Because of Sean

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Set in County Cork, Ireland - 1970, Eliza Byrne is a recently-made widow. Join her on her brief journey through her memories as she looks back on the events leading up to her husband's death.

Submitted: August 10, 2017

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Submitted: August 10, 2017



14th of January, 1970 – County Cork, Ireland

As she stepped inside Kitty’s Bar, the noise from the patrons stopped. The laughter, the clanking of glasses, even the music, it all just went silent. Her heels clicked lightly and she could barely hear the train of her gown dragging along the wooden floor. The sounds seemed to echo around the room. As she reached the bar, that seemed to be the cue for all the noise to start back up; although, it wasn’t nearly as loud as before. She held down the skirt of her dress as she took a seat at the very end of the counter. The lights were dim and the air was foggy from cigar smoke. An old man was sitting next to her smoking a pipe. The smell of it burned her nose.

She wiped away another tear as the sound of heavy footsteps approached and her head seemed to raise itself without her consent. “What’ll you have miss?” the bartender’s voice was low and rough. The man stared at her expectantly. He was big and bulky with a bald head and deep brown eyes that seemed to stare straight through her. She couldn’t help but recognize the tiredness in them. It was the type of exhaustion one felt when hope was no longer in their grasp. He had dark circles under those tired eyes and he reeked of booze and cologne. His shoulders were slumped and he kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other. It was obvious that he was ready to go home.

“Some o’ the black stuff.” Eliza’s voice was shaky and soft. As the bartender walked off, she placed her face in her hands. Her thick black curls fell down and acted as a curtain, hiding her from view of the other patrons.  She could barely comprehend the events that had just taken place. It didn’t add up in her mind. Why did it have to happen today of all days? Why did it have to happen at all? Her mother’s voice from long ago echoed in the back of her brain. “It’s all part of God’s plan for us Eliza. Everything happens for a reason and according to his will.” Eliza gritted her teeth and mentally told the voice to piss off. She lost all the people she cared for most in the world and it was all Sean Doyle’s fault.

That name rang in her head like the reverberations of a bell. The name that had caused a rift in her family, the name that made her run away from her home in Antrim all the way down to Cork, the name that would soon be etched onto a tombstone in some cemetery. His name. Her name.

Eliza looked up slowly as the heavy footsteps returned and she stared absent-mindedly as the bartender placed a pint of Guinness in front of her face. Her fingers wrapped around the cold mug handle but she didn’t feel it. She was numb. Numb from sadness, numb from anger, numb from shock. She didn’t even notice that the other patrons were giving her strange looks. Strange, but not unexpected. It wasn’t everyday they saw a crying bride at the bar counter. She lifted the mug to her mouth and as the dark liquid seeped through her lips, she couldn’t taste it. On a normal day, Eliza wouldn’t even go near alcohol. She detested the stuff, but this was not a normal day. As she sipped her drink, her mother’s voice appeared in her head again, reminding her that the Bible said it was a sin to get drunk on a Sunday, but she ignored the voice. Before she knew it, a new mug filled to the top had replaced the one she didn’t know she’d finished.

She stared into her drink and swirled it with her finger slowly. The foam collected around her finger and what she already drank was making her belly feel warm. Her whole body started to feel warm. It was a welcomed feeling from the numbing cold she had felt since earlier that afternoon. As she gazed absent-mindedly, a memory began to form in the dark liquid.

It was when Eliza met Sean for the first time.

June of 1958 – County Antrim

Eliza was hiding in a bush by the road near her house. She didn’t know how she got in the bush or why she thought hiding in a bush was a good idea, but that’s where she was. Her tears were cold on her hot face and she could taste the saltiness in her mouth. Her older brother Erik had taken her doll and it broke when she tried to yank it out of his grasp. Eliza knew that it was silly for an eight year old to cry over a toy but she couldn’t help it. Her doll was her only friend and it broke her heart to have that taken away.

As she tried to wipe away her tears, she could hear someone or something approaching her hiding spot. She quieted her breathing and stopped moving, fearful it was Erik or one of her other brothers.

“Are ye alright in there?”

Eliza looked up through the bush’s leaves and saw a scrawny boy around her age looking down at her. She knew who he was: Sean Doyle. They had been in the same year at school. All the kids had avoided him though because the older students said he was a “no-good protestant.” They wouldn’t elaborate on what they meant by “no-good” but everyone stayed away anyway, just in case. Sean was a model student however according to all the teachers. He was well-behaved, did well on exams, and was always kind to his peers even when they didn’t deserve it. That was a long time ago though. Before tuberculosis had every mother scared and keeping her children home for safe-keeping.

