10 Days Ch. 01byStephenEMeyer©
The pub kitchen was silent.
"Would you stop what you are doing and look at me Sean!"
Sean Danaher saw the tears welling in Mary Brenna's eyes. They were standing in the kitchen. A dozen yards away the bar was busy with regular customers out for dinner or for just a few beers. It was the village's social focal point; from the football and horse racing club committee meetings on the first and third Monday of every month to the live music evenings on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month through to the weekend events cumulating in the Beach Horse Racing Festival in early May and the annual Colerain Music Festival in late August.
"What happens in eight days?" asked Mary Brenna.
Sean had a catch in his voice.
"I start chemo." Sean fell silent. He couldn't bring himself to tell her that he had cancer.
"Oh please God, tell me that it's not true," Mary Brenna cried. The idea of Sean taking a few days leave had troubled her. Now, she wished he had been taking a vacation.
"If you hear from him, tell him that I'm still waiting for an answer," Sean answered bitterly. Mary Brenna closed the distance between them in several strides. She started to reach out to him and then stopped, her hand hovering in mid-air.
"Why didn't you tell me what was happening?" Mary Brenna asked angrily. Sean didn't answer. He couldn't answer for hurting her. Neither did he want to lie.
"Sean, are we no longer friends?"
"We are but you haven't been around lately," he answered finally.
"I've been busy and..."
"Your life has moved on Mary Brenna. You attend events in Dublin and London whilst there are some of us have stayed where they lay."
Sean's words sliced through her soul.
"That's not true."
"You can deny it with your last breath Mary Brenna but it's still the truth."
"You are wrong Sean. I'm still the girl that you grew up with."
Sean felt his skin burning as Mary Brenna pushed into his arms. Her hands slipped behind his back. Instinct brought his arm around his oldest friend. He buried his face in her long dark hair. She smelled of strawberry and citrus. This was not the same girl that he used to walk the beach with or play softball against.
"Were you serious about finding a woman to have your baby?"
"I want to be her."
What, no..." He tried to push her away. Mary Brenna didn't let him go.
"Sean, I know that you think that I have moved on without you but it's not true. I love you. I've been in love with you my whole life. I know that now and for the life of me I don't know why I never did anything about it."
Mary Brenna fell silent.
"Maybe it's because you are always here. I don't know but now I'm frightened that I've let my stupidity leave it so long that I might be too late."
"What about your boyfriend?" Sean hated the words as he spoke. He felt Mary Brenna stiffen against in his arms.
"Michael?" He heard the uncertainty in her voice. "I finished with him a couple of weeks ago."
"Yes you did," Mary Brenna answered sharply. "Michael is a good man only I realised that he wasn't the one."
Mary Brenna realised now that she had been a coward. Michael had been her shield against Sean Danaher. He had been one several boyfriends that she had used to defend her feelings from Sean.
"What if we..." He felt Mary Brenna's finger touch his lips to silence.
"We are; trust me." Mary Brenna tilted her head back. The kiss exploded in his mind. Sean stared into her eyes. He exhaled sharply, unaware that he had been holding his breath. Mary Brenna giggled.
"I think I need to make sure."
Tentatively he let their lips touch. It was a tease. Mary Brenna didn't play his game and hungrily returned his kiss. Mary Brenna broke the kiss. Sean could still feel the softness of her lips lingering on his.
"Now, don't be getting ideas that I'm just going to drop my knickers and touch my toes when you come calling, Sean Danaher. I'm not that easy."
He laughed. "You have never been easy Mary Brenna. I have the scars to remind me."
Mary Brenna relaxed in his embrace. The summer when they had been fifteen they and their friends had been playing baseball on the beach. Sean had pissed Mary Brenna by pointing down the beach to where he was going to hit her next pitch. Angry, Mary Brenna had pitched the ball as hard as she could. Her control was non-existent. It flew high and wild. When she finally looked at the plate Sean was on the ground, unconscious, his face was a mass of blood. Terrified Mary Brenna took off.
All hell broke out that night in the O'Rourke house. Sean had been rushed to hospital in Cork where they were keeping him in overnight for observation. Mary Brenna was punished by having to cover Sean's paper round until he was well enough to take over again. Her father also forced her to hand over the wages to Sean. Unknown to her parents Sean gave his wages back to Mary Brenna.
"Now, there are a few things that you are going to have to do. You, Sean Danaher, must ask me out on a date, in public, so that everyone knows that we are a courting." Sean looked into her jade green eyes. She didn't want rumour to follow them around the village.
"If Dada was here I'd be asking you to seek his blessing. Since he isn't, you'll just have to ask Ma for her blessing. You can do that tomorrow, early mind as you'll have lunch to prepare."
Mary Brenna was beginning to enjoy herself.
"I still want romancing and dancing. Public displays of affection will be allowed too."
