Disclaimer: These characters and this narrative are mine, so there is nothing to disclaim in this here story. You will need an open mind to read it, though. If you find something you think needs disclaiming, you are more than welcome to let me know. It won't change anything, but it may make you feel better. Ugliness will earn you a smack to the back of your head.
Thanks: To my truly awesome Beta Team. Thanks to Carol, Marsha, Phil and Liz for the editing and for the questions, comments, steering and encouragement. You guys ROC!
Special Thanks: To the webmistresses who have to put up with my funky, pain-in-the-ass formatting and post my stories anyway.
Author's Note: This story is not part of the Valiant Series. It is a stand alone story with two completely new characters. The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
Prologue: Once Upon a Time....
Journal entry: I had the dream again last night, and I am beginning to go mad because of it. Those eyes surround me and invade my soul, and yet I cannot find them when daylight strikes the Earth.
Papa has agreed to take me on the next voyage. Perhaps I will find what my soul seeks there.
Journal entry: I found eyes similar to the ones I have spent a lifetime searching for, but they were not the eyes that belong to me. It was mostly by accident I think, and I tried to warn the man away from my ship. He didn't seem put off that I was a woman, the Captain, nor the fact that we bore flag of a pirate ship. If I did not know better, I would say he was relieved to have found us.
The man, Michael, spent quite some time on board as if he were searching for answers to an unknown riddle. He must have been satisfied with what he found, for when he left us, he was in much better spirits than when he arrived.
I am glad he found his answers, if he did. His last comment to me has made me a bit unsettled, and has strengthened the resolve of my search.
"You will find her, for she will come to you in due time."
How could he know what haunts my dreams?
Journal entry: The dreams grow increasingly more frequent. I cannot imagine what I did to anger God in such a way so as to be cursed like this, for I had these visions long before I took to the seas. And the priest assures me that what we are doing is not wrong in the eyes of God.
I almost dread the nightfall, and yet I eagerly embrace it as well, for I know that there I will find comfort in her arms.
She has become more clear to me as time has passed. Green eyes, the color of the grass in what was once my home. Golden hair that reminds me of the treasures that abound in these waters for those who know where to look. A lithe body, muscles that speaks of hard work and softness addressed by womanly curves. All of this I see, and still her face remains hidden, except for those eyes that have haunted me since I was a child.
I wonder if she dreams of me as I do of her.
Journal entry: Something has changed, and for the first time in my life I feel a true sense of anticipation for the future. Could it be our time has come at last?
Even the men have noticed the change, and go about their tasks in a brighter frame of mind. Who can blame them... it seems as though we have been in this stretch of ocean for hundreds of years, instead of the few months we come this way every so often. Truth be told, we have been here more often than usual, just because I feel the need to be.
I have hope now, for whatever reason. I will find her.
October - Twenty Years Ago
"Are ya sure about this, Jack? We can't afford to be wrong."
"I'm tellin' ya, Mike. It was the three-masted cutter of the legends. I couldn't make out the name, but there were people on board, Mikey, and they looked like pirates from two hundred years ago."
"C'mon, Jack... we both know that there've been no pirates in those waters in a hundred years. You keep talking crazy like that, they'll lock you up and throw away the key."
"Mike, I saw the pirate banner. I saw the cannons. I saw HER."
Now Mike got serious. "Did you get the coordinates?"
Jack nodded. "Oh yeah. Wanna guess?"
"The Triangle?" Mike sighed. He closed his eyes at Jack's affirmative nod. "Did she say ANYTHING?"
"Not a word. She searched the area over two week period then disappeared into the mist."
"Was there a pattern to the search?"
"Amazingly, yes." He unrolled a map out into the table, then place a grid on top of it. "I didn't think a pirate would be quite so methodical, but...."
"Daddy, what's a pirate?"
The two men looked up at the question, and Mike smiled at his little girl. Little five-year-old Hannah was the bright spot in his world. Beautiful, with honey colored hair and bright green eyes, she was the spitting image of the mother who had died giving her life. He opened his arms, and Hannah giggled as she ran to jump up into them.
"How's Daddy's angel today? Did you have fun in school?"
"Oh yes, Daddy. It was the mostest fun. We colored and pasted and played hide-n-seek and...." Mike laughed joyously at his daughter's enthusiasm. She reminded him so much of her mother, and though it was still sometimes a very painful reminder, he found great joy in that fact as well.
