Names: Deirdre- meaning eternal sorrow.
Caelan: meaning skinny. (you'll understand the meaning when you read the end)
Pooka: meaning playful or devious imp
Gael: Stranger, dark one
Deirdre faintly heard the distant roll of thunder as she sank to her knees, clutching a crisp yellow letter in her hands. The words killed in action, birthmark, and honor rang through her head as tears trailed silently down her cheeks. It was only five months ago, two months after their wedding, that Caelan had been drafted and sent to the front and now her beloved husband and dearest friend, was dead.
Caelan's calloused yet gentle hand caressed Deirdre's cheek, wiping away her tears with his thumb. She leaned into his palm, closing her eyes as he kissed her forehead.
"I'll come back for you Deirdre. I promise." He murmured into her ear as he pulled her close, breathing in her scent of honeysuckle and bell heather.
"I'll wait for you," Deirdre breathed into his warm neck, finally pulling away to look into his soft brown eyes, "I'll wait forever".
She wanted to be angry, to be bitter because he had broken his promise. Yet, how could she? She had also broken her own. Deirdre flinched as another man's arms encircled her, pushing aside her long fiery hair; kissing what did not belong to him. She turned to face Gael, her childhood friend, for whom she had begun to have feelings for in the absence of her husband.
“I’m sorry…” She whispered brokenly, “Just go…please.”
Gael frowned and leaned in to kiss her lips, but hesitated, and instead tilted his head and pressed his lips to her cheek. Then, without a word, he was gone. Deirdre heard a small whimper behind her and turned to find a little Irish Collie gazing up at her with an unnatural look of sorrow. She sat on the ground and softly called the little dog to her and pulled it into her lap, gently stroking its head.
“Now keep your eyes closed okay? No peeking!” Caelan laughed as he led Deirdre to the backyard of their new house. “Ready? Now open!”
There, with the remains of a rose colored ribbon in its mouth, was a black and white puppy with sweet gray eyes.
“That was the third ribbon! How did that trouble maker manage to rip this one to shreds too?” Caelan tried to look stern but he couldn’t help but laugh as he watched the scruffy looking fur ball leap towards Deirdre and drop the ribbon at her feet. She laughed and bent down, scooping the wriggling puppy into her arms and giggling as she was greeted with many wet kisses.
“Oh, Caelan I love her! She’s adorable!” Deidre smiled as the little grey eyed pooch stared wonderingly up at her. “Does she have a name?”
“Not yet,” Caelan replied. “What should we call her?”
“Well, she is a little trouble maker, so what about…Pooka?”
The little dog’s ears perked at the name and they both laughed.
“Alright,” Caelan said as he scratched the puppy’s ears. “Pooka it is.”
Deirdre lay down on her bed, and stared at the ceiling as it flashed white followed by a roar of thunder. The little house shook and a picture frame on the bedside table crashed to the floor. Deirdre grabbed it and turned on the lamp, holding the silver frame beneath the light. It was their wedding photo. She traced the newly created cracks in the glass that tarnished her cherished memory, and with a soft moan she lifted the picture above her head. She admired Caelan’s carefree smile and his laughing eyes, her gaze finally landing on the heart shaped birthmark on the side of his neck. It was the birthmark that she used to kiss teasingly and trace gently with the tip of her finger time and time again. The same birthmark that had been used to identify his body. Deirdre rolled onto her side and pulled the picture close to her heart, cradling it in her arms as she watched the raindrops slide down the window pane. Pooka jumped onto the bed and nuzzled her, giving her a reassuring kiss, as if to say everything will be alright. Oh little Pooka, she thought as she drifted off to sleep, if only that were true…
Months began to pass, and with time the pain and heartache that had haunted Deirdre began to disappear. There was never a day that went by that she didn’t think about Caelan, but she knew that she had to be strong and move on with her life. After many months of weeping and suffering, she had made up her mind. Deirdre took the silver framed picture and kissed it gently. Smiling sorrowfully, she traced her finger over Caelan’s handsome face and whispered goodbye to her first love. Then she placed it face down into the wooden box that Caelan had made her for her nineteenth birthday, leaving it in the empty darkness of the closet where it would remain forever.
As time passed, she began to spend more time with Gael. He had loved her from the time they were children yet she had never thought of him as anything more than a friend. She grew to love his gentle hands, his melodic voice, and his beautiful sapphire eyes that seemed to pierce her soul. No matter how many times she tried to push him away, he would only hold her tighter, promising to never let her go. They went on wild horse rides, picnics which always ended in food fights, swimming in a nearby lake and counting the stars in the sky after the sunset. The two were soon married in the flowery meadow near their house and had a beautiful baby girl named Kierra, followed not long after by a baby boy whom they named Cornelius. Deirdre raised the children while Gael went to work each day for a farmer who was nearby so that he would be able to provide for his family, and each night he would arrive home for dinner where they would eat and fill the house with joy and laughter.
