It all began when I was six and lost my cat.
Fluffball was a Himalayan rescue, the softest ball of fur I’d ever seen. I found her at the shelter and fell in love with her amazing blue eyes. I begged Nana and Gran to let me take her home. I promised I’d take good care of her, so they finally gave in and the cat joined our family.
I’d only had her a few weeks, but I loved Fluffball. Then one day, she was gone. Snap. Just like that.
They said, “Hayden, she snuck out a door and ran away.” But I knew what happened. It was the mirror.
Twenty Years Ago
Nana and Gran always told me I could figure anything out. They said I had a sharp mind and an abundance of curiosity. I knew I could make the drawbridge work on the castle I was building. Just a few more hinge pieces and maybe a rubber band and a paper clip. I found the pieces and worked to connect them.
I stepped back to look at my creation and caught a glimpse of it in the mirror above my dresser. I stepped closer. It was my castle I was seeing. But it wasn’t. The reflected version was glowing and floating on carpet that looked more like a cloud.
I turned around, squinted my eyes, and spied my castle. My non-glowing, non-floating castle, sitting on the beige carpet. I giggled. Nana was always saying I let my imagination run away with me. I shrugged my shoulders and turned my back to the mirror.
I added a few more pieces and was pleased to see my drawbridge could go up and down. Success!
“Look at that, Fluffball! I made a real drawbridge!” My new pet rubbed against my legs and meowed. It was fun to have a friend. Growing up with no brothers or sisters sometimes made me lonely. A cat wasn’t exactly someone to build with, but it was someone to talk to, and I liked that.
I placed my favorite piece on top—a flag I had painted. It was my castle’s crest: a shield with a waterfall and an old-fashioned goblet like the one on our bookcase.
Standing up, I took a slow trip around my creation. As I moved around the back, I saw the mirror-version castle. It was still glowing, still floating—and now, it had a small flag with my crest on top. But the flag was waving in the breeze from the open window overlooking the sea. The sea? I lived in the city and could see only the other homes in our neighborhood from my bedroom window.
As I moved closer to the mirror, I saw a child’s arm wave over the structure, and then, suddenly, a boy came into view. His eyes popped open and his mouth made a wide, soundless “O.” He was about my age, maybe a little older. He stepped closer to the mirror, tilting his head to the side, and reached out toward me. I sucked in a breath and spun around to look behind me. There sat my castle, my bedroom, my bed. The same as always. I very slowly turned back to the mirror and gasped. The boy had his face pressed up against the other side, looking directly at me!
He smiled and waved. I smiled and waved back. He pointed at his castle and then pointed at mine and gave me a wild, dancing two-handed thumbs-up. I laughed at him. He laughed, too. I could see the happy crinkles by the corners of his eyes, but there was no sound. My real bedroom seemed to fade, and the mirror room was becoming clearer.
“Hayden, time to go to the park. Come on downstairs!” Nana’s voice startled me, and I jumped back. My own room snapped back into focus. The boy looked confused. Then he smiled brightly and motioned for me to come over to his side of the mirror to play.
I stepped forward and reached toward the reflection. My hand should have been touching the surface of the mirror, but there was no surface to touch. Nana called me again to come downstairs. My bedroom seemed wavy now, in the same way that things looked when I swam underwater in the pool. Yet the castle in the mirror was crisp and colorful.
Fluffball meowed and jumped up onto the dresser. At that exact moment, a bright flash came out of the mirror. I grabbed Fluffball, jumped backwards and landed on the floor with a thump. Then I ran downstairs and went to the park with Nana.
Two weeks later, when I came home from school, Fluffball was gone. We waited for days, hoping she’d return. We put up posters in the neighborhood. But after a while, we had to admit that my cat was gone for good. Nana and Gran tried to tell me that Fluffball must have snuck out when the front door was open. But I knew the truth. The mirror had taken her.
After that day, I didn’t trust mirrors. They even had to take the mirror out of my bedroom. Even as I grew up, I remained uneasy around them. As a teen, I learned to put on my makeup and do my hair in the reflection of the shower door or in my small compact mirror. Sometimes, when I walked by a mirror, I would swear I saw a man in there, looking at me. I came to understand that it could be any mirror, but not every mirror. It was unpredictable. Over time, I convinced myself it was a good image that I saw–like a guardian angel. He even became a welcome sight.
If anyone questioned me, I explained away my unease by saying I was superstitious, breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck and all that, because the truth is harder to believe.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
. . . Twenty years later Hayden discovers the secret of the mirror. She learns of a world she never knew existed, and a family she never knew she had.
But danger brought her here, and it followed her. And now, Hayden is on a mission to see that the threat is removed so that she can begin her wonderful new life.
