The Shadow in the Glass

by Lesley Speller

Megan Smith had just gotten down from her stair climber and was checking out her butt in the big mahogany mirror behind her desk when someone came knocking at the door of her shop, Through the Looking Glass.  The shop had been closed for about thirty minutes, and her new assistant never forgot to turn the sign around.  "Who on earth could that be?"  She dabbed a tissue at the sweat on her forehead and headed out into the store, despite the fact that she was wearing her workout sweats, and she usually never let customers see her dressed like that.

Outside of the door there was an old woman in a wheelchair.  She raised a walking stick topped with an eagle's claw gripping a round crystal ball and banged it against the door again.  Her new assistant Felicia was counting the money in the drawer when Megan entered the front of the store.  She looked up at Megan and started for the door, but Megan waved her away.  "I'll take care of it." 

Megan went to the door and opened it a crack.  "Madam, I am afraid we are closed for the evening, but you're welcome to come back tomorrow."  The old woman's sparkling, blue eyes blazed with fury, and she shook her head making her coarse, white hair wobble in the tightly twisted bun on top of her head. 

The old woman raised a leg which Megan would have thought was weak and delivered a surprisingly strong kick to the door knocking it back so that she could wheel the chair into the shop before Megan could even open her mouth to protest.  A large man with dark hair streaked in silver entered behind her holding the door for her as best he could. 

"No, girl, I am afraid I don't have the time to come back tomorrow."  When she spoke her voice was raspy with age, but it was nevertheless commanding.  "I am looking for a certain mirror that you purchased at an estate auction about two weeks ago." 

Megan felt a tight hot feeling in the pit of her stomach that she got sometimes when dealing with the truly difficult customers.  She bit her cheek and reminded herself that this woman was probably someone's grandmother and suppressed the urge to push her right back out of the store.  Instead she used her hands, which she had to carefully keep from clenching into fists to motion to the walls which were covered from the floors to the eleven foot ceilings with mirrors.  "I am afraid you will have to be a little bit more specific.  As you can see, I deal in quite a lot of mirrors."

The old woman sneered at her.  "This one will be hard to forget.  It was an oval Victorian piece made of solid silver and set with hundreds of gemstones."

Megan knew exactly the one she meant, and she knew that it wasn't solid silver.  It was only silver-plated.  She considered telling her that, but the old woman had already been so rude.  If it meant that she could get a higher price for the mirror, why not let her go on believing that.  She had already re-plated the entire piece and replaced the stones that had fallen out.  The only thing left to do was to have the mirrored surface redone, and it would be ready to sell.  "I recall the piece.  It isn't ready yet.  The mirror is in need of a slight repair to remove the dark spots on it and then you're welcome to make an offer."

The woman clanged her walking stick to the ground and pushed herself out of the chair.  The man who had come in with her tried to help her up, but she only shook him off angrily.  "No, there is no need for that.  I want to buy it now."  There was a hint of panic in her voice, although Megan couldn't imagine why.

Megan's eyes narrowed a bit.  What on earth could make this old woman want the mirror so badly.  It was pretty.  She couldn't deny that.  Megan had actually been thinking of keeping it for herself when the work was done on it.  There was the perfect place in her apartment that she had been wanting another mirror, and this one was just ostentatious enough to fit in quite well in her decorating style.  "Well, I am afraid I still have some more research to do on the piece.  I haven't located its origins yet, and I always like to have a complete history of an item before I can decide on price."

"I want it just as it is.  I will pay you one million dollars for it.  I have brought a cashier's check.  Steven, give the lady the check.  It's already made out to you for the correct amount including tax." 

Megan's breath caught in her throat, but she managed to get control before she gave herself away.  The amount was staggering.  She didn't even know how to respond for a very long moment.  Surely this woman knew something about the mirror that Megan didn't.  Perhaps it had belonged to someone famous, even then the price she was offering was insanely high.  Everything she could buy with that much money danced into her head, but she forced herself to think clearly.  Surely if this woman would pay this much then there were others who would pay more.  "After I have done my research I am sure that would be a more than appropriate sum."

