You Can Never Have Too Many Friends

by Linda Suazo

CHAPTER 1

                She sat behind the bar, staring absently out of the front window and stirring her coffee.  The west door opened and Niamh entered, pushing the pram her dad had bought for Kieran.  She stopped in front of Assumpta and looked questioningly at her.

                “Ahem……so then, are you going to go, or what?”

                “Oh God, Niamh.  Can’t you leave me alone?”

                “No,” said Niamh, walking around the bar to fix herself a cup, and leaving the sleeping Kieran behind.

                “I don’t want to go,” said Assumpta, pleadingly.

                “It won’t kill you to go out to dinner with him,” Niamh said, sipping her coffee.

                “Well, who’s going to tend the pub?” asked Assumpta, caustically.

                “Connie.  I’ve already asked her.”

                “I hate this, Niamh.  I hate going out with someone I don’t know.”

                “Well, I know him.  He’s nice.  He’s available.  He’s rich, and he’s older.  Not some stupid kid.”

                Assumpta put her face in her hands and sighed deeply.

                “Look…….he’s nice.  I think you’ll like him.  And we won’t be gone that long.  I mean how long could dinner and a movie take?”

                “An eternity,” Assumpta said, under her breath.

                “We’ll be over to get you at around 7:00.  And wear something sexy.”

                Assumpta glared at her back, as she wheeled the pram about and headed out of the door.

                “Maybe my jeans and a sweatshirt,” she said, tossing a crumpled up napkin at the closing door.

                She didn’t want to go.  She had refused so many times.  You’d think the guy would get the idea.  She had never seen him.  He had seen her but it had been a busy night and she didn’t remember him at all.  “Mike Connor………” she shook her head.  Niamh had told her about him.  He was a friend of Ambrose’s from Dublin. She didn’t want to offend Ambrose, but she was sure that this wasn’t going to turn out very well.  He obviously didn’t mind that she had been married.  Of course, some men preferred divorced women.  If that was the way he was, he had a big surprise coming.

                “You ready?” Niamh yelled up the stairs.

                “Yes,” Assumpta said, shortly……followed by the closing of her bedroom door.

                As she came down the stairs, Niamh looked at her critically.  “I told you to wear something sexy,” she demanded.

                Assumpta looked innocently at her.  “What do you mean?” she said, with a slight smile.

                “You know very well,” her eyes narrowing.

                “What’s wrong with this?” she said, looking in the mirror at her navy skirt and white shirt.  “I think this looks fine,” she said, brushing some lint off of her skirt.

                “But it’s hardly sexy,” said Niamh, exasperated.

                “That’s the idea,” said Assumpta, smiling.
 

                It was a nice evening.  They had gone to dinner in Cilldargan.  Assumpta had hated the movie.  Maybe she just wasn’t in the mood for the “English Patient.”  She hated stories about brooding jerks and their sleezy married girlfriends.  Mike hadn’t liked it much either.  She found herself liking Mike.  He was a gentleman.  Not bad looking and pretty easy to talk to.  So the night went well.  Not liking the movie gave them something to talk about.  On the way home, he talked about his job and basically gave her some background.  He didn’t ask for another date, which relieved her in a way and at the same time intrigued her.

                As she took her clothes off and hung them in the closet, she thought about tonight.  Would she ever be able to have a relationship with anyone?  She pulled a night shirt over her head and threw herself onto the bed.  Thoughts came storming in, unwelcome and intense.  The touch of his hand on hers.  She hated herself and him at the same time.  Would this ever leave her? He was gone on retreat. Father Mac had seen to that.  She knew that he had felt something for her.  He had never said, and she had never asked. But the emotion was there just the same.  She missed him horribly.  Every time she walked past the church her heart skipped a beat.  She remembered the first time she had seen him.  Soaking wet and walking into town.  Oh how she had loved to verbally joust with him.  They had laughed together and cried together and fought often.  She had learned to trust him implicitly.  She trusted him with her secrets and her feelings,……except for one. Father Mac had sent him away because they were ‘becoming too close.’  She hated to admit it, but he was right.  They were becoming too close……too dependant on one another.  He helped her in the pub. He fixed the water heater.  She helped him pick out the flowers for his garden.  When he was hungry, she fed him.  She made him angry.  She made him laugh.  So many things unsaid……….She got up from the bed and splashed some water on her face.  Looking into the mirror, she ran her fingers through her hair.  He had never said anything about his feelings, yet she knew, as well as she knew her own. She remembered the night before he left.  They had walked together down by the Angel.  They talked about many things, carefully avoiding the reason he was leaving.  Just before they parted he had taken her hand and held it tenderly up to his lips. When she looked into his eyes……volumes were spoken.  He had been gone for two months.  She had hoped beyond hope that the feelings she had for him would somehow disappear.  But she knew that wasn’t really  possible. It was just something she had to live with.

