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Eva and the Irishman

A Novel by

Janne E. Toivonen

Copyright 2017 by Janne E. Toivonen

Published by Janne E. Toivonen at Smashwords

Cover Design by Vila Design

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is a work of fiction and recommended for adults only. All characters depicted in graphic sexual content are adults 18 years or older. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.


Thank you to my two editors, Kate Gleason and Z Egloff, for teaching me the finer art of fiction writing, encouraging me the whole way. A special thank you to Annette Toivonen, my sister, who gave me extraordinary, unflagging support through positive living, and who also acted as my "admin" doing all the hard work of converting this novel to ebook.


To all my ancestors known and unknown.

Table of Contents

Part One: Origins

Part Two: Unexpected Changes

Part Three: Fight or Flight

Finnish Pronunciation Guide

About Janne E. Toivonen

Other Books by Janne E. Toivonen

Connect with Janne E. Toivonen

Part One: Origins

Chapter 1

Belfast, Ireland

Liam did not want to go downstairs. That would mean spending time with his mother and father, who continuously boasted they were of the upper crust of the pro-British, Protestant society of Belfast. He viewed them to be both boorish and bigoted. Yes, his father was a vice-president at Harland and Wolff, but he, Liam, was not of that ilk. He had nothing against money. He just hated listening to his mother prattle on about her position and all her society friends. A short, plump, aging redhead who wore expensive gowns and suits when it wasn’t necessary, she was continually planning her next moves as to how to keep herself in the midst of the highest society, as if it were her career. Liam despised her behavior.

“Liam! Come downstairs. It’s your birthday dinner. Your cousins are here,” his mother called from the bottom of the stairs.

Liam rolled his eyes and grimaced at the thought of his sniveling, vapid cousins. They were all alike, cretins every one of them. All he wanted to do was read his medical texts. His dream was to go to the Royal School for Surgeons in Edinburgh this coming fall. He had wasted enough time on aimlessness. He should’ve been in school long ago and finished by now. Without his parents knowing, he had taken all the entrance examinations and was ready to apply to the prestigious, long-standing medical school. He couldn’t wait to move there. Though there was one person here he would truly miss, the cook Annie, a petite, auburn-haired widow about his mother’s age. Annie, a poor Catholic, was the only one in the Dady mansion who had treated Liam with love and kindness. Ever since she’d come to work here when he was fifteen-years-old, she’d been more like a mother to him than his own mother. Annie's husband had died about two years before the death of her only child, a boy named Conor.

“Conor died of an infectious fever,” she’d told Liam when she first started as their cook. “He would’ve been your age, Liam.” Tears welled in her eyes.

“I’m so sorry Annie,” Liam had said and hugged her in the warm, homey kitchen.

As Annie wiped her tears with her crumpled kerchief, Liam got an idea. “Maybe I can be a son of sorts for ye,” he said. He didn’t want her to be lonely.

“What a truly lovely idea, Liam.”

Over the next nine years, Liam felt nurtured by Annie as she fed him, consoled him, and cleaned his cuts and scrapes and iced his fight injuries. She would admonish him when he came home in the evening after school, knowing he had been in the Catholic neighborhoods with his secret friend, Patrick, prowling and fighting against his own Protestants.

“Jesus, Liam, yer father will skin ye alive if he found out ye’ve been in West Belfast.” Annie took his chin and made him look at her. “What if some of yer own congregation discovered ye’re on the Catholic side, coverin’ yer face with a hood?” She took a deep breath. “It could kill ye, bein’ over there, do ye understand?”

He could see her fear. Not anger, but fear. “Don’t worry, Annie. Patrick and I know all the hidin’ places. We’re fast and the old fogies can’t catch us, those Protestant bastards.”

“Liam! Watch yer tongue.”

“Sorry.” He respected his surrogate mother and was contrite.

“Please love, don’t go there anymore. At least stop the fightin’. I know the O’Brien’s, and I know very well what Patrick and his gang do.”

Liam sat at the kitchen table for his supper, thankful he was home with Annie caring for him. He gave her a faint smile. He picked up a piece of soda bread and covered it with butter.

Annie frowned. “I lose sleep over ye when ye’re out late doin’ those risky things. She put a bowl of fragrant, piping hot lamb stew in front of him and sighed.

“I’ll always be careful for ye, Annie.”

Now, from his room on his twenty-fourth birthday, Liam wished it were Annie calling him instead of his mother bellowing like a great cow. He thumped his anatomy book shut, got up from his desk, and girded himself for the evening of babbling. At least he would be eating the delicious raisin cake that Annie made for him for his birthday. He’d spend the time with his parents as long as he needed to, and then he would spend the rest of the evening helping Annie clean up. After, they would sit companionably in the kitchen having coffee and talking.

His aunt and uncle were there, along with his two younger cousins. Liam had never paid attention to his cousins, and he didn’t plan to start now. He could see that his father and uncle were in the parlor, having a glass of top-shelf Irish whiskey. His Uncle Thomas worked for Harland and Wolff in the division that oversaw the building of the vessels.

“Liam, come in here for a glass,” his father beckoned gruffly. “Have a birthday drink. Time you started getting to know people in the firm and behaving more like a man.”

William Dady was not a man anyone said ‘no’ to. “Thank you, Father,” Liam said. He kept check on what his face was conveying as he took the proffered glass of whiskey. Liam had put on his gray wool flannel suit with a freshly starched white shirt. The collar was horrendously stiff and he felt as though he were choking.

“It’s good to see you dressed for dinner,” Father said.

Liam knew this meant that his father would’ve sent him back upstairs if he had come down improperly dressed. Liam had to play things right, otherwise he would be out on the street, with no money, although he believed his mother would have no such thing done to him, if only to avoid a scandal. Still, he was getting tired of being in a powerless position.

