“If you’ll excuse me, Uncle Niall, Mrs. Sweeney, I’d like a word with my mother before we join you.” Maggie kept her seat, waiting until the room emptied out. “Why would you do it?” Maggie asked Maeve. “Why would you spoil it for her? Would it have been so hard to give her the illusion for one evening that we were a family?”
Embarrassment only sharpened Maeve’s tongue. “I’ve no illusions, and no need to impress Mrs. Sweeney from Dublin.”
“You impressed her just the same—badly. It reflects on us all.”
“Do you think you can be better than the rest of us, Margaret Mary? Better because you traipse off to Venice or Paris?” With her knuckles whitening on the edge of the table, Maeve leaned forward. “Do you think I don’t know what you’ve been doing with that woman’s grandson? Whoring yourself without an ounce of shame. Ah, he sees you’ve got the money and the glory you always wanted. You’ve only had to sell body and soul to get it.”
Maggie clasped her hands beneath the table to try to stem the shaking. “My work’s what I sell, so perhaps you’ve a point about my soul. But my body’s mine. I’ve given it to Rogan freely.”
Maeve paled as her suspicions were confirmed. “And you’ll pay for it, as I did. A man of his class wants nothing more from the likes of you than what he finds in the dark.”
“You know nothing about it. Nothing about him.”
“But I know you. What will happen to your fine career when you discover a baby in your belly?”
“If I found myself with a child to raise, I pray God I’d do a better job than you. I wouldn’t give everything up and wrap myself and the child in sackcloth for the rest of my days.”
“And that you know nothing about,” Maeve said sharply. “But go on this way, and you will. You’ll know what it’s like to see your life stop and your heart break.”
“But it didn’t have to. Other musicians have families.”
“I was given a gift.” To her own misery, Maeve felt tears burn her eyes. “And because I was arrogant, as you are, it was taken from me. There’s been no music in me since the moment I made you.”
“There could have been,” Maggie whispered. “If you’d wanted it badly enough.”
Wanted it? Even now Maeve could feel the old scar throb over her heart. “What good is wanting?” she demanded. “All your life you’ve wanted, and now you risk having it taken away for the thrill of having a man between your legs.”
“He loves me,” Maggie heard herself say.
“A man speaks easily of loving in the dark. You’ll never be happy. Born in sin, live in sin, die in sin. And alone. Just as I’m alone.”
“You’ve made hating me your life’s work, and a fine job you’ve done of it.” Slowly, unsteadily, Maggie rose. “Do you know what frightens me, frightens me down to the bone? You hate me because you see yourself when you look at me. God help me if you’re right.”
She fled out of the room, and into the night.
The hardest pill to swallow was apology. Maggie postponed downing it, distracting herself by showing Christine and Niall her studio. In the cool light of morning, the nastiness of the previous evening blurred a little. She was able to soothe herself by explaining various tools and techniques, even, when Niall insisted, trying to coach him through blowing his first bubble.
“It’s not a trumpet.” Maggie clasped a hand on the pipe as he started to lift it high. “Showing off like that will do no more than have hot glass spilling all over you.”
“I believe I’ll stick with me golf.” He winked and turned the pipe back to her. “One artist in the family’s enough.”
“And you really make your own glass.” Christine wandered around the shop, in tailored slacks and a silk blouse. “From sand.”
“And a few other things. Sand, soda, lime. Feldspar, dolomite. A bit of arsenic.”
“Arsenic.” Christine’s eyes widened.
“And this and that,” Maggie said with a smile. “I guard my formulas closely, like a sorcerer with a spell. Depending on what color you want, you add other chemicals. Various colorants change in different base glasses. Cobalt, copper, manganese. Then there are the carbonates and the oxides. The arsenic’s an excellent oxide.”
Christine looked dubiously at the chemicals Maggie showed her. “I’d think it would be simpler to melt down used or commercial glass.”
“But it’s not yours then, is it?”
“I didn’t realize you had to be a chemist as well as an artist.”
“Our Maggie was always a bright one.” Niall swung an arm over her shoulder. “Sarah was always writing me with how bright she was in school, how sweet Brianna’s disposition.”
“That was it,” Maggie said with a laugh. “I was bright, Brie was sweet.”
“She said Brie was bright as well,” Niall said staunchly.
“But I’ll wager she never said I was sweet.” Maggie turned to nuzzle her face in his coat. “I’m so glad to see you again. I didn’t realize how glad I would be.”
“I’ve neglected you since Tom died, Maggie Mae.”
“No. We all had our own lives, and Brie and I both understood that Mother didn’t make it easy for you to visit. As to that…” She pulled back, took a deep breath. “I’d like to apologize for last evening. I shouldn’t have provoked her, and I certainly shouldn’t have left without saying good night.”
“There’s no need for apologies from you, or from Brianna as I’ve told her already today.” Niall patted Maggie’s cheek. “Maeve had settled on her mood before she arrived. You provoked nothing. You’re not to blame for the way she’s chosen to go through life, Maggie.”
“Whether I am or not, I’m sorry the evening was uncomfortable.”
“I would have called it illuminating,” Christine said calmly.
“I suppose it was,” Maggie agreed. “Uncle Niall, did you ever hear her sing?”
“I did. Lovely as a nightingale, to be sure. And restless, like one of those big cats you see caged in the zoo. She was never an easy girl, Maggie, happy only when the people would hush and listen to her music.”