I’ve been here for two weeks and I’ve felt so much better than I have the past few years. It’s odd how quickly I’ve been accepted into the fold, so to speak. Maybe the people are just friendlier here. Or maybe this is how people really are and I’m just jaded by growing up in a large city.
Right now, I’m sitting at the village pub at 7:00 in the morning, being served a monster-sized breakfast plate by the most beautiful waitress I’ve ever met. If I wait until lunchtime, Maggie — the waitress and also part owner of the pub — might sing while serving food. It’s fun, cozy, and so comforting.
I don’t know what made me choose this place. I don’t know why I’m staying. Hell, I don’t even know why I left. But, right now, for some inexplicable reason, I feel like I’m where I should be.
Just last night –
Raina looked up from her laptop, blinked, then smiled at the ancient gentleman hobbling toward her.
“Good morning, Mr. Callaghan! I see you’re ready for your tea.”
“That, I am, fair Raina.” Settling on the seat across from Raina, Callaghan smiled up as Maggie set down a huge half-filled mug of steaming tea in front of him. “Ah, thank you, Maggie love.”
Amused, Raina watched as Callaghan took out a flask from his pocket, opened it, and poured its contents into the mug. Raina knew full well what the flask contained; on her first morning, Callaghan offered her a sip of his tea and her eyes watered at swallowing a mouthful of whiskey along with it.
After finishing taking his first sip, Callaghan looked at Raina, his bright green eyes twinkling. “How was your first ceili, darling?”
“It was wonderful! I haven’t eaten or drank or danced so much ever!” Raina closed her laptop and reached for her coffee. Mornings talking with the old man never failed to perk her up. At eighty-three, Callaghan had a sharp mind, a happy disposition, and a harmless love for gossip. Raina thought he was perfect.
“Is that what you were writing about today?”
“Yes, of course. I feel like I’ve met everyone last night. And they all seem to already know who I was.” Raina chuckled. “It was the first time I talked about who knocked up who and who stole whose cows with people I just met.”
“Ah, well, those people like you.”
“And I like them too, which is surprising because I’m usually alone in Chicago.It’s amazing, really, how I feel much more at home here than I did in -” Raina paused, blushed at how easy the thought can come out. She felt guilty, and a bit disloyal, to her hometown and her family there.
In the two weeks she’s left, she has never once called Chicago her home. It’s a thought that she has been battling with, careful not to write down, believing that doing so would make it much more real, and knowing that if she lingered over it she might not want to come back.
“Now, don’t go feeling bad for saying the truth, girl.” Callaghan said kindly. “We all have our place in this world. Could be that yours is here.”
Sighing, Raina leaned back. “But I don’t even know what I’m doing with my life, Mr. Callaghan. I don’t know why I’m here or why I left. I don’t even know why I chose this place.”
“Could be you left because you’re not supposed to do there what you’re really meant to do.” Callaghan took a sip from his mug. “You did say you wanted to write a book.”
“Well, that’s more like a pipe dream.”
“Dream away. Dream with all your heart. Then do it. You young people need to stop thinking so much and just do. You may be young, but time is passing quickly. One day you’re thirty-two and in a snap you’re close to a hundred. What you do in between, and where you do it, is what matters.”
Callaghan lifted his mug and gestured at Raina. “The world needs more storytellers. How else is she to pass on the knowledge of the ages without someone telling it? Your feet and your heart took you here, and rightly so, I believe. Haven’t you been able to think more clearly, to write more, and to feel like you are yourself when you arrived here?”
Raina looked down at her plate. She agreed with everything Callaghan said. She just didn’t want to admit it.
“And as to why you chose this place,” Callaghan continued. “Maggie might have an answer to that.”
Maggie? Raina looked up at Maggie standing by their table, holding the coffeepot. With a smile, Maggie said, “maybe this place chose you.”
Smiling, Raina shook her head. “How can a place choose me?”
Maggie set down the coffeepot on the table and settled on the seat beside Callaghan. Leaning forward, she reached her hand out across the table. “Do you trust me, Raina?”
No, not really, Raina wanted to say. I’ve been here just two weeks, I don’t really know any of you. But as she looked at the mischievous green eyes of Maggie, at the kind smile of Callaghan, she realized that she did. She trusted this woman and her great-grandfather with all her heart.
Raina nodded, then lifted her hands to grasp both of Maggie’s hands.
Rolling green fields. A quaint cottage on top of a cliff. A garden full of colorful flowers. A woman and her lover strolling under the stars. A small child running among the flowers. Light shooting out of the woman’s fingertips as she stood skyclad under the blood moon. A boar that’s not quite a boar lurking at the edge of the forest, the light keeping it at bay. Then darkness and fear and despair as the boar struck the woman’s lover.
Raina shook her head, wanting to clear it, but Maggie gripped her hand tighter.
The woman running through the forest with a child in her arms, the boar inches away. A light through the trees. A beautiful girl with sparkling green eyes and wildly curling red hair standing at the edge of a clearing, shooting light out towards them. The relief as the boar was driven away. Then the woman’s tear-stained face as she stepped on a boat, clutching the child’s hand in hers.
Always the woman. The woman with Raina’s face.
Pulling away, Raina reached for her coffee, then gripped it with shaking hands. “What was that?”
“A memory,” Callaghan said. “A remembering of an unfortunate circumstance that drove you away.”
“Me?” Raina wondered. “How can that be?”
“You don’t really think we come to this world only once do you, girl?” Callaghan chuckled. “We all have a long past. Yours come from here.”
“What does that mean?” Raina asked, her head spinning. Half-disbelieving, half-hoping.
Maggie smiled, stood up, then lifted a hand to run along her wildly curling red hair. “Welcome home, cousin.”