Bridgett turned off the main road and down the long, winding drive. A quarter of a mile later, she pulled up in front of the huge, old farmhouse. She climbed the wooden stairs, which creaked slightly under her running shoes and studied the wrap around porch, noticing two tiny cracks in its cement surface. Nothing had been added since her last visit almost two months before, no furniture or potted plants, only the two spider webs that spanned the distance between the oak beams in the corners.
Two knocks on the heavy green door brought no answer. Bridgett tried the handle and when it turned in her grasp, she opened the door and stepped inside. "Erin," she called out. And then again. With no answer, she began searching the rooms.
The sparsely placed furniture hadnt been used by anyone in months. There were still a few unpacked boxes sitting in the corner of practically every room she entered. But there were no pictures or decorations on the walls, no knick-knacks or books sitting the shelves. Bridgett swiped one finger across the top of the black stereo unit and it came away covered in dust. She shook her head sadly.
Climbing the carpet-covered stairs, Bridgett made her way to her sisters bedroom, where the most depressing sight greeted her. A basket of freshly laundered, but horribly wrinkled clothes had been tossed on the floor inside the door. The big rumpled bed sat in the middle of the room, but it had rarely been slept in.
Near a corner window, on the floor, lay a nest of blankets and tear stained pillows. That was where Erin had crawled to every night, since mid-April, when it became too painful to sleep in their bed alone.
"All right Sis, I can see youve been lying to everyone. You are not fine and its time to do something about that."
Bridgett headed down to the kitchen, still in search of her missing sister. There she found another room that seemed useless. A quick search of the cabinets and refrigerator uncovered only the bare necessities of food, enough to sustain life, but as with the rest of the house, nothing that spoke of the enjoyment of life. By the back wall sat a big, double dog dish, full on each side.
A golden, sad-eyed head poked its way through the swinging doggie door.
The red head knelt down and rubbed the drooping ears. "Hey girl. Do you know where your mommy is?"
The dog whimpered. "I know. Youre sad too. Lets see if I can do something about this." Bridgett made her way out to the main barn through the back yard.
"Hello Mrs. Nelson," said the man brushing down a brown mare.
"Is my sister around here Dan?"
"She saddled up Simeron a few hours ago and rode out." He stepped over to the fence that separated them, removed his hat and wiped the sweat away from his smudged forehead. "Shes been doing that a lot here lately and the fellas and I are kinda worried. We like Miss Casey a lot and its not really our business I guess but we can see shes in pain."
"I know Dan. Thanks for caring. Im glad she has you guys to watch over her. Im gonna take the cart. I think I know where she might be."
A lot had happened in the last six months. Brad had kept digging for the truth about the plane crash, determined to find some answers for Erin. He was finally able to discover that the currier service was involved in illegal industrial espionage. The worst part of all was that Jamie had just been a decoy. She was only carrying blank documents and shouldnt have even been on that plane.
Eventually, enough of the wreckage was discovered to determine the cause of the crash, but a bomb had been ruled out immediately. The preliminary findings showed that it was mechanical failure due to lack of maintenance. Brad had immediately filed a lawsuit against the owner of the private plane on behalf of the families of the victims.
After Jamies death, Erin had gone into a deep depression, but she had never shed a tear. At first she hid herself away at the beach house with only her four-legged companion. Her family gave her all the support they could, but little did they know what was going on inside the despondent blonde. When she was alone, Erins mind was full of the memories she had of the love of her life. They would play over and over again like a cherished movie. But thats all Erin did, day after day. What was worse, she had no face to go with the memories, no photographs or video nothing. She only saw the eyes. Those eyes that smiled at her, twinkling with the utter joy that they brought to one another. Eyes that cried with a pain that Erin would have given her life a thousand times over to stop. The eyes that possessed her, pierced her with that singular shade of blue that existed nowhere else, but in Erins heart. Her soul had been on that plane, wrapped around the woman she loved and it died over and over again, every time she closed her eyes at night and opened them in the morning. The empty shell that had been left behind was soon to follow.
But then something changed.
One afternoon, about a month after her operation, Erin received a call from Mr. Phillips. He was the owner of the ranch Jamie had been desperate to buy. He was calling with a question about the horse Erin had bought Jamie for Christmas. During that conversation, Erins mind latched on to a bare thread of hope. When she hung up from Mr. Phillips, she immediately called her banker and her lawyer. Two weeks later she was moving into the ranch house.
