Title: April in Galway
Author: Martha Reynolds
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction
Bill Flanagan's no stranger to regrets, so when he stumbles upon the chance to erase one from his long record, he jumps at it.
April Tweed's reinvigorated acting career may suggest she's left her past behind, but some memories don't let go easily, even thirty years later. The most important person from her past has tracked her down in Ireland, where she's filming a miniseries.
Past collides with present when April finds herself stuck between her high school sweetheart, Bill, and her persistently amorous co-star, Connor. Both of them are determined to win her heart as fresh starts war against second chances.
A tabloid headline on a magazine in the supermarket checkout lane screamed “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO APRIL TWEED?” Bill grabbed the magazine, then snatched the other eight copies and added them to his basket. He laid the issues face down on the belt, behind a couple of frozen dinners, a carton of orange juice, and a bag of six assorted bagels.
The woman who slid his purchases through a scanner never made eye contact until she got to the magazines.
“You wanted all of these?” she asked. Bill nodded. His eyes dared her to say something. Instead, the woman raised an eyebrow but scanned each issue separately. Bill paid for his groceries, fifty bucks extra for the tabloids, and carried his items to his car.
Once inside, he took one of the magazines from his shopping bag and stared at the cover. They’d used a terrible photo of her. She looked like she’d been surprised by the camera. Maybe she hadn’t slept much. Bill flipped pages to find the story about her.
Ireland? She was filming a mini-series in Ireland? They were supposed to go to Ireland together. Paris for her and Ireland for him, but together. Bill let his shoulders sag as he stared through his windshield at a cold and lonely February morning. School vacation was just two weeks away. She’d still be there, he thought. Maybe this is a sign.
According to the article, she was filming and staying in Galway. I’ve always wanted to go to Galway, he thought.
After Bill arrived home and put away his meager groceries, he did some online sleuthing. There were stories about the miniseries, but most of the news was devoted to her co-star, the ‘George Clooney of Ireland,’ as one writer referred to him. Bill typed and clicked and found a lot of photos of Connor Whelan. Okay, he thought, he looks okay. Piercing blue eyes, good jaw, plenty of hair. Bill ran his palm along the top of his head, skimming his skull. I had a lot more hair when she knew me.
She was staying at the Hotel Meyrick in Galway. He opened the hotel’s webpage and saw that it was centrally located and magnificent. But he couldn’t stay in the same hotel. That would be weird. Instead, he found what looked like a comfortable bed-and-breakfast “just minutes from Eyre Square.” Once he booked the cheapest flight he could find, he reserved a room in the B&B, and it was done. After all this time, maybe I’ll finally have an answer.
Chapter One -
Bill landed at Shannon Airport on a drizzly Saturday morning and took a bus to Galway. His bed-and-breakfast turned out to be a good fifteen minutes’ walk uphill from the bus station, and Eyre Square was in the city center, which meant he’d be doing a lot of walking. He took a walk to the city center once he’d settled his luggage in his room. Heading downhill was one thing, and even then men and women of all ages seemed to fly past him. As he panted up College Road in the late afternoon, he had to stop multiple times to catch his breath. He wasn’t accustomed to walking so much, but the taxis were expensive and he was indifferent about the buses, and probably too lazy to try and figure them out. By his second day in Ireland, he’d learned to take his umbrella with him.
While he silently cursed himself for cheaping out with a solitary room in a house up on a hill, he tried to focus more on how he could connect with April. Roza, the impossibly young woman who ran the B&B, was sweet and hospitable, but he was situated too far away from the center of town, the pubs, the shops. He’d wanted to save money. It would be difficult to relocate now, and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. In the morning at breakfast, Roza smiled broadly and asked him how he had slept. He answered, “Like a baby.” It wasn’t true, of course. His room was claustrophobic, his bed was unfamiliar. One pillow was too thin, and two were too thick. All through the night, wind whistled through a tiny crack in the window. The advertised ‘en suite’ bathroom was actually situated in what was once a small closet. But the B&B served a full breakfast, and Bill had awoken hungry and hopeful.
After a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, two small pastries, and a pot of coffee, he picked up his umbrella and thanked Roza. “See you later!” he said cheerily. Roza looked up from her paperwork at a table in the big kitchen and said, “Have a sunny day!” in an accent that reminded him of Natasha, his precocious student back at school, the daughter of an influential Russian oligarch. Natasha was accustomed to getting what she wanted, and a ‘C’ grade in Statistics was not what she wanted. What she deserved, yes, but Bill had been pressured to change her grade to a ‘B.’
Bill strolled downhill, past the college and the City Hall on his right, down to the intersection where he waited for the walking green as younger people ran the red. He passed the Aran Islands Tourist Offices and paused to look at photographs of ferries and green pastures dotted with low stone walls. Perhaps he could take April on a trip to one of the three islands, if the ferry ran in February. Don’t get ahead of yourself, he thought. You have to reconnect with her first.
He spotted a grand church on his right, set back from the street. A flat bell tower stood where there should have been a steeple, and as Bill neared the church, he noticed that it was boarded up. Beautiful stone church and not even used? But to the immediate right of the church was a low, modern building that looked like it was constructed in the seventies, when no one seemingly cared about beauty in architecture. Inside, it reminded him of the churches at home that were built at the same time, a feeble attempt at modernity that couldn’t come close to the grandeur of the older churches and cathedrals. He entered and let his eyes adjust to the light. Candles flickered in red glass cups near the altar. He took slow, doubtful steps forward. The last time he’d been inside a Catholic church was for his mother’s funeral, eight years earlier. He couldn’t understand why he’d stepped inside this one, and turned to leave.