The dinner bell rang before Father could say anything else. Liam put the half-empty crystal glass down on a polished, dust-free, mahogany side table, and then followed his father into the gaudy and meticulously-set dining room. Liam was embarrassed at the overly-done table. Who’s comin’ to dinner, the fuckin’ Queen? He looked at his babbling mother and her purple silk gown, her rouged cheeks and lips, and felt even deeper disgust at the whole scene. He was on a simmer, and it wasn’t going to take much to reach a full boil.

Mrs. Dady rang the bell—that fuckin’ annoying bell—that summoned Annie and the housekeeper Katie, another Catholic. Annie stepped out of the kitchen and into the dining room.

“Yes, Mum?” she said.

“Annie, bring the soup out,” Mother barked. Leaning to her sister-in-law, she prattled, “She’s made this quaint nettle soup. All the poor people eat it, but I find it charming.”

Annie vanished into the kitchen and returned with a tureen of steaming-hot soup and a ladle.

“You can start serving, Annie,” Mother said.

Liam rolled his eyes. “Say ‘Please’ Mother, when ye ask someone to do somethin'.”

His mother ignored his request and kept on babbling to her blank-faced sister-in-law. “We are so lucky to have found a decent cook, as hard as it is to find help. We had to resort to hiring a Catholic, but she’s easy enough to work with.”

That was the breaking point for Liam. His hand slammed the dinner table, rattling the stemware and knocking over a silver candlestick. His mother seemed to jump a mile out of her chair.

“Damn it, Mother! Why do you have to be deliberately rude?” He stood up, knocking his chair over backward. It clattered noisily to the floor.

“Watch the furniture, Liam!” his father bellowed. “Do you know how expensive that mahogany is?”

“You’re concerned about the chair?” Liam’s face felt hot. “Is that—? What are you people about, for God’s sake?”

“Get out of my house, you ingrate!” Father blurted.

Liam stormed out of the dining room through the kitchen. He could hear his mother crying, but he didn’t care.

Annie and Katie joined him in the kitchen moments later.

“I’m sorry, Annie, Katie," Liam said as respectfully as possible. "I hope the rest of the dinner is better for ye.” He put on his coat and cap.

“Ye can’t let the shite bother ye,” Annie said quietly. “I ignore it all the time. I’m just glad I’m workin’.”

“I’ll be back later, for sure.” He ran back to Annie and kissed her on the forehead, holding her by her shoulders. “I’ll stay safe for ye.”

Liam flew out the back door. He ducked under the dining room windows, to hide from those within, and ran from his home as fast as he could. He had no idea where he was heading. He only wanted to get away.

Chapter 2

Finland, Duchy of Russia

“Eva, I heard rain this morning. Don’t forget your shawl and scarf,” Mamma quietly called from the bedroom. Eva was getting ready to leave for work at the Mattson farm. Her father and two sisters were still asleep. She didn’t mind the hard work and long days because a certain someone lived at the farm. Or two certain someones, now. All of a sudden it was two brothers instead of the one, one alluring and worldly, the other as vexing as he was handsome. Eva was beginning to feel a tug of war beginning, with her as the prize. It was a baffling place to be, yet exciting at the same time.

Eva Elisabet Maki had just had a birthday. It was a milestone. She was a woman now. Like her sisters, she was a tall, blue-eyed, strawberry-blond beauty.

“Don’t worry Mamma, I’ll take them with me,” Eva said as she stood in the doorway of her parents’ bedroom. “I have made coffee and cut some nisu for you and Pappa.” She spoke quietly, so as not to disturb her father. “It’s on a plate on the shelf above the stove.” Eva had covered the nisu, a sweet, cardimon flavored coffee bread, with a clean but well-used linen towel before placing it above the wood stove they used for cooking and central heating.

“Thank you, Eva,” Mamma said and smiled.

“Do you need help getting into the kitchen, Mamma?” Eva worried about Mamma who was beginning to lose her sight. Eva, as the eldest child, felt it was her duty to help out around the household and take over the larger farm duties, working with Mrs. Mattson.

“No. I’m fine," Mamma said. “I’ve walked into the kitchen thousands of times. I can do it. You go to Mattson’s. I will see you this evening.” She began to make her way out of the bedroom.

Eva pushed a lock of her mother’s graying strawberry blond hair back from her face and gave her a kiss. “I can come home early if you like.”

Pappa spoke from bed, “I’m up, Eva. I will help.” He began to cough, a wretched cough. It broke Eva's heart every time she heard it. Pappa, a former sailor, had contracted tuberculosis years ago from the unsanitary conditions of ships and ports. The disease was slowly eating away at the once-strong, fair-haired, blue-eyed Finn.

Trusting that all would be well, Eva said, “I’m leaving now. I love you both.” She threw her shawl around her shoulders and walked to the bedroom she shared with her two sisters to make sure they would be getting up soon.

“Wake up, Liisa. Wake up, Aili.”

Eva smiled as she heard moans and groans muffled by quilts and feather pillows. She walked back out into the main room of their two-bedroom house. She left the house by the center front door with its covered entryway, so the vicious winter winds wouldn’t blow directly into the main room. She made her way across the rain-drenched grass of the front yard. It had stopped raining, but she put on her scarf, folded into a triangle and tied under her chin. The morning air was damp and cool.

Eva remembered when it had been Pappa instead of her who used to leave for work as the Mattson’s farmhand, but his advancing tuberculosis prevented him from doing so any longer. He was able to do small things around their own tenant’s farm on the Mattson property, however, with the three girls helping.

Eva missed graduating with the Mattson boys, but felt fortunate to have at least finished all of grade school and some high school. She knew that this job would keep the family fed and clothed, especially in the brutal winter months this far north in Europe.

