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by Lisa Ulrich

Peter watched her walk away.  He smiled as he thought of the look that had 
lit up her face as he'd never seen it before.   He could still feel her small 
hands in his. He could hear the rush of water as the river roared behind him. 
 The river that was just as it was when he had arrived in the small town.  
Just as it had been for centuries.  But, at this moment, nothing was to Peter 
as it had been before.  He felt his past fall from beneath him.  And he let 
it fall.  Pushed it, in fact.   Odd, for a priest to feel "born again", but 
that was just how he felt.  At that moment.   

Then the moment passed.  As Assumpta faded into the distance, the feeling of 
dread inside of Peter grew.  He felt as if he had to have her within his 
sight. Where he could protect her?  Perhaps, but Assumpta had always been the 
stronger one.  Having been raised as a Catholic, he was accustomed to guilt.  
It was part of him.  But, this was not guilt.  He had no doubts about his 
decision, no question that this was right.   Why then, did he have this odd 
feeling that was gnawing away at his bliss? 

Bliss.  Had he ever felt true bliss before?  His first reaction to this was 
that, of course he had.  When he prayed, he felt a peace unlike anything 
else.  Peace, but not bliss.  This was new, he thought.  Grasping for a 
reason behind this feeling, he rationalized that this must be a part of being 
truly happy and that he should rejoice at finally being able to give up "the 
game".  As the old judge had so astutely observed (what seemed like so long 
ago), he never was very good at it.  

He wished that the judge was there right now.  There to talk to and to impart 
his wisdom.  Wisdom that came from experience and from knowing, not from 
seminary classes and theology.  He wished that he had a friend to sort 
through all of this with.  But, priests don't have that kind of friends.   
But, he thought, what am I now?  Officially a priest, yes.  But, in reality, 
he hadn't been a real priest since he had taken refuge from the rain in a 
blue van, in a different life.    

A life that had changed when the bus stopped on that road.  When he chose to 
When it started to rain.  As he walked he had felt that the decision to send 
him to Ballykissangel had been a wise one.  He believed, of course, that his 
involvement with Jenny had been innocent enough.  He made himself believe 
this.  Here, far away from her, he thought that he could continue to deny the 
truth, even to himself.  The truth that he did have feelings for her.  That 
he COULD have feelings for a woman.  Here, he would be "safe".  What could 
make him face reality in a tiny little town in Ireland?  Here, he could go 
about his duties, say Mass, hear confessions, say the words.  Here, he 
thought, I can focus.  I can make my mother proud.  I can be a priest.  Then, 
it started to rain.

Peter blinked as the raindrops hit his eyelashes.  Deep in thought, he hadn't 
heard the rumble of thunder.  Shaking off the dark thoughts running through 
his mind, he again felt the happiness that his decision had brought him.  He 
pushed aside any thoughts that clouded that happiness. He started to walk 
back to town.  It was nearing dark now and the rain was falling steadily.  He 
stopped on the bridge, where he had often stood deep in thought.  Pulling a 
coin from his pocket, he threw it into the river.  For luck, he told himself. 
  In a way, the bridge was taking him from one life to another. He turned and 
looked at Fitzgerald's there on the other side.   Had the paint always been 
that bright shade of blue?  Had the pansies in the flower boxes always been 
so beautiful?  Smiling to himself at the giddiness he felt, he stepped into 
the road to cross to Fitzgerald's.  It was time for the food fair.

It seemed to Peter that he had blinked and there he was, walking up the hill 
from the lake.  Assumpta's ashes had scattered from his hands over the lake, 
blown away gently by the spring breeze.  What had transpired over the past 
couple of days, he could barely recall with any clarity.  But, he at last had 
a home for that gnawing feeling of dread.  It was now at home in his soul.  
What had happened to that bliss, he thought.  Had it ever been real?  No.  
This was reality.  This empty, lonely feeling.  He had prepared for this his 
whole life, he realized now.   

As he reached the top of the hill, he was made aware, again, that while his 
grief was unique in a way, it was not alone.   He allowed himself to be 
comforted and to comfort in return, thankful that he did have friends like 
these, afterall.  

