There's just something about being trapped in a cozy cabin overnight during
a raging snowstorm with Peter Clifford that is appealing somehow :-) I've
taken liberties with the seasons in this story. The part of the story from
series 3 where Leo leaves, I've changed to winter.
Snowstorm, or Undiscovered Country
Why am I doing this? Assumpta asked herself as she dashed out the door. Leo
had left that morning and Niamh had convinced her that the decent thing would
be to go after him and talk to him in person. Make an explanation. Easier
said than done, thought Assumpta. What should I say? Terribly sorry about
that Leo, but I'm in love with the priest, not you. That should go over real
well. Assumpta had been so lost in her own thoughts, and anxious to get her
conversation with Leo over with, that she hadn't noticed the dark gray skies
when she left Ballykissangel
As she got out of the car and trudged around to the other side Assumpta knew
she shouldn't have tried to keep going. It was turning dusk and what had
been wet on the road was now turning to black ice, the most dangerous kind.
She had taken a curve a little too fast, the car slid off the road and traveled
a ways down the slope. "Damn, damn, damn," said Assumpta.
Looking around she realized that no one could see the car from the road.
Leo had said that he was going to stop in Cilldargan for the night and then
go on to Dublin the next day. She had been planning on catching up with him
in Cilldargan, it was after all only a few miles away from Ballykissangel.
When she arrived there, the landlady at the local hotel told her Leo had
canceled his reservation and decided to drive on to Dublin, she had just
missed him by 10 minutes.
Assumpta had driven on, thinking she could catch up with him. She had been
driving too fast, and now here she was. She had already driven well past
Cilldargan. Stranded, cold, no one knowing where she was. She could only
hope someone would come along.
Not too bright Assumpta, she said to herself. She was bending down looking
for any damage when the car suddenly slid and the tire landed right on her
foot. The pain was tremendous. She frantically started trying to dig her
foot out, but the car kept sliding. "Oh great," Assumpta said through clenched
teeth. She wasn't too worried, she hadn't been completely stupid. At the
last second she had left a note for Niamh propped up behind the bar in front
of the large mirror, and the landlady at the hotel had seen her.
She glanced at her watch. It seemed like hours since she left Ballyk, but
it had only been one. Hopefully someone would put the picture together and
come looking for her. Soon, she prayed. She hadn't done that in a long time
she thought, asked God for help. Peter would be proud, she thought with a
touch of humor.
Peter had seen Assumpta drive off in a hurry. He glanced up at the darkening
sky and wondered where she was going. For some reason he had a very uneasy
feeling about seeing her drive off. He walked over to Fitzgerald's to find
Niamh just reading the note she had left. "Niamh, do you know where Assumpta
went off to in such a hurry? I'm a little worried about her, the sky is starting
to turn very sinister out there."
Niamh sighed. "I'm afraid that's my doing, I didn't think she'd run off so
suddenly like this though."
"What are you talking about Niamh?"
"Leo left this morning Peter. I knew they were unhappy, it seems like this
marriage was over before it had a chance to get started. I convinced her
that she shouldn't just let Leo go like that, that she should go after him
and talk to him in person. Give some kind of explanation. Did I do wrong
Peter didn't know if he could give an impartial answer here, but he would
try. "Well, they are married. I suppose she owes him an explanation. Why
did he leave, did she say?" asked Peter, trying to sound like a priest.
"No, she didn't say, but he did. He said that Assumpta just didn't love him.
That she was interested in someone else."
"Did he say who he thought it was?" Peter said, trying not to look too interested
in the answer. He felt a twinge of guilt thinking of the look on Leo's face
when he asked him if he was on a hidin' to nothin' as the old expression
went. He couldn't in that moment, in all honesty, deny it to Leo. He was
tired of lying.
"No. But I have some ideas of my own on that score." Niamh looked at Peter
with an appraising look.
"What?" asked Peter.
"Nothing," said Niamh and would say no more about it. "I'll run the pub for
her tonight, I don't know if she will try to come back here tonight. I hope
not, I don't like the look of that sky."
Peter went back to his place but he couldn't stop thinking about Assumpta.
Nothing new about that, he admitted to himself. He glanced out at the sky,
the snow had started to lightly fall and the news station was predicting
it would be a big storm, the first of the season. As the minutes dragged
on, Peter started to feel more and more a sense of impending doom about Assumpta.
Suddenly he couldn't stand it anymore. He was going out to find her, before
the snow started to really come down. He got in the car Judge Bradley had
given him and set off.