The bodies of Jamie and the two others were never recovered. The family had arranged a small memorial service for Jamie in a quiet corner of the ranch. But Erin had refused to attend. She wasnt angry, but wouldnt give a reason why and they didnt push her. They figured that she would go there on her own when she was ready.
As the end of March approached, her family was astounded at the change in Erin. She seemed back to her old self, happy and lively. Every time Danielle or Bridgett had talked to Erin, the blonde always said she was so busy, that there were so many things to plan. No one questioned her or ever mentioned Jamie for fear of bringing back the pain.
The movie, being made from Erins novel, was filmed without any further input from the author. She kept saying she had no time fly to the exotic shooting locations. And she hadnt touched a keyboard or a piece of paper. Her well of creativity had evaporated on the wind and her inspiration had vanished in the span of a heartbeat.
When Erin had regained her sight she kept the loyal four-footed friend, in some ways needing her even more than before. She had donated ten new puppies to the canine helpers program and had started a therapeutic program of her own at the ranch. Every week, ten blind children from the ages of seven to sixteen would spend the day at the ranch with their families, riding, playing games and having picnics. That quickly earned Erin an outstanding citizenship award, which she accepted graciously. But through all the laughter and smiles, Erin was harboring a dark secret. A secret that saw the light on a sunny April day and had devastated her once again.
* * * * * * * *
Leather reigns dragged the ground as the white horse munched on a patch of sweet green grass. She didnt need to be tied off because she would never stray far from the blonde author. The dark haired woman had named the treasured animal Simeron, after the character in the authors novel.
Erin could never bring herself to ride Teegan. She cherished Jamies first horse and gave it all the love and respect that Jamie would have. But they had always ridden together when Erin was blind and without the tall woman to hold onto, it just wasnt the same.
Erin heard the drone of the golf cart and knew it was her sister approaching. Bridgett preferred a mode of transportation that didnt have a mind of its own.
The red head stopped the motorized vehicle far enough away as not to scare the grazing horse. Artemis hopped down off the back of the cart as Bridgett called for her wayward sister. But an answer was not forthcoming. She walked in circles, finally stopping by the strange, leaning tree. "I know youre here Sis. Come on out."
Something dropped to the ground behind her. "Right here Brig."
Bridgett jumped high into the air, almost to the perch Erin had just vacated. "Dont do that!" she yelled.
Erin gave a halfhearted chuckle. "What brings you all the way out here?"
Bridgett quickly regained her composure. "I just wanted to see you. You never call. The kids are really missing you."
Erins eyes dropped under the rim of the Stetson she was wearing. "I know. Im sorry. Tell them I miss them too."
"Why dont you come back with me and tell them yourself. You can stay for a week and we can talk and go shopping like old times."
Erin bent down and snatched a long blade of grass from the ground. "Nothing can ever be like old times for me Bridgett." She leaned back against the old tree, ripping the piece of foliage into strips. "I love you and the kids and I dont want to hurt any of you, but I need you to try and understand."
"Erin, its been six months."
The small woman turned away and shoved her left hand in the pocket of her jeans. There she rubbed her thumb over the golden band of the engagement ring still on her finger. "You say its been six months and I say its only been six months. And it hurts today just as much as it did then. How long would it take for you to get over Brads death?" she asked after a long pause.
Bridgett looked away and shook her head. "Thats not the same."
Erin whirled around, her eyes slightly ablaze. "Why, because hes a man? I know you always thought this was just a phase and that Jamie and I wouldnt last."
"I didnt mean it like that Erin. I just meant that Brad and I have been together so long and we have children and "
"How long does it take to know your soul mate? I knew right away. I wanted a lifetime with Jamie and I am mourning the future I lost with her. All the precious moments, the children we would have shared, the grandchildren we could have watched grow up, the anniversaries, the birthdays, the Christmass that I will never get to spend with her. I ask you again, how would you feel?"
"Like half my world had been ripped away," whispered Bridgett.
"Well Jamie was my whole world. Oh Ill go on and with my luck Ill live to be a very old woman, but my life will never be the same."
"Alright, I can see how much pain youre still feeling. But can you really dishonor her memory?"
"What do you mean? Theres not a second that goes by that I dont think of her."
