Web Site: The Pipes Are Calling
Love is a song onboard a plane bound for Ireland...
FAMINE AT 1412
Loretta A. Murphy
“I have to go. Now.”
There was little time for him to question her abrupt statement and even less time for him to stop her. Her actions were deliberate. Despite the early hour and at best, a restless sleep, she was focused on her goal of a quick departure.
Mary Theresa was out of here. Short, sweet, to the point. One way. Her way. Short goodbyes made it easier to escape both the questions and the need for answers. The longer two people went on and on about something, the worse the situation could become. In the everyday world, away from the therapy groups and daytime TV shows featuring pop psychologists, that’s how it was far too often when people “communicated”.
A shame, wasn’t it? One might go far enough to speculate that if men and women suddenly stopped all forms of verbal communication, the divorce rate might plummet. Perhaps there was far too much communication going on between the sexes. Her therapy groups and individual client caseload were filled with victims of the deadly sin of miscommunication It had the potential for wonderful doctoral research project if she ever went back for her PhD.
Let’s see…Subject A …saaaay…the woman…has a thought that must be translated into a message to Subject B…that would be …you guessed it…the man. Subject A makes a direct statement as obvious as a sledgehammer. Fat chance Subject B gets it…but that is another variable altogether. The statement of intent, when directed at Subject B, immediately causes him…ooops, all gender aside…to react defensively. Subject B…now displaying an attitude …directs all sorts of negative attention towards Subject A. If all goes well, which is rarely if ever, Subject B eventually catches on.
Now she was being downright sarcastic. She wickedly revised her hypothesis. It was all about poor communication, wasn’t it? In fact, wasn’t everything from the latest scandal in the gossip columns to the wars in the Middle East?
Miscommunication, she decided, was the scourge of interpersonal relationships. It could easily be blamed for most romantic discord, if not the entire age old war between the sexes. For Mary Theresa Fogarty, in her fifteenth year as a psychotherapist, it was also job security. She sighed at the enormity of it all. Another cosmic revelation.
Yeah, well. All’s perfect in a perfect world. She, at least, was in control of her romantic life. Problem was, in the garden of love, her relationship with Jacob was in dire need of pruning. Timing being everything, it so happened Mary Theresa had he perfect shears to do it. Her vacation had arrived. She was out of here. A little space would be good for both of them.
Jacob was rousing. He was barely awake, tousled brown hair over sleepy brown eyes. Mary Theresa hated confrontation but leaving without as much as a good-bye would be downright rude. She itched to be gone and on her way across the ocean. If nothing else, her mother had taught her good manners. She hesitated. Maybe this was a little cowardly…
On the other hand, it wasn’t like she hadn’t made the effort. Her resolve swayed for an instant before MT turned the corner of the bedroom and made for the hallway. If Jake wanted to chit chat she’d be stuck here another half hour. Luckily, Subject B was still sleep impaired. In her mind’s eye she knew by now he’d be swinging his long legs over to the side of the bed. She dared not look back. As an afterthought, she mentally crossed her fingers for the best and flung a hasty good-bye over her shoulder.
“Bye, Jake. Gotta run.”
Whew! The tall thin red head breathed in with relief. She was almost home free. Mary Theresa, MT for short, heard him shout - barely - as she simultaneously grabbed for the door knob with one hand and her shoulder bag with the other. Good thing she’d dressed quietly. Sneak attack. He hadn’t known what truck had hit him.
“MT.! What the he…”
His voice trailed off to a low growl in the distance. For a brief second, she held her breath until the apartment door slammed shut behind her. She was in the hallway…down the exit stairs and out. Her gold metallic trench flew behind her as she spun out the back door of the trendy Citadel Apartments onto Belmont Street. Looking every inch the detective on the sleuth, MT glanced at her watch with sharp green eyes. She grinned at her dubious achievement.
58 seconds. It was a new world record.
She’d known Jacob for a year, through work. Jake was funny in a quirky intellectual sort of way. They’d only started dating two months ago. He was a physical therapist in the same medical office where she counseled patients with relationship problems, clinical depression and the like. Jake was cute and things were fun for a while but …
It was just getting too complicated. MT liked the tall dark good-looking part, but that something was missing. Again. Breaking up was hard to do, but somebody had to do it. It wasn’t fair to either of them to pretend their relationship was going somewhere when MT knew it hadn’t even left the parking lot.
Break ups were why she saved her vacation days. She’d made it a habit through the years. The fall was a good time to do the dirty deed if it indeed had to be done. No sense prolonging the inevitable. Relationships were like Nature. Some thrive, some survive, some wither and die. By the time she came back from Ireland, Jacob would have gotten the message. Subject A - namely her - would be off the proverbial hook.
She felt a twinge. Guilt? For God’s sake, it wasn’t like she’d said she’d marry him. She was an educated woman…this was 2002. She didn’t need to make excuses. Office chitter-chatter had it that Jacob was far more serious about her than she was about him, but then the grapevine was about as credible as a supermarket tabloid. Her work friends told her there was a rumor that that rumor was a rumor. And then there was that one spiteful story that Mary Theresa was the one who was chasing Jake.
More like sour grapes from that punker receptionist, Carla, is what MT figured. The little spike-haired busybody had her pierced nose out of joint, that’s all. She’d been trying to get a date with Jacob since he started work there last autumn. MT spoiled Carla’s plans by snagging him first but she’d be happy to make restitution now. A light bulb in MT’s brain went off. Hey, maybe in MT’s three week absence Jake and Carla would get cozy around the campfire. Miss Carla would get her wish and MT freedom without the guilt. Seeing Jacob’s puppy dog eyes when she got back was the last thing she wanted to welcome her home. Carla might be just the diversion Jake needed once MT exited stage left.
Or maybe not. What if he were serious? Jacob had been asking her about her ring size last Tuesday when he commented on her long her finger were. It seemed innocent enough at the time. MT got the willies. Jacob was a nice guy and all that but…
Oh, Lord! What if he was IN LOVE with her?
MT cringed. For God’s sake, he couldn’t …no, he wouldn’t be thinking marriage already. The last thing MT wanted to do was hurt the guy. She didn’t like the getting or the giving of broken hearts. Better keep it simple, keep it casual. Nobody gets hurt and everybody parts friends.
Get a grip, she told herself as she slid into her dark green VW. Jake was no more serious about this relationship than she. Still, she wondered …maybe she should have given him a quick hug and a kiss. Relationships cause entirely too much anxiety, MT decided. She didn’t need an excuse to take a vacation. She was 39 years old and didn’t need to rationalize anything to anybody.
Frankly, Scarlet, things with Jacob were getting a little too up close and personal. MT Fogarty planned to be gone like the wind. Leaving on a jet plane. She was making a quick split and getting out of the country. Today. She was heading for the airport at 7 a.m. Her flight was scheduled for 9 am. And it wasn’t like Jake didn’t know she was going.
He’d even suggested getting time off and going with her. MT had put the skids to that. Poor Jake. If all went well, he would never realize that MT was letting him down gently. No bitter words, no tears, no blame. A no-fault breakup where nobody gets broken up and everybody gets to respect themselves in the morning.
The chilly crispness of the pre-dawn September day in southern Pennsylvania got her attention. The farms and fields in the York area tended to get an early spring and a late fall. It was still green with only wisps of color beginning in the tress. Autumn whispered but was not yet ready to speak up. MT shivered and willed her pulse to jump start her metabolism so she’d warm up. She wiped the windows of the vintage Volkswagon free of condensation and started her engine.
