Marie’s eyes fluttered open. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and looked around the strange room. Scrambling off the bed, Marie’s head felt as if it were spinning in circles. Lying back down, she needed to quell the nausea rising up from her stomach. The last thing she remembered, she was looking into her wardrobe mirror, when suddenly a pair of hands reached out and grabbed her. Waking up in this strange but familiar room, Marie had no idea what had happened to her.
Slowly, she rose from the bed again. Tears filled her eyes as she walked over to the mirror. The first time she saw this massive beauty in the window over at the merchant’s store, she had to have it. She fell in love with it. Now it looked to be so old. The frame had scratches on it, and the mirror itself had a grey film.
Touching the mirror with the palm of her hand, she jumped back. Marie looked at her palm. It burned as if she had placed it on the hot stove in the kitchen; surprisingly, there was no mark.
Looking up to the ceiling, she noticed a swirling object with what looked like rowing paddles. A gentle breeze came from the paddles as it moved around in circles. How was it moving?
Marie walked over to the window and pulled the sheer curtains aside. It was a beautiful day. As she opened the window, a blast of hot air swept across her face. Gone was the smell of horse manure. Looking down onto the street below, she realized it wasn’t dirt any longer, and strange, colorful objects lined both sides of the road. She looked across to the Collins’ house, but none of the children were out playing. Trees, once small, now towered over the houses on the block.
Hearing a loud rumbling, she saw one of those colorful objects rolling down the street. A young woman, half-naked, was running down the road, pushing a small child in what looked like a buggy only smaller. The woman didn’t appear to be running from anyone.
Backing away from the window, Marie sat at the end of the bed. She felt one of her headaches coming on. Needing to find Mama and Harriett, Marie opened the bedroom door, stepping into the hallway. Though it looked familiar, the most significant difference, it was quiet. Not a sound was coming from the kitchen or papa’s library. The twins were usually fighting or arguing over something, and her father’s loud voice could be heard two houses down most days.
“Hello?” Marie called out. “Mama? Harriett?”
Where was everyone? She thought.
Gingerly making her way down the stairs, she noticed the bright pictures hanging on the wall. She stopped at the bottom of the staircase and looked around. Colorful pillows adorned the white couch. The tables on either side had lamps, but as she walked over and peered at them, she couldn’t see any candles or device to put in whale oil for lighting. She noticed her mother’s breakfront along with a few other pieces from her house spread among the furniture.
The wall from the dining room into the kitchen no longer existed. A large marble-topped table with chairs around it stood in the middle of the floor where there used to be a sizable cast-iron wood stove. As she explored the common room with all the strange gadgets in it, she came upon a calendar stuck on the wall. The month of June written in bold, and all the squares were crossed out in red except for the last one, 30. But, it was the year that caught Marie off guard: 2019. Feeling faint, she needed her salts. Where was Harriett when you needed her?
Trying to gather her composure, Marie wasn’t able to comprehend the severity of her situation. When out of the blue, a beautiful cat jumped up on the kitchen island and rubbed her face on Marie’s arm. The cat’s collar had an inscription. “Chloe.” Marie read out loud.
“Oh, you poor thing. Are you hungry?” Looking around, Marie walked over to a large, grey box-shaped apparatus. It seemed to be a large icebox, similar to what they had in their kitchen only taller and opened from the sides rather than the top. Opening the door, she couldn’t believe how much stuff was in it, and it even had shelves. Reaching in, she pulled out a carton that said “milk” on it. She was impressed. The milkman always left milk in a cold case at their back porch, in glass jars. But there were no blocks of ice in this box, how did things stay cold?
She found two bowls on the floor and assumed these were for the cat. She filled up one of the dishes with milk. Jumping down from the island, Chloe lapped up the milk gracefully.
Though it wasn’t ladylike to explore someone else’s home when they weren’t around, Marie went back into the living room. On the piano were picture frames of people half-dressed with drinks in their hand, smiling big smiles. She had been taught not to smile in pictures; it wasn’t becoming.
One image, in particular, caught Marie’s eye. A young woman, dressed in a beautiful ball gown, black hair hanging down in ringlets, bright, red lips, looking solemnly into the camera lens. It looked like Marie. They could be twins except for the hair color. But it wasn’t until she saw a piece of paper in a glass frame that read, ‘Southern New Hampshire University, Class of 2017, Jillian Montgomery, Bachelor of Arts, History,’ did she realize what had happened to her and possibly this woman Jillian.
The mirror had transported her into the future. But how and why? Had this young woman, Jillian, taken her place?
Marie ran back upstairs to the mirror. She needed to get back. Could it be as simple as both of them staring into the mirror at the same time? Could touching the hot glass be the key to getting back? She didn’t know, but anything was worth a try.
