The first book I published in 2015.
LATE SUMMER 1984
LEON’S CROSSING, WA
Jessica Winters wandered around the forest behind her home. At seventeen-years-old she would enter her senior year in high school this year. It couldn’t come soon enough as far as she was concerned.
Not even two hours before her mother, Mary Winters bothered her—again—about having a better social life in school.
“Jessica, you need to come out of your shell. Make more friends. Go party. High School should be the best time of your life,” The forty-year-old blonde woman told her daughter.
Jessica scoffed and shook her head while she enjoyed the natural surroundings, and the thick forest of evergreens, fern, and brush on the path.
Jessica had never been a social butterfly. The students at school may have brushed her off as snobby, but that wasn’t it. Jessica was painfully shy, and a natural loner. Her best friend in the entire world, Tessa Mallory, had a similar personality, though Tessa was no doormat, whereas Jessica had taken many beatings, never fighting back.
“I hope you go to your prom this year,” Mary commented, as she ran around getting ready for work as a nurse.
“I doubt it,” Jessica answered when she came down for dinner.
“Jessica, with an attitude like that, you’re probably right,” Mary said, stopping to stare at her daughter in exasperation.
Jessica stopped at the lake on the path she walked almost every night when her mother went to work and her father fell asleep in his armchair.
Nature was the one thing Jessica loved most in this world. It never judged her, never talked back to her, never bullied her. It was just there. To be a friend when no one else was around. Could she get that with a dog? Perhaps, but allergies kept her from having animals, so she settled on the natural settings behind her home to make up for the lack of animal companionship.
Leon’s Crossing High School had what they called a Memory Board. Contained on that memory board were pictures of alumni from years past, and guess who was prominent on that board that stretched an entire hallway? You guessed it. Don and Mary Winters.
Mary, the head cheerleader, and captain of the winning basketball team. Married to Don, the quarterback with the smile that melted the hearts of an entire town.
Both almost single-handedly won numerous championships for the school in their day, but could barely get their daughter join the debate team one time, and that turned into a disaster.
Jessica stopped to fix the ponytail in her dark-blonde hair, cursing the humidity making it frizz again.
Her honey brown eyes scanned the immediate forest but found no signs of life except the occasional small animal. Sometimes she would meet up with hikers in the area and even came upon hunters during hunting season. Hiking and camping were huge in Leon’s Crossing since the ski resort, the town’s major attraction, and shut down a few years back from Mount St. Helens’ eruption.
Jessica had learned to identify animal tracks in case a bear or another big animal was around. The worst she’d ever seen was an elk. He spotted her, turned, and walked away. Jessica almost peed her pants that day.
“Jessica, you have such a pretty face. If you would open up a little, the boys would fall over you,” her mother would say.
Jessica rolled her eyes from her mother’s comments about her looks as she checked where the sun was in the sky.
How many times did she hear that one?
The one thing that angered her the most was her grades. She was a straight “A” student, and her parents never cared. Jessica won award after award in her academic career and not one compliment on how proud they were of her. She even tutored struggling classmates after school. Colleges were falling over themselves for her. The only other person to match her was Tessa. Tessa was guaranteed to receive valedictorian before they graduated. No. All she ever heard about was her lack of social skills.
Jessica turned her head towards the mountains, observed the sun falling behind their jagged peaks.
Besides, her father might wake up from his nap, and realize she was gone, and she’d be lectured about staying in the forest too late again.
Her father, Don, always agreed with everything her mother said. He defended Jessica a few times saying she was a late bloomer and would come out of her shell when she went off to college.
“I give up. I can’t get through to her,” Mary would say.
“She’ll come around. She needs a little push, and maybe that won’t happen till she leaves for school,” Don would answer.
“I don’t want her to wait that long, Don.”
