It was like I was dropping down into myself. I became aware of my body, the feel of my dress on my skin, and the sensation of a hard floor beneath my shoes.
I opened my eyes and looked out over the ocean. I was back. I stood on the third class deck, surrounded by children playing and foreigners of every sort. I looked at their hopeful faces and wished I could be like them and be looking forward to a grand new life in America.
At that moment, more than anything, I wanted to be back in Ireland. I longed to breathe the earthy scent of the air and to see the green rolling hills instead of ocean that seemed to go on forever.
I thought back to when the entire family was together in our tiny home. I could almost smell the meat and potatoes on the fire and hear my father telling stories of the fairy folk and the ancient kings of Ireland. I wanted nothing more than to go back to that time.
I want my old life...
Hoisting the baby up on my hip, I turned back out to the water. I would have to accept that I would never see Ireland again, but just the thought of it made my chest ache.
“I’ve been looking for you,” a voice behind me said.
I turned slowly and looked up at the man from the night before. His handsome face washed and shaved with blue eyes shockingly clear and alert. I would have expected him to be sick with a drunkard’s headache. “Beg your pardon? I don’t believe I know you.”
I could feel him smiling behind me, like a warmth radiating against my back.
“I wasn’t that drunk Miss O’Malley,” he said. “It is Miss O’Malley, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir,” I blushed, shifting Sean on my hip again.
“Alright then,” he said with a dazzling smile. “You can stop pretending we’ve never met.”
“Well,” I said with a shrug. “I’m pleased to see that you’re feeling better.”
Did he see through my coolness toward him? Did he remember the kiss? Why did I ever do that?
Afraid he would read it all over my face; I gave him a quick curtsy and turned to walk away. I could feel myself trembling. Why was I shaking so?
“Miss O’Malley!” He called out, “Please, I was just wanting to thank you for what you did last night.”
Several passengers on deck turned to look at us. I could read their assumptions all over their faces. I stepped back to him, pushing him away with my free hand.
“God’s teeth,” I mumbled. “You’re going to make me the talk of the ship.”
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to thank you.”
“Very well, you have thanked me.” I hissed. “Now go away.”
“Yes,” I hissed. “Go away.”
He smiled wider, Are you embarrassed to be seen with me?”
“You’re making a spectacle of yourself,” I said as I moved over to where the boys were playing. “And of me.”
“You weren’t so shy last night.”
I whirled around and pushed him back against the rail, “Lord above will you hush before I’m ruined?”
“I think it would be fun to ruin you.”
My hand flew out to slap his cheek. He staggered backward slightly, drawing the attention of the other passengers again. He brought his hand up to his cheek as the baby began to cry in my arms.
“I will thank you keep a civil tongue in your head Mr. –”
“Jonathan,” he said as he rubbed the side of his face. “Mr. Jonathan Abersole of New York.”
“Goodbye Mr. Abersole,” I said as I bounced Sean on my hip.
I pulled my brothers up by the collars and pushed them toward the stairs. “Move along before the soup is gone.”
The boys glanced back at the strange man following us, curiosity clear on their faces.
“Who is that?” Matthew asked.
I pushed him along with my free hand, “He’s none of our concern.”
I could hear Mr. Abersole hurrying up behind me.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he matched my hurried pace on the stairs. “I only wanted to thank you.”
“And you have.”
“And you still want me to go away?”
“Have I done something to offend you?” He asked with a devilish smile as he stepped up beside me.
I shook my head, “You mean besides being a drunken sod and giving every tongue on deck a reason to wag? Why would any of that offend me?”
He nodded, smiling wider, “Again, I apologize.”
“Why don’t you just go back up to first class where you belong?”
He reached out and took my arm, “I’ll be on my way, but Miss O’Malley, I was not so drunk that I would forget that yours was the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen.”
He moved even closer so that our faces were only inches apart, “Or the most beautiful that has kissed me.”
I looked up at him mortified that he would remember.
He bowed his head, “It was actually the kiss I wanted to thank you for.”