Series 5, Episode 1

by md1016

“Simple As Love”

It was a lovely wedding. Not, of course, as lovely as his own, but still quite lovely. Ambrose glanced at his wife by his side, and then his son, who was just starting to develop the Egan family curls. Kieran played with a piece of paper while Niamh patted his back, and Ambrose found himself smiling. No one had ever been as lovely a bride as Niamh on their wedding day. Though, if he was to be honest, he didn’t remember much of the day itself; just Niamh, standing there at the end of the aisle, hand tucked in her father’s arm, looking delighted and nervous.

Siobhan didn’t look at all delighted as she stood in front of the congregation with her hands in Brendan’s. She didn’t look nervous either. If pressed to put a name to her expression, Ambrose would have to call it relief. Brendan wore a more wistful look. Subdued delight, perhaps. They were an odd couple, really, but Ambrose supposed they were all right. Not really his sort, but decent enough for casual acquaintances. It was good they were getting married, though. Thinking of the child, no doubt. Siobhan couldn’t possibly get any larger, so the baby would be due any time. The green and purple flowered dress she wore was stretched to its limit. Poor girl. Niamh would be that big in another couple of months. This time, Ambrose was hoping for a girl.

Everyone stood and applauded, and Ambrose realized he’d missed the last bit entirely. But Siobhan and Brendan were smiling as they passed, accepting congratulations on their way out of the church, so it must’ve all gone off without a hitch. Father Chris stood at the altar looking beside himself with joy. It was disturbing how broadly the man could grin. He actually looked more delighted than the bride and groom.

They headed out along with the rest of the congregation, and as soon as they stepped into the cool, sunny day Niamh touched his arm. She nodded to Assumpta who was already hurrying down the road, her back rod straight, passing people without even a nod of acknowledgement.

“It might be all right,” Ambrose suggested. “She’s got a party to throw, after all. She’s probably just in a rush to set the place up.”

Brian stepped up on Ambrose’s other side and gave a non-committal grunt as he watched Assumpta disappear behind the wall.

“I’d better go help her,” Niamh said, and she handed Kieran to Ambrose. “Change him into something he can play in. And change yourself. I don’t want to pay to have a suit dry cleaned if it can be helped.”

“Yes, Mum,” Ambrose said.

“Yes, Mum,” Kieran echoed with the same sarcastic inflection as his father.

She shot him a sharp glare, but then kissed his cheek. Then she kissed their son’s head and headed off after Assumpta. Kieran waved a hand and said a happy, “Bye, Mummy!” He was such a sweet little boy.

“How long is she going to play babysitter to Assumpta?” Brian asked, clearly not happy with the thought.

“As long as it takes, I suppose.” Ambrose wasn’t happy about it, either, but he and Niamh had talked it over…and over, and decided that they would do whatever it took to keep Assumpta and the pub afloat for as long as they could.

“Forever, then,” Brian said dryly.

“Look, I’m not thrilled with the situation, but if Niamh wasn’t there Assumpta would lose the bar.”

“Maybe she should.”

A typical Brian Quigley answer, and one of which Ambrose wasn’t at all tolerant.

“What?” Brian asked defensively, after a glance at Ambrose. “Tell me I wouldn’t run it better. If that pub were mine I’d be turning a profit by now.”

It was probably true, but he’d also be serving fillet mignon and wine. The local population counted on Fitzgerald’s for normal, good, Irish food. “We don’t need it to turn a profit. We just need it to hold its own until…”

“Until what? She snaps out of it? This might very well be the best we ever get out of her, son.”

Ambrose didn’t agree aloud, but he could have. On the surface Assumpta seemed well enough, she ran the bar and placed orders and paid bills, she cleaned and cooked, and on occasion she actually talked to her customers. She even went out a couple of times with that rock star Niamh had been so taken with, though, from what Ambrose could tell, it hadn’t really gone anywhere. But she didn’t laugh and she didn’t fight – that was the biggest change. When Peter had first gone Assumpta had been angry at the world, and she battled everyone that crossed her path. Now she just stood there, sometimes gazing at nothing, like she was nothing more than a shell of who she’d once been. The Assumpta mask without the Assumpta spirit. Eamonn called it unnatural, and he refused to step food in Fitzgerald’s on the evenings Assumpta worked.

It was mental, but Ambrose missed that old Assumpta spirit.

“He might still come back,” Ambrose quietly said.

“And leprechauns might give me a pot of gold. It’s been six months. No, I doubt he even remembers there’s a town in Ireland called Ballykissangel anymore. He’s made his choice and moved on, and it’s time she does the same. Or…time that we let nature take its course.”

Ambrose ignored that last bit. “But that’s the thing,” he said. “I think she has moved on. You remember what she was like in school?”

Brian rolled his eyes. “Hellfire.”

“And then, after her father…”

Brian nodded. “Angry hellfire.”

“And then when she’d come back from school-”

Brian laughed. “Angry, dangerous hellfire.”

“And then when her mother died.”

Brian glanced at him. “Yeah. I see what you mean.”

“Everything that touches her changes her. Assumpta isn’t one of those people who bounces back.”

“She doesn’t bend, eh? She breaks.”


“We’ll just be at the pub if there’s a problem,” Ambrose said to the two teenagers sitting dutifully on his couch. Kevin had become an indispensable part of the Eagan family, willing to play babysitter at a moment’s notice to Kieran whenever a crisis would erupt that called both Niamh and Ambrose to Fitzgerald’s. And Alana, the plump girl with red curly hair and glasses too large for her face had become Kevin’s shadow. More often than not Ambrose found himself paying them both.

“There won’t be a problem, Mr. Eagan,” Kevin said. “We brought some cars to play with and Kieran likes it when Alana reads to him. We’ll be fine.” He shifted Kieran to his other knee and offered the boy a truck from his pocket. Kieran squealed with joy.

Alana nodded, and gave a small smile. She would be pretty when she finally grew out of adolescence, Ambrose guessed, but he was fairly sure that wasn’t why Kevin was so taken with her. Boys Kevin’s age never looked farther in the future than their next meal. But Alana, for all her shyness and freckles, was a crack footballer, an avid car enthusiast, and wickedly clever once she felt comfortable enough in company to speak up. She could also drink a whole bottle of coke in one go – a talent that would win the heart of any self-respecting fifteen year-old.

“Right enough, so,” Ambrose said. “We shouldn’t be terribly late. Mrs. Eagan gets tired easily these days, but it is a reception, so it’s difficult to tell.”

“You’re paying by the hour,” Kevin said with a grin, “so stay out as long as you like.”

Ambrose couldn’t help but smirk. “All right, but no funny business,” he said, and pointed a finger first at Kevin and then Alana. “You will not engage in any activities that will require confession on Sunday.”

Kevin rolled his eyes and Alana turned a dark, painful red.

“And there’s some ice cream in the freezer,” Ambrose added on his way out. “Help yourselves.”


It was a brilliant party, Niamh decided as she served up another pint of beer and glanced to Assumpta beside her, who was creating the perfect head for the next lucky bloke. Everyone was laughing and signing along with the silly 80’s music, and half the pub had been turned into a dance floor full of moving bodies. Hopefully, they’d all remember the fun and good food and drink, make a return trip to Fitzgerald’s. It had been weeks since Assumpta had scared off that last customer, and even so, most days people were reluctant to venture inside the pub.

Siobhan, red-faced, took a seat at one of the few remaining tables, and Brendan knelt down beside her. It was romantic how attentive he’d been – not just since the wedding that afternoon, but since the two of them started seriously…well, dating wasn’t quite the right word. It was a new side of him that Niamh had always suspected might be there; a new, selfless side that was quite attractive.

Ambrose caught her eye as he came in and closed the pub door behind him, and he gave her a happy nod. Everything was fine at home, then. But, of course it would be with Kevin babysitting. Kieran adored him, and Kevin was a bit help – one she didn’t know how she’d manage without. She glanced again at Assumpta and worried how things would be when the next baby arrived. Ambrose was right when he said that Niamh would have her hands full a home, and she worried how he would juggle his guard duty with helping out at Fitzgerald’s without her. It wasn’t as if the two of them blended all that well, after all. And…well…Ambrose was a good man, but he was well suited to policing, and not as well to customer service.

Assumpta shifted and Niamh immediately knew something was wrong. She followed her gaze and saw Brendan giving Assumpta a look tinged with panic. Assumpta nodded, understanding without words, and hurried over to the other side of the pub to whisper something in Michael’s ear. He turned doctor right away, and threaded through the crowd to Siobhan who was leaning awkwardly against the table. The music was cut as Siobhan’s pulse was taken.

Michael looked up at Brendan hovering over him. “Let’s get her to my office. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, but this close to the due date, I’d like to be absolutely certain.”

“Of course,” Brendan said without hesitation.

It took the two of them to get her out of the chair, and as they led Siobhan to the door she called over her shoulder, “If I have to miss my own reception I expect all of you to give it the attention it deserves! I want legends to be told about this party to my child’s grandchildren! Dance for us!”
A cheer went through the room, along with well-wishes, and when the door was shut behind them, the music started up again.

“You think she’ll be all right?” Assumpta asked quietly. Niamh was surprised by how anxious she looked.

Ambrose took a seat at the bar, and Niamh gave him a pint.

“Just a bit short of breath,” he said. “As big as she is, it’s little wonder, really.”

“I’ll be the same soon,” Niamh said, with a hand to her own belly. The baby had kicked all afternoon and was finally resting comfortably against her bladder. Well, comfortably for it. Soon she’d have to make her sixth loo break of the night.

“About that,” Ambrose said as he leaned closer. He looked at Assumpta, but she was busy at the other end of the bar. “Have you given any more thought to-”

“I have. And maybe my father-”

“It can’t be him,” Ambrose insisted. “He’ll take over here. It would be called Quigley’s within a week. Assumpta will lose the bar as surely if we’d never-”

“Well, I don’t know!”

“What about my mother?” Ambrose suggested, but Niamh was horrified.

“Oh, God, no.”

Assumpta glanced over at them, and they both gave her a happy smile. She frowned and went back to customers.

“Your father’s right, Niamh. We can’t babysit her forever.”

“We need a Kevin for Assumpta.” And then Niamh realized what she’d said, and it all slipped into place. “He’s what? Fifteen?”

“He’s not ready for a job like this,” Ambrose objected.

“We’ll break him in slowly.” And, the more Niamh thought about it, the more she knew it was perfect. Kevin could work after school, and start to learn the job while Niamh was still mobile…and once the new baby came he’d be poised to step in. And, it wasn’t like Assumpta was helpless. She just needed help. A calm head. A buffer between her and the customers. A reminder to breathe every now and again. A nudge out of the frozen stare she sometimes got lost in.

Niamh reached over and tugged Assumpta’s sleeve, and without warning she jerked away from Niamh and fled into the kitchen.

“All right, Mrs. Egan,” Ambrose said when Niamh sighed. “It’s my turn, I believe. You have the bar, so I’ll go see to our girl.”

Just as he disappeared into the kitchen the phone rang, and Niamh hurried over.

“Fitzgerald’s!” she yelled into the receiver over the talking and singing and music. “What? What, now? She’s having the baby now? Quiet, everyone! Quiet! Siobhan is having the baby now!” The room erupted in cheers. “Oh, Brendan, congratulations!” He sounded just the proper proportion of thrilled and anxious.

When she hung the receiver up, everyone was staring.

“Well?” Eamonn asked. “What is it?”

“It isn’t born yet,” Niamh told him. “It’s a process. Anyone know the number to the hospital in Cilldargen? Michael didn’t want to stop to ring them, the baby’s so close. Oh, never mind. I’ll run home and get it. Liam?”

“Behind the bar!” he said, hopping off a stool and practically bounding to the beer spigots. Another ripple of cheers went through the room. People began to dance again, and laugh, and shout happily about as Niamh ducked out into the cold, quiet night, and ran head-long into a body.

“Sorry,” she said, stepping aside, and then she looked up and felt her heart stop in her chest. “Oh…oh, God. Peter.”

“Niamh!” He smiled and hugged her, and she glanced over her shoulder, but the door was shut and – thank God - no one else knew. She took a breath.

“Hello, Peter,” he supplied for her in falsetto. “It’s good to see you, Peter. You’re looking well.” He grinned. “It’s good to see you, too, Niamh.”

“It is good to see you,” she politely said, and then shook her head. “No, no it’s not. Peter, please don’t take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here?”

His smiled faltered, and she could see from the light streaming out of the pub that he seemed confused by her response. “Erm,” he said, “I’m wondering how the right way to take it might be.”

“We didn’t think you were coming back.”

This seemed to surprise him, and he glanced past her and into the pub. “How is she?”

“Devastated. Destroyed. Where have you been?” She hit him square in the chest, hard enough for him to wince. “No phone calls, no letters – does the Vatican not have its own postage stamps? Peter, honestly! What were you thinking?”

“I was forbidden to contact her. Or anyone, really. I’ve only just been released from my vows this morning. Or yesterday – I’m afraid they’re all running together at the seams just now. Where is she? I’ll explain-”

“Have you come back to stay, then? Really?”

“Of course…Niamh? Oh, Niamh, don’t cry.”

She jumped at him, threw her arms around him, but her belly got in the way of a proper hug. “You stupid, stupid man. Tell me that you’ve left the priesthood for her, because if you haven’t, then you turn around right now and walk away. She can’t handle to see you now only to have you-”

“I’m not a priest anymore.”

A whimper escaped Niamh, and for a moment she was stunned into silence. It was the answer she wanted, and still… “Oh.”

“I know. That first realization twinges a bit. Is she just inside?”

“Peter.” She caught his arm as he pulled away from her.

“It’s been so long, Niamh. I want to see her.”

“It’s not so simple as that.” How was she to put into words the last six months? “Peter…”

“It is a party?” he said, gazing through the frosted door windows with a smile.

“Siobhan and Brendan got married today.”

“Did they? Oh, I’m sorry I missed that.”

“Siobhan’s off having the baby just now.”

“That’s wonderful!”

“Yeah. Listen, you can’t just walk in there, you know.”

“I can’t?”

“No.”

“Niamh, I want to see her.”

“She’s…she’s not going to want to see you, Peter.”

“What? Of course she…oh. Oh, God. Niamh, what are you telling me?”

Her mind was a whirl. She had to act fast; get him out of the street where anyone could happen on him and send Assumpta into a fit. “No, not in front of the whole town. Why not go back to my place and I’ll bring her to see you.”

Peter’s expression dropped. “Niamh-”

“She has episodes. Michael says they’re like anxiety attacks, and while they’ve been getting better, the last couple of days have been very stressful. The wedding has taken a bit of doing…”

“Anxiety attacks? Assumpta? And here I thought you were telling me she got married again.”

“She’s remote at the best of times now. I mean, she’s much better than she used to be, but she’s not how you remember her. Assumpta’s…you broke her heart, Peter, and it did something to her. She mourned you, and she’s never recovered.”

Peter shook his head. “But…I’m here.”

“You weren’t.”

“I was always coming back.”

“Did you tell her that? Because I’ve got to be honest with you, none of us thought to ever see you again.”

“But how – you know how I feel about her! She knows how I feel about her! I gave up my vocation for her!”

“All she knows is that you were going to see Father Mac and you never came back.”

“I couldn’t!”

“You can’t just walk in there, Peter. Let me prepare her. Give me some time to-”

“I’m not leaving without seeing her.” He brushed past Niamh, and opened the pub door before Niamh could stop him. Several people gasped, and slowly the room stilled. The music died away. Niamh held her breath as Peter stepped in, and people parted around him. Assumpta stood frozen behind the bar.

“Holy Mother of God,” Liam said, breathless.

Peter didn’t seem to notice. He took another step toward Assumpta, and even with the bar between them she took a step back and bumped into Ambrose, whose eyes were wide as saucers.

“Easy,” he said, catching Assumpta as she faltered a little.

“I’ve missed you,” Peter said, trying again, but Assumpta only stared. “I’m…I’m back.”

There was a long moment when no one in the pub breathed.

“You’re very tan,” she said at last.

“It’s hot in Italy. They’ve a lot of sun.”

“A lot of beaches in Italy, yeah?”

“No…not in the Vatican, and the whole time I was there I wasn’t allowed to leave.”

“Held you hostage, did they?”

“They held my release hostage, yes.”

“In the Vatican? Do you expect I’m impressed?”

“Impress…? Assumpta?” Even from across the room Niamh could see she was shaking. “No. Not impressed. I…I didn’t mean to be gone so long.”

“You should’ve waited at my place,” Niamh grumbled at him under her breath.

Another face caught Peter’s attention, though, and he said a quiet, “Hello, Father Mac.”

“Mr. Clifford.” His expression was guarded, wary, and Peter knew he’d get no further help there.

Peter turned back to Assumpta. “I’m sorry I was gone so long. Terribly sorry. Won’t happen again.”

“Mm,” Assumpta said.

“I’ve come home. For you,” he told her. “I’m not a priest anymore. We can…we can get married now.”

Someone gave a little gasp, and Peter’s jaw clenched. Niamh’s stomach kicked. The tension left her shaking.

“Six months and five days,” Assumpta said slowly in a low, controlled voice.

“I know.”

“I never thought to see you again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I thought you’d changed your mind.”

“Never.”

“I thought you were dead.”

“Assumpta-”

“Because death is the only thing that would’ve kept me from you.” Her voice broke on that last word, and with it, the mask of calm. Her face crumpled, her chin quivered, and she sucked in a deep breath.

“Assumpta, I couldn’t contact-”

She slammed a glass down on the bar to silence him, and it shattered in her hand. Peter took a leap forward to her, but she held up her bleeding palm to stop him.

“You were the one person I trusted, the one person in all the world I allowed myself to believe in, Peter. I let my guard down because I thought I knew the kind of man you are. You said you loved me-“

“I do!”

“You left!”

“Don’t you know? Assumpta, I left so we could be together!”

Her expression turned incredulous and, while she was distracted, Ambrose quickly grabbed her hand and shoved a towel in it. “You went all the way to Italy,” she began with a low, dangerous voice, “on your own – so we could be together? Do you think I’m a complete idiot? No, you went to Rome, to the Vatican, for you! For you! You stayed there for six bleeding months and wallowed in your own self-importance and your own religious gratification – no, Peter, I don’t want to hear it! You can tell yourself anything you want, but you never left for me!”

“But I did! I did it for us!”

“That’s like saying I married Leo for us!”

Peter made a face. “It always comes back to Leo, doesn’t it?” he bit out.

“Go to hell!”

Eamonn gasped and Peter straightened as the strength of her blow hit him. Niamh could tell he hadn’t expected that. She wished she could say the same.

“Assumpta,” Ambrose whispered. “Your hand.”

“It’s good,” she said and jerked her hand away from him. She pressed the towel into her palm and stared angrily at a beer mat on the bar.

“Assumpta…it’s me,” Peter said. “You know me.”

“I don’t,” she told him, not raising her eyes. “I thought I did, but I don’t.”

“You do.”

“No,” she staunchly said, and then shook her head and wiped her cheek with the back of her good hand. “Brian Quigley!” Niamh glanced over and saw her father shrink down in his seat at the bar. “You want the pub? It’s yours. I want out of this Godforsaken town. Hell, I want out of this Godforsaken life. Thanks for coming back, Peter. Now get out!”

Niamh held her hand up to temper her father’s surprise. He wasn’t getting the bar that easily. “Now just you wait,” she told him. He gave her an innocent shrug, one that she was all too familiar with.

“Assumpta, don’t do this,” Peter pleaded.

“Do what? Sell out? You did.”

His expression went grim. He shook his head. “I am sorry. I see now that I’ve hurt you terribly – Assumpta, you must know I never intended to hurt you. Not you. I’m so very sorry-”

“Yeah, well, I don’t want your apology!”

“What do you want?”

“I already told you,” she said. “Go to hell.” She peeked under the towel at her hand, and then grabbed a second towel.

“That’s dirty,” Ambrose objected. Assumpta glared and he cleared his throat, stepped back from her.

Peter’s mouth thinned to nothing more than a line, and his face darkened as tears welled in his eyes. “I came back for you. I love...you.” The words were thick with emotion, and Assumpta closed her eyes against it. “Assumpt...”

She broke down completely then, and fled into the kitchen. A couple of seconds later they heard the back door slam shut.

“She’ll be off to the grotto, so,” Ambrose said.

“She spends a great deal of time up there,” Niamh quietly told Peter.

“It’s too dark,” he said. “She’s hurt. I should go after her.”

Half the room groaned, and Paraig shook his head. “You can’t be serious.”

“You’ll go after her, then?” Peter asked.

“Not me,” Paraig told him. “Not when she’s like this.”

“It doesn’t matter. It should be me,” Peter decided. “I’ve got to fix this.”

Obviously, Peter needed a dose of commonsense. “Give her some time,” Niamh urged. “It was a terrible shock.”

“She’s had six months,” Peter told her. “Six months, and look what it’s cost her. If she’s going to hate me, then she’s going to hate me, but I won’t have her thinking that I’ve abandoned her.”

The phone rang again and startled Niamh. She scowled at its bad timing, and as she made her way over to it, she caught a glimpse of Peter as he pointed a finger at Niamh’s father. “You don’t get the pub. At least until she calms down and she’s thinking more clearly.”

“No worries, Peter. At least on my account.”

“Fitzgerald’s,” Niamh answered. The voice on the other end was happy and laughing. “Oh, my…that’s wonderful, Brendan! Oh, wonderful! Congratulations! Everyone, they had a girl!” The applause was subdued. “Give our love to the new mother and child…and Brendan, when you’re ready for it, we have a bit of news ourselves.” Niamh turned just as Peter was heading out the door. “Erm…Brendan, not now. I’ve gotta run.” She hung up and hurried after Peter.

He stood, hands in pockets, staring up at the stars. As Niamh stepped beside him, he sighed. “Where did it all go wrong?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I had to go, Niamh. The Bishop was going to deny my petition. And if he had, and I left the priesthood anyway, I would’ve been excommunicated. I had to go with him, there and then.”

“But you were gone six months.”

“Will she forgive me, do you think?”

“She loves you.”

“Still?” he said with a hopeful snort. “But, that’s not what I asked.”

“It’s the only answer I have. Assumpta’s…not the same. Are you sure you still want her?”

He gave her an incredulous look, “Are you kidding?”

She sighed, looked out into the night. There was so much to tell him. Too much. “She went to Father Mac over and over to beg for information on you. You’ve no idea what that did to her. She even tried to ring the Vatican.”

“She didn’t.”

“She’s got the phone bills to prove it, I’m afraid. She couldn’t pay the heating bill, but she called Italy. She did everything she could’ve short of getting on a plane to fetch you back, and I think she would’ve done that if she had any cash on hand. The pub’s struggling. Assumpta’s struggling. And for you to return looking right as rain, and with a tan to boot…Peter, I wish you would’ve waited. She could’ve done with a bit of preparing.”

He looked up at the moon, and then something drew his attention. Niamh followed his gaze and saw a figure standing on the bridge looking down at the water. So, she hadn’t made it to the grotto after all. Maybe she wanted to be found.

“Good luck,” Niamh said, and she gave him a supportive pat on the back. “But know, Peter, Assumpta wasn’t the only one upset when you left. You were sorely missed.”

He smiled at her. “Thanks. I missed you, too. I missed this place.” And his eyes fall on Assumpta again.

“Win her, Peter.”

“I will. I have to.”


Assumpta leaned heavily on the stone railing and stared down at the moon reflected in the slowly moving water. Inhale, exhale. Her hand hurt. She pressed her other hand into it, and stared up at the sky. How dare it be a beautiful night? It should’ve been raining. It should’ve been as wretched as she felt.

Peter was in her pub. And what had she done? She’d run. She’d yelled and cursed and run.

