THE CHAIR A novel by Sheila Willar Copyright 2016 Sheila Willar
June 4, 2013
(revised September 14, 2017)
CHAPTER 4 ............................ ISLAND TIME
Erin, Kelly and Michael left Dublin and arrived at the airport in Cyprus. The sun was hot and it warmed their skin but the chill of the North Atlantic still ran cold in their veins. They loaded the stone chair into the back of the rental van and Michael barely waited till the others were seated before he flattened the gas peddle and sped away with a lurch.
“Turn right! Turn left!” shouted Kelly with cryptic directions to her father’s house.
The anxiety of being followed by the police loomed in their minds and it was a stitch gone wrong in the unhurried fabric of the island. With each bump in the road they struggled to reconcile the beauty of the Mediterranean with the turmoil of their escape from Ireland. Kelly was sick about her breakup with Matthew, Michael mourned the loss of his parish in Kinkerry, and Erin struggled to devise a plan that would enable her to take the Irish Blue chair to Jerusalem on time.
The air conditioning in the van did not work and in the heat of the day they rolled down the windows to catch a breath of fresh air, and as the edge of the glass disappeared into the metal framework, perfumed scents of the island flooded the vehicle with notes of sorrel, thyme and sage, and invited them to let go, but they would not.
As they drove up into the forested hills, the horizon grew wider and thinner as the azure blue sea kissed the sky, and the sand dunes and beaches laced themselves together around the coast. Higher up, the olive and cypress trees spread out in the valleys and Michael sighed deeply as he finally acknowledged a brace of juniper sap that drifted under his nose. It abruptly reminded him of home and he groaned as he could hardly believe that just one day ago he had fled from the church and people that he had vowed to love and serve for the rest of his life.
Soon they reached the entrance to “IronSide”, which was Kelly’s father’s retreat. The heavy black gates were open and with a sense of urgency they drove to the top of the hill where they entered a circular parking lot full of cars.
Erin stepped out of the van and spun around to take in the 360 degree view. It was as if she could see the whole world from there and could hear the voices of the exotic lands that loomed in the distant mist.
Kelly’s father, Ewin Clancy, called out to them and approached with a swagger. “Welcome to Cyprus!” he sang as he embraced his daughter. Ewin was Erin’s uncle, on her mother’s side, but they had never been close. He hugged Erin warmly but was cold towards Michael. He and Micheal were related by marriage, but while Michael lived for the church, Ewin was one of its biggest critics.
“It is so beautiful here,” swooned Erin, in an attempt to distract Mr. Clancy from the real reason they had come.
“Thank you,” he replied, but before he could expand his thoughts, a beautiful young woman, wearing a long flowing gown, stepped into the circle and affectionately interlaced her arm with his.
“This is Amanda,” he explained as he introduced the visitors to his newest acquisition.
Kelly tried to be cordial to the “new” girl but all she could manage was a nod and a frosty stare. Over the years she had met many young girls who tried to take the place of her mother.
“I can show them their rooms,” offered Amanda. She let go of Ewin’s arm and Kelly quickly took hold of it.
“I need to see you alone,” demanded Kelly as she pulled him away. Mr. Clancy protested but she managed to drag him to his office for a private conversation.
Erin and Michael greeted Amanda and explained that they had “cargo” that needed special attention. “We don’t want to leave it in the van,” insisted Erin.
Amanda called the gardeners to help. She suggested that they store the containers in one of the garages. Then as Erin and Michael helped roll the barrels to the edge of the driveway, a rumbling old car entered the circular courtyard. Aiden and Declan, the two policemen from Ireland, struggled to pull themselves out of the tiny seats, but once they did they headed straight for the van.
When Erin and Michael saw the Irish Garda they crouched down low behind a stone wall next to the house, and in a fit of panic, they quickly urged the gardeners to help them roll the two barrels out of sight. They made their way around the corner of the house and attempted to cross a terrace where a long table had been set for dinner. Flowing linens and towering vases of flowers hovered over their heads as they tried not to be noticed and to blend in with their surroundings.
Suddenly Erin had an idea and she began to rip the lids off the containers. The others followed her lead and helped her set up the Irish Blue stone chair against the table. Erin thought that the chair was a little shorter than it was in her apartment and a little lighter, but thankfully it was barely visible next to the table.
