Stray Master

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[Chapter Thirty Four]

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Scottish/ Irish Translation -

Dadaí - Dad/Daddy

Màthair - Mom/Mommy

mo leannan bhoidheach - my beautiful sweetheart

col ceathrair - cousin

Bràthair- Brother

Gobshite- a stupid, incompetent person

Fecker- they get away with murder.

Daideó - Grandfather (everyone in this family refers to Conner as Grandfather, besides Lewis and Seán)

Uncail - Uncle

Feart- afraid

dia duit - hello

máthair mhór (Great Mother) - Seàn and Lewis say Maimeó (Mam o)

Glaikit – stupid

na gabh dragh - Don’t Worry

Bairn - Baby

Names -

Siobhan (pronounced “shiv-awn”)

Eamon (pronounced “aim-on”)

Fionn (pronounced “fee-un” or “fee-on”)

Aisling (pronounced “ash-ling”)

Lugh

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Ireland is beautiful, that’s one of my first observations of the country. Especially the countryside away from the city of Shannon, although it didn’t appear to be very large. The fields and all the sights were amazing, it’s more open land than I’m used to, and seeing animals in them, grazing or running around playfully was heartwarming. Nearly everything is green and the sky is a brilliant blue with some greying clouds in it, calling on rain again according to Niamh. The road Connor takes is the clearest one I’ve ever seen, the occasional car or truck will pass us but that’s few in between.

Lewis Informed me we’re in County Cork on the way out of Shannon Airport when he managed to sneak me away from his mother and that he was very happy with his surprise, thanked me by pulling me into an intense kiss in front of the doors, some people complained and Lewis promptly flipped them off. Connors’s four-door truck was filled to capacity with him, Lewis, and Seán. I sat in the backseat with the brothers, being squished to death in the middle. The Scotsman tried to make me more comfortable by pulling me on his lap, but that didn’t last long. Connor and Niamh don’t like that sort of thing in the car and scolded Lewis for it, Seán had a good laugh. Lewis had slapped his brother, reaching his arm behind me and slapping the back of the man’s head.

On the way, they catch up by speaking of who died, the weather, or how the sheep and farming are coming. Lewis whispers in my ear of who they talk about, giving me the quick background of how the family knew them, or if they are just giving their grievances to the person. I learned that one of the women that Niamh knew in high school passed away only today, it was in the newspaper and Niamh goes on and on, “It was ’bout time ’hat woman passed on, she was trouble, she was! All those men in her bed and the way that woman smoked! Lord, never speak ill of the dead, but-”. Conner needed to interrupt her, simply gripping her hand in a gentle grab and stating, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”. His wife merely nodded her agreement to that and moved on to another dead person in the newspaper, the brothers just shared an amused look and Lewis explained what Conner said is a prayer or blessing one says when someone dies.

Conner mentioned it’s been raining for the past two days, making work difficult with the mud and being slippery. The brothers promised to help, saying that they missed doing “real work”, I can assume that construction isn’t real work to them considering they grew up working a farm and doing physical labor to earn their place at the table. I’m looking forward to seeing Lewis on a horse, doing something he greatly enjoys with his family. If they decide to do it when we get to their house, I’ll just sit with Niamh and do whatever she does or watch them for the first few minutes then try to help with whatever food she makes.

Niamh asks me about what I’ve been doing and how I am, if Lewis asked me to marry him yet. Lewis had gone so wide-eyed at the look his mother sent him when I answered in the negative that everyone laughed. Seán stopped instantly when she called him out, saying they were waiting for him to get married too. I explained it’s too early for marriage in our relationship, and suggested they wait only a few more years to get them off the topic. Lewis rewarded me for it with a kiss on my hair. Conner brought up Miss Parry, which nearly immediately made Lewis tense with his brother too. The former Soldier was making sure that my boss isn’t giving us issues. Lewis answered him in a way that reminded me of a soldier, straight to the point with respect, instead of Sir it’s Dadaí. Informing him that Miss Parry had apologized and has accepted us, that she is no longer trying to separate us. Both parents seemed pleased with the answer, Niamh cursing Miss Parry yet again for even messing with us in the ways she did, Conner had to stop her.

