A Second Chance

A Second Chance


by Kelly Blake


Edited and Proofed
by Drea DiMaggio and Alison Mary
Artwork provided by
the Incorrigible Belle Meade

...I knew what had happened. As one of the cops approached me and started to speak to me, I heard not a single word. I merely saw his mouth move as tears began to fall from my eyes.

I remember little else from that evening other than finding myself in my old room, now occupied by Corie, and Kate alongside me in the bed. Owen and Meg were gone. We would never be able to speak, or touch, or laugh, or cry with them again. My life, and Kate’s, as we knew it, had come to a most bitter end.

My Owen departed this life on October 31 along with Meg. It was the eve of the ancient Celt New Year. They had gone to shop for a few extra things for our celebration. Returning home, they were the third car through the intersection when a seventy-four hundred pound SUV travelling at sixty miles per hour slammed into Meg’s little car. They were taken instantly. Their mortal remains took forty minutes to extricate from the wreckage.

I’ll never forget the unearthly scream of Kate when the police came to the door to inform her of the tragedy. I was in the kitchen with the children and my older sister. We were making ready treats for the celebration. I heard the scream and told Corie to keep the children in the kitchen.

I started out toward the front door and I saw Kate crumbled onto the floor and two cops kneeling alongside of her. I felt a sickness in my stomach. I held my hand against the wall to brace myself. I had to get to Kate but I was having trouble moving my feet. I felt the entire world close in on my and I was having trouble seeing. I felt like I was walking through a giant marshmallow.

When I could finally go no further, I fell to the floor on my knees and vomited. I knew what had happened. As one of the cops approached me and started to speak to me, I heard not a single word. I merely saw his mouth move as tears began to fall from my eyes.

I remember little else from that evening other than finding myself in my old room, now occupied by Corie, and Kate alongside me in the bed. Owen and Meg were gone. We would never be able to speak, or touch, or laugh, or cry with them again. My life, and Kate’s, as we knew it, had come to a most bitter end.

The very next evening, Red Hugh, Kate’s nephew, arrived from Ireland with two of his daughters (both in their late teens) to help with all that needed doing. The mortal remains could not be released immediately because the accident was considered a vehicular homicide. The other driver was drunk and driving on a suspended license.

Once the medical examination was completed, the bodies were released to Red Hugh and we travelled over to Ireland for the wake and funeral. This was held at Kate’s home on the ancient traditional lands of her people. They were laid to rest alongside a giant oak tree on a small hill overlooking a lake. Kate’s kinsmen had been buried on that spot for years. Her two oldest brothers, Sean Padriac and Naill, had the place of honor nearest the oak and Owen and Meg rested next to them.

Of course the wake was unbelievable. It was larger than that of Kate’s brothers. The fact that a neighboring clainne, Meg’s people, came to call, made it all the grander. Kate didn’t make many appearances. She was far too distraught and spent most of her time in her library…drinking. I stayed with her much of the time.

Kate suddenly became old. It was as though the life had been sapped from her. She and Meg were together for more than twenty years. Meg had followed her to Boston from Ireland and stayed with her through schooling, making a home for Kate to come to after her torturous schedule of class and clinical was done for the day. When Kate finally became a physician specializing in trauma and emergency medicine, Meg put up with the odd hours and heavy schedules without a single complaint. She made Kate‘s life bearable and filled the empty spots with moments of exquisite joy.

I could see more grey in Kate’s chestnut colored locks. I could see the lines under her eyes and across her fore head as she frowned and looked deeply into her glass of nut brown colored whiskey. She was aging by the minute.

Not that my lot was any better. My Owen was…unique. He knew me before my ‘rebirth’ and never turned his back to me throughout the lengthy process. He accepted and cherished me, the person; the soul. My issue with gender never came between us and seemed to be very incidental to him.

Though he had his faults, the greatest of which was his explosive temper, he had so many more strong points. He was never afraid to address his faults and try to correct them. He was never afraid to be with someone who was more learned. He always touched me when we were together; holding hands, touching my shoulder, or touching legs when we were on a couch.

He always exhibited affection for me with random hugs, and kisses, and hugs and kisses. Even before we were married, he thought of us as ‘US’. He never did anything without me knowing and I always told him what I was up to. We confided our darkest secrets to each other. He was even tolerant of my hormonal hissy fits and spells of depression and tears.

And after we were married (I was sixteen) in an ancient ritual at Kate’s home in Ireland, nothing really changed. He remained as infatuated with me as I was with him. When he passed, I felt as though my heart had been ripped from my breast and that hole would never be filled again. It was the hardest in the morning when I awoke and reached over for my Owen and he was no longer there.

When we all finally returned to Fort Lauderdale, we found life to be very empty. This was especially true for Kate. She could no longer sleep in the bedroom she shared with Meg for so long. I couldn’t sleep in the one I shared with Owen. Kate couldn’t find a place for herself because everywhere she looked, the spirit of Meg rested in a needle point, a knitted piece, a lace table clothe she tatted, or some pagan charm placed discreetly by an entrance.

One evening a few scant weeks after we returned from the funeral, we all sat at the dining room table having our meal. I had taken Meg’s place at the table which was next to Kate. The children were chattering away as usual and Red Hugh’s daughter Fiona was deeply involved trying to get Meg’s two youngest to eat.

I observed the goings on with more than a bit of delight. The children were such a joy and a blessing to us. I could watch them interact with one another as though there was no difference in family. My own two half sisters, growing faster than I really appreciated, were looked upon by the younger children of Meg as bigger sisters. I, and my older sister Corie, who lived in another part of town, were looked upon as ‘aunts’.

I gazed at Kate, who was quiet the entire day. She was looking down at her plate and picking at her food. She looked up at one of the little ones who was particularly loud, smiled briefly, and stared off into space.

I placed my hand over hers and smiled as a tear formed in the corner of my eye. She instinctively placed her other hand over mine and turned her head toward me. She looked down at me with her piercing light gray eyes and smiled.

“We’re going home.”

My fork fell from my hand. We’re going home. Oh my God! I think that somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind, I knew this would happen. There certainly wasn’t anything holding Kate, or the rest of us for that matter, here. We were in a foreign country even though we were born here. Our entire existence revolved around our family and our trips to Ireland.

“I will have them open up the manor as usual for the Yule Tide, only this year we will remain. That is where our place is. That is where our true home is.”

I have never heard Kate ever speak with such resolution in her voice. A sudden calmness seemed to overcome her as she looked and smiled at everybody at the table one by one. At first there was silence as the stunning news settled in. It started with the children. Their smiles grew into wide grins and the chatter became a cacophony of happy sounds.

There was no hanging matter with Kate or the children but I certainly had one.

“I can’t go with you…at least not now.” I was verging on tears.

Kate looked down at me and she suddenly realized what the matter was.

“Your contract!”

I nodded my head. I had been taught two very important rules of life from both Kate and Meg (May she only know peace). The first was to always say no to any request (save food and shelter to the poor). You can always say yes later. Cursed is the one who says yes and then must refuse something. The second rule is that you never put your name to paper, or shake someone’s hand, and then go back on your word. If you do, your name becomes cursed.

I had signed a two year contract to work for a private not for profit agency that housed and nurtured abused children. I had only started my job last month before the tragedy took place. I still had almost two years to go.

“And there’s also my sister. I really don’t know what she will want to do.”

Corie was another matter as well. She always seemed to be the odd woman out though Kate and Meg made ever attempt to include her in our growing, and extended, family. Kate took my hand in hers and kissed it. She calmly looked at me with a warm smile on her face.

“You will do what you must. I am so very proud of you and what you’ve grown to be. I know it will be hard for you to remain a bit longer, but you do the right thing. We will be waiting for you.”

