Faerie Tale Queen - Chapters 6 - 10 (Unedited)
The first time the voice from the GPS interrupted the silence, Kieren nearly jumped out of her skin. She had forgotten Thomas had told her he had programmed the thing. She was dividing her concentration between staying on the correct side of the road and hunting for signs for M2 north, when the strange British male voice instructed her to bear left.
Now, a dozen or so turns later, and one quick stop for coffee, she welcomed further instructions from Milton, the name she had given to the male voice. Kieren had given her imagination free reign as she drove. Milton was an older gentleman, a retired school teacher, who now assisted wayward travelers through his beloved country. His children were all grown with children of their own, and he missed them terribly because they had moved far away.
I really need to get some sleep. Kieren took a swallow of coffee and grimaced. “I should have known better. The Irish are not exactly known for their coffee.” She glanced at the dashboard clock. “I should be getting close. First order of business tomorrow, I am going to figure out how to work this radio. This driving in silence is for the birds.”
“Take the next turn around to the right and bear left upon exiting. Entrance to the ferry terminal is on your right.” Milton intoned.
“Thank you Milton.”
A car horn behind her blared as she took extra time to execute a right turn across two lanes of traffic, “Cut me some slack jerk. This ass-backwards driving takes some getting used to.”
She negotiated her way under the carport type entrance, then rummaged in the glove box for the ferry pass Thomas had left for her. When she located it, she handed it to the smiling attendant, “The next ferry leaves at four, so you have a bit of time to get out and stretch. You may park in slot one. If you like, there’s a place over there where you can get yourself some refreshments. Please return to your vehicle fifteen minutes before departure, we will load your car shortly after you arrive.” The woman returned Kieren’s pass and handed her a receipt to place on her dashboard.
Forty-five minutes to kill, not too terrible. Kieren parked, got out of the car, popped the trunk and started rummaging through her bags for a heavier jacket. The strange woman from the plane was right, the wind here is wicked. Kieren shivered as she slipped on her coat and closed the trunk. Hopefully it won’t be so bad when I’m not right next to the water. Your headed for a small island you dingy; you’ll be surrounded by water. Kieren sighed and shook her head. If this is what it’s like in October, I’m going to just love it in February! I believe something warm to drink is in order.
This time Kieren opted for tea over coffee. Cup in hand, she headed toward the waterfront, the bark of the seals guiding her to the railing. She had never seen so many seals in one place. Quite frankly, the only seals she had ever seen were in a New Jersey aquarium she had visit on a class trip when she was a child.
Kieren squinted. Are those penguins? How can there be penguins here? Don’t they live at the South Pole?
“You’re looking perplexed lass.”
Kieren jumped. She had not heard anyone approach.
“Ach, I didn’t mean to startle you.” The smiling old man standing next to her patiently waited for her to respond.
“I’m sorry. I’m tired and I guess a little jumpy. I’ve been traveling since yesterday, and I’m not one to sleep on planes. It’s been a long twenty-four hours.”
“Well then, maybe that explains your frown.”
“Yes, when I walked up you were frowning at the birds.”
It took Kieren a second to remember why she might have been frowning, “Huh? Oh, was I?” She frowned again and pointed, “Actually, I was confused when I saw those small penguins.”
“Those aren’t penguins,” he chuckled, “but I can see why you would think so. They do resemble each other. Those are Guillemots.”
“Guillmots? I’ve never even heard of Guillmots.” Kieren said with a shrug, then pointed again. “And what are those black and white ones with the bright orange beaks?”
“Those would be puffins.” The old man supplied.
“Puffins?” Kieren stared harder at the little birds. “I thought puffins were on the extinct list.”
“Well if they are, no one bothered looking for them up here. We’re fairly tripping over the beasties.” He laughed. “Not much of a bird person are you dear?”
Kieren shook her head and wrinkled her nose, “Not a fan.”
“Well then you are headed to the wrong place love. Tallymore is a bird sanctuary.”
“How did you know I was headed to Tallymore?”
“Well where else would you be headed, standing here in the cold, twenty minutes before the next boat leaves? Doesn’t take many of my powers of observation to figure that one out.”
