''Never go back to Burlington!" Those were the dying words of the secretive aunt who'd raised orphaned Marylee Simson. Yet to discover who she was, Marylee had to go back, sure the Lord would look out for her. But learning anything about her past was proving impossible. Why were there no records of the accident that claimed her parents' lives? No records of her parents, period? And who was trying to stop her from finding out? Someone whose threats were escalating. Someone close to her, such as Evan Baxter, the handsome photographer she'd entrusted with the one clue she had.
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October 08, 2007
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Excerpt from Shadows in the Mirror by Linda Hall
23 Years Later
"Mom, Dad," I whispered. "Things are good here. I want you to know that. I'm even sort of happy. The shop is doing well and I found a nice church to go to and I'm making a few friends. And there's even this guy who smiles at me."
Why did I just say that? I'm not ready for any man to smile at me. Especially not after the fiasco of my engagement. "Of course, you know my doubts because I've told you all of this in great detail, but it's still nice to know that I've still got it, whatever 'it' is. And in a couple of minutes, I'm heading downstairs for my class. I can't believe eleven people signed up for my mirrors class. I think you'd be proud of me."
I sighed and placed the framed photo of my parents back down on my end table. I let my fingers glide along the top and rest there for a moment. The thing was, I had no idea whether they would be proud of me or not.
I don't know my parents. They were killed in a car accident when I was three and a half. All I have is this one picture. And yes, I talk to it. It's one of my quirkier habits, but it's one that gives me a strange sort of comfort.
"Hey, Marylee, hi."
I gasped, turned. Johanna, my best friend, or as best a friend can be after only half a year of knowing someone, was standing in my bedroom doorway. I stood up and straightened the photo on my nightstand.
She said, "Your door was unlocked." She motioned toward my kitchen and to the door that led out of my apartment and down the back stairs. "So I came in. I knocked on the doorjamb. Guess you didn't hear me."
She saw the look on my face. "Sorry. I should've knocked louder. I didn't mean to startle you. You were on the phone?"
"No." I offered no explanation. Not a lot of people know that I regularly talk to my dead parents.
She was still in the doorway, nervously urging one side of her hair up into a small jeweled barrette while she talked. "Oh, I can't get this--sorry for barging in-- does this look all right?"
"You look fine." I moved away from the picture.
"Your hair is beautiful." And it was. My friend always looks fine; petite and pretty.
"It's a hopeless frizz mop in this weather," she said.
"Call me Medusa lady. Snakes for hair." My friend Johanna teaches English lit at the community college so she regularly peppers her conversations with literary references.
"No, your hair has body," I said, fiddling with her barrette. "Not like my straight mop. It rains and mine flattens into my head. And it's such a boring brown."
"You could get highlights. Your smiling coffee guy might like it." She was grinning and I was grinning and I was happy she was my friend.
"I don't have a smiling coffee guy," I said.
"Sure you do." She pointed at me. "The guy you keep telling me about, the one who just happens to be in the coffee shop every morning when you just happen to get your coffee, the guy who just happens to smile when he sees you, that guy." She reached into her pocket for her lipstick. Johanna never carries a purse; instead all of her jackets and pants have copious pockets in which she keeps loose change and lipsticks and combs and barrettes.
"He winked at me today," I told her.
"He winked at you!" She stopped and turned, holding the lipstick tube. "That's a step up from smiling, you know."
"There's no step up. There's no steps anywhere in a relationship that's not a relationship. I don't even know his name." I pulled my own hair back into a pink scrunchie I'd had on my wrist. "And besides, I'm not interested."
I wish I were glamorous. Or at least sort of pretty. But every time I look at myself I think of my aunt Rose who raised me; capable, smart, talented, plain. When I was fourteen a neighbor of ours called me handsome.
That's me, handsome. No wonder my former fiance dropped me like a sack of composted turnips.
"You need to learn the way things work, Marylee," Johanna said, capping her lipstick tube. "First there's the look, and then there's the half smile. You know, the mouth only up on one side." She did a pretty good facsimile.
"Then there's the full smile. And then there's the wink. And need I mention that your coffee guy is way beyond my Evan? I went into his photo shop today to get some pictures developed. All he said was, 'Hello, Johanna. Nice weather, isn't it?'That was it. That was all. Nothing. After all we shared, he's talking about the weather."
"Johanna." I turned to her. "You're such a great person, you shouldn't be wasting your time on some idiot who's treated you horribly."
"He didn't treat me that horribly. He just never called me again."
"Same difference," I said.
I had heard often about the wonderful and famous Evan and the two glorious dates they'd gone on, and then how Evan hadn't called. Still, Johanna had multiple excuses for him. He was busy with work. He'd just come off a broken engagement. He'd been so hurt in life he had trouble committing.