Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Love in Troubled Times - Ch. 3

 Hi readers, 

sorry, it took me a week to post the next chapter. I thought the last one was so long that I would give some time in between and also for the other author with her story. 

I actually have been doubtful if I want to keep posting. I just don't know...I'm kinda torn, really. 

In a way, this story took a lot of emotions from me over the past years, and yes, I'm actually probably processing some of my own personal things in it. My mom has vascular dementia, and it's been super difficult for me for a while. When I started writing the story, this part just kind of came into it. 

Anyways, I decided to post another chapter, and I'm sorry, but Ava is not in it yet. Instead, we get a bit more connections between Brendan and his mother and family. It also does have some Catholic religious content, just FYI.

Brendan meets Ava again in the next chapter. Please let me know if you enjoy the story; it means a lot to me. 

Hugs, Dani

Chapter 3

Sunday morning, it knocked on Brendan’s bedroom door. He had slept deeply, and it startled him when Liam walked in.

“Good morning, sleepyhead!” Liam chuckled, and Brendan blinked at him sleepily.

Brendan pulled the blanket up further to make a point about being awakened by Liam, mumbling, “Morning!”

Liam stood next to the bed. “It’s nine o’clock. Will you come on along to Mass?”

Brendan hadn’t been to Mass in several weeks, and though Liam didn’t hold it against him, he always asked anyway.

Liam added, “Father Michael’s been askin’ for you.”

Brendan peeked out from under the blanket. He felt bad he hadn’t been to Mass but hadn’t felt up to it often anymore. His faith sometimes seemed like it caused more problems than good things with everything that had happened. Father Michael of “St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception” parish had known the O’Shea family for a long time; the boys had received their sacraments of baptism, communion, and confirmation there. Rory and his two older sons were buried in the adjacent cemetery. Father Michael had visited Brendan in the hospital several times.

Born in Belfast, Father Michael had been in the parish since his early twenties. He had always lived in the city except when he was off at seminary. He had lived through violence and segregation alongside his parishioners and was always there for the families. In favor of his flock, he sometimes deviated from church rules and overlooked his congregation’s transgressions. From thousands of confessions, Father Michael knew things deemed political or terroristic activities about his parishioners. Still, in all his years as a priest, these things remained with Father Michael in the confessional, and he believed law enforcement would take care of them eventually if it were meant to be. He had attended court sessions and hearings, bailed people out of jail, visited hundreds of men in prison, read last rites, and held burials for many of his parishioners and their family members; many hadn’t died of natural causes. He knew everything about the war in the North of Ireland and what sorrow had befallen his beloved city of Belfast. Ultimately, he believed in forgiveness and God’s mercy on his followers. 

Brendan felt bad for not having been to Mass in a few weeks. 

Liam walked over to the window and looked out. “It’s a sunny day. It’ll surely be nice visiting Da, Niall, and Connor in the cemetery.”

Brendan pushed up on his elbows and looked over to the window where Liam was standing. Liam turned around and walked back over to the bed.

“If you don’t want to go, it’s fine. I’ll leave you be.”

Liam wouldn’t be angry with him, and he never made Brendan feel guilty about not going to Mass, but Liam mentioning the cemetery made Brendan reply sleepily, “I’ll go.”

Liam smiled at him. “Everyone’ll be so happy to see you; perhaps Ma’ll also notice.”

Brendan shrugged his shoulders. He felt the urge to pee, but since Liam was in his room, he could help him downstairs.

Liam stood next to the bed. “I’ll get your braces downstairs then. What clothes do you want to wear to church?”

Brendan yawned and replied, “Get me black pants and the dark green buttoned shirt.”

Liam found the items Brendan requested in the wardrobe. He showed the clothes to Brendan and yawning again, Brendan nodded.

Liam explained, “I’ll take them downstairs to the toilet and your braces as well.”

Brendan nodded, and Liam left with the items. Brendan sat up in his bed, holding himself there, still trying to wake up. He reluctantly peeled himself from his blanket, and with his hands, he pushed his legs over the edge of the bed, and his feet plopped to the floor. His legs trembled at the sudden movements.

