Chapter 4: Marta

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“Mirror, mirror on the wall…” The reflection in the glass distracted me.  My face was pretty grimy; I had spent most of the day digging through old trunks, suitcases, and drawers, trying to find treasure.  Mostly I had discovered dirt and dust but, buried deep in the back of one of the dressers in the yellow room, I had found a sparkly butterfly pin.  There were a few golden jewels missing from one of the wings, but it was the best treasure I had found in weeks.  Rosa would be excited when I showed her.

“Mirror, mirror…” I started again, only I could not remember how the rest of the chant went.  The rhyme probably wouldn’t work anyway, but I had to try something.  The saying had worked for the evil queen in Snow White and her mirror had looked a little like mine—although mine was a lot bigger.  For lack of a better idea I decided to come up with my own line.  It had been almost a week since I had seen Tilly.  I had searched through every secret place in my house, played with Benny, and found some cool hiding spots in case anyone ever wanted play hide and seek with me.  Now I was bored.  Really, really bored.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall… Tilly is the best friend of all!”  I held my breath but nothing happened.  Jim was right, I was stupid.  Movies were not real so the chant was not real either.  It was stupid of me to think it would work in the first place.  I had never said it before and the mirror had worked just fine.  Why would I have to start now?

“Tilly?”  I said quietly to my empty room.  Instinctively, I knew why she had never come back.  Tilly had changed her mind and did not want to be my friend anymore.  No one ever wanted to be my friend.  I squeezed my eyes shut but could not keep the tears from falling.  Feeling sorry for myself wasn’t something I did often, but today I was too sad to stop.

“You sure do cry a lot, Callista.”

“Tilly!”  I peered through my tears to see my friend with her ever-present smile.  She had not abandoned me after all! 

Tilly put her hands on her hips shook her head.  “Sorry I couldn’t come sooner.  Mum has been yelling at me.”  She studied her shoes as she confessed.

“Why?”  Tilly seemed to get into trouble more than I did.  Of course, she was also more adventurous than I ever was.

“Because I stole some more cookies,” she admitted with a sheepish grin.

“You stole more cookies?”  I couldn’t believe that she would do it twice.  No, that wasn’t true.  I could believe it.  Tilly lived on the edge.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t be farther from the cliff.

She shrugged her tiny shoulders.  “I was hungry and they smelled so good!  It was going to be forever before dinner.  Forever is a very long time, Callista.  Besides, if my mum truly did not want for me to have them she would have put them on the top shelf.”

“Can’t you climb to the top shelf?”  Until this moment I had been convinced that Tilly could do anything she put her mind to.


“Oh.  Is it high?”  The top shelf in my kitchen wasn’t very high.  Rosa could almost touch it on her tippy-toes.  A shorter person would only need to pull a chair over then climb onto the counter—not that I would have the guts to try.

“Not really.  My brother can reach it standing on his toes.” 

Her brother must be really tall. 

“Well, why would your mom put it on the top shelf to keep it from you?  You could always ask him to get them for you.”

Tilly rolled her eyes.  “My brother is my enemy and would never help me!”  She waited for a minute before getting serious.  “If I tell you a secret, do you promise not to tell?”

I scooted forward, close enough to see my breath in the glass, and nodded.  “I’ll never tell.”

“I’m afraid of heights.”

“You’re scared of something?”  Tilly seemed fearless; it was hard to believe that anything could scare my friend, although heights were kind of scary.  They didn’t make me scream like a monster under my bed would, but I would be afraid of falling and hurting myself—and making Jim mad.

“Yes!  Everyone is afraid of something, silly.  I won’t even go up to the attic because looking out the high windows makes me scream.  I’m afraid of falling out,” she admitted. 

No one had ever confided in me, and I wanted to show her how good I was at keeping secrets.  There was no one for me to tell so the secret was extra safe with me. 

“My brother can never know about this secret,” she confided. 

“Why not?”

“Because he would probably lock me in the attic or tie me to the roof.”

“He wouldn’t do that.”  Would he?

“I would not put it past him.  Just last week he and his friend Tim tied me to the doorknob.”

“How did you get down?” I asked earnestly.

“My grandmother saved me from certain death!  Do not worry though.  I got my brother back.”

“What did you do?”

“I put a fat, smelly toad in his pillow.”

“You really should be more careful,” I warned even as a giggle escaped.  I was worried about the trouble Tilly would be in if she stole for a third time or if she put more frogs in her brother’s bed.  If she insisted on getting in trouble she could at least spread it out.  Her mom had to be expecting Tilly’s sticky fingers when the cook baked sweets and Tilly’s tricks on her brother, even if he did deserve them.

“Why?”  She was genuinely puzzled.