                The pub door opened.  Assumpta looked up from her books.  The new priest came in.  He smiled and Assumpta smiled back.  He was a good man, kind of shy.  She didn’t dislike him.

                “What can I get you, Father?” she asked, putting her books under the counter.

                “I’ll have a cup of tea, Assumpta,” he replied, as the door opened once more.

                “Hi,” said Brendan.  “I’ll have a pint.”

                Assumpta looked curiously at him.  “Little early, isn’t it?” she remarked.

                He mumbled something under his breath, as Assumpta set the glass in front of him.

                Father Aiden leaned over and whispered something to Brendan just as Siobhan came in.  She glared at Brendan and sat down on a barstool at the opposite end of the bar.

                “What’ll you have, Siobhan?” asked Assumpta.

                “Cup of coffee, Assumpta,” she replied, ignoring the other two.

                Assumpta noticed the lack of conversation between Brendan and Siobhan.

                “What’s up?” she said, setting Siobhan’s coffee down in front of her.

                “Not much,” she clipped.

                There was obviously not going to be much conversation here, she thought as she picked up the towel and headed for the kitchen.  Father Aiden appeared in the kitchen.

                “Do forgive me, Assumpta, but I was wondering if you have heard from Father Clifford?”

                Assumpta turned, a bit startled. “Uh….no Father.  Why do you ask?

                “Oh, just something I needed to ask him.”

                She studied him, making him a bit uncomfortable.

                “If you hear from him, will you ask him to call me?”

                “Sure,” she said, wondering what he needed from Peter.

                “Could I have a word,” Siobhan said, coming into the kitchen after the retreating Father Aiden.

                “Of course, Siobhan,” Assumpta said, pouring her a cup of tea from the kitchen stove.

                Siobhan looked at her, not saying anything for a while.

                Finally she spoke.  “I’m pregnant.”

                Assumpta looked at her, incredulously.  “Pregnant?……….who?

                “Never mind that,” she said.  “I’m trying to decide what to do.”

                Assumpta swallowed, “Have you seen a doctor?”

                She nodded.  “I just came back from seeing Michael.”

                 “Well, you know the options,” said Assumpta, letting out a long sigh.

                “I know.  I just don’t know how qualified I am for motherhood.”

                “Have you talked it over with the father?”

                She shook her head.

                “Siobhan…..if it means anything, I think you would be a great mother.”

                “Thanks for that, Assumpta.  I’ll let you know how it goes,” she said, picking up her jacket.

                The wind blew.  Assumpta got up out of bed and shut the window.  It was about to rain and there was a definite chill in the air.  God, life was hard.  She thought about Siobhan.  She wondered who the father was.  Siobhan was in her forties.  That was kind of late to start a family.  She wondered what Siobhan was going to do.  Assumpta hoped that she would have the baby.  She walked over to the closet and slipped a sweatshirt over her head.  She was cold.  She crawled back under the covers.  She wondered what Father Aiden had wanted Peter for.  She thought of their last night together.  The feel of his mouth on her hand.  The rain started in earnest, dancing against the window.  She thought she heard rapping on the door downstairs.  She listened quietly.  Again she heard it.  Grabbing her blanket and wrapping it around her, she ran down the stairs and to the east door.

                She opened the door cautiously.  A man hurried inside and turned to her, water dripping off of his coat.

                “Peter!” she said, standing with the door opened.

                “Maybe you should shut the door,” he laughed.
 
 

CHAPTER 2

                She quickly closed the door and turned to help him off with his coat.  She laid the wet coat over the bar and turned to walk over to the fireplace and threw a log in it.  “What are you doing here?” she asked, turning to him.