As Eva walked down the narrow country lane, she breathed in the wet forest fragrance, sharp and piney. Her thoughts went to the Mattson middle brother, Eino. The same age, they’d grown up close friends. They had always been sweet on each other, but lately he had been pursuing her in a more grown-up way, catching her alone and cajoling her into kissing him. Just the day before, she had been collecting the eggs for Mamma Mattson. With a full basket, she turned to leave the coop. She startled when she discovered Eino standing in the doorway, leaning on the jamb. His penetrating blue eyes and lusty look made her rouse.

He smiled. “Here you are again, Eva. All alone.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “You are always sneaking up on me.” Then she tried to temper her giddiness. “Yes, I’ve kissed you before, but I’ve told you I don’t love you.” She felt the untruth in the statement.

His eyes peered deep into hers. “That’s not what your kisses say to me.”

“You are like a brother to me, nothing more,” she said. Yet she throbbed at his nearness, and she liked it. His pursuing her had made her feel special, but then his older brother Victor had started to pay attention to her. Having two brothers pursue her, especially with Victor being nineteen, was very enticing to her.

Eino frowned. “I don’t believe you,” he said and walked right up close to her, making her take a half-step back. His lusty look came back.

She peered around him to the door, nervous yet drawn to him. She saw no one outside. No one could see them. He put his hand behind her back and pulled her close. She felt her knees buckle and she gasped for air, her desire an electric tingle where their bodies met. She could not take her eyes off his. He leaned into her and put his lips on hers. She found herself kissing him back.

When the kiss ended, he looked into her eyes. One corner of his mouth ticked up in a smile. “You like my kisses. I can tell.”

“But I don’t love you, Eino,” she fibbed again.

His smile disappeared, and his eyes lost the twinkle. Disappointment, then anger, shrouded his handsome face.

She tried to push him away, but he wouldn’t let her go.

His eyes stayed on hers. “It’s Victor, isn’t it? I’ve seen you two together lately.” His eyes blazed with jealousy.

“We’re just friends,” she said, though she knew that, too, was a lie.

“I don’t know what you see in him. He’s a Mamma’s boy.”

“Just because he doesn’t give your mother a hard time the way you sometimes do, doesn’t make him a Mamma’s boy.”

“Sure, it does. He’s always been my parents’ favorite. Perfect Victor. They have no idea—and now he thinks he can just push me aside and—”

“Stop! You are jealous of Victor’s and my friendship.” She put her forearms in between their bodies and pushed hard to loosen his grip on her.

He let her go, but said, “It’s been you and me all along. I don’t believe that you don’t love me. I tell you, you are making a mis—”

“You don’t get to choose. I do. Now let me by.” It unnerved her that he read her so well, but she refused to let him tell her whom she should choose. She took the egg basket and left promptly before he could see anything else in her face that belied her words.

Now, as she headed to the farm that morning, remembering Eino’s kiss and how it had made her swoon, she felt overwhelmed and confused. She could not easily forget their lifelong friendship, even though she wanted to with her burgeoning attraction to Victor. She and Victor had been kissing, too, when no one was looking. And now he says he wants to lay with me. I feel that way, too, but I am not ready for that.

Up ahead in the road she spotted a snowshoe rabbit and her little ones, cautiously crossing the dirt road to feed on the bright green grass of a hay field. She stopped for a moment so she wouldn’t frighten them away. They saw her, the mamma thumped her foot, and they scampered into the forest once again. Eva kept going. She could hear the forest alive with birds, chirping madly. It was more than a month before juhannus. The daylight hours were increasing each day, but the steel gray blanket of shower clouds made it a little darker that morning.

Neither the gray sky, nor her irritation with Eino affected Eva’s mood right then when she thought of who would be waiting for her up ahead. Victor had started to meet her every morning, something Eino never did. Rounding a curve in the road, she saw him at the turn-off to the farm. She wanted to run to him, but she held herself back. Victor was the eldest of the three Mattson sons; two years her senior. He was tall and brown-haired with brown eyes, unusual among all the blue-eyed, blond Finns. He had the lean body of a working farmer. They made eye contact. Both smiled sweetly.

“Good morning, Eva,” Victor greeted her warmly.

“Good morning.” Eva returned the warmth, looking deep into his eyes as she walked up to him.

Victor intently scanned the farm road. He put his hands around her back in an embrace, kissing her briefly but warmly. Then he looked around again.

“What happens if someone sees you kiss me?” Eva asked. “Will you get whipped, or lose your dessert at supper?”

“I just don’t want Eino to watch us. He’s always watching us. He’s begun to drink; did you know that? You should be careful around him. I don’t want him to turn on you. He’s been horrid toward Mother.”

Eva shook her head no. “I didn’t know about the drinking. It’s something new.”

“Will you stay away from him?”

“I don’t care about Eino," Eva said, trying to convince herself. “I told him that I considered him a brother to me. That, I believe, should have ended it.” She reached up and put her arms around Victor’s neck and kissed him passionately. She wanted to replace her attraction to Eino and let her feelings for this older boy dominate. Especially now, with this news of Eino’s drinking, she told herself that she should put an end to her feelings for him. Perhaps Victor is the wiser choice. But her lingering feelings for Eino confused her, and she couldn’t stop thinking about him as she kissed Victor.

He pulled away from her kiss, breathless, with a puzzled look. “Eva Maki, you surprise me every day. You can be so unpredictable.”

“You didn’t like that kiss?” she said playfully.

“Of course, I did, my Villi Ruusu.” He called her his Wild Rose often. “Yesterday you told me I couldn’t kiss you like that, or touch you, and especially—”

“Especially no lovemaking. Not yet.” She changed the subject. “How else did I surprise you?” They started down the dirt road towards the farm, walking slowly.

“There was the time a week ago you butchered that cow all by yourself,” Victor said. “How the hell did you tie and hang it when it was dead?”

Eva laughed. “I used the rope and pulleys in the barn. I will agree, it was very heavy, but I did it,” she said with a tinge of pride.

“I wished you would have asked me to help.” He grasped her hand as they walked into the farm proper.

