A/N: A follow-up to the 2010 film "Leap Year". At the end of the movie Anna and Declan drive off in his car after getting married.
Quebec This Aren't
The Renault 4 bumped, banged and rattled as it made it's way down the road out of Dingle. After being recovered from a creek after an untimely push from Anna Brady, the car seemed only a little worse for wear - it creaked more and had a new dent in the rear, but at the same time it was marginally cleaner than Declan O'Callaghan usually kept it. On the roof, a newer coat hanger that served as a replacement antennae for the old hanger that was lost in the creek kept company with Anna's Louis Vuitton suitcase.
"Are you sure the Caragh will be okay while you're gone?" Anna asked as she stuck out her hand in front of her once again and admired Declan's Claddagh ring he had used to propose.
"Well, Anna from Boston, things work a little different here in Ireland. We have schedules for sure - but they're more like suggestions. Instructions are more like hints, and plans are made to be cocked up. You have to learn to just go with it, Bob. The bar will be fine."
She had already learned to like the appellation 'Bob', but she did partially object. "I'm not really Anna from Boston now. I guess I'm...Anna from Dingle?"
"Anna from Dingle. Dingle Anna. I could get used to that."
"And I said I've turned over a new leaf. No more schedules and timetables that have to be met. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but I'm willing to try."
"Don't get me wrong," Declan countered "I'm not saying it isn't good to plan - but if you run your whole life by it, you're just going to disappoint yourself every day." He braked to a stop quickly and hopped out without a word, leaving the car running. He stooped in front of the car, partially disappearing for a moment before standing up with a large metal can that must have been in the middle of the lane. He examined it before placing the obstacle on the side of the road and climbing back in. He took off the handbrake and continued on as if nothing had happened. "A man with no plans is almost as bad as a man with nothing but them - they still give you direction. A recipe is a plan - it's a good, wide road that you turn off from time to time as needed, or at least swerve when you have no choice." Declan was the proprietor and head chef of the Caragh Bar, which was also restaurant, provisionary and inn.
It was his bar that Anna had first arrived in Dingle, as she tried to make her way from Boston to her boyfriend who was at a cardiologist conference in Dublin. A severe storm had rerouted her plane to Wales, and a boat trip had been blown off course from Cork, finally landing her in Dingle. Declan had accompanied her, first by car until she drowned it, and then by walking until they reached Tipperary. The process had stripped Anna of her schedule, laid waste to her plans to propose to her boyfriend Jeremy Sloane on February 29 to take advantage of the Irish tradition of women proposing on Leap Day, and finally made her wonder what she really wanted in life and a partner. It wasn't Ladies' Privilege Day itself that had changed things, but the whole week that put her priorities under the microscope.
"I'm serious about not making any plans. Right after I pulled the fire alarm back in Boston, I finally saw what Jeremy and I had together - basically two signatures on a apartment purchase agreement. He didn't even check on me when the alarm went off, except to ask for me to carry his things out. I just walked straight out of the building and to the airport to come here. I married you the same day I got back, right after you proposed; if that isn't spontaneous I don't know what is."
Declan slowed and pulled the car into a turnoff from the road, taking the car out of gear and setting the brake. "You know I DID say plans are good sometimes, right?"
"They help you not forget some of the smaller things in life. Did I put petrol in the car. Did I add garlic already. Did I tell my fiancé I was leaving." He paused there and looked at her.
"I know, but I'm not going to let plans run my life now. I want...to...what was that last thing you said?"
"Tell my fiancé I was leaving."
"Oh my God. Jeremy!" Anna got wide-eyed at the thought. In her resolve to get back to Ireland, she hadn't even thought to tell her fiancé/roommate that she was calling it off.
"A little thing, diddly-eye. Important though, don't you think?"
"I have to call him." She pulled her phone out of her pocket and checked to make sure it was charged as she got out of the car. Seeing she had a signal, she placed a call and hung up shortly after. "He phone went to voice mail. I'll try his office," she said as she continued to pace about. Declan could see that she must have gotten someone as she waved her hand while talking; but that call lasted only a bit longer than the first. "He's out of the office unexpectedly for the next few days, they say. I've got one more idea." She tried again and tried her best friend Libby, who was also Jeremy's sister. "Voice mail too. I don't know where to find him."
"As sure as the sun sets, he's on his way here."
"Me? I'd...um...well...maybe. You think he's coming to here? To Dingle?"
"You say that like there's something wrong with Dingle."
"But think about it - where else would you have gone? He would have already checked with your father and your friend Libby," Declan said matter-of-factly. "He knew that you stayed the first night there, so that's where I'd start."
