Kieran stops the horse and cart when they reach the cottage.
Jayden takes her lifeless body gently into his arms. He folds his arms tenderly around her shoulders and under her knees, and as he cradles her against his chest, he jumps off from the wagon. He walks around toward Kieran and then together they walk to the door.
Kieran knocks softly and the chatter from inside the cottage stops abruptly.
They hear footsteps drag across the stone floor and then the wooden door creaks open.
“Who goes there?” A deep voice asks.
Kieran steps back when he recognizes the gruff voice of Mr. O’Halloran. He does not know what to expect from him when he sees his daughter’s lifeless body in the arms of Jayden.
Jayden replies brusquely, “It is I, Jayden. Son of Fitzgerald.”
“Jayden my boy, step inside. If you are looking for Heather, she left with Kieran to watch the sunset.” Then he sees her, and worriedly he reaches for her. “What happened? Mary come here quickly,” he calls across his shoulder with urgency.
There is a commotion deeper within the cottage and then his wife comes rushing toward the door. Clara, her younger sister, follows closely behind her mother.
Immediately when her eyes settle on her daughter, she starts moaning, “What happened? What happened?”
Mr. O’Halloran turns abruptly and walks back into the cottage, while Jayden follows him, dragging Mrs. O’Halloran and Clara with him. They move around him and cling to him in panic and fear, moaning incessantly, “What happened? What happened?”
Mr. O’Halloran swoops the empty wooden bowls and cutlery off the table with one swoop of his large hand and says softly, “Put her here.”
Carefully Jayden lays her body down onto the long rectangular wooden table. Her light brown hair fans out around her face. He looks down at her sadly, as he gently folds her arms across her chest. He feels tears burn behind his eyelids as he pinches them tightly closed and he leans down toward her. He kisses her softly on her forehead.
When Jayden straightens up again, he notices a wailing Mrs. O’Halloran hanging onto Kieran.
Mr. O’Halloran is frowning deeply and he asks harshly, “What happened here?”
“I am not sure, Sir.”
“What do you mean, you are not sure. My daughter went out with Kieran this afternoon and YOU bring her back dead.”
“I happened to be up at the Outlook when they arrived there this afternoon. She was fine when we left and then on the wagon, she merely fainted. I was concerned and when I looked, she had stopped breathing. We tried to get here as fast as we could.”
Mr. O’Halloran turns to Kieran. “Is this what happened, young lad?”
“Yes, Sir.” Kieran lowers his gaze. Mrs. O’Halloran stumbles away from him and into her husband’s arms.
Mr. O’Halloran says gruffly, “Leave now. Let this family mourn in peace.”
Kieran moves toward the table. He lifts her limp hand to his lips and he mumbles softly, tasting the salty taste of his tears on his lips, “I love you. I am so sorry this happens every time you choose me, but just like Jayden, I cannot stop. I also have to let it happen repeatedly until we can somehow break this curse.”
Mr. O’Halloran’s voice echoes loudly behind him. “I said leave now, lad.”
Kieran turns away from her and then nodding his head at Mr. O’Halloran, he walks toward the door and out to the wagon.
Jayden is already waiting for him, standing next to the wagon and scuffing his leather shoe across the moist, muddy ground. He says casually, “We should leave the wagon here.”
Kieran pushes his hands deep into his pockets. His shoulders slump forward slightly as he walks away from the cottage.
Jayden smiles despondently, falling into step next to him. “Lighten up, brother. This is not the end of it.”
Kieran replies miserably, “Here we go again.”