Identity Series Book 2: I Am Sarah

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Chapter 22

The cottage at Ballycotton was lovely. It was close to the beach, and the view from the back garden, overlooking Ballycotton Bay, was breathtaking. It was early evening, and the full moon was still low in the eastern sky. I stood at the low wall separating the garden from the rocky cliff while Erik finished up the final arrangements with the agent. The cottage had apparently been vacant for some time, and the owner was happy to rent it to us for a couple of months.

“I just signed the paperwork, so it’s ours until November,” Erik said, coming up behind me.

I turned around. “I love it, Erik. It’s perfect.”

He smiled and gave me a kiss. He had been in a much better mood the past three days, and I hoped he’d be able to relax more now that we were getting settled. The main reason for his improved disposition was that Mr. Casey had told him that William MacCarthy had been let go due to his inappropriate and unprofessional actions toward me.

“I’m glad you like it.” He looked out at the water. “Do you realize I haven’t painted anything in almost four months?” His fingers twitched. “I miss it.”

I laughed. “I’m sure your public misses it, too. I wonder how Sebastian is handling everything back home.”

“I’ll call him later and tell him our plans. Now, how about we celebrate this find with supper?”

Another laugh came from me. “Sounds nice. Where would you like to go?”

“The agent told me about a little place in Cork City that she thought we would like. It should take us about forty minutes to get there.”

I nodded, and we left. Erik had rented a car in Cork City, and he had quickly gotten used to driving on the left side of the road. His Spyder had the steering wheel on the right side, after all. I hadn’t, though, and I closed my eyes as we drove.

Erik chuckled. “It’s not that bad, Sarah.”

“My brain doesn’t like it, Erik. And what my brain doesn’t like, my stomach doesn’t tend to like, either. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just not watch the cars coming from the wrong direction.”

The restaurant was a little place, tucked away in a less busy part of the city, stuck between a dentist and a stationary shop. The outside looked normal, but when we stepped inside, I froze for a moment, and Erik whistled softly.

The floor of the restaurant was painted, but it had so many colors and lines that I just stared at it for a moment. The lines didn’t look like they were in any type of pattern at all. It looked to me like someone had drawn lines on the floor with a blindfold on and then reached out a hand to a pile of paints, still blind, and filled in the spaces between with whatever color they chose. It was beautiful. The tables were covered with spotless white cloths, and the walls were a soothing sea green.

“Interesting choice of colors,” Erik mumbled.

I looked up at him and saw a small smile. “I like it,” I said.

“So do I,” he answered, “but it is interesting. It looks like Picasso mixed with a child’s finger painting.”

As he finished speaking, a man in a white apron stepped up to us. Welcome to the Connemara Inn. My name is Connor Kelley. May I show you to a table?”

“Yes, thank you,” Erik said.

There were only ten tables in the restaurant, and eight of them were occupied. As we passed by them, I inhaled deeply. The aromas that filled the room were amazing, and my stomach and brain agreed that I was very hungry.

“Here you go, sir.” He gestured at a table and set two menus down on it.

“Thank you,” Erik said. He held my chair for me, and we spent the next few minutes reading the menus. The proprietor came back, and we ordered. I had decided on the corned beef and cabbage, and Erik got the Irish stew.

“Thank you, folks.” He bowed slightly and disappeared behind a curtain at the back of the restaurant.

I looked at Erik, and he was studying the floor.

“Erik? What are you doing?”

He glanced up at me before directing his eyes to the floor again. “Trying to see if there is any logical pattern to this at all or if it is truly random.”

I leaned my elbows on the table, which would have driven my father to fits if he’d seen it, and rested my chin on my fists.

“How can you do that?”

His brow furrowed with concentration. “You could easier ask a bird how it knows how to fly. I can either see a pattern or I can’t.”

“And do you?”

He smiled suddenly. “Yes, I do.”

“You’re kidding! There can’t possibly be a pattern in that design.”

“Oh, but there is, and it’s brilliant.” He pointed to the door. “The shapes are in a ratio of three small to one large in a radiating and alternating pattern. The colors are in a definite repeating pattern, just different shades and hues. The pattern goes from the door to the back.”

I stared at my husband, thrilled to hear the excitement in his voice. He imitated my posture with a radiant smile on his face. “It’s genius, really.”

“No one has ever seen that before,” an awed female voice to our left said.

I looked up, and the girl standing by the table with water glasses in her hand was also staring at Erik. She looked to be about fourteen or fifteen years old, and her mouth was all but agape. She was looking at Erik as if he were the most amazing thing she had ever seen.

Erik turned to her as well, and his eyebrows went up. “Your work?”

“Yes, sir,” the girl said, placing the glasses on the table. “I did it last year. I thought the bare concrete was boring.”

“So young to have such vision,” Erik said softly. “How old are you?”

“Fourteen, sir.” She looked at me and then back at Erik. Her mouth opened again, but she shut it without saying anything.

