The Mirrors at Barnard Hall: Chapter 24

25 May

Today is the culmination of everything a working woman dreams of:  a pay-day-preceding-a-three-day-weekend-of-sweltering-summer-sun Friday!  As I said in Wednesday’s post, I’m looking forward to doing nothing highlighted by stints of sunshine and retail therapy.  I hope everyone else’s weekend plans involve the people, events and pastimes they love.

It’s hard to believe we’re winding down to the last six Friday posts of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall.  What in the world are we going to do when that’s over? 


If you want to be put out of your misery and find out what happens next, purchase a digital copy of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall for only $3.99! (Available on KINDLE, GOOGLE BOOKS & OTHER DEVICES)

New to the tale?  Click HERE to start from the beginning.


CHAPTER 24: Full Disclosure

In the only photo I had seen of the Dalton family, I had devoted very little time to studying Nick’s parents.  It had been nearly impossible to take my eyes from Tilly and her brother long enough to really notice anyone else.  So when I saw Nick’s mother I committed her face to memory with a voracious intensity.  For someone whom I had never expected to meet, Maria was more important to me than anyone could have imagined. This was the woman who had given life to my best friend and to the man I loved.

A flash of recognition lit the back of my mind, tugging on a vague memory.  I could not shake the feeling that I had seen the woman before other than in her family photo.  The way her nose tilted slightly upward and her smile displayed deep dimples in her cheeks reminded me of someone else I had known.  Then she spoke.

“Callista Franklyn, how wonderful it is to finally meet you.  I feel as though I know you already as I have heard many good things about you from both of my children and my mother through the years.”

Her accent was distinctly Spanish, and one I had heard every day since I had come to Barnard Hall.

Maria Dalton.

She couldn’t be…

“You’re… you’re…”  Maria Dalton was Maria Santos; of that fact I was absolutely, certain.  Nick’s mother shared Rosa’s rich voice and her open smile.  Maria’s eyes wrinkled faintly around the edges and her deep laugh lines were carbon copies of my housekeeper’s features.

Nick’s mom smiled broadly and gestured for us to have a seat on the richly upholstered sofa.  “Do sit down, Callista.  We have much to discuss.”

I followed her direction and sat rigidly.  Nick’s worried expression was lost in my fury.  A blinding anger stifled manners that had been ingrained in me since childhood.  He waited for her to speak, but I could not control my rush of emotion any longer.

“How could you?”  I seethed. 

Maria straightened at the venom in my voice.    “Excuse me?”

“How could you abandon your mother like that?  She misses you fiercely.  Losing you thirty years ago tore her apart.  She still loves you and waits for you to come home every day.” 

Rosa had mourned for her lost daughter for almost three decades, and Maria was happy—carefree even, enjoying a simpler existence.  That happiness was a grave sin indeed.

Nick put a steadying hand on my shoulder.  He was probably afraid I was going to accost the woman who had brought him into the world.  I wasn’t—was I?

Maria did not blush or stutter.  She didn’t scold me for my rude behavior or banish me from her presence.

She laughed.  “I like her, Nicholas,” she said in a twinkling voice.

Nick smiled crookedly and looked sidelong at me.  “So do I, mother.” 

“Perhaps your father’s deadline will be met after all.  Wouldn’t he be shocked?”

I ignored their conversation, aghast at their lightheartedness.  There was no humor in the situation.  “This is not funny, Maria.  Rosa sits and waits for you every night.  You’ve punished her to a life of hoping and longing.  How could you hate her enough to put her through that?”

“Callista, I do not hate my mother, it’s quite the opposite.  I love her very much.   I have not abandoned her.”

“You haven’t?”

She shook her head and offered me a sympathetic smile.  Maybe it had been a coincidence.  Perhaps Maria Dalton was not Rosa’s daughter at all.  Whatever the mystery was, it was clear I was missing some vital page in the story.  I reassessed her dark, even features more carefully.  No, this woman in front of me was the teen who had gone missing from Barnard Hall in the 1980’s.

“No.  I see my mother almost every night.”

“You do?” 

“Yes and every night I beg her to come and live with us.  But she enjoys her own life and her job at Barnard Hall, so she has chosen to stay there.  I believe she takes great pride in the house, knowing it belongs to her family.”

Rosa had always treated Barnard Hall as though she’d secretly held the deed in her own pocket.  Now I realized her superior effort had been more than the mark of a stellar employee.  This also explained many details that had confused me: the mirror in Rosa’s room, her perpetually happy attitude despite having survived catastrophic loss, and, most recently, her lack of a reaction at seeing Nick with me the night before.  Come to think of it, she had called him by his name.

I turned on Nick, appalled that he had allowed me to go off like that on his mother.  So much for a good first impression.  “You knew last night and you didn’t say anything?”

He smiled sheepishly, unaware of the extent of my anger.  “When I saw my grandmother last night, I knew you would be able to cross over.  I knew you would not ‘screw up time’ as you had put it, because my own mother had done the same thing years ago.  Although I do apologize for not revealing all to you last night.  There had been more pressing issues to discuss.”