It didn’t take long, and Liam came back into the room. “Alright, you’re ready to get downstairs?”

Brendan nodded and held himself there on the edge of his bed. Liam handed him his crutches and stood at the ready, ensuring Brendan had a sturdy stance as he pulled up. 

Liam watched Brendan nervously, indicating his worries about Brendan walking while only holding on to his crutches.

It was always difficult for Brendan to walk only with his crutches, but he did as good as possible. His legs didn’t support him effectively, and he was always in pain.

Brendan could manage a few steps if he was not in his braces and just holding on to his crutches. At the stairs, Liam would put his arm around Brendan, and Brendan put his arm around Liam, and the two brothers would carefully descend the narrow stairwell.

If Brendan was in his braces, Liam usually walked behind or in front, depending on whether they went up or down. Brendan usually held on to the rail and made it on his own. Liam always carried the crutches up or down, whichever was necessary. He gathered Brendan’s clothes; he brought the items downstairs or upstairs; Aisling or Fiona also helped get Brendan’s things where he needed them. It was a hassle, and everyone was frustrated with the inaccessibility of the house. Sometimes when Liam had a bad day, he mumbled things like how he would sooner than later look for a bungalow without stairs or at least with a bedroom and toilet downstairs for Brendan. Liam hated that his brother struggled with the upstairs bedroom and downstairs bathroom situation.  

Brendan usually didn’t say much or complain about these things. He was thankful he had his brother to help him but often wondered how he would ever live on his own somewhere. The thought of living with his brother and sister-in-law forever wasn’t very appealing. He wondered if he ever would have his own place, but it seemed such an unlikely event that he mostly didn’t think about the future.

As Brendan was out on the landing and stood on top of the stairs, he let go of his crutches and held on to the rail while Liam quickly transported the crutches downstairs. He then jogged up again, put his arm around Brendan, and Brendan put his arm around Liam, and the two brothers descended the stairs. They didn’t speak but only took heavy breaths and made it downstairs. There Liam handed Brendan his crutches. Brendan slid his arms through the crutches and shuffled into the hallway, which always seemed extra-long when he only used his crutches to walk. His legs hurt, and as Liam stayed behind him, he slowly dragged himself to the bathroom. Aisling was in the kitchen, calling out a good morning as Brendan passed by.

Brendan’s feet mostly dragged on the floor; his knees kept bending or locking; his hips were stiff. 

Liam encouraged Brendan, “Almost there!”

Inside, Brendan sat down on the chair next to the sink. He was breathing quickly, and Liam stood at the door.

“You made it!”

Brendan hated these situations, and it made him angry but also sad. It reminded him daily that his legs were damaged so badly that he couldn’t walk unassisted. 

Brendan thanked his brother, and Liam asked, “Are you alright then to get everything done there?”

“Aye.” Brendan’s braces, and church clothes, were already in the bathroom.

Liam offered, “Just give me a shout if you need anything else.”

Liam walked out and closed the door. Brendan leaned over the sink to brush his teeth and then showered.

Mass started at eleven; he had enough time to eat breakfast before.

After he was dressed in his good black pants and the nice green button-up shirt, he strapped his braces on while sitting on the chair in the bathroom. He buckled all the straps and ensured his pants weren’t too crumpled under the braces. It was frustrating to wear good pants with braces. And wearing the black work boots with good pants didn’t match, not that he thought any of his wearing braces looked appealing. Brendan preferred wearing jeans, which seemed the better option to wear under the braces.

Lethargically, he finished strapping on his braces and tying the laces on his boots. He grabbed the crutches, slid his arms into them, and pulled up. As much as he disliked the braces, they did enable him to stand and walk; he had no choice but to deal with it.

As he stood up, the braces locked in the straight position, and he looked at his reflection in the mirror again. His dark hair was still damp from the shower, and he realized it was getting long.   

He walked out to the kitchen, where Aisling had breakfast ready. “Top of the Pops” was playing on the radio, and the smell of food filled the kitchen.

Aisling turned around and greeted Brendan warmly and cheerfully.

