They reached the inn in Eniskillen in good time and Moira strictly charged Macreedy and Ignatius to keep everyone back and quiet while she registered. Mother, the cat followed Moira into the lobby and leapt up on the front desk to watch the proceedings.
“A cat, I see.” The man behind the desk was rude about it. “It will have to sleep out in your van.” He spoke as he looked up their reservation. He paused when he read it, and his attitude changed drastically. “My apologies, your ladyship. The jeans and with you driving and all. I should have guessed right away. Of course you may keep your cat with you. Whatever you like. Does he have a name?” The man’s hand started in the cat’s direction.
“Mother,” Moira said, content to watch the exchange. Mother wanted no part of the man and slapped his hand as a warning. Mother kindly did not extend her claws, but it was a warning well taken. The man returned to business and turned the register for Moira’s signature.
Moira wrote “Moira,” and then paused. She had been raised an O’leary. That had been her mother’s name, but she thought she ought to defer to her father, only she did not know his name, and for all of her pleading, the Little Ones would not tell her. They were sworn to secrecy. Still, she decided that she ought to write something more, so she wrote “Moira de Danna O’Leary,” and left it at that.
The man looked at the signature before he handed her the keys. “The reservation card says you live at Tara. I know the ruins and all, but I was not aware of anyone living there.” He made light of the situation.
“Don’t believe everything you read,” Moira said. “I am between places right now. Where I will end up is yet to be determined. Come along, Mother.” And Mother followed as Moira took her troop up the stairs because she imagined the elevator would not hold the ogre.
When it came time for supper it was the usual madhouse at the table. Prickles could not get his steak rare enough. Ignatius ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, just to be obnoxious. Pumpkin would not eat, but at least Moira figured out that while she might be in her big size and look like a normal woman, she was really just a little fairy and so probably did not need much. A glass of milk and a piece of bread or some greens really was sufficient. “The fairy diet,” Moira called it. Meanwhile, Ellean cut up Prickle’s food and tried to teach him to use a fork. You can imagine. And Macreedy showed discomfort with the whole enterprise, not only because he was stuck in the night with a hobgoblin for his companion, but because the alternative was to be stuck with Ellean, and that idea made him really uncomfortable. His conversation that night consisted of a few, surly words.
Moira found her own eyes shift more than once to a table of six very old men. Two were in wheelchairs, two had walkers nearby and one had a cane. She doubted that she ever saw a collection of wrinkles to match; but they sounded happy and carefree and clearly they liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company very much. Moira’s table by contrast gave her a headache. She cut the supper short, sent everyone to bed and claimed that she was anxious to see how Mother was making out with her bowl of milk.
“But I’m not sleepy,” Pumpkin protested even as Prickles let out a big yawn.
“So fly around the room for the night,” Ellean suggested and they smiled, but all Moira could picture was her own inability to sleep while she swatted at the biggest insect in history.
When the girls got upstairs, Moira excused herself, went straight into the bathroom and ran the water for a bath. It was not that she especially needed a bath, but she needed the privacy – a little time alone. After that, she was not sure what happened. One minute she was testing the water temperature and the next minute she was with her grandmother, downstairs, back in the dining room, facing the table of old men. There were two chairs pulled up to an open space at the table which Moira did not notice before. She wondered briefly if she honestly did not notice or if her grandmother made the places and made the men not notice.
“Gentlemen.” Danna spoke. “This is currently my granddaughter, Moira.” The men all nodded to say hello while Danna sat and pulled Moira into the other chair. “Moira, this is the Ancient Order of Hibernians.”
“Hello.” Moira was polite but her grandmother was not finished.
“Dana O’Neil was a dentist for years.” Danna began to introduce them around. “Michael “Mickey” Donnely was a plumber, John J. Kavanaugh, known as J. J., was a fine businessman., William “big Bill” Smith whom the others call the Englishman, was a traveling salesman, William “little Bill” Flynn worked several trades over the years, and John “Jack” Kennedy, retired from the army nearly forty years ago.”
“Any relation to the former American President?” Moira asked to make conversation. Three of the men said, “Yes,” and “of course” and “absolutely.”
Jack said, “No,” and shook his head, but he smiled. “Not really.”
“These gentlemen are members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.” Danna repeated herself. “They also served together in the same company during the war.”
“Oh.” Moira looked interested.
“And they gather every February first to feast and celebrate the day of Saint Bridgid.” Danna stood so Moira stood with her. All at once, the men looked at them with different eyes as if a veil had been lifted so they could see clearly for the first time. It was J. J. Kavenaugh who spoke up for them all.
“Say, who are you, and how is it that you know all about us?”
“Gentlemen.” Danna smiled and the men were so taken by her beautiful smile they dared not interrupt. “I just want to thank you for remembering my granddaughter. Bridgid was one of the only people who ever lived that I allowed to call me Grandmother. Now, Moira is another.” With that, she took Moira’s arm and turned her toward the wall so Moira did not get to see it from the perspective of the men. She did not see the mist rise up in the room or smell the heady smell of golden apples, or see the vision of the cliffs and the sea, or the fact that she and her grandmother glowed like angels and ever more brightly until the men had to close their eyes and look away before the brightness became like the flash of a camera and vanished so only the wall remained. From Moira’s perspective, the wall itself appeared to part or perhaps become invisible, and in a step or two, she was standing on a grassy knoll overlooking those very cliffs and listening to the crash of the sea.
Moira looked up. The moon was up and the stars were extra bright now that the clouds had cleared off. She could see well in any case. She could see in the pitch dark if she wanted to. It was one of the things that was different about her, and she knew it. “Grandma.” She had to talk. “Who am I?”
“You are my granddaughter, Moira de Danna O’Leary. I like that. And you are a fine young woman, I think.”
“Grandmother!” Moira had accepted that much. “You know what I mean. Can’t you read my mind?”
“I prefer not to,” Danna said honestly enough. “Most did not do that in the past, despite the publicity to the contrary. Life is much more interesting when you don’t have all the answers up front.”
Moira said nothing, she simply lifted her arms and began to rise into the air. She glowed like the moon. When she was high enough to be over Danna’s head, she spoke again. “But look at what I can do? Isn’t it frightening? And there are other things I can do, too.”
Far from being frightened, Danna smiled broadly and floated up to hover beside her granddaughter. “I am proud of you. It isn’t frightening. It is wonderful. Why, I bet there are all sorts of things you can do that you don’t even know.” She took Moira’s hand so they could fly together, and that night, under the moon, Danna taught her many things.
Moira’s eyes popped open as the sun rose. She was in her bed at the inn, lying in fetal position, as clean and warm and comfortable as if she had taken that bath. Ellean made no sound at all when she slept, but Mrs. Pumpkin, her little self asleep on a pillow, her legs and arms splayed out and moving like she was making angels in the snow was breathing rapidly. Moira imagined for a fairy that was the slow, deep breaths of sleep.
Mother the cat poked her head up from where she rested comfortably against Moira’s leg. “Go to sleep.” Moira whispered to the cat, and the cat responded with a soft purr while Moira snuggled down and shut her eyes for a little more sleep.
That morning, they headed out for Nevan. Moira had said that all of this was silly since they could have driven all the way from Derry to Tara on the first day; but Grandmother said they had reservations in Nevan, and she asked if Moira played poker. She did not explain.