“You had gone somewhere. No one knew where you were.” She gave him a look of affection mixed with lighthearted brattiness, let go of his hand, and walked ahead of him.

“I’m having a hard time watching you, Eva. You’re growing into such a beautiful woman.”

She laughed. “Remember how I slapped you when you touched me when we were on the wagon a few days ago?” She surreptitiously pointed to her breasts.

“Yes, and you laughed at my surprise.” Victor grinned. “And then I laughed at you when you fell off the wagon, laughing so hard.”

“You got back at me, didn’t you?”

Victor caught up with her in a couple long strides and grasped her hand again. Eva did not object.

As they reached a turning-off point to where they were each going for morning chores, Victor asked, “What are you and Mother doing this morning?”

As she headed for the kitchen door of the Mattson farmhouse, she turned back to look at him. “If the ground is not too wet, your mother and I will continue, perhaps finish the root vegetable planting. It’s our third day on it. The rest of the potato seeds need to go in, and the onion sets as well.” She gave him a promising look. “Maybe we can finish by the end of the morning. Then after dinner, I can come work with you.” She smiled, letting him know she was looking forward to that.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” he asked. “I’ll be working on fence mending all day with Father and Hannes.

“Do you think I can’t do the work? Then I won’t come.” Eva looked at him in mock indignance.

He smiled at her and said, “You’re going to make a good farmer’s wife. I’ll see you at dinner.” With a big grin on his face, he turned away from the house and headed across the pasture to where she could see his father was waiting for him.

Oh, my. Is he thinking of me as his wife? Eva’s heart soared at the thought, watching him head across the pasture.

She felt giddy as she headed to the house to find Mamma Mattson. As she reached for the door latch of the kitchen, the door suddenly flew open, startling her. Her yelp frightened Hannes, Victor’s “baby” brother, as he flew out the door.

“Eva, you scared me.”

“Well, you scared me.”

Hannes yelled some sort of apology and raced to the field to join Victor and his father. Eva laughed and thought that if Hannes were a chicken, feathers would be flying right now. Eva often noticed how Hannes closely resembled Victor, a lanky version with curly blond hair instead of brown. Eino was slightly different than the other two and had more of Mamma Mattson in him, giving him a “prettier” face. Eva headed into the kitchen, took off her shoes, tied her scarf at the back of her head, and hung up her shawl. She breathed in the warmth and fragrance. Victor’s mother, the lady of the farm, had a breakfast waiting for Eva.

Maria Mattson was a small sturdy woman in her mid-forties with graying brown hair, rosy cheeks, and a big smile when she wasn’t anxious about something, most often, Eva knew, about her second son Eino, who had always had bouts of irascibility growing up but never toward Eva. Mamma Mattson was Eva’s favorite woman, second to her own mother. Eva and Mamma Mattson were good friends. They both were fond of Victor. It was a nice connection. Mamma Mattson had told Eva that she was like the daughter she never had, and treated her as such, doing mother-daughter things such as making clothing, knitting, baking, and chatting about family life.

“Good morning, Mamma Mattson,” Eva said.

“Good morning, Eva,” she answered cheerily. “Come in. Have some pancakes while they are still warm.”

She saw in Mamma Mattson’s eyes that something troubling belied her perky disposition.

“Thank you. That one piece of nisu I had before I came was not enough,” she said and sat down while Mamma Mattson filled her plate for her.

“Have some milk with that, too, Eva.” Mamma Mattson poured a glass for her.

Eva took a few bites, and then said, “Are you all right this morning? Is something the matter?”

Mamma Mattson sighed. “Eino was brought home by the Constable last night from Rauma. He was in a fight in the bad section of town, by the docks. He had been drinking.”

Eva knew Eino, who had had bouts of irascibility all his childhood, had started to treat Mamma Mattson badly again, but his mother still deeply loved him. She seemed to think that Eino’s difficulties were her fault, even though Victor and Pappa Mattson constantly reminded her that Eino created trouble on his own.

“He’s not up yet?”

“No. He’s going to have to get up soon, though. He’s supposed to go over to the Niemi farm to help with roofing the barn.”

“I’ve never understood what made him act like that,” Eva said in empathy. “Can Pappa Mattson do something?”

“Other than wanting to kill him, nothing seems to work. Eino has it in his head all of a sudden that we all hate him. I think there is something very wrong …” Mamma Mattson’s voice trailed off.

At least she has two good sons, Eva thought, wanting to protect her. Then it occurred to her that she had told Eino yesterday she didn’t love him. What if I pushed him into this? Please don’t let it be me. She had a moment of guilt surge through her mind.

Finished with her pancakes, she stood up and took her empty plate and glass to the sink and washed them. “Thank you so much for the wonderful breakfast.”

Mamma Mattson smiled and seemed to visibly shake off her worry. “Shall we get to that garden and finish planting this morning?”

“Let’s go, I’m ready,” Eva said. “If you had nothing else for me to do after dinner, I’d like to help Victor and Pappa Mattson with the fencing.”

They headed outdoors with their shawls on.

“Eva, you are the only girl I have known who wanted to do men’s work when she didn’t have to,” Mamma Mattson said with a smile. “Your father treated you and your sisters like sons. It probably has worked out for the better, now that your poor parents are ill. How are Sinnikka and Olli this morning?”

“They’re as well as can be expected. Both were in good spirits this morning.” She had a tendency to put a rosy sheen on things when it came to her parents, but she knew Mamma Mattson read through it.

The rain held off and the skies began to clear as she and Mamma Mattson worked companionably, planting the rest of the potato seeds and dozens of onion sets, along with carrot and rutabaga seeds. It seemed to be warming up a bit.

Just before it was time to break to get ready for dinner, Mamma Mattson said, “I think we are done.” She straightened up stiffly and wiped her brow with the back of her soil-encrusted hand.