The race to leave on time was on. It was a little game she played with herself to curb her habit of running late. She mapped her timetable out in her head …driving was an especially good time to plan… making deliberate associations and mental pictures and references. Anticipation building, MT felt the excitement as she imagined the next few hours that lay ahead. With the new security checks and the usual delays, MT knew she was in for a doosey of an airport wait. Better take a few new novels along. She’d leave her answering machine on while she showered and finished packing. That should take care of any follow-up calls from Jake to avoid a last minute confrontation on her way out the door. Just in case he called, of course.
It was 4 in the morning. In less than twelve hours, she’d be across the Atlantic. She remembered an old Roches tune…we’re going away to Ireland soon…we’re going away to Ireland, Ireland…Ireland soon…Ireland soon… If she remembered correctly, Maggie and Terri and Sussie were leaving behind their boyfriends, too. Odd she’d think of that old song from her Philadelphia folk festival days. If she had time, she’d dig out the tape.
She wondered if Jake had followed her. MT considered the odds. Loves-me-loves-me-not roulette. If Jacob really loved her he’d be down to the first floor lobby by now. He’d have jumped out of bed and in the passion of the moment, raced out of his apartment half dressed. MT had a vision of Jacob in his designer boxers, riding down the elevator ready to do battle for her affections. The boxer shorts didn’t add to the knight in shining image. MT giggled. It tickled her funny bone, but did nothing to stir her romantic fantasies.
She instinctively knew she had made the right decision. Jake Colter wasn’t for her.
She wasn’t sure anyone was. But right now, she didn’t care about any of that.
MT Fogarty was flying to Ireland today. All by herself. Her senses tingled with the excitement of her upcoming adventure. The crickets sang to her from the tall grasses that lined the fields along the Trail. She thought of Lennon’s last song…free as a bird…it’s the next best thing. This was the next best thing. A weight was lifting.
Her house was nestled in an alcove about a mile down the road. She drove home the short cut, smiling to no one but the cows as she drove past them in the early morning quiet.
MT arrived back at 1412 Shadow Lane as the sun broke over the mountain outside her window like a fat egg yolk in a pink purple frying pan sky. It was like a coffee commercial. No sarcasm intended. MT found those early morning riser ones kind of nostalgic. Made her long for the aroma of fresh brewed. She checked the fridge for real coffee…homemade coffee. A caffeine toast to celebrate the occasion of her trip abroad. Caught up in the moment, she decided to go all out and sprinkle it with brown sugar cinnamon for a treat.
Alas…when she got there, the cupboard was bare. No ground coffee for the automatic. A scant teaspoon was left in the coffee can in the fridge. Tough luck. MT inhaled the fumes. She needed caffeine. This was serious. The worst part was she had no one to blame but herself.
MT hadn’t been stocking groceries in anticipation of her upcoming journey. Problem was, as she used things up, she’d think, oh I can get along without it until I get back from my trip. MT liked to pride herself on her will power. Good for the soul. She envisioned herself an Irish woman during the horrific 1840’s famine. I’d have to do without lots, she’d admonish her weak and chocoholic self. To be able to do without is a powerful strength.
Hence, there occurred a self induced famine of sorts at 1412 Shadow Lane. Usually overflowing cabinets were devoid of cookies, absent of nacho chips, vacant of instant oatmeal. In a chilling moment when MT realized we all really do become our mother, her innate compulsivity kicked in. Applying the energy of her addictive personality toward something other than feeding her caffeine and sugar habits gave her an edge she’d been missing. For a while, MT was secretly a little annoyed at herself for her stark new philosophy of less, not more.
It wasn’t like the stupid chocolate chip cookies wouldn’t keep for a few weeks in a zip-lock.
Then, it became the Principle of the Thing. She felt almost purified. It was like a Lenten fast of sorts, except that it wasn’t Easter and she wasn’t sacrificing for any special reason. Or was she? We need so much stuff to exist, she thought. So many things to fill our needs.
She wondered what it would be like to be a gypsy, free to go where life took her at a moments’ notice. Able to travel light when the occasion warranted. Free to follow her passions. Odd too, though, how passions can create the piles of possessions that anchor you down. She thought of her bare pantry shelves. For an instant, she felt lighter. The experience was dizzying. MT shook it off. Must be all that purification of the soul.
Either that or caffeine withdrawal, she decided while continuing to search for coffee of some sort. Luckily, her Old Mother Hubbard instinct had left a 6 ounce jar of instant hoarded on the corner shelf above the micro. After starting the water to boil in her old blue tea kettle, she kicked off her shoes. Mary Theresa breathed deep in a moment of sheer and utter respite.
Thank heavens she was home. Home again to leave again.
Her mind raced in four different directions. MT thought of twenty million things she had to do …so many things, so little time before leaving for the airport. Traffic on the Beltway was lighter in the early morning hours but not by much. She’d have to prioritize. Daylight beckoned her to rise and shine. Besides, her energy level was soaring…if she could only bottle it for a rainy day.
MT flicked on the living room light.
Dublin the Wonder Cat woke up and blinked twice at his roving master. The Human returned from Its’ travels. Dublin yawned and leisurely stretched out an elegant paw. How boring. Had It had brought food? That would be at least some consolation for It disturbing a perfectly good sleep-in.
MT laughed. All hail the King of Felines, His Royal Catness, Dublin the Wonder Cat.
MT paid homage, stroking her hand down the cat’s long silky back and tail. It was not enough. Dublin continued to snub his mistress. Did It expect Dublin to fawn over It? He thought not. With great disinterest, the huge calico cat extended its back. Its’ front nails rhythmically kneaded the chair cushion, knocking over a pillow onto the floor in the process. He ignored MT’s pathetic attempts at sucking up to him.
It was to be expected.
“Go ‘head and wreak the joint, you wicked beastie.” MT scratched behind the purring cat’s ears, eliciting both a roll-over and a stately wiggle much to the cat’s consternation. MT pictured King Dublin in a jeweled collar and crown, passing judgment on her from his favorite napping spot on his lazy boy throne.
“It’s off with my head, I suppose, for going away and leaving you. So much for my ego…not even a jump up and rub-around-the-legs to show me you missed me. Just you wait, you ungrateful cat. You won’t be so snooty when you get to Margaret Mary’s and are hunted down by Lep the Great.”
Lep was short for Leprechaun. Dublin’s fur bristled as he remembered the Christmas Margaret Mary and her Man of the Moment had gone skiing in Vermont. It was not a pleasant memory for any cat to relive. Lep was a small brown bundle of energy that passed for a dog when he stopped racing around long enough to be identified. MT had a prophecy and it wasn’t pretty.
MT laughed at her pet. Her sister’s cairn terrier sure had a thing when it came to cats. Kitties of any shape and size. Big cats, little cats…cats that climb on rocks…like the hot dog jingle. Tough cats, sissy cats…even fifteen pound felines with an attitude. Like Dublin. Lep lived for ferreting out cats from under the furniture. Lep and Dublin had a history in the ring. To put it bluntly, Dublin played hard to get and Lep got to try harder. It was an even match and all bets were off on the winner.
