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Authors: John A. Heldt

Mirror, The (10 page)

BOOK: Mirror, The
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"What? You
have
to tell me."

Mike shut a door on the dairy case, looked at Katie, and smiled.

"He said she was 'the chatty one.'"

Katie brought a hand to her mouth and tried to stifle a laugh. She failed.

"That
is
funny. It's also true," she said. "Ginny loves to talk."

"Are you two pretty close?"

Katie nodded.

"Is she your only sibling?" Mike asked.

"No. I also have three brothers and another sister. They're all younger."

"Six? Wow. That must have been fun growing up."

"It was," Katie said. "What about you? Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"I have an older sister."

"What's her name?"

"Her name's Patricia, but everyone calls her Patsy. She's married and has a baby. She and her family live in Tacoma."

"What about your parents? Do they live nearby?"

"One of them does. I live with my mom a few blocks away."

"I see. What about your dad?"

Mike frowned.

"I'd rather not talk about him."

"OK. That's all right."

Katie berated herself for not picking up an obvious clue about Mike's father. She made a mental note to avoid the subject in the future.

Mike put the last half gallon in the case, slid the empty crates on the dolly, and returned his attention to Katie. He looked at her for an awkward moment before speaking.

"I guess we're done," Mike said.

"What's next?"

"We restock the ice cream and TV dinners. Mr. Greer wants me to give you a tour of the frozen-foods section before noon. Then we can have lunch. Are you OK with that?"

Katie smiled.

"I'm OK with that. I'm sure I'll learn a lot."

"I don't mean the work. I mean lunch," Mike said. He looked at Katie but couldn't hold his gaze. "I want to take you to the burger place next door."

Katie didn't answer right away. She instead thought the matter over for a moment as she considered possible replies. Lunch was never just lunch.

The pause proved too long for Mike.

"I'm sorry," he said. "That was kind of forward of me. If you don't want to go, I completely understand. I mean I just met you and all."

Katie studied Mike's face and saw the terror in his eyes. She couldn't remember the last time a boy had hemmed and hawed before asking her anything. This
was
a different time. When she was done mulling the matter, she looked at him thoughtfully and put a hand on his arm.

"There's no need to apologize, Mike. That's the sweetest offer I've had all year," Katie said. She took a breath and smiled. "I'd love to go."

 

CHAPTER 16: GINNY

 

Ginny bit into an apple and stared at the young man who sat at her picnic table in a park across the street from Greer's Grocery. She didn't care much for her lunch, which consisted of the apple, a banana, and a small carton of milk, but she did like the company.

"So tell me, James, what do you guys do for excitement around here?"

"It depends on which 'guy' you're talking about."

"OK. What do
you
do for excitement?"

James laughed.

"I play my guitar, hang out with Mike, and try to stay out of trouble."

"You play a guitar?"

"I play an
electric
guitar," James said with a smile.

"Are you in a band or something?"

"It's more like 'or something.' I get together with some friends every now and then and we scare the neighbors with our noise, but we never perform."

"Why not?" Ginny asked.

"We're not good enough."

"Who says?"

"The neighbors do. They threaten to call the police every time we practice."

"That doesn't mean you're not any good. It just means you're noisy."

James chuckled.

"That's what Mike says."

Ginny smiled at her new friend and coworker and then threw her apple into a nearby garbage can. She liked this guy. James Green wasn't as flashy as Steve Carrington or as assertive as some of the boys she knew in high school, but he wasn't as self-absorbed either. He was unassuming and down-to-earth. That was a good combination in any era.

"Are you and Mike friends away from work?"

James nodded.

"We've been best friends since we were four. We're like brothers. In fact, my mom adopted Mike a couple years ago. She says he behaves better than her own kids, so she adopted him. At least that's what she tells people."

Ginny laughed.

"He seems like a nice guy."

"He is," James said.

"That's good because he's out with my sister right now. Katie didn't even ask if I wanted to join her for lunch. She just took off with Mike. She never ditches me – particularly for a boy – but she did today."