                “You don’t want me here?” he said, hesitantly.

                She smiled.  “Of course I want you to be here.”  She looked at him.

                He looked back at her.  Then slowly he reached out his hand and took hers.  Her heart started pounding. Then she did something, without thinking.  She put her arms around his neck and held him for a moment.  When she realized what she was doing, she found that he wouldn’t let her go.  His strong arms held her tightly and he whispered against her face.  “I have missed you so much.”

                She didn’t say anything.  He must have felt her heart pounding.  He let her go and she moved over to the sofa and sat down, which was a relief, as her knees were weak.  Peter came and sat next to her.

                “How was your retreat?” she asked, not looking at him.

                He shrugged. “Alright, I guess.  It made me decide some things,” he said. She let that one go.

                “Are you going to be able to come back here?” she asked.

                “…….Yeah, one way or another.”

                She didn’t understand, but something told her not to go there either.

                Then she remembered something.  “Father Aiden wanted you to call him.  He asked  me to have you call him, if I heard from you.”

                “Ok……I wonder what he wants from me?  I don’t even know him.”

                “Well, he didn’t say.”

                “I’ll go up there tomorrow.  Oh, by the way, can I stay here tonight?”

                She looked up, shocked, for a moment.  “Uhh, yeah, sure,” she said, uncertainly.

                “Good,” he said, patting her shoulder.  “I could use a cup of tea,” he said, looking at her and smiling.

                “Coming right up,” she said as she went into the kitchen.  She wondered what was going on.  She knew it was something.  What?  This man, who she cared so very much for, what was he doing?

                In a few minutes she came back carrying a tray.  The room was warming up and Peter was sitting on the sofa, staring into the fire.  He turned and watched her as she walked toward him.  God, he had missed her.  She sat down and fixed his tea, and handed it to him.  He noticed her looking intently at him.  “What?” he said.

                “Nothing.  Just glad to see you.”

                “I’ve got some things to tell you………”he said softly.

                She said nothing.

                “I’ve decided to leave the priesthood.”

                She stared at him.

                He tried to read what he saw in her face.

                “……..not… be a priest anymore?” she said, slowly.

                “Yeah,” he answered, taking a sip of tea.

                …………..  “Why?” she asked hesitantly.

                He looked at her intently.  “I don’t think I’m cut out for it.”

                “You’re a good priest,” she said.

                “Whose side are you on?” he smiled.

                She shook her head.  “I never would have supposed you would do this.”

                “It’s been on my mind for along time now.  These last two months made me see that …..I’m made of different stuff, I guess.”

                “What will you do?” she said, not daring to believe this conversation.

                “I have been talking to the department head of a counseling service in Cilldargan.  I might be able to get a job over there.”

                “Then you won’t be going far?” she said.

                “Not if I can help it.”

                She smiled again.

                A log snapped.  Peter opened his eyes, lost for a moment.  He turned his head and saw Assumpta asleep on the corner of the sofa.  They had talked until late and both had fallen asleep.  He stood up and walked over to her.  She was so pretty, asleep, lying there, her long dark lashes resting on her pink cheeks.   He leaned down and touched her face.  She awoke with a start.

                “What?”…………….

                “It’s ok.  We just fell asleep on the sofa.  Let me help you up,” he reached out his hand.  She took it and stood up, unsteadily.  He turned out the light and walked with her up the stairs.

                “You can have the room at the end of the hallway,” she said, opening the door to her room.

                “Thanks,” he said.

                He started down the hall.  When he got to the room, he looked back.  Assumpta was still out in the hall, watching him.  He turned and gave into the impulse.  He walked quickly to her and put his arms around her.  For a moment he was in another world.  He could feel her arms around his back and her face against his.  The moment passed just as quickly.

                “Uhhh…….goodnight, Assumpta,” he stammered.

                “Goodnight,” she replied softly.

                The moonlight flooded the bedroom floor.  She had no idea what time it was.  Her heart was pounding.  What was he doing?  God! She hadn’t slept at all.  She had tossed and turned all night.  She had felt the emotional connection between them.  Or had she imagined it?  FRIENDS! LIKE HELL!  You don’t feel this way about your friends.  She got up, went to the sink and splashed water on her face.