“I’m alright yeah. My older brother broke my doll. She was my only friend.” Her eyes stung with tears once again but she did her best to hold them in. “I’m sorry ta hear that. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll be your friend. I might not be a doll, but maybe you’d be willing to talk and play with me.” She hesitated for a moment before carefully making her way out of the bush and when she had, he held out his hand. “Sean Doyle,” was all he said. It took her a moment to wrap her small fingers around his, “Eliza Byrne.” He smiled a buck-toothed grin and something about his smile must have been contagious because she couldn’t help but to smile widely back.

A small laugh escaped Eliza’s lips as she recalled the memory with fondness. She didn’t know that day that she had found her best friend for life. As the two grew older though, they developed strong feelings for one another. Feelings that they knew they had to keep a secret from their families. It just wasn’t acceptable for a Catholic girl to be friends with, let alone love, a Presbyterian boy. She was willing though, and she did.

Eliza raised the mug to her lips once more as another, less pleasant memory surfaced.

December of 1964 – County Antrim

“Sean Doyle!” her mother screeched. “You’ve been going around with that dirty mongrel have you?” Eliza had been caught sneaking out of the house one Friday night. She had planned on going for a late night walk with Sean for their first date. They had been on plenty of “dates” before that night but this was the first one since the two had admitted their feelings for one another. Unfortunately, Eliza’s mother had smelled her daughter’s perfume as she went up the stairs to have a talk with one of her sons. Eliza had been halfway out of the window when her mother came in. Needless to say, she didn’t go on a walk that night. Instead, Eliza spent the whole night crying and screaming at her parents. She just didn’t understand why they thought Sean was so bad. He was one of the kindest people she knew and she cared for him deeply. The only reason her parents gave as to why she couldn’t see him was the simple fact that he wasn’t Catholic. She decided then that she no longer wanted to be a Catholic. If she couldn’t be with Sean for that reason, she’d give it up.

Eliza stopped going to mass, opting to go to church with Sean and his family instead. Over time, she could tell her parents were starting to hate her for her blatant disobedience and even her brothers, who she had always been so close with, started to treat her as a stranger. That hurt her worse than her parents’ outright dislike.

Over the next five years, she and Sean fell more in love and decided to elope. He’d never get her parents’ blessing and he knew that. He also knew that he couldn’t and would not live without Eliza by his side. It was his idea to run away. His family was alright with it, given the circumstances. They would run all the way down to Cork to be married and start a new life together. Eliza packed everything she needed into two suitcases and left a note for her parents and brothers. No matter how they treated her, they were still her family and she loved them. She wouldn’t just leave without an explanation, even if the reason would be painful to them.

She shook her head lightly as she pushed the empty mug away from her. The bartender seemed to know when she was finished because he brought her another pint before she asked for it. Perhaps he knew she needed it. Eliza was perfectly aware that it wasn’t wise to drink when she never had before, but she didn’t know what else to do. She had never seen anything like what she witnessed earlier.

Glaring into the mug, she started to swirl the foam once again. It just wasn’t fair. Everything had been going so well too. Sean had already bought them a house and had a pastor lined up to marry them. They weren’t in Cork very long. Just six months; enough time to get moved in and search for jobs. Once the necessities were in order, they decided it was time to get married.

The church was beautiful. Small, cozy, and filled with light. That morning had been so beautiful. The sky had been clear. There were no clouds, no signs that anything bad was going to happen. Eliza and Sean had gotten ready for the wedding and they were all smiles and laughs. They were so in love that neither of them could even imagine the events that would soon take place.

January 14th, 1970

Eliza glanced at herself in the full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. She couldn’t believe the moment had finally arrived. Smoothing out the skirt of her dress, she admired her appearance. The gown had capped sleeves that were made out of lace and the neckline was square cut. The bodice hugged her while the skirt flowed out and had tiers of lace near the bottom. Around her middle was a pale blue, almost white, satin ribbon that was tied into a bow. The dress flattered her greatly and for a moment, she thought she looked like a princess.

Stepping out of the church bathroom, Eliza made her way down the hall to the sanctuary. The organ started playing and she was certain that it was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. She lowered her veil over her face and got ready to enter. Her stomach twisted into knots and she was worried about puking. She quickly took deep breaths and swallowed. This was what they had planned and worked so hard for. No amount of silly nerves were going to stop her.

The doors opened and she took the first step forward. The first step down the aisle. The sanctuary was decorated in all white. White ribbons tied around the old wooden pews, white roses and carnations were on the altar. The sun shone through the windows, casting bright white light all around, making the room seem like heaven. At the end of the aisle stood one of heaven’s finest angels. Sean was a handsome man, but he never looked more charming than he did just then.

His dark brown hair, which normally couldn’t be tamed, was slicked back and combed. His stormy ocean eyes were filled with light and laughter. She could tell he was just as excited as she was. Her steps became lighter and she felt as though she floated the rest of the way. Only when she took his hand did she feel her feet on the ground once more.

