Madeline stops dead in her tracks when she opens the door. The man in the doorway is tall, strong-built, with wire-rim glasses and a shaved head. He carries a case of beer under one arm. Madeline’s mouth is still hanging open as he pushes past her into the basement suite Madeline has managed to find just this week. She’s been couch-surfing since Cameron kicked her out two months ago. A hissing sound fills the heavy air between them as Fionnlach Fury opens a can of beer. This kicks Madeline into gear.
“Judas priest,” she says quietly, kicking the door closed with her heel and not taking her eyes off of him.
“Madeline Fury,” he grins.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
He points to the letter he’s tossed on the coffee table. “Ye’re a bit of a handful, it seems,” he says, taking a long draught of the beer.
She snatches the letter and her face reddens, then darkens as she skims it. “He STILL doesn’t fucking get it,” she growls, the paper crumpling as her hand balls into a fist.
Lee rests the beer can on one army-surplus-clad knee and lights a cigarette he’s plucked from a pack in the breast pocket of his shirt. Smoke curls up above his head and he squints an eye. “No?”
“How the fuck did he find me?” Lee asks.
“He’s very fucking resourceful,” Madeline grunts, dropping the crumpled paper back on the table.
“He has no right to worry,” Madeline says, turning her face away.
This makes Lee sit up. “Mads?” He asks, a note of concern in his voice. Madeline doesn’t answer him, but she shakes her head. Lee is on his feet and at her side in a blink. “Mads? What? Madeline?” He places his calloused hands on her shoulders and turns her to face him, although her head is hung. “Jesus, Madeline, are you…are you *crying*?”
Madeline clutches her left shoulder with her right hand and tries to hide in her forearm, but Lee takes her by both hands and crouches down in front of her, looking up into her face.
“Madeline, Madeline, what have they done to you?” He whispers, then stands and pulls her into a tight embrace, stroking the back of her head as sobs wrack her body. “Our indefatigable Madeline. Our patron saint of shut the fuck up. Our lady of say your piece and be done with it. What have they done to you?”
They stand like this for what seems to Madeline like hours. Even still, she doesn’t want the embrace to end when Lee steps back. She can’t look at him. She knows her eyes are swollen. She knows she’s probably left a river of snot on his shirt. Worst of all, she can’t breathe properly…she can’t catch her breath. Every time she inhales, her breath shudders. Every time she exhales, it comes out in short puffs.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Madeline. You have to tell me what the fuck is going on. Because if you don’t, I’m going to go on a fucking murder spree.”
“Can…can I have one of those?” She points to the pack of cigarettes in his pocket.
He laughs and fishes them out for her. “Have them all,” he says. “Can we sit and you start talking?”
“Aye,” she says quietly, sinking into the couch. She leans against the corner and he picks up her legs and places them over his. The movement is familiar, tender, and comforting. Madeline leans back, closes her eyes, and takes a long drag on the cigarette. “I’ve missed you,” she says.
“Oh, no. No, no, no. It doesn’t start this way,” Lee says, shaking his head. “It has to start with ‘this is what’s going on, Fionnlagh,’ and then you tell me what’s going on.”
A slight smile touches the corner of Madeline’s mouth. She hadn’t realised just how alone she’s felt the past few months. Lee knows her. She takes a deep breath. “This is what’s going on, Fionnlagh,” she begins, letting the breath out heavily. “I saw him in my cards. I’d been trying to convince myself he didn’t have my heart, but he did. For seven years, I pretended it wasn’t him who kept turning up. The day I got the dove from Jenny, I knew where he was. And I knew I was going.
“His song held the whole night, and I followed it to the church. Jenny was there too…a lot of people were there that I knew. But his was the only song I heard, and his the only face I saw. For a while, Lee, it was good. It was really good.
“But these fucking *people*,” she groans, stabbing her cigarette out in the ashtray vehemently and taking a quick sip of the beer he’d handed her. “They’re like a bunch of fucking public school children. I’m surprised any of them has managed to survive five minutes. They lie, Lee. All the time, about everything. And they fuck with you. You know about the way they pretend to choose sides. About how they think this makes a difference. And it’s a thousand times worse when they’re all in the same place like this.
“None of them is family. They’re not like us. Even the ones who *are* family, aren’t. Anyway, I found him, and it was really good, until I started seeing what my being here was going to cause. I watched him die in the fires that came from my hand. And I couldn’t do that to him.
“I tried to leave, but then I felt guilty because I’d promised Jenny I’d help her. So I stayed, but he thought I didn’t want to be with him anymore. Lee, that’s the only thing I’ve wanted since the day I met him. But he doesn’t…” Madeline stops and stares at the can of beer.