“I’m so happy you’re goin’ to Mass with us, so I am.”

Brendan nodded and greeted his sister-in-law before taking a seat at the table. Liam poured fresh tea directly from the pot into the mugs on the table. Sausages, eggs, and bread were already on the plates. He then sat across from Brendan, and Aisling joined them at the table next to her husband. 

Liam was chatty and cheerful as he was most of the time. “I’m also happy you’re comin’ to Mass with us. It’ll be good. Father Michael’s been on fire the last few Masses, has he not?” Liam looked at Aisling for confirmation of his statement.  

Aisling nodded and replied enthusiastically, “Right, so he has.”

Brendan nodded and mumbled with food in his mouth, “Has he now?”

Liam chuckled, “Aye, it’s like the Holy Spirit’s swoopin’ right into him during the homily.”

Aisling laughed at Liam’s comment.

“Aisling and I are going to the park the afternoon and perhaps out for tea. Do you want to come along?”

Liam always asked Brendan to tag along when he and Aisling went out. Brendan never went with them. He knew his brother did it to be polite and not leave Brendan out. Brendan believed he had no business going out with his brother and Aisling.

He finished a bite and answered, “No, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

Aisling asked, “Are you sure of it, Brendan?”

“Aye, I’m sure of it.”

Liam added, “Alright, I’ll bring you home after Mass then. Is it okay?”

Brendan tried to sound confident, “Of course it’s okay.”

Liam often thought about finding a woman for Brendan; he had considered the eligible women in their circles, but Brendan had been reluctant to meet anyone. He argued that women wouldn’t be interested in him with how he was now. Liam always countered this and tried to convince his brother he was still a handsome man; he had a job and could provide for a woman. The reality was different. Women shied away from Brendan. Most families Brendan and Liam knew with eligible women didn’t come from much. Most families in their circles were poor and barely survived; lives were simple and difficult in West Belfast. No family had been spared by the death of a loved one, imprisonment, or criminal activity of a relative or someone they knew. Many were unemployed or trying to find work in a bleak job market. At the very least, any young woman would want a man able to provide for and support a family. Brendan was damaged psychologically and physically, and women stayed away from him. He had stopped thinking about ever having a wife and children. Along with his brokenness, the threat of his capturers still on the loose lingered over him. In his mind, he had settled with the knowledge he would remain unmarried and not be in a committed relationship with a woman.

The church parking lot was busy as the congregation arrived; most people arrived by foot from the surrounding area and others by car. Families filed out of their small cars; young men helped their elderly parents or grandparents get out of the cars or walk up the steps to the church door. Several children ran toward the church entrance where Father Michael stood, friendly and upbeat, greeting every member of his flock. A few words were exchanged; he asked how family members were doing and patted the children on the head, telling them he and especially Jesus was so happy to see them.

Fiona arrived with Maureen, and when she saw Liam and Brendan, she waved and called, “Hiya, lads!”

Liam waved, Brendan held on to his crutches, and Aisling walked over to her family and greeted them.

Liam and Brendan’s other two sisters-in-law arrived with their children. These were Niall and Connor’s widows, one with two daughters, ages seven and nine, and the other with an eleven-year-old boy and a seven-year-old daughter. The women and kids warmly and lovingly greeted Liam and Brendan. There was some catching up on the family news and everyone else they knew. Everyone was happy to see Brendan.

Liam and Brendan made their way to the church entrance. Brendan walked up the short ramp on the side while Liam took the ten steps. Brendan slowly walked behind a woman pushing an old man up in a rickety wheelchair.

Father Michael smiled and greeted him when he reached the door, “Brendan, son, it’s right good to see ya. What about ya?”

Liam stood next to Father Michael; he had already exchanged his greeting with the priest. Father Michael awkwardly hugged Brendan, throwing him off balance momentarily.

Brendan regained his balance and greeted him, “Father, it’s good to see you.”

The priest stepped back and looked Brendan up and down. “How’s the form?”

Brendan nodded and smiled. “Eh, you know yourself, not too bad.”

Father Michael chuckled and said, “So, did your brother promise you a few quid if you came to Mass the day?”

