Copyright© 2011 by A.A. Nemo
December 7-8, 2011
Teresa Flaherty was sorry to part company with David Parkes. He was a handsome and personable man and from all indications a wealthy one. She was also sorry to have taken advantage of him as far as the rent for Mary's Cottage went, charging him at least twice what it was worth during low season - she'd take that up with Father Seamus at confession next time, but the money now clutched tightly in her hand was an answer to her prayers.
A months' rent plus damage deposit would have been a great help but six months plus deposit was a gift from heaven. This very morning she had been on the verge of having to close the real estate business that she owned with her sister Fiona, but now she could pay the back rent on the office plus she had enough money to keep the business open and food on the table, and pay her daughter's school expenses until the tourists returned in the spring.
She hurried into Michael Connelly's small printing shop. He was her landlord, a kindly seventy year old who she had known all her life. He was surprised to see her and especially to see her smile. Those smiles had been few the last few months. He knew her business like most of the real estate offices in town and across Ireland had struggled since the economy went into the tank in late 2008.
"Mr. Connelly I've come to pay the back rent!"
"Are you sure Teresa?" He was aware of her situation, being a widow and all with a young daughter and had not pressed the issue of rent.
He was astounded as she pulled fifteen hundred Euros from a stack of notes in her hand and put them on his old ink-stained desk.
"Hadn't heard you'd won the sweepstakes Teresa!" he laughed.
"No, but I did rent Mary's Cottage for six months ... and he paid the entire amount in advance!" she said excitedly.
"Well congratulations. A foreigner I take it?" He knew few Irish who would put up six months' rent when two would suffice.
"A Canadian actually. Got to run, make a few stops and then get Siofra at school."
She left in a swirl of good humor and delicious smelling perfume, which left Connelly wishing he was thirty years younger. He smiled as he put the bills away, thinking about how much merrier Christmas would be this year for his family with this unexpected gift from heaven.
Teresa retraced her steps of the morning and returned to Summercove to pick up her daughter at school. She made stops along the way at the gas and electric to square her bills and then to the bank to make a deposit. By the time she reached the school David Parkes was already known around town as that "rich Canadian who had rented Mary's Cottage", mostly because of Mr. Michael Connelly's inability to keep from passing gossip.
Later that evening, Teresa sat on the corner of her sofa sipping herbal tea and watching the bright fire that warmed her living room. It was about eight and Siofra was tucked in bed and she was settled in, legs covered by a throw her mother had made. Next to her was the black kitten Aisling, who had wandered in one morning at the beginning of fall and had stayed. She was a loving cat and a ferocious mouser.
The rain had started in earnest and she hoped David, and that was how she thought of him, was spending a comfortable evening. She knew he was home. She had seen him arrive in a taxi about half past six. In the faint light from the doorway he and the driver unloaded a number of parcels from the boot. She had briefly thought about inviting him for dinner but about that time she saw him head down the track, most likely for a meal at Bulmans. She was somewhat relieved since she had had no time to shop and there was little suitable in the house. Of course now that she had money again she would stock up and perhaps she and Siofra would have a meal out once in a while and they wouldn't have porridge each morning and soup and bread each evening. Never mind the fact that Siofra never complained. She was a lovely child and Teresa felt blessed to have her.
She frowned at thoughts of her late husband Sean, now gone just four years. Mostly he was a loving man who doted on his daughter but he was terrible when he drank, and drank he did. Early in their marriage he had limited his drinking and almost stopped altogether when she was pregnant with Siofra, but it seemed shortly thereafter he changed and his drinking increased. She blamed it in part to his brother Colin. They owned a fishing boat together and Colin had never married. He tended to be selfish and immature but he was the older brother. Then one night Sean came home in a terrible temper and that was the first time he hit Teresa. If her parents had been alive she might have left him on the spot. Of course like most abusers he felt terrible remorse and tried to make it up to her. And just when she thought it wouldn't happen again Sean would go out drinking with his brother and come home and call her degrading names and want to have sex, and when she resisted his drunken attempts he would hit her.
