Erin took the train back to Dublin and arrived at four in the afternoon, but she spent the rest of the day in her hotel room. She stayed there, not so much from being tired, but more from the morose feeling that had descended over her. She had started to feel excitement at the prospect of exploring the land of her heritage, but when she had gone to check in at the hotel, the couple in front of her had been wrapped around each other, smiling, whispering and kissing. They were so happy to be on their honeymoon, they had told the man behind the desk. After that scene, Erin couldnt get the thoughts of Jamie out of her head.
In her cool, comfortable room, the soft, melodious notes of the local music had serenaded her from a radio and after a light meal they had lulled her to sleep. Her dreams that night were surprisingly pleasant. They were filled with the sounds of Jamies voice, telling Erin how much she loved her and how nothing could ever really separate them. Jamies last whispered words finally set Erins heart and her mind down a new path. She had said, "Above all else, I want you to live." Erin awoke the next morning with a smile on her face and lightness in her soul.
* * * *
Erin stepped from the taxi, walked up to the courtyard and through the black iron gates. She had set out bright and early, determined to see all she could in her five day stay. Her first stop was Trinity College.
Tall, stone pillars with ornamental end caps, decorated the facade of the main entrance. A blue-faced clock, high in the eves, chimed eight thirty as she opened the large wooden door. Erin entered with great respect and quietly walked the public halls of the huge building, appreciating the architecture and artistry. School citations and awards hung on the walls, telling the world of the fine academic reputation of the Irish institute.
She spent over two hours perusing the many books in the huge old library, but the one that sparked the greatest emotions was the famous Book of Kells. As she stood there looking through the glass case, Erin found herself shedding a tear as she gazed upon the pages of the ancient manuscript. She was in awe of the artwork that had been painstakingly handcrafted with nothing more than a quill and ink. After several minutes gazing at the pages and thinking about its creation, she had a sudden flash of something.
Her modern day surroundings faded away as she looked down at her own hands and saw her calloused fingers delicately holding a white, feathered quill. She watched it glide across the tan parchment, forming the words of an unfamiliar language. Twilight was descending over the trees whose branches rustled in the breeze. The trace scent of burning wood wafted under her nose as Erin closed her eyes and let herself drift further into the vision. A garbled voice asked her something about fish and she felt herself responding yes and giggling. Fingertips traced her cheek and Erin reached up to touch the hand, but there was nothing. She jerked at the sound of a voice, but it was not the voice in the dream.
"I didnt mean ta startle ya, but are ya all right?" The gray haired man gazed at her with caring eyes.
She was still slightly dazed as he guided her to a high backed chair in the corner of the room. He stepped away for a minute and quickly returned with a small cup of cool water.
Erin drank down the soothing liquid and returned his worried smile. "Thank you. Im fine now. I just Im not sure what happened, but it was interesting." Her eyes drifted over to the book that had triggered whatever it was she had experienced.
He followed her line of sight. "It tis a magical piece of history, isnt it? Im Byron Elias Niessen, by the way."
Her small hand was enveloped by his larger one. "Erin Casey."
His head nodded. "Aye, not a home grown lass, but a daughter of the land none the less."
"Yes. My grandparents and my father were born here, but this is my first visit."
"Well, allow me to bestow a proper welcome." He pulled the small white bloom from the lapel of his jacket and presented it to her.
She took a sniff of the sweet flower. "Thank you." She rose from the chair with his hand on her elbow for support. "Again, thank you for your help, but I guess I should be going. I have a lot more to see."
He gave a gallant nod of his head. "Of course. Maybe well see each other again before ya leave," he suggested.
She thought that was probably impossible, but didnt want to insult him. "Maybe."
He took a silver watch from his pocket and flipped open the casing. "May I suggest a walk through St. Stephens Green ta clear yer head. The fountain sparkles under the mid-day sun and it also carries a little magic if ya feed it a coin or two."