Embarrassed, Brendan smiled and shook his head.

Liam laughed and said, “I promised him ice cream, and that convinced him to come.”

They chuckled, and Father Michael leaned over and hushed, “In all fairness, the only way I could be bribed is with a few pints. That’s how my dearest da, may he forever rest in peace, got me to join the priesthood. Took me down to the pub and had me drunk, promising him that I’d become a priest.”

Father Michael laughed out loud at his little revelation; Liam and Brendan joined with chuckles.

Father Michael turned serious again, and looking directly at Brendan, he remarked, “I’m right happy to see you, Brendan. I hope you’ll enjoy being here the day.”

Brendan nodded. “I’m sure I will, Father. Liam said you’ve been on fire during the homily, so.”

Father Michael looked at Liam and smiled, “Ah, I’m happy to hear it. I’ve felt a wee bit lit lately, so I have.”

Father Michael laughed again the loudest. They finished their banter as more parishioners lined up behind them, ready to greet the priest.

Inside the church, Liam and Brendan scrambled into an empty pew. They saved seats for Fiona, Maureen, and Aisling. Brendan unlocked his braces before he sat down, so he could bend his legs and sit comfortably in the pew.

Soon, Fiona and Maureen joined them, wearing black lace [1]mantillas on their heads. 

Also, with a black lace mantilla over her hair, Aisling sat next to Liam. Fiona and Maureen sat next to Brendan.

Maureen smiled at Brendan, and he said, “Good morning, Ma; how are you?”

Maureen didn’t say anything but just smiled, nodded, and Brendan was surprised when she gently patted his leg. She then looked at her hand and pulled it away again but shyly glanced at Brendan from behind her hair and the mantilla.

Fiona leaned around Maureen and greeted Brendan cheerfully in a hushed voice, “Hiya, Brendan, what’s the craic? Your ma and I had a wonderful evening, watchin’ an old romantic fillem on the telly. That Cary Grant is a right handsome fella, so he is.”

Brendan smiled, and Fiona added, looking at her sister, “Did we not, Maureen? Had us a wonderful evening watchin’ the romance fillem on the telly, so we did. We had scones and even a wee glass of wine, didn’t we?”

Maureen smiled and nodded; it wasn’t clear if she understood what her sister was saying.

Brendan smiled and said, “Sounds like the perfect evening for you ladies.”

Fiona stated, “Old Seamus McMillan from the Springfield Road told me the morning as we left for Mass that you lads won the tourney last night at the Ballyhoo.”

Brendan nodded, and Fiona smiled, “Right, well, congratulations are in order then, are they not?”

Brendan nodded and thanked his aunt. His mother sat quietly between them, and before he turned his eyes to the front, he met her eyes again, and she smiled.

Brendan smiled at her and was happy she seemed in a good mood. The congregation settled in the pews, and voices were lowered to a hush and mumbling.

Everyone was ready for Mass to begin. At precisely eleven, the organ started playing, and everyone stood up. Brendan stayed seated; he never got up in church. It was too much trouble for him to get up. He was surprised when his mother didn’t get up either. Fiona turned around and looked down at Maureen, trying to get her to stand up, but Maureen didn’t. Instead, she looked at Brendan, and he was surprised when she reached over and took his hand in hers. They looked at each other, smiling, and Maureen squeezed his hand lovingly. She appeared to be lucid and nodded at Brendan in assurance. Brendan swallowed the lump in his throat and looked from their hands on his leg to his mother.  

Maureen remained seated next to Brendan, holding his calloused hand in her cold, fragile hand. Liam realized his mother wasn’t standing, and when he looked over, he saw her holding Brendan’s hand. Liam smiled warmly at Brendan, then turned his eyes to the front of the church where Father Michael stood behind the altar, hands in the air and welcoming everyone and blessing his congregation to begin Mass.

