Catherine’s Castle - The Story
The continuing adventures of the Colorado Girls.

Chapter 7

Catherine’s Castle © Linda Pilkington

 Wooden Hearts

Catherine spent Easter at a gathering of the Connors- her mother’s family. She hadn’t seen them since January.

Both gatherings of the family were held at her Aunt’s house, and Catherine’s moods at each, were as different as the seasons.

Aunt Colleen, and her husband, John Niall owned a farm that was beautiful in every season.

 In January the snow had covered the rolling Iowa hills, and made the farm house look like a belated Christmas card.

And when she returned in April everything looked new, as if nature rejoiced at starting over again.

The original visit which had been set for January was postponed by a blizzard that buried the state under another layer of snow. That storm had been the grand finale to one of the harshest winters that Iowans could remember.

The January blizzard stranded motorists all over the state, including her cousin, who had been on his way to pick up her up. So to Catherine’s relief, that first ill-timed visit to her relatives, had been postponed.

Before her cousin called that cold January day, Catherine spent the afternoon pacing the floor of the apartment; back and forth, from living room to kitchen, and then back again. Her thoughts were unsettled, and anxious; her heart kept trying to beat faster in order to keep up with them.

The restlessness had set in after the talk with Liam. The remembrance of that talk, and the howl of the wind oppressed her spirits. She seemed unable to think or to sit still, she had to keep moving.

Till that storm Catherine had almost enjoyed “Iowa’s harshest winter”; it seemed like an adventure as long as Liam was there. Now she was consumed by the thought, ” Just a few days and he will be gone; how cold and dark it will be then.”

Catherine was glad to be alone. It would have been terrible to spend the first hours of the end of her romance explaining it to someone- even when that someone was a good friend.

Brittany left early that afternoon to attend one of the events of the new semester, a dinner given by some VIP Alumni. So Catherine spent the entire evening pacing the silent apartment, watching the wind drive the snow across the window and waiting to hear from her cousin.

As the storm worsened, Catherine had few worries for Brittany. Brittany would find someplace to stay. And sure enough, Brittany called to say that she wouldn’t be home till Sunday.

Vaguely, Catherine felt that it was selfish, not to worry about what might happen to her cousin and her friend. But after Brit’s call, and finally her cousin’s, her mind quickly returned to her own troubles.For a long time after the phone calls Catherine stood staring out the window. She barely noticed the storm that was raging outside- she was much too engrossed with the storm that raged within her own heart and head.

“Everything has changed. Liam is going-that is certain.”

” I want to cry… but I can’t. If I let myself cry then I might cry in front of Liam, and I won’t do that…”

“I don’t know what to do, but I know that I’ve got to think-not feel. First, I must keep remembering why I’m in Iowa.”

She was exhausted but her mind wouldn’t rest, and so her soliloquy continued.

“Everything must end. I can’t keep thinking about Liam. I have to put caring about him in the past. And, I must go back to my own life. I must stick to my own plans.”

“During these months, I’ve worked, but I stopped focusing on my own dreams. I’ve got to hold onto those dreams or I won’t have anything left.”

“How could I lose sight of what I wanted?”

“For so long I wanted to go to St.Columba. I came here willing to attend the University, but always with the hope of transferring. I would get all of the classes that I needed here in order to transfer. “Then after my transfer I would be a true scholar with the two years of mastering the Great Books curriculum, and working for the degree. So many famous writers graduated from there. And it was my mother’s dream for me; it was my dream for myself. The point was to understand those books…so that when I wrote…the words and the thoughts that I needed would be there. “

“From the first it was an impossible dream. You can’t lose sight of that kind of dream, or take time to fall in love, or you fail.”

Back and forth she went…pacing…barely knowing that she was pacing. Her heart aching as her feet paced, again and again, the length of those quiet rooms.

Once,she glanced up and caught a look at herself in the living room mirror.She stopped, seeing the unhappiness in her eyes, “It’s time there was a bit of pride there, Catherine Emerson.”

“He will never see that look in my eyes. Whatever, happens, whatever he says…I promise, myself that he will never know what I am feeling now.”