MT cringed remembering the feud that lasted from the minute the dog arrived to the second it left. The dog’s loud repetitive barks could be heard all day long. Especially when the cat constantly foiled his big doggie plans by squashing itself under the cherry wood bookcase. Dublin did that amazing cat flattening thing cats can do when they have had just about enough of whoever or whatever. The neighborhood cop stopped by twice during the 4 day weekend she dog-sat for Margaret Mary. They’d been called by her neighbors to her left who reported to Officer Newly that they’d had it with the incessant cacophony. MT giggled. Make that cat-ophony.
The Martin’s to the right didn’t bother with the police. They simply warned her point blank in a midnight phone call to shut the dog up or they would. By Day 3, MT (in a moment of weakness) almost offered Lep up on a silver platter. To cope, she had no choice but to deaden the noise by closing all the windows, popping in a pair of ear plugs, and turning up the volume on the music to oh-wow.
No…MT didn’t envy her sister’s upcoming pet sitting experience but it was payback. Margaret Mary would have her hands full over the next several weeks. It would take at least three days for Dublin to come out from under the bed and God Bless Lep once he did. Fur was sure to fly or her name wasn’t Mary Theresa. If Margaret Mary hadn’t exterminated either the dog or the cat by the time MT returned home, her younger sibling might be eligible to petition Rome for Sainthood.
Dublin was fast asleep again. So much for emotional homecomings. The chance that Dublin would get up to see her off again didn’t look too promising either. Mary Theresa momentarily wondered if cats missed their owners or if it were just wishful thinking on their owners’ parts.
Na, she decided, watching Dublin’s peaceful slumber. Not a shred. Obviously it was beneath the feline species to miss their Humans but the birthright of Humankind to miss their cats. Judging from her cat’s relaxed return to La-La-Land, MT assumed Dublin wasn’t going to be overly traumatized by her extended vacation abroad. In fact, the overgrown excuse for a tomcat would happily call home anyplace that supplied Nine Lives and unrestricted access to the upholstered living room furniture. In cat life, a lazy boy is a lazy boy.
Right now, if Mary Theresa could read Dublin’s mind, it was thinking more of breakfast than her eminent departure. If he sent his Human on Its merry way, perhaps It would find him Food and bring it back. Pickings had been rather slim around here lately. The Cat blinked his squinty double eye cat blink one more time at MT, dismissing the human subject. Then, with the sheer luxury of movement that only cats have, the feline gave one regal swish of his elegant tail before curling back up into an efficiently tight multicolored furball.
The realization hit her as she snapped close her carry-on and locked her suitcase. No one would miss her once she got on that plane to Ireland, well, except her parents and maybe Margaret Mary. The office would survive without her. So would Jake, who’d apparently got over her middle of the night exodus rather quickly. He’d left no messages nor showed up at her door. He probably gone back to sleep. It was his Saturday off.
It was strange to realize that if she were to drop off the face of the earth tomorrow, no one would notice. Well, at least for a while. Her job as a therapist would be quickly filled by some eager new graduate who’d been waiting for an opening. MT worked at a fairly prestigious medical clinic. Jacob would join Carla in a piercing frenzy and the clinic staff would begin wearing signature safety pins through their eyebrows.
Well, maybe the safety pins were pushing it. MT felt a little sad, thinking of how disposable she really was. Like a biodegradable paper plate on trash day. Silly. It should be a relief to know she could come and go so freely. No burdens. No responsibilities. Well, except for Dublin. But then, even Dublin wouldn’t care much if she were vanish into thin air - as long as she left cat food.
MT shrugged off her melancholia to post-plane jitters and hit the shower.
It felt glorious. She soaped up with lavender scented shower get. MT thought of the hair shampoo commercial. If she was ever forced to have an organic experience over a hair product, it was time to get a life. Still, she felt exhilarated. Liberated. It must be the breaking-up. Or the sparseness of her pantry. Or her habit of thinking about things in her life in reference to TV commercials. MT figured she was probably a wee bit neurotic but resisted the tendency to apply an actual label to her oddness.
After all, as she told her clients, you can call what you have anything you choose, but a banana is still a banana.
She slowly rinsed and conditioned her shoulder length hair. Lately MT had been thinking about cutting it. She sang a little South Pacific tune, changing the words to I’m gonna cut that man right outta my hair. If she ever did cut it, it was getting donated to one of those charities.
But not today. Today, she was glad, no - not just glad- but ecstatic that her hair was long and flowing. It seemed fitting. Had she cut her hair, it would not get to see Ireland. Mary Theresa Fogarty was going across the sea with every hair on her well conditioned head intact.
Wasn’t it romantic?
Peaking out from the steamy shower to view the clock that hung over the door frame, she dripped water but that was okay. Her timing was perfect. Five a.m. and counting. She had plenty of time to do a final check on her packing, then call Mom and Dad to say good-bye.
She grinned. Her parents were beside themselves. Happy, but beside themselves. Thrilled their oldest daughter was finally getting to Ireland, but worried that she insisted on going over alone. Nervous-jervouses. It was the Fogarty family way.
Michael Patrick and Marian Mary Fogarty had only been to Ireland once themselves. But as they would tell you as they brought out the 4th photo album of snapshots, it had been utter bliss. The couple had been on a 9 day guided tour with the St. Patrick’s Catholic Daughters and the Daughters’ husbands.
The trip was the highlight of their forty year marriage and probably, MT decided, their lives. Mother had a framed 11 x 14 glossy of her hanging over to backwards kissing the Blarney Stone hung over the mantle. It was her pride and joy to show it off to dinner guests.
Mary Theresa’s visit home last Sunday for dinner went a little like a Marx Brothers routine, but then, didn’t most visits home? She was never sure if her mother was playing Gracie to her father’s George Burns, or she was playing Dean Martin to her sister’s Jerry Lewis. The dialogue went something like this….
“Oh, Michael Patrick, our little girl - flying to the old sod alone. It’s so….adventurous. Like a …a…Lauren Bacall and Bogie movie!”
“Mother, it’s not like I’m flying solo around the world in a hot air balloon.”
“Mary Theresa, no need to get snippy. Your mother is just trying to say how proud we are of your independence. Why, there are still women in America who don’t have a line of credit…”
“Dad, I don’t need a mini-lecture on the lack of economic advancement of American women in society.”
“Oh, go on, Dad. Give her one anyway. I bet Mary Theresa was daydreaming out the window the day they lectured on Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Erhart in History class.”
“Margaret Mary, thanks for all your help. And Mother, I’m hardly little at the age of 39.”
“Any time. That’s what sisters are for. Do I get any extra points for reminding you that I’ll always be two years younger?”
“Margaret Mary, don’t bait your sister. And like it or not, Mary Theresa, you’ll always be my little girl.”
MT rinsed off and exited the shower as she considered her wacky and wild family. If the truth be known, she’d miss them all, but at the same time …. a three week vacation was looking better and better all the time. If only for the sake of her fragile sanity.
She made the mandatory phone call to the parental units from her cell phone as she locked the Bug and headed for the terminal entrance. She was early and that was a good omen. If the weather held up and take off wasn’t delayed….
“Yes, Mother, I will be alert for terrorists and any airplane parts that are broken, spindled, or mutilated. I swear. Yes, Mother, I swear on a stack of bibles. Yes, Mother. I already promised Daddy….oh, alright…on my honor…I will send him postcards from everywhere in Ireland possessing so much as a mail slot. Oh, Mom, please don’t put Daddy back on…Yes, Daddy…I promise…yes, and I’ll call once a week.”