                “You look like hell,” said Niamh, walking around the bar to pour herself some coffee.

                “Thanks,” she said, not looking up from her books.

                “I’ve decided something,” said Niamh, stirring the coffee.

                “Oh yeah?” said Assumpta, still not looking up.

                “I am going to get a job.”

                That caught Assumpta’s attention and she looked up.

                “A job? What will you do with Kieran?”

                “Ambrose’s mother wants to come here and HELP me.  So I think I will let her take care of Kieran and get out of the house for awhile.”

                “So………..why don’t you work here?  I could use the help.”

                “I don’t know, Assumpta.  It’s almost too close.  I mean Imelda could pop in here at any time.”

                “Well, think about it anyway.”

                “Oh, by the way, Mike Connor wants to go out to dinner tomorrow night with you and Ambrose and me.  What do you say?”

                “Niamh,” she said, shaking  her head.

                “Why not?  You had a good time last time, didn’t you?”

                “Yeah.  It was ok.  But………………..”

                “Well, if you won’t go out with him, he said, he will come here and spend the evening with you at the pub.”

                Just then Peter came down the stairs.

                “Father…………. Hello,” said Niamh, brightening.

                “Hi Niamh, how is everything?

                “Good, Father.  How was your vacation?”

                “It was fine. “

                “Did you stay here last night?”

                “Yes,” he said, carefully.

                “I guess there is no place for you up at the parish house, with Father Aiden still there.”  It didn’t seem to require an answer, so Peter just smiled.

                Several people came in and took seats at the table.  Niamh picked up her jacket and gave Assumpta a questioning look.  “So….are you going out with Mike or not?”

                Assumpta let out a long breath.  She didn’t want Mike hanging around the pub all night.  “I don’t have anyone to take care of the pub,” she said, flatly.

                Peter looked at Assumpta.  “If you have somewhere to go, I’ll look after the place.”

                “Ahh….” She said.

                “Good, that’s settled then,” said Niamh, walking toward the door.

                Assumpta just stared after her and then shot a glance at Peter.

                “Did I speak out of turn?” he said, wincing.

                “…….No….not your fault,” she said.

                “Who’s this guy, Mike?”

                “Some friend of Ambrose’s that I went out with once.”

                “He likes you I guess.”

                She just rolled her eyes.
 

CHAPTER 3

                  The pub was bustling.  Assumpta had taken five minutes and changed her clothes and then headed back downstairs to help Peter.  He looked up as she came into the bar.

                He raised his eyebrows. “Hmmm…you look good,” he said.

                She said nothing.  The door opened and in came Niamh, Ambrose and Mike.

                “Hello, Father,” said Ambrose.

                “Hi, Father,” said Niamh.  “Oh, Father, this is Mike Connor.  Mike this is Father Clifford.”  Peter reached over and shook his hand.  “Nice to meet you, Mike.”

                Assumpta watched the exchange until she realized that Mike was staring at her.

                She felt her face redden and then turned to Niamh.  “Let’s go, shall we.”

                “Yeah.”

                Dinner was an uncomfortable affair.  Niamh and Ambrose kept the conversation going.  Assumpta couldn’t think of much to say.  Her mind was miles away and only occasionally brought back by someone speaking directly to her.

                “So, Assumpta, where are you tonight?” asked Mike, after Ambrose and Niamh got up to dance.

                “What?” she said, startled.

                “Well, you’re certainly not here with me.”

                “Oh,…..I’m sorry Mike.  Just thinking about other things, I guess.”

                “Like……..the priest back at your pub?”

                “What……….?”

                “Well, I saw how he looked at you and I saw how you looked at him.  I couldn’t tell exactly what wasn’t said, between you two, but I knew it was something.”

                “………….It was that obvious?”

                “Only to me.  I don’t think the others noticed.”

                Assumpta said nothing.

                “Do you want to talk about it?”

                “There isn’t really anything to talk about.”

                “You mean………yet?”

                Assumpta looked down at her plate.

                “Am I really that transparent?” she said, looking up at him.

                “Only because you interest me,” he said, smiling.

                “So,….he went on retreat….and has come back and wants to leave the priesthood.”  She and Mike were dancing.

                “I guess so.”

                “He’s a lucky man.”

                “What do you mean?”