He knew that this was moving beyond his control. He felt Mary Brenna hand caress his cheek.
"You already know that you are going to get lucky, Sean Danaher; but can I at least have a first date?"
Mary Brenna was sitting at the bar when Sean pushed against the door from the kitchen. Mahraid, by chance, was at the far end of the bar chatting with Mary Murphy. Stepping out of the kitchen he was conscious of Mary Brenna's eyes following his every move. Walking around to the front of the bar he moved to her side and placed her order in front of her.
"Thank you Sean. It looks good enough to eat," said Mary Brenna, giving him a warm smile. Sean's heart beat pounded in his ears.
"Enjoy," he replied. Turning he headed across the room. Mary Brenna's sigh ripped a chasm through his mind.
He knew everyone in the bar. He had grown up with them or their children and grandchildren. Mrs Murphy had taught him at school. Ged Sheen had sold him his first car. Claire, Ged Sheen's first born, had been his first girlfriend; they had both been nine years old. They had been players in life's performance. Now, that night, they would be the audience to his and Mary Brenna's courting.
Standing in the middle of the bar he turned to face Mary Brenna.
"Mary Brenna O'Rourke," he said in a voice that carried across the room. Mary Brenna turned to face him.
"I'll be wanting to know if you would like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow evening." He hesitated when he saw Mahraid looking directly at him. "And maybe, if you have a liking, we could go dancing."
Mary Brenna had a serious look on her face. She wasn't making it easy for him.
"Are you asking me on a date Sean Danaher?" There was a small ripple of laughter in the bar. Sean's face started to cloud over and Mary Brenna realised that he had gone beyond his comfort zone.
"Yes Sean, I would love to be your date tomorrow evening and dancing appeals to me too."
"That's fine then," he replied. There was still fear in the blue but Mary Brenna saw the smile return to his eyes.
"What time shall you be calling on me?"
"I know you well enough to say six and to arrive at seven." Mary Brenna gave him a warning glance.
"Now, now, Sean Danaher, I can just as easily change my mind," she replied. There was no such thought.
"Aye, women have a tendency to be doing that in my experience," he answered. Mary Brenna saw something more than just a throw away comment in his words.
"I haven't the mind to change yet Sean."
"I'll call on you at seven." Mary Brenna was smiling to herself as she looked up and saw the look on Mahraid's face.
A tail of smoke escaped the chimneys of the O'Rourke house as Sean opened the gate to the garden. Looking up he caught sight of Mary O'Rourke at the kitchen window. There was an amused expression on her face.
"I've been expecting you Young Sean," said Mary. Mary had called him Young Sean all his life; Old Sean being her husband and Mary Brenna's father.
Sean entered the warm kitchen. It smelled of fried bacon and hot soapy water.
"Would they be fresh apple scones Young Sean?"
"That they would," he answered placing the cloth cover plate of scones on the kitchen table.
"Are you thinking bribery Young Sean?"
"I was thinking that you would have them with your tea later. I can take them away with me if you want me to."
"You'll be doing no such thing." Sean laughed.
Mary saw the look in his eyes.
"Sean, Mary Brenna came here after the pub last night." He suddenly looked frightened.
"Mary Brenna told me that she would only court me if I asked for your blessing."
"You have my blessing."
"Now, if you're not in a hurry I will make coffee and I can try one of your scones." Sean knew enough to accept the invitation. Mary had something on her mind.
They were sitting at the kitchen table. Mary savoured the taste of Sean's baking. She was herself a fine cook but Sean had been touched.
"Mary Brenna told me that you have cancer and that you are to start your treatment."
It was to be expected.
"You both have your reasons as to why you are starting courting but I cannot find it in me to understand."
"I'm still getting my head around it now," confessed Sean.
"So, you and Mary Brenna are intending having a child? Have you talked about marriage?"
"Miss Mary I..."
Mary put her hand on his arm. "Wait there a minute."
Sean could hear her footsteps through the ceiling overhead. Mary reappeared in the kitchen a few minutes later.
"I am not going to try to talk either one of you out of this foolishness. Yes, Young Sean, foolishness. If you are going to go through with this then I want Mary Brenna to be engaged." Mary opened her left hand. She held in her hand two identical gold bands and a diamond engagement ring.
"Mary Brenna is still my daughter and I don't want her shamed by being an unwed mother."
"You can tell everyone that you plan to wed once you are well. Until then you will be engaged."
"Miss Mary, I'll like to ask your blessing to marry Mary Brenna."
"You have our blessing Young Sean; mine and her father's. He thought of you as his very own when you were growing up. I know he would be proud to know that you and Mary Brenna have chosen to be married."