Later, the storm that raged outside ended, and, finally, Catherine slept.

Waking the next morning she stood at the bedroom window and gazed out at a peaceful world. She welcomed the quiet of the morning and rested her aching head against the icy cold of the window.

She had struggled the night before to put aside her impulsive, heart, and to clear away passion. Although the future was unclear, she knew that she had taken the first steps back to her own path. To take that path she had to live her own life and focus on her own goals. Her task, in order to do that, was to let go of love. 

The January visit to her relatives had taken place a week after that snowstorm; Liam had driven her.

Since those first moments when Liam told her that he was going to France they were at odds. Their turbulent feelings made everything worse. Now they were each trying to decide how, and on what terms they were to part.

 Their feelings had changed because the circumstances of the trip had changed.

Liam had been offered a chance to join a new program. First he was to be the regular “student abroad”, and then at the end of the semester he was to begin an intense period of study that would allow him to enter a new business program. That program would last for two additional years.

For Catherine, this news had come right after the first shock of finding that he was going to France. This new information came just as her mind was softening the blow, by whispering that it was only for a few months.

Liam felt that to be fair he must tell Catherine all of the details of his leaving. And, if his benefactors could have seen his face as he told her- they would have wondered at his lack of enthusiasm.

True- he said, “It really is the chance of a lifetime.”

And then, trying to explain his reasons for going, ” I want it because I watched my father work his heart out-he never had many chances, Catherine. I need this chance to make something of my life.”

“ Money isn’t everything- but without some of it- there are no opportunities. I’m not saying this very well, but the idea of having a family that has to struggle along as my parents did as I was growing up. Well, it scares me. It would be ok if you knew that there would be good luck ahead for me, and for them. But you can’t know what the future will bring. Money can take the place of good luck. Money can give you another chance at life. I want my kids to have the chances they need.”

After his first words, Catherine heard little of what he said. She sat, her face suddenly drained of color and expression, turning her napkin over and over, and thinking, “how little he cares about me… he can’t care and be willing to leave me for years, and years. And now this talk about money, I thought that he was one man whose heart didn’t reside in his wallet.”

Liam was still talking.

 ”One thing I’ve learned is, I’m not exactly the child of good fortune. If I don’t take this lucky chance- who knows when I’ll get another. The greatest luck I’ve ever had in life was in meeting you, Catherine. A bushel of shamrocks couldn’t equal that.”

Catherine had doubted him. “Has it all been a game to him, and now the game is over? Is he telling me how long he will be gone so that he can end it neatly and completely?” She studied his profile as he looked out the window.

Each day pushed them further apart. Each day Catherine grew more determined to end the pain, and each day Liam worried more about what he was losing. 

On the trip to Catherine’s relatives Liam kept trying to explain himself. Catherine wished that he wouldn’t. 

” Catherine, we both want certain things-for ourselves and for each other. You want to be a writer. You’ve seen how your mother struggled on, year after year-getting nowhere, because of her lack of education. So you decided that you needed the best education that you could get. It will take lots of time and sacrifice. Inside, we both know that if we grab for happiness now that we will sacrifice our dreams.”

“What he means is- that to fulfill his dream, there is a another sacrifice that must be made; it is the chance of sharing our dreams together.” Catherine thought.

She was silent, and Liam shot a glance at her. In a few days he would be separated from her, by an ocean- and then by two years of living. Were they going to spend their last few days together in silence? Would they spend the time- half in anger and half in love- regretting, hoping, and longing, and still losing each other in the end?

He knew that this trip to France was an opportunity, a miracle that would change his life, and that the background in International business that he gained would be invaluable.

If it hadn’t been for Catherine he would have gone away quickly, and with few regrets, but there was Catherine. And she also was a miracle. She was another dream- that somehow had come true. Now it seemed that he would lose one dream in trying to pursue another.He didn’t know what to say, or do- to make it right between them.

Finally, just as they arrived at the Connor’s farm, he had managed to say, “Catherine, two years isn’t forever- other people have managed to be apart for two years and still continued to care for each other.”

