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A Moment of Time

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Chapter One

“You were born at a precise moment in time for a reason,” said the male voice. “And so shall you be again. Ponder on this.”

“Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their upright and locked positions,” said the female voice. “We will be landing in Dublin shortly.”

 

Caitlin Rose yawned and stretched to rouse herself. She removed the sleep mask from her eyes and lifted the shade on the window by her seat.

Clouds.

She turned away and gripped the armrests, bracing herself. Landings made her nervous.

As the flight attendant walked down the aisle one last time, Caitlin looked at the passengers around her, wondering who had told her to ponder the reason she was born. Sounded like something Kimo would say, she thought. Strange.

She settled back into her seat and tried to relax. Focusing her thoughts on a positive outcome often helped her get through a rough patch. She closed her eyes and inhaled, imagining how exhilarated she’d feel walking off the plane. Exhaling slowly, she visualized Kimo greeting her with a welcoming smile.

She didn’t mind hiring a taxi, she’d told him, but Kimo was adamant about meeting her at the airport. As much as Caitlin appreciated the gesture, she knew she would need some down time before she would feel like socializing.

Kimo was endearing but not at all the sort of man Caitlin wanted to date. She didn’t find his long hair, earring, and gypsy-style clothing attractive and usually kept him at a safe distance, meeting him occasionally for a Saturday lunch or a game of tennis. In Washington, she worried what her colleagues would think if they saw her with him, but in Ireland raised eyebrows would threaten no consequences. She hoped Kimo understood that she considered him a friend, not a romantic prospect.

“You realize this doesn’t, like, ‘mean’ anything—about us, I mean,” she’d said when she agreed to meet him in Ireland.

“Everything means something,” he’d said.

Ordinary conversations frequently turned philosophical as Kimo found hidden significance in everyday language, events, and circumstances. Caitlin often felt discombobulated and off-balance around him. Traveling together for three days was going to be . . . interesting.

Of course, she didn’t have any proof that he wanted to date her, either, Caitlin reminded herself; maybe she was reading too much into his eagerness to be with her. She didn’t waste time with guessing games. Her job was all-consuming. This vacation would be her first in the five years she’d been working for the Department of Justice and she was only taking time off now because her boss, Neil Morton, insisted.

Now there’s a man who knows how to go after what he wants.

Neil’s actions didn’t leave any doubt about his intentions, but he pursued his aims without regard for Caitlin’s wishes—or anyone else’s, as far as she could tell. She had risen to the upper echelons of a male-dominated profession through aggressive pursuit of her goals, but when it came to love, she needed to be courted and won.

She opened her eyes as the wheels of the plane touched down on the runway. Maybe the pop psychology books were right and she was looking for a father figure. Where important matters were concerned, Charles Rose had been the unquestioned ruler of his household and Caitlin learned early to accept his decisions without complaint. But she also learned that, on most occasions, her father was amenable to persuasion and she became adept at the art. Now she sought a man who, like her dad, cherished her and cared about her happiness—but didn’t try to dominate her. Neil wasn’t the type of man who cherished anyone or anything, and he tried to dominate everyone.

Cherishing something, Caitlin thought, requires seeing its value. Neil saw only short-term gains and losses, measurable results, surface qualities, and how a thing—or a person—could serve his agenda.

As the plane taxied toward the gate, Caitlin relaxed her grip on the armrests. She peeked out the window, recalling her father’s words the morning the family left Olathe, Kansas, for the first of many vacations in the Ozark Mountains.

“It’s a soft day,” he’d said.

At the age of seven, the start of a new adventure interested Caitlin more than the weather. Still, the remark had stayed with her all these years. She wasn’t quite sure what it meant until she gazed out at the light gray sky above Dublin.

Her eyes brimmed with tears. Her father had been gone for more than four years, but waves of grief still overcame her at times. She reached for her handbag and pulled out a handkerchief, but the emotion subsided as quickly as it had surfaced.

She brushed back her hair and allowed her hand to linger for a moment on her bare neck, remembering the necklace her father had given her for her sixteenth birthday. As he clasped it around her neck, he said, “This belonged to my granny and then to my ma. Now I want you to have it. And never forget: it’s Irish blood that runs through your veins.”

