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by Lisa Ulrich                                     
Seven years.  Seven years had passed since Peter had first been down this 
country road leading to the little town.  As he drove down the windy, bumpy 
road, it seemed like yesterday.  Today, however, he was blessed with forty 
shades of green, not gray. He smiled at the memory.  He was a different 
person then, living a different life.  Would he still be living that life 
now, he wondered, had Assumpta Fitzgerald not entered it?  He smiled to 
himself, recalling their first meeting, on this very road.  His feigned 
innocence and her suddenly antagonistic demeanor.  They were at odds from the 
start.  Or were they?  No, he thought, we were soulmates from the first.  
Such an act we put on, only for ourselves as it turned out.  He felt himself 
blush as he recalled the games they each had played and the times that the 
games almost went too far.  Each of them determined to stick to the script 
that society had laid out before them, yet editing all the while to suit 
their feelings.   Fooling no one in the end.  Not even themselves.  And so 
much wasted time.  

As the road dipped down to the village, the car approached the bridge.  Ah, 
my old friend, Peter thought.  The bridge looking down over the river which 
had held his thoughts over so many restless hours.  He drove over the bridge 
and tapped the brakes in front of Fitzgerald's.  He was glad that  Niamh had 
kept the name.   It was, in a way, a testament to how much Assumpta had meant 
to everyone in the town, although if she had been told that all of those 
years ago, she would have laughed it off.  Not one for being sentimental, 
that woman.  Or, more accurately, not one for admitting to it.

Parking the car in front of the post office, Peter looked across the street 
to Handley's.  Should he?  No, he didn't need to deal with that right now.  
He walked up the road toward St. Joseph's.  Still a beautiful church, he 
thought.  But, now, it was more a building to him than what it was when he 
had first seen it, when it was his whole life.
But, Peter had remained a Catholic, even after leaving the priesthood.  He 
had been lucky enough to have the strength to leave, before his whole life 
had passed him by and he was left alone to wonder, what if?    As a youth 
counselor in Manchester, he had found his true calling, he realized.  No 
longer just saying the words, he saw the results of his work.  He saw 
troubled teenagers turn their lives around and become productive members of 
the community.  And he didn't have to give up his own life in order to do 
God's work.  Peter gripped the iron gate surrounding the church and sighed.
Many are called, he thought.

Turning, he made his way back down to Fitzgerald's.  So many memories came 
flooding back to him as his walked the familiar path.  Not sure of how he 
would be greeted, he tentatively turned the knob and walked into the pub.  

Time had stopped.  There, sitting at one end of the bar, were Siobhan, 
Padraig and Brendan.   Deep in a discussion, or argument, they did not notice 
Peter when he walked in.  The place was almost filled to capacity and that 
allowed Peter time to take in the atmosphere of his old haunt before anyone 
noticed him.  Ambrose was behind the bar pouring drinks and pulling pints.  
Just then, the door to the kitchen was pushed open by a dark haired woman, 
coming through the entrance backwards, carrying a tray of sandwiches.  
Peter's heart skipped a beat.  He half expected to see Assumpta's face when 
she turned. But, time had indeed gone on.  It was  Niamh.  

 Niamh looked up and right into Peter's eyes.  Her face lit up and she nudged 
Ambrose, motioning to Peter.  The looks on their faces immediately put Peter 
at ease and he was again a part of this community, as if no time had passed 
at all.   Niamh came around the bar and threw her arms around Peter.  "Where's 
your wife?", she asked.   Before Peter could answer,  Ambrose came up and 
thrust out his hand, then suddenly gave in to the emotion of the moment and 
gave Peter a big hug.  Still deep in conversation, but  suddenly noticing 
that their pints were empty, the three at the other end of the bar looked up 
to see what the commotion was all about.  

In an instant, Peter was surrounded by old friends.  He felt silly and 
embarrassed by his previous apprehension about entering the pub.   Hands 
gripped his, arms encircled him.
He suddenly wondered why on earth he had left Ballykissangel.    Because 
sometimes you need a clean slate, he reminded himself.   Sometimes you need 
to put distance between yourself and your past, if you are to have a future.

The next morning Peter stood at the baptismal altar in St. Joseph's, gently 
cradling the baby's head.  The sun filtered through the stained glass 
windows, giving an irredecence to the water being poured over his first born. 
 He and his wife had felt that this was the right place for their child to be 
baptized.  This place that meant so much to both of them.   Peter looked up 
at Father Mac as he baptized his daughter,  who had already shown so much of 
her mother's spirited nature, and thought of the irony of it all.  Placing 
the baby in Assumpta's arms, he felt Father Mac's eyes on them.  Turning to 
his former superior, Peter smiled.  The smile that was returned was tinged 
with sadness, but not disapproval.  They understood each other now.  

Fitzgerald's was packed with old friends, there to celebrate the Christening, 
as well as the return of two much loved members of their community.  As he 
watched his wife,  Peter realized that none of their time in this town had 
been wasted.  It was all necessary to bring them  to where they were right at 
this moment.   And he felt total joy when he looked at Assumpta, holding 
their Ryanne.  They had named their daughter after the doctor who had saved 
her mother's life on that rainy evening, in this very pub, not so long ago.

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