. She could still feel his arms around her. Nothing in the world mattered. When he had brought her home and opened the pub door, she had put her arms around him. At that moment, she loved him so much, that she had no words to define it. Those feelings were still there, but there was something else now. Guilt! What if it truly was the moonlight?
The pub was busy. Assumpta was cleaning up in the kitchen and Niamh was tending the bar. The back door opened. Assumpta turned to look.
“Hi,” said Peter, closing the door.
“Hi,” she said.
“Can we talk?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said, glancing out toward the bar. Her heart skipped a beat. She pointed to a chair.
He took a deep breath. “I want to apologize for last night,” he said. She said nothing. “I had no right to assume that you felt the way I did. I mean you probably think that I am childish and immature, not to mention, stupid.”
“What are you talking about?” she said, sharply.
“I don’t know, Assumpta. Last night was so wonderful, at least for me. But this morning, in the bright light of day, I began to see that I had no right to assume that you really would feel the same way I do.” She looked at him. What was he talking about? He was the one feeling guilty? She smiled and shook her head. “What?” he said.
“What are you feeling guilty about? I’m the one who should feel guilty.”
He looked at her. “Why should you feel guilty?”
“Try to remember who you are,” she said, impatiently.
“You mean because I am a priest?”
“………….ah, yes,” she said.
“Assumpta,………..after that first kiss, I had to take
a hard look at myself. I have cared a great deal for you, for a long time
now. You are remarkable. You are one of the most genuine people I have
ever met. You make me laugh, you make me angry, Assumpta, you make me FEEL.
And I meant what I said last night. I love you. Your kissing me, only made
me face what I felt
anyway,” he said, standing up and holding his hand out to her.
She stood up, tears starting to form in her eyes, and put her arms around him. “I have felt so awful about this, Peter,” she said, her face next to his. “I thought, maybe, my kiss made you feel this way toward me.”
Peter laughed and stroked the side of her face. “Well,
it certainly made me feel something. But, Assumpta, I was already in love
with you.” He held her closely. “Did you mean what you said last night,
Assumpta? About climbing mountains with me? I
know so little about how you feel about me.”
She backed away from him and took an envelope from the counter. She handed it to him. “Take it home and read it, Peter.”
He took it and slipped it into his jeans pocket.
“I’d better leave now, before someone comes back here, but if you don’t
mind, I’d like to come back later tonight,” he said, kissing her face.
“We have a lot to talk about.” She smiled as he turned to
He turned the kettle on for some tea, as he sat down and opened the letter.
Dearest Peter, I am writing this letter, because it is so hard for me to talk about emotional things. After last night, I am pretty sure that you will be sorry for the things you disclosed to me. Not that I didn’t want to hear them, but there is something about moonlight and strolling on a beach with the moon shimmering on the lake, that clouds ones better judgement. You asked me if I felt anything when we kissed at play practice. I really couldn’t tell you because the feeling was so strong, and so different from anything I had ever felt, that it was hard to find the words. That night, when our lips met, it was like my previous life was over. I really don’t want to tell you all of this, but I think, maybe it would be better for both of us, if I went to London for awhile, and I don’t want to go without telling you how I feel about you. When you first came here I knew right away that you were different. And it was that difference that made me so angry sometimes. I was used to the Father Mac type of clergy. But you were genuine, kind, honest and caring. I couldn’t help myself, but I liked you right away. Of course, you can make me very angry, too.
For two years, Peter, you have been my friend. Sometimes, my best friend. You are someone that I can count on. But I have to tell you now that I love you. I don’t exactly know when that happened, but I have known for a long time. When you came and asked me to play opposite you in the play, almost my first thought was that I would get to kiss you. I have wanted to kiss you since that day sitting in front of Hendley’s store when I gave you the petition, and you said, “What about you?” So you see, I am not innocent in all this. If, in fact, you are sorry for how far things have gone, you really can blame me. But I am going to tell you this. I love you. So much, in fact, that I am willing to leave here, so that you can stay. You are the most wonderful man I have ever known, and I will love you for as long as I live.
It seemed as if everyone in town was in the pub. They were so busy that Niamh had to call Peggy to come down and help. Assumpta was glad. It would keep her mind off of the letter she had sent home with Peter.
Finally, the pub started to clear out. Only Brendan, Siobhan and Padraig clinging to the atmosphere and enjoying each other’s company. “Do you not have any homes to go to?” she asked, stacking the rest of the glasses on the tray.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Padraig. “We’re going.” The three walked toward the door just as Peter was coming in. “She has a sharp tongue tonight, Father. I’d look out if I were you,” said Padraig, laughing.
“Thanks for the warning,” said Peter, turning to lock the door after them.
Assumpta looked at him. He looked back. “Well, Boss, what do I do next?” he asked, taking his jacket off and stuffing it under the bar.
“Just the general ‘pick-up’ and ‘muck out’.”
Peter gave a short salute and started cleaning off the tables. She found that her hands were shaking. After the bar was cleaned and darkened, they started in the kitchen. Peter’s sleeves were rolled up and he was up to his elbows in suds. Nothing had been said for a long time. Just the sound of occasional running water and the clinking of plates and glasses. He hung up the towel and turned to see her looking at him. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said.
He covered the distance between them. Reaching for her he held her tightly, his face touching hers. She closed her eyes. “I read the letter,” he said.
“I hope you aren’t planning to go anywhere now,” he said, running his fingers along her face.
“No,” she whispered.
“Let’s go in by the fireplace,” he said, taking her
hand and turning off the light. It was warm and fire crackled merrily.
sat down in one of the large chairs. “Come here,” he said. She remembered when he had said that the night before. She allowed him to pull her down into the chair with him. “I have been waiting for this all day,” he said, wrapping his arms around her. They sat there, in each other’s arms, as if poised on the brink of some great adventure. He kissed her softly. That breathless feeling. “Your letter was wonderful.”
She kissed his neck and then his cheek, and then his mouth. Her skin was so soft and warm and he ran his fingers down her arm and held her hand. He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers and then her mouth. His kisses became more passionate and she felt herself responding. Being swept away into that world where only they existed. Suddenly she became aware. “What are we doing?” she said, taking a deep breath and pushing him away.
“I think it’s called making love, Assumpta,” he said, smiling at her.
“Well, no we are NOT going to do that………. yet anyway,” she said indignantly.
He took another deep breath, and smiled. “You know, Assumpta, I wrote Father Mac a letter today. I left it on his desk. I’ll bet he’s been trying to call me all evening.”
“Well, then the next thing he’ll be doing is coming over HERE,” she said, looking at the door. Peter laughed. “What did you tell him?”
“That he’d better look for another priest. I really don’t mean to be flippant about it, Assumpta, because I have thought and prayed about this, even before the kiss. I think I have known for a long time that I wouldn’t be staying a priest. I didn’t ever think that you would love me, but I knew that I loved you. Maybe I was comfortable with the status quo, but things never remain the same. Do they?”
She smiled and touched his face. She got up out of the chair and held out her hand to him. “It’s time for you to go,” she said, walking him to the door.
“Let me stay with you,” he teased.
“Nope, you’ve got mountains to climb,” she said, putting her arms around him.
“You said that you’d climb them with me, he said, brushing the hair out of her eyes.
“I’m helping you climb,” she said, her eyes smiling. “Later on we’ll climb together.”
He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “I love you,” she said.