The next few weeks passed quickly for Shannon. The summer drew to a close and autumn began it's descent on Larkin City. The winds grew colder, the nights longer. The splash of bright fall colors across the county thrilled Shannon. Besides the stark white of winter, the orange and brown leaves were the most beautiful part of all the seasons.
David Bonham's presence at O'Larkin House was also a source of joy for Shannon. He worked long hours at the lumber yard, but he always arrived home from work with Kevin and Liam, and spent his evenings with Shannon. They often met for lunch at Bruno's Café, and sometimes they went out to the movies. David seemed more intent on Shannon than ever before, but he never pressured her into any kind of sexual relationship.
It was not as if David did not desire Shannon; he did, very much so. They usually ended up kissing heavily in Shannon's car whenever they went out, or when everyone at the mansion had gone to bed they would sit alone in the drawing room on the couch and kiss in the dark. David would often put a stop to it, protesting that he could not take any more.
"There is only so much I can take, Shan," he would tell her with some difficulty. "We have to stop this for now." Shannon would giggle at him and call him "Davey". And he would smack her playfully on the rear end.
The majority of the occupants of the mansion were slowly becoming aware that something was going on between David and Shannon. Phoebe approved of David wholeheartedly, which was a fete in itself. She loved his ruddy looks, his off center nose, his impeccable manners, and he was intelligent and responsible to top it off.
During dinner one evening in late September, Phoebe questioned David about what his future plans might be. Shannon blushed at the obvious probing - it sounded as if Phoebe were drilling David as a prospective husband for her.
But David took no offense to the question. He replied politely and honestly: "While I was living in Bangor I was studying computer science. My friend, Glenn Wallin, persuaded me to take several courses on the subject and I really enjoyed it. Eventually I will go back to that, but right now I prefer working in the lumber yard. Perhaps in the spring I will go back to Bangor." He paused. "Miss McGarren, is my staying here presenting a problem? If it is, I'll be glad to rent a room in town."
Phoebe shook her head. "No, no. You stay here as long as you like. I was just curious about what you wanted to do as a life long job." Phoebe sipped her wine, highly pleased with David. "I suppose computer people earn a lot of money?"
"More than most I'd say," David smiled at her. "Programmers are in demand. I may decide to go into that area. Time will tell."
Brian O'Larkin spoke up from his place at the table. "I might be needing a programmer myself next year," he said, glancing at Shannon with a twinkle in his eyes only she could detect. "I currently have a mining project going on in Ireland. I have a small office there, a few guys to run surveys. But I need a full crew. I also need to look into purchasing a computer system."
Shannon's eyes widened. "Really?" she exclaimed excitedly. "Oh, Dad, can I go? I mean, if you hire a full crew in Ireland, can I go over there and help out?"
Brian laughed. "I knew that would interest you." He turned to David. "Ever since Shan was a small child she has been crazy about anything remotely connected with Ireland. She has always wanted to go there. About six months ago I initiated an induced polarization survey there, and it has turned out to be very successful. The project could probably last two or more years."
David appeared intrigued by Brian's information. "When are you hiring a crew for the project?"
"It's being done as we speak," Brian said. "Just before I returned home last summer, I hired a crew chief out of New York City named Scott Page to head the operation. He is now in Ireland hiring a crew for me. Scott has worked for several large mining companies and came highly recommended to me. He is very good at what he does. Scott will return to the States for the holidays and update me. We'll probably have him stay out here at the estate for Thanks- giving and Christmas."
Shannon leaned forward, her food forgotten, trying to control the excitement in her voice. "I'm serious, Dad. Once you get this set up, can I go? I'll use my own money in my savings account to get a plane ticket, I swear it!"
Brian laughed at his daughter, touched by her enthusiasm. "Of course you can go. Why do you think I brought it up? I knew you would jump at the chance. Oh, and all expenses are paid by the company."
Shannon made an ugly face at him. "You deliberately led me on!" she accused.
Brian chuckled. "Now, would I do something like that to you?" he teased.
Dinner ended on this light-hearted note. Shannon helped her mother and Sheila with the dishes afterward. Mary quizzed her daughter about David as the pot scrubbing began.
"I like David a lot," Shannon replied as she dried a dish. "He is very nice and quite a gentleman, as you can see. I enjoy being with him and talking with him. It feels very comfortable. I trust him. Even Phoebe likes him."
Sheila laughed. "The fact that Phoebe likes him is a miracle in itself."
