Susan Colleen Browne, Author

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The Hopeful Romantic

County Galway​, Ireland


Every fix I’ve gotten myself into, every eejit thing I’ve ever done, is because of my fatal flaw: I’m a hopeless romantic. And just look where it’s taken me.

I gazed at the snowy pasture from the kitchen window, huddled in Stephen’s old work coat, the one item of his I’d taken with me when I’d left Dublin three days ago. Okay, there was the ring too. The new gem-studded wedding band Stephen surprised me with last month. He’d given it to me while on holiday—the one we’d spent with our friend Will, when everything had changed. Well, more like…imploded. Only I couldn’t go there. Not today. Not on Christmas Eve.

I rubbed my bare ring finger with my thumb. Why I thought of the ring as Stephen’s… I felt like it was far too showy for someone like me, even though he’d had Kerry, Forever, engraved on the inside—such a sentimental gesture for such a prosaic guy. Out of respect, I’d kept wearing the ring after he left, though I’d not worn it since arriving here at the farm. I’d put the ring into a saucer and there it had stayed. I would try not to look at it, but invariably, my eyes would be drawn to the flash of sparkle near the kitchen sink. Whether my ring was mocking me or guilt-tripping me, I wasn’t sure.

You may ask, why wear a posh wedding band after your husband says we need a break? Exactly. The bigger question was, what had possessed me to come to the farm at all? On the spur of the moment, I’d decided that staying here for a few days would be like a…well, a mini-retreat. On my own, without distractions, I’d find the answers to all my problems. Instead, following a rash, madzer impulse, I’d gotten myself completely stranded. Which is where my fatal flaw comes in. 

So I’ve really done it this time. Smelling the rich, buttery sweetness of the shortbread I’d baked, I stared bleakly at the mounds of sparkling white surrounding the farmhouse. You’d think I would’ve been grateful for a white Christmas, such a rare thing in Ireland, but I gave the snow a baleful look. I’d so hoped to hash things out with Stephen on his short Christmas holiday in Dublin. Find a way to get past our troubles… 

Well. That was optimistic. Especially since now, stuck on the other side of Ireland after it had snowed for two days straight, I was completely isolated. And with no working phone, I’d no way to talk to him at all, even to wish him—and our son Jamie—a Happy Christmas. 

I turned toward the front room, my eyes going straight to the small bedraggled Christmas tree sitting in the corner. I’d cut it down myself, in the fir grove bordering the pasture. I’d tried to make the place festive, yet the tree seemed a sad little article, weighed down with fairy lights and cheap glass bulbs. Just hours ago, thinking positive, I’d made the shortbread, hoping for a sudden thaw. Then I could head back to Dublin, see Stephen, Jamie, Mam and all my family. With the day half-gone, though, and the snow still knee-deep, it was obvious I’d hoped in vain.

Suddenly, I’d had it up to here with hoping. I strode to the back door, pulled on my wellies and flung the door open. Stepping into the snow, I felt desperate to think of something else besides all the wrong turns I’d taken, or how I would be utterly, completely alone for the holiday. After all the solitude since I’d arrived at the farm, you’d think spending another day or two on my own would be no bother. Only I was still reeling after what I’d found in the fir grove two days before. And so here it was, nearly Christmas, and I was in shreds. Along with my marriage.

And I’d no one to blame but myself…