To which Catherine had solemnly, but steadily, replied, “Liam, it is an undisputed fact: people care about those who are near to them- oceans and years separate people- no matter what the romantic stories say.”

“What does she mean-is she warning me? One minute she is smiling…the next silent…and there seems to be nothing that I can do,” he took a breath and began to search for other words. But Catherine was already out of the car-and was walking quickly to the house.

The day was an unexpected blessing to them, by the very fact that they were never left alone. If they had been together they might have reverted to their argument and to trying to solve the sad little riddle- that for them- had no answer

After Liam was gone, Catherine had kept the January resolutions. But her Easter visit to her Aunt’s farm was full of January memories.

On that Easter Day Catherine tried to forget the day she had spent there with Liam. She needed to see those quiet people with their sparkling eyes and hear their laughing voices. She needed her Aunt- as a substitute for her mother. She needed to listen to her stories, and to be comforted by tea, and a pat on the shoulder.

For Catherine the farm was a magical place that connected her with her mother’s family. The Connor history had long been interwoven with the myths that she had learned from Celtic history. Her childhood memories of gatherings were mixed with old stories that her father told her of Tara, the seat of the Kings of Ireland. And, sometimes she wasn’t sure whether she was listening to family or to Celtic history.

Irish history and her Celtic relatives were a confusion of people and places that continued because the Connors- carried in their bloodline that ancient heritage. They did not live in, or long for that past, but they were people of the imagination-story tellers- just as the Celts had been. Their stories from the past-flew forward- to envelop, and find new meaning in the present.

That day in January, even with Liam to distract her, had brought to Catherine’s mind the stories of Hallow Day. For that was a day in which there had been an assembly of all of the people in Ireland.

Because the Celts had no written history- on Hallow Day, the old laws had been recited, and new laws were made. Then the memorized history of the land was carefully recited-for the people. That history was given in verse- and so passed on. That recited verse had effectively preserved Ireland’s history for a thousand years.

That day was Catherine and Liam’s Hallow Day. It was a day in which their short history, which they had silently memorized together, and recited in their hearts, became a day in which they made decisions that would determine their future.

“This family- seems so Irish- and yet I’ve heard Catherine say that it has Welsh, Scots, English, and even a bit of German blood mixed in.” Liam observed to her Uncle Rory during the visit.

“Well, yes, like most Americans we have intermarried. But just think of it- what were the Welsh? They were Celts. The Scots- in the beginning they were Irish. The English? A great many of them were Celts. The German blood- it is certainly there- but out numbered by the Celtic heritage that possesses us and makes us the Americans that we are.”

“They are the past -those Celtic people. America is our beloved country, and it is both our present and our future. But the Celtic people - their faults, but also their gifts of mind and spirit- their courage, their longing for justice, their imagination; those are the gifts we brought to America.”

Later, that cold day, they sat looking over some of the delicate crafts that her aunt produced. Liam leaned over the back of her chair, and his hand had brushed against Catherine’s auburn hair-as he asked more questions.

“Why do you do make so many hearts?”

“I make other things- of course,” Aunt Colleen said. ”These particular hearts are inspired by the Claddagh ring. Have you heard of it?”

“The Irish hearts-the wedding rings?”

“Yes, I’ve always longed for one, and so I have a special liking for a story that comes down to our family from our Irish family history.”

Catherine had leaned back, and Liam leaned forward, to catch the clean, fresh scent of her hair.

“The Claddagh was made, and given, for it must-by tradition- be received as a gift, in Ireland- ever since the 1600’s.”

“During those early times the Connors were Catholics- although that has changed for us now.”

” There are many sad times in Ireland’s past, but some of the hardest for the Catholics were the times of the Penal laws.”

“What were they?” Liam said. 

“Wicked laws that the English made- these laws were made in the 1700’s – I think- and were to suppress the Irish race- especially the Catholics.”

“I don’t know all of them, but I know that Catholics were forbidden an education, and forbidden to enter a profession or even to engage in a trade. An Irish man couldn’t own a horse worth more than five pounds, or vote, or own land.”

“Mankind can be wicked, and whenever too much power is held by one group- over another - tragedy results.”