"Thats just it! No you shouldnt forget her, but you shouldnt waste the gift you were given. You can see again for the first time in five years, but all you have seen in the last six months is four walls and these sixty acres. Yes, it is beautiful here, but there is so much more beauty in the world to see. Remember how much Jamie wanted you to see again. Well see everything that she wanted for you. Make her proud."
Erin was silent for a very long time as she studied a half buried rock by the tip of her boot. She remembered the plans they had made to travel around the world, one country at a time. She bent down and pulled a clover from beneath the edge of the stone. Its four leaves triggered thoughts of her grandmother and the stories she used to tell. "Ireland. We were going there on our honeymoon I dont know maybe."
"Do it Sis. Make yourself happy by making her happy."
* * * * * * * *
Erins first destination, upon arriving in Ireland, was her grandmothers farm in Kerry, near the southwestern shore. The traditional, old world cottage was nestled in the corner of a lush valley, nearly surrounded by a range of majestic, forested mountains. The emerald jewels stood high and proud against the soft blue sky, guarding the special land and her people.
As Erin started into the valley, an early morning rain had given way to the sun, bringing with it a pale rainbow of yellow, pink, blue and purple. Erin would find a treasure at the end, the grandmother that she had waited so long to see again.
Kathleen Casey was a small, but strong woman. She had barely been sick a day in her life and had given birth to three healthy children, at home. She had also done more than her share of midwifery, lending her magical touch to the births of a good portion of the population of Kerry, past and present. There were more than a few girls and boys who shared one of her names or at least a version of.
The white haired woman had an opinion on everything and was never shy about sharing it. Some called her feisty and she loved it when they did. Some called her a woman ahead of her time. But they all called her friend. The woman had nearly single-handedly seen to the day to day running of her farm since her return to her homeland six years before. Her flock of sheep produced some of the finest wool in the country, most of it being purchased by the best mills and hand weavers in the land and tuned into beautifully crafted garments. Her life was prosperous. She had seen wonderful times and sorrowful times. But no matter what the times, her family was always first in her mind and in her heart.
Kathleen stepped onto the porch when she saw the car coming down the dirt road. She waved excitedly the whole time Erin was moving up the bumpy drive. She had been anxious all morning waiting for her granddaughter to arrive. Erin hadnt told her grandmother of her impending visit, wanting to surprise her but Kathleen knew.
Erin pulled the car to a stop, hurried through the small wooden gate and ran into her grandmothers arms. They hugged and held onto one another for half an hour, sharing their joy at being reunited.
The happy woman gave her granddaughter a quick tour of the tiny, five room cottage. The house would have been a picture postcard, perfectly depicting the traditional Irish lifestyle if not for one tiny reason. A gray satellite dish was perched upon the thatched roof. The modern day technology brought the rest of the world into Kathleens day and many times through out the night as well.
Every wall in the house was a living pictorial history of the Casey and ORourke families. Erin had inherited her grandmothers strong sense of family and she reveled in that as she studied the cherished photos. There were the great-grandparents she had never met, the distant relatives who stood straight and tall, proudly wearing the uniforms in service their country. The black and white images painted a colorful history rich in champions of every imaginable kind, from the war veterans to the nurse who had adopted a lonely little boy who had lost his parents in an accident, to the mother who educated her own children at home when they suffered hateful prejudice in the public schools. There was a hero perched on every branch of Erins family tree and even with the human flaws that plague everyone, they all held up the proud legacy. That is why Erin was so disappointed in her fathers attitude toward her lifestyle. Even though he was misguided, he never lost his place in Erins heart, just her life.
When he had been told of Jamies death, he couldnt hold back the smile of relief. The rest of the grieving family had admonished him for his attitude and he did admit to himself that it was a tragic loss of a young woman with such promise for a future, but still his daughter was once again normal. He had approached Erin in mid February, as she was preparing to move. He was hoping to regain their closeness now that the obstacle was no longer in the way. He expressed his sympathies at her loss and explained his hopes for their future relationship. But Erin was not swayed. She had told him that she loved him and always would, but if he didnt want her around while Jamie was in her life, then she didnt want him to be around now. He walked away despondent, but still knowing that his daughter was better off alone.
Erin enthusiastically told her grandmother of the family back home. She presented new pictures to fill what few empty spaces were left on the walls and shelves. She told the story of her restored eyesight and of her successful career. Kathleen had read Erins novel and told her how proud she was of her. She neared the end of her stories and was about to ask of her grandmothers life, but the white haired woman had another plan.