Kieren laughed, “I guess not. What about you? Are you headed to Tallymore as well?”
“I am. I need to check on my crew, and send them home for the night. Then it’s back to Ballycastle and one of my wife’s wonderful suppers.”
Kieren tilted her head to survey in the man’s appearance. Short, stocky, Doc would have described him as ‘built like a brick shithouse’. He was wearing work boots, sturdy jeans, a heavy cable knit sweater and cap. He did resemble a construction manager, but just to be sure, she asked, “Your crew?”
“We’d be doing some construction work, rebuilding Tallymore. You’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere on the island which isn’t under some form of repair or another.”
“Really? Did something happen? Was there a storm or something?”
“It was nothing like that. True, time and Mother Nature have taken their toll, but it wasn’t until the past few years or so, when folks started moving back to the island. For the first time in forever, the population is actually growing, and that growing population needs sound homes and schools and businesses. That’s where I come in.”
“That’s nice to hear, considering Tallymore is going to be my home for the next year or so.”
“Is that so?”
Kieren nodded, “Mmm hmm.”
“Well then, I’ll be seeing you again for sure.” He stretched out his hand, “Evan Michael Flanagan.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Flanagan,” she shook his hand, “Kieren Cleary.”
“Ach, none of that mister nonsense, it’s Evan. And we’d best be headed back or we are going to miss our ride.”
Evan walked her back to her car. When they arrived Kieren asked, “Isn’t this the last ferry? How will you get back?”
“The captain’s an old friend of mine, and since his home is in Ballycastle, he lets me and my crew cap a ride home with him.”
“Perfect. Did you need a lift to your jobsite?”
“It’s sweet of you to offer Kieren, thank you, but it’s just a short walk and the weather’s fine. Perhaps another time. You best be going.” Evan pointed to the boat attendant waving at Kieren, signaling it was time for her to board.
“It was very nice meeting you Evan.”
“The pleasure was all mine. Enjoy your new home and I’ll see you soon. Fáilte. ” As he made his way to the passenger’s entrance, he turned and waved one last time and Kieren smiled.
At least he didn’t welcome me home.
“Left turn ahead.”
“Milton, I think the sea air has gotten to you. The only thing on the left looks like a goat path. Maybe it’s up a little further.”
“Make a legal U turn ahead.”
“Seriously?” Kieren swung the car around.
“Take your next right. Your destination is ahead, on the left.”
Reluctantly Kieren turned onto the goat path. “All that’s ahead on the left Milton, is a grove of trees, which is weird because I think they are the only trees I’ve seen on this entire island. Whatever. You haven’t steered me wrong yet Milton, so I’m going to have to trust you.”
“You have arrived at your destination. Your route guidance is now over.”
“Arrived? I haven’t arrived anywhere. Oh.” Kieren slowed the car. “Wow.”
The trees opened to reveal a clearing. On one side was the ocean, on the other, with its back to the trees, sat a sprawling stone…cottage. “It’s beautiful. It’s huge, but with the variegated grey stone, red door and shutters, and the thatched roof, it still looks like a storybook cottage.”
Kieren pulled her car up to the front of the house and got out. I can’t believe how much Paddy’s house looks like the house I drew for ‘The Prince’s New Home’.
Eager to see what lay beyond the red door, Kieren left all her belongings in the car and went to investigate her new home. No sense dragging the stuff in if I have no clue where to put it. “Oh, wow.”
The door opened to a large vestibule, containing nothing more than a long dark wood side table, a mirror with a dark wood frame, wrought iron chandelier and a coat rack in the same wood as the table and mirror. The stone used for the outside, carried in to the interior walls and floor. The room should have felt cold and foreboding, yet it had the opposite effect on Kieren.
Directly across from the red entrance door stood double doors in the same rich dark wood. The click of Kieren’s boot heals echoed as she made her way to the doors. I’m thinking a runner will be going on to my shopping list. She opened the doors and drew a breath, “Oh Paddy. Why would you ever leave this for an apartment in New York?”
