An innocent meeting as children sparks a fateful yet perilous liaison between Shannon Larkin and Mike Sullivan. Will their romance follow the same tragic path forged by their mutual ancestors Colm and Molly?
Larkin City, Maine
LARKIN CITY SUFFERED
THROUGH a blistering heat wave during the summer of 1961.
Accustomed to temperate weather even during summer months,
residents of the harbor town went to great lengths to keep cool.
As a result, regular power outages ensued as people ran their
air conditioners day and night. Those less fortunate relied on
electric fans or frequent trips to the community swimming pool.
The Byre resort also had two public swimming pools on offer,
along with ice-cold refreshments. Other locals made-do with
quick dips in the harbor as summer wore slowly on.
Few shops on Main Street offered air-conditioning. Not only was it expensive, it was also unnecessary as Larkin City was not known to be a typical hot spot. Bruno's Café was one of the few places with indoor air, so the eatery did a brisk business all summer long.
Patrons of the local grocery store weren't so lucky. Despite being owned by the Larkin family, the former mercantile was devoid of cooling comforts and therefore remained blistering hot inside. The sight of people leaning into freezer cases to get relief became common, and on more than one occasion customers were known to faint from heat at the check-out stand.
One Saturday morning in mid-July, the old mercantile was filled with shoppers. The temperature had already soared to ninety degrees, but the store was oddly quiet except for the sound of squeaking wheels on shopping carts. Housewives wearily trudged along the tile floors with their children in tow. The air was laden with humidity, and expressions of bored annoyance as the heat of the July day continued to wear into the century-old market.
Five-year old Michael Sullivan followed his heavily pregnant mother through the store. The boy was blue-eyed with ash blond hair framing his face, his features strikingly unusual and beautiful for one of his age and gender. His eyes were spaced close together, giving him a cross-eyed look, but the darker lashes were thick and startling against his pale face.
Linda Sullivan glanced at her young son. "Come on, Mike," she said. "I just need a loaf of bread and then we can go."
Mike nodded absently and followed her into the next aisle. It was predictably crowded, and incredibly stifling. Linda tapped her foot impatiently as she waited. Half a dozen women were ahead of her.
"Awful hot, isn't it?" a slightly accented and cultured voice said next to Linda. "They simply must install air conditioning in here."
Linda looked at the woman who was speaking. She was tall and slender, smiling as if the heat was in everyone's imagination. She was also pushing a shopping cart, dressed fashionably in a crisp, white pantsuit. Her long, wavy light brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun, revealing her thin but elegantly shaped cheekbones and full lips. A little girl, perhaps nine or ten years old, stood next to the woman. The child was of a lithe built, with fair skin and a distinctively heart-shaped face, her nose was small and thin, cheekbones high and her lips full and pink. Her hair, ebony black, reached down to her waist in a tight ponytail. Linda noticed the young girl's eyes in particular. They were almond-shaped and almost as dark as her hair.
The woman in the white pantsuit continued smiling. "My name is Mary Larkin, and this is my daughter, Shannon."
Linda returned the smile, momentarily surprised. "My name is Linda Sullivan, and this is my son Mike." She glanced at the crowded aisle. "If anyone can get air-conditioning installed in the store, it would be you."
Mary laughed at Linda's comment. "I've tried many times over the years," she said. "My husband's excuse is that summers in Maine are not long enough to warrant the expense of central air, but no one could have anticipated the current heat wave, could they?"
Linda liked Mary's open and friendly manner. She was certainly not what she expected a Larkin to be, assuming they were all reserved and above the fray. Mary was just the opposite.
Shannon was looking curiously at Linda's son. The young boy stared back at her. Their eyes held for several seconds. Then, shyly, Mike said: "Hi." Shannon blushed, but continued to look at him. She said "Hello" in return. As their mothers continued to talk, the children kept gazing at one another. Suddenly, Mike smiled. "You're pretty, Shannon," he ventured in a soft voice.
Shannon smiled back at him. "And you're cute, Mike," she giggled, ducking her eyes.
Mary finally made her way through to the bread display. She grabbed several loaves, turning to Linda. "At long last, now I can get out of this blasted heat. It was a real pleasure meeting you, Mrs. Sullivan. I'll badger my husband Brian to get central air in the store."
Linda laughed. "I'll be forever in your debt if you do."
As Mary and her daughter moved away from the bread aisle to the cash register, Mike's eyes followed Shannon. She did not look back at him. He was disappointed if not a bit annoyed. His facial expression took on a faraway look, as if he were daydreaming.
Linda nudged him. "You okay, Mike? Are you ready to go home?"
He nodded and followed his mother to the cashier. He sighed sadly, which his mother failed to notice. He again sought Shannon Larkin with his eyes, but she was nowhere to be seen. It was almost as if she had disappeared.