The pastor started speaking about love and how God had it in his grand design to bring them two together in matrimony. Eliza got so lost in the excitement in her lover’s eyes that she didn’t hear the pastor anymore. She must have said what she needed to though, because the next thing she knew, she felt Sean putting the wedding band on her finger. Her cheeks flushed red as she mimicked his actions and placed the band on his finger. She heard, “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride.” Which is exactly what he did.

This kiss was so different from all the others. It was sweeter somehow. Filled with promises of love that would last forever and all they had to look forward to in the future. Eliza was so happy she felt as though her heart would burst.

But the kiss ended too soon, interrupted by a loud commotion down the hall. The sanctuary doors burst open as Eliza’s older brothers came in. Each of them holding a gun. Paralyzed by fear, Eliza didn’t catch every word they said. Their words slurred together and sounded like they were muffled, like they were trying to speak underwater. The words she did manage to comprehend were words she didn’t want to understand. Words like “dirty bastard” and “you deserve this.”

What happened next passed in slow-motion. Explosions erupted from in front of the newly-wedded couple. When Sean had seen the guns, he pushed Eliza behind him. Protecting her the best he could without a firearm of his own. A pool of red surrounded his feet and he slumped to the ground. She dropped with him. Propping him up on her lap, she begged Sean to stay awake. She took his hand and held it against her cheek. Her tears were hot on her face.

“Eliza,” his voice was hoarse, consumed by pain. “I love you. Take your time. I’ll meet ya at the gates of heaven when you get there.”

She struggled to choke back her sobs enough to speak. “You’re going ta be alright Sean. I promise. Y-you’ll be okay. You have to be.”

He didn’t respond, he just smiled at his bride. Looking up at her, the light from the window created a halo around her head. “I always knew you were an angel.” He murmured, his voice going soft before his chest stopped rising.

“Sean?” Eliza croaked. “Sean, wake up. My darling you have to get up! Please.” She begged to ears that could no longer hear her. A scream of pain escaped her lips. The police came in and had to tear her away from her husband’s limp form. Her sobs racked her body and she collapsed in the arms of the officer that was holding her. She looked over at her brothers who were all in hand-cuffs, being put in a line to get in the back of the police van.  The way they filed out, it reminded her of an old newspaper clipping she had seen when she was little; when some mobster and his whole gang got arrested. Eliza turned her head away and looked over at Sean, who was being placed on a gurney. The medics were about to place a sheet over his face when she wriggled out of the officer’s arms. “Wait!” she yelled, and they did.

She reached out and touched his cheek which was still slightly warm. With only his face exposed, he merely appeared to be sleeping. She leaned over and pressed her lips to his one last time. “I’m sorry my love. I’ll see you soon I promise.” Eliza whispered to him. They tried one more time to put the sheet on his head but she stopped them again. Insisting he needed to be able to breathe.

A few of her tears fell into her mug. She had downed two more as she reviewed the events of that day. Five pints in total. Her heart was starting to hurt but she ignored it as she ordered another beer.

The bartender suggested that she had had enough but her tears won him over. Against his better judgement, he gave her another pint. And then another, and then another. After her tenth, she paid her tab and stumbled outside. She wobbled along the dimly lit streets, not caring what anyone said or how they looked at her. All Eliza knew was that she needed to get home. Sean was waiting.

She rounded the corner and made it to the driveway. She fell a few times as she made her way up it to the stairs of the porch. For a moment she just laid there, staring up at the stars that had come out. Ignoring the pain, she stood back up and managed to get inside the house.

“Sean! I’m home darling!” Silence greeted her.

“Oh. Right.” She mumbled as new tears began to sting her eyes.

Eliza didn’t remember going up the stairs, but she must have managed. She closed the bedroom door behind her and fell onto the bed. Her limbs quickly filled up with lead so she couldn’t move. She was forced to stare up at the ceiling. The wedding band on her finger felt the heaviest out of everything she wore. Her head was swimming and her heart was screaming.

Suddenly, the bedroom door opened. Eliza used quite a bit of energy to turn her head towards the door. To her joy and shock, it was Sean. He looked completely fine. As if nothing had happened. Since she figured this was all in her head, the fact that he was surrounded by a faint light didn’t seem strange to her at all.

“You changed your suit.” She managed to say, and he had. Instead of the black tuxedo he had been wearing, this suit was all white. Briefly, she remembered thinking earlier that morning how he looked like an angel in front of the altar. He really fit the part now in that white suit.

Sean smiled and shook his head. “You’re a funny one Eliza.” Hearing him laugh again made her giggle.

Eliza’s vision started to be filled with black spots. A sharp pain in her chest made her groan but it didn’t last for long. Or perhaps it did. She wasn't capable of telling. Sensing her discomfort, Sean came over and laid next to her on the bed. He took her hand and he held it until she lost consciousness and her chest stopped rising.

© Copyright 2018 S. Lynn. All rights reserved.

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