"Don't take it personally," James said. "She just probably wants to get to know him better. Mike takes a while to know."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean he doesn't have a lot of friends. He hangs out with the guys at the store, but mostly he keeps to himself. He's kind of shy, just like me."

Ginny smiled.

"I can tell."

James finished his tuna sandwich and reached for a bottle of root beer. Like every other soft drink sold at Greer's, the beverage was available only in a thick glass bottle or a steel pull-tab can. Plastic bottles and aluminum cans were still on the horizon.

"What about you, Ginny? What's your story?"

"What makes you think I have a story?"

"Everyone's got a story, especially if they leave California for a place like this. You're not running from the law, are you?"

Ginny laughed.

"No."

"I didn't think so, but it never hurts to ask," James said. He sipped his soda. "I still can't believe you left California. Man, if I lived there, I'd never leave. I'd get me one of those hot rods, like the Beach Boys have, and maybe even take up surfing. I think I'd like surfing."

"You'd probably be good at it too," Ginny said.

James started on an apple.

"I'm serious though. Why did you leave?"

"Katie and I wanted to see another part of the country and live on our own for a while."

James nodded.

"That makes sense," James said. He put down his apple. "But why did you come
here
?"

"You mean Seattle?"

"No. I mean Greer's."

"Is there something wrong with that?" Ginny asked.

"No. It's just that the girls I know go straight to the department stores. Then they can talk all day, put on makeup, and sell clothes to each other."

Ginny raised an eyebrow.

"Are you saying dainty little things like Katie and I don't belong in grocery stores or that we can't work as hard as you big, strong men?"

"Oh, no," James said. "No, no. That's not what I'm saying at all."

Ginny smiled like a cat about to eat a mouse.

"Then what
are
you saying?"

"I guess I'm saying I should shut up."

Ginny laughed.

"Please don't. I love listening to you."

"You do?"

"Of course I do," Ginny said. "You're funny."

"If you say so."

"I say so."

James looked at his watch.

"It's five to one. We should be getting back. Randy and Greg get cranky when they have to take a late lunch."

"Are they mad because you got to take your lunch with the new girl?"

"Any other day I'd say yes," James said. "They would be madder than hornets. Those two flirt with more girls than Casanova. But not today they don't."

"I don't know what you mean."

James looked over Ginny's shoulder, focused on something in the distance, and returned his attention to his new coworker.

"Turn around."

Ginny did as instructed.

"You see those two girls walking across the street toward the front of the store?"

"The ones in the skirts?" Ginny asked.

"The ones in the skirts."

"What about them?"

"They're Karen and Janet, Randy's and Greg's girlfriends."

James chuckled.

"They won't be flirting with anyone today."

 

CHAPTER 17: KATIE

 

Friday, May 8, 1964

 

Lured by an eerie light that spilled out of a partially open door, Katie stepped forward. She had seen the door before – and the room – but never like this.

When Katie entered the room, she saw what she had expected to see: a checkered floor, a maze of mirrors to the right, and a large, oval mirror hanging on a far wall. Despite the unsettling darkness, she proceeded toward the solitary mirror, drawn first by a bluish-green light that shot out from the frame and then by a moving form in the glass.

Katie reached the mirror just in time to see the poorly defined form morph into the image of a boy. The young man, maybe eighteen or nineteen, had thick brown hair, dark brown eyes, and a pleasing face that conveyed not only warmth and sincerity but also weariness and loneliness.

Drawn to the figure in the mirror, Katie stepped forward. She placed her hands on the glass and watched the boy do the same. When she saw the boy look at her and smile, she responded in kind. For nearly a minute the two gazed into each other's eyes, as if trying to better appreciate the wonder on the other side of the glass.

The moment, however, ended all too soon as the young man frowned and stepped back from the mirror. He looked to his right, as if distracted by someone or something, and finally returned his eyes to the girl. When he was apparently sure that he had her attention, he extended an arm and beckoned her forward.

