She Knew Killarney Well

Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, Munster, Ireland

Katherine took her tea outside to look at the view while Will called ahead to the hotel in Killarney and confirmed their reservation. The bargirl chatted him up a while. She was from Tralee but she knew Killarney well, and recommended a small restaurant for dinner where the fish was superb. Lovely grass-fed beef or lamb on the menu, too, if he didn’t care for fish. Will thanked her and headed outside.

The lake water was an astonishing turquoise, lapping up to a bone-white beach. Looking only at the water, one would think they were in Bermuda, but then rising straight up from its smooth expanse were those vertical cliffs, domed with emerald grass, and beyond them the water took on a more royal blue tone. The wind was clear and cold and the sun cast handfuls of diamonds along the lake surface.

Katherine had found a bench on the bluff, and was perched on the back of it, her feet on the seat. She sat, still and pretty in her grey coat with her hands warmed around the cup on her knees, gazing out at the lake through her sunglasses, the wind intermittently lifting her hair up and off her shoulders. Something nudged Will's memory. He stopped, looked at her curiously, walked a few more steps, then stopped again, his breath stilled. He had seen this before.

He had been breathless that day, nothing but a pounding heart and stomach as he drove his car into the parking lot. She was waiting for him, waiting right where she said she would be, sitting on the trunk of her car. She had been wearing the grey coat, and her sunglasses, and holding a cup between her hands. And she smiled as he pulled up and parked, and he’d tried to not explode out of the car and run to her, but he came around at a brisk walk, not breathing, and she sat with her feet together on the bumper and her gloved hands in her lap, holding her cup, smiling at him, the wind blowing her hair. His girl.

Will had said something clever as he came closer, he couldn’t remember now, and she’d said something just as clever in reply, and set down her cup. Then in one fluid, rippling motion she had planted her feet on the bumper and rose up, and as her coat fell open he caught a glance of a black sweater and her long legs in jeans flexing, straightening, and she jumped. She dove at him, leaped the space between them, into his arms. He made some kind of sound when her weight smacked his chest, something between a gasp and a moan, maybe the beginnings of a sob, and like springs his arms snapped shut around her and he heaved her up against him, with the distinct possibility of toppling over backwards on the pavement but he didn’t give a damn, he wasn’t letting go, not now, not ever, never again.

Her face to his, she clutched at his shoulders. For an instant he felt her calves on his hips: she nearly got her legs around him too, which would have wrecked him, but then she put her feet down, counterbalancing, pulling them back until she was up against her car and there they clung to each other, wrapping and re-wrapping their arms, over, under, here, there, trying to get closer. First she tore off her gloves and threw them carelessly on the ground so her hands could feel his head, then she took off her sunglasses and likewise jettisoned them aside, and burrowed further into his chest. He took her head, tilted her face up in the sunshine. His girl. Now this woman. He kissed her hair, her forehead, her cheeks, her nose, her chin, her jaw. He held her in his hands and gently put his mouth on hers, just once, and her lips were soft and she pulled her breath in through her nose.

Face to face, breathing each other, his hands parted the lapels of her coat like curtains and slid around her waist, sliding across the softness of her sweater, feeling muscle and bone and how her body had changed but not the electric thrill of it, if anything that was stronger. The time to be polite had passed. It was too late to pretend, too late to avoid. He had looked for her and she was there, and it was there, they were there, ready to be found. She was in his arms now, Katherine, her breath was his breath and he was hungry, so hungry. He tugged at her sweater where it was tucked into her jeans, pulled it free, and his hands moved, glided over the skin of her back for the first time in over ten years. A surge of raw emotion hit him in the knees, and he began to shake and could not stop.

They had stood in the parking lot for over an hour.

On the shore of an Irish lake now, Will looked at Katherine. His girl, waiting for him. Right where she said she would be.

He started walking again, stopped just in front of her.

“It’s so beautiful,” she sighed, her profile clear and clean against the turquoise waters.

“Do you know what you look like?” he said softly. "Right now?"

Her head tilted to him, then she looked down at herself. Three beats of silence and she smiled at her lap. She knew.

Katherine set aside her cup, planted her feet down on the bench seat and jumped, leaped the space between them, into Will's arms, which were waiting.