When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Book 2

By Linda Suazo

Chapter 1

Assumpta reached down to pull up the cellar door.  She had a lot on her mind.  She lifted the door and leaned it back.  She could feel the cool air of the cellar as she went down the wooden stairs.  It smelled musty.  She lifted one case and set it down by the stairs.  She wiped her hands off on her jeans.  He was wasting his life here, she thought.  Maybe they would have to move to Dublin, or even Manchester.  She picked up the other case and set it on top of the first.  They had been married almost six months and she was deliriously happy, except for one thing.  He had too much potential to be wasting it as the local publican.  It was true that since Peter had been working there, business was very good.  Still, he was meant for better things than this.  She struggled up the stairs with the first case and set it quickly down on the floor at the top of the ladder.
 
"What are you doing?" Peter asked, standing over her reaching for her hand.
 
She didn't give her hand to him. "I'm bringing some cases from the cellar," she said, pointing down the stairs.

"Come up here," he demanded.  "I'll do that," he said, exasperated.
 
"But.......," she said.
 
"No buts," he said, taking her hand and pulling her up.
 
He pulled her into his arms.  "I told you that I will carry the heavy stuff upstairs. Assumpta, will you ever listen to me?" he said.

"Yes,....I will, but you weren't here and I needed some things from the cellar."

"Darling, the heavy stuff is mine to bring up," he said, kissing her cheek.

"Who do you suppose carried all this stuff before you got here?" she said.

"Well, I'm here now," he said, holding her face in his hands.
 
"What smells so good?" he said, letting her go.
 
"Supper.  It's almost done," she said, moving aside for Peter to pick up the cases.  She closed the cellar door after him and went into the kitchen.

The table was set and she opened the oven door and took out their dinner.  Peter came in and went to the sink to wash his hands.  "Is it ready?" he asked, drying his hands.

"Yeah," she said, putting two cups on the table and sat down opposite him.

"Bless us Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts......" She was getting used to blessings on the food.  He never forgot.  He never asked her to say it, and she respectfully closed her eyes and listened to his voice. She remembered the awful things she used to say to him.  She cringed at the thought now.  She couldn't imagine wanting to hurt him.  She loved him so very much.
 
"Amen," he finished.  "This looks so good, and I'm starving."
 
Assumpta sat quietly and ate.  All of a sudden, Peter said, "Are you ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.  Why?"
 
"You seem so quiet." He replied.
 
This wasn't the time to talk.  She knew what he would say, anyway.
 
"Nope, I'm fine," she said, smiling.
 
They heard the door to the pub open and close.  "I'll go," she said, getting up.  He reached over and pulled her down to him and kissed her softly.  "I love you," he said.  She ran her fingers through his hair and down his cheek.  She smiled.

Assumpta walked into the bar.  As she looked up, she gasped slightly.
 
"Hello, beautiful," he said.
 
"Leo...what are you doing here?"
 
"Well, that's a fine greeting for an old friend," he said, as he put his arms around her.  She could tell he had been drinking.  He felt her body stiffen, and he let her go.

"How are you, Leo?" she said, slightly backing away from him.
 
"Fine, Assumpta.  I was passing by and I thought as long as I was so close, I would stop in and see you.  I have been down south on a story."

She looked at him and said nothing.

"You're as beautiful as ever, Assumpta."
 
"Ummm..."  What was she going to say now?
 
"Well, can I have a room?" Leo asked, smiling at her.
 
"Ahhh, sure," she said, turning to go over to the desk.
 
She turned the book for him to sign and then handed him the key.
 
"Umm, would you have dinner with me tonight, Assumpta?  I know. I know, the last time I saw you, you didn't know what you wanted to do, or how you felt.  I just thought that maybe you felt differently now."

She just looked at him. What now??? I'm sorry, Leo.  I'm married to the priest.

Oh, God.
 
"I can't have dinner with you, Leo," she said, hesitantly.
 
"Why not?" he asked.
 
"Ummm. I'm married, Leo."
 
"What?" he said, incredulously.
 
"I'm married," she repeated.
 
