For Jack

November 6, 2007
There is only one definite in this tale, and that is that Jack O’ Leary was in love with Haley McFee. It was the kind of love that hurt, the kind that wormed its way into one’s heart and festered there, hollowing out the heart of anything but this one desire. Jack’s one desire was Haley; his one obstacle was Korey Bain. The Bain family and the McFee family had been neighbors for decades, and their ties dated back hundreds of years. Although never verbally announced, there was an unconscious decision among the two families: young Haley and Korey were to be married. This arranged marriage was the most trying hindrance for Jack. Tradition in Irish families was rooted deeply, and it would take even more than love to break those roots.

There were also a few trivial obstacles thrown in the path that led from Jack to Haley. Jack O’ Leary was an utter and complete outcast. It was said that Jack’s family was the poorest lot living in the town of Dublin. Mr. O’Leary had left the family when Jack was only eleven years old, and the mother’s depression spiraled her down into the deprecating world of alcohol. Mrs. O’Leary’s addiction was whispered and spread behind the gossiping hands of the town. Mothers stuck up their noses at Jack, and fathers forbade their daughters from seeing him. Jack led an isolated life, spending most of his time alone in his small room, writing poetry by the dimly cast light of a candle. The most frequent subject of his poems was the beautiful Haley McFee.

The date of Haley and Korey’s wedding ceremony was approaching rapidly, and Jack became anxious at the thought. His amber eyes burned with fervid determination whenever his mind drifted to Haley. He spent restless nights imagining the way he would sweep her off of her feet when the time was right. However there was too little time to wait for it to be right. Jack knew he had to make his move now.


Haley’s laugh was like the sweet tittering of birds in the wind. Her head dipped back gracefully as she held a hand to her mouth, silencing her delicate giggles.

“Oh Nora, you are wicked! I thought it was rather sweet of him. As much of a hermit as the lad is, you have to admit, he has a way with words,” Haley said, but she wasn’t very persuasive with that bemused grin tainting her lips.

“Haley, you’re engaged! Everyone knows that. A beautiful poem or not, it’s a love poem. He’s completely out of line giving you that,” Haley’s companion, Nora, insisted.

Jack had finally made his move, leaving a poem he had written about Haley on her windowsill. In his nervous handwriting he had scrawled out his confessions. Haley had been flattered, charmed even.

“I’m quite aware of my engagement, thank you,” Haley said. “But…well, Korey has never written me anything this beautiful. In fact, he has never written me anything.”

“He’s like every other bloke in this town. Men don’t write poetry. Besides, Jack is…well Haley, he’s plain!” Nora said.

“Good men can often be found wearing worn britches,” Haley stated.

“Oh, you sound like my mother now!” Nora exclaimed. “The boy is a creep, Haley, and that’s that.”

“Nay, you’d flay a flea for its shin,” Haley snapped.

“Nonsense. Your mother happens to think rather highly of me. If you leave Korey for this strange lad, I’m snagging Korey,” Nora teased.

“Be my guest,” Haley said quietly, however, Nora didn’t hear her.

“My love for you burns like the scorching colors of the fallen leaves in the Autumn!” Nora mocked, howling in laughter.

Nora’s sister Rori tittered in amusement. “You can’t be telling the truth! Did he honestly write that?” she asked.

The two of them were walking home from the market together, and Nora, like any other young girl in town, was indulging in one of her favorite pastimes-gossip. She told Rori of the love poem that Jack had left for Haley.

“I swear. The poem was dripping with sappy phrases like that. I nearly vomited,” Nora said.

“Well, he must be damaged in the brain to have actually thought that a girl like Haley would return his feelings. I shudder to even imagine the two of them together. It’s so wrong!”

“Oh, of course. He is clearly demented. There is no way that Haley would even consider looking at Jack,” Nora insisted.

“Out of his league,” Rori agreed.

The two sisters finally drifted off to another topic, as freely and easily as a falling leaf, not aware of the irreversible destruction they had cast upon poor Jack O’ Leary, walking a few paces behind. Amber eyes burned with anguish; even the tears falling past his lashes could not put out the fire.

Haley had thought long and hard over the poem that Jack had written for her. As flattered as she was, she was loyal and faithful to both her parents and tradition. She couldn’t mark the crystal clear reputation her family had by leaving Korey for a boy like Jack. It would be an unfathomable betrayal, and she wouldn’t dare commit it.

Folding the crisp paper neatly in two, Haley slid the poem into the pocket of her dress, and stepped outside, beginning a steady walk in the forest. She took the path, which she knew led to Jack’s home. Haley didn’t want to turn her back completely on Jack. She wanted him to know that she found his poem sweet, but that given the circumstances, things couldn’t be the way he wished.

Haley didn’t make it to Jack’s home though. As she chewed her bottom lip, pondering what exactly it was that she would say to Jack, she was halted by a moving shadow that caught her attention from the very corner of her eye. Turning slowly, her eyes first landed on the swinging, lifeless feet of Jack. The scream was in Haley’s throat before she could even open her mouth to let it escape. Her eyes, against her will, gazed up into the branch of the large tree. Amongst the burnt leaves of Autumn was a worn rope, tied around the sturdy branch. Around Jack’s neck, silencing his beautiful poetry, was a noose. Jack’s body hung limp, but one thing etched itself in Haley’s mind-his wide open eyes. Although devoid of life, concentrated in his eyes was the brightest orange Haley had ever seen-burning embers, reflected by the leaves he was hanging amongst.

When it’d been noticed that Haley had been missing for some hours, both Mr. McFee and Mr. Bain went out searching. They found her rigid body bent beneath the fiery tree, beneath Jack’s watching eyes. Haley wouldn’t speak about the incident to anyone. Whenever she was asked about it, she only closed her eyes and shook her head, pain reverberating off of her in waves. Only Haley herself knew that she was trying to shake the image of Jack’s eyes from her mind.

It was October 31 when Haley finally spoke. Sitting at the large, wooden table in her family’s kitchen, she stabbed at a ripe pumpkin with determined movements. Her parents moved nervously behind her, but it was the first time she had abandoned her room in days, so they allowed her space. After removing the top from the pumpkin, Haley scooped the mush out of the pumpkin with her bare hands. She then hollowed out two large circles in the pumpkin, carving two eyes into it. Obtaining a candle, she carefully placed it into the empty pumpkin and lit it. Storming up to her room, she rested the pumpkin on her windowsill where Jack’s poem had once lain. Her parents hovered in her doorway, and Haley stared at the reflection of the glowing eyes in the glass of the window. Without turning around, she spoke quietly.

“For Jack,” she said.

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Silver_Heart said...
Dec. 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm
Oh wow....
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