Jessica had a plan. She had her heart set on NYU. She wanted to move as far away from Leon’s Crossing as possible. She didn’t hate the town; she didn’t even hate the people. Sometimes the constant rain drove her nuts, but after being bullied her whole life, she never wanted to see any of these people again, and in New York, she could get lost in the crowd, study Botany, and make her career and family from there.
She had yet to tell her parents her plan and figured it could wait till the start of the school year.
Jessica turned around on her usual path by the lake, her T-shirt and jeans soaked from sweat. It was hotter than usual today. The sun may have been setting, but she could still feel its burn on the top of her head when she passed by the open area of the lake.
Jessica walked along the path admiring the mirror-like reflection of the mountains on the lake when—
An explosion went off behind Jessica. It was so loud and hard that the earth rocked beneath her feet. She yelled out in surprise and fought to keep her balance.
She regained her balance and looked around wondering what she could have heard? Was Mount St. Helens erupting again? No, it couldn’t be. The explosion was too close.
Jessica could hear the cries of frightened animals running for cover around her.
She looked side-to-side and up and down, but didn’t see smoke. She fully turned around and gasped when she spotted a plume of smoke rising from the forest path she just left.
She’d just been down that path. What happened over there?
Jessica didn’t know what to do. Did she run back to her house and call the sheriff? Should she wake up her dad and bring him over here? Was someone hurt, and maybe she could help?
She knew basic first aid from when her mother made her join girl scouts.
If someone was hurt, they may need help.
The plume of smoke wasn’t large but could start a wildfire. Wildfires were a problem in this part of Washington.
Deciding it was probably best to return to her home and call the sheriff, she turned again and jogged towards her house.
Then, she stopped.
Something compelled her to check out the source of the bang.
What if someone needed help? This area was secluded, and that person may have no means to communicate with anyone.
She stopped again and turned to head back to the source of the smoke. She didn’t know what was driving her to check it out. What if something blew up again, and her along with it? What if it was her classmates being stupid? She didn’t know, but she had to find out.
She knew this path like the back of her hand, so the whole time she made her way to the source, she didn’t have to worry about the path to see where she was going.
As she came closer to the forest, she smelled the smoke, and the plume dissipated into a thin ribbon.
She looked around and strained her ears. She was close now.
The path thinned for a few yards, and then opened into a wider area, kind of like a pasture.
The smoke blew through the trees, making Jessica cough.
“Hello? Anyone there? Are you okay?” She yelled out.
Jessica covered her mouth and nose with her arm and used her free hand to wave the smoke away from her face.
The clearing was now in front of her, and Jessica stopped to see flames licking the surrounding brush off the Douglas-firs, burning the surrounding fern, and the bark on the tree.
Something strange caught her eye. Sitting in the middle of the fire was a mirror.
Jessica’s eyes narrowed as she focused on the mirror.
What was a mirror doing out here in the middle of the forest? How did it get here? Was it some junk from the old ski resort?
“Hello? Is there anyone out here? Do you need help?” She called out.
Her mother hated her walks in the woods. She worried about Jessica being kidnapped by a stranger.
But Jessica felt compelled the approach the strange mirror sitting against the tree.
No signs of human life anywhere.
Jessica coughed again from the smoke.
Cautiously, she approached the strange mirror.
As she did, she looked around. The fire snuffed itself out. Her eyes widened. Never in her life had she seen anything like that. How was this fire going out on its own?
Jessica took a step back. The fire was now completely out. She looked back towards the mirror. It had not been damaged at all by the fire. It looked to her like a wooden frame. How did it not burn?
Was this some kind of joke? Would cameras appear and tell her she’d been pranked? How did the fire go out on its own?
Jessica no longer felt in danger, but the mirror sitting against the tree fascinated her.
She walked up to it and could see her reflection. In fact, she fixed her ponytail again and tightened the rubber band.
Smiling, she noticed the markings on the frame and then frowned.
The mirror was a full-length oval shape. The frame made of real wood, perhaps oak. It looked expensive.
There were gold tones that weaved through the carvings. The mirror must’ve been handmade so there was no way it came from the ski resort.
