I stared out of my small square window in my room, watching the blood red sun peak up behind the mountains surrounding my house. Today’s the day, I mentally sighed. Another year passed by. Another year without Mother. Tears rimmed the corners of my grayish blue eyes just at the mere thought of my mother’s lovely smile and curious gaze. She was nick named as “The Freak of Hills” when she was still here, but that name blanketed the truth of my mother. Our neighbors and friends didn’t know her like I did; they missed out on her beautiful personality, her curious eyes, open heart. She came into my room every night and we would talk about every single thing possible, like what happened today, what’s bothering us, etc. Every single night. We did everything together; we were like Mario and Luigi, though I was named as “The Young Beauty” and her as the horrid name given by watchers. But we didn’t care. I loved her, she loved me, and that was all that mattered.
And then she was gone.
Just like that.
She put me to sleep one night just like all the other nights before, with a song she hummed to me and a kiss on my forehead. I went to sleep with thoughts of her, thoughts of my beautiful, caring mother. And then I woke up with a note in my palm that said plainly “8” in a black sharpie marker. I thought I would find her in the dainty kitchen she so often called “a neat-freak’s paradise” (every single spoon, dish, and bowl was in place, shiny like the screen of a brand new HD TV), baking biscuits for Father and pancakes for me. But as I raced to the kitchen that one morning with an odd feeling in my gut, I was shocked to find out it was empty and silent. Actually, I take that back. My heart was swirling with emotions that obviously showed on my face, like pain and sorrow and confusion. All of the emotions that a 6 year old can handle, I felt.
Father, on the other hand, was a gentle yet silly man who rarely showed more than a goofy smile or a dramatic pair of hazel eyes. For the next year, I would wake up screaming every night, and sob to his warm shoulder until dawn broke and the tears were all gone. After about a year, the dreams stopped and the tears stopped coming, but then again so did the smiles. When I used to be such a bright, happy little girl with the bright, happy thoughts a little girl should think of, I twisted into a girl of sadness, a girl with a personality as dark as her hair midnight black hair. And today marked off another year without my shining star.
My grip on Victoria tightened at the simple notion of Mother. I glanced down at the small figure of plastic limbs and fake hair resting in my lap. How can such a fake little yet beautiful doll mean so much to me? I sighed. Some kids get blankets as a baby, or, necklace they never take off. For me? Well, my mom insisted in buying me a small Victorian Age doll that ironically looked exactly like me, except for the fact she was dressed in a stunning, full cotton gown, with a blue corset on the dress to make her blue eyes pop. The tiny 1800’s doll fixed her long black hair in an up-do, displaying every inch of her angelic face; along with the old hairstyle, she carried a sun umbrella in her palm and small sky-blue hat on the right side of her head. Naturally, I called her Victoria.
I took Victoria and the note Mother left me everywhere, the note in a heart shaped locket and Victoria tight under my grip. This wasn’t surprising to the other citizens of the hills; they were the only specks of things I had left of Mother.
The round butter sun fully climbed its way over the peak of the mountains and settled in the middle of the sky, now fully marking the day I’ve been waiting for: my eighth birthday.
On reflex, my hand went up and fidgeted with my metal heart locket before I even noticed I was doing it. I emitted a humorless giggle and opened the locket to take the note I’ve stared at so many times before. I opened the old paper slowly and stared down at its face, which was stained with sharpie almost three years ago. In one big scribble, taking up the whole page, was the number 8.
“Mimi!” I jumped at the deep voice that popped from the sweet silence of the morning. It was Father, who was giving his usual morning hello from the kitchen downstairs. “It’s your birthday! Take a shower then come downstairs,” he said. “Nancy and I have a surprise for you.” Father remarried to Nancy about a year after Mom left partly because he was lonely and always thought she was beautiful, and partly because he couldn’t in heck be a mom. I wasn’t that upset about him marrying again after he convinced me that Nancy wasn’t trying to replace Mother. I didn’t think of Nancy as a mom or a stepmom; I kind of only thought of her as Nancy. And I always liked her as a neighbor, so I wasn’t that objective when I heard the news. She was only here to smooth out the issues we couldn’t as father and daughter, or man and child. That was all.
I let out a breath I’ve been holding it seems for a while as I folded the note and put it once again in my locket. I stood from the wooden chair next to the window and reluctantly dragged my already exhausted feet to the bathroom down the hall.
I came into the small bathroom with the marble floor and locked the door. Smiling slightly, I gently placed Victoria on the counter with her back leaning against the wall. Her black hair spread out against the white wall, popping out in comparison to the light color of its surroundings. I’m happy I have such a great friend, I thought. There’s nobody like Victoria.
I pulled my eyes from her face to turn my gaze to the mirror. I stared at the girl across from me, mimicking my moves, never straying from her job. So perfect, I thought. So perfect. My eyes took her in from top to bottom, never missing a feature I’ve gotten so accustomed to in my years. My black, long, wavy hair framed my heart shaped face and fell down to just bellow my waist. My hair fell into my face when I leaned forward to explore my features; I lifted my hand and tucked my hair behind my ear. My gaze shifted to my face. My skin seemed to be as white as the walls surrounding me in the luminescent light, even whiter compared to my midnight black hair, and the color only altering at the area of my cheekbones; I’ve always had natural blush. I got it from Mother.
My gaze turned to my eyes. It seemed as if a storm has been brewing in my wide, almond-shaped grey-blue eyes as they rolled from aspect to aspect of me. Emotionless eyes show a life of a torn child, who used up all of her emotions already. Is that me? I shuddered, then sighed and shook my head. Why can’t I be normal?
“MIMI!!!” Father yelled once again from the kitchen. “Where are you? Are you out of the shower yet?”
“Uh, yeah!” I lied, grabbing Victoria and tucking her under my arm. “Coming!” I unlocked the wooden door of the bathroom then started running to the kitchen, my bare feet making barely a sound on the floor.
In moments I was standing in front of a patient Nancy and Father, smiling and sitting at our table in the middle of the floor.
Father seemed skeptical. “You took a shower?”
I nodded, my eyes still expressionless, careful not to give anything away.
His mouth was kept in a tight, straight line but his eyes looked amused. “Come, Honey,” he invited me over with his hands, and I advanced to his open arms. I sat down on his lap, and he chuckled as he pulled me into a tight embrace. “You still smell like sleep,” he mumbled, his face in my black hair. A traitor smile slipped onto my lips for a mere second, but I yanked it away and replaced it with the same expressionless gaze.
“Well, I took a shower,” I protested as I got up from Father’s lap. With my back to him, I let out a soundless giggle – my lips shut tight – and pulled a chair from under the table to sit on.
Father shrugged, now fully amused. “Alright. It’s you’re birthday; I’ll let you get away with it this time.”
I nodded, smiling. Despite all the tears shed, it WAS my birthday, and I WAS a year older than before. It was a happy day, I realized. A happy day.
“So,” Father started, glancing at his wife and putting his arm around her shoulders. “Talking about your birthday, Nancy and I got you something.” A grinning Nancy reached down under the table and pulled up a small square box wrapped in blue and purple silk ribbons.
I beamed, my full row of adult teeth shining and showing, then yanked the box off the open table Nancy laid it on. Thoughtful, I undid the beautiful ribbons (careful not to tear them) and pilled them off to the side. Slowly, I opened the lid of the box and gasped.
Inside was the most beautiful light purple gown – doll-sized for Victoria’s lean figure – with sky blue sashes scattered around and around the dress. The silk sashes glistened in the light of the kitchen, and made you think of a never ending stream, flowing and pure. Not only was the gown beautiful, but in the middle of the box I took the dress from laid an exquisite heart necklace, doll-sized and perfect.
But it looked familiar.
My hand flew up to my chest and I tugged my locket out from under my shirt. Pulling it off around my head, I compared the two, one doll-sized, one-sized, but both fit for a princess.
Not only were they similar.
They were identical.
Besides the size difference, you could hardly tell them apart; the only diversity was that mine held the note left for me by my mother.
Until I saw something white behind the silver designs.
My heart quickening like the booms of a shotgun, I raised the tiny piece of jewelry and slowly opened the lock on the side.
My heart stopped.
Inside the necklace so identical to the one of my own was a tiny piece of paper folded and worn out. With shaking hands I clicked open my lock and laid my note down on the table, then gradually opened the smaller note and smoothed it down right next to mine. As I’d expected, the tiny note had an 8 written on the face of it, with the same exact creases and folds as mine had.
In the background of my curious trance, I heard giggling then snapped out of it. I glanced up; Father had whispered something into Nancy’s ear, and she blushed. Now, I was completely snapped out.
I rolled my eyes at their disgusting playfulness and grabbed both of my necklaces, one now belonging to the doll tucked safely under my arm. I stood up.
Nancy and Father both looked my way. “Where are you going, Hon?” Father asked, his face now out of my step mother’s hair.
“To my room,” I croaked, my voice cracking from the curiousness of what had just occurred. I spun on my heel and started to hurry out of the kitchen, when I wondered something. “Father?” I said, turning back around to face him.
“Yes, dear?” he replied, with Nancy’s head resting on his broad shoulder.
Mentally gagging at the sight, I asked, “Where did you get this?” I raised the tiny necklace I was grasping in my palm, holding it so tight an indentation was forming.
Father chuckled at my stressed-out expression and stiffness. “Don’t be too happy,” he joked. “It’s only your birthday.”
I groaned. “Dad, just answer the question!”
He shrugged and mocked pained eyes. “Can nothing be kept a secret anymore?” I threw him my fierce and deluxe I’m-gonna-kill-you-soon face, and he laughed out loud. He threw up his hands in surrender. “Ok, ok. I found it lying on a tree stump walking to the town store this morning. But don’t worry; I cleaned it, and washed it, and kissed it just for you.” He made obnoxious kissing sounds and I sighed at his foolishness. When will he grow up?? And I’m the child.
Turning back around to scramble out the door, he stopped me. “Wait, Love. Let’s take a walk.” His hands motioned to the back door and I reluctantly stepped in his direction.
I was confused. Father never usually takes walks with me. What’s going on? “Is everything ok?” I asked slowly, my heart quickening.
He laughed, his eyes bright. “Is it so wrong to take a walk with my daughter?” he turned towards Nancy. “What do you think? Am I a bad man for asking such a thing of my ward?” Nancy giggled and shook her head, her auburn hair swishing back and forth over her shoulders. Father looked back at me. “What do you say?” He lifted his arm to put around me, and I shrugged, my heart slowing down but my mind still reeling. Something doesn’t feel right. But what could it be? Everything seems normal… except of course for the necklace incident. What was that about?? How is that possible? Dad doesn’t even know about the note Mother gave me, so he couldn’t be lying about finding it on a tree stump, then washing it. Wait… he washed it, but the note wasn’t wet. How could that be? The necklace was the kind that was completely fragile and would ruin anything inside if placed into water. But the note was completely intact. That’s not even physically possible. Am I going crazy? What’s happening to my sane mind???
“You coming?” Dad’s voice shattered my mental rambling and put a stop to my fanatical thoughts. I am not going crazy and nothing is happening to my perfectly sane mind. Sure, Father washed it; the note probably dried by the time he gave it to me. Yeah, that’s it. Everything’s ok.
Though doubt tempted me to think twice on the excuse I’ve told to myself, I kept my conscious locked in a mental cage; this wasn’t the time for mysteries or stories. This was my birthday. I nodded to my concerned Father, and he shrugged then opened the door for me. I took my first step outside and breathed in the crisp, clean air of early spring. I closed my eyes and let myself drown in it; the air of the mountains always calmed my raging mind. Father, who had been inside talking to Nancy, just hurried out of the house to me and winked back at his wife. I was too peaceful to roll my eyes.
“Hey, babe,” Father started, tucking me under his thick, muscular arm. “How’s it goin’?” He grinned down at me, his eyes curiously excited. For what? I shook my head at the innumerable crazy possibilities he could have thought up in that mind of his. Ugh, what have I gotten myself into??
I shrugged, and we started walking slowly down the stone path Father built.
He chuckled. “C’mon, Hon. I’m going to need a little more than that.”
“Outstanding, amazing, spectacular, what do you want me to say?!” I snapped, glaring at him through my think eyelashes.
He grinned at my impatience. Was my frustration amusing to him? What a dad, I thought sarcastically, mentally shaking my head. “I want you to be happy!” he shook me, then held me tighter to him. I shrugged again, and then repeated, “I’m fine.”
Now he was the one the roll his hazel eyes. He sighed in exasperation. “Aren’t little girls supposed to be jumping up and down with happiness on their birthday?”
I stepped away from his arm, and said, “Probably. But I’m not like other girls.” He glanced at me in the corner of his eye and I held my chin higher up. Yeah, I was different. But at least I could admit it.
“No, you’re not like other girls,” he agreed, beaming. “That’s why I love you. That’s why I’m so proud to be your father.”
Tears swelled in my blue eyes. Though it was true I had an amazing dad, he rarely told me he loved me. And I didn’t blame him; he had a lot on his mind, with Nancy and his job. It was a treat when he told me he loved me, and now he said it with so much pride that the traitor tears I was trying to hide spilled over. I turned my head away from Father.
He looked appalled. “Are you crying?” he asked softly.
