A/N: For those of you who read Behind Enemy Lines, this is a very different type of story with some very similar themes – the unbreakable connection between two people after an extraordinary shared experience, and the willingness of two people who love each other to do almost anything to find – and save - one another.
The first four chapters of The Mirrors are about that shared experience. Unlike GYL, this experience is not rooted in reality, but in fantasy. So I'm asking for your willing suspension of disbelief (and a bit of patience) as you look into this incredible world that our two lead characters have somehow stumbled into. Or perhaps have been led to believe they've stumbled into …
I expect you to have a lot of questions, not the least of which is WTF - whose crack fantasy is this? I probably will not be able to answer a lot of those questions, as they are part of the mystery that underlies the story, and will be answered – both for you and the main characters themselves – near the end of the story.
Thanks for your indulgence. ~ AC
~~ - ~~
The young woman lay on her bed and wept as if her heart would break. But the reality is that it already had; it broke the moment she saw in her mind what had happened on that far-away beachhead in northern France. But she had foolishly allowed herself to hope that somehow, their marriage could still be permitted.
It had not.
Her love had returned from France several weeks after she'd had the vision, walking slowly down the gangplank of the boat, guided by one of his comrades. The bandages still covered his eyes.
It was a sickening irony that he had lost his sight, while she retained hers. All of hers.
To her, blindness was nothing. She had Sight enough for two. Surely they could learn to live with it. Jack was her love, her only love, and she would endure any horror to be with him.
Her parents had thought otherwise.
"Mary, no. He will never be able to work again, or at least, not sufficiently enough to support you. I know this is difficult, but there can be no question of your marrying Jack now." Her mother had shared her sorrow, but there had been no swaying her. Or her father.
Within the year, she had been married off to a much more suitable man, a minister who had been widowed at a young age. Mary bore him a strong daughter, one to make them both proud. Her husband loved her and treated her kindly all his life, and Mary returned his affections. But she never forgot her first love. So she was grateful when her husband answered the call to become the minister to a growing congregation in the west. It was too difficult to live her life in the same small community as the man she loved but could not have.
Her husband had died after a long illness; she had nursed him well so that he rested comfortably in his final months. He had been a gentle, decent man who had deserved a better end than the one fate had allowed. After his death, she moved in with her daughter and her new husband. There was some tension, as there was wont to be when there were two grown women living under the same roof. But the night that her first grandson was born, Mary had had a vision of startling clarity. And in seeing it, knew she could depart this world in peace when the time came. After that, she lived contentedly with the family in the role of willing grandmother and helpmate.
Jack also married, a plain woman from a much less prominent family. A family with lower expectations. Jack's blindness had not taken away his inner talents, and he proved to be an incredibly skilful metal worker even with his blindness. He had hired a young apprentice who helped serve as his eyes on the tasks that required them. Together, they had run a modestly successful business. His wife bore him a lovely daughter. And he too, never forgot his first love, although he did his best to ensure that his wedded wife felt cherished all the days of their life together.
He lived long for a man who had endured much hardship in life. Lived to hear that his love had died far too young. This had saddened him immeasurably, although he could see her in his dreams – truly see her, the way he used to be able to. Lived to bury his wife. Lived to know his granddaughter, lived to see her (in a manner of speak) become a beautiful young woman.
And lived to see an extraordinary story of love begin once again.
~~ - ~~
The baby had been crying all night, and Esme was exhausted. Her little boy was teething for the first time, and nothing she tried would settle him down. Her poor angel just cried and cried, big fat tears of misery rolling down his chubby little cheeks as he swiped at his own gums. Carlisle was away at a medical conference, and Esme was discovering firsthand how hard it is to tend to a fussy baby in the middle of the night on her own.
Except she wasn't entirely on her own. At that moment, her mother appeared in the doorway in a blue bathrobe. She always seems to do that, always seems to know the right moment to appear, thought Esme. It is said that she has the Sight, and some days, Esme can believe it.
"Let me take him for you for a bit, dear. Try to get some sleep. You must be so tired with Carlisle away."
"Mom, I'm sorry Teddy woke you. He's just in so much pain with his teeth." She laughed and sobbed at the same time. "Was I like this too?"
"Yes, you were," Mary said, taking her grandson out of her tired daughter's arms. "Go to sleep, Esme. I'll take him downstairs." And with that, she took the screaming baby downstairs. She ignored the frozen teething rings, picking instead an old short-handled wooden spoon from the drawer. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she showed the wooden spoon to Teddy. For a moment, he was distracted from the pain in his mouth by the new object. She guided the spoon end between his gums, and he bit down on the wood. After a few false starts, he began to chew industriously, the pressure relieving the ache in his tiny mouth.