"I'm glad you like school, sweetheart. Say hi to Uncle Jack."
The five-year-old squealed. "UNCLE JACK!!"
"Hiya pumpkin! How's my favorite niece?"
Hannah did the best grown up imitation she could manage snuggled up in her Daddy's arms. "Uncle Jack, I'm your ONLY niece."
Jack Reilly laughed. "That's true, cutie. I brought you something back from my trip."
"Yea!! Is it from the pirates?"
Both men looked startled at the question. "Um, no. But it is your very own piece of paradise." He handed her a conch shell. "Hold it to your ear... like this." He demonstrated what he meant. "You can hear the ocean."
She did what he said, and the green eyes grew wide with amazement. "Wow! Daddy, can I go show Katie?"
"Sure sweetie. I'm sure Mrs. O'Shea wonders where you are."
Hannah smiled and kissed him before he set her firmly on the ground. She ran to Jack and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him as well. "Thanks, Uncle Jack!" she said before she left at a run for the next-door neighbor's house and her very best friend in the whole wide world with her shell clutched tightly in both fists.
"Well, if the routine holds true, we have ten years to work on this puzzle. After almost one hundred and fifty years of mystery, I don't think waiting until tomorrow to start working on it is gonna make a difference."
"I know you're right, Jack. I just... can't explain it really. I need to solve this."
"We will brother. We will."
September - Ten Years Ago
"Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust," the minister's voice intoned solemnly. There were quite a few people gathered at the graveside, but the young woman sat alone by the casket. The minister finished his benediction, and took Hannah's hand to mutter a few final words of comfort. She waited in silence for him to finish and nodded, willing him to leave her in peace.
The crowd began to disperse and still Hannah Reilly sat quietly by the casket. Katie and her family stood by respectfully, waiting for her to say her final goodbyes.
"Daddy, I hope you finally found what you were looking for when you died." She closed her eyes and drew a shuddering breath before continuing. "We haven't been able to reach Uncle Jack yet, so I'm going home with the O'Sheas for now." A sob shook the small frame, and Katie started forward, only to be held back by her mother.
"Give her another minute, Kate. I don't think she's done yet."
"I love you, Daddy. And I'm really gonna miss you. Maybe I should have told you about the dreams. You might have understood them, or at least... well, anyway. Give Mama a real big hug and kiss for me, okay? I'm glad you have each other again, 'cause I know you've missed her."
Hannah stopped talking and remained seated for another long minute. Then she wiped her eyes and rose, nodding to the waiting funeral director. She moved toward the O'Sheas. Katie met her halfway, and Hannah gratefully returned the embrace she found herself in. Her best friend topped her by four or five inches, and she found herself tucked under Katie's chin while the curly auburn hair tickled her nose.
"I'm glad you're coming home with us, even if it's just til your uncle gets home," Katie said softly. "It'll be nice to have another girl in the house." Hannah just smiled. She knew Katie idolized her three older brothers and they doted on her.
"Are ya ready then, Hannah?"
"Yes ma'am. Thank you for...."
"No need to thank me, dear," Sarah O'Shea cut in smoothly. "You've always been a part of the family. We're glad to have ya for as long as you'd like to stay."
Tears welled in the green eyes again, but Hannah refused to let them fall. Instead, she nodded slightly, and gave Sarah a watery smile. The portly woman smiled back at her, and patted her graying red hair when a breeze blew through the graveyard.
"C'mon, now," Sarah continued. "Let's get home before it rains."
Shamus had brought the car around to them and they all piled in and shut the doors just as the bottom fell out. "Do you know when you should hear from Jack again?" the man questioned in the silence.
"No sir. I thought he and Daddy were together, but apparently they split up to do some more research on the Triangle. I expect to hear from him within the next two or three days, though. He's always been real good about calling me faithfully once a week whenever he's been away on business or what have you since I was seven."
"That's good then. You are always welcome in our home and in our family, you know that. But I think he needs to know what happened. It's time they gave up that damned fool hunt."
The last statement caught Hannah's attention. "Do you know what they were looking for, Uncle Shae?" The children had always referred to the adults in this manner. Hannah didn't miss Sarah laying her hand on Shamus' arm, nor the deep breath he took before answering.
"They were chasing a ghost, little bit. They were looking for a legend."
A simple question with no simple answers. Shamus shook his head. Sarah looked at Hannah compassionately.