The carvings piqued Jessica’s interest.
She knew the Bible from church but seen nothing like this.
At the top of the mirror was a sun-like sphere with rays protruding from it.
At the bottom a pit of fire, and hands reaching out carved into the wood.
On the sides, what looked like angels and demons carved into the wood.
The demons looked like they were fighting to return to the pit of fire while the angels were happily rising to the sun at the top of the mirror.
The designs were so delicate, and intricate that Jessica appreciated the time to make this work of art. And, here it was sitting the middle of the forest.
The glass inside the frame didn’t have a scratch on it.
Jessica gazed at her complexion again in the mirror. For some reason, she felt the need to touch it.
She had to touch it.
Reaching out her hand, her fingers lightly grazed the cool glass.
Still touching it she noticed unexplainable warmth spreading throughout her body. As the heat spread, it coursed through her and back onto the glass of the mirror.
Jessica tried to remove her fingers, but she was stuck. The glass was becoming hotter with each passing second, and Jessica panicked because she couldn’t let go while her fingers were burning.
She looked around for help, but no one was there.
“Let me go!” She cried.
She pulled her hand back with her free arm, but her fingers were still glued to the glass.
“Please let me go!” She yelled.
Finally, her fingers released, and when they were a huge crack formed in the mirror.
The force of the release made Jessica fall back on her behind in the dirt.
Eyes wide with fear, she looked at the glass and the huge crack right down the middle.
She wanted to get up and run out of there, but an unseen force kept her from moving.
Jessica watched in fear and awe as the crack in the mirror went away.
She crawled backwards. Her eyes still wide with fright, and her breathing heavy. Her heart pounded against her chest.
Then the mirror did something she would never have imagined in her wildest dreams.
It swirled to the left, and then to the right. It warped and rippled.
Jessica could only sit on the ground in shock and awe when the glass melted onto the ground right in front of her.
Again, she tried to stand, but couldn’t
The molten glass lay on the ground and continued to swirl. She looked back to the frame and found the rest of the mirror still there with her reflection intact.
Jessica screamed when the melted glass suddenly shot up into the air and formed a tower.
She stopped screaming, but her mouth hung open when a human-like figure formed in front of her.
Arms, legs, feet, hands, and a head took shape from the glass melted on the ground.
She tried to back away again. Never in her life would she dream of what she was seeing now.
The figure jerked as it came to life. A nose and mouth appeared on its face. Eye sockets sunk into its head; the sockets filled with diamond-white eyes.
The thing blinked for several seconds and then focused down on Jessica.
Jessica whimpered when his or its eyes turned towards her.
It smiled at her.
“Good evening, Jessica Winters,” it said.
Jessica screamed in terror. She screamed again when she heard her own echo of fearful cries through the thick forest.
The figure continued to smile.
The hold on Jessica released. She shot up, and without looking back she took off into the woods not caring where she went. All she knew was she had to get away from that thing.
She never ran through the path, but instead, ran as fast she could through forest not caring where her own path took her. Stumbling through brush, ferns, and unseen roots in the ground.
She felt relief course through her body when she spotted a house in the distance. She was safe.
Curiosity about what that thing was almost made her turn around. She shook her head, wondering how in the world she could even think of going back to see that thing.
Jessica stopped once she was in the middle of the street. She bent over to catch her breath. Her stomach turned from the hard run, and she placed both arms over her abdomen as she bent over.
Sweat dripped from her forehead, and after a minute she was able to stand up straight again.
She pulled her T-shirt away from her skin and fanned her sweaty torso and tried to wipe off the dirt stuck to her jeans.
Whatever it was she saw in the woods; she would never go there alone again.
She looked around as her breathing returned to normal and groaned.
She still had quite a walk home. Her father would kill her.
The sun was setting behind the mountains.
She turned and walked towards her house, but jumped in surprise when a siren blasted behind her.
She turned to see the sheriff sitting behind her.