The old woman glared at her.  "I don't think you understand, Ms. Smith.  I will not offer you this sum again.  It is either tonight or not at all.  I want it, and I will have it."

Megan thought about this for a long moment.  It was a gamble.  She could take one million now and risk losing a great deal of money.  On the other hand if this mirror turned out to be relatively worthless, then she was passing up on the opportunity of a lifetime.  The pull of the million dollars won out in the end.  Her instincts were telling her this mirror wasn't worth anything like a million, and her instincts were usually on the mark.

She only felt a small pang of guilt, before nodding her head.  "I'll get it from the back right now."

The old woman grinned at her in a way that reminded Megan of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas looking down on the little Who girl.  The woman's eyes slid up and down her body as if assessing her very carefully.  Megan was painfully aware of her poor choice in attire.  This sweat suit was faded on top of being baggy and unattractive.  She really should have changed clothes before greeting anyone.  "That isn't necessary.  Just show Steven where it is, and he will bring it out for you."  The man came forward and handed her the check, which she took from him and clutched tightly in her fist. 

"It's this way."  She led him to the workroom where the mirror was leaned up against a bench.  Soon he was on his way out the front door with the mirror swaddled in the same ancient and worn quilt that she had first seen it wrapped in.

When Megan entered the room again, Felicia was standing next to the old woman, and they broke off whatever they were speaking of.  The old woman nodded to Megan.  "It has been a pleasure doing business with you."

"The pleasure has been all mine, really.  I'm sorry I don't think that I caught your name."

"My name is Althea Warren."  She sank back into her wheelchair and spun it around with the grace of someone who had been using one for quite some time, and then she slammed her walking stick into Felicia's shins bringing a yelp from her.  "Child, make yourself useful and open that door for me."  Felicia limped forward and pulled the door open, and the old woman wheeled herself out the door into the cool evening air.

As soon as she was out of ear shot, Megan turned to Felicia.  "That crazy old biddy.  Are you all right?"

"Yes, Ms. Smith, will you be needing me anymore tonight?  Otherwise, I'll be heading home."  Megan shook her head, and Felicia gathered up her things and was leaving.  When she got to the door, she turned.  "Congratulations on the sale."

Megan nodded and smiled trying her best to contain her enthusiasm.  "Good evening."

When Felicia was out of the door, Megan locked it and then went back into the office.  She put the cashier's check in the safe and then closed it tight knowing it would be safe there until tomorrow when she could get to a bank to deposit it.  As soon as she knew it was safe, she let loose a yip of joy and sat down in her office chair spinning it around.  Her mind started reeling with the things that she could do with the money.  Megan's eyes came to rest on the enormous, gilded mirror behind her desk.  She stripped off the top of the sweat suit and stood up turning around slowly in front of it. 

Her figure was nice and trim and her muscles well developed from hundreds of thousands of flights of stairs on the machine in the corner of the office.  Her hair was blond with golden highlights, and her eyes were a shade of aqua that danced somewhere between blue and green.  The fluorescent light from the ceiling made her look a little too pale, and it really did bring out the small wrinkles around her eyes. "Well, that is the first thing I'll do then.  I'll have my eyes done."  Her gaze came to rest on her chest, and she frowned.  Her chest had always been her worst feature.  She was practically as flat as a board.  "Second thought, boobs first, then eyes, and then my butt."  She turned around and pulled her sweat pants tight so that she could see the curves of her rear in the mirror.  All the stair climbers in the world couldn't ward off time.  She was close to thirty, and it wasn't nearly as tight as it had been a couple of years ago.   

As she gathered up her things to take home for the evening, she wondered idly why that old woman would want to pay a million dollars for a mirror just so that she could look at her drooping, wrinkled face.  Megan promised herself that she would do research on the mirror just to make sure that she hadn't been the one cheated.  Still even worrying whether or not she had made the right decision couldn't make her any less happy about the million dollars she was going to deposit in her checking account tomorrow morning.  She went home that night feeling more charged than she had in years.