I lied. “No, I have something in my eye.” But, my voice betrayed me and cracked. Lovely. Just lovely.
He smiled slightly. “Both your eyes?”
“Ok… no offence, sweetie, but you’re a terrible liar. But, I’m going to let it slip since it’s your birthday.” I wiped my eyes and noticed we stopped walking. I felt his gaze burn holes in my face so I glanced up at him, meeting his eyes. “But I have something to cheer you up.” The excitement found his way back into his eyes, and he pulled out a blue handkerchief from his pocket. Eyeing it, I took a step away and asked, “What’s that for?”
He mocked scary, spooky eyes. “I’m going to tie you up and fly you to the moon!” He had his hands up mimicking monster claws and I laughed out loud, the last tear falling from my eyes and the last stitch of doubt wiping from my conscious. He laughed too, happy at my happiness. “Come here, Babe.” I stepped into his arms and he tied the handkerchief around my head, covering my eyes.
Confused yet trusting my father, I felt his hands resting on my shoulders as he led me… somewhere. Where was I going? The corner of my lips twitched as he softly led me left and right, over tree roots and around stumps. I held Victoria tighter to my chest and giggled. It was weird that I felt so happy. And yet, it felt so good.
I gasped as someone (I’m guessing – and hoping – Father) picked me up and climbed up a staircase. The cool air of the outside blew against my arms and I shivered. Stairs outside? What’s going on?
“You ready?” Father’s voice whispered in my ear, and then I could feel his lips against my forehead. I nodded, and Father untied my blindfolds and jumped when I heard a booming “SURPRISE!”
Before my eyes was pretty much my whole town, including my school friends and family from Chicago. They were wearing birthday hats and sun glasses and blowing blow-outs. They all looked different, considering the fact that they lived in different parts of America, and differed from size to hair color to style. Except they all shared one thing that defined the “happy occasion” of a birthday: smiles. Everyone was smiling. Everyone except me.
There was only one smiling face I wanted to see.
And I would never see her again.
Life was like this: you’re born, you live, you celebrate, and then you die. When did mourning mold into this? Why was life always said to be filled with happiness but you always end up drowning in pain? Life. Such a small word. Such a confusing meaning. But on the bright side, I know how to act. I know how to paste a smile on my lips and put on a show for the others. How could I not? I didn’t want to put my Father in a bad position, considering he’s the man who represents our “family”. Is this a family? Is what we have really considered a family? Jeesh, sometimes I can’t figure out what’s real or not; with a smiling girl in the picture above the oven and then the girl in real life who’s been through so much it managed to mature her. Kids at my age were still playing tag and being read stories for all I know. I’ve put all of those childish games behind me years ago. And one must ask, did it bring me happiness? But what good would that do? I barely know the answer myself. What’s the point in asking?
In the back of my mind I heard Father let out one of his booming laughs. “Aren’t you going to thank your guests, Mimi?” I jumped, then put an end to those rambles that give me a headache. I didn’t need this right now. Right now, I had to smile and get this over with.
I grinned. “Ohmygawd, I love it! The decorations, the music, the food, everything is so great. Thanks so much!” My head bobbed up and down as I rambled on and on about how wonderful everything was, and their smiles only got brighter and brighter. When I finished, they erupted into “Don’t mention it”s and “your welcome”s and “Happy birthday!”s.
When they simmered down, Father, with delight displayed in his hazel eyes, said, “Well, now all that’s over with,” he glanced at me. “It’s time for cake!”
The huge crowd in front of me exploded into excited babble and I smiled pleasantly. Not too ecstatic, not too sad. Pleasant.
Father grabbed my hand and helped me down the stage he brought me on. Guiding me over to the table, he motioned for Nancy to bring… something… out. He pulled out a chair for me at the head, and I examined the long, rectangular shaped table. It was covered in a sky blue sheet with purple and pink poke-a-dots, and on it laid bowls of finger foods for the guests.
Sitting down, content with the outcome of my birthday, people erupted into one song of “Happy Birthday To You”, very loud and very off key. Nancy, singing and smiling too, was carrying a large chocolate cake to wear I sat. On the cake flickered nine candles: eight for my birthday and one for good luck. Jeesh, with these songs I’m definitely going to need all the luck I can get. Nancy placed the cake right in front of me and when the song ended, I reluctantly blew out the candle, thinking of only one wish and one wish only.
Time passed, and soon the sun merely peaked above the rocky mountains, ready for its night sleep. It reflected an orangy-yellow in the atmosphere around us, but the calming aura really didn’t put a damper on the party. People mingled with others, sipping on drinks and munching on chips. To me, the guests’ voices were purely buzzing sounds in the back of my head as my back leaned against the chair I was sitting on. The loud party, arranged to be only in the front yard of my house, definitely had an impact on me and my temper, so I breathed in and out slowly, just as my mother taught me as a child.
When I saw something move on the side of my eye.
In normal cases, I would ignore it and proceed with whatever I was doing at the moment, and in normal cases it would just go away. But this wasn’t a normal case. As I said the party was arranged to be in my front yard, on the left side of me. Nobody wandered nor allowed themselves to roam in my backyard, considering that they didn’t want to get on Father’s bad side.
My head swiveled around with a gasp when I saw it again.
And I couldn’t believe was I saw.
I saw Mother.
I kicked my chair back and sprinted to where I saw her stand; she was gone. Panting, I glanced left and right violently, careful not to fall down the steep hill on my right. I saw a figure through the dimness of the evening and squinted my eyes. Widening, I could barely believe was my eyes were telling me: Mother stood at the bottom of the hill, glancing back up at me with her smile.
“Mother!” I kept looking down, trying not to trip on the rocks and tree roots, but careful not to lose her. I saw her turn back around and start to walk. “Mother! Wait!” She glimpsed back up at my, a smile in her beautiful wide eyes. With tears in mine and a song in my heart, I started sprinting down the hill. I could already feel the warmth of the hug waiting for me at the bottom. Just then, however, my foot caught on a tree root and I went stumbling down, head first.
“Ahh!” I yelled, and my fingers dug into the earth to stop my painful rolling. With a sharp pain on my knee, I winced and didn’t dare touch the tender wound, blanketed with blood. I ignored the pain, and glanced up, waiting for Mother to run up the hill and aid me.
She was gone.
“Mommy?” my voice echoed through the hills and valleys of the Appalachians, and my tears started streaming down my face. “Mother?” I repeated, my voice quivering and my tears mixing with the blood from the cuts on my cheeks.
I’d lost her again.
With a shock of regret and stupidity, I realized that once again, I’ve lost my Mother. In the back of my mind I heard a scream of pain and sorrow and tender loss, and then I realized that it was mine.
I looked to my side expecting to find a faithful Victoria there, but then I realized that as I fell, she flung from my hand. Where could she be? My eyes searched the silence around me, and then I thought logic. If I fell straight down the hill…
She must be in the cave.
I pushed myself off the ground and onto my feet, and brushed the dirt off my jeans, careful not to touch the bloody gash on my knee. I started down what was left of the hill and arrived at opening of the cave. Glancing inside, I sucked in a deep breath and stepped into the blackness and silence of the cave.
Fear froze my body and my eyes widened. Though I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I knew deep down that I was afraid. I was extremely afraid. Why? Why was I so scared of a place I’ve ventured so many times as a child? I didn’t understand myself; even though my heart yearned so much for the comforting feel of Victoria under my arm, my mind was telling me this was wrong. A strange, small voice in the back of my mind was yelling at me. What the hell am I doing? I honestly didn’t know. But, stubborn me ignored my wiser side and I went deeper into the cave.
I froze on my tracks. A light was shining at the side of my eye, and slowly I turned my head to see. And I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Yes, my eyes recognized Victoria in the middle of the ground. But was it the same Victoria? Was it? And how could she have gone this far when I tripped in the middle of the hill? That’s impossible! Is it? How is this happening? What’s going on?
Questions arouse in my mind, the same sense of fear from my gut returning and making me lightheaded. I staggered back, and leaned on the wall of the cave or support. I had torn my eyes from the Victoria in the center of the ground, but other voices, persuasive, beautiful, hypnotic voices told me to look again, reassuring me that it’s alright. Warily, my heart beating faster than the flaps of a blue bird, I feasted my eyes on the Victoria that was apparently the same doll I’ve had for all these years.
She was lying down the center of the cave ground, her midnight black hair sprawled out on the dirty ground. However, the ground didn’t look dirty at all. All of the rocks near her started rolling away in the other direction, slowly and other-worldly. The ground Victoria was laying on was clean and spotless, and even magical.
And that wasn’t even the most magical thing about the scene.
Victoria, with the same beautiful features I’ve become so accustomed to, and the same clothes I’ve slipped onto her slender doll body, was glowing. Her whole body, all twelve inches of it, was radiating a yellow light so magical and beautiful it stole my breath. My eyes couldn’t get enough of it. I wonder what she feels like. My eyes never left the goddess-like appearance of Victoria and I barely knew I started walking towards her before…
“Mimi?” My father’s frantic and booming voice was like a splash of cold water. I staggered back a few steps and noticed how close I’ve gotten to her. Father’s voice sounded far away, but it echoed through the walls of the cave, enhancing the worrying and concern I’ve put him through. What a birthday.
“Coming.” I tried to push my voice to something more than a whisper, but a whisper was all I got. It’s alright. Either way I’m going to get to him. I shuddered when I though of all of the yelling I’m going to have to get through tonight. I rolled my eyes and sighed. Now I should get Victoria…
My mind shifted back to the glowing creature in the middle of the room. I had to get her, one way or another. And maybe Father could help figure out why she was… glowing.
I slowly took the last few steps to the doll until it closed the space between us and I was standing right in front of her. Yes, yes, just a little closer, the little voices spoke in my head. Their voices were like music. Yes, a little closer, and I would have my Victoria back.
I bent down…
My hands grasped her arm.
Now I can barely explain to myself what happened next. The voices in my head got louder and louder until they were all that filled my ears. The cave room started spinning around me until it was just swirling colors. Every where I looked, I saw colors. Colors, and music, and events in my lifetime, then before I was born. Through the swirling colors, I saw my first birthday, and I saw my mother’s beautiful smile, and then I saw the Twin Towers collapse… I wasn’t even there. I wasn’t even born. I saw things I’ve read about in history books, flashes of events I’ve learned in Social Studies. Everything, the whole world, kept twirling and twirling and twirling until…
Suddenly, everything stopped, and I was back in the cave with a normal, un-glowing Victoria in my hand.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t even scream. I recognized this as shock, and shook myself until I could once again move my legs. What had just happened? I could have imagined it all. Yeah, probably. It’s ok now. Everything’s ok.
Father is probably worrying sick about me. My usual paranoid rambles confirmed that I was back to normal, or at least I hoped. Though I was unwilling to admit it to myself, I had realized that I was not normal and this was not normal. But if it wasn’t normal, then what was it? Abnormal? That’s way too general. Abnormal defined me. I wasn’t normal; I’ll admit it. But I’ll grant I was sane. And this, all of this, especially if I had imagined it, summed up into one small yet terrifying word: insane.
When I could once again move, I stretched my back and tried to ignore the way the walls were spinning dizzily around me like a crazy mini tornado. I could make it ‘till the end of the cave, and then Father will help me. Everything’s going to turn out fine.
Squeezing a nice and normal Victoria to my chest, I scrambled out of the “room” I was getting sick of and started down the hallways it took me to get here.
It was like a maze. I had to choose either left or right, but somehow I had a feeling which way led me to the outside. Weird, I know. And I couldn’t wait to collapse onto my bed; I’ve had enough of weird for one day.
My mind wandered as a child’s should until I had reached the final hallway.
And I froze.
I was standing a few feet from the corner of the hallway; I would take a right and I was outside. But something was off. Something…
I saw sunlight.
Bright light was shining against the wall of the cave, and the crisp smell of a spring morning tried to calm my racing thoughts. But that didn’t work.
My heart pounded like the beats of a crazy drummer against my chest as I tried to move my frozen body. Betraying me, I was completely unable to jerk myself out of the trance I was locked in. It was like I had no availability to my body, only my eyes. It was just out of my reach, but I could not get it. Close, but no cigar. But I was not even remotely close to realizing what the hell was going on, or how this could be happening. The unanswered question nagged on my sleeve.
I distinctly remembered all of this happening at night. Did I pass out when… whatever happened before… happened? I don’t remember pulling myself off the floor. Maybe my conscious was so far from my grasp that I didn’t realize it. or maybe…
No. it was not possible. No magic and/or mystical substances are involved in the situation.
Then why do I feel so strange?
The voices I remember so clearly were returning to my frozen mind, and though something was definitely off, they felt so right in my soul, like the love for a season returning once again. But it wasn’t a love. It was an obsession.
That was the only comparison I could make. An obsession. It was as strong as an aching need yet as fake as luminescent light. Calmness washed through my body and mind, though somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that I was getting hypnotized. I couldn’t help myself, but, dazed, I stepped towards the light.
I willed myself to hesitate my next step. Did I want to do this? How could I know what’s on the other end?
That’s crazy, I thought. And either way, you’re going to have to leave this darn cave sometime. With a little help from the nagging yet beautiful voices in my head, I took a deep breath and closed the space between me and the outside world.
And I couldn’t believe what I saw.
