"Steeleing Back the Past"
By Debra Talley, 2012
Written in honor of the 30th anniversary of "Remington Steele"
As Laura stood in the soft Irish mist and watched Remington disappear behind the red door, she unconsciously hugged herself and rubbed her arms. She wasn't really cold, but she couldn't stop shivering. She had traveled over 5,000 miles to find Remington and take him back home but if found his father, would she be returning to Los Angeles alone?
She hoped Remington's present life with her in LA meant as much to him as it did to her, but what if it didn't? What if her little Maltese roadblock caused him to leave Remington Steele behind in order to start a new life with his newly discovered father?
Relieved to see the red door open and Remington emerge, she rushed across the road to be by his side. When he shook his head and told her it was a dead end, she restrained herself from throwing her arms around him to comfort him. Instead, she rubbed her arms and gave him a heartfelt and genuine, "I'm sorry."
His eyes were full of warmth as he looked at her and said, "Home, Miss Holt?" Taking his arm, she returned his look and said, "Home, Mr. Street."
They silently walked arm in arm to the waiting car. Remington opened Laura's door and then walked to the driver's side and crawled behind the wheel. He put the key in the ignition, but rather than starting the engine he gripped the wheel, lost in thought.
Turning to face Laura, he asked, "What would you say to a little adventure before we return to the hotel?"
She thought for a moment, then said, "An Irish adventure with the great Remington Steele? How could I possibly refuse?"
"Let me clarify that, Miss Holt. Remington Steele will not be joining us on this little jaunt."
"Oh? And who, pray tell, will be joining us?"
"All in good time, Miss Holt," he assured her. "All in good time."
"Well, I suppose an Irish expedition with a mysterious stranger would be interesting. And we are free for the day."
"We are indeed, Miss Holt," he said as he studied Laura's face. Then lost in thought again, he said, "It was such a strange feeling, not having any memories at all. It was like I lost myself and didn't know how to live again."
"You remembered me,"
Laura reminded him.
"Yes, I did." He took her hand in his and patted it. "I've always worked hard to erase the memories of my past, Laura, but perhaps it's time to start remembering them - to learn from the bad ones and savor the good ones. And who knows? Maybe we'll make a few of our own today."
Releasing her hand, he turned the key, saying, "Tighten your seat belt, Miss Holt. It's going to be a bumpy ride."
*** *** ***
It was a short drive, but they were thankful they were in the rental car and not Flanagan's vehicle. By the time Remington finally pulled the car to a stop at the end of a dirt road, they felt as though they had received a thrashing from Mrs. Armdale's late husband.
"Gorse Cottage," Remington announced with a smile as they crawled from the car. Reaching into the back seat, he picked up one of the boxes of chocolates he had purchased at a small grocery not far from their final destination." Taking a deep breath, he said, "Ah, this place brings back happy memories."
"Memories like those from the flea pit and the hayloft?"
"Not at all. This was home - at least, for a while," he explained. "Come along, Laura. My heart's dancing a jig!"
They walked across the front yard and around the house to the back, where Remington knocked on a door dressed with white ruffled curtains. "Gammy!" he said loudly as he knocked on the door. "Gammy O'Reilly! I have a special delivery for you!"
They saw a wrinkled hand with long, slender fingers pull the curtain aside. A moment later the door opened, revealing a tiny older woman wearing a silver braid coiled atop her head like a crown. Putting on the glasses that hung around her neck, the wisp of a woman gave Remington the once over.
Soon recognition occurred and her face lit up as she exclaimed, "Brian! I'd know your lop-sided grin anywhere! And here you are, bearing gifts, no less!"
"I always promised to buy you chocolates when I had some money, and my word is my bond," he told her as he gathered her small frame in a gentle embrace and gave her a kiss on both cheeks. "Oh, Gammy, I've missed you," he told her in a voice filled with emotion.
The older lady put her hands on Remington's cheeks and took a long look at the man her Brian had become. Then pulling a lace handkerchief from her pocket, she wiped at the tears that flooded her pale blue eyes.
Remington pulled Laura closer, saying, "Laura Holt, I'd like you to meet Grania O'Reilly."
"And is this lovely girl your acushla?" Gammy asked.
"Ah, no, Laura and I are just - friends," he explained with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
Laura smiled as she held out her hand to Gammy. "We're far more than just friends," she corrected.
Gammy ignored her offered hand and drew Laura into a hug, saying, "Oh, lass, thank you for helping Brian find his way back home."
"Brian, is it?" Laura asked Remington. "You're name is Brian?"
"Ah, not exactly. Brian as in Brian Boru, the High King who united the clans of Ireland and fought off the Vikings in 1014."
"Figures, " Laura mumbled.
"These days, Gammy, I go by the name Remington Steele."
"Well, come in, Remington Steele, and tell me all about yourself and your charming lady over tea and scones," Gammy said, inviting them into her cozy kitchen and showing them where to sit.
