Assumpta hailed Father Sheehan as he came into the pub. "Thanks, Vince, for recommending that your friends stay here. I really like them both."
"I gather they return the compliment," the priest said with a grin. "Lynn can't stop talking about your children."
"Yeah, she's been great with them, especially the baby. And you know that Caitlin doesn't take to everybody."
He sat down heavily at the bar. Assumpta put his usual coffee in front of him, and looked at him quizzically. "Something wrong?"
He looked away, and then back to her. "As a matter of fact, there is. I was hoping that Peter might be around; I want to run something by him."
"He's out with the kids, running them ragged, I hope, so they'll turn in early. I'm supposed to meet him home when Oonagh gets back here."
He nodded. "I'll stop by this evening, then. If that's okay."
"Of course. You know you don't need permission. Does this have to do with Lynn and Barry getting married?"
He finished his coffee, set the cup down hard. "Yep," he said and got up to leave.
Assumpta told Peter about her conversation
with the priest, so he was prepared when Father Sheehan knocked on their
door that evening. The children, as promised, had been given a long day
out with their father and were bathed and read to and put to bed by that
time. Both men looked at Assumpta as she sat down in her favorite chair.
She returned the look. "Oh no, I'm not leaving. I want to know what this
is all about. You," she said looking pointedly at Vincent, "look like hell,
Lynn is in tears, and Barry looks like a thundercloud. What's going on?"
"Well," Vincent hesitated. "I really wanted Peter's perspective, but I guess I can get the secular at the same time. You know that I said I'd marry Lynn and Barry…..but there's a problem."
Neither Peter nor Assumpta spoke, letting the priest fidget a bit. "Barry was married before….years ago, but in a Catholic ceremony. Afterwards, his wife told him she'd had an earlier marriage, so in a sense the marriage wasn't really valid. And they got divorced, like a few weeks later! But it was a Catholic wedding, and I don't see how I can legitimately marry them. And he tried to scam me about this, putting me off with some cock-and-bull story about forgetting the papers. We had a huge row….and I'm just wondering what, if anything, I can do." He looked at them.
Peter shook his head. "Vince, you can't, you know you can't. Marry a divorced man."
"Well, I know that! But they want so much to be married….and by a Catholic priest. They've been together a long time, but now they want a marriage. And they came all this way…I don't want to go into their
"I know their reasons," Assumpta said sharply. "Lynn told me. Since she hasn't been able to get pregnant, Barry wants to reassure her that it doesn't matter."
"Does it matter?" Peter asked.
"Not to him, I don't think so. She's the one who wants a baby, desperately. Barry just wants her to be happy."
"And it would take a Catholic wedding to make her happy?"
She stood up and began pacing, not a good sign. "And you feel you can't? What a good little priest you are!" She frowned. "I expected better from you, Father." Sarcastically.
"Assumpta, stop it." This from Peter. "You know he can't do it."
"Oh for pity's sake! The two of ya! Wouldn't Father Mac be proud of both of you!"
Vincent scowled. "Actually, he's not proud of me at all. I asked him if I could do it, and he told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn't. Not in `his' church. I hate when he reminds me of my lowly status here!"
Assumpta stood still. "For God's sake, Vince, I heard you told him once that you're a curate, not an altar boy!"
"How'd you hear about that?"
"Small town," she said with a grimace. "So what is your problem? Here is your best friend, long-divorced, in love with a wonderful woman, who wants only to be married in her church! Do they not deserve that? I'd think you would be overjoyed for them." With a glare at both men, she stalked out of the room.
By the next day, there were definite sides
being taken, as seemed to always happen in their little village. Avril,
Brendan, Siobhan, Doctor Ryan, Oonagh, all were on the same side as Assumpta,
and Peter was feeling increasingly isolated, with he, Vincent, Father Mac,
and he supposed, Kathleen Hendley, as well as the moral weight of the Church
on the other. That afternoon, Brendan asked him to come, with Vincent,
to look at an ancient mass rock which had been found on the field recently
acquired by a much-disliked "blow-in" from Cork. It had proved unmovable,
and the owner was getting some heavy-duty backhoe to try again. Brendan
filled in the other two about the history of such a rock, how it had been
used as an altar when the churches were forbidden in Ireland.
"By your ancestors, Peter," he said. Peter started to retort, but noticed the priest looking as though he'd been struck by an idea. Peter shook his head. "Vin, no!"
The next day, Assumpta dressed herself and
her two older children, very pleased with the plan that had been proposed.
Lynn had told her both great pieces of news, that she was pregnant, and
that Vincent had agreed to marry them. In the field, at the rock. She had
asked Assumpta to be her matron of honor. Humming to herself, she encountered
her husband, apparently as immovable as the mass rock.
"You know this isn't right," he said.
"This is one thing I really hate about you, Peter," she sneered. "You can be such a prig, so pious, such a wuss, about rules and what's `right' for the church instead of what's right for people. You need someone to give you a kick in the arse! Watch that the kids stay clean while I go wake up the baby and get her dressed."
"No need," Peter said, lips tight. "Since I'm not going to be part of this, I'll stay here, let her finish her nap."
"Fine!" was the answer, as she swept out, with the children at her side.
John and Josie were agog at the idea of a wedding
in a field, not noticing the tension between their parents. The small group
that had gathered at the site was just as excited, and when the backhoe
arrived, everyone cheered when Oonagh ordered Liam and Donal to quit making
such a racket and to clear off. The two locals clambered down, deciding
to witness the ceremony instead. The wind blew much of the finery around,
but the sun shone, and it seemed a most propitious occasion as Dr. Ryan
led Lynn to the makeshift altar to be met by Barry, and Brendan, serving
as his best man. Assumpta stepped back, listening to Vincent intoning the
words she remembered from her own wedding. Josie nudged her. "Here's Daddy,"
she whispered. Assumpta turned to see Peter standing to one side of the
group, holding a beaming Caitlin in his arms. He smiled at her, and she
nodded and smiled back.
"What God has joined together, man must not separate," said Vincent, as he blessed the new couple. There was a burst of applause, and amidst the kisses and hugs bestowed on Lynn and Barry, Assumpta walked up to her own husband.
"Ah, Peter, you reminded me of one of the things I love about you….the ability to change your mind."
"Like….?" he asked. They both laughed. "When you arrived at Father Mac's that day, to join the protest about Brendan being sacked, I thought, `I love that man!' I pushed that thought away fast!" She took his arm, and they went off to the pub for a little celebration, the tension between them replaced by deep affection.
The next day, Peter and Vince, neither of them
fishermen, joined Brendan at the river. They saw Father Mac striding purposely
across the bridge.
"I hear he's looking for you," Brendan said smiling at the priest.
"Hey, he's lucky I didn't take a leaf from this guy here," nudging Peter, "and marry her myself!"