Sunday, October 28, 2012
They spent the rest of the evening in stilted conversation, trying hard to ignore the unsaid words hanging thick in the air between them. Maureen pleaded fatigue somewhere near 10 PM, and they went their separate ways; Maureen to her borrowed room, and Kevin to the attic to put together a make shift bed. The sloped roof made the room cramped and stuffy, and he spent most of the night tossing and turning in both discomfort and worry. The alarm at 5 AM was almost a relief, and when he left the rectory for early Mass, the house was dark and quiet, and the door to his occupied room was solidly closed.
The new morning hours slipped quickly by. 6 AM Mass was short and reserved, and afterwards, Kevin puttered around the church grounds and sacristy, opting not to return home in between. He figured Maureen would probably prefer to sleep in on her first day of vacation, and was pleasantly surprised to see her among his parishioners at the 8:30 liturgy. Afterward, he changed quickly, expecting she'd wait for him, and that they'd walk back to the rectory together, perhaps even share breakfast at the diner down the street. Instead, he found the church empty, and disappointed, he walked home alone.
The heavy aroma of frying bacon hit his nose the moment he opened the door, and strangely, the dog was nowhere to be seen. He found them both in the kitchen, Mo attending to a sputtering skillet, and Basil underfoot, waiting for her to drop a slice or two, and not bothering to even acknowledge the priest's presence.
"Hey, you're home. Perfect timing. Sit." she ordered, pulling out the kitchen chair, and motioning
her brother into it.
"What's all this? It's your vacation. I should be making you breakfast."
"Spare me. You are by far, the worst cook I've ever known. I'd rather not start my visit with a case of the shits. Come on, eat up. It's getting cold."
On any other day, he would have responded with a scolding about her less than lady like verbiage, but instead, picked up a fork and dug into the plate of eggs and bacon, not wanting to ruin this moment in any way. She fixed a plate for herself, and settled in across the table, tossing the dog a chunk of cooled bacon.
"So, how is it?" she asked, smearing a pat of butter across her wheat toast.
"Terrific! You always know how to get my eggs just right. But where did all the groceries come from? I know for a fact the fridge was empty when I went to bed."
"On my ride over here last night, I saw that there was a small deli about two blocks away. So, while you were saying early Mass, I walked over there and picked up a few things. Unfortunately, they don't carry any Irish Bacon, so I had to settle for this generic stuff. Just not the same. Sorry."
"Oh, Maureen, it's fine. Wonderful, in fact." He reached across the table, and squeezed her hand. "Thank you. Truly. Having you here...well, it means a lot. I've really missed you these last few months. It's been ...rather tough adjusting here."
She squeezed back, and gave her brother a sad smile. "I missed you too, Kev. Nobody else in the family understands me like you." She pushed her eggs around the plate, but said nothing more, seemingly lost in her private thoughts.
"Mo, is there something you're not telling me? You've seemed out of sorts since you got here. What's wrong? You know you can tell me anything."
She shook her head, and placed nearly her entire breakfast on the floor for the dog, who was more than willing to finish her uneaten meal. "Nothing, Kev. Nothing's wrong." She got up from the table and refilled her coffee cup in an attempt to avoid looking at him.
"Damn it, Maureen. Why won't you tell me? We've never kept secrets from one another. Not ever."
"Look, Kevin. Just drop it, okay? I don't want to talk about it. I'm here for a nice vacation. Don't spoil it with your badgering. I'm just totally not in the mood right now for any sanctimonious bullshit."
Before he could work on her further, the front door bell rang, and he made his way to the parlor to answer it, the dog yapping at his heels. He peered through the beveled glass, and opened the door.
"Hey, Sheriff. What brings you to Holy Family this morning?"
"Morning, Fr. O'Kenney. I just came from the courthouse with some news about Tessa Pepper's trial. Got a minute?"
"Sure thing. Come on in. Can I get you a cup of coffee, or some breakfast?"
"No thanks, Father. I didn't mean to interrupt your meal. Just thought you should know about
the new court date."
"It's no bother, Sheriff. In fact, there's somebody I want you to meet." Grabbing the Sheriff's arm, Kevin guided him into the kitchen, where Maureen stood near the kitchen sink. When she saw the two men, she wiped her hands in a dish towel, and ran a hand through her red hair to pat down any errant curls. "Sheriff Beckett, this is my sister Maureen. Maureen, this Ted Beckett, the town's Sheriff. Ted was the one who so graciously looked out for me after the shooting."
Maureen took the Sheriff's offered hand, and with a smile, countered, "Well then, Sheriff, you have my most sincere gratitude. Kevin's my favorite brother, and I was worried sick about him. I'm so glad he had someone like you around."