In Cilldargan, Peter learned that Leo had not stayed but driven on to Dublin,
and that Assumpta had driven after him. He had just missed Assumpta by half
an hour himself. Go back to Ballykissangel, Peter told himself as he drove
along. This is really between them, why are you getting into the middle of
this? You are already in the middle of this, he reminded himself. He couldn't
help himself, he drove off onto the Dublin road, not really understanding
why he was doing this. He just knew he couldn't deny the sense of urgency
that gripped him, as if something was terribly wrong and he had to find Assumpta,
Peter peered out at the falling snow as he drove. Soon the roads might be
blocked and he had to decide whether or not to turn back. He had seen no
sign of Assumpta's car, or Leo's for that matter. Not that he would be able
to see anything with the snow falling. He had stopped the car and was just
contemplating turning around when he glanced off down the slope and saw what
he thought was a man standing next to some trees and shrubbery. He blinked
and rubbed his eyes, he couldn't see anything through this snow. Strange,
why would there be anyone out there in this storm? Maybe it was one of the
mountainy men, stranded in the snow.
Peter got out and made his way carefully down the slope, when he got to the
bottom he was shocked to discover Assumpta's van. He ran to the car as fast
as the snow would allow, but Assumpta wasn't in it. He thought he heard something
and went around to the other side of the car.
Thank God I had my coat and gloves on when I got out of the car, thought
Assumpta. When the snow had started to fall more heavily she had maneuvered
her body to be under the car as far as she could and out of the wind. The
engine was still hot and would keep her warm for a while. Then what? She
thought. God, don't let me die out here. Her anger at herself for being stuck
out here like this had given way to panic as she tried repeatedly to free
her foot. Now, huddled under the car, all she felt was regret. Regret that
she would never have the chance to tell Peter how she really felt about him.
She was also beginning to feel very sleepy. The only good part was that the
cold was numbing the pain in her foot.
All she wanted to do was sleep. As if reliving her life, her thoughts went
over every moment she had spent with Peter. She gave a sharp laugh remembering
the day she threw the bucket of water on him outside the pub. It was this
laugh that Peter heard. He rushed to her side and started brushing away the
snow that had piled around her. Assumpta looked up at him in a daze. "Peter,
am I dreaming?" She had a rough wool cloak thrown over her. She vaguely remembered
a dream about sheep.
Peter started to pull her out, but she cried out in pain. He soon saw that
her foot was caught, and now frozen in place. "Assumpta, Assumpta," he said
cradling her face in his hands. "You have to listen to me sweetheart, I'm
going to heave this car up and you have to pull your foot out. Assumpta,
did you hear me?" he said frantically. She seemed to be going into shock.
Suddenly Peter came into focus for Assumpta.
"Peter, did you call me sweetheart?" she said through chattering teeth.
"Assumpta, for the love of God, we have to get you out of here. When I pull
up the car, you pull your foot out, OK? Can you focus on that?" Peter said
"Yeah, yeah, OK, Peter, I'm ready when you are." Peter could tell that Assumpta
was really listening to him now.
Peter heaved with all his might, and Assumpta pulled her foot out. By this
time the snow was really falling and he could barely see a few feet. He didn't
think Assumpta's ankle was broken, maybe a few toes, but her whole foot had
started to swell up. He had to get her out of here, he thought frantically.
He picked Assumpta up and struggled back up the hill to his car. Even if
the roads were blocked he could keep them warm by turning on the car occasionally.
Besides, he had a first aid kit he always carried for emergencies. He even
had a hypodermic with painkillers Doc Ryan had given him, and had even showed
him how to use.The only problem was, his car wouldn't start.
Now what? thought Peter. He looked over at Assumpta, she was shivering so
hard he thought the whole car would shake with the force of it. I have to
get her warm, he thought. Now I suppose I have to trudge back down to the
van and see if it will start. At that moment, there was a loud rapping on
his window that made him jump. He opened the door to be confronted by a powerful
smell of sheep. It was one of the mountainy men, the one he had seen earlier
down by Assumpta's car. "I see you found her," he said. "I'm not strong enough
to lift a car, but I covered her with my cloak. I was just wondering how
I was going to get help when I saw you pull over." At least, that's what
Peter thought he said, his accent was so thick it was hard to get every word.
"What are you doing out here?" asked Peter.
"Lookin' after my sheep, what else? I don't think you'll be going anywhere
tonight," he said looking up at the dark sky. "Come on, I keep a rough cabin
for sleeping away from home out here, can you carry her? Is that your first
aid kit? I'll carry it, come on with ya." Peter wrapped Assumpta up in a
spare blanket from his car and startedback down the slope.
