page title

The Rose


Joe and Eileen, in a different time and a different version of themselves...

the rose
Banner by Erendira


Dear God but he is beautiful. A man shouldn’t have eyelashes that long and thick, and those cheekbones… His hair is longer than I normally like on a man but the mass of curls falling over his face just adds to the picture of perfection that he is. The moustache and goatee balance the angelic beauty and emphasize his maleness. He’s lying on his back, head turned to the side, arms thrown out. The sheet has slipped to expose his upper body, a smooth expanse of chest and a firm stomach. His breathing is even and he looks completely relaxed in his sleep. I am still not quite sure how he came to be here, in my bed. 


I hadn’t planned to be in that bar at all. I had meant to be at home, curled up on the sofa with a good book and a glass of my favourite wine that I had been looking forward to all day as things went from bad to worse at work. Just as I had closed the door to my flat behind me with a sigh of relief and was kicking the shoes off my aching feet, the phone rang. Being one of those people who have to answer a ringing phone no matter what, I had picked it up to be greeted by my friend Kate and I knew I might as well wave my quiet evening goodbye there and then. Kate’s life was constant drama, mostly due to her on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend Matt, and she seemed to think that as I was single, I had nothing better to do than to be there for her whenever she needed me. I did love her dearly and most of the time I didn’t mind; nights out with her usually turned out to be good fun as she knew all the best places to go to. 

“Please Eileen, I’m going crazy here, I need to get out of the house and I heard about this new bar that just recently opened in Flinders Lane. Apparently they have live music as well but not too loud, a guy and a guitar kind of thing. If you come out tonight, I promise I will go with you to see that film you’ve been going on about – we can do that on Sunday, okay?” Her tone was almost pleading and I sighed inwardly as I walked over to my wardrobe.  

“Well this place better be casual because I’m not in the mood for wearing anything fancy and especially not high heels!” She quickly assured me that it most certainly was casual and after giving me directions and promising to meet me there at eight thirty, she rang off.  I opened my bottle of wine anyway and had a glass while I got myself ready. I decided to go all for comfort and settled on jeans and cowboy boots but added a nice shirt and jacket, just in case the bar turned out to be less casual than Kate thought.  

I’m a stickler for punctuality and would rather be too early than too late, so it was a quarter past eight as I walked in the door of the latest addition to Melbourne nightlife. It looked more like a pub than a wine bar and I was relieved. There were a few unoccupied stools by the bar and I made my way to the farthest corner where I could keep an eye on the door. The barman flirted with me when I ordered my drink and I felt my mood lifting. Maybe this was just what I needed, a girls’ night out, lots of giggling and a few too many drinks. I had just taken a sip of my beer and noted the good-looking man sitting at the opposite end of the bar, when my phone rang. Kate. She would be running late, of course.  

“Hello.” There was a slight pause before she said anything and I knew what was coming.  

“Eileen… I’m so sorry, I tried you at home but obviously you had already left. The thing is… Matt is in town, he just rang me from the airport, they changed his shift at the last minute.” Matt was a pilot with Qantas and his irregular work hours only added to the unpredictability of Kate’s relationship with him. This wasn’t the first time Kate had let him ruin plans that we had made. I bit back the anger I felt.  

“Fine. I will talk to you later then.”  

I could hear the relief in Kate’s voice. “You are such a good friend Eileen. I will make it up to you, I promise. Are you already at the bar? Any cute guys around?” My eyes strayed to the man I had noticed earlier and he was giving me a sympathetic look. Great, he knows I’m being stood up, I told myself as I rolled my eyes and gave him a sheepish smile.  

“I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.”  

Kate knew not to push her luck. “I’ll ring you about Sunday, okay? Have fun!” And she rang off before I had a chance to say anything else. Disgusted, I turned the phone off altogether and dropped it into my bag and took a long swig of my beer. 