“What is it?”

“Forgive me, sir, but who are you? We get lots of people in here, but no one ever noticed the pattern before.”

“My name is Erik Desmond.” He gestured to me. “This is my wife, Sarah. What is your name?”

“Esmeralda, sir. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you see it?”

Erik shrugged. “I’m an artist. I tend to see things like that.”

The girl’s eyes went wide with surprise. “That Erik Desmond, sir? From New York City?”

“That’s me. How do you know of me?”

“Oh, my grandfather is a great admirer of yours. He showed me one of your paintings that he bought last year when he was visiting America with my grandmother. It was beautiful.” She glanced at the closed curtain nervously. “I have to get back to the kitchen before my da gets mad, but I wanted to tell you that your paintings are incredible. I hope to be able to do something like that someday.”

Erik cocked his head and studied her for a moment. “Do you have any of your work that I could see?” He smiled. “Other than the floor?”

Esmeralda shook her head. “Nothing you’d like, sir. I’m nowhere as good as you.”

He frowned at her. “Why don’t you let me decide what I like, hmm? Go ask your father if you can take some time to show me your work. I’d love to see it.”

The girl flushed, nodded her head, and quickly dashed behind the curtain. Erik looked at me then.

“What?”

“You were wonderful with her, Erik,” I said softly. “The way you encouraged her was lovely.”

This time I was the recipient of his raised eyebrows. “Lovely?”

“Yes, lovely,” I said, chuckling. I was about to say more when Mr. Kelley came out of the back with his daughter.

“Excuse me, sir,” he said, stopping at our table, “but my daughter said you want to see her artwork. Is that true?”

“Yes, it is. The work she did on your floor is marvelous, and I’d like to see what else she has done. As a matter of fact, if you don’t need her for the next little while, she can show it to me as we eat.”

The girl’s face glowed, but her father frowned slightly. “Are you sure, sir? I’d hate for your supper to be disturbed.”

“Trust me, Mr. Kelley, it would not be a disturbance. I really do want to see her work.”

The man looked at Erik skeptically, but he nodded slowly. “All right, sir.” He then spoke to his daughter. “Go and get your things, Esmeralda. I’ll pull up the other table so that there’s room here.”

A smile split the girl’s face in two, and she ran back through the curtain. Her father hesitated for a moment and then said, “May I ask a favor of you, sir?”

“Of course,” Erik said.

“Can you please be honest with my daughter? She truly wants to be an artist, but there is no one we know who can really judge her talent, other than her family, and we’re a little biased. She told me who you are, and I would greatly appreciate it if you told her the truth about her work.”

“You sound like you don’t think it’s very good.”

“Oh, no, sir, it’s not that. My wife and I think it’s brilliant, but what do we know? I know that you will be able to tell if she really has a future with it, though.”

Erik nodded. “I promise I’ll tell her exactly what I think.”

The man relaxed. “Thank you, sir. Your food will be out shortly.”

As soon as he pulled the empty table close to ours, he left, and almost immediately, Esmeralda was back with a thick portfolio under her arm. She sat down and pulled out several pencil drawings. Erik’s eyes widened, and he smiled as he studied them. Mr. Kelley came with our food, and as we ate, I watched Erik and the girl interact. He was animated as he spoke to her of angles of light, composition, and perspective, and she gazed at him as if he were a Roman god come to earth to teach her the secrets of life.

An hour later, I was fidgeting in my seat. At first, I had been as in awe of the young girl’s talent as Erik was, but my enthusiasm quickly flagged. Erik, on the other hand, was, at the moment, completely in his element. He was pointing out some areas of Esmeralda’s work that could use some improvement, and I smiled when I saw his eyes twinkle with excitement, but I wanted to stretch my legs.

“Erik? Erik!”

His head snapped toward me, his eyes wide, and a frown started to form.

“What?”

“I am going to go outside and get some air and walk around a bit.”

“All right,” he said distractedly, turning back to the drawings on the table.

I frowned slightly at his dismissal, and Esmeralda saw it. She opened her mouth to say something to me, but I shook my head at her and stood up. As soon as I got outside, I took a deep breath. It was dark and cool, and I shivered a little, remembering that I had a jacket in the car.

I opened the passenger door and was reaching in for my coat when I sensed someone behind me. I thought it was Erik, but when I turned around with a smile, instead of my husband, I saw a large man dressed in a dirty white T-shirt and blue jeans. I stood up straight and peered at him in the low light that came from the few street lights around me.

“May I help you?”

“Oh, I definitely think so,” the man said, and then his hands snapped forward. One went to the back of my head, and the other put a cloth over my mouth and nose. I struggled, and tried to hold my breath, but eventually, I had to gasp, and I smelled a pungent, sweet odor. Almost immediately, spots formed in my vision. The spots turned into a darkness that started on the edges and slowly made its way to the center of my sight. The last thing I remember was an evil laugh in my ear as I passed out.

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