The same stone and dark wood made their presence known in the living room as well, and Kieren began to suspect they would be a constant theme throughout the house. Perhaps one of my relatives had a fondness for old Scottish castles. At least they had the fashion sense to turn the stone and wood into warm and cozy instead of cold and ominous.
The couches, with their dozens of pillows and handmade afghans, were inviting. I can just picture myself curling up with a book or taking a nap in front of the fire. Kieren strolled over to the mantle where a happy fire danced in the hearth, and took down a picture. It was of her and her parents. She was maybe two or three years old in the photo, which was obviously taken in this very room at Christmas time, more than likely the Christmas right before her parent’s died. They were so young, about the same age I am now. They looked so happy.
She traced her finger across her parents’ faces. “I wish I could remember you,” she hugged the photo to her chest and surveyed the room, “and this place. Obviously I have been here before.” Well at least that could explain why I drew this house for one of my books. Perhaps at some level, I do remember it. Maybe just being here, I’ll remember you too.
She returned to picture to its home and continued her exploration. On the far side of the living room was a hallway which stretched right and left. Ahead of her was a formal dining room with what looked like archways in each of the back corners. She elected to go into the room in front of her and leave the hallway until later.
The dining room’s focal points were the elaborate, hand carved breakfronts built directly into the walls, running the length of the room on both sides. They stretched from floor to ceiling, the bottom third with draws and closed cabinets, the top with beveled glass doors and six illuminated glass shelves. Each of the twelve, four foot sections held china and crystal from different eras and places. Consistently throughout each of the cases, the bottom shelf held the serving pieces, the next two shelves contained the place settings, the fourth shelf displayed complete tea services, and the fifth shelf housed the crystal, but it was the top shelf which drew Kieren’s eye. Each contained a watercolor depicting a scene from one of Kieren’s stories. If she did not know better, she would have sworn she had painted them herself, for the likeness to the ones which appeared in her children’s books was uncanny.
She easily recognized Grá and her shires, Urriam, Síocháin, Rathúnas, and Comhcheol. She suppressed a chill when she saw the painting of the Bagairt looming on the horizon. There was one of the cottage in the woods, and one of the handsome prince, who looked an awful lot like a young Paddy. Kieren smiled, “I guess Paddy’s tales were even more descriptive than I thought. I could have swapped any one of these out with my own drawings and no one would have been any the wiser.”
Kieren arrived at the tenth painting depicting an epic battle. It was a classic, good versus evil, light versus dark, and exactly the way Kieren had pictured it in her mind. It strongly resembled the sketches she had drawn, although she had not gotten to the point of actually painting the scene.
This tenth book in her series was causing her grief, where the other nine seemed to flow from her fingertips, to the tune of a new release every six months, much to her publisher’s delight. This new story however, has taken her almost a year already. Kieren would begin to write, then discard nearly everything she had written. She had no clear vision as to how the story was to unfold. Everything appeared nebulous and she could not grab a storyline and hold on. Completion of this tenth story was her project while she was banished.
She moved on to the next display, but found it devoid of any depiction. The same held true for the next case. Okay, that’s weird. Well Paddy did say it was up to me how the story ended. I guess he told me all the tales he had heard.
Kieren’s stomach rumbled reminding her the last thing she had eaten were some stale peanuts on the plane hours ago. “Hopefully one of these doorways leads to the kitchen.”
The kitchen was a pleasant surprise. Although the walls and floor were the same stone as the other rooms, they were hardly noticeable amongst all the modern stainless appliances. It was a veritable gourmet wonderland, one of which Kieren had every intention of experimenting in at a later date. Her one and only concern at the moment was food.
“Since I have no clue where anything is, I vote for quick and easy.” She opened the fridge and began to rummage, then exited with an armload of supplies and dumped them on the granite topped island. “Omelets it is.”
She sliced a pepper, an onion and mushrooms and tossed them in a pan with some butter to start sautéing. She opened a few cabinets and found the spices and bowls. As she began cracking eggs, she shrugged, “If I make a frittata, I won’t have to cook in the morning.” She whisked in a few more eggs, added cheese, poured the mixture over the veggies and set the pan to simmer.
“Blessed be, there’s a coffee pot. Now all I have to do is find the fixings.”