We’re passing a large cemetery when it starts pouring rain, complete with thunder, Conner merely turns the wipers on and a glance upward to the sky while his wife curses, “Apologies lads, wanted it ta be a clear day for yers first day back. Feckin rain.”

Lewis chuckles, looking out the window with a smile, “Wouldn’t be home without it, Màthair.” Then he looks over at me, leaning down to kiss me, “Welcome ta Ireland, Tommy Boy.”

Hugging his arm, I glance out the window that is now covered in paths of rain and drops, seeing the open fields with horses, cattle, and sheep with wool covering them, the rock half walls that block them from the road, and the big lake in one of the fields that reflect the sky. His parents and brother bickering in the background, Lewis holding onto me and grinning. “I love it already.”

Lewis smiles even wider, if possible, and kisses me again. “We’re home, mo leannan bhoidheach.”

When he says that, I feel the truck pull onto a gravel road and quickly look in front of me out the windshield, seeing a large house in the distance, a long road going over two small hills. It appears like a mansion yet I can see the original house in the middle of the add-ons, it’s a red brick house, five floors with large windows and a long porch that wraps around the side of the house. The add-ons are the same, the shades of brick somewhat off and having much more character with the rock pieces in place of bricks in some places. The porch extends with the house in every direction, so there’s never an empty space. On it, I can see furniture, safe from the rain by the ceiling. The added parts of the house make it the largest house I’ve ever seen, the width if it is wide and the length great. I have no doubts that my boyfriend and his brother came from a building family, their house looks nearly flawless.

Some yards or so behind the house is a large dark red barn with a smaller yet still a good size barn next to it, both doors are closed but I can assume what’s in them. They have to keep any horses and sheep somewhere, along with any supplies they use. I can’t see any animals in the misty fields that surround the house and barns, I’m guessing that they are either in the barns or further in the fields where I can’t see. The rain makes everything appear darker, wetting the surfaces and creating a thin fog that surrounds the house, the barns, and the rock fences around the fields. There are about five other cars over to the side of the second barn, covered in rain and the soft ground now turned mud from the downpour. Conner parks closer to the porch, directly next to a little open fence that blocks people from the porch stairs on the right side of the house. He honks the horn of his truck and nearly instantly three men my age, seventeen to twenty, come running out of the house.

Two have bright red hair and the last has dark brown hair like Seán, all of them are tall and probably only slightly shorter than the brothers. One opens the door for Niamh and the other red-haired man covers her with an umbrella while helping her from the truck. The third man with dark hair grabs our bags and runs them up to the porch, taking the stairs two at a time; Lewis and Seán laugh at the scene. My boyfriend pulls the hood of my hoodie up over my head and opens the back door to get out once his mother is out of the way, immediately he’s drenched in rainwater, hair wet, and clothes dark with the water. He helps me from the truck and picks me up to hurry through the small gate and up the stairs to the safety of the porch where Niamh is at with the three men. All of the men are giving me looks, not any bad or rude, merely curious. Seán is coming up behind us, much more calmly than us, uncaring of the rain and I know Lewis wouldn’t have cared either and he only hurried because of me.

Niamh is assisted into the house by Conner, yelling back to us that she’ll start dinner. Lewis and Seán pull the water-heavy hoodies off and settle them on a little rocking chair to dry once the rain quits, if it ever does, it looks like it’ll be a while. Lewis does the same to me, placing my own hoodie next to his. The air is chilly and I automatically lean into Lewis to keep warm, he wraps his arms around me and rubs his hand along my upper arm. Seán hugs and playfully punches the three other men with us, Lewis simply one arm hugging each when they step forward to do the same with him.

“Was wonderin if ya was ever comin home, guys. How’s America?” The taller of the redheads asks. He has brown eyes and freckles over his nose and cheekbones and has muscles in a swimmer-type way, he looks a few inches shorter than Lewis, who is close to seven feet.