Over stories and wine, and chinese food, Assumpta's friends laughed and cried 
and remembered.  What would she think, indeed.  And where would they go when 
the day had ended?   Facing this together was one thing, but to go home and 
face it alone was quite another.  So, they stayed.  They stayed until dusk 
had fallen and the stars rose in the sky.   Peter watched his friends 
intently, trying to imprint their faces in his mind, knowing that these 
special people were becoming a part of his past even as he sat there with 

Peter looked at the town in which he had lived a lifetime in 3 years.  He 
looked at St. Joseph's.  It was still beautiful, it was he who had changed.  
His eyes moved down to Fitzgerald's and held, the tears welling up in his 
eyes.  Fionh's barking snapped him out of this gaze and back to reality.  He 
made himself turn his back to the little village and put every ounce of 
strength that he had into putting one foot in front of the other and walking 
away from that world. 

He didn't know where he was going until he arrived a few days later.   
Knocking on the familiar door, he was startled when a young child answered .  
Of course, he thought, this is Marie, Jenny's daughter.  So, that's how much 
time has passed, he realized.  When Jenny appeared from the next room, Peter 
could not hide the look of surprise on his face.  She was obviously pregnant. 
 Peter stammered that he could not stay, had just stopped by while in town to 
visit his mother.   Jenny would have none of it and insisted that he stay.  
Over the next couple of hours, they talked over tea.  Jenny told Peter about 
her husband of 1 1/2 years.  She told him that had it not been for Peter's 
caring about her enough to be honest with her, she could never have let go of 
her feelings for him and could never have allowed herself to love someone 
else.  She had Peter to thank, she insisted, for the tremendous happiness in 
her life now.  

Walking to his mother's house, Peter felt grateful for Jenny's happiness.  
That was one area of his past that he could now put to rest without the guilt 
that had been gnawing at him.  Speaking of guilt, here he was at his mother's 
door.  She would be so disappointed in him, he knew.    His mother had not 
expected to see Peter so soon after his last visit.   It seemed to Peter his 
mother was feeling particularly well, considering the condition she had been 
in when he had seen her last.    But, his memory of the events of the past 
few weeks were still hazy.  As a matter of fact, he still felt as though he 
were going through his days in a fog.  

His mother held his hand as Peter related the whole  story of his life in 
Ballykissangel and of his love for Assumpta and of what had happened in one 
terrifying instant.   Peter cried for Assumpta and for what he felt was his 
mother's disappointment in him for leaving the church.  His mother, however, 
was not disappointed in him.  She was proud of him, she said.  He had been a 
good priest, but, he could not deny his heart.  That she knew. She only 
wanted for him to be happy.  He did the right thing by allowing his feelings 
for Assumpta to take precedence, she said.  Your feelings for her are honest 
and true, she said and I know that she feels the same way.  I can see it when 
you're together.

Peter was listening to his mother and a wave of relief washed over him.  For 
months he had worried about how it would affect his mother if he left the 
church.  Now he knew.  He could not disappoint her, or God, if he was being 
true to himself and to his feelings.  As this realization struck him, he 
heard his mother's words, "I can see it when you're together."  But, his 
mother had never met Assumpta, had never been to Ballykissangel, had never 
seen them together.

Setting up the tables for the food fair, Assumpta had looked out the window 
just in time to see Peter step off of the curb.  Apparently deep in thought, 
or blinded by the rain, he had never seen the car that hit him.  

The red flashing lights of the ambulance outside of Fitzgerald's blended with 
the rain for an eerie light show.  Dr. Ryan put a coat around Assumpta's 
shoulders and insisted that she ride in the ambulance with Peter to the 
hospital.  Assumpta stepped up into the ambulance just as Peter was coming 
to.  He blinked at the bright light inside of the vehicle and blinked again 
when his eyes focused on Assumpta's.  He again felt her small hand in his and 
suddenly realized that the feeling of dread he had had earlier was, in fact, 
guilt.  He also realized that the feeling was now gone.  

Assumpta gripped Peter's hand and realized that, despite the minor scrapes 
and bruises, he had a look of true happiness in his eyes.  He started to 
speak and she leaned down to hear him.  "I love you", he said.  "Would you 
take that thing off when you say that", she said, smirking at his collar.  He 
reached up, took off the collar and handed it to Assumpta.  Before the driver 
closed the back door of the ambulance, she stepped out and threw it into the 

                            ********THE END********