A sob spasmed through her, and she dropped her covered her mouth to keep from crying out. Peter was in her pub. Months ago she would’ve given anything for that, but now…she didn’t know. She didn’t want to feel the sense of relief, or the anger that twisted inside her. She didn’t want to want to touch him as much as she had, and she didn’t want to feel the panic; the urge to run, the need to hide. She sucked in a breath and willed the tears away. No, she would not succumb completely to emotion. She would not be reduced to a sniveling pile of-

“Assumpta?”

She turned away from him, her arms wrapped tightly around her middle. He’d followed after her. Why had she not anticipated that?

“Assumpta, please. Let’s talk this through.”

She shook her head, stepped away, but a heavy hand on her shoulder stopped her. He was touching her, he was real. Really there. “Peter.” It was the first time she’d said his name in months, and it shook something inside her. “Please, go away.”

“Assumpta, look at me.”

“Go away, Peter. It’s what you’re good at.”

“No.”

She shrank away from his hand, pressed back against the bridge rail and resolutely kept her eyes on the road while she fisted the towel in her hand, and focused on that pain. “Leave me alone.”

“Never again.”

It was ridiculous, his firm response – so much so that she laughed, and it came out as another aching sob. She hid her face in her hand while the other pressed into her stomach. Her chest felt as if it was clamped in a vice. She wanted to touch him so badly that she hated herself for it.

“You can’t do this to me. Not again. I can’t…” It was little more than a whisper and all she could manage. “It’s not fair.”

“I was always coming back, Assumpta. I thought you knew…I thought you understood how I feel about you. We’re meant to be togeth-”

Stop!” She shook her head. She wouldn’t listen to him, wouldn’t be caught up again. He grabbed her before she was three steps away, his arms tight around her middle. She fought, kicked, turned so she could punch him, and then they were face to face and she saw the tears on his cheeks, the anguish in his eyes.

“We’ll work it through,” he said, though it sounded like he was trying to convince himself. “We’ll be okay.”

She let him hold her, and pressed her head to his chest so she wouldn’t have to look at him. Somehow her arms were already around his neck. He was solid against her, warm, and in a moment of weakness, she breathed him in. “Why did you have to come back? It’s like it’s happening all over again.”

“Like what’s happening? I’m not going...Assumpta? You’re shaking.”

“Please let go of me.” But when he did, she was horrified to find she wanted him back. She reached out for the stone rail again, searching for stability and finding only cold.

“You hate me, then? I don’t believe it.”

Did she hate him? She had told herself that she did, and she had believed it until he stepped through her door and the whole world came to a screeching halt. Did she hate him? Could she? She wanted to.

“I honestly had no idea,” he said. “If I had…Assumpta I’d thought - I’d hoped - that you were missing me as much as I was missing you. I thought about you every day, all day, and all night. I missed you so much that there were times when I could hear your voice in my head as clearly as if you were standing there talking to me. And, I knew that if you were missing me even half as much as I as missing you, it wouldn’t be easy on you. But never once did it occur to me that you’d doubt that I was coming back for you.”

“Six months.”

He nodded. “Is a long time. Yes.”

“A long time? A long time?”

“That day I went to see Father Mac, Bishop Costello was there. He asked if I’d prayed over the decision to leave the priesthood, and I made the mistake of telling him that I couldn’t pray – that I hadn’t prayed in weeks. Of course he felt he had to intervene, for my own good. He said he wouldn’t sign my petition and pass it on to the cardinal unless I went on retreat. Rome was his idea.”

“You didn’t say good-bye.”

“I tried. I called, but it was from a payphone in the toilets at the airport. It was the only time I was out of the bishop’s company until he dropped me off like an orphan at the Vatican. I was forbidden – I know, Assumpta, I know. But it’s the truth. I was forbidden to speak or write or contact anyone. And yes, I was a bit starry-eyed being there. But the whole time all I wanted was to be back here with you. And if I’d known what you were going through – no, I should’ve known. I should’ve found a way.” He stepped closer, and she pressed back against the rail. “I am sorry. Do you believe me?”

But, he wasn’t asking for her belief, he was asking for her forgiveness, and she wasn’t prepared to give that. Ever.

“Do you hate me, Assumpta?”

“No.” It was out of her mouth before she could stop it, and she was surprised by the answer. A fresh stream of tears rolled down her face. “I should.”

Peter turned and looked back toward the pub, and Assumpta was able to glance at him. His eyes, his mouth…God, she’d missed him so much. He was wincing, thinking, trying to find the words that would make her forget all the pain that the last six months had cost her. But there were no words; she knew it and he would soon.

“I think…” she said quietly, cautiously as she looked back out over the river. “I think I could forgive you. In time. But I don’t think I’ll ever trust you again. That’s gone.”

“Brutally honest to the bitter end, eh?” He smiled, and it transformed his whole face by moonlight into something that tugged at her heart. “There’s the Assumpta that I know and love.”

“I can’t believe you’re standing there.”

“I can’t believe you’re standing there,” he said, “and not over here, in my arms.”

“Don’t do this to me,” she cried, and he held up his hands in helpless surrender.

“Do what? I’m not doing anything.”

“Don’t make me want you.”

“You want me?” A lopsided grin lifted his face, and it tugged unmercifully at her.

“Stop it.”

“I know that you’re angry. And, what’s more, I understand it. But, Assumpta, can’t you be angry at me and glad to see me, too?”

“No,” she insisted, but the absurd turn in their conversation struck her as funny, and she fought the smile and the giddiness that came with it. And then she fought down the panic that followed. More tears blurred her vision, and she shook her head but the emotions wouldn’t recede.

“Assumpta?”

She couldn’t answer; her voice was buried under the onslaught of fear and grief. She would not love him again. She would not.

“No? No what?” he asked, clearly confused that she continued to shake her head. “Are you breathing? Assumpta, breathe!”

She gasped, and a strangled cry erupted, and in the next moment he was there with his arms around her, his warmth against her cheek, his softly whispered words in her ear. He held her as she wept and everything inside her poured out. He brushed the hair from her face, and told her that it was all right, that he was there and everything would be fine now, and then he said her name over and over while he slowly rocked.

It took a small eternity, but when pressure in her chest eased a bit, and the tears stopped, he gently lifted her chin and she looked into his eyes – his intelligent, gentle, loving eyes. He looked tired, worried, upset. He smiled for her. Her heart clenched just as it had always done, as if he hadn’t been gone half a year, as if it hadn’t been broken to bits at all.

“Damn you,” she muttered, and pushed him away. “I’m not done being angry with you yet. Don’t make this all right. It’s not all right. You can’t just sweep in here and make everything all right.”

“Then I suspect a kiss is out of the question.” He suppressed a grin when he said it. He had to know what he was doing to her, because he gave an exaggerated sigh. “Well, then. Shall I walk you back to the pub, then? There is a party – oh! And Siobhan had the baby. She’s a girl.”

The pub. The party. There were too many people there, and she didn’t want their eyes on her.

“We could just walk,” Peter suggested. “If it’s not too cool for you.”

We. Why did that one word bother her so much?

“Or…I…” He faltered, shuffled his feet like a nervous boy, and Assumpta nearly went out of her skin. She grabbed his head, pulled it down and planted a hard kiss on his mouth. It took half a second for Peter to respond, and then his arms went around her and his mouth moved easily against hers. One kiss became two, became three, and she arched closer to him, wove her fingers through his hair. Emotion flooded again, but she didn’t care anymore. She kissed him until the anger in her turned tender, her mouth felt swollen, and they were both gasping.

“Wow,” he breathed.

“Yeah.”

“I love you.”

Assumpta stepped away, wiped the moisture from her mouth. “Tell me you’re back to stay.”

“I’m back to stay.”

“Promise you won’t leave me again.”

“I promise.”

“Tell me you’re not a priest.”

“I’m not a priest anymore.”

The moon was bright enough to glitter on the river.

“I don’t forgive you yet,” she told him.

“I can live with that.”

“I dated Enda Sullivan while you were gone.”

“I…what?”

“I’d rather you didn’t find out from Kathleen or…they think we slept together, but we didn’t. We almost did. We could have. He was more than willing, and I…”

He stared into her eyes, his face having gone sickly and stern. “You’re testing me.”

“It’s true, though.”

“Assumpta, I’m not leaving.”

“And…and if I’d slept with him?”

His jaw clenched. “I love you. You’ll have to throw more at me than that to get me to leave.”

“I killed a man.”

“Oh, come on! You did not!”

She smirked. “No.” But she had dated Enda, however briefly, and they had almost had sex on his couch, and probably would have if Fergal hadn’t caught them. Or if she hadn’t slipped up and said Peter’s name.

“Let me walk you back to the pub,” he said.

She shook her head. “I’m not ready to face them. Walk with me along the river?”

“Gladly.” They headed out of town, to where the trail through the wood led down to the riverbank. Peter took Assumpta’s hand and tucked it in the crook of his arm.

“Enda never occurred to me,” Peter said after a while. “I never thought you liked him over much.”

“I didn’t.”

She could feel his glance on her, but she didn’t elaborate. She wasn’t entirely certain she understood herself why she’d gone out with Enda. “But if Enda hadn’t occurred to you, then someone else did.”

“Of course. I mean, I knew you’d wait, but as the weeks turned into months I – was concerned – that…well…I was there a month before I was able to find the peace within myself to pray again, and after that I spent a disproportionate part of my day…and some very long nights…praying that you wouldn’t ring Leo.”


“Is that…Mrs. McGarvey?” Alana sounded as surprised as Kevin felt. That was one of the great things about her, they always seemed to experience the same things in the same way.

“Yeah.”

“And, who’s that with her?”

She didn’t recognize Father Peter in the dark, and from the distance of a good three hundred feet, but Kevin did. “Never mind. Let’s just get back to my house and listen to some CDs.”

“Wait.” She grabbed his arm and held it while she stood and watched the two adults on the bridge. Kevin glanced down at her hand. He loved it when she touched him, especially when she didn’t even seem to notice she was doing it.

“That’s not Mr. McGarvey, is it?”

“No.”

“Da said they got a divorce.”

“An annulment,” Kevin corrected.

“It’s mostly the same thing,” Alana said with a shrug. “Do you think she…” Her voice trailed away, and Kevin looked over to see what she was gaping at. Mrs. McGarvey and Father Peter kissing.

“Can’t we go now?”

She didn’t say anything, didn’t move, didn’t even blink, and Kevin yanked his arm a little to get her attention. “Hey. It’s not polite to stare.”

“They don’t know we’re even here.”

“I know.”

She grinned at him. “You’re blushing.”

“Am not.”

“Well, it is a bit embarrassing,” she said sympathetically. “But don’t you think it’s…”

“No.” Even though he did. He thought it was every bit as sexy as he knew she did, and it bothered him. Mrs. McGarvey – Fitzgerald – whatever, she was…well, really old. “Come on.”

“Yeah. Okay.” Alana slipped her hand into his, and squeezed. “I didn’t think it was, either,” she said quietly, self-consciously.

Kevin grinned, and looked at her from the corner of his eye. “You reckon when we’re as ancient as they are, that we’ll kiss like that, too?”

She tried not to smile, and it made him laugh.


There is a magical moment in every day that only parents can truly appreciate. It can occur at any time, but generally it falls just after two in the morning when exhaustion blurs the memories of the day before, and there are hours yet before the day to follow has to be considered; it’s a time when the parent knows with absolute certainty that the child is safe and content and lost to a world of dreams filled with sweeties and toys. It was that moment when Ambrose was most certain of himself and the choices he’d made. He knew that he loved his son, and he loved his wife, and everything was just as it should be.

It was good that everything was as it should be.

Slowly he closed Kieran’s door, and then peaked in at Niamh. She was breathing deeply in her sleep, curled on her side around the mound that would become their second child someday soon. A girl this time, Ambrose hoped, though he told everyone who asked that he didn’t care as long as it was healthy. And, he didn’t care much, but a girl would be nice; then they’d have the set.

The party was a bit much for Niamh, and it had taken next to nothing for Ambrose to send her home early. He would talk to her about taking it easy over breakfast, and perhaps, now that Peter was back…no, he dared not hope on that account. Peter’s reception had been better than Ambrose might’ve expected – Assumpta hadn’t killed him with her bare hands, for instance – but it had been fairly clear to everyone in the pub that Peter’s return wouldn’t be enough to fix what had been broken. And, quite frankly, Ambrose was stunned that Peter had turned up at all – and as a layman to boot. Well, that wasn’t as it should be.

Leaving the bedroom door open so Niamh could hear the baby if need be, Ambrose stepped quietly down the stairs, collected his jacket, and slipped out the door. It was a dry, crisp night, and at that hour no one was about. The reception had died down at about an hour before, and Ambrose had locked up after the last stragglers had stumbled out into the night. He’d driven two friends home, and then checked on his own family. And now, Ambrose had a pub to put back together before he could find his own bed because he didn’t want Niamh to have to do it in the morning. And after Assumpta’s shock, he doubted she’d even think to open the pub again for days. In fact, he thought, once he tidied the bar, he should drive ‘round to the grotto and collect Assumpta, too. No sense letting her sleep there again, it only made her more difficult to deal with afterward.

He opened the door, and left it wide to air the place out a bit, and then began collecting glasses and stacking them on the bar. He had a system worked out, and could have the place back to normal in about an hour most nights, but as he glanced around he thought perhaps two was more realistic.

And then he heard footsteps. He turned as Assumpta walked through the door with Peter just behind her. They looked…surprised to see him, actually.

“Hello,” Ambrose said, tentatively. He wasn’t certain what to expect, though Assumpta looked right enough. Peter smiled.

“Go home, Ambrose,” Assumpta said as she picked up where he’d left off, collecting plates and glasses. “Thanks for covering for me.”

“No problem,” he said. “Niamh was exhausted, but I can help with the washing up.”

“Go,” Peter said with a reassuring nod. “I’m here now. I’ll help.”

“But…” Ambrose wasn’t sure just what to make of that. He looked from Peter to Assumpta, who didn’t seem in the least disturbed or upset by Peter’s apparent declaration. Had it been a declaration? “I don’t mind helping.”

Assumpta shrugged. “We can manage.”

They were already busy, and neither seemed overly concerned about the pub or where Peter was going to sleep. At Fitzgerald’s presumably, though Ambrose briefly wondered if he should offer Peter a couch for propriety’s sake. Peter was still a Catholic, wasn’t he? Surely he wouldn’t be staying with Assumpta in her flat. But then, he remembered that it had been Peter who’d told him that he should move in with Niamh before they got married to try out the roles of husband and wife – with one minor exception.

“I’ll just be leaving then,” Ambrose said, jabbing a thumb in the direction of the door.

“Night,” Peter said with a smile. Assumpta nodded, yawned and covered it with the back of her hand, and then collected an armful of glasses and disappeared into the kitchen.

Ambrose took the opportunity to step closer to Peter. “Everything all right, then?”

“No,” Peter told him, “but it will be.”

“I’ve got a spare couch-”

“Thank you, Ambrose, but I’ve got a place to stay.” He wore a cryptic smile when he said it, and Ambrose tried very hard not to decipher it. The less he knew about it the better.

“Right, then. Well, goodnight.”

“Goodnight.

“Oh, and Peter…it’s good to have you back.”

“Good to be had.”

Ambrose left then, and slipped into bed next to his sleeping wife, kissed her shoulder, and then sighed. He was tired, yes, but he felt good, too.


The door shut, and Peter looked up from the bar just as Assumpta walked in from the kitchen, and their gazes locked. Strolling out in the night, hand in hand, he hadn’t been able to really read her expression, but inside the pub there was no mistaking the worry and apprehension. It hadn’t been the homecoming he’d expected. So very little with Assumpta was ever as he expected it to be.

“You looked knackered,” he told her. “I can take care of this. Go on up and get some sleep.”

“You’re going to tidy the pub?” she asked with a raised brow. “You look knackered, too.”

He was running on fumes. How many hours had he been awake now? A flight from Rome to Paris, waiting in Paris, and then another flight to London where there was more waiting before catching a plane to Dublin. And then there was more waiting for the bus down to BallyK.

“I really want to kiss you now,” Assumpta said, wearing the same troubled expression. But all Peter heard was “want” and “kiss” and in his head that meant she forgave him.

“Oh, thank God.”

“And I want to hit you,” she added. Peter’s joy fizzled. “I want to send you packing, and I want to throw you on the floor and have my way with you.”

An interesting image formed in his mind, and Peter swallowed. He wasn’t yet comfortable with the casual idea of sex, even though there was a significant part of him that wanted to do the same to her. Years of self-conditioning were hard to ignore, and being relieved of his vows didn’t stop the old defense mechanisms from falling into place. In the past, he would’ve stepped back, smiled, and said something about different kinds of love and different kinds of families. It was what he’d said to Jenny…but this wasn’t Jenny who was looking at him so broken, so fragile. Assumpta was so much more.

“Peter…” She shook her head, ran a hand through her hair. She looked exhausted. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Anything you want.” He looked down at the bar to gather a breath, and then met her eyes again. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” When she didn’t immediately respond he added, “Well, not now. You’re a bit of a mess now. But even now you’re gorgeous.”

“I can’t believe you’re here,” she said quietly. “I keep thinking that when I look away you’ll have evaporated and I’ll find out it was all a delusion.”

“I’m really here, Assumpta.”

She smirked. “All my delusions say that.”

“Let’s go to bed.”

Her eyes rounded, and her jaw dropped as she tried to form a response, and he was certain that if she’d had any color in her face, it would’ve drained away.

“To sleep,” he added. “There’s nothing here that won’t keep until the morning.”

Slowly she looked around, as if searching for some sort of answer. She chewed her lip, sighed. And then, she looked at Peter with an intensity that stole his breath.

“All right,” she said. The two words were heavy between them.

“All right,” he echoed.

All right.


Niamh spent the first hour of her morning kneeling in the bathroom, hating life and cursing Ambrose Eagan for ever touching her. She spent the second hour devouring everything edible in the house. Once Ambrose’s mother arrived to tend to Kieran, Niamh made her way to the pub and instantly regretted it. She should’ve just gone back to bed after the first hour, she decided, glaring at the devastation that surrounded her in the bar. For the thousandth time she wondered just what she’d gotten herself into.

And then she remembered Peter.

The place was quiet and still – Assumpta hadn’t made it down yet. Visions of her friend neck deep in a bottle of Jamison came to mind, and Niamh hurried up the stairs to the back door of Assumpta’s flat. She banged her fist on the door – hard enough to break through a drunken haze, she hoped.

“Assumpta! Are you in there? Assumpta, wake up! I’ve got my key, Assumpta, I’m coming-”

“Niamh?” A familiar man’s voice.

She turned to see Peter standing down the corridor in one of the guest room doors, wearing boxers and a jumper. He seemed to realize belatedly his state of undress, rolled his eyes, and closed the door. Niamh heard voices – as in Peter’s and a woman’s.

“Oh, my God,” she gasped, and a hand shot to her mouth. Peter and Assumpta in the same room. It was a good thing, she knew, but it came as something of a shock. He’d only just arrived back, and Assumpta…well, it was something of a shock.

Niamh turned and made it halfway down the stairs before Peter called her name again. When she glanced back, he was wearing a pair of jeans.

“Is everything all right?” he asked.

She nodded.

“You sounded upset.”

She shook her head, and looked down the stairs. She could feel the color creeping into her face. “I’m just going to tidy up the bar.”

“No, I’ll do it. Me and Assumpta. It was just a late night, is all. We overslept.”

And the heat in Niamh’s cheeks bloomed. “I bet you did.”

“Sorry?” He seemed confused.

She glanced back at the guestroom, but Assumpta hadn’t emerged. She stepped closer to Peter and whisper, “You’ll be careful with her, won’t you?”

He lowered his voice down to Niamh’s level. “Careful with…Assumpta, you mean? Of course.”

“Of course,” Niamh said. Of course he would.

“Niamh, are you okay? Do you need to sit down?”

“No,” she said before she felt it. A queasy dizziness swept over her, and her vision tunneled down to pinpricks. She couldn’t catch her breath, couldn’t catch her balance, and the next thing she knew there were hands on her, and someone shouting, and she was being lifted. And then she was lying on something, and someone was calling her name from a long, long way off.

“…the doctor?”

“He’s on his way.”

“And Ambrose?”

“His mother’s looking for him.”

Niamh blinked and the room came into focus – Assumpta’s room. Peter leaned over her, with a worried smile. He was touching her forehead, smoothing the hair back from her face, and Assumpta was just over his shoulder holding a glass of water, wearing a t-shirt five sizes too big for her, and pajama trousers. She looked like she just woke up.

“Easy,” Peter said, and he gently pressed her back down on to the bed. “Let’s just wait for Michael to arrive.”

“I’m all right,” Niamh insisted, and she felt down to the baby. It gave a reassuring kick to her palm. “We’re all right.”

“Assumpta?” Michael called from the front door.

“We’re up here. She’s better now.”

Peter got up so the doctor could see her, and when Michael looked in the room he gave Niamh a knowing look. “You didn’t take it easy, did you? I warned you.” He kneeled beside her and took her wrist in his cold hands, and she watched as he found her pulse. He looked at his watch. “You take on too much, Niamh.”

“I know, I know.” Her blood pressure was an issue, just as it had been with her last pregnancy. “I got seven hours of sleep last night.”

“You were up most of the night working the party,” the doctor said. “I was there, remember? You should be resting today. Niamh we’ve talked about this.” He pulled out a blood pressure cuff from his bag, and glanced at Peter and Assumpta over his shoulder.

“I’m going to examine her now,” he said.

“Right.” Assumpta followed Peter into the living room, just as Ambrose came bounding up the stair. “She’s all right,” Assumpta said in preemptive assurance. Dr. Ryan is in with her now.”

“She fainted, didn’t she?” Ambrose asked, and then when Peter nodded, he turned and whimpered, “God.” Then he pointed a finger at Assumpta. “I don’t want her working for you anymore. At least not until the baby comes…no, and not after either. She needs rest, not your bedlam.”

“Easy,” Peter cautioned.

Assumpta was stunned. “Bedlam?” Was that how he saw her? Was that how they all thought of her? As mad? She might’ve dismissed it, but Ambrose’s lingering accusatory gaze drove the word home.

Michael came in from the bedroom and closed the door behind himself. “She does need rest,” he said. “And she needs a bit of pampering. I want her off her feet as much as possible. There’s to be no cooking or cleaning or market visits in her future until that baby is delivered.”

“Of course,” Peter said. “We’ll do whatever is necessary.”

“We?” Ambrose challenged.

“Well, yes. We all care about Niamh-”

“I can take care of my wife,” Ambrose insisted. “You take care of your…” He looked pointedly at Assumpta.

“Take care of?” she asked, outraged. “Niamh is my friend, and I will-”

“You will not!” Ambrose practically shouted.

“But surly you’ll need help,” Peter said.

But Peter was missing the point. “You blame me for this?” Assumpta asked, though she knew the answer.

“She might’ve lost our child today!”

“Now, now,” Michael said, “we’re getting worked up over nothing. Ambrose, go see to your wife. I don’t want her moving for another hour or so, until her pressure comes down some.”

Ambrose glared at Assumpta, and then disappeared into the bedroom.

“She is going to be all right?” Peter asked the doctor.

Michael nodded. “Yes, I think so. But this blood pressure thing she’s got, it’s deadly stuff. I’m serious when I say she needs rest. Ambrose wasn’t far off. Today might well have ended differently. She really can’t tolerate stress this late in her pregnancy.”

“I do not make stress!” Assumpta told him.

He raised his brows, cocked his head to the side and considered Assumpta. “And, how are you feeling?”

