I'm new to this, but I believe the convention is to state that I don't own these characters... except Connelly - I guess I do own him! Anyway, this takes place somewhere around the middle of season two. Please review to let me know that you're reading, and to let me know what you think ;)
As she unlocked the front door at opening time, the sun hit Assumpta's face with such delightful warmth that she couldn't resist enjoying it for just a few moments more. It had rained for almost two weeks straight in Ballykissangel, and the still wet streets glistened slightly in the sunshine. Finally, the dreary monotony was broken. It was beautiful...
Almost perfect, Assumpta thought.
Leaning against the doorframe, she looked to the right as something caught her eye. Squinting against the glare from the wet pavement, Peter was walking determinedly toward Fitzgerald's. Assumpta was glad; she'd not seen him in over a week. Everyone was all in a tizz over some very important man, probably with a very large hat, who was coming to say Mass at St Joseph's. Apparently, Father Mac had had Peter painting walls, pruning hedges, climbing up ladders to polish the church ceiling...
Well, I s'pose he'd notice the ceiling; his nose would be that far up in the air, Assumpta mused.
Peter must have felt her eyes on him, and he lifted his own to meet them. As he quickened his pace, he smiled at her... with only one side of his mouth, the way only Peter does.
Such a stupid, goofy smile, Assumpta told herself. But, no matter how hard she willed it not to, her stomach flipped about three times at the sight of it, and she smiled back.
Obviously distracted by Assumpta's smile and the promise of lager, Peter didn't notice Kathleen until he, quite literally, crashed into her.
Peter smiled apologetically.
'Sorry, Kathleen... Didn't see you there.'
With folded arms and pursed lips, Kathleen glanced over at Assumpta, who gave an amused smirk in reply.
'No, I'm sure you didn't.'
As Kathleen began to lecture Peter on how she was certain he couldn't possibly be thinking to sit in the pub and drink at a time like this, when the most charming and respectable new bishop was expected to arrive in less than six hours, and there was still so much to be done, Assumpta retreated back inside.
Soon enough, the bar filled with all the usual suspects, but Peter never even made it to the door.
'He's probably cleaning the church loos with a toothbrush,' Padraig guessed.
'Mmm... or practising party tricks to impress the bishop. Water into wine's been done to death, but I'd pay to see him try to turn this piddle into a decent cup of coffee,' said Brian, gesturing to his cup.
'I'll turn it into a cleansing facial mask, if you don't shut up,' spat Assumpta, moving to grab the cup.
'Okay, okay! All I'm saying is that you're going to have to do a lot better than this if you're going to impress this bishop... and I strongly advise that you do impress him, Assumpta, because, if your awful coffee and even worse attitude put him off supporting my idea for a conference centre and resort in Ballykissangel, I will -'
'Brian, what are talking about?'
'A conference centre! You know, for priests' retreats and the like.'
'What, so we can have the clergy swarming around here like locusts all year round? Yeah, no thanks.'
'Assumpta!' groaned a now agitated Brian.
'What's it got to do with me anyway? I mean, in what universe is Father Mac going to bring a bleeding bishop into my pub?'
She remembered the last time Father Mac had brought guests to Fitzgerald's... And hadn't that gone just swimmingly? she thought, scornfully.
'Ah, actually, Assumpta,' Brendan spoke up, in a rather cheeky tone, 'I did hear Father Mac saying that this particular bishop is very big on interacting with the local community... Said he wanted to see the whole village. I wouldn't be too surprised if he did make an appearance here.'
That evening, Fitzgerald's was livelier than usual. Maybe the day's sunshine had put everyone in good spirits. Padraig and Brendan had taken to singing ballads, while Donal and Liam made loud, drunken plans to overthrow Quigley and take over the company, and Siobhan and Niamh gossiped with Assumpta over the bar. Everyone's heads flicked around as they heard the click of the door opening. As he walked in, Peter smiled his smile at Assumpta for the second time that day, but she took less pleasure in it this time. It had a slightly nervous, almost apologetic quality that let Assumpta know that he knew she wasn't going to like what was coming. Silence fell over the pub as Peter was followed by Father Mac and, finally, the shiny new bishop himself.
If she'd been holding a glass, she'd have dropped it.
If she'd been holding a gun...
There he was, standing in her pub, staring at her with that same proud, smug look that says 'You can't touch me'.
He hadn't changed much in the years that had passed; he was still the tall, dark and not so handsome Father – sorry, Bishop – Connelly.
He smiled at her. She wanted to be sick. She wanted to run, but legs were stuck in place. She wanted to shout, but she had no words. Just like all those years ago, she had no words.
He was it. This man... this man was the reason she hated the church, the reason she despised the clergy, the reason she once couldn't, and now wouldn't, show her face at Mass.
As past pain and anxiety tied knots in her stomach, she finally found words, but only two.
It was barely a whisper.
Peter had watched the colour drain from Assumpta's face, had watched her hands begin to shake, had heard the tremble in her voice as she finally spoke. His heart just about stopped. What was it? What was wrong? Surely this was more than her usual distaste for entertaining clergymen.
'Assumpta...?' He spoke her name in a questioning, concerned tone.
Her eyes flickered to his for only a second, but a second was long enough for Peter to see all the shock, fear, hurt and anger in them. Something in that look made him wish he knew all her troubles, so he could make everything right again.
She spoke her words again, this time more forcefully.
Peter turned to Father Mac and the bishop.
'I think we should go.'
Father Mac's face reddened with fury, and he shouted, 'No, Miss Fitzgerald! This man is a bishop, and he will have your respect!'
'Don't trouble yourself, Father.'
At the sound of Connelly's voice, Peter watched Assumpta wince as though in pain.
'I would not stay in this place a minute longer if you paid me.'
With that, he was out the door, followed by a still fuming Father Mac. Peter glanced back at Assumpta, hoping to catch her eye, but she was staring down at the ground. Reluctantly, he followed after his superiors.
It was almost eleven when Father Mac and Bishop Connelly set off back to Cilldargan for the night. If someone had asked Peter what conversations had been had that night, he couldn't have told them. His mind kept wandering back to Assumpta, which was nothing new – he frequently had this problem when trying to listen to Father Mac – but, this time, his thoughts were filled with worry. He'd never seen her look so small and scared; he'd never seen her lost for words. What was it about the new bishop that could distress her so much? He wondered if anyone had checked on her. He knew that not many people would feel comfortable asking her if she was okay, and he knew that made her feel alone.
I should go, he thought. She won't tell me anything; of course she won't. But she needs to know that someone cares.
So, he set off through the cold, in the direction of Fitzgerald's.