Seasons of Change 3: The Ides of March

Michelle King

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A spot of Irish Magic, the kiss of a leprechaun, and a love is reborn. Years ago Colin and Kelly had parted ways in the most painful of ways. Years passed, thousands of miles stretched, yet the pain caused by those hard words refu...
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A spot of Irish Magic, the kiss of a leprechaun, and a love is reborn. Years ago Colin and Kelly had parted ways in the most painful of ways. Years passed, thousands of miles stretched, yet the pain caused by those hard words refused to ease.

Adulthood brought opportunity.

Colin returned to the place of his teenaged years, Portland Oregon. And there, at the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, he heard a familiar sound. An Irish ballad he’d once taught to his young love. He followed the sound…to his Kelly.

The song Kelly’d been requested to sing did nothing but rub the unhealed scab that was his heart. Colin had taught it to him, and he could only think of Colin when he sang it. Still, money was money so he sang…wishing all the while that his love was not half a world away. Or was he?

Could that be true? Could that really be Colin? Could he believe in March Magic?

But Kelly’s lover wasn’t the only thing that arrived from the past.

Excerpt
This day had been green beer and Irish-themed clothing throughout Portland’s downtown. Visitors and residents moved about, displaying various degrees of drunken revelry. Green beer delivered an audience quite happy to enjoy unusual ethnic entertainments. Kelly and his bandmates would have been foolish to disregard the opportunity. Consequently, they’d grabbed their instruments and had headed out to make some money.

Their last song had ended about five minutes ago, and his crew had stepped away, leaving Kelly behind while they smoked a blunt. Not that Kelly minded. Who was he to judge? Not too long ago, that had been him.

So he sat in their assigned area, his uilleann pipes resting on his shoulder, and smiled to everyone who dropped money into their open box. Sure, applause was nice, as were words of appreciation, but it was the money that mattered. Holidays tended not to be good days for businesses handled in the shadows. Regular clients tended to spend time with family so Rent Boys worked to make money elsewhere.

Like playing music to passersby. Doing so might be the difference between eating dinner or going to sleep hungry. But for him, not this time. He had another goal in mind. His portion of the money raised was his pathway to a better future.

He slid a wary gaze across the crowd. Since the murders in North Town, denizens of Portland’s streets now watched over each other. They’d long ago learned that they couldn’t expect help from outside the community, especially not from people in uniforms. They only had each other in their daily struggle to stay alive.

However, and fortunately, everything seemed calm in the darkening area.

Residents and visitors filled the space, displaying various levels of grumpy, impatient, happy, or drunk. The biggest cluster of people ringed a booth to buy prize tickets for something offered by the new business in town. They called themselves Emerald Isle Ltd.

They were the place he wanted to work for, and the reason he was here today. Raising money for a cause a business had their eye on and found worthy. Sales had looked brisk every time he’d checked. Well, until the clock had struck six o’clock.

Now celebrants had abandoned the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and booths for nearby eateries and microbreweries. Sure, it was cold and gloomy in Portland, Oregon, but residents knew how to have a good time.

Pamphlets advertising venues, events, and “wonderful”—no doubt expensive—prizes fluttered in the cold breeze. They tumbled across the red bricks and clustered at the base of the decorative stairs. One of them came to a stop by wrapping around Kelly’s ankle.

An advertisement bearing the words Emerald Isle, Ltd in large green letters.

St. Patrick’s Day. Green beer and shamrocks. That magical Emerald Isle across the Atlantic. Those things always reminded him of Colin. And the unforgettable year they’d shared.

Just one year… That glorious collection of seasons that had transformed his life.

A flock of probable undergraduates approached the band, wearing smiles, scruffy clothes, and bulging backpacks. They stood for a long moment, whispering to each other and exchanging elbows, hip checks, and giggles before a lanky young man separated from the pack.

“Hey,” said Lanky Dude to Kelly. He gestured with his travel cup.

“Hey.” Kelly smiled. He patted his pipes and thought he’d seen the guy at the campus library. In the Irish Literature section.

Social ritual concluded, Lanky Dude focused on business. “Do you guys know ‘The Rising of the Moon?’”

The popular Irish ballad about the 1798 Irish rebellion. Colin had taught it to him. Kelly remembered his beautiful Irish tenor caressing the words, his Irish heart bursting with pride. Personally, Kelly had always wanted to one day do the song justice in the way Colin did, but that was yet to be.

Still, he’d put his heart into it. He leaned over and retrieved his bodhran, a gift from Colin that summer’s Lughnasadh festival. “You got it.”