 * * *

Two weeks had passed since the lovely day when Althea Warren had walked into her shop and made her a millionaire.  Megan wasn't quite a millionaire anymore, of course.  She had paid off her few debts and had paid for her surgery which was scheduled for tomorrow.  Her stomach was upset with excitement and nervousness, but she was still trying to get some work done before she had to be gone from the office for a week. 

Megan closed her eyes and pressed her fingertips against her temples to ease the pain in her head.  The day had been long and tiresome.  The work room was scattered with partially-refurbished furniture and mirrors in various states of repair.  There were so many things that had fallen behind in the time between when she had been forced to let her previous assistant go and hiring Felicia that they were still trying to catch up.  Of course, there had been no other choice.  The woman had been stealing from her.  It had been pity alone that had kept Megan from turning the woman in to the police.  Now she wondered if that hadn't been a terrible mistake.  After all she would probably go on to do the same thing again elsewhere.

Megan jumped as the door opened with a loud creaking sound.  "Sorry, to startle you, Ms. Smith.  I was just going to let you know that I closed up the store for the evening, and I wanted to find out if you were ready for me to turn on the alarm?" 

Her assistants name was Felicia Zhika.  Megan still wasn't sure exactly how to pronounce that, but Felicia was very understanding about it.  She said that it was a gypsy name, and no one in her entire life had ever pronounced it right, outside of her family.  Felicia was a short and rather voluptuous, young woman with hair that must have been dyed its bright auburn color because at the roots there were hints of dark brown.  She wore a long flowing skirt of crushed, black velvet and a loose poet's blouse over the top of it. 

At first glance, Megan hadn't been sure whether or not she should hire her.  She was terribly sexy, and that was always a plus in an assistant.  However, her clothing style was a bit unconventional as was her jewelry.  She always wore rings and necklaces with dragons, fairies, and other mystical creatures.  Despite her strange appearance she was turning out to be a more than an able assistant.

"No, it's all right, Felicia.  I had a few more things I wanted to do before I leave this evening so I'll turn it on before I go."

Felicia leaned against the door frame and her large breasts bounced under the cotton of her blouse drawing Megan's attention low.  Catching herself Megan snapped her eyes back up to Felicia's and smiled at her, hoping that her indiscretion had gone unnoticed.  Felicia smiled back.  "So tomorrow's the big day.  Are you excited?"

"More like scared to death.  I mean, I know it's cosmetic, but it's still going under the knife." 

"I'll drop by tomorrow night to see how you're doing."

Megan gave her a sweet smile.  "That is certainly sweet of you."

"Don't be silly.  I'll bring you some magazines too.  Just in case you get bored.  See you then."  She gave a little wave and turned to go.  Megan noticed how her soft, little butt swayed under the loose skirt when she walked out of the room, and she tried to remind herself that she didn't need to get involved with anyone who worked for her.

"Good night, Felicia."

Megan downed the rest of her Slimfast and decided to give up for the evening.  So what if they fell a little more behind while she was gone.  She had money now.  She could hire someone temporarily to get caught up.  There was a big stack of obituaries which Megan had picked over carefully and a list of things that Megan wanted for the shop so that in case they offered estate sales for those who had died, then she could send Felicia to see if they had anything she needed.

Felicia kept entering Megan's mind unbidden more and more lately.  Sure she had hired her for her looks, but that usually didn't mean she would be such a distraction.  Megan was obviously in serious need of a relationship.  It had been a good long year since she had broken up with her last boyfriend.  He had been overly demanding of her time, and she had been forced to break it off.  What she really needed now was a good partner for the occasional role in the hay.  Her career took up far too much of her time to have a serious relationship, and lord knows she wasn't looking for marriage.  Maybe someday she would be ready to take that route, but the idea of being tied down didn't appeal to her now.  She certainly didn't want to think about having any whiney, little babies.  Her friends in college had almost all gotten married and had babies right after they graduated and after that they'd lost touch, because they were always busy taking kids to ballet or soccer or other places that kids go.

