The barley fields were silver the first night they met at the old tree. Sea wind from the west rippled the heads of the flowering stalks as the young man walked through to the small bare feet dangling from the upper branches. He followed a small path in the fields barely visible at all; one narrow space where a row of stalks was missing for an easier way to the house, or in this case, the old tree.

"Where art though, Conner Shannon?" called a low voice from inside the leaves of the oak.

"Under your feet, girl," he whispered back, poking her ankle as he climbed to sit next to her.

Kira's small laugh danced through the leaves as Conner reached out and tickled her across the space between them. For the first time in the seventeen years they had known one another, there was hesitance in their manner; tangible and exciting and terrifying. For a long while they just sat on the strong old branch and watched the fields blow about by the wind, sparkling in the moon. Night birds called from the tree and flittered about on the small grassy patch below. The couple's oasis in the endless fields of barley was serene and quite, and the comfortable silence that grows between young people who have grown up together, wandered the same lanes, stretched on. Finally Kira could wait no longer, and turned to her comrade. "Wilt thou not speak?" she asked, hiding her face quickly after in her hands to stifle the smile that had followed her words unbidden.

Conner Shannon, whose voice in the fields could be heard all the way to the miller's house seemed to be without words. "I might love you," was all he could say in an uncharacteristically small whisper.

"Might?" head cocked, Kira smiled in full now and turned on the branch to sit cross-legged.

He nodded, reaching his hand out a small distance to lay his long fingers over her shorter ones. "Well," she said, blinking at their small hands, "might is a start." With that Kira Gaffney, the miller's daughter, rested her head against the man's shoulder and closed her eyes.

The golden Irish sun rose early the next morning over the circle of mud-and-thatch cottages and small dirt lanes, revealing two sets of footprints in the soft spring ground. Hens and chickens soon covered the human prints with their own small clawed ones, begging for breakfast. Little girls and boys soon added to the confusion, chasing errant pigs and feeding the roaming animals with seed and bits of sweet grass.

Parents called their children inside to chores and breakfast, older children called to dogs and other children to fetch this or stop that, and above the din of a village waking up the songs of the men going into the fields added a low bass to the circus of the mornings. Outside the miller's house the oldest Gaffney girl, usually surrounded by a black cloud in the morning, whistled in between yawns as she took the sheep out to pasture, stepping lighter than usual up the knoll away from the now-golden fields.

Kira's late night had left her with less sleep and a sore back from the tree, but her good mood was rampant. It swallowed the village down to the seaside in its glow; setting the world in a softer frosted light. The girl sat basking in the sun watching the sheep and humming, thinking of every moment she had ever spent with her beau. When Kira's morning glow wore off it was well past noon, and she began to fidget with late-setting exhaustion and restlessness. Gathering the sheep, she headed them in the direction of the circle of cottages and headed off on her own towards the coast.

Stone walls lined the narrow beach, blending with the natural outcroppings of rocks and small strips of sand crashed by waves. The water made he stones shimmer as Kira stripped down to her shift and stepped in. The briny water was icy, but seventeen years on the Irish coast leant immunity to the restless girl and she waded in anyway, wetting her hair and letting the scent of salt seep into her skin. She stood like that a long time, forgetting her chores that waited her in the mill, the mending she had to do, the fields under the glow of the moon, and mostly the lightning she had felt from the pit of her stomach to her toes when Conner Shannon's hand had touched hers.

A low chuckle broke Kira from her reverie, making her turn suddenly to see the object of her thoughts leaning against the wall, staring at her. "Had I known how the water suits you, mayhap I would have pushed you in last night."

Kira became suddenly aware how her wet shift clung to her, that her hair had turned wild from the mist, her face was red from the sun, and her clothes lay in a heap near the man's feet. She crossed her arms over her chest self consciously and glared at him. "Would that you had been so talkative last night," she countered with a raised brow.

He smiled. "Would that you had told me so," he joked. "The Feas eye us." Conner winked, using a common phrase favored by the village gossip Mabel. Pushing himself off the wall, he bent down and brought Kira her clothes, reminding her of the frosty water she was still knee-deep in. Passing off his burden, Conner ambled up the beach and turned around, leaving his back to her for Kira to change. She did so, walking to him as she finished tying her bodice and touching his shoulder to allow him to turn 'round again to face her; when they did the pair were nose to nose, or rather nose to neck. Conner bent down and looked Kira in the eye. "What have we gotten ourselves into, girl?" he asked, blushing, and turned away back up the lane.

It wasn't until later that afternoon, when Kira had been banished to the front of the cottage to mend and watcher the younger children while her sister Deirdre went off for water from the well, that she allowed herself to think of Conner. Conner with his tanned shoulders in his shirt, and his bare feet making dips in the sand as he fled the shore. It wasn't until Deirdre had come back with the water and taken the younger ones inside that Kira allowed herself to watch the barley fields and think about the lightning when they stood so close.

Later when the men came home to supper from the fields, Kira peeled back the parchment from the window and looked out to meet Conner's eyes. They looked determined, as if he'd made a choice.

Never had the two been so awkward as when they began to meet late at night at the old tree. They spoke more now, carrying conversations longer than the silences, but still the barely touched nor looked at each other.