She closed her eyes. The last thing she needed was Michael breathing down her neck again. “No more tablets,” she said, padding into the kitchen. Electric kettle, water, cup, tea.

“We should talk,” Michael said, and then he glanced at Peter. “But when it’s more convenient.”

“Mm,” Asssumpta said.

Michael let himself out, and Peter wandered into the small kitchen and leaned against the worktop.

“Tea?” Assumpta asked.

“Please.”

She pulled another cup down from the shelf. He was watching her, and she wished he wouldn’t. She was tired.

“Niamh’s spell wasn’t your fault.”

“I know that,” she snapped. But it was. Ambrose was right. Niamh had been a good friend, and it might’ve cost her her baby. “I should’ve sent her home.”

“Assumpta,” Peter admonished.

“Not last night. I mean, when she first started…it won’t have helped. In the end, everything that she and Ambrose have done…I’ll lose the pub anyway. I should’ve sold it years-” And then she remembered. “Oh, God! I sold the pub to Quigley.”

“No. He knows you were just upset. He won’t hold you to it.”

And there was the Peter she knew, forever trusting and naive. Of course Brian would hold her to it, not that it mattered. “The pub is sinking. I’m thousands of quid in debt now.”

“We’ll figure something out.”

And there was that “we” again. “So, you think things will get better when my ex-priest boyfriend moves in? Now there will be two of us to hate instead of one.”

“I could stay with Paraig, if you like. If me staying here is too close for comfort. I’m sure he’d lend me a couch until I can find something more permanent.”

And again, Peter missed it. “You need to find a job,” she said. “I can’t support us. I can’t even support me.”

“Come here.” He opened his arms to her, and she wanted so badly to walk into them. No, that way lies madness, she told herself. She’d spent half the night in his arms, lying there while her body hummed alive, and her heart rebelled against her protesting mind. They’d not even kissed, did nothing more than sleep, and still Assumpta felt as if she’d betrayed every moment she’d suffered while he was gone. She’d been afraid, though, to let him out of her sight; afraid he’d evaporate like a dream.

He frowned when she turned away from him and leaned on the worktop beside him. “Assumpta, you were the one who told me that when two people are meant to be together there’s no force on this earth that can keep them apart. Remember that? You told me that you can delay the inevitable, but if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

“Are we meant to be, then?”

“Aren’t we?”

She used to think so.

“Assumpta, I know you’re angry. I know I’ve hurt you. But…don’t you love me anymore?”

Only Peter would ask like that, like a little boy searching for a hug. “It’s not as simple as that.”

“Simple as love? Love is the hardest, most complicated, most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Assumpta smirked. “Wait until you try sex,” she deadpanned.

“I’m serious.”

“Yeah, I know.” She took a breath, and the kettle began to whistle. She took the excuse to not think for a moment, and just pour their water.

“Of course I’ll find work,” Peter said once she handed him his cup. “So don’t worry about that. I’ll get three jobs if that what it’ll take to get Fitzgerald’s back on its feet again. But as long as we love each other, everything else will work itself out.”

“I don’t want you to get three jobs. I don’t want you to take care of me, or my pub.”

“But I want to help. And, after we’re married-”

“Married! Peter, I’m not going to marry you.” She shook her head and walked past him into the living room. Out the window, the morning looked like rain.

“But…” He followed her. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“You think I’m going to leave again, don’t you?”

“I’m too tired to row with you, Peter.”

“I’m not leaving, and I’m not going to let you push me away. I belong with you, Assumpta. It’s why I’ve done this – why we’ve both given up so much.”

“What? To get married?”

“Why did you get your marriage annulled if not to marry me?”

“Well, to be fair, I’m not going to marry anyone.”

“You’re not taking this seriously.”

“Look, I was married once and I didn’t much care for it.”

“You married the wrong man.”

“I rather think he married the wrong woman.”

Peter shook his head. “This isn’t a laugh, Assumpta.”

“No, it’s not. And you can’t just walk in here after half a year and expect me to play dutiful wife! I thought I made that very clear last night.”

“No one expects that,” he grumbled.

Ambrose stepped out of the bedroom, sized up Peter and Assumpta, and then gave them both a curt nod before he headed down to the front door.

“I’m going to see to Niamh now,” Assumpta said as she headed to the bedroom.

“We’re not done here.”

“Yeah? Well, we will be,” she muttered. “You’ll see.”

Series 5, Episode 2

“Of Marriage and Mortal Sin”

Niamh sat up in bed – well, as close to sitting as she could get with a mound of baby dictating which of her parts would and wouldn’t bend any longer. Her back, it seemed was perpetually curved around her hard belly, and perpetually aching from never quite returning to its naturally straightness. Assumpta, slim and bendable, sat beside her, cross-legged, and glowering. And, Niamh was trying to decide if her friend was serious, or just being dramatic.

“You’re not going to marry him,” Niamh said, just to be sure Assumpta had heard it aloud. It sounded ridiculous aloud. “Ever?”

Assumpta scowled down at the tea she had propped on one knee, as if her reflection angered her. “He assumes too much.”

“Well, I’ve got to say I made that same assumption as well. Didn’t you tell me you were excited about marrying him?”

“That was months ago. A lifetime ago. And anyway, he never actually proposed. He just said it as if it were on his grocery list. And then he talked about mortal sin, as if that was going to sway me.”

“You’re waiting for a proposal, then?”

“I don’t want to get married, Niamh. Why is that so difficult to understand?”

“Don’t you want to spend the rest of your life with him?”

“I don’t have to marry him to do that.”

“Don’t you want to have sex with him?”

“What makes you think we haven’t?”

Niamh’s shock quickly melted into delight. Finally they were getting somewhere. “Have you? Did you? Is that what that was – what I saw last week? You coming out of a guest room? Was it wonderful? I bet he’s a careful lover. He’s a very gentle man. He’s good with-”

“Why does that prospect delight you?” Assumpta snapped. "I didn't say we had slept together."

“Oh. Then it’s just a prospect?”

Assumpta rolled her eyes. “You’re on his side. You want me to marry him. You think everyone should get married. Have babies.” Her eyes landed on Niamh’s middle.

“I just want you to be happy,” Niamh said.

“Do I look – do I look even remotely happy?”

“No,” Niamh said with a smile. “But you look as animated as I’ve seen you in months. You look alive.”

Assumpta huffed and glared back down at her tea again.

“He’s got you thinking again. He’s got you reacting.”

“He’s got me doubting.”

“Doubting? Doubting what? Him?”

Assumpta shook her head. “No, never mind. I’m going to make some fresh tea. Want some?” She was out the door before Niamh had a chance to answer.


Paraig looked out from under the bonnet of the car when he heard the garage door open and close again. Peter smiled when he saw him, and gave a small nod of hello.

“Well, well,” Paraig greeted with a smile of his own. “The prodigal son and all that. Welcome home, Peter.”

“Thank you.”

“You are staying, I take it? She didn’t manage to put you off, did she? There's a pool going around, but my money is on you.”

Peter gave a sad snort of amusement, shook his head. “I’m looking for a place to stay, though, and I was hoping I might kip on your couch for a night or two.”

Might as well kiss that fiver good-bye, Paraig thought. “Of course. My couch is your couch. Stay as long as you like. I’ll do you one better, though. Brendan’s looking to find someone to take his cottage, now that he’s no longer playing at house. I’m sure he’d let it month to month if that would suit.”

“It would. I’ll ask him, thanks,” Peter said quickly, awkwardly.

“Things that bad, eh?”

“I tried to do the right thing, but instead I’ve made a mess of it all.”

Paraig nodded. “You look like a man who could do with a spot of tea. Come on, I’ll make you a sandwich.”

“Oh…” Peter shrugged. “I don’t want to put you out.”

“It’s no trouble. I could do with a bite myself.”


When Assumpta didn’t return, Niamh ventured down the two flights of stairs and found her sitting at her kitchen table, a cup of steaming tea in front of her, staring off at nothing. Niamh sat next to her, and when Assumpta didn’t move, Niamh took a sip of her tea.

“I thought you of all people would understand,” Assumpta said, though she still didn’t look at her.

“I do understand. I think. Well, as far as I can, I suppose. But I can’t help but think that if he loves you, which is painfully obvious, and you still love him, which I know you do – so don’t bother to deny it -”

“I don’t deny it.”

“Then why not marry him? You two will end up married anyway, won’t you?”

“No!”

“Oh, really? You’re going to be sixty with your ex-priest boyfriend?”

“Come on, Niamh. He’ll be long gone by then.”

Niamh cocked her head to one side. Maybe she was starting to understand after all. “You really believe that, don’t you? That he’s going to leave again.”

“It’s what he does.”

“Assumpta.”

“What? He left someplace to come to BallyK, didn’t he? And that pretty English girl followed him all the way here to get him back.”

“We don’t know that.”

“I know that.”

“You don’t.”

“Well, what we do know of him only goes back four years. How many other brokenhearted lasses has he left behind? I could be one of dozens.”

“Dozens?”

“Hundreds.”

“We’re still talking about Peter, right? Peter Clifford? The man who stood in front of the Pope and declared his undying love for you.”

“He did not.”

Niamh shrugged. “You’re forgetting the most important thing."

“Which is? And if you say love, I’ll punch you.”

“Peter’s not in Rome, Assumpta, and he’s not in England. He’s here. And there was a time not too long ago that you would’ve sold your soul to have him back.”

“I’d say I have.”

“You don’t mean that.” And then Niamh wondered if she did. “Assumpta…you’re not going to break it off with him, are you? He gave up the priesthood for you.”

“So? What? I owe him now?”

“You got your marriage annulled for him. And Leo was a perfectly good-”

“Yes, Niamh! I’m aware of what Leo was!” She bounded up from the chair, and bolted from the room.


Paraig shook his head and whistled.

“Yeah,” Peter said, elbows on the table, sandwich halfway to his mouth, forgotten to the story he'd told. “I know. I can’t believe it either.”

“Oh, I can believe it,” Paraig said. “It is, after all, Assumpta. I just wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.”

“You can believe she won't marry me?”

“Oh, yeah. And I can’t say as I’d be any different, if I’d had the time of it that she’s had. I’ve never seen anyone crack up like that – and my wife left me, so I have some empathy for her, there. Peter, you may have known that you’d be back, but she certainly didn’t.”

“I know, I know.”

“It’s difficult to recover from something like that, you know?”

“But she will, won’t she? I won’t let her go.”

Not knowing what to say, Paraig shrugged and took another bite of his sandwich.

“She’s going to punish me for the rest of my life, isn’t she?” Peter moaned.

“Well…it is Assumpta, after all.”


The confessional was dim and cool, and Peter kneeled and genuflected just as he’d done countless times before. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a week since my last confession.”

There was a shifting in the shadows, and then the sound of a throat clearing. “What do you wish to confess?”

Everything and nothing.

“Sixth commandment mostly. I’ve willingly engaged in impure thoughts, and I willingly placed myself in occasions of impropriety, and…” But it was more than lust that he needed forgiveness. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then took a deep breath. “Father, I worry that my pride has hurt her.”

“In what way?”

“I didn’t consider how deeply my actions would affect her. I thought that my love, my sacrifice, would be enough to garner her forgiveness. I thought my tresspass was minor. Noble, even. Selfless.”

“But now you don’t think so?”

“No. I think that any value I place on myself is dwarfed by the mark I’ve left on her soul. She’s changed, Father, and it’s my fault. I’ve hurt her deeply. Unintentionally, of course, but I’ve hurt her nonetheless. And I see now that I wasn't noble or selfless.”

“Have your feelings toward her changed with these revelations?”

“No. Not even remotely.”

“Have hers changed for you?”

“She says no, and I believe her. But she’s fearful. I’ve lost her trust.”

“She’s been hurt before.”

“I believe so, yes.”

“By other men in her life.”

“She’s not said, but I believe that to be true.”

“What do you intend to do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know that there’s anything I can do, except continue to tell her of my dedication, and hope that will somehow make the difference.”

“You mentioned….impure thoughts and ‘occasions of impropriety.’”

“Yes, Father.”

“But not fornication.”

“No, Father.”

“Mm. You know, sometimes actions speak louder than words.”

“Father?”

“I cannot advise you to have pre-marital sex, but an act such as that would, hypothetically, go a lot farther in proving your continued dedication.”

“What?”

“Talk is cheap, Peter. She has to know that you’re in for a pound on this.”

“By me undertaking a mortal sin.”

“You’re playing by different rules now. Mortal sin is mortal sin, but you’re not a priest anymore, and everything can be forgiven.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Peter teased, and Father Mac gave a quiet chuckle.

“You’ve had a bad influence on me, I’m afraid. Look, she’s not just going to come round, I think we both know that. There’s a reason why she hates the Church so vehemently, Peter, but I’m not at liberty to discuss it with you, and anyway, it should come from her.”

“She’s a complicated woman.”

“She always has been,” Father Mac agreed. “I’d say…follow your own conscience, but then, you always have You'll know what to do."

“Thank you, Father.”

“I forgive you in the name of the Father, the Son…”


FADE IN.

The inside of Fitzgerald’s, mid-afternoon. KEVIN sit bored behind the bar, playing swords with a couple of straws. The rest of the place is completely empty. His father pokes his head in the door.

PARAIG
You’re here? I thought you were
studying with Alana.

KEVIN
I was. But Mrs. Eagan called. It seems
herself isn’t quite up to it today, and
I didn’t want Mrs. Eagan to have to get
out of bed if she didn’t have to.

PARAIG
Good man. But you’re sure you don’t
need to study?

KEVIN
(shrugs)
I know it all.

PARAIG
Right, then. I’ll have a burger, chips and
a pint.

KEVIN
How’s a sandwich, crisps and a pint?

PARAIG
(grinning)
Not cooking?

KEVIN
Not if I can help it.

PARAIG
Sandwich, it is.

The door opens, and FATHER CHRIS walks in. He’s wearing his uniform, and looks about.

FATHER CHRIS
Opened or closed?

PARAIG
I’ve been promised a sandwich and
crisps.

FATHER CHRIS
(sitting at the bar)
I could do with one of those.

The door opens again, and this time it’s EAMONN poking his head in, looking about anxiously.

EAMONN
Is it safe?

PARAIG
Kevin’s serving today.

Eamonn nods, and then takes a seat between Father Chris and Paraig.

EAMONN
I heard the priest is back.
(glancing at Father Chris)
The other priest.

FATHER CHRIS
He’s not a priest anymore.

EAMONN
Really? They let him go? They really do that?

FATHER CHRIS
(dryly)
So it would seem.

EAMONN
(to himself)
I thought it was a myth!

BRENDAN and SIOBHAN walk in, Brendan carrying a baby’s car seat. Everyone calls hello and offers congratulations, that they both accept. Siobhan looks very happy, and Brendan looks exhausted. They settle at the bar next to Paraig.

SIOBHAN
A couple of orange juices, Kevin.

Kevin nods, and fills the orders.

PARAIG
(looking at the baby)
Wow. There’s no denying paternity, is there?

PETER comes in, and there’s a more subdued, but still warm greeting for him. He smiles, but looks distracted as he takes a seat at the bar.

PETER
(to Kevin)
How are things?

KEVIN
Just so. Can I get you a pint?

PETER
Coffee, thanks.

PARAIG
(to Brendan)
So, what’s she called?

BRENDAN
Aisling. After my mother.

SIOBHAN
(stiffly)
She’ll be christened Caoimhe.

BRENDAN
(tired and irritated)
We haven’t decided on that.

SIOBHAN
I want my daughter christened.

BRENDAN
She’s our daughter.

PETER
All right, you two. There’s still plenty
of time to decide what you want to do.

FATHER CHRIS
Decide? Of course the child will be
christened!

BRENDAN
The Church doesn’t get a vote!

FATHER CHRIS
Vote? There’s no voting! It’s your parental responsibility
to protect that child’s immortal soul!

BRENDAN
We have the freedom to practice or not
in Ireland. Or have you forgotten?

FATHER CHRIS
You’d condemn your own child to purgatory?
What kind of a father are you?.

PETER
All right, now. Easy.

SIOBHAN
He’s a brilliant father!

BRENDAN
(shocked)
What?

SIOBHAN
What? You are!

FATHER CHRIS
The child will be christened next month.
I’ve already got it on the books.

BRENDAN
And just how much is that going to
set me back?

FATHER CHRIS
Would you really put a price on your
innocent baby’s soul?

BRENDAN
I’m sure you would.

SIOBHAN
It’s not about the money. And I
want Aisling christened.

BRENDAN
And I’m not sure!

PETER
There’s still plenty of time to talk
about this rationally, when emotions
aren’t running quite so high.

FATHER CHRIS
When what? Emotions?
(wrinkling his nose)
Well, I can see why you failed as
a priest.

Kevin gasps, and Eamonn’s eyes grow even wider.

KEVIN
I’ll just make the sandwiches.

Kevin disappears into the kitchen.

PETER
I did not fail as a priest. I fell in love.

FATHER CHRIS
That’s what they all say.

PETER
Who are you to judge me?

FATHER CHRIS
'
For I verily, absent in body, but
present in spirit, have judged already,
as though I were present, concerning
him that hath so done this deed.’

PETER
’Judge not according to the appearance,
but judge righteous judgment.’

FATHER CHRIS
’He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith.’

PETER
(with a tight smile)
’Like people, like priest.’ You are my priest,
Father O’Neill, and I could do this all day.

FATHER CHRIS
'And the publican, standing afar off, would not
lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but
smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.’

PETER
’Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in
God, believe also in me.’

FATHER CHRIS
(eyes narrowed)
I do not doubt your sincerity, but you will not
council my parishioners on matters of the Church.

PETER
I was advising friends to put a little distance
from their argument before they make any decisions.

FATHER CHRIS
Oh, I know what you were doing…Peter.

Liam and Donal come in. Liam takes in the tension, and then see that there’s no one behind the bar.

LIAM
(to Peter)
Give us a pint there, Father.

FATHER CHRIS
He’s not a priest anymore, you half-wit!

LIAM
I just want a pint.

PARAIG
I’ll get it. Or…
(nodding to Peter)
You’ve got to start somewhere.

BRENDAN
Yes, go on, Peter. Give us a stout.

PETER
Me? But Assumpta won’t –

Assumpta hurries in from the kitchen with a couple of plates of sandwiches.

ASSUMPTA
But Assumpta won’t what? And whose are these?

She puts the plates down in front of Paraig and Eamonn, and then looks pointedly at Peter.

You’re back, are you?

PETER
As promised.

ASSUMPTA
Mmm.

DONAL
We’re thirsty, Assumpta. Give us a pint.

ASSUMPTA
If I feed you you’ll just expect more. I’ll
never get rid of you.

BRENDAN
So, now you don’t need customers.

ASSUMPTA
I was supposed to be closed. Niamh
phoned Kevin, did she?

Paraig raises his brows, but doesn’t answer her question.

PARAIG
Peter, come make yourself useful.
These people look thirsty.

DONAL
Here, here!

Peter looks to Assumpta, and after a moment she shrugs.

ASSUMPTA
Just you remember whose name is
above that door. Come on.

Peter hurries behind the bar, and Assumpta pulls out a couple of glasses. He pours from one spigot, and she from another. He leans close to her.

PETER
You okay?

ASSUMPTA
We need to talk . Later.

Assumpta hand her pint to Brendan, and Peter hands his to Father Chris, but the bottom of the glass clips the fountain and the beer flies and drenches the priest. For a moment the entire pub goes still.

PETER
There you go, Father. A christening
and only for a quid.

BRENDAN
Some might call that a miracle!

Peter tries to control his laugh, but Assumpta does not. Liam, Donal and Siobhan join her, enjoying the moment of lightness at the priest’s expense. Father Chris stiffly stands.

ASSUMPTA
Come here, Father. Let’s get you
cleaned up.

FATHER CHRIS
Yes. You’d like that, wouldn’t you.
You will not get your claws into me!

For a moment Assumpta is stunned. She exchanges a quizzical look with Peter, and then erupts into laughter again.

SIOBHAN
It was an accident, Father.

PETER
Honestly. I didn’t mean –

FATHER CHRIS
(severely)
Lying is a sin!

PETER
And so is vanity. It was an accident. Come on,
there’s no harm done. Let me pour you
another pint.

FATHER CHRIS
I’ve had quite enough from you.

Father Chris stalks out, and laughter erupts again.

DONAL
I’ll have a pint over here! But if you don’t mind,
Father, I’ll have Assumpta serve it to me.

LIAM
He’s not a Father anymore.

DONAL
I know, but I don’t know what else to call him.

PETER
Call me Peter.

DONAL
(nodding)
That just doesn’t seem right, somehow.

ASSUMPTA
Peter.

PETER
(turning to her)
Yes?

Assumpta grabs Peter by the head and plants a firm but quick kiss on his mouth.

ASSUMPTA
(to Donal)
He doesn’t belong to the Church anymore.
He’s mine. Got it?

Donal nods, too stunned to speak.

His name is Peter.

She turns and looks at Peter, and he is grinning at her.

What?

PETER
There you are. I haven’t seen that
smile in months.

ASSUMPTA
(self-consciously)
What smile?

PETER
That one there.

He slips his arms loosely around her, and she leans against him, tucks her head under his chin.

I worried I’d lost you.

ASSUMPTA
Oh, ye of little faith.

Brandon sees them, and smiles.

FADE OUT.


It was just after nine, and Peter was behind the bar, wiping down the taps while stiffling a yawn when he looked up to see Assumpta locking the pub doors.

“It’s early yet.”

“Everyone who’s likely to turn up tonight has come and gone.” She looked tired to him as she hugged herself and glanced around the empty pub. “I’m going to have to sell.”

“To Brian?”

“He’s the only one offering.”

Peter nodded, and put down his rag. It was her decision, though he worried one she would someday regret. “It’s a lovely night out there. Will you walk with me?”

“Oh, Peter. I’m tired.”

“You said we needed to talk.”

She glanced at him, as if she was about to say something, but then look away, and then snorted to herself. “Have you heard the polar bear joke?”

“Freezing, are you?”

“Not when I’m with you."

He could tell it was more than she intended to admit by the way she hesitated afterwards. “It’s going to be all right, Assumpta. All of it. We’ll figure it out.”

She shook her head. “You’ve given up too much for me. You should’ve stayed in Rome.”

“I don’t want Rome.

“But it’s not that simple, is it?”

“It is now. We’ve both done the hard part.”

Again, she opened her mouth to speak, but then stopped herself, and Peter felt a surge of panic run through him. Earlier, he’d felt that old connection with her, and now he worried she was trying to pull away again.

“Assumpta, what aren’t you telling me. You can tell me anything.”

She sighed. “Oh, Peter.”

“Let me make this easier. If you want to take this slowly, we can do that. If you want to speed things up, I’m okay with that, too. I want to marry you, but I won’t push it, at least not now. I want to help you with the pub, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I’ll step back. Whatever you want, Assumpta, however you want it. But I won’t let you end it with me, and I won’t let you hide from me. I want to share my life with you. I’m not going anywhere.” He stepped to her, touched the side of her face and smiled. “I love you.” He leaned in slowly to give her a chance to step away, but she didn’t. “Let me love you. Let me make you as happy as you make me.”

Slowly their lips touched in a gentle, lingering kiss.

“I can’t…” she whispered. “I can’t marry you.”

“I completely understand,” he whispered back. “But you get to explain to the children why Mummy and Daddy live in separate houses.” He nearly kissed her again, but she jerked back from him.

“Children?”

“It was a joke, Assumpta.”

“And a bad one. You want children.”

“Well, of course. Don’t…you don’t.” She shook her head, and Peter’s heart suddenly grew very heavy. “No, of course you don’t. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? For us both to want the same thing.”

“Does it change everything for you now?” she asked.

