“Let me see that.” Maggie snatched the clipping out of his hand. “‘Miss Concannon, a free-blown-glass artist, drew praise and compliments from attendees of the show with her bold and complex sculptures and drawings. The artist herself is a diminutive’—diminutive, hah!” Maggie editorialized.
“Give it back.” Murphy tugged the clipping away and continued to read it aloud himself. “‘A diminutive young woman of exceptional talent and beauty.’ Hah, yourself,” Murphy added, sneering at her. “‘The green-eyed redhead of ivory complexion and considerable charm was as fascinating as her work to this art lover. Worldwide, one of the top galleries in the world, considers itself fortunate to display Miss Concannon’s work.
“‘“I believe she’s only begun to tap her creativity,” stated Rogan Sweeney, president of Worldwide. “Bringing Miss Concannon’s work to the attention of the world is a privilege.”’”
“He said that?” She reached for the clipping again, but Murphy held it out of reach.
“He did. It’s here in black and white. Now let me finish. People want to hear.”
Indeed, the pub had gone quiet. Every eye was on Murphy as he finished the review.
“‘Worldwide will be touring several of Miss Concannon’s pieces over the next year, and will keep others, personally selected by the artist and Mr. Sweeney, on permanent display in Dublin.’” Satisfied, Murphy placed the clipping on the bar, where Tim craned over to see it.
“And there’s pictures,” he added, unfolding the second clipping. “Of Maggie with the ivory complexion and some of her fancy glass. Nothing to say, Maggie?”
She let out a long breath, dragged at her hair. “I guess I’d better say ‘drinks for all my friends.’”
“You’re quiet, Maggie Mae.”
Maggie smiled over the nickname, one her father had used for her. She was more than comfortable in Murphy’s lorry, with her bike stowed in the bed and the engine purring, as did all of Murphy’s machinery, like a satisfied cat.
“I’m thinking I’m a wee bit drunk, Murphy.” She stretched and sighed. “And that I like the feeling quite a lot.”
“Well, you earned it.” She was more than a wee bit drunk, which was why he’d hauled her bike into his lorry before she could think to argue. “We’re all proud of you, and I for one will look upon that bottle you made me with more respect from now on.”
“’Tis a weed pot, I’ve told you, not a bottle. You put pretty twigs or wild flowers in it.”
Why anyone would bring twigs, pretty or otherwise, into the house was beyond him. “So are you going back to Dublin, then?”
“I don’t know—not for a time, anyway. I can’t work there and work’s what I want to do right now.” She scowled at a tumble of furze, silvered now by the rising moon. “He never acted like it was a privilege, you know.”
“Oh, no, it was always that I should be privileged he’d taken a second look at me work. The great and powerful Sweeney giving the poor, struggling artist a chance for fame and fortune. Well, did I ask for fame and fortune, Murphy? That’s what I want to know? Did I ask for it?”
He knew the tone, the belligerent, defensive slap of it, and answered cautiously. “I can’t say, Maggie. But don’t you want it?”
“Of course I do. Do I look like a fleabrain? But ask for it? No, I did not. I never once asked him for a blessed thing, except at the start to leave me alone. And did he? Hah!” She folded her arms across her chest. “Not much he did. He tempted me, Murphy, and the devil himself couldn’t have been more sly and persuasive. Now I’m stuck, you see, and can’t go back.”
Murphy pursed his lips and pulled smoothly to a stop by her gate. “Well, are you wanting to go back?”
“No. And that’s the worst of it. I want exactly what he says I can have, and want it so it hurts my heart. But I don’t want things to change either, that’s the hell of it. I want to be left alone to work and to think, and just to be. I don’t know as I can have both.”
“You can have what you want, Maggie. You’re too stubborn to take less.”
She laughed at that and turned to kiss him sloppily. “Oh, I love you, Murphy. Why don’t you come out into the field and dance with me in the moonlight?”
He grinned, ruffled her hair. “Why don’t I put your bike away and tuck you into bed?”
“I’ll do it meself.” She climbed out of the lorry, but he was quicker. He lifted out her bike and set it on the road. “Thank you for escorting me home, Mr. Muldoon.”
“The pleasure was mine, Miss Concannon. Now get yourself to bed.”
She wheeled her bike through the gate as he began to sing. Stopping just inside the garden, she listened as his voice, a strong, sweet tenor, drifted through the night quiet and disappeared.
“Alone all alone by the wave wash strand, all alone in a crowded hall. The hall it is g*y, and the waves they are grand, but my heart is not here at all.”
She smiled a little and finished the rest in her mind. It flies far away, by night and by day, to the times and the joys that are gone.
“Slievenamon” was the ballad, she knew. Woman of the Mountain. Well, she wasn’t standing on a mountain, but she thought she understood the soul of the tune. The hall in Dublin had been g*y, yet her heart hadn’t been there. She’d been alone. All alone.
She wheeled her bike around the back, but instead of going inside, Maggie headed away from the house. It was true she was a little light-headed and none too steady on her feet, but she didn’t want to waste such a night in bed. Alone in bed.
And drunk or sober, day or night, she could find her way over the land that had once been hers.
She heard the hoot of an owl and the rustle of something that hunted or hid by night in the higher grass to the east. Overhead, the moon, just past full, shone like a bright beacon in a swimming sea of stars. The night whispered around her, secretly. A brook to the west babbled in answer.
This, this, was part of what she wanted. What she needed as much as breath was the glory of solitude. Having the green fields flowing around her, silvered now in moon- and star-light, with only the faint glow in the distance that was the lamp in Murphy’s kitchen.