My house was gone. So was my neighbor’s, and the house after that. The trees scattered throughout the mountain somehow seemed… younger. And that’s not even the craziest thing I saw.
The same old, rocky pavement cut through the land in front of my eyes; that wasn’t new to me. It’s been there all my life. But, then again, it’s been there before my life too.
On the road were people. Some women, some men. Some children. But different. The women we’re wearing twenty-first century jeans and t-shirt. They were wearing dresses. And I’m not talking about the summer dresses you see girls wear everywhere. I’m talking about full-blown gowns with corsets and wide skirts so long that they were like a tiny trail behind them. Some were holding sun umbrellas. Some were holding children who were dressed as strangely as the parents. The men I saw were wearing tight black pants with a baggy shirt tucked in, the pants reaching all the way up to their chest. Their hair was slicked back and unlike all the guys today, they actually looked like… gentlemen.
That wasn’t the only thing I saw. I saw wooden carriages. Wooden carriages being pulled by horses. The “driver” was merely a man sitting on a seat on top of the carriage, holding a rope. The rope, I guessed, was used to steer the horses right or left. I could tell it was very old fashioned. Very.
The sun all of the sudden seemed too hot. My breath came too fast, my heart beat too quickly, and it seemed all too much for me to process. With sudden dizziness my knees locked and my eyes closed, and the last thing I saw before my vision blackening was the feet of two men running my way.
I was stuck in that misty, magical place between dream and reality when I felt a cool, damp towel press against my forehead. I smiled faintly, not at all ready to wake up but stretching so that the towel could find its way down to my neck. It felt so good against my skin, and I was so happy to have a caring person like Mother in my life.
“Mother,” I murmured, blissfully sleepy. “I had a terrible dream that you left me and Father, and I went back in time.” I chuckled groggily to myself. How crazy.
But the woman I heard was definitely not the voice of my mother. “She’s talking in her sleep again, but I think she’s starting to wake up,” said a woman with a strong English accent. She seemed to be talking away from me. I stirred, but kept my eyes closed.
I could feel her gaze turn back on me, and the towel went back to dabbing my face. “Darling, are you awake?”
I tried, unsuccessfully, to open my eyes, but they just seemed too far from my grasp. I tried again, and this time, I blinked a tiny bit. I blinked and blinked until my vision cleared and I could fully open my eyes.
The first thing I saw was the ceiling. It was high, and very… decorated. And big. So big that it could fit four large, diamond chandeliers. They were large, but beautiful. It seemed so intricate and beautiful that only an old fashioned hand could create such a marvel.
With a gasp, I sat straight up, making the woman next to me jump. I guess I sat up too fast because the room started spinning and I fell right back down onto the pillow.
“Oh no, darling, be careful,” the woman said, her sweet voice overflowing with concern. After several unsuccessful attempts of opening my eyes again, I pushed so hard that they flew open, and I refused to let them close again.
I tried, slowly this time, to sit up, though the extremely annoying dizziness kept returning. I felt a warm hand press against my back as I propped my elbows up to lean on them. I moaned as my head swirled with wooziness, and then damp towel returned to my face. I leaned toward the comfort of its touch, my eyes half open when the warm hand caressed my cheek in a motherly fashion. She tisk-tisk-tisked me and chuckled. “At least you’re looking better than how we found you.”
I forced my eyes open all the way and stared at her.
She was an older woman, maybe in her late fifties. She was pleasantly fluffy, wearing a bonnet and an apron over a sky-blue wide skirt. Though the outfit was scarily something you would see on Halloween, I was too confused to process her clothes.
I cleared my throat and tried to speak. Though I meant it to come out strong and sure of myself, it barely came out more than a whisper and, unbelievably, it cracked. Many times. It was like I had a sign hanging around my neck that said “I’m an insecure little girl”. Just lovely. Anyway, I whispered, “Who are you?”
She grinned, her eyes crinkling, obviously relieved that I could talk. Barely. “Well, dear, you can just call me Mrs. Lovett.” I stared at her. She seemed nice enough, like she wasn’t planning one of the evil plots I was contemplating in my mind. It’s a start.
“What’s your name?” She asked, her wide hazel eyes twinkling.
“Mimi,” I replied, pleased to find that my voice emitted less annoyingly tired and gross. I sighed and ran my fingers through my pleasurably smooth hair. My head was still reeling, but I felt amazing compared to what I felt when I woke.
I glanced at Mrs. Lovett, and realized that she was staring at me with wonder. I looked away, blushing; I’ve never liked it when people stared at me, especially with Mrs. Lovett’s marveled expression. Don’t ask me why, because I’ve never known myself. Go figure.
“Well,” Mrs. Lovett stood up slowly, her eyes never leaving my rosy face. “I’m going to go talk to the other nurses and some of the queen’s servants. They were wondering-”
“Wait,” I interrupted her. “The queen?”
Mrs. Lovett closed her eyes and chuckled in spite of herself. “My, my, forgive me. I forgot to tell you!”
“Tell me what?”
“You are now being aided by Queen Victoria’s staff after two of her soldiers found you unconscious by a cave opening.” She hesitated. “What an odd place to be. Why were you there, may I ask?”
I ignored her question. “Queen Victoria… I heard about her. I’m guessing we’re not in the Appalachians anymore?”
She stared at me like I just suggested that “apple” starts with “w”. “Uh, no we’re not. How’s your head darling? Maybe you should lie back down.”
Again, I ignored her sweet suggestion. “Where are we?”
“Um, Great Britain.”
I mentally rolled my eyes. “That wouldn’t surprise me, considering your accent. It’s really cool by the way.”
She smiled slightly. “Mine is light compared to most citizens living in England. If you like mine, I have a pretty good feeling you’re going to love it here. Good day, Miss. I will be back shortly.” She started to turn, but I cut her off once again.
“Wait!” She glanced back at me, patiently. Though I knew it was necessary to ask this question, I was dreading the answer I would receive. With hesitation and very slow, as if it were painful to exit from my mouth, I asked, “What is the year?”
She was reluctant to answer, though I could barely hear her speak through the harsh poundings of my heart against my chest. “Are you sure you feel alright?”
“Please, answer me!” I almost cried, though I tried to be strong and blinked my tears away.
It seemed a million years before she answered. “It’s 1847.” The whole world froze. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, and I couldn’t believe it, though a small part of my mind kept telling me that I shouldn’t be surprised. With everything that happened, the spinning in the cave and seeing Mother (though I couldn’t explain that part yet) all had to come together to mean something. And I guess that something meant this.
I suddenly felt dizzy again, and my eyes rolled to be back of my head as I wobbled. Mrs. Lovett rushed back to my side, concern returning to her hazel eyes. “No,” I croaked, trying my complete hardest to get a hold of myself and not embarrass myself any more than I already had. “I’m alright.”
She stared at me wearily, her eyes displaying a deluxe I-don’t-believe-a-word-you’re-saying expression, but replied, “Okay,” reluctantly. “I’m just going to step outside for a moment. Call my name if you need anything, I’ll be by your side before you can say ‘jiffy’.” She rushed from the room then, not even waiting for me to ask her what the hell jiffy meant. Oh well.
Suddenly, I heard a slight swish from the door as if someone who had been staying completely still moved an inch. My head swiveled around as I gasped, only to find a pretty tall, pretty young, and yet completely handsome boy gawking at me through the door.
I was too tired and confused to acknowledge his handsomeness.
“Can I help you?” I snapped, determined to get his eyes off of me. So far today, everyone I’ve met has been staring at me like I’m a stupid lab experiment and I was sick of it already. Though I expected – and sincerely hoped – that his eyes would glance away guiltily, but they stayed fixed on my face, now displaying extreme curiosity, and unfortunately it was boosted to the maximum when I rolled my eyes.
I sighed. “Can I help you?” I repeated, a little calmer, realizing his young age. He shouldn’t be that much older than I am. 12, maybe 13, I thought. Though he does look a bit more immature than I am… but then again, who isn’t more immature than I am? Jeesh, I’m like a teenager in kid form. Ugh. My ramblings were cut short by the expression I noticed on his face. It seemed the trance he was so deeply in was broken, and now he stared at me a bit insecurely, like a shy child meeting a new friend.
He stared at me. I stared at him. Honestly, it was waaaaaaaay too awkward for my taste. I blew out a long breath of irritation, but I actually didn’t mind studying his face. I now noticed his handsome features: wide, blue eyes, brown hair, and a nose so flawless even men would be fawning over its perfection. But seconds past, and minutes, and my still-woozy mind couldn’t handle such deep concentration. Still playing a face of irritation, I sighed and said, “I’m gonna ask you one more time. Can I help you?” I had said the words so distinctly and straightforward, I was sure that he was going to glance away from me, embarrassed, but his curious yet insecure eyes were still locked with mine.
He then cleared his throat and glanced at the floor, and though I could sit all day studying his face, I was clearly relieved that the pressure of his eyes on my face was lifted. I know it is odd to say it, but his gaze did leave me just a bit woozier than before. How curious. He cleared his throat again and stepped forward, his hands locked and fidgeting behind his back. “Hello,” he mumbled, his eyes returning to mine, but the odd pressure not returning with him. “Um,” he fumbled with the right words to say. “My name is – uh – I mean I’m, um, I’m -”
Irked, I threw my hands up. “Just spit it out!”
He clearly tried to shake the awkwardness out of his voice, and when he talked again, he sounded clear and strong. “My name is Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” While pouring this out he had taken another step forward, his hand held straight out, waiting for a hand to shake it.
Half of the words he said I could barely comprehend. “Wait, wait, wait,” I shut my eyes tight, my head whirling again. “What’s up with all the big words?”
Confused, he glanced up to the ceiling and his hand dropped. “I do not understand. There are no big words ‘up’,” he pointed to where his eyes were searching, and I rolled my eyes, dramatically.
“Never mind,” I muttered, rubbing my head.
“Well, then,” he moved on, and took one more step closer to where I was lying. He smiled, his eyes now displaying the courtesy of a boy much older than himself. “I’m not sure where you are from, but here, when a man offers his hand to a woman, she takes it gratefully.” His eyes motioned to where his hand was, as he called it, offered.
Unbelievably, I let out a ringing laugh. “What movie did you get that line from?”
Suddenly, all cheerfulness and spirits of a young boy were left from his expression. He glanced down dramatically to his open palm, waiting for a handshake. “At this point, it is disrespectful to me to not take the friendly welcome I have offered.”
I stared at him with disbelief. I was about to ask who the hell this boy thinks he is, but then I remembered myself. He was the eldest son of the queen.
Rapidly, I jumped out of bed and tried to hide the fact that the room spun around me twice. I stood up tall, wincing when my back cracked and opened my tightly shut eyes. From the perspective of a pretty tall eight year old standing up, Edward didn’t tower over me that much. But I’m not gonna lie; he was pretty tall.
I noticed his eyes were boring into mine, curiosity and wonder displayed like an open book. I glanced down at his hand, still waiting for the shake he asked for. I rapidly placed my hand in his and watched our holding hands intently as his grip firmed on mine. His grasp was strong, like a man, yet soft, like a gentleman… if that makes sense. I had no other words to describe it. It may seem odd and immature, but that was the first time a boy had ever held my hand, besides my father. His hand was warm and comforting, and yet very supporting. From what I had known in my lifetime, there are many things you can tell about a person in a mere handshake. His gripped hand led mine slowly up and down and few times, and then stopped. I glanced back up at him, and – not exactly surprised – he was still staring at me. But his gaze was not pushy or freaked out. It was merely pleased and happy… and amused.
He laughed out loud, his head falling back and eyes shut closed. His laugh was soft like velvet, and rich like melted chocolate dripping from a spoon. His amused eyes found mine again. “It is as if you have never received a handshake before.”
“Oh,” I mumbled and blushed, and tried to tug my hand softly out of his, but his grip was strong as steel, and I really didn’t want to get him angry. “Well – I mean – um – uh-.”
He laughed again. “Now you are the one to stutter. Taste a spoonful of your own medicine!” His grip on my hand tightened, and I honestly had no choice but to laugh along with him. The sound was so soft and yet strong, just as his handshake was. Go figure.
Just when I was really warming up to him and let myself go, laughing, Mrs. Lovett opened the door and her heals tapped into the room. “Oh,” she gasped when she saw us holding hands in the middle of the room. “Am I interrupting something?”
“Yes,” Edward said.
“No,” I replied at the same time. We glanced at each other, and, embarrassed, I stepped away from him, my hand slipping from his.
Mrs. Lovett glanced between us, and her gaze settled on the young prince. “I will just leave then. Good day,” she bowed her head as she backed out into the room. There were several long minutes of awkward silence. Well, it was awkward for me. While I was gazing at the door where Mrs. Lovett exited, I could feel Edward gazing at me. Again.
I sighed, and turned to meet his gaze. “You know I really can’t take much more of this.”
“What is up with all this messed up vocab?!” I shrieked, my head reeling.
He sighed. “Again with the ‘up’. Miss, as you can see, -”
“Mimi,” I interrupted. He looked at me with confusion and I explained. “Call me Mimi.”
He smiled. “That is your name?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, it’s my dog’s name.”
“Why would you call yourself by the name of which your dog possesses?”
“I was kidding!” Jeesh, I could not make jokes with this kid. “Ever heard of the word ‘sarcasm’?”
