A tempestuous wind was blowing the car to and fro. The rain slamming down on to the windshield with such force, it was as if she was trying to drive through a waterfall, and Katherine Marie Doyle was terrified.
Not only was she almost killing everyone on the road by driving on the wrong side, she couldn’t see out the front window with the rain sheeting down. It was full dark and not the kind of rain Katherine was used to driving in. The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the buckets of water that fell from the low lying dark clouds. The stone streets were narrow and Katherine’s palms began to sweat as she tried to maneuver down the slippery road.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked herself for the tenth time. Steering to the wrong side of the road, actually making it right again. She breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth trying to calm her frazzled nerves. She was escaping, she knew it. She was running for her life, but now she was afraid it was the worse mistake she had ever made.
Katherine had never traveled anywhere by herself. Jack hadn’t been much of a traveler but rarely saw it fit for a woman to travel alone and she had nothing to do but agree with him.
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight when she met Jack. He was handsome, still handsome, she thought to herself. Jack was charming and ambitious and all the things she thought she wanted in a man. Katherine had known in the back of her mind that something was missing, she just didn’t know what. He had pushed her along until the day they were married and she followed him blindly, ignoring her inner voice. Everyone told her how lucky she was to find a man like Jack. Her parents were thrilled. Her dreams of true love turned into true resentment. The more women she talked to, the more she realized true love just didn’t exist.
When her daughter, Jennifer, was in high school, it finally dawned on Katherine that after playing so many different personalities over the years she forgot who she was to begin with.
After grieving her marriage for two years, she finally came to the conclusion that it wasn’t even Jack’s fault as much as it was her own. Of course he didn’t know her anymore, she didn’t know her anymore.
So when he came to her one day, telling her that he loved her but wasn’t in love with her anymore, Katherine, of course, took it calmly. Even after 19 years of marriage, she put on her strength personality and handled it in an amicable manner.
With Jennifer off to college and Katherine wandering the house day after day in misery, she was almost relieved when he told her the same thing she had been thinking for years. It was more of a pride issue that she didn’t say it first.
She put on her best smile and told her parents and her daughter that she was getting away for awhile. She was going to Ireland where her ancestors came from.
It was a calling inside of her, a need she couldn’t explain. She couldn’t tell her parents and Jennifer that she had been dreaming. They already thought she was having a nervous breakdown.
She had dreamt of a girl with beautiful blue eyes and clouds of red hair. The girl stood on the rocks by the sea calling her home. She was calling her to Ireland. Katherine didn’t know how she knew she just did. The dreams continued night after night until she could ignore them no more.
She called a travel agency in Ireland and leased a cottage through an agent in Wicklow, Eileen was her name. She told Katherine that the cottage sat right on the rocks of the sea. Brittas Bay had sparkling white sand beaches and the water was crystal blue. The cottage sat a little ways from the small town where the golf courses were famous, and the beaches would fill with tourists in the summer.
She had received a pretty good settlement from the divorce and Katherine, never spending money on Katherine, had a nice little savings account that would keep her from having to work, for a little while at least. .
Now she was regretting it immensely. She was in a strange country that she had never been to, driving a strange little car that barely fit her luggage and she was absolutely, one hundred percent sure she was lost.
Forcing herself to stay focused she searched the little stone street for some sort of inn. There had to be someplace she could stop and ask for directions or spend the night.
Not only was she exhausted from traveling over seas, getting her 200 pounds of luggage, which she was charged extra for, and renting a car, she was trying to find a cottage on a road that didn’t seem to exist on any map.
Lights headed straight for her and she swerved again. A tree suddenly appeared before her and Katherine had no time to react. At impact, she banged her head against the steering wheel. She let herself sit there awhile, catching her breath.
“You’re an idiot, you know that don’t you?” Her head throbbed, more from stress then the small bump that was emerging on her forehead. The whole ordeal finally sank in as Katherine kept her head on the steering wheel with her eyes closed. She wanted to go home already.
