Maeve ryanrsquo;s wicked.., p.1
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       Maeve Ryan’s Wicked Secret, p.1

           Brendan Gerad O'Brien
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Maeve Ryan’s Wicked Secret
Maeve Ryan’s Wicked Secret

  by

  Brendan Gerad O’Brien

  *****

  PUBLISHED BY:

  Maeve Ryan’s Wicked Secret

  Copyright © 2010 by Brendan Gerad O’Brien

  A story from the collection Dreamin’ Dreams

  ***

  Maeve Ryan’s Wicked Secret

  When Edward O’Leary came home from America in the summer of 1904, Joe Coffey knew there was going to be trouble. Old flames were bound to be rekindled. And old wounds were bound to be reopened.

  He just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

  Edward was the only son and heir of Squire Colm O’Leary, whose vast estate on the West coast of Ireland swept up from the Atlantic Ocean and touched on three counties. Joe Coffey was just one of the small army of gamekeepers that worked on the estate. And the only thing that Joe Coffee and Edward had in common was their feelings for the beautiful Maeve Ryan.

  They’d all grown up on the estate. Edward lived up in the Big House and Joe Coffey lived next door to Maeve Ryan in the workers’ cottages down in the village.

  As children they all played together. They skipped and rolled hoops in the dusty lanes or just ran free through the woods. They swam in the lake during the long, lazy summer days and they fished in the wild River Shannon. And as the evenings drew in they sat around a campfire swapping stories and dreaming their dreams.

  But then, when they grew older, Edward went off to boarding school. The only education Joe Coffey got was out in the countryside where he learnt how to be a gamekeeper.

  Maeve Ryan grew older too. She changed from a scruffy tomboy who used to wrestle with the boys in the mud into a beautiful, sophisticated young woman. She went to work as a seamstress up in the Big House where she was coached in the finer points of decorum and etiquette as well.

  As time went by Joe Coffey and Maeve grew very close. Everyone assumed they’d get married one day, have lots of children and be together for the rest of their lives.

  Edward, on the other hand, was footloose and fancy-free. He didn’t need to chase the girls. He was tall and handsome with jet-black hair and eyes that smouldered wickedly. No woman could walk past Edward without giving him a second glance. All the girls in the village worshipped him, and their conversation always turned to him and his affairs.

  Of course Joe Coffey was aware of all this. But it never bothered him because, in the first flush of young love, he had no reason for doubt.

  That was until one Sunday afternoon as they were strolling around the lake Joe Coffey noticed how Maeve became totally distracted when Edward rode by.

  ‘Maeve!’ Edward tapped his hat with his riding crop.

  ‘Hello, Edward.’ Maeve gave a courteous nod. And her beautiful grey eyes sparkled as she tossed back her hair and gave him a long and knowing smile.

  Joe Coffey read all sorts of messages into that smile and the first stab of a totally unfamiliar pain tore at his heart.

  And it disturbed him so much he couldn’t even bring himself to look at Maeve as they walked home in a silence that hung around them like a dark bitter cloud.

  They never spoke about it, though. Joe Coffee felt it was best left alone. But that strange painful feeling never really left him until the day Edward announced that he was going to seek his fortune in the New World and he sailed away to America.

  The relief was so overwhelming that Joe Coffey immediately proposed to Maeve, and they got married a month later in the tiny chapel up in the Big House.

  They moved into their little cottage and quickly settled into the happy routine of married life.
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