Chapter 22 is the last excerpt I will be posting from “The One That Got Away”. I hope you have enjoyed your bite of it. More adventure is contained in the remainder of the story, but you will need to get your hands on the book to see what happens! Links to the previous chapters and the link to purchase the novel follow the excerpt.
It was a lovely warm and breezy morning. The kind that I used to love to get lost in. I only allowed myself a small sigh and a quick wistful thought about my desire to traipse off on another aimless jaunt around the harbor area. That was the past. In me younger years I used to think that I had so much work to do. It weren’t nothing compared to the responsibilities I held now. This morning, I was alone in the pub. I had just given the cook instructions on the day’s fare and had sent her off to the market. I placed a daunting pile of paperwork on one of the sturdy wooden tables and crossly pulled a chair out from under it to sit. I sat with a decidedly heavy thump. Figurin’ all of the money gave me a headache. It didn’t come natural to me, but I found that I could manage it if I gave myself to thinking real hard. I needed to get this figured before Jackson woke up and demanded my attention. I began sorting the papers but was interrupted by the heavy front door being flung wide open. I was shocked and surprised to see my brother Owen standing in the doorway with a grin as wide as a horse’s ass.
“Mo chroi!” He threw his arms high and to the sides to beckon me for a hug. If he smiled any bigger it would have split his face. His tawny hair was pointing in all directions just as I remembered it. A pair of hazel eyes on a face with a generous portion of freckles just like mine sparkled at me.
I jumped up and bounded over to my older brother like a foolish little girl. I squealed with delight as he squeezed me in an embrace that nearly cracked my bones. He planted a big wet kiss on my forehead and set me back to the floor.
“Aye, ye are a sight for sore eyes, Meggie! Looky how you’ve grown! Yer not a wee cailin anymore.” His expression sobered suddenly. “It pains me that I weren’t able to get back to lay Ma to rest. She was a fine woman.”
“Aye.” That was all I could answer. I found myself unusually tongue-tied.
“Well,” Owen continued, “I’ve made a decision to put me feet up here in me home town and lend a hand with the pub. I’ve been sailin’ many years too long and I’m starting to be feelin’ it in me knees. The letter that Da sent sounds like he ain’t been able to work much himself.”
I was instantly deeply offended. “Da told you I couldn’t manage it?”
Owen chuckled. “I see you are still a spitfire. Don’t take it that way, Meggie. Just be glad yer brother’s here to help. Ya got any meat-pie back there?” He craned his neck in the direction of the kitchen. “This big man is hungry.”
My feathers were not the least bit smoothed, but I decided to put off being furious for the time being. It was just too good to see Owen. “I’ll go see what we got,” I offered as he sat himself at the table I had been occupying. He gingerly picked at the paperwork scattered about pretending to show interest. I smacked at his hand playfully. “Don’t worry your pretty little head ‘bout those numbers,” I teased and headed back to the kitchen snickering. I could feel his smile at my back. Lands! It was good to see him.
The day passed very pleasantly. Da was beside himself with joy that his son had returned. Jackson adored him immediately and fell to following him everywhere. Owen seemed quite taken with his nephew as well. Danny and Owen hit it off at once, much to my annoyance. I could tell Owen noticed the resemblance between Jackson and Danny. A couple of times he began to ask me about it but my eyes burned his mouth shut. Many of our regular customers remembered Owen and there was quite the craic atmosphere in the Peppertree Pub that evening. I usually wasn’t one to imbibe while I was working, but this night demanded celebration. I had made my way through several shebeens of bier and was singing raucously with Owen and several of our fine gentlemen when the front door opened quietly to emit a beautiful woman with perfectly coiffed deep auburn hair. Our song ceased instantly. The men ogled at her and nudged each other, but I was trying desperately to remember who she was. She smiled slowly at me and was not the least bit taken aback by my tipsy and disheveled state.
“Meg.” Her eyes danced as she said my name. My cohorts at the table looked at me in amazement. I could tell that they were all itchin’ to know how I knew this lovely creature.
Suddenly, Owen sideswiped her in an affectionate embrace.
“Violet!” he shouted and lifted her in the air and spun her effortlessly before setting her delicately to the floor. Violet looked flushed, but happy.
“Owen! Impetuous as ever!”
Owen guffawed at this. “I have no idea what you just called me, but I sure am glad to see you. You have grown into a very pretty lady, Violet. Always knew you would.”
“Why, thank you, Owen. You are too kind.” Violet saw Da making his way through the crowd with difficulty. She walked in his direction and everyone in her path parted ways to let her pass.
“Mr. Larkin, how fare you?” Violet asked. She kissed his cheek and looked kindly into his worn face.
“Much better seeing the likes of you, Violet. How lovely you look. You and Owen on the same day! Saints be praised! It makes me heart faint.” Da patted her arm affectionately.
“Owen has just returned today?” she asked glancing over at him. Owen nodded vigorously. “Well, let’s not have your heart faint, Mr. Larkin. How is your wife?”
“Aye, she has passed on, mo chroi,” Da answered sadly.
“Mama has too,” Violet returned. “I am sure they are talking each other’s ears off in heaven. They were such wonderful friends.”
“Aye.” Da smiled though his eyes were shiny with tears that he never would shed.