She couldnt help but smile at the charming man. "Ill take that advice. Good-bye Mr. Neissen."
Erin strolled through the peaceful green park, enjoying the sights. She studied the faces of the enchanting people around her. The smiles that spoke a dozen different reasons. The serious face of a student enthralled in a textbook. A mothers love as she wiped away a tear from her child that had taken a fall. They were people she didnt know, but brothers and sisters just the same.
The bright sun was just enough to warm her pale skin as she skirted the parks boundaries, passing by the big sprouting fountain. It was just before noon and some people were gathering to eat their mid-day meal in the beautiful outdoor setting. She fished two coins from her pocket, closed her eyes and tossed them into the clear water. A small smile and a fluttering of her heart accompanied the wish.
She took a moment to once again think about the strange vision she had had at the library. It was so real the smells, the sounds. And that touch. It was laced with incredible affection the kind she had felt with No! I cant keep doing this. Im moving on. And move on she did.
She rounded the fountain and was heading for the small cafe on the other side of the park when something caught her eye. Sitting next to the fountain, on a wooden bench, was a woman wearing dark glasses. She was tall and very thin and her short hair was inky black. Her head was lowered and her hands lay still in her lap. The womans body posture spoke of someone who was despondent and alone. Shes lost, thought Erin sadly. Shes a lost soul. Erin also thought that the woman might be blind and that tore at her heart, remembering her sightless years. Maybe she just wants to be alone. Or maybe she has no one else. Erin continued to study the woman for quite sometime. Her scrutiny continued to go unnoticed and she found herself strolling closer with every second. When she was just a few feet from the woman, the dark head turned in her direction. The two said nothing, but looked only at each other as the rest of the world continued on around them.
Finally Erin broke from the moment. "Im sorry. I dont mean to disturb you, but you look like youve lost your best friend."
The other woman sighed. "I probably have." Her voice was low and gravely, but she definitely had an American accent.
Erin saw the scar across the side of her neck and once again felt empathy for the woman. "Im Erin Casey," she said extending a friendly hand.
It was graciously taken and held for just a second. "Jane Sims. Please excuse my voice. I suffered some injuries to my vocal cords recently and they still havent quite healed."
Erin smiled and slowly moved onto the bench next to the stranger. "Thats okay. You sound fine. Where are you from in the states?"
Jane looked away, embarrassed. "I dont know," she whispered.
Erin didnt quite understand, but she felt this womans pain. "If you need someone to talk to, Im a good listener."
Jane hesitated. She felt very confused, but one look at the compassionate smile bolstered her confidence. "Yeah, maybe I can talk to you."
They both pulled one leg up on the seat and turned to face one another. Erin decided that she should make some further introductions. "Im from California. But dont believe everything you hear about California blondes. Although I have met some less than scholarly towheads, I can promise you some reasonably intelligent conversation."
Jane laughed quietly, realizing that it was the first time she had taken the time to see humor, even in such a simple statement. Even Lia hadnt been able to make her truly laugh. "I believe you," she said to the blonde. "Its me Im worried about. Im afraid I dont have much of a story to tell." She took another, closer look at the kind face with the gentle, but expectant expression. "But here goes." She cleared her throat, but the raspy quality of her voice remained. "The same accident that did this to my voice, took away all of my memories. I have no idea what my real name is, where Im from, if I have family or friends...nothing."
That confession was totally unexpected and Erin was momentarily speechless. "Well, I can only imagine how that must feel." She paused. "No I cant," she added with down cast eyes.
Jane understood what she meant. "Most of the time Im afraid to feel. Im afraid Ill lose my sanity. Im just empty."
Erin placed a comforting hand on the dark haired womans arm. "As I said, I cant really understand exactly what youre going through, but I can relate. Several years ago I was in a horrible explosion. I lost my sight."
Jane hung onto her every word as Erin continued.
"Only a few months ago did I get it back, due to a miracle and a very gifted doctor." Erin looked off into the distance through the misty, barely there tears in her eyes. "Unfortunately, I lost something even more special to me at the same time."
