The Mirror
By Kristen Sheley
Written November 1993

July 23, 1925, Marygold, Alabama

Twenty-year-old David Whitmeyer stepped into the small store in his hometown, his blue eyes roaming the shelves, searching out the perfect gift for his fiancee, Mary. Then he saw it. The large wooden framed mirror leaning against the wall. He crossed the shop and reached for the price tag.

"That there is a fine buy, sir," someone said from behind him. David turned to see the owner of the store, Mr. Henry Drake, hovering next to him.

"Seems to me that fifteen dollars is an awfully steep price for a mirror," David replied, straightening up. Mr. Drake shook his head.

"What you are looking at, Mr. Whitmeyer, is a hand carved cedar frame around that mirror. Brand new, that is. We just received it today. It is a fine deal for fifteen dollars, and I am sure that your Mary will love it. Any woman would."

David looked down at the mirror and his image stared back. "It is a mighty fine piece of glass that you have in that thing." he observed, noticing not a crack or distortion in it.

Mr. Drake nodded, pleased that the young man had an eye for such things. "That it is," he agreed. "And I am sure a pretty bride like your Mary Jacobs will love it."

David smiled a little, thinking of his bride-to-be. But he didn't want to give Mr. Drake the satisfaction of knowing that he was so fond on the mirror. Fifteen dollars was a lot of money!

"Well, I don't know..." he said slowly, reaching out and tracing the edge of the frame with one finger.

"Mr. Whitmeyer, I have know you, and Mary for that matter, ever since you were young little things," Mr. Drake said, sensing David's hesitation. "I can guarantee that Mary will love the gift."

"I suppose you are right," David said after a moment of thought. "Will you wrap it up for me?"

August 5, 1925, Atlanta, Georgia

Mary Jacobs Whitmeyer opened the gift from her new husband, David and gasped with delight. "What a beautiful mirror!" she exclaimed.

"For a beautiful woman, like the one I married yesterday," David said, smiling. Mary blushed when she looked at him.

"But David.... oh it must have cost you a small fortune," she said with some concern, gazing down at the clear image of herself, bordered by a wonderful wooden carving of plants and animals. "And you're only making fifty cents an hour at the store."

"The cost does not matter," David said, waving his hand. "What does matter is that you like it, darling. You do, don't you?" he asked anxiously.

Mary leaned over and kissed him. "I love it! It's a beautiful mirror. I've never seen one so beautiful."

David leaned over next to her so that he could look into the mirror too. The reflection showed a young man and woman, their cheeks flushed with happiness and good health. David and I are together, Mary thought with her heart pounding with the joy of it all. They were together until death would part them!

January 5, 1935, Atlanta, Georgia

Seven-year-old Natalie Whitmeyer gazed into her mother's mirror, tossing her newly bobbed blond hair back. Her golden locks had once been long, all the way down to her waist, but finally she had taken scissors to it and cut her hair to her jawline. Natalie was pleased with the results. Climbing trees would be much easier without all that long hair getting in the way.

"Momma, look at me," she cried, jumping away from the mirror with it's clumps of yellow hair before it on the hardwood floor. She pounded down the stairs to where her mother was in the kitchen, fixing supper.

"Hey, Nallie," her nine-year-old brother Tim said, the name he had given her. He laughed when he saw her. "What did you do?"

"What is it, Natalie?" Mother said wearily, turning from the stove where she had been stirring something. She stared at Natalie and blinked, as if she could not believe what her eyes saw.

"Like it?" Natalie asked, grinning. "I did it myself."

"Natalie Jane Whitmeyer, whatever possessed you to do such a thing!" her mother exploded.

Natalie's smile faltered. This was not the reaction that she was expecting from her mother at all. "I wanted to have short hair, like the pretty girls in those magazines that you get," she explained, reaching up to feel the cropped cut.

"'Short' is an understatement! You look like a boy with that haircut!" her mother cried. "And with your poor father working his fingers to the bone to support the four of us! If you think that I am going to take you to the barber shop to get that fixed, you have another thing coming! We are in the middle of a depression, with no extra money for treats like that!"

"I don't want it fixed, I like it like this," Natalie said, feeling a bit hurt from her mother's words.

Tim laughed again. "Nallie looks like James Parker!" he cried. James was the neighbor boy down the street and Natalie's best friend.

"Now march yourself right back up those stairs, young lady," Mother continued, her hands placed on her hips. "I want you to clean up that mess you probably made with cutting your beautiful hair, then march yourself right into your bedroom and stay there for the night. No supper for you!"

Natalie scowled at her mother. "Okay, I will!" she cried. "But I'm leaving my hair like this! I hate long hair and I always have!" She ran out of the room and into her parents', grabbing handfuls of the golden strands and stuffing them into the trash can. Before leaving the room, she once again looked at herself in the mirror. A small thin creature looked back, big blue eyes in a pale face that was framed with very short hair. I do not look like a boy! Natalie thought angrily before leaving to sulk in her room for the rest of the day.

