Perth Amboy, New Jersey…
Bridgette Mehan wanted to do right by her child. Nothing had kept them safe from harm whilst her husband was in their world. The best days they could remember were when Tommy Mehan yelled or worse in the morning before work. Those wonderful days ended with him passed out at the tavern and trundled up to bed at his mate’s apartment over the bar.
The worst days were filled with unspeakable shame. Those days came more frequently after Tommy lost his job. The pain only abated when he spent days on end out of town with his unsuspecting girlfriend. Bridgette prayed for the girl’s safety and that her eyes would be opened.
And then there was Conor. Even at sixteen he was withdrawn; what some would wrongly insist that Conor was afraid of his own shadow. Whether he was alone because nobody cared or because they cared too much according to how they viewed him made precious little difference.
And of course he never lived up to his father’s expectations, such as they were. Tommy often only expressed disappointment after Conor violated an unspoken rule or neglected a chore that was never assigned. And that was merely for starters.
The boy was slight of build, which was all too confusingly genetic to Tommy.
“Your grandfather would be ashamed,” he might remark about the boy’s mere existence. The one thing that Tommy would say repeatedly was that Conor was no man. Not just that he was young, but that the boy would ever be a man in the most general sense of the word.
“You’re just like your mother. I’m sorry you were ever born,” Tommy would practically spit out the words. Bridgette prayed every day for deliverance. Meav had to be listening, hadn’t she? Didn’t Mary and Joseph and Jesus hear her prayers? She wanted to believe, but it was so hard for them both.
But as it says somewhere, our prayers are carried on the wind and our tears are preserved like honey in a jar to be treasured. As many prayers as Bridgette had spoken, it was those precious tears that wafted their way through welcoming clouds and healing rain.
Two women stood upon a cliff of fancy and dream, gazing down on Bridgette O’Brien Mehan. While both looked regal, this day they wore neither crown nor robe. The Ginger-haired woman wore a bright green gown with slippers of greenish gold. And she wore a smile.
The other woman’s hair was of a much darker red. She wore a green gown and slippers that looked almost black even in the bright sunlight. She wore a smile that was beginning to turn downward, but not out of anger. She spoke,
“All will be as it should. You know he must do this. It is not for his sake alone.”
The two looked down on the home from above. What would come to pass was just what it was. The help would be both painful and healing. And the devastation would cause no delight.
The first woman was the Queen of the Faeries, after all. She wished to believe and hope for all souls, and any one, no matter how they lived in life, would cause heartbreak if her sister welcomed that soul instead of her.
And her sister was the ruler of a terribly dark realm. Even so, she wept at the welcoming. She took no joy as her task was reluctant. She sighed as she looked down on the family. Peace would come at a cost for them all, but each one had already determined their fate… Meav and her sister Aeval would merely be the instruments of encouragement. At least that was what Aeval feared.
Sunday afternoon, Route 9…
The traffic was moderate, but Tommy paid no heed to the driving rain. Conor spoke from the back seat.
“Dad? Slow down?”
Most times the mere idea of questioning his father would bring a slap to the face. He winced in anticipation but Tommy just cursed under his breath. After all, they were on their way to church for Bridgette’s best friend's daughter's christening. Time enough to repay a slight or disrespect at any time.
“Tommy? Be careful, you’re going too fast!”
Bridgette would have added please but for the tipping-point of impatience urged unwillingly only a moment before. Any time had arrived all too quickly as he slapped her with the back of his hand. Conor grabbed Tommy’s shoulder to pull him away, distracting him just long enough that no one saw through the heavy curtain of raindrops to the stalled cable installation van in their lane…
“You’re going to be okay, Marta,” the girl’s mother called from the front door. A moment later a short plain looking girl stood at the doorway. In a world where too many judge by appearances the girl was already condemned to outcast status at best. More likely that she would be ignored; a rude metaphorical shove aside in the hallway of life.
She was pretty had anyone a mind to see past blemishes and tired clothing. And she loved to sing. Sundays brought hope and fear. Singing in a choir at a church most teens would avoid always gave way to Sunday night’s dread for Monday morning and school.