“Would you mind if I joined you?” The man from opposite was suddenly standing next to me, indicating the unoccupied stool where I had just placed my bag. His voice was soft and had a hint of an accent that I couldn’t quite place. I looked up into his eyes and had the weirdest feeling I had met him before and yet I knew that I couldn’t have. There was no way I would have forgotten someone like him. He was tall and slim, his dark hair a mass of curls tumbling almost onto his shoulders. He had perfectly sculpted cheekbones but the most arresting feature about him was his eyes:  there was a whole history of passion and pain in them, and I had to force myself to look away.  

“Not at all.” I picked up my bag and put it on the bar next to me and as he sat down, I had a strange foreboding.  

“I’m Joe,” he said and gave me a quick smile and my heart skipped a beat. He was devastatingly handsome but when he smiled, it was like a light went on somewhere inside and he just took my breath away. Giving myself a mental shake, I smiled back.  

“Nice to meet you Joe. I’m Eileen.”  

He studied my face for a moment. “I was watching you before because I thought I knew you from somewhere but I must have been mistaken. I don’t think I would have forgotten you if we’d met.” The way he said it, it didn’t sound like just a pick-up line and since I had entertained similar thoughts, I was intrigued. He nodded towards my bag. “Someone stand you up?” I grimaced.  

“Best friend, or so she claims. I wonder sometimes.”  

“I’m sorry.” He put his hand briefly on mine and I noticed how long his fingers were. There was a silver ring on his little finger, a Claddagh ring.  

“Are you Irish?” The question slipped out before I had time to think about it.  

“Yes. That is, my ancestors came from there in the 1800’s. Not voluntarily though, I might add.” There was a flash in his eyes. Interesting. An Irish rebel in the middle of 21st century Melbourne? He certainly looked the part with that untamed hair, jeans that hugged his slim hips and cowboy boots – dear God, he was wearing ‘larrikin heels’! I could easily picture him with a gun and women swooning at his feet. He gave me a long, searching look as I resolutely pushed all thoughts of outlaws and the Kelly gang out of my head. I really am too much of a romantic for my own good sometimes. 

Joe and I found we got along well and talk flowed easily. I let him buy me another beer and with the wine I had had earlier and nothing to eat, I was starting to get a little tipsy.  

“The nachos are really quite good here Eileen. I’ll order you some to keep you busy while I sing – you’ll stay around, won’t you?” He indicated the little stage set up in one corner of the room. The bar had been steadily filling with people while we’d been talking and the buzz of conversation was getting louder. Joe’s hand was resting on my shoulder now and I could feel the heat radiating from it.  

“You’re the live entertainment?” I was genuinely surprised. He leaned towards me a bit and his breath tickled my ear.  

“Aye. The Irish troubadour who sings rebel songs from long ago that nobody recognizes anymore.”  His fingers briefly brushed my cheek. “I promise you I really am not too bad. Don’t go – please?” As if I could have said no when he looked at me with those eyes.  

“Okay. I’ll stay if you sing ‘Four Green Fields’ for me.”  

Joe raised an eyebrow. “I stand corrected. Somebody still recognizes rebel songs. It’s a deal.” He reached for my bag and put it back on the stool next to me. “Save my seat for me.” 

My eyes followed Joe’s lean and lithe form as he crossed the room, flashing a smile here and calling out a greeting there. He picked up a guitar and sat down in front of the microphone. The conversation quietened down considerably. It was obvious a good part of the crowd was there to hear him sing. I was intrigued. He flashed a smile around the room at large and started strumming the guitar. The barman placed a bowl of nachos in front of me but I completely forgot about them when Joe started to sing. 

      “Have you ever walked the lonesome hills and heard the curlews cry,

      or seen the raven black as night upon a windswept sky.

      To walk the purple heather and hear the west wind cry,

      to know that’s where the rapparee must die.

      Since Cromwell pushed us westward, to live our lowly lives,

      there’s some of us have deemed to fight

      from Tipperary mountains high.

      Noble men with wills of iron who are not afraid to die,

      Who’ll fight with Gaelic honour held on high.