“No. But now it makes sense, at least. You don’t want to marry me, or have a family with me. Why did you bother with the annulment at all? You're telling me you just want to be friends, aren't you?”

“If you want to leave-”

“Leave? Have you heard a single word I’ve said?”

“Peter, I won’t hold you to any promises you might’ve made.”

“Well, that’s very good of you. But you’re not going to get rid of me that easily. I love you, and I know you love me. Say it, Assumpta. Tell me you love me.”

Her mouth did open for a moment, but nothing came out. Instead, she closed her eyes, turned away, and headed up the stairs.


"And then what did he say?"

Morning light streamed through the kitchen window as Assumpta stood at the workbench in the pub’s kitchen butchering a large lamb leg while Niamh sat dumbfounded at the table nursing a cup of tea.

“Nothing,” Assumpta said.

“Nothing? You’d just told him that you weren’t going to marry him or have his babies, and he told you he still wasn’t leaving, and that he loved you and that he knew that you loved him. That deserves some kind of response.”

“Oh, yeah? Like what?" she asked.

“Well, how about you love him, for starters.”

“He knows how I feel.”

“Sure. And I know how Ambrose feels, but it’s nice to hear once in a while, you know?”

“I didn’t want to tie him to me, Niamh.”

“And what does that mean?”

“I can't give him what he wants. He should be free to find it somewhere else.”

“So you’d be fine with him marrying some other girl and having children with her?”

Assumpta slammed the meat cleaver on the cutting board and glared at her. Niamh knew every button to push.

“I’m only saying,” Niamh continued, “that what’s done is done. It’s not like it’s you or the priesthood for him. He’s made that choice. And if it’s not to be you, then you're right, it’ll be some other woman who will give him what he-“

“No it won't."

"But if you won't-"

"I slept with him.”

“Yeah, you’ve said.”

“No, Niamh. I slept with him. Last night. He said he wasn’t leaving, and he meant it. He didn't go back to Paraig's last night. He marched up to my flat after me, and we slept together.”

For a moment Niamh sat completely stunned. “What? Just like that?”

“Pretty much.”

“Did he say anything more?”

“Nope.”

“What about afterwards?”

“Nope.”

"Huh." A grin grew across Niamh’s face. “And? How was it?”

Assumpta picked up the cleaver and cut the knuckle from the rest of the leg. It had been wonderful and exciting and over far too quickly to be satisfying. But in that couple of minutes she’d lost her heart to him all over again. Now, she felt the emotion rise - panic and anger - and she tried to cover it with a hand to her face, but a sob escaped before she was able to swallow it down.

Niamh's brows rose. “Oh, God. It was that bad, was it?”

Assumpta shook her head, and turned her back to try to regain control. She'd cried afterwards in bed, too, but had hidden it better in the dark. Loving Peter was painful and confusing. And now that they'd made love, she knew she'd never be free of him, even if he left again. He would haunt her forever, consume her. Destroy her completely.

Niamh stood, and hurried to stand in front of her. She held her at arm’s length while Assumpta quickly wiped tears away. “It’ll be all right,” Niamh told her.

“You don't get it, do you? It’s a mortal sin. Sex before marriage.”

“But you don’t believe in that.”

“He does, Niamh. He committed a mortal sin for me.”

“Isn’t that what you want? What better proof could you have that he’s not leaving?”

Assumpta looked into her eyes as she realized what Niamh was saying. “He’s not leaving.” A spark of hope ignited inside her, and she moaned at the injustice of it. "Don't make this even worse, Niamh."

“Worse? He loves you. And, more than his immortal soul, it seems.”

“He loved me before, too.”

“He chose you, Assumpta. And last night…Assumpta?”

The room was suddenly too small, too thick, to warm, and then her head felt as if it might float up and off her neck. Her heart hammered in her chest, and she reached out, and Niamh grabbed her arms.

“Assumpta, sit down. Quickly. Now breathe. That’s right. I’ll get your tablet.”

“No tablet,” Assumpta said from the chair. She braced herself against the table, and the room once again righted itself. “I just got a little dizzy.”

“I should phone Doc Ryan.”

“I said I’m fine,” Assumpta snapped. Her heart slowed. She took a deep breath.

Niamh sat beside her. “You took your medication last night, didn’t you?”

“Mm,” Assumpta said. “I might’ve forgotten. But really, I’m okay now.”

“Have you eaten?” When Assumpta hesitated, Niamh went to the refrigerator.

“No, no, Niamh. You’re supposed to be off your feet. Ambrose would kill me if he knew you were here at all.”

“Ambrose doesn’t dictate which friends I visit when he’s away working,” Niamh told her. "And, anyway, I want a sandwich, too.” She made a show of pulling out the cheese and ham and lettuce, and then arranging them on a cutting board with bread and butter. "So, then? What are you going to do? You're not going to marry him, or have babies with him, so what's it to be? Are you going to sell the pub? Becasue if you sell it to my father I may never forgive you. He'll have table cloths and wine in here before the deed is even signed."

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

“I love him, Niamh.”

“Peter? Or my father?”

“Mortal sin, Niamh.”

“Yeah. I know.”

Series 5, Episode 3

“Finding Happy”

She stretched as she surfaced back to consciousness and felt the sheets go cold under her feet. Rolling a little, she reached behind herself but the bed was empty. The morning light through the window sheers was still gold, so she didn’t bother to glance at the clock. There was time. Assumpta curled on her side, pulled the blankets tighter around her shoulders. Where had he gone to? She touched her bare breast, tight from the chill. Was he in the loo? Would he slip back into bed and cuddle up behind her? Would he kiss her neck again? Would he want to make love again?

She smiled when she thought about him, and the whole thing made her feel silly, like a schoolgirl again…not that she’d ever felt like this as a school girl. If she had, school would’ve been a very, very different experience.

The smell of something warm and sweet pulled her from her half-sleep reverie. The clock said it was just past seven – far too early for Niamh to be up and about. Michael Ryan would have a thing or two to say if he thought for one moment that Assumpta had put her to work. And so would Ambrose.

She slid out of the bed, shrugged a dressing gown over her bare shoulders, tied it around her middle, and shuffled into slippers. Avoiding the mirror, Assumpta plodded down the stairs, wishing she was still in bed, preferably with a warm body pressed against her.

The warm body in question greeted her when she stepped into the pub's kitchen, and he was wearing a considerably more than when she'd last seen him.

"And there's your auntie Assumpta," Peter said happily to Kieran, who sat on the workbench next to a mixing bowl and was half covered in flour and dough. The little boy looked delighted to see her, prompted by Peter, and he held out his messy hands for Assumpta. She laughed a little at the wonderful silliness, and then smiled at Peter.

"Something smells amazing." There were half a dozen plates lined up on the table, each piled with biscuits. "When did you get up this morning?"

"I went to see Niamh before Ambrose left for work," he told her. "Which is how we ended up with this little lad today. Herself is feeling a bit under the weather and I told her we'd look after him until Brian can fetch him this afternoon."

"We?" Assumpta asked.

"Well…yeah. I've got the church bake sale…though, I suppose I could…" He looked doubtfully down at Kieran.

"No, no," Assumpta said rubbing her head. Peter was right, the last think the bakesale needed was the ex-priest to show up with a toddler and cookies looking contentedly domestic instead of repentant. She just needed some caffeine to deal with the morning. "I can watch him."

"Kieran's a good lad. He won’t be any bother."

"Yeah," Assumpta said. "Coffee?"

"No, thanks."

"No, I'm, asking if you've made any."

"Oh. No."

"How do you function without coffee in the morning?"

Peter shrugged, smiled. "Good nights sleep, I suppose."

"Mmm." Assumpta padded to the coffee pot next to the oven and busied herself with measuring and filling. "What is that I'm smelling now? Not biscuits."

"Soda bread. I've got three loafs in the oven – no! Don't open that!"

Assumpta froze with her hand on the oven door. "I just want to see-"

"You'll see when it's done," Peter told her. "Patience is a virtue."

“So is chastity, but I don’t see us going overboard with that one.”

“Just you wait until they’re done,” Peter said in his reasonable authoritarian voice.

With and exaggerated huff, Assumpta grabbed a rag, wet it in the sink, and then started to wipe Kieran down. He wriggled and screeched in protest.

"Should I check in on Niamh later? How bad was she?"

"You might,” Peter said, “though I think she'll be fine. She was up most of the night sick, and Ambrose said she just needed a bit of rest."

"Her morning sickness hasn't gone away with this one."

"Maybe it's a girl," Peter said happily. "Aren't girls often difficult pregnancies?"

"I was. My mom never let me forget it."

A strange expression fluttered briefly over Peter's face, and then he went back to stirring whatever was in his bowl. "You don't often talk about your mum. Or either of your parents."

"No?" He was fishing, she could tell, but she had no intention of opening up that can of worms. She collected Kieran and put him on her hip, and his weight naturally curled against her. "Well. Now that I've got this lad washed up, I'll take him upstairs while I put the laundry in."

"Assumpta, wait." Peter touched her arm, and pulled her close, and Assumpta’s breath caught as she waited for a kiss. His mouth was slightly open, and his eyes dropped down to her lips. A familiar tingle fluttered at the base of her belly. Kieran giggled and tugged on her robe, and Peter smiled, too.

“Have a biscuit,” he said, nodding to the line of plates without actually taking his eyes off her.

She was still waiting for that kiss. “It’s a bit early for me.”

“Oh, come on. Live a little. It’s noon somewhere.” His eyes dropped back down to her mouth. “Assumpta.”

Her face went hot, and she tried to smile her giddiness away. “You’re a bad influence,” she muttered, as he handed her a heavy biscuit. Kieran reached for it with fat fists and a wide, wet mouth, but Peter happily side-stepped the little boy’s attempt.

“Mine, mine, mine!” Kieran insisted.

“You’ve had yours,” he said lightly. Kieran protested, kicking and squealing, and Assumpta shifted him to the other hip. “He loves sweets.”

“He’s not the only one, it seems. Where did you learn to do all this?”

“Me mum. She was a great baker. Have a bite.”

Assumpta took the biscuit, and while he watched, she slowly bit into it. Sweet, soft, chocolate, rich. Beyond rich. Moist. Gorgeous. “Oh, my God.” She’d never tasted anything so completely decadent in her entire life. “What is this?”

“Chocolate chip.”

“It is not!” She took another bite. “Oh, my God.”

“It’s good then?”

“Oh my God!”

Peter chuckled, and Kieran echoed his delight. “Mine, mine, mine!”

“Have another,” Peter tempted.

She held up the cookie as if it was a dagger. “This is dangerous.”

“I think the spice almond biscuit is even better.” He handed her another, but with Kieran on one side and the chocolate chip on the other, he had to hold it while she took a bite.

“OHM’G’D!” she crooned through a mouthful of pleasure. “What is that?”

“Coconut.”

She groaned, and her eyes rolled shut as she chewed. Savored. Relished. She knew she’d fallen for the right man.

“Don’t worry about the ingredients,” Peter began. “I bought them all, so this won’t be a drain on Fitzgerald’s-”

She grabbed the biscuit from him. “I don’t care.” She leaned to him, stood on her toes, and kissed him long and hard. Sugar and chocolate mixed with excitement in a heady combination. His mouth yielded almost immediately, and he cupped the back of her head closer. It was the toddler complaining that finally broke them apart, and for a moment Assumpta considered sending him back to where he came from.

Peter stared down at her through heavy-lidded eyes. “Do you have any idea what that does to me?”

“I have an idea, yeah.”

“I’m going to be saying Hail Marys for days.”

“He doesn’t really give you Hail Marys for contrition, does he?”

Peter smirked. “Well, not for the things I’ve been confessing lately. That would be tasteless.”

And then something Assumpta hadn’t considered before suddenly occurred to her. “You confess what we do in the bedroom to Father Mac?”

“Well, of course. He’s my confessor. Now that Father Chris won’t hear me. I’ve never known a man of God to hold such a grudge before.”

“But, you tell him? Father Mac? About us?”

Peter’s brows lowered in confusion. “It’s a sin, Assumpta. I have to confess.”

She didn’t like the matter-of-fact way he labeled their lovemaking, or the casual Catholic dogma he applied to it. “What exactly do you tell him?”

“Are you asking how explicit I am? Assumpta, please.” His face soured. “The act of confession is a sacred and holy-”

“And what we do in our bed isn’t?”

“If you would only marry me-”

She turned away from him, and Kieran made another attempt at the biscuits, but she kept them beyond his reach. “You said you wouldn’t push.”

“Yeah, I know.” He shook his head, and went back to the bowl, though he barely made an attempt at mixing. “I’m sorry.”

Assumpta signed. It had been such a lovely morning a moment ago, so wonderfully promising. “Peter, I know. I know what this is costing you.”

“Do you?”

“More than, I think, you know what it’s costing me.”

His lips went even thinner than usual, as he looked into her eyes. “I love you,” he said quietly.

She smiled for him, nodded, and then left him to his baking.


Niamh was curled on her side, but even with the pillows tucked in at odd angles, propping and cradling, she was still uncomfortable. The last three weeks were always the worst, she told herself. But it was poor comfort when her back ached and her stomach felt as if might revolt at any moment. She’d not been able to keep down more than water and broth all morning. She missed warm buttered toast.

The door downstairs closed, and she heard the happy call of her son.

“I’m up here,” Niamh yelled down, and a few moment later Assumpta walked into the bedroom in a dressing gown and boots, with Kieran on her hip. He squealed at Niamh, held out his arms for her, and giggled when he was dumped on the bed beside her. Kieran was such a cuddly boy. One day soon, she knew, he’d outgrow his sweet, gentle nature and no longer want even so much as a peck on the cheek from his old mom.

“My sweet boy.”

“Try this,” Assumpta said, shoving a biscuit in Niamh’s face.

“Ugh! No. I can’t. Get that away from me.”

“What? You’re still sick? Can’t Michael give you something for that?”

“Too close to my due date.”

“But…but I need to know if these are good.”

“You have a tongue.”

“I know. But…maybe I only want them to be the richest, most decadent thing I’ve ever tasted.”

“Those biscuits, there? They look like oatmeal.”

“Yeah, if oatmeal was made with sin!”

“Sin, eh?” Niamh said with a smirk. “They can’t be that good. You’ve got sin on the brain.”

“Maybe I do. I need a second opinion.”

Niamh looked at the biscuit, and then at Assumpta’s excited expression, and she couldn’t say no. “If I’m sick, you’ll clean it up.”

“Sin, Niamh. You can taste the sin.”

Slowly Niamh brought the biscuit to her mouth, and Kieran opened his as he watched her take a bite. Her eyes rolled back, and a languid smile stretched across her face. “Oh, Mary, Jesus and Joseph.”

“So, they are good?”

“Sinful.”

“People will come for the cookies. They may hate me and resent Peter, but they’ll come for the cookies. They’re that good. Niamh, tell me they’re that good.”

Niamh nodded. “Sinful,” she crooned, taking another bite. “I didn’t know Peter had it in him.”

Assumpta smiled and looked away, and Niamh thought she caught a blush creep across her friend’s face.

“And,” Niamh said, letting her squirming son attack the rest of the biscuit. “And now are things between you and Peter.”

“How are things between you and Ambrose?” Assumpta pointedly returned.

For a moment Niamh debated whether to tell her or not. Things had been strained lately. The baby was certainly the majority of the tension between them – Ambrose had been terribly worried ever since Niamh had collapsed – but it had been weeks since he’d touched her, and she knew that had very little to do with the pregnancy and more to do with Peter’s sudden return without the collar. They’d had a few rows over it, and while they hadn’t been major, not by their standards, it had left things on edge between them, and too much left unsaid.

“Niamh? I was…I was just being spiteful. I’m sorry.”

“I know. But…things haven’t been brilliant.”

“Are you and Ambrose having problems?”

“No. Not really. And I’m sure things will be easier once the baby arrives.”

“You think adding another child is going to make things easier between you and Ambrose?”

Niamh smirked. “I think we’ll both be too tired to think about anything more important than nappies and formula.” They both laughed, and it felt good, easy, in a way that things hadn’t been for a while. “Ambrose is the one for me. I know it. This is just a rough patch that we’ll work through. That’s what marriage is about. And Peter is the one for you. There’s no hiding from it, you know.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Well, what? You’ve got another one stashed away, have you? Can you honestly tell me you see anyone but Peter in your life?”

“No.”

“Neither can I. It’s always been him, hasn’t it? Even when it couldn’t be him.”

Assumpta nodded, but she didn’t seem very happy about it. She inhaled deeply. “I’ve got to go. Shall I take Kieran with me?”

“No. Leave him here. And tell Peter I was a dozen of those biscuits. Two dozen. And, preferably before Ambrose gets home. One of those will earn me a kiss or two, wouldn’t you say?”


Paraig and Eamonn sat at the end of the bar, and Assumpta served a late lunch to a couple of tourists at one of the tables. It was a quiet afternoon, which should’ve upset her given her current cash flow problems. But Niamh’s comment had stayed with her through the morning, and Assumpta found herself distracted by the lie she’d told.

Siobhan walked in with a large bag over one shoulder and a baby in a car seat hanging from the other arm. A general greeting followed, and Assumpta smiled and offered her an orange juice.

“None for me,” Siobhan said, “but will you warm a bottle for me? Or better yet, can I use your kitchen? My breasts are aching and I know Ainsling is hungry.”

“Siobhan!” Paraig protested. “Not here!”

“I said in the kitchen,” Siobhan called back to him.

“That’s where my food is prepared!”

“What food?” Assumpta asked pointedly. “Come on Siobhan.”

Assumpta collected a towel and a warm, wet cloth as Siobhan settled herself at the table and pulled the baby out of her carrier. “And how is motherhood?”

“About like I expected. Painful and exhausting.” She unbuttoned her shirt, and exposed one full breast. The nipple was chapped and bruised, and Assumpta couldn’t hide her reaction. “No, it’s all right. The other looks a lot worse.” She accepted the cloth, and cleaned her breast before offering it to her daughter, who started suckling even before the nipple was properly in her mouth. Siobhan sighed, and relaxed.

“That has to hurt.”

“Yeah. But not feeding her hurts more.”

“Niamh never looked like that.”

Siobhan shrugged. “It’s better since I started using the pump. And Michael has given me a cream, but I have to wait four hours after I use it to feed her, so I mostly put it on at night when I know Brendan will give her a bottle.” She smiled down at her daughter, and smoothed a finger over Ainsling’s round cheek.

“I can’t imagine it,” Assumpta said, taking a seat herself.

“It’s only natural,” Siobhan told her. “You’ll see.”

“No.”

Assumpta’s response surprised her, but then Siobhan smiled. “I said that once, too.”

“Peter wants children.”

“I can’t say as I’m surprised to hear that. He’s a way with Ainsling, sure. She’s already wrapped around his little finger. You’d think he was the father instead of that great lump who’s scared to change her nappies.” And then Siobhan smiled again. “No, I shouldn’t say that. Brendan is good with her. He’s good with us both.”

“You’re happy then. You’ve made the right decision.”
“Having the baby, you mean?”

“The baby. The husband. All of it.”

Siobhan glanced at her, studied her, and then looked back down at her daughter. “You’re not so happy,” she said mildly.

“I am. I think. No, I am.”

“But?”

Assumpta sighed. She didn’t particularly want to confide, but her life had become complicated, and she trusted Siobhan not to judge too critically. And, she decided, it wasn’t like she could talk to Peter about it. Or anyone else, for that matter.

“Tea?” she asked, and when Siobhan shook her head no she put the kettle on anyway. At the worktop, sorting bags, she said, “Niamh asked if I could ever see myself with anyone besides Peter.”

“And you told her no, of course.”

“Of course.”

“But that’s not entirely true?”

“Well.” Assumpta pull out two mugs, and then turned and met Siobhan’s eyes. “It is true. To a certain point.”

“And which point would that be?”

“Leo.”

The silence that followed was punctuated by the wet smacks of the baby and the low rumbled of the water heating behind her.

“I see.”

“No, no. I’m not saying this right. It’s not that I want to marry Leo again. Hell, I don’t want to marry anyone. And I don’t love him, not the way I love Peter. But…I miss him.”

“Well, that’s understandable. You two were together for a long while before he went to England.”

“Yeah. But it’s…it’s more than that. I really miss him. I don’t want to make love with him or kiss him or any of that business, but he was my best friend. And, I know Peter’s supposed to be that now, but…” She shook her head, already regretting saying anything at all. “Look, I’m not going to do anything. I’m not going to call him, and I’m certainly not going to betray Peter in any way. I just…there was no real end with Leo. And I care about him.”

“Do you think about him when you make love to Peter.”

“No!”

“But you feel guilty anyway,” Siobhan said. “You do feel like you’re cheating.”

“But I’m not.”

“No, you’re not.” Siobhan smoothed a hand over her baby’s head. “It’s never simple, is it? Have you talked to Peter about this?”

“I can’t.”

“You should.”

“Leo isn’t something we can talk about.”

“If you want him as a friend-”

“He’s also my ex-husband. Peter is tolerant, but no one is that tolerant. And things are still too new.”

Siobhan nodded. “Perhaps you’re right.”

“Yeah?”

“I don’t know. I married my best friend and then fell in love with him. Maybe you’ll become best friends with the man you love.”

“And Leo?”

“Do you want a friendship with him? Or closure?”

The kettle began to whistle, and Assumpta was saved from having to respond to a question she didn’t know the answer to.

“Is it possible?” Siobhan said slowly, almost carefully, and Assumpta braced herself against the worktop. “Might you be looking for an excuse not to get any closer to Peter?”

“You mean now that I’m on the verge of being truly happy, am I looking for a way to sabotage the most significant relationship I’ve ever had?” Assumpta glanced at the woman at the table. Siobhan didn’t try to correct her.

“I see the thought has crossed your mind,” Siobhan said instead.

Assumpta poured their water, and then placed a mug on the table for Siobhan. “I don’t want to ruin this.”

“Of course you don’t. But you’re afraid. So much can go wrong, and if it does, you’ve lost everything. Well, not everything. You’ve still got your house and your business, and friends. Other friends. But you will have lost everything that really matters. And then there’s the baby-”

“Baby!”

“Oh. Sorry. That was me.” Siobhan chuckled and then glanced at Assumpta. Her face went serious. “Something to think about, though. When Peter turned Houdini, things went very dark for you. But Leo’s been gone just as long, and it’s hardly the same. You miss him, yeah, but it’s not like…”

“No, it’s not. You’re right.”

They both sipped their tea.


Kevin sat at his kitchen table, glaring at his clasped hands while trying not to come out of his skin. Father Peter – or, rather, just plain Peter – sat next to him, turning all colors of red as he tried to think of something to say. Kevin really wished he wouldn’t. It was none of his business anyway. But Kevin had agreed to the talk so long as plain Peter didn’t tell his father.

“It’s just…these things are very complicated,” plain Peter said, and his face twisted in a comical sort of wince.

“It really doesn’t seem that complicated to me.”

“Yes, well. That illustrates how very young you are.”

“Do I call you Mr. Clifford now?” Kevin asked, not feeling at all young. It really wasn’t his fault if plain Peter was old.

“Uh…yes. If you like. Or Peter.”

“Peter? Man to man, eh? Even while you’re giving me a talking to?”

“You’re very cheeky today.”

“You just ended what might’ve been the best afternoon of my life. I’m feeling a bit cheeky.”

Peter smirked. “Well, at least you’re honest. Listen, Kevin, what you and your girlfriend were doing-”

“We had protection.” Kevin tried not to grin as Peter’s face went five shades darker.

“Be that as it may, you’re still very young. You both are.”

“We’re old enough.”

“If that were true you wouldn’t have been half dressed in the bushes behind the rectory. People who are old enough to do what the two of you were thinking of doing have beds to do it in. They don’t have to sneak around. And they certainly don’t ask that their father’s aren’t told.”