It was indeed a rough shelter, a crude wooden shelter. But it had a roof
and wooden walls to keep the snow out, no windows, but an iron wood burner
in the middle of the one room. Peter laid Assumpta down on the sleeping platform
while the old man started the fire. At least there was plenty of firewood,
thought Peter. He immediately removed her shoe and sock and gave her ankle
a shot of local anesthetic. He then tightly bound her ankle with supplies
from his kit.
He looked up from his labors when a blast of cold air blew in. The mountainy
man was on his way out the door. "Wait, where are you going?"
"Why to tend my sheep of course," answered the man with surprise. "This storm
came up suddenly, I didn't have a chance to find all my wooly ones, their
lost without me. But I found you two lost sheep didn't I, eh?" said the man
with a cackle of laughter.
"You can't go out there, it's a blizzard man!" exclaimed Peter.
"Ach, don't worry about me. I'm going on 60 and I haven't met a storm that
could harm me yet. I'll just take my cloak back, if that's OK. I'll walk
back to Cilldargan and send for help with the first person I see. I don't
think she's in any danger now. Just get her warm. The old-fashioned way works
best, if you know what I mean. Skin to skin," he said with a twinkle in his
eye. Peter realized that he wasn't wearing his uniform and the man didn't
know he was a priest. Peter tried to convince the man to stay in, but he
was determined to get to his "wooly ones."
Assumpta was still shivering and Peter turned his attention to her. He removed
her coat and sweater and shirt, but stopped short when she was wearing a
thin undershirt and her pants. He didn't think he could go any farther than
that, the pants were mostly dry anyway thanks to her long coat. For the next
several hours Peter wrapped Assumpta up close to the warmth of his own body
and as close to the fire as he dared without catching her on fire. Eventually
the shivering stopped and he sensed she was asleep. He felt strangely contented
and more alive than he ever had in his life holding Assumpta while the snow
fell outside. He pulled her closer and she made a sound in her throat that
sent shivers through him.
After his exertions to get Assumpta here and all the worry, it didn't take
long after that for Peter to fall asleep as well. He woke up still holding
Assumpta across his lap, he looked down to find Assumpta looking up at him.
"My hero," she said with a smile. "My ankle doesn't hurt, is it broken?"
"No, I'm no expert, but I don't think so. Maybe some of your toes. I gave
you a shot of painkiller, by the way."
"Oh yes? I'll have to add doctor to your list of impressive abilities," Assumpta
They continued to gaze at one another, all sorts of questions were asked
and answered without saying a word. Assumpta reached up one hand and put
it on his cheek and said "Peter" softly. Peter bent his head down and kissed
her, a long soulful kiss. As natural as breathing the sweetest, most pure
Peter knew in that moment that he had made his decision. He loved this woman.
He didn't know what would happen, but there was no going back. Not much going
forward for that matter, not until certain issues were settled.
"Assumpta, do you remember when we kissed at the play rehearsal?"
"Mmmm, oh yes," she replied.
"You ran away then. I've always wondered why?"
Assumpta shifted away from Peter's arms and sat up. He reluctantly let her
go. There were things that needed to be said, and a little distance right
now would help his powers of concentration.
Assumpta shifted her weight around so that she was sitting next to Peter
and stared at the fire. "Peter, I've always had feelings for you, you must
"Well, you don't give a lot away Assumpta."
"Hey, I don't give anything away, especially not to a priest!" she said with
some of her old spirit.
Rather than be put off by her response, he just grinned at her and said,
"You must be feeling better, you're insulting me again." Assumpta looked
"Why did you run?" he repeated.
"I ran out of there like a scalded cat because I realized just how deep those
feelings were. Look Peter, you know how I feel about the church, but that
doesn't mean I'm without morals. Do you know how often I have to remind myself
that you are a Catholic priest? That you're off limits?"
"Probably as often as I have to remind meself," Peter muttered.
"What?" Assumpta turned to him.
"Assumpta, you must know how I feel about you. I think about you all the
time. And as for me being a priest..."
"Yes?" prompted Assumpta.
Peter paused for a moment, "Have you heard the polar bear joke?" Assumpta
shook her head no with a quizzical look.
"A baby polar bear goes to his mum and asks, `Am I really a polar bear?'
`Of course you are,' his mum replies, `you've got white fur, you eat fish.
Don't be daft,
go back in the sea.' But the baby polar bear is not satisfied so he asks
his Dad, `Dad, am I really a polar bear?' `Of course you are, you've got
white fur, you eat fish. Why do you ask?' `Because I'm freezin',' answered
the baby polar bear."