November 22, 1945 Atlanta, Georgia

Sixteen-year-old Steven McCormick looked at the twenty-year-old mirror Mr. Whitmeyer had brought in. "It's beautiful," he said, then looked up at David Whitmeyer. "But, may I ask, why do you wish to sell it?"

Mr. Whitmeyer frowned, the lines in his face deepening. Steven wondered if he was being to nosy. Everyone knew how much tragedy had fallen in his life. When the second World War had started, his son Tim had been drafted, then killed in battle. Not even a year later his wife Mary died of tuberculosis. And after that his daughter Natalie had run away with James Parker to elope. As far as Steven knew, their had been no reconciliation.

"I bought the mirror for Mary as a wedding gift," Mr. Whitmeyer finally said. "Looking into it brings back too many memories."

Steven nodded and paid Mr. Whitmeyer twenty dollars for the mirror. He set it in the window of his father's trade shop, sure that it would sell quickly.

December 23, 1945 Atlanta, Georgia

"How much is that mirror in the window?" Angela Stevenson asked Charles McCormick.

"Are you speaking about that mirror with the hand carved wooden frame?" Mr. McCormick asked, rubbing his chin.

Twenty-five-year-old Angela nodded. "I would like to know the price on it please," she said politely. It would look so perfect back in the house in Virginia, where she and her sisters Emily and Charity, ages ten and sixteen, lived. But she feared if she showed the excitement, the salesman would jack the price up. And even though Angela and her sisters had large amounts of money willed to them from their parents, Angela still liked to get good deals on things.

"I guess it would sell for, let see, twenty five dollars," Mr. McCormick said after a minute of thought.

"Is that the lowest price?" Angela asked, pushing her bright red hair out of her eyes.

Mr. McCormick nodded. "That is a hand carved frame bordering that glass, made from good sturdy cedar," he explained.

Twenty five dollars was not too horribly expensive. "I'll pay you thirty if you wrap it and ship it to Merryville, Virginia." she said.

Mr. McCormick thought about that for a minute, then nodded. "You got yourself a deal young lady."

March 11, 1955 Merryville, Virginia

Emily Stevenson, twenty, looked into the mirror that was displayed in the hallway, checking her long chestnut locks one last time. Earlier in the day she had gone to the town's salon to have her hair done, just for this evening. The evening she was sure her love, Mitch Ryland, would propose marriage to her.

"He better!" she whispered under her breath, The last thing she wanted was to live with her older sisters her whole life. Angela and Charity were wonderful, raising her since she was eight when their parents were killed in an automobile crash, but Emily longed for romance, to become wed and have children of her own.

"Emily, Mitch will be here any moment now!" Angela's voice floated from the downstairs. With one last look in the charmingly old fashioned mirror, Emily whirled around and descended the long curved staircase. She had bought a new dress for the occasion, a deep red that showed off the auburn highlights in her hair.

"Do I look okay?" she asked her sisters, who were standing at the foot of the stairs.

"Mitch will fall down and propose marriage the moment he sees you," Charity predicted.

Emily giggled. "Gee, I hope so." She went over to the velvety couch and settled down, awaiting for the knock at the door. Mitch was due at precisely seven and he was never late.

The clock passed seven, then slowly went on to eight with no sign of Mitch. With each moment that passed, Emily grew angrier and angrier. When the telephone rang, Emily leaped up to answer it in the hall next to the mirror.

"Mitch, you better have a good story!" she yelled into the phone.

"Excuse me?" a person said on the other end of the line.

Emily was horrified. "Oh, I'm so sorry, I thought that you would be my boyfriend, Mitch."

"Mitch Ryland?" the person asked, their voice suddenly lowered a few octaves.

"Yes, Mitch Ryland."

"I am so sorry to break the news to you," the person began, "but Mitch Ryland was killed in a car accident this evening, a little before seven. This is Officer Clark Richerson. I was at the scene of the accident."

Emily felt all her hopes and dreams shatter at that moment. She never doubted the man's words however. Mitch never was late.

"I see," Emily said in a emotionless voice. She hung the phone up and stared into the mirror. The girl that looked back was beautiful, dressed in a long red dress. Pearls, a string of them, were fastened around her neck. Emily watched as the girl's face crumpled and she began to sob. It's me, Emily realized. I am that girl. At that moment, she knew that she, like her sisters before, would forever be alone.

September 7, 1965, Columbus, Ohio

"What a wonderful housewarming gift!" Melissa Nelson cried, upon seeing the lovely old mirror for the first time.

"I thought so too, that's why I decided to give it to you," Angela Stevenson told her cousin. "I was sure that you and Gilbert will love it."

"Oh, we will," Melissa declared. "It's so beautiful. Thank you."

Angela smiled, a little sadly. "Well, it was either give it to you or sell it. Poor Emily has never been the same about that mirror since her boyfriend died ten years ago. It bothered her so that I had to put it in the attic since his death."

"Oh, I am glad you didn't sell it." Melissa said, smiling as she looked the gift over. "I'll set it right next to the door, where everyone can see it."

The phone rang. Gilbert, Melissa's husband of two years, picked it up where he was painting the kitchen. "Dear, it's for you," he called.

