Celtic Remnants

Celtic Remnants by Deborah O'Toole is a powerful novel of enduring love and betrayal set in the political turbulence of Ireland, glamour of London and wilds of Scotland.

From Chapter Twelve

November 1992

Monasterboice, County Louth, Ireland



MONASTERBOICE HAD CHANGED little in twelve years. The same could also be said for Siobhan Egan.

The Blackwater Inn was still a local favorite and tourist draw, remaining busy, especially during the summer months. Winter saw mainly local customers, but it was enough to keep Siobhan quite comfortable.

She was busy in her red-bricked kitchen around eleven one November morning, slicing freshly-baked bread for the expected lunch crowd. At forty-six years of age, she was still a striking woman. Her red hair was now cut short, falling just below her jaw line. There was a dusting of girlish freckles across her small nose, matching in color with her brown eyes. She was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a cream-colored Irish knit sweater to ward off the November dampness. With her in the kitchen were two cooks, a maid and a waitress.

Molly Allan, a waitress who worked the restaurant during lunchtime, entered the kitchen shortly after eleven and made her way to Siobhan. Molly was a local girl who had been in Siobhan's employ for six years.

Siobhan glanced up and saw Molly approaching her. "How is it going out there, Mol?" she asked.

"I'm done setting the tables, Siobhan," Molly said. "But you have a couple of men to see you."

Siobhan paused in her task. "The restaurant isn't open for another hour."

"I know. These two gents aren't lunch customers, I'm thinking. They asked for you specifically."

Siobhan became slightly alarmed. "How did they get in? The doors are locked."

"They knocked. I tried to tell them through the door we were closed, but they insisted on seeing you. Said they were old friends of yours."

"Did they give you their names?"

Molly shrugged. "Just their first names."

"Well?" Siobhan prodded impatiently.

"David and Bart," Molly answered her.

Siobhan froze, feeling the blood drain from her face. "What the hell do David Lancaster and Bart Quantrill want with me?" she thought. But Siobhan knew why they had come to see her. Their appearance was somehow connected to the pesky Englishman who had been sniffing around several days ago, asking questions about Ava. She was tempted to tell Molly to get rid of David and Bart, but knew they would only keep coming back until she talked to them. Deciding to put an end to the snooping, Siobhan removed her apron and handed it to Molly. "I'll go and talk to them," she said tersely. "Tell everyone to stay out of the restaurant until they leave."

"Should I bring in some tea?" Molly asked, puzzled by her manner.

"No," Siobhan said firmly. "They won't be staying long."

As she walked toward the dining area of the restaurant, Siobhan tried to steel herself for the meeting ahead. She had not seen Bart Quantrill for twelve years, and the initial anger she felt toward him and David had diminished a long time ago. Her main concern had been for Ava back then. She could not see continuing her relationship with Bart when Ava became pregnant and David left her high and dry. During the summer of 1980, Siobhan meant for her affair with Bart to be a simple fling, ending when he returned to Oxford in the autumn. Even though she dismissed Bart from her life, Siobhan still had lingering feelings for him which remained unresolved in the back of her mind. She knew Ava had the same problem where David was concerned, although she never discussed it with anyone.

Siobhan saw them before they saw her. David and Bart were sitting at one of the dining tables, both of them dressed down in cords and sweaters. Bart had not changed a whit. He was still as adorable as ever, almost ageless with the passage of twelve years. David, however, was another story. He was still classically handsome, but there was a mature air of sadness about him now. Siobhan recognized the vibe because Ava had much the same air about her. There was no other word for it but sadness.

Both David and Bart looked up expectantly when Siobhan stopped at their table. She allowed a veil of coldness to harden her face. "Why are the two of you here?" she asked scathingly. She pointed a finger at David. "You may have a home nearby, but that does not give you the right to bother me. I have nothing to say to either one of you."

David stood up, but Bart remained seated, his mouth slightly agape as he stared at Siobhan. She was as lovely as ever. He felt his old feelings for her return in a blood-rush to his face. He was dumfounded by the emotions assailing him at the moment, but knew he had to collect himself.

"Please, listen to me for a minute, Siobhan," David pleaded. "I have to talk to you. It's very important."

"I'll bet it is," Siobhan spat at him. "You're the one who sent that damned investigator to snoop around, aren't you?"

David nodded. "Yes, but I have my reasons . . ."