The necklace was too old-fashioned for a sixteen-year-old to appreciate; Caitlin never wore it after that first day. She didn’t even know where it was anymore. The summer of ’79 was so long ago. Before college, and law school. And Jayson.

Caitlin neatly folded the handkerchief. Its monogram reminded her of the weekly after-school lessons in embroidery and needlepoint she’d endured, back in Kansas, with her maternal grandmother. If the afternoon was bright and sunny, Caitlin’s mind invariably wandered to the field outside her grandparents’ house and her eyes soon followed. Grandmother Clayton never failed to notice the lapse in attention. She would clap her hands loudly and declare, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop!” and motion for Caitlin to resume her task.

Caitlin sighed. These days, daydreaming was a luxury she couldn’t afford and tears were an indulgence she wouldn’t allow. She put the handkerchief in her pocket. Grandmother Clayton would be proud.

When the cabin door opened, she gathered her belongings and followed the line of passengers to the terminal. Stretching her legs felt good after the long flight in cramped quarters. Next time, she decided, she would fly first class—and choose an aisle seat.

After retrieving her luggage, Caitlin waited near the baggage claim area. Kimo seemed more responsible now than when she’d first met him, but Caitlin still doubted his reliability. If he didn’t show up, she would manage. Her job required frequent travel and she was accustomed to finding her way on her own.

If she were traveling solo, she would skip the tourist attractions and focus on finding the place where her father’s grandmother, Katie Moran, had lived; next, she would uncover as much information about Katie’s life and times as she could during her brief stay. With Kimo involved, sticking to a plan would be harder. Caitlin had learned to expect the unexpected.

She advanced the time on her watch five hours, then looked up. Kimo was walking toward her, wearing a goofy expression. How could she not like someone so affable?

“Good flight?” he asked.

“Great.” She smiled. “Just the way I imagined.”

They exited the terminal. Caitlin’s carry-on bag, with its built-in wheels, glided easily over the pavement. Kimo carried the larger suitcase by the handle.

“It does roll, you know,” Caitlin said.

“What, this? It’s fine.”

Caitlin shrugged and shook her head. Pointing at a diminutive car they passed in the parking lot, she giggled and said, “That would fit inside one of my shoeboxes!”

The notion of the tiny car surrounded by boxes of designer shoes inside the spacious walk-in closet at her townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia, was amusing but Caitlin’s mirth was short-lived; Kimo opened the trunk to a car just like it. When he placed her luggage inside, it nearly filled the small compartment.

“What about your stuff?” she asked.

“It’s at the hostel.”

“Where will we put it?”

Kimo closed the trunk. “I don’t have much.” He looked into her eyes and calmly said, “It’s not a problem.”

“Hmm,” Caitlin said, unconvinced. Heading for the car door, she bumped into Kimo. “Oh, right—other side.” She walked slowly around the car and paused by the passenger door. “We could get an upgrade. I’ll pay the difference.”

“Nah, this is great for these narrow roads. Look at this,” Kimo said, pushing on a side mirror until it collapsed inward. “Those extra inches make all the difference in a tight spot.”

Caitlin held her tongue. Kimo was the driver; she wouldn’t argue. She waited for him to open her door.

“It’s open,” he said, and climbed behind the wheel.

Caitlin took her seat and buckled the seatbelt.

Kimo started the motor. “Amazing, isn’t it?”

“What—that it started?” The toylike car looked better suited to an amusement park than a highway, Caitlin thought.

“That, too,” Kimo said with a sheepish grin. He made a sweeping gesture with his hand. “All of this. Being here. Isn’t it great?”

“The airport?”

“Ireland!”

Kimo paid the fee and exited the parking lot. Caitlin was impressed by the way he adeptly shifted the manual transmission with his left hand and smoothly navigated the roundabouts that led to the M1 motorway, but her right eye felt irritated. She lowered the visor above her head, hoping to find a mirror, but the economy car lacked even basic amenities. She flipped the visor up, glad that she had made the arrangements for their lodging outside of Dublin.

Kimo would have chosen some rustic lodge with a leaky roof and peat for heat, advertised as “authentic Ireland.”