Melissa jumped to her feet. "This could be the call I've been waiting for," she said to Angela. "Excuse me."

Melissa took the phone from her husband and listened carefully to what the person on the other end had to say. When they were done, Melissa hung op the phone, a smile on her face.

"What is it, Mel?" her husband asked, following her to the living room. Melissa picked the mirror up and placed it on the wall, staring at her reflection. Her short dark hair was flying out of the bun she had placed it in, her cheeks were flushed and eyes bright with suppressed excitement.

"Oh Gilbert!" she burst out, spinning around and throwing her arms around his neck. "That was the doctor on the phone. We're going to have a baby!"

April 3, 1975, Columbus, Ohio

Ten-year-old Beth Nelson looked in distaste at her seven-year-old sister Megan. "Can't you do anything right?" she asked, rolling her eyes.

Megan frowned in concentration, her eyes on the mirror before them. "I'm trying," she said, "But I still can't see how you french braid hair!"

Beth stepped behind her sister, peering for a moment in the mirror at their two reflections. It was easy to see that they were both sisters, with the same dark hair and green eyes. They had the same freckles across their faces, the same teeth. If not for the three year age difference, they could have passed for twins.

"First you pull the hair back like this," she said, demonstrating on her own hair. Megan's small fingers tried to follow her sisters and after two more hours she had finally put her hair into a french braid. A somewhat lumpy french braid, but one nonetheless.

"I did it!" Megan exclaimed, a grin across her face. "I did it!"

Beth smiled, feeling a moment of pride for her sister. "Good job," she said, giving her sister a hug. "You'll be ready to knock those boys out in no time!"

Megan made a face. "Eww boys!" she said, still admiring her hair. "I never want to touch them, let alone hit one!"

July 15, 1985, Los Angeles, California

Forty-three-year-old Melissa Nelson sighed as she looked around her seventeen-year-old daughter's dorm room. Megan saw her mother's hesitation and laughed.

"Mom, don't worry about me, I'll be fine here,"she said, setting the last boxes on the floor for unpacking.

"I know," her mom said, sighing again. "But why did you choose to go to college all the way out in California? Ohio has colleges too, you know."

Megan rolled her eyes at the ceiling. "Mom, we went over this before," she said with some patience. "I have always wanted to live in California, and that scholarship was the best thing that ever happened to me."

"I know," her mother said again. "I'll miss you."

Megan nodded, impatient for Mom to leave so she could get out and really explore college life.

"Oh," Mrs. Nelson cried. "I almost forgot. Wait right here." She ran out the room.

Megan shook her head and sat down on the unmade bed. So here she was, at college in California. A dream come true. She had waited years for this moment and even skipped a grade to get here. Unlike her older sister Beth, who was drop dead gorgeous, she got the brains.

"Megan," her mother began, returning with a large flat wrapped package in her arms. "This is a gift from your father and I, since we know how much you like it."

Megan jumped off the bed and helped her mother set the heavy package on the bed. She quickly unwrapped it, hoping it'd be something like money. She was really strapped for cash nowadays.

"It's the mirror," she said in surprise, holding it up. She looked at her mom, frowning a bit. "Why'd you give me the mirror?"

"Well, everyone needs mirrors and your father and I remembered how much you liked it and decided to give it to you," Mrs. Nelson explained.

Megan nodded and set the mirror back on the bed. It was only half-an-hour later, after her mother left, that she looked at it again.

"Sure, Mom, I liked it," she muttered under her breath. "Liked. As in, I don't anymore." Where on earth did her mother get the idea that the mirror was for her? It was the eighties and the mirror looked so old fashioned, totally wrong for a dorm room. It belonged in a old house full of antiques.

Megan paused, a nasty thought occurring to her. She could sell the mirror to the antique shop in town. It was probably worth at least fifty bucks, enough to invest in a good stereo system for the room. And if her mom asked, Megan could always say that the mirror had broken. That decided, Megan wrapped the mirror back up and headed for the antique shop.

January 26, 1995, Los Angeles, California

Sixteen-year-old Julia Sterling started her first job at Ann's Antiques with excitement. All she had to do was dust and clean everything up, but such history surrounded her! Blond haired blue-eyed Julia loved nothing better than being surrounded by the past, or learning about it, She pulled straight A's in history.

"Where should I start, Mrs. Francis?" Julia asked the owner of the shop. Mrs. Ann Francis waved to the back.

"Why don't you dust the things off back there and bring up anything you think the people will want to buy," Mrs. Francis said. "Some of that stuff has been there for years, unsold and untouched."

Julia nodded with enthusiasm. She tied her long hair back and took the rag for dusting. The first thing she came upon was a mirror.

The mirror was gorgeous. Julia could not understand why no one had bought it yet. It was charmingly old fashioned, with a heavy wooden frame surrounding the glass, fancy detailed carvings of flowers and animals in the wood. Julia wiped the dust off the glass and gazed at her reflection. How many others had before her had looked into this mirror as she was now doing? What was going on in their life at the time? Julia knew that she would never know the answer to those questions. It was a pity that the mirror couldn't talk. What stories she was sure it would tell....

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