                “To have your …….love.”

                “I haven’t mentioned love, have I?”

                “You don’t have to.  It’s written all over you.”

                On the way home, they talked.  Just about things in general.  When they got to the pub, Mike, Niamh and Ambrose came in.  Peter was busy and had a tea towel over his shoulder.  Assumpta couldn’t help smiling.  She left Mike, thanking him for the evening and went behind the bar.

                Every so often, she would look over at Mike, sitting with Niamh, Ambrose, Padraig and Brendan.  He almost always was looking at her.  She couldn’t figure him out.

                “Are you ok?” Peter said, carrying a load of dishes past her into the kitchen.

                “Yeah,” she said, curiously.

                Once, Peter brushed by her and she turned to look at him.  He looked at her for a moment and then touched her hand, and turned and went about his business.  As the pub was closing, Mike came over to her.

                “Assumpta, thanks for dinner tonight.”

                “You’re welcome,” she said, smiling.

                “Can I assume that you won’t want to go out with me again?” he said, leaning on the bar.

                “I don’t know what I want, Mike.”

                “I think you do,” he said, patting her hand.

                She watched him walk out the door with Ambrose and Niamh.  She had a weird feeling about him.

                “What a mess,” Peter said, starting to wipe off the bar, but watching Mike and the others leave.

                “Yeah,” said Assumpta, turning to pick up some dirty glasses.
 

CHAPTER 4

                The bar was cleaned and Assumpta was finishing up the dishes in the kitchen.  Peter came in with a pile of tea towels.  “Where do you want these?” he asked.

                “Just set them here on the  cupboard,” she said, pointing to the spot.

                “Assumpta,……..I talked to Father Aiden.”

                “Oh, yeah.  What did he want?”

                “Well, you know that this is his first parish.”

                She nodded.

                “He wanted to ask me if I minded if he stays here, even if it is just as my assistant. He says that it is just what he wanted to do and he loves the people here.  I think he is afraid of being sent to a city.  He seems to be a country boy,” Peter laughed.

                “What did you tell him?”

                “I told him that I thought it was a great idea, but that he would have to clear it with Father Mac.  But I told him that I thought it would be ok.”

                Assumpta turned to look at him.  “Father Mac would never let you have an assistant.”

                “You’re forgetting that I won’t be here as a priest.”

                “Oh yeah.”

                “So…………..I went to Cilldargan today and talked to Father Mac.”

                “Oh God! What did he say?”

                Peter rolled his eyes.  “Well, let’s just say he wasn’t happy.  But in the end, he wished me luck and called the Bishop and set up an appointment for me. He’s probably relieved.”

                 Assumpta stared at him.

                “What….?” He said grinning.

                “You’re free then…………..”

                “Yup……Well, almost.”

                He gave her a thoughtful look.

                “I wanted to ask you something, Assumpta.”

                “Yeah?”

                “What about you and this Mike Connor?”

                “What about us?” she said.

                “I mean, how do you feel about him?”

                “He’s nice,” she said.

                “That’s not what I meant.”

                 The phone rang.  It was late and Assumpta jumped at the sound.  She looked at Peter, as she got up to get it.

                “Fitzgeralds,” she said, almost breathless.

                “Assumpta,” said Siobhan.

                “Yes, it’s me,” she said, calming down a bit.

                “Assumpta, I’ve made a decision, and I wanted to let you know.”

                “Ok,” said Assumpta, apprehensively.

                “I’m going to have the baby.”

                Assumpta breathed a sigh of relief.  “Siobhan, I’m so glad.  You will make a great mother.  So……who’s the father?”

                “I’m not ready to tell you, yet,” she replied.

                “This is a story I will be really interested in hearing,” Assumpta said, smiling.

                “Yes, well, anyway, I just thought I would let you know.”

                “Thanks, I’m so glad you did.  Come over tomorrow, and we’ll talk.”

                “Ok, and thanks again, Assumpta.

                 Siobhan opened the door.

                “Assumpta, you here?”

                Assumpta came out of the kitchen at the sound of her voice.

                “Hi Siobhan.”

                “Take a look at this,” she said, taking an envelope out of her pocket.

                “I think it’s a boy,” she said, pointing to the picture of the baby.

                “Oh, he’s beautiful, Siobhan.”