Eva stood, too, and surveyed the large garden of mostly root vegetables that the two of them had planted over the last days.

“We’ll have full larders this winter,” Mamma Mattson said. “Even if there is another frost or two, all these seedlings are under the soil for a while and won’t be harmed. Our hard work these last few days will pay off.”

“I’m glad you’re satisfied.” Eva wiped the black, moist loam from her hands. “Liisa and Aili are doing the same at our place right now. I’m glad the weather turned out all right for us to finish.”

“What do you think, shall we go in, wash up, and prepare dinner?” Mamma Mattson asked. “It’s close to that time.”

She brushed herself off as she and Eva walked toward the house. They were just about to open the kitchen door to go in, when it flew open. Eino came stumbling out, almost knocking his mother over. Eva grabbed her arm before she toppled.

The otherwise handsome blond was horribly disheveled, hung over, and sported several facial bruises. He grunted a half apology with a hoarse, “I’m late.” Both women moved out of the way. Eino, his eyes icy blue and bloodshot, gave Eva a prolonged glare, which unnerved her. It also aroused her as his gaze always did, but she kept this hidden. The bruises on his face and abraded knuckles stirred her. It always stirred her to see boys fight. She knew very well her sudden refusal of him the day before was the reason for the black look. Guilt surged through her again. She nearly ran after him to try to apologize, but she thought twice and let him go.

Eva, with Mamma Mattson, watched Eino stagger down the road and out of sight. Both tried to regain their composure as they went into the house. Once inside, they removed their muddy boots and coats at the door. Eva’s belly was churning from the encounter.

“Are you all right, Mamma Mattson?” She herself had barely handled the wrath of Eino just then, but poor Mamma Mattson had a tendency to fall apart.

“Don’t worry about me. It wasn’t me he was glaring at. It was you.”

“I can handle his glares,” Eva said. “Victor said he’s been so vicious toward you. It bothers me terribly, and I worry for you.”

“Thank you, my dear,” Mamma Mattson said. “Let’s not talk about Eino anymore.”

As Eva washed her soiled hands and arms at the kitchen sink, she looked out the window across the field to see if she could spot Victor. It relieved her mind of Eino. It looks as though it’s going to be Victor for me. She could see the three of them, Pappa Mattson, Victor, and Hannes at the fences. She loved the Mattson farm with its wide-open fields surrounded by the forest. Victor would be the fourth generation to run it. Victor’s great-grandfather and grandfather had begun to clear and farm the land, grew grains, cut timber, and sold goods to the merchant sailors and residents in Rauma, supplying them with food and fuel. They also had goods sent to Petersburg and nearby cities in the Baltic region as the farm expanded.

As Eva and Mamma Mattson prepared dinner they chatted about their favorite subject, Victor. “You know, Eva, my Victor seems very fond of you quite suddenly. I’m hoping there comes a day when we welcome you into the Mattson family. He told me he’s beginning to look for a good wife, someone who knows farm life, and can handle the rigors of it. He loves this farm.” Mamma Mattson seemed to be enjoying planning ahead with happier things, instead of the dark subject of her middle son.

Eva smiled. “Don’t you think we should include Victor in the decision making?” She chuckled along with Mamma Mattson. “I’ve felt very much a part of the Mattsons anyway, for as long as I can remember.”

“I include your mother and father in the plan as well,” Mamma Mattson said.

“Yes,” Eva said. “They feel the same way about Victor as you do about me. Victor is the son my father never had.” There must be something to my feelings about Victor. Even Mamma Mattson sees it, she thought, feeling that soaring in her heart again.

The two women worked together preparing cold sliced ham, pickled beets, homemade bread and butter, and left-over smoked salmon and beet salad. Eva ran out to the springhouse to fetch a pitcher of buttermilk all the while gazing across the field at Victor. She headed to the back door to ring the giant bell, signaling to the men that dinner was ready, but the men were already walking across the pasture towards the house.

She waited. As the men neared, Eva yelled, “You must be terribly hungry not to wait to hear the bell.”

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to be near you,” Victor quipped.

Eva felt her cheeks heat up with a blush.

Hannes feigned repugnance by groaning and rolling his eyes, while Pappa Mattson laughed, which only served to make Victor more animated. He started to reach for Eva to give her a hug. She, playing along, ran from him trying not to spill the jug of buttermilk. Chuckling, Hannes and Pappa Mattson turned to go into the entryway while Victor and Eva remained outdoors. They walked up to each other and stood intimately close. Eva smiled up at him, gazing into his eyes. She liked the feelings of arousal she was beginning to let come to her whenever he was near.

“Did you get the garden finished?” Victor asked.

“Yes, which means I can come with you after dinner,” Eva said. “Your mother has no work for me. Well, that’s what she said for this afternoon. Tomorrow may be different.”

“Good,” Victor responded. “Let’s go eat. I’m starving.” He took Eva’s hand in his and smiled at her, taking her full pitcher in the other.

“You’re a good person, you know,” Eva said suddenly.

“Why do you say that?”

“I tease you so, and you only laugh. You never get angry.”


She smiled at him.

“I tease you, too, and you don’t get angry either. Is that a good sign?”

“For what?” Eva asked, feigning ignorance.

“Oh, I don’t know, for someday.”

She smiled at the “someday.” She hoped she didn’t show the thrill he gave her. He would tease her, albeit with a light heart.

Before they opened the inner door to the kitchen from the entryway, they kissed each other, just a buss on the lips that made Eva’s heart skip, feeling the attraction to Victor’s maleness. She was beginning to like that feeling very much. She thought Victor saw something different in her just then, because of his prolonged study of her after the kiss, then a smile as though he knew what she was thinking. They walked in to pleasant family chatter.