"When?" he asked, astonished.
 
"Almost six months ago," she replied.
 
"To who?" he asked.  There it was.  THE question.
 
"Ahh...Peter Clifford."
 
"Peter Clifford," he repeated, questioningly.   "The PRIEST?"
 
"Yeah," she said, looking straight at him.
 
"For God's sake, Assumpta, the priest?"
 
Assumpta said nothing.
 
"When did all this happen?"  She wasn't going to go there.
 
"Would you like a drink, Leo?" she asked.
 
"Yeah, about five of them."
 
"Oh, funny," she said.
 
"The priest!" he said, shaking his head.

 The pub door opened and Brendan and Padraig came in.
 
"Leo, long time no see," said Padraig, patting him on the back.
 
"Hello, Brendan," said Leo.
 
"Leo," said Brendan with a nod.
 
"Assumpta, I'll have another drink," said Leo, staring at her.
 
Assumpta brought him a drink and set it in front of him.  He looked at her, his dark eyes watched her. Assumpta avoided his eyes, and went over to Brendan.

"So, it seems our girl here has married the priest," Leo said with a smirk.

Brendan said nothing.  Padraig looked at Brendan.
 
"Does anyone else find that surprising?" he said, taking another large drink.

"We've gotten used to it," said Padraig, not looking up from his glass.

"You know," Leo said, taking another drink, "I should have known there was something going on."

"There was nothing going on," said Assumpta, looking directly at Leo.

"Oh yeah?" he said.

Just then the pub door opened.  Niamh and Siobhan walked in together.

Niamh noticed Leo at the bar.  "Leo," she said, walking over to him and giving him a hug.

Siobhan said, "Hello, Leo."

"Assumpta, bring drinks for my friends here," Leo said.  "And bring me another one."

"Haven't you had enough, Leo?" said Assumpta, sensing trouble.

"Enough?...Enough?  What is enough?" he said, staring intently at her.

"What'll you have?" said Assumpta to Siobhan.

"The usual, for me, thanks," said Siobhan.

"I'll just have a cup of tea," said Niamh.

Assumpta brought the drinks.

"To beautiful girls, marrying priests," said Leo, holding up his drink.

Siobhan shot a furtive glance at Brendan.  Assumpta looked at Padraig. Her eyes pleaded for help.

"So, Leo, what have you been doing?" asked Padraig.

"Me? Oh well, just the same old thing, Padraig.  Just been down south working on a story," said Leo, staring at his drink.

"So, you're still in front of the camera?"

"Yeah," he said.

"Where have you been since we saw you last, Leo," said Siobhan.

"Oh, here and there," he said, starting to slur his words.  "Another drink, Assumpta."

"No, Leo, you have had enough."

"You are right. I have had enough," he said, getting up from the bar and walking out of the pub.

Assumpta leaned over to Brendan.  "Would you look after him, please Brendan?"

"Yeah," said Brendan, setting his glass down.

"I'll help you," said Padraig.  The both got up and walked out after Leo.
 
Niamh looked at Assumpta.  Assumpta stared after Brendan and Padraig. "I hope they can calm him down," she said, almost to herself.  Niamh looked at Siobhan.  Neither said anything.

The kitchen door opened.  Peter came in.  "Assumpta, you didn't finish your dinner."

"I know," she said, turning to look at him.

"What's going on," he said, looking from Assumpta to Niamh to Siobhan.
 
"It seems that Leo's back in town," said Siobhan.
 
"Leo?......MacGarvey?"
 
"Yeah," said Assumpta.
 
"Well, where is he?" Peter asked.
 
"Well, Peter, he was a little upset, when he found out that Assumpta was married.  And then he was a lot upset when he found out who she was married to," said Niamh.  "He had a little too much to drink and Brendan and Padraig went after him."

"Why didn't you call me, Assumpta?" he said.
 
"Because, that wouldn't have been a really good idea, Peter," she answered, picking up the glasses and setting them on a tray.

**********

Brendan reached in and grabbed the keys out of the ignition.  "No you don't, Leo."