He had already arranged to stay at a hostel downtown when Caitlin decided to meet him in Dublin. She wanted more comfortable lodging and reserved a room at a guesthouse recommended by her travel agent. A converted convent, The Abbey House was famous for its gourmet breakfast.

“Do you know how to get to the guesthouse?” Caitlin asked.

“Yep. Everything’s under control,” Kimo said as he drove toward the west side of town.

“Good, ’cause my brain is going on vacation,” Caitlin said. She had worked a full day on Monday before driving to Dulles International Airport to catch the evening trans-Atlantic flight and had slept little on the plane.

“It takes two weeks of extra work to get away for a week,” she said, adjusting the seat to give herself more legroom. “I think I met all the immediate deadlines and diverted the impending disasters.”

She leaned back and closed her eyes, wondering what crisis she would find waiting for her when she returned to Washington.

Crisis means turning point,” Kimo said.

Caitlin opened her eyes and stared at him. Sometimes she wondered if he could read her mind.

“Take an apple.” As if by magic, Kimo produced two rose-colored apples. He held one out to Caitlin. “It starts as a flower,” he said. “The fruit grows slowly, in its season, until finally—it’s ripe and ready. Its moment has come.”

Warily, Caitlin took the apple. “Good thing my name isn’t Eve.”

Kimo chuckled and rubbed the other apple against his cotton shirt before taking a bite. The sound of his teeth piercing the juicy flesh made Caitlin’s mouth water, but her irritated eye demanded attention.

The tears found a way out after all, she thought, and reached into her pocket for the handkerchief. Still needing a mirror, she searched her handbag but didn’t find one there, either. Finally, she gave up and contemplated the apple in her hand.

“Ripeness applies in law, too,” she said, dabbing at her tearing eye with the handkerchief. “It’s one of the tests for determining whether to file a lawsuit. Not all disputes are ready for a courtroom. If a controversy isn’t ripe, the judge will dismiss the case. But what has ripeness got to do with crisis?”

“A crisis is an opportunity for transformation. It’s the crucial moment when something shifts. A change from one state to another.”

“Does one country to another qualify?” Caitlin asked after glimpsing a highway sign written in both Irish and English.

Kimo took another bite of his apple. “It’s a process, ya know? Change can be imperceptible. On the surface it seems like nothing’s happening. Then, suddenly you realize: you’re at the summit of the mountain. You’re harvesting the fruits of seeds you planted in the ground. The babe in your arms is now a full-grown adult. Most so-called overnight sensations have been honing their craft for some time before they get noticed. Even a prodigy like Mozart needed guidance and tutoring for his natural talent to reach its full expression.”

“Your point being?”

“Explain it however you like—fate, destiny, the planets aligning in some rare formation—when conditions are right for something magical to occur, a window opens. There’s no telling what might emerge out of the mist. Doesn’t the air feel portentous?”

“Feels like rain,” Caitlin said.

“This is Ireland. It always feels like rain.”

“You’ve been here, what—two days? Already you’re an expert on the climate?”

“I learn fast.” Kimo sped up the car as if to emphasize his point.

The mention of Irish mist reminded Caitlin of the crazy stories she’d heard since childhood about her great-grandmother, Katie Moran. In her time, Katie was known throughout County Cavan. She tended her garden as lovingly as she ministered to the people who came to her for healing. An herbalist, she also served as midwife of birth, and death. According to family lore, she once delivered a child with fuzzy, pointed ears to a pale woman who appeared, seemingly, from out of the mist.

As puzzling to Caitlin as these tales were, she was equally mystified by the casual manner with which the Roses related them. No one seemed embarrassed—or fearful of being locked up—when they spoke of Katie’s unique talents.

They always were a colorful bunch, Caitlin thought, kicking off her shoes. They talked about the weather with the same relish as a Celtics game, and an innocent remark could start a brawl if one of them was in a fighting mood.

Caitlin first met her Rose relatives during a trip to Boston when she was nine. Her father was the second son, she learned, the first child born in America. His parents named him Charles after a Rose ancestor from Scotland. Always unpretentious, the formal name never suited him. Soon, everyone called him Charlie.

Charlie’s sister Maureen was still living at home. She took Caitlin to the neighborhood movie theater, ice cream parlor, pizzeria, and bowling alley. Caitlin loved the attention and wished she could stay longer.