In unison, everyone muttered the lines of the Catholic Mass protocol, and soon everyone sat down again. Maureen kept holding Brendan’s hand; he wasn’t fully focused on Mass now. He was overwhelmed by this closeness and remembered how Maureen used to be. When she was still healthy, she always used to show affection and love for her sons. When they were young, she tickled them, played with them, and teased them. She sometimes even dared them for a sprint or a spitting competition in the back garden. The days when she sat at her sons’ beds at night, read or prayed with them, and was present in their lives seemed so long ago. Since then, much pain and sadness had befallen the O’Shea family.

Brendan felt a heaviness in his heart and didn’t hear Father Michael's words. Instead, he stared at his mother’s hand around his hand resting on his thigh, and thoughts ran through his mind about how everything had been for them.

He was distracted when Maureen recited a reply with the rest of the congregation to something Father Michael said. Everyone got up again, but Maureen remained seated and kept her hand around Brendan’s.

Everyone sat down again, and a parishioner read the first reading. After the reading, everyone responded, “Thanks be to God”.  Another parishioner went up to the podium and recited the second reading.

Again everyone mumbled, “Thanks be to God.”

Brendan bit his lips as his thoughts drifted to his family and how his mother was. He wasn’t focused on the liturgy. The pain he felt about everything made him take a deep breath, and he looked over at his mother again and was surprised when she turned her eyes to him.

Maureen leaned over and whispered into his ear, “I’m so proud of ya, Brendan. I love ya, son.”

He was stunned momentarily, swallowed, and said to his mother, “I love you, Ma.”

He didn’t know what she referred to by saying she was proud of him, but he didn’t care.

She squeezed his hand again, and smiling, she nodded to the front of the church to remind him to pay attention again.

Brendan’s vision had become blurry as tears had come up in his eyes. Maureen kept holding his hand; she didn’t let go through the Gospel and the Homily the entire time. Fiona and Liam glanced curiously at Brendan and Maureen a few times. When it was time for Communion, Maureen finally let go, and everyone got up. Liam looked over at Brendan and hushed toward him if he needed help. Brendan replied he wasn’t going to receive Communion.

Liam looked puzzled, but everyone started filing to the front of the church, where they received the Sacrament of Communion. Brendan didn’t go; he hadn’t been to Confession in months and didn’t think he deserved to receive the Body of Christ at this time. Too many sinful thoughts about revenge and hate had been occupying his mind.

Maureen glanced at him before she shuffled out of the pew and got in line in the center aisle to move forward and receive Communion from Father Michael.

Brendan watched everyone for a few moments and then lowered his eyes, thinking about his mother’s connection with him. It had touched him and stirred a longing for how things used to be for the O’Shea’s when everyone was mostly carefree, and life seemed good despite poverty. At least, that is how he remembered it from when he was a boy. He and Liam didn’t know what Rory was up to on some nights or weekends. Maureen had kept these things from her boys for as long as she could until Niall and Connor came of age and started going with their father.

The church was filled with the sounds of shuffling feet moving forward to the front, where Father Michael and two assistants distributed the Body and Blood of Christ to the congregation in the form of blessed bread and wine. Everyone returned to the pew and filed into their seats. Maureen sat next to Brendan again, but she didn’t meet his eyes this time because immediately, she knelt and folded her hands, praying and meditating with closed eyes and the mantilla covering her face.

Brendan glanced at his mother, amazed at how absorbed she was in her prayer. Next to her, Fiona was on her knees, doing the same thing, and Liam and Aisling also had their heads hidden in their folded hands. The organist played a song, and the congregation finally was seated again or knelt in their pews, waiting and praying. Meanwhile, Father Michael cleared the altar of all the sacred dishes and items he had used during Communion.

Finally, when Father Michael sat down, the congregation followed his lead, and everyone took a seat again.

Father Michael was seated for a few moments in silence before standing up and announcing, “Let us pray!”

Everyone scrambled to their feet, and the Mass was nearing the end. From a piece of paper, Father Michael read the church announcements about a parish breakfast, the schedule for bible study class, and the new extended hours for confession.

Maureen had sat down but hadn’t taken Brendan’s hand again. He listened to the announcements, and finally, everyone rose to their feet again. Father Michael finished blessing his congregation with the sign of the cross, telling them to go forward in peace and proclaim the gospel of the Lord.

