Home > Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(10)

Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(10)
Janet B. Taylor

In the portrait to their right, Jonathan was older. He was situated behind a beautiful, seated woman whose shiny dark hair was replicated in the two little girls kneeling before her. One hand on his mother’s shoulder, a gangly, adolescent boy stared out with his father’s sparkling eyes.

“Jonathan’s wife, Julia,” Moira said. “And their children.”

“Oh . . . the little girls are so cute,” I grinned at the youngest girl’s chubby cheeks.

Moira stared up for a long moment. “Aye.” The word came out as a croak and she had to clear her throat before continuing. “Aye. They certainly were.”

The far side of the fireplace held a smaller portrait of a round-faced couple. The woman had Moira’s merry eyes and round chin. “These are my own ancestors on my mum’s side, James MacPherson and his wife, Edwina. James was Hubert’s estate manager. Mac is also distantly related to the two, this part of Scotland being riddled with MacPhersons, ye know.”

I wandered around the welcoming room, touching this and that, until I noticed a heavy silver frame on a small table tucked into a far corner. My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe it.

“Hey, Moira,” I called, picking up the photo. “Is this my mom? Wearing a toga?”

Moira slid a pair of reading glasses off her graying hair. She squinted in the low light, then muttered, “I thought I’d put this one away.”

She reached to take the picture from me, but I pretended not to notice. Her mouth tightened, but she said nothing as I tilted it for a better look.

She sighed. “Yes, that’s Sarah. And Lucinda beside her.”

Aunt Lucinda looked a lot like my mom. Smooth hair, in a shade of ripe apricots. Broad at hip and shoulder. Same long nose and close-set eyes the color of faded denim. But even though Lucinda was smiling in the picture—and dressed for a frat party besides—her erect posture seemed too stern, like she was preparing to rally the troops.

Mom was squashed between her sister and a guy with freckles and a blaze of red hair. The boy had his arm around Mom, squeezing her to him. While Lucinda looked to be in her twenties, the other two couldn’t have been much older than I was now. Hair wrapped around her head in elaborate braids, her shockingly slim body draped in folds of white linen, and gold sandals laced up bare calves, my mom grinned madly into the camera. So young. So happy. I’d never seen her look like that.

Moira peeked around my arm. “That’s Collum and Phoebe’s da, our son Michael, there with your mum. I’d always hoped . . .” She paused, frowned. “Well, but he was young and stupid. Ended up marrying a local girl, didn’t he? Fiona, the children’s mum, wasn’t worth a hill of beans. Took off with another man soon after Phoebe’s birth. I ask you, what kind of woman leaves a young lad and newborn behind for a father to raise? If things had been different, he and Sar—” Her voice cracked as she traced a finger over the happy-looking young man. “Oh, but Michael did love those babes.” She gave a small sigh. “He’s been gone nigh on twelve years now.”

“I’m so sorry, Moira,” I said, feeling a rush of sympathy for the funny girl, Phoebe. At least I still had my dad.

She waved me off, and I stared down at the photo, still incredulous. “So my mom actually went to a toga party.”

“Not exactly,” Moira said.

Suuure.

At the edge of the frame, a pretty, olive-skinned girl with high cheekbones and jutting chin stood slightly apart from the others. Dark braids twined to her waist, like slender snakes. She was the only one not looking at the camera. Instead, her black eyes were narrowed on Michael MacPherson and my mom snugged up together. While the rest practically danced off the photo, the brunette glowered. Though she was dressed like the others, there was something different about her. The longer I stared, the more I could almost feel the rage and jealousy flow off the picture.

“Is the black-haired girl Fiona?” I asked. “’Cause she doesn’t look too happy in this picture.”

Moira stiffened and plucked the picture firmly from my grip. Mouth tight, she glared down at the dark-haired girl, and I got the impression she wasn’t Moira’s favorite person. “No,” was all she said.

Moira thumped the frame onto the table, picture side down.

“And this is the end of the tour, I’m thinking.”

With a decisive step, she moved off toward the door. I didn’t follow at first, only watched as she flitted around the room, clicking off the small, mismatched lamps and casting the library into shadow.

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