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Authors: John A. Heldt

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BOOK: Mirror, The
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Truth be told, Ginny didn't know what to believe either. Common sense told her that there had to be a logical explanation for the mirrors, the altered landscapes, and the vintage pickup. There had to be an explanation for the fifty-six-year-old newspaper that lay at her feet.

Deep down, however, she suspected that what appeared to be true
was
true. She was not in the Twilight Zone or a bad dream. She was, in fact, standing next to her very real sister in rural King County, Washington, in the very real year of 1964.

For most of her life, Ginny had held a rigid, practical view of time travel, a subject she had explored in numerous school essays. She sided with the scientists – not to mention people who had their heads screwed on straight. But that was before the weekend of September 14-15, 2019, when Joel and Grace Smith took their eighteen-year-old daughters, their oldest children, to their new summer cabin in Seaside, Oregon, and gave them a different kind of facts-of-life speech.

Ginny would never forget the moment her mother told her that she'd been born in 1920, had met her father in 1941, and had met her own parents – when they were still single – in the days following World War I. She would not forget the moment she learned that Lucille and William Vandenberg, whom she had always known as an aunt and uncle, were in fact her grandparents.

The time-traveling stories began, as most stories began, with her father. He had apparently traveled to Montana with a friend in May 2000, days before their college graduation, and entered an abandoned gold mine on a lark. When Joel Smith had exited that mine, he had found himself in May 1941 with money he couldn't spend, a cell phone he couldn't use, and more problems than a tourist without a credit card.

Joel had then returned to his hometown of Seattle, where he fell in with a group of college friends that included Virginia Gillette, his future maternal grandmother, and Virginia's roommate and best friend: a recently-engaged honors student named Grace Vandenberg. An orphan at age seventeen, Grace had managed to overcome the tragic deaths of her parents and set her sights on a career as a teacher.

Joel and Grace fell in love, of course, but their romance had not followed a predictable path. Not wanting to alter the fates of others, Joel had left Seattle hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and returned via the mine to his own time. He had left Grace with little more than six months of memories and a written apology tucked in a Christmas card she wasn't supposed to see until long after he was gone.

In a matter of hours, however, Grace had uncovered enough information to successfully follow Joel to 2000. They reunited a few weeks later, said their vows on a beach in Hawaii, and had two daughters before they signed the papers on their first home loan. The tale should have ended there, but it didn't. It was just beginning.

On October 5, 2002, Grace and Joel celebrated their second anniversary at the dedication of the new Palladium Theater, a replica of a Seattle movie palace that had burned to the ground in March 1919. The evening had been the stuff of dreams until Grace had visited the women's room to remove an object from her eye and suddenly found herself transported to the original theater's opening on October 5, 1918.

For the next five months, Grace built a new life as a single, pregnant twenty-four-year-old, even as she mourned the seemingly permanent loss of her husband and twins. She befriended a great-uncle and became an integral part of his family. She also met three young, unmarried adults she had once known as her parents and the aunt who had guided her to adulthood.

Grace had resigned herself to life in the past and even made plans to marry a wounded Army captain who had offered to provide her and her unborn child with a home. Then an opportunity to return to 2002 arose and Grace seized it. She returned to the future with her parents and Aunt Edith and finally made the life with Joel she had always wanted.

That was the story anyway. Though Ginny never knew quite what to make of it, she never dismissed it out of hand. She could not believe that her honest, down-to-earth parents would lie to their daughters about something so important and certainly something that could be disproved quickly and easily.

Ginny, in fact, had not taken her parents' word at face value. Shortly after returning from the beach, she had driven to two libraries and scoured a number of public records, photographs, and newspaper stories. She found some supporting evidence, including a feature article in the May 21, 1938, edition of the
Seattle Sun
. The piece about a scholarship winner named Grace Vandenberg included a photo of a blonde who looked an awful lot like Grace Smith. The girl, a senior at Westlake High, had lost her parents the previous New Year's Eve to a drunk driver.