      A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell, you who raped our motherland,

      I hope you’re rotting down in hell for the horrors that you sent

      to our misfortunate forefathers, whom you robbed of their birthright.

      “To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight.

      Of one such man I’d like to speak, a rapparee by name and deed,

      his family dispossessed and slaughtered.

      They put a price upon his head, his name is known in song and story

      his deeds are legends still,

      and murdered for blood money was young Ned of the Hill.

      A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell who raped our motherland,

      I hope you’re rotting down in hell for horrors that you sent

      to our misfortunate forefathers whom you robbed of their birthright.

      “To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight.

      You have robbed our homes and fortunes, even drove us from our land,

      you tried to break our spirit but you’ll never understand

      the love of dear old Ireland that will forge an iron will,

      as long as there are gallant men like young Ned of the Hill.” 

Joe had a beautiful voice and I could hear the passion and pain I had seen in his eyes earlier and I knew if I didn’t leave right then, I was in serious danger of falling for him in a big way. I knew hardly anything about him but even the short time we had spent together was enough for me to know that any relationship with him would most likely come at a cost and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I had experienced enough pain and heartbreak to make me wary and yet I stayed. As if he had sensed my thoughts, Joe’s eyes locked with mine from across the room and held me still.   

He sang some modern ballads and a couple of other rebel songs followed by requests, including ‘Four Green Fields’ that I had asked him to sing for me and I had tears in my eyes listening to him.


The applause was deafening when Joe put his guitar down. My mind was in turmoil. I watched him make his way across the room again, this time it took longer as people stopped him to talk. I saw a couple of women kiss his cheek and a few others touch his arm as he passed. His eyes found mine when he was a couple of steps away and I picked my bag up from the stool to make room for him.  

“I thought for a moment there you were going to do a runner on me.” He nodded at the barman who passed him a beer as he sat down next to me.  

“I thought about it,” I confessed, looking down at my hands and wondering what the hell was going on with me. His hand found my chin and gently turned my face towards him.  

“Because you’re scared? Of what might happen?” There was no escaping from those eyes and anything witty or funny I might have said just flew straight out of my head.  

“Yes.” I didn’t know I had said it till I heard it come out of my mouth. His hand was still cupping my chin and his thumb brushed against my lips gently.  

“Sometimes you need to take a chance, Eileen.” He glanced at the uneaten nachos in front of me. “Why don’t we go and have some dinner somewhere a bit more quiet where we can talk?”  


My body tingles from the memory of his touch and I long to brush the curls off his face but I don’t want to wake him, I just want to fill my eyes with him while he doesn’t know I’m looking, to store away for later when he leaves as he inevitably must. I have no idea what is going to happen with us or even if there really is or will be an us. I do feel this is more than just a one-night stand. Whatever happened, Joe and I both felt a connection that was more than just sexual attraction or pure lust. I look at his hand, now resting on his flat, tanned stomach, the long fingers spread out and I think of the songs he sang last night and the pain in his eyes. I wonder what roads he has travelled to be here now.  


Joe knew an Italian place nearby, so that’s where we headed. I wasn’t oblivious to some of the glances directed our way as we left the bar and I don’t think he was either but he didn’t seem to care. As if it was the most natural thing in the world, he took my hand in his as we started walking. He glanced at my feet.  

“Good to see you’re wearing sensible footwear – you don’t mind the walk do you?” His hand was warm and he squeezed my fingers lightly.  

“Not at all, I love walking.” I stole a glance at his face. “I almost expected you to have a horse tied up just outside the door.” He gave me a funny look and then he chuckled.  

“Sorry to disappoint you Eileen. I left the horse at the stables with my guns.” An image of him reining in a prancing horse flashed in my mind. A rebel and an outlaw – wasn’t he already irresistible enough? We were crossing the Yarra and stopped in the middle of the bridge to admire the city skyline and the lights reflecting off the river. He pulled me into his arms and I slid my hands around his waist under his jacket. His hand went behind my neck and he tilted my face up and we just looked at each other and then he kissed me. It was a gentle kiss and only lasted for a moment but I could feel sparks shooting through me from where our lips touched. I was slightly light-headed when we continued our walk. 

