Read The irish lover Online

Authors: Lila Dubois

The irish lover (page 2)

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Then it came again, a faint noise.

Music. She realized that it was music—and nothaunting soft music, but a bright, happy tune. Mary sat up, shakingher head. Her imagination was running away with her. Theredefinitely was music. The woman’s voice must have been bits ofsong. Now that she’d heard it—and that her blood was pumping aftershe’d scared herself—she wanted to know where it was comingfrom.

Turning on the bedside light she pulled on theclothes she’d been wearing—jeans and a sweater. It was a bit chillyout from under the thick duvet, so she looped her sparkly scarfaround her neck, and slid on her shoes. Tucking the key—an actualkey, not a plastic card—into her pocket, Mary set out in search ofthe music.

****

Mary didn’t see the figure in the hallway.Couldn’t hear the whispered words of the silvery outline ofsomething that had once been a person. Couldn’t feel the ghostlyhand that reached out to her, passing through her shoulder as shewalked down the hall towards the stairs.

****

Michael picked up his fresh pint.“Slainte.” He nodded to the bartender, who was pouring asecond pint for Michael. Theceilidhwas over, but most ofthe younger crowd, and a few of the liveliest older folks, hadmoved from Finn’s Stable to the pub on the first floor of the eastwing. The goodcraic—the good times—continued even at thishour, music pumping through the speakers, people looking around asthose who hadn’t been out to the pub before commented on how it hadbeen renovated. His mother had gotten a ride home with a friend,leaving Michael to chat and drink.

Michael was impressed. Seamus had done theplace up properly, and the pub was certainly big enough, with a fewsnugs and two separate bars for when the crowds were large likethey had been earlier. Nodding to the bartender he picked up hisdrinks and turned. The people at the table beside the bar werestanding and gathering coats, blocking his way. Leaning back helooked around as he waited for the crush to clear. That’s how hespotted her.

The door between the pub and hotel opened and adark haired women peeked in. She was lovely, with hair straight asrain spilling across her shoulders. Her skin was lightly tanned,and though he couldn’t see their exact color from here her eyeswere bright, inquisitive. After a moment of looking around she bither lip and pulled back, the door closing.

Without questioning why, Michael slid throughthe crowd, pint in each hand. When he reached the door he bumped itopen with his hip. There was a small hallway on the other side,with the stairs and elevator that lead to the hotel rooms on thesecond floor. The dark-haired woman was on the stairs, only herlower legs visible.

“You leaving already?” Michael kept the doorpropped open with one leg, the sounds of the pub spillingout.

The woman stopped, came back down a few stepsand ducked to look at him. “Are you talking to me?”

“I am. Come back inside.”

“Oh, um, no I’m not…I’m just staying in thehotel. I’m not invited to the party.”

“And what makes you think it’s aparty?”

Her lips twitched and Michael wanted to see hersmile, really smile. “There’s a banner up that says ‘Good Luck,Ed!’”

“Well fair enough to that. What if I invite youto the party?”

“Are you Ed?”

“No.”

“Do you know Ed?”

“I’d say so, but I can’t be certain. I know hisfamily.”

“It doesn’t sound like you get to invite randompeople to the party.”

“Ah, sure I do. This is a public pub, we justmoved the party here from Finn’s Stable. All arewelcome.”

“I really shouldn’t.”

“But I already bought you a pint.” Michael heldup the glass originally intended for his friend. He wasn’t sure whyhe was so insistent that she come down, that she join him for aglass. There was just something about her that called tohim.

“You what?” She came the rest of the way downthe steps. She was slim, and even prettier up close. Her eyes weregray, the light, silvery gray of a spring morning.

“This is yours.” He pushed the pint ather.

“You bought me a pint?”

“I did. But I’m afraid you’ll have to come inhere to drink it.” Michael smiled, coaxing her into thepub.

She laughed, the sound bubbling up through her.Her smile was perfect, as were her lips.

“Okay, thank you for the drink.” She took thepint glass from him. “I’m Mary, by the way. MaryCallahan.”

Michael nodded and ushered her in, letting hishand brush against her back. “You’re an American from the accent,but we’ve Callahans around here. I’m Michael Baker.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Michael.” She lookedaround the pub curiously. “My grandparents are from Cailtytown.Brenden and Emer Callahan.”

Michael blinked. He recognized those names.Cailtytown was not such a large place that those who moved awaywere forgotten, especially when they moved away after suchsadness.

“Your parents...”

Clear silver eyes regarded him. “They werekilled in a bombing in Belfast when I was a baby.”

“Miss Mary Callahan, welcome home.” The storyof her parent’s death and her grandparents’ emigration, fleeingboth the Troubles and bad memories, was one of the many sad talestold in Cailtytown when the rain beat at the windows. Maybe thatwas why he was drawn to her—despite her accent, she belongedhere.

Michael turned to face the pub, put his fingersin his mouth, and whistled. Everyone’s eyes focused on him andsomeone turned the music off.

“We’ve one of our own, home to us.” He gesturedto Mary. “It’s Mary Callahan, granddaughter of Brenden and EmerCallahan.”

There was a beat of silence and then a cheerrose up. The few older people still in the pub stood, heading forher. Some had tears on their face.

“Welcome home, Mary Callahan,” Michaelwhispered as old Mr. Ryan leaned in to kiss her cheek.

The pretty brunette looked stunned. She turnedto look at Michael as she was guided to a table. Their gazes met,held, and something shifted inside Michael. The next moment she wassurrounded. He heard people welcoming her and asking after hergrandparents. Michael stepped back, gave her space and returned tothe table he’d been sharing with his friend.

“Michael Baker, how is it you found MaryCallahan on the way to the bar?”

