The Salmon

byTstormF1©

Chapter 1



I was finally on vacation, my first in three years and I still couldn't get away from the damned cell phone. I'd been gone two weeks and had at least three calls a day. It was worse than the interruptions I had while actually at work. Anyway I was now on a quest. A quest to find some place to spend the last two weeks of my vacation where there was no cell reception, which explains why I was on this bus on a narrow road along the Northwest coast of Ireland. Finally, I found it. A dead spot in the cell coverage North of Carndonagh.

The bus drove down a small road to a tiny little village and I got off. The driver informed me that there was little out here and the next bus was at about this time tomorrow. After that it was a two day wait until Monday. I thanked him and started to walk, exploring the limits of the dead spot. I set out to explore the village. It looked like a ghost town, there wasn't a soul in sight not even at the pub.

I came around a corner and there was the river. The bank was crowded with people. Children were playing and running around on the grass whooping and hollering. It looked like a celebration because almost every male was out on the banks of the river fishing. The women were standing around in small groups talking and laughing. I could see tables with cakes, pies and other food set out but almost everyone was close to the river.

I had gone to the trouble of getting a fishing license so I hurried down to the river and asked the first person I met if I could fish too.

He turned and looked at me, gave a big smile and said, "Shur now, if you think you can catch something. Feel free to try. Our salmon are notorious unfriendly to strangers."

I grinned back and started trying to find a place on the bank. It was lined practically shoulder to shoulder with people fishing. I tried going down stream but there was no place to stand until the brush closed in and the ground became marshy. I turned around and started upstream. I came to a short hill where the river flowed over a small falls about six feet high. I started up it when I was stopped by a soft female voice.

"Tis considered unsporting to fish above the falls."

I turned to see a pair of green eyes in a beautiful face surrounded by a halo of flame red hair. I started to answer her when suddenly a twenty pound salmon leapt out of the river into my arms, knocking me on my ass.

The entire river bank erupted in laughter as I sat there holding the salmon.

Green eyes leans over with a broad grin and says, "Tis a most unusual method of catching a salmon but tis a fine fish anyway."

I gasp. "I usually don't catch fish this way. Mostly I don't catch fish at all ..." I lost my train of thought looking into those green eyes.

She smiled and took my hand, helping me to my feet. "Hi, I'm Leah. Nice catch." She picked up the fish and handed it to me.

I stuttered, 'I...I'm...I'm Sean. Thanks. Now what do I do with him? I've got no way to keep him. W...would you. Could you use him?"

She fluttered her eyelashes at me. "Ooooh such a nice proposal. You're a stranger here. You should know that an offer like that is like a marriage proposal in our village." She stepped closer. "Is that what you intended? I'll have to think about it."

Suddenly I was sweating and I could tell I was blushing furiously. "N...no. I didn't know that." I realized she was teasing me so I decided to tease back. "However, now that you bring it up it isn't such a bad idea. You're a pretty little thing."

It was her turn to blush. She said, "Now I can tell you've kissed the Blarney Stone, probably more than once." She smiled at me, "Why don't you come to my house and we'll have salmon for dinner, after all you're supplying the entree. By the bye, where are you staying tonight?"

I looked at the ground. "I'd be happy to come to dinner. I thought I'd find an Inn but I've been through most of the village and didn't see one. I guess I'm just going to try and camp by the river. I really didn't think about it when I got off the bus. I was just looking for a place where there was no cell phone reception." I pulled out my cell phone and showed her that I had no signal.

"Shur now, that's what I thought. I've a spare room. You're welcome to stay there. It's ever so much better than the ground by the river."

I smiled, "I gratefully accept. You've saved me from a cold uncomfortable night. A hungry, cold, uncomfortable night. Thank you."

"Sure now it's no problem. You could could have at least gotten some food at the pub but I'm a better cook. Why are you so interested in a place with no cell phone reception?"

I shook my head, "Well I had two calls from my work before I got off the bus. I've been on 'vacation' for two weeks but I've spent about four hours a day, every day on work. I just want a couple of days without having to work. I'm sure my boss wouldn't appreciate my attitude."

"Oooh that does sound like a bad vacation. How much time do you have left?"

