There was a rumor that is a member of the O’Rourke family offered you a shot of whiskey, you were going to die. The story had sprung up years ago in the small Irish-American community wedged at the far edge of South Boston known as the Barrows. It was largely due to the claim that an O’Rourke patriarch was overheard commenting to a Blackwater consigliore that he believed no man should die without the taste of whiskey still fresh on his tongue. Legend followed that it was the same Blackwater that fished only a day or two later from the docks of the Conley Terminal.
But the story was complete bull. Or at least, that was what Kahlan McDara told anyone who was brave enough to ask. She mulled the old story over in her mind as she watched buds of condensation slowly roll down the neck of her amber colored bottle. Her eyes flickered to where her mother and father kept almost four rows behind the tall glass cabinet lined neatly with multiple brands of whiskey bottles.
It was unseasonably warm for a New England March and so her usual black and gold fleece jacket was folded neatly beside her on top of the dark mahogany countertop. She kept her beanie cap on however as she often did which held most of her long hair away from her face. Beads of sweat were forming on her scalp, making several pieces of her dark hair plaster themselves to the sides of her face and cheeks. Beneath her dangling feet were her old well beaten roller hockey skates leaning inconspicuously against the edge of the stool. Her feet were bare save for her grey and white socks, giving them a chance to breathe. Occasionally she’d flex her right arm and allow her shoulder to pop and re-pop itself in and out of place. Thanks to Carynn Blackwater, it cracked audibly every time she moved it now.
Kahlan reached out and clenched her hand around the glass and dragged it a few inches closer before lifting it to her mouth. The carbonation burst in her nose as the root beer rushed down her throat. Kahlan placed the glass bottle back down and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. There was a cheap red plastic basket filled with fluffy white popcorn at her side, freshly popped from the back room microwave. Unable to resist the temptation the aroma had aroused Kahlan pecked at it while shifting her weight back and forth on the burgundy shaded leather topped barstool. Kahlan’s sharp eyes scanned the day’s edition of the Boston Globe.
“Anything worth reading?” Her elder sister Laila asked from the other side of the bar. She was busy swabbing the inside of a pint glass with a white square cut rag, working at the glass until she was satisfied before moving on to the next in a long row. Despite being three years older Laila was an even height with her little sister. They had the same long black hair but Laila’s skin was a honey toned shade that bronzed flawlessly during the summer, much unlike her three sisters.
Her mouth full Kahlan lifted her right hand and gave her sister a thumbs up. She swallowed and answered, “Aye.” Kahlan said before taking another swig of her root beer. “Always good news when the Bruins win.” She offered her sister no further explanation.
People always told Kahlan that she was 90% O’Rourke and only 10% McDara. Like most of her siblings she had her mother’s long lacquer black hair and alabaster skin. She had also inherited the intense O’Rourke turquoise colored eyes, hawk eyes some called them and the small round ears.
Tory O’Rourke, who was busying herself twisting the small cube of dark green chalk over the head of her cue stick, looked nothing like her cousins. Her hair was a middle toned ash blonde that grew lighter in the summertime. It fell almost completely straight down past her shoulders where the ends curled themselves into small neat ringlets. Tory’s skin was a few shades darker than Kahlan’s, but not by much. The cousins had the same eyes; the O’Rourke eyes. Tory’s twin sister, Terra looked much the same save for her hair. Terra’s hair was strawberry blonde, and even middle tone between Tory and their elder sister Aislin who’d inherited their grandmother’s fiery crimson locks.
With an air of ill disguised smugness Tory looked upwards towards Kahlan and Laila and noted, “B’s aren’t the only ones on a hot streak. The Knights have beenkillingit on the ice.” When she spoke Tory’s Bostonian manner overpowered the most of her speech, unlike the McDara who possessed faint traces of their parents’ brogue. Tory leaned over the green fuzzed pool table and sent the cue ball spiraling towards her neatly stacked triangle. She held up her right hand which was heavily bandaged from the middle of her palm to her wrist. “I owe Carynn Blackwater a favor after our last match.” She growled. “But T.D. already promised me I could still play; this deep in the tournament she doesn’t want cold gloves in my net.”
Subconsciously Kahlan reached up and gently rubbed the tips of her first two fingers over her left temple beneath the warm material of her beanie. The bruise had faded only a day or so ago, but the spot was still tender. She clenched her hands together in to tight fists as she recalled the white dots of pain that had blinded her when she’d gone crashing in to the wall of the rink. Carynn Blackwaterdefinitelyhad a debt of pain to be repaid. Like all Blackwaters the captain of the Rams played underhanded, especially when they felt cornered.
Noticing Laila commented, “This is why Mum hates hockey.” and snatched the empty glass bottle away from her sister. She tucked a piece of her long black hair behind her ear as she cast her eyes across to the clock hanging on the opposite wall. “Alright you two, time to scat.” Laila leaned over the counter and called, “And stay away until six!” just as the two girls slipped out the back door.
They were met outside by Aislin, who was unsuccessfully attempting to balance several large cardboard boxes in the crook of her right arm while her left hand groped blindly for the door handle. Aislin craned her head around the top of the boxes, her brow furrowing as she caught sight of her audience. “What are you two still doing here?” She shifted her weight and glared at her younger sister. “Don’t just stare, open the door.”
Tory crossed her arms. With a slight tilt of her head she said, “Ask me nicely.” She raised one of her thin blonde eyebrows and offered her sister a coy smirk.
Kahlan rolled her eyes and opened the back door for her cousin before Aislin threw the boxes she was carrying at Tory. “We’re leaving now.” She explained. “Don’t worry: you can all have your party without us now.”