Kate pulled me to her and kissed my fore head. She lovingly looked into my eyes and ran her fingers through my hair.

“You truly are a daughter to me.” She smiled as a tear formed in her eye. She sat back in her arm chair and gazed at all who sat at ‘our’ table. “Your sister will do as she wishes. But we must make every effort to have her with us. Truly there is nothing for her here.” Kate rubbed her chin as she stared off in thought. “I don’t see her with us save when you make your journey.”

I nodded my agreement with Kate. My dear sister was troubled by an abusive past and verged on having a substance abuse problem as well. She self medicated with alcohol and other drugs…and frequently. Kate looked at me as she continued to speak.

You can’t be serious! Kate is out of her mind! You can’t be going with her! What am I going to do? I’ll have nobody here!”

Corie was verging on hysterics. She was pacing back and forth in her apartment and waving her hands as she went on and on. I knew this would happen and I was somewhat prepared for her outburst. On the one hand, I couldn’t tell her that there was nothing here for her, which was bitterly true. And on the other hand, I couldn’t downplay how positive the move might prove to be.

“Look…” I grabbed her hand and tugged her down onto her couch next to me. “I’m not going anywhere for nearly two years. All I ask is for you to think about it a bit. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to change where you are. You know how beautiful it is over there (I was scrupulously trying not to say home) and it’s a chance for a new start.”

“You’re going to do this!” She burst into tears. “You’re going to leave me alone again.”

“I’m not going to leave you.” I took her in my arms and tried to comfort her. I didn’t leave her before. I was thrown out by our step father. “I need to go because all that I call family will be there and you are needed as well.” I knew that in her mind it was as if I had actually abandoned her.

I calmed her enough to assure her that she would be more than welcomed and that I would help her in any way that I possibly could. I knew what she really wanted and that was a wee bit of mothering, something that we both missed (save the fact that I was sheltered and nurtured by Kate and Meg). So I took a tissue, dried her eyes, made her blow her nose, and hugged her till she was totally calmed. I knew the moment I left that she would take a drink.

We managed to get everything done the day before our flight. Corie decided at the last moment to come for the holiday and return with me. It was largely do to her efforts that we were able to organize and pack the household for the trip, and for the shipment to follow. Kate had insisted on paying her for her efforts which she did accept after some gentle persuasion on my part.

The time we spent together in Ireland was wonderfully beyond words. Nearly the entire branch of Kate’s clainne met us at her home. Some of Meg’s people were there as well. Everyone was so excited about our return that the party went on into the evening and a few of the heartier celebrants could be found asleep the next morning in various chairs and couches.

The rest of the ‘visit’ was filled with a nearly continual procession of kinsmen and their children coming and welcoming our group back into the fold of the clainne. Of course there were a variety of young men who had come to see the new available young woman that was living in Kate’s home. None were acceptable to either Kate or me.

I returned to Fort Lauderdale after the New Year alone. I was to begin my nearly two years of self imposed exile from my family. I was reminded of the Ladies of the Middle Ages, who, upon losing their Lords through battle or disease or old age, would go to a convent or monastery to live out their days in mourning and solitude.

Only my solitude was spend amongst the children I had contracted to help. My days were quite long; sometimes twelve hours or more and very often six days a week. I was driven to do this so that I would not be thinking of my departed Owen (May he know only peace). Any extra waking time was filled with attempting to write an autobiography and spending a few hours with my dear friends Bryan and Chris.

I would make my pilgrimages home three times a year; the Yule and Easter Tides, and a clainne reunion in July. Each visit, bittersweet as it was, filled me with the longing of having it be my last. Each time I was pulled by my inner most self to stay and not return.

My half sisters were growing into young women and my ‘adopted’ brothers and sisters, Meg’s children, were starting to become their own people with wants and desires and awareness of self. I was needed as a mentor to all for Kate was to involved in her own practice of medicine and the nannies were attentive, but not quite ready themselves to take their places as adult women who could tend to the variety of needs the children had.

I was becoming aware that I might very well be spending the rest of my life alone; without mate. I certainly couldn’t be approached with the idea of having a family. I was, naturally, unable to reproduce. I was not born with the equipment to do so…at least not the equipment that matched my present physical appearance.

And there were not many men who would be able to reconcile my appearance to the fact that I started my life as a male. Oh maybe someone who had that rare appreciation `for somebody such as me, but usually men of my age group were family oriented and adoption would not do. Being able to produce progeny is such a fulfilling ability for both men and women.

But at least I would be among those who loved me for who I was and that certainly took some of the bite from my personal beast. I would have a place, and be in a place, where these things were quite secondary to my worth as a human being and as a member of Kate’s clainne.

On my last visit to ‘home’, I was with all six of the little ones. We were in town to attend to everyday sort of affairs; haircuts, manicures, a wee bit of shopping, and lunch. Evidentially I was spotted by a man who was a distant cousin of Kate’s. He saw me tending to the children and enjoying myself in the process.

Being ‘new’ to the town, and though his parents had resided there for some ten years or so, he was still eyed as somewhat of an unknown. He did what would be considered the right thing and inquired about me to his parents. They told him who I was and that "yes…indeed…she was not married. Her husband had been taken in a tragic accident along with Kate’s beloved; Meg."

This man insisted that he would like very much to meet me. There was only one way that would happen officially. His parents would need to contact Kate, or Red Hugh, or one of Kate’s older brothers and a ‘meeting’ would have to be arranged.

Now Red Hugh was frequently in Dublin or Belle Faste on business. Kate’s brothers were old and two still didn’t have telephones. That left going to Kate, or her brother who shared his practice at the local clinic with her.

This man, being quite bold and seemingly driven by his desire to meet me, went directly to the clinic to speak with Kate, or her brother. His father had come along as well. Understanding that Kate’s people were very traditional and weary of those they didn’t know, the father felt that Kate would be less inclined to take a shot at his son if she knew him to be the son of one of her kinsmen, and a patient.

I was told that they arrived at the clinic in fine clothes and in serious demeanor. Kate escorted them into her office to ascertain what the matter was about. She was not accustomed to this sort of…treatment. The conversation evidentially went quite well. It went so well that Kate left her practice early to speak with me.

She called for me to come to her study just after the little ones had their afternoon snack. I joined her on a settee by the doors leading out into the garden. She was sipping on a bit of whiskey as was her practice upon arriving after work. Her eyes were on me from the moment I entered the study till I took my place alongside her. She smiled and kissed me as I sat.

“I have news for you. I think it is good news.”

Any news for me was good news as far as I was concerned. But I was not at all prepared for this news!

“I have just come from town. I have spoken with a very serious young man who I would have you meet.”

What…I was stunned!!!

“What?” Meet me? “Meet me?” Kate laughed and she took my hand.

“Do you deem yourself so un…meetable? He is quite handsome and more importantly, not some fool. He has three children, young ones, and his wife left him for another. He is divorced.”

“What?” I was completely confused. Was he looking for a mother for his children?

“He is moving here because he cannot tend to his little ones and perform his job. He is an emergency medical worker in Dublin and his parents live here. They will see after the little ones while he finishes his days there. He will come during his days off until the beginning of June. Then he will be here permanently. They are, of course, kinsmen or I wouldn’t have seen them at all.”

I was still in shock as Kate related all of this to me. I still didn’t understand how or why he would want to meet me.

“Little Kelly…” Kate took my face in her hands and smiled gently at me. “…you are so beautiful I am surprised nobody has inquired about you before. Maybe they feared me?” She laughed. “That’s good for they should fear me. But he has not fear. At least his desire overcomes what fear he might have had. I wish you to at least meet him.”

“Where on earth did he see me?” I couldn’t image.