The other one speaks up, his red hair is cut to his earlobes and in a cute little fringe, freckles on his nose and the corner of his lips, light grey eyes, he appears like a stereotypical football player. He smirks down at me, considering he looks around six feet. “Must be great, look at ta cutie on his arm.”

I blush and shy away from him, not expecting Lewis’s family to flirt or call me cute- besides Niamh. Lewis pulls me closer, if possible, to his side and punches the man’s arm on the wrong side of painful causing the redhead to call out and the others to laugh. “Shut yer pus, Siobhan.”

The man, Siobhan, rubs his arm, laughing as if it didn’t really hurt. “Aye, he’s yers, col ceathrair. Just messin.”

“Apologies for Siobhan, he’s a flirt. Never learns his lesson.” The brown-haired man tells me, smiling kindly with nomad eyes, they are very pretty with an amber-like color that blends into a green. He’s the shortest, I guess that he’s closer to six feet than my height. “I’m Eamon. Ya met ta gobshite, ’hat ’here is his twin Bràthair, Fionn.”

Eamon gestures to the first red-head with the swimmer’s body, Fionn. The man grins at me and sticks his hand out for me. It takes me a few seconds to force myself to shake his hand, I’m unused to strangers doing this and touching people I don’t know. “Ya must be Thomas, saw ya at New Year’s. Siobhan couldn’t make it, ’hats why he just got Lewy’s bad side.”

Lewis laughs at the wide-eyed look Siobhan gets at that, clearly not wanting to be on his bad side. “Best not do it again, ya hear?”

The man nods, “Aye. Understood.”

Seán nudges my arm and nods over to the three when I look up at him, “Their our cousins, col ceathrair means ’hat. Eamon is ta first of seven, other two are the oldest of six. All of ’hem are wee feckers.”

The three men bombard Seán with light punches and whines of displeasure at the term he called them but laugh along with my boyfriend and his brother. I go along with them because it’s amusing to watch the men I know interact with their family. Lewis seems much more relaxed here and I find myself wishing that he could be this happy at home- in America, at our apartment. I understand he misses his family, I would too if I had this growing up and it makes sense he’d be much more happy and relaxed in a country he knows well and feels at home in. America isn’t his home, it never will be, simply because he doesn’t have this there. Home is where the heart is after all, and Lewis’s heart is always in Ireland. No matter how many times he sees and speaks to his family over the phone or through a screen, it will never be as good as the real thing.

On other topics, non-depressing topics. I’m amazed that none of them seem bothered by the chilly weather the rain has created, the light wind, and the sprinkle of rain that blows onto our skin, there’s no reaction from any of them. They just keep speaking, asking about America or how other family members are doing, how the farming is coming. Lewis keeps me wrapped in his arms, his warmth helping me deal but I do shiver and that must make him realize I’m not accustomed to this kind of weather, especially not standing outside while it’s happening. He practically bulldozes his cousins as he guides me past them and to the front door, whispering an apology in my ear for allowing me to be cold that long.

His brother and cousins laugh at his rude pushing to get me inside, clearly not caring about how he stopped his conversation and walked away. They follow us through into the warm house that smells like cake, cookies, and dinner. I can sniff out potatoes and some kind of meat, what I think is vegetables, whatever it is it smells delicious. There aren’t as many people as on New Years’ here, some of them may be out or maybe don’t live here, but there’s still a lot of people here. Women and children are in the living room I saw before with a few men, Conner being among them. The women are mainly amusing the children while the older men sit on the couch with Conner drinking either beer or something else, although it isn’t only the women. When a child goes up to one of them they pick them up and playfully tease them or tell them stories. Conner has two little boys, about five or seven, sitting on his thighs, telling them something that has them in complete awe with adorable wide eyes and grins. The four older children, ten to fifteen, wrestle like I have seen them do at New Years’, and the stairs are filled with six teenagers talking and messing around.