I nodded at Nick then turned back toward his mother.  Once again, I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation.  “This is insane.  How do you stand it?”

Maria smiled.  “Stand what?”

“Knowing your future.”

“I do not know the future.”  She held out her hand to keep me from interrupting.  “When my mother and I had first arrived at Barnard Hall, the history books had said that Nicholas Dalton had married Regina Smyth.  They’d had no children and Nicholas had died from a tragic fall off the back of a horse in 1887.”

“But that didn’t happen…”

“No, thankfully those particular events did not occur.  After my wedding, my mother had found a death certificate in one of the old family Bibles.  According to the notice, Matilda Dalton had died of pneumonia at age eight.”

I remembered the incident well.  When I had first met her, Tilly had recently recovered from being very sick.  Tilly had said that she had been ill, but her grandma brought her medicine to make her feel better.  But I hadn’t known that same illness had been meant to take her life.

“Rosa has helped?”

Maria confirmed the memory.  “The marvels of modern medicine allow for miracles in the nineteenth century.”

I didn’t want to ask but I had to know what Nick’s parents were doing to help avoid the next, most deadly prediction.

“And now?”

“Now we plan accordingly and wait.”

“You can’t cheat death forever,” I pointed out, too afraid to allow my hope to settle.

“No, we all must die sometime.  Each day we’re one step closer toward our last, whether we know the exact date or it remains a mystery.”

I nodded and my hand flew involuntarily to my neck.  My life could have been over before Nick’s and we would have been none the wiser.  Nick could have outlived me, even though he had died in 1902. I peeked at him as he took in what his mother was saying.  Instead of looking at his mother, Nick was staring at the concealed bruises on my neck, no doubt thinking the same as I was.

“Did you know all of this before?”

The way his mouth dropped open served as a silent answer to my question.  “No, I swear.  If I had it would have saved both of us a lot of time and worry.  After you fell asleep last night, I came to see my mother.  She told me that she had crossed over but that constituted the entirety of our conversation.”

“You left?”  I blushed at my awkward confession.  His mother would likely not approve of us spending the night together.  We were both adults but we were not married—which made all the difference in 1902.

“You were already sleeping and slept still when I returned.”

I nodded and turned a deeper shade of red.  “Mrs. Dalton, will you…”

“Maria, please.”

“Maria, will you tell me your story?”  I waited anxiously for her to begin.  Nick scooted to the edge of the seat.

“I was cleaning the blue room and I heard a voice.  As I’m sure you know, Barnard Hall is known for its ghosts.  There were voices then there were voices—this was the latter.  I distinctly remember hearing a man say, ‘Excuse me, Miss?’” 

“Were you scared?”

“That’s just it, I wasn’t.  Normal people would run, but I searched for the source of the voice.  When I saw Nicholas in the mirror my heart stopped.  He was the most handsome man I had ever seen.”

Nick rolled his eyes; Maria and I ignored the childish gesture.  “Did you cross over then?”

“No, we had no idea that the mirror was a portal.  It was months later that I came to the past.”

“How did you learn the mirrors were doorways?”  Nick asked, enthralled.

“My room had been where Rosa’s room is now.  Nicholas commandeered the space for his personal use and moved in a mirror.  One day we were sitting on our beds talking, and he reached out to touch the mirror.  Just like that, there was no glass.”

“Amazing,” I whispered in awe. 

“Truly,” Maria agreed. 

“Whose idea was it to make up the story about your disappearance?”


“Why did you do it?  The cover is so… final.”

“I had made the choice of where I had wanted to be so there was no going back.  Something inside of me had never quite belonged in the modern world.  I never did fit in.

“My mother still comes and goes as she pleases, which has proven beyond useful on numerous occasions.  The story releases her from obligations and keeps questions at bay.”

“Speaking of Rosa, I should probably go speak with her, especially after last night.”

“I understand,” Maria said. 

“I’ll take you back.”  Nick offered his arm.

Maria stopped us just as we were about to leave.  “Before you go, may I ask you one question?”

“Okay,” I agreed hesitantly.

“How are you faring?”

The way she spoke made me think that she was speaking of more than my near death experience.  “I’m surviving.”

“Sometimes that’s all we can hope for.”

* * *


“Rosa, we need to talk.”  

I had interrupted a conversation between my house keeper and my maid, Beth.  The two had been speaking in fierce, hushed voices.  My impatience warred with and eventually conquered my manners.  What I had to say could not wait.  Rosa looked up and nodded, anticipating the discussion to come.  Beth glared at me.  Her eyes fell to the bruises on my neck and she smirked.  A shiver snaked its way down my spine and something inside of me snapped.

“Miss Smith, do you remember what I told you the last time we spoke?”

Beth nodded stubbornly. 