Four years ago Colin and Sean took the boat out knowing the fish were running but also that there was the potential for a serious storm. Sean never came back. Siofra was only two and hardly missed her farther and Teresa felt such a sense of relief at Sean's death she went to the rectory and had a long discussion with Father Shamus. Of course as the parish priest Father Shamus knew about their marital troubles so he was not surprised by her feelings. He was also a wise man who let Teresa work out her grief and mixed feelings.
With the little insurance money she and her sister set up a real estate office. It was a time in late 2007 that houses were selling briskly and prices just continued to go higher in the overheated real estate market in coastal Ireland. Fiona and Teresa were smart enough to put some money away for possible lean times. But those times came too soon. Fortunately their rental properties sideline became their lifeline. Occasionally houses still sold but those commissions were few and far between.
Now Teresa again had money in the bank and her bills were up to date. She had inherited the house and Mary's cottage from her parents. The cottage was named after her grandmother who lived there as a widow for forty years.
The only cloud on her horizon was Colin. He was a great brute of a man who seemed to have decided that Teresa had married the wrong brother. Actually Teresa had rebuffed his advances before her marriage to Sean. Certainly it seemed that Colin was the cause of many of the problems in her marriage. After Sean was lost Colin somehow got the impression that Teresa would welcome him in Sean's place. There could be nothing farther from the truth. She tried not to hate Colin but his smirking face and unwelcome overtures and his drinking angered and frightened her. He let it be known around the town that she was his woman and Teresa suspected that he had "discouraged" more than one prospective suitor. It wasn't that Teresa wanted to remarry but that was her choice not Colin's.
Her gaze shifted to the side window where she could just see Mary's cottage and noticed the lights in the windows. She did smile at the thought of the man there. What kind of man was David Parkes? He did not wear a wedding ring but at her mention of "Mrs. Parkes" at the office earlier she could not miss the fleeting look of deep hurt. He seemed so nice and very intelligent, except perhaps for how he let her take advantage of him on the rent. Her conscience struggled with that, but the warm feeling of security for the first time in months banished those thoughts.
The next morning as she got Siofra ready for school she happened to glance out the window and see David leave the cottage and set off for a run. She shivered for him as she noticed his attire – he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and wool cap and running shorts and trainers but his legs were bare. She had met any number of Canadians and knew they were a hardy breed, but nonetheless it was not the attire she would choose for her morning run. The rain had let up and it promised to be a dry day – rare enough for Ireland in the winter. At least he wouldn't be running in the rain.
At about half past nine Teresa got an unexpected surprise. She had just gotten herself situated and the office opened when David Parkes walked in. This time he was dressed more for the weather in an open canvas coat with leather collar, a cable knit fisherman's sweater and heavy cotton cargo pants and sturdy leather boots. He looked much more rested than he had the day before, but there was still a guarded look on his face. She had seen that look yesterday off and on, but had put it down to jet lag and being a stranger in an unknown place.
Teresa was happy she'd taken extra care with her appearance this morning, wearing a dark fitted skirt, a cream turtleneck sweater and black high heel boots. She smiled at him and suddenly his face brightened as he smiled back. She unsuccessfully tried to dampen the excitement she felt in his presence, chiding herself that it was just silly for a grown woman with a six year old daughter to be mooning after a man she had just met and who she really knew nothing about. She did feel her face flush as he moved toward her.
"Teresa" she loved the way he said it with his North American accent. "Do you have a moment?"
She nodded, suddenly concerned that after spending the night at Mary's Cottage he had come to ask for his money back. No, she thought the smile that she hoped she had caused, gave him away. She tried to quash those schoolgirl thoughts but without success as his eyes seemed to light up as she stood to greet him.
"Of course, please do come in Mr. Parkes."
"Teresa, please do call me David."
"Very well, David..." She liked the sound of his name. "How may I help you?"
"I'd thought I'd drop in to ask if you, sorry, to ask if the landlord would have any objection to me buying some additional furnishings for the cottage."