There are three older men, Conner being a fourth, and five older women, one being my age. They play with five little toddlers; three boys and two girls. There are also three older kids with them that help entertain the babies, all of them look six to eight. The youngest woman with the children glances up at us when we enter through the door, once she sees Lewis and Seán she shouts and jumps up, running at Lewis to hug him. He catches her with a laugh while the twins and Eamon laugh and walk through another doorway off to the side of the living room. Seán tapes the girl’s shoulder and earns her latching to him next. The girl is young with black hair to her shoulders that are in cute little pig-tail braids, she’s pale with agate eyes. She’s my height and wears a crop top with shorts and work boots.

She talks fast in Irish, voice muffled by Seán ’s chest. Lewis whispers to me to translate that she’s just saying she missed them and cursing them for not sending her a lot of pictures of America, that she has great news for them. He also explains she’s another cousin from their Aunt Rian and Uncle Lugh, she’s the oldest of her “litter” of five. Once she pulls away from Lewis’s brother, her eyes turn to me and she grins big, showing pretty white teeth.

“Yer Thomas! Oh, yer adorable, ya are! If Lewy doesn’t marry ya, I will!” She excitedly claims, accent thick, laughing happily when her cousin pulls me into his chest and wraps his arms around me possessively.

Then she turns as if to yell out to the entire room, but Lewis quickly catches her shoulder and makes her face us again. He asks before she voices her momentary confusion. “Aisling, ’hats yer news for us?”

She lights up, her grin nearly blinding me and her eyes get even brighter. She lays one hand on her stomach and appears slightly nervous for a second as she looks up at them. “I’m pregnant, three months now.”

Both men stare at her for a few long seconds, Lewis tensed and his brother blinks in shock. When she begins to fidget under their eyes, I nudge Lewis in the stomach to get him back into focus. He clears his throat, sounding happy for her when he speaks, “Congrats, Aisling.”

Seán echoes it, smiling down at her with light blue eyes. Then he gets serious. “Now, Where’s ta boy?”

“Aye. Where the lad at, we needta talk ta him.” Lewis adds on, rolling his shoulders.

I giggle at them and Aisling’s shocked look that quickly switches to fond exasperation as she crosses her arms. “Guys! Daideó ’nd Dadaí already threatened him!”

Lewis scoffs, tone showing his incredulity. “Only Dadaí and Uncail Lugh?”

His brother shakes his head, “Ah. Ta boy got off easy. Shame.”

My boyfriend nods his agreement, smirking at the eye roll he gets from his cousin. Aisling turns to me, lowering her voice as if they can’t hear her, shaking her head lightly. “Cion was feart to come today, heard bout these two. Plus my Daideó and Dadaí, and ta others.”

Two hands appear on her shoulders, making her jump and glance up. A man that appears six feet stands behind her, an older gentleman with a greying ebony beard, matching hair, and dark eyes. A safe guess at his age for me is about fifty to Fifty-Five, he has stress wrinkles and a scar across his nose. His voice is deep like Conners, “Best be feart. ’Hat damn boy got ya pregnant without askin for a blessin, taught ya better than ’hat, Aisling.”

I raise my eyebrows at that, wondering if this is her father and why he’s speaking about blessings over a pregnancy. Lewis must see it and leans down to whisper in my ear again, voice lowered to be heard by only me. “Very traditional. Older men are shown respect, same with ta women. Askin for a blessin ta get one pregnant or ask for marriage is done to show respect for the family and the Dadaí. At least in this family. ’His is Uncail Lugh, Aisling’s Dadaí.”

I nod, understanding a little better. I had known that his family was traditional, liking the older terms and way of living, but I didn’t realize that it was this serious. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, I’m sure a lot of families are traditional in their own sense and everyone in this one seems happy and okay with it. Lugh and the other fathers care for their daughters and know what’s best for them, if they think the man she’s dating is bad, I’m sure he’ll explain to his daughter why he thinks she isn’t ready to be a parent with said man. Considering this Cion man is still alive or in the picture, he must be on the right side of this father and the family. No wonder Conner and Niamh have so much respect, much more than I’m used to seeing from children or other family members regarding parents. Lewis’s grandmother seems to have it too, which makes sense considering she is the oldest in the family at the moment.