To Kevin's eye, it seemed as if the Sheriff held his sister's hand a bit longer than was necessary, and yet Maureen was in no hurry to pull it back. He may not have been an expert on such matters, but from where he stood, it appeared that the Sheriff and his sister were...well...flirting. The way she titled her head to one side while she curled a lock of hair around her finger was a dead give away. He had seen her do the very same thing, a dozen times, in front of some unsuspecting lad who was sure to lose his heart. And it was also obvious that the Sheriff was taking notice.
"You're most welcome, Miss O'Kenney. I'm glad I was able to help." The Sheriff leaned against the counter, and put his hands in his pocket. "Your brother's been a great asset to this community."
Kevin made a face while he listened to the Sheriff lay it on thick, but a glance at his sister verified that she was eating up the attention. He felt like a third wheel in his own kitchen.
"How about I fix you a nice breakfast, Sheriff? It's the least I can do, and people tell me I make a pretty mean cheese omelet." She gave him a wink, along with a brilliant, double dimpled smile, and pulled out the chair Kevin was sitting in only moments before.
"Well, now. How could I ever resist such a charming invitation from such a lovely cook? I'd be delighted, Miss O'Kenney."
"Oh please, Sheriff. Call me Mo. All my friends do." She set a a large cup of hot coffee in front of the man, and pushed the sugar bowl across the table.
"Only if you promise to call me Ted."
"It's a deal...Ted." She giggled, and turned to work on her guest's breakfast.
During the whole encounter, Kevin wrung his hands. This was not good. Not good at all.
The Sheriff was spoken for, as the woman living in his house attested to. And his sister? She had a life back in Boston. The last thing he needed was for her to come to town and break a few hearts.
He needed to immediately sit down and do damage control, but the land phone in the parlor rang, and he excused himself to answer it, knowing full well that no one was paying a bit of attention to anything he was doing. It was Gerta Williams, Holy Family's Director of Religious Education, with a litany of problems concerning the behavior of the current class of students. It was several minutes before he could work his way through her issues, and when he finally returned to the kitchen, he found the Sheriff and his sister laughing over their conversation.
"I hope you don't mind, Father. I was just telling Mo about the time you thought Tessa Peppers was having a heart attack, and she broke your nose during your attempted CPR."
"Oh, Kev. You never told me that story. It's hilarious!" She leaned over and touched the Sheriff's arm. "Kevin has a way of getting himself in the craziest situations. This one time, when he was in the 8th grade, he..."
Putting up his hand to halt his sister's sharing of his most embarrassing moments, he begged, "Please Maureen, I'm sure the Sheriff doesn't want to hear my life's history."
"No problem, Father. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with your sister. And I can't remember when I had a better omelet." He turned and looked at Maureen, " But if we're going to get back before noon, Mo, we better get a move on." He rose from the table, and placed his plate in the sink.
"Going?" Where are you going?" He had left the room for only a few minutes, and already the situation had spun rapidly out of control. Damn.
"I was just telling Ted about the lack of decent produce at the grocer down the street, and he offered to show me some of the 'hidden gems' here in Dollyville. I didn't think you would mind, Kevin. You did say you'd be tied up with church business until dinner time. This way, I can get a little tour of the town, and still pick something nice up for supper."
She looked so earnest and pleased, he didn't have the heart to rain on her parade, even though he was fairly sure this whole thing was a train wreck waiting to happen. "Sure, Momo. If that's what you want"
She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Thanks Kev. You're the best." Turning to the Sheriff, she added, "Let me just grab my jacket and purse, Ted, and we can go." She practically skipped out of the room, leaving an awkward silence between the two men.
"Don't worry, Father. I'll take good care of her for you. And I doubt we'll be gone long."
He knew he should say something to the Sheriff about his concerns. At least bring up Cassie McKreedy's name, and gently remind the man that he was supposedly engaged to be married, and not free to be spending time with the pastor's sister. But he worried he'd look foolish and old fashioned. What if they were just being polite on his account? His sister and the Sheriff were sure to think he was just being an over protective big brother, so instead, against better judgement, he just nodded, and said, "I'm sure you will, Sheriff. I do want her to have a good time while she's visiting."
Maureen appeared, purse and jacket in hand, and with a final wave, the two were off, leaving a troubled Kevin alone in the rectory parlor. He watched them pull away in the Sheriff's patrol car...a large knot growing in his stomach, and a headache making a permanent home somewhere in the back of his head. It was going to be a very long two weeks.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus