On a chilly, overcast morning in early November, a young man woke early out of habit. But since it was a Sunday, he decided to go back to sleep.
He looked over to the bed next to him and noticed that it was empty.
“Jimmy,” he whispered, “Jimmy, where are you?”
There was no answer.
He got out of bed, put on his trousers and shirt, and went to go look for him.
The other men in the lodging house were still asleep. Many were nursing hangovers after a Saturday night of carousing, and out of courtesy, the young man tried to be as quiet as possible.
A small boy stood up on the roof of the lodging house, wrapped up in a coat which was too big for him.
“Jimmy, what are you doing up here?” The young man’s voice asked.
“I like the view.” Jimmy, the small boy, answered.
“Come back inside, it’s freezing.”
“I don’t mind it.”
“I guess it’ll be good to get some fresh air.”
There was a nice view from up there; the entire city was spread up before them. To the south was Brooklyn and the east was Long Island and Queens. New York went on for as long as the eye could see.
The young man had once looked at a book in a lodging house reading room which had a map of the world in it and on it, New York appeared as a little speck on the very edge of America. If that was so, then the world must seem endless.
“Come, let’s go inside. I can read you some more of that book and then we can get ready for Matteo’s sister’s wedding.”
“Sounds good, Laurie.”
Laurie and Jimmy took turns reading aloud from a dime store novel about the exploits of Butch Cassedy and The Wild Bunch which was full of derring-do and flawlessly executed bank and train robberies.
When it was time to get ready for the wedding, Laurie and Jimmy went into the washroom. Laurie scrubbed Jimmy’s neck and behind his ears and Jimmy fidgeted in protest.
“Can we read that one about Beau Colt again, Laurie?” He asked.
“Maybe, if you’re good at the wedding.” Laurie answered.
Beau Colt was the cowboy hero of Jimmy’s favorite book.
“Or maybe we could borrow a book from the reading room.”
“Alright, then we’ll stop by later and see what’s there.”
Matteo Abelli was a friend of Laurie’s from the factory. Primavera, the older of his two sisters, was getting married to another one of their friends from the factory named Angelo Barzetti.
As they were coming out of the church after the wedding, they saw another wedding party going in. The bride was a small, dainty girl and her little frame, porcelain skin, and rosy cheeks made her look like a doll shrouded in lace. Rosary beads were wrapped around the fingers of one hand in which she held her bouquet. In the other hand, she held a bible.
Laurie tipped his cap to her as she walked by and held the door open as she walked in.
“Go on ahead with the others,” he said to Jimmy, “I’ll join you in a minute.”
He followed the other wedding party back into the church and stood in the hall outside the nave.
The diminutive and doll-like bride and the groom, a very tall young man with fair hair knelt in front the alter and were married by the old priest.
“I, William Alexander,” the groom repeated after the priest, “take thee, Ashlyn Rose, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
“I, Ashlyn Rose,” the bride repeated after the priest,” take thee, William Alexander, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
The couple’s hands were bound with a white ribbon and the priest said a blessing over the couple and the marriage was sealed with a kiss.
As the couple made their way out of the church, they were met with loud congratulations from the friends and family who had joined them. The bride was blushing and smiling. She gave Laurie a smile when she passed him.
After the Barzetti wedding reception at a nearby saloon, Laurie and Jimmy returned to the lodging house. Jimmy had picked out The Adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men from the reading room and they read from it before bed.
“Young Daniel ran through Sherwood Forest holding the rabbit he had killed. ” Laurie read aloud “The Sherif’s men had seen him hunting rabbits in the king’s forest, and if caught, he would be put to death.
In this panic, he did not see the thick, gnarled roots of a great oak. Daniel tripped and fell to the ground with his feet caught among the oak tree’s roots.
“Oh no,” he wept, “they’ll certainly catch up with me now.”
“Why are you crying, young sir?” A kind voice asked.
A handsome gentleman with a red beard dressed in deep green stept out from behind the trees.
“I’m caught, sir,” Daniel answered him, “and the Sherif’s men will kill me if they catch me.”
” Don’t worry, young sir, do you know who I am?”
Daniel shook his head No.
“I’m Robin Hood.”
Alright, that’s it for tonight.”
Laurie closed the book and Jimmy groaned.
“Could you please read a little bit more.” Jimmy pleaded.
“Alright, alright, could those eyes get any bigger.”
Laurie opened the book again.