“Because if you get into too much trouble you may not be allowed to play with me anymore.”  That was my biggest fear.  Without Tilly, England would be really, really boring.  When school started I would be a bit busier, but the summer wasn’t even halfway over yet.  Besides, I really liked Tilly. 

She laughed.  “I will always be allowed to play with you, Callista!”

“Really?”  It was impossible to hide the relief in my voice.  If that was the case then I wouldn’t have to worry about Tilly and her constant mischief.

“Yes!  Because when I get in trouble I get sent to my room.”  That was what always happened to me when I was in trouble.  Tilly laughed.  “Callista, you live in my room!”

I couldn’t argue with her point.  Having a roommate like Tilly was what I imagined having a sister would be like.  Sometimes I pretended Tilly was my sister. There was no harm in pretending.  If we were together all the time she would help me get into more trouble but any punishment would be worth not having to be lonely.

“So, what are we going to play today?”

I shrugged.  Tilly always thought of the fun games; I never had any good ideas. When I had lived in Georgia I used to play outside and pretend to be an Indian.  But it rained all the time here and Tilly couldn’t come outside with me.  As long as we were together I didn’t care what we did.  I was just afraid that she would get bored with playing the same things all the time.  Our choices for games were very limited.

“Do you want to play dolls?” she suggested.

Immediately, I ran over to grab Benny.  We had left all my Barbie dolls back in Georgia, so he was my only toy in the house.  I stared longingly at the baby doll Tilly held in her arms.  The doll had a pale face and bright blue eyes.  Her curly hair matched Tilly’s and her dress looked like the one Tilly had worn when we had first met.  It was wrong to want her and I felt badly for staring.  I didn’t really want Tilly’s doll; I just wanted one like Tilly’s doll.

“Do you like her?”

“She is beautiful.”  She looked like one of the dolls from our attic, one of the ones off-limits to me.

When we had first arrived at Barnard Hall I had been exploring my new house and had ended up in the attic.  In my limited experience, the further up you go in a house, the cooler the stuff you find.  People tended to forget what was in the attic, which made it prime treasure-hunting territory.   

It had been cold that far up in the house.  Wind had howled through a boarded window, kicking up dust and leaves.  There had been a lot of dirty brown boxes and trunks lying around.  I had opened one and found a bunch of old dresses.  They had been faded and a little smelly, but still really pretty.  All of them looked way too big for me in real life, but they would have been perfect for playing dress-up.  In the second trunk I had found glass dolls just as beautiful as Tilly’s doll. 

Shortly after I had discovered the treasure, Jim had stomped up the steps and found me playing with one.  I had already named her Danielle, and she’d had yellow hair that almost matched mine.  Her face was painted so pretty.  I had been playing gently but that hadn’t mattered to him.

“What do you think you are doing?” he had asked angrily.

“Playing with my doll.”  Danielle had looked at me happily as though she agreed.

“That doll doesn’t belong to you does it, Callista?”

I had shrugged, not wanting to answer.  Danielle wanted to be mine, and her pink smile told me so.  I couldn’t help but smile back.  Her eyes blinked when I moved her; it was like she was alive.

“No, it doesn’t.  These dolls are antiques.  Do you know what that means?”

Whatever it was, it sounded important to Jim. 

He continued without pausing for my answer, “It means they are worth a lot of money and should not be played with.”

I had reverently touched the silky curls on my glass doll.  Dolls were toys and toys were meant to be played with.  “I’ll be very careful with her, I promise.”

“I don’t care.  You are not allowed to touch any of them, do you understand?”

Jim had not liked my reaction to his ruling and had ended up dragging me down the stairs and teaching me a lesson in respect. 

“Callista, did you hear me?”

When I thought really hard about something I couldn’t hear very well.  Jim always got mad because he said I don’t pay attention.  “No,” I admitted.

“I said her name is Marta.”

I held up my own toy.  His arms flopped around like he was waving.  “His name is Benny.”

“He is pretty too,” Tilly said.  “I have never seen another toy like him.”

Benny always had been and always would be my favorite.  His left leg had a stain from where I had spilled Kool-Aid on him, and his button eye was coming undone, but he was the last toy my daddy had given me.  And for that reason alone I loved him.

“You can play with him,” I offered half-heartedly, knowing Tilly would not want to give up her pretty doll for my old rabbit.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, of course.”

Tilly’s eyes brightened.  “We can trade!”

“I can play with Marta?”  What she was suggesting was not a fair trade, but I wanted desperately to play with the pretty doll.  I could be gentle with her; Marta would be super safe with me.

“Of course!” Tilly tossed the doll toward the mirror, and she fell into my lap.  I giggled and tossed my rabbit at her.


Take a peek at the next chapter HERE


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