“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Ralph said shaking his head sadly with his eyes cast at the hardwood floor in the guest bedroom. “Are you sure you don’t want anything of Mom’s? You were her favorite niece, Carol, she would have wanted you to have something. Take the silver at least.”
“Ralph, I am taking something more precious than China or silver or any of her antiques. I have her here,” Carol said while she tapped her chest, “and here,” she finished tapping her temple. “I have all these precious memories of her. I don’t need her things to remind me of her,” She said with a smile. I have a couple of hours before I have to leave. What can I do to help?”
“Well, since you asked, I would like to move everything down from the attic and into the garage with the rest of the items to be sorted for the estate sale. This winter Robin wants to convert the space into a study.” Ralph said. “I’ll make us some coffee and I’ll be right up.”
“Okay, sounds good,” Carol said and she went out into the hall of the old two-story Queen Anne Victorian house built before the turn of the century. Her Aunt Alice had lived there for over 40 years so there was no telling what they would find up in that dusty old attic. She opened the door to the attic and climbed the creaky narrow stairs. The dust danced in the beams of sunlight that streamed in from the small round window. It was a typical old attic complete with peaked roof and musty old house smell.
She glanced around the immense graveyard of broken furniture pieces, worn-out lamps, boxes by the dozens, baby furniture, suitcases, and trunks. A stack of photographs leaned against one wall. The first was a photo of the cousins taken one summer when they were in high school. Carol’s dark wavy hair was bobbed and the ends were curled forward. Her bangs curled under. Ralph was tall and thin back then and wore horn-rimmed glasses. With his dark hair styled to look like Buddy Holly.
Suddenly she noticed a slight shimmer of light coming from the corner of the room. She carefully made her way around old dress mannequins, an old sewing machine, and a stack of old records to get a closer look. She discovered it was coming from behind an old bureau. She moved the boxes from in front of the bureau and tried to move the bureau out, but there was too much weight on top. She began removing the boxes of old toys, old doll house, and antique fan and sat them on the floor next to the wall.
Then she grabbed the side of the bureau and was able to slide it out and get behind it, revealing a picture frame wrapped in yellow brittle paper. A corner had ripped off exposing, not a photograph or painting, but a lovely old mirror. It was this edge that had peeked out beyond the bureau and had reflected the sunlight from the window. She carefully removed the paper. Despite the fact that it needed to be resilvered, she fell in love with it at once. She was still admiring it when she heard Ralph’s footsteps on the stairs. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been up here” he said as he passed her a cup of coffee.
She took a sip and sat her cup on the bureau. “Ralph, look what I found” she gushed holding the mirror for him to see. Carol never saw the color drain from Ralph’s face because her attention was still on the mirror.
“I thought she got rid of that a long time ago, ” he said in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Why? I know it’s old and there is a scratch on the gold frame, but something about it speaks to me.”
“She bought it from an old antique dealer who said that there was a legend ~ a sort of curse ~ that went with the mirror. But Mom was taken with it just as you are and she bought it anyway. Later she laughed at the old man’s superstitious tale. ”
“I never heard this? I don’t even remember seeing this mirror.”
“Yes. Even to me she only spoke of it once. It happened before we were even born. Even though it took place twenty years prior, she trembled when she told me the tale. I wasn’t sure if I believed the legend, but I believed that she believed it. You should have seen the look in her eyes as she told it. I never saw her like that before or since.”
Carol’s green eyes widened, “Why? What did she say happened? What was the legend? She waited for an answer then blurted, “Are you just pulling my leg, Ralph?”
“No!” he answered with an angry frown, “I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to.”
“Okay, then. Tell me the legend.”
“Mom was on vacation in the Appalachian Mountains and in some town down there she found this small antique store and went in – just to browse without ever intending to purchase anything when she spotted the mirror. The proprietor saw her and came out from behind the sales counter and introduced himself. He said that the mirror came with an unusual provenance. According to the shop keeper, the original owner of the mirror had been a Gypsy who had been jilted at the altar and this mirror was a gift from the groom’s family. Within a week, the groom took another bride. The would-be bride returned the mirror as a gift to the new couple, but not before first putting a spell on it. She was such a sweet and quiet girl, that no one ever suspected that she bore such hatred and jealousy towards the new bride. Well, he said that first the Gypsy put a curse on it that the woman would not be able to resist the mirror. Also, the mirror will leave messages written in red on the mirror that only those possessed by the mirror would be able to read the messages. Of course there was no documentation,” Ralph said.
“And Aunt Alice probably thought the proprietor was just telling a story in order to make a sale,” Carol finished.
“Exactly”, nodded Ralph.
“Ralph, I know I said I didn’t want anything, but do you mind?”
“Don’t you want to know what happened with Mom?”
Carol shrugged. “I don’t believe in Gypsy spells.”
“When Mom was pregnant with me , the mirror left Mom a message. It said, ‘Baby, not whole.’ ”
“In red?” she said as she unconsciously stared at Ralph’s deformed fingers – he was more fortunate than most.
“Yes,” said Ralph.
“Oh, but that was an effect from the thalidomide, and had nothing to do with some Gypsy curse!”
“Maybe. And maybe I just made all this up.” Ralph said and he picked the mirror up and took it down the dusty creaky staircase to Carol’s car.