"I've got a little over two weeks left. I really wanted to get some fishing done but the ringing phone really makes the other anglers angry. Even if I put it on vibrate it disturbs my fishing. Can you tell me what's going on here? It looks like the whole town is out."

"Oh tis the whole village. It's our founders fest don't ya know. It's a fun time we all try to catch a salmon and the biggest one caught wins. Come on we'll enter yours." With that she took my hand and led me toward an empty table that had a set of scales on one end.

We were weighing the fish when one of the village men came up and started talking to Leah. He kept getting louder as he complained to her. "Leah there's nothing for us here. Tomorrow we're catching the bus to Dublin."

"Oh now Rob there's a lot here for me. My Mum and Da are here. I like it here, all my friends are here and I have a good business going to support me. There could be a lot here for you too. I'll not be leaving. This is my home."

"Leah you're a dumb ugly, slut. You need an hour of makeup every day to not frighten children. Fine, I'm going by myself. You can stay here with 'fish man'." He gave me a shove and stalked off.

I decided to let him go and turned back to Leah. Her beautiful green eyes were full of tears. One was starting to run down her cheek. A cheek untainted with any makeup at all. I reached a finger up and wiped it off. "You shouldn't listen to him. He's just angry, saying things he doesn't mean and that aren't true."

She looked up at me and stepped closer to me. "You're nice to say so but he's always callin' me stupid and ugly. He must be right."

"Not from where I stand. You're a vision, an Irish angel. Enchanting green eyes, lovely red hair, beautiful face with not a trace of makeup that I can see. Not even a streak of mascara from the tears. Totally lovely. You don't seem at all sluttish and if you're running your own business you can't be dumb. He's just blowing off steam." I handed her a handkerchief. "By the way what is your business?"

She dabbed at her eyes. "Ooh tis just a small thing selling woolens that the women here make. The wool is very fine and soft and the sweaters are really nice. We market them on the net. We don't have cell coverage here but we do have good internet service. I design and maintain the websites." She smiled and leaned into me. "Thank you for the blarney. Makes a girl feel good it does."

She stepped close to me and I gave her a gentle hug. "Blarney is something that isn't true, a series of charming lies. In this case all I've said is the pure unvarnished truth."

The woman weighing the fish said, "Leah you should listen to the man. Rob was just blowin' off steam. Ya know how he gets. This is a good fish mister, nine and a half kilos. Biggest one so far today."

I turned to her and said, "Wow that's some fish. No need to be formal I'm Sean, I'm here on vacation."

She smiled at me. "Leah this one's a good'n. Ya know what I mean?"

Leah blushed, "Ya Sarah, I'm sort of getting the same impression." She hooked her arm in mine and started walking me toward the tables with the food.

As we walked I was wondering if I had fallen into a movie. A fantasy and a really great one. We spent the afternoon eating and talking with each other. She introduced me to most of the others in the village. I took a nap on a green lawn in a warm sunbeam about twenty feet from the river where some hardy souls were still fishing. It was the most relaxed I'd been in several years.

Waking was even better. Leah handed me a glass of very smooth Irish whisky and sat beside me talking as we sipped it together.

After sundown they lit a large bonfire and a local band played music and everyone danced. Leah even pulled me off the ground and taught me to dance a little. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The food was plentiful as was the beer and whisky. I was more than a little drunk when the party started to wind down early the next morning.

Leah took my arm and said. "Shur now ye look ready for bed now. Come with me and we'll get you settled."

As we walked I slurred, "Wasss the name of this village. It seems unspeakably rude not to ask after such a wonderful day."

"Ah shur now we understand. You've wandered into Little Carrickabraghy and we're all glad you did. Tisn't often that we take to a stranger but you've made yourself welcome with your gentle speech and gentle way. We're all glad you came."

She showed me into her guest room and gave me towels and bid me good night. I quickly washed and stumbled back to the room. To the nice soft bed and the welcome blankets. I was out like a light after a long but very good day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I woke the sun was shining through the windows but it was the shouting from the other room that woke me.

I could hear Leah's voice. "No Rob I don't want to go. I really like it here. I like my life and my friends."

"YOU DUMB BITCH. I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU TO BE MY WIFE. BUT NOW, NOW I DON'T WANT TO BE SADDLED WITH SUCH A DUMB COW!"

It was obvious that all the shouting was being done by Rob. He was not very happy that Leah wouldn't do what he wanted.