And then her Aunt Colleen, looking into the misty past, told them this story.

In Another Time and Place, there lived one of our ancestors whose name was Sean Connor. He was a jeweler by trade, and an artist at heart.

He made beautiful things, and among those things was the Claddagh ring. He did fine work, work. He was a clever, witty, and happy young man until the time that the Penal Laws were enacted.

But long before the laws came he foresaw the future. And he hid away as much money as he could, because he knew that soon he would be forced to leave the country.

There were two things that held him there. One was his love of his country – that love which was so strong in the Irish. The other was his love for a beautiful young woman. Her name was Margaret- or as he had called her from a child- Molly.

Molly O’Brien was the oldest child in a poor family. Her father, a fisherman, died  at sea while trying to provide for his family.

For a few years, his widow, a young and pretty woman, managed by sewing, and teaching lacework to the rich young ladies of the district. It was a difficult life, and the young widow hated it. She was not a woman of strong character. She longed for security and an end to drudgery.

It was inevitable that when an Englishman, years older, and fortunes richer-asked the widow O’Brien to marry him that she would accept with alacrity-even when part of the bargain was that she renounce her Catholic faith.But long before her mother’s marriage, Molly O’Brien, Sean Connor, and James Brown-an English man with Celtic forebears, were first playmates, and later- the best of friends.

Since they had entered their teens, both of the boys had loved Molly O’Brien and shyly courted her. Though her family was poor, the boys thought that Molly was more elegant than any fine lady could ever be. At first Molly showed little preference between them and had led them a merry chase until Sean’s nineteenth birthday.

Months before, Sean had impulsively bought Molly green hair ribbons for May Day, but on his next birthday- he regretted having gotten her anything.

“Why did I do it, James?” He said. ”It was thoughtless to buy her those ribbons-now her pride obliges her to return the favor. She doesn’t have any money- and I don’t want her struggling to get me something for my birthday. I don’t want her ever to sacrifice for me.”

His friend, James Brown, walked along the road beside Sean. James didn’t answer. He looked away when a bird flew out of a bush beside the road. He turned his head and followed the bird’s flight, a frown creased between his eyes.   

 ”Molly has her pride, but she has imagination too, should she give you a present- she will spend her imagination, rather than money.”

It was Sean’s birthday, and it was May Day once again, and as the friends approached Sean’s house they saw Molly step onto the porch- a basket on her arm.

She turned at their voices, put down the basket, and as part of the tradition, ran away.

The May Basket was pretty, decorated with green ribbons, and topped with a piece of fine lace- for Sean to use as a neck cloth. Placed gently over that lace, -to protect it-was a broad leaf. On top of the leaf were hundreds of shamrocks- given to bring him luck. They were fresh- the dew still upon them. The glint of the morning sun sparkled on the dew and the shamrocks looked as if they had been cast in gold.

James turned away when he spied a note tucked into the green plants. And then he made an excuse and turned towards home. He left his friend, Sean, to run after the beautiful Molly O’Brien.

Soon Molly and Sean were secretly engaged. And after May Day, James, although still a friend-seemed distant, and kept away from them.

At first, the secret of their engagement was intended to last only until Molly’s next birthday-when she planned on asking her mother’s permission to marry.

Molly was protective of her mother. Now she wanted to prepare her before she announced her marriage to Sean Connor. But soon, other occurrences made the secret of the engagement a necessity.

The Penal laws were enacted, and Sean’s career as a jeweler was ended; he had to make careful plans to leave Ireland.

 But worse, Molly’s mother, that pretty, weak natured, little widow had quite suddenly, re-married.As so often happens in marriages made primarily for money, her husband, Mr. Dean,  turned out to be no bargain at any price.

He was a tyrant who ruled in the house. He had his way in everything- and soon his little wife, and his new family were terrorized of him.

It started with belittling his wife’s words, her appearance, and her nationality. But the satisfaction that her new husband gained from attacking her spirit- soon led him to beat her at the slightest provocation.

Molly knew the misery of her mother’s marriage. There seemed to be nothing that could be done about it-there were two younger O’Brien children that must be fed, and soon a new little baby was born to Mrs. Dean.