“You were in town with the little ones when he saw you from a distance.”
“I’m leaving in a few short days! What could possibly happen? This is silly!” This was my fear rising within me. If I liked him….what could come of it? I would have to explain my ‘secret’ to him. Oh my God!

“Listen, you will see him for a few short moments tonight…”

“What!” What? “Tonight?” Tonight!!!

“You WILL see him for a few short moments tonight after dinner.” Kate broke out in a giggle. “Think of him as dessert.”

“What?” Oh my God!

“You will dress for the occasion for he surely will. And you will be yourself in all your true glory. I have also invited his mother and father and, of course, the little ones.”

“Oh my God! Kate…” I was speechless at this point. The whole entire family would be coming? Oh my God! The entire town probably knows by now. There are only about thirty five thousand people in the whole county! I had little doubt that they would all show up to see what develops.

“I do believe that two of my brothers and their wives are joining us for dinner as well.”

I felt like throwing up! Kate sat and simply smiled like a Cheshire cat.

“You’re enjoying all this…aren’t you!” I was a wee bit put off by what was going to occur and who would be; dating en masse! Kate was never one to mince words or speak around a subject.

“Yes!” She laughed! I am enjoying this to the utmost! There isn’t anyone I would rather see meet this man then you.” She took my hands in hers in spite of my sour face. “You are closer than my own kin to me and I want…I desire…that you meet someone that you might be happy with and spend your life with. I think this is the man for you. Now, let’s have no more of this and you don’t even have to be nice if you really don’t like him; just be fair and MEET HIM!”

I kissed Kate on the cheek as I got up from my seat. I looked around the room searching for the words to express how much I didn’t want this to happen. But I could never say no to Kate. I had to much love and respect for her to say no. I looked back down at her.

“Okay…I will do this and let occur what may.” I turned to leave the study and thought to myself that nothing could possibly occur. There was tonight, tomorrow, and the next day I would be gone.

I was in a daze as I walked through the parlour and to the main staircase to ascend to my room. My mind was somewhere between what to wear and should I kill myself by hanging or poison. The day I had feared for about six months had finally come and I felt totally unprepared for it. I ascended the stairs and turned to walk down the hall to my rooms, which were opposite Kate’s.

I passed the rooms of my sisters and could hear that they had company. I knocked and opened the door. I was greeted by all of them. They pointed at me and laughed as they shouted.

Kelly’s got a date!” “Kelly has a boy friend.” Every epithet that could possibly amplify my terror at the evening’s torturous affairs was shouted. If they knew, then the entire household knew. Everybody knew. I shook my head, rolled my eyes, hid my face in my hands and slowly backed out of the room.

I rushed down to my room and shut the door upon entering. I was on the verge of tears. So many different emotions welled up in me as I considered what I was asked to do; what I was going to do. Thoughts of my departed Owen kept creeping into my mind.

I sat in the armchair near my writing desk and attempted to gather my thoughts and calm myself. This simply wouldn’t do. If I was to reject this…this man…I must look absolutely perfect. If he wanted to see me, and meet me, then see me he will; in all my ‘splendid glory’ as Kate, or Meg, might say.

Once I was calm enough, I got up and walked into my bed chambers and to my dressing room. Looking into my closet, I eyed all of my clothes as they were as neatly arranged in hanging outfits. This would be a very traditional meeting and therefore I had to find something very traditional; perhaps with traditional designs and embroideries as decorations.

Suddenly it struck me! Meg had made me something. Now where was it? I hoped I hadn’t left it back in Fort Lauderdale. OMG!!! I had to find it. I shuffled the outfits one by one as I went through my closet racks. Nothing! Oh…wait…the shelves! Maybe I folded it up? Oh my God! I have too much stuff here. Nothing!

The armoire! It’s in the armoire! Of course! I ran to the piece and swung open the doors. Suddenly it was as if I was being called to the outfit. I placed my hands directly upon it even though it was somewhat buried beneath other pieces of clothing. I gently pulled it out and set the tunic, skirt and vest on my bed.

Meg had designed and made this outfit just for me. The material was the finest linen. It wasn’t dyed so the color was a creamy off white. She hand stitched the traditional “beastie’ trims that decorated the skirt’s hem, the tunic’s cuffs, the vee neck, and the vest’s neck, lapels and hem.

The ‘beasties’ main design was Celt knots in vermillion on a field of black.. Vermillion is the color of Kate’s clainne and although I am not partial to shades of the brighter reds, Gold vine-like windings interlaced with the knots. The pieces were elegant and most beautiful. The entire look was close to that of a traditional wedding costume. I loved these pieces because of all the work that Meg put into their construction.

I unfolded the skirt and tunic and spread them out on my bed. Next I did the same to the tunic. The skirt fell to nearly ankle length and the tunic to my hips covering the waist of the skirt. The vest came down to nearly knee height and its bellowing sleeves came down to the mid hand area.

It wasn’t so very different than the wedding costume I wore when Owen and I tied the knot and jumped the broom here eight years ago. While for legal purposes we had a civil marriage in Fort Lauderdale, we had a very traditional marriage here. The ceremony took place out by the lake and there were more people than I ever imagined. People came from all over because I was Kate and Meg’s oldest ‘child’. That party afterwards went on till late the following day.

I had to do something about the wrinkles in these things. Linen is sooo very funkie. I don’t know why I didn’t hang these up. I did so immediately and took them into my bath room. I opened the shower door and turned the hot water on full. As the steam began to form I hung the outfit up on the shower door and let the steam relax the fabric.

Oh my God! I’m going to need help with my face. I mean, I want to have that smokey eyes look? But I don’t know how to do it very well. Meg would help me when I wanted to look especially hot for my Owen. I wonder what he would say about all this business tonight. Hmmm… There would be no replacing of him, that’s for sure.

Maybe my sister could help? I left my chambers and ran down to the other end of the hall where her room was. I knocked and fortunately she was in. I opened the door and walked through the sitting room into her bed chamber where she was laying in bed reading some magazine. Her eyes followed me as I walked over and bounced up on her bed.

“I need your help.” She arched her brows. “I need help doing my face and I don’t know how to get the look I want.” I grabbed her hand. “Pleeeezzzzeee!” She laughed.

“Yeah, I heard you had a hot date.” I shook my head and rolled me eyes. A hot date?

“It’s not a hot date. I don’t even know him. I never even saw him.” I was exasperated with this date thing. Corie looked at me through squinting eyes. Then she giggled.

“It’d be like old times, huh?” She smiled evilly. Old times indeed!

When I was young, before I ran away from South Boston, Corie would dress me in her older clothes, use her cosmetics on my face, and comb out my hair. When our step-father would come home drunk, he’d not see me and I could avoid getting beaten. All he’d see were the little ones, Corie, and one of her class mates. So much for the old times.

I walked over to my vanity grabbing a second small chair and I sat down in the vanity’s chair. Corie followed and sat next to me. She stared at my reflection in the mirror.

“I hate you, you know.” Okay, let me have it. I was kind of accustomed to Corie’s outbursts of frustration and pain. “Your complexion is sooo perfect!” I giggled. She began to really inspect the vanity.

“This is a nice piece. Regency?”

“I don’t know.” I looked down at my nails. Whenever I felt challenged or threatened, or saddened, I looked at my manicure. This was an old habit acquired when I first met Kate and Meg. I admired Meg’s perfect manicure. Her first act of affirming the real me was to do my nails in the same tinted clear polish she wore. “Meg got it for me.” I smiled at the thought of her excitement when she first showed it to me.

Corie opened the drawers and looked though the color palettes I had acquired. She kept two aside and returned the rest to the drawer. She removed my brushes and sponges as well as several skin creams.

“You have a real sweet deal here.” Oh no…here it comes! “I can see why you’re so hot to leave. I mean…you get everything done for you. You’ll have this place…” She waved her arms around her indicating not simply my rooms, but the entire house. “…I mean this set of rooms is bigger than your whole apartment.” Corie gazed into my eyes as she spoke. “You’ll have a job waiting, and unemployment is high here. You don’t have to cook or wash or do anything…”

Corie went on and on about how good life would be for me when I finally came ‘home’. The implication was that I was the fortunate one and she would again be abandoned and without resources. I was accustomed to her rants and understood them to be symptomatic of her depression. Finally she got down to it.

“…and you even have Kate searching for a man for you.”

I had to stop her at this point. I looked up at her and took both her hands in mine. I needed to have her full attention.

“I didn’t ask for this. And Kate for sure didn’t go looking, nor would I ever ask her too. This man saw me yesterday while we were all in town. He went to her.” She seemed truly surprised.

“Then why are you doing this? Why are you getting all dressed up as if…”

“Because Kate asked me to. Anyway, he is coming with his family and they will be dressed up. This is a formal introduction Corie. Our family will be meeting his. It’s a sign of respect, that’s all. Anyway, I’ll probably not like him at all.”

I was being kind of smug about it all, but in truth I was beginning to feel the emptiness and loneliness of my solitary life back in Florida. While I had my friends, all two of them, and my sister, I missed the companionship of that special someone who I could be emotionally naked with. Of course the physical nakedness was certainly a most welcomed addition.

“Okay…” Corie must have been reading my far off look, and my mind. “…let’s do this thing. We’ll let him know what he’s missing when you tell him; ‘, but you are def not the one.’” She giggled.

I was glad that we were finally off of all the topics I really didn’t care to discuss. Corie continued to talk as she began to do my face.

“God! I really hate you! Your skin is so perfect.”

“Haven’t we been there before?” I began to laugh. Corie certainly knew how to change the atmosphere as I felt all the tension ease from both of us.

“Don’t move! I’m only doing this once.” She began to apply some color to my eye lids.

Corie rambled on and on about everything and anything as she whizzed through my palette of colors; a swipe here and there and then some blending till she smiled. Then she moved onward to another palette with more earth tones.

This did bring back memories of when we were smaller. In a sense we bonded doing this exact same exercise to change me into her ‘class mate’. That was when I first began to derive a sense of security from assuming a female persona. I wouldn’t be beaten and I could almost, if only for a few hours, live a ‘normal’ life.

Corie finally finished off my eyes with a last coating of mascara. I turned around in my chair to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was somewhat startled at what I saw.

“Oh my God! You don’t think it’s too…much…edgy?” I broached on what I thought was a raccoon look. Corie giggled.

“Not at all. Your eyes look so much bigger than they already are. In the dimmer light of the dining room you’ll look…spectacular. I promise.”

She was hunched and looked over my shoulder. Her smile was open and honest. Okay…that’s good enough for me.

“Now we must do your lips.”

“I was thinking tat I would simply wear a gloss. You know? Something maybe with a red tint.”

“No way Jose. We’ll go with a burgundy color and over that we’ll gloss. It’ll be very dramatic. Here…” She turned me back around to face her. “Let’s try it. If you don’t like it, we can always change it. Okay?”

I nodded my head in ascent.

“Open your mouth just a bit. So, what do you think I could do here…if I came along.”

Leave it to Corie. I had my mouth open awaiting her service and she asks a question that requires an answer. I started to tell her but she told me to hold still as she began outlining my lips with a brush and the burgundy lipstick.

“I mean it’s not like I went to college…” Oh no! I hoped she wasn’t starting in again. “…or I know a profession or something. You know? Hold still baby.”
At least a term of endearment; we are improving! Corie chattered as she finished my lips. I really didn’t have an answer for her. She never really exhibited any desire to further her education or learn a skill. Cait had mentioned that perhaps she could run the household. That in itself, especially with the kids and all the help, was a job and a half. But now was not the time or place for that conversation.

“Want to see what I’m wearing?”

“Sure.” Corie’s face lighted up with a broad smile. Good…she seemed truly interested.

I went into the bath room and brought out the clothing pieces. The steam from the shower had relaxed the linen and almost all the wrinkles were gone. When I looked at Corie, she seemed to be in shock.

Whilst it did resemble the outfit I wore at my wedding to Owen, it was not quite as ornate. I quickly donned the skirt and then the tunic. I tied the thongs to the tunic leaving about a third of the front opened. Not that I had much of a cleavage, but what little I had could just be seen.

Finally I donned the vestment with its long billowing sleeves and it’s long hem and turned toward Corie for a final okay. I watched her eyes as I fastened the midriff belt that also carried the same beastie decoration. I saw tears well up in her eyes.

“You look sooo…gorgeous! It’s like when you married Owen.” I handed her a tissue. She took it and wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She looked at me again. “Are you sure there’s no handkerchief?”

I hadn’t thought to look but just in the event… I went back into the wardrobe and gave the shelf a thorough search. Way in back, under some sweaters, I found a handkerchief in the same color and with the same decoration as the dress. How totally odd.

“I think it’s a wedding dress.” Corie laughed through her tears.

I turned to the full length mirror and, hands on my hips and head cocked to the side, stared at myself in this magnificent…costume? If I had a shawl to cover my head, I would have looked as though I steeped out of the middle ages or something. I smiled at myself. It was one of those rare moments of vanity when I actually though I looked good.

While we waited to be summoned, Corie and I spoke as I turned and pirouetted and enjoyed the way the wide sweep of the hem swung around to hug my legs. I stepped into my one and one half inch pumps and enjoyed the fact that the dress was perfectly tailored by my sweet departed May and no doubt for a special occasion such as this evening.

Finally there was a knock at my door and Emma, our youngest sister, poked her head in.

“Oh dear Lord! You look sooo beautiful!” She came all the way in and with her mouth agape, took in my presence. “You look just like a Princess. I haven’t seen you this beautifully adorned in years.”

She was so excited by all the goings on. At sixteen, she has yet to have a formal caller, as if Kate would permit that. Emma walked all around me and touched the dress here and there.

“Dear Lord the material feels so lovely. Are you ready?”

“Is he ready should be the question.”

We all laughed as Corie arose from her chair and joined me on the opposite side of Emma. I was to be escorted! Corie picked up the handkerchief and handed it to me.

“You can’t forget this.”

We walked down the hallway and to the stairs to make our grand entrance. I could hear everyone in the parlor talking and even carrying on a bit. We started down the main stair case and when we reached the bottom, turned to enter. Oh my God! I hadn’t envisioned so many people, and children. I felt as though the entire county was there.

Red Hugh saw me first. He smiled and nodded to me. I returned his smile and nod. He made his way through the room to Kate, who sat in her high backed arm chair looking quite regal in her simple attire. Hugh bent down and whispered in her ear. She looked toward the door and stood, not being able to see me through the crowd of people.

“Kelly, come!” She waved her hand signaling me to enter. Suddenly there was silence in the room, save the little ones who were playing in the corner. Everybody looked at me as I began what seemed like the longest walk I’d ever taken. Well…make that the second longest walk.
I could hear the whispers and comments of how beautiful I looked. I blushed redder than I can remember and I kept my head down; not wanting to look anyone in the eye. I did smile and I rolled my eyes up just enough to see where I was headed. I held the handkerchief in my hands and ran the material through my fingers as I walked up to Kate.

“You look lovely my darling.” Kate hugged me and kissed my forehead. “This is the dress that Meg made for you, is it not.” I nodded, to nervous to even speak at this point. Kate put her arm around me and began to walk pulling me in tow. “Come darling. There are kinsmen here you must meet.”

That is when I first saw him. HIM!!! I looked at him and didn’t hear another word that was said by Kate, or anyone else for that matter. Somehow, the name Kevin came through the silence I was experiencing. Kevin…a good name…his name.

I stared at him completely dumbstruck and him at me in a similar fashion. This happened only once before. I was having trouble, and still do, that it could possibly happen twice in a life time. It was one of those magic moments that so very rarely occur when time stops and the world takes a hiatus from its travails. People seem to move in slow motion, if at all, and all sound is muffled. Existence as we know it ceases and there were only us; me and him.

This happened when I saw Owen for the first time in Florida. I was after my “rebirth”. I was fifteen and he was nearly nineteen. He had to leave Boston for a while and he desperately wanted to come and see me before he went out West. Owen drove all day and night and, after about twenty six hours, appeared on our door steps around eleven in the evening. That is where I greeted him.

He was so stunned at my appearance that he stopped in mid step. I was no longer the short, thin, scraggly, boy. I was now a manicured, styled, and stylish teenage girl in ever way safe one. And he was so tall and strong looking, and handsome that I also paused in mid motion. He stood there smiling at one another as the world around us disappeared. There were only the two of us in the absolute silence.

I did the exact same thing with Kevin that I did with Owen. I reached out with my hand clutching my handkerchief and touched his chest with my finger tips as if assuring myself that yes, this person was real. Kevin placed his large hand over mine, just as Owen did. Our eyes were locked. I could feel my heart beating. I knew at that moment that I would marry this man just as I knew I would marry Owen.

From somewhere outside our personal reality, I heard a babe cry. I knelt down and picked up a toddler. It was Kevin’s son. Without breaking eye contact, I let the child pull my finger into his mouth and he began to suck and teethe on it. I held my hand out and called for Corie.

“Please wet this and put a piece of ice in it.” I handed her the handkerchief.

She swiftly returned and, do what I requested, I put the clothe in the child’s hand. He immediately put it in his mouth and began to chew and suckle on it. He stopped his crying and I continued to hold him rocking him ever so gently. My eyes never left Kevin’s. I think his smile may have broadened a bit more.

Kevin finally took my arm and walked me out of the crowd that had been watching us and to the terrace outside the parlor where the smokers had gathered. We walked to the edge where the gardens began and sat side by side on a bench. I still held the little one close to keep him warm from the night’s air.

“I saw you in town yesterday and I felt I had to meet you.”

“Kate said you are a kinsman?”

“Yes. We’re cousins. She’s also my Da’s physician.”

I smiled at him. I don’t think I stopped but hearing that he indeed was a kinsman made me feel good; kind of safe and protected.

“Where is the children’s mother?”

I had to know what the story was. I didn’t need to be wanted because a mother was absent and children had to be raised. Kevin looked away from me for a moment. When his eyes returned to mine, I could see that there was much pain in them.

“She ran off with another about nine months ago and I haven’t heard a word from her since. She’s not in the country and her parents are in America somewhere. I couldn’t take proper care to the children in Dublin so I’m moving back here. The children stay with my folks when I’m working in Dublin. I shall be moving back here at the month’s end so we can all be together.”

“What kind of work do you do?” I knew this but I wanted to get him to speak about himself.

“I’m an emergency medical worker. I deal with accidents and such. What do you do?”

I had to giggle.

“I work with them once you’re finished. I’m a psychologist and I work with abused women and children.”

He smiled and nodded.

“It’s hard to find people who understand. You know?”

I giggled again. Oh boy did I know.

Kevin’s son finally wanted to be with his father so I handed him over with some reluctance. I do love children so. But it did give me the opportunity to look at him as we spoke. He was a big man, larger than Owen. His hair was starting to turn gray pre-maturely from its sandy brown color. His gorgeous eyes were a very pale blue. He was thirty two years old.

I knew we were being watched from the parlor and by anybody outside. This was the way of Kate’s people. We wouldn’t be left out of sight for more than a moment or two. But tonight that was fine with us. I felt a very strong connection to this big man and I got to see several different sides of his personality, all of which I like very much. Although we had our differences, we had many more commonalities. But most important was the fact that I felt comfortable and safe with Kevin.

I don’t know how long we sat outside but eventually I began feeling the chill of the night air. As I arose to go inside, Kevin slipped his arm over my shoulder and pulled me close to him. He handed me his son for a moment and then he took off his suit jacket and draped it over my shoulders. Then, putting his arm around me again, we walked inside the house.

The remained of the evening seems to fly and soon the little ones became irritable with fatigue of the day and the evening’s excitement. Now I had a quandary. There was only one day left to my stay and then I had to return to Florida. I had no time to be with this man!

As we said our good nights, Kate invited Kevin and the children back for lunch tomorrow. She must have been watching us and decided that I wouldn’t mind seeing Kevin again. Such is the wisdom of our Queen.

The moment our guests left, I was besieged by all with a thousand questions. I laughed and put my hands over my ears as I ran up the stairs and to my rooms. I was followed by my sisters and the children of Kate and Meg.

As I began to undress in my bath chamber, I answered the questions as they were shouted out. Yes, he’s very nice. No, he’s definitely not married. Yes, there is a divorce decree. And on and on it went till the only one remaining was Corie.

“You’re going to marry him, aren’t you?”

I smiled and looked at her. I didn’t want to say it. I shrugged my shoulders in question.

“Does he know about you?”

That would be the tough one. I would have to tell him tomorrow why I couldn’t bear him children. This was the moment I feared more than any other. With Owen, there was no problem because he knew me before, and after, my rebirth. But this man only knew me as the woman he had seen on the street, and now as the woman he had formally met.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My mind was full of him; Kevin. I had so many questions; so many doubts. How would I explain my life to him? How could I explain the violence and the abuse? How could I explain my rebirth…especially my rebirth? How would he view me afterward? Would there even be an afterward?

Then there were the other questions. What was his aroma like? Did he have a lot of hair on his chest? Was he a good kisser? Did he even like to kiss? Was his dick as big as the rest of his body? What would it be like with him on top of me? What did he taste like?

Then I began to dream of what life might be like with Kevin and his three children. Oh my God! The dreams and images that floated across my mind! Eventually I fell asleep out of seer exhaustion. I decided, again, that I wanted this man.

I managed to crawl out of bed around ten or so. I was still tired from the previous evening but once I showered and began my daily toiletries, the excitement of what would occur in a mere few hours began to take control of me.

Oh my God! What would I wear? Everything had to be washed and packed for my trip back! I rifled through my closet and the armoire for anything remotely clean and decent enough to wear. The only things really available were the clothes I was to travel in; a mid calf length brown cotton skirt and a simple white cotton blouse with a button down collar. I found a lovely gold and scarlet patterned silk scarf that would at least give me some color. Not great…but it would have to do. A pair of brown leather skimmers with a one inch heel would complete my outfit.

I hastily did my hair. Praise God for the wedge-bobbed styling that was my signature. Then I sat in my robe at my vanity and did my face. Earth tones ruled my life so nothing fancy; simply a bit of color here and there, a little mascara and a touch of lip balm and I was ready to face the day.

I hurriedly put on my bra and panties, thigh highs, and my chosen outfit for the lunch. I slipped into my shoes and put the scarf around my neck. I rushed out of my rooms and hurried to the stairs. I flew down the steps as fast as my skirt would allow. The first person I encountered told me that Kate was in her study.

As I walked quickly down the hall, the aromas of cooking food and the sounds of a household readying itself for a special lunch enlivened my senses even more. I hurried down the hallway, my footsteps silent on the oriental rug runners that covered the oak flooring. I came to her study and the door was opened.

Kate sat at her antique desk at the far end of her study. There was the musty odor of old books that lined the shelves on the wall coupled with the distinct aroma of the large wood burning fireplace. As I entered, Kate looked up from her desk and smiled at me.