The sides of this mouth tugged the slightest bit, enough for me to make out an amazed expression. “My, my, Mimi. You really are a feisty one.”
I smirked. “So I’ve been told.”
He chuckled, his blue eyes crinkling. He cleared his throat and tried to suppress the grin, but he did a pretty terrible job because his eyes were still smiling. Its rule 101 in hiding your feelings: always remember to blanket the truth in your eyes, because that’s always a giveaway. I should know. “Might I say something, in the best sense?”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
“What on earth are you wearing?” His eyes looked me up and down a few times, and then met my eyes reassuringly. “In the best sense.”
I glanced down at my clothes. “Jeans.”
“What are jeans?”
I gawked at him. “Seriously? You don’t know what jeans are?”
“Would you like to elaborate before I drown myself in shame?”
I giggled. “So you do know what sarcastic means.”
He grinned. “I’m a kid, am I not?”
He laughed. “How old do you suppose I am?”
“Correct! You see? I am not that old.”
“Are you not? Is that grey hair I see?”
He gasped and rushed to the mirror. He ran his fingers through his shiny and fully colored hair. He turned and glared at me playfully.
I laughed at his expression. “Mr. Old Man!”
He mocked a shocked face. “Miss. Man Pants!” he fired back.
I gasped at that, and glanced down at my pants once again. “These are so not man pants. I got these from Abercrombie!” From his confused expression, I realized Abercrombie wasn’t made yet. “A girl store,” he explained.
He chuckled and crossed his arms. “What girls wear… pants?”
I shrugged. “Everyone.”
“In what world?”
That was one I still had to figure out. Though I had to admit that I was having serious fun with this thirteen year old boy, the unanswered question still nipped at my mind. But I guess that had to be put aside… at least until later. “In my world,” I mumbled and sat down on the couch. He strode over and sat down right next to me.
“But the weird thing is that I’ve never seen anything like you.”
I glanced at him. “You’re talking about me like I’m a science experiment.”
He shook his head defensively. “No, I would not talk about women like that. What I am saying is that,” he glanced at me again, and his gaze was fixed there, “you are different, Mimi. Very different.”
I sighed and hugged my legs to my chest. “You have no idea.”
Suddenly, I noticed I had been sitting on something that wasn’t part of the furniture. Jumping up and frightening Edward, I fumbled through the blankets I was tucked under and found what I had been looking for: Victoria.
Giggling blissfully, I squeezed her to my chest and sat back down next to Edward. “Woah,” Edward breathed, reaching out to touch Victoria’s face. “I have never seen anything like it.”
I giggled again and stared at him in utter disbelief. “So you’re telling me you’ve never seen a doll before?”
He glanced at me and shook his head. “I have, but I’ve seen nothing like this. It looks so… real.” I let him rub his finger on her cheek. “What is her name?”
His eyes glimpsed back up at me, amused. “Named after my mother?”
“No,” I said it in a way that it sounded like a question. I gazed at Victoria lovingly as I tried to run my fingers through her tangled hair. “Um, I just like the name,” I lied.
“Oh,” he fixed his gaze on the doll again. “Wait,” he mumbled, then glanced up at me, then the doll, then exclaimed, “She looks just like you!”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh really? Thanks for telling me.”
He laughed. “Again with the sarcasm!”
I chuckled, then shrugged. “You can’t deny the fact that you left that wide open.” Before I could let him ask what was wide open, I just said “never mind” and he went on with his business of examining Victoria and I.
“You know, the only difference about you two is that Victoria is dressed as a lady, where as you…” he left the sentence unfinished, and I gasped and smacked his arm. He let out a booming laugh and threw his hands up in surrender. “I’m kidding! I’m kidding!”
I suppressed a smile much better than he did and went back to untangling my doll’s hair. I situated myself so I was sitting on my legs, and suddenly gasped in sharp pain.
Edward caught his breath and quickly laid his hand on my back. “Are you ill? Shall I call the aid?” I shook my head, and he chuckled, “You are stubborn. At least let me help you. Where are you hurt?”
“My knee,” I gasped out. I remembered falling and creaking a huge gash on my knee when I swung the hurt leg out from under myself. I rolled up my jeans all the way to where it would be considered short pants, and Edward gasped and looked away quickly. “What?” I asked him, my breaths still coming in short pants.
“I apologize. I’m just not used to seeing ladies’ – ” He gulped and didn’t finish the sentence.
I helped him out. “You mean ladies’ legs?”
He nodded. “Yes, that’s it.”
I laughed in spite of myself. Of course he wasn’t used to it. of course he would feel uncomfortable seeing a girl’s legs. I mean, he did grow up in the 1800’s. Ladies all wore long dresses that covered everything up; men didn’t see women’s bare legs until they were married or together, and Edward was only thirteen. He was definitely not married, and he was definitely not together with someone… I hoped. “Just, uh, look away.”
I could see him nodding; his head was stiffly turned in the opposite direction. I glanced back at my knee, expecting to see some gross and bloody gash on my knee, but that was not what I found. All I saw was an angry and puckered pink line running through my knee… I guessed that Mrs. Lovett treated it while I was out cold. I quickly rolled down my pants again and, while he was turned around, I ran my fingers through my hair and squeezed my cheeks so they would have a little bit of color to them. I cleared my throat loudly and a pale and slightly dazed Edward turned back around.
I patted his shoulder, swallowing back a roaring laugh at his strained expression. His face at the moment compared to that of a little boy who fell asleep in class and found out that’s he’s going to have a pop quiz on that material he missed. Pure, downright fear. “You ok, buddy?”
He rubbed his face in his hands and when he glanced back up at me, he was 99% back to normal. “yes. I’m quite alright.” I smiled at him; he smiled at me, and…
Suddenly, the door swung open and broke the blissful trance we were locked in. I cleared my throat and scooted a little farther from him, determined to assure Mrs. Lovett, who opened the door, that we had not been … well… flirting. Which we weren’t. We weren’t.
We all had different expressions on our faces: edward’s was stone-like (he was obviously angry that he got interrupted again), mine was embarrassed (for the same reason any girl would if she got caught with a cutie), and Mrs. Lovett’s was stressed. For what reason? She suddenly started talking.
She bowed her head to Edward. “I’m sorry to interrupt you again, but the Queen Herself asks to speak with Mimi in an hour. If we rush, we will have time to bathe and dress you, darling child.”
I probably looked like a complete idiot, sitting there with my mouth dropped open and eyes wide. But I couldn’t help it. The queen, or should I say, Her Royal Majesty, wanted to see me. Why?! I wasn’t worthy to stand in a queen’s presence. In all honesty, I wasn’t worthy to stand in a queen’s house, none-the-less presence. What would I say? How should I act? Should I bow? Should I offer a gift? I gulped, and realized that I turned completely pale. When did I morph into such a wimp?
Edward laid his hand on my shoulder and inched closer. “Hey,” he whispered softly, his velvet voice calming my internal rants. “It’s going to be alright. My mother may be the queen, but behind the corn and money, she is a very nice lady.” He chuckled. “In fact, I think she will like you. A lot.”
I grinned and blushed, my pale cheeks quickly turning rosy red. I sighed and pushed my black hair out of my face, and reluctantly let Edward help me up. “Thanks,” I muttered, and he grinned at me.
“Until we meet again, Mimi.” He caught my wrist and brought it up to his lips. Softly, he kissed the back of my hand, and I could swear that I was about to get a heart attack. He chuckled to himself as he spun on his heel and strutted out of the room.
I stared at the closed door, where Edward just left. “He’s so amazing,” I whispered, and didn’t realize I said it out loud until Mrs. Lovett replied.
“Yes, he is quite handsome, though stubborn as the knottiest hair in the world,” she glanced at my, amused. “Which, might I say, you have a bad case of.” She pat my head and chuckled, then said with authority ringing in her voice, “We have no time to lose, child. We have to bathe you, with the black orchard scent of course, then I found a beautiful new dress that would compliment your lovely grey eyes. We honestly have to get you out of those man pants.” I sighed exasperated and said nothing in return, and let Mrs. Lovett lead me out of the room. She took fast and large steps and I followed quietly behind, not minding her sweet, calming voice as she ranted on and on about something; instead of making out the words, I glanced around the mansion. It was beautiful, decorated with exquisite scarlet designs running across the walls, and pumpkin-orange patterns intertwining with the red. It had a very comforting feeling to it, and though I was confused with everything right then, it made me feel somewhat at home.
Across the wall hung hundreds of paintings that seemed as if they were worth millions of dollars. Seeing swirls of colors like those paintings after spending hell in a cave was like music to the eye, and though many of them had no meaning whatsoever, they told a story with strokes on a canvas. It all depends on how the strokes were created and which colors were used, and honestly, at least with what I’ve seen, the paintings enhanced a happy home. Um, I mean a happy mansion. Trust me, if you’ve seen the inside of this place, you would agree. I’m going to have to remember to ask for a map, I thought when we arrived in front of two extremely oversized white doors.
“Well, here we are,” Mrs. Lovett said as she ruffled my hair. “The Guest Washroom. It isn’t nearly as large as Her Majesty’s bathroom, but I promise you will not be inconvenienced.” She turned the handle on one of the doors and shoved it open; I have a pretty good feeling my jaw dropped wide open again. Look at the size of that!! Though I’ve said it hundreds of times that day, I can’t deny that I couldn’t believe my eyes. The bathroom itself was the size of my house! Jeesh, if this was the restroom, I wonder what the rest of the house was like. Mrs. Lovett giggled and patted my back. “I’d love to let you stand here and gawk at the wonders of the, erm, bathroom,” she swallowed back a laugh, “But we have little time left. The tub is filled thanks to the rushing aid of the queen’s servants and myself, though filling it up with small buckets of steaming water is not the most ideal job in the world.” She laughed and threw her hands up. “Hey, you never know. Maybe one day, there will be a tub that can fill up itself.” She giggled again at the hysterics of the idea, but I giggled with her not because the idea was crazy, but because she had no idea how right she had been. “now, hurry, dear. Ring the bell,” she pointed to a small colorful calling bell hung on the right side of the door,” if you need anything. I will be there to assists you. But rush child.” She ruffled my hair once more and with a blink of an eye, she was gone.
I stood in the aloneness of the room, sweet silence ringing in my ears like the minor chord of my mother’s piano. It was refreshing for some quiet, but in the midst of the refreshing calmness, I realized that silence could trigger thoughts. Thoughts that I just wasn’t ready to hear again.
So, with a quick kiss on her forehead, I laid Victoria down on the black granite counter and stripped off my clothes slowly. I didn’t dare look in the mirror; I knew I would start hyperventilating if I saw myself as Edward saw me. Without a second thought, I skittered to the extremely large marble tub and lowered myself into the steaming water.
It was hot, but soothing, and calmed all of the anything in my mind that would trigger the bitter and mind-bottle thoughts. I breathed out deeply and closed my eyes, and let myself melt in the relaxing heat of the water. It cradled all of my sore spots like a cloud and soon, I could barely feel the constant stinging of my knee. For a few more blissful minutes, I allowed myself to lay my head back and loosen the knots the past days have tied in my body, and fully have in to the sereneness of the water.
Once the tub water cooled down a little bit and woke me from my blissful trance, I glanced around myself for soap; to my right on a small granite table was a large bottle of dark green liquid. I eyed it wearily and unscrewed the cap, then brought it up to my nose and sniffed. Yes, definitely black orchard. I poured a small amount on a sponge next to where the bottle stood, and scrubbed myself from top to bottom. The roughness of the sponge felt nice against my soft skin, and the scent it emitted into the air filled my lungs and further calmed me. When I was finished lathering myself, I slipped under the surface of the cooling water and scrubbed with my hand until all of the soap was gone.
Now for shampoo and conditioner. On the same table I got the soap and sponge from, I also spotted two smaller, clear containers, one with thick liquid (I’m guessing that was the conditioner) and one with more water, flowing liquid (I’m guessing what was the shampoo). So, taking the shampoo first, I poured a large amount into my palm (I had a lot of hair and had to use a lot of shampoo) and started massaging my head until my hair was just one big mountain of white bubbles. I rolled my head back into the water and shook out all of the shampoo. Then, I took the conditioner and poured almost half the bottle into my hand (like I said… lots of hair!). I glanced around of a hair brush, but none caught my eye so I smoothed my hair with the conditioner and brushed it out with my fingers. Which took a while. A long, long while.
After all the conditioner was gone, I rested in the tub until the water turned cold to the point where I couldn’t stand it anymore. I spotted a towel at the side of my eye, folded neatly on the counter, so I carefully stood up and scuttled to where it lied. By the time I got there, I was shivering and my teether were chattering. Like I said, biiiiiiiiig bathroom. As quickly as I could, I threw a thick towel over my shoulders and stood there until my shaking slowed and eventually stopped altogether. Hugging the towel tighter to me, I finally dared to look up at the massive mirror in front of my eyes, but scared as hell that I would cry in shame when I saw the results.