She jumped when she heard knocking on the driver’s side window. It was still raining and all the windows were fogged from her ragged breathing. Rubbing her hand on the glass, she barely made out an elderly gentlemen, he had gray hair and a concerned look on his face. He was wearing a red and green checkered beret on his head and a tan jacket that he was clutching to his chest. The umbrella he held looked like it would be taken by the wind at any moment.
“Are you alright in there?” He yelled, but the sounds of the storm carried his voice away from her ears. Katherine finally rolled down the window, thinking the man looked friendly enough. Rain pelted at her face as she narrowed her eyes bringing him into focus.
“I said are you alright in there?”
“No, no I’m not; I seem to be a lost,” her voice shook and she wasn’t sure she had said it loud enough for the gentleman to hear her.
He just stared at her with a look of awe as if she were the Virgin Mary herself who had stepped across his path. The thought made her want to laugh. Considering it would put her into hysterics, she held back.
“I said…” she tried again but he interrupted her.
“I heard you. I’m not deaf, not yet anyway,” he said with an irritated look on his face.
He opened the car door and helped her out. Grabbing her arm, he led her across the stone street towards a pub. Katherine looked behind her shoulder to see her small rental car badly damaged.
“Great,” she said through clenched teeth. “Can we throw anything else into this fun filled day?”
The old man looked down at her with a gray brow arched high. He steadied the umbrella over both of their heads but Katherine was already soaked from the heavy rain. She glanced up to see a wooden sign that read Murphy’s Pub. It swung back and forth held by rusty chains. Getting out of the storm brought her great relief, even if it wasn’t an inn or somewhere to stay for the night it was a place to get out of the rain. He opened the wooden door and walked in first with Katherine following close behind.
“Patty, what brings you in on such a blustery night then?” The man at the bar turned to greet his friend. His eyes widened slightly as Katherine followed, sopping wet. “And who is this you have with you Patty?”
“She hasn’t given me her name yet now has she?” The elderly man turned to her.
Katherine’s foot slipped from under her on the gleaming wood floor. She flailed her arms as gracefully as a bird caught in a chimney searching instinctively for something to grab. She crashed into the young man feeling his arms come around her. They both tumbled to the floor. Lying dumbfounded on her back, she found herself staring at the wooden ceiling. Two faces looked down on her.
“Are you alright there darlin’?” the younger man asked her, helping her to sit up. Laughter twitched on his lips as Katherine’s face burned red. His eyes were a deep azure blue, full of amusement at her grand entrance. Black hair curled on his collar tousled and sticking on end.
“Yes, thank you, I’m fine. Are you alright? I’ve had a long day with the flight and everything. I seem to be lost and I’ve had an accident. Not this, I mean yes this, but I’ve had a car accident and I…”
“Easy there lassie, one thing at a time,” the man cut off her babbling and lifted her off the floor in one easy swoop.
Katherine wanted to crawl under the wooden table that her head managed to miss by inches. “I hit a tree out front with my car and I’m lost. Are you alright?” She watched him pat the dirt off his behind.
“I’m fine. You have a seat right here and we’ll get you found,” he chuckled at her embarrassment. She couldn’t help but laugh back. It was either that or burst into tears, laughing seemed to be the best remedy. Crinkles appeared around his eyes as he opened up and laughed with her. The old man looked back and forth at the two as if they were insane, he didn’t see the humor.
When their laughter subsided, he led her over to a booth and sat her down gently. She watched him take three long strides behind the bar, open the swinging door and yell for someone from the back.
Another man came out almost the spitting image of the man standing next to him, or was she seeing double? Her head was cloudy and Katherine shut her eyes to gather her senses.
When she opened them she saw him standing over her with a bright smile. “Well welcome, I’m Michael Finn Murphy.” He held out his hand to greet her.
His tall frame made her pull her head back just a touch to bring him into full view. “Hello,” she managed to say as she grasped his large hand.
“Most people around here call me Mick or Mickey.”
