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Author Mark Stephen Levy

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Denver, Colorado, United States
I was so inspired by my adventures while traveling throughout Europe, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, and other exotic locales that I had to write something. Then one day early last year, an idea started to take form quickly. I was finally enabled to weave some of my stories and integrate them into one of the best love story adventures to come along in years.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Tensions between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were rising. Danny Benson knew that random acts of violence were part of the territory now, but he refused to dwell on the risk. The grand reunion between his immediate and extended family was too important to abandon. Despite the hazards, the tickets were booked and they moved ahead with the trip. Danny's father had long dreamed of introducing his wife and son to his brother and his family. The man had seen his brother only once since leaving Northern Ireland years ago, and he'd never met his nieces and nephews. He told Danny it was time.

Arriving, Danny was instantly captivated by the emerald greenery and old world charm which defined his father's homeland. It was his first time out of the United States. Discovering fresh landscapes, diverse and novel ways of life, was exhilarating. He spent the first few days of his trip exploring the cobblestone streets of Belfast, conversing with the townsfolk. He was met with brotherly reverence when they discovered that he'd traveled to Northern Ireland to connect to his roots. He even went to a pub and enjoyed his first pint of beer. Something his friends would envy when he returned stateside. After all, he was just seventeen.

The solidarity in the pub was endearing, at first. Then one of the locals, a burly man with a bushy red beard approached Danny. "Whose side are you on, anyways? Catholics or Protestants?" "Well, I'm a Catholic by birth, but..." A huge roar erupted from the pub crowd. To them, Danny the American with Northern Irish roots was one of them. Catholic. "I don't understand why sides need to be taken,"

"You should have been here in last week. We showed 'em, till the cops broke it up. That's why we're marching in Derry next week."

"Why?" Danny asked.

"This is our country, too." A mumbling hush overtook the pub as they turned Catholic ears on their rousting leader. "Those bloody bastards are mixing it up, won't let us vote. And we don't much like discrimination. It's all right; we'll take care of 'em. Squash em' like bugs, we will!" The burly man ground his fist into his palm and the crowd exploded again in a collective wail.

Danny was disturbed, confused at this will to violence that so moved these people. He now understood what the caution meant that random acts of violence were part of the territory now. For the first time since the emerald homeland cast its spell over him, he worried that his parents might have made the wrong decision in coming to Northern Ireland when they had. Apparently the lush greenery was a natural camouflage for the darkness seething underneath. They'd walked into the middle of something in which he didn't want to play a part.

"The march in Derry might get rambunctious," the man forewarned. Danny grimaced as he finished his beer, not from the bitter taste, but the dark festering mood of the country. He waved goodbye to the pub crowd, relieved to get out of there. Now as he walked the streets, the banners displayed everywhere fi nally made sense. They advertised: March in Derry August 12th". The signs made him shudder and hurried back to his hotel.

While the summer of 1969 played out its cultural revolution back home, Danny experienced the inauguration of another revolution in Northern Ireland. The upheaval brewing around him made it difficult to stay focused on more personal concerns. In a couple weeks he would start his senior year of high school. He had to achieve flawless grades if he expected to move on to a fine university and later medical school. He decided to play the rest of his trip safe, and spent most of it at his uncle's house getting to know his cousin Cathleen.

She too would be starting her fi nal year of high school, and she too was worried about making the grades to solidify a bright future. Th ese facts helped cement heir kinship. Often, Cathleen spoke of her best friend Emily. Her brilliant best friend. Kind and daring, smart and full of good humor. How she revered her, and how she missed her. Emily was away visiting her cousins in Derry. Danny knew Emily only through the portrait of Cathleen's words, but his concern for her safe return kept him staring at the ceiling at night, high school worries long forgotten. Trouble was building in Derry, and next week the turbulence was scheduled to explode when the Catholics marched. Cathleen would be crushed if anything happened to her dear friend, and Danny realized so would he. Such was the spell Emily's gentle-hearted reputation had cast.

"When is your friend coming back from Derry?" Danny asked one morning after a particularly restless night.

"Tomorrow, just in time for our picnic."

"Good," he said, startled no more by his vast relief, than his boldness.

He added, "I want to meet her. You sure she's coming back?"

"Of course she is. She wants to meet you, too, Danny. Let me show you who she is. You've never asked to see her picture."

Cathleen led Danny to her room. A picture collage featuring her many friends hung on the wall. Amongst many girls in many photos, one of them did capture his attention. "Guess which one?" Cathleen challenged. He pointed to a lovely young girl flying high on a park swing. "Yes, that's my Emily," Cathleen affirmed. Danny skipped a breath. Once more Northern Ireland called to him, if only to introduce him to one more of its citizens. Emily.

On their final day of vacation, the entire clan went to a park in the countryside outside Belfast to have a farewell picnic. Nearby, a brook produced a tranquil soundtrack for the day. Like the storm brewing in Derry, dark thunderheads loomed in the distance, but come rain or high water, nothing could dampen Danny's mood. Emily was there.

