Moonlight Like the Dawn of Time
Chapter 01
A Trip to the Seaside

"I don't have long, Miss Bridie O'Reilly," Joseph O'Reilly coughed out, his voice raspy from sputtering and choking for the past week.

"Da! Da, don't say that!"

He reached out his hand to stroke her dark red curls, pulling her head closer. "Bridie, don't tell your mother this…but I been cheatin' her."

"What? Da, what do you mean?"

"The tarty lass down the street-"

Bridget covered her ear, hissing, "Not now, Da! I don't want to know this."

Joseph did his best to shrug. "Ah well, me lassie. Suit yourself."

Bridget shook her head and mopped up the sweat off her father's forehead. "Blitherin' fool," she muttered under her breath as she turned away from him.

"I heard that."

Bridget turned back to shoot him a dirty look. Though she was easily her father's favorite child, he still knew how to torture her something fierce. For Bridget was a prideful girl; being retorted to was not her idea of respect.

"Bridget! Bridget, could you fetch some water from the well?" Mary O'Reilly called from the next room.

"Yes Ma," Bridget called back, glad to leave her father. She threw the rag onto the box they'd converted into a table beside Joseph's bed, alongside their Bible and her reading spectacles. Being the only person in the family who could read was troublesome enough, but Joseph insisted that his daughter read to him. Wiping the beads of sweat of her forehead, she grabbed the bucket from beside the door, making her way to the well.

Ever since the news of her father's sure death sentence from the consumption, Bridget had been given the task of caring for him, as she was the only one who could put up with his dramatics. She knew better than to fall for his lies. Sure, she loved him. But she sure enough didn't even like him half of the time. She chuckled to herself; amused that one could dislike someone they loved so dear.

The chill in the air, left from winter, sent shivers up her spin as she tied the well's rope around the bucket handle and threw it down the pit.

"Why if it isn't Bridie O'Reilly?" A cajoling voice behind her said. She whipped around, but her pretty features turned to a scowl when she saw whom it was.

"Fred Sullivan, I don't like you," She said flatly. "And I've told you that before."

Fred, a handsome lad of twenty-three, held up his hands, a subtle smirk toying on his lips. "I just wanted some water. It was just chance that you happened to be here."

"And don't call me Bridie. Only me da can call me that."

"Anything you wish, Bridget."

Bridget shook her head in disgust and untied the rope from her pail handle. "That's better."

As she struggled to carry the heavy pail back to her home, Fred ran after her, grabbing the handle from her.

"Here, let me help."

Bridget tried to grab it back from him. "I can do it!" She hissed.

"Please Bridget. I want to help."

Bridget sighed. "Fine, carry it in to me ma."

"Bridget, you know I'm leavin', correct?"

She turned back to look at him. "What?"

"I'm going to America next month. You won't have to put up with me much longer," Fred joked, an easy smile on his face. With no response from Bridget, he scowled as he turned to enter her cottage, his arms, muscular from farming, not even straining under the weight.

Bridget sighed. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't bring herself to like Fred. He was infuriating, as much of a bother as Joseph even! But she'd miss him when he left. She'd miss their teasing, and their constant arguments. He could read like her, so they'd argue about the different books they'd read, along with whatever they'd read in the papers every week.

She'd even miss his face… No matter how much she disliked him, she still was forced to admit that he was a handsome lad. He was tall and wiry, and had roguish dark Irish skin and a mess of dark curls on his head. His face was angular in just the right places and he had kind dark eyes that twinkled when he was up to no good.

But ever since he'd lost his own da, he'd been suffocating at home. He didn't even have to tell Bridget, she knew, as did the rest of the village. But his ma and his siblings depended on him to help on the farm. Even so, he was leaving soon, most likely never to return.

"And ain't I glad," Bridget said softly.

"You can't marry him." Maxwell Blackburn spat at his daughter, pacing back and forth furiously.

"But father I love him!" Lucy Crowell-Blackburn cried, tearing at her hair in frustration.

Bettina Crowell-Blackburn jabbed her sharply in the ribs. Lucy cried out in pain. "Lucille, stop it now. You are going to marry Louis Fishburne and that's the last of it."