"What reasons?" Siobhan snapped. "How dare you send someone to spy on me and my family? What gives you the right?"

Finally, Bart stood up. His voice took on a pleading tone as well. "Please, Siobhan, will you just hear David out for a minute? Please, I'm begging you."

Siobhan paused to look at her former lover. Her eyes were still cold, but she wavered. Sighing loudly, she took a seat at the table. "I can only give you a few minutes. I'm very busy today."

David and Bart resumed their seats. "I'm trying to find Ava," David said bluntly.

Siobhan glared at him. "Do you think me an idiot? I know you're trying to find Ava. Why else would you send someone to hound me?"

"Do you know where she is?" David asked.

"Why?" Siobhan demanded. "Why would you want to find her after all these years?"

"I know we have a child," David said quietly. "I realize I made an ass out of myself years ago when I let Ava go, but I've changed, Siobhan. I haven't been able to get Ava out of my mind since, and I've never forgiven myself for the way I treated her when she told me she was pregnant. I have to talk to her . . .  I know she might spit on me, but I have to try. I want her forgiveness more than I want anything else in this world."

Siobhan held up her hand, her face becoming rigid. "Hold it right there. Are you telling me it took twelve years for your conscience to kick in? Do you really expect me to believe that?"

"It's the God's honest truth," David said earnestly.

"What do you know about God's honest truth?" Siobhan asked him scornfully.

David was quiet for a minute. Then he leaned forward, his eyes on Siobhan. "It's taken me this long to realize I still love Ava. I always have. I spent years trying to forget her, but to no avail. God, Siobhan, don't you think I know how stupid I was twelve years ago? I was a young, idiotic man. I didn't know what I wanted, not even when it was staring me in the face. I cannot go on until I talk with Ava in person. I have to see for myself that there is no hope left."

"I can save you some time and tell you right now there is no hope," Siobhan said coldly. "Ava knows you're looking for her, and she doesn't want to see you. I repeat: She does not want to see you."

David sat back in his chair, eyes watering. "Are you positive?" he whispered brokenly.

"Yes, I am."

"Then you leave me no choice."

Siobhan remained stubbornly silent.

"I will keep looking for her until I find her myself," David said simply. "When I hear from her own lips that she wants nothing to do with me, then I will accept it as fact."

Siobhan watched him passively, saying nothing.

"Is there a child, Siobhan?" Bart asked quietly.

Siobhan glared at him. "Even if there was, why should I tell you? Do the two of you have some deep fear Ava will bring forward a bastard child, claiming it as David's to scandalize his name and reputation?"

"I know Ava wouldn't do that," David interjected. "She can't do that."

"Why not?" Siobhan sneered.

David shook his head. "She can't, and you know it. If she did, she would expose herself to the authorities. They're looking for her, aren't they?"

"You're pretty damned sure of yourself and Ava, aren't you?" Siobhan asked him, her tone full of anger.

"If I was so sure of myself, I wouldn't have messed up my life twelve years ago," David replied. "And Ava's life. If I had come forward like a man, perhaps she wouldn't be living the life she has now, and we would be one happy family. All of us." He looked pointedly between Bart and Siobhan.

Siobhan stood up from the table. "I have nothing further to say to either of you," she said icily. "Please leave my restaurant and return to your home. I will only say this once: I can't legally stop you from coming in here to eat, but I want you to know you are not welcome at the Blackwater Inn. Now please leave, we are not open for business yet." With that, she turned around and walked away.

David hung his head. "Damnit," he muttered. "She's as cold and unrelenting as ever."

"What did you expect, Davey?" Bart asked gently. "Open arms?" He glanced around. "Let's get out of here. Siobhan made it quite clear we are not welcome."

Once they were outside of the restaurant, Bart said: "What's next?"

"Kylemore Abbey in Connemara," David replied promptly. "That's where Clive Bender said Sophie is. She's a nun now, using the name of Sister Sophia." David glanced at his friend. "Are you okay, old boy? Did seeing Siobhan again upset you?"

"Quite the contrary," Bart admitted. "She is as beautiful as ever, and my heart did flip-flops the whole time she railed at you. God, I would have never thought . . . I sure wish things were different, Davey, for both you and me."

"So do I," David agreed wistfully. "So do I."



CELTIC REMNANTS ©Deborah O'Toole. All rights reserved.

"Celtic Remnants" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Celtic Remnants" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.