Ginny shared her findings with Katie but had let the matter drop when it appeared that her sister had no interest in pursuing it further. They were high-school students with their senior year to consider and didn't want to spend it trying to make liars out of their parents. By the time graduation rolled around in June, the stories, which seemed too fantastic to imagine, much less believe, were in the twins' rear-view mirror.

When Ginny saw Katie wipe her eyes and walk away, she quickly caught up to her and threw an arm around her shoulder. She felt guilty about pressing Katie for an answer that even she couldn't provide. She wanted to believe Joel and Grace, but she also wanted to believe that what had happened to them had not also happened to their daughters.

As the siblings drew closer to Route 169, Ginny considered knocking on the doors of the houses they passed. She knew that some of the homes were occupied and knew that some of the occupants of these homes would be willing to help two damsels in distress.

She also knew that any assistance these locals might be able to provide would be temporary and limited. It was one thing to ask for a bite to eat. It was another to ask for a ride to 2020. The girls would have to do more than knock on doors to find a solution to their predicament. They would have to assess their situation and develop a plan.

"We're not going to get out of here, are we?" Katie asked.

She walked slowly and stared at the ground.

"Yes, we are."

Katie stopped and looked at Ginny with incredulous eyes.

"I don't think so."

"Yeah, I think so," Ginny said. "Think about what happened to Mom and Dad. They didn't just go back to the past and stay there. They returned. They returned to the same time and place by retracing their footsteps. They were able to find their way home – and so will we."

Katie shook off Ginny's arm and glared.

"You don't know that. You don't know that at all. What happened to them may not happen to us. We may be stuck here forever."

Katie shook her head and walked away.

"You're right, Katie," Ginny said as she again rejoined her sister. "I don't know for a fact that we'll get out of this, but I think we will. The more I think about it, the more I believe it."

"Why? Why on earth would you believe it? We're stuck here."

Ginny took a moment to consider the comment and then slowly shook her head.

"No. We're not. You're forgetting something."

"What?" Katie asked.

"Think about what Marta said. I've been running her words through my head since we left the fairgrounds."

"What words? She told us we were going to go on a 'strange, mysterious journey.' Well, she sure got that right."

"Yeah. She did," Ginny said. "Marta said we'd get in a mess like this, but she also said we'd have an opportunity to get out of it. She was very clear. She said we'd have one chance to go home and warned us not to blow it."

"How do you know we haven't already missed that chance?" Katie asked. "Did you see a big mirror in the House of Mirrors? Did you see
any
mirrors?"

"No. I didn't. I don't expect to either – at least not for a while. The fair is over, Katie. The exhibitors probably put the mirrors in storage and won't bring them back until September."

Ginny looked at her sister and awaited eye contact.

"Like I said, we're stuck here," Katie said bitterly.

"You're right. We
are
stuck. We'll probably be stuck here for four months, but four months isn't forever. We will get a chance to go home," Ginny said. "We just have to be patient and find a way to survive until the fair opens again."

Ginny leaned forward to get a better look at Katie's face and saw the beginning of a you're-right-again frown, which in the non-verbal lexicon of the sisterhood was as good as a smile. She gave Katie a playful glance as they reached the end of Blackberry Lane. Several cars whizzed by on Route 169 but Ginny made no effort to stop them. She and Sis had more talking to do.

As if guided by the same internal compass, the two turned right at the intersection and began heading in a northerly direction. They walked in silence for a few minutes on the highway's wide right shoulder until Katie turned to face Ginny.

"I hate it when you do this," Katie said.

"What?"

"Get all calm and reasonable on me."

"Isn't calm and reason what we need now?" Ginny asked.

"Yes, but . . ."

"But what?"

"Sometimes screaming and crying are much more satisfying," Katie said.

Katie gave her twin a furtive glance and a weak smile.