“Hello? Mass is at half-ten today, but you’re welcome to sit if you’d care to wait.” The voice belonged to a woman of indeterminate, but decidedly advanced age, dressed in a dark blue pantsuit. Her eyes looked bigger behind thick glasses, and she clutched a folder of some kind to her chest.
“Oh, that’s all right, thanks. I can’t stay.” She stood there, waiting for Bill to say more. He had no more to say, so he lifted his hand as a way to signal his departure, and turned toward the back of the church. Once outside, Bill gulped air into his lungs, taking deep breaths as he walked quickly across the parking lot to Forster Street.
The Hotel Meyrick was grand, in an old-fashioned way. A group of youngish people, mostly Asian-looking women, slouched on overstuffed chairs in the hotel lobby, staring at their phones. Bill looked to his left and noticed a bistro. It looked inviting, and a placard at the entrance, hand-drawn with curlicues and stars, listed brunch items such as eggs Benedict and smoked salmon paired with crab claws. Bill checked his wristwatch. Ten-fifteen. Would she come down to eat here? Did they film even on Sundays? Weren’t Sundays still off-limits in Ireland? Standing in the lobby of the hotel where April was living gave Bill a strange sensation, as if he’d been borne aloft by an alien breeze, and he floated toward the bistro’s entrance.
His stomach rumbled. It had been hours since he’d eaten. Fine, he thought, we’ll eat again. He waited at the entrance.
“Just one?” the bowtie-wearing host asked, casting a downward glance at Bill’s shoes.
“Yes,” Bill answered, biting down a sarcastic reply. Do you see anyone else here with me?
“This way, sir.” The man headed toward the back of the sparsely-occupied bistro.
“No, please.” Bill stayed near the entrance. “I’d rather sit here, in the front.”
The host hesitated for a fraction of a second, touched a neatly-manicured index finger to his thin mustache, and smiled. His lips smiled, but his eyes didn’t. “Of course. Is this table suitable?” He gestured to a narrow table for two.
“Brilliant!” Bill had heard someone on the bus from the airport say that, and assumed it would work in the current situation. He sat down in a hard chair and faced the lobby. The man with the bowtie and mustache drifted away.
In his place came a wisp of a woman, with washed-out skin and pale blonde hair. She stopped in front of his table. Everything about her seemed faded, as if she’d been created with watercolors and left out in the sun to dry. She gave him a wan smile and asked, “Coffee or tea, sir?”
“Coffee, please.” Bill saw her name pinned to her light gray uniform – Izabela. She set a menu on his plate, a heavy sheet of cream-colored paper printed with seven different brunch choices.
If he was being honest, he didn’t need to eat. He’d wait to order. Pulling out his phone, Bill found April’s fan page and touched the photo, a publicity shot, nothing like the horrendous photo that had made it onto the front cover of Soap Stars magazine. He hoped that April would never know about it. On his phone, her smiling face filled his screen and he stared down at it. When Izabela returned with a silver pot and poured hot coffee into his cup, Bill fumbled to shut off his phone.
“April Tweed,” she said, unable to pronounce her name correctly. It sounded like ‘Treed.’ “She’s a movie star. She stays here.” Her accent was, what was it? Eastern European? She sounded a little like Roza.
Bill ducked his face to hide the heat that crept up his neck to his cheeks. Why should it bother me? he wondered. He was one of her fans, after all.
“Have you seen her?”
“Oh, yes. She is here now.” She turned again to leave, but Bill reached out to touch her arm. God, I hate myself sometimes.
“Izabela,” he began, looking directly at her name tag before lifting his eyes to her face. “I’m a friend of hers from years ago. And now that I’m here in Galway, I’d like very much to see her again.” He withdrew his hand, but allowed his fingers to trail against her bare arm.
Izabela looked behind her, as if to check whether the bow-tied host of the bistro was nearby. She lowered her thin voice to a whisper. “I’m not supposed to speak about our guests.” But she didn’t look away. Her eyes were translucent. What had brought this girl to Galway, Bill asked himself. What had she left behind?
“Of course not. It’s just, well, I’d be so very grateful.” What the hell am I doing?
Izabela raised her gaze from Bill’s face to the lobby. “I surely can’t tell you her room number.” Her pale, almost non-existent eyebrows drew together, creasing her creamy forehead.
“I wouldn’t even ask. I’m just hoping to see her, you know, after all these years.”
His last words fell away, and Bill swallowed hard. She was everything, he couldn’t say.
“You were sweet on her, then?” Izabela smiled down at him, idealistic and hopeful. She could never understand. A shaky breath escaped, and then, a clamor from the hotel’s lobby made them both turn toward the noise.
And there she was. April Tweed. With a man. A very good-looking man. Connor Whelan, of course. The women in the lobby lifted their phones, their arms synchronized. Connor Whelan paused for them, grinning, standing straight and tall like the star he was. Bill stared at April, who looked uneasy amidst all the attention. She pulled away from her date as he acquiesced to one selfie after another. Connor wrapped his arm around the waist of each woman as she leaned against him for a photo, a photo that would undoubtedly be posted online within minutes. As April turned her head toward the bistro, she looked directly into Bill’s eyes, if only for a moment. Her lower lip dropped just as Connor Whelan reclaimed her elbow and led her out of the hotel. She was gone before Bill could put a name to his emotions.
Izabela still stood next to him. She touched him lightly on the shoulder. “Will you eat, sir?”
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We’ve all wondered about that long-lost love. And we all want to believe in second chances! This book not only lets you travel to Ireland, but renews your hope in what could be.
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