Sean was wearing his one and only suit; a dark grey, almost black, Italian cut suit that he had bought in Dublin for a cousin's wedding a year the past summer. The storm had not abated in the past twenty four hours so he slipped on a warm woollen overcoat. Taking one last look in the mirror he grabbed his wallet and car keys. He was already late. Mary Brenna would tease him mercilessly.
The stone cottage where Mary Brenna lived was in full illumination. As he drew up in the street outside he saw her momentarily appear at the bedroom window before the light was extinguished. It was only a short walk from the car to the cottage front door and he could see Mary Brenna's silhouette as she appeared as she descended the stairs. When the door opened he was stunned into silence.
"Well are you coming in or are you just going to stand on my front door step with your mouth open like a basking shark."
"You are beautiful," Sean finally managed to say. Mary Brenna felt the flush of embarrassment at her throat.
"Thank you Sean," she answered.
"Step into the parlour whilst I get my coat and purse." Mary Brenna didn't wait for an answer. She turned and started back up the stairs. She was wearing a little black dress that he had never seen her in before. It was the moment when he realised that Mary Brenna was a stunningly beautiful woman. When she started to descend the stairs she found him still standing at the foot of the stairs. Mary Brenna walked directly up to him. Sean took her coat and held it whilst she slipped her arms through the sleeves. A smile lit up her face when she noticed the tie he had chosen for their evening. It was the one that she had given to him last Christmas.
"So, are you going to tell me where we are going or is it a surprise?"
"It's a surprise." Mary Brenna smiled. Sean had made a reservation at The Colleen Hotel in Cork. The hotel's restaurant had a reputation for its modern take on classic faire.
"I'm glad you decided not to use the van," observed Mary Brenna as she stepped out through the front door of the cottage. Sean had arrived in his low mileage, five year old Mercedes.
"I thought I'd better not, it smelled of fish," he replied, opening the passenger door. Mary Brenna gave him a warning look. She thanked him as he closed the car door.
Mary Brenna waited until Sean had turned on to the Cork road. "I was wondering if you were taking me to Cork or Dublin."
"If you want to know where we are having dinner then all you need to do is ask," Sean said.
"Now where's the fun in that Sean Danaher." Her laughter was light and filled with nervous excitement. Mary Brenna had two restaurants in mind; Shalleens, a new Indian eatery and DiMarco's an Italian with an impeccable reputation that she would readily admit was her favourite restaurant.
Mary Brenna twisted slightly in her seat so that she could look at him. She noticed in the flashes of light from the streetlights that he was clean shaven.
Suddenly the car slowed and Sean pulled to the side of the road. He turned off the engine. The silence was deafening.
"This is a mistake. I'll take you home."
"Sean, we are just going on a date."
"That's where you are wrong; it's not just a date." Mary Brenna wanted to touch him. He hand went to the seatbelt but stopped. "Who was I kidding about having kids and..."
"No Sean; that's where you are wrong." His head turned instantly. "This is just your regular first date. Yes, we have eight days but this is a normal first date. Then tomorrow will be a regular second date and so on."
"If we are lucky then we'll have children. I think, a girl first."
Sean's head jerked up.
"You've thought about this?"
"Mahraid and I talk about such things."
"What else have you talked about?"
"You have come up in conversation. Don't ask me when and what about because I'm not telling. So, stop asking."
Mary Brenna waited.
"We don't want to be late," Sean said, starting the engine.
Sean deliberately drove passed DiMarcos and then passed Shalleen before pulling into the car park of the Colleen. The look on Mary Brenna's face was reward enough. He hurried around the car to open Mary Brenna's door.
"Sean, I'm a big girl now; I can open a car on my own."
"You wanted romancing and Ma always told me it's a way a gentleman expresses his respect to a lady when he opens a door for her. But if you're not a lady..."
"Sean, now would be a good time to stop talking." He held her eyes just until she smiled. Mary Brenna slipped her hand through his arm.
"You'll be needing to look out for puddles Sean as you'll have to put your coat down for me to walk on."
Sean laughed, "You've been watching those Errol Flynn films on Saturday afternoons again, haven't you. If you want to walk in puddles you should have brought your Wellies."
Mary Brenna punched him lightly on the arm. "Sean, I don't think Wellington boots would go with my outfit somehow."
"There's something rather erotic seeing a woman in Wellies don't you think."
They entered the Colleen laughing happily.
"It's good to see you again Sean," welcomed the Maitre d.
"Thank you, Max. May I introduce my companion for the evening Ms Mary Brenna O'Rourke."
"Welcome to the Colleen Ms O'Rourke. If you would like to go through to the bar, your table will be ready in fifteen minutes."
Sean took Mary Brenna's hand as they walked through to the bar.
"You are full of surprises."
"I aim to please."
"You have your moments Sean Danaher. You have your moments." Mary Brenna glanced over her shoulder. "Now, if you'll excuse me I need to make myself presentable."