“I see you’ve decided to join us today.”

“I had a rather fitful night.” I giggled as I strode up to her and bent to hug her.

“I could imagine.” She kissed my forehead. “You look lovely today. So, what do you think of the lad?”

I smiled as some of the thoughts of last evening whilst laying in bed once again crossed my mind.

“I think he’ll do.”

Kate laughed as I sat down across from her, smoothing the long skirt beneath me.

“Yes. I thought he might. He’s a bit on the quiet side but I think we’re accustomed to that.” Owen wasn’t a big talker.

“Have you told him about me?” I needed to know what he knew, if anything.

“I told him that you were unable to have children. A birth ‘defect’ of sorts.”

I was a bit stunned. Kate always told the truth. It was one of her cardinal rules of life. What she told him was something less than that. It must have been my disturbed look that caused her to continue.

“Listen sweet heart, I was in a difficult position. It was not for me to disclose your secret. If you didn’t care for him, or he for you, I saw no point in letting him have that knowledge. It’s for you to decide what you wish him to know. I realize that I may have made a difficult situation for you. But if he’s anything like…”

Kate put her hand to her mouth and looked away for a moment.

“If he’s anything like your Owen was, then it shouldn’t matter at all.”

Then she got up and walked around her desk to my side. Kate knelt down and hugged me as she continued.

“If he’s not like your Owen, then he’s probably not for you.”

Kate then rested her head for a moment on my shoulder. I held her arm with mine as I thought about what she said. She was, of course, quite right. It was my tale to tell, not hers. And if he was put off by it, then he was not the one for me anyway.

Kate then put her hands on my cheeks. I saw that there were tears in her eyes. She spoke to me in our ancient language.

“You are as precious to me as any that live. Being a kinsman opens our door to him. Being a real man will keep that door open. But I will warn you that if he serves you poorly, then we will bury him where he stands…and there will be no wake. I told him no less than this, and his father knows this without my words, for he is one of us.”

I had great difficulty in keeping my composure. Kate always treated me as her own, as did Meg. She always protected me and kept me from misadventure. I now realized that she always would do this as long as there was breath in her body. She kissed my forehead again and rose up to her feet.

“Now go. See to the little ones and make ready for our guests.”

That was my cue that she needed to be alone for a bit. I rose from my seat and left her to her thoughts. I closed the door behind me.

There would be a much smaller crowd today; only fourteen! And the meal was basically prepared with the little ones in mind. After all, there were nine of them and with the age range being so wide, something fried was on the menu. I had finally ushered the littlest ones down stairs went, almost to the minute, Kevin drove up with his three.

Kate went to the door to receive him. As he entered, he uttered a traditional blessing I had heard many times before I even stepped foot onto this land. Getting all the children seated was a task and one half. And then getting the food on their plates first was the second major job. Once that happened, they were too busy cramming fried potatoes down their throats to do much else. Of course goose, potato pie and a lentil completed the meal.

Kate sat in the middle of the table, as is our custom and I sat next to her. Kevin and Red Hugh, who functioned as Kate’s secretary, (Secretary is a title rather than an occupation. Hugh was the second most important person in our little branch of the clainne after Kate. In her absence, Hugh’s word was law. Even when Meg was amongst us, Hugh’s word was superior to hers by virtue of his knowing Kate’s mind in all matters) sat opposite us. The children were mixed at the ends of the long table.

After the meal, and the delicious bake desserts, the children were excused to run off and play. Kate and Hugh started toward her study and Corie was off to help with the littlest ones. That left Kevin And me to our own devices…sorta.

The day was bright and sunny; a stark change from the usual early spring. I had asked Kate during lunch if we could go into the gardens where I would reveal my little secret to Kevin. Not to ask her would have been rude. Although Kate recognized me as an adult, I know that she was as nervous, if not more, then me about this ‘man thing’.

No sooner had I asked Kevin if he wanted to go into the gardens that he took my arm and we walked through the French doors, out onto the terrace, and down onto the stone paths that wound their way though the greenery.

“You sure I won’t be shot at?” I giggled at his question.

“I don’t think so. As long as we stay within sight of the house we should be okay.”

I couldn’t resist a wee bit of mock seriousness.

“This is the first time I’ve had to ask permission to see someone. I guess they think quite highly of you.”

“So they’ve been…others?” I laughed. I felt a bit feisty and a bit of the tease was in me.

Kevin looked down and smiled. Then he looked at me.

“In Dublin. There were one or two. But nothing came of it.”

“It’s different here. Things are more…” I was having trouble seeking the proper word.


I laughed again.

“Yes. Much more serious.”

“Well I can certainly see why. You are a treasure.”

He said it in passing but I was struck by what Kevin said anyway. A treasure. Hmmm…
I liked that. I liked that a lot. Was we walked I noticed the stone bench beneath an oak tree. That would be the place.

“Kevin, we need to speak. I have something I must tell you.”

There! It would be out. There was no way around telling him now. He nodded his head and we walked silently to the bench and sat. It was a bit cool in the shade. Kevin removed his sports jacket and draped it around my shoulders. He didn’t even ask if I was cold. I liked that; he was considerate.

I pulled the jacket around me lowering my head to inhale its aroma. It did smell of him and the fragrance of his body was…exciting; definitely exciting. I inhaled several times deeply and, sure enough, I got that very heady feeling that some men seemed to produce from me. Owen certainly did. I would often burrow my nose into his chest or the crotch of his arm, or elsewhere. I could do that with Kevin. I knew I could, if we got past my revelation.

Kevin turned his body to straddle the bench. He looked at me and smiled. He was ready. Where to begin?

“Kate told you tat I couldn’t bear you children.”

“Yes, I know that but I already come equipped.” He laughed. “That’s not an issue with me.”

“But she really didn’t tell you why and you need to know. I was certainly born different from others.” Oh my God! Give me strength. Here it comes. “I was born a boy but my…equipment was faulty. I couldn’t develop as one. So when I was just fifteen, a change was begun. I’ve been a girl ever since; cosmetically as well as internally.”

I felt tears begin to form in my eyes. I looked down at my hands; a habit from childhood. He sat in silence for a moment…the longest moment I can ever remember. He lifted my chin with his hand, his very warm and gentle hand, and turned my head till I was looking into his eyes.

“So…what you’re tell me is that you’ve had a gender change complete with SRS, is that correct?”

I nodded my head. His voice was calm and level. His face was expressionless. I couldn’t tell a thing. I felt tremendously tensed and worried that this would put him off…way off. He reached into his jacket’s inside pocket and retrieved my handkerchief from last evening. I didn’t realize that it was missing. He wiped the tears carefully from my eyes and handed me the cloth.

“Well praise the Lord! I thought you were going to tell me you were dying or, worse yet, married!”

He started to laugh. I couldn’t help myself. I lunged at him and hugged him tightly. I whispered into his ear.

“Then it doesn’t matter?”

He whispered back into mine only this time he spoke our ancient language. Kate kept this wonderful surprise from me.

“I see what I see and that’s all that matters.”

He hugged me back, quite firmly I might add. And he kissed the top of my head.

“The manner in which you dealt with my son last evening told me all I needed to know. I am not looking for a mother for my children. I am looking for someone I can go through this life with. But if she is enough of a woman to understand that we would have company, then my prayers have been answered. The others? They didn’t have that quality and nothing came of it. You do. So I ask you, who truly is the woman?”

I looked up into his face. His jaw was hard set and his eyes, though perhaps gathering a tear or two, were steady and focused. It really wasn’t an issue with him. So my prayers were answered as well. I smiled at him. My urge to kiss him was so strong that I was going out of my mind with desire for him. I know he sensed it. He looked past me at the house.