"I'm not going back, no way. I'll hide if I have to," Anna stated flatly.
"Hide? There's no need o' that, love." A slow grin started to appear on Declan's face. "You said you used to stage for a living, did you?"
"Yes." Anna made a living by setting up apartments and properties to show them off best for sale; she was very good at what she did.
"Okay. I propose we stage something just for Jeremy when he makes his grand entrance into Dingle. Now it's short notice, so..."
Inside the bar everyone was getting ready for the visitors. Declan grabbed Anna's arm and told her to turn around with him. "Listen everyone! Someone behind us give us your sweater. Don't let us see who it is, just hand it over our shoulder." There was shuffling of chairs and shortly a garment was handed over. "Stuff this under your dress, you're with child now." Anna scowled for a moment and did as asked. Declan looked at the result and sighed. "You're not THAT pregnant. Adjust it like you've only been binging on sweets for a month."
Anna scowled but moved it around. "I hope it stays in place."
"What's wrong with a breach sweater?"
"They're getting off the boat now," Alex announced happily, peeping through the window. The assistant manager was actually enjoying the suspense.
The two figures trudged up the lane that led between Dingle and the beach. Behind them, an inflatable boat was grounded on the shore, with a crew of two waiting. Two local gentlemen of some age leaned against the wall near the small village. "Is that him, then?" the taller of the two asked of the other quietly.
"Who else would it be, that James Bond fellow? Idiot. Besides, he looks like that photo Dekko's wife showed us. Don't know who the girl is, though," Seamus added.
"Right. No matter, when they make it to us we'll give them a welcome," Joe said.
Jeremy trudged up the incline, going slowly to allow his sister to keep pace. He saw the two older men up ahead and adjusted his path to meet up with them. "Hello."
"Hello, young man. Beautiful day, isn't it?" Joe said in greeting. "Unseasonably warm."
Jeremy looked around at the clouds and felt the wind whip his hair. "I suppose. Is this Dingle?"
"Aye it is," Seamus answered. "Are ye blown off course or here on purpose?"
"We're looking for the Caragh. Know where it is?" Libby asked.
"Oh, the Caragh. We've got one of those," Joe boasted. "You see that building up there with the sign that says 'Caragh'? That's it."
"We only have the one," Seamus chimed in. "How many do you have where you come from, then?"
Jeremy wasn't even listening. "Thanks. Come on Libby, up there," he grunted to his sister. The two continued their ascent while Seamus and Joe discreetly shook hands behind them. As they approached the door, they could hear lively music and talk coming from inside - all of which stopped when they walked into the bar. The nearly full establishment held its collective breath and the patrons stared and blinked at the newcomers.
Out of his element, Jeremy spied an empty table and pulled Libby toward it after she had frozen on the spot. The scraping of the chairs against the floor echoed in the bar and the two siblings sat down. Jeremy tried to smile at the other customers but he quickly gave up and leaned his head over the menu that was sitting on the table. After waiting impatiently for a full two minutes, Alex sauntered over to their table.
"Good afternoon, I'm Alex the assistant manager here at the Caragh. What can I get you started with?"
"Um...is there something wrong?" Jeremy asked timidly. Even his lowered tone could be heard more loudly in the quiet room than he wished.
"Wrong? No, rest your minds on that. You're strangers is all - why don't you start off with a house pint and you'll see they'll come to accept you in no time."
"Uh, okay. Two pints then."
"Excellent," Alex said as he pretended to write on his little order pad. "And for the lady?"
"Nothing for me, thank you."
The was an audible intake of breath from those in the room. Jeremy quickly tried to cover any offense they might have committed. "And my sister would like a pint too, please."
"Your sister - right," Alex grinned as he playfully punched Jeremy in the shoulder. "A lot of lads come in here with their 'sister'. I'll be right back with your drinks." He disappeared around the corner and returned shortly with three mugs of stout, dealing out mats and setting the drinks on them expertly. He then stood and waited, looking at the two. When they simply looked at him, he offered "Take a drink - tell me how you like it."
Jeremy, who hadn't really wanted TWO pints for himself, took the nearest of his pair and took a cautionary sip. "It's...ah...good?" He shot his eyes over to Libby's mug and gave a quick little jerk of his head.
She timidly took a sip. More of a wine drinker, she barely kept from choking on the first attempt. "Lot's of...flavor." As if on cue, the other patrons noisily went back to their meals and somewhere music started playing again.
Alex beamed. "Thank goodness you like it. You can hardly taste the rat we fished out of the cask last month." Jeremy turned a little white and Libby suddenly appeared to be studying her napkin very closely. "Now, what can I get you two in the way of solid food?"