Somehow Jane read between the lines and she knew that Erin was referring to a loved one. "Im very sorry." The quiet between them lingered until Jane remembered something she had heard a few weeks before. "A love lost remains constant in a left behind heart. Each sunrise brings good memories and souls never part."
"That was beautiful," said Erin. "Thank you."
That Jane would try so hard to console someone shed just met, told of a caring heart. And her choice of words was made even more touching when she had no memories of her own loved ones.
Erins melancholy faded just a touch and a new feeling began to trickle over her like the soft drops of a spring shower. The corners of her mouth curled into a warm smile. "Maybe we could both use a friend," she suggested brightly.
The dark haired woman grasped onto the offer with renewed strength. "Id like that," she said with a smile of her own. Jane stiffly got to her feet. "How about I treat my new friend to lunch?"
"Only if I buy dinner."
They found their way over to the small outdoor café, where they were shown to the last available table in the back, protected from the sun by a towering, old oak. They choose a light meal from the menu and two orders of mushroom soup and fresh bakd bread was soon on its way to the kitchen.
They enjoyed the talent of a nearby street performer as they waited for their food. With guitar in hand, he sang of Irish eyes and roses wild, from Kathleen to Maggie Brown and traveled in verse from Tipperary to Tralee. The audience, of mostly tourists, showed their appreciation in applause.
From behind her dark, prescription sunglasses, Erin once again studied the body language of the quiet woman across from her.
Jane sat slumped shouldered, twitching every now and then from aches and pains that traveled across her back. Her lips tightened to keep from groaning against the strong sensations. She reached into the pouch, secured around her waist and pulled out a brown bottle. She flipped the lid and chased down two white pills with a swig from the bottle of water the waitress had brought. With a deep breath her body seemed to relax, knowing that the pain would soon ease. "Im sorry," she said. "I dont seem to be much of a conversation starter."
Erin smiled, trying to put the timid woman at ease. "Thats okay, I am. And if my questions get to be too much, feel free to tell me to mind my own business."
"I dont think that will be necessary. I feel very comfortable with you." Jane shook her head. "Maybe thats because you are the first person who isnt poking and prodding me, trying to analyze me or pushing me to do something Im not ready for." The anger filled emotions drew her fingers into a fist. She looked up see the sadness change Erins previously sunny expression. And she felt guilty. "Im sorry." Jane stood to leave. "Maybe this wasnt such a good idea."
Erin felt a desperation grip her. She needed to talk with this woman. And even more, she knew this woman needed her. "No, please. Its fine. If you need to vent your frustrations go ahead. After my accident I was angry for weeks." She placed a gentle hand on Janes arm. "I do understand."
Jane believed her. And she didnt really want to leave. For the first time in many months she felt something new. She felt the need to take a first step and start her life or to be more precise, create a life. And a new friend was a wonderful thing to start with.
Jane reclaimed her seat as Erin asked, "Should we talk about something else?"
The dark haired woman laughed softly. "Well, since I dont know about anything else, I guess not."
Erin cooled the spoonful of steaming soup with a soft breath. "What kind of accident was it?" she asked, hesitantly.
"I dont know," said Jane, pulling off a chunk of the thick, crusty bread. "I dont remember anything about it. A farmer found me lying in his field. No one knew how I got there." She stopped to take another sip of water. "I was barely alive. My back was broken." Her hand drifted to the scar at her neck. "I had a lot of wounds. The doctor said my recovery was a miracle. They never expected me to come out of the coma and when I did, it took months of rehabilitation to get me walking again. I spent my recovery time in a medical center. There were a couple of special nurses there who would never let me give up, now matter how much I yelled at them. When I was recovered enough to leave, they all chipped in and gave me this trip as a present."
Erin nodded. "Why Ireland?" she asked, as she continued eating her lunch.
