Your feet will bring you where your heart is.
THE LUCK OF THE IRISH TO YOU AND YOURS!!
Ah, St. Patrick's Day/Week—one of my favorite times of the year because I not only am part Irish, but I also love everything Irish too!
Of course, I'm not all that sure about my feet bringing me to where my heart is per the Irish proverb above, but I DO know that my fingers bring me—via my computer—to stories of heart and faith when it comes to Irish families.
Be it the O'Connors, the McClares or the O'Bryens in my new Isle of Hope series, I love all things Irish, especially Irish heroes and heroines.
Which is why I just HAD to buy this T-shirt at Walmart, even though Keith gripped my arm to keep me from straying with a somewhat stern, "Julie, you do NOT need that T-shirt."
"But I like it," I said in a sad voice, looking at it with longing as Keith dragged me away. I mean come on, two of my favorite things—Irish and kisses??? How could I resist that?
I couldn't. So when Keith was in the grocery section, I snatched that puppy off the rack and bought it myself, earning a wry smile and a shake of his head when he spied me in the checkout line. And, no, he did not kiss me no matter what the T-shirt said ... ;)
You know, I'm not exactly sure when I fell in love with Ireland and its people, but I suspect it was after I read Gone With the Wind at the age of 12 and met the O'Haras for the very first time. And don't even get me started on Rhett Butler ...
So in honor of St. Pat's Week and all things Irish AND the upcoming release of Grace Like Rain, my Irish novella about a lovable Irish rogue by the name of Blake "The Rake" McClare, I thought it would be fun to give you another short clip to whet your appetite. This is a scene I actually wrote after the fact because the person who edited/proofed Blake's story wanted to know more about the heroine's passion for the disabled children of the Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, where she volunteers most of her free time. So at the end of today's blog, you'll find what is now one of my favorite scenes in the story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
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SNEAK PEEK AT GRACE LIKE RAIN
Never again would he take his sight or hearing lightly.
Paralyzed, Blake stood in the hallway outside the music room at the Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, hat in hand as he struggled to keep a sheen of tears from his eyes. Dotted with musical instruments and scuffed wooden chairs, the high-ceiling room of papered walls and maple floors was awash in the royal hues of dusk. Beyond a bank of graceful arched windows, a tangerine sun trickled into a fuschia horizon, its brilliant gleam no match for the glow that shone on the faces of the children.
Nor his own, for that matter, as he observed the women with whom he was falling in love.
Patience Peabody sat at the piano with her back to him, straight and tall, while a gaggle of children sprawled beneath her Steinway with hands plastered to its belly. Squeals erupted as she launched into a stormy cadenza from the second movement of Beethoven's 3rd Concerto, girls and boys of varying ages giggling and pounding their palms to the beat. Eyes shining, an older boy stood beside the open lid with one hand on the strings while he rippled the other up and down his chest like a washboard. The vibrating brrrrrr of his lips brought an odd mix of joy and sadness to Blake as he watched … and more than a little shame.
Joy because of the gift Patience gave to these children.
Sadness because of all the sensory joy they were missing.
And shame, not only for taking those senses for granted, but for never giving a thought to those who were deprived.
His eyelids shuddered closed. God forgive me for the shallow life that I’ve lived.
Oooomph! Something rammed him hard from behind, and Blake's eyes popped open. He blinked at a rotund little boy who now sat dazed on the floor, bottle-thick eyeglasses askew on a round face of freckles.
Slapping his hat back on, Blake lifted the young man from behind to stand on his own, pocketing a smile that just itched to break free due to the boy’s overzealous attire. “Goodness, are you all right?” he said with a quick scan, the child’s impeccable suit and narrow four-in-hand tie lending a distinguished bearing to a boy no more than seven or eight.
“Oh, yes, pardon me, sir,” he said in a cultured tone that immediately made Blake smile. “My fault entirely for rough-housing in the hallway as Mrs. Willoughby likes to say.” He briskly dusted the back of his suit with a pudgy palm before extending a hand with a firm square of shoulders, his stature barely coming to Blake’s waist. “Eugene Horatio Templeton at your service, sir, chief student courier for Dr. Jones and boy’s dormitory assistant.” Two sandy brows beetled in question. “And you are?”