"They felt it was important. We were never really given any enlightenment on the subject."
Hannah nodded, accepting the explanation, unsatisfactory as it might be. She had questions for her Uncle Jack when he got home.
May - Five Years Ago
"I can't believe you're going to graduate with your Master's degree a year before I even finish my Bachelor's!" Katie good-naturedly complained. Hannah had become more driven upon her father's death, and that energy was channeled into her studies. And her dreams... but those remained her own little secret.
Jack had returned home immediately once he got the news, but it was agreed that Hannah would remain with the O'Sheas whenever he was out of town. And after his brother's death, that seemed to happen a lot more often. Still he was good to Hannah, and doted on her as much as he could, and he made sure she always knew how precious she was to him.
He never told her precisely what he and her father had been working on when Mike was killed. They had agreed early in Hannah's life that this part of the family history was something she would need to discover for herself, if and when the right time for her to know ever came. Shortly after Mike's death, Jack put out a book on the Mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, and he let her believe that the research that had gone into the publication was what had caused her father's death. Truth, as far as it went... just not the WHOLE truth.
So the time had come for Hannah to walk a second time. She had already published two young reader books, and had a daily syndicated column in newspapers around the country. Her future was quite bright, and she chuckled at the frustrated tone in Katie's voice.
"Well, Katie, if you'd focus a little harder on your studies, and a little less on the parties...." She let the thought trail off, then caught the pillow aimed for her head.
"Uh huh.... Well, someone has to have your share of the fun, since you don't ever seem to have any. I worry about you sometimes, working so hard. What are you looking for?"
Green eyes turned inward for a minute at the suddenly serious turn in the conversation. "I am trying to find where I fit, Katie. I don't feel like I belong here."
"Hannah, we all feel that way sometimes. But it seems to be the only thing that motivates you."
Hannah shrugged. "Maybe it is. Sometimes the feeling is so overwhelming, I feel like I should be searching for my way home."
Katie wrapped an arm around the Hannah's shoulders. "You'll find it. I have faith."
Hannah stood on tiptoe and pressed her lips to her best friend's cheek. "Thanks, Katie. I love you."
"I love you too, hon. Now," changing the subject to lighten the discussion, "When is Jack coming into town?"
"Um, tonight, I think. Uncle Shae is picking him up at the airport."
"Cool! Family reunion! 'Cause you know the boys are coming too."
Good... my kind of party!"
Katie rolled her eyes, but smiled inwardly. She was glad to see Hannah excited and enthusiastic about something other than school or work for a change. Maybe it was an indication of better times to come.
June - Present Day
Katie whirled into the room, holding the wedding dress in front of her. Her long auburn curls streamed behind her, and she giggled like the schoolgirl she hadn't been for years now and looked at Hannah. Her brown eyes twinkled in pure happiness.
"What do you think of this one? Do you think Frank will like it?"
"Honey, Frank isn't going to be looking at the dress," Hannah remarked with a teasing grin. "If you want my honest opinion, I like this one the best," holding up a dress that had been tried on several dresses before. "It suits you beautifully."
"Do you really think so?"
"I agree with her, sweetheart," Sarah said. "And you know Hannah has always had been honest about how things look."
Katie chuckled, remembering some of Hannah's less-than-tactful, but frightfully honest comments she had been the recipient of through the years. "Well, now that's true." She looked at her blonde friend. "Do you remember the green and pink Mohawk and that ugly red and purple raincoat I had? And your comment when you saw them for the first time?"
Hannah laughed, and Sarah chortled. "Um, yes.... though I'm sure now I could come up with a better way to say 'that sucks' than that."
"I dunno," Katie answered, still chuckling. "That was actually pretty effective."
They moved over to the bridesmaid's area, and each of them took a different rack and began looking through the selections. As a joke, Katie held up an outrageous feathered purple sequined number. Hannah just raised an eyebrow.
"I'm not auditioning for a part in 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'."
Both of the O'Shea women squealed and Katie hung the dress back up. "I want to know who would wear something like that."
The saleswoman muttered as she passed them with an armful of clothing, "Some things are best left as a mystery."
Three sets of eyes got big at the implication, and they turned their attention back to the racks. Sarah found the next offering... a bright blue lace creation.
"I'm not sure the maid of honor should have on more lace than the bride," was Hannah's only comment.
"Good point," Sarah answered as she hung it up again.
