Lakeshore Honeymoon 1921

It is a quiet wedding. He enters by the side door and waits for her at the top of the
church. She slides up the aisle on the arm of her eldest brother. The swishing of the
silk in her dress makes a gentle sound as she passes the empty pews.
They vow to love and honour one another all the days of their life. The priest
stumbles over the words and regards the church door at frequent intervals during the
brief service.
A car is waiting to take them for their wedding breakfast at a neighbour’s house.
There they feast on fresh boiled eggs served with soda bread. They cut the fruit cake
and the neighbour parcels it up and hands it to the bride. It is too risky to play music
but she has packed her concertina and will play for him later.
But not here, where the soldiers might find him. He hates them to be called soldiers,
these blackguards from English jails, let loose like wild dogs, tearing families apart in
a country that is not theirs.
On the quay she shivers in her flimsy dress. He gives her his coat.
– Put this on my dear, it will be cold crossing over. You will get your death.
His mother steps forward and weeps as she holds him close to her. She releases him
and the young couple board the boat. He holds his wife’s hand tight until she is
In this time of secrets only the boatman knows their destination.
The farewell party wave damp hankies until the newlyweds are out of sight.
She trails her hand in the grey water and watches him. He watches the riverbanks,
his eyes darting, ears peeled for any sign that might herald danger.
Out on the open empty lake he relaxes a little and takes her hand. He rolls the gold
ring around her slender finger.
In the safe house the table has been prepared for their arrival. She plates the buns she
has made for their tea; but neither of them are hungry. He asks her to play for him and
he marvels at the way her fingers glide over the small buttons of the concertina. He
claps when the music stops.
At the table she gathers the food aside and wraps the tea cloth around it.
– Take this with you when you go.
He nods and lights a cigarette.
The light in the cottage is fading. Bats swoop outside. She closes the windows afraid
they might fly into this sacred space.
She doesn’t want to take her dress off, it will mean their day is over, and tells him so.
He says it will only mean their night is beginning.
In the bedroom, she kneels to pray, to keep him safe, to make Ireland free, to give her
a baby. He kneels beside her as they pray in silence.
He sits on the bedside and lays his gun on the nightstand. She reaches over for him.
At dawn the boat is moored at the jetty by the cottage. He un-spoons himself from
her and dresses in the half light.
She is sleeping as he sails away, on another leg of this dangerous journey.