Meet My Imaginary Friends: Magdalene "Maggie" Marceau
Maggie Marceau grew up in a house full of memories, raised by two widows--her mother and her aunt--who lived in the past. While studying art in Paris Maggie met and fell in love with a handsome young seminarian, Peter Abelard Black, but, guilt-ridden at the thought of taking him from God, she married a wealthy, older man. The marriage was not a good one and now she has purchased an old, abandoned convent that she is converting into a sculpture studio. In this scene from Each Angel Burns: A Novel, she visits Father Black for the first time, now a priest teaching at Boston College.
The day she came back into his life he was thinking about going to Damascus. As he thought about the earthy taste of warm figs with honey-flavored cheeses, he again caught the faint whiff of sandalwood. Of ylang-ylang. And he turned. And there she was in his doorway, her waist length blond hair shimmering against the dream-like violet of her dress, her head tilted to the side just the way it always was, her hands clasped and pointed downward just as they always were, her hips tilted because one lovely foot was crossed in front of the other as she stood, just as she always did.
They stood looking at each other remembering and the future he had been contemplating only a moment before disappeared like a hot violet mirage.
“It is you then,” is what she said. He thought of that afterward. It is you—then. Then. Then life was altered—then.
He wasn’t sure if he said it aloud or not but he must have because she smiled that sweet, haunting, wholly trusting smile that had devastated him from the first time he saw it.
He felt like he couldn’t move and yet he was rounding the desk and reaching out for her. She extended her arms as though to welcome him back into them. He stopped himself and, reaching out, took both her hands in both of his and, with some power that came from a place he didn’t know he possessed, he lifted one and then the other to his lips and kissed the cool, sweet knuckles of her fingers and somehow managed not to sweep her into his arms.
“Where did you come from?”
“I...” She tried to turn away but couldn’t stop looking at him. “...I came here to see Father Flynn. I... he knows about a statue I’m interested in.”
He believed that. If she was here for any reason on earth it would have to do with a piece of sculpture that interested her. That was pure Maggie.
“The angel...” She was breathless. “...on the wall in his office.” She gently removed her hands from his and pulled a photograph from the leather bag slung over her shoulder. “I’m trying to find out about it.” She held it out offering it to him as justification for her presence but neither of them could take their eyes away from the other’s face.
“Sit down.” He held out a chair for her. He said it more because he needed to sit down than out of courtesy. “You look beautiful, Maggie.”
She laughed. He remembered that laugh. “And you’re still a perfect charmer.”
He smiled. As usual she rendered him speechless.
“You look good. I saw your name on the door when I walked past and couldn’t believe my eyes.” She crossed her legs inside the long, narrow skirt and he looked at her foot in its fine sandal. Everything about her was refined and lovely. She was watching him with tender eyes. “I’m glad you stayed in the seminary, Peter. I’m sure you are a wonderful priest.”
“I try.” What could he say to the woman who broke his heart and, in doing so, gave him the greatest gift of his life? “I guess I have you to thank for that.”
Her eyes misted with tears and she looked away.