"What about this?" The blonde woman held up her selection.
It was a simple sleeveless sheath in a blue-green satin that complimented both her tan and her eyes, deepening them and bringing them out beautifully.
"Yes," was all Katie said, and within minutes, their shopping was complete and the two friends were headed out to lunch together.
"I'll see you girls at home," Sarah called to them as she left them alone to catch up.
Once they were seated, Katie took up the conversation again.
"I'm so glad you were able to come home for this," she said to Hannah solemnly. The blonde woman ducked her head, acknowledging the gentle, unspoken reprimand. As soon as she'd gotten her Master's degree, Hannah had moved to the city and only rarely had come home for a visit.
"You know I wouldn't have missed it."
The waiter approached and conversation halted while he took their drink orders and gave them the day's specials. Katie waited until he was out of hearing before she spoke again.
"I know, but we've missed YOU. Phone calls just aren't the same."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I just...."
"Are you still having the dreams?" When Katie had come to see her after graduation, Hannah had finally shared with her a tiny bit about the dreams that she'd had since was a child. The blonde head nodded, and she sighed.
"Yeah, and the more vivid they become, the less comfortable I am in my own skin, in my job, in my life. And it seems to be worse here."
"I'm sorry, Hannah. I didn't know." Katie clasped her hands over Hannah's on the table. "I wish there was something I could do to help." She paused briefly, then took the plunge. "Ya know, Patrick still...."
"I know, Kate, and I love Patrick, but like a brother. Besides, I am not comfortable with me. How could anyone else be?
"I think you're selling yourself short, hon. I mean look at you. You are a gorgeous woman, a successful author... and by the way, I recognize a few of the adventures Trudy and Evan have in those stories."
Hannah laughed. "I'll bet you do."
"Ahem," Katie cleared her throat. "ANYWAY... I should have said successful, award-winning author." Here the blonde woman simply blushed and lowered her head in acknowledgement. Katie reached across the table and lifted her chin. "Don't be ashamed of your work, my friend. I cannot tell you the number of ADULTS I know that read your books. That is something to be proud of. Not to mention the column that runs in how many countries now? You are flourishing."
The food arrived right then, and Hannah sighed. The waiter refilled their glasses then left them in peace again.
"That is just my point, Katie. I have everything. I have lovely friends who keep in touch with me regardless," and she gave the other woman a sheepish smile. Katie smiled back broadly. "I am thriving in my chosen profession, both of them, and have been recognized for my work. I have a comfortable bank balance and a nice place to live, and still...."
The waiter returned, topped their glasses again and placed a carafe on the table, then left without another word. Katie made a mental note to tip him well for his discreteness. Hannah swallowed the bite of food and resumed her thought.
"Still, Katie, I don't feel right."
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean, Hannah."
"I have never felt like I fit here, in this time and this place." She chuckled sardonically at herself. "Don't get me wrong. I love my technology and my creature comforts, but it has always seemed a bit foreign to my nature." She sighed in frustration. "I really can't put into words very well what I am trying to say."
"That's okay, hon. I think I understand what you are getting at. Almost like your karmic cycle is out of sync."
Green eyes widened. "My God, that's *exactly* what I mean."
Katie laughed. "See I *did* pay attention in some of those classes."
The blonde woman joined the laughter. "I'm sure Aunt Sarah and Uncle Shae will be thrilled to know their money was well-spent on your education."
"I'm not sure I would go that far, but...." She paused and selected a bite of chicken. "Hannah, is there... someone... special in your life?"
It was silent for a time after that as the two women continued to eat while Hannah considered her answer. "No, not really. I've tried dating, but those eyes... they... I can't find them, and they are the key to... everything, Katie."
"You're that sure, hon?" Hannah kept her eyes locked on the brown ones across from her, and Katie saw the conviction in them before the blonde nodded her head. "All right, then. I have faith that when the time is right, you'll find them and you'll know."
Hannah smiled. "I'm glad one of us does."
"Oh I do. And probably when we all least expect it. Now," taking the check and adding the extra tip for the waiter, "Let's go get some ice cream. By the time we walk the two blocks to get there, I'll have room."
"Katie," Hannah intoned seriously, "There is ALWAYS room for ice cream."
"So, Hannah, are you ready to go through the house? I think it's time." Jack and Hannah were sitting in the old house that had been locked up for quite some time. Jack had taken an early retirement seven months earlier, and had moved down to the islands he had visited so much. It was more like home to him that his brother's house had ever been, no matter how welcome he had been.