Aislin scoffed. “If I’m not mistaken it’s your party we’re all slaving away to get ready.” She offered her usual chilled smile and winked. “It’s been a long day coming, the Clover turning twenty-one. Only you four could shut down the Barrows.” Aislin’s turquoise eyes glistened eagerly visible even behind the unrestrained locks of her dark red hair that were falling across her face.
The Four Leaf Clover or more commonly called simply as ‘The Clover’ was reference to the four O’Rourke-McDara cousins Kieran, Kahlan, Tory and Terra. Two sets of twins born within hours of one another, a lucky omen on possibly the most auspicious day for the Barrows, if not all of the Boston-born Irish. Kahlan even had their symbol in outlined in a thin trail of stark black ink at the base of her neck.
Tory’s eyes gleamed with the same undisguised anticipation as her sister’s. “The whole Barrows.” She echoed and playfully nudged Kahlan’s ribs with her elbow. “We get the whole freaking Barrows! Well....the good part at least.”
“Come on, your head doesn’t need to get any more inflated.” Kahlan teased and hooked her arm through her cousin’s. “If you behave, I’ll buy you an ice cream.”
“Forget ice cream.” Tory chirped and wrapped her arm around Kahlan’s neck. “Let’s go to Cumberland’s.” She beamed. “I’m in more of a slushy mood than an ice cream mood right now.”
“At least when you throw up tonight it’ll be prettier.” Kahlan commented and ducked her way out of her cousin’s grip.
Aislin’s eyes suddenly darkened. “You two stay far from Blackwater territory.” She ordered solemnly. Her voice was hard, her accent prominent. “Stay far away from those North Ireland fecks.” Aislin stood there her face reflecting generations of an unresolved blood feud. She laid a hand on Kahlan’s head, her long deft fingers lightly gripping the black fabric of the cap. She leaned close to Kahlan’s ear and whispered, “I’m trusting you Kay, Tory has as much common sense as a crayon.”
Kahlan snorted back her laughter to avoid earning herself an angry blow from her blonde cousin. She was unable to argue with Aislin: as intelligent as Tory was, she was too hot tempered for her own good at times. “Don’t worry.” Kahlan assured Aislin. “We won’t go anywhere near that side of the Barrows.” The Barrows, small and narrow though they were had clear lines drawn. The community was made of seven or eight families max. Kahlan considered the streets nearest the harbor safest, whereas the alleys and gutters were always crawling with members of the Blackwater family, along with whatever other scum the Barrows was trying to reject.
As they headed down the sidewalk side by side Tory shoved her hands back in to her pockets and drew out her lighter. The small cardboard carton of cigarettes pressed at her temptingly from her back pocket. She turned her head and stared back at the giant looming brown and rust colored brick structure that served as Kahlan and the rest of the McDara’s home. There were three levels to the building, four if you counted the basement. It had once been an old firehouse, but had long since been converted for another use. The top two floors served just like a normal house: three bathrooms, six bedrooms a kitchen, living room and even a library.
The second and first floor was separated by heavy steel doors in the first level kitchen activated by a key code that led through a long hallway to the main staircase. From the outside, the only way to enter the top level was to hike up the twisted black metal fire escape that led to the cast iron terrace. The first level had for almost twenty years been the central hub of the Barrows, The Céilí and so it was no surprise that this was the location the family had chosen to celebrate the Clover’s big day. Most of the McDara and the O’Rourke cousins worked there, either part time or full. Tory and Kieran spent most of their shifts in the kitchens or as bussers, too naturally irritable to constantly work with customers and bring in descent tips like Kahlan and Terra did.
Tory caved and drew a single hand rolled cigarette from the back of her jeans. She chewed the end thoughtfully before igniting the other side. Tory snapped her lighter shut and tucked it away into her pocket. She took a long drag and blew a series of uneven warped smoke rings. From the corner of her eyes Tory could see that Kahlan was leering disapprovingly but her cousin kept her mouth sealed tightly shut. “So,” Tory began. She took another quick puff before reluctantly grinding what remained of her cigarette beneath the heel of her sneaker. “Why so glum?”
Kahlan raised an eyebrow and gave one of her thin, lip only smiles. “Can’t hide anything from you, can I?” She scuffed the rubber tow of her sneaker along the sidewalk’s edge, scooting the grime away as she went. Kahlan looked up towards the Boston skyline and shrugged. “Not glum, I’m never ‘glum.’ She reached up and tenderly drew her fingers across the aching bruise on her scalp that she was keeping hidden by the beanie. “Just plotting.” Kahlan grinned, a full teeth and all smile she usually only reserved for her cousin.
Kahlan reached down and tapped at her pockets, making sure she wasn’t about to go all the way to the convenience store with empty pockets. With sports season in full swing, Kahlan was never wrought for cash. She’d been running numbers and profiting off the numerous Boston sports teams since she had been eleven years old. That, plus almost every relative who’d sent a birthday card over the last week had been generous and stuffed the envelopes.
“Well, if you come up with something good let me know.” Tory smirked and lit another cigarette. “I’m in the mood to get in some trouble today.”
“Maybe I don’t want you to come.” Kahlan joked and playfully elbowed at her cousin’s ribs.
“Who’s going to protect you?” Tory teased right back. She knocked her knuckles against Kahlan’s forehead. “It’s a miracle you haven’t been completely crushed yet.” She threw her arm back around Kahlan’s neck and kissed her face. “You ever talk like that again and I’ll push you off the Terminal.” She let Kahlan go and extended her clenched fist. “You and me Kay.”
Kahlan nodded and knocked her curled knuckles against her cousin’s. “Until the casket drops.” She replied. “Now come on, I promised you a slushy.”
Tory grinned wickedly. “Aye, that you did my friend that you did.”