The Looking Glass
Laura and Hannah sat chatting outside the door of Madame Mystique’s parlour. Their friend Sue had begged them endlessly to accompany her.
“Extraordinary,” was all Sue could say when she emerged from behind the door.
It was now Laura’s turn. Taking her seat beside Hannah, Sue told her all about her experience.
“Its total nonsense,” Hannah scoffed. “Even her name is a crass cliché. It conjures up pictures of a dodgy looking boudoir on the end of a pier somewhere.”
Hannah was not impressed and could hardly believe that she had agreed to come on this ridiculously extravagant excursion, but it wasn’t long before it was her turn so against her better judgement, she took Laura’s place in the parlour.
Madame Mystique was younger than she expected, clearly not the wizened old hag that she imagined.
“At last,” she said by way of a welcome. “I’ve been waiting to see you for a long time. I knew you would come eventually.”
Hannah found her act amusing and sitting down at the little table watched as the woman wrapped her fingers around a crystal ball. She couldn’t help thinking that this was a complete waste of money and what would her husband think when he found out. Perhaps it would be best not to tell him.
“You shouldn’t keep secrets from your loved ones.” Madame Mystique told her. “Don’t worry, I can’t read your every thought but I know you are a disbeliever.”
Closing her eyes before Hannah could reply she drifted into a trance like state and the atmosphere in the tiny room became intense.
“Be patient,” she murmured.
Hannah chuckled inwardly at this act, becoming even more sceptical than before.
“You have a child.”
That was easy Hannah thought. Her friends had obviously set this up.
“Be still,” she snapped continuing with the charade. “She is not ready yet.” Visibly composing herself, Madame Mystique went on. “Shaun is not well, he doesn’t enjoy good health, but he is looking forward to his birthday next week.” She was silent for a moment. “Despite his illness Shaun is a happy boy who gives you great pleasure.”
It sounded as though she was reading from a script, probably supplied by Laura and Sue.
“Yes, yes. I will tell her.”
Hannah smiled at the silly conversation the woman was having with herself then pulling her cardigan tighter around her shoulders she shivered. Despite the closeness of the room, a chill suddenly touched her skin.
“I see a machine,” she was off again, “a machine for purifying the blood. Shaun has kidney problems.” She went on quickly as if sensing that Hannah was about to get up and leave. “It’s been a long time but the wait is almost over. Soon the machine will no longer be required.”
Hannah could feel her anger rising. “What is this? You have no right to talk about my boy like this.”
“When he was a child we used to play at the bottom of the stairs.” The voice of a little girl filled the room and looking round Hannah searched for its source.
“A grand staircase in the house where you still live.” This time it was a boy.
Hannah imagined her friends outside having a good laugh at her expense. How could they be so cruel.
“He used to talk to us and you called us his imaginary friends.”
“He has a rare gift.”
Madame Mystique remained silent as the voices spoke in turn.
“We are Freddie and Lottie.”
Hannah had not thought about these names in a long time. She may have mentioned them to her friends but she was not sure.
“Shaun will soon be well again. “
“We’ll have another friend to play with,” the little boy sounded excited, but what he said next made her shudder. “A life for the gift of life.”
Hannah thought this charade had gone far enough.
“We are sorry for breaking the looking glass.” The voice stopped her from getting to her feet. “We had to do it because Shaun almost saw us.”
Hannah frowned as forgotten memories came flooding back. She had definitely not mentioned this to her friends. The incident happened one day when Shaun was playing at the bottom of the stairs. A full-length mirror hanging in the hallway had shattered and he refused to say how it happened. It was a miracle he was not injured by the shards.
“He almost saw us and we couldn’t allow that to happen.” This time both voices were talking at once. “We have been sent to look over him. He must not see us because then we will have to leave before our task is complete. Shaun is a special boy who has something very important to do. We have been tasked to keep him safe until that time arrives.”
Hannah was confused and very angry. She wanted to confront her friends but something held her back. How could Laura and Sue have known all that? Surely, they wouldn’t play such a dirty trick.
Slowly the temperature returned to normal and Madame Mystique opened her eyes. They stared at each other in stunned silence.
“You have never told anyone about the mirror or Freddie and Lottie. These are names that you have not heard in years, even Shaun has forgotten them.”
Hannah knew this was true.
“Shaun has something very important to do in his lifetime,” Madame Mystique looked up. “Don’t ask me.” She shrugged her shoulders in anticipation of the next question.
“You were a long time,” Sue said.
“Delving into your sordid past,” Laura giggled.
Hannah smiled at them both. “I’m so glad that you persuaded me to come along today.”
“You’ve changed your tune.” Laura remarked. “So what did she say?”
Both Laura and Sue stared at her in anticipation.
“Let’s just say that the experience was very revealing for the both of us.” Hannah turned to Madame Mystique and winked before quietly closing the door.