She sat curled into one corner of the couch with her hands loosely clasped together around one knee. She missed her Uncle Jack, though they still talked regularly on the phone and communicated by email almost every day. He looked better than he had in years though, and she was glad to see that retirement was agreeing with him so well.
"I think you're right, Uncle Jack. I can take some extra time off after Katie's wedding." She paused and swallowed. "Will you stay and help me?"
"You bet, darlin'. I was hoping you'd ask. I don't think anyone should have to do this kind of thing alone."
"Thanks, Uncle Jack. Um, how long can you stay?"
"I am my own boss. I can stay here as long as you need me here."
"Well, I have five year's worth of vacation, comp and sick time I can draw on, so that gives me more than six months to work with."
"Six months?!? My Lord, girl... how the hell'd you manage that?"
"Oh, it's easy when you don't take vacation and you cover most of the major holidays. So I think I am due some time off. I have columns to cover six or eight weeks, so maybe I'll take a month off."
"You think it'll take a month to clean this place out and get it ready to sell?" Jack didn't think his brother was THAT big of a packrat, but one never knew til they started cleaning.
Hannah chuckled, and the older man smiled at the happy sound. It wasn't one he got to hear all that often anymore, and sometimes he missed the bright-eyed child she had been.
"Um, no. I don't think it will take more than a week. I was hoping maybe you'd let me invite myself down to your place for some time in the sun."
And so it begins.... Jack thought to himself solemnly. Aloud he said, "I think that is a great idea, hon, and I'd love the company. I've missed you."
"I've missed you too, Uncle Jack."
The following day was the rehearsal, and the girls of the wedding party decided to spend the time before the rehearsal itself shopping. Their first stop was a lingerie store, and amazingly, everyone found something scandalous they just had to have... except Hannah.
"C'mon Hannah. You gotta get something outrageous. Get into the spirit!"
The blonde woman took her friend aside. "Katie, who am I gonna wear this kind of stuff for?"
Katie rested her forearms on Hannah's shoulders and smiled down at her. "Do you remember the talk we had yesterday? I told you I have faith, so you need to be prepared. 'Cause it's gonna happen."
Hannah smiled back at her, and gave her a quick, hard hug. "Have I told you lately just how wonderful a friend you are?"
"Yes, but I don't mind if you keep telling me." Hannah swatted her on the butt, and Katie squealed. "Don't you be getting fresh with me, missy," she teased. "I'll have you know I am an almost married woman! Now," returning the swat, and pushing Hannah in the direction of the lingerie, "Find something
Green eyes twinkled mischievously. "I think I can manage that," she replied. What she found didn't have the material of a thong bikini, and the rest of the girls shrieked when they saw it. It reminded them that their next stop was for swimwear, and away they trooped to the next store on their list.
This excursion elicited even more howls and screams as they went though some of the most interesting material scraps that were considered bathing suits. Katie held up one that couldn't have had more than a hundred threads to it.
"Where's the rest? It doesn't cover anything."
"I don't think it's supposed to," Finola commented with a chuckle.
"My question is, why bother? I mean really... what is the point?" Rebecca asked. "May as well walk around bare ass naked. At least then you don't have to worry about tan lines."
Hannah picked up a thong bikini that had enough material in the top that she wouldn't pop out at the slightest intake of breath, and enough material in the bottom that she wouldn't have to shave completely. It helped matters that it was a cute tropical print.
"What about this, guys?" She held the garment up for inspection.
"Hey, that's cute!"
"I like that one!"
Those and several other murmured comments answered Hannah's query, and she smiled, pleased with the reaction. She took her find to the counter.
"Um, Hannah... where are you gonna wear that?" This from Katie.
"I thought I'd wear it to the pool at the complex." She waited for Katie's eyes to go wide before she lost her composure and broke into laughter. "You're so funny. I'm gonna go visit Uncle Jack after we get the house closed up and ready for sale. I thought I'd wear it on the beach."
Katie took a good long look at the suit, then Hannah's behind, then back at the suit. "Well, at least you have the ass for it," was her only comment. She had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from howling at the expression on Hannah's face.
Lunch was an interesting, high-spirited affair, and the entire restaurant smiled at the laughter that flowed from the table of women. The afternoon offered more shopping, and when rehearsal time rolled around, five very tired women were hauling themselves into the church.