It was much harder ditching parents than male friends. After all, they’d given her life and all most of the romantic leads in her life had given her was aggravation. Still, her mother and father drove her to distraction. She fended off irritation at her parents’ habits…her father’s compulsions and mother’s eccentricities never failed to get on her last nerve.
Her negative thoughts were followed almost automatically by her berating herself for her ungratefulness as a daughter. There were benefits to being a therapist. At least she was aware when that good old Catholic girl guilt was setting in. Thou shalt honor thy Father and Mother. The very least she could do was send her Father a lousy postcard without getting all bent out of shape.
Listening to your own psychobabble again, Mary Theresa, she chided herself. Some therapist she was, letting her thoughts get all out of control like that. As if by rote, MT practiced the ABC’s of cognitive therapy she had so often taught to her clients. Her parents’ demands on her were causing her to feel resentful which then triggered her guilt. But she didn’t have to feel guilty…or send the post card for that matter…that was her choice.
Except it was not just one lousy postcard. That was the exasperating part. Who was she kidding? If it were just one postcard…or two…or three, but nooooo. Her father’s compulsivity was notorious. The end result was that if you forgot - even once -to send even one postcard - Mr. Fogarty would dog you for it the remainder of your natural life and probably into the hereafter. He was still riding her Uncle Malachi because Uncle Malachi didn’t send him a post-card from Tibet. Malachi insisted there were no post offices once they reached the remote areas in the Tibetan mountains. Her father retorted that if he were any kind of a brother, Malachi would have had it sent by llama.
One post-card every morning and evening she was in Ireland or, for heaven’s sake, at an airport going either way. Those were the rules of her father’s post card collection. That was the promise her mother made her swear to keep.
Bunratty had best have a mailbox or she’d be hunting down gaelic carrier pigeons.
The Aer Lingus flight had barely begun its trek across the Atlantic when MT felt a nagging sensation of having forgotten to do something. She’d called her parents, sent the ridiculous obligatory post-card of Inner Harbour from the terminal at Baltimore International, dropped off Dublin at Margaret Mary’s. She went down her mental check-list. Right around number ten, she realized she had forgotten to turn on her answering machine.
She wondered if it were subconscious whoops, a Freudian slip of her avoidance-of-all-things-uncomfortable habit showing. She hated the confrontational part of leaving. The having to explain why to these male creatures who seemed to not have been paying attention to the relationship’s meltdown.
Hence, machine off…no phone calls from Jake to deal with. Viola! Instant absolution from returning his call once she got home. He’d grown possessive this past three weeks, had hinted that he might move a few things into a drawer in her bedroom…if she had room. MT didn’t have room, literally or figuratively. Nor did she want to think about this next step along the relationship highway.
Mary Theresa was smart, educated, and savvy when it came to most things. When it came to men, however, that was something else again. She didn’t trust her feelings and she didn’t trust them. Not since Tommy.
MT fell in love with Tommy the first time she saw him. He was across the lawn at the community pool. It was 1972 and she was 9 years old. He was 13 and new to town. As the loudspeakers blared the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You”, MT gave her heart away. That was the legend she liked to remember when she thought of her first love.
MT wasn’t much to look at...gangly, straggly hair, glasses. To a just turned 13 teenage boy trying to fit into a new social situation, she might as well as have been invisible. Tommy didn’t notice MT for the next seven years even though MT was trying darn hard to get his attention. He was popular, never without a girlfriend, always in the middle of a gang of older teens.
Then it happened one night in late October. The night darkened early and windy. Gold and orange leaves spiraled and danced outside the window. It was the year she turned 16.
MT was working behind the counter at Cece’s, the local greasy spoon when Tommy came in. Alone. So few patrons came in that evening that the head waitress, Martha, told MT to start closing up early. MT saw something in Tommy’s face that made her stop her duties. He looked different, vulnerable. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, or for that matter, do about it. She decided to simple wait on him and see what happened.
“Can I help you?”
“Hiya ….Mary Theresa, right? You’re a junior at North Manheim.”
“Right. What can I get you , Tommy?”
“A coke…and a smile. I sure could use of those right now.”
MT looked up at the object of her affections. For years, she tried to get him to look in her direction and now here he was, asking for her to smile.
MT literally beamed. Her unexpected glow touched something in the older boy. When she returned with his drink, he made a point to look at her. Really look at her. Tommy watched her awhile as he sipped his coke. Her fiery red hair, her long legs. So what if Debby Stewart dumped him? His teenage ego was bruised but what the heck? There were lots of pretty girls out there. Even in here.
Tommy McNeil decided the something he’d been missing had been right under his nose. He waited around until Cece’s closed then offered to drive MT home. MT thought it was a dream come true . She couldn’t tell her mom or dad because he was almost 20 and they would have grounded her quicker than a 747 with a missing wing. So she made him pick her up and drop her off a block away. She was in love. Mary Theresa just knew everything was going to be wonderful from today ever after.
When Tommy kissed her under the streetlight two dates later, she thought she’d died and gone to heaven. When they broke up two months later because his old girlfriend Debby decided she’d made a big mistake, MT’s heart crawled into a far corner of her chest and refused to come back out. He didn’t even have the decency to tell her…just showed back up one night at CeCe’s with Debby on his arm and a $5 tip for MT.
Big tip from a small time loser. She suspected it was bribe money. Tommy needed have worried. MT had too much pride to cause a scene. It was not the happily ever after she had dreamed about. Her fairy tale romance turned into a teenage nightmare.
Tommy’s betrayal taught MT a valuable lesson about life, love, and self preservation. She became a therapist to help other people get over things. In an elementary way, sort of like she’d gotten over Tommy. If you were allergic to bees, you stayed away from hives. It didn’t matter how you stayed away…some ways were better than others, but to each his or her own. As her Grammy Fogarty often philosophized from her rocking chair on the back porch …it’s not longing for what you don’t have, Mary Theresa, that will cause you the most pain…it’s the not being satisfied with what you have right in front of you.
MT, child of the ‘70’s, interpreted that meant to ascribe to the Stephen Stills version of satisfaction in love. Her mantra became if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Maladaptation as much adaptation. It was MT’s salvation as well as her curse.
MT felt an elbow nudge her elbow. Her thoughts were focused on a new positive visualization she was trying out. She promised to let her Conquering Our Fears support group know her results. She’d been jamming to the Chieftains with her headset on and her eyes closed. She created a positive image that the 747 had landed as smoothly as a skilled Irish bartender shapes the frothy head from Guinness on tap.
Stepdancers jigged merrily around the airplane to the spine-tingling whirs and whines of bagpipes played by handsome Irish laddies with strong arms and winsome smiles. Paddy Malone himelf was approaching her at the Shannon airport as she descended the stairs of the plane. She was having a great hair day and she could see her bags were already through customs, awaiting her like the fairy’s gold at the end of the rainbow.
So far the imagery was working better than a bloody Mary.
MT didn’t care for flying. Her group members liked the fact that their therapist had irrational fears to work through just like they did. They had cheered her on during their last session as she talked about her behavioral goals. She’d decided to tackle her flight jitters by using a combination of relaxation and deep breathing techniques during the six hour flight. The music and pleasant thoughts worked like a charm. She had lulled herself into an almost asleep. Hopefully, when she awoke from her twilight fantasy, she’d be in Ireland, on the ground, and have successfully worked past her fears of being airborne.
