My stomach lurched and my head swam. I wanted to run screaming from her; I wanted to hit her; I wanted to beg her to tell me it was all a mistake, that she wasn’t my enemy.
I was in the middle of nowhere with someone who, for all I knew, wanted me dead. I don’t know how she’d come by my passport and license, but the last time I’d seen ’em the cousins were buying our tickets from LAX to Shannon.
She either knew the cousins or whoever had done in O’Quinn. I had to think, and I couldn’t.
She stirred. I rolled back over, facing the stone, and pretended to sleep. She stretched.
“Wake up; I’m hungry.”
She slithered out head first and stood up. I rolled over onto my stomach. She’d taken the passport and license; they weren’t on the grass any more.
I composed my face, which had developed this habit of betraying me around her. Pretend you’re grumpy in the morning; pretend you’re hungry and sore and tired. Well, don’t pretend; just focus on it.
I took my time crawling out and standing, and when I did I faced away from her. “Ouch. Stiff. Hungry. Let’s go.”
If my new memories were correct, this looked like the hills above Carran and the Burren Perfumery. This time of year there’d be walking tours, a pub, people. Plenty of opportunity to disappear; go find somewhere to think.
“Not a morning person, are you?” She seemed almost cheerful, like she was trying.
“Nope.” The less I talked, the less I’d give away. I didn’t mention what I’d remembered about where we were. Guestimating we’d walked five miles the night before, we had another mile or two to Carran, the ruins of Castletown, and the perfumery.
Coming over the top of another huge plate of stone we could see into the valley where Carran and the perfumery were; a large north-south valley with an arm running off to the east.
“Yeah; there’s your pub.”
She looked confused, then angry. “D’you suppose there’s any chance we could try to get along? Still don’t trust me? If I’m the enemy, why am I here with you? Why didn’t I run back to those two on the road? Saints; I didn’t believe last night there’d be anything out here. I didn’t know your expertise extended to villages in the Burren.” She shoved past me and headed down the slope.
I let her stay angry. The less we talked, the less I’d give away my own anger and hurt. Hurt? Here I was feeling betrayed by someone I knew nothing about.
Sunrise had probably been six in the morning and we’d walked an hour or so since then. Couldn’t be later than eight, and probably not that. Of course, we had a mile across the valley, so it’d be close to nine when we were anywhere that might have food. I needed tea, and I needed a proper bathroom.
We crossed the valley floor in silence. It was eerie; like we’d gone back ten thousand years and were the only humans on a primeval earth. Completely surrounded by the stony hills, all we could see was each other and the three wings of the valley.
As we approached the perfumery we could see movement inside the tea room. Peering through the window, I could see the clock reading eight forty-something. The handwritten sign on the door said they opened at 9:00.
“Knock on the window.” I hadn’t thought maybe Siobhan was in as much of a hurry as I was.
I didn’t have to knock; an auburn-haired woman had crossed the floor and opened the door.
“It’s not locked. We don’t stick strictly to that opening time during our busiest time.”
“I’m terribly sorry, but do you have a restroom we could use?”
She smiled. “The toilets are just back there.” I wondered if I’d ever get used to the Irish habit of referring to bathrooms that way. I mean, it makes sense; I didn’t want a bath and I wasn’t going to rest there; it truly was the toilet I was interested in. But, there you have it, my British ancestry and puritanical upbringing prevented me from just calling a toilet a toilet.
I raced Siobhan, but thankfully there was a matched set, ‘His’ and ‘Hers’, so no one had to suffer outside the door.
Five minutes later we were sitting at a table with steaming cups of tea and a small pot between us, waiting for breakfast, which would be organic this and that and what smelt like the tastiest scones in the world.
Siobhan smiled. “Nice, isn’t it?”
I couldn’t help smiling myself. It was heavenly, the secluded valley, the stunning flora, tea like only the Irish make, and her.
I wanted her to be part of my life. I wanted to stay there and never leave; if we never left, I could forget that she was just teasing me, pretending now to be friendly, as she’d pretended to rescue me in Galway.
For a little while, I gave in. We had a glorious breakfast of fruits and cheeses and scones and tea; not my usual meat and potatoes, but it suited our surroundings.
“Shuttle from Carran arrives in a few, if you’re thinking of going that way.” The proprietress seemed blissfully unaware of my grubby suit, unshaven chin, and glassy Siobhan-filled eyes. Siobhan, somehow, looked like she’d spent the night in a hotel; even her hair didn’t look like she’d slept under an ancient dolmen in the middle of a field.
I paid for breakfast. Siobhan looked puzzled, and I realized she must know I didn’t have my wallet, since she was currently in possession of some of its contents.
The shuttle was a red Ford van, 14-seater. It had brought a handful of tourists who, being mostly American, eyed my condition with more disdain than our hostess had. Or maybe they were puzzled why there was already someone at the perfumery when they were on the first shuttle.
“Going to Carran, then?”
“Come along then; come along.” I didn’t ask what it cost; in a fit of romantic extravagance I’d spent my entire 45 Euro on breakfast and some “Man of Aran” cologne to disguise my own unpleasant fragrance. If it cost anything at all, Siobhan could pay. It only seemed fair, what with her taking me for a ride all along.