Shannon agreed with a grin. "I know! But I'm sure you can see why. He's so polite and smart, and cute in a rugged way. I like his nose."
"Are you serious about him?" Mary asked.
Shannon sighed, putting several plates away in the cupboard. "I'm not really serious in the sense of a permanent relationship, if that's what you mean. But I do care for him very much. I don't think I would call it love, though." She paused, staring thoughtfully at her mother.
Both Mary and Sheila laughed. Shannon looked at them in puzzlement. "What's so funny?" she demanded.
Sheila finally recovered her mirth. "If you're not in love with him now, it sure sounds like the start of something big."
"Better watch out, Shan!" Mary warned teasingly. "Yours might be the next big O'Larkin wedding! The last one was when your father and I got married!"
"I am never going to get married," Shannon defended herself.
Mary and Sheila laughed even harder at this remark, and Shannon threw a tea towel at them in retaliation.
After the dishes were done, Shannon searched for David. She found him, alone, in the drawing room. He had just finished building a roaring fire in the fireplace.
"Where is everyone?" Shannon asked, walking over to him.
"Liam said he had a hot date in Larkin, and Sean and Kevin left for the Coven a few minutes ago. Phoebe mentioned something about working on a quilt she is making with Diedre, and your Dad and Rory are in the den having a drink."
Shannon settled herself on the couch in front of the fireplace. "That sound like a good idea. Would you like to have a glass of wine with me?" She smiled and patted the seat next to her with her hand.
David raised one eyebrow. "I'd love to." He strode over to the well stocked sideboard on the opposite end of the room. He poured them each a goblet of wine. As he sat next to her on the couch, Shannon leaned back and relaxed. She sipped her wine and started speaking in excited tones: "Can you imagine my father telling me I can go to Ireland and work for him? I simply can't wait! I have wanted to see that country for as long as I can remember."
David smiled faintly. "How long would you be gone?"
"You heard him. He said the project could probably keep going for a couple of years."
David grabbed her hand. "Would you stay for two years?" he asked quietly.
Shannon stared at him, and then it dawned on her. "Oh, David! You could come. I'm sure my father could use you on the crew . . ."
David shook his head. "No, Shan. I have already gotten a job through Kevin. I don't want to continue getting jobs through connections like that, I want to be hired on my own merit. I meant what I said at dinner. I really do want to go back to school in the spring. The only reason I took this job at the lumber yard was to be near you."
"To be near me just for the winter?" Shannon asked, her anger rising. "What did you plan to do in the spring? Commute up here to see me?"
David stood up from the couch. He walked over to the fireplace and stoked up the wood to create higher flames. Finally he turned around and looked at Shannon, his eyes sad. "I had hoped, by spring, that you would be ready to go back to Bangor with me," he said quietly. "Shannon, I am in love with you. Can't you sense that? I had planned to ask you to marry me and live with me in Bangor."
Shannon was speechless. She had never expected this! Marriage??? It was unthinkable! She continued to stare at David in shock. Eventually, she managed to find her voice. "I didn't know you were that serious," she faltered. "I mean, I didn't realize this went so deep for you . . . ."
"Well, it does," he said bluntly. "How do you feel about me?"
Shannon swallowed. How could she come out and tell David she was in love with him when she was not? She knew she would be miserable living in Bangor all of the time, she wanted to live at O'Larkin House and she wanted to go to Ireland. And marriage? That was the farthest thing from her mind.
"David," she began, trying to keep her voice gentle. "You know that I care about you a lot. I can talk to you, you're one of the few people outside of my family that I trust without question. You must realize this. There was someone else before I met you, but you are something so totally different, so much better . . . . . ."
"I know all about that guy," David broke in rudely. "Kevin told me all about him. I sure as hell hope I'm different than a fourteen-year-old."
Shannon's eyes flashed. "His age has nothing to do with it," she snapped, furious with David's attitude. "You don't know a thing about it, nor do you know what he's like, or the circumstances in which things happened . . ."
David was immediately contrite. He sat down next to her again. "I'm sorry, Shan," he said sincerely. "I'm really sorry. I know all of this happened much too fast for the both of us. But I had to be honest and tell you my feelings. I swear to you I won't push anything on you."
Shannon's anger vanished. She kissed him softly on the cheek. "Thank you, David. I just need more time, that's all. Can you understand? I cannot commit myself to you because there are so many other things I want to do first. I want to go to Ireland, as you know. And I never want to live in Bangor permanently, I'm sorry. My home is here and always will be."