Lucy began to cry, "But I don't love him. Father, please. You understand! You must!"

Maxwell turned away from his sobbing daughter. "Lucy, I- You must. Please, do as we say."

Stunned that her father betrayed her, Lucy spat, "I hate Louis Fishburne. I've always hated him. That man is a rat and completely undeserving of my love. I love James Martin. Why can't you understand that?"

"Lucille, he won't be able to provide for you like Mr. Fishburne can, that's why," Her mother spat back. "He is a poet. You can't make a living as a poet."

"Money isn't everything, Mother!"

"I would rather be dead than poor."

"Please," Maxwell stepped in. "Please, Bettina, Lucy. Stop this." They quieted. "Lucy, I'm sorry, but you will be marrying Louis Fishburne next winter."

Lucy began sobbing again. "I hate you! Both of you!" She hissed as she turned and ran from the room.

Maxwell sighed. "Bettina, she is not happy about this. Perhaps we should let her choose whom she should marry?"

"Maxwell, you have no spine," Bettina spat. "You'd let her get away with murder if she so wished it." She watched his prematurely aged face harshly. "I'm going to retire. Just think about our daughter's future tonight. Would you rather her live the life of a pauper or of a lady? Does she not look beautiful in her new blue dress? Would she ever have new dresses again should you let her run off with this poet?" Bettina turned sharply, shuffling her way out of sitting room.

Maxwell shook his head and sighed, hating his wife just as much as his daughter perhaps did. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a flask, taking a deep swig. How he wished he had his daughter's spirit.

"My Dearest Will," Lucy wrote on a piece of her favorite stationary. "I am running away to London with James Martin. Please don't tell Mother where I am going. You must understand. You were always my favorite brother, dear Will. Love, Lucy."

The funeral was held on a Wednesday.

Bridget didn't cry. She'd done all her crying before. She sat beside her mother and siblings stone-faced, wringing her hands impatiently all through the service.

After the funeral and the burial were finished, everyone returned back to work. Life was not easy in the village and the lucky few that could afford it, left as soon as they could.

Fred felt for Bridget O'Reilly.

She was a popular girl in the village. She had a sense of humor, was hardworking and beautiful. She was a very petite girl, and she had this long dark red curly hair and intelligent green eyes. The O'Reilly's had fallen on hard times, as Mr. O'Reilly had been too sick to work, but they'd still stuck together. The whole village had pitched in to help them with the funeral and had offered up five young men, including Fred himself, to accompany her brother Paddy as the pallbearers.

Fred ached to leave her. He didn't know what it was. He just found her interesting company, no matter how obvious she made it that she disliked him.

But on the following Saturday, the O'Reilly's surprised him. He'd been called to the small O'Reilly cottage and was greeted by Mary and a sulking Bridget.

"Dear Fred," Mary said with a smile, offering him a chair. "I have a proposal for you."

"Anything for dear friends, Mrs. O'Reilly," Fred said earnestly.

"I hear you are immigratin' to America," Mrs. O'Reilly said slowly, "To make a good life for yourself."

Fred nodded. "That I am, Mrs. O'Reilly."

"Would you be willin' to accompany our Bridget on such a trip. She has such a bright future, but she be suffocatin' here."

"Of course, Mrs. O'Reilly. Bridget and I are good friends, I'm sure the trip will be delightful."

Bridget shot him a dirty look. "Ma, Fred and I are not friends. Why can't I stay here? You need me!"

"Hush, Bridget. We don't need you here. We'd just be holdin' you back. Thank you Fred. Bridget may not show it, but she be appreciatin' this. When are you leavin'?"

"I be leavin' the beginnin' of April, Mrs. O'Reilly. And it's no problem. I'd love to know someone on the trip there. It's a bit unsettlin' to think of all the strangers."

"We're married now James!" Lucy squealed, her arms around his neck as he carried her into his flat.

James kissed her quickly, before dropping her legs to the floor. "I love you, Lucy." He clutched her tightly too him, as if she'd disappear if he let go.

"I love you too, James," Lucy whispered, leaning her head against his chest so she could listen to his soft, steady heartbeat. "James, do you think my family will find me here?"