The annoying nudge came again.
In annoyance, MT’s eyes flew open to a wide Cheshire Cat grin surrounded by freckles and topped with red hair. The specter appeared to be in the seat next to her. If it were closer to Halloween, she’d have thought it some Irish cousin of the Headless Horseman.
The vision was trying to communciate with her. What was he doing? Was he performing some sort of pantomime for her benefit? His mouth was moving but she could only hear muffled mumbles. Was he delirious or what?
She opened her mouth wide, speaking slowly in a loud voice so he could read her lips if he had to do so. MT tried to be calming and therapeutic in case the man were to become agitated. She was well trained in crisis techniques.
“WHAT IS IT YOU WANT FROM ME?”
What in the world was he trying to ….
Around the same time as MT realized her head phones were still plugged in, she also became aware that the entire planeful of passengers was staring at her. Two stewardesses were making their way to her with concern clearly evident on their faces. MT face flushed in embarrassment.
If she had a hat with bells and a ball or two to juggle, she could pass for a fool.
She removed the earphones, took a deep breath, and looked around for a second before indulging in a litany of excuses to explain her silliness.
“I’m sorry…I was trying to relax…listen to some music…”
The two flight attendants merely crossed their arms and waited, standing over her like she was in need of watching. The rest of the plane was so quiet you could have heard the toilet flush. The red headed apparition spoke in normal tones.
“I didn’t mean to startle ye, lass. Not that I mind music…I’m a musician of sorts myself…but you’re listenin’ to Paddy and the boys …how might I phrase it …a bit loud, I suppose… for seatin’ conditions, don’t you think? I had a gig last night…a ceili of sorts…in Fell’s Point…lasted all night. My eyes are about ready to shut.”
MT stared at her seat mate closely. He was human. Or so it appeared to the naked eye.
“Except for your music, you see. It’s blaring. Keeping me awake. Do you understand me, Lassie?”
The tone was patient but patronizing. Then it dawned on her. He thought she was the deranged one. How like a man! This must be her karmic pay back for pulling that stunt on Jake this morning. Margaret Mary was always warning her about keeping her cosmic checkbook balanced. Never wish ill on others…it only boomerangs back.
The flight attendants were hovering in the aisle like hummingbirds around the honeysuckle in her backyarcd.
“Mr. Donovan…is everything ok?”
The blonde built like Dolly Parton whispered her concern in a breathy voice that sounded like a celtic Marilyn Monroe. She leaned so far over MT’s seatmate that MT feared the other woman might lose her balance and fall in his lap.
“Perhaps you might reconsider a move into First Class, Sir,” said the uniformed brunette who stood beside her. “I know you said no earlier but ….” She looked down her nose at MT with accusation in her eyes then had the nerve to roll them for man’s benefit. What was going on here?
MT was having a hard time absorbing this. In the excitement of boarding and take off, she hadn’t really noticed who’d settled down next to her. MT, who had never been much of a flyer, had found that her anxieties about take off were less disturbing if she quietly meditated for a few minutes prior to the plane beginning to taxi. Her eyes had been closed tightly when the passenger in the seat adjoining her arrived.
Who was this guy?
He turned down First Class. The stewardesses were fawning all over him so he had to be somebody famous. He didn’t look like somebody famous but then looks were deceiving.
“Ladies, ladies…not a problem. Laughable really. Don’t worry your pretty heads.”
Oh, wasn’t that just like a man…buttering up the flight attendants with that British Isles accent. That lilt in his voice was familiar. A realization hit… he wasn’t British….he was Irish. Donovan…he’d said he was a musician of sorts. Her brain mechanically filed through various Celtic performers. She pictured the covers of CD’s, scanned her mental archives.
Then it dawned on her.
She was sharing an airplane seat with Sean Donovan.
MT was speechless as the musician shooed away the attendants. No wonder they were fawning all over this guy. She was sharing a seat with one of the most well-known Irish folk musicians of the decade. And she thought he was a early Halloweener. MT decided he was worth a second look.
She snuck a peek.
The guy must have been telling her the truth about being tired. Already reclined back in his seat with his eyes closed, he was longer and lankier than MT had first noticed. His hair was red but not Ronald red …more copper with rusty highlights in the waves that curled around his ears. He had a strong jaw and a full mouth. The freckles were there … not many, but a sufficient number to support his claim to a Gaelic bloodline.
Nothing like this had ever happened to her. She had never met a famous person. It seemed hard to believe that even in the excitement of boarding and take off, she hadn’t noticed who’d settled down next to her. As part of her practice, she was continually experimenting with new interventions and ideas that might help her clients make positive changes in their own behavior.
Fears of flying weren’t all that uncommon. MT found that her anxieties about take off were less disturbing if she sat back, closed her eyes, and practiced deep breathing before the plane began to taxi. Her self relaxation had worked so well that even a famous musician sitting down next to her hadn’t even raised an eyebrow. Her group would have a good laugh at this story.
Wasn’t imagination was a wonderful thing? MT grew brave. She reached out and drew up the shade of the airplane window, all the while saying a silent prayer in honor of her mother that a wing wasn’t missing or a terrorist strapped to the fuselage. The shade flew up with a snap!
Clouds. All she could see was a blanket of soft white fluffy clouds. A toilet paper commercial…no…something more romantic. It was as if she were in a storybook castle. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend that she was a princess in a tower room so high that the clouds encircled it.
Her shoulders dropped as her breathing slowed. Her mind relaxed as she let her imagination run free. As MT drifted off, she dreamed she caught a glimpse of a prince at the base of the castle, but he didn’t call out to her and she couldn’t see his face. She sighed as she strained to make out his features.
If only she could see his face, Mary Theresa Fogarty knew he would call to her to jump from her tower through the cottony white softness into his arms. The pleasantness of the dream enveloped her as the jet that held her securely inside flew smoothly through the thin veil of clouds that separated the heavens from the earth.
“I’ve been a wild rover for many a year and spent all me money…hey, you’re awake, Lassie. We’ve got three hours to go before Shannon. C’mon, now. Open those lovely green eyes and have a look at us.”
MT’s eyes flew open for the second time during her flight. It appeared Mr. Donovan, celtic musician and bardic legend, was serenading her with pub songs. How romantic. MT wasn’t sure why, but that vague sense of annoyance was back. The lovely green eyes were narrowed in anger as she glared at the balladeer.
Then she remembered why she was so furious. She’d planned on sleeping her way across the Atlantic. Three hours to go! Thanks to this big Irish lug of a leprechaun she’d probably be awake for every blessed minute of them. He’d spoiled her experiment with his rowdiness.
“My, Mr. Donovan, but you’re in a sociable mood. Have a good sleep?”
MT knew she was overreacting but couldn’t help herself.
“Well, perhaps it would be helpful for you to know that you are not the only one on this plane who didn’t get all of their eight hours of sleep last night. Now, if you would be so kind…”
With a flounce, MT turned her back on the wide awake musician.
The voice came from next to her and had a brogue attached.
“Sorry. My sainted Mother, if she were sitting here and not in heaven itself, would slap me upside the head for being such an insensitive ejit. Please and if you would be so kind as to the acceptance of my most humble apology. If not for me, for me Mother, God Rest Her Soul.”