Peter stares at Assumpta, the look on his face pleading with her to understand.
Assumpta looks quietly at Peter. "Peter, come here," she says and opens her
Peter goes into her arms with a feeling of relief and release. She holds
him for a moment and he starts to plant feathery light kisses on her neck,
then along her jaw. He pauses with his mouth close to hers and looks into
her eyes and kisses her. She pulls her head back, "Are you still freezin'?"
she asks teasingly. He grins back and kisses her again. Peter starts to kiss
Assumpta's neck again, he trails kisses down to the top of her undershirt.
His hand has started to slide up from her ribcage and was continuing on its
way when Assumpta made a noise of protest in her throat and pushed him gently
Peter looked up slightly alarmed. "I'm sorry Assumpta, did I hurt you?"
Assumpta looks surprised by this. "Hurt me? No, no Peter that's not it at
all, it's just that, we have to stop here, you know that, right? Believe
me, there's nothing I'd rather do than take this to its ultimate conclusion,
but I know we'd regret it. While you're still a priest, and I'm still legally
married to Leo, we have to stop."
"Yeah, you're right Assumpta. Damnit," he added as an afterthought. He got
up and walked over to put wood on the fire. "Peter! I've never heard you
swear before." Assumpta said in a shocked voice.
"Oh, yeah, sorry about that. I need to talk to Father Mac, as soon as possible."
Peter said after a moment.
"Yeah, and I need to talk to Leo, and a lawyer."
They silently contemplated the difficult conversations ahead of both of them.
"Peter, what are you going to tell Father MacAnally?" Assumpta asked, needing
to hear it spelled out.
"Isn't it obvious?" Peter said in surprise.
"Humor me," says Assumpta trying not to look as vulnerable as she felt.
"Assumpta, I love you. I have for a long time, though I tried to deny it.
And when I did admit it to myself, I tried to convince myself that I could
live in Ballykissangel and be around you and not act on those feelings. I
know I can't do that. I want you Assumpta, whatever it takes, whatever you
want. I can't stay a priest. Loving you is the most important reason, there
are others, but those aren't for now. I want to marry you Assumpta, have
children, grow old, watch our children grow up and have babies of their own.
Is that clear enough for you?"
Assumpta had started to smile as Peter was talking, now she just sat there
with a foolish grin on her face. "Peter, come here to me. Damn this ankle!"
she added in frustration.
Peter came over to her, sat down, and pulled her into his lap again. "Assumpta,
please, don't just leave me hanging out here in the wind, talk to me."
"Hmmm, sorry, I was just thinking," she said, looking up at him.
"About little boys with green eyes," she kissed him, "and little girls with
curly red hair," she kissed him again, "and grandchildren around the Christmas
tree. I love you Peter Clifford, I'd like to marry you some day, if you'll
have me," she added with uncharacteristic humility, kissing him again.
Peter was awakened by thumping sounds and shouts coming from outside the
cabin. It was just barely beginning to show light around the cracks in the
door and the snow seemed to have stopped falling. They had continued to hold
each other in front of the fire. Peter put wood on occasionally and made
them some hot tea from the mountainy man's supplies. Assumpta was still lying
across his lap, now asleep again, which is why Peter didn't get up immediately
when he heard someone outside. Besides, his legs had fallen asleep during
the long night. But he wouldn't have changed his position for all the tea
in China, Peter thought grinning to himself. Ambrose made no comment about
their closeness when he was finally able to clear the snow and get the door
After a quick check to make sure they were OK, he left to tell the mountain
rescue team that they had been found. They waited in companionable silence
for more rescue to come, they had already said all that needed to be said
for now, at least to each other. While they waited, Assumpta said, "Why did
you think you had hurt me?" she asked, referring to their earlier moments
Peter looked embarrassed, "Well you cried out, I just thought...It's just
that I'm not...I'm still a...I mean, I've never..." Peter said blushing pink.
Assumpta looked amused. "Well, when it comes to that, I've a confession to
make. I suppose since you're still a priest, I can tell you. " She leaned
in and whispered in his ear, "I've never either."
"You're joking! " exclaimed Peter "But you and Leo...?"
"I just never wanted to, never met anyone it was right with. Despite what
Leo says about our college days, it just never happened. And when we got
married, I just couldn't. Every time Leo touched me, images of you popped
into my head. Not very conducive to wedded bliss. Leo didn't push me, he
was patient, but we never..." she trailed off.
"Ah well," said Peter, "I guess we'll just have to explore that undiscovered
country together. Lots of practice, that's what's required here. Lots and
lots of practice." Assumpta just laughed and then kissed him.