"Yes, that's better, isn't it, Teddy?" she crooned, stroking his cap of dark blonde hair. He was the prettiest baby she'd ever seen – he'd be a looker when he got older. She got up after a bit and walked slowly through the darkened house, hoping he'd fall asleep on her shoulder. Her grandson stopped fussing, but he was wide awake as he chewed his spoon. After a while, she strolled into sitting room and stood before a full-length mirror, lost in thought.
The mirror was old, set in an intricate wrought iron frame. The iron in the frame had been carefully crafted into simple flower settings. Mirror and frame together were about five and a half feet high and three and a half feet wide. It was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, every inch of it handmade, one of a kind.
Teddy looked up at her face and then turned in her arms. He saw the silver reflective surface of the mirror and gurgled with delight. His little hands batted at the mirror, as if seeking the baby he saw in front of him.
"What do you see, Teddy?" she asked, coming closer to the mirror. "Do you see something in the mirror? It has powerful magic in it, you know. When I look into it, I see much happiness for you ... and the righting of a great sadness. I saw it the night you came into this world that you would be the one." Her eyes had a far-away look. "But it is not you who will have the Sight in this family after I am gone. I won't live long enough to see your sister come into this world."
Mary drew up a ladder back chair and sat down. She cuddled his warm body close to her. He turned his green eyes up to her face once again and smiled, drool coming down his chin in streams. She wiped his chin with the edge of his blanket and smiled back.
"Would you like a story, my little one?" she asked. Teddy chewed on his spoon, and she took that as a "yes" from the one and only grandchild she knew she would live to hold. "A long time ago, in a far-away land, there lived a beautiful warrior princess with long red hair. Her country was terribly beleaguered by an army of cruel invaders ..."
~~ - ~~
And so Teddy's fascination with the mirror began.
Long after his grandmother died (far too young, only in her 60s, such a shock to the family), he could be found sitting in front of the mirror, apparently delighted by his own reflection. Given a choice, Teddy would almost always play with his toys in front of the mirror – not just any mirror, but his mirror.
His parents lost count of the number of times they found him curled up there with his favourite blanket or stuffed toy, sound asleep.
"What do you see in the mirror, Teddy?" his father Carlisle asked casually one day, seeing his oldest son sitting in his usual spot on the floor. Esme was upstairs putting Teddy's younger sister down for a nap. Teddy and Alice were just 18 months apart in age. Little Alice had been a bit of surprise, but a wonderful one. Born the same night Mary had passed away so unexpectedly in her sleep of cardiac arrest.
"People," replied Teddy. Carlisle's eyes slid over to the mirror for a moment, then bounced back to his four-year-old pushing trucks on the floor. "Gran. A girl. A lady with long red hair. Sometimes a black monster. I don't like the monster." His father stood there, intrigued by his son's words. There was no question that Teddy was extremely intelligent; even at his young age, it was apparent that the boy had a bright future ahead of him. No doubt this creativity was part of his gift, his father thought.
"Can you draw me a picture of what you see, Teddy?" Carlisle asked. He went into his study and returned with a sheaf of scrap paper and a pencil. His son took the pencil and began to draw. The figures were relatively simple but still advanced for a child of his age. A little while later, Teddy pushed the papers over to his father with a hopeful smile on his face. Carlisle picked up the papers and looked at them ... and felt his skin prickle up in gooseflesh.
The first image was clearly ... clearly ... his mother-in-law. Who had died when Teddy was only 18 months old. He must have seen a picture of her to get the likeness so right. But it still made him uneasy.
He didn't recognize any of the other people Teddy had drawn. There was a grown woman with hair that fell to her knees. Some kind of shaggy-haired monster with fangs – more the kind of thing he'd expect from a four-year-old boy with an overly-active imagination.
And three or four images of a little girl about Teddy's age with chin-length hair and watchful eyes. He always drew that image with a long rectangle around it.
"Who's this, son?" he asked, showing the pictures of the young girl.
"I don't know their names. Except Gran."
"Why does she have the rectangle around her?"
"Because that's the only way I ever see her," said Teddy. "She's further away than the others. On the other side."
"Do you ever speak to these people?" Carlisle asked in spite of himself.
"No," said Teddy, puzzled. "How could I talk to them? They're inside the mirror."
Esme entered the room, her figure soft and slightly rounded. She was already showing, even though she was only in her second month. This would be their third child, and probably their last. Esme thought it would be a boy. She said her mother had told her before she had died that she had foreseen a daughter between two sons. Carlisle had smiled indulgently, but his mother-in-law's guesses had always been uncannily accurate.
"Admiring artwork, are we?" she asked, peering over her husband's shoulder. Esme gasped in surprise at the sight of her mother's face on the page. "Teddy! What a beautiful picture of Gran!" Her young son smiled shyly, flushed by all the attention.
"He says he sees her in the mirror," said Carlisle, trying not to let his trepidation show in his voice. He couldn't help it – he was a doctor, after all. Esme gave her husband a look and then smiled at her oldest boy.
"Maybe he does, Carlisle. Maybe he does."