We’d better walk a bit more. We have an audience.”

I turned to look and he was right. I could only just make out heads in almost every window with a view of where we were. He got up and gave me his hand to rise. I returned his jacket to him and we walked toward the big old oak. We were holding hands and as we walked up to the tree, Kevin began to walk around the tree. As he got to the side, he stopped. With his hand he led me around in front of him and out of the sight of all the little heads in the windows.

He slowly pulled me toward him and put his arms around me. He bent his neck down toward my lips and came within an inch. We were gazing into each others eyes as I got up on my toes and our lips touched. It was electrical. I felt the tingling throughout my body as we kissed.

I closed my eyes as we lip wrestled a bit. I swear I could feel all the emotion that must have been pent up for quite some time flow out through Kevin’s lips and into mine. It was almost as if we were speaking of our loneliness and desire through our touch. My arms traveled up and down his back beneath the jacket he wore and his simply engulfed me.

We broke the kiss and I buried my nose into his shirt. I couldn’t get enough of his scent…his aroma. And it was driving me crazy. I swear I though my legs would give out. He began to lead me around the back of the tree, which completely obscured the view. I knew we only had a moment or two before somebody yelled out at us. I looked up into his eyes.

“I wish I didn’t have to leave.”

“I wish you didn’t have to.”

“I’ll be back in July.”

“I don’t know if I can wait that long to see you.”

As we stared into each other’s eyes, I nodded my head. I didn’t know if I could wait that long. He touched his head to mine as he spoke.

“I’ll speak to Kate. Every day if need be. I won’t leave her alone. I’ll get over to see you. And if she says no, I’ll come anyway.”

That would be a problem for us! Kate would have to agree to make everything alright, ya know? I would not do anything she strongly disagreed with. We walked hand in hand for a bit. The silence between us was comfortable. There was no hurry as surely as there was little time remaining. There was one question I did need to ask.

“What happened between you and your ex?”

I didn’t look at him as I asked. I thought that if he felt uncomfortable with the question (as if anyone could be comfortable answering such a thing) he wouldn’t have my eyes on him. He didn’t answer right away. I thought that was a good indication that he’d thought about this very same thing before…many times.

“The hours…the work…I couldn’t talk to her. It’s difficult work for some to understand, you know?”

I smiled whilst still looking straight on. I knew.

“Promise me one thing.”

“And what might that be.” He smiled at me and I looked at him; into his beautiful eyes.

“If you ever feel the urge to talk, try me. I’ll leave you my e-mail and my cell phone. You can call…anytime.”

He nodded his head. Okay. I wasn’t afraid of what he might be troubled with; not with my back ground and not with my chosen profession. I knew how important this would become for the both of us.

We headed back to the house. Our time together was drawing to a close. Soon I would have to pack the few belongs I would take with me and leave this glorious world, and Kevin.

Kevin gathered his children with my help and packed them into his car. We embraced one more time and I inhaled deeply as he held me. He got into his car as I turned from him. I didn’t want him to see my tears. He started the engine and drove off. I turned and waved. Then I went in.

Kate caught my eyes in the entrance as I walked in. I nodded my head and smiled at her. She put her hands in her trouser pockets, smiled and nodded back to me. She looked down at her shoes for a moment, still smiling, turned, and walked back to her study.

I felt a searing pain in my heart as Corie and I were driven to the airport. That pain increased as the jet plane lifted off the ground. I closed my eyes and turned my face to the window. I cried silently for quite some time. My sister, may she be blessed, said nothing and looked the other way. She held my hand until I could compose myself.

Kevin’s first e-mail to me was waiting when I returned to my apartment and I signed onto the computer. The message was somewhat awkward in that we only met the other day and I knew there were things left unsaid. He ended the message with “your” Kevin.

My Kevin. I once was accustomed to saying ‘my’ Owen. I wondered how long it would be until I could say ‘my’ Kevin and have it be…natural? I hoped not long. I don’t know which I missed more, my home…or Kevin. He was on my mind.

I wrote back to him the next day when I was a bit more rested and emotionally composed. Hah! Composed! As if… I was truly out of my mind with excitement and joy. Even before I told my two closest friends in real time (my only two friends here), Chris and Brian, I told Drea! I think we both came on line at Big Closet around the same time and we really hit it off.

I remember my words to her: “There’s a real man in my life again!” How totally unique! I never thought it would happen…again. I had only been on a few real dates in my entire life and they were…lacking? But one quarter of the way around the world, by chance mind you, I meet someone who knocked my socks off (not literally…yet).

We ‘spoke’ about relationships in general and specifically how much alike, in some ways, Kevin was to my Owen. I also expressed my fears about how powerful the attraction between Kevin and I was. I also spoke of how unprepared I was for someone who was serious and did serious work, as I do.

I suddenly knew who I had to tell next; Alison Mary. In another life, Alison Mary was an emergency rescue worker. I knew if anyone could help me with what I suspected I would need to do, she would be the one. Of course, she is and of course she did.

I thought I would need to meet this man at the door with a cold beer in hand when his day was done. Alison told me that it would be a very good start. She went on to tell me of her life’s experience and how difficult it was to confide in others outside the ‘trade’.

I knew what I had to do. I had to open up to him first. Unfortunately a perfect situation came up. I attend a group session for people who have suffered abuse as children. I do this to help with some of my personal demons that I don’t wish to discuss in therapy. We meet in a county building where a number of different group session meet. I had befriended a young woman, only a few years younger than myself, I’ll call Sarah.

She was overcoming the aftermath of an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. She had moved out of his place and told him that their relationship was over. One evening I got a phone call from a member of my group who knew Sarah very well. I was told that Sarah was in the hospital. Evidently, her former boyfriend got high on crank, went looking for her, and beat her badly.

I went to the emergency room of the hospital. I had been there too often counseling victims of various abuses and crimes. The Emergency Room personal knew me well enough to allow me access to the patients. I did not tell them I was there personally to see her. When I walked into the cardiac room, I was shocked, stunned, horrified, and truly traumatized. I could not even recognize Sarah. She was beaten about the head, face, and body so that she wasn’t even recognizable as a human being. She was intubated for respiration. There were various IV lines running. The top neuro-surgeon in the hospital, and in the county, was looking over the ‘pictures’. He saw no reason to operate.

I was feeling nauseous and somewhat detached. I when into the waiting room to sit down as my world began to close in on me. It was either sit, or pass out. Her father was in there with her brothers. Her mother was stretched out across several seats and staring into space.

I went to the father and told him who I was and how I knew his daughter. I could see that he’d been crying. He tried to smile and greet me but was having his problems. I hugged him and expressed my sorrow over what had happened to his daughter. I gave him my card and told him that if there was anything I could do he should call me. Then I left. They pulled Sarah’s plugs two days later. Her ex was charged with second degree murder.

I was having trouble with the images I had seen so I called Kevin. We spoke about once or twice a week and e-mailed almost daily. I just he could tell immediately something was wrong from the tone of my voice. He asked…so I told him…everything. I went non-stop for at least twenty minutes. He was patient and didn’t interrupt me. I was in tears the entire time I spoke to him.

I had seen battered women and children before. I have seen the broken teeth, the swollen and cut eyes, the bruises, the broken bones and all that goes with the kind of savagery we are capable of. But it was impersonal and I was viewing these victims as patients. They were not people I had known in different circumstances. They were not Sarah who I laughed and joked with, and shared a cup of coffee with. And they were not dead.

When I finished speaking, venting, ranting and crying, Kevin said the most important thing I needed to hear. He told me that he’d seen that before and he understood. He also explained why I was feeling so disturbed by this incident. I knew these things but I was too upset to think logically. Our call went on for over an hour.