Blake blinked, his smile climbing. “Blake Henry McClare, chief obstruction, apparently,” he said with an equally firm shake of his hand, a chuckle lacing his tone. “My apologies for blocking the door, Mr. Templeton.” He bent to pick up an envelope the boy had obviously dropped and held it out with a courteous bow of his head. “I believe this is yours?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” The boy reached to take it, hand floating aimlessly in the air until Blake finally nudged it into his fingers with a hard drop of his jaw. Good heavens, he’s blind?
“It’s a missive for Miss Peabody, you know,” he continued in a very official manner, his goggle lenses magnifying brown eyes to twice their size, giving him a scholarly air. “So if you will excuse me, my good man, I will presently fulfill my obligation to deliver said missive.” Turning on a well-polished heel, he marched into the room like a miniature adult, reaching Patience’s side just as the song came to an end. Blake could do nothing but gawk while the most articulate child he’d ever seen promptly handed Patience the letter.
“Why, thank you, Eugene!” Patience bent to deposit a kiss to the boy’s cheek, which obscured his freckles with a delicate blush. “Are you able to stay a while to feel the music?”
“Most certainly, Miss Peabody,” the young courier said, hands clasped behind his back in a most stately manner. His owl eyes shifted toward the door with a pleasant smile, his unblinking gaze locking on Blake as if he could really see. “And perhaps we should invite your guest to feel the music as well?”
Patience spun around on the piano bench, her cheeks blooming pink at the sight of Blake braced against her door. “B-Blake!” The blush deepened as she shot up, hand braced to the keys while she wobbled on her feet. “I mean, Mr. McClare—whatever are you doing here?”
Blake removed his hat and ambled in, a sheepish grin tugging his lips. “Why, you invited me, Miss Peabody, over muffins just last week.”
“You most certainly did,” he said with a tweak of Mr. Templeton's well-padded shoulder.
Obviously flustered, Patience splayed a hand to the front of her starched pleated bodice. “Goodness, I don’t even remember.”
Blake smiled and placed his homburg on a chair, the laughter in his eyes leaking into his tone. “Why, yes, you distinctly said—quite passionately, I might add—how you wished I could ‘feel’ the music and see the looks on the children’s faces when they felt it too.” Draping an arm around Eugene’s sturdy shoulders, he delivered a mischievous grin. “So here we are, Miss Peabody, most anxious to ‘feel’ the music along with your charges if we may, eh, Mr. Templeton?”
“Most assuredly, Mr. McClare.”
A sparkle lit in Patience’s eyes as she nibbled at the edge of her lip. “Well … if you insist, then I suppose you both could join Albert right here.” She tapped the side of the piano where the older boy stood with a grin.
“Oh, nooooo you don’t,” Blake said with a shake of his head, “I want the full bottom experience, don’t you, Mr. Templeton?” Squatting, he peered beneath the piano at five little girls and boys who blinked back as if he had lost his mind. Nope, only my heart, he thought with an off-kilter grin, glancing up at Patience with a hike of his brow. “Will you ask them if I can join them, Miss Peabody? I’d hate for any of them to melt into a puddle of fear.”
With the gentle curve of her lips, her eyes softened into molten chocolate, and Blake knew in that exact moment the only one melting in fear would be him if he couldn’t win Patience Peabody’s heart.
“Absolutely,” she whispered, bending to sign and speak to those perched under the piano.
Giggles erupted as children scuffled aside to make room for Blake, and crawling under in a truly undignified manner, he settled in cross-legged, shoulders hunched to keep from hitting his head. Peering up at Eugene, he gave a teasing clear of his throat. “I’d feel a lot less moronic if you joined me, Mr. Templeton.”
“My pleasure, Mr. McClare,” the little man said, scooting in to sit Indian-style right next to Blake.