“His lecture would’ve been shorter,” Kevin grumbled. “I should’ve just let him shout for a while.”

“Kevin, what if she got pregnant? Have you considered that?”

“I told you we had protection.”

“Protection isn’t infallible.”

“You’re only saying that because that’s what the Church says.”

“I’m saying it because it’s true. And, beyond the obvious Catholic implications, I’m fairly sure that neither of you are in a position to provide for a baby.”

“This isn’t going to turn into a pre-marital sex talk, is it? Because you’re not married, either.”

“But I’m old enough to marry,” Peter told him. “And, I could provide for a child.”

“Do you have a job?”

“Well…” Peter shifted in his chair. “Not…quite yet.”

“I do,” Kevin told him.

“And where would you live? You and your girlfriend and the baby?”

“Here.”

“What? In your father’s house?”

“You’re living in Mrs. McGarvey’s house.”

“That’s Fitzgerald,” Peter humorlessly corrected.

“Are you using protection?” Kevin asked, pushing and niggling even when he knew he shouldn’t. He was sick of other people telling him what to do. “Of course you’re not! You have Catholic implications! I have a job and protection, and you’re lecturing me!”

“I’m…not. I just want you to be sure you know what you’re getting into. Sex, Kevin, isn’t something casual, it’s not something you do for entertainment. Making love to a woman is a commitment, not just of your body, but of your heart and your life.”

“I do love her. And she’s my best friend. I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

“But you’re fifteen! You can’t possibly know-”

“What it means to love?

“What it means to commit your life to something. To someone.”

“How old were you when you committed your life to God?”

“I took my vows at twenty-two.”

“That’s when you committed your life to the Church. When did you first commit your life to God?”

Peter looked at him for a moment, and then tilted his head a little and admitted, “I was fifteen.”

“I think we’re done here.”

“Sit down,” Peter commanded, and Kevin found himself obeying. He always obeyed, and he hated it. “Now. You want to do adult things, let’s sit and talk like adults about it, shall we?”

The question was clearly rhetorical, and Kevin crossed his arms and glared at the table, and spent the following hour hating life.


Fitzgerald’s emptied out by ten and Assumpta locked the door, and then turned to look at her empty pub. Peter was wiping down the bar one last time, looking just as petulant as he had all evening.

“Buy you a beer?” she asked.

“Oh. No, thanks.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Talk about what?” he asked with false lightness.

“Are we doing that, now?” Assumpta said flatly. “Fine. Have it your way.”

“I never have it my way,” he muttered under his breath.

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing.”

“You know, Leo wouldn’t talk to me, either.”

“And now we have the Leo reference.”

“Yeah,” she said defiantly, “we do.”

He glanced at her, and she knew she had his attention. Finally, he was looking past himself. “What do you want to talk about?”

“How about that thing that’s crawled up your arse and died.”

He made a face. “I think I will have that beer.”

“One beer coming up.”

Peter took a seat at the bar, and Assumpta poured him a pint. She eyed him while he absently twisted the corner of a napkin into a roll. “What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing, really. Hardly worth mentioning. I caught Kevin and his girlfriend behind the rectory in, shall we say, a compromised position.”

“Really? Kevin O’Kelly?” She tried not to sound impressed. “How compromised?”

“He says they had protection.”

“Wow. Good for them.”

“Assumpta! They’re children!”

“They’re teenagers full of hormones and developing bodies. And responsible ones, it seems.”

“And, they’re supposed to be Catholics.”

“So, you’re worried about their compromised states or the possible use of birth control?”

“Both! Well, neither. I don’t know. Kevin said…well, he made some very astute comparisons between him and myself.”

“Between you and a fifteen year old boy?”

“Some very well-reasoned and observant comparisons.”

“He called you a hypocrite.” She set the beer down in front of him.

“Not in so many words,” he grumbled. “When did he get so cheeky?”

“Oh, Kevin’s a good lad. Better than most, actually. But I’m sure you cutting in on his tryst didn’t help his mood any.”

“The thing is, Assumpta, he was right. I need a job.”

“Kevin told you to get a job?” Maybe Kevin was turning cheeky after all. She couldn’t imagine him saying something so fresh to anyone, let alone Peter.

“Well, I have a job interview in Cildargen, so hopefully-”

“Wait. What?”

“You said I would have to get a job, and so I found a position open at the paper in Cildargen. It’s only part time, but-”

“Don’t take it.” She couldn’t explain the sudden surge of panic, but it overwhelmed her. “I want to hire you here.”

He froze, watching her as if he thought she might explode. “I’m not going anywhere, Assumpta.”

“I need you to bake biscuits. Lots of them. You can’t work in Cildargen.”

Again, he hesitated, and then he said in a calm, quiet voice, “Assumpta. You said that Fitzgerald’s couldn’t support-”

“I’ll pay you. Whatever they’re offering in Cildargen, I’ll match it.”

His brows drew together and his face went long. “You want me to work for you? You’re serious?”

“We’ll offer them free with a pint or a meal for a week, get word of mouth behind us, and then start selling them.

“They’re just biscuits.”

“They sold out at the bake sale.”

“Well, sure, but-”

“I’ll pay you hourly plus tips, and I’ll supply all the ingredients, of course. Just make a list of what you need.”

“Assumpta, wait-”

“And those with the coconut, make those every day. How much is coconut? It’ll have to be imported, of course. How much will we charge?”

“I don’t want to work for you.”

If he had slapped her she wouldn’t have been more surprised. “You don’t?” eked out of her mouth like a whimper. Her cheeks went hot and she felt her eyes water, despite herself. “Right.”

“You want me to be an employee, Assumpta. I won’t do that.”

“Yeah,” she said, not knowing what else to say, and not trusting her voice to hold up past that one syllable.

“Assumpta, wait. I’ll bake for you. I’ll do anything to help you make Fitzgerald’s what you want it to be. I’ll clean and serve and carry heavy objects. But I want to do it as your partner and friend. And lover. Not as your employee.”

“You’re going to wash up as my lover?” she asked, and then smirked. Did he hear how funny that sounded? Obviously not. His face was a serious as she’d ever seen it. “If you work in Cildargen I’ll never see you. I need you here, Peter.”

“Then I’ll be here,” he said simply.

Just like that. He would be there.

She watched him sip his beer, and then he offered her a lopsided smile. A genuine smile. And then it happened. She didn’t mean to say it; in fact she didn’t know she was going to say it until the words slipped from her lips.

“I love you,” she breathed.

“Oh, my God,” Peter said, wearing a stunned expression. “Has hell frozen over?”

“Oh, stop it.” She tossed a crumpled napkin at her, and he caught her wrist, slowly pulled her to him.

He stared at her mouth, and when she was close enough that she could feel the warmth of his breath on her lips, he whispered, “I love you, too.”

Series 5, Episode 4

“Leaps of Faith”


He steps out into the street, into the misty morning, and tugs his coat tighter around himself. She’s still upstairs in bed; he’s just kissed her good-bye, though he’ll see her again for tea in a couple of hours. She looked tired, but she always looks tired these days, and it worries him because the last time Michael saw her he asked if she’d been taking her tablets, and she didn’t answer him directly, but glanced at Peter before insisting she was fine. The tablets are in the toilet, over the sink. Four bottles. The directions say to take them with meals, but he knows sometimes she forgets to eat. She forgets a lot of little things these days, and Peter spends half of his day trying to remember things for her.


FADE IN.

A hospital ward. NIAMH lies in a bed, noticeably not pregnant. ASSUMPTA looks in the room, and then goes to Niamh’s bedside and pulls the chair there closer to the bed. Niamh stirs, sees Assumpta, and then smiles.

ASSUMPTA
Another boy.

NIAMH
(looking tired and pleased)
Have you seen him yet? He looks like
Ambrose this time.

ASSUMPTA
He’s lovely. What are you calling
him?

NIAMH
Colm.

ASSUMPTA
Good Irish name.

NIAMH
Wait a minute. You look different.
What’s happened?

ASSUMPTA
Nothing. I’m just tired, is all.

NIAMH
Have you and Peter had a row?

ASSUMPTA
Honestly, Niamh, I’m just knackered.

NIAMH
Too much playing in the bedroom?

ASSUMPTA
Hardly.

NIAMH
Not enough, then? I could have Ambrose
have a word with him, if you like.

ASSUMPTA
I don’t even want to think what
that conversation would be like.

NIAMH
A little like the blind leading the
blind.

ASSUMPTA
Speaking of which, I need to get back
to the pub. I left Paraig in charge, and
I’d like to keep as much of my beer stock
as I can.

NIAMH
Where’s Peter?

ASSUMPTA
At the church. Father Mac has him teaching
Sunday school, and that’s lead a bit of A Levels
tutoring.

NIAHM
How much is a bit?

ASSUMPTA
Enough.

NIAHM
Is it helping? The extra income?

ASSUMPTA
Some. Quite a bit, actually. You
wouldn’t believe what people
are willing to pay to see their
children in a good school.

NIAMH
Well, that’s a relief then.

ASSUMPTA
You’ll be home tomorrow, yeah?
Will you need anything?

NIAMH
Ambrose’s mother will be with
us the first three days, but it’s
nice of you to ask.

ASSUMPTA
Well in that case, if you need a refuge,
you’re welcome at my place.

NIAMH
Your place, is it? Not “our” place.

Assumpta narrows her eyes at Niamh, takes a deep breath, and then picks some lint from her long skirt.

ASSUMPTA
He’s really not leaving, is he?

She looks out the window.

Tell me, Niamh. Tell me he’s not leaving.

NIAMH
I don’t need to tell you that.
You know he’s not leaving.

ASSUMPTA
(closing her eyes)
Now tell me the truth.

NIAMH
Assumpta, he’s not leaving.

ASSUMPTA
I’m trying so hard to believe that.
But you know me, I’ve never been
one to take a leap of faith.

NIAMH
But, he’s not leaving.

ASSUMPTA
(nodding)
I’ve got to get back. I’ll see you soon,
yeah? I’ll stop by tomorrow and see
how you’re settling in with the new
little one.

NIAMH
(touching Assumpta’s arm)
He’s home, Assumpta. He’s not going
anywhere.

ASSUMPTA
I wish I had your faith.

NIAMH
Well, I wish I had your hair.

Assumpta smiles, and they share a moment of lightness.

You’re going to have to accept that
he’s here for good, and in order to
do that, you need to accept that his
going to the Vatican wasn’t his fault.

ASSUMPTA
They put a gun to his head?

NIAMH
Worse. They threatened the immortal
soul of a devout priest. You know Peter.
You know the man he is. He had no choice.
It’s time to forgive him. Give him a
break. Give yourself one, too.

ASSUMPTA
So, he’s staying.

NIAMH
Looks that way.

ASSUMPTA
Damn. I owe Brendan a fiver.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Siobhan’s living room, mid-day. SIOBHAN is in a robe, looking worse for wear, holding and rocking Aisling. The baby is fussy, but not crying. A knock at the door.

SIOBHAN
The door’s open!

We hear the door open and closed, and then ASSUMPTA peeks in the living room, which is a disaster. Dishes and baby things are everywhere.

ASSUMPTA
This a bad time?

SIOBHAN
Oh, thank God you’re here. I
haven’t had a toilet or a shower,
or anything to eat for that matter.

She shoves the baby at Assumpta, who takes her, but looks startled to do so.

I’ll only be but a minute.

Siobhan hurries up the stairs and disappears, and Assumpta stares up after her.

ASSUMPTA
(calling)
It’s good to see you, too!

She looks down at the baby and takes a deep breath.

I’m not ready for this.

We hear the door open and close again, and Assumpta turns with the baby to see BRENDAN walk in.

BREANDAN
Assumpta! Hello.
(slipping out of his hat and coat)
And what brings you around? Tea?

ASSUMPTA
Actually, I was hoping to meet you on
your lunch break. Here, I think this
belongs to you.

She tries to hand him the baby, but he smiles and waves her off.

BRENDAN
(going into the kitchen)
You’re doing a splendid job of it.
I’ll just make us some tea. Siobhan
will have to eat something. You
hungry?

ASSUMPTA
(following him)
Don’t know. I haven’t been hungry or
thirsty since the accident. Drives
Peter a bit batty. I never know if I’ve
eaten or not.

BRENDAN
(pulling out the makings of sandwiches and tea)
He’s still keeping track?

ASSUMPTA
I think Michael’s put him up to it.

BRENDAN
Yes, well, you almost died on his
watch. He takes those sorts of things
personally. Ham? Or egg with mayonnaise?

ASSUMPTA
Neither. I’ll get something later.

BRENDAN
(looking speculatively at her)
What are you and Peter doing for Christmas
dinner?

ASSUMPTA
Erm…I don’t…

BRENDAN
Why don’t the two of you join us here?

ASSUMPTA
Oh, I don’t think-

BRENDAN
There will be more than enough, and
Siobhan, as it turns out, is a marvelous
cook.

ASSUMPTA
I’m sure she is.

BRENDAN
Talk it over with Peter.

ASSUMPTA
Yeah. Okay. I’ll talk to…

Brendan looks up when she doesn’t finish the sentence.

Brendan.

Assumpta’s gone very pale and looks as if she might be sick.

Take the baby.

Brendan quickly takes Aisling, and Assumpta reaches out to steady herself on the table.

BRENDAN
Assumpta? Are you all right? Should
I ring the doctor?

ASSUMPTA
(taking a seat at the table)
No. But I think I’d better eat something
after all.

FADE OUT.


He smiles at Kevin and he walks in the pub, and it feels natural to do both once again. The boy has forgiven him and is happy to see him, and Peter’s relieved. He wants to be a friend and a role-model, a person Kevin can look to and ask questions. He still has the need to help and serve, to provide council and lend a carrying ear, even if the Church has released him and the community has taken a collective step back. He’s not a priest anymore, and he has to continually remind himself of that. It’s more difficult than he’d thought it would be.


FADE IN.

The pub is decorated for the holidays, and there are a few people having a pint or a bite to eat, but the place is mostly empty. It’s mid-afternoon. KEVIN is behind the bar looking bored, and ASSUMPTA brings in a carton of clean glasses from the kitchen. NIAMH and COLM come in, and she pulls a baby bottle from a large baby back thrown over her shoulder.

NIAMH
Warm that, will you?

ASSUMPTA
(taking the bottle, and dropping it in the electric kettle)
You’ve recovered well enough.

NIAMH
Faster than the first time, that’s
for sure. But this one is still
keeping us up all night.

ASSUMPTA
It’s his job. Second son and all that.

NIAMH
Yes, well, what are you and himself
doing for Christmas? Care to join us
at the Eagan house? My father will
be there, of course, and Amrose’s
mother, so it will be entertaining
even if the goose is tough.

ASSUMPTA
I’ll have to talk to Peter.

Assumpta pulls the bottle from the kettle and hands it back to Niamh.

NIAMH
(studying her from the corner of her eye)
Assumpta? Are you all right?

ASSUMPTA
Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?

NIAMH
We haven’t really talked since I
I had the baby – I know, I’ve been
busy – but if you need to talk…

ASSUMPTA
I don’t need to talk.

NIAMH
You don’t?

ASSUMPTA
Everything is fine.

NIAMH
Is it?

ASSUMPTA
Yes!

NIAMH
You and Peter?

ASSUMPTA
Are good!

NIAMH
(leaning closer and talking conspiratorially)
Is it the...s-e-x? Because I could have
Ambrose had a word with Peter about…

Assumpta simply turns and walks into the kitchen. Niamh looks disappointed.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

PETER has come down from the church and is rounding the fence on to the sidewalk when he happens on BRENDAN holding AISLING.

PETER
Hello!

BRENDAN
Just the man I was hoping to see.

PETER
Am I?

BRENDAN
Walk with us a bit, will you? And
hold this.

Brendan hands Aisling to Peter, who happily accepts her.

I don’t know what Siobhan is feeding
her, but it must be made of stone.

The walk OUT OF FRAME as we:

FADE OUT.


He watches her nightly ritual from the bathroom door. She pulls her hair back, washes her face, brushes her teeth, flosses. She knows he’s there, but she ignores him. He can’t tell if she’s irritated or if she likes it. She smears a cream on her face, on her neck, on her chest. Her skin is like silk. She lets her hair down again. Assumpta wears a t-shirt to bed, one that both of them could fit inside if they wanted to. And knickers. And nothing else. Her legs are beautiful. Her neck is beautiful. Her lips…eyes…breasts…all of her is beautiful. She meets his gaze in the mirror. There is no smile of recognition, or grin to share the moment. Brendan is right. Assumpta has stopped smiling. How had he missed that?


FADE IN.

Night. ASSUMPTA and PETER are in bed, wearing pajamas and t-shirts. The light from the corridor falls across them, and we see that Peter isn’t sleeping. He’s staring up at the ceiling, and then over at Assumpta next to him, curled on her side. He touches a strand of her hair.

PETER
I spoke with Brendan today.

ASSUMPTA
Mmm.

PETER
Something is wrong. Even he can see it.
Is it me?

ASSUMPTA
I’m knackered. Can we do this later?

PETER
Of course.

He stares at the ceiling again. He sighs.

I thought that I made you happy.

ASSUMPTA
Oh, for the love of…

Assumpta sighs in frustration and then rolls to him, wraps an arm across his middle and pillows her head against his shoulder.

This better? Can we sleep now?

PETER
I thought this was what you wanted.

ASSUMPTA
What?

PETER
This. Living together. Making love. I
thought this was what you wanted.

ASSUMPTA
It is. Now, will you go to sleep?

PETER
I haven’t seen you smile in days.
It’s because I’m teaching at the
church, isn’t it?

ASSUMPTA
I’ve smiled.

PETER
How can I make it right it if you won’t
tell me what’s wrong?

ASSUMPTA
You can’t fix everything.

PETER
So, there is something?

ASSUMPTA
It’s two in the morning.

PETER
(running his hand through her hair, pulling it back from her face)
Tell me what I can’t fix. Tell me what’s
the matter. Is it the pub? Is the debt getting
worse?

ASSUMPTA
No. That’s holding its own. Everything’s
fine.

PETER
I can see it’s not.

ASSUMPTA
I’m tired Peter. I’ve just had a lot
on my mind.

PETER
You don’t feel you can talk to me
about it?

ASSUMPTA
There’s nothing to – damn it,
Peter, go to sleep!

Assumpta rolls away from him, and Peter rolls toward her, props himself up on an elbow.

PETER
Now we can’t go to sleep angry.
Talk to me.

ASSUMPTA
That’s only for married couples.

PETER
We could get married.

ASSUMPTA
Peter!

PETER
Father Mac told me once that I
could never make you happy. That no
man could make you happy for long.

ASSUMPTA
Father Mac is an idiot.

PETER
Why do you hate him?

ASSUMPTA
(flopping on her back)
That’s a long, complicated-

PETER
The short version, then.

ASSUMPTA
It’s two in the morning.

PETER
Why do you hate the Church?

ASSUMPTA
Why do you love it?

PETER
I love God.

ASSUMPTA
That’s not an answer. Martin Luther
loved God, too.

PETER
And, I’m not a priest any longer, either.

ASSUMPTA
I’m begging you-

PETER
Do I…not…satisfy you?

Assumpta groans, throws back the blankets and gets out of bed.

Assumpta, wait! Come back!

ASSUMPTA
If you’re not going to let me sleep, I’m going
to make some tea.

She puts on a robe and goes to the kitchen. Peter follows.

PETER
I’m sorry I upset you. I didn’t
want to upset you.

ASSUMPTA
Put on the kettle.

Peter fills the electric kettle, and watches as she pulls container after container from the refrigerator and puts them on the workbench. He turns on the kettle, crosses his arms, and then leans against the workbench while she makes herself a plate.

PETER
Tell me about your father.

ASSUMPTA
(pointing a finger at him, in no uncertain terms)
No!

PETER
Er…okay.

He watches her as she puts her plate in the microwave, and the numbers start to count down. She stares at the display.

What about your mother?

ASSUMPTA
(shoulders sagging, eyes closed)
Just what did Brendan say to you?

PETER
Do you want me to stop teaching at the church?

ASSUMPTA
(after a moment)
No.

PETER
Are you going to sell to Brian?

ASSUMPTA
No.

PETER
Smile for me, Assumpta.

She looks at him, then walks to him, gently takes his head in her hands, and pulls him down for a kiss.

ASSUMPTA
If we make love on the floor
right now, will you tell Father Mac?

PETER
I’ll tell him that I committed the sin
of fornication outside of marriage, but I
won’t tell him how or where or how many
times. Or who with, though I think he
suspects.

ASSUMPTA
Will he offer you absolution?

PETER
Yes.

ASSUMPTA
Even though you’re going to do it again
Tomorrow night, or the night after?

PETER
I’m not a priest anymore, I’m just
a man in love.

Assumpta kisses him deeply, and then touches his chest.

ASSUMPTA
I don’t what him to marry us.

PETER
I know. I’ve accepted that. I didn’t
mean…what I said before, I know
how you feel about…I wasn’t trying to
pressure you. I just wanted to make
you smile.

ASSUMPTA
You’ll ask Father Chris, then?

For a moment Peter stares at her.

About marrying us?

Peter shakes himself from his shock.

PETER
Yes. Yes, of course. If…if you like.

And slowly, slowly Assumpta smiles.

FADE OUT.


She screams in her sleep, and he’s sitting up even before he knows who he is, and he’s pulling her into his arms. It’s late – or early – the sun’s not up yet, and the room is dark, and she’s shaking in his arms, crying. Her dream has terrified her, and it’s difficult to pull her from it. He turns on the light so she can see. Her eyes are wide and dark and searching. She says Leo’s name over and over, it’s the name she cried out from her nightmare. He holds her, kisses her head, as she tells him what she dreamt. She trembles for hours until she makes herself sick.


FADE IN.

Assumpta’s living room. PETER’s on the phone. The sunrise is filtering warm light through the window, and Peter looks exhausted, with his hair going every which way. He’s been up all night.

PETER
Michael. Hi. Yeah, it’s Peter. Listen,
Assumpta’s sick…No, no, nothing like
that. Not faint at all. But she’s been
vomiting for hours now…No, at this
point nothing’s coming up at all…she’s
a bit warm, I think, but I don’t know about
a fever…Really? Kevin and Paraig, too?
It does sound like something is going
around, doesn’t it? All right. I’ll do
my best to keep her hydrated. Just get
here as soon as you can.

From the other room we hear ASSUMPTA retching.

If it gets any worse I’ll ring you again.

Peter hangs up the phone and turns toward the bathroom as we:

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Morning in Fitzgeralds. The place is fairly empty with a couple at one table, and AMBROSE is sitting at the bar. PETER comes out of the kitchen with a plate of eggs on toast, and puts it down in front of Ambrose.

AMBROSE
Kevin’s got it, too, I’ve heard.
Half the school is out with it,
including Brendan. Siobhan has
kicked him out of the house until
he’s no longer contagious. Can’t
say I blame her. Not with a newborn
in the house.

PETER
Where’s Brendan staying, then?

AMBROSE
With Eamonn. He’s got it, too. I
heard it from Kathleen, who had it
from the Leary brothers.

ASSUMPTA trudges down stairs in jeans and a sweatshirt, and her hair pulled back in a sloppy pony tail.

ASSUMPTA
(pointing at Peter)
Don’t start. I’m feeling better.

PETER
You know what the doctor said.

ASSUMPTA
I can’t lie about all day.

PETER
You’ll scare the customers looking
like that.

ASSUMPTA
Oh, nice. Make us some toast.