Jane paused. "Im not really sure. They gave me this huge map and all these travel brochures. Everyone was suggesting all these tropical places, like Hawaii, Jamaica, the Bahamas. But none of those places appealed to me. One evening when we were alone, Lia, she was one of the nurses, told me to consider Ireland. I started reading about it and I dont know. Something just made me choose it. I get the feeling it has some special meaning to me." She looked back over the park. "Maybe I was hoping to find someone here who knew me. It was a long shot I know, but... How about you?"
"Well, my family is from here. My father was always too busy with work when I was a child and we never got to come here as a family. But I always longed to visit." The smile she had sported, slowly faded. "Actually this trip was supposed to be my honeymoon. But my fiancé died before our wedding."
"Im so sorry."
"Thanks. Jamie was my whole world, but I know she wouldnt want me to spend the rest of my life in mourning. Its just so hard facing everyday without her. We had so many plans for the future." Erin wiped away a lone tear. "I still cant seem to stop crying when I think about her. But those sunrises give me hope for tomorrow."
"I had someone that important to me too," said Jane with a hitch of emotion. Her comment surprised them both. "Hearing the love in your voice just now, triggered something. Not really a memory, but a feeling. Thank you. Thats the first thing from my past that has come back to me."
Erins sadness suddenly flew away and her hand landed on top of Janes. "I hope everything comes back to you, including that one special person."
"Just talking to you has made me feel so much better."
"For me too. How about we do some sightseeing?"
* * * *
They spent three hours touring the National Museum, learning about the ancient Celts and in particular, a flame haired warrior queen. They saw artifacts from the area that dated back to the Stone Age and read about Celtic Christianity, Protestant conquest and famine and immigration. Together they absorbed the history lesson and each was happy to have a companion to share it with.
When they were leaving, Jane suddenly realized that she had been so pleasantly pre-occupied that her own problems were put to the far recesses of her mind, replaced by pure enjoyment. She smiled all the way to their next destination.
St. Patricks Cathedral gave them both a sense of unbelievable serenity. They stood in the suns rays that flowed through the breathtakingly beautiful stained glass panels lining the upper walls. As they were absorbing the moment, their hands touched and clasped just for an instant before they were interrupted by the tour guide and led away. They made no further mention of the touch as the hours went on, but the special moment would be forever remembered by each of them.
Late in the day, Erin and Jane were strolling back thought the park where they had met. Jane removed her sunglasses and slipped them into her shirt pocket. Just minutes before, Erin had changed into her regular wire framed eyeglasses.
"Would like to join me for some Irish dancing lessons tomorrow?" asked Erin.
Jane chuckled. "I dont think my back would enjoy that particular activity, but I wouldnt mind watching you. Then maybe we could do something else?" she asked hopefully.
Erin had smiled more in that one day then in all the previous six months. "All right, that sounds like a plan." They soon came to the parks exit. "Im staying at the Shelbourne," she said, pointing to the fancy building across the street.
"Im just down the way at the Buswells. Ill meet you here in the morning at eight."
They turned to one another and both where struck speechless as their eyes locked. It was the first time all day that Erin had been without her dark sunglasses. And the lenses through which Jane had seen her new friend were auburn and had certainly distorted the color. They were both embarrassed by the mute staring, but hated to break away.
"Winter in Switzerland," whispered Erin.
"Huh?" asked the awe struck woman.
"Skys blue reflecting off an ice capped mountaintop." Erin finally looked away, blushing. "Your eyes Im sorry, its the writer in me. Beautiful things just inspire me."
"Dont be sorry. I was just going to say that there are now forty one shades of green in Ireland."
Erin blushed even harder at the compliment. "Thank you."
Jane shifted and took a few steps back. "Ill see you tomorrow Erin. Goodnight."
Jane watched as the blonde carefully crossed the road and entered the brightly lit building. Once she had disappeared into the lobby, Jane headed down the sidewalk to her own hotel.