And after the first year- after he had nearly ruined his wife’s health and destroyed much of her beauty- Mr. Dean slowly began to dominate her beautiful daughter.

 In those days parents had great power over their children’s lives. Mr. Dean had a mind that found satisfaction in the power to control, and his unhappy temperment took satisfaction in causing unhappiness. 

He was a hypocrite and what went on in the family wasn’t widely known.

 But even if it had been, his abuse of his wife or his cruelty to his children, probably wouldn’t have injured his reputation. He ranked high in his church, and had money to spend and so he was bound to be esteemed in the village. Many there envied the O’Brien’s their ‘easy life’-and that envy often turned to spite.

For the family the fact that he was often away from home was a blessing. At those times-a bit of happiness could be stolen and saved up to remember during the miserable times to come.

Sean stayed in Ireland-trying to avoid the law, and living on his savings until he could get Molly to run away with him. Now, he couldn’t enjoy even her friendship-because Mr. Dean had forbidden her to see “that Catholic”.

Molly had some influence with Mr. Dean. He respected her ladylike ways-and was proud of her great beauty. He felt that she was a credit to him. She knew that as long as he was proud of her- that he would treat her well. She assured herself that she was protecting her family by using her influence with him. 

As Molly’s birthday approached Sean wondered how he could let her know that his heart- was still hers. A note was too dangerous because it might fall into the wrong hands.He thought of the past and of all of the rings he had made, and he wished that he could make one heart ring for Molly’s birthday. Then he sighed because he had no metal with which to work.

Weeks later, when she awoke on her birthday morning, Molly thought of her unhappy mother, and her little brothers and sisters. She thought of her own life- and how her stepfather controlled every aspect of it. He decided where she was allowed to walk and which friends she was allowed to see. She realized that her stepfather enjoyed making people unhappy.  She blinked away her tears and determined that he wasn’t going to spoil the day for her.

And as she got out of bed she pushed away the illogical wish for some sign of love from Sean Connor.

She wouldn’t despair. It looked as if it would be a lovely morning, and it was her birthday.  Hope filled her heart as she looked out of her bedroom window-down to the garden below. It was very early, and shadows kept the corners of the garden indistinct, but in one of those corners her favorite yellow rose bush appeared to be abloom with color, as if dozens of tiny roses had suddenly appeared there.

“But it only blooms once in the spring- or so the gardener told me.” Curious, she pulled on a shawl, and quietly went down the stairs and out to the garden.

And there on the bush bloomed dozens of tiny, wooden hearts- painted in the softest colors she had ever seen and tied onto the bush with green ribbons.

For a moment tears of happiness dimmed her eyes, and then she had gathered those hearts quickly- and fled with them into the house- hurrying to hide them away before the family was up. Her heart raced as she silently climbed the stairs. She had her hand on the doorknob of her bedroom when her stepfather’s voice stopped her.

“Well, Madam- where have you been so early in the morning- and what have got in your hands?  I have treated you well, as long as you acted like a lady. What are you doing out of the house in your nightdress? Explain your actions!”

He questioned her, and had accused her of meeting a lover.

“You will not bring shame on my name!” He shouted. He tore the wooden hearts from her hands and swept them into the fireplace. They burned as Molly watched.

Her birthday, and the days after it were ruined for her, and for her family because her stepfather would not rest, or let them rest. He was determined to know the full story of the wooden hearts.

She had disliked her stepfather before,but now she saw him not only as her mother’s brutal husband- but also as one of the English. Her stepfather and the English- seemed as determined to destroy every chance of happiness, as they were to destroy Irish liberty. Molly hated him, and all of the English, and wished that she could rid her family and her country of them.

Silently she thanked God that her family didn’t know about her love for Sean Connor. She hoped that her stepfather would accept the hasty story of it being her own childish impulse to hang some hearts on the rose bush as a way to celebrate her birthday.She repeated that story often enough, but Mr. Dean wouldn’t accept it. 