“Mads,” he says, poking her gently in the leg. “You don’t get to stop.”
She grimaces. “He says he loves me, but he acts like he wants to be my Da, or my boss. He doesn’t see me as an equal. He thinks he can keep me from harm. And sure, that’s what I thought I would do when I tried to stay away from him, but then I figured it out: I can’t keep him from harm. But I can be with him when harm comes to us all.
“He doesn’t understand that. And…” Madeline reaches for the letter crumpled on the table. She reads it again. “And I never once lied to him.”
“Did you walk out on him?”
“Christ, Lee. I was so …hurt. I didn’t want him to know how much he hurt me.”
“Did you tell him that?”
Madeline shakes her head. “I haven’t the words. I tried…so hard.”
“Did you try to kill yourself?”
She shakes her head again. “No, but I sure fucked that up.” A humourless grin crosses her face. “Pyrrhus…he’s this guy I met in the Falklands…when I thought Cameron Ya…when I thought Cameron was dead, I couldn’t …” she hits herself on the sternum, the hollow sound echoing through the small room. “I just couldn’t. And Pyrrhus did this thing that made me not care about it. But it wore off. So I asked him to do it again, but he thought I wanted drugs. I wanted him to feel important, so I let him think he was showing me how to shoot up. Then he left me the rest of his junk. It was okay, but didn’t seem to have a lot of kick. So I did a little more. And a little more. And a little more. And that was too much. Cameron didn’t understand. I didn’t do it on purpose. But I couldn’t go through losing him. Lee…”
Lee leans forward and pulls her to him, holding her tight. “I know, love. I know.” He feels her shaking and kisses the top of her head. He looks across the top of her head at the far side of the room and furrows his brow. “Did ye cut yourself?”
“No,” she whispers. “A crazy woman cut me. But I chose not to heal it.”
“He told me he didn’t want me anymore, and I wanted to leave, but I made this stupid promise to Jenny, so I didn’t leave. I should have left. I should never have come.”
“You had to come.”
“Why did he tell you he didn’t want you anymore?”
Madeline pulls away from him and buries her face in her hands. “Fionnlagh, I don’t want to talk about that.”
“Madeline,” he says, prying her hands away, “you have to.”
She throws a hand up in resignation. “He promised me he would let me do what I needed to do to find this thing – it’s a mask – on my own. He gave his *word*. He said he understood that I needed to work on it without him, but that he needed to know I was safe. I knew it wasn’t going to harm me, but he wouldn’t listen. He doesn’t believe me when I tell him that I know things. That it’s my gift.”
“He wanted you to be safe,” Lee says, still holding her hands.
“I *was* safe. I *told* him I would be safe. And he fucking promised me that he would let me do what I had to do. That if I didn’t show up at our…” she stops and grimaces slightly, “at *his* Domus, then he should send someone after me. And then one night, Pyrrhus came over, and we got a little drunk, and I woke up on a park bench -”
“Ohhh, Mads,” Lee groans and runs his hand over his face.
“I know. I KNOW! So I ran back home to apologise, and the neighbour lady told me that Cameron had had people watching me all month. That he’d had people asking around. He fucking LIED to me, Lee. He told me TO MY FACE he wasn’t going to do that. He PROMISED me he would trust me. Like I trusted him. And I…I hit him.”
“I hit him. I went upstairs and waited until he came out and I was so fucking angry I couldn’t stop shaking and I introduced my right hook to his left jaw.”
It was Lee’s turn to groan and hold his head in his hands.
“And he told me to leave and never come back. I tried to apologise, but he …he won’t even look at me anymore.” Madeline lights another cigarette and leans forward, elbows on knees. “I gave me heart away, Lee. I never did that before, not even to Cumhaill. I thought I loved Cee, but that was before I knew what love was. I don’t know…” she trails off.
Lee leans sideways and nudges her with his shoulder. “Don’t know what?”
“I don’t know if it’s worse now, or when Cameron was dead. When he was dead, it was these sharp, sharp talons ripping apart my chest and my stomach. But now, it’s just an empty fucking hole. I think I need to never feel anything again.”
He passes her another beer. “You coming home?”
She drinks, nods, drinks again. “This city took everything from me, Lee. I was going to stay. I would have stayed forever…”
“But,” she says, drinking again, “I can’t be where he is, and know he doesn’t love me. That I was just another port in a storm.”
She shakes her head. “Nay. I have to go far away from all of these people. They know nothing about family.”
“So it’s okay that I’ve come?” He asks.
“We’re leaving tonight, then? Now?”