The mountain trail was tricky. I was moving slowly through the deep snow. I knew the lake had to be nearby. It was important to find it, but I could barely see ten feet in front of me. It was steep and slippery, and I was making my way using trekking poles to assess where I should step next. My hands and feet were cold. I heard Latifa calling out to me. Where was she? What was she saying?
“Good morning, Sunshine!” Her lilting voice woke me from my dream. “Happy one-month-a-versary!” It’s amazing how accustomed I’d grown to my cat’s telepathic voice in my head.
I squinted at my fluffy Himalayan sidekick. She was sitting beside me on the bed. I stretched out my arms and gave an extra-loud yawn in her direction, hoping she’d get the hint that she had woken me up.
“Message received. Woke you up. So sorry. Got it.” She squinted at me and whispered, “Not sorry.”
I yawned at her again.
“Bet you forgot today is one month from the earth-shattering day we arrived in Destiny Falls.” Her big baby blues were focused on me, and her whiskers were twitching. “I have appointed myself Keeper of Your Calendar. You can be so forgetful about celebratory dates.” She shook her furry head as if it were impossible to believe.
I gave another exaggerated stretch and reached over to the bedside table. With a flourish, I presented her with a small, gift-wrapped package.
“Squeeee! You remembered!” She head-butted my face and spun a little circle on the bed, then turned to tear open the package. There was more squealing as she discovered her new, feathered cat toy.
I patted my sidekick’s head and tossed my legs over the side of the bed. A glance at my phone confirmed that Latifa-the-alarm-clock was right on time. I needed to get changed and meet Axel downstairs for a morning jog into town. He was often too busy with work to join me in the morning, so it was a wonderful treat to have some extra time with my newfound brother.
My brother. How I loved the sound of that. After a lifetime as an only child in a tiny three-person family, finding out that I had siblings and a large hidden family was monumental. Add to that a mysterious, magical new world, and I was floating on cloud nine.
The only dark spot was missing my family and my best friend, Luna. I was still trying to figure out how to tell them about Destiny Falls. I’d have to sort this out soon, since my cover story of a working trip to Denmark was nearing its expiration. A month overseas was feasible, but as the timeline continued, I’d need to address my disappearance.
My Nana and Granana would be happy that I was happy. They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders my entire life. They always said my happiness mattered most to them. Both my parents disappeared the week I was born, so my grandmother and great-grandmother jumped into raising me. They were dedicated to the job, with an enthusiasm that was a complete contrast to their tiny, delicate appearances. Luna and I referred to them as the Mighty Minis, which was an apt description.
Figuring out how to explain that I wasn’t really in Denmark, but in a magical, hidden town in an unknown location was a whole new ball of wax. Especially since the town was finicky about who it revealed itself to. Any e-mails or texts I attempted to send, explaining my location, disappeared into the ether in a wisp of bounces— undeliverable, message not sent, connection lost. Even phone calls suddenly lost the signal. Maybe Axel, my brother (deep sigh of joy), could help me solve this problem.
I turned on the movie channel for Latifa, my furry little movie buff, tucked my ponytail through the back of my baseball cap, and headed out. I strolled slowly down the hallway, so I could absorb the beauty of this amazing home.
Hmm. That was odd. Where was the window seat? It was usually somewhere in my hallway, but it was oddly absent. There was a glorious swatch of sunlight, which is where it normally would be lounging. I snickered. Imagine that. A window seat that can lounge in the sun. Magic touched the Caldwell Crest home in the most interesting ways.
Caldwell Crest is a masterpiece of design. It could be described as a cozy, mansion-sized mountain cabin. I felt embraced by the sweeping staircase made of polished wood. I loved the plank wood floors and ceilings and the gorgeous but understated chandeliers. I adored the stone fireplaces that soared all the way up to the tall ceilings. The earthy colors of the décor were soothing. Even after a month, I was still adjusting to the fact that it was now where I lived.
The home was enchanting. I could almost believe the rumors that it was originally built as a castle back in the 1800s and magically remodeled many times. It’s difficult to understand Caldwell Crest and the mysterious place that was Destiny Falls, especially since the definition seemed to always be changing.
It had been a wild ride of a month since I’d been thrown through a portal and landed here.
Destiny Falls is different from any place I’ve ever known before. I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what defines a town. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that the town isn’t on any map and isn’t accessible by normal means.
You must be called here by either the home or the town. Then you whoosh through time and space, to the accompaniment of a flash of brilliant light, as you tumble through a mirror. It’s a one-way trip. Once you’re here, you are, well . . . “trapped” is a harsh word for such a lovely place. However, it’s accurate. I cannot choose to leave. Destiny Falls controls the comings and goings.
I feel a bit like Alice falling through the mirror into wonderland. Albeit a much nicer wonderland than Alice had to deal with.
I’ve figured out that’s it’s easier if I just go with the flow and don’t try to understand all the nuances of this place.