The drive to church took a circuitous route made all the more difficult by the driving rain. Inga missed the turn, and drove around a sharp bend only to get cut off by a pickup, leaving her Sentra no time to avoid the pile-up of cars that spread across the road…
And above it all, almost like the top of a mountain cloud Meav stood, hand in hand with the one many would dread but that Meav knew none need fear.
“It is done for us both on this day. She rests peacefully. All safe and welcome as it should have been on earth. The other?”
Meav did not care even to mention the man’s name. Aeval lowered her face. No one knew how much she wept over the wasted lives. And no one knew of the heart filled with joy she had for the ones who would never know her or her kingdom. But her Creator knew…and Meav knew.
“You see this one? The sadness? The shame? The confusion and hurt wrought by the father? The Creator loves this one more than we can ever know. And she has a heart akin to yours. That no one be shamed or hurt.”
Aeval put her hand to her mouth. One might easily miss the irony, as every day brought loud wails and laments. An almost whimper escaped her lips.
“That I might help this one?” She began to weep; worried that the Creator might change her mind. Meav touched her cheek and kissed her hands.
“You see this one in a way no other has but for the Creator. It is to you She leaves this one’s rescue.”
Meav used her hand in a broad gesture. The clouds rolled back to reveal a brightly lit place filled with men and women dressed in white with serious eyes and faces covered in masks. The loud, harsh sound of a steady beep filled the room. Meav put her hand on Aeval’s elbow, ushering her closer...
“He’s stable, Dr. Sharma,” the woman to his right spoke with a soft if relieved tone. He nodded.
“Let’s get him closed. God knows what else awaits this kid,” Dr. Martinelli said at last. No one in the waiting room to welcome the boy from surgery. No one to help. All alone…. They thought.
At the Surgical Ward Nurses Station, about sixteen minutes later.
“Excuse me,” the woman said as she waved to the doctor just walking to the station. Her voice was almost soothing, which was a blessing after the organized chaos of the operating theaters. Three operations leading to only one success.
“Yes?” Connie wiped her brow with the surgical cap in her left hand.
“I was wondering if this is the right place? My nephew Conor? He was brought in this afternoon? My sister? My brother-in-law? I was told they didn’t make it.”
Aeval fibbed. Bridgette sadly lost her sister years ago, but the folks here didn’t really need to know that. And as far as anyone knew, Tommy had no relatives, living or otherwise. But the sadness to Aeval was all too real and her eyes still filled with tears
Connie had glanced at the papers on the clipboard only minutes before the surgery began and she could have sworn the boy had no kin. But there it was in black ink –
Next of Kin: Aeval O’Brien, Aunt.
“I am so sorry for your loss,” Ms. O’Brien.” Connie stepped closer.
“I’m Dr. Martinelli. I assisted with your nephew. He’s a fighter. It’s good that you’re here now, since we had worried there was no one for the boy.”
Aeval nodded. If it came to it, she would have moved heaven and earth to make sure the boy was not alone. At one time, likely centuries ago, she would have not cared, but only because she learned over time that what she did was not a punishment had she learned to truly value the living.
Still, her task was centuries old. The keening, in the Creator’s reasoning, was what the souls themselves sadly embraced. Her servants, seen by many as almost demon-like, were instead harbingers from the thin places. The wailing understood to be angry cries were loud laments hoped for as warnings. The Bean sidhe’? Banshees as they are known, took no pleasure in their task.
“I came here as soon as I heard,” Aeval said, fibbing again. She and Meav had begun to move before anyone knew. Even as she spoke in the temporal plain of the hospital, another scene played out elsewhere.
Meav wiped away the sad tears that Bridgette shed upon learning she had passed on. Not that she wouldn’t lament Tommy’s fate, but that here she would swiftly grow incapable of sorrow, for in the presence of the Queen of Fairies, the bliss of new creation was all that Bridgette could see. The only concern she had was for Conor.
“My child?” She pleaded with Meav. Two delicate faeries emerged from a mist to their right. Eolande, Queen of the Violets and Shaylee of the Harvest embraced Bridgette, kissing her on both cheeks.