That single call bonded us together as nothing else could have. Two weeks later I got a call from him. He had seen something that had bothered him so he chose to call me. It’s been this way for several months now. We can communicate in a way that is meaningful to us both; especially him.

I called Kevin about another incident quite recently. I am writing about this one for Alison Mary as a kind of tribute to her, Kevin, and anyone who must deal with people when they’re not exactly at their best.

One of my girls fell and fractured her arm in the evening. I took her to the same hospital. They are very competent and far superior in many ways to the county system. While her arm was being attended to, I heard a commotion in another part of the E.R. I ducked out to see what was happening.

There was a crowd of E.R. people in one of the cardiac rooms (the same room as Sarah was in). I walked over because the EMS people were there speaking with the police. When I got to the room, I saw a man in his forties sitting up on the table. The back was elevated to keep him upright.

I saw a small black spot just to the right of the center of his chest. Blood leaked slowly from the hole. Then quickly it spurted out. It was spurting out with the beating of his heart. Two nurses suctioned up the blood as quickly as it flowed. He had been shot and the bullet opened up his aorta.

I watched as life quickly left his body. One minute he was saying that he’s going to die and the next minute his head droops to the side, eyes closed. He looked peaceful as if he was only resting for a few moments.

I heard the Doc talking to the EMS guy as I turned from the room. The Doc was telling him that he should have taken the man to county where they had a trauma unit. The EMS guy told the Doc that the man was bleeding all over the ambulance and that county was seven minutes away. This hospital was only three minutes away.

The Doc repeated himself three more times as if to say; “Hey…this is not my fault.” What the Doc didn’t bother, or could bring himself, to notice, was that the EMS guy wasn’t happy about his patient dying and anyone could see that on his face. He had worked very hard and did his best to bring the man somewhere for help before he expired.

Now he had to hear from some very young doctor (maybe only a year in the ER), that he could have done better. I got so angry at that. I felt my blood pressure rise with every word out of the Doc’s mouth. And the poor EMS guy’s face kept getting longer and longer. Fortunately the Doc went back to his desk on the other side of the ER before I got angry enough to punch him in his stupid mouth. I couldn’t imagine having to put up with this kind of crap day in and day out. I was sooo happy that I would be able to share these things with Kevin and not have him go it alone. Nobody should have to do that!

I went over to the EMS guy and spoke with him for a moment. I said that he did the right thing and he got the man here alive. I told him that it was better for him to die in the light and surrounded by caring people than to die in the back of his ‘bus’. I also told him that the Doc was probably good other wise he wouldn’t be working at this hospital. But…the Doc was young and didn’t know shit! Then I said; “You did good tonight.” He looked up at me and smiled. After all, the Doc was at least five years older than me. He nodded his head and said; “Thanks”. I knew he meant it.

I was sooo angry, even afterward, that I couldn’t wait to tell Drea. She said she was proud of me, even if I said shit. I called Kevin when I knew he was off work and told him. He also said he was proud of me (even if I said shit). I know Alison Mary will be proud of me (especially because I said shit). The fact is that I am still very angry at that Doc. The lesson is…I’m Irish! Don’t piss me off because I may forgive…but I never forget. Stop giggling Drea!!!

Kevin had been harassing Kate for permission to come and visit with me here. He couldn’t wait for July and, truth be told, I couldn’t either. I had asked once. Kate said no. That was that as far as I was concerned. I was not going to go against Kate’s wishes and I certainly wasn’t going to question them. She was the reason that I was ‘reborn’ and she is the reason that I’m even alive!

Toward the beginning of June, I got a call, a strange one at that, from Kate. She said that she was coming to visit me at the end of June. She told me she made a reservation at one of the resorts on the beach and that we could spend a few days together; away from everything.

This bothered me. Kate never leaves the county without being taken kicking and biting. She would certainly not leave Ireland during June or July. It’s called the “Marching Season” and things tend to become volatile in the occupied counties up North. If she was not home, and something happened, half her kinsmen would come out, rise up and go North. Kate would not be happy about that.

But I am not one to question Kate’s desires. I thought…’well, maybe she simply wants to see me alone’. That’s not unreasonable. And my little apartment is just the perfect size for little me. It’s a simple studio and a small one at that. Certainly I would want to do better entertaining Kate as a guest.

My interactions with Kevin remained the same…INTENSE!!! Our e-mails had long since gone into the “R” category and were approaching the “X”. Our phone conversations were somewhere between PG-13 when he was at Kate’s, to X-26 or older when we were ‘alone’. There was no difference in our relationship or his manner of speaking.

The reason that I mention this at all is because of that trouble maker Drea. I think it was she who first suggested that maybe this was a ruse designed by Kate and that it was Kevin who was doing the visiting.

Did that ever start my mind working! I was already so keyed up for the July trip home and now this suggestion really got me going. I couldn’t sleep…as if anyway. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I couldn’t do anything without thinking of my Kevin. OMG!!! Did I just write ‘MY KEVIN’???

So I began snooping around. I called the resort several times trying to find out under whose name the reservation was made. Of course they wouldn’t tell me anything. And trying the airlines is virtually hopeless unless you have a badge or something.

So I suffered as Drea teased me and taunted me with poetry and innuendo and promises of supreme pleasures that are only for those in love. It wasn’t until several days before Kate’s arrival that I got any hint that something was afoot. It was the tiniest, the faintest of giggles coming from Kate’s youngest that suddenly made the unthinkable thinkable.

The night before I was to meet Kate at the airport was one of the worse evenings I could remember since coming to Florida. Once again I was scrambling around my apartment trying to put an outfit together. Was I to dress for Kate? Or should I dress for Kevin. And how was I to pack a bag? I mean, if it was Kevin…I really wouldn’t need much in the way of clothing. Oh my God! Did I just write that?

Anyway…I have a lot of faith so…I packed and chose for Kevin. I figured that if Kate got off the plane, I could always take her to my place and pick up more or different clothing. It’s not like I even own a LBD or anything remotely revealing. That’s simply not me. But I do have some lovely things that drape rather than wrap and cling rather than cover.

I didn’t sleep much that night…as if…so I was at the airport early enough to have a bite to eat as I watched the seconds tick off the clock. The plane finally landed and I went to the gate. I almost peed in my panties when I saw that tall Irishman’s head poke up above those around him as he searched through the crowd for me.

When he got close enough, I darted through the security gate, and three very surprised guards, including one with a gun, to leap up into Kevin’s arms. He laughed as he carried me with one arm, held his bag with the other, and continued walking out. We kissed along the way. Okay…so I cried as well. I was simply sooo happy to see him.

I won’t bore you with the lurid details. We spent the day at the beach kind of catching up and renewing our bonds. That evening, after diner, Kevin and I went up to our room, which faced the sea. I went to the bath room for only a few moments. When I came out, Kevin was dead asleep on the bed, still fully clothed.

He slept on his back, like my Owen did. I got into my usual bedtime attire; a large tee shirt and panties. Sorry folks, no fancy bed wear…yet. I crawled up into the crotch of his arm, pulled the coverlet over me, and had my best night’s sleep in well over a year.

We certainly made up for that evening with the ones to follow. No lurid details. You can read “Painted Nails” if you wish that kind of thing. I will say that all the furniture got a work out by the time Kevin had to return. Also two of the Jacuzzis, several beach loungers, a cabana (several times), the sand, the ocean (also several times), and even the bed!

Kevin leaving for home was another heart attack. But I knew in my heart that we would be together soon enough. And I wasn’t merely thinking of next week! I love this man sooo much that if he asks…I’ll not say yes…I’ll say; “How about tomorrow?”

How does my tale end? Ask me in two weeks!

The End

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