Her father, she knew, had left home at his earliest opportunity, eager to escape in an environment that was too stifling for his ambitions. With three younger siblings underfoot, the house was noisy and crowded. Provisions were meager and Charlie was restless to strike out on his own, free from worries about family obligations. He wanted to travel and hoped a career in journalism would give him the opportunity. He thought he was on his way when he accepted an internship with a newspaper in a small Midwestern town, but the train ride to Kansas City was the most he ever did see of the United States. A dalliance with a local girl turned him into a reluctant father and husband.

He stayed on with local newspapers and his assignments kept him close to home. Eventually, he turned to teaching at the local junior college. After Caitlin’s mother divorced him, Charlie retired to the lake house they’d found on that first trip to the Missouri Ozarks. Retirement brought the freedom to travel, but a back injury soon confined him once more.

He could still dream, though. During Caitlin’s last visit to the lake house, her father said he wanted to visit the lands of his ancestors. Caitlin didn’t attend his funeral, but she vowed to go to Ireland on his behalf. She hoped his spirit would find vicarious satisfaction through her travels.

Kimo stopped the car in front of The Abbey House and turned off the motor. Caitlin grabbed the rearview mirror and located the errant lash in the corner of her reddened eye.

“We could go to Phoenix Park,” Kimo said, studying a map. “It’s near here. Seventeen hundred acres—it’s the largest park in all of Europe.”

Caitlin coaxed the eyelash onto her handkerchief and wiped away the mascara that had smudged around her eye. “I’d like a couple of hours to myself, if that’s okay.”

“Yeah, sure,” Kimo said. “I’ll go to the park alone.” He folded the map. “I’d rather take you to Trinity College. The Book of Kells is worth seeing. I was there yesterday.”

Caitlin slid her feet into her shoes and opened the car door. “Whatever.” She had not come to Ireland to tour famous landmarks but she was prepared for some give and take. Researching the Rose family tree was her priority. “Thanks for the ride,” she said as she exited the car. “I’ll see you back here—when?”

Kimo shrugged. “In a while.” He carried her luggage to the entrance of the guesthouse and left.

Caitlin rang the bell. The door opened and a portly woman greeted her.

“You must be Miss Rose,” the woman said. “I’m Mary Brady.”

Caitlin hadn’t been called “miss” in years and bristled at the title. She lugged her suitcases inside and followed Mrs. Brady to the registration desk. The hostess slowly waddled along, wincing and moaning as she soothed her right hip with her hand. After Caitlin signed in, Mrs. Brady handed her a room key and summoned “Mr. B” to help carry the luggage up the stairs.

“American?” Mr. Brady asked as he led the way to Caitlin’s room on the second floor.

He was lithe and wiry and moved with alacrity, a stark contrast to his plump wife’s plodding manner. Caitlin guessed he was about the same age her father had been when he injured his back.

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Ah, well, don’t we get plenty of Americans stayin’ here. Tracing their family hist’ry, a lot of ’em.”

“My father’s family came from County Cavan.”

“Is it to Cavan you’re headed, then? Why, that’s grand,” Mr. Brady said. “You’re likely to find a few Bradys in them parts.”

“I’ve never been there.”

Caitlin watched anxiously as Mr. Brady hauled the larger of her two suitcases up the stairs. She knew she had overpacked, but she wasn’t quite sure what to bring on this trip and she disliked being caught unprepared.

“It’s your first time, is it?” Mr. Brady asked when they reached the landing. He slowly straightened his thin frame and fumbled with a set of keys before opening the door to “Saint Anne’s Room.”

“In Ireland, you mean?”

“Aye.”

Caitlin nodded and scanned the room. The quilt covering the queen-sized canopy bed looked handmade, as did the needlepoint wall hanging. The large claw-foot tub in the corner was clearly not a holdover from convent days, though the crucifix on the wall could have been.

“You’ll see a bit of the country, then. Myself, I’d be content in a little cottage by the sea. But, I married a Dublin girl who dreamed of running an inn. So there ye have it.”

Caitlin reached into her purse to find Irish money for a tip. She pressed a five-punt note into Mr. Brady’s palm and said, “Thank you.”