* * * *
Erin stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a warm robe. She stopped to look at the mirror and caught sight of her own eyes and remembered the compliment from her new friend. "I never really thought I would find joy in anything again. But today I had fun," she admitted to her reflection. She took off the robe, slipped into her nightclothes then into bed. Erin snuggled deep into the covers and smiled. "I love you Jamie and I always will. But I know you want me to be happy. In fact, I felt your presence with me today, guiding me. I miss you." Slumber claimed her, but for the first time in months she didnt dream about her lost love.
* * * *
The low morning sun filtered through the thick pane of glass, spilling out across the table where Erin and Jane were enjoying a traditional breakfast fry. The meal included bacon, fried eggs, grilled tomatoes, potato cakes and black pudding. The huge servings promised to provide plenty of energy for their busy day.
Erin wisely decided not to attempt the dancing lessons on such a full stomach, so they mutually agreed to visit the local zoo first.
The interesting array of specimens from the wild kingdom fascinated them for several hours, during which time Erin told her new friend about her family and her childhood.
Jane enjoyed hearing the amusing tales. She listened to the love in Erins voice as she spoke, but her thoughts drifted. Surely I have family, parents looking for me. But how can they find me? I have to look for them. But how in the word do I even start?
The dark head shook. "Im sorry that was very rude. I really am interested in your life."
"But it makes you think of what you are missing?"
Jane shrugged. "Everything makes me think of that. But I dont want to be a downer. So where are we off to next?" She chuckled as Erin excitedly ran over to the next exhibit.
They laughed as they watched the wild antics of a troop of monkeys chasing each other over and around the trees in their exhibit. Erin gave a cute squeak when she spotted a baby riding under its mothers belly, as she walked along on all fours.
The tigers splashed around in their pool, playing with a huge, blue, hard plastic ball.
Jane had snagged a single use camera at a vendor and insisted on taking a picture of Erin feeding the giraffes. She snapped it just as the long, dark tongue wrapped around the piece of carrot Erin held in her hand. The blonde had broken out in a surprised grin at the tickling sensation.
Jane went on to take several more pictures when they visited the petting zoo. She was sure the smile hadnt left her face all morning as she laughed out loud when a goat nudged Erin in the behind, causing her to squeal.
"You think thats funny huh?" the blonde asked.
Jane held her stomach as she nearly doubled over. "Yeah yeah I do. I think he likes you."
Erin crooked a finger at the laughing woman. "Well why dont you come over here with our furry friends and well see what kind of love connection you can make."
Jane straightened up and marched in the fray of four legged creatures. She scratched behind the floppy ears of an adorable, white goat as Erin looked on.
"Shes not quite as cute as Artemis," said the author. "But that is a face."
"My Golden Retriever."
"I bet shes beautiful. They had one at the center. He was twelve and a little slow footed, but very lovable." Jane leaned over once again and gave a last pat to the goats head. Suddenly she was hit from behind and falling forward. The white goat made a hasty retreat and Jamie fell into Erins surprised arms. They were both stunned as they held an almost hypnotic gaze. "Im sorry," said Jane, as she regained her balance. Still shaken, not from the fall, but from the feeling of Erins arms around her, Jane straightened her rumpled clothing, looking everywhere but the Irish womans face. "They should put a warning sign on that billy," she chuckled.
Erin also had to calm herself after their momentary encounter. "Yeah. Lets get out of the line of fire."
They grabbed a cool drink as they headed back toward the zoos exit, stopping momentarily to watch an elephant, which seemed to be giving itself a bath. The comfort level had once again returned as they chatted about the beautiful scenery.
Near the exit, they came to a lush garden with an interestingly shaped, metal bench right in the center of a rainbow of petals.
"Go sit down and Ill take your picture," said Erin, as she held out her hand for the camera.
A shiver went down Janes back. "I dont..." Her hand reached up to touch the scar on her neck. "Id rather not."
Erin laid a comforting hand on her back. "Thats all right. Lets go." She grinned, trying to lighten the mood. "Ive got some dancing to do."