* * *

A few weeks later, Megan stood in front of the mirror in her office again.  She laughed happily despite the pain in her newly expanded bosom.  After the surgery she had gone out and bought all new clothes.  Her favorite top was a low cut bustier thing that went under her blazer jackets.  It pushed everything up and out, not that it really needed to be pushed anywhere to be noticed anymore, but why not flaunt it when you paid that much money for it.  She stole another glance in the mirror before sinking slowly into the chair to read the newspaper in front of her.  She turned immediately to the obituaries as she always did, looking for the face of one of the town's aging elite.  The obituaries were the best places to look for antiques because you could almost always count on an auction, especially in the cases of very rich families.  They tended to be spoiled children all arguing over who gets what until the lawyers come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is simply sell everything and split up the profits.

There was a very large picture in the middle of the page of the very same old woman who had bought the mirror which had led to her current state of happiness.  Althea Warren was described as a woman of old money.  Her father had been a very prominent businessman in the area at the turn of the century.  His fortune and business had even survived the Great Depression.  Althea Warren had once had a younger sister, but she died nearly fifty years ago while giving birth to a daughter who had also died in child birth.  Althea herself had never married and never had any children, which seemed like a good plan considering the track record of her family.  She had left everything to a great niece who they had as-of-yet not located.

There was a knock at the door just as she was finishing up the article.  Felicia walked in looking as fetching as ever.  "I was going to pick up some lunch from the deli.  Would you like some too?"

Megan stood and thought she saw Felicia's eyes drop to her chest and move quickly back to her eyes and that brought a pleasant flush to her cheeks.  "How about we go out for lunch?  We'll close the shop for an hour.  No one ever comes at this time of day anyway.

"That sounds like a lovely idea," Felicia replied with a smile.

They chose a nice little pub on the corner that had a kind of old world charm to it, and there they sat drinking martinis though they shouldn't have been since they had to go back to the store afterwards.  Felicia was tipsy, even though she hadn't had anymore than Megan.  "You said that your last name was gypsy.  Do you come from a long line of gypsies?"  Megan wondered if she was being too forward with the question and laughed.  "Don't answer if I am being too nosey.  I just find genealogy fascinating.  I am adopted myself, so I don't really have any family tree to speak of."

Felicia had a silly grin on her face that made Megan decide it would be best if she worked the cash register that afternoon after they returned to the shop.  "Oh, yes.  My family has been gypsies for as many generations as we can recall in our traditions.  My grandparents came to the United States when the Nazis were rounding up gypsies by the thousands and throwing them into concentration camps."

"Gypsies?  I thought that the Nazis only did that to Jews." 

Felicia shook her head.  "No, they weren't so particular.  They also killed homosexuals and anyone else that they thought unworthy of their master race.  My grandparents were lucky though.  They got out just in time, and there was lots of work for my grandfather here.  He was a silversmith.  His favorite thing to make was jewelry, but he made other stuff as well.  An American woman funded their trip for a price."  Her eyes dropped down to her glass, and she looked sad suddenly.  "Gypsies always keep their word."

Megan didn't know what she was talking about, but she didn't have time to ask her about it.  Outside on the busy street there was the sound of screeching tires and a woman screaming.  Felicia stood up gasping with her hands out, reaching for the window.  Megan turned just in time to see a car screeching toward a child and his mother in a crosswalk.  It was impossible.  There was no way that the car could stop.  Its tires were still screeching loudly, but then suddenly it stopped moving just short of the mother and child.  They rushed out of the crosswalk, and Felicia sank back into her chair visibly shaking.

Megan took a long, deep drink of her Martini. "Thank God for miracles like that."  Felicia just nodded and pushed her plate away.

 * * *             

A few days later, Megan was sipping her morning diet coke and reading the classifieds looking for anything interesting that she might purchase for the store, when there was a knock at her office door.  "Come in," she called.  Felicia entered with a man following close behind her.

"Megan, this is Mr. Carlos Sanchez.  He wants to talk to you about some sort of inheritance."

The man was black haired and dark skinned, and his dark brown eyes were focused much lower than her face.  It made her smile when he realized what he was doing and snapped his eyes up to her face instead. "Yes, Ms. Smith, I'm here to talk to you about your great-aunt.  It seems that she has left you a great deal of money."

