Margaret thought sometimes of Nucky's soul. She pictured it as a black and oily creature, squatting like a toad in the space where his heart should be. This foul presence had managed to infest every corner of her life, of her very being, transforming her into a person that she could not stand.
As they made their way down the boardwalk, Margaret thought to herself that they must look like the perfect family, well-heeled and happy, taking their little girl to see the sights on a Sunday afternoon. Emily's large blue balloon bobbed and weaved over their heads as they helped her to navigate the crowds on her braces.
If only the rest of the world knew what rot lay beneath the surface of this perfectly-staged scene, Margaret mused.
In the narrow alleyway that they traversed, she suddenly recognized an eerily familiar face, a face that she had not seen in years. Unmistakable in his tin mask, Richard Harrow was walking towards them, talking to a small boy who walked by his side, his arms laden with toys. Richard was busy attending to his small charge and had not yet seen them. Margaret recognized this child. It was Jimmy's son, Tommy. Her fist instinct was to turn her small family around and walk as quickly as possible in the opposite direction. As time had passed, Nucky's guilt had become her own, and she had come to feel as if she had somehow pulled the trigger on this boy's father herself. But then anger flared up inside her. She had not done this thing. It was Nucky, not her, and Nucky, who always seemed to emerge unscathed after even his most unspeakable crimes, should have to face the consequences of his actions.
Margaret quickly steered her family directly in the path of Richard and Tommy and, before Nucky could undo what she had done, she called out in a brisk, friendly tone, "Well is that you, Richard Harrow? It's so good to see you after all this time!"
Richard recognized her now, as she walked up to him with Nucky and Emily in tow. She noticed how very uncomfortable he looked.
"Is this handsome boy your son?" she asked.
She regretted saying the words immediately. Richard visibly flinched. The look of misery that crossed his face cut her to the core. She'd had no idea what close friends those two must have been. Richard did not deserve this.
"A friend's child. He's. An orphan." Richard looked directly at Nucky as he said the last word. "Orphan". It hung in the air between them, refusing to dissolve into the ether.
Nucky's face would have betrayed nothing to the average person, but Margaret had learned this man by heart. His eyes widened, ever so slightly. His large Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. Now she knew for sure.
"Mommy, I remember him. It's the Tin Woodsman!" squeaked Emily.
"Hello, Emily", replied Richard. It was only then that he noticed the braces on her legs. Emily sensed this and immediately flushed red, embarrassed.
Margaret watched as Richard gently put his hand on Emily's head and managed a forced smile. Margaret felt like the most wretched person on earth. She'd tortured this poor man enough for one day. Now it was her turn to look embarrassed. "We must be going. We have some business to attend to on Cove Street. It was good to see you again. And goodbye to you too, Tommy", she said, smiling warmly at the boy. She had tried to maintain a tone of gaiety in her voice, but she knew that her attempt had fallen flat. She steered her family away from the duo and continued down the street.
She looked over at Nucky. His jaw was clenched to the point where it looked as if it might shatter from the force. He looked straight ahead and would not meet her gaze. She fought to keep back the tears that suddenly filled her eyes. She was nothing if not a strong woman, and she would persevere, even in the face of this.