“Take this away,” urged Erin as she gave the packaging to the gardeners.
Then Erin and Michael found a safe place inside the house from where they could watch the Garda.
“May I help you?” Amanda asked the inspectors.
“Aye! It’s quite a place ye ‘av ‘er,” sang Inspector Aiden as he finished checking the license plate of the van.
“You’re from Ireland,” she noted with apprehension.
“Yes. Yes,” crooned Declan. “We’re on holiday as it were,” he added as he wiped sweat from his brow with an old rag.
“Holiday indeed,” agreed Aiden, who was also overcome by the heat.
“And how is it that you have come to IronSide?” inquired Amanda directly.
“Well Mam. We’re looking for the driver of this van. It turns out that there was a mix up at the airport and the crates that were put in the van belong to someone else and need to be returned.” Aiden always felt that it was best to be direct too.
“I am sorry fellows but you must be mistaken,” giggled Amanda. “The van belongs to the caterers.”
Declan peered through the van’s windows, “The caterer’s you say?”
If Amanda knew anything, she knew when it was time to pull rank. “I’m sorry gentlemen, but you had best be moving on. We have guests.”
Aiden and Declan were sure that they had found their prey, but they were not sure how to best use their jurisdiction. Reluctantly, they stuffed themselves back into the tiniest tin car on the island, and just before they left the drive, Aiden whispered, “Look!”
A small tractor passed in front of them pulling a wagon. On it were two round barrels, complete with packing stickers from Ireland.
“See! I told ya!” said Declan under his breath. “Let’s call the sarge!”
Kelly dragged her father into his office and closed the doors.
“I want to talk to you about Matthew!” she demanded.
“Ugh,” moaned Ewin under his breath.
“You had no right to keep him away from me!” she protested.
Ewin could think of a dozen reasons.
“We’re going to be married,” she added with a huff.
“You’re too young to marry,” he quipped.
“You mean too young like your girlfriend?”
“No. Too young as in you have the rest of your life ahead of you.”
“She’s not even as old as I am!” cried Kelly, who was wounded at the hypocrisy of it all.
“You, my darling, no matter how old you become, will be forever young, and no matter how young Amanda remains, she will always be older and wiser than you and I combined,” explained Ewin.
“How can you say that? You barely know her!” countered Kelly.
“She is the daughter of a prostitute and a pimp. Her mother is crude and her father is vicious. She’s survived to this day on her own cunning, and yet her heart is as good as gold, and I am keeping her! I am keeping her safe for the rest of her life!” declared Ewin.
Kelly snorted and looked away.
“Let’s go! There are some old friends here who will enjoy seeing you again,” he offered with a smile as they left his office.
Kelly, Erin and Michael mingled with the guests and when dinner was announced, they moved out onto the terrace. A swirl of feather-lite gowns and dinner jackets surrounded the elongated table, and Michael quickly moved to protect the stone chair from the avalanche of people who began to take their seats. He sat down in the seat next to it, and Erin did the same, and as subtly as possible they defended the the sacred chair and kept the other guests away from sitting on it.
Ewin gave a formal welcome and said how happy he was that his daughter Kelly had arrived. All was well until the sound of a loud backfire came from the parking lot, after which Matthew burst onto the veranda, looking haggard and distraught.
“Matthew!” screamed Kelly under her breath, in shock and disgust. Her feelings towards him were very mixed.
“Kelly! I have to explain! I don't want to lose you.”
Mr. Clancy was annoyed. “Perhaps you should come back later young man. Maybe tomorrow when you’ve calmed down.”
Matthew looked to Kelly for a sign of help but she offered none.
“I won’t be a bother,” insisted Matthew. With a quick scan of the table, he took a deep breath and decided to plunk himself down in between Michael and Erin. Matthew wriggled himself into the immovable chair and almost tipped it over. Erin and Michael tried to protest but it was of no use.
“Have you come from far?” asked one of the curious guests.
“Yes! I’ve come a long ways since yesterday,” he replied emphatically. He stared at Kelly who was trying to avoid eye contact with him.
“And are you here on business?” asked another guest who wanted to unfold the drama.