MT stubbornly refused to respond. Even without the Irish accent, his little boy charm was oozing through. She felt herself melting even though she thought he might be laying it on a bit thick. She wrapped her arms tighter around herself and willed herself to go back to her dreams…she’d been in this castle surrounded by clouds…
“If you tell me your name, I’ll write you a song.”
The man must have had sisters. He certainly knew women. MT kept her arms folded protectively in front of her, but this time turned around to face the musician.
“Ha! I knew that’d get you. Me sisters, Nora and Julia, taught me that there is no greater honor to a lady than to be the inspiration for a song. I can’t write one about a green eyed lady because it’s already been done, but…”
“Mr. Donovan, you don’t have to write a song about me. I know you were just joking.”
“No, but Lassie, I wasn’t really. I was rude to wake you up.”
MT considered this.
“Yes, you were. But I suppose I can forgive you.” She extended her hand. “Mary Theresa Fogarty. MT for short. It’s my first trip over.”
“Sean Donovan…call me Sean. It’s been too many trips to count for me. Part of the job when you’re a modern day minstrel.”
Once the ice was broken, MT found her seatmate easy company. She told him about her fears of air travel and why she was trying to relax and about her job as a therapist. He explained to her that he’d been in Baltimore at a benefit for the Irish children orphaned by the violence in Northern Ireland. They chatted amiably about her itinerary for the next three weeks. Sean told her what to expect in customs and where her hotel was located.
“And you’re traveling alone. No relatives? No husband?”
MT shook her head. “Not even a steady beau. What about you?”
“My guitar is my lady fair. The life of a musician isn’t easy, especially when it involves touring for your bread and butter. Mary Theresa, you counsel unhappy couples. Absence can make the heart grow fonder…but not always for a husband or wife when they’re on the road nine months out of the year.”
The therapist in MT saw a flash of pain flicker across the musician’s face. Then, he hid it quickly as it had come, behind that infectious grin.
“If you can’t be with the one you love…” Sean sang.
“Love the one you’re with…” MT sang softly back.
Ireland was wonderful. It was the trip to Ireland Mary Theresa dreamed of having. For a small island, there was much to see and experience. From Ennis up Galway, then down to Dingle Bay and the Lakes of Killarney. The days went by faster than Mary Theresa could believe. MT thought it would be damp and chilly. It was far warmer than she’d envisioned.
Sean explained to her it was because of Ireland’s latitude and position in the Gulf Stream. The musician was at her side daily, offering a plethora of facts on Ireland. MT could not have had a more knowledgeable tour guide. For a first timer, she absorbed like a sponge the abundant supply of information Sean offered her on the Irish people, their history and their legends, their land and their customs. Through his eyes, she began to feel less like a tourist. His words made familiar the sights and sounds of Erin. In a strange way, it felt like she’d come home.
Sean Donovan hadn’t been part of the plan but he was turning out to be the best part of the trip. Mary Theresa still wasn’t exactly sure how the famous red-headed musician ended up becoming her personal bodyguard slash tour guide. One minute they’d been having drinks and a few laughs on the plane…the next, he was offering to show her his country.
He had time between tour bookings, he insisted, a few weeks of freedom before heading to Australia.
It would be no problem at all, Sean assured her in that seductive Irish brogue. He’d only been planning to stay in a hotel for a little extra sleep and a bit of R&R before going back on the road. He joked that he’d feel like an ambassador for his country by showing her the sights. If only, he added in his gentlemanly way, she’d be so kind as to let him do the honor. How could she refuse?
The remainder of their flight had been memorable - to say the least! Sean had pulled his guitar from the overhead rack. A few words to the blonde flight attendant who in turn spoke over the phone to the cockpit pilots, and Sean had the okay. To the delight of Mary Theresa, the surrounding passengers and the crew, Sean played for over an hour.
Old Irish standards, folk tunes, and love songs. Many of those on the plane who were native Irish added a harmony part or an accompanying whistle. The crowd sang the songs they knew or hummed and toe-tapped when the words were hard to remember Sean ended with On the Rocky Road to Dublin amidst handclapping and cheers.
After the impromptu concert, Sean motioned over the dark haired attendant for another brief conversation. Within five minutes, Sean was telling MT to grab her carryon. They were going to first class. The remainder of the flight was a blur of champagne and giggling. By the time the plane was landing, Sean had used his cell to book a suite at the hotel in Ennis where she’d booked her first night’s stay. He wouldn’t hear of her taking on Ireland alone, he said. Ireland was meant, he said, to be shared.
She was nervous at first. Her original plan had been to see Ireland solo. She refused but Sean had assured her he would give her all the space she needed. Should she want her privacy, she had but to snap her fingers and he’d disappear like magic. And so far, she had to admit, the arrangement was working out well. They were using a small hotel in Galway as a primary home base.
Seeing Ireland with a native gave her a view of the country that few tourists saw on their first trip over. Sean was even good-natured enough to help her send her father’s postcards from every stop on the way.
The silly fool had even started signing his name! Mary Margaret, she was sure, would have a field day with that intriguing mystery. MT had not mentioned Sean on her few calls home. Not wanting to spoil the moment, she supposed. She wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like she and Sean were romantically involved. They were friends, after all. Just friends.
“MT, what say you we go to Blarney?” Sean asked as her second week in the Emerald Isle came to a close. They were finishing their strong morning tea, brewed with such intensity that traditional coffee paled in comparison.
“Only if you promise to take my picture so I can blow it up and put it on my wall back home,” she retorted with a hint of sarcasm.
MT had told Sean about her mother’s photo above the mantle in her parent’s home back in York County Pennsylvania. She was surprised how much about her life she’d confided in the Irishman. It felt like they could talk about almost anything. Was he teasing her?
“Only if you promise to let me have a copy for my mantle.”
The southern part of Ireland was more beautiful than the pictures in the tour books. County Cork, where her ancestors on her mother’s side came from, made her heart stir a bit. The rolling country side was a picture post card she wished she could send her father. Colorful rows of houses lined the streets of tidy villages while along the River Lee and in deep bays, small boats dotted the harbors.
Mary Theresa wondered what it must have been like to have to leave this beautiful land…to say goodbye to your home and family in exodus across an ocean. Sean told her the story of the land gone hungry…entire family’s wiped out, villages left empty except for those too poor or elderly to make the journey.
“The famine of the 1840’s almost destroyed Ireland for a time. Every family lost loved ones to starvation…those who did not starve due to lack of food slowly perished from starvation of the soul. Freedom for their souls, Mary Theresa, became more important than the love of the land. So, rather than die, they left for the America’s. Between the immigration and the deaths, the famine almost beat us.”
“But, Sean, it didn’t, did it?"
“The Irish are survivors. Me, you…it’s in our blood, darlin’. You can take an Irishman out of Ireland but you can’t take out the Irish.”
For two weeks, MT had to admit, Sean had been the perfect escort. He seemed to be content to be on hiatus from touring. With the extra time on his hands, he’d only be carousing the pubs anyway. Laughing, he said she kept him out of trouble and out of the guarda, or jail. The handsome musician drew smiles and words of appreciation from his countrymen everywhere he squired Mary Theresa.
Everyone seemed to know Sean Donovan but he never spoke of family.