He returned her kiss. "I understand, honestly. But remember that I will never give up. I'll always be here for you, whether I'm in Bangor or sitting here with you."
Shannon kissed him again, and he pulled her closer to him. All of a sudden there was a loud "Harumph!" from the doorway of the drawing room. David and Shannon scrambled apart quickly, gasping in shock, their eyes darting in horror toward the doorway.
Standing there was Mary O'Larkin. "Am I interrupting something important?" she asked innocently.
Shannon collected herself, clearing her throat. "No, you're not interrupting, Mum," she said nervously. She scooped up her goblet of wine and took a sip. "David and I were just enjoying some wine and watching the fire. Would you care to join us?"
"I believe I would," Mary replied. She walked over to the sideboard and poured herself a glass of wine. She seated herself on the other side of her daughter on the couch.
David retrieved his goblet of wine. He lit a cigarette for himself. Mary leisurely lit her own, watching her daughter and the young man the whole time. She exhaled the smoke and tasted her wine. "You know," she finally said. "If you two are going to neck, I suggest you do it in the privacy of one of your own rooms. What if I had been Phoebe? Or your father?"
"You were scary enough," Shannon said, finally relaxing. "We're not really doing anything, Mum. Just kissing."
"That is unacceptable around here and you know it," Mary said firmly. "To Phoebe, that's grounds for a shot gun wedding. I'm not as stuffy as the rest of this household, I was young once and I remember it. I don't think they remember, though." She paused for a moment. "All I ask is that you're careful. Make sure you know what you're doing." she looked directly at Shannon as she said this.
David spoke up. "Mrs. O'Larkin, you are some lady. You're really something else."
Mary smiled. "Thank you. But I want you to know I do not condone . . . casual association where kissing is concerned. However, I know Shannon has a good head on her shoulders and I trust her."
"Thank you, Mum. I love you." Shannon leaned over and kissed her mother affectionately.
Mary stood up, looking at her wristwatch. "Well, it's ten o'clock. My bedtime. Have a nice evening. Remember what I said."
Shannon had been asleep for a few minutes it seemed when her bedroom telephone rang. Actually, she had been asleep six hours. Her phone continued ringing. Finally, moaning in protest, Shannon slipped out of bed and grabbed her robe off of the bed stand. She wrapped it around her body and went to the phone.
"Hello?" she answered groggily.
"Well, good morning Miss O'Larkin," a cheerful voice said.
It was Mike! Mike Sullivan!
"Michael? What time is it?" Shannon asked, her voice impatient.
"Five o'clock in the morning," he replied easily. "Did I wake you up?"
"What the hell do you think?"
"You told me to call anytime," he pointed out with a chuckle. "You didn't set any time limits."
"I expected you to be civil about it!" Shannon said angrily. "You could have called at a decent hour of the day."
"Why? Did I interrupt something?"
"Yes. My sleep. Why? What else did you think I was doing?"
Shannon closed her eyes. "Look, Mike, just tell me what you want. I'm very tired and I want to go back to bed."
"I thought you'd be glad to hear from me," Mike said mockingly. "Unless you have someone else to occupy your time now."
"What do you want, dammit?" Shannon demanded.
"You know what I want, but that is besides the point," Mike replied. "I've seen you several times with the same bastard downtown, usually at Bruno's or at the movies. I asked around and I found out he works at the lumber yard, and he also lives in your lovely little mansion. How convenient for you! What's the bastard's name?"
"What the hell is it to you?"
"Well, it's nothing to me. Would you like to have lunch today?"
"No, I would not," Shannon snapped.
"Well, that sure is interesting," Mike commented dryly. "I'm not about to give up, you know."
"That's your problem."
"You think so, huh? We'll see," Mike laughed.
Shannon slammed the phone down violently. She bent her head over into her hands. What in God's name was she going to do about Mike Sullivan?
Mike Sullivan stared at the telephone in the mobile home where he lived. So! The bitch had hung up on him! He felt the ever-present anger within him rise to a peak. The anger simply refused to go away. And at the core of all this fury was that high flying bitch, Shannon O'Larkin.
Now that school had started, Mike only worked weekends at the Byre. Friends in school has asked him about Shannon; they had heard about her and Mike together during the summer and were curious. Mike's immediate response was that he and Shannon were just friends, nothing more.