“Most definitely!” he insisted as he slurped his soup like only a starving young man could.
“And are you here to see anyone in particular?” asked a young woman as she patted the snow white linen on her lap.
Matthew put his spoon down and starred at Kelly, who still refused to look at him. “I have something to say!” he announced. “I have come here to state my case!” Matthew was as resolute as a bull and about to spill his bowl over onto the table. He wanted to explain how he had been wronged by Mr. Clancy and jerked around by him, and how he had been misunderstood by Kelly, who had run off without giving him a fair chance. However, just as he was about to speak, he began to sweat profusely. He stripped off his jacket and tried to loosen his collar, but his face grew red and his heart began to race. “I tell you …” he tried to continue, “I have something important to say!” he announced as he waved his index finger in the air.
“Don’t!” yelled Erin, as she tried to keep Matthew from becoming “one” with the will of the stone chair, but it was too late. The chair had already been invoked. It’s mission was to acknowledge “pureness of heart” and a “fully committed intention”, and to signal the universe to take action. The chair would sanction "truth and love", but it would destroy anyone who tried to use it's unlimited powers for "lies and revenge".
If Matthew truly loved Kelly, then the chair would give its blessings, but if he desired her as an object of lust, or was planning a revenge, then the chair would fry Matthew into a heap of ashes. It was only a matter of time before Matthew entered the weightlessness of heaven, or was swallowed up by the flames of hell.
Michael began to shake and his complexion grew ghostly green as he remembered when he had sat in the stone chair and had almost been killed by it. During his career as a priest, he had fought diseases, demons, divorce and death, with the valiance of a militant saint, but the stone chair had wounded him in the very core of his being, in the place where conceit and doubt had found a hidden enclave of belonging in his heart. With the darkest of memories about the chair, his eyes glazed over and he starred into nothingness as if in a trance.
Matthew tried to stand up but he couldn’t. He was glued to the stone seat, but that didn’t stop him from declaring his mind. “Kelly Clancy! I have come here to say one thing and one thing only,” he stammered.
Erin dared not touch Matthew, for fear of being sucked into the vortex that engulfed him, so she closed her eyes and listened for the voice of God.
Kelly prayed silently, "May your words be pure and true, may they descend from heaven's dew, may you be the wise one who, speaks the plans of heaven through."
Streams of sweat poured down Matthew’s face as he wrestled with the strangle hold that tried to possess his soul. He had come to Cyprus to ask Kelly to forgive him, but the chair upon which he sat, gave him a profound sense of unlimited possibilities, and from deep within his heart a sudden flash of the idea that he could “force” Kelly to love him, blazed across his mind.
Erin tried to calm herself amid the torrent of spiritual unrest. She focused in on the mercy of an all knowing God. Soon she could hear the ever present chorus of angels that surrounded His throne, and as she did, it was as if a brand new cathedral opened up in her heart.
Matthew sorely twisted in his seat, as images of grandeur taunted him with deceit. He teetered back and forth between two choices; to release the freedom of love or to chain himself to it’s dreaded counterfeit. With a great sigh and tears on his cheek, he softly said, “I love you Kelly,” and with that he closed his eyes and his head sank to his chest as if he were dead.
Kelly screamed, “Help him!” and one of the guests who was a doctor went to Matthew’s aid.
“Unbelievable!” muttered Ewin.
Several of the guests lifted Matthew off the stone chair, for it had released him, and they laid him on a nearby sofa. Kelly ran to his side and held her breath and his hand with the same tight grip, and slowly coaxed Matthew back to the earth, where he began to breathe more easily.
Amanda however, was more concerned with Erin and Michael and the “cargo” that had upended her dinner party.
“You need to take the chair away … No?” asked Amanda candidly.
“No. I mean Yes! We have to take it away from here,” agreed Erin.
“Where?” asked Amanda directly.
“Away …,” nodded Erin.
“Where?” insisted Amanda.
Erin just shook her head.
“To Jerusalem!” chortled Michael as he tried to shrug off the grip of fear around his throat.
“Ah …” sighed Amanda knowingly. She was well familiar with the concept of religious icons, for they were often the focus of Ewin’s desire. “Then you must leave now. Tomorrow will be too late. The police will be back soon.”
