Author's note – I didn't really watch series 4 onwards so although I've borrowed some of the newer characters I apologise if they don't ring true. I've also rewritten history slightly as Ambrose is alive and well and happily married to Niamh with 2 sons. Brian is also still alive and kicking and Padraig never moved to England. I think that's about it!
Niamh stepped outside the front door of the guard house and smiled. It was another sunny day, she'd managed to get the two boys off to school in a relatively trouble free fashion and once she'd finished her lunchtime shift at the pub she had some free time until the boys got home. She closed the door behind her and wandered across the road to the pub, letting herself in.
Instead of the peace and quiet she was expecting before opening up to the punters she was greeted by a cacophony of noise. There were crashes from above and she could hear the raised voices of Oonagh and Paul Dooley. Niamh retreated back to the door thinking it was probably best if she came back later but realised she was too late when Paul appeared at the top of the stairs.
"Ah Niamh, just who I wanted to see. Listen, Oonagh and I are off on a bit of a holiday for a few days. We're just going to shut the pub up so you might as well go on home."
"What do you mean you're shutting the pub? If you're away I'm sure Orla and I can cover."
Paul proceeded down the stairs and Niamh followed him into the kitchen where he began stuffing things into the bag he was carrying. "No time, no time," he said hurriedly while continuing to pop things into the bag.
Oonagh suddenly appeared in the doorway. It was obvious to Niamh that she'd been crying. "What about the kids? What do we tell them?" She asked miserably.
"The kids are all grownup now. Dermot's got his own family to worry about for god sake."
"But they were going to visit next month." Her voice trailed off as she realised Niamh was standing in the kitchen.
"Niamh didn't see you there, sorry about this. We're in a bit of a mess this morning," she said, surreptitiously wiping her eyes.
"That's okay. Are you alright?" Niamh asked with concern.
"She's fine, fine," replied Paul, wrapping his arm round Niamh's shoulders and guiding her towards the door. "We're just running a bit late getting away, you know, on the holiday."
Before Niamh knew what was happening she was standing on the street again and the pub door had been closed behind her.
"You alright there Niamh?" The cry came from Siobhan who was standing on the steps of Kathleen's shop. Niamh crossed the road to join her.
"I'm fine Siobhan but I'm not sure Oonagh and Paul are."
As if on cue the pub door was flung open and the couple appeared, carrying a multitude of bags between them. They threw them in the back of the car, climbed in and drove away without looking back.
"Is it just me or was that a bit odd?" asked Siobhan. "Actually never mind, this is Ballyk after all."
Kathleen bustled over at that point. "Was that the Dooleys leaving?"
"Eh yes," said Niamh distractedly.
"Hmm, high tailing it out of town no doubt." Kathleen nodded sagely. "I have it on good authority that he's up to his old tricks again." She tapped her nose and gave them both a knowing look.
"Poor Oonagh," remarked Siobhan. She glanced at the pub with concern then looked at her watch. "Must go, I'll talk to you later Niamh."
Niamh nodded and followed Kathleen into the shop wondering how the shopkeeper got her information. She had to reluctantly admit that she seemed right on the money this time. But Kathleen was in no mood to disclose her sources, instead she said, "That'll put your friend in England in a bit of a difficult position will it not." She looked like she had a bad smell under her nose as she spoke. "She does still own the place, doesn't she?" She continued with distaste.
"Yes Kathleen she does. I'm not sure what they'll do." She took a bit of perverse pleasure in seeing Kathleen flinch slightly at the word 'they'.
"You'll let me know if you speak to her about it, what happens to one business affects us all."
"I need to go," Niamh said hurriedly, no longer wanting to be part of this conversation. She left the shop quickly and headed for home.
Three days later Ambrose peered out of their bedroom window at the pub. "I hope someone takes over that place soon. I heard it's his creditors he's on the run from amongst other things. It could take ages to sort out. It's not good to have a building lie empty too long."
"It's also putting a crimp on everyone's social lives," Niamh observed wryly.
"Your Dad couldn't be persuaded could he?"
"He's retired Ambrose," she admonished, "So don't you go suggesting it to him."
"No probably best not. Well something needs to happen soon before it gives people ideas."
"What sort of ideas?"
"Criminal ones," he said darkly.
"Ambrose," Niamh gave him a withering look.