But everyone had noticed a change in Mike. He had grown painfully thin, he had not trimmed his hair in months and he rarely washed his hair for that matter. He did not talk much anymore, not to anyone. He kept to himself all of the time, which was very unlike him. He came to school and did what he had to do. His grades were passable but not outstanding. He no longer showed any interest in joining the various clubs at school. The year before, in 1969, he had joined the freshman soft ball team and had been president of the french club. He ceased attending school assemblies, and he ate lunch alone. He simply disappeared from the school grounds during lunch, but he managed to make it back in time to get in to class.
On weekends, Dana Maitland watched Mike closely. He would arrive at the Byre at seven in the morning, and would not leave until six in the evening. He rarely talked to Dana, or anyone else around him unless he had to. Dana's first thought was that Mike was strung out on drugs. She knew that could not be possible, however. He did not show the signs of a drug user. His eyes and skin were too clear; the only thing strange about that assumption was his weight loss, and a prominent disinterest in his appearance. He just did not seem to care.
Dana summarized the root of Mike's problem was Shannon. Mike was still crazy about her, and he was nursing an unhealthy obsession with her. It was eating away at him, day by day. The very image of Shannon was chipping away at his sanity, his peace of mind. What was it about Shannon that had transformed Mike into a walking daze? Dana wondered. There were plenty of girls his own age in Larkin City who thought of Mike as attractive and a good catch. And he knew it as well. But he did not seem to care, all he wanted was Shannon. Why? How could a fourteen-year-old boy be capable of such a strong and all consuming obsession? How could his mind, not yet fully developed intellectually, be so singular? Under normal circumstances, Mike should be out having fun and dating other girls.
One Saturday Dana found Mike at the gardener's shed , alone, stacking small garden tools on the shelves. He heard her approach and turned to look at her, his face expressionless.
"How are you feeling, Mike?" Dana asked him. "You look kind of worn out."
Mike turned away from her and began stacking tools again. "I'm fine," he answered gruffly.
"I don't think you are," Dana declared. "Ever since you and Shannon quit dating, you have been going down hill. What is really wrong, Mike? Did Shannon say something to hurt you?"
"I don't want to talk about her," Mike said shortly.
"Why?" Dana persisted. "What has she done to you?"
"She dumped me!" Mike said, through gritted teeth. He turned around to face her again. "Just all of a sudden she says all we can be is friend's. Every time I see her these days she's with some new bastard in town. To top it off, he works at the lumber yard, and he lives at the mansion!"
"So? I know about him," Dana replied. "They are just friend's, Mike." Dana felt the need to lie to Mike about Shannon's relationship with David; it would do no good to tell him the truth. She continued: "Shannon was never cruel to you. She was nice about the whole thing."
"But I wasn't ready to lose her!" Mike said desperately, looking at Dana. His eyes were blazing, almost hysterical. She backed away from him slowly as he continued raving. "We barely had a month together, and then all of a sudden she decides we're going to be friends and nothing more. Who is she? I tell you, I wasn't ready, and I'm damn well not finished with her yet!"
Dana stared at Mike in shocked wonder. "Just what do you mean by that remark, Mike?"
He shrugged his shoulders, suddenly calm again. He returned to stacking tools on the shelves. "I don't know," he replied tonelessly. "Every time I call her, she hangs up."
"Do you blame her?" Dana demanded. "If you talk to her just like you talked to me now, I would do the same thing."
"Oh, shut up, Dana," Mike growled, facing her once more. "Both of you are two of a kind, anyway. No wonder you are best friends."
"Then why do you still want her?"
Mike leaned close to her, his face inches from hers. His eyes were fanatical - they reminded Dana of a psychopath she had seen on a television movie recently. When he spoke, she saw his yellowed, un-scrubbed teeth and smelled his fetid breath.
"I want her because I didn't end it, I simply wasn't through with her yet. We'll never be over, Dana, mark my words. Friends indeed!!! But my day is coming soon. I'll be the one to end it this time, and I'll have her like no one else ever will. Then, and only then, will we be friends. Because it will be over then."
Shannon arrived at work early Monday morning. Her father was preparing to go to Ireland in one week to check on his project there. He needed a large amount of data gathered to take with him, and this task had fallen on Shannon.
She entered the office at six in the morning, and immediately brewed some coffee. She went into the drafting room, which was situated to the left of the reception area. She began pulling the crucial survey maps her father needed, which she would later have to match to typewritten reports she had filed in her father's office.
