Continued from Part 1.
“It all started with my going outside for a ciggy and a break from the post office. It was a very clear night, with the only intrusion being the usual raucous from the pub over the road. The harvest was going full tilt. Then from somewhere inside the hotel, a piano started playing and the hubbub started to die down and a woman started singing … and in the now silent night air, that voice sounded to me like the voice of a free bird … her lilting and sighing a joy to my ears …
I flung the cigarette to the ground and crossed the road to look through the window … I was too young to go into the bar, besides, I couldn’t leave the exchange for long in case a call came through. Looking through the window I saw Moira for the first time. To me, her face shone even in that smoky bar-room light like the morning sun on a new day, and her raven hair shimmered and shone … her body lithe and full … she was all that my awakening young male body desired in a woman. Already I was in love.
She looked a beauty then, and I was to get to know her much better in the weeks to come.
The first time we spoke was through the door of the post office. It was late Saturday afternoon after closing time and she was at the front door knocking and making appealing gestures to be let in. Unknown to her, it was with a trembling hand that I opened the door to her.
“Ah! Thanking you there, my good man,” she gushed with a beautiful smile, “could I be troubling you to write me out a money order to send to my sister in the city this late in the day?”
“I … I’m afraid the post office is closed now. I’m sorry,” I mumbled out apologetically.
“Yes … the post office is closed, but I see you’re still here … and it would be you who could do me this favour,” she smiled cheekily.
The upshot of it was that she needed to send the money to her sister as a payment for caring for Moira’s young child while she; Moira was there earning some money. A single mother could lose custody of her child in those days if the authorities deemed her not capable of ‘supplying for needs of the child,’ and as Moira was paid on the Saturday afternoon, she wanted to get the money to her sister as soon as possible …
Of course, I wasn’t supposed to, but how could I refuse? … Both because of her parental situation and then because I adored her. So I sent the money … she was genuinely happy that I did her the favour and even kissed my cheek as I leant over the desk to give her the receipt. I did indeed blush deeply.
“That’s to say thanks,” she smiled. “It means so much to me to have that one thing out of the way … but could I ask that same favour of you every week … I’m sorry for bothering you, but I get paid every Saturday and we live so far out of town?”
Of course, I would gladly do her the favour … any favour … but I told her to come to the back door and call in for me so no-one else would demand the same service.
“And to whom do I call?” she asked.
“Danny,” I stammered out … “me. I’m Daniel.”
“And a fine Irish name that be too.” Moira smiled again; “I’ll be asking for you then … my Danny Boy!” and again she smiled that beautiful smile.
And that’s how we got closer and easier in our relationship over the following weeks. Moira would come into the back room and call a cooee and I would attend to her money order and sometimes she would sit and chatter while I did the paperwork. Sometimes I’d get her a cup of tea or she would light up a cigarette with me just outside the back door and we talked of each other.
I remember early in this arrangement Moira suddenly asked me; “How old are you?” I shot a quick look at her, trying to judge her motive …
“Seventeen,” I replied. “And yourself … if I may ask?”
“Cheeky!” she admonished as she stubbed out her cigarette. “If you must know; twenty-one next week!” and she then slipped away with a teasing laugh. God … she was my delight at that time … my utter delight.
Through all this harvest, she and I became close pals … that’s all … just pals … as we used to say … though there is a point in the relationships between men and women where that line of friendship, once crossed into the realm of affection, can never be returned … and it can grow like a blossoming flower, slowly, yet intensely, so that you aren’t completely aware of it at all, till one day, one sudden look tips you over the line. But there was one cloud on the horizon of our friendship and that was her ‘man’ … a brutish fellow named Bruce Dobson – an itinerant labourer that followed the seasonal harvests around the country – a man of around twenty-eight or nine years old … a loner, a scrapper, rather handsome in that hard-chiselled way. Not someone to cross swords with, if you get my drift. But he was a problem external to Moira and my regular Saturday meetings. He would be working or at the bar drinking when we would meet at the post office. Strange how some men hold their relationships with women more as a trophy, a possession, rather than a loved one.
“Danny!” she’d call through the back door and I’d call her to come in. Oh how I loved hearing her call my name and how I adored saying her name in return. I recall a quiet moment having a ciggy there by the back door one evening just before she went to do her stint singing that night, she quietly said:
“Danny … would you like me to sing a song for you?” I flicked the ash off my smoke nervously and replied:
“Oh … yes … that’d be nice … very nice. I’d like that … thank you.”