“Good, then I don’t need to repeat myself.  It would seem as though your services will no longer be needed here at Barnard Hall.  I would like for you to leave the premises immediately.  I will send any personal effects to your house along with your final paycheck.”

Beth ground her teeth together and turned to leave.  She hunched her spine and stalked toward the door, muttering under her breath.

I reached for her as she walked away, to ask how she could be surprised at the result of her horrid behavior, but Rosa stopped me.  “She’s not worth it.  Come, these walls have ears.  Let us go into my room so we can be alone.”

Just as Beth reached the door, she whipped back to face me.  “Remember, Miss Franklyn,” she spat out my name.  “It would be wise to watch your step.  There have been many accidents around Barnard Hall of late.”

“It will take more than cut brake lines to stop me, Miss Smith.”

The heat in my statement surprised Beth—and me.  Her eyes widened and she slammed the back door.  The thinly concealed accusation had come from nowhere, but I could not shake the feeling that it had not been entirely misguided.  Of course Beth was overly superstitious; maybe she had merely hoped I would also fall victim to the curse of Barnard Hall.

The adrenaline coursing through my body remained high as I followed Rosa and sat on the bed in her tiny space.  My mind swirled with questions; none of them provided a solid starting point.

“Rosa, why didn’t you…”

“Tell you about Maria?”  She finished my sentence.  It was an obvious question, one she had been anticipating.

I nodded.

“Would you have believed me if I would have told you from the very beginning?  You have always been a logical child; enchanted mirrors and time travel had no place in your world.”

“They do now,” I said.  The fervor in my voice surprised us both.

She nodded and sighed.  “I thought as much.  I could not have chosen a better woman for my grandson.”           

Right.  Nick was her grandson.  “I’m ready to hear now.  Will you tell me?”

“It’s Maria’s story, not mine.”

“I know, and I’ve spoken with her already.  I just wanted to hear your perspective.”

She bit her lip, debating over what information to divulge.  But this wasn’t the time for half-truths and heavy editing.

“Tell me everything.  Please,” I begged.

“We moved here in the summer of 1982 and the house had been vacant for years.  The owner before Mr. Shepherd had renovated the first floor but the second remained untouched by time.  It was enchanting, like visiting a museum.  I found out about the mirrors when I left my daughter to clean the blue room.  She was there one moment then she was gone the next.  I had been outside in the hallway the entire time, so I knew she had not left through the doorway.

“After fifteen minutes of frantic searching, I saw her.  She was in the room but through the mirror.  And she was not alone; she was speaking with a young man.  At the time, Maria’s room was where mine is now.  She had coordinated with Nicholas to move a mirror there.  I found out that day that they had secretly been courting one another.

“They married and now I see them once a week and over the holidays.  When she needs me, Maria comes to my room. “

“Maria said that she has already altered time.”

Rosa nodded, more solemnly now.  No doubt she was thinking of the impending tragedy later this month.  Her family’s lives were threatened with an event that had technically already taken place.

“She married Nicholas when she was not supposed to.  But my daughter was headstrong, and I never argued with her over her decision.” 

“And the other… events you’ve helped with?”

“Ah, yes, those.  I have simply done my duty as a grandmother.  When Tilly got sick…” Rosa choked on the words, and her eyes filled with tears.  “Well, I could not stand by and watch my poor grandbaby die.  I took her to the hospital in London. They had my grandbaby on IV’s for nearly a week before she was released.”

“Weren’t you afraid that maybe they were supposed to happen, that you were messing with fate?”

My housekeeper responded without thinking.  “Never.”             


“I am charged with keeping my daughter and her family safe, no matter the cost.  If those things were meant to happen they would have, regardless of my meddling.”  Rosa smiled and continued.  “In addition to running Barnard Hall, protecting my family, and occasionally meddling with history, I am charged with maintaining the integrity of each room with a mirror.” 

“What do you mean?”

“Can you imagine how disturbing it would be for someone to walk into a room and see a mirror where the reflection constantly changes?  Maria and I coordinate with one another when decorating and furnishing the rooms.  That way, at least on first glance, the rooms match.”

I laughed.  The first time I had realized the reflections had not matched, I had nearly fallen over.  And today in the yellow room, seeing those differences was still disturbing.  An outsider, someone more logical, would probably never recover from the shock.

“And now?” 

“Now we prepare ourselves and live.  No one knows what the future will bring, even if it has been written.”

“Thank you, Rosa.”

My housekeeper smiled and patted my hand.  She did not ask why, but I felt the need to explain my gratitude.

“Thank you for saving Tilly and for helping me.  And for giving me hope for the future.”

If Maria could change her family’s future, maybe I could change the past.


3 Responses to “The Mirrors at Barnard Hall: Chapter 24”

  1. ameliaclaire92 May 25, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Retail therapy….jealous! Enjoy! 🙂

    • movingforeword May 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      I sure will! Although my bank account might be hurting afterward 😉

      • ameliaclaire92 May 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

        I definitely know how that goes. 🙂

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