Madeline leans back and lights another cigarette. She stares at the ceiling for a while, not saying anything.
“Mads? We’re leaving tonight?” Lee asks, a note of insistence in his voice.
“I don’t want to just disappear like a tinker.”
“…you ARE a tinker,” Lee says, annoyed. “Never forget that. It’s what you *are*. More than any of this,” he gestures to the room at large, “you’re Pavee. You’re *family*.”
She stares at him, her eyes red and puffy. “I would give it up for him, Fionnlach,” she says. “I would stay, for him.”
Lee crushes the beer can in a fist. “No,” he says, his voice low.
“He asked me to stay. I told him I would stay. With him.”
“You can’t give up what you *are*.”
“I didn’t give it up,” she whispers, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. “I gave it to my Yankee.”
He leans forward, his movement swift and precise. His hands shoot out and grab her arms, just below the shoulder. “You can’t give that away, Madeline. You can’t give away what you *are*. That’s like saying you’re not Irish anymore because of this man.”
A slight smile touches her lips, but there is no joy in it. “I was going to stay here with him, Lee, in America. I wouldn’t be Irish anymore.”
“Fuck, Mads. I hate when you do this.” He slams the crushed can on the coffee table. “You know what I mean. You’re not going to draw me into a fucking argument about semantics.”
“I’m not trying to,” she says, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “I’m just telling you that he asked me to stay with him, forever. And I said I would. I promised him I would. I told him I’d stop travelling. To be with him.”
Fionnlach’s eyes widen. They stare at each other for a long time before he raises an eyebrow. “Really?”
Madeline nods, looking down at her lap.
“Does he know what that means?”
She shrugs. “It doesn’t matter now, does it? It was all a lie.”
“Oh, Mads,” he says, pulling her to him. “I didn’t know.”
Her body falls limp against Lee’s shoulder, but no more tears come to her eyes. She lets her mind wander, opening up her consciousness to the Symphony. Here is the bright song of Justice, like a high, solid trumpet. She lets it wash over her; bathes in the comfort that her brother’s resonance provides. Madeline closes her eyes and takes a deep, shaky breath.
For the first time in months, she lets herself go; she feels the tension spill from her muscles. Beneath Lee’s resonance is a teeming cacophony of other songs in the Symphony, but Madeline does her best to focus on her brother’s. His arms are strong, and she hears his heart beating.
It’s okay to be open now. It’s okay to let Lee in. She remembers the salty scent of cool sea air, the feel of foggy mist on her face, the heat of a peat fire burning in the fire pit beside the caravan. Home.
Lee holds her, squeezes her now and then. “When are we leavin’ again?” He asks quietly. “Tonight?”
“I have to go to Census,” Madeline replies, her voice even and low. “I have to tell them what they asked me to find out. Then we can go. It’s only a couple of days from now.”
He squeezes her shoulder, and she sits up. Lee lights a cigarette and reaches for another beer. “And what’re we going to do about him?”
Her face darkens. “Nothing.” Almost without thinking, she reaches through the Symphony and finds Cameron’s familiar resonance. The low thrumming whallops her in the solar plexus, and she breathes out hard. A hollowness grips her in the pit of the stomach. Reflexively, she folds her arms across her belly and leans forward. Her throat begins to ache, the pain rising into her ears. Someone is calling her name.
“What’s wrong with you, Maddy?” Madeline groans, the pain in her throat becoming unbearable. It’s Cameron’s voice. “Don’t bother coming back,” he shouts.
Slivers of glass slide upward in Madeline’s throat, searing hot and dry as as a dust storm. Her ribs ache; they’re stretched too far apart. Every breath burns. Her stomach twists, knotting and roiling.
“Madeline!” Lee’s voice rises above the Symphony, above Cameron.
She opens her eyes. Lee has a solid hold on her shoulders. His face is a map of worry. “Jaysus, Mads,” Lee says, sinking to his knee in front of her. “Jaysus.”
Madeline sits up and hunches over her knees. “Lee, there’s a bottle in the kitchen. Could ye get it for me?”
He begins rummaging through the small kitchen, pulling pots and pans out of cupboards. The odd dish smashes against the counter. Some small amount of cursing and smashing about results in Lee returning to the couch with a half-bottle of whiskey. He hasn’t bothered with glasses. Madeline takes a long drink, but doesn’t offer the bottle to her brother.
“What the hell is going on?” He asks after watching Madeline drink for a while.
“Things are slipping,” she says quietly. “Time. It’s been happening since Cam…since he booted me out.”
“What does that even mean?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t know. I think it means…he was my anchor. I could shut everything else out when I was with him. But now, Lee…I think it means I’m not okay.”