Everyone replied with a sounding “Amen,” marked the sign of the cross over their bodies, and the organist started a lively hymn. The congregation sang the last song at the top of their lungs.

Brendan pulled his crutches over, slid his arms through, grabbed the handles tightly, and pulled up, simultaneously locking his braces with a quick jerk.

Everyone headed for the exit with much commotion, low chatter, and shuffling feet. Liam waited to file out of the pew until most people were out. Brendan scrambled out of the pew on his side and walked toward the exit, meeting with his family there. Everyone dipped their fingers into the holy water vessel at the door and made another sign of the cross over their bodies. Brendan was surprised when Maureen dipped her hand in the holy water again after she had crossed herself, turned to him, and signed the cross on him with her wet fingers. He couldn’t react quickly enough, but he also didn’t want to stop his mother from doing this. He recalled Maureen doing this when he was still a young boy. She smiled at him, turned around, and exited with everyone else.

Father Michael was outside the church, chatting and laughing with everyone exiting the church. The cemetery was adjacent to the church, and Liam walked up next to Brendan.

“D’you want to go to the grave?”

Brendan hadn’t visited his father’s and brother's graves in several weeks. He nodded, and Liam smiled.

“Aye, let’s go then.”

Fiona and Maureen were ahead of them, and Fiona turned around and shouted, “We’re goin’ to visit the family graves.”

Liam replied he and Brendan would come too. Aisling was standing with her family and told Liam she would meet with him shortly.

Brendan only slowly moved along; Liam kept pace with him.

As he shuffled along, keeping his eyes on the ground, Liam remarked, “I saw Ma holdin’ your hand in church.”

“Aye.” Brendan was breathing quicker; walking was always strenuous for him.

Liam was still amazed at this. “That’s lovely, isn’t it?”

Brendan’s heart had overflowed with his mother’s attention to him, and he answered, “It was. She said she was proud of me and that she loved me.”

Liam sounded naïve, “Sometimes I think she’ll get better again. Almost like to her old self, you know?”

Brendan didn’t reply to this. Though he had been thrilled that his mother had touched him and said his name, he didn’t think she would ever get better. She just happened to have a lucid moment in the church that day. He didn’t want to get used to the feeling because he feared it wouldn’t happen again anytime soon.

They strolled along the gravel path leading into the old cemetery. Some old headstones had collapsed or tumbled over, others had deteriorated over decades of exposure to the elements, and some had sunken into the ground, only the top half of the gravestone visible.

Rory, Niall, and Connor’s graves were not far from Fiona’s husband’s grave. Fiona and Maureen had their arms interlocked, and Fiona led Maureen to the O’Shea family plot, dropped her off, and then walked to her husband’s grave. Green grass surrounded the grey and weathered headstones.

Maureen stood at the headstone as her two sons walked up behind her. Brendan was out of breath and stood over on the side. Liam walked up next to his mother and gently put his arm around her to not startle her.

A rosebush was on the grave with three wilted roses. The names on the headstone were still legible, and next to the names were small black-and-white picture plaques of Rory and his sons; all three men were smiling.

The three living O’Shea’s stood quietly, looking at the grave. Brendan felt deep pain at having lost his brothers and father in this way, but the pain of seeing his mother without her husband and two older sons was even deeper. He often imagined how things would have turned out if Rory, Niall, and Connor were still here. Maureen possibly wouldn’t have had a stroke; her heart wouldn’t have been broken, and she would still sing in the kitchen while baking soda bread or making tea. On Saturday nights, Rory and Maureen would sit on the lumpy sofa in the sitting room, having tea and watching old movies. Niall and Connor would come over with their children and wives for tea and scones on Sundays after church. The kids would play in the street or the back garden. Liam would probably live with Aisling in their own small house and also come home for tea on Sundays, and Brendan would walk without leg braces and crutches and possibly be married. He wouldn’t be in constant pain all over his body and still have a young man's spirit and joyful heart.