After her own wedding reception, Ashlyn returned to the Murry apartment and settled into bed. Her things had been moved into Will’s room the night before and Ashlyn herself would begin sleeping there that night.
Will’s friend Irish John had hosted the wedding reception at his saloon and half the neighborhood had been invited. The other half showed up anyway for the on the house whiskey.
The party had ran later than Ashlyn was used to staying up, so she had grown sleepy and left a little early. Aunt Nora had returned with her and helped her get ready for bed.
Ashlyn was proud of the her wedding dress. Her mother had found an old white dress and transformed it into a dress any bride would be proud to wear. She had also worn the delicate lace veil her grandmother had made for Aunt Nora, who had hoped that a daughter of her own would wear it on her wedding day. But since she was childless, it was given to Ashlyn, who Aunt Nora had always loved like a daughter.
“Good night Ashlyn,” she said before she kissed her niece on the forehead.
“Good night Aunt Nora,” Ashlyn rested her head on the pillow.
The light was put out and she was left alone to wait for Will.
Shortly before Will had left for America four years prior, Ma and Da Maloney had gone away for a few days to visit Aunt Shannon in Belfast. It had been mid summer and the weather was unusually warm. Ma and Da Maloney had thought it would be too hot in the city for Ashlyn, so they left her at home.
Mary was supposed to look in on her from time to time but did not.
Will came by and got her out of the house. They then took a walk towards the river Mourne; well Will had walked, she had rode on horseback. She was usually put on horseback during long walks so she would not get tired out. Along the way, he had showed off by doing cartwheels, handstands, and tuck-and-rolls.
In the woods around the banks of the Mourne, Will had put her up on his shoulders and helped her up into a tree. Then he climbed up the tree himself and showed off again by swinging from a high branch.
It grew very hot around mid day and Will undressed down to his drawers in order to go swimming. He asked Ashlyn to come join him but she refused and he teased her about being scared. She firmly stated that she did not know how how to swim. But after more teasing, she undressed down to her chemise and joined him in the water.
He held her in his arms the entire time though at first he continued teasing her by making her think that he was about to drop her.
Night fell and they moved back into the woods and started a fire to dry off. Will drummed a stick against a rock and Ashlyn began to swing her arms and hips about like she had seen gypsy women at fairs do and danced around the fire.
The day ended with Will returning her back home. Along the way he told her how he was going to leave for America on the next ship from Belfast. She had been rather surprised by this news. He said that there was nothing for him in Ireland and nothing keeping him there and no reason why he should not seek his fortune in America.
They lay in the grass and looked at the stars until it grew very late. Ashlyn had said “I wish this could go on forever,” and he had asked “you want to spend forever with me, Ash?”
That night had been the first time they had kissed and the night that he had proposed the idea of her eventually joining him in America.
None of the men she had ever met had ever come close to Will . She had waited and pined for him for what had seemed like a lifetime and now here they were.
Will returned back to the apartment a little after Ashlyn did. The lights were put out in his room and his bride was already in bed.
He was reminded of a Greek myth he had read in school; Psyche and Cupid, the tale of a maiden who was forbidden to know the identity of the husband who comes to visit her every night under the cover of darkness.
Dim light came in through the window and outlined Ashlyn’s form; Pysche unaware that lover has come.
Will sat down on the foot of the bed and began to remove his shoes.
“Ash, are you asleep?” He whispered.
“Will?” She answered in a groggy voice.
“Yes, it’s me.”
He then unbuttoned his coat and vest and undid his cravat.
“I heard the weather’s supposed to be nice tomorrow and was thinking that we could take the trolley up to Central Park and take a nice walk. Maybe take a carriage ride.”
Ashlyn sat up in bed.
“That would be nice.”
She moved up closer to him and rested her head on his shoulder. He took her hand and kissed it.
That was the night they made love for the first time.
When it was time for Ashlyn to wake up and go to help the aunts make breakfast, Will told her to stay in bed a little longer. She gladly obliged.
“I never imagined that you snored.” Ashlyn said to him in a sleepy voice.
“Do I?” Will answered with a blush.
“No one’s ever told you that snore?”
He shook his head No.
“Well you don’t snore as loudly as my father does.”
“I bet he doesn’t snore as loudly as you do.”
“I don’t snore.”
Will made several pig-like grunting sounds.
She gave him a playful smack on the arm but he continued to imitate her snoring, making her giggle loudly.