* * * *
Erin and Jane sat in the front row of the small dance hall. The lively music filled the room as a tall woman, with a mane of curly red hair, flitted around the room like a butterfly. She barely touched the ground beneath her feet as she gracefully executed a series of short kicks and silent tapping. The joy on her face was infectious as she moved from one end of the room to the other, dancing on her toes, interpreting the notes being played on the high pitched flute. She finished in a flurry to a generous amount of applause from the dozen or so spectators.
They then watched in fascination as the music ended and six young women marched to the middle of the stage. Their feet began moving at an incredible pace. There was no need for an accompanying melody, their synchronized, rhythmic tapping created the music. Jane looked over to Erin, tilted her head and with a raised eyebrow wished her luck.
Soon the show was over.
After talking for a short time with one of the helpful instructors, Erin abandoned her Nikes and slipped into a proper pair of dancing shoes. She listened carefully to the words of the teacher and together they walked out the moves one by one. After a few minutes of doing that, the teacher nodded for the music to begin. Erin started moving her feet to the slow beat and she did quite well until the next section of music started and the pace picked up. She began to kick herself in the ankles again and again, knowing there would be bruises the next day. She looked over at her new friend and made a silly face at her own clumsy moves. A huge smile beamed across the dark haired womans face and she threw her head back in merriment.
The practice continued, even as Erin began tripping over her own feet. She raised herself from the floor at one point and looked to see Jane laughing. But Erin never once felt that she was being laughed at, but laughed with, as she herself soon had tears running down her face.
That evening they dined on fish and chips at the popular Leo Burdocks, as they reminisced about the days events.
When twilight had long passed, they once again walked through the park on the way back to their hotels.
"Are my feet sore," said Erin, as she nearly limped along.
"I can just imagine. Lets sit down over here for a while."
They stepped up into the huge gazebo and sat side by side on one of the white, wooden benches. Erin slipped out of her shoes and rotated her stiff ankles.
Without even thinking, Jane reached down and lifted the sore feet into her lap and began rubbing them. Neither one found the act awkward. Jane knew well of pain and she just wanted to provide some relief if she could.
Erin reveled in the touch that seemed so familiar. She chose not to dwell on the thought and just went with the feeling. She closed her eyes and lay her head back against the seat. "Ooooo, thank you," she moaned. "That feels so good."
Jane merely nodded, concentrating on the task instead of the other things she was feeling.
"I think tomorrow," Erin slurred through a yawn, "we should do something that doesnt require pounding the floor with my tender tootsies."
Tomorrow. For once Jane liked the sound of that word. And she liked it even more that it was going to still be shared with her new friend. She was afraid she might be intruding on Erins vacation, but she had become attached to the personable young woman and didnt know what she would do when the time came for them to go their separate ways. Even without her memories, Jane had found herself feeling whole while in the company of Erin Casey.
Jane listened as the breathing of her companion became slow and even. She didnt think Erin would want to fall asleep there, so after a few minutes of contemplation she asked a question that had been on her mind. She wanted to know what kind of a person Erin would love. "Tell me about Jamie."
A small smile came across her lips and Erin slowly opened her eyes. She looked passed Jane into the distance as she spoke. "Jamie was intelligent. She had a great sense for business, even though she would have told you otherwise. She was funny. She could chase away my blues with a tickle or the worst joke youve ever heard." She chuckled then paused. "I felt safe in her arms, but there were times when I needed to protect her. She would never allow anyone else to see it, but she had some insecurities because of some incidents in her past. Physically, Jamie was almost as different from me as you could get but we fit, perfectly. I knew that I had been lonely before, but until we met, I didnt realize just how much was missing from my life. Jamie made me complete...even if it was just for such a short time."
When Erin was through with her story, they both silently looked out over the calm lake. Darkness was all around them and there were just a few people left in the park. A light mist began to fall as they got up and silently walked back to their hotels.
To be continued
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