The second book in the Mirror in the Forest Trilogy
Mark McKenzie stopped the technician from leaving the visiting area. He took a deep breath, trying to hold back his temper telling himself it was not the technician’s fault. She wasn’t required to give him any information on Jessica’s condition. That would be the nurse’s job.
“Why does she have bruises on her arm?” He asked, not hiding the anger in his voice.
The technician pouted in response. “I’m not sure, sir. I just came back from my days off,” she answered, Mark noted the sarcastic emphasis on ‘sir.’ “It must’ve happened then.”
This technician must have been a newer employee. Mark had never seen her care for Jessica before. Over the years, Mark had gotten to know most of the staff here. The staff here saw no hope for recovery. He’d already been warned that Jessica could soon move to a nursing facility because of changes in the mental health system. Her parents were set to make a decision anytime. That worried Mark. He did not want Jessica to end up in a nursing home if he could help it. If Jessica’s parents placed her in a nursing home, Mark guaranteed it would be her death sentence. Mark had no say in the matter. Even if he took them to court, the judge would never consider his pleas.
“There! Right there,” Mark said, gently turning Jessica’s forearm to show the technician. “And, they’re fresh.”
The technician scratched her head. Her mouth turning down in a nervous gesture. “I was a little late this morning, so I never got the incident reports.”
Mark looked away taking a deep breath to keep his patience. The help they hired in the place could be questionable sometimes. “Then get me the nurse on duty. Maybe I can get answers from her.”
The technician turned and scurried away to find the nurse.
Mark turned the catatonic Jessica towards him as he sat down in one of the visitor’s chairs to wait for the nurse. He didn’t know how long he would wait, all day if he had to. He wanted answers. This was the first time Jessica had received an injury here. He had to make sure The Spirit of the Mirror hadn’t caused these injuries to her.
The bruises were a dark purple hue with slight graying and yellowing around the outer edge.
Mark looked straight into unblinking honey brown eyes and asked, “Where did you get these?”
“Jessica, tell me how this happened,” he repeated in frustration from the lack of response.
Nothing. No life, no spark, no response. Another day with Mark talking to the shell of a woman whose soul was trapped somewhere in a mirror that had yet to reappear in Leon’s Crossing.
Mark had been late coming to the hospital this week. His job had taken him almost all the way to the east coast. He found he liked the traveling part of it. It was a lonely life and took time to get used to, but Mark made many loyal friends while traveling. The cab inside of his semi was comfortable, even though the truck would never be as comfortable as his own bed.
Mark originally planned to go beyond an elected Sheriff of a small town by moving to Seattle to become a detective after his time in Leon’s Crossing had finished.
That changed ten years ago when Jessica Winters ran from the woods and into his life. The night he found her, and a shaken, but unhurt Tessa in the forest changed his life forever. Mark admitted he liked the freedom of his job more than the time he was Sheriff of Leon’s Crossing.
Mark ran his hand through his brown close-cropped hair. He looked in the mirror the other day and spotted flecks of gray. He turned thirty-six in June, but some days he felt seventy. He searched the town of Leon’s Crossing for years, trying different spots to invoke The Spirit, but always came up empty-handed. His friend, Ben, an expert in demon lore, taught him how to invoke while not risking his personal safety. Mark would contact him telling him nothing appeared. Ben said the next time Mark drove through Sacramento to stop at his place so they could meet up and discuss why the invocations didn’t work.
Mark lost his patience a few times before he met Ben. He’d given up even though he made a promise to Tessa before she died from complications of her Diabetes. He couldn’t take the mental beatings anymore. The non-responses, the stares, with Jessica slowly deteriorating before his eyes like his mother from cancer ten years before. There had been a time he changed his schedule, dated other women again, and moved on with his life. The guilt was too much. The feelings for Jessica never subsided. He went back, not only for Jessica but also for the town. So many lives needlessly lost over the years for a few minutes of greed. His hometown shadowed by a dark past, and those who would keep its dangerous secrets.