"Rob don't be like this. I just can't bear to go back out there. You know I spent two years in Dublin and I was miserable. Here I'm happy."

"HAPPY! HAPPY, YOU SILLY SLUT. HOW CAN YOU BE HAPPY IN THIS DEAD END DUMP?"

"I am happy here. I have friends here and family here. I was so lonely out there. Here I'm useful and have all my friends around me."

"WELL TIS ME OR THEM YOU STUPID COW. MAKE UP YOUR MIND!"

"Tis them then Rob. I wouldn't want to burden you with a 'Stupid Cow' like me."

Then I heard a slap and breaking crockery. Leah screamed and I heard another slap.

I don't remember moving but I found myself in the door to the kitchen, grabbing Robs upraised hand. Leah was slumped against the counter with blood running from her nose and a bruise already forming on her cheek.

Rob turned to me and yelled, "YOU STUPID ARROGANT AMERICAN BASTARD. SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE. YOU'VE TURNED HER AGAINST ME." Then he hit me with a round house and knocked me into the dining room. He roared in after me. Luckily, I managed to raise one foot and caught him square in the crotch. He fell back, his screams turning to a low groan.

As I scrambled to my feet I could hear him retching as he lay on the floor curled up and holding his genitals. It was plain that he was out of commission for a while so I stumbled into the kitchen. Leah was sitting on the floor crying. I went to the sink and wet a towel and sank down beside her and started to wipe the blood off her face.

She gave a big sigh and looked at me. "Thank you." She whispered as she reached out and gently touched my face where Rob had hit me. It hurt so I guessed that I had a bruise like hers.

I said, "You're welcome." Standing I offered her my hand and helped her to her feet. She surprised me by sliding into a hug and put her head on my chest.

Rob startled us from the door. He said, "Good riddance to both of you. Especially you Leah, you worthless slut. Ha! I'll find a dozen better than you in the city."

I gave her a gentle hug and told him. "Not likely Rob. You're a fool. I've only known her one day and I know she's a rare find."

He sneered, "You'll see Yank. I'm leaving I've just time to catch the bus. There won't be another until Monday. Two days."

Leah looked at me, standing there in nothing but my underwear and giggled, "You'll never make it in time."

I realized my state of undress and blushed. Rob harrumphed, turned and grabbed his suitcase and left, slamming the door behind him.

Leah let go of me, saying "Go now and get washed and dressed. I'll make you some breakfast. Thank you again for coming to my rescue."

I nodded, "You're welcome. I won't take long." When I came out of the shower I found some clean clothes laid out on the bed. Rob's I assumed. I put them on and felt much better.

After a good breakfast we went for another walk by the river. We had only walked for a couple of minutes when three men from the village slammed me up against a tree. Two of them held me and the third was in my face. It looked like I was going to get the shit kicked out of me.

Leah shouted at them, "Ian, Ralph, Mike stop! What are you doing?"

The one in my face said, "We'll not have a stranger beatin' on our women. We can see what he did to you and that after you took him in. What a shit."

"Mike, don't be stupid. He didn't do this to me. Twas Rob who did this to me this morning. Look at his face. Rob did that when Sean stopped him from beatin' me worse than this. If you could think further than three seconds ahead you'd know that. You know I wouldn't be walkin' with him if he'd beaten me. You wouldn't be doin' this to Rob. You didn't do it before when he beat me. Why not?"

He answered, "Now Leah, you know you two were practically engaged. You know we can't interfere between husband and wife."

Leah started crying. "I'm not Rob's wife. I'm not even his fiancé. You're willing to let him beat up on me just because he says we're engaged! Because you're drinking buddies? Now let Sean go."

They let me go and apologized, taking an excessive amount of time brushing me off.

When they finished Leah again linked her arm in mine and we strolled up the river above the falls. The trees closed in close to the river. I don't know why but the thought passed through my head that this wouldn't be good for fishing.

Leah looked at me and laughed. "Ooh I can tell that you're a real fisherman. Checkin' out the spots I can see. You want to know the real reason the men don't fish up here?"

Curious I said, "Yes please tell me."

She giggled, "Because it's where the young people come to neck. Everyone knows and we women make occasional forays up here to make sure nothing goes too far, if you know what I mean."