* * * * *
The household was bustling with preparations for the birth party of the country. It was a huge deal. Young boys were already casting off fireworks outside, making the dogs bark and the children squeal. This year, the Montgomery’s were hosting the neighborhood party. Harriett’s husband was getting the smokers ready for the whole pig to be roasted for the celebration. Harriett was busy in the kitchen, preparing all the side dishes. Mrs. Montgomery was sewing up a new dress and petticoats for Marie.
Jilly stayed in her room, half-naked most of the time, as she was always too hot to put on all the layers of clothing a woman was required to wear. She had a new appreciation for women who lived in this era. It was one thing to read about it in history and another to live it.
She was afraid if she left the mirror, she might miss a chance to get back to her time. She saw her room once; she knew she would see it again.
Jilly became aware Mr. Montgomery consumed his time with any news regarding the impeachment hearings of President Andrew Johnson. He supported the President and his ideas for the South. The men, who agreed with him, met in his study, going over the details of the day — their form of social media. Jilly would sit outside the door and eavesdrop on their conversations.
Though Jilly loved politics, she was unfamiliar with what was proper for a young lady in the 1800s to say or do. When she tried to head off to the town library, Mr. Montgomery scolded her, forbidding her to leave the house without an escort. “There will be no Suffrage’s in my household.” He said in his loud tone.
One young man, in particular, seemed to have a keen eye for Jilly. Charles had come around several times since Jilly had been there, on the pretense of the impeachment hearings. Several times Jilly caught his eye, and he would look away quickly, his face burning red. Jilly assumed Marie, and he would flirt frequently, and since Marie was past marriage age, maybe Jilly could help the romance along while she was there. She couldn’t remember who her great-great-grandfather was, but she knew Marie had gotten married later in her life and went on to have several children.
Mrs. Montgomery knocked on Jilly’s door and opened it before Jilly could say, “come in.”
“My goodness, young lady. What is the meaning of this?”
“Meaning of what?” asked Jilly.
“You are sitting in your room, half-naked.” She scolded.
“I’m hot. How do you do it?” Jilly whined.
“Do what? Women have been dressing for centuries. What has gotten into you lately? Have you been reading those pamphlets going around about rights for women?”
“Why do we have to wear so many layers of clothing? Why can’t we be comfortable like the men?”
“Because it isn’t proper, that’s why. Now come here and try this on. I made it from cotton material I purchased from Mr. Crumbly. It may be cooler.”
Slipping the heavy petticoats over her head, Jilly rolled her eyes at Mrs. Montgomery, which she ignored. Next came the dress placed over the petticoats. Turning Jilly around to view her image in the mirror, Mrs. Montgomery placed her hands on either side of Jilly’s waist. “Once you get your corset on, it will push up your breasts and slim your waist…” Just then, another image appeared in the mirror. It was Marie, sitting on the end of Jilly’s bed, staring into the mirror draped in a bedsheet.
Mrs. Montgomery gasped. “What in the world?”
“Marie!” Shouted Jilly.
Marie’s image stood up, but as Jilly tried to run towards the mirror, she tripped over the long dress, falling on her face. “No…,” cried Jilly. Unable to untangle herself from all the cloth surrounding her.
As sudden had the image of Marie appeared, it disappeared.
Staring at the mirror in disbelief, Mrs. Montgomery asked, “What is going on here? Who was that? Is this some type of trick mirror?”
Wringing her hands, she slowly walked closer to the mirror. “I told your father it was a bad idea to buy something from Italy, those savages.” Blessing herself with the sign of the cross, she helped Jilly up from the floor.
“You’ve changed since we purchased this mirror for your birthday. What’s going on? Has this mirror put a hex on you?” Mrs. Montgomery blessed herself again. “Oh, dear God, please.” She sat down on the bed and started fanning herself furiously. “I must tell your father about this at once.”
Tears streamed down Jilly’s face. Her chance to return to her time, ruined by her clumsiness. Removing the new dress and petticoats, Jilly handed them back to Mrs. Montgomery. Gathering up the material, Mrs. Montgomery left the room in a hurry to find her husband.
Jilly suspected she would have the mirror removed, thinking it contained an evil spirit.
Jilly could not allow that to happen. If the mirror went back to the store, her hope of returning to the 21st century would be lost forever. She refused to live her great, great grandmother’s life.
* * * * *
Marie saw her mama with the girl from the pictures in the living room. What had they both been doing in her room? The image gave her hope. She just needed to be quicker about responding next time. In her heart, Marie knew there would be another time. She would have to be ready.
That night both young women, trapped in different time periods, cried themselves to sleep.