“And go where?” asked Erin.
“There’s a boat that will take you to Turkey!” she offered emphatically.
Erin looked out across the rolling meadows that were painted pink by the setting sun, as she surrendered to the venture that was ahead. She wished she had a master plan, a knowing of the beginning from the end, but all she knew was what had to be done next, and Amanda seemed to be the key.
“We shall take my vehicle,” insisted Amanda. “The police will be looking for the van.”
At Amanda's request, the gardeners loaded the crates into the back of the SUV. Then, without saying good-bye, Amanda, Erin and Michael, drove away from Ironside in a cloud of dust.
Amanda drove to a secluded mountain border where only the members of century old clans and gangs were allowed to pass. She spoke a few words in Turkish, using a cryptic dialect. The blade of her tongue was so sharp that the men at the border jumped when they heard her and rushed to lift the gate to let them drive though.
Not far from the border, Amanda once again used her fierce determination to secure a passage for Michael, Erin and the SUV, on an already over-crowded ferry that was leaving for southern Turkey. “Here. Take the keys,” insisted Amanda. “Remember what to do. My brother will meet you on the other side.”
“Thank you,” said Erin as she clasped Amanda’s hands in hers.
Then Amanda turned to Michael. “Bless me!” she demanded.
“What?” asked Michael.
“You are a priest. This I know,” she exclaimed. “Bless me … and my baby.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Erin.
With a hint of his old self emerging, Michael laid his hands on Amanda’s head. He took a deep breath and felt almost whole again. He didn’t falter as he did back at Ironside. He prayed, “Bless you woman of God and your child, for the works of the Lord are yours.”
Amanda held her hands on her belly, and closed her eyes and drank it in. She seemed to be lifted off her feet and lighter than air.
“Thank you father. The past is over,” she whispered. “And now a blessing for you. May your days be warm, and your courage be strong, and your enemies be kept from doing harm.”
“Thank you so much,” whispered Erin. “But how will you get home?”
“No worries. Ewin will come and get me,” she answered with a wave of contentment.
Michael felt a deep warmth come over him. His shoulders moved back, his spine straightened and he had become “Father Michael” once again. Amanda had reawakened his calling and his destiny, and just before the ferry pulled away from the dock, he had finally become one with “Island Time”.
The ferry sounded its horn three times and disappeared into the night. In a few hours they would be on mainland Turkey and one step closer to their destination. They leaned over the gunnel rail and stared back at the harbour in Cyprus, until the pinpoints of light blended in with the stars in the black sky. Their faces became covered in mist as waves hit the hull and sent plumes of salt spray into the air. Neither one of them were used to tears, but the drops of salt water that ran down their faces, felt as if a river of tears had let loose.
Ewin found Matthew and Kelly holding each other in their arms and when he entered the room, they still would not let go.
“I am so sorry Mr. Clancy. I’m sorry I messed everything up,” apologized Matthew.
Ewin liked the thought of Matthew taking the blame.
“We want to get married here,” announced Kelly, “before we go back to Ireland.”
Ewin let out a slow steady stream of air, as he tried to reign in his emotions. “This is not the right time Kelly.”
“This is exactly the right time! It’s perfect. Erin can be the maid of honour, and Father Michael can marry us!” she exclaimed with delight.
“They’re gone. Michael and Erin have gone to Turkey, and I have to go pick up Amanda on the other side of the island,” he countered with an irritated voice.
“No! All because of that chair!” cried Kelly.
“What chair?” asked Ewin.
“The chair that was at the dinner table tonight, the one that made Matthew pass out! They found it on an island off the coast of Ireland in some ancient chapel, and now everyone is looking for it!”
“Who is everyone?” asked Ewin as he eyed Matthew, who seemed to have an unusual aura about him.
“The police. The church. The university. Mrs. Mancinni. Everyone wants it!” explained Kelly.
“Because they think it has special powers. Whoever sits in the chair can say anything they want and it will happen,” she snorted, as if that was such a big deal. It was already how she lived her life. She didn’t need a chair to make things happen. If she wanted something, her father got it for her.
“You can’t make that chair do what you want it to,” sighed Matthew. “Trust me, it has a mind of its own,” he cautioned still weak in the knees.