Maureen stepped forward to the headstone, squatted down, and ran her hand over the picture plaques of her husband and sons. She held on to the headstone with one hand while tracing over their names with the other. She let one of the wilted roses lay in her hand and stared at it. Brendan held himself there, gripping the crutch handles tightly, his knuckles turning white and the crutches pushing into the soft ground.

Liam cleared the leaves from the trees off the grave and flicked them over to the side. He met Brendan’s eyes and got next to him.

“Are you alright there?”

Brendan didn’t look at him, he was focused on standing and watching his mother, but he answered, “Aye.”

Liam then said, “Thanks for comin’ along the day. I know you don’t care too much about it all. It means a lot that you came; perhaps Ma felt it too. That may be why she recognized you.”

Brendan didn’t say anything but merely nodded and swallowed the lump in his throat.

He shifted and turned around to walk toward the parking lot. “I’ll meet you at the car.”

“Aye, I’ll get Ma, and we’ll go over to Fiona. Here’s the key if you already want to get in the car.”

He handed Brendan the key to his car, and Brendan started toward the parking lot. He shuffled along the gravel path with graves on either side. Just as he reached the parking lot, Father Michael came along.

“Brendan, son.”

Brendan looked up. “Father!”

Father Michael smiled warmly. “I’m truly happy you came the day. I noticed you didn’t take holy Communion.”

Brendan said nothing about this, and Father Michael added, “Maybe at the next Mass?”

Brendan held himself there, not sure what to say.

Father Michael glanced at his legs, “How’s things with them wee legs?”

“Aye, it’s goin’ alright. I’d be better if I could walk like a normal person.”

The priest said compassionately, “You know, son…the Lord only puts on you what He knows you can endure, so. And He does forgive any transgressions, even the psychological ones. You’re a fierce, strong young lad, Brendan. Another lad wouldn’t be standin’ here if he had been through what you had endured. Son, I know you’ve got a lot of anger in your heart for the people who did this to you, how your da and brothers have died, and how your sweet soul of a mother has suffered. But I’m right certain you’re here for a reason and that there will be justice; if not in the earthly life, it’ll surely be served in the afterlife. Our good Lord sees you, Brendan, and He’ll never forsake you. I’m certain of it.”

Father Michael was right; Brendan had a lot of anger in his heart, but he wasn’t sure about God not having forsaken him. Brendan felt God had abandoned him in those hours when he was locked in a dark and damp hole, bound, tortured, and starved. Instead of turning to God as he faced death, he turned away because the physical and psychological pain had been excruciating. He didn’t want to enter heaven screaming and crying in unbearable pain. The only logical thought was that hell was the only place to go if death was to come for him in such agony.

As Brendan had lain in the dirt hole in an abandoned industrial lot outside the city, he had awaited death looking at the night sky and stars above while losing much blood from his broken and shattered legs. In those agonizing hours, Brendan was sure that God had forsaken him.  

Brendan’s thoughts had drifted off, and only when Father Michael touched his arm did he focus again.

“Brendan, lad, He loves you, and He’ll provide for you, so He will. I’m sure of it.”

Brendan didn’t reply and was glad when they were interrupted by Liam, Fiona, and Maureen.

He nodded but didn’t reply to Father Michael; instead, he walked to the car. He heard his family exchange a few more words with the priest before they came after him.

Fiona would take Maureen to her house again and bring her home later.

Brendan got into the car awkwardly and with difficulties, losing his balance momentarily. Aisling scrambled into the back seat, and Liam got behind the steering wheel.

Liam and Aisling changed clothes at the house, freshened up, and headed out again for their afternoon together. Maureen was with Fiona until the evening.

Brendan was glad to be at home alone so he could relax. He was tired from walking, and he was in pain. When Liam and Aisling were gone, he went outside and had a cigarette. The situation with his mother still occupied his mind, and he wondered what had triggered her closeness to him and telling him she loved him. He didn’t want to get used to the feeling, though, and pushed the thoughts out of his mind, finishing his cigarette before he went inside to watch the TV.

He fell asleep on the sofa and was awakened when Aisling and Liam entered, chattering and laughing.

They found Brendan stretched out on the sofa, and Aisling announced, “Brendan, we brought you tea from me mam’s.”