By this time I had recovered my senses. I pushed my way through the throng to position myself by Da and Violet. I slapped both hands on my hips and cocked my head to complete my saucy pose.
“The Saints be praised! If it isn’t Violet Jessop!” I exclaimed dramatically. Without further ado my long lost friend and I hugged each other gleefully. Then we both began talking at once, asking each other questions.
“Lands!” Da muttered and rubbed his forehead with a gnarled hand. “You girls are just like your mothers!” Da shook his head, but he was smiling as he shuffled back to the bar. “Danny, get some of the best whiskey for our lovely guest.”
“Yes sir.” Danny went to the task immediately. I wanted to smack that charming look right off of his face.
Violet and I talked until the wee hours of the morning. The last time that I had seen her was when we were both around twelve years of age. Our mothers had been the best of friends growing up together in Dublin. Violet had been raised mostly in Argentina, but had moved to England with her mother after her father died. When Violet was a child, her mother would bring her to visit Belfast as often as she could manage. Sometimes we would meet in Dublin. Violet always had many adventures to share. She was one of those people that adventure followed. After her mother died she worked as a stewardess on luxury ships. She had so many interesting stories to tell. I was quite enamored with the whole idea. In the darkness right before dawn she told me of her upcoming plans. We were the only two people awake in the pub. All of the customers were long shooed away and Owen was face down on the bar snoring loudly. I am sure that Danny would have stuck around to flirt and chat with Violet if she had given him the time of day. She did not. It made my heart swell with satisfaction when she would continually rebuff his advances with cold and sarcastic quips. He finally got the message and left us be. Violet and I were munching on bread and cheese and green apple slices at the cleanest table available.
“I was hoping I would get to see you when I came to town. I mostly came to collect my cousin and her family. Do you remember Jane?” A childish face came to mind with dark hair and green eyes. I nodded. “Have you heard of the Titanic?” Violet waited for my reaction.
“Of course! Why, that thar huge ship was built right here in our harbor. That boat is quite amazing. Biggest one I ever saw.”
“Well,” Violet extended the word dramatically, “I will be sailing on her maiden voyage as a first class stewardess.”
“Yes.” Violet tucked a stray strand of hair into place and smiled smugly as she smoothed it. She looked amazing for having stayed up all night drinking whiskey with me. I did not even want to see the state I had worked myself into. I knew my eyes were wide and my mouth was hanging open like a cod fish.
“Violet! That’s wonderful!”
“Yes,” she said again. “I had to dress matronly to get the position. I’ve had trouble with that before. I have actually been turned away for a position as stewardess because I was too pretty.” Her laugh sounded like a silver bell and it danced among the rafters in the near empty room. “They said it causes problems to have pretty stewardesses. No lie.” She paused and leaned her face close to mine. “I was not going to let that stop me. I made myself look as homely as I possibly could, and I got it.” She sat back in her chair and popped a piece of Butterkase cheese in her mouth and chewed it quickly. “The Titanic will be making other stops on the way, but its’ final destination is New York City, America. You haven’t been there, have you, Meg? I intend to spend some time in New York.”
“Well,” I started slowly, “No, but Finn has moved to America. A place called Boston. I have been achin’ to go there and see what it’s all about. A while back Finn wrote to invite me. Didn’t see how it was possible, though,” I finished wistfully. An idea began to form in my head. I looked at Violet full in the face and I could see the same idea sprouting there. “But…now Owen is here.” I stopped and grimaced. “But I wouldn’t feel right about takin’ money for that.”
“I could probably get you a position as a second class stewardess,” Violet suggested breathlessly. “Last I heard they were still looking for second class. I have connections, you know,” she added proudly. “You wouldn’t have trouble with your looks like I did, either.”
I stared at her speechless for what seemed like an eternity while my mind raced over the possibilities. I almost couldn’t bear to think of it. It was so exciting! I could taste it. I didn’t even care that Violet had just called me homely in a backhanded way. Abruptly, my face fell.
“Jackson,” I said simply. “I cannot leave Jackson.”
“You don’t have to,” Violet continued undeterred. “My cousin and her family are going to be traveling third class on the Titanic to move to America. She has a bushel of children. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind to throw Jackson in there. You would just need to come up with the money for Jackson’s passage. I know you don’t want to take from the pub money, so pick up some tailoring jobs, Meg. That should cover it. Come on, Meggie…do this! I can’t see you stuck here all of your days. You need more. Owen can handle it. You come with me, cailin. Who knows? Maybe you’ll want to keep on being a stewardess. Imagine you and I sailing the world together! The world had better watch out for Violet and Meg!” She tittered mischievously.
She was speaking to my spirit and my heart in just the right way. I quavered inwardly and knew that I had to do this. I had to make this happen.
“You find me the job and check with Jane about Jackson and I’ll do it. Cheers, my friend.” We extended our smudged whiskey glasses and touched them lightly together. The small, cheery sound echoed in the large room and in my mind. Our eyes were locked in a familiar gaze that always meant adventure would soon follow.
Chapter 17 http://blogkelliannesweeneydeardiary.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/chapter-17-the-one-that-got-away/
Chapter 20 & 21 http://blog-kelliannesweeneydeardiary.com/2012/12/10/chapter-20-21-the-one-that-got-away/