“I’m a keen sort of man.” He settled down inthe chair next to Liam Murray, his friend and the GlenncailtyCastle handyman. Liam’s wife Kristina had left them a few hours agoas she worked the registration desk in the morning and had to be upearly.

“And where’s my drink?” Liam griped.

“Ah, well, here’s the thing…”

 

 

~~~~

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Two hours later Mary was drunk. Drunk andmelancholy.

Getting drunk was an accident, but entirelyunavoidable, considering the number of people who’d come up to her,holding out pints as they kissed her cheeks. The melancholia was aproduct of those same conversations. She knew her parents throughphotos and her grandparents’ stories, but in the past few hoursshe’d been told things about them she’d never heard before. Sheloved them, but it was in an abstract way. They’d never been realto her, and she’d only resented Ireland for the sadness it broughtto her grandparents.

In this warm pub, surrounded by people whowelcomed her as if she were family, she began to feel it—theconnection to this place that was her home, and a connection to theparents she’d never known.

In her mind they’d always been hardworking,simple people who loved her, and who’d been killed while in Belfaston a rare holiday. The stories she heard tonight painted a pictureof a feisty woman, prone to mischief, and the solid, steady manwho’d wooed and married her. The most touching of the stories wasone from a man in his sixties who’d been in the same class atschool as her father. He told her about the day her father, Andrew,had tried to take the pretty new school teacher, Siobhan, out for apicnic, only the car broke down part way there.

“Now this was long before cell phones, and outhere we wouldn’t have things like those call boxes on the motorwayyou understand.” The man telling the story—whose name Mary hadforgotten—let out a little chuckle. “With no way of calling forhelp your father said he’d walk in to town, but Siobhan wasn’tgoing to let a little thing like a busted car get in the way. Shegrabbed the bag of food your father had packed and dragged him intothe field, insisting they still have their picnic. But yourfather’s troubles weren’t done yet. When they opened the bag thatwas supposed to have the food they found milk bottles, meant to goback to the dairy.” He chuckled, taking a sip of his pint, whichmatched the one he’d brought Mary. “Andrew had grabbed the wrongbag he had, and now they were out in the countryside, stranded andwith no food.”

Mary smiled even as tears tightened herthroat.

“Now your da was sure he’d made a hash of itall. He was meant to be wooing your ma, but after a day like thishe was sure he’d never convince the pretty Siobhan to marry him.Andrew had started back to town, but Siobhan still wasn’t put off.She’d led them through fields until they came to a barn, where shebegged the farmer for help. They’d ended up being taken in by thefarmer’s wife and fed lunch, tea and tart. Even after they’d calledto let everyone know where they were they stayed, talking andlaughing. Finally the farmer gave your mother a ride home whileAndrew went and waited with the car until Brenden could tow himhome.”

Mary loved the picture the story painted of herquiet father trying so hard and seemingly failing to impress hermother, only to have Siobhan brush aside each setback and turn itinto an adventure. It made sense that her grandparents—her father’sparents—would talk more about them as a quiet, hardworking couple.Her parents had worked with her grandfather in his furniture makingshop, but she’d heard very little about them before they gotmarried, back when her mother was working as a teacher, the jobthat had brought her to Cailtytown.

“Thank you, for that memory.” Mary wiped tearsfrom her eyes.

The man hugged her, and Mary hugged him back, afew tears escaping before she could stop them.

“Ah, you’re very welcome, Mary Callahan. Andyou’re very welcome here, home to Ireland. You’ve beenmissed.”

Mary smiled, her lips trembling with emotion.When her companion wandered away she looked around to see that thepub’s crowd had thinned. It had to be four in the morning, longpast the time that an American bar would be closed, but there werestill a few people here. The bar was no longer serving, but thatdidn’t stop the conversation from flowing.

Two women entered, trailed closely by a man.One of the women—a red head—wore a black jacket and a small goldnametag. Mary looked around for her purse, sure that the hotelstaff person had come to throw them out. It took her a momentbefore she remembered that she didn’t have a purse.

“Ah Caera, give us a song love, before you runoff with that American.” Someone at the front of the room wastalking to the gorgeous dark-haired woman who’d come in. She lookedat her companion, who held an instrument case.

“I’m game if you are.” The man had just a hintof a Boston accent.

“How are you doing, Mary Callahan?” Michael wasat her side, taking a seat at the bar stool next to her.

“I’m…” Her words trailed off, because shedidn’t know what to say. She was both happy and terribly sad. “Idon’t know what I am.”

“A lot to take in?”

“Yes. My parents…these people knew myparents.”

“And did you not know anything aboutthem?”

“I did, from my grandparents, but it’sdifferent, hearing it from their friends.”

“They weren’t forgotten, nor were you.Glenncailty still mourns for their death.”

Fresh tears filled her eyes. She blinked andone slid down her cheek.

“Ah now, pretty Mary, I didn’t mean to make youcry.”

“I’m sorry.” She let out a watery laugh andwiped her eyes. “I don’t mean to cry, because I’m happy to hear thestories. Happy to know they’re remembered in theirhometown.”

His next comment was forestalled by the firstnotes of a song. She looked over to see the guy with the Bostonaccent holding a fiddle under his chin. The dark haired womansmiled softly then started singing. Mary’s breath caught as alovely ballad swept through the room. It was a story of love lost,love longed for.

A warm arm came around her shoulders. Shelooked over to Michael leaning against the bar, his arm around hershoulders pulling her against his side. He was good looking,handsome even, but not in the polished way she was used to. Hishair was that color between brown and blond. In the dim lights ofthe pub it looked brown, but she suspected that in the sun it wouldbe gold. He was probably about her age—thirty—and had just a fewlines at the corners of his eyes.

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