Mission accomplished, and with the coffee brewing and her frittata simmering, she thought it would be a good time to gather her bags from the car before it got dark. With her suitcases piled neatly in the living room, she slung her overnight bag over her shoulder and went hunting for her bedroom.
After peaking into the first few rooms in the right wing of the hallway, only to find a library and an office, Kieren retraced her steps and decided to explore the left wing. The first two doors did in fact reveal guest rooms, and as beautiful as they were, she elected to investigate her other two options. The room at the front of the house was quite lovely, however, it was a bit too frilly for her tastes, which left her with only one remaining option, the master bedroom.
She pushed open the heavy door and was again taken aback by the site that greeted her. She had stepped back in time. A monstrous, four poster, canopied bed stood center stage. She sighed, “I always wanted a canopy bed.” As inviting as the bed was, Kieren steered clear, because she knew if she lay upon it, that would be the end of her for the night, and she had left food cooking on the stove. “I doubt burning the house down on my first night would go over well.” Instead, she tossed her bag on the bed and returned to the kitchen.
After her hunger was sated and the kitchen put back to rights, she went to the living room to retrieve another of her bags. She suppressed a yawn and mumbled at the remaining suitcases, “You two can wait until tomorrow. I’m too tired to deal tonight.”
As she locked the front door a grandfather clock chimed somewhere in the house. Seven o’clock and you’re headed to bed. When did you get so old?
Kieren rolled her suitcase into a corner of the bedroom and yawned again. “Sorry, but it looks like you’ll be waiting until morning as well.” She sat and took off her boots then yelped as her bare feet hit the stone floor. “How did they live with no carpets on these cold floors? Rugs just hit the top of my shopping list.” Not knowing where her slippers were packed, Kieren pulled her boots back on, snatched her overnight bag and clomped to the adjoining bath. Too tired to appreciate her surroundings, she quickly washed her face, brushed her teeth and donned her nightgown, then headed back to her bedroom.
“Oh aren’t you the fashion statement, kick boots and a cotton nightgown. Look out world, you may not be ready for this degree of sexy.” Yup, I’m losing it. Sleep. Bed. Now.
Kieren climbed under the covers, her last thought before she drifted off, eyeing the laid yet unlit fireplace, was I hope it doesn’t get too cold tonight.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Kieren groaned and rolled over.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
She pulled the pillow over her head.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
“Argh!” She sat up and swiped the hair from her eyes. “Who the heck is making such a racket this early on a Sunday morning?”
Bang. Bang. Bang … Bazzzzzzzzzz.
“What the hell?” Kieren threw back the covers then yelped again when her feet hit the floor. “First thing tomorrow morning, this place is getting rugs! Please Lord, let my robe be in the suitcase I dragged in her last night.”
Her prayers were answered, for not only did Kieren find her robe, she also found her slippers.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
“Someone is definitely taking their life in their hands having to deal with me before I’ve had my coffee.” She grumbled as she stomped out of her room and to the right wing toward the offending noise. Not exactly sure where the sound was coming from, she began to throw open doors as she went. When she reached the sunroom at the end of the hall and had still not located the source, she turned around and tried again. Okay genius, obviously the sound is coming from outside the house, not inside. Go into the room where it’s the loudest and look out the window.
“Sheesh, I’m even a bitch to myself before I have my coffee. Maybe I should get some coffee first.”
Bazzzzzzzzzz… Bang. Bang. Bang.
“Oh no, this ends now.” She vowed as she veered into the library and straight to the French doors leading to the deck.
“STOP!” an unseen male voice commanded.
Kieren froze; hand on the door, one foot in the library, one foot dangling in midair. She heard a heavy sigh of relief, then a much calmer set of concise instructions followed.
“Don’t let go of the handle, ease yourself back into the room, close and lock the door. The other entrance to the deck is through the laundry off the kitchen.”
Kieren instantly complied with the instructions she had been given, but as she made her way toward the kitchen, she began to wonder. This is ranch style house, although I appreciate not tumbling out the door into a pile of muck, I hardly think that tone of voice was warranted. And who the heck was that? Sure didn’t sound like the little old man Thomas had warned me about. What was his name? Douglas something. McDonald? No, that’s not right. McDouglas? Oh sure Douglas McDouglas, definitely not. Something with an “M”, think. Hopefully it will come to me before I meet him.