Reluctantly, I glanced up at the girl in the mirror, and was actually surprised at what I saw. I shrugged. Not so bad, I thought. Wet, yes. Naked, yes. Scared, yes. But my face wasn’t half as bad as I would have imagined. My eyes, painted grey and tinted with sea blue and green, were, as always and annoyingly, like an open book to read. And from the test, my expression was changing from terrified to satisfied, to ecstatic. My cheeks shined a rosy red, and, somehow, my lips reflected that color. My usually pale skin radiated a lively tint, which rose when my lips stretched into a slight smile. No, I wasn’t obsessed with myself, but even modest I couldn’t deny the fact that I was attractive. I eyed a peaceful Victoria and my smile widened. She, too, was beautiful, like a symphony for sore eyes.
Suddenly, I jumped when someone banged on the door. “Darling, are you decent?” I heard Mrs. Lovett’s voice from outside of the door.
She pushed open the doors and shut them behind her, and she said with her cheery voice, “Good, because I forgot to hang up a robe for you! Do you see what old age does to you?”
I laughed. “You’re not old, Mrs. Lovett,” I reassured her as I picked up my clothes from the floor.
She hooted along with me. “Oh, my, I love you already.” She quickly handed me a snow white silk robe that looked extremely expensive, one that was fit for a queen. I noticed that she was rushing, so I swiftly exchanged my towel for the robe, tied it around my waist, and let her lead me across the hall into another room, one that seemed like a King’s Suite in a hotel, but better. “This is the smaller guestroom,” she explained to me as I plopped down on the corner of the humongous bed. “We apologize for the inconvenience but you were blessed with such a tiny figure that we realized you wouldn’t need anything more!” I giggled as she dashed into the closet and brought out an outfit so exquisite that I had no words to describe its beauty.
It was a dress. No, I take that back; it was a gown. A beautiful sky-blue semi-poufy gown that feel down to my toes if I put it on. A wide, white sash was tied around the waist, and seemed tight, probably to enhance the natural curves of the body. There were white fringes on the short sleeves and the V-neck fell not low, but not high. Just perfect. That was what the dress was: perfect.
“Come dear,” Mrs. Lovett rushed me. “We must hurry or Her Royal Highness will get upset.” I shuddered at the thought and untied my robe. I swiftly put on all my underwear and let Mrs. Lovett lead me through the steps of putting on a gown. She stared at me skeptically. “You are telling me you’ve never worn a dress before?”
I thought back. “Once, I think. For Father’s wedding.” She shook her head and smiled in disbelief. But I didn’t get irritated at her wonder; at least she respected my ways. I had a pretty good feeling that I would get close to Mrs. Lovett for the time being.
Mrs. Lovett told me to stretch out my arms, and she looped something that looked dangerously like a corset through my arms. And, unfortunately, I was correct; it was a corset. She tied it tight in the back, but not tight enough to stop my breathing, like the corset did to Elizabeth Swann in The Pirates of the Caribbean. But, I decided against bringing that up, considering the fact that I wasn’t made yet.
She then told me to lift my arms and she slipped the dress onto my slender body through the hole in the head. I was right; it fell down to my toes perfectly. I glanced down at the bottom of the dress and smoothed it out with my hand, but then realized that the creative ruffles were there from design. Mrs. Lovett tied the white bow in the back and told me to wait while she ran to get shoes. Meanwhile, I smoothed out my now drying hair and let it fall over my shoulders.
Does this mean that I’ll never get to wear jeans again? The thought popped up into my mind and, oddly enough, it triggered tears. But, if I thought about it deeply, it wasn’t so irrelevant. Jeans represented my childhood in the Appalachians, considering that I wore them pretty much every day of my life. And, though the dress was exquisite beyond belief, so were my 2010 style clothes, in the sense that they defined who I was. But, until I figured out how to find my way back home, I’d have to learn to deal, which wouldn’t be so hard, judging the circumstances. The dress was beautiful, the house was beautiful, and Edward didn’t seem at all that bad. I blinked away the te4ars, and Mrs. Lovett rushed back to where I was standing.
“Sit down, dear,” she instructed as she brought forth two white flats with blue designs on either side. I wanted to painfully to ask her where in the world did she get these beautiful clothes from, but she was in such a hurry that I didn’t want to bother her. She slipped the shoes on each foot, and then helped me up.
“Look at yourself, dear. You’re a marvel.” I smiled at her thankfully and tapped my way over to where the full-sized mirror was standing, thinking on the way about how lucky I was to have a motherly person like Mrs. Lovett.
I stood in the mirror and couldn’t believe that I was the girl staring back at me. While I always wore jeans and some kind of T-shirt, and didn’t mind getting down and dirty, she was fit to be a princess, with an expensive gown that complimented her figure and enhanced the beauty of her eyes. I swear, my waist seemed to be two inches thick, thanks to the help of the corset. Though it’s true I didn’t mind getting down and dirty, it was nice to look like a girl for once.
“ Now,” Mrs. Lovett stood from her comfortable stance of leaning on the closet door. “I’m sorry I don’t have time to curl your hair or apply make-up on you, but your hair looks so pretty straight and your eye lashes are so thick and your lips so rosy red that you don’t need any. Now let’s go!” she gently pushed me out the door and led me through doors and hallways that I couldn’t keep up with. All the while, she was explaining to me how to act in front of the queen, such as what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. after a while of rights and lefts (that look mysteriously like a maze), we appeared in front of two extremely large and decorated doors, which I recalled to be the Throne Room. “Here’s our stop.” Mrs. Lovett breathed deeply, then knocked on the doors loudly, calling, “You’re Royal Highness! Mimi is ready to stand in your presence and speak with you.”
“Bring her in!” A strong voice exclaimed through the door. Though strength could mean many different things, in this case it meant power, but security and warmth as well. Just by those three words, I could already tell that Queen Victoria was a kind woman from the core.
Though I was ready as I would ever be, I gulped and felt unnaturally cold. What if she didn’t like me? What if I say something wrong and she beheads me like I heard in stories? It was as if Mrs. Lovett could read my mind, because she squeezed my shoulder and whispered, “You’ll do fine. Just remember what I told you, and you might actually enjoy yourself.
I smiled weakly to her as I gripped the handle on the door and pushed. With one step, I was inside the Royal Throne Room, and the doors shut loudly with a BANG! behind me.
Just me and the Queen.
In a room.
I could hardly believe it. The room itself was outstanding, though it was just a background in comparison to Queen Victoria. It was not her beauty that dampened the room’s delicate designs, but the power and strength you could see she obtained. Though she was sitting down and her long dress sprawled by her feet, I noticed that she was not very tall, maybe five feet. She had long brown hair that was tied tightly in the back of her head in a bun, but it exposed her prevailing face. Her eyes, the same blue-ish grey color that I wore, over flowed with two sides: sympathy, kindness, and understanding, and yet power heat, and strength for what she believed in. I didn’t think I could handle being in the same room with such a woman. ‘Just remember what I told you’ I recalled Mrs. Lovett’s words and took a deep breath before I stepped in front of the carpeted stairs and knelt on one knee.
“Your Majesty,” I addressed her. Still kneeling with my face down, I spoke with fragile strength, “I would like to personally express my gratitude for your generosity of taking a stranger in need into your home and aiding her. Thank you, Your Highness.”
The Queen chuckled. “Stand, my dear. Your gratitude is accepted, and you are welcome.”
“Thank You, Your Majesty,” I stood, my back straight and my posture adding a few inches to my height. My eyes met and locked with those of the Queen’s, and she seemed to be in deep concentration. I did my best to not look away or cringe under the heat of her gaze, but to keep my expression light and grateful.
She stared at me for several silent minutes, then she rested her chin in her hand which was leaning against the arm of the throne. She chuckled humorously. “I cannot understand you, Mimi. You are how old?”
“Eight, Your Highness.”
“Eight years old. You are at the young age of eight years old yet I can see you carry wisdom beyond your few years.” She stared at me for a few more seconds. Though I was becoming comfortable under her gaze, I had to try hard not to fidget out of nervousness. I remembered from my school drama teacher that breathing helped with you are nervous, so I breathed. In, out. In, out.
“You have been through a great deal in your life, have you not?” she asked after the silent minutes.
“Yes, Your Majesty, you could say that.”
“And you would not mind me asking what it is that matured you at such a young age?”
I shook my head. “You may ask me anything you desire, Ma’am. I was very close to my mother, who disappeared when I was six years old. I was… an odd child, Your Majesty, and her running away didn’t exactly help it.” I glanced away, embarrassed, when a traitor tear escaped from the rim of my eye. I blinked the rest of them away. “My father remarried to our neighbor last year, not because he loves her, but because he is lonely. I feel like I should be doing more to comfort him, when I can’t even control my own emotions. Do you understand? I know I’m rambling.” I glanced at her helplessly, my façade of power broken to reveal a torn child.
Her eyes were filled with genuine sympathy. “You are not, my child. You are hurt, in every way possible, and you’ve felt more than a child should feel. Is this the reason that you ran away?”
I looked away quickly, suddenly terrified, and my breath sped. Could I lie to her? What would I say? If she found out I was lying, what would happen?@ I got a hold of myself with a couple breathes and met her gaze once more. “Yes, it is,” I replied with a straight face. Sometimes, years of putting on a mask comes in handy. “But, as you can see, Your Highness, I am not British. I’ve heard of the wonders of Brittan and I hitchhiked left and right until I found what I was looking for. You may ask, why was I found near a have? Well, I was hot, and I needed shade. As soon as my body cooled down, I guess it realized that I was dehydrated, so I fainted, hit my head, and now I’m not really sure where it is I lived.” I smiled weakly up at her. “Story of my life.”
She chuckled. “You know, my eldest son, Edward, has been keeping a close eye on you.”
I tried hard not to role my eyes. “I noticed, Ma’am.”
She grinned, her blue eyes shining. “Before I saw your face, he told me that you’re very beautiful.”
I blushed and glanced at my shoes, but beamed wildly. “Oh, has he, Ma’am?”
“Yes, he has. He also told me that you named your doll Victoria. I want you to know that I am flattered.”
I was about to say that I didn’t name Victoria after her, but I kept my lips shut and replied, “It is my pleasure, Your Highness. You are a magnificent queen.”
She smiled. Thank you, my dear. Now, go and rest, and ready yourself for supper, which I strongly hope you will be attending.”
I grinned. “Your wish is my command, Your Majesty. Until then, goodbye, Ma’am.” I bowed, turned around, and strut out the door with my head held high. When the door was closed and I was alone – or so I thought – I leaned on the wall and shut my yes. Mrs. Lovett was right; that wasn’t half as bad as I expected.
“Did she threaten to behead you?” I heard an amused voice to my right, yelped, and jumped. My heart was beating dangerously fast when I turned around to see Edward leaning casually on the wall.
I giggled breathlessly and rested my hand on my heart. “You scared the living crap out of me!”
I rolled my eyes. “Never mind. And no, she did not threaten to behead me.” I threw him a what-are-you-talking-about expressing and he raised his hands in defeat. I shrugged and leaned on the door again. “She was actually really nice.”
He grinned. “I told you, did I not?”
“Ugh, shut up, Edward,” I laughed, and pushed him. Suddenly, we both jumped to a voice calling his name. “Oops, that happens to be my mother. Give me one second dear.” The threw me a dazzling smile before he disappeared through the doors, and my heart stopped. I let my jaw drop open as my knees locked and I fell into a chair next to me. Let me put the puzzle pieces together. He called me dear, he kissed my hand, he seems very open to me… he likes me! Well, technically those could just be manners. I mean, I don’t know how the men act in the 1800’s; he could just be very courteous. Which would make sense, considering that he’s actually a prince. But then again, the queen told me that he thinks I’m pretty… no beautiful. Where do the pieces of the puzzle lie now?! I jumped again when the door beside me flew open and Edward burst out.
“Would you like to take a walk with me?” he asked, his eyes sparkling. “I know somewhere I think you’d like.”
“Alright,” I agreed and let him lead me again through the rights and lefts of this creepishly large maze, until we were out the door and standing on freshly cut grass. He didn’t give me time to gawk at the stunning garden, because right when we got outside, he started walking faster. So, I followed him faster, but considering that my legs were at least a half a foot shorter than his, I was practically sprinting.
“What’s with the hurry?” I asked breathlessly.
“I’d like to get there before sundown,” he explained, glanced back at me, amused. “Wow, you really are short.”
I didn’t have the time or breath to argue so I just let it be and followed right behind him.
A few minutes later we arrived at the most striking tiny river that I’ve ever seen in my life. The water was so royal blue that it was like it realized it lived near the queen and had to live up to her standards. I giggled in disbelief and stole a glimpse of Edward to realize that he was grinning at me. “What?” I asked him, wondering why he always seems to be staring at me.
“You know your eyes are like an open book.”
I rolled them just for him. “So I’ve heard.”
He chuckled. “We are not done walking, Madam.”
I stared at him pleadingly. “Seriously?! The water’s so beautiful! Can’t we just sit and watch it?”
He shook his head. “Nope, we cannot. Anyway we will be walking alongside the river so you can watch it all you want.” He grabbed my hand and started walking, so I had no choice but to walk along side of him in irritation.
A few minutes of complete silence except the rushes of the water calmed my jumpy spirit and I walked with him in peace.
“My mother told me about your family.”
There went my peace.
I glanced away, embarrassed. “Did she?”
Instead of nodding, a look of horror masked his face. “Are you crying?” I shook my head, though it was hard to cover up the fact that my cheeks were bring pink and a tear escaped my eye. He gently gripped my chin and met my eyes again. “Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You were hurt, and you have the right to cry.”
