Once home, Mike flopped face-down on the bed and cried, not only from sheer exhaustion, but also from
empathizing with the two bridegroom-widowers. When he held the foundling infant, the grim reality of his life
had faced him yet again--despite Brin's attempt at redirecting his thoughts. He was really getting tired of feeling
like a rubber band in a constant state of stretch. Sleep came as his brain was trying to sort out the previous 24 hours.
The sun was setting when he woke up on his back. So much for cutting the lawn. He looked over at the clock:
five-thirty--the time Brin usually got home if she was riding races. Turning to the wall next to him, he grabbed
his pillow and curled up with it. The tears barged in again. He didn't know why five-thirty today was so particularly
Oh, of course. First, he'd been on bereavement leave, then the leave-of-absence, and he'd lost track of time
most days. Now that he was back to work, their schedule was perking up again within him. Elongating shadows from
the setting sun made life all the more depressing.
Don't forget your assignment, Brin said within. Her communication brought him some relief.
The assignment Tristin had given him! He had forgotten about it completely. "Where do I even begin, Brin?"
he asked out loud.
Something made him start looking at different areas around the house: the den where they had most of their conversations;
the kitchen and their cooking together; the deck where they'd spent precious hours. . . His eyes bypassed the stairs and the
master bedroom at the top. No way; he wasn't going there.
But, then again, that was probably what he missed the most . . .
He grabbed the pad and pen from the bedside table, then the words started coming out of nowhere. . .
I miss you
I miss your ears that listened to me
I miss you
I miss your touch
I miss you
I miss your eyes that showed your love
I miss you
I miss your hugs
I miss you
I miss the way you called my name
I miss you
I miss your scent
I miss your strange racing injuries
which kept you from coming home on time
And I even miss your mood swings when
you were going through PMS.
He heard Brin laugh hysterically within him.
But most of all
I miss the joy you
brought to my life.
You were love.
Never let go of me,
I'll never let go of you.
In the park three days later, when Mike read his composition, Tristin and Rooster were both in tears--Rooster moreso
than his mentor. "Can I have a copy of that?" he asked.
Mike shrugged. "Sure."
"You ought to have someone do that in calligraphy; have it framed; and hang it up somewhere in your home," Tristin suggested.
Home. The word made him cringe and ache within. Tristin cocked her head knowingly.
"Or, perhaps, what you just read us is a work-in-progress?" she asked. "Realtors sell homes, not houses.
What makes the difference?"
"To an abused child, not a lot," Mike blurted.
"But for someone like you?" Rooster asked.
That whole stupid mess of emotions started swirling within Mike again. He thought he'd choke.
"You've got to say it," Tristin declared.
"The love of the woman who is the heart," he heard himself say.
Several days later, when he had his stretch of 48 hours off, Mike could tell his body was finally waking up--or thawing
out as Brin had put it. For once in almost a year, he wanted to see a soccer match.
When he arrived at a local pitch, a woman in the bleachers with pulled-back red hair, blue Cal State t-shirt,
and jeans caught his attention. Brin's ring started burning. No, Brin, I'm not ready, he thought
as he turned to leave. He couldn't go anywhere. He could see Brin very strongly in his mind's eye. She wore
green silks with a soccer ball on them; a frown; and had her fists on her hips.
He sat next to the red-headed woman in the bleachers. Almost immediately, one of the red team players
did a bicycle into his own goal. Some spectators guffawed. Others applauded while the red team fans booed.
The blue team rejoiced. One of their members trotted along the sideline giving a thumbs-up as he winked at a spectator.
A few minutes later, everyone watched as the red team had a beautiful set up, and a blue team member nodded the
ball into his own goal. Mike smacked his forehead and shook his head.
"Who's playing?" he asked the red-head.
"The circus clowns and the goof troop," she said with an Irish brogue.
When the game ended, Mike asked the young lady if she'd like to go out.
"Aye, and I know who ye are," she said before he could introduce himself.
"I'm gonna forget my own name if I can never introduce myself," he joked.
"We won't let that happen. Everyone knows who ye are."
Mike deferred to her preference of restaurants. She pointed him in the direction of an Irish pub--Ballykissann--he
never knew existed.
"Mandy Colleen Murphy," she stated before he had a chance to ask. "And aye, I'm from Ireland, County Dublin to
"'Colleen'--where does that come from?" he asked, not knowing from whence the question had come.
"It's Gaelic for 'girl'."
"So, if I said, "Hey, Girl," I'd be calling you by your middle name?"
Mandy crossed her arms. "You're the only one on the face of the Earth who can get away with that."
They had a good laugh about the game, and agreed that it had probably been the worst--if not the funniest--game they
both had ever seen.
When they were seated in a booth, Mandy explained that the name of the pub had nothing to do with romance. The
pub had been named for a town in Ireland whose name meant "town of banished Ann."
Mike could tell he and Mandy were bonding. The feelings that were developing were almost identical to what
he felt for Brin, but nowhere close to their strength. And he could see the same in Mandy's glittering
emerald eyes. Now he understood what Brin had meant when she said 'adding emeralds to sapphires.' Mandy
also had the fairest skin he'd ever seen, and couldn't believe that she didn't burn easily in the Southern California sun.
Sapphire blue looked absolutely stunning on her.
Mandy was a parishioner at St. Vibiana's Cathedral downtown--St. Vibby's as she called it. She had immigrated to
the U.S. after graduating University College Dublin. She held the Irish equivalent to an American B.A. in Business,
but held the peon job of data entry clerk for an international company which had several offices in California.
Mandy inquired about his line of work. He stated it simply--a captain with County Fire--then asked if such
disturbed her. Her eyes flew open and she said, "Well, someone's got to do it!"
In many ways, she was like Brin. Mandy was very respectful of his memories and attachments, and went only where
he took her when she came to the house the first time. She gushed over the Tack Room, and how sweet he'd been to create
such a beautiful memorial. Was she actually starting to understand him?
Mike had never reopened the balcony doors after Brin's apparition had closed them at its departure. Now he was
debating doing so in order to entertain his new friend. When he was alone in the house one day, he caught himself pondering
how to propose to Mandy. The thought almost made him sick. Part of him wanted to stay "married" to Brin.
He had to pull a reality check, though. Brin was no longer with him in the flesh. Mandy's respect for his
attachment to her and her memory helped.
Then insight dawned on him: What had Brin said about the Irish? Had there been communication between her and Mandy?
Perhaps it wasn't the right time to pop the question. He mentally put the notion on the back burner. Quite
frankly, he was scared.
October was approaching. He figured he needed to get past Brin's first anniversary. Then he could think about
a permanent relationship with Mandy.
He was growing more apprehensive as October 2 approached. All the healing he thought he'd accomplished seemed
to be coming undone. The only communication taking place between him and Mandy was complete silence as she hugged him
on the couch.
As they sat, he looked out the window at the houses on the other side of the bend. He was soaking up the comfort
Mandy was offering, and thought perhaps he'd sail through, but his wall came tumbling down, and he felt once again the wicked
despair he experienced when they got back from Brin's funeral. He'd forgotten to pull the blinds before they left for
Kentucky. He remembered the twinkling lights in the murky darkness of not only his depression, but the dead of the night.
Mandy raised his chin with her left hand. "Everything's going to be OK," she whispered, then kissed his forehead.
It was the first kiss of their relationship.
Will you stand by him?