"Hey," slurred Leo.  "What are you doing?"

"I'm not letting you drive in your condition," said Brendan.

"What condition?" said Leo, trying to focus his eyes.

"We're going over to my place, Leo," said Brendan.

"We'll play some cards, and drink a lot of coffee," said Padraig, reaching over to take Leo's other arm.

"But"....said Leo.

**********

Assumpta opened the kitchen door.  Peter had cleaned everything up except her plate, which he had covered with a napkin.  She smiled. He never ceased to amaze her.  She loaded the tray with clean glasses and went back out into the bar.

Peter was sitting at the bar, writing some figures in the book.  Niamh and Siobhan had gone and the pub was quiet.

Assumpta walked around the bar and came up to him.  "God, I love you," she said, putting her arms around him and kissing his cheek.  He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly.  He couldn't hear that often enough.  Sometimes she just surprised him.  Sometimes he could see the love in her eyes when she said nothing.  He didn't have any doubts that she loved him.  He could feel it.  He could sense it. It was almost tangible in the air surrounding her.

"Are you ok?" he asked.

"Yeah, why?
 
"Well...Leo, you know."
 
"There were a couple of tense moments, but Padraig and Brendan took care of it."

"I'm so glad we are here, Assumpta.  We have such good friends. People who stood by us during those difficult times, and who stand by us now." He raised his hand to her face and pushed the hair from her eyes.  Those beautiful eyes.  How he loved her.  Never in his life had he known there was such love as this.

"I was meaning to talk to you about that," she said, hesitantly.
 
"What?"
 
"Maybe now is not good," she said.
 
"Assumpta!"
 
"I mean, it's late and I think we should take some time to talk it out."

He looked puzzled.
 
"OK, tomorrow then," he said, kissing her face and her neck and finally, her lips.

**********

They had played three games.  Leo had won them all.  Brendan and Padraig couldn't believe it.  "That's the last time I play cards with a drunk...", said Padraig.

But now Leo was at the weepy stage.  "Who could she do it?  THE PRlEST.  What in the HELL was she thinking of?...Deal...."  Brendan put the cards down.  "I think it's time I tell you the story of the Priest and the Publican, Leo."
 

CHAPTER 2

The rain thrummed on the roof and pummeled against the window.  It ran gurgling down the drain and danced on the street in front of Fitzgerald's.  Peter looked out of the window and wondered to himself, how there could be that much water in those clouds.  He rubbed his sleeve on the window and peered out.  He turned and walked back into the kitchen.  The back door flew open and in came Assumpta and Fionn, both thoroughly wet.  "Oh, God!" she exclaimed, as Fionn shook himself.  Peter came over to help her take off her wet coat.

"If I had known where you had gone, I would have come to get you in the van," he said, hanging her coat over a kitchen chair.

"You couldn't have found us anyway," she said, taking off her shoes.  "We walked down by the Angel and then came up the path that ended at the church.  We weren't even half way home when the rain started."  He handed her a towel to dry herself off with.  She stopped drying and looked at him with a smile.

"What?" he said.

"I was just remembering the time I handed you a towel to dry yourself with."

He took her into his arms.  He could feel her wet hair against his face.  "That was a lifetime ago, wasn't it?" he said.

**********

Leo opened his eyes.  Where was he?  He had a headache.  Boy, did he have a headache.  He looked over at Padraig, sleeping on the sofa.  Oh, yeah.  He was starting to remember.  They had been up all night.  He wondered what time it was.  Kind of looked like late afternoon.  It was raining.  "Oh hell..had he forgotten to roll up the windows?  He walked into Brendan's kitchen trying to see out of the window.  He looked around the kitchen.  What a mess!  He put some coffee on.  He reached into his pocket.  A key.  Oh yeah, Assumpta had given him a key.  He thought about Assumpta.  He had been in love with her, but he guessed it was pretty selfish to expect her to hang around and wait for him.  Besides, Brendan had said he had known that she was in love with the priest, almost from the beginning, even if she didn't.  He said that he had watched it happen.  That he and Siobhan had laughed about it sometimes, wondering when they were going to figure it out for themselves.  Somehow it seemed less menacing, because they didn't even know it themselves.  Somehow, unintentional.  He did envy Peter Clifford, though.  To be able to capture her heart.  Now, that was an accomplishment.  And he didn't even set out to do it.  Assumpta was a beautiful, passionate woman...Yes, Peter was a lucky man.  He had behaved like such an ASS.