Ewin cursed under his breath. How had such a powerful religious icon been right under his nose and he not know about it? How had Amanda been so bold as to get rid of it before he could get his hands on it? What was she thinking?
“No wedding!” commanded Ewin as he stormed out of the room. His evening seemed to be going from worse to worse. He quickly made some calls to verify Kelly’s story and learned that it was true. Collectors everywhere were searching for it. “Do you hear me? I want that chair! Understand?” he ordered before he rushed off to retrieve Amanda.
Kelly turned to Matthew with a mischievous grin, “Did you notice that one of the dinner guests was a bishop?”
“He could marry us,” hinted Kelly.
“Ah! Now there’s an idea. Let’s find him before he leaves!” proposed a wild-eyed Matthew.
The bishop had ensconced himself away in the wine cellar to enjoy Ewin’s collection of expensive brandy. When the love birds found him he laughed out loud at the suggestion of marrying them while Ewin was away.
Instead of being discouraged however, Kelly and Matthew made arrangements for the rings and flowers and a ready-to-go, wedding-in-waiting. They lined the floor of the entrance with petals, set the side tables with lit candles, and sat hand-in-hand on the front steps of the house, waiting for Ewin and Amanda to return.
Finally, when her father pulled into the driveway, Kelly ran to greet him. “Don’t be mad, but I have something to ask you,” she said as she danced to keep up with him.
Ewin ignored Kelly and hurried to the other side of the vehicle to help Amanda out of the car.
“Is she alright?” Kelly asked.
“She’s pregnant!” he answered curtly. Ewin took Amanda’s hand and gingerly escorted her to the house.
“Oh!” sighed Kelly.
Amanda’s eyes lit up when she saw the flower petals and the candles. It was so romantic and she thought that Ewin had planned it for her. “It’s is so beautiful!”
Ewin turned to Kelly for some explanation, but she pursed her lips.
Ewin looked at Matthew and exclaimed, “That’s my suit! My most expensive suit! Can this kid get any more annoying?”
Amanda pinched his arm. She realized that the gesture was not for her. “They’re planning a wedding,” she sighed.
There was a long silence.
“Don’t I get a say anymore?” asked Ewin.
Amanda reached out for Kelly and held her hands. “Congratulations. You have a man who truly loves you,” she added with a pinch of sarcasm.
Ewin’s head ached. He had lost and gained so much in one night. He had lost the respect of his daughter and gained a soon to be son-in-law. He had lost a priceless relic, but had gained a new child.
“All right!” he yelled with his hands in the air. “There will be a wedding for sure!” he announced as he stormed off. And then he added, “Two weddings!”
Amanda and Kelly looked at one another in amazement.
Ewin returned with a less than sober Bishop and presented Amanda with a ring that he had been saving for “just the right moment”, that is, if he ever had the nerve to find it.
“Go ahead Bishop. Two weddings tonight,” announced Ewin. He felt as if the world had tipped sideways and nearly shaken him off. Matthew of all people, the little annoyance who he couldn’t get rid of, was about to marry his daughter and had made a near successful run for “man of the house”. Ewin had only one option and that was to prove to Amanda that he loved her as much as he had so often bragged about.
Each couple exchanged simple vows from the heart, oaths that made the staff cry and the bishop roll his eyes. The “I do’s” were said at mid-night and the dinner party guests celebrated with champagne and with a set of fireworks that made Ironside look it was ablaze on top of a mountain.
Amanda, who had never been to a real wedding, felt that even though hers was void of a church or a formal ceremony, was perfect. As glitter fell from the sky she danced into a new season with her new family.
When Aiden and Declan returned to the Clancy’s the next day, the van was gone and so were the Clancy’s and their guests. Apparently they had all left the island early that morning.
Aiden and Declan however were not to be undone. They were bloodhounds of a different kind and they polled the airport and the ferry terminals until they learned that Erin and Michael had gone to Turkey the day before.
“And how long shall you be in Turkey?” asked a Cyprus policeman as he checked their passports.
“We’re go’n fish’n upstream,” declared Aiden.
“Upstream?” asked the officer.
“Yes. That’s where most fish are headed this time of year.”