Are you sick of me yet? I just can't get them out of my head :P
What Happens in Manchester...
Assumpta looked at her watch for about the fifteenth time in as many minutes. She didn't know if it was going too fast or too slow, but she was sure it must be broken. She tried to shake off the awful, tugging thought that yesterday had in fact been nothing more than last night's dream.
He had left far too early, in her opinion. When the fuse box had finally succumbed to its long anticipated doom, and given up the fight for good, Assumpta wasn't even angry. In truth, she was thrilled, because she knew it would drive all the customers home. That would leave her and Peter alone, with nothing to interrupt them or cut their time short.
But he didn't stay. He went to walk Brendan home. Assumpta made no effort to hide her disappointment, and hoped the candles were casting enough light over her face to allow Peter fully appreciate her look of disapproval. But Brendan had wanted to talk about Siobhan and the baby. What was he to do? Tell Brendan sorry, but he'd much prefer to spend the evening enjoying the soft firelight with the publican than helping with his problems? He was still a priest, after all. Even if he wasn't, Assumpta mused, he would still make sure he was there to support his friend. That was the sort of man he was, and she couldn't be mad at him for that... Well, not very mad for very long, anyway.
She had gone to bed early, wanting to reach tomorrow as quickly as possible, but sleep proved elusive as usual. It was different now, however. She didn't struggle to dispel all thoughts of Peter, and these thoughts were no longer painful. She replayed over and over the conversations they had had that day, her heart pounding at just the memory of his words... 'I love you.' His eyes lit up when he told her this, as though uttering these words to her gave him more pleasure than anything else in the world. Assumpta realised, with a pang of panicked guilt, that he had so beautifully professed all his feelings to her, but she hadn't told him anything of how she felt. She vowed to do so tomorrow, and fell asleep smiling, as she thought of the things she might say.
But tomorrow was here, late morning sun was streaming through the open door and windows, and the lunch crowd would soon be in. And there was no sign of him. Assumpta sighed, and set about preparing sandwiches.
As time droned on, Assumpta became more and more agitated, abandoning all thoughts of saying sweet things to him when he came. The lunch crowd came and went, leaving only Donal and Liam, and Eamon with his Diet Coke. This was when Peter finally showed his face.
Assumpta looked up to see him standing in the doorway, wearing his priest's collar and a wide grin. She didn't smile back, but merely raised her eyebrows at him, and his grin turned to a grimace. Day one and he was already in trouble? Well, it was Assumpta, after all.
Peter followed her into the kitchen, and waited for her to turn to face him before trying his smile again, and offering a bright 'Hiya'.
'Hi. Where have you been?'
She knew she sounded like a clingy girlfriend, but really, she should have at least had word from him. She had thought he might have changed his mind, run away...
She continued to look at him expectantly.
'I went to see Father Mac,' Peter continued. 'I wanted to make sure everything was sorted out by the next time I saw you. I wanted you to know that I'm serious about this, that I won't let you down.'
At this explanation, Assumpta softened a little, and leaned back against the cupboard.
'So, how did he react?'
'Well, needless to say, he wasn't surprised. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised.'
'Did he try to talk you out of it?'
'Not really. I think he could see that I'd made up my mind... And he was probably frightened you'd come and beat him up if he tried to talk me out of it.'
'Damn right I would,' Assumpta stated, finally returning Peter's smile. 'So what happens now?'
'Ah,' Peter said, looking down at the ground in a way that made Assumpta certain she would not like what was coming. 'Well, I'm going to announce that I'm leaving at Mass tomorrow.'
'Are you going to tell them why?'
'Yeah,' Peter said, trying to sound sure of himself, 'there's no point trying to deceive them. They'll find out soon enough, those that haven't worked it out already.'
Assumpta was shocked that this was all happening so quickly, so cleanly. It was too easy...
'There's just one thing...' Peter was looking sheepishly over at her.
'Father Mac wants me to go away for a couple of weeks, just until the initial shock blows over... less drama that way.'
Assumpta gave a scornful, disbelieving little laugh.
'You're leaving me again.'
'No, I -'
'Where are you gonna go, Peter? Where is he sending you? A special retreat for priests that are so far gone they need to be beaten back to their senses?'
'What? No -'
'And you're just going to leave me here to deal with all their crap? You know it's me they'll come to, not you! You're just the young, naive little priest, and I'm the wicked seductress who -'
'Assumpta,' he said forcefully, stepping forward to take both her hands in his, 'listen to me.'
The stubborn voice in Assumpta's head was screaming at her to pull her hands away, but the sweetness of his touch turned her thoughts to nonsense and her resolve to dust. She looked up, and met his earnest gaze.
'I want to take you with me,' he said softly.
'What? On retreat? That'll go down well...' she quipped weakly.
Peter smiled. 'I'm not going on retreat. I'm going back to Manchester. It works out well, actually, because my brothers need my help going through Mum's stuff.'
'And you want me to go with you?'
'Well, yeah... If you want to, I mean. You're not exactly going to be doing great business here, only opening during the daylight. And you'll have to close while the electricians work on the place, anyway. So I thought it would be perfect.'
The idea of spending her first weeks with Peter also with his entire family sounded more terrifying than perfect to Assumpta, but he looked so pleased with his idea... and it would be good to get out of Ballykissangel while the gossip mills ran their course.
'What do you say?' he asked, gently touching her cheek.
Assumpta smiled, and tried to sound confident as she answered, 'Sure.'