“Your child will be alright. Your child will be safe, and loved, just as you would have there and will now here love….your daughter.” Meav held Bridgette’s hand as Eolande spoke. Shaylee rubbed Bridgette’s arm softly like a mother encouraging her daughter. Sweet if ironic.
“Yes, dear one. The Creator knows because in the wisdom that no mortal can see, Conor is as you have always known. And there will be one to see that she grows and becomes all that she was meant to be….
Later, at the Surgical Ward recovery area…
Two gurneys stood almost touching in the hallway. The light was thankfully dim, which came as a barely helpful aid to the two figures just awakening in an oddly serendipitous moment.
“Ow,” Marta cried. Her cheek was swollen and dark. Thankfully the meds that staunched the pain in her face also would suppress the eventual emerging pain from her rescued spleen.
“Meee too…” Conor spoke through an anesthetic induced slur. A collapsed lung repaired would provide no solace later, but helped in the here and now to further the Creator’s plan. For he was both protected and would receive much more benefit from his pain-relieved haze than anyone could imagine but for two very invested women.
“I…I’m M…Marta. What’s your….” The girl next to Conor spoke.
“N…Name?” Conor paused. Between the medication and the machinations from above, he said his name, but it didn’t come out quite like he intended.
“My… I’m Kohh…”
“Corie? Oh…. My best friend….” Truth be sadly told, Corie had been Marta’s only friend. Marta began to cry as she stammered through the remaining words…
“Corie died last year…” Her subdued state kept her from sobbing, which was helpful. But whether it was the girl’s obvious sadness or Conor’s confusion or a mixture of both, the boy simply said,
“I….I’m sorry.” He began to cry; an omen of words and sorrow yet unspoken but the beginning of healing for both. Marta extended her free hand, reaching out to the one soul in the entire world designed to heal the heart of an unlovely girl. He grasped her hand as she called out,
He shook his head slightly with still enough motion to be very uncomfortable. Was he distracted? Or was he focused? It would never come to matter to him and it mattered not to Marta when he spoke softly, gently squeezing her hand.
“It’s okay….Shhhh. It’s okay…. Corie’s here….”
A tall blond haired woman approached the nurse’s station. She was pretty in a disheveled way, owing to the bandage over her left eye and the sling supporting her right arm. She walked up and stood next to Aeval.
“Excuse me? I’m Inga Olsen. I was just discharged from the ER. They said Marta’s surgery went okay?”
Even as she expressed relief the gravity of the moment caught up and passed her adrenaline high and she burst into tears. As unaccustomed to the emotion of the moment as she was, Aeval nevertheless seemed to draw on previously untapped wisdom and cradled the sobbing woman in her arms.
“Shhh…beidh sé ceart go leor” Aeval grabbed some facial tissue from the desk and did something she had envied Meav for years. She wiped away Inga’s tears. Aeval just knew it would be alright. After a few moments, Inga collected herself. Connie waved to get her attention.
“She’s being moved down to ICU. Everything went well. Dr. Nordmann is in another surgery but the attending can fill you in.” She smiled weakly, glad that her own day was nearly done.
“My niece is going down to ICU,” Aeval said to Inga, evoking a sideways glint from Connie.
“Isn’t that right, Dr. Martinelli?” Aeval smiled. Connie nodded absentmindedly for a moment before glancing at the clipboard she still held.
Next of Kin: Aeval O’Brien, aunt.
Her gaze scanned the form until she noticed something new if somewhat oddly comforting.
Name of Patient: Mehan, Corinne,
along with all the personal information you might find for a sixteen year old girl. That is until she noticed a handwritten note in red ink under Remarks.
Patient identifies as female according to personal ID information.
How Connie missed that was completely beyond her. She nodded once again and fished through her pockets for a pen. She initialed the note, CM along with her own note to contact the girl’s GP tomorrow.
“I’ve got to get going, but I’ll be here tomorrow to talk with you,” she said to them both.
“ICU is one floor down, left out of the elevator and through the double doors. They’re both probably mostly still under it, but you can stop by, of course. Good evening,” Connie finished. Ever one for her own music, she found herself singing The Last Rose of Summer. She might be married to Vinnie Martinelli, but she still was an O’Hara through and through.