Jeremy picked two items that seemed the safest and ordered those. "My sister isn't much of a pint person. Do you have any wines?"
The waiter/assistant manager leaned back. "Not much call for wine...we do have a couple of bottles in the back."
"I think they're pink."
"That will be fine. A glass of wine for her, please."
"Make it a bottle," Libby interjected.
"As you wish," Alex declared with a flourish as he departed with the orders.
The meals arrived after a few minutes, and to their surprise were quite good. While they were eating, Seamus and Joe came by the table. "I see you found the place," Joe said with an air of satisfaction comparable to having successfully led a journey through the African subcontinent. "A toast to your health," he said as he extended his glass.
"And to yours," Jeremy said as he continued to eat.
"Aren't you gonna raise your glass? It's bad luck not to respond to a toast," Seamus informed them as he extended his glass too.
"Oh, of course. Come on Sis, join the toast." Both diners raised their drinks and took a drink - Jeremy from his pint and Libby from her wine.
Joe looked at his glass. "You didn't clink. It's bad luck not to clink glasses. There was a time you were considered standoffish for doing something like that."
Jeremy, belatedly, clinked his glass to rectify the error and took another drink.
"But me glass is empty. Can't toast with an empty glass," Seamus said as he looked at the exposed bottom of his mug.
"Take my sister's, and we'll do it properly." Jeremy took her pint and offered it to Seamus, who accepted with thanks. He clinked his glass immediately afterward.
"No, it's bad luck to clink before the toast," Seamus suggested.
"You're both wrong," Donal added from the next table. "It's bad luck to drink without a toast."
"Aye, never drink without a toast. That's how it goes. Here's mud in your eye," Joe said as he took another drink. Jeremy quickly raised his glass and follow suit. "That wasn't a toast," Joe said while laughing.
"Just good old Irish sentiment," Seamus said with a wink before they both moved on.
"More like sediment, with blokes our age," Donal said, slapping their table to make his point before returning to his company. Jeremy couldn't help but notice the man was having a conversation with an empty table.
Alex came around again to check on the diners. Not in his element or having the confidence found in his normal surroundings, Jeremy had just about finished off his second pint - the first out of nervousness, the second as his inhibitions started to relax. In fact, they were relaxing at what might have been an alarming rate if he had paid any attention to them. Alex picked up the empty, noted that almost half the wine bottle was now empty, and suggested that perhaps they'd like some spotted dick for dessert. Giggles escaped both at the name, but they repressed it while Alex waited.
"I think we'll pass on the dessert thank you," Jeremy said.
"Okay," Alex said with a hurt tone. "It really is good. A specialty, really. Pride of the town."
"Oh come on Jeremy, have some dick!" Libby said before letting out a shriek of laughter for a moment.
"Okay," her brother relented "give us some dick." He snorted at his own comment.
Alex rushed away and returned with the dessert, along with two small jiggers of brandy. "You'll find they compliment each other very well," he offered.
"Everything goes with good dick, I should think," Jeremy tried to say. It came out more like "Everything should go with dick I go good." He and Libby dove into their dessert, and chased it down with the brandy after polishing the dish off.
Alex timed it fifteen minutes before he returned; Declan had planned the length to let the food and drink to have its maximum effect. The two visitors hadn't even noticed that no one had left or entered the establishment during the whole time. "So, what brings you to fair Dingle today?"
Jeremy wadded up his napkin and placed it on his plate; it was time for business, and time to concentrate. "I'm looking for the Caragh."
"We're already here, Jeremy," Libby suggested.
"Oh, that's right. My sister and I are looking for a woman, Alex. A special woman."
"Oh course sir. Might I suggest Dublin? We're pretty old-fashioned here - one man per woman, and only distantly related at best."
Jeremy stared for a moment before getting the idea. "No, not that type of thing at all! Her name is fiancé, and she's my Anna. Um, the other way around, please. She came here from America a few weeks ago and I'm looking for her."
"I'm rather new here sir; let me get my owner - he knows everybody." Alex scooted away with a grin.
"What a nice man," Libby noted. "I do so like an Irish accent. Just like those soap commercials," she giggled.
Declan put on his stone face and walked up to the table. "Alex says you have a question?"
Jeremy looked up at the man, and scowled. "We've met. I think. Were you in Dublin?"
"At the doctor conference for doctors!" he said, trying and failing to snap his fingers.
"I'm not a doctor. I was there to help a friend."
"Helping...of course, you're the driver that drove Anna to me. To meet me. In Dublin."