He made a silent promise to Sara Miller, Rick Tanner, and Kelly Martin that he would avenge their deaths. He would keep that promise.
Mark checked the surrounding area in the visitor’s room. No one paid any attention to him or Jessica so he carefully inspected Jessica’s body to see if there had been other injuries. He ran a hand over her head, her hair feeling like straw nowadays, but could find no lumps or bumps.
The visiting area was quiet. That was normal for a weekday. Weekends were very busy here. Most of the furniture placed around the room were mismatched chairs and sofas with tables that smelled of odors that Mark didn’t want to identify. Some of the patients and their visitors sat in chairs playing games; others sat watching television or wandering around in their own little worlds. The technicians placed Jessica in a little corner so she wasn’t bothered. When Mark came to see her, he made sure she moved around, read to her, or wheeled her around outside on days the weather cooperated. This facility had tried every experiment legal to man to stimulate Jessica but failed. If only they understood that advances in science could not help Jessica.
Mark had an early start this morning. He showered, shaved, and ran out the door stopping at a convenience store for coffee. He had gotten used to being on the go and even when he was home, all he did was constantly run errands. Since the mental hospital only had certain times to visit patients, Mark had to schedule his errands around their schedule when he came home from the road.
“Jessica, you need to talk eventually. Did The Spirit cause this?” Mark asked.
“Are you hurt inside the mirror? Did he hurt you in there?” Mark asked again, determined to receive a response.
Mark waited, moving his head to meet the stare with his own eyes.
“Where are you? How can I get you to respond?”
Mark turned to see who owned the voice and smiled slightly to Linda, the day nurse on this wing.
Mark liked Linda; she was professional, good at her job, and popular among the patients and their families. Mark had once seen her calm down a patient in distress without the use of chemical sedatives. It had been an amazing sight to see and rare from what he heard. She was one of the few nurses who cared about her patients and never hid behind her desk all day letting the technicians do all the work.
A tall, willowy woman with strawberry blonde hair, kind blue eyes, and a mother to five children. Mark had observed she was as strong an ox too. If a patient fell, she lifted them off the floor without help.
“Linda. Where did Jessica get these bruises?” Mark asked, pushing up Jessica’s shirtsleeve to show them to her?
Linda didn’t even blink. “She woke up,” she answered.
Mark froze in place. Every emotion exploded within him when he heard Linda’s answer. His stomach flip-flopped, his heart palpitated, his hand gripping the arm of the wheelchair turning his knuckles white.
The last several years had been hardest on Mark. He had almost given up again. Learning to accept that Jessica may never escape the mirror, and she would go to a nursing home to live out the rest of her days for what he hoped would be painless and peaceful end to her suffering.
A word he hadn’t uttered in so long. Now, it was at the forefront of his mind once more.
Letting go of the arm of the wheelchair, he slowly rose from his seated position to look Linda straight in the eye to make sure she hadn’t lied to him. Linda’s smile and returned steady gaze gave him his answer.
“She… woke… up?” He had to sound out the words, just so his brain would let the news sink in.
Linda nodded, but the smile never left her face. “I thought you’d like to hear that. It was seconds, but it happened. She was even out of the wheelchair trying to walk. That’s how she got the bruises, she tripped over a table.”
“When?” Mark opened his mouth to ask, but from the shock, he couldn’t tell if the words were spilling out.
“The day before yesterday,” Linda said. She inhaled, and then shifted on her feet, struggling to find the right words. “I was working the lunch hour since we were short on technicians. It happened so fast. One moment I was handing a tray to another patient, the next I’m heading back to the food cart, and there was Jessica standing beside her wheelchair. She screamed for help. She walked a few feet as I was running over to her, but she fell and hit the side of the table before I could catch her. I tried to make her talk for almost an hour after she fell, but she left us again.”