No stranger to questioning others about intimate details in their lives, MT asked about his kin. None, he’d said, of any consequence. In the evening, before saying good night at her hotel room door, they would sit and talk as he strummed his guitar. Sean was full of chatter about his music, his touring, his thoughts on politics in Ireland and America, but said little about his childhood or his life apart from his music.
“A minstrel’s life is a lonely life, MT. My parents are gone, my sisters are in America with their husbands and families.”
“But you come back to Ireland. Why?”
“It’s my home, darlin’. Ireland is what nourishes me in the famine of my soul. She’s my mistress, wife and mother until another takes her place, I suppose.”
They were in Riley’s Pub in Cobh when the lads drug him up and demanded a song. The Irish were surprisingly respectful of their artists’ privacy and rarely asked for a performance if it wasn’t offered by the musician freely. But today, there was a festive mood over the pub. The locals couldn’t restrain themselves. When the traditional band of musicians, the Lads of Erin, took a break, the crowd became restless. There were cheers, a few of them drunken ones, hailing Sean Donovan as Ireland’s resident bard.
“Och, now, lad….how’s about one or two for the boyos?” said the burly dark haired pub owner, Seamus Riley.
MT motioned him to go ahead, she’d be fine. Someone handed Sean a guitar, for he’d not his own along. She wondered which one of the standards he’d pick. Athenreid or Whiskey in the Jar, perhaps. Maybe Brennan on the Moor or Take Me Back to Mayo. Something sure to please the locals as much as the tourists.
The other musicians wandered back from their break early, carrying their barely touched pints of ale as to not miss the opportunity to perform with a legend in their own time. Everyone waited patiently for Sean to begin. The lanky red head waited, too, for that exact moment when the crowd hushed soft and then….
“I’d like to be doin’ something for the lady.” Sean told the bustling crowded pub. “It’s a new one, fellas., so join in when you find the melody. Mary Theresa, ‘tis for you.”
He smiled in Mary Theresa’s direction and she smiled back. A song dedicated to her. How nice of him to think of her. She liked the easy friendly camaraderie of their relationship. It was turning out to be the most fantastic holiday she’d ever had.
Sean began to sing. Softly, sweetly, in the rich melodic sing song that is the hallmark of the Irish. Mary Theresa listened intently. The guitar chords softly began to weave their magic. Hearing the melody, the fiddler took up the strain. Behind him, came the tin whistle and the uilleann pipes. Mary Theresa was entranced.
“Lady with the eyes of green that warm my heart
and haunt my dreams
Where were you when my heart was young?
When time passed slow and the days were long?
Lady Green Eyes, smile my way
Stay, My Lady Green Eyes, stay…
Lady with the eyes of green…believe in love,
believe in me
Don’t we deserve a second chance?
Don’t we deserve to find romance?
Lady Green Eyes, smile my way
Stay, My Lady Green Eyes, stay…
Mary Theresa stared at Sean Donovan with wide eyed amazement. The song was unfamiliar. It was a new one, he’d said. She’d never heard it before in all her years of listening to traditional Irish music. Then she remembered his comments on the plane about a green eyed lady song already being written. This wasn’t it. He’d written her a song just as he’d promised. It was not the song as much as the sentiment that was MT didn’t expect. If she didn’t know better, she’d suspect Sean Donovan was in love.
In love with her. With her. Mary Theresa continued to stare even as the tall lanky red headed Irishman walked towards her and pulled her to her feet. Then, in front of a pub bursting with strangers, he kissed her. Full. On the mouth. Like some conquering highland chieftain claiming his spoils.
Naturally, the pub crowd cheered wildly.
Mary Theresa Fogarty was speechless. With his lips locked on hers, it would be hard to be otherwise. She found herself kissing Sean back. She’d never expected the song or the kiss. Ambushed by a handsome Irish Neanderthal. Imagine that.
Good Lord. She’d never even seen it coming.
The sensation started in her toes and spread up her spine like a shiver. Mary Theresa Fogarty felt a mixture of pleasure and panic unlike any she’d ever felt before. She’d had liking and affection for the guys she dated, even lusted for them at times, but this was different. MT felt like she were watching herself in some old movie.
The kiss ended but MT couldn’t get her bearings. Her stomach had butterflies. She felt a little drunk, but she’d only had a few glasses of ale. She was sure she was flushed. If she had to describe her condition, it was somewhere between intoxicated and infatuated. She hoped the Irish police wouldn’t ask her to walk any straight lines or she risked spending the night in the hoolie.
On the drive back to the hotel in Galway, MT stole little looks at the famous Sean Donovan. Sean’s handsome Gaelic face was silhouetted against a rapidly darkening Irish sky. There was rain in the air and the wind had begun to pick up. Mary Theresa felt a wildness growing in her spirit. Her teenage adoration for Tommy McNeil had been something…but it had never felt like this.
She found herself wondering if Sean would kiss her again outside the door to her room but he didn’t. In fact, he seemed to withdraw to almost shyness after the pub kiss. MT wanted to ask him a hundred questions, wanted him to tell her why he’d kissed her like that, wanted him to do it again. But he didn’t.
Disappointed, and vaguely dissatisfied, she left him. Mary Theresa took to the balcony of her room with a glass of mulled wine and her own council.
The stars over Galway were the same as those over Pennsylvania. Men were the same in Ireland as in America. Men! Tommy wasn’t to be trusted. He’d smooth talked her straight into heartbreak when she least expected it. Was this smooth talking singer songwriter leading her down the same path? What did he want of her, stirring her blood like that then leaving her flat? Mary Theresa realized had he kissed her again, she would have been putty in his very capable hands.
Sean Donovan, she decided, was a dangerous man. She recalled his strength when he pulled her to her feet in the pub, the pressure of his lips on hers. He had the power to hurt her and it wasn’t his physical strength that had her scared.
Mary Theresa experienced a shift somewhere inside her being. Looking into the window of her mind, she glimpsed a rare insight into herself. In the emptiness in her soul, MT saw the famine that lived there. She no longer allowed herself to feel hunger for a loving relationship. Mary Theresa saw that she feared love. She left no one in to her heart. She did the leaving to avoid being left.
Through her therapy experiences, Mary Theresa knew that true insights into oneself were fragile and elusive creatures. True for only that moment in time, and useful only if one were willing to take the bad with as much grace as the good, MT wondered what exactly she would do with this newfound self awareness.
Fear began to overtake pleasure. She couldn’t bear it if she were wrong about Sean like she was about Tommy. Mary Theresa went inside, escaping the cool Irish night breeze. She laid on the hotel bed, a stranger in a strange land, and stared at the ceiling for hours. When sleep would not come and her thoughts began to gnaw at her, she did what had become second nature to her when faced with anxiety. She prepared to flee.
Grabbing her carry on, she began to pack frantically, throwing in her travel samples and makeup. She would need to contact the airline. Mary Theresa would book the first flight out of Shannon in the morning. By the time Sean Donovan came to call tomorrow evening, Mary Theresa Fogarty would be long gone.
And although she knew it was what she wanted, she found in it no solace or pleasure. She remembered her grandmother’s words……it’s not longing for what you don’t have, Mary Theresa, that will cause you the most pain…it’s the not being satisfied with what you have right in front of you.
Mary Theresa knew that her unhappiness in life up until now it must have been because Sean Donovan hadn’t been in it. Her heartbreak over Tommy O’Neil paled in comparison to the thought of never seeing Sean again. But what frightened her most was her fear that after Sean Donovan and Ireland she would never be satisfied with anything else ever again.