"Yes," James said quietly, sitting down in his easy chair. "And that's why I have a proposal for you, m'love. How do you feel about taking a ship to America? Imagine living in New York! The literary scene there! And we could take walks in Central Park and spy on the Astors and the rest of high society."

Lucy sat in his lap playfully. "Anywhere you go, James, I'll go too." She kissed him softly.

"There's a new ship embarking on a maiden voyage, m'love. They call it the Titanic. I'm going to book us tickets. We'll have to travel second class, but I hear all the classes are luxurious comparatively."

Lucy paused. "Second class, darling? Not first?" She felt guilty immediately. James tried his best, but it would be a hard adjustment to make not having all the wealth in the world to support her.

"I'm sorry, but you know I can't afford first class. I'm not as wealthy as your parents, Lucy."

Lucy nodded, "I know. I'm sorry, James. I keep forgetting." She glanced around at his meager flat. It wasn't dirty or overly small, just not as comfortable as she was used to.

"Let's go to bed, darling. We shouldn't waste our wedding night," James said playfully, pulling her up with him.

Lucy giggled and kissed him. 'Why of course not!" She said, immediately forgetting about finances and the ship, as she let him pull her into his - their, she reminded herself - bedroom.

Fred and Bridget had left on the 1st of April. They walked most of the way to Queenstown, but had managed to nearly finish the trip by buggy. A fellow traveler had offered them a ride and they gladly accepted.

Dropped off about five miles from Queenstown, they walked the rest of the way.

"I'm sorry, Fred," Bridget admitted.

He grinned devilishly at her. "For what?"

Bridget sighed. "I know I haven't been the nicest girl to you, but I really appreciate your help. You've always been so good to me family and me. And I know I'm ungrateful, but I'm sorry."

"That's quite alright, Miss Bridie O'Reilly," Fred said quietly.

"Don't call me that!"

Fred shook his head with a laugh. "Yes ma'am!"

"You're infuriatin', you know that?"

"Oh am I?" Fred threw his head back and laughed. "And what do you suppose you are, me lassie? You're not exactly the most pleasant person to be around either! You're a downright bitch most of the time."

Bridget stopped in her tracks. "What did you call me?" She demanded of his retreating backside.

"You heard me!" He called back, not even bothering to turn his head.

"Why, I never," Bridget huffed, running to catch up with him. "Well you're a right bastard most of the time too!"

"Oh ho ho! Why if it isn't Miss Bridie O'Reilly, cursin' like a sailor? Next thing you know, you'll end up in the whorehouse, aye lassie? First it's cursin', then it's drinkin' and gamblin', or if not drinkin' and gamblin', it's carryin' on with those sorts. Then you'll be entertainin' men for money. How's that sound, Bridie O'Reilly?"

Her mouth agape, Bridget couldn't find a single thing to say.

"Aye, that's more like it. Now, I just have one more thing, Miss Bridie O'Reilly," Fred leaned in close. "Don't call me a right bastard. I brought you out of me own charity and I could leave you here if I pleased." He grinned devilishly and poked her chin. "All I be needin' is a bit o' respect, aye lassie? You know I just be joshin' you." Seeing the look on her face, he shook his head in playful disbelief. "I can't believe you, O'Reilly. You've got to be the most gullible creature I've ever met."

Bridget scowled at him. "Well what was I supposed to be thinkin'? It's not every day I'm threatened and insulted and put in such a mood that I feel murderous." She jabbed his chest sharply with her finger. "Now you listen here, I'm a strong lass. I could cut you from neck to navel in your sleep if I so wished. I could steal all your money and make off to America with it and get fat living off your earnings. All I be needin' is a bit o' respect, aye laddie?" She smirked at him and continued walking, her head held high.

"Whew," Fred sighed, shaking his head. "You're a right corker, Miss Bridie O'Reilly."

"Don't call me that!"

"Yes, ma'am."

Ack, I'm sorry about the formatting before. It was frustrating to me too, because I had spacers in my draft, but FP didn't preserve them. Ah well. I think I've figured it out now. I haven't been on this site in awhile and there's so many changes!