The days went on, and the only glimpses she had of Sean were on those Sundays that her stepfather felt displeased with his family,and showed it by denying them the use of the carriage for the ride to the church. His bad temper, now increased, assured Molly that they would walk to church nearly every Sunday.

Some in the town resented that Mr. Dean, that fine upstanding Christian, had married that Catholic O’Brien woman. Those who knew of the method he used to punish them, lined the path and smiled triumphant smiles at the O’Brien children whenever their stepfather made them walk to church.

“They are a bunch of trash-and you can bet he chastises them for their own good.” The most pious said.

Molly knew why the town folk watched them walk to church, and it humiliated her. But the walk still filled her with anticipation. She knew that somewhere along the way she would see  Sean. He was never in the same place, and never obviously watching her. But for a moment their eyes would meet, and Molly who had become a master at disguising her feelings from the crowd, would be gloriously happy.

The long weeks wore on and nothing improved. Finally, Molly decided that her presence with her family helped none of them, and that it was time to make plans to run away with Sean Connor. She regretted that she had waited so long.

The times when her stepfather was gone from home were always times of rejoicing to the family. Then they stopped creeping about like prisoners. As soon as he left the children would skip out the door to freedom. Because of what he had put them through during those weeks everyone in the house prayed for his next trip.  

The time arrived, and as he prepared for his business trip, the family held their breath. Each one of them, from his wife to Mr. Dean’s own small son waited for the door to close behind him. But even after the sound of the carriage had died away, Molly was careful. She waited an hour before going to find Sean.

Sean had also watched, waiting for her stepfather’s departure. She met him in the lane near her house, and soon they settled the details of their escape.They held each other as if they would never let go.

They kissed and clung to each other, and the embrace brought Molly’s long hair down on her shoulders. There was a goodbye kiss, and then Sean gave her another delicate heart. This heart was to remind her to be brave until they escaped. There was a long ribbon attached so that she could wear it around her neck.

Then, Molly smoothed down her hair and arranged her dress. They had turned for home, when suddenly English soldiers, jeering, and leering -surrounded them. Her stepfather struck Molly, and called her a hussy. The soldiers drug Sean Connor away from her.

Once home, Molly was sent to her room, and was kept there. For the next two weeks she had seen no one but the maid who brought her food. She was her stepfather’s prisoner. The news from the maid was that her mother, and the little ones were all very quiet like, and her stepfather was “so very angry, Miss-it don’t do to speak of it.”

The same maid told her that Sean Connor had escaped, but was hunted like a criminal. The town-although silent- knew what had happened in the Dean house. And Molly knew that  the gossips considered her a fallen woman.

The long days stretched on, and Molly wondered at her stepfather’s daily absence from home. Every morning he would leave,not to return until night. Finally, the maid confessed that his daily business was to find a man willing to marry his ruined stepdaughter-and almost any man would do- as long as it wasn’t Sean Connor.

That news was humiliating, but there had been so many humiliations that Molly no longer wept. In that day, parents arranged marriages for their children, but most parents would have taken care of their child’s reputation when doing it. Her stepfather’s actions had, forever, destroyed Molly’s good name. There was nothing that Molly could do about it, and so she saved her strength, and determined that whatever happened to her she would build a better life than the one she led in her stepfather’s house.

The next morning she watched, with surprise, as her old friend, James Brown, walked to their front door. He looked up, bowed, and smiled a quick-embarrassed smile. 

Later that morning she was told that James had asked for her hand, and that she was to marry him before the month was out. When she asked the maid for word of Sean Connor she was told that there had been an ambush-and as he was fighting his way out, Sean had killed a soldier. Now there was a price on his head.

On her wedding day Molly had risen early and dressed in a white lace dress, beautifully made for her by her mother. 

“The best thing, and the hardest thing that I have ever made. Wear it My Dearest, to defy your stepfather and to show the town that you have no reason to be ashamed,” her mother said.

Molly dressed carefully. In gratitude to James Brown she was determined to be the prettiest bride the town had ever seen. She braided green ribbons in her hair before putting it up. And around her neck, as her only decoration, she wore the ribbon that held the beautiful wooden heart.