Mary muttered to the rest as they crossed the threshold, "Next time we sit by the pool."
"It'll be someone else's wedding," Katie said. "'Cause I'm not doing this again."
The group laughed and they set themselves for rehearsal.
The wedding was a beautiful affair, and by the time the bride and groom took their leave, everyone was in a state of happy exhaustion. Jack and Hannah were among the last to leave, having helped the O'Shea's to clean up once the reception was over. There were quite a few willing hands to make the work lighter, and the caterer was surprised to see so many pitching in to get things wrapped up.
In short order, everything was done, and the Reillys were headed back to their home. They dropped onto opposite ends of the couch and kicked off their shoes simultaneously. Then green eyes met gray, and they broke into quiet, tired laughter.
"Guess you can tell we're related, hmm?" Hannah commented.
"Maybe just a little," Jack answered. "It was a nice wedding, but damn... I'm beat."
"Me too, but I'm glad I was here for this. I think Katie and Frank will be happy together. He's been in love with her since we were kids."
"What about you, little Hannah?"
"What about me, Uncle Jack?" She looked directly at him. "I'm not involved with anyone, if that's what you're asking. Which makes this hysterical in the extreme," indicating the bride's bouquet she'd caught as Frank and Kate were leaving.
"Why not, Hannah? You're beautiful, pleasant and altogether charming and yet you remain alone."
"So are you Uncle, and I don't see an aunt around here," she replied, turning the tables on him, and seeing the slightest hint of shadow cross his face.
"I couldn't have the one I loved, and I wouldn't settle for less," he stated quietly but firmly.
"Neither will I, Uncle Jack. I just haven't found mine yet."
"When you do, hold tight. It's not something you ever want to lose." He spoke with finality and she nodded, seeing clearly the remembered pain in his eyes and wondering at its cause.
"C'mon," she said, rising from the couch and bending over with a moan to pick up her shoes. "Let's go to bed. We have a lot to do in the morning."
"Isn't that the truth," the man replied with his own groan as he stood. "I'll start in my room. At least I know what is there... mostly."
"That sounds good," Hannah answered as she started up the stairs. I don't have very much in mine, so I'll start in the attic. That by itself will take a bit."
"Good, we can work out the rest as we come to it," Jack said as they reached Hannah's room. He leaned over and brushed his lips across her cheek, and she returned the gesture with a hug. "Good night, my dear. Sleep well."
"You too, Uncle."
And the house settled into quiet for the night.
"Holy Moses!" Hannah exclaimed as she peeked her head into the large attic space. It was much bigger than she remembered it being, and there seems to be a lot more... stuff. She stepped into the room, and flung open the windows. "I think I'd better go get some more coffee," looking down at the single mug in her hand. "Maybe I should bring a thermos."
Several minutes later, she could hear Jack still chuckling at her when she headed back up the stairs. The she heard his footsteps behind her and turned to see him coming up behind her. She moved into the attic, and allowed him room to enter the space. He looked around, and his jaw dropped.
"Tell ya what, honey. I'll help you do this first. I didn't realize there was such a mess up here."
"Thanks, Uncle Jack. Me either, actually. You want left or right?"
They were pretty well evenly matched with things, and Jack couldn't even tell what most of it was. "Doesn't matter, really. Six of one...."
"True. Okay, you start there, I'll start here."
They turned on two small oscillating fans and opened the windows on either end of the room to encourage air circulation. Then silence settled around them for a bit as each tried to determine the best place to start, then beginning to set things into different piles for disbursement. Occasionally, they would find pictures or such, but even those memories were set aside in the desire to get done with their task. By lunch, they had made a considerable dent in the attic and worked up quite a sweat in the process.
"My God, "Jack griped as they moved a few of the picture boxes into Hannah's room. "I didn't realize they had so much up there. So much that belonged to Mama and Grandmother." He set the boxes carefully down.
"Are you sure you don't want to keep some of this stuff, Uncle Jack?"
"Sweetheart, I told you. You go through and pick out what you want to keep, then send me the rest."
"All right. I just don't want you to miss out on what should be yours."
"Nope, not a problem. Now let's go get some lunch. I'm starving."
It took the rest of that day and most of the next before they finished in the attic. Hannah ended up with two trunks and several boxes of pictures and mementos that she was slowly sorting through in the evening.
