Ashling loved her job. She did! But sometimes, it just got a little monotonous. Today was one of those days.

She worked for a local historical society in their little town of Erin. Although the town name would have you think that there was a large Irish immigrant population, most early Erin settlers had been Scottish. The town even has a Gaelic block. She had wanted to work specifically in the field of Irish-Canadian history since that was what her degree was in. However, there weren any careers available in her area close to her family home.

Being first-generation Irish, she had always been fascinated by the culture and history of Ireland. Her parents, who had immigrated from there about 30 years ago, were not fond of discussing their home. But, she tried to do some research independently. She never really found anything, leaving their past a mystery after they died.

The historical society snapped her up right after she graduated from university. It was a lot of research and some interviewing, which she loved if the topic was interesting. But right now was not one of those times. She was constantly catching her mind wandering on her as she looked over old, handwritten immigration records from the 1800s. How was she going to make it through the entire day?

Sighing heavily, she laid her head on her desk, hands coming to rub at the back of her neck to ease tension. She closed her eyes. Maybe after a quick break, she would be able to focus better.

”Headache? ” a heavily accented voice flitted through the room. Jumping in surprise, Ashling pulled her head up to look at the source.

A man was standing before her. He was very tall, she noted, with black hair and equally dark eyes. She could see something akin to humor dancing in those eyes. Handsome, she decided, before she could catch herself. How did he even get in here? She thought she had locked the door.

”Can I help you, sir? ” Ashling clipped, pushing herself out of her chair quickly to stand.

”Didn mean to startle you, ” He drawled, raising his hands in mock surrender. His accent suddenly clicked; Irish. ”I was hoping you could help me locate someone. ”

”Locate someone? ” Her eyebrows drew together in confusion. ”Sir, this is a historical society, not a- ”

”A historical society for this village, right? ” He took a step closer to her desk, not crowding her, but closer than she would have liked. ”Im looking for a family that lived here once. Hopefully, they still do. ” There was something in his tone of voice that made her a bit uneasy. Nothing malicious, but almost teasing.

She sighed, his logic not making sense in her mind, but decided to humor him. It was a small town anyway. She might know the people he was seeking out. She began rifling through her desk for the local phone book.

”Last name? ”

”McCoubrie. ”

Ashling froze. That was her last name. Why would this person be looking for her family? She turned to stare at him. Again, she saw the humor in his dark eyes, making her believe that he already knew who she was.

Deciding that just outwardly admitting that she was a McCoubrie might not be the best idea, she instead asked, ”Why are you looking for that family? ”

”Just seeing if they are the same McCoubries that Im looking for. If they are, I have information for them. ”

”Information? ”

”About their parents. ” Ashlings world spun for a moment. Who is this guy? How would he know her parents? He was about her age, no way he could have known them from back in Ireland. She was about to start bombarding him with questions when a card was thrust in front of her face.

”That theres my card if you find the family. Have them give me a call. ” Again with that look on his face, like he was the only one who was in on the joke, ”have them call me. Its important. ” He smiled at her before turning and walking away before she could say anything.

Ashling flopped back into her chair, suddenly exhausted. She looked down at the card in her hand. Nothing special, just white card stock. A name glared up at her. Eoin OConnor. So that was that jerks name.

It was an old Irish name, much like her own, pronounced like the modern name Owen. Underneath the name was another Irish word, one that she wasn familiar with: Laochra. She had never seen that word before. She would have to google it later.

She looked at the clock on her desk. She only had a few more hours until she was done for the day. It would be irresponsible to leave now, no matter how much she wanted to run home to alert her brothers of the odd man. Stuffing the card into her pocket, she attempted, unsuccessfully, to focus on her work for the rest of the day.

_____________________________________________

When she got home that evening, it was the smell of food that greeted her once again. She heard voices from the kitchen. She paused for a moment, unsure what to tell her brothers. Does she tell them about the man? They always had a protective streak when it came to her, all three of them. She remembered back in 11th grade when she was dating a guy named Keller. Looking back, she could see he was a bad guy, but at 17, she was ”in love ” and was blinded to his true nature.

Not her brothers! Oh no, they made his life hell for the whole four months they dated. After she caught him with another girl, she went to Declan, crying. He comforted her like any amazing brother, such as himself, would do. It wasn until a few days later that she learned that someone had broken Kellers nose. While he had never come out and admitted it, she knew it had been Declan. Her other brothers were just as bad.

She could only imagine what they would do if she told them what happened. Yeah, that would not go over like a lead weight.

But, she couldn refuse to tell them. If this was really about their parents, then they had a right to know as well. She couldn keep that from them! It wouldn be right!

Sighing, she trudged her way to the kitchen. As she walked in, she saw Cian first, at the stove cooking once again. Seamus was sitting at the kitchen table looking over school books. He was getting his Masters degree in English at the university a few towns over, the same university she and Dec had attended. Declan was also sitting at the kitchen table, sipping at a beer, watching their brother work away.