"You're up," said Brendan, reaching for a cup to pour the coffee in.

"Apparently," said Leo.

"You look awful," added Brendan, sitting down at the table.

"Well..that describes how I feel," Leo said, pouring himself some coffee.

"Well, you shouldn't feel too bad.  You won enough money, last night."

"I did?"

"Yeah, check your wallet."

**********

Assumpta cleaned off the bar.  Her anxiety was not apparent.  She had kept her emotions in check, but she knew she had to talk to him tonight.  Peter was in the kitchen cleaning up.  Thoughts kept running through her mind.  How was she going to approach the subject, without Peter tuning her out? And then there was that other thing.

"You're miles away, Assumpta," Peter said, setting a tray of ashtrays down with a clatter.

She jumped.

"Sorry," he said, putting his arm around her shoulders and kissing her cheek.

"That's ok," she said, catching her breath.

She looked at him.  Her eyes were wide and she hesitated.  "We need to talk," she said, looking straight into his eyes.

"Ok," he said, turning toward her.

She didn't speak, trying to think of how to put it.

"You want to leave me for Leo," he said.

"Peter..be serious."

"Well, I'm glad that's not it," he said, smiling.

She took a deep breath.  "Do you think we should move to Dublin?"

"Whatever for?" he asked.

"For job opportunities," she said.

"We have a job," he replied, looking around the pub.

"Do you think you are going to be happy, doing this for the rest of your life?"

Peter raised his fingers to her lips.

"Let me tell you something...The bottom line is that I will be happy doing anything as long as I have you by my side.  And let me tell you something else...I have thought of the possibility of going into counseling at sometime in the future.  But I am just going to wait until the opportunity comes along.  I'm not going hunting for it."

He smiled at her and shook his head.  "Will you please not worry about me?  I am so happy, just doing what I am doing, and loving you, that, really Assumpta, I couldn't be happier."  He took her into his arms.  He kissed her softly.  She looked up at him and smiled.  "I think I have to invent another word for love," she said.

"What do you mean?" he said, brushing the hair from her eyes.

"My understanding of the word 'love' just doesn't describe what I feel for you, sometimes."  She smiled at him.  "But until I think of it, it will have to do.  I love you," she whispered.

**********

It had stopped raining sometime in the night.  The sun shone through the pub windows.  Assumpta looked up as the pub door opened.

"Hi," said Leo.

"Hi," said Assumpta.

"I've come to apologize."

"There's no need, Leo."

"Well, I want to anyway," he said, handing her the key.

"Ok, apology accepted," she said.

"Where's Peter?"

"He had to run to Cilldargan.  He should be back soon.

"I'm on my way home, so, will you tell him that I apologized?"

"Yeah."

"Oh, and Assumpta, will you tell him something else?"

"What?"

"Tell him what a lucky guy he is."

"I tell him that all the time," she said, smiling.

**********

Three carloads of vacationers were a lot.  One was a car full of Americans, who nearly got killed driving on the wrong side of the road.  Fortunately they were staying nearby, so that when they got through drinking Irish Stout, they could walk to where they were sleeping.  Peter helped them out, when the pub closed.  He waved and saw them on their way.  As he turned around to go back into the pub, Brendan and Padraig came walking out.

"You know, if you are not Irish, you should go easy on the stout," Brendan said.

"There'll be a run on asprin at Hendley's tomorrow," laughed Padraig.

Peter just shook his head.  "See you tomorrow," he said.

Once inside, he locked the pub and started gathering up ashtrays and glasses.  Assumpta was in the kitchen washing up.  "We did pretty well, tonight," she said proudly.

"Yeah, we really did."  He brought in all of the glasses and plates from the bar.

