It was a wet rainy day. I really was not intending to browse in the musty antique store but at that moment I was passing there was a fierce downpour which forced me indoors. I tried to take a deep breath but the dust clogged my nostrils; I forced myself to breath as little as necessary.
“Welcome” the old shopkeeper smiled an aged, toothless smile. I gathered she was as old as some of the pieces. “Please tell me if I can be of assistance deary”.
I walked around the cluttered rows of dingy furniture. “Ah light,” I gasped as I took the stairs two at a time. ” Maybe there will be something worth looking at up there and perhaps less dust.” I said in a hushed voice realizing her hearing was also ancient. “Squeek, clop, clop” I sounded like a horse on wooden slats.
At last I was upstairs. I turned around in a room that seemed so airy and springlike. I could almost hear birds chirping. The sun was streaming in from a skylight. “How is that possible?” I shook my head as if in a fairy tale. I minded little the time I might spend here. I looked at item after item – each “one of a kind” in my estimation. Then I felt warmth as if a hand touched mine. I looked down and my hand was resting on a beautiful yellowing mirror. The lines from the elephant tusk were obvious as I ran my hand over the smooth ivory. I felt the need to see if the mirror was cracked so I turned it over. As I gazed at myself, I was shocked at what I saw.
“I dont own a brocade, three-quarter sleeve gown. What am I thinking? I dont own any gowns.” I heard a whisper from behind me. It must be an open window. Then I heard it clearly.
” Come close let me look at you.”
” Who are you, ” I asked trying to keep the trembling in my voice down.
“My name is Janille Constantine.”
” My name is Malina.”
” I like that name Malina. I have never heard that name before. Have you seen him today?” she asked in a beautiful lyrical voice.
“Have I seen whom?”
” My lover of course. We are supposed to meet here so that my intended would not see us.” Janille giggled with mirth.
” No I am sorry what does he look like? ”
“He is very handsome. He rides the blackest of stallions and his blue eyes carry mischief and love.”
” I’m sure if I saw him I would remember him.” I had to look again into the mirror as I was certain that I could not be carrying on this conversation with myself.
“Yes he always wears a bowler hat and carries a smart cane.”
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“Why on Jersey shore of course my dear. I am from the Constantine family; we live in a darling home on the sea-shore in the summer and we return to our plantation in the fall once the disease has left the lowlands.”
“My what an exciting life you must lead. I would love to see your home. ”
“Yes alas I believe once papa knows about Roland he will send me away to my aunt’s.” her r rolled in a perfect southern drawl.
“What about your intended?”
“Oh Joseph. He is a good boy but he is not a man who knows the world. He is protected by his mama.”
“Oh” I started to smile. I had dated someone like that and was glad the “love of my life” lived on the edge.
“Then why don’t you break it up with Joseph? ”
“Well I have discussed it with Roland he always tells me no and tells me to shush.”
Just then I heard the sound of a gun shot.
” Oh my what am I to do? What is it?”
“A man has been shot outside of the shop. You must hide – please hide.”
“Under a bureau!”
“Yes I will.” I held my breath waiting as I heard the pounding of footsteps on the stairs as suddenly as they came up they went back down.
“No one is here. That scoundrel Roland.”
” He’s dead.” I heard a mouse like voice.
” Murielle your husband was a cheat and a gambler. It is better this way come home with your older brother.”
I heard crying as a face came back into view. “They killed him my Roland. Who was the woman? Oh my I guess he was married. I never knew.”
“But you are safe Janille.”
“Yes I am I will return to my papa’s home in South Carolina. I will never return here again.” She tried to sound brave but her voice could not countain the soft cries.
“Goodbye Malina.” a sweet voice said and then the mirror went dark.
When I went home I googled the name of Constantine. There it was the picture of the beautiful, young woman I had spoken with. She had unexpectedly died by gunshot in the street in New Jersey on her way home.
I looked up the name of Roland and found several who lived in the area then I saw him. The most daring and compelling blue eyes and I knew why she had loved that captivating man.
I went back to the antique store on another rainy day. I was curious to see whom I might meet…
This short story was inspired by the elephant tusk mirror that was an heirloom and an archived poem I wrote.
Photograph: “Gradma’s Mirror” L. Moon copyright 2011