"Fair enough. Have you come to see her?"
"She's here?" Jeremy craned his neck to look around the bar.
"Sure she is. Let me go get her." Alex left the table to go into the back kitchen area. He led out Anna, who had tied a dirty bandana around her head, wore rubber gloves and of course had the sweater tucked under her dress.
Jeremy didn't recognize her at first, but who she was broke upon him like the dawn; a dim glimmering that increased until it was followed by a burst of understanding. "Anna! What have they done to you?"
"I was scrubbing floors. Hello, Libby. Kiss kiss, both of you."
"Scrubbing floors? You stage houses - not clean them," Jeremy said, part flabbergasted and part disgusted.
"Eww," Libby said, scrunching up her nose.
"I have to work; not a lot of houses for sale here in Dingle."
"There was a cottage that sold just last month," Joe offered from where he had sat down at the next table with Donal and Seamus; they wanted a better seat for the show.
"No you idiot, it was two years ago. The Walsh place," Donal countered.
"Either was neither, you dunderheads - it was the Ryan place five years ago after the fire," Seamus yelled.
"Oh yeah. Balmy family, moved to Canada. They sent a postcard last year; Quebec this aren't," Joe agreed. "I remember them well."
Jeremy waved his hands. "The point is I came here for...something...oh yeah, you. Why did you leave?"
"I left my engagement ring on your desk. You can take it back."
"Yeah, but what about the apartment? I told them you were on vacation. And why do you have to work?"
"Jeremy, I have to work to get ready for the future," she said as she straightened up. She arched her back a bit to emphasize the padding under her dress, and she patted herself on the belly.
Jeremy's eyes widened. "Who's is it?" To be fair, the stress of the long trip, the excessive alcohol and a large meal had combined to make him lose track of how his former fiance could be showing pregnant in such a short time - which was part of the plan.
"I don't know," Anna said honestly. "It's been kind of wild over here..."
"Not compared to Dublin!" Alex shouted from the sideline.
"...and Declan has offered to make me an honest woman."
"I don't understand," Jeremy said, stunned.
"Maybe I can explain," Declan said. "Anna says you're a cardiologist - one of the best. You know so much about the heart, but you don't know the most important thing about it. A person can have a heart that is ready to give out from old age, but still have as strong a love as when he was a newlywed. The heart is the only muscle that can be broken. Not just torn, or ripped, or pulled - but broken. A man doesn't really live until he uses it, but it really works best when it works in pairs. You're probably a great doctor, Jeremy Sloane, but you failed to recognize the heart of this one. To be fair, she didn't find hers either till she came here. Tell me - do you want to marry her, or for her to be happy?"
"Married! No, happy! Both! Oh, wait..." Jeremy tried to concentrate.
"You didn't change, Jeremy; I did," Anna said as she laid a glove hand on his. "You'll make a fine roommate and husband for someone, but it's just not me. I'm sorry." She saw that Libby was crying. "Don't be sad, Libby - now you have the most expensive engagement ring."
"It's not that. I came here to help Jeremy bring you back, and now I don't know if I want what I want."
"That's between you and Todd. Maybe you should have thought of that before you accepted his proposal."
Jeremy slapped both hands on the table and stood up, a little shakily. He grabbed Anna's gloved hand and knelt on one knee. "Anna, will you unmarry me?"
Anna placed her other hand over her heart. "Jeremy Sloane, I promise to not marry you and never marry you for the rest of my days so help me God." She made a slight curtsey to seal the vow, and the bar erupted in applause.
"Everybody - let's have an unengagement party!" Declan shouted.
"I'm going to pass out later, aren't I?" Jeremy said as he fell back into his chair.
"Probably. But there's a nice room upstairs as long as you don't try to charge your phone," Anna said while nudging Declan.
"Any words of wisdom before I lose consciousness?"
"Whenever you find the right person and kiss her, kiss like it's the first time...and the last."
"Got it. Kiss. Don't charge phone. Bed."
"Always know where your bed is before you start celebrating," Donal said smugly.
"EVERYBODY knows that," Seamus commented.
"Even a wee babe," Joe agreed.
A/N: I've seem some articles that have been written about this film as not being authentically Irish, but that isn't the point of the film - it's the spirit of the film that's important. It's an Ireland for those of us who don't know anything beyond St. Patrick's Day and Irish Spring soap, and a pleasant surrounding for a formulaic romantic comedy that doesn't break new ground but covers the bases fairly well.
This movie was based somewhat on the 1946 "I Know Where I'm Going!" film, and both have their strengths.