Brian O'Larkin would be in Dublin for two weeks. Shannon dearly wished she were going with him, but he needed her in Maine more. He was going to check on the progress of the project and to see how Scott Page had fared in hiring a crew. He was scheduled to return to Larkin just before Thanksgiving. He told Shannon he would send her to Dublin in January to start working.
Scott Page, Brian's well-qualified crew chief, would be returning to Maine shortly after Brian and would be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at O'Larkin House, according to Brian. Shannon would fly to Dublin with Page in January. The prospect of finally going thrilled Shannon, and she could hardly wait.
Shannon had not dared mention this to David yet. They were getting along so well lately that she did not want to spoil it. She had continued to evade the subject of marriage with David, never bringing it up. But he mentioned it occasionally, and she usually tried to worm her way out of the discussion. She relished in her present relationship with David, but she knew she wasn't ready to sleep with him, much less marry him. The thought of living in Bangor for the rest of her days was not acceptable, either. Every way she looked at it, she knew that her relationship with David would never get passed the stage it was at now. They were at a stalemate.
Shannon's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a loud knocking at the front door of the building. The door remained locked as it was only six. Shannon left the drafting room and glanced through the glass front door.
It was Dana. Shannon smiled and unlocked the door.
"I figured it was you here this early," Dana said cheerfully as Shannon let her into the office. "No one else is up at this hour."
"Want some coffee?" Shannon yawned.
Shannon poured them both a cup, adding a generous amount of sugar to Dana's. She accepted it gratefully, sipping the hot brew cautiously. Shannon sat on the edge of the desk and lit a cigarette. Dana settled herself in a reception area chair.
"What are you doing up so early?" Shannon asked her.
Dana sighed. "I figured I could catch you here early before anyone else came around."
"Is something wrong?"
Dana became still, her eyes on her friend gravely. "I think there is something wrong. It is my opinion that you have another talk with Mike Sullivan, and soon."
"Why?" Shannon asked, alarmed. "Has he been bothering you?"
"Not exactly," Dana explained. "Actually, I approached him at the Byre on Saturday. He was alone in the gardener's shed, stacking tools. Shannon, he looks awful! His hair is long and unwashed, in fact, he is filthy and he smells! He has also lost a lot of weight. At first I thought he was on drugs, but his eyes and skin are too clear, he's too coherent to be on dope. So I asked him a few questions. I asked him if his mood had anything to do with you. That's when he became absolutely livid. He said you dumped him, that he hadn't been ready to lose you, he said that he was going to finish it. He had this crazy look in his eyes. He said his day is coming soon, and he'll have you like no one else ever before, and then it will be over."
Shannon shuddered, setting her coffee cup down on the desk. "What else can I say to him, Dana?" Shannon pleaded with her friend. "I really need some help. I will not be his girlfriend, that's out. I've told him I'll be his friend. What more can I do?"
Dana shook her head. "I wish I knew. It's crossed my mind - well, a hundred things have crossed my mind, really. What if he tries to rape you? Or kidnap you? I'm telling you, he's not in his right mind. I think he's going crazy."
Shannon stood up, grabbing her coffee cup. She poured herself more of the strong, soothing brew. Finally, she said to Dana: "What I have to do is go out to his place and talk to him."
"What if he's alone? You don't want to be alone with him all the way out there."
"I think his mother gets home at four-thirty, if I remember correctly," Shannon mused. "If not, you know where I am. Keep calling my house, my room. If I'm not there by five-thirty, alert someone at my house."
Dana looked at her in disbelief. "I can't believe you'd go out there all by yourself. It could be very dangerous, considering the state of mind he's in."
"I'm sure he'll listen to me, Dana," Shannon said confidently. "He did before. Besides, I'll be very nice about it."
Dana rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "Big deal! What if he asks you about David, or the 'bastard', as Mike calls him. Then what?"
"Well, I certainly won't tell him the truth about that. I'll tell him David is a friend."
"I hope you can do something," Dana declared, standing up from her chair. "I think if he goes on much longer like he is, he is just going to explode one day, and go berserk. I don't want to be around when he does."
"I'll do all I can," Shannon assured her. "I will be very adult about the whole thing, and hopefully that will calm him."
Dana snorted. "A lot of good adult talking will do with him these days."
"Don't worry. Just don't forget to call my room, and if I'm not there by five-thirty, tell someone where I am."
After Dana had left the office, Shannon lit another cigarette. Would it never end? Would Mike always try to haunt her like this? When would she be rid of his persistent and demented attentions?
Sighing, Shannon poured herself another cup of coffee and returned to the drafting room to continue her work.