"You really don't mind this work?" she asked, turning to look at him.

"No, Assumpta, I love working with you.  I love serving my friends.  I love knowing that we are making money and that the pub is successful."  He reached in the sink and took out a finger of suds.  He placed it on her nose.

She looked at him and didn't say anything, wiping the suds off.  She turned back to the sink and continued washing.

"You know, I was thinking that maybe we could do a little more, you know, like serve dinner, not just bar snacks." He said, thoughtfully drying the dishes.

"That would be a lot of work," Assumpta said, stopping to look at him.

They finished cleaning.  "Want a cup of tea?" she asked.  He came over to her and put his arms around her.  "Let's just go to bed," he said.

**********

Peter turned to look at her.  The moonlight filtered in, shining in patches throughout the room.  She was so beautiful.  He still had a hard time believing that she could love him.  But love him, she did.  He knew it.  He felt it.  He loved to just look at her.  He wondered if other husbands felt the same way about their wives.  Her eyes opened.  "You ok?" she asked, touching his face with her hand.

"Yeah, just thinking about how much I love you."  Her face wrinkled up in a grin.

"So.how much?" she asked.

"When I was a kid, my mum used to ask me how much I loved her.  I would tell her 'way up to the sky, a hole through the sky, and way up to God.'  I guess that would be it."

"Peter."

"Yeah."

"Can I tell you something, without you becoming upset."

"Of course.  You can tell me anything."

She reached for his hand.

"I'm pregnant."

"What!"

She didn't answer.  She looked at him, trying to read what she was seeing.

"How do you know?" he asked, laying his hand on her stomach.

"I took the test today.  It was positive.  Peter, I know this isn't exactly what we had planned, but it's happened."

He reached for her and put his arms around her.  "Oh, God, Assumpta.  I'm going to be a dad.  I can't believe it."  He kissed her face and her forehead.  He picked up her hand and kissed it.

"So it's ok?" she said, hesitantly.

"Ok?  It's grand.  You want to know the best thing about this?" he asked.  "That you will be my baby's mum.  I can't think of anything more wonderful than that."

**********

Thea responds:

Ah, Linda, so nice!  Do write another chapter.

I have had a slightly different take on how-she-announces-her- pregnancy, in which Assumpta is a little tougher. Maybe it has been  done elsewhere, but here it is:

    Peter comes into the pub and sits down, busy reading some mail.  Assumpta comes out of the kitchen and goes up to him. "What can I get  you, father?" she asks.

    Absorbed in his letter, he says "Just a pint,  please," then he becomes aware of a kind of focussed attention that  everyone is paying him. He looks up. "What did you say?"
 
    "D'ya miss being called Father, Peter?"
 
    He looks at her intently. "And you are asking me that...why?"
 
    "Because you're going to have another chance," she says with a  little smile.
 
    "Assumpta," he says, hardly breathing. "Do you mean it?"
 
    "Yes," she says, nodding. He jumps up,scattering the mail, and goes  quickly around to her side of the bar. He holds her tightly, and kisses her as a cheer goes up from the onlookers.
 
Also from Thea:

Here's  brief episode, came to me after those "I am pregnant" announcements.

    It was a beautiful day and Peter had set off on a walk with the baby,  to introduce her to the village he had come to love.  When he reached  the church,he decided to stop in, never missing an opportunity to  thank God for the way his life had turned out.  As he was leaving, the baby in his arms, he met Father Mac, who returned his greeting coolly.

    "Have you met my daughter, Father Mac?"

    "Ummm, no," said the older man.

    "Well, may I present Josephine Helen Clifford, known as Josie.  And Josie, I'd like you to meet Father Frank McAnaly, our
parish priest and my former employer."

    "You plan to tell her then?" Father Mac looked surprised.

    "That I used to be a priest?  Of course!  I'm not ashamed of it, Father,"

    "Nor of what transpired to have that change?" asked Father Mac.

    "Ashamed of the direction my life took?  I am not, Father, I surely  am not. I believe that this is what God wanted for me, and this child is the proof of it."  He turned and went on his way.