While Brendan woke up, Liam sat across from him in the armchair. “How’s your afternoon been?”

Brendan remained on the sofa and rubbed his hands over his face. “Lazy.”

Liam smiled. “Sure, well, a lazy Sunday afternoon is perfectly alright to have, so it is.”

Brendan mumbled, “Aye, what time is it?”

“Almost seven.”

Aisling came into the sitting room. “Brendan, the food’s still warm if you want to eat.”

Brendan was hungry and told Aisling he would eat now. No one was allowed to eat in the sitting room, so Aisling prepared Brendan’s plate in the kitchen.

He scrambled to his feet, still in his braces, and entered the kitchen. Aisling had put the kettle on, and it hissed with boiling water. She poured a mug for herself and Liam and then for Brendan. Liam had taken his shoes off in the hallway, put on his house slippers, and entered the kitchen. All three sat around the table. Aisling had also brought several pieces of the cake her mother had baked and sent with her. The cake was arranged on a decorative plate in the center of the table.

Brendan asked between bites, “How’s things with your family, Aisling?”

“Oh, they’re just grand altogether; everyone healthy and well.”

“That’s good to hear.”

Liam and Aisling talked about their afternoon and the news from Aisling’s family. They were interrupted when the front door was unlocked, and Fiona came in with Maureen.

“It’s just us,” Fiona called through the house.

Liam replied, “Aye, we’re in the kitchen.”

As the women entered the kitchen, cool air radiated from them.

Fiona rubbed her hands together. “It’s getting to be a wee bit cold outside, so it is.”

Maureen walked up to the back door, and though everyone greeted her, she didn’t reply.

She looked out into the back garden through the little window in the back door and said, “A wee bit cold.”

Fiona shuffled around Maureen and helped take her coat off. Aisling put the kettle on again to boil the water for more tea.

Fiona handed Maureen her slippers, and Maureen put them on before they sat down at the table. 

Maureen sat across from Brendan and Liam and looked at her sons. A smile brushed over her face as if she knew who they were, but she didn’t say anything.

Aisling poured two mugs of tea for Fiona and Maureen and offered them a piece of the cake still on the table; Fiona gladly took a piece with her tea.

Everyone, except Maureen, started chatting about the church service, their day, and the week ahead. Brendan glanced at his mother, searching for her eyes, but she didn’t look at him like she had in the morning at church.

They spent the evening together in the warm kitchen until Fiona got Maureen ready for bed and left for the night. Aisling cleaned up the kitchen, and Liam got his work clothes ready. Brendan was outside smoking a cigarette before going to bed. It had started raining and become cooler.

Liam helped him upstairs that night. Since sleep didn’t want to come to Brendan, he read in bed. The nap on the sofa had been enough rest to stay awake longer. With his work schedule, he was up late most nights anyway and was used to falling asleep late. He read three chapters in his book until, at two o’clock, he felt he could sleep.









[1] Veils worn by women during a Catholic Mass


  1. I love it, Dani! So glad to see you posting again, I love your stories. This does seem the careful work of someone who's passionate!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. It's definitely been something with this story because it blends many different things for me. The devotee part is different there, maybe a bit in the background, but I hope it's there enough for my readers to still get something out of it. So, thank you for reading. 💖

    2. Thank you so much for this comment. It's definitely been something with this story because it blends many different things for me. The devotee part is different there, maybe a bit in the background, but I hope it's there enough for my readers to still get something out of it. So, thank you for reading. 💖

    3. I'm sorry about the duplicate, I don't know how to delete the first comment under "anonymous"...

  2. Awesome story! I love it, waiting for more :D

    1. Thank you for reading! I'm glad a few people let me know that they like the story, it means a lot

  3. Hi Dani, thanks for this week's update, I love the chapters from Brendan's POV; Anxious for the next chapter.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I learned just recently that apparently this is close third POV because I'm mainly focused on Brendan from the narration. I don't like switching between POV's, so I usually focus on one character, it's usually the main male protagonist but I've done a first person from a dev POV before in another story. Anyways, thanks so much for reading