Read The irish lover Online

Authors: Lila Dubois

The irish lover (page 4)

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Mary stepped away from Michael, laying her handon the griffin’s head. “This was Grandpa’s shop.”

Michael looked up. “I’d forgotten that. Ialways knew it as the solicitor’s office.”

“I wish I had my camera. Grandpa would love tosee this.”

“Should we go in? I’m sure they’d let you havea look around.”

Mary stroked the wood carving, imagining hergrandfather’s fingers where hers now were. “Do you think I couldcome back later? I want to take pictures and I don’t want to getall teary before I go to have tea with you mother.”

Michael’s arm came around her shoulders and alittle thrill went through her at his touch. “You’re allowed to besad.”

Mary bit her lip, pushing back the tears thatthreatened. “I know.”

“Well then, I need a cup of tea; how’s about wehead?”

Together they made their way to thecar.

 

 

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Chapter Three

 

“Mary Callahan, I would have known you evenwithout the name. Come in, come in, you’re verywelcome.”

Michael watched as his mother ushered Mary in,taking her coat and scarf and fussing over her.

“Are you cold, Mary? Would you find it coldhere? Sure you wouldn’t, Chicago is a cold enough place isn’tit?”

Mary opened her mouth several times, butrealized quickly enough that his mother didn’t require a reply.Michael winked at her when she glanced over her shoulder at him.Mary relaxed a bit after that, and Michael had to check the urge tograb her and hug her.

“Michael, will you show Mary to a seat? Goodlad.”

“In here.” Michael ushered her through a doorto the front room. Used only on holidays and when the priest cameto visit, the front room was a buttery yellow with lace curtainsand carved dark wood furniture. The round table was set with threeplaces. Jam and cream for scones were already on the table indelicate china bowls.

A moment later his mother came bustling inthrough the other door, which led to the less formal sitting roomand the kitchen beyond. He stood and took the tray from her,holding it as she unloaded a teapot, milk, sugar and a plate offresh baked scones.

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Baker, this is lovely.I hope you didn’t go to much trouble.”

“No trouble, no trouble at all.” Tea waspoured, scones passed out, and finally his mother took a seat. “Iwould have known you were Siobhan’s daughter easy enough. You havethe look of her.”

“Thank you. How did you know myparents?”

“I worked with your mother as a teacher. Yourfather was a few classes ahead of me in school, so I knew him wellenough too. You wouldn’t have thought they’d go together. Youfather was a quiet man, and Siobhan a bit wild, but they were goodfor each other.”

“I hadn’t heard that she was wild; mygrandparents never described her that way.”

“She was a proper daughter in law when theywere around; it was only when she was out with your father or onher own that she let her hair down a bit. But don’t think that shewas a bad woman—she was as kind any you could find. She was goodcraic, she was.”

“Crack?” Mary looked confused.

“Craic. It’s Irish and it means goodfun.” Michael reached for another scone, ignoring his mother’slook.

“Oh right. I’m sorry, I knew that.”

“Do you speak Irish?”

“No, I only know a few words.”

For an hour Michael’s mother told story afterstory about Siobhan. Mary hung on each word, her attentionabsolute. Michael’s heart clenched for her. He couldn’t imaginewhat it would be like not to know your parents, to be disconnectedfrom your home. He’d thought that in the light of day hisinexplicable fascination with Mary Callahan would be gone, but itwasn’t. Instead it was growing with each breath she took, each wordshe spoke.

“And you and Michael are of an age,” his motherwas saying. “In fact, I have something to show you.” She rose andwent to the china cabinet against the wall. The lower compartmentheld a variety of photo albums and mementos from Michael’schildhood. She pulled out an album he recognized—a pale blue bookcontaining his baby pictures.

“Mother…”

He would never forgive her if she forced Maryto sit through a page-by-page photo narration of hischildhood.

She ignored him and cleared a place on thetable to set down the book. Mary scooted her chair so she could seebetter. Michael could feel himself going pink withembarrassment.

“Here’s Michael, wasn’t he a nice fatbaby?”

Mary’s lips twitched and she looked at himunder her lashes. “He certainly was.”

With a groan Michael dropped his head onto hishands.

“Here we are.” She flipped through the pagesuntil she came to one near the middle of the book. There was aseries of photos of three-year-old Michael sitting in the grasswith a younger child leaning against him. The little girl had curlyred-brown hair and wore a pretty green dress.

“That’s you, Mary.”

Mary looked at the photo and then at Michael,surprise writ large on her face.

“What?” Michael was as surprised as Marylooked.

“That’s the both of you. Cailtytown isn’t sucha big place that there would be many babies at any time, so the twoof you played together.”

Michael knew he’d seen the pictures before, andhis mother must have told him who the little girl was, but hehadn’t remembered, or associated the little curl-haired baby withthe dark-haired beauty he’d met in the pub.

His mother turned a page and there they were,Michael’s arms around the little Mary, whose eyes were closed, babylashes crescents on her chubby cheeks.

“Michael was quite in love with you, and youwere smitten with him, sure you were.”

Now it was Mary’s turn to blush, and Michaelcouldn’t keep from grinning. It was strange and almost comfortingto know that they’d met before. Maybe that was why he was drawn toher.

“You would have been eighteen months here, andMichael is just after turning three.” His mother’s lips pressedtogether. “Six months after this your parents were gone and yourgrandparents had closed the shop and gone off toAmerica.”

Mary touched the photo album. “It must havebeen hard for them, after.”

“It was, it was. We thought we were far enoughsouth that the Troubles wouldn’t touch us.” Rose touched Mary’shand. “We all mourned for them, and for you, to lose your parentsso young.”