She sits at the far end of the bar, leans her elbows on it, and rests her head. Peter gives her a frustrated look as he disappears into the kitchen. NIAMH comes in, scans the room, and goes to Ambrose. But, she sees Assumpta and says:

NIAMH
Oh, no! You’ve got it too? I’ve just
come from – no, never mind. Where’s
Peter?

PETER
(coming in from the kitchen)
Right here.

NIAMH
It’s Father Mac. He’s collapsed.

PETER
What?

NIAMH
They’re saying it’s his heart.

PETER
Oh, God.

ASSUMPTA
Go, Peter.

PETER
I have to go. It’s Father Mac.

ASSUMPTA
I know. It’s okay. I’ll cover here.

PETER
But you’re sick. You should be in
bed.

NIAMH
I’ll stay.

AMBROSE
You will not!

NIAMH
(giving him a look)
Do you have any idea what your
mother is doing at this very moment?

AMBROSE
Making breakfast, which is why
I’m here.

NIAMH
She’s moved on to laundry.

AMBROSE
Not my laundry, surely.

NIAMH
She was sorting your pants when
I left.

AMBROSE
And my wool socks?

NIAMH
That you paid twenty quid for
because they’re the only socks
made in all of Europe that will
eep your feet both warm and
dry while you’re on patrol? Those
wool socks?

AMBROSE
And you didn’t stop her?

Niamh shrugs and Ambrose drops his fork on the bar and hurries out. Peter looks anxiously at Assumpta.

ASSUMPTA
Go.

Peter kisses her forehead and whispers to Naimh:

PETER
Thank you.

Peter hurries out the door, grabbing a jacket on his way, and we follow him out. He slips on the jacket and is pulling a key from his pocket when he looks up and sees a convertible with the top up parked outside the pub, and LEO gingerly getting out. Peter looks as if he’s been struck. Then he clenches his jaw squares his shoulders, and walks purposefully to Leo.

PETER
Just what the hell are you doing here?

Leo looks up at this greeting, and half of his face is covered in bruises and cuts. His cheek is swollen.

Oh, God.

LEO
Help me inside.

Peter, of course, can’t not help, so he gently shoves a shoulder under Leo’s arm, and Leo starts to limp to the door.

PETER
You were in a car accident last night.

LEO
You’ve got a flare for observation.

PETER
You’ve got a large cut across your back
from where you had to crawl out the
windscreen.

LEO
(looking at him)
Yeah.

PETER
And there was someone else in the
car. Your sister.

LEO
That’s some parlor trick.

PETER
She dreamed it last night.

LEO
Assumpta?

PETER
(nodding)
I’m very sorry for your loss.

LEO
I know I shouldn’t have come, but…
I couldn’t put it in a letter. I couldn’t
call. I needed to see her. She knew Anna.

PETER
I think, maybe she needs to see you,
too.

It visibly costs Peter to say this, and Leo raises his brows.

LEO
Is she all right?

PETER
No. I love her. God knows I love
her with everything I am, but I don’t
think I’m making her happy.

LEO
Yeah. I know how that goes.

PETER
She’s going to marry me. We’re
getting married, so don’t get
any ideas.

LEO
I don’t seem to remember that
stopping you.

PETER
Leo-

LEO
Relax. I’m not here to win her back.

He looks at the door.

I don’t really know why I’m here.

CUT TO:

Fitzgerald’s interior. NIAMH is behind the counter when Peter and Leo hobble in. Her eyes go wide and she stares.

LEO
Nice to see you, too, Niamh.

NIAMH
What are you doing here? Peter?
What is he doing here?

PETER
Where’s Assumpta? Upstairs?

ASSUPMTA comes in from the kitchen with a tray of glasses which she promptly drops the moment her eyes land on her two men.

LEO
Anna’s dead.

He’s overcome, and Assumpta runs to him, and Peter steps out of the way as she and Leo embrace. She holds him while he cries hunched over her shoulder, and her face twists as she fights back her own tears. When Leo pulls away, Assumpta leads him up the stairs while Peter fetches a broom and dustpan from the kitchen.

NIAMH
I’ll do that.

PETER
I can manage.

NIAMH
Aren’t you going to go with them?

PETER
No.

NIAMH
You’re going to let her take him
upstairs? Alone?

PETER
His sister just died. I expect
they’d like some privacy.

NIAMH
But…but it’s Leo!

PETER
It’s Assumpta.

NIAMH
Peter, you know that I would never
speak ill of Assumpta, she’s one of my
closest friends, but she does tend to
sabotage her relationships, and…

PETER
If she does make that choice, and
I’m not saying that she will, but
if she does, then it’s her choice.

NIAMH
Fight for her.

PETER
Have faith in her.

NIAMH
Leo trusted her, too, you know.
With you.

PETER
(handing her the broom)
I’m going to see Father Mac now.

Niamh looks anxiously at the stairs.

Leave them alone, Niamh. It will
be all right.

NIAMH
You’re just going to give her up?

PETER
I love her, Niamh. I will not hold her
captive, and I will not keep a good
friend from her in his time of need.

NIAMH
Ex-husband.

Peter turns and leaves.

FADE OUT.

Series 5, Episode 4.5

“Crushing Blows”

Peter had always liked hospitals. He liked the quiet and the clean, the nuns and doctors, the patients looking for hope or reassurance or a moment of grace. He was also one of those rare people who liked giving last rights – not because of the death that was imminent, but because it was a gift he could give, an easing he could offer, a piece of God working through him to touch a soul. But lately he’d come to understand why people were so apprehensive in hospitals, and as he walked down the corridor he didn’t notice the clean or the nuns or even the patients tucked away behind open doors. It was Father Mac lying in the bed when he slowly opened the door, not some stranger looking for solace, and he looked far older than Peter had ever seen him.

Dr. Ryan sat beside the bed, and he waved Peter in.

“Oh, I can come back,” Peter said.

“No, it’s all right. I need to write a few things up,” Michael said. “Sit with him for a bit. Maybe you can talk some sense into him.”

“I’m all right,” Father Mac insisted, though his voice seemed unusually thin to Peter’s ear. “I feel good.”

“You had a heart attack,” Michael told him, “you can’t take this lightly any longer. Strict bed rest for a few days and then we’ll talk about diet and exercise.”

Father Mac rolled his eyes. “A fate worse than death.”

The doctor stood, and asked Peter, “How’s Assumpta feeling?”

“She says better, but she still looks like rubbish.”

“Couldn’t get her to stay in bed, could you?”

Peter had to shake his head no. “You know Assumpta.”

Michael glanced over his shoulder at his patient. “I know she doesn’t have a monopoly on stubbornness. I’ll be back to check on you tonight.”

Father Mac gave a dismissive wave of his hand, and Michael leaned closer to Peter. “Please stay only five minutes. He really does need to rest.”

As the doctor left, Peter took the seat next to Father Mac and offered a smile he hoped wasn’t too forced.

Father Mac rolled his eyes again, and grumbled with a glare to the closing door, “That man is going to make me exercise.”

“And eat your vegetables,” Peter commiserated. “I don’t envy you.”

Father Mac narrowed his eyes at Peter. “Have you come here to mock me?”

“I was worried.”

“About me? Nonsense,” Father Mac dismissed.

Peter shrugged, glanced out the window. “You’re my priest,” he said.

“There are other priests.”

“Not like you.”

“No. Not anymore. And yet…”

Peter looked up to find Father Mac staring at him. “What?”

“How are things, Peter?”

For a moment he thought to say everything was fine, but he couldn’t lie to Father Mac, not even for his own piece of mind. And, very likely it wouldn’t have been a successful lie, anyway. Peter had always been rubbish at that. He could successfully be politic, but never dishonest.

“Things are difficult.”

Father Mac smiled in his apologetic way. “Well,” he said on a sigh, “you knew it would be. Assumpta Fitzgerald has never promised to be anything but difficult.”

“Leo is back in town.”

“Is he?” Peter could tell that the priest tried not to react, but he wasn’t at the top of his game, and his eyes gave him away.

“Yeah. I know.” Peter had to look away. “I worry I’m not enough for her.”

“I did warn you.”

I know. But she’s agreed to marry me.”

“Oh? Agreed? Well, there’s a declaration of love if ever I heard one.”

“She does love me!”

“Of that I have little doubt,” Father Mac conceded. He touched Peter’s hand, gave it a reassuring pat. A fatherly pat. “It may be a while before I’m up to performing a full mass for you-”

“Oh,” Peter said, interrupting before too many assumptions were made. “No, Father. I’m sorry, but she won’t have you. It’ll have to be Father O’Neill.”

For a moment Father Mac looked at Peter with the strangest of looks, something between amusement and disappointment. Then, the amusement won out, and he smiled. “I can’t say I’m all together surprised. In fact, I’m a bit shocked she agreed to marry in the Church.”

Peter smiled broadly. “That’s how I know she loves me.”

“Yes.” Father Mac sighed, and then he took a moment to study Peter’s face. He had to fight the urge to squirm. “Is thiswhat you really want, Peter? Is she what you really want?”

“More than anything.”

“Then I wish you well. I will pray for you.

“Thank you, Father. I will pray for you, too.”


They’ve been crying for the better part of an hour, and Assumpta looked it, so Leo reasoned that he must, too. His back was killing him, and the two beers hadn’t helped. He was halfway through his third, but his stomach was starting to bother him, so he set it on the floor next to his empties and stared down at the floor framed by his two splayed feet propped up on the coffee table. Assumpta sat at the other end of the couch, her legs tucked up under her. A box of tissues was between them.

“Listen…I’m knackered,” Leo said, because it was true, and because there was so much that simply couldn’t be voiced. It was easy to focus on the physical and the immediate, and if he couldn’t make love to her, then he just wanted to sleep. “Can I book a room here, or will it be a problem.”

“Of course you’ll stay here.”

He glanced at her, surprised by the ease of her response. She’d already thought about it, considered it, and decided. “You know, I wasn’t at all sure you’d see me,” he admits. I thought maybe you’d moved on. Didn’t want to look back.”

“I nearly called you a hundred times in the last eight months.”

He hadn’t expected that; the admission or the implication. “Really?”

“I needed a friend.”

She didn’t look at him when she said it. Funny, but he couldn’t look away. “You should’ve called. I would’ve come.”

“I know. I think that’s why I didn’t. It would’ve been…”

“Awkward?”

“A mistake.” Like a knife through the heart. Even without meaning to Assumpta always seemed to strike true.

“That’s right. Kick a man on the worst day of his life.”

“Oh, Leo, I didn’t mean…I’m sorry!”

He didn’t want her to feel guilty. Not when she was finally being straightforward with him. “No, it’s all right,” he told her. “I a way, it’s nice that you’re so brutally honest with me again. It feels like old times.”

“I wasn’t honest with you when we were married.”

And now it was his turn. “No,” he said frankly.

“I’m sorry for that, too.”

And, because he had her talking, because his every nerve was raw and frayed, because he was searching for something, anything to cling to, he asked, “Did you ever love me?”

“There’s no good answer to that question.”

“How about,” he pressed, “if you’d never met him, would we still be married?”

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes for a brief moment of pain. And then slowly, quietly she admitted, “If I’d never met him we never would’ve been married.”

And there it was. “Brutal,” he quipped, but it came out dark and strangled.

“I love him,” she said, as if he didn’t know. As if he needed the words spelled out for him, as if the knife in his heart wasn’t shoved in deep enough.

“So why didn’t you almost call me a hundred times?”

She crossed her arms tightly. Because you were right when you said that you know me better than anyone else on this planet. And because you were right when you said I can’t have that with anyone else.”

“Not even Peter?”

She smiled, and it churched in Leo’s gut. She was thinking of him, he could see it in her face. “Peter is in a constant state of discovery.”

“But he doesn’t understand you.”

“He tries to.”

“It’s not the same thing.”

“No, it’s not,” Assumpta agreed.

“You should’ve called me.”

“No.”

“Well, maybe I shouldn’t have come!” He couldn’t sit beside her any longer, and so he flung himself up to standing, collected his bottles and took them into the kitchen. A room away he was able to breathe again, able to get his hurt under control. It’s just that everything hurt him at that moment, and every part of him wanted to yell and shout and rage.

When he turned, she was standing against the wall, arms still crossed, looking exhausted. “Is this how it’s going to be between us? Will you ever be able to forgive me?”

He leaned against the workbench look for stability and the strength to tell her no. “I don’t know,” he finally told her. “God, I miss you so much.”

“I miss you, too. You have no idea how many of those hundred times I wished we’d left things differently between us. I really needed a friend.”

He knew what she meant. She was remembering that summer in France, and now he was remembering it, too. “We were great friends.”

“I know.”

“But we were great lovers, too.”

She sighed. “So, this is how it’s going to be, eh?”

“Are you really going to marry him? I’m half surprised to see you haven’t already.” When she nodded, he added, “Well, next time do it in a church, will you? So it won’t be so easily annulled.”

“Leo, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah…I know.”

“And about Anna. She was the smartest, gentlest person I’ve-”

“Don’t!” And then he caught himself, and started again. “Please. I’m tired. I just can’t anymore.”

“All right. I’ll get you a room key.” But when she turned she wobbled, and Leo reached out to steady her.

“Are you okay?”

“Sick,” she said.

And she was, he could see it around her eyes, in the tension around her mouth. “Assumpta, I didn’t come here to argue, or to win you back.”

“I know.”

“I was sitting in the hospital last night after they stitched me up, staring at the organ donation papers with Anna’s name on them – I’ve never felt so completely…”

“Alone,” Assumpta finished for him. “I know.”

“I want you in my life,” Leo said. “I still need you.”

“Even if we’re just friends?”

“We started out as friends,” Leo reminded her.

She smiled. “Yeah.”


Niamh was watching the stair as she poured a pint, anxiously debating whether or not to ignore Peter’s orders and march up to Assumpta’s flat. How long had they been up there? More than an hour, but had it been two? And where was Peter? How long did it take to visit Father Mac, anyway? It’s not like they would take the time to catch up now, was it? The man was in hospital, after all.

She placed the pint on the bar and took the offered coins. Feet on the steps, and then jeans. Assumpta slowly made her way down the stairs, and Niamh hurried over to meet her.

“Well?” she demanded, irritated that Assumpta just stood there looking all tired and sickly instead of spilling her guts like a normal person.

“Well what?”

“Is Leo back, is what!”

“Oh, Niamh, don’t start, all right?”

So he was back then. “Well, he can stay at my place if you like. I can put the boys in together and-”

“He’s got a room,” Assumpta snapped, and then walked around Niamh to the bar.

“A room of his own?” Niamh asked, following.

Assumpta whirled around. “Why don’t you ask what you really want to know? I’m not cheating on Peter!”

At least she’d said it, it was out there. “It would be cheating, you know. Everyone knows he’s basically living with you.”

Assumpta winced as she pulled herself up on to one of the bar stools. “Yeah, well, we’ll be married soon, so people will have to start gossiping about something else, won’t they?”

“Married! Really?” And suddenly Niamh’s head was full of flowers and white bells and ribbons and lace. And Assumpta finally walking down the aisle. She couldn’t help herself, she jumped at Assumpta and gave her a celebratory hug. “We’ll have a party – a real hen party – and the reception will be here, of course, but we’ll need dresses and music and-”

“No. Stop right there. This is going to be a quiet wedding.”

“Are you serious? After everything the two of you have been through, you deserve a celebration! Balloons!”

“I can’t afford it,” Assumpta said, and Niamh realized her friend wasn’t half as excited about a wedding as she was. “And quite frankly, if it’s going to be very soon, I don’t have the energy to plan anything bigger than a mass.”

“Well, surely Peter will wait until you’re feeling better.”

“I hope not,” Assumpta said, scratching a nail over the lip of the bar. “I think I’m nearly two months gone already.”

It took a moment for Niamh to register what Assumpta had let drop, and then another for her voice to find its way through the shock. Obviously she’s misheard. Hadn’t she? “What?”

“Well, Peter and I have been…together for about seven weeks, give or take-”

“Assumpta! You’re pregnant?”

All heads turned, and Assumpta hid behind her hand. “Thanks for that.”

“Oh, they didn’t hear anything,” Niamh told her, leaning closer and continuing in a whisper. “Are you certain?”

“Michael is supposed to stop by today. I’ll ask him for a test.”

“But you’re late?”

“I forgot to take a couple of pills when we first got together, and didn’t realize it until I got to the end of the month and had some left over.”

“Peter must be beside himself.”

Assumpta winced. “I’ve not told him yet.”

“What?”

“Well, I’ve only just figured it out myself, and…and I wanted to be sure I could marry him before – I didn’t want to marry him because he insisted, and you know he would insist if there were a baby.”

“Oh, my God, Assumpta! A baby!”

“Yeah, I know,” she sid grimly. “But I expect Peter will be happy enough, and he’ll be a loving and attentive father.”

“You make it sound like you’ll have nothing to do with it.”

“Well, I’m feeling very involved right now,” she quiped, “but I expect, once it arrives…”

“You’ll be the mother, Assumpta.”

“Doesn’t that sound frightening to you?”

“No,” Niamh said emphatically, “it sounds wonderful.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Exciting?” Niamh suggested.

“Nauseating?” Assumpta teased.

“You’re happier about this than you want to let on. I can tell.”

Assumpta sighed. “Yeah, well…I am. I think. But things were starting to get easier between Peter and me, and now this just throws another cog in the works. Everything is forever complicated between us, and I was hoping for a little…I don’t know…easy, I guess. I mean, he worries I don’t smile enough, what’s he going to be like when he find out about this?”

“You don’t smile enough.”

Assumpta conceded with a shrug. “I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

“Does Leo know? About the baby?”

“I’m not going to tell Leo before I tell Peter!”

“Well, you told me.”

“Yeah. I think I just needed to hear it out loud. It doesn’t seem real. All I’ve got to show for it, really is dizziness and nausea.”

Over Assumpta’s shoulder she saw Leo painfully making his way down the stairs. She straightened, letting Assumpta know it wasn’t safe to talk anymore, and then gave a casual, what can I get you, Leo?”

“Got anything for a headache?”

Niamh nodded, and pulled a bottle of tablets from her purse.

Leo leaned playfully into Assumpa, knocked his shoulder lightly against hers. “Talking about me, were you?”

She smirked. “Niamh is curious as to where you’re sleeping.”

“Ah,” he said. “Sure, thank you for the firm bed.”

“We take care of our friends here.”

Niamh nodded, and handed Leo the bottle. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she said quietly and sincerely.

Leo didn’t look at her, didn’t acknowledge she’d said anything at all, but she knew that he had. He knocked a handful of aspirin back, and swallowed them dry.

“The doctors didn’t give you anything?” Niamh asked. As banged up as he looked, they should’ve at least given him a few days worth of good meds. “Those cuts and bruises look painful.”

“Life is full of pain,” he said with a half-shrug. Then he stood. “I’m going to turn in early. I just want this day to end.”

“I’m glad you came,” Assumpta said, touching his arm. “I’m glad you felt you could come here.”

He looked at it for a moment, and an uneasiness knotting in Niamh stomach. Then he looked into Assumpta’s eyes. “I’m glad I did, too. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t come here.”

Their gaze lingered, and Niamh cut in with, “Shall I make you a sandwich for later? You might get hungry in the middle of the night. Missing dinner and all. By turning in early. Now.”

Leo looked at her with half-lidded annoyance, but said politely enough, “No. I’ll be all right.”

“Oh, I’ll do it,” Assumpta said, but when she stood she faltered a little, and Leo caught her and steadied her.

“You okay, there?” he asked, but in the next moment she collapsed, and he scooped her up just as Peter walked in the pub door.

“Assumpta?” he said, panic lacing his voice.

“Call a doctor!” Leo shouted as he scooped Assumpta up in his arms and hurried up the stairs.

Peter pointed a finger at Niamh. “Call Michael Ryan! Tell him to come here now!”

“What about an ambulance?” Niamh asked, but Peter was already halfway up the stairs after them.

Niamh did as she was told.


Peter bolted up the stair, down the corridor, and through the back entry into Assumpta’s flat. His heart raced, and his head buzzed with panic as he came to a stumbling halt in the living room. Leo was just settling her on the couch, and he knelt down beside her. She was conscious, smiling weakly at him.

“I’m all right,” she told him.

“We’ll let the doctor decide that.”

“I just got up too fast, is all. I’m good.”

“You’re heart is racing,” he told her, and Peter realized Leo was holding her hand and wrist. “I can feel your pulse.”

Rage shot through Peter, and a jealousy so strong it blinded him for a split second. Then he lunged for Leo, knocked him away. “Get off her!”

“Off her?” Leo said, stunned and on his ass. “What the bloody…?”

“Peter, please,” Assumpta began, but he shook his head. He wouldn’t listen to her protest.

“Are you hurt? Michael is on his way – Niamh is ringing him.”

“She just fainted,” Leo began, but Peter cut him off with a sharp wave of his finger.

“She’s not yours,” he said, and his voice wavered with restrained emotion.

Leo, for his part, looked almost shocked at the statement. “I know, mate. She bloody well chose you.” He took a step back when Peter didn’t back down, and then said to Assumpta, “I’ll wait downstairs for the doctor.”

It wasn’t until the door closed behind Leo that Peter turned back to Assumpta. He knew he couldn’t hide the tears in his eyes, but he couldn’t not look at her.

“You didn’t need to do that,” she gently scolded, running fingers through the hair at the side of his head as if to brush it back behind his ear.

“Is it your heart?” he asked, and then made a silent prayer that it wasn’t.

“Peter, Leo’s not a threat.”

“The last time you fainted he was your husband, and Michael said I wasn’t to see you, that it wasn’t my right.”

“Well, it is your right now.”

“We’re not married yet.”

“Soon.”

“Not soon enough,” he grumbled, and glanced anxiously over his shoulder. “Where the bloody hell is that doctor.”

Assumpta smirked. “Language.”

“This isn’t funny, Assumpta.”

“It’s a bit funny. Oh, come on, Peter, it’s not my heart.”

“How do you…you know what it is? Have you done this before? When I was away? Are you sick? It’s more than just the flu, isn’t it? Oh, God…is it a tumor?” His mother had died from cancer.

“Peter…” She took his hand, and he squeezed tightly. “Peter, I thought to wait until Michael confirms…”

“What? Please, just tell me!”

Slowly she placed his hand on her belly. “Please don’t be angry. When you came back so suddenly, and everything was upside down, I forgot to take my medication for a couple of days, and that included birth control. Well, to be honest, I hadn’t been that diligent with it since you left. There didn’t seem any dire need and…Peter? Peter?”

He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see anything beyond the beautiful brown of her eyes.

“Are you angry?”

“You’re…are you telling me you’re…” He stared at his hand, and at her stomach. “Oh…oh, God in heaven…” The room began to dip, and Peter fell back on his bum, his long legs splayed out awkwardly in front of him.

“Peter? Peter, breathe. You’re turning blue!”

He gasped, sucked in a lung-full of air, and then looked down at her flat stomach. “You’re sure?”

“No. Which is why I thought to talk to Michael before I said anything. But I also didn’t want you worrying about my heart or anything else.”

“But-but you fainted. Something’s wrong.”

She studied him for a moment, and her face darkened. “I thought you’d be happier.”

“I am! I’m-I’m…scared out of my mind!”

“Peter-”

He dove for her and buried his face in her belly.

With a loving hand, she caressed his head, ran her fingers through his hair. “Peter, it’s going to be all right.”

That was supposed to be his line. It was his job to take care of her. “I love you,” he said.

“I know. I love you, too.”

“So, you’re not upset? Our child conceived outside the holy bonds, and all that?”

He leaned to her and kissed her deeply. “I have never wanted anything so much in my life,” he whispered, breathless. Our child…” He reached down and spread his hand over her abdomen. “Ours.”