“Katherine or Kate most people call me.”
“Not fair Mick, I found her first and she’s already fallen for me.” The first man walked towards her, holding a big glass of beer and the same brilliant smile.
Kate felt her mouth open slightly. She hadn’t been imagining things, they were twins. Identical twins, she noted. She chuckled at his comment.
“And this knotweed is me brother, Shawn Cullen Murphy.” Mick said, slapping his brother on the shoulder.
They were both breathtaking, Kate thought as she glanced from one to the other. She saw one difference she hadn’t noticed before. If she hadn’t had them confused, Shawn had blue eyes instead of green otherwise their features matched exactly. They had the same color hair which was dark and long, the same angular face and straight nose each sported a tiny dimple right down the middle of their chin, giving them perfect heart shaped faces. Realizing that she was staring, Kate turned her head, feeling her cheeks grow hot. The tripping scene played over in her mind, taunting her.
“Mick, go fetch Patty a pint while I tend to Katie here, Jack Ryan should be back any moment.” Mick gave Shawn a glance but turned to go the bar to tend to the elderly man who had helped her in. She heard them talking loudly about the storm outside but both of them glanced her way repeatedly.
“Now, Katie lassie, what’s happened to you? Why would you be driving in this weather not fit for dogs or cats?”
He looked straight at her as he took a seat across from her, but all Kate could think about was the name Jack. It was the reason she had been running in the first place. She didn’t think of it as running exactly, more like soul searching and people did that everyday, didn’t they?
“Are you alright Katie darlin’?” he asked again with a strong Irish brogue. His dark eyebrow raised high as he gave her a quick appraising look.
“I’m trying to find my way to Brittas Bay. I’ve leased a cottage there,” she said shakily.
“Ahh, why didn’t you say so then?” he said surprising her. “We’ve been expecting you. You must be Katherine Doyle? My sister Kerry has been fretting all day to get the cottage ready for you. We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow.” A huge smile splashed across his face and actually reached his eyes. Kate hadn’t seen that in a long time, causing her to instinctively smile back.
“I didn’t know anyone was expecting me.”
His unwavering gaze made Kate shift slightly in her chair. “So you have a sister too?” Kate’s voice didn’t sound like her own so she cleared her throat and looked away from his intense glare.
Shawn laughed, bringing Kate’s head back to his direction. She couldn’t help but smile widely at the sound of his deep, infectious laugh. She folded her hands in front of her on the table and forced herself to hold his eyes.
“Oh she’s one of them, then there’s Ailis Briana, our baby sister. We have another brother Patrick Daniel.”
Kate looked at him bewildered. Five kids and two of them born at once, how did their mother do it?
“Do you own this pub?” Kate looked around at the family atmosphere of the place.
She noticed a large oak bar with stools all around and lots of table and chairs. A little stage stood to the back with a large dance floor just in front of it. Fishermen’s nets hung from the ceiling and shells and things from the sea hung from the walls. Green bottles stood crystal clean on the shelves close to the ceiling. It was actually very charming.
“No, our cousin Jack Ryan Murphy owns it. We just help out from time to time. We are a fisherman’s family, always was. My father is a fisherman and his father before him as far back as you can go. But you’ll see us in here helping our cousins most nights. And they are always the first to buy the catch of the day.” He looked around the surroundings himself, surely thinking of family with one dark eyebrow raised in thought.
Kate couldn’t even fathom having such a big family. She was an only child and Jack was happy with one child. Being three of them for so long, Kate became accustomed to having a small family around her every night.
Her own parents had lived miles from her and she missed them. Now she couldn’t be further from them. Her stomach flip flopped as she found herself once again doubting her decision to come here.
“What’s your middle name Katie?” Shawn asked her.
Kate looked at him strangely for asking such an odd question. “It’s Marie, Why?” she asked wondering why that mattered.
“Katie Marie-hmm, I like that, Katie Marie it is then,” he replied with a nod.