Mark had to hold himself back from shaking Linda’s shoulders. He needed more answers. Thousands of questions swirled in his head. “Did she say anything?” Mark asked when the initial shock wore off. It had been years since Jessica tried to escape the clutches of the mirror. The last incident similar to this one was three years ago.
Linda pressed her finger to her lip in thought. “Like I said it happened so fast, but I heard a few other words.”
“What?” Mark asked a little too anxiously, making Linda step back in surprise.
She smiled again and said, “She said your name a few times. Then she mentioned something strange… a boy… then she said meadow. She may have said more, but I can’t remember.”
Mark turned to look at Jessica again, his breath stopping in his throat. He stared at the silent woman in the wheelchair in awe. The boy! How did she know? Was she trying to warn him? Was the boy the next victim of the mirror?
Mark remembered that day just a few months ago when he followed that kid on the bike into the meadow around Route 47. Was this the same boy? He remembered giving up looking for the kid because he felt like such a creep following him into the woods. Now, he felt so stupid. He should have pursued it more.
Did he make a terrible error in judgment? What did he do? He had to find this kid and help him get away from the mirror before someone else became a victim.
Mark had to travel to Sacramento this coming week for another job. Luckily, his friend Ben lived there. Mark needed guidance on his next steps.
“Mark, are you okay? I know it’s a shock. It was a shock to us too. We tried to talk to her, but she never responded again. We’re hoping this means she is taking steps to come back to us,” Linda explained.
Mark came out of his trance at Linda’s words, and he turned to smile at her. She didn’t know the truth, but she gave him the best news in years. Jessica still fought for her life in the mirror. She hadn’t given up, and Mark was more determined than ever to help free her.
“You don’t know what this means to me,” Mark choked.
Linda shot him a knowing glance. She and Mark had bumped into each other one night as she was leaving for the evening. He never told her the full truth, but she suspected Jessica’s story differed from what she’d seen in her career. He confirmed it in so many words, and Linda vented about Jessica’s parents and how much they creeped her out, calling them sickening when they came to visit. Mark couldn’t agree more.
“I was waiting for you. I am required to notify Jessica’s parents whenever there is an incident,” Linda said. “A few things changed in the incident report, and what I told them. They asked a few questions, but seemed satisfied with my answers.”
Her last remarks were a whisper only Mark could hear.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Mark said. “I know that might risk your job.”
Linda looked down at Jessica and said, “Yes, I did. They didn’t deserve to know the truth, but you did because there is more to this than what the medical world can explain.”
Mark nodded. “You’re right. Thank you, Linda.”
Linda’s smile softened. “You’re welcome. I gave you some good news, and I think you needed it.”
“You have no idea,” he said, almost lost in thought.
Linda said goodbye, and Mark sat in the chair again, while his mind ran a mile a minute. He took a blessed wooden cross from his pocket, and placed it in Jessica’s hand, hoping she would find her way back if another force guided her. Ben had instructed him to read her a few passages from a Bible, hoping that would help.
Still no response, but for the first time in years, hope for Jessica’s return came back.
“What were you trying to warn me about? What should I know about the boy?” Mark asked, his gaze steady on Jessica’s lifeless eyes.
No response… yet.
“Keep fighting, Jess,” he said. “I’ll be here waiting.”
Late September 1995
Four days and counting…
The world was a different place for Jessica Winters. After ten years of being trapped inside the mirror, she could see the changes in people. Not just from a pop culture standpoint, but attitudes and perspectives.
It was a shock to the system when she watched television the first night after she’d awoken. A different President, different music, and things she’d never imagined had taken place in this world.
The psychiatrist told her to slow down and take the time to absorb it all. Don’t rush to fit in.
Jessica laughed bitterly to herself. Ten years before that’s all she did was fight to fit in, now she couldn’t care less.
They called her a medical miracle. She’d been so close to being admitted to a nursing home to live out her final days, but here she was recovering her health at a speed the medical doctor on staff scratched his head about.
