Evan Murphy bought his mother’s house. It was a cottage in Ireland. When he returned to the small village where he grew up to become the fine fellow he was, he presented the deed to her. She was now debt free.
The cottage had been her grandfather’s house and his father’s before him. It even had their smells, the smells of generations who lived in that house.
Evan returned to the village a successful man. The priest welcomed him with open arms. He needed a benefactor and Evan was just the benefactor he needed. Work had not been done on the church for years. The roof had a leak.
Each of the villagers came to Evan with a sob story. Evan helped each out with a little bit of money. After all, he had made plenty. In America. His invention had done it for him. And continued to do it. He had licensed it and now he was living off the royalties.
Conal Breathnach had a daughter. Kathleen was her name. When he was twelve, Evan had fallen in love with her. Now he returned to claim his bride. Kathleen was tall with her long red hair hanging to her waist. She had a quietness to her. A calm that could make it through a storm. Evan loved her deeply, and she loved him in return.
Breathnach agreed to the wedding now that his future son-in-law was a wealthy man. Years earlier he had given the boy a no. Now he gladly gave Evan a nod.
Kathleen and Evan walked beside each other out by the stream where the men fished for their suppers. “What’s your intentions?” she asked the man she was to marry.
“My intensions, Kathleen Breathnach?” Evan held her hand as they walked.
“Yes,” she said. “What do you see for the future, Evan Murphy?”
“Aye,” he said. “I see children. At least, two.”
“I like children,” she said, knowing she would be the one to bear them.
“And I see us living in a big house just outside the village. With acres and acres of land.”
“I want to see the world. I’ve seen this village and I’m ready for the world.”
Evan had always dreamed of returning and living in the village as a great landlord. Kathleen did not have this dream. Her dream was to get as far away as she could from the people in the village. They were a small, petty folk, and she wanted none of them.
Evan had seen the world and he knew the folk everywhere were the same. There were those who’d tried to steal his invention. At least, he knew the pettiness and the smallness of the village folk. But then, if this was what Kathleen wanted, he would give it to her. It had been ten years since he left and she had waited on him. She had had offers but none of them had been Evan Murphy.
They walked over the hill and down to the giant tree where they had pledged their love before he left. Kathleen believed in Evan with all her heart. She had known he would return somebody. And now here he was, a man of the world with worldly success.
Finally, Kathleen asked the question that had been bothering her. “Just how much money do you have, Evan Murphy?” If he was to be the father of her children, she wanted to know none of them would starve the way she had in the year of ’07. That year, the hunger had been the worst it ever was.
Evan Murphy assured her that he had enough money for generations to come. And there was more than enough for a trip around the world. Evan Murphy was a rich man. That was for sure.
“I do love you, Evan Murphy,” she said, then she kissed his lips.
It was the first kiss he had since his return. It was not the kiss he remembered. That kiss had a sweetness to it like honey. This one had a bitterness. The bitterness of experience with living with a father who beat her when he came home drunk. The bitterness of losing her mother from the sickness. The bitterness of having hunger as a companion. It was a bitter kiss.
Evan realized that this was not the Kathleen he’d left behind to go off and make his fortune in America. Evan realized that Kathleen had been a romanticized fantasy. The Kathleen he’d just kissed was not the Kathleen he’d left behind. Life had made her bitter then and life still made her bitter.
The memories of all the tears she’d shed to manipulate him from leaving. All the times they had fights. He remembered the sorrow that the village wore from the poverty it had carried like a burden on its shoulders. It had been a hard life he left behind.
But he loved Kathleen Breathnach. So he agreed to take her away with him. They would sail around the world, then they would settle in a faraway place where there was no bitterness, no hunger and the people lived free of all the poverty the world can throw at you. Perhaps then, Kathleen’s kisses would taste like the sweetness of honey again.