Megan immediately felt anger rise within her.  "I am afraid you must be mistaken.  You should get your facts straight before you come speaking to people.  I am adopted and even all of my adopted family has passed on so you must be mistaken."  Perhaps it was silly, but she had always been overly sensitive about being adopted.

He shook his head and lay a file in front of her.  "No, I am not mistaken.  You are Megan Smith.  Your adopted parents were Alex and Darlene Smith.  Here is the copy of your birth certificate and your adoption papers.  You are the only heir to the fortune of Althea Warren."

* * *

Megan stood next to her car staring up in wonder at the rambling house in front of her.   It was a beautiful old Victorian home just outside of town.  There was even a stable and carriage house on the property.  Megan had seen pictures of it, but they were nothing compared to the house itself.  Felicia stood beside her looking up at the towers on either side of the enormous porch.  "Not too shabby," she said with a smile.

Megan nodded and reminded herself to shut her mouth so that she didn't gape like an idiot.  She was still in a daze.  First finding out that she was now a multi-millionaire even after taxes, and then seeing this wonderful house the likes of which she had never imagined for herself.  Not to mention the strange provision that had been in the will.  The old lady had added a clause which said that she must have a costume ball the night of Halloween, which was only days away.  It was even so detailed as to say exactly the clothes that she was to wear, the food that was to be served, and the guests who were to be invited. 

When she pushed open the huge, French doors and walked inside, her breath caught in her throat.  Just inside the entrance was an enormous hall.  The floors were made of different colors of wood pieced together to form exquisite patterns and polished to an almost glasslike finish.  There was a fireplace that was nestled in one corner near one of the many doors leading from the room.  All around it there were different overstuffed pieces of furniture.  It looked like a lovely place to pass an evening with a good book.

Hanging in the middle of the ceiling, above a grand staircase, was a crystal chandelier.  In all her years of antique hunting she had never seen another quite like it.  It was probably six feet from one side to the other and the crystals shimmered in the light from the bulbs arranged artfully within the frame.  Her eyes moved hesitantly from the chandelier down to the landing at the top of the stairs.  There on the wall at the focal point of the room she saw the very mirror that she had sold to Miss. Althea Warren.  It was polished and shining just like the rest of the room despite the dark shadows which were still marring the otherwise lovely surface.

That very evening she started moving her things into the house.  It was a good thing that the cavernous mansion was already furnished, otherwise she would never have been able to fill it up. 

When the men she had hired to help her move had left, she and Felicia sat in the corner of the hall.   The servant, Steven, who had also worked for Althea Warren, had started the fire for them.  There had been another provision in the old woman's will that had said that Megan was to keep him on as long as he lived.  The blaze crackled cheerfully in the marble hearth, and she sipped the wine in one of her many new, crystal glasses.

Megan and Felicia had made all the final plans for the costume ball on Halloween, and that was the last she had to worry about with her inheritance.  Everything else was being taken care of by the lawyers, even with the party there was very little to worry about, because Felicia was taking care of most of that.  

Megan sighed happily and took another sip of her wine.  Letting the warmth and haziness from the wine wash over her.  As she was looking around the room taking in all the details of her new home, she noticed something strange at the top of the stairs.  Megan was sure that she had seen a flash of light reflected in the mirror hanging up on the landing.  When she looked more closely, she saw the form of a young woman's face.  Megan rubbed her eyes, and when she looked back up it was gone. 

The sound of Felicia's voice startled her.  "What's wrong, Megan?"

Megan laughed and shook her head, then she set down the crystal glass that she had in her hand.  "I think I just might have had a little too much to drink."  Felicia smiled and nodded, but then her eyes moved up to the mirror at the top of the stairs.  It was just a fleeting glance, but it caught Megan's attention. 

"Well, I must be off, unless there is something else you need for me to do?"

"It's late, and there is certainly more than enough room here.  I hate to have you driving back to the city all alone in the middle of the night.  Why don't you stay with me tonight?" 