Pappa Mattson, the original mold for his eldest and youngest sons, asked Eva everyday about her parents, even though he visited them often to check on their well-being. He and her father had been best friends ever since her father came to work at the farm. Pappa Mattson was heartsick over the incurable tuberculosis, and also over her mother’s failing eyesight.

“You let me know if you need anything, Eva,” Pappa Mattson told her again.

“Thank you. I will.”

“Jacob is willing to do anything for your parents, Eva,” Mamma Mattson reminded her.

“I’m here, too,” Victor put in.

“Thank you all.” She liked that Victor wanted to be of service.


With dinner over and cleanup finished, Eva, Victor, Pappa Mattson, and Hannes started to walk back to the fences. As they did so, a little boy came running up to Pappa Mattson. It was little Emil Niemi, who was out of breath.

“Mr. Mattson,” Emil said between gasps. “Eino has fallen off the ladder at our farm. He sent me to have you come to get him. He can’t walk.”

“Damn him to Satan,” Pappa Mattson muttered. “Hannes, will you hitch up the horse and buckboard? You and I will have to go get Eino. We’ll finish the fencing tomorrow.” Pappa Mattson was irate. “Just one more incident to ruin a day of work … I don’t know why Eino doesn’t just go if he’s so unhappy here. I’m going to give him that ultimatum as we’re coming home, damn it all!”

Once again Eva felt the guilt, that her refusal of Eino yesterday precipitated not only Eino’s anger, but now everyone’s bad feelings.

“Father,” said Victor, “Eva and I can finish the fencing. We’ll have it done by the time you get back.”

“Good, Victor. Thanks. I can always count on you.”

Eva and Victor stood by while Pappa Mattson and Hannes prepare to fetch Eino. Little Emil got on the back of the wagon. Mamma Mattson came outside.

“We have to go get Eino,” Pappa Mattson said to her. “It seems he has injured himself.”

Then they pulled away.

As Victor and Eva headed out to the fencing, Victor scowled. “I wonder what Eino has done now, that he can’t make it home on his own?”

“I’m not sure,” Eva said, “but when he left this morning he gave me a horrible look. I know it’s because I told him I didn’t love him and he’s not happy that you and I are getting to be friends.”

“This is not your fault, Eva. Eino is his own worst enemy. Let’s not talk about him anymore.”

“That’s fine with me,” she agreed wholeheartedly. Inside she felt a pang of guilt, but Victor’s reassurance eased her mind. She noticed Victor did not like his brother by the way he talked of him.

They held hands as they walked the rest of the way to the fence. The physical contact with Victor comforted her.

“The sun is trying to come out,” she said as she looked at the sky.

Once they arrived at the fence-mending area, Victor looked around the work site. “Earlier, we were about to cut a post in the woods before we stopped for dinner.”

“All right, let’s go,” she said. She grabbed the saw from the tool pile brought out earlier.

She followed him a short way into the wood and found a decent birch. He seemed pleased when he didn’t have to instruct her in using the two-man bow saw.

“Your father taught you well,” he said. “First butchering an eight-hundred-pound cow, and now I can see you’d make a fine lumberjack.” He gave her an impish smile.

“Perhaps I should’ve been born a boy,” she joked.

“No. I wouldn’t like that. It would be no fun kissing you. Speaking of kissing you, I really want to, but we wouldn’t get the fence done.”

She smiled at him. Her attraction to him was particularly strong at that moment, more so than ever before. She surreptitiously watched his body move as they worked together. It made her belly flutter wondering what was under his sweater or behind the buttons of his trousers. His shoulders were muscular, stomach taut, yet he was still lean like a boy, but most assuredly growing into a man at nineteen, in her eyes.

“Help me pick it up,” she said. She nodded at the now trimmed-off tree trunk that was to be used for a post. Together they carried it back the short distance to the post hole. They worked companionably, inserting the post, back-filling the hole with dirt, and attaching the barbed wire fencing to the pole.

“It looks good,” he said. “I’m going to check this next pole for rot.” He inspected it closely. “Well, we have to change this one as well.”

“While you dig that old one out, I’ll cut a new post.”

“Go right ahead, Lumberjack.”

Finding and cutting a suitable post, she returned quickly.

“That was fast. You’re a much better helper than Hannes.” After a few minutes he said, “I was thinking. When we are done here, let’s take a walk to the lake before milking time. I haven’t been out there yet this spring. Would you like that?”

“Of course, I would.”

“Does that mean we can—you know?” His face shone with hopefulness.

“No, but nice try,” she said dryly. She knew her outward resistance was covering her attraction. She noticed Victor studying her again.

“The camp lean-to would be so nice…” he said dreamily.

“Be quiet, goof. Let’s finish.” She crinkled her short turned-up nose at him as she put the new post into the existing hole.


“We’re finished. Let’s go,” Victor announced. “Hannes can come fetch the tree remnants for kindling.”

Eva and Victor took the tools back to the tool shed and stole away toward the well-worn path through the woods. They walked the five-minute walk to the lakeshore hand in hand, enjoying each other, pointing to birds and talking of the blossoming greenery and pungent spring fragrances, always welcomed after the long winters.

The wooded path soon opened up to a meadow and a lake. The late-day sun had broken through the clouds, and it sparkled on the tiny waves like shiny fish scales. The Mattsons had built a little dock, a small boathouse, and a lean-to with bunks built in. Many a spring and summer evening were spent here with family and friends, visiting and fishing. She remembered fondly. Part of the evening ritual was spent preserving the fish, either by smoking and storing in clay pots, or using lye which turned the fish into something the Swedes called lutefisk. Then they’d build a bonfire, lay out a picnic, and consume vodka and other homemade alcoholic beverages. These gatherings could go on deep into the day-bright northern summer nights.

Now, Eva and Victor took a seat on one of the waterside benches.

“We used to try to stay up all night when we were little, but I could never make it," Victor said. “Only until maybe one or two o’clock.”