Since her destination was through the kitchen, Kieren did stop for a cup of coffee. Too much had occurred already for her to go another step without her morning libation. Expecting to nuke a cup from last night’s leftovers, Kieren was surprised to find a fresh brewed, piping hot pot waiting for her.
The mystery voice must be the caretaker. Who else would come into my house while I was sleeping and make coffee?
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Kieren poured herself a mug, then feeling generous, poured another for Mr. Madigan. Madigan, that’s it. Noting the cream and sugar had been left on counter, she added liberal dollops of both, grabbed both mugs and headed for the back door.
She stopped when she saw the man on his hands and knees hammering a new board into the deck. Thomas’ and my idea of old vary considerably. Douglas Madigan only has a few years on me.
“I brought you some coffee Mr. Madigan.”
The man paused mid swing and looked at Kieren, “Excuse me?”
She held out the mug, “Coffee.”
He stood and took the proffered mug, “That I got. What did you call me?”
Kieren had to look up, way up to meet the man’s blue eyes. Man he’s tall, and not all that difficult to look at, that’s for sure. She cleared her throat, “Mr. Madigan. You are the caretaker are you not?”
“I am, but my name’s not Madigan.”
“Oh.” Kieren wrinkled her brow. “I was told Douglas Madigan was the caretaker here.”
“He was, well technically, he still is, but I have been seeing to the property for the last few years.”
Kieren took a step back, “But if you aren’t Douglas Madigan, who are you?”
He smiled and extended his hand, “Logan Evan Flanagan, Douglas Madigan’s grandson.”
“And would you be any relation to Evan Michael Flanagan the construction manager?”
Now it was Logan’s turn to frown, “His son, but how would you know that?”
“I met your father yesterday. Although you do not resemble him in the least, the name was too much of a coincidence not to ask.”
“My father was here?”
Kieren was baffled by his tone. “No, I met him while I was waiting for the ferry.”
“That makes rake more sense.” Logan placed his mug on the railing and picked up his hammer.
“Oh no you don’t. Why were you so surprised when you thought your father had been here?”
“I will not fill your head with the ramblings of a superstitious old man. Let’s just say he isn’t comfortable out here and leave it at that. I on the other hand love it.” He knelt down and began fitting the next board into place. “Sorry. I had hoped to be done with this before you arrived, but there was a delay and the lumber did not arrive on time. I should be finished by tomorrow, Tuesday at the latest.”
Kieren sighed, “Hopefully you won’t be starting so early tomorrow.”
“Early? I would have started three hours ago, but I figured you were probably jetlagged from your trip so I waited. Kieren, you don’t mind if I call you Kieren do you?”
“By all means, but three hours earlier?”
“It’s past noon love, the day is half over. I said I loved this place, but that does not mean I want to spend all of my waking moments working on it.”
“Noon? Oh dear God, I had no idea.” Flustered, Kieren ran a hand through her tousled hair. “I can’t even remember the last time I slept until noon, unless I was sick that is. I’m so sorry I delayed your work.”
“Ach, think nothing of it. You obviously needed the sleep. But, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to keep going.” He gestured with his hammer, “I still have a ways to go.”
“I’m so sorry. Of course. I won’t bother you.”
Kieren picked up his mug to bring it back to the kitchen when Logan spoke again, “Do me a favor?”
“Sure, if I can.”
“Please make sure the doors to the library and the sunroom are locked. The last thing we need is for you to try and walk on air again.”
“I promise to watch my step, but I don’t…” Kieren gasped when she reached the railing. “Oh my.”
“Exactly.” Logan pointed. “Take a look at what’s currently outside the library door.”
She inched her way closer to where Logan knelt, then stared down a twenty foot drop. “Oh my,” she repeated.
“And the drop from the sunroom would be five times as far, so please go lock the doors, put a note on them, caution tape, whatever. Anything to make sure you do not attempt to go through them.”
“Wow. I guess I should be thanking you for saving my life.”