Pausing at the doorway, she took a moment to revel in how lucky she was. Even after the loss of their parents, their family was as strong as ever. She didn know what she would do without them. The thought made her chest hurt.

Looking up, Declan noticed her standing there. ”Looking a little misty-eyed there, Ash. You alright? ”

Shaking herself from her thoughts, she straightened out before walking over to sit at the table as well, feeling the eyes of her brother on her.

”Im fine, ” she stated, ”just, something weird happened at work. ” In an instant, all three of her siblings were looking at her. Cian had stopped cooking and turned, full attention to her. Seamus had looked up from his books, taking in her expression.

Declans eyebrows drew together in concern. ”What do you mean by weird? ”

”Well, I had been working at my desk, ” Ashling started, looking down at her hands on the table, clenching the white card. ”I put my head down for a second to give my eyes a break when someone spoke to me. ”

”From in the building? ” Cian asked. Ash nodded, knowing why he was asking. ”You always lock the door behind you if you are the only one going in. ”

”Thats just it! I did today, too. I don know how he got in. ”

”He? ” Declan practically growled out.

”Yeah. Around my age, maybe a little older. Black hair, dark eyes, tall, had an Irish accent. ” She straightened in her chair, almost bracing herself for what they were going to say. ”He said he was looking for a family in the area. ”

”And? ” Seam pushed, leaning his elbows onto the table in anticipation.

”He asked for the McCoubrie family. ” She looked at their faces, all looking shocked.

”What? Did he know who you were? ” Declan was agitated. Not yet angry, just agitated. He had a generally rough feel to him on the best of days. He was quick to irritate and quite intimidating if you didn know him well, especially when he went to work. Declan always wore a suit to work and kept his red beard and hair meticulously groomed. Ashling would joke that with the serious expression he always wore, Declan looked like a ginger James Bond when he went to work.

”He didn say. Though, from the look in his eye, I would say he did. I didn tell him who I was, anyway. ”

”Did he say why he was looking for us? ” Cian asked, looking more concerned than she had seen him in a long time.

”He said that he had information about, uh, ” she stumbled over her words. She felt as if the words had gotten stuck in her throat.

”About what, Ash? ” Declan reached out and laid a hand gently on her shoulder.

She took a deep breath to steady herself, keeping her eyes screwed tightly shut. ”About our parents. ”

The reaction was almost immediate. All three men pushed back into their seats as if they had been burned by the words. They had all grieved the loss of their parents a long time ago, but the wound was still there, still slightly raw.

Declan leaned forward on the table once again, fixing his green eyes on Ash. ”How would this guy know Mum and Dad? You said he was Irish, right? ”

”Yeah, if my ear was right. ”

”Mum and Dad left Ireland almost thirty years ago. If this guy was around our age, Ash, there is no way he could have met them, ” Seamus stated quietly. ”They never even went back to visit. Never mentioned family from there. Its impossible. ”

”I thought the same thing, ” Ash admitted. ”Hes probably just trying to con us or something. ”

Cian, having been quiet during the exchange, looked at Ashlings hands folded on the table. ”What is that paper in your hand? ”

She looked down, seeming surprised to find that she was still hanging onto it. The cardstock felt heavy in her hands, the weight of the tension in the room seeming to focus on that one small piece of paper.

”He gave me his card. ” It was immediately snapped out of her hand by Declan. She could tell by the bunching of his jaw that he was holding his temper back by a thread.

”Ee-o-in? ” he tried, not sure of the pronunciation of the name. He looked at Ash, who shook her head.

”Its pronounced Owen, a pretty traditional Irish name. ”

”Like all of our names, ” Cian pointed out. It was true. Their parents had named them all very Irish names. Very Irish. No one could pronounce them right, which made school hard.

”What is this word under the bastards name? ”

”Declan! ” Ash admonished, ”You don know him enough to say that. He could be perfectly nice. ” Her brother looked at her like she had lost her mind. If he was going to say anything about her outburst, he had decided against it.

”Whats this? ” he asked again, pointing to the strange word on the card.

”I don know. I have never seen that word before. ” Ashling admitted. Declan glared at the card as if to intimidate it into giving him answers.

”Well, should we call him? ” Cian asked from across the table. ”I mean, what if he does have information? ”

”Not a chance. ” Declan got up from the table, taking the card with him as he stalked upstairs, effectively ending the discussion.

”Wait, Dec! ” Seamus ran after him, leaving Ash and Cian alone in the kitchen, the latter getting up to continue with dinner. Ash wanted to talk to him, to get his opinion. But, when she looked at the sad hunch on his shoulders, it was clear that wasn the best idea.

Sighing once more, she got up from the table to set it for dinner. The discussion was over, for now anyway.

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