A throat cleared, and Peter turned to see Dr. Ryan standing in the doorway. “I heard I had a patient at this address.” Leo stood just behind him, but when he met Peter’s eyes, he turned and left again.

“Shall I?” Michael asked, pointing to Assumpta, and Peter stood to let the doctor kneel beside her.

“Hello, Dr. Ryan.”

“Ms. Fitzgerald,” he humored as he pulled out a stethoscope. “I hear you passed out. Have you eaten today?”

“I can’t keep anything down.”

“Uh-huh. And, how long has that been going on?”

“Early this morning.”

“Right,” Michael said, running his hands up her neck to feel her throat and glands. “Swallow.”

“She’s pregnant!” Peter blurted out, unable to contain himself any longer. He managed not to jump up and down as he yelled it, but only just. Michael glanced over his shoulder at him, and then back at Assumpta.

“Are you certain?”

“No.”

“But you suspect.”

She looked at Peter, and swallowed.

Michael turned back to Peter. “I’m going to examine her now.”

“Right.”

“I need you to leave the room, Peter.”

“Oh. Oh, right.” Peter turned, and with one last look at Assumpta, he went down to the bar feeling happier and lighter than he ever had in his life. When Niamh saw him her brows raised, and Peter realized he was smiling. He couldn’t help it. It was all he could do not to laugh and skip and sing his joy. Surely this was a sign from God, a signal that all was forgiven; that following his heart had been the right choice. God was happy, and the angels were with him, and life was perfect.

He took a seat next to Leo at the bar, and when he looked to the man at his side and huge fist made contact with his jaw. Peter flew backwards, hit the ground, and rolled on to his side. That, he hadn’t been expecting, and it took a moment for his brain to catch up with what had happened. No teeth lost, so blood. No real damage, he decided. He glanced up, and saw Leo standing over him. He didn’t look like he was going to attack again, but the locals in the pub didn’t seem to agree. Two grabbed Leo’s arms and started to haul him back. He didn’t fight them.

“No, no,” Peter told them, and he waved them away. “It’s all right. Let him go.”

“I won’t have brawling in here,” Niamh said in her mommy voice.”

“No brawling,” Peter agreed.

Leo didn’t answer, but he held out a hand to help Peter up – a hand that Peter took.

His jaw ached, his cheek burned where he’d bitten it, and as Peter saw back down on the stool, he realized Leo was also wincing. He looked in pain as he gingerly sat, and then rested on his elbows against the bar. Leo was hurting a lot more than Peter.

“I suppose I deserved that,” Peter said. “Sorry about…how I acted upstairs.”

“No hard feelings,” Leo said, and then he sipping his whiskey.

“No. Of course not.”

Peter moved his jaw a little, stretched through the soreness. It would most likely swell. And again, Leo shifted and looked as if he was in considerable pain. He winced as he touched his side.

“You should take something for that.”

“What?” Leo said flatly. “Aspirin? Piss off.” He took another swallow of his drink, closed his eyes, and exhaled. He looked tired, and maybe a little grey around the edges. Actually, he looked almost as bad as Assumpta. He needed a friend.

“So,” Peter said, “Leo. What are you going to do?”

Leo glanced at him from the corner of his blood-shot eye. “What do you mean?”

“You know what I’m asking. Are you going to walk out of her life forever, or what?”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“It’s not about what I’d like, it’s about what she needs, and what you’re going to do about it.”

“What I’m going to do about it? She chose you. I’m not her husband anymore.”

“But are you her friend?”

Leo glared. “What’s it to you?”

“If you’re going to be around, we need to come to some sort of understanding.”

Leo snorted, sipped again. “And what sort of understanding would that be? That I don’t steal your wife? Don’t worry, that’s your style, not mine.”

“We both care for her,” Peter said stiffly, “can we at least agree on that? Do what’s right by her? Get along, if only for her sake? Look, I’m not asking for us to be friends, or anything. But I know you to be a good man, and a good friend to Assumpta, and I realize now that there are some things that she needs a friend for – a friend that’s not me.”

Leo chewed on the inside of his cheek, and then swallowed the last of his drink. “What did you do to her?” Leo asked. “What’s happened since I left? Why haven’t you married her yet?”

“That’s none of your business.” “Like hell it’s not. I left her in your care-”

“She’s not a child,” Peter said, “and she’s not a possession. I didn’t steal her. We fell in love.”

“I loved her first!” Leo said, and he slammed his empty glass on the bar. “And I loved her first!”

“Then you’re going to leave again? Aand only come round when you need her? When it’s convenient for you?”

Leo shook his head. “Yeah, every time my sister dies, I’ll come calling.”

“That isn’t what I meant.”

“It’s exactly what you meant!” Leo roared.

“Enough!” Niamh snaped. “Take it outside if you’re going to go at each other!”

Both men are chastened, somewhat. Peter didn’t want to fight, and he was fairly sure Leo didn’t want to move off the stool again. Even small movements, like shoving his glass toward Niamh for a refill seemed to pain him.

“I think not,” Niamh said.

“A pint, then,” Leo said.

“Assumpta needs you,” Peter told him in a low, flat voice. It was difficult to say, and his stomach clenched around a ball of resentment.

“I know,” Leo said without looking at him. “And not half as much as I need her.”

Dr. Ryan came down the stairs, then and offered Niamh a smile and a wave. “Send something up for Assumpta to eat, will you? Something with some protein in it. And juice.”

“She’s better, then?” Niamh asked.

“She will be,” Michael said. “I gave her an injection. Peter, wait a moment.” He waved at Peter to follow him, and he nodded out the pub door. “Walk with me a bit, will you?” Then the doctor pointed at Leo. “Don’t you go upstairs just yet.”

“No?” Leo asked, pausing as he stood. “Why?”

Michael kindly, gently patted his shoulder. “Sorry, mate. You’re not the husband anymore.”

Peter followed the doctor out into the cold sunshine, putting his coat as they walked. “How is she?”

“I’m just going to say it,” Michael said, “because there’s no good way to break this kind of news. Assumpta’s not pregnant.”

Peter stoped walking, and his stomach felt as if it had fallen out from under him. He thought he hadn’t heard correctly, but the moment he looked into Michael’s eyes he knew that he had. “God…is she all right?”

“She has a heart condition that’s left over from the electrocution. It’s not anything to be overly concerned about as long as she takes her medication, but the medication – one of the side effects in women is a failure to ovulate. She can’t get pregnant while she’s on the medicine, Peter, or at least, it’s very unlikely.”

“And without the medicine?”

Michael shook his head. “With or without the medicine, her heart can’t handle the stress of carrying a baby to term. Most likely the pregnancy would end in miscarriage. And the risks to her would be…significant. If she had been pregnant, Peter, knowing how you would feel about it, I would’ve recommended aborting to save Assumpta’s life.”

“My God…but…is she sick? Why did she faint?”

“Dehydration, low blood sugar, and the flu.”

“But…”

“Peter, I’m sorry. She asked me to explain it to you so I could answer any questions-”

“No.”

“Peter, you might want to give her some time.”

“No!” Peter repeated, and then he sprinted back to the pub, through the bar and up the stairs to Assumpta’s flat. She was still on the couch, weeping in Niamh’s arms. When she saw him, she tried to pull herself together, but Peter knelt in front of her, and whispered, “It’s okay, love. It will all be okay.”

He gathered her against him, and her arms went tight around his neck. She relaxed against him and cried. Grief welled in Peter, and tears slipped down his cheeks and into her hair.

Series 5, Episode 5

“Happily Ever After”

FADE IN.

Interior of Fitzgerald’s pub, with all the regulars. NIAMH is behind the bad, and AMBROSE sits in front of her. SIOBHAN, BRENDAN and PARAIG sit at the end of the bar, Brendan with AISLING over his shoulder. All eyes are on Ambrose.

AMBROSE
I can’t do it.

NIAMH
Oh, come now. You’ve fathered
two sons on me. Of course you
can do it.

AMBROSE
I will not talk to Peter about
s-e-x.

NIAMH
Doesn’t Assumpta deserved to be
happy?

AMBROSE
I am not responsible for
Assumpta’s…happiness.

Paraig snickers. Niamh raises an eyebrow at her husband.

NIAMH
I wouldn’t have asked you if
I didn’t think you were the right
man for the job.

Ambrose straightens and grins smugly.

AMBROSE
Yes, well…be that as it may, I’m
not going to do it. I can’t. He’s my
priest.

NIAMH
(rolling her eyes)
He’s not your priest.

AMBROSE
Well, he was. And he’s a friend I have
to see most every day. The less I know
about…that, the better.

NIAMH
Coward.

AMBROSE
Call me what you like. If you’re so set
on instruction, why not talk to him yourself?

NIAMH
It would be better coming from a man.

AMBROSE
Ah. Yes. Very convenient.

NIAMH
Bloke to bloke.

AMBROSE
You don’t want to do it, either.

NIAMH
Well, it is a bit…

AMBROSE
It is!

NIAMH
(irritated)
Fine, so.
(to Paraig)
You can do it.

PARAIG
Do what, exactly?

AMBROSE
Make an ass of yourself, and
embarrass Peter in the process. Niamh,
it’s none of our business.

NIAMH
Assumpta’s my best friend! I’m her
matron of honor!

AMBROSE
No, you’re not.

NIAMH
Well, I would be if the ceremony wasn’t
too small for a matron of honor.

BRENDAN
Oh, what are you two on about?

AMBROSE
My wife is a busy-body.

NIAMH
(nodding between Siobhan and Brendan)
You two seem happy enough. Peter
needs some instruction in the bedroom
department.

SIOBHAN
(laughing, and nodding to Brendan)
And you want this one to play teacher? God
help us!

BRENDAN
What’s that supposed to mean? You’ve
never complained before.

SIOBHAN
No. That’s true. I haven’t. I’m a stoic.

Paraig laughs, and Brendan stands, offended.

BRENDAN
There is nothing wrong with the way I-

SIOBHAN
No, but what’s right with it that
you’d pass on your great tantric
wisdom? Although, maybe you should
talk to him. It’s possible he might
give you a lesson or two.

Brendan shoves the baby at her, and makes to storm out, but Siobhan catches his arm, laughing lightly.

SIOBHAN
No, no, I’m having you on.
You’re lovely in the bedroom,
Romeo.

BRENDAN
You’ve besmirched my manhood!

SIOBHAN
And lovely in the bathroom.

BRENDAN
In front of my friends!

SIOBHAN
And that one time in the kitchen.

BRENDAN
A man’s performance is not for
public discussion!

AMBROSE
I agree. It’s between the man and
the woman. If Assumpta’s…unsatisfied,
then she can tell him herself. They’re
not even married, for goodness sake!

PARAIG
(smirking)
You can’t imagine that she would, though.
Not a wilting flower like Assumpta. When
has she ever let her feelings been heard?

SIOBHAN
And there was that time in the car…

BRENDAN
Will you stop?

SIOBHAN
All lovely. And all completely…satisfying.
Siobhan tilts her head to one side and assesses her husband.
Maybe you best have a word with him, so.
It’s not like Peter could have a tremendous
amount of experience.

NIAMH
If any at all.

SIOBHAN
Do it for Assumpta.

ASSUMPTA comes from the street carrying an arm full of boxes.

ASSUMPTA
What’s for me?

PETER follows with his own load. Ambrose jumps up to take the boxes from Assumpta and helps settle them on the bar.

NIAMH
(nodding to the boxes)
So, it went well, then?

PETER
If by well you mean we looked at a
hundred dresses and didn’t get a single
one, then yes.

ASSUMPTA
They’re too expensive. And too white.

PETER
The bride’s supposed to wear white.

ASSUMPTA
Not on her second go.

AMBROSE
Then what’s all this?

Assumpta swats his hand when he tries to open one of the boxes.

ASSUMPTA
Peter’s suit and some things for
the party.

Siobhan elbows Brendan and nods to Peter. He glares at her.

SIOBHAN
On the living room floor under
the Christmas tree…

BRENDAN
(still glaring at Siobhan)
Peter, let’s talk stag night. Walk with me.

PETE
Oh, I don’t know. A stag night?
It’s not really me, is it?

BRENDAN
(clapping him on the back)
Nonsense.

Brendan helps him unload the boxes on to the bar, and then leads Peter out the door. Niamh and Siobhan smirk and Paraig hides his laughter behind his pint.

ASSUMPTA
What’s going on?

NIAHM
It’s nothing.

Assumpta stares after Peter and Brendan, looking anxious.

You don’t look very happy, Assumpta,
for a bride-to-be.

ASSUMPTA
I am happy.

SIOBHAN
Good enough. You deserve it!

ASSUMPTA
Thanks. Erm…Niamh, could I…?

She nods toward the kitchen, and Niamh follows her in.

NIAMH
Everything all right?

ASSUMPTA
Of course. I was just…this dress thing,
it’s enough to make me mad! It’s a
really big deal for Peter – a lot more than
I thought. I don’t know why, but he wants
to see me in something, well, traditional.
And…well, you wore something traditional…
and I was thinking, it’s not like you’ve
worn it lately, or anything.

NIAMH
You want to wear my dress?

ASSUMPTA
(wincing)
Would you mind?

NIAMH
Not at all!

ASSUMPTA
I wouldn’t even ask, but well, all that
satin and lace costs so bloody much, and-

NIAMH

Of course you should ask! It’s beautiful!
And it’s just sitting in my closet!

ASSUMPTA
You’re certain?

NIAMH
Yes!

ASSUMPTA
(taking a deep breath)
Oh…thanks, Niamh. Really.

NIAMH
(beyond delighted)
Come over tonight, if you like.
We’ll play bride!

CUT TO:

The interior of Fitzgerald’s again, and Peter and Brendan return to the pub. Peter seems happy enough, and he collects some of the boxes and takes them upstairs. Assumpta and Niamh come out of the kitchen, and seeing Peter, Assumpta collects the rest of the boxes and follows him. Brendan sits heavily at the bar.

SIOBHAN
Well? How did it go?

BRENDAN
(shaking head)
I couldn’t do it.

NIAMH
(outraged)
What?
Paraig and Ambrose laugh.

AMBROSE
Couldn’t come up with the words?

BRENDAN
Me? Oh, sure. I asked him if he’d
ever heard of the clitoris, and he said –
he said, “The Clitoris? Are they a new band?”
I tell you, after than there wasn’t much to say.
He looks at Ambrose, who’s howling with laughter.
Oh, and by the way, you’re throwing his
stag.

AMBROSE
(sobering)
Me?

BRENDAN
I improvised.

NIAMH
Wait. So, Peter’s none the wiser?
We can’t have that. Paraig, you talk to him.

PARAIG
(still laughing a little)
Yeah, all right. I’ve talked to Kevin
about sex all ready. Can’t be much worse
than that, I tell you.

SIOBHAN
Good man!

BRENDAN
And me?

SIOBHAN
(smiling coyly)
Oh, you’ll do.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Niamh’s bedroom, evening. NIAMH sits on the bed, smiling broadly as ASSUMPTA looks at herself in the mirror. She’s wearing Niamh’s wedding dress, complete with the poofy sleeves and lace and billowing satin. Assumpta looks miserable. Niamh stands, and gathers the back of the dress to pull it tighter at the waist.

NIAMH
We’ll have it taken in.

ASSUMPTA
Oh, I don’t know.

NIAMH
What? You look lovely in it.

ASSUMPTA
Yes. It’s beautiful. Really. I’d
Forgotten about the sleevels…

She punches a sleeve and it dents.

NIAMH
(crestfallen)
You don’t like it.

ASSUMPTA
I loved it on you.

NIAMH
But you said Peter wanted to see
you in something like this.

ASSUMPTA
Yes.

She lifts the layers and layers of skirt a little, then lets them drop.

NIAMH
You hate it.

ASSUMPTA
(turning to her)
Is this really me? I look at myself,
and it’s like I’m playing dress up in
someone else’s clothes.

NIAMH
You are playing dress up in someone
else’s clothes. We’ll get it altered-

ASSUMPTA
I married Leo in a jumper and jeans.

NIAMH
And how long did tha
last?

Then Niamh realizes what she’s said.

Oh, Assumpta! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean
it like that!

ASSUMPTA
I know. Never mind. I can’t do this.

She struggles to unzip the dress, but can’t reach the zipper

NIAMH
We’ll go to Cildargen tomorrow and look-

ASSUMPTA
I’m not getting married.

NIAMH
What?

ASSUMPTA
Niamh, a little help here.

Niamh unzips the gown and Assumpta steps out of it. She carefully picks it up and hands it to Niamh who looks like she might cry. Assumpta begins to dress

NIAMH
You’ve got to marry him, Assumpta.

ASSUMPTA
I do not.

NIAMH
This is just cold feet.

ASSUMPTA
You should’ve seen him, Niamh.
You should’ve seen his face when he
told me it didn’t matter that I can’t have
children. How can I do this to him?

NIAMH
He wants you.

ASSUMPTA
He wants to be a father.

NIAMH
He was a Father, if you’ll recall,
and he gave that up for you.

ASSUMPTA
(humorlessly)
Ha, ha.

She steps into her jeans and buttons them.

NIAMH
(tucking her dress back in the closet)
You know, there’s more than one
way to have a baby these days.

ASSUMPTA
Yeah, well, if Peter could could
carry the baby for me, he would.

NIAMH
Or…or I could carry it.

Assumpta freezes, reaching for her jacket.

It would be yours, of course. Yours
and Peter’s, but they can put it
inside me. They can do that, you
know. I’d have to talk to Ambrose
about it, of course, but I’ve delivered
two healthy babies already, and I
don’t mind being pregnant-

ASSUMPTA
Niamh, stop.

NIAMH
I know I could do it, because it would
be yours. And you could see it grow
and feel it when it starts kicking.
I’d want a couple of months, though,
until Colm is a year old or so-

Assumpta turns and flees out the door, down the stairs, and Niamh follows.

Wait! I’m sorry! Assumpta!

ASSUMPTA
No, I just have to go.

AMBROSE comes out of the living room with COLM in his arms to see what the shouting is about and Assumpta stops short when she sees them.

NIAMH
I thought you would – I’m sorry, Assumpta.
Honestly. I won’t bring it up again.

ASSUMPTA
No, it’s fine. I’ll…I’ll see you later.

She bolts out the door and Ambrose turns to his wife.

AMBROSE
She didn’t like the dress?

NIAMH
No.

AMBROSE
Was that the s-e-x talk? I told you
to mind your own business.

NIAMH
Oh, shut it.

Upset, Niamh runs back up the stairs.

CUT TO:

In front of Paraig’s garage at sunset. PARAIG and PETER sit on a bench, sipping beers.

PETER
And that’s how it works?

PARAIG
(looking shell-shocked)
More or less.

PETER
I never knew. Where did you learn
all of this?

PARAIG
Oh. From my father. And my grandfather.

Peter nods and sips his beer.

PETER
My father didn’t know anything
about cars. We never had a car,
growing up in Manchester, and all.
Took the bus everywhere.

PARAIG
Makes sense.

PETER
Mum didn’t like it much. She said
it was more trouble than it was worth.

PARAIG
(looking at Peter from the corner of his eye)
Taking the bus.

PETER
Right.

PARAIG
Right.

Peter finishes his beer, inhales deeply and then stands.

PETER
Well, thanks for the lesson,
Paraig, but I should probably
get back to the pub.

PARAIG
Just think about what I said.
You might find it…useful.

PETER
(happily)
Next time the car breaks down, no
doubt I will.

When he walks back toward the pub, Kevin and Alana peek out from the garage, grinning and shaking their fifteen-year old heads.

CUT TO:

Interior of Fitzgerald’s, LEO is behind the bar, and when ASSUMPTA hurries in she sees him, her face crumbles a little bit, and she hurries to the stairs. Leo manages to intercept her.

LEO
What’s happened? What’s wrong?

ASSUMPTA
(wiping angrily at her cheeks)
I’m fine. Just over reacting.

LEO
I know you better than that.

He gently leads her into the kitchen and sits her at the table.

Tea?

ASSUMPTA
(shaking her head)
Now I know why my mother drank.

LEO
(sitting at the table)
Is it Peter?

ASSUMPTA
You’d love that, wouldn’t you?

LEO
(surprised by her outburst)
Is it me?

ASSUMPTA
No. Leo, no.

She goes to him, sits in his lap and hugs him, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Leo’s surprised again, but doesn’t fight her. He hugs her back.

Thank you for being here. Thank
you for being my friend.

LEO
So…not Peter and not me. If it’s
Ambrose I’m pretty sure I can catch
him in a fight. But I’m afraid of Niamh.

ASSUMPTA
(chuckling and sitting up)
Ambrose is too.

LEO
Better now?

ASSUMPTA
Yes, thanks. I was just being silly.

She goes back to her own chair, drops her head into her hands.

God.

LEO
Want to talk about it?

ASSUMPTA
Not really, no.

LEO
Right, then. I’ll get back behind
the bar.

ASSUMPTA
You don’t have to, you know.

LEO
(smiling)
Yes, I do. You’re paying me.

ASSUMPTA
I am?

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Interior of Hendley’s grocery, mid-day. KATHLEEN is, of course, behind the counter. NIAMH walks in with a big box under one arm.

NIAMH
You sew, don’t you?

KATHLEEN
Excuse me?

NIAMH
You’re good with a sewing machine.
Everyone knows it. You used to
make your own clothes.

KATHLEEN
That was a long time ago.

NIAHM
You want to revisit the past?

Niamh puts the box down on the counter, but we don’t see what’s in it. Kathleen’s eyes go wide.

What are you giving Assumpta for a
wedding present? Because I’ve got just the thing.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Interior of Fitzgerald’s, evening. PARAIG sits at the bar with a laughing BRENDAN and SIOBHAN. ASLING is asleep in her car seat on the bar.

PARAIG
I told him exactly the same story
I told Kevin, right down to the rubbing
down of the tires bit, and he just sat
there and nodded, and asked which tire
oil to use.

BRENDAN
I know, I know! I would’ve been better
off with a picture book, I think.

PARAIG
But that’s just it. He would say something
and for a moment, I was certain he
was having me on. I mean, was I the
kidder or the kidded? His mum thought
it was more trouble than it was worth –
I mean, honestly!

SIOBHAN
You think this is his way of telling
us to mind our own business?

BRENDAN
No way. He was clueless. Absolutely.

PARAIG
Or, he’s a subtle genuius.

They all erupt into laughter at this. LEO comes in from the kitchen, sees the laughter, and joins them behind the bar.

LEO
So, what are you all on about?

He replaces Siobhan’s soda with a fresh one.

SIOBHAN
Oh, no one.

PARAIG
Peter’s as thick as they come!

Brendan smacks him in the arm. The laughter has died down, and no one is meeting Leo in the eye. Leo leans into the three of them.

LEO
Look, Assumpta and I have worked
things out, and Peter – well, Peter and
I have an understanding. I’ll be back
from time to time, and I’m going to
stay long enough this time to see my best friend in
all the world marry the man of her dreams.
Now, whatever laugh you’re having at Peter’s
expense, while I’d like to join in, I won’t use
it against him, anymore than I would use
it against Assumpta. But then, Paraig, Brendan,
Siobhan, you know me better than that,
don’t you? When have I ever, ever hurt
Assumpta?

Siobhan looks uncomfortable.

BRENDAN
It’s not like that, Leo.

SIOBHAN
Wait. He’s right.

PARAIG
Right about what?

SIOBHAN
(suggestively)
And who knows better about what
Assumpta likes?

BRENDAN
Oh, no. You can’t.

PARAIG
That’s disgusting.

Siobhan purses her lips and considers Leo.

SIOBHAN
Tell me, Leo. You know what a
clitoris is, don’t you?

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Night on the street in front of Fitzgerald’s. PETER and PARAIG come out the door, and Peter turns to lock up.