“I know you shouldn’t even try to talk, so just listen?” Marta spoke in that voice that tries without success to whisper.
“I know you’re not Corie,” she said with only a wee bit of a sob. If Conor didn’t have the tube down his nose he might have spoken. Even at that, he was strangely sad. Why couldn’t he be a Corie or a Meav or a Bridey? He misunderstood her but she sort of cleared things up.
“My Corie…her family never understood her. I think if she hadn’t got sick she might have come out,” Marta said with a gasp.
“Ohuhh,” Conor tried to speak through the breathing set-up unsuccessfully. The biggest heartache in his life seemed to loom large until he was jolted into an even harsher reality by the last memory he had before he awoke in recovery…
He looked out of the side of the Laredo. Both driver’s side doors were gone, along with the front end. Bridgette was reaching back and Conor struggled to speak, but the pain and pressure in his chest were too overwhelming. His mother looked about as peaceful as he remembered. She smiled through tears as she spoke the last time this side of heaven.
“I love you, my sweet princess.” With that she gave out her last breath. He recalled through an oxygen fueled haze that two young women gently bore her away and he could have sworn they had wings…
A few days later…
I brought you a new outfit, sweetie,” Inga said to Marta. Never one for clothes shopping, Marta was surprised that the colors were remarkably and uncharacteristically vivid. She looked over to her roommate.
“Your aunt coming to pick you up?” The bashful teen looked away. The confusion seemed to be lifting as old memories still remained, but almost enhanced. Not only was there an aunt, but a favorite if only aunt at that. The hurt remained over the child’s loss of mother and the grief over what the father never became. But even so soon, the heartache was surely if still slowly being healed by the wonder of an entirely new if always hoped for life.
“Mom says you’re doing okay,” Marta said. She glanced at her mother who faked a glare.
“You know I can’t say a word,” Inga said as she walked over to her newest patient.
“I talked with the school, and your aunt will be able to enroll you in September. You and Marta will be sharing classes, I expect.” Inga….Dr. Inga Olsen, MD, FACE, rubbed her patient’s arm. Corie O’Brien smiled at her best friend’s mother,
“I suppose things are okay?” Aeval spoke from the doorway. She held up a Marshall’s bag and sighed.
“Green was always your Ma’s favorite color, yes?”
Corie burst into tears over what would be the smallest bit of bitter in the happiest day of her life. Aeval put her hand to her face, likely brushing away the first of happy tears in her century’s old existence.
“Now, now, mo chroi. New day and new life.” Aeval laughed softly. It was new for all of them. Marta finally was able to see herself as more than pretty. Having a friend who is caring no matter what sure is fated to bring out the beauty in a girl, yes?
And Inga discovered that being a single parent might not be forever, since even daughters grow older and become friends. Or even that parents sometimes are no longer single.
Aeval learned that her new life was not a reward for her service, as daunting as it had always been. But her life, such as it is, was becoming a reward to others. The heart filled with loving lament finally free to love face to face and heart to heart. She walked over to Inga and smiled as coy a grin as she had ever made.
“I was wondering, Doctor? The girls here won’t be discharged until tomorrow. Do you suppose you’d go for dinner tonight? Nothing special except for some fine vintage wine and maybe some home-made Shepherd’s Pie?” Nothing remarkable but for the fact that the recipe for dinner came from a grandmother who passed it along to Eolande in the eighteenth century. Or that the wine was a pleasantly preserved Chablis bottled in 1867?
“Hmmm,” Inga said. She had no idea with whom she was speaking, much less with whom she was beginning to fall in love. But there’s magic and then there’s magic. She surprised everyone but especially herself as she pulled Aeval close for the first of many enchanted kisses.
“I go for it!”
And Corie O’Brien raised her visage skyward. She missed her mother something fierce, but even as her thoughts soared aloft, she knew that Bridgette O’Brien was at peace; safe in the bliss of Meav’s kingdom and safe in the knowledge that her child…her daughter would be all right.
The Last Rose of Summer
Music Traditional Irish Tune
The Groves of Blarney
From the poem byThomas Moore
As performed by Méav Ní Mhaolchatha'
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