As a student of science, Katie knew the image was nothing more than an illusion. People did not dwell in mirrors any more than ghosts and goblins did. The boy was not flesh and blood but rather a figment of her vivid imagination. She stepped back and began to turn away until she heard a sound. The man in the mirror, the one who was not real, had begun to whisper her name.

Katie. Katie.

Drawn again to the image in the glass, she extended an arm and stepped forward. Only this time, she did not stop at the mirror's edge. Katie pushed her hand through the porous membrane and grabbed a hand on the other side.

When the boy-man smiled and nodded, she did the same. When he gently pulled her forward, she surrendered to the moment and stepped slowly through the glass.

Katie opened her eyes immediately and stared not at a mirror or a world beyond the glass but rather at a black-and-white television in an all-too-familiar motel room. She'd had a dream. It was a vivid dream that seemed as real as the amorous noises emanating from an adjacent room and the moonlight that trickled through the curtains, but it was a dream nonetheless.

Or was it?

When Katie revisited the particulars, she realized that she had not simply had a dream but had mentally replayed an episode at the Cedar River Country Fair – an episode she had subconsciously blocked in her mind. Ginny may not have been in the House of Mirrors, Part 2, but someone else was – and that someone else was Mike.

Within seconds the memories came flooding back. Katie had not fallen through some sort of trap door to the past. She had consciously and voluntarily passed through a looking glass in pursuit of a boy, just as Ginny had consciously and voluntarily passed through in pursuit of
her
.

Katie fell back on her pillow and stared blankly at the ceiling as she wrestled with several feelings, including sadness, guilt, helplessness, and confusion. She felt sad and guilty because she had dragged her sibling into this mess. She felt helpless because she didn't know what to do about it and confused because so much remained a mystery.

Why had the boy in the mirror been someone she had never met? Why had he been someone from her grandparents' generation and not her own? Did the pleasing illusion that had lured her into the past have a purpose beyond seriously disrupting her life?

Katie tried to make sense of it all but was interrupted by sobs before she could make much progress. She glanced to her right and saw Ginny bury her face in her pillow.

"Gin? Are you OK?"

"No."

"What's the matter?"

"I don't want to talk about it," Ginny said.

Katie rolled to Ginny's side.

"You have to talk about it. What's the matter?"

Katie watched her twin closely as Ginny lifted her head from her pillow and turned to face her questioner. Even in a darkened room, Katie could see tears on Ginny's cheeks.

"I just realized something," Ginny said.

"What?"

Ginny wiped away a tear.

"I never talked to Cindy. Right before we left for the fair, she came up to me and said she had questions about boys. She said they were important. She wanted to talk that night, but I didn't. I said I'd speak to her the next day. Now I wonder whether I'll ever get the chance."

"You'll get the chance."

"How do you know?" Ginny asked. "What if I'm wrong? What if we can't go back? Cindy will never see us again. Neither will Mom or Dad or the others. They'll never see us get married or have kids or grow old. They'll never see anything."

Katie moved closer to Ginny and threw an arm around her. She wanted to ease her sister's pain but suddenly found herself at a disadvantage. It was hard to alleviate another's fears when you shared every single one.

"We'll be all right, Ginny. You convinced me of that the other day. Marta said we'd have a chance to go back. She was very specific. We just have to be patient."

Ginny wiped a tear from her cheek.

"But what if I'm wrong? What if I'm completely wrong? What if we're stuck here?"

Katie turned away for a moment as her own eyes began to moisten. She wasn't sure she could deal with an unsettling dream and an unsettled sister at the same time. Ginny had picked one hell of a time to grow doubtful.

"If you're wrong, then we'll make the best of it," Katie said. "If nothing else, we'll have each other."

Katie leaned closer to get a better look at Ginny's face. She had never seen her twin as frightened and utterly helpless as she saw her now.

BOOK: Mirror, The
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