“One of our mothers would tuck us in a bunk inside the lean-to in all those quilts. We would snuggle and quickly fall asleep,” Eva added.

“You used to sleep with me. What happened?” he said in mock scolding.

She gave him a fake scowl. “All of us children would be tucked in together,” she corrected.

“I remember how one or all of the babies would be quite smelly when we woke up. Thank God I didn’t have to change any of them.”

She laughed. “We’d get up before any of the adults and run off before anyone could make us. We were so clever.”

Victor reminisced about the singing and toasting. He reminded her that they’d toast just about anything. “I’m surprised any preserved fish got into the larder.” Eva reminded him it was the women who did all the work preserving.

They sat in silence for a while, looking out over the deep blue lake that was beginning to calm as the slight breeze disappeared. Eva felt her hair falling out of her bun and started to reach for it to fix it. He took the rest of the pins out and let it fall. His touch was comforting to her, making her scalp tingle. Her eyes closed for a moment. She leaned into him more.

“I love your hair. It’s one of your many beauties, Eva. It’s funny how it curls just at the ends.”

“Thank you, Victor,” she said, her face hot about the hair comment. His closeness was making her throb down below. “What are you looking at over there?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I was just thinking it would be a beautiful place to live. Right here, on the lake.” He paused and took hold of a thick strand of her wavy hair, stroking the silky red-tinged lock between his thumb and forefinger. “If I built a cabin, over there, near that stand of birches, do you think you would like it there—I mean—if we got married?” Victor’s face turned crimson.

He had never said anything like that to her. She could scarcely breathe or make eye contact with him. He reached over to grasp her hand. She took his, in kind.

“What are you saying?” she said in a quiet voice, hiding her face behind her loose flowing hair.

“Will you marry me, Eva? I’ve grown to love you over the last year or so. I know you feel the same.”

“Yes, Victor. I’ll marry you.” She turned to look straight into his eyes. “I … love you.” When she said that to him, she feared what Eino would think … and do. But Victor’s sudden proposal and his closeness pushed Eino into the recesses of her mind. All she could think about was Victor coming close with those soft brown eyes and tender lips for a kiss.

He pushed hair behind her ear and looked into her eyes. He kissed her, softly at first, then enveloped her in his arms and passionately pressed his mouth against hers. When they could breathe no more, they both emerged from the kiss.

“Come into the lean-to. Please, Eva, please,” he whispered into her ear.

She was so afraid, but she wanted to please him. She’s always wanted to please him. Her resistance faded as her body burned with new desire.

“I know you want me,” he said. “I’ve felt it for a while now.”

She gasped. “Yes, Victor, I want you but I can’t … I can’t lose my virginity before marriage. Mamma told me to be a good girl.”

“I’ll show you what we can do so you won’t lose your virginity,” he said softly.

He stood, looked at her, and held his hand out. With several moments of hesitation, she grasped his hand, and he pulled her to her feet. They ran to the bed in the lean-to. They struggled with clothes, but he managed to push her skirt up and out of the way. He pulled her bloomers down quickly. She gave a little yelp.

“You’re all right,” he said reassuringly. He laid her on a bunk. “Oh, God, Eva, you’re so beautiful,” he whispered, looking at her with her skirts up to her waist. “Your body, your legs, your …it’s red hair.”

He kissed her as he gently put his hand on her sex. She backed away a bit, and closed her knees. “I’m afraid of you touching me there.”

“I want to show you something, but you’ll have to let me. I won’t hurt you.”

“All right,” she breathed. Her eyes were glued to his.

She felt him pull her knees apart and put his hand back on her, his finger moved further in as if searching for something. “There is where I want to go someday, when you’re ready. It goes deep inside you. Right now, you feel very slippery. That’s a good sign.”

Eva couldn’t say anything. She only knew that when he touched her and pushed his finger in, it felt so good.

“Can I teach you to use your hand on me? I want it so bad. Please let me teach you.”

“Yes,” she said, nearly breathless. “I’m shaking.”

He paused. “Tell me if you want to stop, I won’t force you.”

“I want to please you. Show me.”

She propped herself on her elbows as she lay on her back and watched as he unbuttoned his trousers. What sprang forth, made her gasp. Her reaction made him laugh sweetly.

“I’m going to lie down next to you.” When he seemed comfortable, he said, “I’m going to put your hand on my penis, then you squeeze and I’ll move.”

“I put it right here?” He nodded. She watched him as he moved his hips up and down.

“Make sure you are squeezing firmly, but not too hard.”

She adjusted her grip. “Is that too hard?”

He moved his hips in a smooth rhythm. “Oh, no. It’s … it’s… uhhh … uhhh …”

He seemed to be gasping for air and moaning.

“Does it hurt?”

“God, no …”

Suddenly Victor smiled and began to gasp deeply for air. She felt his penis throb under her hand, and then he moaned loudly, and his hips began to move erratically and more violently. A white milky fluid pulsed out. Then he lay silently with his eyes closed, as if he couldn’t move or speak. Eva let go, sensing she didn’t have to hold it anymore.

After several moments Victor opened his eyes, looked at her and smiled.

“Are you pleased?” she asked.

“Very much, thank you, Eva.” He pushed himself up with an elbow and kissed her.

“Are you all right, Victor? What happened?”

“I’m wonderful. I ejaculated.” He looked down at his softening penis.

Eva did too. The milky stuff was all over his penis and some on her hand. She was too stunned to ask him anything. She wiped her hand on the quilt, stood, found her bloomers and put them back on.

“You don’t want me to? With my fingers?”


“I know. Not ready. That’s all right. I can wait for you.”

“I’m sorry …” she whispered.

“Don’t be. I’ll get a towel,” he said and got up. Then, after he cleaned himself and buttoned his trousers, he took the towel to rinse it out in the lake. He returned with the wet cloth for her hand.

He wiped her hand for her.

She looked at him. “Is this how it starts?”