Patience peeked under with a squirm of a smile. “All right, children,” she said out loud as she signed with her hands, the twinkle in her gaze aimed directly at Blake, “I want you to close your eyes while you feel the vibrations, and then let the music carry you away.” Rising, she resumed her seat on the bench and began to play, the plaid fabric of her flowing skirt rippling with motion as her dainty shoes worked on the pedals.
Anticipation skittered through Blake before he even laid a palm on the piano, the children’s excitement as palpable as the music that shivered his skin. Eyes closed, he imagined being deaf, attempting to focus on the vibrations instead of the sound. The effect was astounding, elevating him to another plane where the music buzzed through his body till he was quivering inside and out, the thrill of its tremors and trills nearly sizzling his skin.
He was in his own world despite the squeals and giggles that surrounded him, but at the gentle touch of a hand, he opened his eyes. A tiny tow-headed little girl blinked up, fingers gripped to a rag doll now resting on his knee. Her sweet smile elicited a smile of his own, and carefully slipping the doll from her hold, he held its hands to the underside of the piano, jiggling it like it was dancing to the music.
Then he did. And wondered why he had ever spent so much time in a bar.
The music stopped, and he laid the doll back in her lap, throat closing up when she rose on her knees to give him a hug, first with her doll, and then with her own tiny arms.
And then she was gone, scrambling out along with Eugene and the others, leaving Blake numb on the floor. Staring into nothing, he found himself wondering what on earth he could do to bring joy to their lives.
He startled, glancing up at Patience as she stooped, a crimp in her face. “Is something … wrong?”
Wrong? He exhaled while he tunneled shaky fingers through disheveled hair, his breathing as erratic as the beat of his pulse. Yes, something was definitely wrong.
He just realized he’d wasted most of his life on things that didn’t matter.
“Are you … planning on coming out anytime soon?” she said with a duck of her head, a smile tempering the concern in her eyes.
He cleared his throat. “Uh, yes … yes, I am.” Scooting out, he jumped to his feet with a rush of blood to his cheeks, avoiding her gaze while he slapped the wrinkles from his slacks. “That was …” A muscle shifted in his throat. “Truly inspirational, Miss Peabody.” He retrieved his homburg off the chair, aware that all the children had left and he and Patience were finally alone. Staring at the scarred wooden floor, he fiddled with his hat, suddenly feeling unworthy of her time.
“Blake? Are you … sure you're all right?”
No. He wasn’t. But that was about to change. “Is Eugene blind?” he whispered, unable to look her in the eye.
“Why, yes he is.”
“But he wears glasses …”
Her soft chuckle coaxed his gaze to hers while her beautiful smile thudded his pulse double time. “He wears them because he thinks they make him look smart.”
Blake smiled, losing himself in the tender warmth of her eyes. “They do.”
“He likes you, you know,” she said softly, “which is good because he’s an old soul in a child’s body who doesn’t have many friends.” Her teeth caught the edge of her lip in a smile that held a touch of the imp. “I think perhaps the child in you must speak to his soul.”
He could do nothing but grin, head tilted as he gave back some of her own. “Are you implying I’m childish, Miss Peabody?” he said in a husky tone.
A hint of rose dusted her cheeks as her chin nudged up a hair. “I am, Mr. McClare, and happily so because it’s the child in you that rescues the lost child in me.”
“Likewise,” he said softly, “because I suspect the wise soul in you could rescue the lost soul in me, so perhaps there’s a purpose in this friendship after all.”
“Perhaps.” She closed the fallboard of the piano and pushed the bench in, her smile shy as she made her way to the door. “And perhaps it’s to save Hugh a trip to pick me up tonight by giving me a lift home.”
A grin slid across his face before he could stop it. “Indeed, if you’ll allow the child in me to indulge the wise soul in you with a stop at the ice cream parlor on the way.”
She turned at the door, her look cautious as she clutched the purse to her chest. “Agreed, although I do worry, Mr. McClare, that the child in you may well overtake the wise soul in me.”
Spirits rising, Blake strode to the door, offering his arm with a smile that held a definite dare. “One can only hope, Miss Peabody,” he said with wink that toasted her cheeks, “and pray.”
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