“I am trying…have been trying to get you a flight, ma’m. Yes, all day. Since you called me at 7:35 a.m. It is now 8:32 a.m.”
The little wizened manager at the Front Desk of the Galway Gatehouse looked at his watch as he drummed his fingers in annoyance. He acted like Mary Theresa were insisting he pull a rabbit out of his hat.
“It just cannot be done. The next thing I have is Friday on the 11 am.”
“But it’s only Tuesday!”
Mary Theresa could not believe that in Ireland things could be so antiquated and slow. Surely people must have to change their reservations in case of emergencies. Didn’t his computer link into the worldwide web or what? Was he trying to tell her she was stuck here? Panic struck. She willed herself to deep breathe and relaxed the muscles in her neck and shoulders. It would do no good to get a headache over this. A fist fight wouldn’t be a great idea either.
“Might I remind Madame that last minute is as last minute does. I will continue to try to get you an earlier flight, but at this point, it’s as you Yanks are so fond of saying, take it or leave it.”
Mary Theresa told him she’d take it. She refrained from telling the Clerk where he could shove it although she wanted to badly. How she restrained herself she’d never know. She wasn’t sure who was more annoyed with the other - she or the man behind the desk.
“What are you doing, Lass?”
Spinning around, MT found herself staring straight into Sean’s eyes. She had not expected to see him so out and about so early. She was tongue tied, not wanting to stay silent but not knowing what to say. Her heart raced. Sean wore a blue denim workshirt and tight jeans. His copper hair was thick and curled slightly at his collar. He was so close, she could feel his breath. He smelled like jasmine…or was it musk…and looked like he just stepped out of the Irish Spring commercial. Any minute now, MT expected a burst of flute music and the compulsion to shout out “And I like it, too!”
There was no hole to crawl in. No where to run least of all hide. She looked at her feet, hoping the floor would open up and she’d disappear into it.
“Sean. You’re up early.”
“You too, Lass. Couldn’t sleep either, eh?”
Mary Theresa’s head jerked up. There was something in his voice. Was he going to tell her how he felt…why he couldn’t sleep?
“Miss, excuse me, Miss.” The desk clerk’s impatient voice interrupted her thought.
“I did it, M’am. You’ve a flight out tonight at 8 o’clock.”
Mary Theresa looked at Sean. He had heard the clerk plainly as she. Sean said nothing, but his eyes…looked…well, sad. Lost.
“Mary Theresa.” Sean finally spoke.
“Miss, I don’t wish to rush you, but I must confirm this reservation…”
Mary Theresa looked at both men, each expecting an answer. Problem was, Mary Theresa didn’t have an answer. Suddenly, she didn’t even know what she wanted. If she flew out tonight as she had the opportunity to do, she might never seen Sean again. If she didn’t, if she stayed…
Worst case scenario. He’d break her heart.
Mary Theresa was backed into a corner. She had no choice but to do what any other red blooded female does when confronted with a situation she has absolutely no idea what to do about next. She burst into tears and ran for the hills. With any luck, she’d step on a fairy mound and get spirited away for a month or two while she figured out exactly how to react to Sean Donovan’s love songs and passionate kisses.
“Do ye think that means no?” asked Martin McDooley, the desk clerk, as he watched Mary Theresa disappear out the main lobby doors onto the street.
Sean winked and nodded his head. “If not, I’ll be taking full responsibility.”
Martin winked back. “Better you than me, Lad. These days I’m a wee bit past the prime when it comes to taking full responsibility for anything.”
Sean found her crying down by the docks of Galway. Mary Theresa had run as far as she could towards America without falling into the sea. She didn’t see him watching her. Her back was to the city, her face to the waves. All around her, the docks were bustling with the arrival of day’s first catches. The fishermen laughed at the merchants bartering for a fair price. The waves slapped noisily at the wooden moors. Sean wondered could an American girl be happy with a vagabond Irish musician.
“All those salty tears are like to make the ocean jealous…”
Sean Donovan, never at a loss for words when it came to the lyrics of a song, was at a loss to produce words of love any more poetic than these he could utter in no more than a choked whisper. His heart cried out to tell Mary Theresa how he felt but he couldn’t do it any better than he had last night at Riley’s Pub, could he? He had a hard time making sense of things unless he was writing a bloody song. What if he’d made a mess of things? Hadn’t she understood? It seemed crystal clear to everyone around them…it certainly was to everyone in the pub…
Mary Theresa looked up, her eyes watery and her puffy. She sniffled loudly.
“I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have felt obligated to come after me. I’m all right…really.”
She wasn’t but she knew heartbreak wasn’t a fatal condition. Broken heart or not, flying wasn’t prohibited. Mary Theresa’s emotions were getting in the way of her common sense. But Sean was so close…she could reach out and touch his face if she wanted. She smelled his cologne, it’s jasmine overtones reminding her of midsummer.
Before she could stop herself, she stretched out her right hand to stroke Sean’s cheek. It was smooth. Mary Theresa knew it would be. The sweetness of his coming after her like a knight in shining armor touched a spot in the far reaches of her heart that had been shut away with a slam when Tommy dumped her. If she never again felt so moved by the simple sweetness of male charm, today would be a memory savored for the rest of her life.
Sean didn’t pull away. Instead, he pulled her hand to his lips and kissed it with the finesse of a gentleman at court. Mary Theresa’s heart was pounding. Her tears had stopped. Sean drew her to her feet. The sights and sounds around them continued faded into the background of their rising passion. Mary Theresa could have sworn later that she’d heard the music of a harp. Sean said, no, it was the pipes.
One thing was certain, as the couple kissed, they heard music in their hearts. Mary Theresa felt the hollowness inside her begin to fill with what she could only describe as peaceful contentment. She knew the famine in her being was far from over, but she also knew a healing had begun.
Sean Donovan knew it, too. His loneliness began to fade like the chords of a song, pulsing softly until they disappeared altogether. The pain of losses he had suffered, the death of his mother, estrangement from his father because of his refusal to join the IRA…all receded, like the tides in the great bay come morning. He whispered into Mary Theresa’s hair, so quietly that she didn’t realize at first that he was speaking.
“Don’t leave me, Mary Theresa Fogarty. I love you, Lady Green Eyes…stay with me…”
MT had been waiting a lifetime to hear those words. Her heart sang along with Sean as he serenaded only her with the song she’d inspired him to write. All thoughts of running away, of leaving Ireland, of unhappiness and sorrow…all were gone in the glow of Sean and Mary Theresa’s love.
Mary Theresa Fogarty married Sean Donovan eight months later in the county of Cork. Her parents and sister flew to Ireland for the wedding, as did Sean’s sisters from Chicago. The Donovans’ would make a part-time home in Ireland, to come back when they longed for the Irish coastline and rolling country hills. Dublin the Wonder Cat was already there, skulking the nooks and crannies of their country estate in County Armaugh for Irish mice.
The fields that carpeted the land surrounding the village chapel cooperated by bursting into a riot of colored wildflowers. The month of May was kind to them. The rains held back. There was no room for tears from Mother Nature or anyone else on that happy day.
Two hearts full of love. Two souls mated. Two lives melded. The famine of loneliness in their souls finally over, Mary Theresa Donovan kissed her new husband. Together they turned to face their family and guests and started down the path of their new life together.
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