Deirdre sighed as she watched out of the kitchen window, seeing her children run about in the meadow picking wildflowers while being chased by a now fully grown Pooka who loved the two like they were her own. She gasped as her four year old son tripped and fell and prepared to run to him, but he merely sat up and laughed before getting back up and running towards his 5 year old sister. She breathed a sigh of relief and looked up at the sky. A black mass hung low in the distance and the scent of rain began to fill the cool breeze that came in from the east. She began to call for her children to come in when she heard a knock at the door. That’s strange, she thought, Gael doesn’t get home for three more hours. She ran to the door and pulled it open, revealing the silhouette of a man by the setting sun. When she looked into the stranger’s face, her heart stopped and her eyes widened in disbelief.
“It can’t be…that’s impossible…” She whispered, her eyes burning as she tried to fight back her tears. “Caelan?”
“I came back for you.” The man smiled. “Just like I promised”.
He stepped into the house, dressed in a tattered and faded uniform which hung loosely on his thin form. His face was pale and his eyes were tired but they still smiled like they used to seven years ago.
“They told me you were dead.” Deirdre gasped, “They identified your body by the birthmark on your neck. You can’t be alive. You died seven years ago. You’re not Caelan!”
Caelan stepped closer to Deirdre and pulled the collar away from his neck, revealing a heart shaped birth mark. It really was him. Deirdre threw herself into Caelan’s arms and sobbed into his chest as she held him tight, terrified that if she let go he would disappear again. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her as close as he could yet it was never close enough.
“You still smell of wildflowers. Have you been rolling around in the field again?” He smiled as pulled away putting his hands on her shoulders so that he could look into the emerald green eyes that he had dreamed about for so long.
Deirdre tried to laugh but the sound came out as a strangled cry.
“Mama, Mama!” Kierra called as she ran into the house followed shortly after by little Cornelius. “It’s going to rain Mama! We saw the clouds and…Mama who’s that man?”
They both froze as they saw the new stranger, their curious eyes raking up and down, taking in every detail. Caelan’s hands fell from Deirdre’s shoulders and she tore her eyes away from her children to look into Caelan’s face. He was smiling in that same crooked way he used to but it an empty smile. She saw the realization flash through his eyes and then an unbearable sorrow filled them.
“I’m just an old friend of your mother’s.” He said cheerfully, “I came to say goodbye”.
“Kierra, Cornelius, please go to your room okay? I’ll be right there.” Deirdre forced a smile and urged her unwilling children along. After hearing their bedroom door shut, she turned to face Caelan.
“Pooka? Is that you girl? You’ve gotten so big!” Caelan was on his knees rubbing Pooka’s head and scratching behind her ears.
“Deirdre, you don’t have to explain. It’s okay. When I was taken prisoner they assumed I was dead when they found that body. I was gone for seven years and you had to move on. If I really had died, I would’ve wanted you to be happy, even if it’s with another man.” He murmured. “They are beautiful you know. Both look exactly like their mother.”
Deirdre walked to Caelan’s side and kneeled down beside him. She reached for his hand but hesitated and let her hand begin to fall, but Caelan grabbed her wrist and gathered her back into his arms. A part of her wanted to push him away because she loved Gael and her children more than anything, but another part of her wanted to run away from everything. To keep running until it was just her and Caelan alone forever.
“I love you Deirdre. I wish that we could’ve had this. We could’ve settled down, had a family, and watched our children grow and have their own. We could’ve grown old together and never stopped feeling the way we used to. But now you have a husband who loves you, two beautiful children, and a trouble making dog that are everything to you. You and I both know I can’t compete with them. There is no longer a place for me in your life. So this is good-bye.”
Deirdre watched, frozen, as Caelan stood up and walked to the door. He looked back, smiled, and shut it behind him. The sound of the door brought her back to her senses as she jumped up and ran outside. It began to rain as she ran after him, her arm reaching for his turned back, calling his name over and over. Caelan turned just in time to have Deirdre jump into his arms. The rain came harder now, soaking their clothes and drenching their skin as they stood in an embrace. Before Caelan could say a word, Deirdre wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his. She put all of her anger and sorrow, passion and desire; she put her entire being into that kiss, using her lips to tell him what could not be put into words. The kiss lasted for only a moment yet at the same time an eternity. It was the life they could have had contained within a single kiss. After they broke away, Caelan leaned in a kissed Deirdre’s forehead gently caressing her cheek with his hand as Deirdre closed her eyes, her tears mingling with the rain drops that rolled down her face.
“Goodbye.” Caelan breathed and then his hand slipped from her face and his warmth disappeared.
“Goodbye,” She whispered as she opened her eyes, only to find herself alone in the field in the pouring rain. “Forever.”