Novice of Dáºn Garbhá¡in
Wilton, Connecticut, Spring, 2016...
“Eamon…would you come here?” Danny called from the den. The boy got up and walked slowly down the hall. A shudder went down his back as he remembered a key detail of his daily routine that had been neglected. His fear was borne out by the look on his step-father’s face as he walked into the room; noticing that Danny was standing by the desk and pointing at the open laptop on the desk.
“Would you be tellin’ me what this is?” He spoke with a soft, quiet tone; Daniel O’Phelan was what they used to call an ‘even-tempered’ man. The boy stepped closer and looked back and forth between Danny and the laptop.
“I….Kenny Tobin …he told me about his cousin, Da…” He stammered. Danny’s expression didn’t change as he spoke.
“Go on, lad.” The boy shook a bit and continued.
“He’s …Danny says that Billy is…” He paused and looked back at the laptop. The webpage displayed several small pictures of attractive teenage girls…at first glance.”
“I was just curious, Da… I wanted to see what he was talkin’ about, you know?” The boy’s lip quivered. It’s been said that the younger you are, the better off you are if you prove to be a poor liar; mastering that craft might be helpful for a time, but after a while it becomes a big problem. Eamon would never need worry about being ‘too good’ at lying. Danny shook his head; his silence demanded that Eamon reconsider what he had just said.
“I…I…” Eamon shook a little more noticeably, and Danny put his hand up, palm forward to halt the boy.
“I think ye best be gettin’ to yer room, aye? Yer Ma and I will be in shortly. I think we all need to have a talk.” Danny leaned close to the desk and closed the laptop, leaving the boy to wonder what his fate would be, since he knew that the talk wouldn’t end up well.
The boy sat on his bed holding his pillow tightly; a sad and barely comfortable replacement for the stuffed animals that had long abandoned his bedroom. With a no-nonsense stepfather, it was grab whatever he could when it came to managing being a boy; all other times there was the specter of having to be a man, even if he was only fourteen. He looked around at his room. The posters on the wall reflected an interest in soccer (football), but the older he got, the less appealing the sport had become. Playing on a team with little responsibility as a six-year-old back in Dungarvan had been one thing. Being the stepson of the coach of the number one traveling team in Fairfield county for U15 was something else entirely.
The minutes slipped by slowly and what seemed like days still had lapsed into almost an hour since the boy had gone to his room. He lay back on his bed and closed his eyes after his tears did nothing to dim the harsh glare on the light on the ceiling. A few moments later he had fallen asleep....
* * *
Dáºn Garbhá¡in, Ireland, 467 AD...
“Eimear,” a soft voice called out; waking the sleeping child. Raising up to an elbow, the child looked around and noticed that instead of a bed, the room, if you could call it a room, was dark and dusty; the only light slipping through some cracks in the crude wooden planks that covered the window.
“Yer Da is goin’ to be comin’ home soon; ye best get changed.” The words came from a woman who looked unfamiliar and yet felt like family. And the words were alien and yet completely understood.
“He’ll have listened to that old man …the priest who speaks in riddles, but you don’t want tempt the goddess; yer patroness will not be pleased if she finds out her servant has been found out, and both of us dead and buried before she even has time to draw her sword."
The child’s namesake was the valiant woman of legend who had possessed the gifts of womanhood; something the old woman hoped to see imparted to her only child.
“Yes, Ma,” the girl stood up and went to the back next to the hearth and looked around, still worried that someone might witness her.
“Now, don’t worry, child; you haven’t got anything there that I haven’t seen before.”
“Ma? Will she ever come? Will anyone ever come?” The girl looked down at her feet, which were shod in the most precious possession she owned; a pair of calfskin slippers that her grandmother had saved for her birth. She took them off and put them in a rough looking sack and placed the sack in a notch by the hearth; placing a broom in front of it so it would go unnoticed.
“I’m sorry, Eimear, child, but if’n yer Da finds out?” The woman sighed and shook her head before looking out the open door to the hovel.
“Quick, off with it…” She yelled and shut the door and threw the girl a rude looking tunic and suede trousers almost all in one motion. The girl pulled off the linen gown she was wearing and draped it over the bench and put on the other clothes. Magically, if only in dreams or perhaps a nightmare for the girl, Eimear was transformed into Eamon, the only son and child of Maire and Conor. He pulled on the oversize leather boots his father had handed down when he got some new deerskin boots from the tanner in town in exchange for four Red Bream he had caught.
“There’s my lad,” Maire said, almost as a taunt, but she frowned in sympathy when the boy wrinkled his face in shame.
“Never you mind, child. You’ll be standin' all nice in the grand halls and seein’ all the faerie royalty soon; Mav and her court will carry you off as a princess like no one’s ever seen. The boy put his head down; trying hard not to cry. He had lit candles and prayed hard to whomever would listen about how he felt, but nothing seemed to make a difference.
