Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading here.
Lorelei and Britney both scrambled behind the mirror, sliding into the tight space and smashing up against one another. Britney tried to shove Lorelei back out, but Lorelei pushed back, and they two slapped at one another as they fumbled to be completely hidden from whoever was headed their way.
The footsteps came into the room, and both girls froze, holding their breath and listening. A floorboard creaked under a silent step, then again, until finally a voice, small and feminine, “Is someone there?”
They were caught. Lorelei glanced at Britney who was glaring at her and shaking her head silently. Lorelei shrugged, and peeked out from behind the mirror. There in the center of the room stood a short girl with a round face, her hair pulled back in a knot at the back of her head and freckles spattered across her cheeks. She wore a stiff top and a striped skirt down to her ankles, and looked as though she’d stepped out of a Thanksgiving play. Of course, Lorelei realized, it may have been more likely she’d stepped into one. “Uh, hey there.”
The girl was frozen, her eyes locked on Lorelei’s, an apple in her hand hovering just before her mouth. Then her face lit up, “It worked!” She jumped in place, and laughed, “I can hardly believe my eyes!”
Britney popped out from the other side of the mirror, brow narrowed, and the girl’s smile only grew, “Two of you? By the greatest powers, I’ve done it! And just in time too!”
Lorelei stepped carefully out from behind the mirror, taking in the room again. It was simple, a bed, an armoire, and very dimly lit only by the setting sun outside. The mirror, of course, was also there, but Conrad’s figure had completely vanished and it now only showed her reflection. “In time for what?”
“The ceremony,” the girl strode up to Lorelei and grabbed the edge of her sweatshirt, running a hand over the stitching, “My word, even my magic doesn’t work as evenly as all this.”
“Wait, did you,” Britney came around the mirror looking up at it, “did you make this?”
“Of course. Well, I enchanted it,” the girl moved on to Britney, petting the woman’s curled hair and gasping as her ringlet bounced back, “What craft is this?”
Britney pushed her hand away with a scowl, “How old are you?”
“Fifteen,” she answered quickly, squatting down to inspect their pants, “And trousers! How wonderful! Now, I must know,” she jumped up again, “Tell me everything.”
Lorelei looked from the girl to Britney, but Britney was already shaking her head, “No. You’re going to tell me: why’d you make this thing?”
There was a noise from the hall, and a voice called out, “Alice? How fair thee?”
“More than fair, father!” she shouted back and scrambled for the door, closing it and turning back to the girls, “He can’t know you’re here.”
Lorelei could sense Britney’s annoyance, and stopped her before she could start, “Alice? That’s your name? What’s this ceremony?”
Alice’s eyes pulled away from the two as her shoulders fell. She took a deep breath and crossed the room to her bed, “I’m to be inducted into the order and begin training. I’ve agreed, but in truth, I’m not sure. I want to see the world, to meet new people and hear about their adventures, not be trapped in this dark little house for the rest of my life looking after some rock.”
“Rock?” Lorelei whispered, placing a finger over her lips.
“But I understand I have a duty to my family. This is what my mother would have wanted, I’m sure of it.”
“Well, that settles that,” Britney threw her hands up, “Now why’d you make a Hephastian mirror?”
“What?” the girl cocked her head, “Oh, yes, well, I would like to know what happens to this place in the future. Is it worth staying here, devoting my life to this place? Giving up my dream?”
Lorelei looked on the girl as she gently sat on the edge of her bed, her face downcast, her hands placed gently in her lap, cradling the apple. Her concerns were much too big for her tiny frame.
“Okay, great, well, everything in the future is amazing,” Britney rolled her eyes, “Space travel, Wi-Fi, green smoothies.” Alice’s face twisted in bewilderment. “And the manor is doing great, guests out the wazoo. Now, where’s the other one?”
Britney took a breath, appearing to be at least trying to restrain herself, “Mirror. To send us back?”
The girl looked between the two of them, her eyes glazing over. She lifted the apple to her mouth, took a bite, chewed, and swallowed. “I didn’t think of that.”
Lorelei felt her stomach flip, “You only made one?”
“Well, it took eight months!” At Alice’s words, Britney looked like she might have a coronary, so upset no words came when she opened her mouth–a first. Alice seemed to be able to sense that, “I think I can shave some time off,” her voice cracked, “I can probably get it down to four.”
“Unacceptable,” for once Lorelei was keen on Britney’s no-nonsense attitude, “We’ll finish in time for your ceremony or whatever. Between the two of us it shouldn’t be difficult.”
Alice’s eyes were bouncing back and forth between the two, “Well, the part that took the longest was gathering the ingredients. I needed a feather from a thunderbird.”
“Whatever, she can do that,” Britney gestured to Lorelei who did not like the sound of the plan at all, “In the meantime, we’ll check in as guests.”
“Here. Of the manor.”
Alice tipped her head to the side, “This is my home. Tis but me, my father, and grandmother living here.”
“You mean this place isn’t a hotel?”
She looked like she didn’t know the word. Lorelei groaned: of course she didn’t.
“Do you ever put up traveling witches?”
She shook her head.
Britney glanced at Lorelei and sighed, “Time to start a tradition.”
Table of Contents | Next Installment – 11/12/18