Ginny laughed.

"What am I going to do with you?"

"Trade me in for a sister with a backbone."

Ginny smiled.

"What good would she be? We'd just fight all the time."

"Maybe," Katie said. "But she'd probably be more useful to you now."

"
You're
useful. You just need to stop whining. I'm counting on you to come up with some answers. You're better at that than I am."

"What kind of answers?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe like where we're going to find food and a place to stay."

"You really want my advice?" Katie asked.

"Yes, I want your advice. Do you have any ideas on what we should do next?"

Katie smiled smugly, as if to acknowledge a rare concession from her sister. A few seconds later, she looked at Ginny with a more thoughtful expression.

"I do."

The two words were music to Ginny's ears. Katie may have been the less confident and assertive of the twins, but she was by far the more creative and imaginative and, right now, the two needed a whole lot of creativity and imagination.

"Well speak, girl."

"OK. OK," Katie said. She paused to catch her breath. "I think the first thing is obvious. We should look for jobs. We should go back to Seattle today and look for jobs. There are probably a lot of opportunities for people our age in the university district. We should start there."

"I agree," Ginny said. "We need money to support ourselves, but we also need food and shelter now. Even if we find jobs today, we won't get paid today. Our cash and credit cards are no good. Have you thought about that?"

Katie nodded again.

"I have. I know a way we can pay our bills until we find work."

Ginny raised an eyebrow.

"Legally?"

"Yes, legally," Katie said. "You won't have to compromise your lofty standards."

Ginny laughed and put a hand on her sister's shoulder.

"Anything else?"

"Yes. There is one more thing. We have to learn more about the fair. If we only have one chance to go home, then we had better make sure we don't miss that chance. We need the fair dates and more info on the House of Mirrors. I don't remember seeing much in that brochure."

"There wasn't much," Ginny said.

"Do you still have it?"

"No. I threw it away, but I remember what it said. It didn't give much history on the exhibit. It just said that it closed in the mid-sixties."

"Let's hope the mid-sixties doesn't include 1963," Katie said.

"It doesn't. Marta's prediction wouldn't make any sense if it did."

"You assume that the way back is through the House of Mirrors," Katie said. "I don't."

"I do," Ginny said. "That's how time travel works – in literature and real life. You enter and exit the same way. Dad went through a mine and came back through a mine. Mom went through a restroom and came back through a restroom. What matters is the timing. I'm not sure about everything, but I'm sure about that."

"If you say so."

"I say so."

Katie sighed and trudged forward. She kept to herself for the next few minutes as cars continued to pass. Most looked like they had been manufactured in the fifties.

"Now, it's your turn," Katie said. She turned to face Ginny as the two reached another rural intersection. "We still need to get to the city. Any suggestions?"

Ginny glanced at Katie but didn't answer. She returned her eyes to the road until a vehicle that looked a lot like a 1957 Chevy sped by. The driver honked and a passenger whistled.

Ginny grinned.

"I have an idea."

Katie caught the grin and shook her head.

"I don't think so."

"Why not? Mom did it all the time when she was young. She survived. She went on to marry Dad, have six beautiful children, and live happily ever after in a middle-class neighborhood!"

"She was lucky, Gin, really lucky. We can't count on that kind of luck. There are too many psychos out there – way too many. Think of something else."

"There
is
nothing else, Katie, unless you want to walk thirty miles in your flats."

"I'm not doing it."

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not."

"Katie?"

"What?"

"Stick out your thumb."

 

CHAPTER 8: GINNY

 

Ginny knew there were few certainties in the world, but one was written in stone. When young, attractive blondes lifted thumbs on busy rural highways, they were certain to find rides.

In this case, the young, attractive blondes needed just ninety seconds to draw the attention of a man who drove a red Corvette convertible. When he pulled to the side of the road about thirty yards up, Ginny and Katie rushed to meet him.

BOOK: Mirror, The
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ads

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