No matter what he wished, he was born as Eamon Og Longergain, and Eamon Og Longergain he would remain. He was about to ask a question when the door opened suddenly. Though he wore the right clothes, something in him still feared discovery by his father, and he turned as if by failing to see his father his father wmight fail to see him. He heard someone call his name…
* * *
“Eamon?” Instead of harsh abrupt foreign sounds, the words that followed were soft and patient and safely familiar….
“Honey, you’ve been in your room for so long; can I come in? Can we talk, honey?” The boy found himself lying on top of the covers of his own bed. His face was wet with tears and his arm had fallen asleep under his chest when he had turned over. He sat up with a bit of difficulty and faced the voice; his mother, Aileen Flynn O’Phelan.
“Ma?” The boy almost whispered in the darkened room; craning his neck while looking past his mother to see if she was alone.
“He’ll be along shortly.” Aileen looked over her shoulder into the empty hallway.
“Am…am I in trouble?” The boy put his head down and grew quiet when his mother made no sound. A moment later the two were joined by Danny, who stepped into the room and closed the door. No need to trouble Fiona, Eamon’s sister. Danny walked over and sat down on the bed next to the boy; a move which seemed almost foreign. Aileen pulled Eamon’s desk chair over and sat down in front of him. She smiled at her husband and nodded. The boy looked back and forth between the two and his look grew even more anxious. Danny nodded back at his wife and spoke.
“You will never help yerself by lyin’ lad, and I do not want ye to lie to me again, aye?” The boy looked up and nodded. He had managed not to cry; it wouldn’t do him any good, and with a coach for a father, it likely would have made things worse.
“I’m sorry, Da.” Eamon almost hated that word…’Da,’ since it was as if something in his heart was usurped by a pretender; a replacement for which he never had a say. The man stared at him for a moment; the silence was just as painful as if the man had yelled, though Eamon would have been sorely pressed to remember the last time he had heard his step-father yell.
“He knows you are, Eay…” Danny looked over at Aileen and shook his head no, but his expression seemed welcoming. She nodded and smiled at him, acknowledging his ‘request.’
“I think you need to apologize and do a bit of penance, aye?” What could the boy say? There was no argument; he had lied to Danny and that was that.
“You and yer’ Ma will decide what’s best, but that’s not why we’re here, son.” The word tore at the boy like claws; ripping another few centimeters more in the tear in his heart. The word wasn’t something he heard often after hearing it every day when he was little. Too much loss and too much resentment seemed to block whatever relationship he could have with his stepfather.
“Now, before we go any further, lad, you need to know that I’m not angry.” Eamon actually tried to feel relieved, but the look on Danny’s face seemed to reveal an indifference that would be worse than any punishment he could mete out. He put his head down in shame.
“Eamon…listen to yer Da.” The boy nodded reluctantly. There was no way he would ever accept this interloper even if his mother had been swept away by the man. No one would ever take the place of his Da; no one could ever fill the hole in the boy’s heart. Let his mother do what she wanted; it was her life, but he wasn’t going to. He lifted his head slowly and looked at his stepfather.
“I mean, it, Eay…I’m not angry. I’m disappointed.”
That was probably the worst word the boy could ever here. First, the man’s expectations were too much to accomplish, since they demanded that the boy be something he wasn’t. But it was the unspoken expectation that hurt the most. Never really knowing what the man truly wanted, and wondering if he had broken some kind of trust. Had he failed to please the man who had said nothing of what he wanted?
“Yer Ma n’ I have been talkin’, Danny said in a flat tone as he looked over at Aileen. She smiled and he went on.
“I think the time has come where we need to address this problem of yours!”
Danny looked away and sighed. The boy may not have been a product of his own line, but he had hoped to instill some sense of family…some way of retrieving what had been lost when the boy’s real father…that word, ‘real….’ Sean Flynn had been his best friend, and Danny had no desire to take the man’s place after his passing. But love came softly for him and Aileen, and he found himself going from a bachelor with no real family of his own to a husband and a father of two children.
“Yer Ma n’ I have made a decision.” He said it flatly with no emotion, causing the boy to get very emotional as fear gripped his heart. He stood up.
“No…please…no.” The boy began to cry; perhaps as hard and loud as ever other than the day his ‘real’ father died. He stood up and pulled away from the reaching arms of his mother and the insistent grasp of his stepfather. Running to the door, he shook his head as tears streamed down his face.
“No, Eamon…NO!” Aileen shouted, her own cry seeming to plea for understanding that could never come. The boy opened the door and turned back one last time. He looked right at Danny and practically growled,
“I hate you!” He opened the door and ran right into his sister Fiona who had been listening in the hallway. Their legs got tangled and he fell headlong into the frame of the closet door across from his bedroom. Lying on his back he looked up and saw two faces standing over him. They looked familiar and foreign at the same time. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell into a dream…. But not before hearing a voice call to him….
“Eamon? Let’s go.” A beckoning, but the words, he would recall with great difficulty later, were not the words that were spoken, but rather...
“Eimear? chugainn, m'ináon! (Eimear? Let’s go, my daughter.)
Next - The Diamond Glints on the Snow...
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