“Thank you.” Mary took a breath, and Michael’sheart clenched when he saw the tears in her eyes. “My grandparentswere wonderful, and I loved growing up in Chicago.”

“Sure enough, sure enough, but this is yourhome. Now tell me, what are your grandparents up to over inAmerica?”

The conversation lightened as Mary describedher life growing up. Her grandfather worked as a carpenter, and hergrandmother a bank manager. They were comfortably retired in asuburb of Chicago.

“And what do you do, Mary?”

“At the moment, nothing. I worked in TV,producing a local interest show called Chicago’s Time. Due to theeconomy there wasn’t funding to keep the show going.”

“In TV you were; tell me, do you knowOprah?”

Mary laughed. “I did meet her once. She’s verynice.”

The conversation turned to her work in TV.Michael had always assumed people who worked in TV, especiallyAmerican TV, would be wild and egotistical, but as she spoke withcalm assurance he could imagine Mary in command of people,directing a program.

His mother rose from the table, carrying outthe tray with the teapot and plate of scone crumbs. When the doorclosed behind her Mary smiled.

“Your mother is lovely.”

“I’m quite fond of her myself. Though I cannotbelieve she showed you baby pictures.”

Mary shook her head, a half smile on her face.“We were babies together. That makes me wonder if it wasn’t fatethat you invited me into the pub last night.”

Michael raised his cup, gaze locked with hers.“To fate.”

His mother returned with a tray laden withbrown bread, cold sliced ham, relishes and salad. “I saw the timeand thought we might need a spot of dinner.”

Mary looked at the food, then her watch. “I’mso sorry, I didn’t mean to stay so late.”

“Not at all, not at all. Now Mary, did I tellyou that your grandfather made this furniture?”

“Really?” She swiveled in her seat to lookaround the room. “It’s beautiful.”

“Does he still make it?”

“Not like this. He’s made a few things, butmost of his work was repairing and replacing wood pieces inhistoric homes. He did make me a doll house.” Her smile was softwith remembrance. “It was beautiful, like this.”

“I remember your mother coming with your fatherand grandfather to assemble it. That piece over there is too big tocome in the door, so they put it together right here.”

“I know my mother worked forGrandpa.”

“She stopped teaching when they married, butwent right into the shop, whipping that place into shape. By thetime you were born she was as good as your father at putting piecestogether, and small enough that her hands would go places yourfather’s couldn’t.”

Mary’s eyes were once again bright with tears.“I wish I’d come back before this, to hear these stories aboutthem.”

His mother was blinking and Michael put hishand on her arm, more grateful than he could say to haveher.

She pulled a tissue from her sleeve and wipedher nose. “You’re here now, and that’s good. Michael, why don’t youtake Mary for a walk. When you come back, I’ll have a bit of sweetstuff for us.”

For the second time that day Mary walked, armin arm, with Michael. Her emotions were swinging from near joy atlearning about her parents to an aching sadness that she was not apart of this place, these people.

“How are you, Miss Mary Callahan?” They wereaway from the house, wandering along a narrow road lined with tidycottages. The sun was low in the sky, and the wind was cold.Michael wrapped his arm around Mary’s shoulders when sheshivered.

“That’s a loaded question. I don’t quite knowwhat to feel.”

“Fair enough.” He kept the silence as theywalked on. He’d guided them out of the town, and they were nowwalking down a winding road that snaked between the fields. Michaelopened a gate in the stone wall on their right and led her off theroad. There was a path bisecting the field of knee-high grass.Slowing their steps, they wandered slowly amid the lake of green.When they were midway down the field Michael stopped her. “If Iwere any kind of gentleman I wouldn’t do this.”

****

“Do what?” But she knew the answer, even beforehis hands cupped her cheeks, and his lips met hers.

The kiss was soft, gentle. The breeze swirledaround them and Mary leaned into Michael. His arms came around her,cradling her body.

Mary pulled back, looking up into his greengaze. Soft as the kiss had been, its effect on her was anythingbut. She felt alive, every inch of skin tingling and sensitive. Akiss hadn’t affected her that much in a very long time, maybeever.

Michael was smiling, rubbing her arms, and ahorrible thought struck her. “Michael, I’m only here for a fewdays, and I’m sorry, but I don’t do vacation flings.”

“Who said that’s what I’m interestedin?”

Mary didn’t trust the warm feeling in herbelly, didn’t trust Michael, though he’d given her no reason todistrust him.

“As far as I know, you might have a wife andtwo kids in Dublin.”

Micahel’s lips twitched. “A wife and twokids?”

“Maybe.”

“And my mother wouldn’t have saidsomething?”

“Why would she? We were just there havingtea.”

“No man can bring a pretty woman to tea withouthis mother making a guest list for the wedding.”

“That’s…that’s…”

“That’s Irish Mammys for you.” A gust of windmade her shiver and Michael pulled her against his chest. Mary wentwillingly. “I want nothing from you, pretty Mary, that you aren’twilling to give.”

“This is nuts.”

“It may be, but there’s something about youthat calls to me. I’ve not felt this before, and I’d be a fool toignore it. I’d like to spend more time with you.” Michael tippedher chin up, their gazes locked. “I want to do far more than kissyou.”

 

 

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Chapter Four

 

Mary’s heart overruled her head. They walkedback to his house and would have gone straight to the car ifMichael’s mother hadn’t called them in for sweet mince tart. Assoon as the plates were cleared, Michael jumped up, telling hismother Mary was jet lagged and needed to rest and that he washeaded back to Dublin. Before she could say anything they were outthe door.