Kelly launched into the song. The band’s music bloomed around him, and that fast he was thrust backward into Irish history. He felt as though he was back in time. The drum echoed the beating of his heart, calling Irishmen to battle. The music pulsing in his veins, alive in his hands, swelling from his throat set fire to the distant touch of Irish in his soul. He felt a Celt’s fierce defiance, and the thrilling memory of Colin’s touch.

The song’s conclusion brought a sense of regret. The rebellion had failed, although it lived on in the hearts of every Irishman, and he had lost the man he loved…and still loved.

“Awesome,” Lanky Dude enthused. He tossed a twenty-dollar bill into the box at Kelly’s feet. His colleagues followed suit, but the music had drawn more people to his corner. Wads of money had joined the amounts already received throughout the day from generous patrons.

He could only stare at it and wish for a time machine. Maybe magical standing stones. Some way to go back in time to the year he and Colin had lived and loved side-by-side. He blinked stinging eyes.

Money rained into the box until the crowd of shoes thinned. Chatter and laughter, and hoots of delight from the band. A stack of bills was placed into the wood by a bronzed, male hand. It rested atop the bills, holding them against the evening breeze. President Jackson winked at him from between strong-looking fingers dusted with dark hairs.

“Well done.”

The sexy voice’s arrival prefaced the hand’s withdrawal. A body straightened. Kelly followed the action up…and up. He squinted at a masculine bulk silhouetted against the setting sun.

It looked like a pillar of dark against the bruised burgundy of the western horizon. The sun’s reddening light stabbed into his eyes. He used his hand to shade them and better see. A jumble of impressions filled his mind. Wide, wide shoulders; a voice that was as smooth and mellow as fine whiskey; tall. Over six feet. In shape.

Yummy.

The shuffling and quiet mutters behind him told their own story. The band was heading out, occupying themselves elsewhere in response to the anticipated transaction. Long-learned habits die hard, but Kelly did appreciate the privacy when the silhouette shifted position.

It was silly to think the movement was made to allow Kelly to more easily see him. Clients didn’t often worry about a businessman’s comfort, just the deal at hand. Nevertheless, that did enable Kelly to see him better, and he took a long, appreciative look.

Dark Celtic glory stood before him, all delicious muscle and masculinity, and a smile that twinkled from between smile-grooved cheeks. He resembled that Hollywood Irish hottie, who Kelly always made time to see at a theatre. Not only for the pleasant eye candy and storylines, but because he reminded him of his own personal Celtic hero.

Funny that both men shared the same first name.

The newcomer’s voice rippled with a true Irish brogue. “You brought the passion and the determination Ireland still feels today into that song. You’ve made it your own. It shames me to say this, but you’ve surpassed your teacher.”

Tension rippled across Kelly’s shoulders. “You know this how?”

“Because I remember…” A frown furrowed his brows and dimmed his smile. “You are Kelly Hanks, are you not?”

“Yes. Do I know you?” He’d been out of the business for years now; in fact he was about to graduate from Portland State, but the ghost of his imperfect, desperate past was always close at hand.

He dreaded the next question.

It wasn’t what he expected.

“The Kelly Hanks who went to Mount View High School?”

“Uh, yeah?”

The frown eased away, replaced by a megawatt smile that graced the sun-kissed face. It was a sinfully dangerous smile, one that spoke of intimate secrets and sizzling promise. He felt the heat of that smile burn across his nerves like flashfire.

“You don’t recognize me? I’m crushed.” In contrast to his statement, however, Hottie fitted his hands to his hips and chuckled.

“Should I?” Was he supposed to recognize him?

He shifted through recent memories, of casual dates and lovers, but nothing came to mind. He wouldn’t have forgotten such an amazing smile. Or those outstanding shoulders, ones that urged him to kiss, to caress, or clutch for a steadying grip.

“I’m thinking you should, since I beat up Spaz Larson when he made you cry.” A laugh followed the statement. “He wouldn’t stop calling you Smelly Kelly at lunch. I busted his lip.”

A gasp stole his breath and his brain went into overdrive. Memories of a more distant life spilled into his mind. He felt himself stiffen, his heartbeat accelerate, and his mouth fall open from the shock.

Only two other people knew that story. One was Spaz himself and the other… The universe opened around him and set him adrift in time and space. Those hazel eyes. He knew those eyes.

“Colin?”

The gorgeous smile transformed into an adorably cheeky grin. “Better known by the church as Joseph Patrick Colin O’Connor. But,” he dropped the brogue, “you, and only you, called me Colin.”

The words shattered the spell around Kelly. Joy bubbled through him. He scrambled to his feet, indifferent to the sound of his instruments hitting the ground. Pipes wheezed; the drum clattered.

“Sweet Jesus, it is you,” he said.

Then he hurled himself into Colin’s arms.

Copyright © Michelle King

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