I jerked myself softly from his grip. “Your mother said that.” My voice was all gross and nasally, but he smiled.
“Like mother, like son.”
I fidgeting in the awkward silence that followed, and suddenly the thought of Victoria popped into my mind. “Victoria!”
Edward flinched at my random outburst. “What?”
“I left her in the bathroom. I have to get her before somebody touches her!”
“No,” he grasped my shoulders before I had the time to swivel around. “I was get her.”
“No buts. Stay here.” And with that, he was off, sprinting towards the palace in the other direction. With a sigh, I plopped myself down on a neighboring rock, ignoring the fact that my beautiful dress would probably get ruined.
I sat in silence for what seemed like a million years, my mind wandering off into space, but always returning in disappointment to the same boring scene. After a long while, my legs felt stiff and asleep, and I seriously had to move them. When I stood, I got that really uncomfortable feeling of pins and needles but started walking along the riverside.
Ugh, I am sooooo bored, I thought. Honestly, how old does it take to get a friggen doll from a bathroom?! Feeling in need for a little movement of my extremely and annoyingly stiff legs, I moved sideways until I was just half an inch away from the river. I threw my arms up for balance and began to walk on the dangerously close curb of the river.
Ok, I can admit, I have pretty terrible feet-eye coordination. So, when my feet were wobbling and my eyes were wandering, I didn’t exactly notice a rock the size of my foot until my foot actually hit it. totally caught off balance, I yelped as I fell smack into the river.
Ok, I have another thing that I have to admit: I’ve never actually learned how to swim. And that shouldn’t be so surprising considering the fact that I live in mountains and nobody has a pool there or anything. so, I went inevitably with my first instinct: flap my arms like a chicken, kick my legs like a ninja, and scream at the top of my lungs like a madman.
I was terrified. I’ve seen movies on my pathetic one foot by one foot TV about people falling into rivers not knowing how to swim and drowning. So, in the midst of my ear-splitting yell, I focused all my energy to keep my head out of the water and keep myself from being shoved by the soft current.
Just like many things in my life, it didn’t go exactly as planned.
Though the current was soft and smooth, it was stronger than my fragile body and heaved me along its path. While trying to both emit a blood-curdling scream AND kick as hard as I could back to my original spot a few meters behind, I couldn’t manage to keep my face about the surface of the water. I sucked in a deep breath before my face went under the water then jerked it back up again. I gasped when my face touched air again, but that wasn’t such a great idea; just as fast as my face touched the air, it got shoved into the water again. With a strong and exceptionally large intake of water, I couldn’t help myself but cough underwater, causing me to breathe in more painful river water.
With another minute of coughing under the surface and my lungs filling up with water, I felt dizzy and tired and I was just about to shut my eyes when I felt strong arms grasp under my legs and behind my back and raise my face above the water. Though my eyes were shut, I was aware of my surroundings (I think) and felt someone push on my chest.
“Come on, Mimi. Open your eyes,” he cried, his voice masked in horror. His voice sent an odd jolt through my body and immediately caused my eyes to fly open and my lungs to cough out water. I rolled onto my stomach, spitting up disgusting river fluids when I heard him sigh in relief then reached to gather the hair out of my face. “You scared me half to death, Mimi,” he whispered, patting my back as I kept uncontrollably coughing. “Please, please, please Mimi, don’t you ever do that again to me.”
I glanced up at him, and felt a shock run to every part of my spirit, but used my amazing skills to mask my bliss. He cared. He cared about me. Though I didn’t understand why and how, I felt like sunshine poured its golden love into my heart as I realized the confusing yet true fact: I was already a part of Edward’s family.
I giggled at his terrified expression, but then winced when my throat felt like it was on fire.
Edward “shh”ed me. “Don’t talk. Your only hurting yourself.” But then he averted his eyes down to meet mine. “But I am wondering why you decided to fling yourself into the river.”
I shook my head.
He snorted. “Oh, so now we’re playing this game?”
I shrugged, and then nodded, grinning.
“Alright then. Did you throw yourself into the river because… you hate me?” he frowned dramatically, his eyes widening to the point that he could only be compared to a puppy dog. I giggled, and for the sake of my own amusement, I nodded. He gasped and then pretended to stab himself in the heart; he fell to the ground theatrically, his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth. I smacked his leg and he sat right up again. “Right. This is serious business here; back to the game.” I gave him my stink eye. “Did yo throw yourself into the river because-” I smacked him in the leg and shook my head when he met my eyes.
“Did you throw yourself into the river?”
I shook my head.
“Did you get pushed into the river?”
I gave him a look that said “who the heck would push me into a river?”.
He threw up his hands in surrender. “Alright, alright, so you didn’t get pushed into the river. Did you faint?”
I shook my head.
“Did you fall?”
With excitement and probably looking like a complete idiot, I started nodding my head up and down like a madman, my wet hair whipping my face.
He chuckled staring straight at nothing. “That wouldn’t surprise me.” Then he glanced at me both questioning and amused. “You didn’t smack me or anything?”
I shrugged. “It’s true,” I croaked. I winced at the sharp pain in my throat that rode up to my nose and head.
He stared at me, concerned. “Please don’t talk. I hate to see you in pain.”
We stared at each over for several long minutes, and then I averted my eyes to the grass I was sitting on. “Why?”
“Why do you hate to see me in pain?”
He laughed, surprising me, his voice sounding like sweet bells. “Is it that shocking that I don’t like to see you writhing in pain?”
I smiled wryly. “Well, it’s nice to know that someone cares.”
His smile dropped. “A lot of people care about you, Mimi.”
I snapped. “Like who? You don’t know my life, Edward. Don’t try to pretend like you do.” I regret the words the moment they left my lips. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”
He stayed quiet for a few more seconds before repeating, “A lot of people care about you.”
“Like who?” I asked, a little more softly. “Who can you name that really, truly care about me?”
He shrugged. “Me.”
I blushed and looked away. “You don’t know me, though.”
He smiled softly. “But I have a strong feeling that I will.”
I giggled. “What that supposed to sound a bit creepy.”
He laughed along with me, obviously relaxing from the previous tension. “Oh, yes. That’s what I was going for.”
“Can we walk again?” I started to stand.
He stood faster, helping me up. “Promise me you won’t jump into the river again?” His eyes were pure amused which made me cackle and punch his shoulder. “Ouch,” he cried theatrically and I rolled my eyes. However, though my eyes were rolling, I couldn’t blanket the huge, blissful, cheek-to-cheek grin on my lips.
The laughing simmered to just pleasant silence, my hand in Edwards’s, when I had to ask a question. “Tell me about your family.”
He jumped at the random request, but followed through. “Alright. Though it’s true that I am the eldest son, I am not the eldest child.
Though I shouldn’t have been so shocked, my eyes widened. “You lied to me?!”
He shook his head fast, horrified, saying, “No, no, no. I told you I was the eldest son. My sister, Victoria, was born on November 21st 1840, and that makes her just a few more years older than me. After me, Alice was born, and then Alfred, Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leapold, and Beatrice…” he counted them off with his fingers, but honestly, I couldn’t keep up. I glanced down and quickly counted the fingers he used and realized he had eight other brothers and sisters. That’s nine altogether! Jeesh, this woman has to get a hobby.
Like he could read my mind (or maybe just read my annoyingly readable eyes), he chortled, his laugh like sweet and smooth velvet to my ears. “What, you don’t have that many brothers and sisters?”
I stared at him in shock, but giggled on the verge of hysteria. “That many? Besides my Victoria over here, I’m all alone!” As I watched his face morph into one as shocked as mine before, I continued, “Although I did have a hamster when I was three, but for all we know it died when it ran away half a year later-”
“You’re the only child in your family?” he interrupted, his mouth dropped open like someone told him that the world is actually made up of dog crap.
I glanced at him in amusement. “Is that a bad thing?”
He stuttered. “Yes, well, no, but, I mean – one child – that’s unreasonable! Absurd! Why would a family only give birth to one child? That is delusional! One child? What was your mother thinking?” His words halted to a stop as he realized his blunder. I could see he was trying to think up the right words to say, the right words to make me understand that it was just an accident.
But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see past the sudden anger that clouded my vision; it wasn’t sorrow, pain, or even that abrupt hollow feeling I always get in the pit of my stomach.
Without another word, I stood from my spot and started stomping towards the palace, glaring at nothing but the open space in front of me.
“Mimi! Wait!” I could hear him cry from behind.
He better not follow me, I threatened him mentally. I’m feeling dangerous, and HE BETTER NOT FOLLOW ME.
I could hear his footsteps shortly behind mine.
He followed me.
“Mimi, wait,” he repeated out of breath, panting, and grabbed my arm.
“Don’t touch me!” I jerked my arm out of his grasp and pushed him hard. Staggering back a few steps myself, I composed myself once again and came right up to his face. I pointed a finger at his chest. “Listen to me, Edward,” I growled through my teeth. “If you ever even consider talking about my mother again, I swear I will find some way to put your pretty little head on a platter and serve it for lunch. Got it?!” I put my finger down and broke the gaze.
Thinking I’d get some stuck-up, I’m-the-eldest-son-of-the-queen attitude, I was surprised when he flat out said, “I’m sorry.” And it wasn’t just the I’m-sorry smirk of the whatever, I’m sorry mumble. It was a straight up, sincere, genuine apology.
“Okay,” I muttered, satisfied, and rubbed my face in my hands. I closed my eyes to breathe, the best way of releasing stress, and met his eyes again. Just when he opened his mouth to say something, we both turned our heads to the sound of tiny yet loud bells ringing through the yard and mixing with the rushes of the river. “What’s that?”
“That means dinner.” He grabbed my wrist and we started walking hand in hand back towards his home – our home? – none of us saying a word nor doing something more than studying the beautify of his front yard.
When we arrived to the palace, we went our separate ways… well not exactly; we were more shoved our separate ways by annoyingly pushy servants that immediately rushed me to Mrs. Lovett.
When we came to our stop at my bedroom, I couldn’t deny the fact that I was ecstatic when the aggravating maid ran off to finish maid-chores or whatever they do. How was I supposed to know?
I knocked on the door lightly.
It swung open.
Mrs. Lovett widened her eyes in shock at the sight of me. “Oh, poor dear, what happened?” she exclaimed, checking me out from head to toe and stroking my drenched hair from top to bottom.
“Well,” I started, “I kind of-”
“That’s all very well, dear. Now what are we going to do about dinner?” she interrupted me and practically pushed me into the bedroom then shut the door.
“What do you mean?” I asked, gazing at her as I plopped myself on the bed. I glanced down at my dripping wet dress. Was I going to get in trouble for wetting the bed… well you know what I mean? I certainly hope not, because my legs were tired from all that walking (thanks to Edward) and I seriously needed somewhere to rest them. I happily took the weight off of my feet and glanced back up at Mrs. Lovett.
“What do I mean about what, darling?” she murmured automatically, her mind obviously elsewhere.
“What about it?”
I rolled my eyes. “Ugh, never mind.”
She let it be. “Alright then. Darling, what are we going to do about dinner?”
I threw my hands into the air. “God help me!”
Without another word, Mrs. Lovett scat into the closet then hurried back merely twenty seconds later with yet another gorgeous gown in her over-worked hands. This one was a bit more mature and yet it was exquisite with its deep shade of purple. The skirt wasn’t as wide as the dress that I stripped off quickly and replaced it with the new one. It fell slightly longer and thinner than the other dress, but was still way too hoop-ish to be considered anything appropriate for the 21st century, other than Halloween. It fell in dark purple waves, though the tight-ish corset wasn’t merely purple; around the waist it curved so nicely was a white and blue ribbon that twirled around the waist and fringed beautifully at the top of the dress. With a pair of white heals, a quick drying of my hair with a towel, and a dab of make-up, I was ready when I got called down to dinner.
“Alright, darling. You’re all set.” Mrs. Lovett rubbed my shoulders and threw me a motherly smile, and then spun on her heel. Without a second glance and before I could stop her, she was out the door.
And I was all alone.
How the hell am I supposed to know where dinner is? I thought frantically to myself, and told my paranoid mind to stay calm. I was gonna get there, and I was gonna get there on time.
Straightening my back with determination like I was a warrior, I rushed out the door and took the first right, and then the next left. By the third ring of the dinner bell, I was sprinting. I kept taking random rights and lefts, and dripping in perspiration from both running with heels and anxious paranoia that I was going to be late. Which of course I already was.
Sprinting down another two lefts and a right, I suddenly realized I was sprinting so fast that I didn’t notice a pretty young maid walking leisurely my way.
With an odd mix between a gasp and yelp, I actually managed to hit her like a speeding car crashing into a brick wall, and I knocked her over.
“Oops! I mean, uh, oh my. I’m so sorry!” I stuttered, helping her up to her feet and picking up all the papers and tiny maid tools she was holding. “I really am sorry.”
“It’s alright,” she muttered, shocking me with her expression: pure embarrassment. Not anger, not disapproval, but embarrassment. Though I didn’t have a dang clue why she would be embarrassed, I didn’t have time to ponder the possibilities. Just as she murmured a soft “good day” and was about to rush away, I stopped her.
