“My young love said to me,
My mother won’t mind,
And my father won’t slight you
For your lack of kind.”
Her voice was like wine, flowing effortlessly, bringing unexpected tears to my eyes. Her hair caught the light and she was surrounded by a red-gold halo, a gentle angel bringing heaven to earth. I’d never heard the ballad before, but somehow I knew every note, every word. I started singing along, quietly. She slowly turned and picked me out from the crowd, gestured for me to join her on the make-shift stage. Like a sleepwalker, I obeyed. I sat down beside her and sang the next lines in a slightly trembling baritone.
“Then she stepped away from me
And this she did say
‘It will not be long love
Till our wedding day.’ “
I was a stranger here, yet I knew this woman. My past melted away; future plans disintegrated. I was exactly where I was meant to be. I had found my home. We continued to sing.
When we finished, the crowd was silent for almost three minutes, a hush of reverence. When they finally erupted into applause, she took my hand and we bowed together. “What’s your name?” I whispered. “Siobhan.” Her smile was like a morning in spring. I closed my eyes briefly. When I opened them, she was gone.
The next night I returned, asking everyone, “Where is Siobhan?” “I must find Siobhan!” I received strange looks, but no answers.
Finally an old man took me aside, and told me the story of the beautiful, mysterious Siobhan, with her lovely voice and red-gold hair. One night a stranger sang a haunting ballad with her in front of a spellbound audience and her life changed. She fell hopelessly in love. Night after night she waited for him to return, but he never did. Like the young damsel in the song, Siobhan died, probably from a broken heart.
I felt my own heart constrict, then slowly splinter. “When did this happen?”
“Nigh on seventy years ago, when I was just a lad.”