Jack finished with his room while Hannah tackled the study, and when he joined her after lunch the third day, he found her sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by books, cradling her head in her hands.
"You okay, sweetheart?"
"I was just thinking how much I miss my Daddy. So many of my memories of him are tied into this room."
"Do you want me to do this? You want to go do the kitchen or his bedroom or...?"
"No, I think I need to do this. But you can sure stay and help me if you like."
"I like. A lot of my memories of him are wrapped up in this room too, ya know."
"Yeah, I guess they would be. Ya'll did a lot of your research together here."
"Yep, and if you don't mind, I'd like to ship any books you don't want to the Island. We're a fairly small community, and I'd like to start a library in his name."
"Oh, I like that idea, Uncle Jack. And I think he would too."
It took them two days to do the study, and Hannah only kept a handful of books out of the hundreds that were in the room. Jack smiled to himself at her choices, but didn't say anything to her otherwise. The kitchen, living room and her father's bedroom had already been mostly done, so by the end of the sixth day things were pretty much packed up.
"I'm tired," Jack said plaintively as they sat in a favorite restaurant.
"I can totally sympathize," Hannah replied, before turning and waving the O'Sheas over to join them.
"My goodness, the two of you look beat," Sarah said bluntly as she took a seat. Shamus scowled at her.
"Now, Sarah...." he began, but she cut him off.
"No Shamus. It's true. So you are both gonna let the girls and me come over tomorrow and help with the cleanup, right?"
Hannah and Jack looked at each other. "You don't have t...."
"I know we don't dear," Sarah said, patting Hannah's hands gently. "But it's the right thing to do."
"Well, then," Jack answered heartily, "We accept with alacrity and thankfulness."
Sarah chuckled. "There are days, Jack Reilly, when I've suspected you of being a poet."
"Not me. I'm just a dream chaser. It makes me... verbose." He cleared his throat. "Tell ya what. We'll all help get it cleaned up tomorrow, and then I'll treat the entire gang to pizza and beer for lunch and the Driftwood Restaurant for dinner."
Shamus looked at Jack solemnly. "Well that will get the boys here for sure. They never miss an opportunity to eat there, even if it requires a jacket and tie. You sure you wanna do that?"
"Yep. I'd like to get this finished, and I've always enjoyed eating there myself. We have a shipper coming in the morning to pick up the boxes that I am sending home and that Hannah is keeping. Otherwise, everything else can be taken out tomorrow, and we can turn the keys over to the realtor on Monday."
"Sounds like we have a plan then," Sarah commented.
"Yep, except for deciding what we want for dinner tonight." Shamus' observation made them look at their menus, and conversation turned to other subjects.
Monday morning arrived and so did the realtor. Hannah was surprised to see Mary standing on her doorstep.
"Hi, Mary! C'mon in. I'm sorry I can't offer you coffee or a place to sit," motioning to the empty house, "But I'm waiting for the realtor, and then I'm headed back to the city."
"I'm the realtor, Hannah. Richard gave me the listing this morning."
"Wonderful. Then I know the house is in good hands."
Mary smiled warmly. "I already know of several couples who might be interested in the property."
"Really? I didn't think...."
"Oh yes. I wouldn't be surprised to have an offer on the table by the end of the week."
"Wow, so soon?" At Mary's enthusiastic nod, she continued, running a hand thru her hair. "Um, wow," she repeated. "Um...."
Mary placed a concerned hand on her arm. "Hannah, are you all right?"
"Uh, yeah. Just surprised, I think. I didn't think it would be so quick. I'm gonna be out of town for a couple weeks on the Island with Jack. Is that gonna cause a problem?"
"No, I can still reach you out there. Besides, while I wouldn't be a bit surprised, it may take a while. Sometimes it does."
"I'm sorry, Mary. I didn't mean to freak out on you."
"Not a problem. You didn't really freak. I kinda broad sided you."
"Well, I sure didn't think about it selling quickly until then. But that is a good thing, I think."
"As long as you don't forget about your friends here."
"I don't think Katie or Aunt Sarah would let me get away with that even if I wanted to."
Mary laughed, remembering some of their escapades together as children, and unconsciously rubbing her backside. "I think I can agree with that."
They laughed, and Hannah gave Mary the keys, taking one last look around at what had always been home to her. Then without glancing back, Hannah stepped out and firmly closed the door on her past, and headed out to find her future.
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