“It is. But you are still a virgin. Someday you will let me do that to you with my hand and you will still be a virgin.”

“It’s getting late. I should be going home,” she said to him.

He embraced her. “Will you still marry me one day? Are we still promised? Because it’s what I want most of all.”

She smiled, and tiptoed to kiss him. “Yes, I will still marry you, Victor. Will you walk me home?”

“Of course.”

As Eva and Victor took the lake path to her house, holding hands and walking with their shoulders touching, Eva felt as though she was leaving her childhood … and Eino …behind.

Chapter 3

Liam walked aimlessly through the brisk, windy streets of East Belfast. After an unknown amount of time, he realized he was in the shipyard district, standing in the doorway of a pub. He was drawn in. He entered the smoky, dirty establishment. It was noisy, with men in drunken shouting matches. Women were squealing and laughing—fake laughing. Far back in his mind, he was puzzled as to why he heard women. They didn’t frequent pubs. He heard a fiddle and someone singing.

Liam pressed through the smelly, inebriated crowd to the bar and ordered a pint. The first sips tasted strong and bit his tongue, but he became inured after a few more. He wasn’t much of a drinker and with his growling, empty belly the alcohol took hold right away. The ale made his tension go away and he liked it. He stood by himself for a while, taking no time to finish the ale.

After ordering a second, Liam leaned back on the long mahogany bar and began to look at his surroundings. He was affected enough by the ale to come out of his usual need to avoid people. As he scanned from one corner to another, he spotted a table of ladies at the far end, near a closed-in set of stairs. He was confused, but only for a moment. “Proper” ladies did not frequent pubs. Nor did they dress in loose, lacy undergarments.

The smallest, skinniest, most frail-looking girl caught his eye. She was beckoning Liam, wiggling her index finger and giving him an alluring smile. She stood up, putting one foot on the chair. She spread out her knee to show Liam her “wares.”

He was curious about her, not so much for her flirting and revealing her private parts, but for the fact that she seemed too young to be wearing so much rouge and red-and-black French lingerie. He put his second empty glass on the bar and began to make his way to her. He stumbled only once, making the girl cover a giggle with her hand.

He was definitely drunk, and he knew it. “I saw ye from over there,” he said.

She smiled and flirted shamelessly. “I know ye did,” she said. The girl pulled up another chair and patted it, inviting him to sit.

He plopped down. It startled him when he landed hard. This made the girl giggle once more.

“I think ye need another pint," she hollered, leaning towards him to be heard over a sudden burst of yelling from a patron nearby. She waved her hand to the barmaid.

While they waited for the drinks, the girl chatted in an overly amiable way with him.

“Ye’re quite handsome. What’s yer name?” She was awfully close, tracing his cheek and chin with her finger.

He could smell stale perfume and liquor on her breath. It was warm on his cheek as she talked near his ear. “Liam. Liam Dady.”

“Ye don’t need to be tellin’ me yer last name, sweetie. First names’ll do.”

He was leaning on the table with both forearms. The girl had latched onto him and didn’t seem about to let go. She sat with her thigh plastered along the length of his. She blatantly and boldly put a hand on his inner thigh and began to massage up and down, skimming his genitals ever so nonchalantly. He barely got out another word, being extraordinarily distracted by her hand, flinching slightly as she touched his balls.

“What—what’s yer name?” he asked.

“I’m Dolly. You can come and play with me upstairs, if ye have the money.”

The drinks arrived and he reached into his pocket to pay.

“Oh, no sweetie, this drink’s on the house if ye’re interested in comin’ upstairs for a romp. Do ye have the money?”

“I have money.” He wasn’t sure he wanted to go upstairs with her.

“Fine and dandy, then,” Dolly chirped. “Let’s go. Follow me, Liam.”

She grabbed his hand and his pint, leading him up a dark, narrow, urine-smelling stairway to the second floor. Down the short passage in the back, she opened a door. She led him in and shut it, then turned to tell him her terms. “It’ll cost ye a schillin’, and I don’t kiss.”

“I’m not sure—I haven’t ever—done this.” Liam was embarrassed.

“Oh!” Dolly exclaimed sweetly. “Ye’ve never had a girl before?”

He shook his head. He felt embarrassed.

“So, I just might have to forego my no-kissin’ rule, and give ye the works.”

“I’m not quite sure why I came up here with ye.” Liam was nervous, in spite of the drunk feeling. He scratched his head and thought about just paying her and leaving.

Dolly stepped up closer to him, with her rouge-covered cheeks and warm breath. She put her hands on his cheeks, stood on tip-toe, and gave him the softest, warmest kiss he had ever experienced. He opened his eyes to see a pretty young girl with wheat colored hair and soft green eyes. She was not made for what she was doing for a living.

In the back of his mind, he felt himself fall in love with her. He scooped her up in an embrace and gave her a deep, passionate kiss.

Dolly appeared to be taken completely by surprise. “That was the best kiss I ever had.”

When he put her down, she laid him across the bed and climbed on top of him, straddling his belly. She pulled her half-unbuttoned lace chemise off her shoulders, exposing her breasts. They were quite plump for a skinny waif. She took his hands and placed them on her bare breasts, teaching him how to fondle them gently. He took a few moments to trace them softly with his trembling fingers. As he touched the soft skin of her areola, he watched her nipples harden underneath his fingertip. Her eyes were half closed. It seemed she was completely engrossed in his touching.

“Does that feel good to ye?” he asked, as though he was in an experiment.

“Oh, aye,” she breathed, closing her eyes fully in pleasure. She pushed her sex into his growing hardness.

“Does that feel good?” She gently gyrated her hips.

“Aye.” Liam let out an uneven breath. As she reached down to unbutton his good suit trousers, he sucked in a deep breath.

With his hardness completely exposed, Dolly said evocatively, “Let’s see what this will feel like. Are ye ready, Liam?”

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