Aisling shrugs and nods at her father, agreeing but also happy her boyfriend broke this specific rule. She has a baby growing inside her, she deserves to be happy. “I know, Dadaí. Yer happy, remember? Ya got another baby ta spoil.”

Lugh sighs, smiling slightly as he leans down to kiss her temple. “Got enough of ’hem as it is, but yer right.”

I smile at the scene, happy for her and feeling sorry that her boyfriend won’t be able to forget that he almost got on this man’s bad side and the rest of the family. From what I can see, the people here are mostly boys with a low number of girls- probably like eight or ten women in total. I imagine that these boys and older men are protective of the little girls, wives, or teenage nieces, I honestly feel bad for whoever wants to date them. I also think it’s a very good environment to grow up in, being watched over by people who love and want the best for you, who will do anything to make sure you are happy and healthy. I already respect these people, this family. They value each other greatly and love additions to the family, proven by how many children I see.

“Oh! Dadaí, look, it’s Thomas! Lewy’s boyfriend!” Aisling announces me, gesturing to me even if I’m the only new person in the house.

Lugh turns his attention to me and I lean further into Lewis’s chest at the attention, waving with a small shy smile. Lugh chuckles at the action, seeming amused. “Dia duit, Thomas. Welcome ta the family, we’re happy Lewy got him someone ta make him happy.”

My face goes a light pink and Lewis squeezes me gently. I say the first thing that comes to mind, because I don’t know what to say to that. “Uh, thank you?”

Lugh laughs and nods, going to say something, however, is interrupted when he and his daughter are pushed away. A short elder woman is standing unsteadily with her cane, she’s shorter than me with grey hair that has some red in it. Her eyes are an intense ebony color that pierces me as she studies my face and body closely, her lips wrinkled and thin, pale. She shaking lightly, most likely from standing without something steadier than her cane. She reminds me of Niamh, and that thought makes me realize that this is her mother, Ethniu. Her stare makes me nervous and I try to disappear into Lewis because of it.

Finally, after what feels like forever, she speaks. Her voice is firm yet weak at the same time, holding a tone that calls for respect, and I understand now why had earned all the family’s admiration. “Yer Thomas?”

I nod, “Yea, Ma’am.”

Seán reaches out to place his hand on her shoulder, help steady her but she waves him off, slapping his hand when he tries again and cursing him. “I can stand on my damn well own, boy!”

Once she turns back to me, she leans close, careful of her cane. Pointing behind me at Lewis, “This boy ask ya to marry him yet, Thomas?”

I shake my head while I feel Lewis sigh silently and grip my hip a bit rougher. “No, Ma’am he didn’t. I’m sure-”

“Damn ya, Lewy! Ya got a boy here who we approve of. Get a damned ring on this finger, Glaikit!” Ethniu snatches my hand and shakes it at my boyfriend.

The Scotsman takes a deep breath, removes my hand from her grip, sending a look to his brother when the man covers his laugh with his fist. He speaks in Irish, keeping his tone respectful and soft, “Na gabh dragh, Maimeó-” is all I understand from his words.

Ethniu listens carefully, staring at him intensely as he speaks, not interrupting or giving many expressions. Once he finishes, she narrows her eyes and gives a firm nod. “Good, A leanbh. I like this lad, ya better do just ’hat.”

Lewis smiles and nods as he chuckles and most of the room laughs. When I look at him, wondering what he said, he merely grins and says, “I’ll explain later, Bairn.”

I let that pass, it doesn’t really matter what he said, I’m just curious and if I ask later, then he’ll tell me. Although before I can say anything, or anyone really, Ethniu grips my wrist and pulls me from Lewis’s arms. Starting to limp away with me trailing behind her like some confused puppy, slightly shocked that she pulled me as firmly as she did, considering Lewis holds onto me tightly.

She yells over her shoulder, “We’ll be with my dear Niamh in the kitchen. Don’t bother us.”

Looking back at Lewis, I only see him grin at me before being pulled further into the living to sit on the couch with his father and uncles, his brother behind him after he gives me a teasing wave.

What have I gotten myself into?

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