PARAIG
You ready for this? God, I haven't
been to a stag party in ages. Not
since my own, I think, and I don't
remember too much about that night,
to tell the truth.

PETER
Well, seeing as I’m getting married
tomorrow, I’d like to make an early
night of it.

Paraig laughs and claps him on the back.

I’m serious. I don’t think Assumpta
would appreciate it if I turned up at
the church with a hang over.

PARAIG
(laughing)
Assumpta’s got her own hen party
tonight.

PETER
What? Assumpta’s having a hen
party?

PARAIG

Of course! You didn’t think she’d
let you have all the fun, did you?

Paraig knocks at Ambrose’s house, and AMBROSE answers with a tearful KIERAN on his hip. Paraig makes a face as Peter moves past him and into the house, which is loud with music and men’s happy voices.

AMBROSE

Niamh took Colm. What was I supposed
to do?

PARAIG
Get a babysitter.

AMBROSE
Well, I had a babysitter until Brian
found out it was a stag and insisted
on coming.

PARAIG
Brian’s here?

In the background we hear Brian call out a happy, “Congratulations, Peter!” Both Paraig and Ambrose roll their eyes.

CUT TO:

An upstairs corridor at Fitzgerald’s. ASSUMPTA anxiously knocks on one of the doors, and LEO answers. He smiles, and she smiles, and then she pushes past him. His brows raise, and we see his smile falter as he shuts the door.

ASSUMPTA
I’ve changed my mind.

LEO
Okay. About what?

ASSUMPTA
Marrying Peter, selling to Brian, you.
All of it.

LEO
That’s some case of cold feet.

ASSUMPTA
I’m serious. I can’t marry him. I’ll ruin
his life. I’m leaving for Dublin tonight,
and I want you to come with me.

LEO
Dublin?

ASSUMPTA
Or London. Anywhere but here.

LEO
(gently)
This isn’t university, Assumpta. You can’t
just slip out into the night like you father
anymore.

She takes a step back, clearly shocked.

ASSUMPTA
How dare you!

LEO
Let’s sit and talk this through.

ASSUMPTA
No. I’m done talking. I’m going, and
if you don’t want to come with me, then…
then you can just stay.

LEO
I can just stay? Do you hear yourself?
You’re not rational. You’re just nervous
about tomorrow-

ASSUMPTA
No! Leo, you know I can’t marry him.

LEO
I don’t know that.

ASSUMPTA
He wants children!

Leo looks at her for a moment, and then purposely goes to the bed, and sits. He pats the mattress beside him, and after huffing her frustration, Assumpta sits.

LEO
(calmly)
He knows you can’t have children.

ASSUMPTA
Yeah, Michael told him.

LEO
And? What did he say?

ASSUMPTA
It doesn’t matter what he said. He wants
them. He wants to be a father.

LEO
(nodding)
And I don’t.

ASSUMPTA
You’ll come with me?

LEO
It’s finally happened, hasn’t it? We’ve
finally grown up. A little worse for
wear, maybe, but we’ve finally become
the people we were meant to be. It’s scary,
I’m with you there. But you can’t run from
this, Assumpta. If it’s meant to be, it’s
meant to be. We’ve all put it off far too long.

ASSUMPTA
What are you talking about?

LEO
You’ve finally met a man you can
actually love, and I was offered
a correspondent position with the
BBC in Paris.

Her eyes go wide, and she stands.

ASSUMPTA
You’re leaving?

LEO
You didn’t think I was staying, did you?
No, I wasn’t going to take it, but now
that Anna’s…and with you married to
Peter, there’s nothing keeping me-

ASSUMPTA
I’ll come with you.

LEO
Won’t your husband find that irritating?

ASSUMPTA
Why are you doing this?

LEO
Because we both know that you love
Peter more than you ever loved me,
and tomorrow you’re going to stand
next to him and make a promise before
God and man to be with him the rest of
your life.

ASSUMPTA
You know I can’t.

LEO
I know you, Assumpta.

She goes to the door, and he manages to get there before she can open it. He puts his hand over hers on the knob. They’re standing close enough to whisper.

LEO
It’s okay to be happy, Assumpta.

ASSUMPTA
This isn’t cold feet.

LEO
Of course it is. Tomorrow night, you’ll
see that I’m right.

She leans to him, as if to kiss him, but her mouth hovers just short of touching his. He doesn’t move away, but he doesn’t close the gap, either.

ASSUMPTA
I can make you very, very happy.

Leo falters a moment, and makes a strangled sound.

LEO
Yeah. But I can’t make you happy,
can I?

There are voices on the other side of the door, and as Assumpta and Leo look into each other’s eyes, we hear Niamh, giggling and knocking on Assumpta’s flat door.

NIAMH
(through the door)
Assumpta! Ready for you hen?

There’s some more giggling, some laughter, and a couple of shushes. More knocking, but not on Leo’s door, Niamh and the rest of them are down the corridor.

LEO
(calling through the door)
She’s in here.

Assumpta closes her eyes and steps away from him, and Leo opens the door. NIAMH’s wide smile fades as she turns in surprise, and then sees Leo and Assumpta.

NIAMH
Everything all right?

ASSUMPTA
Fine.

Assumpta starts to leave, but Leo grabs her arm.

LEO
Trust me.

ASSUMPTA
Sod off.

LEO
Everything’s going to be all right.

ASSUMPTA
How can it possibly?

LEO
Have I ever lied to you?

She doesn’t answer, but meets her angry gaze with his. He lets her go.

LEO
Assumpta-

ASUMPTA
I don’t need you.

Assumpta hurries into her flat, and Niamh goes to follow, but waves for the rest of the women to wait on the landing. Everyone watches with suspicion as Leo shuts his door and goes down the stairs. We follow Niamh.

NIAMH
What was that?

Assumpta is pacing in her living room, hands on hips, ignoring Niamh.

What did he ask you to do?

ASSUMPTA
Nothing. Not a bloody thing.

NIAMH
Assumpta, look at me.

ASSUMPTA
Niamh, go away.

NIAMH
What the bloody hell did he ask you
to do? Did he want you to run away
with him? God, he did, didn’t he?
You told him you won’t go, didn’t you?
Of course you did. You wouldn’t do that to Peter.

Assumpta stops pacing, drops her head. The guilt is overwhelming.

Assumpta? Did something…already
happen? Did you sleep with Leo?

Assumpta glares at Niamhh, and then goes in to the bedroom, and slams the door. Niamh, of course, follows.

I know you didn’t. You wouldn’t. You
wouldn’t cheat…Oh, my God!

Assumpta has a suitcase on the bed, and it’s open and full of clothes hastily packed.

Assumpta…Assumpta, you can’t!

ASSUMPTA
I know! All right? I know!

She grabs an armful of clothes from the suitcase and throws them to the ground.

No, I didn’t cheat on Peter, but it
would’ve been better if I had. I’m
going to ruin his life tomorrow.

NIAMH
You’re going to make him the happiest
man in Ireland tomorrow. You know
that, right?

ASSUMPTA
(shaking her head, sitting on the bed)
You don’t understand.

NIAMH
Come now.
(sitting next to her, putting an arm around her)
You must know how he feels about you.
Peter’s not one for subtlety where you’re
concerned. He’s going to be beside
himself.

ASSUMPTA
(dropping her head in her hands)
Niamh…I can’t…I don’t even have a dress.

CUT TO:

The stag party at Ambrose’s house. There’s music and rambunctious male laughter and a game of darts in the living room. Leo is welcomed in with a boisterous hello – it’s certainly more than he’s willing to return. Beer and whiskey flow freely, and as Leo makes his way through the house, a cup is pushed into his hands. There’s a football match on the tele being cheered on by several blokes. Peter sits by the fireplace with Kieran in his lap, a cup of beer in one hand and a half eaten biscuit in the other that Kieran is happily munching away on. Ambrose comes in with a large bowl of fresh chips to a round of applause. Peter nods when he sees Leo, and Leo returns the greeting.

CUT TO:

Assumpta’s bedroom, with Assumpta staring down at a large box on her bed. Niamh, Kathleen holding Colm, and Siobhan holding Aisling look on. Assumpta looks up at them confused.

ASSUMPTA
You bought me a wedding dress?

Niamh pulls out the dress and holds it up. It’s a simpler, sleeker version of Niamh’s old dress.

NIAMH
Recognize it, do you?

ASSUMPTA
It’s lovely. It’s…gorgeous.

KATHLEEN
(nodding to Niamh)
It’s hers.

ASSUMPTA
No!

KATHLEEN
I took it in at the waist, cut off the sleeves,
changed the skirt a bit.

ASSUMPTA
(looking startled)
What?

NIAMH
What? You didn’t like the sleeves.

ASSUMPTA
Oh…God…

NIAMH
You don’t like it?

ASSUMPTA
Niamh, it’s your wedding dress!

NIAMH
And now it’s yours! Tell me that
you like it!

ASSUMPTA
I…I love it.

NIAMH
Oh, thank God. Try it on!

CUT TO:

Leo takes a seat next to Peter, takes a sip of his beer, and then nods to Kieran.

LEO
You’re good with him.

PETER
Oh, he’s a good bloke.

LEO
Not everyone can do that, you know.
You’ve got a way with children that
I’ll never have.

PETER
One day…

LEO
I sincerely hope not. But you…
maybe one day you-

PETER
No.

LEO
You’d give that up for her?

PETER
Are you kidding? I think I’ve
proven that I’d give up just about
anything for her.

LEO
Yeah. Me, too. Listen. In the
interest of our newfound understanding,
and our mutual care for your soon-to-be
bride, I feel the need to tell you that
Assumpta’s having herself a bit of a nutty.
Niamh and the others are with her now,
but it might be smart for you to check
in with her in a bit.

PETER
(sighing)
She’s having second thoughts.

LEO
Third thoughts, fourth thoughts. You’re
always in her thoughts, Peter. But she’s
nervous about tomorrow.

PETER
If she’s not ready, I’m not going to force
her-

LEO
She’s ready. She’s just…Assumpta. She’s
used to making split-second, life altering
decisions. She’s comfortable with that.
We got word that her mother had died,
and she quit school that afternoon, and
was on the bus home the next day. That’s
how she works. How long do you think
she deliberated before marrying me? Or
splitting with me? All of ten minutes, I’d
guess. Forget it. What I’m saying is she’s
got too much time to think right now.
Thinking makes her mental.

PETER
What did she say to you?

LEO
She’s worried that she’s ruining your
life because she can’t bare your
children. Never mind that she never
wanted children of her own.

PETER
I told her that doesn’t matter.

LEO
You know, she’s worried about ruining
your life, but she was all set to ruin
mine for a second time.

PETER
What? What does that mean?

LEO
It means…I’ve overstayed my welcome,
I expect.

CUT TO:

Assumpta’s bedroom again, and when she comes in in the dress, everyone is still for a moment. She’s absolutely lovely, and the dress fits perfectly. She turns for them, and gets the appropriate gasps.

ASSUMPTA
Niamh, I don’t know what to say.

NIAMH
Say you love it.

ASSUMPTA
I do! I love it! Thank you so much!
And Kathleen, thank you! It’s perfect.
It couldn’t be more perfect.

KATHLEEN
(beaming despite herself)
Well, you look lovely in it.

SIOBHAN
Won’t Peter be stunned when he sees
you?

NIAMH
(lifting Assumpta’s hair and piling it on her head)
Hair up, I think.

The door opens, and Peter is standing there. His eyes go wide, his mouth opens as if to speak, and then slowly closes as a dreamy smile forms.

PETER
Hi.

Assumpta smiles and blushes, and Niamh screams.

NIAMH
No, no! You can’t see her! You
can’t see the dress!

Siobhan pushes him out into the corridor, and slams the door shut. Kathleen looks scandalized, but Assumpta is laughing. It’s the first time we’ve seen her laugh in some time, and the ladies are unnerved by it. Siobhan joins in and laughs with her.

PETER
(through the door)
Everything all right, then?

NIAMH
Go away! She’ll see you tomorrow
at the altar!

PETER
(leaning close to the door)
Assumpta, come here.

ASSUMPTA
(leaning close to the door on the other side)
Peter.

PETER
I love you.

ASSUMPTA
I love you, too. Go to your party.

PETER
You’re all right?

ASSUMPTA
I am now.

He smiles and she smiles as we

CUT TO:

The stag party is as loud as ever, and as Peter walks in it’s clear he hasn’t been missed. He’s grinning when Ambrose offers him a fresh glass, and he takes it with a, “Cheers!” Kieran is passed off to Brendan, and Leo is sitting in the corner with a couple of empties next to him. Peter nods to him again, and Leo returns it with a salute of his whiskey glass.

CUT TO:

Assumpta is now changed into her normal clothes, and is on the couch in the living room where Niamh is putting a tape into the VCR. Aisling in asleep in a car seat, and Siobhan is pouring drinks.

SIOBHAN
(to Kathleen)
What’s your poison?

KATHLEEN
I don’t drink.

SIOBHAN
Suit yourself.

NIAMH
Oh, give her a whiskey and Coke.
(to a glaring Kathleen)
You can sip on it all night.

Assumpta smirks when Kathleen takes the offered drink. Kathleen is out of her element here, and looks like she’s trying to find a way to escape.

CUT TO:

The stag party has started to wind down. Men have begun to file out into the street, singing and carrying on, as men tend to do after a stag. Peter, Paraig, and Brendan now sit around Leo, who hasn’t moved from his corner. Leo’s had far more than his share.

PETER
So…Paris, then. I’ve never been to France.

LEO
You’ll have to come. I’ll get a flat with a
guest room.

PETER
That would be…weird.
Paraig laughs. He’s had quite a bit, too.

BRENDAN
Paris in the springtime, making love
at dawn with the smell of flowers and
wine in the air.

PARAIG
You’ve been to Paris? In your dreams.

BRENDAN
I’ve been to Paris.

PARAIG
Yeah, when you were fifteen, with
the school tour. You forget I’ve
known you all your life.

They all chuckle.

BRENDAN
I’d like to take Siobhan someday.
When the baby’s older.

PARAIG
Fionnuala and I honeymooned in
Italy. Sex in the morning, sex in
the evening – everything there is
sex. It’s so hot you don’t want to
wear any clothes!

They all laugh. Ambrose comes in with Kieran asleep on his shoulder.

AMBROSE
I’m just going to put him down.

Thee all nod and wave him away, except for Leo, who’s studying Peter with a critical, drunken eye.

LEO
Sex, though. Sex is great, yeah, but it’s
not really about the sex, is it? No. No, it’s
about the softness around her navel and
the smooth skin on the inside of her knee,
and the way the underside of her breast
feels across your bottom lip.

PARAIG
(chuckling)
That’s sex, mate.

LEO
That’s love. Sex is mechanics, love is
worshipping her; her body, her soul. It’s
Kissing her shoulder because it feels good
to her, and knowing she’s holding back
and wanting to drive her past that,
past the hesitance and distrust that some
other man has left her with. Sex is
about thrusting and finishing, but love –
lovemaking – that’s about feather light
caresses up her sides that give her
gooseflesh and tighten her perfect
dark pink nipples, and about touching her
ankle, her inner thigh, and working
slowly upward until her breath catches
again, and then kissing her there, hearing her
voice, tasting her body, smelling the
very essence of her. She’s perfect, and she
should feel that perfection. She should know
that she’s loved. And the kisses deepen and the
caresses grow bold and it’s all about her
pleasure, her moment, until she can’t hold
back any longer and the distrust is gone, and
her heart is racing, pounding, and it’s so familiar…
like a dream, like a memory to be relived
over and over and over…God is in her, in that
moment when everything is good, and she’s
good. She’s everything at once; friend, lover,
teacher, mother, playmate…enemy. And kissing
isn’t enough, surrender isn’t enough, touching her…
gentle slips away and suddenly everything is desperate.
Love for her consumes every thought, every motion,
and she’s too far away – skin to skin is too far
away, and the only way to ease that terrible
want is to dive inside her. She is savior then, and
she’s holding, caressing, whispering, breathing, and there’s
nothing to be done but to get lost in her, to love
her so much that the end is like death. Her kisses
are so tender, emotions spill over, and
everything becomes a blur of love, love, love until
finally the desperation eases and she’s smiling –
God, that rare, beautiful smile of a woman
who knows she’s is loved. Holding her. Feeling
her draw breath, sigh. Worshiping her. There is
no one else in the world but her – that’s love.
Sex is empty, dead next to it.

For a long moment no one says anything, and then all at once the men shift and subtly rearrange. Paraig clears his throat.

PARAIG
Yeah. I remember love.

BRENDAN
That’s love?
(he looked bewildered at Peter)
I do love her.

PETER
(smiling)
Told you so.

LEO
(staring into his drink)
Love her so completely, that she’ll
never have a chance to doubt. Take
your time. Make every breath about
her.
(looking at Peter)
The rest is bullocks.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Outside on the street, late night. The BRENDAN, PARAIG, AMBROSE and PETER start staggering out of Ambrose’s house, one by one. It’s assumed Leo will be spending the night in Abrose’s living room, where’s he’s passed out by now. Brendan manages to make his way to Fitzgerald’s front door, and then belatedly realizes there’s a tall ladder next to him. He braces himself and looks up.

BRENDAN
(calling)
Hello!

SIOBHAN peeks over the side of the roof.

SIOBHAN
Hello, yourself. Don’t wake
the baby.

BRENDAN
Siobhan, tell me you don't have
the baby up there.

SIOBHAN
Of course not! What do you
take me for? She’s asleep in the
flat.

BRENDAN
What are you doing up there?

SIOBHAN
Stag over, is it? Have enough to
drink?

BRENDAN
Siobhan, what the devil are you
doing up there?

SIOBHAN
(over her shoulder)
Come on, girls, the party’s over.

She starts down the ladder, and NIAMH makes to follow but she turns when ASSUMPTA doesn’t move from the perch under a blanket they’ve been sharing.

NIAMH
Assumpta?

ASSUMPTA
I’m all right. I’m going to sit here
a while longer.

NIMAH
Shall I stay with you?

ASSUMPTA
Oh, no. Go home to your husband.
Kiss your babies.

NIAMH
(looking torn)
I can stay.

ASSUMPTA
Go. I’ll see you in the morning. You’re
going to help me dress, yes?

NIAMH
Wouldn’t miss it.

Niamh starts down the ladder, and at the bottom Brendan takes Siobhan in his arms, dips her, and as she playfully gasps he kisses her soundly. Her arms go around him, and as they stand upright again, they continue kissingt. Niamh smirks as she steps off the ladder, and she greets Peter who looks embarrassed by the blatant PDA.

NIAMH
(to Peter)
Good party? Have fun?

PETER
Fun might not be the right word.
Is Assumpta still up?

NIAMH
Up? Yes.

Niamh glances up at the roof.

PETER
What? Up there? Oh, God…

He starts up the ladder, but Niamh touches his arm.

NIAMH
She’s all right. We were star stalking.
We had a good night.

PETER
Yeah?

NIAMH
Yeah.

She kisses his cheek and they exchange smiles. Brendan and Siobhan are still kissing, and she pushes him against Fitzgerald’s in a fit of passion. Peter starts up the ladder again, making an amused/uncomfortable face at Niamh, who laughs and sets out toward her husband, who she also greets with a kiss.

Assumpta smiles when Peter appears over the edge of the roof, and it lights up her whole face.

PETER
Catch any stars yet?

ASSUMPTA
None are falling tonight.

Peter stumbles a little coming off the ladder.

Yet. Maybe I should come down.

PETER
I’m all ready here.

He crawls to her, and she shares her blanket with him.

It’s lovely, isn’t it? You can
see a lot of the town from here.
Come up here often?

ASSUMPTA
When I was a child. Are you nervous
about tomorrow?

PETER
A bit, yeah. But I’ve never been more
more certain about anything or anyone
in my life.

ASSUMPTA
Well, that makes one of us.

PETER
You have doubts?

ASSUMPTA
Peter, I can’t give you a child.

PETER
We’ve been through this. It
doesn’t matter.

ASSUMPTA
How can you say that when I
know you want children?

PETER
Because it’s true. I want to share
my life with you, and that’s not
contingent on you having our child.
Besides, there’s more than one way
to have a child these days, isn’t there?

Assumpta stiffens next to him.

We could adopt, maybe. One day.
If you suddenly have the urge to be
a mum. Or, we could take one of
Niamh’s – she’s got more than
she can handle, anyway.

ASSUMPTA
What? What did she say to you?

Peter looks questioningly at her, confused by her reaction.

PETER
It was a joke. Assumpta, honestly,
I didn’t fall in love with you
because I thought you would
have my baby. I fell in love with
you because you’re brilliant, and
beautiful, and because you challenge
me. Because you kept getting under
my skin, and I found that’s right
where I wanted you. You make me
think and question in a way I never
had before, and you showed me things
I wasn’t willing to look at on my own –
about the Church and my faith and
the world. You’ve made me a better
person.

ASSUMPTA
No.

PETER
But you have. And, I love you for it.
Some days I can’t believe you’ve
chosen me.

ASSUMPTA
(pulling him closer)
But not today.

They kiss, slowly and sweetly, until Peter pulls away.

PETER
I’m going to go now before lightning
strikes. I’ll see you tomorrow at the
altar.

ASSUMPTA
(teasing)
Not if I see you first.

She laughs, and then kisses him again.

I love you, Peter.

They kiss once more, and then he starts – carefully – down the ladder.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.

Interior of Fitzgerald’s decorated for the reception, which is in full swing. There’s music and dancing and everyone is drinking and singing and having a grand time. Assumpta is still in her down, looking happy and elegant, and Peter looks absolutely besotted with her. People offer them continual congratulations as they pass on the dance floor.

Niamh and Ambrose each have a child, and sit at a table, enjoying themselves. They exchange a quip and a laugh. Brendan, Siobhan and Paraig are at the bar, and Kevin and Alana are dancing. Brian sits at a table with Father Mac, who still looks to be on the verge of death. They raise their glasses to each other. Kathleen sits at another table with Liam and Donal looking for all the world as if she can’t imagine how she ended up there.

As they’re dancing, something catches Assumpta’s eye, and she looked toward the stairs in time to catch a glimpse of Leo going up.

ASSUMPTA
Erm…Peter, can you give me a
minute?

PETER
Of course. I’ll just get us something
to drink.

Peter wanders over to the bar, and is stopped by more congratulators, and Assumpta slips through the crowd and up the stairs. She goes to Leo’s door and knocks.

ASSUMPTA
Leo?

There’s no answer. She tries the door, and it opens.

Leo?

The room is empty, but in the middle of the made-up bed there’s a wrapped box. Assumpta pulls the card. It reads:

There’s no such thing as too many
emotions.

ASSUMPTA
Oh…Leo.

She pulls the lid off the box. Inside are paints, brushes and small canvases, pencils, pens and a large, leatherbound notebook. She pulls out the notebook and opens the front cover. The inscription reads:

Property of Assumpta Clifford, Artist,
given to her by her loving friend and
groupie, Leo McGarvey, on the
occasion of her wedding.

There’s a knock, and Peter sticks his head in the door. Assumpta quickly wipes the tears away.

PETER
Everything all right?

ASSUMPTA
Yeah. Grand. Leo’s gone again, though.

PETER
(looking over her shoulder)
He’s left you a gift?

ASSUMPTA
Yeah.

PETER
Paints?

ASSUMPTA
Yeah.

PETER
I didn’t know you paint.

She looks at him, and smiles.

ASSUMPTA
I know. I love you.

She kisses him, and he kisses her back

BRENDAN
(calling from below)
Oi, up there! The party’s still down
here!

Assumpta and Peter laugh, and then Assumpta returns the book to the box. She and Peter go back down to their reception, hand in hand, as we…

FADE TO BLACK.