I laughed, "Yeah I know what you mean. I guess a bunch of us ham handed fishermen running around would cramp the young people's style.

With that Leah backed up against a tree and pulled me to her. She reached up and gently pulled me into a soft kiss. At first I could barely feel her lips. She gradually increased the pressure. When she released me she ducked her head and said, "Thank you. Thank you for protecting me from Rob this morning."

"It's I who should be thanking you for protecting me from the rest of town this morning."

She smiled and kissed me again. "We should be going soon or the ladies will be by to check on us." We linked hands and walked out of the forest back toward the town.

Just before we got to the edge of the woods we met three women with baskets. It looked like they were going to picking mushrooms. They smiled at us and greeted Leah. We both giggled as we left the woods.

We were greeted by the celebration committee as we strolled through the town. It seems that my fish was the biggest fish caught during the festival. I got the ribbon for the largest fish and they gave us the winner. Leah took me to a friend's house. They cut a couple of salmon steaks from the fish and the rest we left for them to smoke.

Back at Leah's house, she started marinating the salmon steaks. With supper marinating in the fridge, she went to check on her web site. When she finished I asked her if I could use her connection to check my work email. She allowed me to check. No surprise, I had a series of emails asking why they couldn't get a hold of me on my cell phone. I answered the email's I could and told them that I was stranded in an area without cell coverage. Then I signed off.

We went for another walk, a long one this time. She had made a couple of sandwiches and we ate them in a sunny spot by the river. We talked about a lot of things and even got as far as the ocean. When we got back to her house I went to wash up while she started supper. She trusted me to watch things while she freshened up. About eight in the evening we ate. We talked all through dinner and as we did the dishes. She washed and I dried.

When bedtime rolled around I told her, "Leah I don't know how I can ever thank you for everything. You've been so nice I don't have the words to describe it. You let me stay at your house and feed me. This last day and a half have been so great."

She stepped close and wrapped her arms around my neck. "I don't think I'm that special but you on the other hand, you wander into town, win the salmon fishin' contest by snagging one out of the air, you give me the prize salmon and protect me from my supposed boyfriend. I haven't felt this good or had this much fun in...I guess ever. I can't stop smiling and I get weak in the knees when you kiss me. Not that you've done much of that, you've been disturbingly a gentleman."

I wrapped my arms around her waist. "I've been tempted but you're so nice I didn't want to do anything to spoil it." With that I dipped my head and started a soft kiss. Her arms tightened and mine tightened and we were gasping when we finally came up for air.

She whispered, "Oooh yeah, really weak knees." She gently pushed me into an overstuffed chair and slipped into my lap.

"Oh Jesus Leah. You feel so good sitting on my lap."

She lay her head on my shoulder. "Oooch Sean, you can't imagine how good this feels to me. I don't know what you've done to me but I feel so happy. I guess happy is the word. It's more than safe. It's more than protected. It's more than contented. I feel good because of you. When I'm with you I'm floating on the very air. Am I insane?"

I stroked her hair. It was soft and silky. "God Leah, I don't know if you're insane. I'm not sure if happy covers it for me. I'm happy, very happy but more than that I feel fulfilled. I feel complete when I'm with you. If this is insane I hope I'm never cured."

She wrapped her arms around my neck and started crying. "Oh that's it. That's it exactly. Complete you make me whole. I don't understand how. I don't understand why but you complete me." She kissed me with tears running down her cheeks. "And...and you're leaving in two days or at most in a week or so." Then she really cried.

I tried to comfort her. Stroking her hair and trying to softly shush her. Finally, I started singing a lullaby.

Leah's sobbing slowed and she pushed back and looked at me. "What's the lullaby for? I'm not a baby you know."

I smoothed the hair away from her face with both hands. "I know you're not a baby. Anyone with eyes can see that but lullabies are for soothing and you don't need to be a baby to need soothing. It hurts me to see you cry. It hurts worse to know that I'm the reason." I wiped a couple of tears from her cheeks. "Leah could I stay here until I have to leave to get back? That will give us a little over two weeks. I'll pay you room and board."

She looked at me for a long time. "Well if two weeks is the most I can get I'll take it and I'll not hear any talk about payin', understand?" She leaned in and gave me a breathtaking kiss. It was soft and long and intense.

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