When I outshoot all three of my uncles, I run through the sheep-fields and back to the house, where Tarin is crying because Aunt Ruari was pulling too hard on his hair. So I pick up Tarin and take him outside to see the sheep. Tarin likes to be carried. He buries his face in the hollow of my shoulder, just as he does every time I lift him onto my hip, and clings to me like a bird to a branch. He stops crying.
"'Lynn," he murmurs, "will Aunt Ruari follow us?"
"She won't, Tarin."
"Will she hurt my hair again?"
"Not today, Tarin. I won't let her."
"Can we go see the sheeps, 'Lynn?"
"That's where we're headed."
It starts to rain. I sigh, remembering how much sheep stink when they're wet, but it's better this than watching Tarin squall because Aunt Ruari is plowing his scalp with a comb. Most things in life are better than watching Tarin cry. Da laughs at me sometimes, says I'm like a second mum to Tarin because I tend to him so much. I've had no choice of late. Mum's been shooing us both outside so she can rest, and there's a world of trouble a three-year-old can get into outside.
We find the sheep, and Tarin amuses himself with them. I stand with my back to the wind for a bit, but there's no fun in that, so I start playing with the sheep, too. It's fun to pick bits of grass and let the sheep take them out of your hand. I try to milk one of the ewes, but I can't get anything out of her. I'll have to tell Granddad that one of the sheep is no good anymore.
We're out there for hours, playing tag and looking for flowers and making forts out of bushes. And then I hear whistling, and I look up to see Da coming over a hill, looking for us.
"Children!" he calls, and we slip on the wet grass and clamor up the hill to meet him. Da's a beanpole, tall and thin and narrow-shouldered, but he's twice as strong as he looks and he's got a long mustache. He picks Tarin up, tosses him in the air, and catches him. It's my turn now, I want to tell him, but I know I'm too big.
"There's someone for ye to meet at home," Da says, taking my hand. "Pull yer plaid over yer head, Alynn. You'll catch yer death."
Sighing, I pull my plaid over my head, and Da does the same for Tarin. He looks sweet, all wrapped up in his blue and navy plaid like a swaddled babe, but I wear white and pink so I look like a ghost.
"What was it you said about angels, Da?" I ask. We leave the farm and begin the half-mile walk back home. The wooden sidewalks feel hard through my thin leather shoes, but at least I'm not as muddy. It's hard to live in Limerick City and not get muddy.
"The angels gave us somethin'," Da says, pulling his own plaid further up on his head. "You'll see when we get home, Lynder."
"Is it somethin' to eat?" Tarin asks.
"It's not, son."
"Is it a kitty cat?"
"It's better than a kitty cat."
I can't guess what it is, but it's not far to home and I'll see soon enough. We're just passing St. Joseph's Church, which means we'll be home in five minutes if Tarin doesn't do something to make us stop.
Most days, I can spot the smithy because there's always smoke coming out from the forge. Not today. Da must have stopped work to visit with the angel. I wish I could have seen it.
"What did the angel look like, Da?" I ask.
"You're too curious for yer own good," Da says, and I stop talking until we're inside.
And when we're inside, I can't talk. There's Mum in the bed, and Nan beside her, and Aunt Sorcha my godmother making tea. Da grabs a towel and dries Tarin off, then lifts him onto the bed beside Mum. Mum smiles and hands him a bundle.
"Baby!" cries Tarin. He smiles and tries to touch the baby's face, but Da whisks his hand away.
"Be gentle, dear heart," Mum says. "This is yer new baby sister. Give her a kiss."
Tarin gives the baby a kiss on the forehead. The baby squirms, and I squirm too, with impatience.
"My turn to hold her," I say.
Da sets me on the bed next to Tarin and sets the warm little bundle in my arms. Her face is red and squished, and she makes little noises. She's perfect.
"What's her name?" I ask.
"You can't say a baby's name before her baptism," Nan says. "It's bad luck."
I didn't learn Tarin's name until his baptism, either. So I kiss my new baby sister, the angel's gift to us, and I hand her back to Mum. And then I squirm, waiting for her baptism so I can learn her name.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.