"Is she really your grandmother?" Laura quietly asked Remington as Gammy bustled around the kitchen preparing their refreshments.
"Oh, Gammy isn't a blood relative - not that I know of, at least," he explained. "But I liked to pretend she was."
Gammy obviously still had sharp hearing. "Everyone calls me `Gammy', dear. I always thought of Brian as me own grandson. My grandson Kevin, who was eleven at the time, died of an illness a few weeks before Brian showed up. He was the same age as Kevin and before I knew it, the empty space in my heart began to heal."
"How did the two of you meet?" Laura asked.
"She caught me stealing," Remington confessed.
The words `I might have known' popped out of Laura's mouth before she could stop them. She hoped Gammy hadn't heard her, but she knew she had.
"Remember the little grocery where we stopped for chocolates?" he asked Laura. "I was there, waiting for the owner to get busy helping Gammy so he wouldn't notice me snatching the sketchbook and pencils I wanted."
"It happened just that way," Gammy agreed as she placed a plate of warm cranberry scones and cups of hot tea on the table and sat down. Then opening the box of chocolates, she popped one in her mouth and savored the glorious taste.
"The storekeeper didn't see me, but Gammy did," he explained.
"Such a sight, he was, with his shaggy hair and dirty clothes. And he was so thin! But in spite of his ragged appearance, he had that charmin' lop-sided grin that I found irrestible," the older woman told Laura.
"Rather than turn me in, she wheedled out of me my tale of woe and made me a proposition: if I went home with her and helped with odd jobs around her place, she'd furnish my room and board."
"What about the sketchbook and pencils?"
"I bought them for him after I made him promise to stop stealing," Gammy replied.
This time, Laura managed to keep her thoughts to herself. Instead of commenting on his oft-broken promise, she instead picked up a scone and asked, "When she found you, were you just wandering around the countryside?"
"The, uh, cousins I'd been staying with had taken off in the night and left me behind. They didn't want me and that was fine by me. Gammy's demands seemed fair, and I really wanted that sketchpad, so I agreed to live with her at Gorse Cottage."
"He'd been skipping school, but I put a stop to that, I did. In time, we fell into a routine that was pleasing to the both of us".
"Gammy let me wear Kevin's clothes and shoes. It was the first time I'd ever had nice, warm clothes," Remington admitted. "But more importantly, it was the first time I was happy."
"We were together a little over a year," Gammy said.
"I didn't leave because I wanted to," he explained. "When I arrived home from school one day, I found Gammy on the kitchen floor with a broken leg. I fetched Doc Fleming and he agreed to let me go to hospital with them."
"Brian tried so hard to convince the doctor and social worker that he could take of me, but he was only twelve. They were going to put him in an orphanage until they could locate some of his kin."
"I wasn't about to let that happen, so I took off with just the clothes on my back," Remington explained.
"It broke my heart when you left, Brian. It was like losing Kevin all over again. I knew you had to leave, but I never stopped loving you or praying for you. And today, one of those prayers was answered."
Remington took Gammy's hand and gently gave it a squeeze. "I owe you so much more than a box of chocolates," he told her.
"Ah, away with you,"
she told him. "You owe me nothing except the story about
how you became Remington Steele. What kind of name is that? If
I didn't know you better, I'd say it was the name you were born
with because no one would make up a name like that."
"Actually, Laura is the one who made it up. The fact is, I'm just a figment of her imagination."
"It's a long, complicated story," Laura admitted.
"And I want to hear all about it over a bite of dinner."
Laura and Remington protested, but Gammy wouldn't take no for an answer.
Finally, Remington said, "We gladly accept your invitation, but only if you allow me to help you cook the meal."
"He's a wonderful chef," Laura assured her.
"It will be a pleasure to share my kitchen with you once again, Brian. Have you taken Laura to Glendalough yet?"
"Well, then," Gammy said, "while you two young folks explore, I'll get a wee bit of a nap so I'll be fresh for dinner - and for your long, complicated story. But first, I've got something for you. If you'll just wait here. . . ." She popped another chocolate into her mouth and then disappeared into the hallway, which led into the living room.
Remington and Laura enjoyed another scone while waiting for Gammy to return.
Watching Laura devour the pastry in a mere four bites, he said, "Guess I better ask for her cranberry scone recipe, eh?"
"Absolutely," Laura mumbled, her mouth full of crumbs.
"Laura, you better take a sip of tea before you choke to death," he warned, handing her teacup to her.
Gratefully, she grabbed the cup and inhaled the remaining tea.
"I packed this away after you left," Gammy explained as she walked back into the kitchen and handed Remington an Irish tin whistle. "You can practice a bit and then play us a bit of a tune after dinner."
Remington gave Gammy a kiss on the cheek as he took the instrument from her. "Oh, this sets some happy memories stirring," he said as he ran his hand up and down the length of it.
"Now off with the pair of you while the sun is still shining!"