“Well I finish my stand at the piano there at eleven o’clock. If you come to the side window there by the planter-box and look in … I’ll sing you the last song.”
I mumbled and blushed my gratitude and she touched the side of my cheek with her hand, smiled a gentle smile and walked away. I can still hold the memory of that touch … the warmth of her hand … for it was more than a casual gesture … it was the passing of an affection between us. It changed our relationship from that moment on.
The song she sung to me that night was ‘Danny Boy’ … oh how my heart sung along with her. And every now and then she would look to me … straight to me as I stared through the smudged glass of that window and sing those most tender words to me … only to me …
“But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
It’s I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so!”
And with those last sung words, she looked straight to me … straight into my heart it seemed. Oh the power a woman has to grasp and hold a man’s deepest desires, whether she is aware of it or no … it is a power so all embracing, so strong that sometimes only death can release him from her hold. And so it must be in return … with a man to a woman. I don’t know what that hold was to her from someone as meek as myself, but Moira saw a strength in me that touched and held her heart likewise … a bond supreme … and it would prove to be a bonding extreme, for it became a point that at the end of her Saturday night session, she would finish with that song and I would make it a point to be there at the window, peering in and through that smoky world, Moira would finish every time with those lovely words whilst staring right into my eyes … into my soul.
As Moira told me, her birthday was to be soon, and I knew the harvest season was coming to a close. Already some of the contractors had terminated their season in the district and moved on, so would Moira and Bruce move away, I presumed. My heart was suffering from the thought of never seeing her again, so one day that week, I grabbed a lift to the city from a local and went to a jeweller and bought a golden locket on a chain for Moira’s birthday … it took a goodly amount of my savings, but I could think of no better use for them than this gift.
That following Saturday, Moira came knocking at the back door as usual. We went through the regular business of her posting the money to her sister and then went to have our usual smoke by the back door. I had the locket and chain ready in my pocket.
“When did you say your birthday was?” I broke the ice. Moira looked slightly askance to me.
“I didn’t … but since you ask, it was two days ago.” She took a drag on the cigarette and then continued; “Why do you ask?”
I stubbed the smoke out and reached into my pocket and removed the locket nervously. I wondered now if it was not too presumptuous on my part … perhaps the locket and chain looked too cheap. Many doubts now crossed my mind.
“Because I … I brought something for you.” And I held up the locket and chain. I mumbled on nervously and quickly; “It is a special locket where … if you look here there is a tiny clip that you can unlock with your fingernail and it opens up and you can put a keepsake inside …”
Moira left the cigarette fall to the ground and turned and clasped the locket in both her hands like it was a fragile thing. Her eyes glowed with delight at the gift … she then turned her face to me and gazed with the deepest affection.
“And I had it engraved inside … if you don’t mind … here, see?”
Moira read out the words:
“To Moira, from your Danny Boy.”
“Oh, Danny … it is so wonderful … truly beautiful. Thank you.” And she then took the locket into her hands and gazed upon it. “Could you clip it on me, please?” And she held it to me. I took it and she turned around and lifted her hair so I could fix the clasp on the nape of her neck … which I did, but so slowly as I wanted to see and touch her skin there … my finger-tips absorbing the warmth of her body. I closed my eyes and took in the moment. I wanted to totally absorb the feeling of her body there … the soft touch of her hair and the colour of her skin … the tiny follicles of hair on the nape of her neck as I fixed the clasp of the chain. I was enthralled.
After I had finished, Moira turned to me … she lifted the locket to look closely at it then she suddenly let it go, threw her arms about my neck and kissed me passionately on my lips. I drew life there and then from that kiss … oh that kiss. I held her so tight with my open hand and fingers spread so as to touch and clasp as much of her to me as possible. I had then embraced a joy complete … we kissed and kissed.
Before she left just then, she went and took a pair of scissors from the counter and coming back, she cut a tiny lock from my hair and placed it into the locket … we kissed again, and she went to her work.
It was the commencement of life for both of us.
Of course, it did not take long for Bruce to notice a change of heart in Moira … for her heart was now given to another and such a shift of the soul cannot go un-noticed. Bruce’s jealous spite took command and even though she had told him that the locket was a gift from her sister, he was foully suspicious … even more so than we had suspected, and it happened one night as I was making my way home up the ‘Sleeper Track Road’ at the Seven Sisters Junction.
Concludes tomorrow …
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