The Mirrors (part twenty-six)
Where was a friend, to make this understood to?
“What? Polly…no time…”
A man loomed, put his hands on Polly’s shoulders. His face was blue, heavy-jowled. Polly surrendered to him, letting him draw her into invisibility, sending Charmante an odd face of triumph…
Polly foresaw her warning disobeyed, and ruin.
Charmante was inside the ring…her feet had somehow carried her here. Others waited, she had an awful sense of it. Among them she would see those men her mother had spoken of, pulped and burnt…
To free herself, she must walk towards the mirrors. Heavy rain burst, lowering the room’s energy, pattering the roof in a trance-rhythm, making Charmante want to curl up under a quilt. The storm’s hum seemed to blanket the island’s. She saw escape, two mirrors standing shoulder-width apart.
But a boy waited here.
Slim in a natty suit. His face lit up with relief. In his own world he had opened a door, afraid to, a fear bad enough that his smile on meeting an expected face was almost giddy.
The face could not be her own.
Fingers clamped her wrist.
“We were trying to get you,” Veronica said. “You see how strong this circle is. I couldn’t get past that…don’t turn around. That mirror across. They place each just a little off opposite, so the ghosts can…”
She turned a hand palm-out. “Wave at you, maybe. Beckon from the corner of your eye. My father is there.”
“I was afraid I would see mine. Did William go downstairs?”
“He went outside in the rain.”
“Veronica. Polly says there’s no time. Is she right? Is there some awful thing…I asked you a question about Rothesay…”
“I know you did. Trust me, I have no secrets, girlfriend. I feel like we all ought to sit down to a cup of tea, and it’s too bad…we’re stuck. I rushed you, coming out.”
They reached the landing top, and from the hall Marian gave a salute. Carolee in her chair watched them jog down.
“I wish now I’d planned.”
“I wish you had. I need to talk to William.”
Veronica, flinging that airy gesture, hopped onto her seat and touched Marian’s knee. “You’re the sensible one.”
She was kindhearted, brave, she had natural charm, a thing Charmante by name-right ought to have. But, schoolmarmish…she had always been schoolmarmish…she wanted Veronica Dumain to feel rebuke.
Owning up to her recklessness! And breezy about that, too.
He hadn’t gone into the rain, only to a sheltered place under eaves, a foot’s width of dry brick demarked by a perfect line of saturation. But William stepped ahead, and she wasn’t sure if they were having a conversation, or if possibilities mobbed his mind, and he walked, and spoke, in a fugue of horror.
Around the back of the house was an upstairs veranda, a ground-level terrace, an herb bed, lavender cultivated in a latticework pattern. It seemed growing on happily, but the gardener’s work was spoiled now by creepers tented over saplings.
Charles, my great-uncle…he was the gardener. His hands touched these, rooted them in, trimmed them to hold that beautiful, useless shape.
The blue-jowled man had been Godfrey, Charmante was certain of this, too. That she had seen Harold, could tell something of him, a thing so sad, she was not at all tempted to share.
“You saw Rance. Did he speak?”
“Nuh. They had him in a ward bed. He had some big square bandage on his belly. How would he know me?”
“They know us, William. Or if they don’t, they will, when they’re more powerful.”
(2020, Stephanie Foster)