“So can you tell me how to get to the cottage then?” Kate asked ignoring the weird nickname. She wanted to be by herself more than anything at the moment, and away from civilization which is why she came here in the first place.
“Oh, sure, but you can’t be driving your car up the road the shape that it’s in now can you? I’ll take you up there as soon as Jack Ryan gets back.”
Mick came back after he had tended to Patty and eyed her untouched glass. “Would you like something else to drink then?” he asked her.
“No, this is fine thank you.” With a parched throat, Kate picked up the tall glass in front of her. The dark, almost black liquid went down quickly and Kate’s head began to spin all the more for it.
“Easy there Katie Marie,” Shawn said. “Are you used to drinking the Irish ale?”
“Well, uh, no-just thirsty,” she said realizing just how strong it was.
“Well, no matter, too late now isn’t it. I’ll fetch you some hot tea, how would that be?”
“That would be fine,” Kate answered, slurring her words. She shook her head at her hastiness.
“I’ll be knocking you out of those socks you’re wearing right now Jack Ryan, if you say one more thing about it!” Kate heard yelling in the back of the bar, making her stomach clench. Confrontation of any kind made Kate extremely nervous.
“Well, as long as my socks are off darlin’, why stop there?” She heard a deep chuckle and then laughing as a man and woman whirled in through the back door, side by side.
The woman poked him in the ribs and he bent over as if she’d knocked all the wind out of him.
“Oh stop that,” she said laughing at him.
“I’m sorry darlin’; it’s just that you still take me breath away.” He bent over and kissed her softly.
Kate stared at the two of them in awe. She couldn’t figure out how the woman could have just yelled at him like that, yet he didn’t seem ruffled in the least.
“If you two are done, I’d like you to meet our new neighbor here.” Shawn spoke up, rising to kiss the woman right on the lips.
The woman had long, curly copper red hair and eyebrows to match with crystal blue eyes and deep dimples in her cheeks as she laughed at Shawn’s gesture. She was petite with short legs and a short torso. Cute was the word that came to Kate’s mind as the woman looked at her while leaning against Shawn. The man she walked in with was much taller than her with the same dark hair as Shawn and Mick and the same startling blue eyes as Mick or was it Shawn? She couldn’t remember now. He had the same jaw line, a little too long and a long straight nose, she thought this was the other brother Shawn had spoken of.
“Well, where’s our manners!” The woman smiled towards Kate with her dimples deepening.
Kate longed to be that pretty as she smiled politely back. She was too tired to stand up from her seat so she stayed where she was for the moment.
“I’m Alannah Murphy and this bag of potatoes is me husband Jack Ryan. I see you’ve already met our cousins here,” she said holding out one hand.
“I’m Kate.” Kate grasped the hand that shook hers so hard she thought her knuckles would burst. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Kiss her again and I’ll have your teeth on the floor Shawn Cullen.” Jack said to his cousin, with a playful punch him in the stomach.
“Ahh, but who can resist kissing such a beautiful girl Jack Ryan? Why if she hadn’t turned me down, I’d be the one punching you.” He chuckled punching his cousin right back.
“Oh you two stop it!” Alannah laughed. “Don’t pay them any attention,” she said staring them both down.
Kate couldn’t think of one thing to say. She’d never in her life seen people act this way before. Should she laugh? Instead the ale was making her too dizzy to care and she put her head back against the wall almost falling asleep.
“Why she’s falling asleep where she sits. What’s the matter with you goats, someone take the poor girl home, and she’s got to be exhausted from her trip.” She went to Kate to help her up on her feet.
“I’ll do it.” Shawn jumped up from the bench.
“Thank you, I am awfully tired.” Kate knew she was slurring her words but couldn’t help it.
“And who got her drunk already?” Alannah asked irritably.
“She did. How were we to know she’d swallow it down in one gulp?” Shawn said guiltily.
“Oh dear, well get her home to bed safely.” Alannah said. “And get her luggage out of that wreck out front!” she yelled to them as Shawn led her out the door.