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The plane landed at 2:45 that afternoon.
Eamonn O'Reilly was making a tidy profit, Ballywalegh being 30 miles from Shannon Airport, but if the young lady wanted him to take her that far, sure now and he was only too glad to do so. Besides, 'twas a pleasant drive, and a decided change from his usual fares. He'd been a mite astonished when he'd learned where she wanted to go.
She caught his attention as she came out of the terminal, a wee scrap o' a lass, lugging those two heavy bags. Why hadn't she hired a porter? he wondered, but didn't have time for further thought, because she was coming straight toward him. He touched two fingers to his cap in a brief salute.
"Welcome to Shannon, Miss. Can I be helpin' you with those?" He reached for one of the large cases.
"Oh, thank you." She released the bag gratefully. "I need to go to Ye Little Roadside Inn. Do you know the place?"
"Do I know the place?" he repeated with a smile, blue eyes twinkling. "Sure, an' isn't me kinsman Liam the proprietor?"
The Little Roadside Inn . A silly name he had always thought, though he didn't say so. In spite of the too cute title, it did a thriving business he had to admit. Mostly tourists, who seemed enchanted by its 'quaintness', not seeing that it was merely a visitor's idea of how an Irish inn should look and nowhere near to the real thing. She was startled at his claiming kinship to the inn's owner.
"That I am. Owned by me cousin's daughter's nephew, 'tis."
He was laying on the blather a bit thick, but Eamonn had learned that tourists expected it, especially the Yanks. He discovered quickenough that a thick layer of Gaelic would earn him a bigger tip than his normal accent would. And hadn't he made a trip to Blarney Castle and kissed the Stone to insure that his tongue didn't forget that when he had a paying customer in tow?
He looked at the girl, and asked, "But are ya sure ya be wantin' to go there, lass? 'Tis quite a few kilometers from here. In Ballywalegh, in fact. An' the fare, well, 'twill be high."
The wan face brightened. "Ballywalegh. Yes," she assured him. "They're expecting me."
"Ah, well, then." He pulled open the passenger door. "Get in, an' settle yersel' an' we'll be on our way." He slammed the door shut, stowing the bags in the cab's boot. Quickly, he slid under the wheel and thrust it into gear with a flourish. "Now then."
Clutching the seat to keep from being jostled from one side to the other, Tammy Wilde allowed herself a slight smile. I'm here. I'm actually here.
"Oh, Fionnula, how could you leave all this?" she whispered, to her absent friend.
With a sigh, she leaned back and forced herself to relax. For the first time since boarding the plane at Atlanta International, she felt she had done the right thing. She studied the back of the cabdriver's head, noting the fiery curls threaded with white peeking from under the edge of his cap. And a genuine, red-headed Irishman as my cabbie . Then she turned her attention to the scenery flying by outside the window.
Briefly, she was grateful that he wasn't trying to talk to her as the cabbies in the States would do. The plane trip had tired her more than she expected, and all she wanted to do was get to the inn and have a much-needed nap.
Eamonn, for his part, was studying her image in the rearview mirror. Ordinarily, he'd be jawing away with his passenger, offering side trips to tourist sites or bits of local history, or laying on the blarney, perhaps even doing a little harmless flirting with the ladies, but not with this one. Ah, the lass was pretty enough, but she looked peekey, as if she were recovering from some long illness. Too pale, and too thin. Well, a few of the meals prepared by Cousin Liam's cook would remedy that. Eamonn refused to call the man a chef , wasn't he just Seamus Flannery from Dublin, after all? That'd put a little meat on those delicate bones and some color into that wan, pretty face. O' course, with hair that red, anyone would look pale. No, she didn't look as if she'd care for his blather.
He turned his eyes from Tammy's image and concentrated on the road ahead of them. Shannon was quickly left behind, and they hit the highroad for scant seconds before turning onto a little side road that narrowed to little more than an unpaved country lane. Ah, that was more like it . Now, he was in more familiar surroundings. Though Eamonn picked up fares at the airport everyday, he never liked going there. Too busy, too civilized. Give him the glens and dells of Ballywalegh any day. He felt himself relax as they left the highroad and the city behind.
The lass was looking out the window, intent on the countryside. Again, he was tempted to speak to her, ask her why she'd come to his little town. In a nice, unpryin' way, o' course . But once more, he stayed silent. Once they slowed for a pony cart pulled by a fat-bellied bay that plodded along in front of the car for a quarter-mile before turning onto a dirt road leading to a whitewashed, thatched-roofed cottage. Another time, a herd of sheep baa-ed across the road, bringing them to a complete stop.
Eamonn stole a glance in the rear-view mirror at his passenger, concerned that she might be angered by this delay. She was watching the trotting sheep, pink mouth slightly open, its corners curving upward, entranced by the sight of so many woolly-coats and black noses as the creatures were hurried along by a red-haired lad with wind-chapped cheeks.
"Don't worry, lass," Eamonn assured her. "They'll be across in a few minutes." The smile became larger as she turned to him. Encouraged, he rolled down the window, and stuck his head out. "Get a move on there, ya long-nosed woollies! Can't ya see me an' the lass are in a hurry?"
Copyright © 2007 Icy Snow Blackstone.