                “Have you told the father?”

                “Yes.”

                “Siobhan….who is the father?”

                “Brendan.”

                “Brendan!”

                Siobhan gave her a dark look.

                “We both had too much to drink.”

                “What does he think about it?”

                “I don’t care what he thinks about it.  It’s my baby..I’m going to raise it.”

                Just then the door opened and Brendan walked in.

                “A pint, please, Assumpta.”

                “Hello, Brendan,” she said, waiting for him to say something to Siobhan.  But he said nothing more and Assumpta put a pint in front of him.  Siobhan picked up the picture and slipped it into her pocket.

                “So….I hear Peter has left the priesthood and gone to Dublin.  Big news,” he said, taking a drink.

                Assumpta’s heart made a sudden thud.  “Yeah, I guess so.”

                “What’s he going to do?”

                “He’s trying to get a job.  He had wanted to stay down here, but there really isn’t anything for him here.”

                “I don’t think that’s quite true,” he said, smiling and taking another drink.

                “What?” Assumpta said, looking at him questioningly.

                Just then Padraig came in and sat down by Brendan.  Siobhan picked up her coat and leaned over the bar.  “I’ll talk to you soon, Assumpta.”

                Assumpta nodded.

                Peter was gone.  He had gotten a phone call one night and left the next morning without much explanation.  She had mentally gone over the conversation they had the night Siobhan had called.  He wanted to know about Mike.  What was he thinking?  What was he going to do?  Did he care about her?  Of course he did.  They had been best friends for most of the time he had been here. But that wasn’t how she felt about him.  Friends, yes.  But she had wanted more.  She thought maybe he had as well. She stood in front of her mirror.  She wasn’t gorgeous.  But she wasn’t ugly either.  Maybe now that he was free, he wanted to meet other women.  Maybe he felt that he had limited himself by being in this little country town and wanted to see what the big city had for him. He had called her once since he left.  It was a ‘hi, I’m ok, how are you? Blah, blah, blah,’ phone call.  She had been so close to having what she thought she wanted.  Maybe she didn’t want that after all.  She surely couldn’t bury herself and cry about what she couldn’t have.

                She felt crying, though.  She really needed to do something.  Oh God.

                Niamh slammed the pub door.  “That woman will drive me crazy,” she said, walking behind the bar and pulling a pint.

                “I thought she was helping you,” Assumpta said, without looking up from the book.

                “Well, if you call, telling me what I should cook, how I should clean, what I should feed the baby, helping, then I guess she is helping.  I’m coming to work here.”

                “Good, I could use the help.”

                Niamh looked around at the empty pub.

                “Well, not now, but I am thinking of going to London for awhile.”

                Niamh looked questioningly at her.  “Why.”

                “Just need a change, I guess.”

                “How long will you be gone?”

                “I don’t know, Niamh.  I’ve only just thought of it.”

                Niamh settled down on a stool.  “Ambrose heard from Mike, last night.”

                “Oh, really,” Assumpta said.

                “He has given Peter a job.”

                Assumpta looked up.  “Mike has given Peter a job?”

                “Yeah, that’s what Mike told Ambrose.”

                “In Dublin?”

                Assumpta’s eyes narrowed. So that was it.  Brilliant idea on Mike’s part.  If he thinks that I will ever go out with him again………..he’d better think again.

                “What’s the matter?” said Niamh.

                “Nothing.”

                Assumpta walked over to the door.  It was time to lock up.  Just as she put her hand to the door, someone pushed it from the other side.  Brendan walked in.

                “Can I see you for a moment, Assumpta?” he said, walking over to the bar.

                “Yeah, I guess so.  Let me lock up first.”

                “Do you want a drink?”

                “Yes,” he said.

                Assumpta walked into the kitchen and got a bottle of wine from the refridgerator.

                “What is this all about?” she said, pouring the drink.

                Brendan took a large drink of the wine.  “You know that Siobhan is pregnant.”

                “Yeah.”

                “Well……I am the father.”

                Assumpta didn’t know what to say, so she said nothing.

                “I want to be part of this, but I don’t think she will let me.”

                “What do you want me to do?” Assumpta said.

                “Will you talk to her.  Let her know that I care about her and I don’t want her to go through this alone.”

