By: Jayne Blue


Chapter 1


“I’m leaving.”

“I heard you the first time, Ash.” Sean Connell looked more irritated than heartbroken.

That was always the problem, Ashling supposed. Sean saw her as a good and sensible choice, not someone he was head over heels in love with. It was mutual like between them, and probably always had been.

“My Uncle Peter in America has it set up. He helped pay for my training, and now I’m going to go help run the business.”

“I don’t approve it at all. You’re not doing this. I forbid it.”

“Last I checked you’re not the boss of me and I’m not your property.”

“Ashling, stop being so stubborn. We’re supposed to get hitched.”

“Sean, we’re not supposed to get hitched. You want to get hitched. Da wants me hitched. Time apart will be a good to see if you really do want to get hitched to me.” Sean reached for her and wrapped his arms around her waist.

She hadn’t meant to be so harsh, but she wasn’t leaving because of Sean. Her dreams had nothing to do with him, really. That was probably another problem. Sean O’Connell wasn’t in her version of happily ever after.

The idea of crossing an ocean, having a real job as a floral designer, and America. All those things seemed more happily ever after than Sean and Cork and the life her parents had.

Sean leaned in and kissed her neck. She let him. Ashling closed her eyes.

“You’re just as stubborn as your ma.” Sean was minimizing, not listening, and expecting her to stay quiet and stay on his path. He expected her to be the way she was when they met, but she was a teenager then.

She was a woman now.

At one point Sean was the world to her. He was tall, lean, and full of ideas about the world. He was going to leave Cork. She wanted that too.

But somewhere between his big ideas and reality Sean O’Connell grew roots in their hometown. It felt like his roots were reaching out and trying to entangle her feet.

Sean’s arms were comfortable. His kisses were safe. She would miss him. A little.

But even as they stood in Bishop Lucey Park, a place they’d often gone before, Ashling felt herself pulled away. Her eyes closed to Sean’s kisses and words as her mind opened to America. This was her big adventure without her ma, her da, or Sean telling her what to do.

Her da was scared about her leaving; he was also proud. He liked the idea that Uncle Peter had a business and was offering her a future. But he did have fears and warned her constantly to be careful.

“It’s supposed to be dangerous in America. Guns, violence, drugs, Kardashians.”

She reminded them they lived in Dublin when she was little. She could handle it.

It was her ma’s words that helped decide and freed her to go.

“You know and I know exactly the kind of life you’ll have here. If you want something more, you leave. If you want to really know what you’re made of, you’ll take Uncle Peter up on his offer. Don’t tell Da I said that.”

She’d inherited her mother’s red hair; she was lucky in that. Though she also had the pale, freckled skin to go with it. Not so lucky there.

Uncle Peter lived in Grand City, Michigan.

She’d heard Michigan wasn’t like California or Florida. She’d burn to a crisp in those places. She hoped for some overcast in Michigan.

Along with her red hair, Ashling Byrne inherited something else from her ma.

She’d also inherited her mother’s rebellious streak. Da called that rebellious streak sass, but her mother organized the local nurse’s union  . She’d fought tooth and nail to be sure they always had a roof over their heads when Da was laid off.

Ashling knew that strength was in her blood. She also knew they were both a source of constant irritation to Da. Maybe if it were just the two of them, her parents alone, Da would get his point across now and again. No more tag teaming him.

Megan Byrne was a traditional housewife in many ways. But she’d snuck just enough spice into Ashling’s childhood to foster the girl’s own ideas about what she wanted out of life.

And what Ashling Byrne wanted out of life wasn’t in County Cork anymore. She kissed Sean one last time and pulled away.

“Don’t be too mad at me for leaving. And maybe call Karen Kimmel. She’s got her eye on ya.”

“Ash. You’re makin’ a mistake.”

“Mine to make.” Ashling turned. She felt Sean’s tug on her hand, but she pulled free. It would be easy to stay, easy to work at the flower shop in her mom’s hospital, easy to be Sean’s wife, easy to make her da happy with a bunch of O’Connell grandsons.

But Ashling Byrne didn’t want easy. Ashling Byrne wanted a challenge. She was not going to bloom where she was planted; she was going to take to the air and try to seed a whole new life in America.

She left Sean in the park and went home to finish her packing. It wasn’t much, really.

Ashling Byrne had only met Uncle Peter once when he visited while she was still a young teenager.

Uncle Peter had left for America after World War Two, as a small boy, and was really her great uncle. Uncle Peter had started a business in America, and he’d made his way without dozens of O’Sheas telling him what for.

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