Born in Fire Page 45

She remembered walking here with her father, her child’s hand clutched warmly in his. He hadn’t talked of planting or plowing, but of dreams. Always, he had spoken of dreams.

He’d never really found his.

Sadder somehow, she thought, was that she was beginning to see that her mother had found hers, only to lose it again.

How would it be, she wondered, to have what you wanted as close as your fingertips, then have it slip away? Forever.

And wasn’t that exactly what she herself was so afraid of?

She lay on her back on the grass, her head spinning with too much drink and too many dreams of her own. The stars wheeled in their angels’ dance, and the moon, shiny as a silver coin, looked down on her. The air was sweetened by the lilt of a nightingale. And the night was hers alone.

She smiled, shut her eyes and slept.

Chapter Eleven

IT was the cow that woke her. The big, liquid eyes studied the sleeping form curled in the pasture. There was little thought in a cow’s head other than food and the need to be milked. So she sniffed once, twice, at Maggie’s cheek, snorted, then began to crop grass.

“Oh God have mercy, what’s the noise?”

Her head throbbing like a large drum being beaten, Maggie rolled over, bumped solidly into the cow’s foreleg and opened bleary, bloodshot eyes.

“Sweet Jesus Christ!” Maggie’s squeal reverberated in her head like a gong, causing her to catch hold of her ears as if they were about to explode as she scrambled away. The cow, as startled as she, mooed and rolled her eyes. “What are you doing here?” Keeping a firm hold on her head, Maggie made it to her knees. “What am I doing here?” When she dropped back on her haunches, she and the cow studied each other doubtfully. “I must’ve fallen asleep. Oh!” In pitiful defense against a raging hangover, she shifted her hands from her ears to her eyes. “Oh, the penance paid for one drink over the limit. I’ll just sit right here for a minute, if you don’t mind, until I have the strength to stand.”

The cow, after one last roll of her eyes, began to graze again.

The morning was bright and warm, and full of sound. The drone of a tractor, the bark of a dog, the cheerful birdsong rolled in Maggie’s sick head. Her mouth tasted as if she’d spent the night dining on a peat bog, and her clothes were coated with morning dew.

“Well, it’s a fine thing to pass out in a field like a drunken hobo.”

She made it to her feet, swayed once and moaned. The cow swished its tail in what might have been sympathy. Cautious, Maggie stretched. When her bones didn’t shatter, she worked out the rest of the kinks and let her gritty eyes scan the field.

More cows, uninterested in their human visitor, grazed. In the next field, she could see the circle of standing stones, ancient as the air, that the locals called Druid’s Mark. She remembered now kissing Murphy good night and, with his fading song playing in her head, wandering under the moon.

And the dream she’d had, sleeping under its silver light, came back to her so vividly, so breathlessly, that she forgot the throbbing in her head and the stiffness in her joints.

The moon, glowing with light, pulsing like a heartbeat. Flooding the sky, and the earth beneath it with cold white light. Then it had burned, hot as a torch until it ran with color, bled blues and reds and golds so lovely that even in sleep she had wept.

She had reached up, and up, and up, until she had touched it. Smooth it had been, and solid and cool as she cupped it in her hands. In that sphere she had seen herself, and deep, somewhere deep within those swimming colors, had been her heart.

The vision whirling in her head was more than a match for a hangover. Driven by it, she ran from the field, leaving the placid cows to their grazing and the morning to its birdsong.

Within the hour she was in her studio, desperate to turn vision into reality. She needed no sketch, not with the image so boldly imprinted in her mind. She’d eaten nothing, didn’t need to. With the thrill of discovery glittering over her like a cloak, she made the first gather.

She smoothed it on the marble to chill and center it. Then she gave it her breath.

When it was heated and fluid again, she marvered the bubble over powdered colorants. Into the flames it went again until the color melted into the vessel wall.

She repeated the process over and over, adding glass, fire, breath, color. Turning and turning the rod both against and with gravity, she smoothed the glowing sphere with paddles to maintain its shape.

Once she’d transferred the vessel from pipe to pontil, she heated it strongly in the glory hole. She would employ a wet stick now, holding it tightly to the mouth of her work so that the steam pressure enlarged the form.

All of her energies were focused. She knew that the water on the stick would vaporize. The pressure could blow out the vessel walls. She would have done with a pontil boy now, someone to be another pair of hands, to fetch tools, to gather more glass, but she had never hired anyone for the job.

She began to mutter to herself as she was forced to make the trips herself, back to the furnace, back to the marver, back to the chair.

The sun rose higher, streaming through the windows and crowning her in a nimbus of light.

That was how Rogan saw her when he opened the door. Sitting in the chair, with a ball of molten color under her hands and sunlight circling her.

She spared him one sharp glance. “Take off that damn suit coat and tie. I need your hands.”


“I need your hands, damn it. Do exactly what I tell you and don’t talk to me.”

He wasn’t sure he could. He wasn’t often struck dumb, but at that moment, with the blast of fire, the flash of sun, she looked like some sort of fierce, fiery goddess creating new worlds. He set his briefcase aside and stripped off his coat.

“You’ll hold this steady,” she told him as she slipped out of the chair. “And you’ll turn the pontil just as I am. You see? Slowly, constantly. No jerks or pauses or I’ll have to kill you. I need a prunt.”

He was so stunned that she would trust him with her work that he sat in her chair without a word. The pipe was warm in his hands, heavier than he’d expected. She kept hers over his until she felt he had the rhythm.

“Don’t stop,” she warned him. “Believe me, your very life depends on it.”

He didn’t doubt her. She went to the furnace, gathered a prunt and came back.

“Do you see how I did that? Nothing to that part. I want you to do it for me next time.” Once the wall was softened, she took jacks and pushed into the glass.

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