"Don't suppose you've heard anything from Assumpta about it?" he asked in a distracted manner.
Niamh frowned, why did everyone keep asking her that? She and Assumpta had been close once upon a time but since she'd left Ballykissangel their friendship had been reduced to exchanging Christmas cards, gifts for the kids' birthdays and the occasional email. That was the full extent of their relationship now.
"She wouldn't tell me, they'd tell Siobhan, Brendan or Michael or even Padraig, if there was anything to tell," she said glumly.
Hearing his wife's tone he turned away from the window. "Come on luv, you're still friends."
"We've never gone over to visit them have we? Brendan and Siobhan take Ashling over nearly every summer. Michael and his wife have been a couple of times. Padraig went over the other year too."
"Well we've never been invited."
"Have you ever said to them that you'd like to visit? Maybe they thought we wouldn't come."
"It's because we were the only ones who didn't support them."
"Luv, that was years ago and we did, we had that party up on the hill remember?"
"Yeah but that was days after it all happened and I'd argued with both of them. Siobhan, Brendan, Padraig, Michael, they all supported them when they needed it most. All I did was shout," she said dejectedly.
"Well she was running off with the priest, it was a bit of a shock."
"You didn't think it was that much of a shock and neither did anyone else for that matter."
"Well I'm trained to observe and read people. And I think it did come as a shock, remember that article in the paper?"
"It wasn't a shock to anyone who mattered."
"It was all so long ago and who really wants to visit the Lake District anyway? It's just like Ireland I've heard."
"So call Assumpta and have a chat with her."
"Come to bed luv it's late."
The phone rang at the same time as the doorbell went in Brendan's house.
"Ashling that'll be your mum can you get it?" He called as he reached for the phone.
"Okay," she said sauntering passed. She was a sturdy, good natured 12 year old with red hair. She wandered to the door to let her mum in. It had become something of a ritual that she came straight to her Dad's after school 3 days a week and her mum joined them once she'd completed her rounds. Some of her friends thought it was weird that her parents got on so well but weren't married or even living together. Ashling didn't mind, it meant she got two bedrooms.
She opened the door and Siobhan greeted her daughter. "Hello luv, how was school?"
"Fine. Aileen Connulty invited me to her house on Friday night."
"Which one's she? No wait, tell me over dinner. What's your Dad cooking tonight?"
"Shepherd's pie I think and Aileen's the one who lives in the big house just outside Ballymeade."
"Oh is that so?"
Siobhan listened to her daughter's chatter as she took her boots and coat off. She walked into the kitchen just as Brendan was hanging up the phone. He looked disconcerted.
"Everything alright there Brendan?"
"I'm not sure. That was Assumpta, she's moving back to Ballyk."
"What, really? For good?"
"I'm not sure, but for the moment and soon to."
"What's brought this on?"
"Well it seems we were right about the Dooley's leaving before the lease expired. Apparently they're now several months behind in payments. Assumpta kept letting it slide because they sounded desperate but now they've disappeared and can't be traced. Looks like Assumpta won't see that money now and the pub is sitting there empty losing more money. The market's not great so they're not sure how long it would take to find someone else to take over the lease so she's decided just to come over and manage it herself."
"Well that's grand, isn't it? It's about time they came back."
"That's just it; I don't think they are coming back."
"But you just said."
"No, Assumpta said she was coming back but she got a bit funny when I asked about Peter. She said he wasn't coming."
"Maybe she's only coming back for the short term and he and the kids are staying back in England."
"Nope the kids are coming too, she asked me to sort out places at the school for them."
"Well that sounds like she's planning on staying for a while at least, why ever wouldn't Peter come?"
"I don't know but she bit my head off when I asked her that."
"You don't think they're having problems do you? They both seemed pretty happy last time I spoke to either of them."
Brendan shrugged, "I suppose you can never tell. Something is definitely not right though." He looked thoughtful, "Oh and she doesn't want anyone to know she's coming. She made me promise I'm allowed to tell you and that's it. She seems to think that'll keep the whole thing more low-key."
Siobhan frowned. "I doubt it'll stay low-key for long. I know it's been years but Peter and Assumpta are still the biggest scandal to happen to this town."
"Even managed to eclipse us," he smiled nodding at Ashling who was sitting through in the living room watching TV.
"And for that I will be forever grateful," laughed Siobhan.