When Cathleen finally introduced the two, Danny forgot to be infatuated by her elegant beauty, so beguiled was he by her grace of self. She reached out to him, to shake hello. Her hand was velvet, her touch soft like the glow of her supple, flawless skin. Danny felt himself liquefy. What was this feeling growing inside him? He wanted to understand. He wanted to spend more time with Emily. But the introduction was brief. Cathleen hadn't seen Emily for two weeks, and she had every right to monopolize her best friend's attention. The two girls pulled away from the rest of the picnic, leaving Danny frozen like a soldier standing guard. Of course he wanted to join them, but he didn't move. He told himself he was being courteous, giving the girls some time to catch up. In reality, he was nervous. Beyond nervous. Petrified.

As they walked away, Emily turned around to glance back at Danny. He grinned shyly at her, and in response she radiated a huge sunbeam of a smile. That smile and those eyes—lustrous eyes the color of the Irish countryside, and so happy—how they sparkled. He lost peripheral vision, felt transcended to another world. His fate was sealed. After gifting him a little finger flutter wave, Emily turned back to Cathleen, causing her glorious hair to dance. He was transfixed by her hair, the color of burnt sienna, transfi xed by the delicate curls which spilled past her shoulders, glossy and dazzling. Exquisite. Oh, this just wasn't any teenage obsession. This was life changing and Danny knew it. What amazed him most of all, Emily was aware of the feeling that she stirred in him and she let him know it. And he liked it. He liked the excitement, the rush of adrenaline through the heart. He was certain he stirred the same feelings in her. If only he could unfreeze his body, go over to her.

Ironically, his eyes did it all for him. His every glance found Emily. When Cathleen and Emily strolled back nd forth to the brook or the swing that was near, Danny's eyes followed. He tried to look away whenever he thought Emily sensed him watching, but she always caught him, reciprocating with girlish, fl eeting glances.

The moment to say goodbye was fast approaching, along with it the everyday life of home and school in Los Angeles. Knowing Emily was here, Danny didn't want to leave; but, of course, he had to. His father called to him. Only five minutes remained before they had to depart for the airport. Time had gotten away from him. Other than their brief introduction earlier, Danny had not spoken to the girl with the luminescent green eyes and charismatic smile. Five minutes. His heart insisted on a lifetime.

At last he found the courage to approach her. She was alone, on the swing, just like in the picture he pinpointed on his cousin's wall.

"Do you want a push?" he asked.

"Yes, as high as you can!" Emily laughed. Danny reared back and gave Emily a big push. Maybe it was his pent up adrenaline. Maybe he wanted to impress her. Maybe it was his five minute time limit. He used too much force and launched her off the swing. She tumbled to the grass and he saw what he thought was terror on her face. If he'd hurt her he'd never forgive himself. He rushed to attend to her. Her knee was scraped but when he looked to her face he saw she was beaming that sunny smile. "You don't know your own strength, Danny." Encouraged, holding up his index finger, he said, "I'll be right back."

He removed some tissues from his pocket, ran to the picnic table for a cup of water to wet them down. He hurried back to Emily, knelt down and soothed her knee with the wet tissues. He carefully wiped away any excess drippings. "This will stop the bleeding and prevent swelling," he told her. It was hard to keep his hand from shaking. Her legs were toned, the skin quite smooth. "Feeling better?" he asked.

"I am now, Danny," she assured him.

"Still, I feel awful."

"It's okay," she said, still smiling, "I asked you to push me, I just didn't know you were so strong." She paused, regarded him with curiosity. Danny's regret was deep, but it was at once forgotten by Emily. She was engrossed on how thoroughly and skillfully he treated her knee.

"You know, Danny, you should be a doctor. You have a certain way of taking care. Quite gentle. I like that." He looked at her with surging wonder.

"It's funny you say that. I'm going to be."

"I'm glad, because I'm going to be a nurse. We can treat people together.

He was silent. They peered into each other's eyes. Danny wanted to kiss her but worried she would take off ense at such a brazen move. He was utterly mesmerized by her Irish charm, amazed at the happiness—pure joy!—he felt in her presence. He had never experienced such absorption. And everything felt so natural. Reminiscent of best friends who haven't seen each other in years, yet who only take an instant to rekindle. He understood Cathleen's awe of her.

Danny stood and took Emily's hands to assist her up from the grass. He thought again about kissing her when a bolt of lightning and clap of thunder triggered a drenching rain. Everyone began to scatter, to rush to their respective cars.

"Come on, Emily," Danny shouted. He grabbed her hand and started to run to the car. But halfway there, Emily shouted, and pulled away.

"My purse. I left it back at the swing." She turned back the way they'd come and quickly disappeared into the torrential rain. The thunder was deafening, pummeling. At the car, his father told Danny to get in, that they were late for the airport. He was already backing out of their parking place. Crestfallen, Danny crawled in the backseat, no chance to say goodbye.

Just then, Danny saw Emily running towards the cars, purse in hand. "Wait!" he said anxiously to his father. But he was too late. Emily leapt into the backseat of the car next to Danny's. With the car rolling away, Danny lowered the window in the back seat, and caught Emily's attention. Through the clear sheen of heavy rain, Danny made a wild hand gesture: he would write to her.

She rolled down her window and shouted though the pelting rain, "Yes...write me! Cathleen will send you my address."

The last he saw of her was that beaming sunshine smile. Then both cars drove away. Rolling the window up, Danny sat dripping wet and satisfied. In one afternoon his life had changed. He now had no doubt that he wanted to study to become a doctor.

More than that, he wanted Emily for his own.


If you like Chapter one, you can link to the Overland website, to read Chapter two below.

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