His eyes widened as he smiled and tucked the bill inside a shirt pocket. “Be sure an’ let us know if ye need anything.”

Caitlin closed the door and unlocked her luggage. She hung a silk blouse and two dresses in the closet, turned on the faucets of the tub, and sat on the edge of the bed nibbling a scone she found on a serving tray. When the tub was almost full, she stripped off her clothes, sprinkled lavender oil into the water, and eased into the hot bath.

“Ahh!” she murmured as the tension melted from her shoulders. Maybe lying on a pristine beach or lounging by the pool at a spa resort would have been a better choice for a relaxing vacation than trudging around the Irish countryside in search of elusive clues about her heritage. Working at nothing but a suntan would be appealing—for about a day. Before long, she’d probably be organizing fellow vacationers into a dream study group or encouraging the staff to demand better wages. She laughed at her restless nature. If the pace of her life was too hectic, she had only herself to blame.

Reaching for the soap, she caught a glimpse of the crucifix and shifted her position in the tub. Many people considered the image of Jesus as Savior a comforting one; he’d died for their sins and offered the promise of redemption if they followed the rules of their religion. For Caitlin, the image of the man in agony was unsettling.

That there were differences among various Christian denominations had been evident to her since childhood, though she hadn’t studied the history or doctrines enough to reach any conclusions about her own views. Protestants, Catholics—they were all Christians, weren’t they? Followers of the same Christ? Caitlin thought of the large sassafras tree outside the lake house in Missouri. As a child, she liked sitting in the “V” where the tree branched in two directions. Fed by common roots, the divergent limbs were part of the same tree.

Caitlin remembered the evangelical church in Olathe that she and her brother, Bobby, had attended along with the rest of the Clayton family. The Claytons had been members of the congregation since pioneer days. Built in 1870, the building was turned into a playhouse by a local theater group a hundred years later, after church attendance dwindled. Caitlin’s mother, Martha, sometimes took Caitlin to performances at the theater. Caitlin was never sure whether her mother really liked plays or simply wanted to visit the place where she and Charlie were married, but her love of musical theater began with the first show she saw there—Bye Bye Birdie.

Caitlin’s father didn’t care for religious or theatrical performances, and once remarked about the artifice of both. He preferred stories about real people and current events and believed citizens should stay informed about the issues facing their communities and the actions of their elected officials, so important for a vibrant and healthy democracy.

As she lathered her body with soap, Caitlin realized that her father hadn’t ever joined the Claytons at their church. He did, however, take his family to the Catholic Church in Boston where he’d been baptized. The stained glass windows, fragrant incense, solemn rituals and priestly vestments aroused a feeling of reverence Caitlin had never experienced in her mother’s church. After Mass, the whole Rose family gathered to celebrate the first Communion of Caitlin’s cousin, Ginnie. Food, alcohol, music, laughter, and stories flowed into the night. Caitlin even talked her father into giving her a sip of his Scotch whisky. The strong liquor burned her throat but the taste wasn’t bitter like the black coffee her mother once let her try.

In the years since her father’s death, Caitlin had grown closer to her Aunt Mary. The elder of Charlie’s two sisters, Mary had undertaken a similar journey to Ireland when her mother, JoAnn Moran Rose, passed over. Mary told Caitlin about the old Moran homestead in County Cavan and asked her to bring back a rose from Grandma Katie’s rose bush, something she wished she had done when she had the chance.

“That’s our family crest,” Mary said. “No coat of arms on the wall could capture the spirit of life—of love and beauty—like a living rose.”

Caitlin was eager to get to Cavan but first she needed rest. Next, she would explore Dublin’s treasures with Kimo. She rinsed off the soap and dried herself with a fluffy white towel. Noting the time on the clock by the bed, she nestled between crisp sheets for a catnap.

An hour had passed when Caitlin looked at the clock again. She dressed quickly in a skirt and matching top, brushed her hair, and unpacked a pair of sandals. She picked up the apple Kimo had given her, dropped the room key into her purse, and closed the door.

Before descending the long staircase, she bit into the apple. Juice dribbled down her chin.

Yep, she thought, it’s ripe, and wiped her face with the back of her hand.