The restaurant was small and cosy. The food was delicious and we talked while we ate.  

“Why are you so scared of letting yourself feel?” Joe’s question threw me, in my experience men weren’t that keen on discussing feelings but then I could already tell that he was unlike anyone else I had ever met.  

“Because I have never been good at playing games and that’s what relationships seem to require. So I have had my share of heartbreak, probably no more than anyone else, but it has made me a bit wary.” I really didn’t want to talk about my love life with him and cast around for another topic. He was leaning back in his chair and the light caught his belt buckle and I gasped with surprise. “You have Ned Kelly’s brand on your belt buckle!” I’m sure my mouth was hanging open with surprise as I stared at the combined E and K. Joe looked surprised too.  

“Not many people would know that that’s what it is.” His eyes were intent on mine and I think I blushed a little.  

“Well, I’m something of a Kelly sympathiser you could say… I have a whole shelf full of books about the Kelly Gang at home and have been planning a trip to the Kelly country.”  

Joe grinned and reached for my hand.  

“You are full of surprises Eileen! I’m interested in them too, maybe we could go together.”  

I grinned back. “Maybe we could. Interesting that your name is Joe – wouldn’t it be funny if your surname was Byrne as well?” I giggled at the thought.  

He was still smiling when he said: “Actually it is. And what’s more, I’m a descendant of his.”  

Bloody hell. I just stared at him in disbelief. I was having dinner with Joe Byrne? 

I listened amazed when he told me that there was a woman who was pregnant with Joe’s child at the time of his death and how Joe’s brother had ended up marrying her, to give the child the Byrne name. That child had been his great-grandfather. I couldn’t believe it, I had a living breathing descendant of Joe Byrne sitting in front of me and when I looked at him, I thought of the studio photograph of Joe I had seen and there was a definite resemblance.  

“My parents didn’t tell me until I was an adult, it’s a bit of a dark family secret if you like. I thought they were going to tell me I was adopted, I always did feel like I didn’t quite belong where I was. I suppose it’s not that different really, finding out you have this whole family history that you knew nothing about.” Joe smiled but there was a touch of bitterness in his voice.  

“You know, I’ve always thought it’s such a shame there’s not more information to be found about Joe Byrne… But to meet someone who is actually descended from him – I really don’t know what to say.” I had to shake my head in wonder.  

“I don’t normally bring it up when I first meet someone – in fact, not even all of my friends know about it - there are some strong feelings still about the Kelly Gang, even after all this time. I did get some wisecracks at school about my name and I wish I had known about my family history back then. I still don’t quite understand why my parents called me Joe, given their feelings about the whole thing. Maybe it was their way of atoning for denying the connection, I don’t know.” He took my hands in his and I was drowning in his eyes.  My head was spinning and it had nothing to do with alcohol.  

Joe smiled at me. “I think it’s time for me to take you home.” 

Again we walked across the city. Joe’s arm was draped over my shoulders now and I was debating with myself about what to do. By the time we got to my place, it was clear that he would come in. Once I had closed the door behind me, he held out his hand for me and when I took it, I was aware of having made a decision. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing but somehow it just felt right. 


Finally he opens his eyes. And he smiles.  

“Morning, Eileen.” He pulls me in for a kiss and I can feel desire growing in the pit of my stomach. His hands are drawing patterns on my body and his mouth leaves a fiery trail of pleasure and I cannot do anything but surrender. I don’t think I have ever been loved quite like this before, although his touch feels strangely familiar. He seems to know exactly what I want him to do and I’m on fire. He takes his time, as if he’s savouring every moment and holding back till he’s sure I’m ready too and when we finally come together, it’s torture and bliss at the same time. He doesn’t let go, his arms holding me tight against his chest; I can feel his heartbeat and for a moment the world stands still.  