“I should have made sure the doors were locked this morning before you got up, so there’s no need to thank me.” Logan gave her a crooked grin and tipped his head to the side, “but if you still feel the need to thank me, a sandwich in about an hour would be a nice gesture.”
Kieren laughed, “Done. I’ll see you then.”
Kieren took a quick shower and dressed. I gotta hand it to you girl, as first impressions go, you are the queen of disasters. She made a face at her reflection in the mirror, then glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand. One o’clock, which means seven, no eight at home. Still too early to call Leila. I’ll call her after lunch.
Kieren entered the kitchen and went directly to the fridge. “Let’s see if I can come up with something a little more substantial than sandwiches. Hmm, I have an idea.” She removed the ingredients from the refrigerator and placed them on the counter. “Now if I can find the rest of what I need, we’ll be in business.” After nearly opening every cabinet in the kitchen, she found the items she had been searching for and began to cook.
Kieren was quietly singing to herself when Logan came into the kitchen, “That doesn’t smell like a sandwich.”
Great, first bedhead, now my horrible singing. You sure know how to charm a man. Kieren tried to hide her blush, “I thought after saving my life your deserved something a little better than a sandwich.”
“Well, it smells wonderful. Do I have time to get washed up?”
Kieren nodded, “It should be done in about ten minutes.”
Logan momentarily disappeared into the powder room in the laundry, and then reappeared by her side. He opened a cabinet and removed two plates, pulled open one drawer for the silverware and another for the napkins. “I’ll set the table. Will you be using serving bowls or do you need trivets for the table?”
“Oh, um, trivets should be fine no?”
“If you think I would snub informality when presented with a home cooked meal, you are sadly mistaken.”
Kieren laughed as she turned off the burners, then hissed when the towel she was using as a pot holder slipped and her hand grasped the hot handle. She dropped the pan back onto the burner and shook her injured hand.
Logan instantly grabbed her wrist and held her hand under the running faucet. “Why didn’t you use a mitt?”
“I couldn’t find one.” She winced as Logan opened her palm wider under the water’s flow.
“Keep it under there while I go and get the medical kit. If we get some ointment on it and bandage it, hopefully it won’t bleb.”
“Bleb?” Kieren raised her eyebrow.
“Bleb,” Logan searched for the translation, “bubble up. Um, blister.”
“Ah,” she said with a shake of her head. “Silly me. I thought I was going to be in an English speaking country for the next year.”
“I could argue the point that it is not I who speaks in a foreign tongue, but I will leave that and a brief Irish lesson to our discussion over lunch. Then after lunch, I will take you on a tour of your home to show you where things are kept. But right now, we need to tend to that hand. I’ll be right back.”
Can this day get any better? He’s never going to want to be within fifty feet of me if I keep this up. Kieren wiggled her fingers. Her hand still stung, but the cool water was definitely helping.
When Logan returned, he gently dried her hand with a towel, smeared burn cream over her palm and fingers, and then loosely wrapped her hand. Kieren watched him as he worked, the way the fringe of long dark lashes shielded his eyes from her view, the way he bit the corner of his bottom lip while he concentrated on his task. Leila would have labeled you eye candy for sure.
“You will need to replace the wrapping tonight before you go to bed and then again in the morning, but if you keep the bandages clean and dry, you shouldn’t need further medical attention.”
“Thank you.” Kieren sighed at her wrapped hand, “again.”
Logan acknowledged her thanks with a smile, “Go sit. I’ll bring the pans to the table.” When he saw her about to protest, he insisted, “Go. It’s really no trouble.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” She grumbled as she flopped herself into a chair. She looked up at Logan as he placed the first pan on the trivet, “You must think I’m a total disaster.”
Logan laughed. “I don’t,” he said as he placed the second pan on the table and took his seat across from her. “What I think is, it is easy to be distracted when you are tired, and traveling over three thousand miles in one day would wear anyone out. Give yourself another day to adjust, and you’ll be as right as rain in no time.”
“You do realize you are assuming I was ‘right’ to start with.”
Logan laughed again and shook his head, “You have me there. Now how about we eat before it gets cold?”