"Tell me about yer love?" she asked with her heavy accent.
For just a second Erin was stunned, but she quickly remembered that you could never underestimate Kathleen Rose ORourke Casey. Erin hadnt intended to make her grandmother unhappy by telling her about her lost relationship with Jamie, but the old woman had seen and felt the sadness behind Erins smile. They sat in rocking chairs in front of the small, stone fireplace as Erin told her tale, which was anything but a fairytale with the proverbial happy ending.
Halfway through the story a wrinkled hand clasped onto Erins slightly trembling one. That touch helped her finish without too many tears.
"Tis heartbreakin ta hear that ya lost yer mate after such a short time together," said Kathleen. "She sounds like a lovely young lass."
Weary green eyes met. "She was Grandma, she was." Erin stood and went to the small window. She looked out over the meadow full of grazing sheep, put her arms around herself and sighed.
"What is it honey?"
The blonde head shook. "I just feel like I could have prevented it." Erin turned back to the seated woman and knelt down in front of her. "I knew something bad was going to happen to her, Grandma. I heard the leprechauns whisper. I should have found a way to stop her, I should have "
"No, dear. No." Kathleen caressed the soft hair on the head lying in her lap. "I know it feels that way sweetheart I do know. And I also know that ya did everything possible to protect her. But I bet she was a wee bit stubborn. No matter how much she loved you, she had ta do things her way."
Erin nodded. "How did you know that?"
Kathleen smiled. "We seem to be attracted to that type, you and me." She continued to rock softly, letting Erin feel the comfort. They both watched the dancing flames, each thinking about their lost soul mates. "It was the first time ya heard, wasnt it?" Kathleen finally asked.
The older woman gently pulled Erins face to meet hers. "Im going to tell ya somethin sweetheart, somethin no one else knows. Because no one else would understand."
Erin looked at her grandmother with quizzical eyes, but listened intently.
"Ya know that yer grandfather died when you were just a wee one."
"He had a heart attack."
"Yes, but I knew it was gonna happen. I knew weeks ahead of time, but he was so stubborn, the old goat. He called me daft and promised me he was in the best of health. But I woke up one mornin and he didnt. He passed away peacefully, but he took a part of me with him."
Erin nodded staunchly and tears of agreement rolled down her face. "Does the pain ever go away Grandma?" Calloused hands touched her face.
"No dear. Not completely. But I came ta realize that it was just his time. Ronan and I had forty-two wonderful years together. We raised three beautiful children. And we saw seven absolutely adorable grandchildren come into this world."
"But I didnt get to do any of that with Jamie," Erin whispered thickly.
"You will dear, you will."
Erin stood and wrapped a brightly patterned quilt around her shoulders, feeling the warmth of the love with which it was handcrafted. "I dont think so Grandma. I could never love anyone else with the intensity that I loved Jamie. And that wouldnt be fair to them."
Kathleen soon joined Erin by the window. She put her arm around the sad girl and closed her eyes. "Shes still here ya know," said Kathleen after a long silence.
"I know Grandma. I feel her spirit with me all the time. Just like you feel Grandpas."
The older woman nodded, but instead of sadness a strange twinkle filled her eyes. "Im gonna make us some tea darlin." She came back minutes later carrying a tray with a steaming china pot, matching cups and golden biscuits laced with almonds.
Erins eyes lit up at the sight of the sweet treats. She quickly sat down beside Kathleen and reached for a biscuit. Erin drizzled honey over the fluffy confection and bit into it with anticipation. She swallowed with a euphoric expression on her face. "You have no idea how much I have missed these. They are incredible."
A smile spread the wrinkled face. "Maybe its time I teach ya to make them."
Green eyes went wide. "Are you joking?"
"A Casey woman never jokes about baking."
"Well I know I couldnt make them as good as these, but I would love for you to show me."
"Then I will. But first I want you ta do somethin for me Erin."
"I want ya to go back ta Dublin and visit there like ya planned."
"I will Grandma, in a few days, but first I wanted to visit with you. I miss you so much."
"And I you darlin. But will ya do like I asked first?"
Erin was puzzled, but couldnt refuse her grandmothers request. "Well, if thats what you want."
"It is. And I promise you will understand before ya return home."
To be continued
Return to Main Page