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Section 0: Home

Section 1: History

Section 2: Literature

Section 3: Philosophy

Section 4: Creative Writing

Patrick's Wonderful Life

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five

Click to enlargeA merry Christmas to everybody!
A happy New Year to all the world!

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Chapter One

It was Christmas eve.

Tomorrow was Christmas day, the first Christmas of Patrick and Margaret Thornhart's married life. After several months of relative turmoil, they were now happily settled in the small Irish village they called home, awaiting the birth of their first child.

Patrick should have been ecstatic. But he was miserable.

Everything was all wrong. Instead of being with him in Ireland, Margaret was far away, back in the United States. She'd had to fly there to meet with her lawyers and bankers to ensure that her position was legally and financially sound prior to the birth of "her" child. After all, she had to keep up pretenses that Patrick was dead. A trip home to tie up the loose ends following her earlier departure had been unavoidable. But the timing couldn't have been worse.

Margaret, six months into her pregnancy, had visited her close friend, mentor, and doctor, Larry Wolek, for a routine checkup upon her arrival in Llanview. To her and Patrick's dismay, Larry had strongly advised Margaret against traveling home to Ireland until after Christmas--the long flight home so soon after all the business meetings would put even more stress on her and the baby, he said.

Patrick suspected that Larry's motives for this doctor's order had less to do with Margaret's medical condition than with keeping Margaret in town for the holidays that Larry assumed she would otherwise be spending alone. But Patrick knew they couldn't take any chances with her health.

So he had been wretched all day, ever since Margaret had called him earlier. Somehow, with the natural optimism he cursed himself now for possessing, he had believed until this morning that a miracle would happen and Margaret would be home in time for the most holy of days. But that hope was gone. Margaret was remaining in the United States for Christmas--and there was no way Patrick could join her. He had to stay in Ireland. Legally, he was dead, and he had to stay that way to protect his family. Nor could he afford to raise the suspicions of anyone in Llanview that he had not, in fact, died the day of his and Margaret's wedding…his life ebbing away before Margaret's eyes on the cold floor of Todd Manning's penthouse.

Patrick didn't and could never regret his actions on that day--they seemed foreordained, somehow--and as long as he had miraculously survived, and could spend the rest of that life with Margaret and their child, he didn't give a damn about the details. Now, though…it was bad enough that he and Margaret couldn't spend their first Christmas as husband and wife together, but even worse that that they had to be parted indefinitely until Larry decreed she could travel again.

Nothing could compare to the bloody agony that worrying about Margaret and the baby caused Patrick. What if something should happen to them, so far from home, so far away from him? And, god forbid, what if she had the baby in Llanview, and he couldn't be there by her side?

Pouring a glass of Irish whiskey from the fresh bottle in front of him, Patrick belted it in one gulp and stared glumly into the fire that burned so brightly on the stone hearth in his cozy paneled study--in stark contrast to his black mood. As the flames leapt and danced, Patrick's thoughts took an even darker turn.

So what the bloody hell am I good for, anyway, he wondered, stuck here in Ireland, and the official future of our child lies solely on Margaret's shoulders? It galled him beyond words that he couldn't publicly share in the responsibility he felt so deeply. And what was he good for, when he had to remain in the shadows, completely helpless to protect them if any more terrors or terrorists unleashed by Todd Manning got wind of her return and showed their ugly faces again? Patrick's fists clenched futilely.

But the flames only crackled cheerfully and had no answers for him at all. Patrick took another drink, and brooded. This small study of his--that he loved when Margaret inhabited it with him, curled up with a book, or her dreams, in a corner of the encompassing velvet sofa, while he wrote at the antique roll-top oak desk under the diamond-paned window overlooking the sea--was an empty prison when he was alone.

Patrick held his glass up to the fire and watched the amber liquid capture its light. Then he knocked it back and poured another.

Yes, he was useless right now, he told himself as the alcohol gave him false warmth, absolutely bloody useless--to Margaret, their child, to himself…and wasn't this was only the most recent example of his uselessness?. Good god, in the not too distant past, he'd been every bit as useless to his dead son Brendan, to his dead lover Siobhan, to his dead sister Granya, and god knew how many others he had let down, but was becoming too drunk to recall.

Well, if this was his payback for participating in the bombing of Lord Whiting's boat, he supposed it was more than justified. He deserved every atom of the agony--but why did so many innocent people have to suffer because of him?

It's not bloody fair, he thought. They'd all have been better off without me.

With plenty of time to examine all his faults, and off to such a promising start, Patrick reflected morosely on in the same vein. He had certainly proved to his own satisfaction that he couldn't take care of the people he loved.

What difference did it make that the Manning family was alive--and presumably well and able to make their inexplicable way through life--only because of his selfless actions? Or that every single soul in the vicinity of Llanview's Palace Hotel, that doomed night the Men of 21 tried to blow it up, owed their continued existence to his heroism?

None of that mattered to him at all--if he hadn't done it, no doubt somebody else would have.

All I did was even the score with Todd bloody Manning, and the only reason I helped Bo defuse the bloody bomb was to save Margaret's life, and let's face it, he thought, if it weren't for me, she wouldn't have been at the hotel that night anyway--because he wouldn't have been around to delay her pre-wedding celebration there in the first place.

No, he was useless, a good-for-nothing. The simple truth was that everyone he loved would've just been bloody better off if he'd never lived at all. In fact, the more Patrick dwelt on it, the more convinced he was of it . The earth would've continued to spin on its axis just the same--no doubt the universe itself would've even breathed a sigh of relief at the absence of Patrick Thornhart to interfere with its smooth rotation.

I bloody wish I'd never been born! Patrick swore.

As long as the flames silently agreed with him, Patrick poured and drank, poured and drank, until the fresh bottle he'd started had not a bloody drop left in it. At that point, he had just enough strength--and aim--left to throw the empty bottle against the mantel, where it shattered into many pieces. Sprawled back upon the sofa, his energy spent, Patrick began to pass out.

Someone like me should never have lived.

He was unaware of his last conscious thoughts swirling up, in vaporous wisps, through the mysterious ether…their journey aided by the invisible spirits of the season, whose alarm Patrick had unknowingly invoked by the challenge his despondent words threw out.

Never have lived…never…have…lived…

End of Chapter One | Go to Chapter Two