Teresa blushed, knowing her little deception was over. Why had she not told him straight away that she owned the cottage?
"I think the landlord would have no objection at all." she smiled
"Good, well that's settled then." He looked like he was ready to leave.
"I'm sorry I didn't make it clear right from the start that I'm your landlord ... I just didn't want you to think ... well now I don't really know what I expected you to think..." her voice trailed off.
He moved to her and as he approached she had a vision of his lean and fit body, at least what she had seen of it under his running gear.
"Guess I should have read the contract more closely." He said as he took her hand. That spark she felt yesterday was there again. It wasn't a fluke.
"But everyone in town knows I'm renting your cottage it seems!" He laughed. Teresa loved his laugh, as open and enthusiastic as a boy. She had seen flickers of a fine sense of humor the day before but had not heard him laugh.
"Well yes, that's the way of it in a small town especially in the low season; people don't have the sense to mind their own business!" It was her turn to laugh.
"I really don't care if the town knows. I expect there's a great deal of envy that I'll be living next door to the prettiest woman in Kinsale!"
She laughed along with him, but blushed at the idea he found her attractive.
"Plus had I known you were the landlord you probably could have doubled the rent and I would have gladly paid!"
She winced inwardly but quickly recovered and said,
"Well David, if you decide to renew the lease I'll keep that in mind!"
They both laughed.
Teresa loved how he made her laugh and how his laugh was so genuine.
She wondered later how long they would have stood there holding hands had it not occurred to her to ask about what furnishings he intended to add to the cottage.
When she asked he let go of her hand – to her regret, and said,
"After spending the night in the bed I discovered that the mattress was probably for someone smaller and lighter so I'd like to replace that along with the rug in the living room, and perhaps add a desk and a few other bits of furniture."
She was immediately ashamed that she had made the rent so dear and at the same time not provided a comfortable place to sleep.
"David that would be fine."
He smiled at her.
"Of course I'll be leaving them behind when I return to Canada but a few sticks of new furniture – and a new mattress, will make my stay here more comfortable." The warmth of his smile almost overcame the chill at the thought of his leaving. She didn't want to think about that.
"Oh and where would you like the old mattress and rug to be stored?
Teresa shook her head,
"They're hardly family heirlooms so they can go off with the rubbish."
"I'll just ask Dugan's to haul them away when they deliver the new items."
"Dugan's, that's where you're getting furniture?" Teresa thought of the upscale furniture store and how much these items would cost. But he did appear to have means enough.
"Oh yes, Ms. Dugan was very helpful and showed me a number of mattresses and assured me that whatever I chose they would have it in stock."
Teresa flushed at the thought of Moira Dugan with her blonde hair and large breasts. She had a mental picture of Moira helping David try out the display mattresses no doubt letting her skirt ride up as she rolled back and forth on the mattress extolling its virtues – of which she had none!
Teresa couldn't understand how she'd become so possessive of David in a mere twenty-four hours. It was all nonsense of course, but on the other hand she felt like punching Moira Dugan a woman she'd known since they were in grade school together.
He started to leave and turned and said,
"Will I see you later tonight?"
"Yes, I'll be home ... Siofra and I will be home." She asked herself why she included that last bit.
"Well then until this evening. I hope you have a wonderful day."
The office seemed awfully empty when he had gone.
A couple of hours later her sister Fiona whirled in. That was the best description of Fiona's pace – with three boys and a husband who was a solicitor in town Fiona seemed to be always on the go. She was two years older than Teresa but they were so alike in appearance they had been mistaken for twins many times.
Today she had on one of her typical expensive outfits – silk blouse, wool skirt, and the latest high heel boots and topped with a very fashionable tan trench coat. Teresa was lucky that her sister could afford to be such a clothes horse because she fell heir to any number of slightly worn outfits that Fiona would describe as "so last year." Teresa also knew the gift of clothes was part of her sister's generous nature to a sister who was less fortunate.