She needed the help of a walker her first night, but her stiff muscles loosened up quickly, and she could walk on her own by the second night.
They removed the feeding tube, and in no time, she was eating solid foods without wanting to vomit.
All medical devices were removed once Jessica was deemed stable and healthy.
She wasn’t unscathed physically. She had two fingernail-sized bedsores on her bottom that hurt, but the nurse told her to be patient, they would heal in time. The dark circles under her eyes were fading, but still there. Her hair was still a little stringy, but her skin color was returning to a healthy peach tone.
Jessica never knew what kind of place she’d been living in. This was one of the cleaner and better hospitals in the country a technician informed her one night. Jessica surmised it was a mixture between a regular hospital and a hotel room. She had several roommates over the years, but they came and went depending on the treatments they received.
Right now, she had the room all to herself and was grateful for that. It gave her privacy and time to think and plan.
She hated her bed. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but she missed a softer mattress. The blankets and sheets were standard hospital issue with the blanket being a salmon color. The closet was tiny, and only the bare minimum of toiletries was allowed.
She looked over the bracelets on her wrist. One was her identifying information, and the other was red from her being a fall risk.
Timing for everything from meals to showers was strict. You only had so much time to take a shower, while being watched, and the water was only lukewarm. Jessica didn’t mind that, she was happy just to shower again.
The day before they allowed her to walk the grounds of the facility and Jessica was still tiring out easily. She sat in the community garden and felt the earth breathe beneath her bare feet. She let the sounds sink in of people speaking, cars driving to their destinations along the highway, and birds chirping in the trees. When she first walked outside, she was blinded by the world, but couldn’t stop smiling.
Her gaze turned upward to watch the puffy clouds move across the deep, blue sky, and then she stood up to gaze at Mount Rainier in all of its snow-capped magnificence in the distance.
Linda Stephens the day nurse on duty became a friend and confidante.
She was the most caring nurse that Jessica encountered, and always willing to lend an ear. Jessica suspected there was more to Linda than she let on. She never seemed surprised by what Jessica would tell her, but she never said how she knew even after Jessica asked her.
“I always knew you differed from the rest of the patients,” Linda said one night with a peculiar look in her eye.
After much probing, Jessica let it go, but a strange aura radiated around Linda that Jessica could never identify, and she had a feeling she was protected somehow.
Tessa told her she might see things that were not normal, and that turned out to be truer than Jessica could have ever imagined.
Visions were appearing before her eyes. Most of the time it was at night when she was ready to drift off to sleep.
Words and symbols danced around her head. Jessica sat up in a sweat at first and then realized they were not there to hurt her, but perhaps to help her. She didn’t dare tell anyone about them.
She remembered Linda telling her about the phone call made to her parents.
Linda confessed she never liked Mary and Don.
She told Jessica she thought Mary would have a heart attack after she informed her Jessica had awakened and was recovering.
“What did she say?” Jessica asked, feeling her anger brewing.
“She declared she was a nurse too, and this was impossible,” Linda answered with a roll of her eyes.
Jessica scoffed. Her mother knew damn well that Jessica fought to escape the clutches of The Spirit of the Mirror. She felt satisfaction knowing that her parents would have to face her soon and answer for not helping her escape all these years.
Then there was Mark.
Jessica paced around those four days, waiting for him to appear.
Linda reassured her that Mark would be there. Jessica called his number a few times but kept getting an answering machine. She decided not to leave a message.
Her mouth turned down when she hung up the phone the last time and went to sit in the corner.
She prayed that nothing happened to him between the time she escaped the mirror and the time Hal was killed. Jessica was overcome with an incredible amount of sorrow over Hal. She’d never forget the look of fear on his features the moment The Spirit took his life.
She tried to distract her thoughts of Mark by playing chess with Walter.
He was the first person to see her awaken. They would sit there and laugh for hours, and talk about their lives. She appreciated his fatherly advice and found out life became too hard for him after his family perished in a car accident.