                She could see the sincerity in his eyes.

                “I’ll try,” she said.  “I will try.”
 

CHAPTER 5

                Peter walked down the quiet hall to the end.  The muted glass door said, CVRS.  He slowly opened it and walked in.  This was perfect. Mike was quite a guy.  He wandered through the offices and liked what he saw.  The phones were on the desks, but not yet in service.  He could see his apartment from here.  He walked over to the window.  Yes, there it was.   Comfortable, quiet, close to everything.  Yes, this was perfect.  Tomorrow he would start moving his things in.  But tonight he had other things to do.  He walked to the call box.  He let it ring.  No answer.  Hmmm…strange.  He decided to drive over.  A company car, of  course.  He marveled at the change in his life since his decision.  It was another world.  And he was beginning to enjoy it.  He pulled up to the café and parked the car.  He thought he’d better eat something.  As he walked in he nearly bumped into the woman.

                “Fath…..uh Peter,” she said, surprised.

                “Niamh,” he said, “how are you?”

                “Fine, Peter.  How are you?

                “I’m fine.  The job has really turned out to be something I will love.

                “Oh, I’m glad.  I’m going to be working too,” she said.

                “What doing?” he asked.

                “Well, Assumpta is leaving for London and I am taking the pub for a while.”

                He stopped.  “Why is she going to London?”

                “I don’t know.  She just said she needed to get away for awhile.”

                “When is she leaving?”

                “Tonight.  She goes to Dublin tonight and then I think she flies out tomorrow.”

                “Well, it’s good to see you, Niamh,” he said, turning and walking out of the door.

                Assumpta was folding some jeans and packing them in her case.  She heard the door of her bedroom open and turned suddenly.

                “What are you doing? he said.

                “Packing.  What are you doing?" she said, sarcastically.

                “Where are you going?”

                “What is this, twenty questions?”

                “And why aren’t you in Dublin?”

                “Because I work in Cilldargan,” he said, feeling the animosity.

                “I thought you were working in Dublin for Mike.”

                “No,” he explained as if he were talking to a three year old.  “I went to Dublin and Mike gave me a job.  He said he needed to open an office in the southern part of Ireland and wanted me to do it.”

                Assumpta said nothing, trying to work this out in her head.

                “I wanted to surprise you.”

                “God, why didn’t you call and tell me.  What…..I’m supposed to read your mind.”

                “What did you think I was doing all of this for?” he said, exasperatedly.

                “All what?  I didn’t know what you were doing.”

                “Well, you know what I’m doing now,” he said, walking over to her and taking the clothes out of her hands and putting his arms around her.  Before she realized what was happening, his mouth was on hers and he was holding her tightly.  When they came to the surface, she looked up at him.  “I thought Mike had taken you to Dublin, because he wanted to get you away from me.”

                Peter shook his head.  “Whatever made you think that?”

                “I don’t know,” she said, not wanting to discuss it.

                “Assumpta, Mike and I have spent many an hour discussing this.  You see, he was a priest about fifteen years ago.  He fell in love with a girl and left the priesthood.

                Assumpta’s mouth was opened.  “He’s married?” she said, jumping to conclusions again.

                “No, he is not married.  His wife died in childbirth.  He told me that he knew you loved me.  And he said that he knew I loved you.  He told me not to waste a minute's worth of time because that kind of love was precious.”

                Assumpta said nothing for a minute.  She then reached up and put her arms around him.

                “Peter, he was right you know…………I love you.”

                He held her closely and whispered in her ear.  “I love you, too.”

                He touched her mouth with his and held her tightly. The kiss became more urgent. The passion that had built up for years and had lain just below the surface, exploded and engulfed them. She felt the emotion flowing from him.  Her mouth was soft and warm and he could feel his own body responding to it.

                In the quiet of the night, he turned to watch her sleep.  The soft rise and fall of her breast was rhythmic.  She was so beautiful. Her eyes opened.  She smiled.  “Hi,” he said.

                “Hi,” she said.

                “So, does this mean you will marry me?”

                “Are you asking?”

                “Of course, I’m asking.”

                “I don’t know, do you think we’re compatible?”

                “I’m not sure.  Let’s try this again,” he laughed, and leaned down to kiss her.
 

THE END