“Wait,” I put up my hand in a stopping motion. “Do you know where the dining room is?”
“Which one?” she squeaked, her voice as shy as her blushing cheeks told me she was. “There are many.”
“Uh, the one I’m supposed to be in right now?” I asked, desperately praying that she would know.
Her eyes lit up. “Ah yes, you are Miss Mimi, are you not?” I really liked the ‘miss’ part; I stood up taller and nodded in return. “Yes,” she repeated. “We must hurry to get there in time!”
Oh that ship has sailed, honey, I thought. Obviously refusing to run, I quickly hurried right on her tail. “Thank,” I panted to her as we were dashing through the lefts and rights of the hallways. “Getting there in time means a lot to me, because apparently I have to please the queen… I mean, uh, Her Majesty.” I glanced awkwardly in her direction. “Um, is there anything I can give you in return?”
He laughed wryly, the sound like soft music without its happiness. “A raise,” she muttered and when we arrived at the door that was supposedly the dining room, I didn’t wait to thank her again, I just barged in, and of course, all eyes were on me.
It must have been a pretty funny picture actually, if you weren’t the girl who it circled around. The queen and her large family all sitting patiently at an extremely long square table overflowing with delicious food, staring blankly at a small girl panting at the door. I felt like a good student late for class, with the whole class laughing at you and the teacher yelling. But, the disapproving gaze of the wise queen meant so much more than yelling. It cut deeper, and darkened the humiliated blush on my cheeks.
Breathing the awkward silence but still panting, I bowed to Queen Victoria and said with truth, “I apologize I’m so late for the dinner you so generously allowed me to join. I lost my way and a very sweet maid guided me here.” I hesitated, and then blurted out, “oh, and she wants a raise.”
Surprising me and probably all of the rest of her family, the queen threw her head back and laughed. Though she seemed like a sweet yet serious woman, the sound of her laughter was nice. It was comforting, like it could make you feel at home in a distant land. In other words, it comforted me, making me feel at home in a distant land. How straightforward, I know, but it’s true. I immediately felt relieved that she wasn’t angry and almost grinned as her booming laughs simmered down to a mere chuckle. “I’ll be sure to write that down on my to-do list,” she replied, her voice overflowing with amusement. “Take a seat, Mimi.”
I quickly replied, “Yes, ma’am,” and rushed over to the unoccupied seat next to a grinning Edward.
Before he could say anything, Her Majesty stood from her sweat at the head of the table and declared, “Let us say grace.” I glanced around myself, suddenly frantic. Grace?? I’m Jewish! I thought as I joined hands with Edward and reached across the table to the girl I later learned was Louise. I followed as they closed their eyes and bowed their heads, but did not say “Amen” along with the family. I hoped they wouldn’t notice.
The queen opened her eyes and glimpsed at me. “Do you not say grace?”
I fidgeted under the weight of the gaze of the whole family. “Um, well, I’m actually Jewish.”
The table grew completely silent. And I’m not talking about silent like the adults stopped talking and the kids kept toying with their napkins and giggling. I’m talking like everyone stopped their conversations, put an end to their childish fidgeting and stared at me.
Everyone except Edward and Victoria.
With a disapproving tone in her voice, she addressed every one of the children, and even her husband Albert. “Have you not met those with another faith, children? Not everyone in this world is Christian, you all know, or at least I have taught you all. Including you, Albert. Our family is raised better than this; you are being very disrespectful to our guest!”
With a glance to their mother and then to me, they muttered quick apologies and returned to stare at their laps. “Let us eat!” her voice ringing powerfully and suddenly the room erupted in conversation as servants… well.. served us food.
Food that could be described as the most amazing food ever.
I swear it was like music to the mouth, bliss to the bite, and heaven to the cup. Chicken, steak, rice, salad, anything that you could ever imagine I stuffed my face with, and though in normal cases I would have felt like a completely pig, I honestly didn’t mind being a pig for once. Trust me, I showed off the dang cookie monster.
By the time dessert came my stomach was stuffed like an overfed mosquito and we were all laughing and talking. “More food?!” I exclaimed with a shocked open mouth to Edward. He laughed and nodded, then went straight for the ice cream. “I swear you all are trying to make me fat.”
Edward chuckled and squeezed my hand under the table, then shoved a tablespoon of ice cream into his mouth like a real man.
I shrugged off my female worries and did the same, and soon, of course, my head was spinning with sugar and a serious brain freeze.
“So, Mimi,” I turned my head at the sound of my name to the queen’s husband. He looked like a semi-nice guy, with is hands folded neatly over his lightly bulging belly. “Do you play any instruments?”
Still pretty high on the sugar overload, I yelped, “Yep! I play piano and sing.”
“Would you play a song for us, please?” the queen asked politely.
That sobered me.
“Um,” I scratched the back of my neck and giggled nervously. “The thing is that I don’t know how to play any professional songs; I’ve only written pieces,” I lied, knowing that I’d be playing a song that would be made in the future.
“Then show us what you’ve written!” Alice pleaded as she rocked back and forth in her chair.
I giggled again, and glanced around the room. Of course, my eyes met Edwards, and they practically yelled out, “For me?”
I know it may sound stupid, but I could hardly resist the pleading and yet totally dazzling look in his eyes. “I hate you,” I muttered to Edward under my breath before I turned back to the family and exclaimed, “Of course!” with false excitement.
Queen Victoria clapped her hands together once and said with a pleased voice, “Perfect!” She stood. “Let us show you to your stage, performer.”
After following the family for five minutes, I whispered to Edward, who was right by my side (of course), “Where are we going?”
“To the piano!” he replied matter-of-factly.
I nodded casually, trying to put on a false impression that I was cool with all of this.
Hence false in false impression.
My knees were shaking with every step that I took and my hands were starting to fidget with my locket. I also couldn’t deny the fact that beads of sweat were forming on my brow, and though I tried to cover up my nerves, it was obvious that I was scared out of my mind. Well, at least Edward noticed. He put his arm around my shoulder and hugged me to him, then whispered into my ear, “You’ll do great.”
And with that, we opened two fancy doors to the “piano.”
Now, I thought she was exaggerating when she called it a ‘stage’; I thought she merely meant a piano against a wall as I’ve known for years. Oh, how I was wrong.
When we pushed open the doors to my performance space, I could hardly believe my eyes. She literally meant a stage! I stood with the family staring at an extremely large dimmed theatre with at least one hundred fancy seats and a huge stage in front. standing on that stage was a beautiful black grand piano that practically called out, “Come and play me!”
I didn’t notice how cold the queen had gotten until she was right next to me, her face lowered next to mine. “Go on,” she encouraged, laying and hand on my back. “We’ll be right in the audience.”
I nodded, and gulped, then started down the long isle, my knees twitching and shivering the whole ride. When I got up the stairs, my heels clicked loudly in the silence of the room, then echoed nicely off the walls. I sat myself on the black padded bench, touched the smooth fall covering the keys, and then pushed it open.
With a slight loving smile, I brushed my fingers gently across the keys; I’ve missed the feel of the piano beneath my fingers so much because it felt like home to me. With a breath of calm my now-few nerves, I was ready to go, and played my first chord.
I sang. I’ve heard it said that you’re never really living
Till you found something to die for
And I know from the calls I haven’t gotten
You’ve forgotten me
Time flashes by like the beat of a broken heart
It’s a start but I try not to show it
Because the girl that you see staring into your eyes
Isn’t me, Isn’t me, and I know it
Tell it to my eyes, where are you?
How far have you gone? How far from me?
Why can’t you show me the woman I’ll be?
Broken love and shattered soul
I was six; it took my toll
It stole my all, you stole my heart
But we both know it was yours from the start
You took one half, and I took the other
A broken girl with a missing mother
It comes with me, wherever I go
I say yes, my mask says no
Under the veil, beyond the façade
I’m a small shattered girl who’s been terribly played
By my own best friend, handsome song for a sound
Who managed to love me, then spat me to the ground
Come back to me, Mother, that’s all I ask
Till then I’ll forever be wearing this mask
With a soft C minor and then a ride-up, I finished my song with a tear in my eye and Mother’s face in my heart. I averted my eyes from the comforting and homey look of the black and white keys to the family in the darkness that I realized were dead silent.
For a minute, I thought they hated it. I thought they’d get angry that they wasted their precious time on a silly song writing by a young child. I realized that iw as stupid for singing this, and I should have told Albert that I didn’t play an instrument, when I heard the queen stand on her feet and start clapping.
Soon, the whole family was applauding like crazy with silly “woohoos” and “yeahs”. With rushed excitement, they joined me on the stage and all of the queen’s children attacked me like I was some celebrity. I laughed and gave into the hugs they squeezed me in, and when they finally let me breath, Queen Victoria came up too, smiling slightly. I noticed that her eyes were bloodshot from what I realized was crying.
I gasped. “Are you ok, Your Highness? I really didn’t mean to make you cry,” I apologized, but she immediately shook her head.
“You know,” she sniffed. “I rarely tear up from song or lyrics, even the slow ones with meanings. But this,” she shook her head disbelievingly. “This is a masterpiece. Beautifully written, beautifully sung, and beautifully played. Bravo,” she bowed her head in respect and her husband shook my hand, grinning.
That’s when Edward practically knocked me over.
“Woah!” I yelped as I staggered back from Edward’s forceful hug, and soon wrapped my arms around him, too. He nuzzled his nose into my hair and I laughed. He laughed too, but soon whispered, “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard in my life. You know what you are?”
I whispered back with the same intensity and drama he put into his words. “What?”
“A genius.” He squeezed me tighter in his arms and I melted into his embrace. I closed my eyes and smiled slightly has I rested my head on his shoulder. He smelled like nothing more than home, though home smelled nothing like him. Mint, and lavender, and sweet honey mixed into one scent that made my head twirl. His warmth, however, was home, if not home to me. When I opened my eyes again and stepped out of his hug, I realized that the queen and Albert were having their own little happy love scene, Albert embracing her and kissing her softly on the lips.
“Ugh, get a room!” Edward looked as if he was about to get sick, and I cracked up at his expression. I punched his arm hard.
“She’s the queen! She does what she wants!” I said with mock smugness and she mirrored my acting.
“Yes, I’m the queen. Listen to your friend, son! She’s smart!” the queen laughed strongly and ruffled my hair, as Edward jumped right back into play.
“Not on my watch!” he exclaimed. “Well, I guess you’re right. She is the queen. But you, my good lady, are not, and I do not give you permission to watch them!” he covered my eyes with his palm and I gasped.
“Who said I need your consent, Prince Edward?” I laughed and knocked his hand away, which soon found mine.
“I do, Princess Mimi.” He turned to his mother and father and bowed dramatically. “Good night, Your Highnesses. I am walking this fine maiden to her room and then – I realized Americans call – I’m going to, erm, hit the sack.” I threw my head back and let out a booming laugh, my stomach cramping and my face turning blue, no doubt.
Edward suddenly picked me up as he did in the river and started sprinting down the stairs and down the hallway leading to the door.
“Oh! Um, goodnight!” I cried back to the queen and her family as they laughed when we flew through the door.
Edward’s sprint simmered down to a mere strut, and after a while of silence I noticed I felt like I was flying. I glanced down and realized that I was still in his arms. “Um, Edward?”
“Hmm?” he answered automatically.
“You can put me down now.” I patted his arm and he chuckled.
“If you insist, Princess Mimi.” He laid me on my feet so gently like he thought I would break if he used any more force. Why wasn’t he thinking that when he attacked me in the hug? I rolled my eyes involuntarily, but smiled. Suddenly, a thought came to me.
“Why do you keep calling me princess?” I asked him, stall walking but staring straight into his eyes.
“That is what I wanted to talk with you about, Mimi,” he said after a minute or so. All joking and playfulness left his voice, and he said his words with such a serious intensity that I was scared. He kept staring straight ahead, though I could tell he noticed me gazing at him.
“What?” I asked nervously. What could it be that would get him so… sober from all his usual excitement? What? Were they planning to kick me out? Was that it? was that why we had that huge exciting dinner and then the performance they encouraged so dearly? Was it all for farewell?
“We’d like you to become a part of this family,” he blurted, and then I stopped walking. So did he.
“What?” I whispered.
He now gazed unfalteringly into my grey eyes and put his hand on my shoulder. “we’d like you to be a part of this family,” he repeated softly. His eyes were pleading, but he kept a straight face.
I couldn’t even tell what mine looked like. I didn’t even care. The only thing I thought about was my father. I know I always talking about the struggle without a mother, but my daddy has been by my side for the while ride. The day that mom left, yes, I was torn. But my father was the only reason that I didn’t break apart. He always held my hand and comforted my cries and soothed my pain. He played soccer with me and took me exploring around the mountains as a child, and though it’s true that he could never be a mom, he was a hell of a dad. And it broke my heart at the thought of yet another love of his life leaving him. Would Nancy take good care of him? I wasn’t certain. I guess you could say that she was the best friend he never had, or the best one to fill mom’s shoes. I mean, before mom and dad got married, they were inseparable friends. They did everything together, and I mean everything. And even though sometimes it definitely makes me feel lonely, Nancy and Dad were pretty dang close. He didn’t love her as a wife, he loved her as a friend, and I didn’t know how a friend could fulfill the duties a wife would to a husband, never-the-less a husband who’s lost every other important person in his life. But then again, I trusted Nancy with his heart. She would never break it, and though he didn’t love her, I could hardly imagine him leaving her. And she was so oblivious to the fact he wasn’t in love with her that she practically imagined them living happily ever after. There wasn’t only the fact that Nancy would be true to him, but there was that big unanswered question still in play: how do I even get back? Even if I wanted to, how would I? I couldn’t just wonder on the streets and starve, searching for a miracle.