On the fourth night, Jessica waited patiently by the double doors as visitors piled in to see their family and friends.
Linda gave her a sympathetic glance before returning to her paperwork.
Jessica stared longingly at the doors for a half an hour before she gave up and returned to her usual spot in the corner. She was in no mood to socialize tonight.
Walter walked by her in his usual brown robe, and slippers. “He’ll be here.” It was all he said before he walked away.
Jessica pressed her lips together to form a thin line. She didn’t want to burst into tears in front of all these people. She thought about returning to her room and crying herself to sleep, but she knew she needed to be brave.
With or without Mark, Jessica would be determined to go on with her mission.
Jessica picked up her book, but the words were not sinking in. She put it down several times as the doors opened and closed, but no sign of Mark.
After a few minutes, she gave up and forced her mind to concentrate on the words.
She heard the doors open and close again with a loud click, but this time, she didn’t even bother to look up from her book.
Jessica could feel the distant gaze upon her. She knew who it was. She could feel his presence without even raising her head.
She slowly lowered the book to see Mark standing in the doorway with Linda by his side pointing her way.
Linda had to jump out of the way as the coffee cup in Mark’s hand dropped to the floor forgotten.
Linda patted Mark on the arm and gave Jessica a knowing smile before walking away.
The book she held fell to the floor with a thud. Jessica could barely stand up as her knees decided they didn’t want to work.
This was the first time in ten years she was seeing Mark, and she meant physically seeing him. Not through dreams, not through The Mirror, but standing there in front of her.
The whole world stilled around her. The voices from other visitors and patients were pushed into the background. That moment was theirs, and theirs alone.
Jessica willed her legs to work, and she stood from the chair. She didn’t know what to do with all the emotions that coursed through her. She tried to speak, but only a small sound exited her lips. She could have sworn her respiratory system clogged, and her heart palpitated.
That was her first thought. She hadn’t known what happened after she was rescued, but she was sure it was Mark who found Hal. What she didn’t know is if he’d had another confrontation with The Spirit after the first one with Lucas.
His hair was longer; a month old beard grew in over his face. His clothes were disheveled and thrown on as an afterthought.
Jessica didn’t know how long they stood there and stared at each other. Time had stopped the moment she laid eyes on him.
Before Jessica could gather her bearings, she was taken into powerful arms.
Tears burst from her eyes, and she wrapped her own arms around Mark’s neck in a tight embrace.
She heard the words he was saying, but nothing sank into her brain because she was enjoying touching him again.
And that was where they stayed the rest of the visiting time ignoring the whispers and the stares. Her eyes caught Walter’s eye for a moment as he gave her thumbs up.
She let herself get lost in his deep oceanic blue eyes. She noticed the bruises and the welts along his wrists and neck. She cried, even more, when she looked at them. He insisted he was all right and wiped her tears from her cheek.
“I can’t believe this happened,” he said, still gazing at her. Jessica couldn’t help but smile at his shocked face.
“When?” He asked.
“Four days ago,” she answered.
Visiting hours went way too fast that day. Before Jessica knew it, time was up, and Linda had to pull Mark away.
“I’ll be back tomorrow, okay? First thing,” he said.
“You look tired,” Jessica said as they walked towards the exit. “Go home and get some sleep.”
“I don’t think I can,” he said.
Jessica followed him and reluctantly let go of his hand when he exited the doors.
“Don’t worry, Mark. She is well protected here,” Linda said with a smile.
Jessica didn’t know what Linda meant by that statement, nor did Linda elaborate, but Jessica knew Linda was different, she sensed it down to her very core. The doors closed and locked for the evening. Jessica stared at Mark’s departing figure.
“He’s been through a lot,” Linda commented.
Jessica nodded, and said, “I know, and I hate it I couldn’t be there to help him.”
“Now you are, and he will need you now more than ever,” Linda said.
Those words echoed in Jessica’s mind the rest of the night.