Young Adult Urban Fantasy/Horror
Date Published: December 31, 2016
Publisher: TRO Publishing
Fifteen-year-old Jacqueline Talbot’s boyfriend Mal lives in the mirror of her makeup case. There’s never been anything normal about Jacqueline; not during her time in foster care, and certainly not in her new hometown of Mercy Hills.
With rumors of actual monsters in the woods, the popular kids taking an unhealthy interest in her, and the revealing of her own dark past, all Jacqueline wants to do is run away forever with Mal. Too bad he’s trapped in the mirror.
Jacqueline’s bedroom was a barren place consisting of a bed and dresser and nothing else. The walls were adorned with framed scripture verses and a pair of paintings, both of Christ. When she’d first arrived, Jacqueline had asked Papa Gelick if she could hang up the only two pictures of her parents that she had, but she’d been shot down.
It was in this room that Jacqueline had spent most of the three months she’d lived with the Gelicks. And while she did indeed sleep and pray as ordered, she also plotted her eventual escape from this cruel place.
Jacqueline’s guilt reared its ugly head. She was being judgmental and mean, and she knew it. The Gelicks might’ve been rigid and a bit odd, but neither the pastor nor his wife had ever done anything outwardly cruel. Even when she was paraded in front of Papa Gelick’s congregation every Sunday and made a spectacle of, the pastor had assured her it was to show the good God-fearing folks of Colebrook that even sinners could change if they accepted the grace of God. Even if he and his congregation were way more fundamentalist than any other Protestant churches she’d been to, it was really just an annoyance.
They’re trying to help you, her conscience scolded.
“I know,” she whispered.
The tears came hard and fast, and she curled up in a ball on her bed. Her mind was a jumble of contradictions. She’d been a girl without a family for so long that she’d started to identify as such. Just the possibility that it might not be true was enough to make her feel hope for the first time in a long while, which in turn made her unravel.
“Please don’t cry,” said a voice in the room. “I don’t like it when you cry.”
Jacqueline lifted her head, wiped the tears from her cheeks. She sucked in the last of her sniffles and slid off the bed, making her way across the bedroom.
Her compact was on the dresser, an old thing with rusted hinges. The blush inside had long been used up, but it was her most prized possession, a relic left behind by a mother she never knew.
Jacqueline pried open the case and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Once again she marveled at how alike she and “Aunt Mitzy” looked. The resemblance was so uncanny that she could have been the woman’s daughter.
Downstairs, the Gelicks bid good day to Aunt Mitzy, and Jacqueline faintly heard the woman say she’d be back in a week so they could “clear up any confusion.” The front door then closed, followed by the crunch of tires rolling down the driveway. The tingling in Jacqueline’s stomach disappeared. She glanced back at the mirror.
He was there.
His eyes, gun-metal gray, gazed up at her from behind his reflective prison. His white, slightly tousled hair flopped over one side of his face. He smiled his perfect smile. “Hey there, Jackie,” the boy in the mirror said.
Jacqueline had first discovered the boy who lived in the compact a week after her father’s arrest. Child Services had escorted her home to collect her valuables before she was sent to a group shelter in
. She’d been in a daze,
tossing random odds and ends into her travel bag, when she heard someone call
out her name. She’d followed the voice to her father’s bedroom, but saw nothing
but an unmade bed and laundry scattered everywhere. She was only ten at the
time, but she knew enough to understand that her daddy wouldn’t be sleeping in
that bed any more, that those clothes would never again hang off his slender
frame. Not after what he’d done. Newport,
Jacqueline had started crying again—there had been so much crying in those days after the incident—when the voice called out again. “Please don’t cry.” She followed the sound of humming to the drawer in her father’s dresser where he stored Jacqueline’s mother’s old keepsakes. She rummaged through knickknacks and costume jewelry until her hand touched a metal disk. The brass surface of the thing was warm. When she’d opened it, he’d appeared, white hair, gray eyes, and all. He’d introduced himself as Mal, her guardian angel. Jacqueline had been young enough at the time to believe him without question. She’d been naïve enough to have faith in things like hope and miracles.
Five years changed so much.
With each subsequent move to a different foster home, she’d retreat further into her relationship with the mysterious boy in the mirror. It was in moments like this, when the last of her optimism seemed ready to crumble away completely and leave a dead husk in its wake, that her simple, childlike belief that the unreal boy actually existed made her sane.
She went back to the bed and sat down, placing the open compact in her lap. She grabbed her brush and ran it through her long, black hair, tugging at the roots, letting the pain come. Doing so let her remember that she was still capable of feeling something. In the mirror, Mal watched her, his ever-present smile faltering.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, lips twisting into a thin white line.
Jacqueline sucked snot into her nose. “I’m just sad.”
“Is it him? The pastor?”
“No. Not really.”
She sighed. “A woman came. She said her name’s Mitzy Sarin. You know her?”
“Nope. Never heard of her. Related to your mom?”
“Yeah. Says she’s her sister. I didn’t know I had any family left. But we look alike. A lot alike, so it’s gotta be true.”
“Gotta be, or you hope it is?”
Jacqueline shrugged. She had no answer for that.
“What does she want?” asked Mal.
“To take me away from here.”
Tears again rolled down Jacqueline’s cheeks. One fell from her chin and landed on the mirror. The bead of salty fluid immediately vanished.
“I don’t like it when you cry,” Mal said. “This is a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Maybe,” Jacqueline sniffled.
“Well, where does she want to take you?”
Connecticut, I think.”
Mal’s smile widened. “That’s good. That’s very good.”
“Yup. Have faith, Jackie. These things always work themselves out in the end.”
She sat there in silence for a while, the beautiful boy in the mirror gazing up at her. She wanted to believe him, but her life had been one catastrophe piled on top of another, from her mother’s death when she was three to her father’s horrible acts to the countless love-deprived homes she’d found herself in afterward. It was dangerous to think anything would change. She just couldn’t set herself up for disappointment again, no matter what Mal told her.
“You’re right,” she finally said, placating him. “Just think positive thoughts.” A sad smile crossed her lips. “At least I have you.”
“That you do,” Mal said with a wink.
“Of course. You’re the most beautiful girl in the world, Jackie. I love you.”
“I love you too, Mal.”
Jacqueline peered out the window. The sun was setting, and she suddenly felt dead tired. She closed the compact, placed it beneath her pillow, then took off her clothes, slipped on her nightgown, and climbed beneath the covers. The residue of Aunt Mitzy’s cookies still lingered in her mouth, and when she licked the back of her teeth, she felt a strange, calming sensation come over her. Jacqueline succumbed to the feeling, closing her eyes, wondering about Mal. Was he floating through space, drawn back through the fabric of existence whenever she opened the mirror? Or did he exist purely within the confines of the compact, his soul trapped for eternity like a genie, waiting for her to rub the mirror in the right way to release him?
Or maybe he wasn’t there at all.
While she pondered this, Mal’s sweet voice, muffled by her pillow, sang her to sleep.
“Pretty little lady with a heart of gold. Poor pretty lady, without a dream, without a home.”
About the Author
Robert J. Duperre is an author from Connecticut, the land of insurance, tobacco, and unfulfilled dreams. Over his mildly interesting life, Robert has released seven novels that skirt the line between horror, science fiction, and fantasy, as well as edited and contributed to a pair of short story collections. His novel “Soultaker” was released in 2017 by Ragnarok Publications. He also co-wrote "The Breaking World" series with David Dalglish, which was picked up and published by 47North, a subsidiary of Amazon Publishing. And all this was accomplished while living happily ever after with his wife, the artist Jessica Torrant.