Mike's brain began to churn. "That face, that sweet, beautiful face." He wished he could put her image in his mind permanently, but wondered vaguely in five-year-old fashion if it was damaging to think about one thing for too long. What did it matter? It couldn't hurt him that bad, could it? Besides, he was unable - no matter how hard he tried - to rid the image of Shannon Larkin from his mind.
GROWING UP IN LARKIN City was a combination of surrealism and
delight. The old world charm of the town enchanted tourists, and
the beauty of the surrounding landscape was a point of pride for
the locals. The entire town and outlying vicinities were owned
by the very wealthy Larkin family, but this rarely presented a
problem for the populace. The Larkin's were fair-minded and
honest people. They provided most of the jobs in the city,
employing the largest number of people at Larkin Lumber &
Hardware, the fish-packing plant, the dozen fishing trawlers,
and the lavish resort known as The Byre, as well as the various
shops that lined the main street of town and along the harbor.
Linda Sullivan, one of Larkin City's less financially endowed residents, taught at the local elementary school. Having divorced her husband George shortly after the birth of their daughter Sara in 1961, Linda managed to support her children in modest fashion. The threesome lived in a mobile home a few miles outside the Larkin City limits. Linda could not provide every luxury in the world for Michael and Sara, but she was confident they were well-loved and content with their lives.
Mike had always been a bright, happy child, blond, tall and strikingly beautiful, almost too physically perfect for his age. He was helpful to Linda, looking after Sara possessively and assisting Linda with household chores when his age allowed. He was rarely depressed and smiles came easily to his lips.
The only thing Mike seemed to remember about his father were the few trips they had taken to Seal Harbor together, where they fished and explored hidden caves. The memories did not seem to traumatize Mike, so Linda did not worry about it unduly.
Around the time of his eighth birthday, Linda noticed a slight change in her son. Each time she went into town, he insisted on going with her. If she went to the market, he wanted to go inside with her, always wandering around by himself until she finished shopping. As he started kindergarten and middle school, and began mingling with other children his age, Mike became more gregarious. His school work was excellent, and Linda was justifiably proud of him.
When he was nine, Mike asked his mother if she had ever taught Shannon Larkin at the elementary school.
Linda glanced in surprise at her son. They were returning home from Larkin City. It was the beginning of summer, 1965. The weather was warm, and Linda rolled down the windows in the car. The hot breeze gushed in and out, whipping their hair around their faces.
"Why do you want to know if I taught Shannon Larkin?" Linda asked her son.
Mike shrugged, nonchalant. "Just curious. Do rich people go to regular schools?"
Linda laughed. "Of course they do. The Larkin's may be rich, but they're human like everyone else."
"Well, did you teach her?"
"Shannon Larkin," Mike reminded her irritably.
"Actually, I haven't taught any of the Larkin's, Mike. They always end up being enrolled with another teacher."
"So you've never talked to Shannon?" he prodded.
"No. Of course, I've seen her several times, along with her two older cousins and her brother. Her brother is her twin, did you know that? They look a lot alike." Linda paused, glancing at her son again. "I will admit, however, that the Larkin's don't take a bus to school like normal folks. They are always driven to school by their parents."
Linda shrugged. "I have no idea. I gather it's more convenient for the family. They all have jobs in town, and I suppose they drop the kids off to school on their way to work."
Mike was quiet for several minutes. Linda looked over at him as she continued to drive. He was staring pensively out the car window.
"Why this sudden curiosity about the Larkin's?" Linda asked him.
Linda thought no more of her son's questioning. She assumed he was merely curious about the people who founded Larkin City, nothing more.
Mike's secretive interest in Shannon Larkin continued to deepen with the years, although he kept it well-hidden from his mother. He memorized every scrap of news he heard about her, and on rare occasions he would see her from afar in Larkin City. She was obviously growing into a lovely young girl. Her hair remained long and black as night, and her small figure began developing curves and muscles, creating longings in Mike that he did not yet understand.
Mike never questioned his avid interest in Shannon. She was an image that refused to leave his mind for very long. In a sense, he was almost frightened of her. The thought of speaking to her in the flesh remained an unrealized fantasy. However, one of his favorite daydreams often repeated itself in conscious thought. In his mind, he played out running into her by accident, talking with her, somehow believing she would remember their first meeting in the grocery store years ago, that she would remember him. In reality, the idea of speaking to her scared him to death. What could he possibly have to say to someone like Shannon? What could they have in common?
Yet Mike continued to relish in the fantasy, hoping one day it would come true.
THE TWAIN SHALL MEET ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.
"The Twain Shall Meet" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "The Twain Shall Meet" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.