Journey to Tomorrow
New York, 1872
“Da? May I?”
Da glanced down at her, his fond smile lighting his face. Oh, he was so handsome in his evening clothes! “Ah, darlin’, sure, don’t you know nothing would please me more?” He raised his voice above the murmur of conversation around them. “The noble call is mine, my friends, and I call upon me wee daughter, Fiona.” He stroked a tender hand over her hair. “What will it be tonight, love? Endearing Young Charms? The Meeting of the Waters?”
Fiona MacDermott smiled mysteriously. Lifting her chin to a defiant angle, she walked to the center of the room, thrilling to the smattering of applause that greeted her. She knew she looked her best tonight, in a deep blue gown that exactly matched her eyes. Mother had helped her pile her black hair high on her head, entwining it with blue ribbons and leaving just a few curls to twine about her neck and brush her shoulders. Her cheeks warmed with pleasure as she sought the one face she yearned to see.
I love you, Cathal.
Fiona watched her father closely as he turned to explain to one of the guests, “My wee daughter’s been well trained by her da in Moore’s Melodies.”
A rush of excitement shot through her, quickening her heartbeat, Not tonight, Da. ‘Tis not a night for Thomas Moore. Tonight’s special. She cast an adoring glance in Cathal Donnelley’s direction. He caught her eye and winked, and as his teeth flashed white in a wicked smile, her insides melted. Oh, Cathal, I love you!
Fiona’s exhilaration spiralled. She and Cathal had practiced for days. She was ready, she knew she was ready. She drew a deep, calming breath, clasped her hands demurely at her waist and gave her audience a shy smile.
O, Father dear, I oft times heard you talk of Erin's Isle,
Her lofty scene, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild.
They say it is a pretty place wherein a prince might dwell,
Oh why did you abandon it, the reason to me tell?
She almost forgot the words of the song as Mother’s ragged gasp tore through the room. Da stiffened beside her, his dark eyes narrowing to angry slits. A quick glance at Cathal Donnelly’s proud grin steadied her. He nodded, pulling a tin whistle from his pocket, and blew a few plaintive notes.
Emboldened, Fiona sang the haunting, heartrending song of hunger and eviction and flight to America. Revenge for Skibbereen is a grand and glorious rebel song, Fiona, me darlin’. Cathal’s voice echoed in her head as she sang, dark, husky, sweetened with the same Irish lilt as her da’s. And ‘tis proud of you I am for wanting to sing it.
Her blood quickened as the room fell silent, listening to the melancholy song of the Irish blight, the killing rents, the evictions and injustices. Fiona glanced from her mother’s sheet-white face to her grandmother, Mairead Kelly, whose silent tears traced shimmering paths down her cheeks.
This is for you, Nan. For all of our people forced to flee their beloved emerald isle. For all the Irish people who suffered at the hand of the blasted English.
Her heart hardened with determination as she sang the final verse.
Oh Father dear, the day will come when in answer to the call
Each Irishman with feelings stern will rally one and all,
I'll be the man to lead the band, beneath our flag of green,
And loud and high we'll raise the cry, “Remember Skibbereen!”
“No!” Mother’s voice rang out, shrill with anguished horror. “Fiona, you can’t…my darling, you mustn’t!”
“Fiona!” Fiona jumped as Da’s voice rang out like a shot. He strode over to her and seized her arm. “That’s enough, love.”
She stared up at him, hurt and defiance warring in her heart. “But Da—”
“No more. You’ve upset your mother and your gran both. Caleb!” He gestured to her brother. “Take her upstairs.” Turning back to Fiona, he added in a gentler voice, “The party’s over for you, lass.”
Rebellion stirred in Fiona’s idealistic heart. Her cheeks burned with angry humiliation.
The party may be over, Da, but the fight is not. One day. One day I’ll show them all. Mother, Da, even Caleb. One day I’ll strike a blow for auld Ireland, and it will bring the damned Sassenachs to their knees.