From her stepfather there was a final insult. She was given no carriage to take her to the church-but was forced to walk along beside him. It was another chance for him to show his anger at her behavior and to humiliate her.The town folk- she was told, by the maid, had gathered along the streets to watch her passing.

Molly quickly decided that no matter what happened- no emotion would show on her face. She  would look as serene, and as pretty as any bride. To do any less was to give the spiteful more satisfaction than they deserved.

But as they stepped out the front door, she saw the crowd, and her courage failed her. For the first few steps she blushed with shame. Her knees trembled, and she kept her eyes down as she walked.

And then a glance at a bush to the side of her path showed a wooden heart shinning brightly in the sunshine. Looking ahead she saw that the bushes that lined the road were covered in hearts. Hearts of all colors, more beautiful than flowers-waved in the breeze and cheered her passing.

Suddenly she was aware of the bright sunshine that warmed her skin, and of the soft breeze that stirred the beautiful lace that her mother had so tirelessly worked for her wedding dress. And each step revealed another wooden heart magically lining her pathway.

“How long must it have taken him to make them? And how was he able to hang them?” She whispered.

And suddenly the weight of the love that surrounded her buoyed up her heart and banished the thoughts of bitterness at the ruin of her life. All the hate that had so filled her own heart- disappeared as she walked- surrounded by those hearts and by the lost love that they symbolized.

At the end of the path stood her old friend, James Brown-smiling kindly at her. He took her hand, and as they walked to the church-he whispered, “Sean Connor hung the hearts on the bushes, long before it was light this morning.”

” They are for you on our wedding day-and his message to you- Molly- is that your love hasn’t ended-but that it will live on-somehow-as long as you both live.”

At the altar, the ring that James Brown slipped onto her finger was a Claddagh. Gently, he  put the hand that wore the ring to his lips- and whispered, ” I am here today because I love you. You are my Heart’s Dearest, for all time, Molly O’Brien.”

After that day, many in that village wondered what happened to Sean Connor. Some believed, as Molly and James did, that he had gone to America.

Shortly after their wedding the Browns moved away from that village- and built a new life together. Within months of the wedding, Molly’s stepfather was killed in a carriage accident-leaving her mother and the children prosperous and happy for the rest of their lives.

And so you see, the hearts and their message lived on despite the cruelty that tried to crush them. And that is the message that I hope lives on with the hearts that I create and sell, and in the hearts of those who buy them.


 The story had calmed Liam. Afterwards he felt that no matter what changes the future held for them- that the story had foretold a beginning and not an ending.

Silently, Catherine looked up at him, and for a moment there was peace between them. It was a peace that calmed and helped them even as they parted. 

After Easter dinner with the Connors, Catherine slipped on her jacket for a walk. As she stepped out the back door her Aunt Colleen smiled, and pressed a package into her hands with the instructions to “open it on your walk.”

Catherine smiled at her thoughtfulness, and walked on enjoying the sunshine and vaguely wondering what her Aunt had bought her.

Once in the meadow, she sat down on a log and gazed out at the green and rolling hills.

Then without warning, a terrible sense of loss, and loneliness washed over her.

“I’ve been thinking too much about Liam. I promised myself to go on with my own life. And so I must stop thinking of him. To do that I will remember one last thing-that he never once told me that he loved me.”

“ Maybe it would all have been easier, to have it end, if I had known what he felt.”

She sat, trying to drive away the hurt by driving away thought. It didn’t work. The thoughts would come, no matter how she stared up at the clouds.

“The fact that he never said anything. That he never said the words- answers the question,” she said. 

 And then trying to push the pain away- she opened the little box.

Onto her lap poured dozens of delicate, and lovely wooden hearts, all with tiny green ribbons attached to them. On top of them was a note.

Her hands shaking, Catherine opened it and read,

” Remember, love doesn’t die- it lives on. It lives as long as those who love are alive.

I am here today- because I love you. Whatever life brings..You are My Heart’s Dearest, for all time, Catherine Emerson.

- Liam”

And if a stranger had passed by and saw her in that green field, he would have wondered why the pretty girl-her lap full of wooden hearts- wept so long and so hard.