“I cannot in all honesty say that what you see is what you get Eileen, it’s not quite that simple, but I promise you I will not play games with you.” I lift my head to look into his eyes and reach out a hand to brush aside a damp curl. “I have been through things that have taught me not to waste a moment, and when I first saw you I felt like I recognized you somehow. I want you Eileen, and not just like this. Will you not take a chance and see where it could lead you?” He’s holding my face now, his thumbs gently stroking my cheeks and for some reason I feel like crying. I cannot understand why he has this effect on me and if I’m completely honest, it does scare me a little. He’s asking me to lay myself bare. But those eyes are drawing me in and there’s a promise in them. My throat constricts and I can’t speak, so I just nod and close my eyes. His lips are tender, reassuring. 


That’s how Joe and I met, seemingly just a coincidence, two strangers thrown together by the universe, pulled towards each other by unseen threads. Though of course Kate tried to take credit for it later, insisting we would never have met had it not been for her. I think she was just trying to compensate for all the times she had let me down because of Matt but it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. I had Joe in my life. 

I learned later that he was more than just ‘the entertainment’; he actually owned the pub where we met. I also found out something about the pain in his eyes: he told me his girlfriend had died in the Bali bombing almost four years previously.  

“At first I tried everything I could get my hands on to make myself numb, I didn’t want to feel anything. After a while I realised how self-indulgent that was - I was destroying myself because I was too much of a coward to face the pain. I thought about Joe Byrne and how he lived his life with such passion in spite of everything and I promised myself that I would try to be worthy of his name.” He lifted his hand to show me the ring on his little finger. “This was hers. I wear it to remind myself that it takes courage to live.” 

Our relationship got serious quite quickly – there were no half measures with Joe and after the first week I stopped trying to tell myself that I wasn’t falling in love with him. Yet there was something that seemed to stand between us, like a shadow, no matter how close we got. I puzzled about it, wondering if it was me subconsciously holding back from committing myself, or if it was him and the love he had lost. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. 


“We’ll drive to Benalla first, stop in Glenrowan after and get to Beechworth by dinnertime.” Sitting in the car next to Joe, on our way to finally visit the Kelly Country together I could hardly contain my excitement. I was about to see all those places that I had read about.  

“What do you want to see in Benalla, Eileen?” Joe was concentrating on the road and I was studying the pile of brochures on my lap.  

“The Benalla Costume Museum, that’s where they have Ned’s green sash. Isn’t it amazing that it survived? And of course Joe’s grave, we’ll have to take flowers there.” I turned to look at Joe. “Why have you never visited these places Joe?”  

He gave me a brief glance. “I don’t know, I wanted to but I was worried that I had built it up too much for myself and would be disappointed if it didn’t turn out to be like I imagined and I wasn’t able to connect with any of it…” He smiled at me. “I’m glad I’m able to share the experience with you, especially since you have a genuine interest too.” 

Benalla looked like any other small country town and we found the Costume and Pioneer Museum easily. The elderly lady manning the desk that served as the local visitor information as well gave us a leaflet in exchange for a small entry fee and then left us to our own devices. I stared at the life-size Ned Kelly mannequin standing in front of the Kelly exhibit and wondered if it was all going to be as tacky.  

“The sash is in there,” Joe said and pointed to the portable cell that had been used to hold Ned at some time or other. I walked in, looking around the tiny room. On one wall, a photo in a frame, showing Joe Byrne’s horse with some constables, the display case for the sash in the middle of the small space, the blood stains still clearly visible in the faded fabric under the glass. And directly opposite the entrance, there was a green door leaning against the wall with a small photograph next to it. I stepped closer to have a look and realized with a gasp what it was. The door they had hung Joe Byrne’s dead body on. I turned to voice my disgust to Joe and saw that he was still standing in the doorway. His face was white.  

“Joe, are you alright?” I was next to him in an instant and pushed him out the door and onto a chair just outside.  


I knelt next to him and took his hands.  


His eyes slowly focused on my face and he let out a shuddering breath.  

“Sorry Eileen.  I… couldn’t breathe. That door…”  

I hugged him to me. “I know. I didn’t realize it was going to be here.”  

