Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its fourth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began last Monday and runs for a fortnight. Called One Summer In Cork, by Christine Kannape, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at www.echolive.ie. In this tenth episode, Julia learns a secret about Sarah and her doctor friend, and vows to find Rory.
I SAT in the garden at the back of the house, examining the herbs. It was the summer solstice. Though I had no idea which herbs had been in Maeve’s mixture, I thought that any would suit.
I crouched down, plucking a few random leaves and pocketing them, when I heard a rustle. It was Sarah. She paused and looked around, making sure no-one was watching. I must have blended in with the herbs, because she failed to see me.
Curious, I followed her as she slipped through the garden gate and down the steps into the side street. I stood behind the roses at the gate, peering through thorn and branch.
John stood, medicine bag in hand. He set it down, opening his arms to embrace Sarah.
“Sarah,” he said softly, kissing her cheek.
“Must ye leave? Ireland is not France, John. This is not a revolution, it is a rebellion, nothing more.”
“You are wise, Sarah, and I appreciate your love and concern for me, but I must help my brethren. I believe in the cause and my time in France gave me something I will never forget.”
“And what was that?”
“The knowledge that every man has rights and that church and government should be separate.”
“John,” Sarah said, her voice weak.
The scent of roses was sickening and I felt intrusive.
“John, you must promise to come back.”
“I will, and we will wed with or without your father’s permission. I will take us to the continent if I must.”
Sarah sniffled. A single tear dropped down her chin. I pulled away from the rose bushes.
There were some more whispers and whimpers and then, after a while, silence. The click clack of Sarah’s shoes sounded on the steps and she appeared through the gate. She flinched, seeing me standing in her way.
“Where is he going?” I asked.
“To fight in a rebellion up north.”
Sarah’s nose was pink, her eyes large and watery.
“He will be back, I’m sure.”
Sarah’s chin trembled and she fell to her knees.
“He has to,” she cried into her hands.
I didn’t know what to do, so I knelt besides her and tentatively placed a hand onto her shoulder.
Sarah held my hand, kissed it, and then placed it onto her stomach. It was firm and rounded underneath the layers of her dress.
“Sarah,” I whispered.
“See, we have to wed,” she said, “If we don’t, I will be disgraced. My father will scorn me either way, and it would be better if John was at my side.”
Sarah wiped her tears away and stood, as if fully recovered and ready to take on her fate.
“Does John know?”
“No, I’m frightened that if I should tell him, he will leave.”
“Sarah, John loves you. Really loves you. He wouldn’t.”
“Now it might be too late to know.”
Sarah did not cry again, instead, she squeezed my hand as if our roles were reversed. She turned to leave, but paused.
“I am bringing my father a basket for lunch, would ye like to join?” she said.
I had been to the distillery shortly after Rory disappeared. Sarah thought a tour might help distract me for a day. It was a peaceful place on the river, and smelled like freshly baked bread. There was something comforting about the wood beams that held the distillery’s ceiling together and the rows of barrels lined against the walls, waiting to be shipped. But, I had things to do and I didn’t want to tell Sarah what I was up to, especially now. Besides, I hated goodbyes.
“Sorry, Sarah, but I think I will stay here today.”
Sarah nodded, and left.
In my bedroom, I laid out everything I needed: my herbs, which I wrapped in Rory’s boxers, a piece of glass, and twigs I gathered from the garden for a fire, some money for carriage fare that I had stolen from Sarah’s purse, my old sun dress, and the Gin Gins that had exploded from my dress all those days ago — they would help my motion sickness during the carriage ride, which was inevitable.
“Madam?” it was Kate, peering into the bedroom.
“What are ye doing?” she asked, coming in with a change of sheets for my bed.
“Oh, I, uh-”
“Ye aren’t runnin’ are ye?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Ye have become like a member of the household.”
It was true, William didn’t seem to mind my company, or me living off of his livelihood, and Sarah was becoming more of a friend every day.
“Ye can’t be leaving Sarah, now.”
So Kate knew.
I looked at the ground, as selfish as it was, I wanted to shout at Kate, to tell her that I missed indoor plumbing, and of course, my family and friends.
“I’m just going to the country to see if Rory is lost out there. Maybe he escaped and went to the place we were found, not knowing where else to go,” I lied, before thinking.
Kate’s eyes narrowed with suspicion and she looked at the items on my bed.
“Then what are those for?”
“Just in case I get lost, you know?”
“Hm, well, I will be seeing ye this evening then, madam?”
“Most likely,” I said, with forced certainty and for all I knew, I wasn’t lying — who knew if my efforts would land me back in my own time or leave me here.
“I knew ye miss the husband, but he may not be coming back, especially if the faeries took him.”
“I know, thank you Kate.”
Kate bowed her head and took her leave.
I wrapped all of my items into a blanket, which I would use if I were stranded for the entire night.
As I walked away from the house that had been my home for the last month in this strange time, my heart sunk. As much as I wanted to be back in my own time with my own people, this place had begun to feel like home. I smiled up at William and Sarah Martin’s square house front one last time, and then made my way towards an inn, where I could take a carriage west to that oak tree.