****** ****** ******
Remington had no trouble remembering the way. They followed the worn path from Gorse Cottage, which meandered beside a rushing stream. A sturdy wooden bridge was up ahead in the distance, leading the way into the lush valley below. The view made Laura gasp, so they paused to breathe in the beauty.
Brushing the dirt and leaves from the top of a large stone, Remington motioned for her to sit down and he joined her. Then pointing to the lush valley before them, he said, "That's Saint Kevin's Kitchen beside the round tower."
"It's not a real kitchen; it's a church. It's called that because the belfry looks like a chimney." Sweeping his eyes over the valley, he shook his head in wonder and said, "Of all the beautiful locations I've seen in my wanderings, Laura, this is my very favorite. I used to get my after school snack of cheese and soda bread and eat while sitting here on this rock Sometimes I had my sketchbook and pencils with me and I would draw my favorite views so I could carry this beauty with me."
"And when you abruptly left, you had to leave your sketches behind. I'm so sorry."
"The actual sketches were lost to me, but I carried the scenery with me here. . . and here," he told her, pointing to his head and then his heart.
Taking a look at the sky prompted him to recall Gammy's warning about the weather. Gently pulling Laura's arm, he said, "Come on - maybe we can stay ahead of the rain."
****** ****** ******
Laura and Remington spent a carefree afternoon breathing in the beauty and peacefulness of Glendalough. As they walked along, Remington threw himself into re-mastering the tin whistle, forgetting for the moment the disappointment he had felt earlier that day at Patrick O'Rourke's wake.
The music energized Laura and made her feel like dancing among the tombstones, but she was afraid that might be disrespectful to the souls buried there. Instead, she hummed along with the music, half expecting to see a group of laughing children skipping along behind them.
Laura was so intrigued by the centuries old tombstones and Celtic crosses that she didn't notice when the rain started. "Come on!" Remington told her, grabbing her arm and pulling her along with him as he broke into a run. "I know where we can wait out the rain!"
Expertly leading them through the confusing maze of gravestones and crosses, he stopped by a grouping of several tumbled tombstones. Several headstones on the left had tumbled onto the headstones on the right, resulting in a tombstone tunnel.
"We'll both fit inside if we scrunch down," he explained as he gave her a slight nudge and then followed her into the shadows.
The grass beneath them was soft, plush and dry, so they awkwardly sat down on the ground their tombstone umbrella. It was a tight fit, but neither minded their snug quarters.
"You knew exactly where this place was," Laura said. "This must have been your Fortress of Solitude."
"I suppose that's as good a comparison as any," he admitted. "This was my own private sanctuary. I'd slip inside and sketch or play tunes on the whistle. I even did school work here on occasion. I wanted to just blow off my lessons, but I respected Gammy too much to do that because they were important to her."
"I see," Laura said. "So your aversion to paperwork goes all the way back to your childhood."
"I suppose . . ." His voice trailed off as he gazed intensely at, studying her face in the shadows.
After several more seconds had passed, she broke the silence by saying, "Mr. Steele, is something wrong? Do you have a headache? You had two pretty bad clonks on the head . . ."
Brushing aside a strand of hair from her forehead, he finally said, "I'm trying to memorize your face. I'm trying to memorize everything about you so that no matter what happens, I won't forget you."
She suspected it was a movie quote, but rather than call him on it and break the mood, she said, "Mr. Steele, you didn't forget me. Even when your mind was a blank slate, something in you remembered me."
"I used to tell myself that memories were just dead weight that tied me down. But I don't want to live that way any more. I don't want to be twelve years old again, living on the run and telling myself that I don't deserve anyone or anything - and certainly not good memories."
Laura looked into his blue eyes and saw the eyes of a twelve-year-old staring back at her. Leaning closer, she gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "That was for the twelve-year-old who made beautiful memories with a lonely guardian angel with a brogue. And this is for the remarkable man that child has become," she said, kissing him gently on the lips. The kiss quickly became more passionate than Laura intended and within moments, they were both breathless.
They slowly pulled apart and in the silence of the moment, they could hear that the rain had stopped. The moment was gone, so Remington crawled out of their shelter while Laura said, "And now, Mr. Steele, we need to come up with a version of the truth about how you became Remington Steele."
Helping Laura to her feet, he said, "I don't want to lie to her, Laura."
"Okay, but we don't need to tell her everything."
"Agreed," he said as they brushed the grass from their clothes. "We'll keep it simple, like the explanation you gave back me at the hotel."
****** ****** ******
The air smelled even more pure and fresh after the brief shower and the sun glistened like diamonds on the grass and gravestones.
Taking in their surroundings, Laura said, "Who would think that something in ruins could be so hauntingly beautiful?"
"Perhaps the true beauty of some things isn't obvious until the passage of time has given it perspective," he speculated.
Laura thought for a moment and then said, "I think . . . the same thing could be said for people and their relationships."
Remington smiled and silently put his arm around Laura's shoulder to ward off the chill as they leisurely made their way back to Gorse Cottage.
to Part 2