Joe held onto me for a moment. “I guess I needn’t have worried about not feeling connected, huh?” His laugh was hollow. I could feel a thought half forming itself at the back of my mind but before it made any sense it was gone. 

After a while Joe got up. “I’m alright now, just needed to get my breath back. I think I’ll give the sash a miss this time…” He pulled me along to the next room. “Come on Eileen, I want to see Joe’s armour, they have a copy of it in here, let’s have a look.” When we stood in front of the surprisingly sophisticated-looking armour, it struck me that it would fit ‘my’ Joe perfectly. He was standing in front of it, running his hand along the breastplate with a thoughtful expression. “It was quite an idea they had, wasn’t it, making the suits of armour?” 

After leaving the museum we stopped at a florist’s before heading to the cemetery. I was looking around the shop trying to decide what kind of flowers to get while Joe was talking to the girl working in the shop. She was obviously quite taken by him – that was what happened with Joe, it wasn’t his good looks alone or anything he did, women just seemed drawn to him. I had found it a bit disconcerting at first but was learning to accept it as part of the price to pay for being with him.  

“Eileen – what do you think of these native flowers here?” Joe was holding up a bunch of red and yellow leucadendrons.  


I couldn’t blame the girl for taking her time over the transaction and the wistful look on her face as we left said it all.  

When we walked in through the cemetery gate, I had an odd feeling of déjà vu. My feet seemed to know the way as I headed towards the big tree in the farthest corner. I stopped when I saw the black-clad figure kneeling by the lonely grave under the tree.  

“We’d better wait a bit, give her some privacy,” I said turning to Joe. He gave me a strange look.  

“Who are you talking about?”  

I frowned. “That woman at Joe’s grave there.” When I turned back to look again, she was no longer there. Puzzled, I looked around the small, open cemetery. Joe and I were the only people there. “Joe, there was a woman there, dressed in black, kneeling by the grave!”  

Joe took my hand. “I never saw anyone, sweetheart.” I stared at him, confused. “Maybe it was just a shadow cast by the tree.” Joe had started walking towards the grave and I followed, not sure what to think. As we stopped to look at the small headstone and Joe bent down to place the flowers next to it, I felt as if a fist closed around my heart and I couldn’t stop the tears that started falling and I sank to the ground. Grief overwhelmed me without warning and I felt utter despair.  

“Oh Joe, how can I go on?” Everything from around me disappeared and I felt a great emptiness. 

“Eileen!” From far away, I heard Joe’s voice, urgently calling my name, his warm hands holding my face. I felt as if I was waking up from a dream and I lifted a hand to touch Joe’s cheek.  

“You’re here! Oh thank God, you’re here!”  

He looked worried. “Of course I’m here. What the hell happened – it looked like you went into a trance or something?” His thumbs were gently wiping away my tears. “Why are you crying?” For a moment I couldn’t speak, I felt so happy seeing him there and I just held onto him.  

“Oh Joe. I don’t know what happened, for a moment I thought… You were gone and I was never going to see you again…” I shivered and Joe’s arms tightened around me.  

“Shh, it’s alright. I’m right here.” He helped me up. “I think we’d better go. It might be best if we leave Glenrowan to another day and drive straight on to Beechworth.” As I got back into the car, I glanced towards the cemetery gate and saw the black-clad woman standing there, looking at me. She was smiling and I felt oddly at peace. 

We had booked a room at The Bank, a bed and breakfast in the main street of Beechworth, right in the historical precinct of the town, next door to the Old Telegraph Office. Joe and I hadn’t talked much on the way, both of us occupied with our own thoughts, and it wasn’t until we had settled into our room and were getting ready for dinner that I finally brought up the events of the day.  

“Joe – do you believe in reincarnation?”  

He didn’t look at all surprised. “Is this to do with what happened at the cemetery?” 