Edward noticed my hesitance and stuttered nervously, “Well, where other place would you go? I mean, um, you don’t remember where your father lives and I mean we’d treat you well, and I know Victoria can seem harsh, but she’s a really good mom, but I mean it’s not like she’s replaced your mom, and-”
“Please, Mimi! I said we’ll treat you well and- wait,” he stopped and glanced at me confused and yet totally hopeful. “What did you say?”
I laughed. “Yes,” I repeated joyfully. “I will accept your offer and become a part of your family.”
A grin spread slowly across his face as he cried out, “Yes!” and spun me around in an embrace. I yelped and giggled, bliss and joy filling up every once of my body, reaching out and tingling my finger tips. “Mom! Dad! Come!” Edward yelped with happiness, and the whole family soon came running. “She said yes! She said yes!” the family erupted into excitement and happiness and all squeezed me in a hug.
“Welcome to the family, honey,” Queen Victoria enfolded me in her motherly arms and tears of joy streamed down my face. I’ve never felt so at home, so happy. And from that moment, I knew and realized that this was the place I belonged… at least until I could find a way to go back to father. Until then, this was my home.
Home. Such a powerful word, so strong, and yet so fragile. A home could be broken easily, but I don’t think anybody realizes how effortlessly it could be built once again. When my mother left me years ago, I was torn. I grew in a home so broken and with a heart so tattered that I thought that opening it to new people would be like a punch to my fragile strength and my tender wounds. But, now, I realized that the past is the past, and the present is definitely a gift. I must embrace it, and that was always the answer. Home was not about replacing Mother. It was about opening myself to the world around me, and accepting the people who love me. And then, when Queen Victoria, Edward, and their family – my family – I was home. I slept that night with my loving doll Victoria in my arms, a smile on my lips, and exciting dreams about my future in my mind.
The years flew by as quickly and colorfully as staring out the window of a speeding car on a day in autumn. The memories of me ever living in 2010 slowly faded as the years raced by, and I grew to love my new family as my only family. I slowly stopped wearing “man pants” and started falling in love with feminine aspects like fashion and make-up. I made friends with my younger and older sisters and brothers, but nothing like Edward. We were inseparable. Starting with best friends, and then reaching to maybe something more, Edward and I soon fell deeply in love with each other. At my age of 16 and his of 20, he asked me to marry him and live happily ever after, just like what we used to read in the story books as children. And of course, I accepted his proposal with joy, and by the end of the month, we were wed.
It was 1857, and I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my dear husband and our five beautiful daughters: Jasmine, Anne, Camryn, Rose, and Amber. Jasmine and Anne were twins, both two years old and more hyper than a music box cranked up way too high. Camryn was one year old and so was Rose, but Camryn was half a year older. They were the calm children, the ones who let me sleep at night in bliss, though I never minded comforting Jasmine and Anne in the middle of the night. Why would I not? They were my children, and I loved my children more than anyone. And then came Amber. Amber was my newest child, who arrived just half a year ago. We called her ‘amber’ because, miraculously, she entered this world with pin straight hair down to her little butt, colored in the deepest shade of amber. Naturally, she was deep asleep.
“Happy birthday, my love!” Edward ran up to me and swooped me up into his arms spinning me around.
I laughed. “Edward, you’re going to wake the kids!” he mockingly shushed himself then kissed me tenderly on the lips.
“Happy birthday,” he whispered softly, and I was ecstatic that he picked me up at the time; if I was on my feet, they would have probably locked underneath me and I would have fallen to the ground. As odd as it sounds, I’ve never really gotten used to his perfection. Which really is odd, considering that I’ve lived with him my whole life. “I have to show you something, my princess.” He kissed me on the lips, then rushed over to Jasmine and Anne, swooped them up and laid them lovingly in their cribs, humming them their lullabies until they both fell asleep. The rest of the children were already asleep.
I laughed as he came up behind me and tied a blind fold over my eyes. “What are you doing?” I asked him, half scared and half excited.
“Well, if I told you, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise now would it?”
“You’ll see,” he murmured, leading me through the seriously annoying lefts and rights of the palace I’ve gotten so accustom to. Then I heard a certain door creak, and I felt a certain breeze on my cheek. “We’re outside,” he let me know.
I rolled my eyes under the sheet covering them. “Yeah, I can feel that. Thank you very much,” I said sarcastically and he chuckled at my irony. With a yelp, he lifted me again and I could feel him running up stairs.
With a giggle of excitement, I felt him take off the blindfolds and I opened my eyes.
“SURPRISE!” I jumped at the hundred or so people in front of my eyes, all sitting in fancy white chairs wearing sun hats and beautiful clothing. Half of them I didn’t know, and yet I was supposedly supposed to recall all of them. Figures. That’s the point of a mask.
“Oh!” I gasped in amazement, and kissed Edward on the cheek. “Thank you so much!” I squeezed him in a hug, jumping up and down, and he cackled his velvet laugh at my excitement.
“Anything for you, my love,” and with that he kissed my so sweetly that I hardly noticed the crowd applauding in the background. I giggled when the kiss broke, and we went hand in hand down the stairs to mingle with the guests.
The party was phenomenal. A beautiful opera singer sang all the songs I loved, including the song writing for me by a sweet yet creepy stalker by the name of Thomas Hardy. He was apparently also a poet for the naturalist movement, but he wrote a song about me called “The American Beauty”. If the song hadn’t been written by a man who tried to kill my husband for me, I would have been flattered. But now? Not so much.
However, the song had been a hit for England and was played everywhere. I actually liked the tune myself, though the lyrics were slightly creepy.
We mingled for at least an hour when I decided to take a bathroom break inside. “If you’d excuse me,” I smile politely me to the horrid woman I had been chatting with, and walked around the house to the back door I’d grown up with.
The house was completely silent when I stepped inside, except for the click of my heels and the rush of the maids running about. I sighed in pleasure in the silence and closed my eyes. Though I’ve definitely grown accustomed to parties and mingling with dead-boring people I’ve never talked to in my life, I sometimes needed a break to rejuvenate and come back feeling fresh and new. So, I started walking to the bathroom, keeping the click of my high heel shoes in rhythm while humming a tune; yes, I know. I’m just odd like that.
That’s when I saw her.
On the side of my eye as I took a step, I saw a woman grinning by a door. Though I felt like I knew her somehow, the party was outside, not inside. “Are you lost, Ma’am?” I asked politely. She, this woman, just giggled and walked through the door. Though I knew that some maid could definitely help this strange woman find her way to the party, something inside, something like tiny hypnotic voices told me to follow her.
So, of course, I did.
“Wait!” I cried after this woman whose smile seemed so oddly familiar. I ran in her footsteps and stared down the hall to see her grinning back at me and taking a right. I followed her, printing to keep up, when she kept taking lefts and rights. Suddenly, I ran up to an open door that led me to the attic. I glanced right and left frantically; she was gone. I was just about to close the door that was left open for some reason, when the little hypnotic voices in my mind told me to go up the stairs. Again, I listened to those beautiful voices that seemed so right, and climbed up the stairs.
I’ve been in my attic before, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve never spent much time in here. Why would I? It’s creepy and dark and very dusty. But also, what business would I have in an attic with boxes storing my old things? However, somehow, I knew which box to search through. For what? I had no idea. But I got onto my knees, opened the box with my nail and started rummaging through its contents. I took everything out one by one, each trinket or toy making me smile and reminding me of my childhood with Edward.
Until I found a certain doll at the bottom of the box.
The second I laid eyes on her, all the memories that I’ve forgotten came rushing back to me, like a boulder blocking a river to flow, then removing the rock. I remembered Father, and Nancy, and my life in the Appalachians, but mostly I remembered Mother.
I gasped as I realized that the woman downstairs was mother. Mother! Tears swelled up in my grey eyes and fell down my cheek freely. “I remember,” I whispered, sobbing to my knees. “I remember everything.”
My gaze dropped to Victoria again. I’ve had so many experiences with her; so many rough times in which she’d helped me get through. I reached down to caress her cheek and stroke her hair before…
Before I realized that she was glowing.
The second my skin came in contact with her plastic cheek, the room started spinning around me. Swirls of colors – forest green, sky blue, blood red, amber – swirled and twirled and danced around my and I gasped at the familiar sensation. I felt myself move forward, not physically or emotionally; I just moved forward faster and faster until…
It came to a stop.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I grasped the fact that it all stopped, when I remembered what happened the last time the world spun like that.
I glanced around myself, terrified to discover the sight I’d see.
I was in a cave.
A gloomy, darkish, quiet cave.
I glanced down when I realized that I was holding something: Victoria’s arm. No, not the queen’s, but Victoria as in my doll. I remember this place, I thought, and suddenly it all came back to me; this was the place that I went back in time.
I was in shock. My mind couldn’t grasp the fact that I had gone back to the year 2010. How could it? why? Why would God do such a thing to my?! Tears fell down my face and I fell to my knees as the truth hit me: Edward was dead. He died of old age, and without me, his wife, his lover. His friend.
I sobbed to my knees for what seemed like forever until my cries simmered down to mere silent tears. Edward, my Edward, I thought, praying to God that a miracle would happen and his was all just a bad dream. I thought about my five kids, my beautiful girls. Just like me, they had grown up without a mother; they had it worse, though. They died without a mother. At least I had a taste of what could have been, thanks to my dear sweet queen Victoria. She, too, was long gone, though she lived in my broken heart, now along with my love, Edward, and my babies.
“Mimi!” I heard a deep voice call my name, and I saw a man sprint my way. I looked up and he was standing right in front of my eyes. Father.
“Mimi, were the hell have you been?! I’ve been worried sick about you!” He panted, and seemed completely exasperated. Though I was still heartbroken over the loss of my family, I still had one family. Later I realized that this family waited for me all along.
“Father!” I cried and leaped into his arms, sobbing to his chest in both joy and sorrow. “I missed you so much,” I murmured to his shoulder as the tears streamed down my face. I guess I didn’t really realize how much I had until I lost it, and now that I had it back, I silently made a vow that I would never let go of it again.
“Shhh,” he hushed me, stroking my hair and kissing my cheek. “What’s gotten into you, sweetheart? You’re talking to me like you haven’t seen me in years!”
I laughed. “I haven’t,” I muttered involuntarily.
He cackled, his laugh soothing my cries. “Oh, haven’t you?” he asked.
I shook my head, partly happy to be a child once again.
He put me down and got on his knees. He wiped the tears away with his rough thumb and the warmness of his skin queued more tears. “Oh, honey,” he whispered as he pulled me into an embrace. “Even though I have no idea what the heck just happened, I love you so much, and I hope you know that.”
“I do,” I sniffled and he stood. He grabbed my hand and said, “How about we get some ice cream at home and then watch a movie? I can see you need some sugar and movie in your system.
I giggled and nodded and then we walked hand in hand to a special place that I like to call home.
I tried to tell myself that it was all just a dream, that everything that happened was a weird hallucination. Though I accepted that “truth” for the answer, I went to sleep with doubt in my mind and woke with the same weird feeling.
I went to school on Monday with my mind occupied on trying to stop thinking about it. though I knew it was just, um, a “hallucination”, I really couldn’t stop thinking about Edward. I missed him. A lot. Jeesh, how weird am I?! Falling in love with a man from my dreams? That is the definition of weird. And anyway, I’m not in love with him. I hugged Victoria tighter to my chest. Gosh, I’m eight years old. Of course I’m not in love with him. I don’t even know what love is…
The bell rang in first period Social Studies, marking the beginning of our day. My history teacher, Mrs. Bieres, actually managed to be weirder than me. He looks like he’s sixty-something years old, but he claims that he’s actually 25. Honestly?? This guy is ancient!! He also tries to convince us that the spirit of the “dead cat Willis” in a shoe box in his pencil drawer haunts students who chew gum. Again I say it… honestly?? Well, then again, I have dreams that I’m 18 and married to my step brother, so I shouldn’t be one to talk.
“Okay,” Mrs. Bieres clasped his hands together and shattered my internal rambles. “You’ll never guess what we’re learning about today, children.”
“What Mr. Bieres?” we all answered automatically and drearily. He asked this question every day, and it totally wasn’t necessary when we were still half asleep and cranky.
“We are learning about the Victorian Age!” I jumped at the sound of it, and then rolled my eyes my eyes when I remembered that I’ve made the conclusion that it was just a dream. Just a dream. Today was going to go fine. “Now open your textbooks to page 139, please.”
I yawned as I took out my textbook and turned to the page the requested.
“Hey, Mimi, she looks just like you!” Someone cried.
“What?” I glanced down to the black and white picture in the textbook and couldn’t believe my eyes.
In the textbook, in the big picture on the side of the page, was Queen Victoria, Edward from my “dreams”, his brothers and sisters, and right in the middle, with a familiar doll tucked under her arm, was me.