I sat down next to him. “Yes. I know I have never been there before, yet it felt familiar to me. And all that emotion at the grave, it was like someone else took over. Someone, who loved Joe Byrne very much and was heartbroken to have lost him. The thing is… I’ve been thinking about this the whole way here… I think it was me, that woman in black that I saw. Or rather me as I was back then… when Joe Byrne died. I know it sounds completely crazy but that’s the only way I can explain what happened to me back there. I became someone else but I was also me. And what happened with that door makes me think that… you might be… him.” I looked at Joe, waiting for his reaction.  

“That feeling I had of recognizing you when we first met,” he said slowly. “And that blasted door… You’re saying you think we have… that we were first lovers more than a hundred years ago?” His eyes never wavered from mine. “That you were… you were the woman who had his… my…  baby?” We looked at each other wordlessly for a long moment.  

“Bloody hell. I think I need a drink.” Joe took my hand and we left the room, walking along the main street looking for a pub, gazing around us, wondering if we really had been there before and what it would have been like more than a hundred years ago. “The Commercial alright with you, Eileen?” Joe asked, as we stood outside the pub famous for its Kelly connection. 

“Kind of appropriate, don’t you think?” I replied and we went in. The Commercial Hotel was a lovely old place and even though it had obviously been done up since the days of the Kelly Gang, it still had enough of the ‘old’ feel left so that I had no trouble imagining horses tied up at the front and Joe Byrne standing at the bar, flirting with the barmaid… Which was exactly what was happening and I had to smile. I sat myself down in a corner of the small bar – of course they called it the ‘Kelly Bar’ – and tried to imagine being there back in the 1870’s. ‘Nice’ girls probably didn’t sit in pubs in those days but then if I had been Joe Byrne’s girl, I most likely wouldn’t have been considered one anyway by most of ‘polite’ society. Somehow I didn’t think it would have mattered that much to me. And then it struck me: I had been Joe Byrne’s girl. And I still was. Bloody hell, I really did need a drink. 

“You okay, Eileen?” Joe arrived with our drinks and sat down next to me. The barmaid’s eyes had followed him and she gave me a sheepish smile when she saw I noticed. I smiled back: yes, I know how lucky I am.  

“I’m fine Joe. A bit shaken but strangely relieved at the same time.”  

He raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”  

I took a sip of my drink and grimaced as the whiskey burned my throat. “Our relationship, it all happened so quickly and I couldn’t understand why you brought up all those strong emotions in me and it scared me. And now…”  

Joe took my hand in his. “And now it all makes sense,” he said softly. We sat there for quite a while in silence, drinking and trying to get our heads around the whole thing. And then Joe kissed me and suddenly it felt different and I could see it was like that for him too as he pulled away.  

“Let’s go.” All thoughts of dinner were forgotten as we hurried back to our room, the envious face of the barmaid briefly registering on my brain before Joe’s hand on my back guided me out the door into the street.  

Back in our room, the door was barely closed behind us when Joe pulled me into his arms and I just held on tight. There was no need for words as his lips found mine, and his body pressed me against the door. I could feel his need against my hip and I was desperately pulling to get the clothes out of the way to feel his skin underneath.   

“Here Eileen?” he whispered against my mouth while his hands were setting me on fire.  

“Yes!” I felt wild and wanton. He lifted me and held me up, my back against the door as I wound my legs around him. For a moment I looked into blue eyes instead of brown and smelled leather and tobacco as a faint echo of something struggled to surface in my mind but then Joe was inside me and everything else was forgotten as we claimed each other. 


We were lying on the bed in a tangle of limbs, still half-dressed. 

“We have been given another chance, Joe.” 

I smiled through my tears at Joe and he started to sing softly. 

“Some say love it is a river that drowns the tender reed. 
Some say love it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed. 
Some say love it is a hunger, an endless, aching need 
I say love it is a flower and you its only seed. 
It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. 
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. 
It’s the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give 
and the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live. 
When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long 
and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong. 
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow 
lies the seed that with the sun's love, in the spring,  
becomes The Rose.”

Banner by Krazymoonkat

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