Felicia excepted the invitation, and Megan poured her another glass of wine.  "Why don't you sleep in the room right next to mine.  Then if you have any wonderful ideas for the ball in the middle of the night, you can come and tell me."  She smiled at her warmly, and Felicia blushed, but she smiled back.

"I just might have to do that."  Felicia drank deeply from her glass emptying it in a few dainty swallows.

That evening when they were climbing the stairs to retire to their bedrooms Megan stopped at the top of the landing to look in the mirror.  Surely what she had seen was only a figment of her drunken mind's imagination.  Nevertheless, she kept her eyes on the mirror the entire time she was on the stairs.  It was as if someone was watching her from inside the dark shadow on the surface of the mirror.

* * *

In the middle of the night Megan awoke from a restless sleep full of unpleasant dreams to the sound of voices out on the landing.  She slipped out of bed and crept to the door to peek out onto the stairs.  There was Felicia standing in front of the silver mirror in a long silken night gown that she had borrowed from Megan.  It was too small, and it clung to her curves enticingly.  Megan didn't have long to pay attention to this though.  It seemed that Felicia was talking to someone.

" . . . I don't know if I can do this.  I know that my family made a deal with you, but I've grown to really care about Megan.  Besides you have had more than your share of life already."

A voice came from the mirror that sent chills down Megan's spine.  "You will do as you are told, or you will pay horribly.  Stephen has been given orders to hire people to take care of the members of your family one by one if you don't do what was promised."

Megan gasped and Felicia turned to see her there.  She raised a hand and Megan screamed as she felt herself falling back.  It seemed like she never stopped falling and then all was darkness.  When she opened her eyes again she was still screaming and Felicia was there, shaking her.  "Wake up, Megan.  You're having a nightmare."  She was back in her bed again amid all of the satin pillows and velvet blankets that she'd inherited.  It was unfamiliar, but she felt safe anyway just knowing that it had only been a nightmare.

"Oh, it was so strange."  Megan was panting and sweating in her satin night gown, and Felicia lifted a hand to her hair stroking it.

"I know, but it is over now."  Felicia slowly leaned closer to Megan and kissed her gently on the lips.  "It's going to be all right."

* * *

The evening of the Halloween party everything was falling seamlessly into place, and Megan had all but forgotten the image in the mirror.  There was a small band set up in one corner of the hall and a buffet table stretched across one end of the room.  Megan checked her reflection one last time in the mirror at the top of the stairs.  The gown, which she had been instructed to wear in the will, was an old Victorian thing that was in absolute mint condition.  The lace was so crisp that you would have thought it was brand new if not for the tag that had been sewn into the lining with the date and name of the seamstress who had made it in 1889.  It had a great bustle and a corset that went underneath it, which made it almost unbearable to move or even breath in but the tiny waist that it created along with the contrast of the bustle was quite impressive. 

Felicia walked up behind Megan and slipped her arms around her waist whispering into her ear.  "You're looking lovely this evening." 

Megan turned in her arms, and pulled Felicia into a warm embrace kissing her deeply and squeezing her round, little bottom which swayed gently beneath her loose skirt.  She was dressed in a multicolored skirt with a bright red sash tied around her small waist and an off the shoulder blouse with red fringed pulled just low enough that it wasn't indecent. "And you, my little gypsy, look scrumptious."

The guests had been arriving for some time, so when they descended the stairs Megan was greeted by many smiling faces.  Many of the guests she had invited herself and knew quite well.  Others she did not know at all.  They were the guests which the will had instructed her to invite.  These people introduced themselves and everyone seemed to be having a perfectly lovely time.  If these had been Althea Warren's friends then they had been very much younger than she was.  There were so many people of high stature that she was beginning to feel overwhelmed.  A senator and three local judges had introduced themselves to her already, not to mention the mayor.

Everyone was dressed up, except for the servers.  The costumes were varied and beautiful.  Megan saw everything from a vampire to a southern belle dancing across the beautiful multicolored wooden dance floor.  This had been a room made for dancing, and Megan vowed to herself that she would have a ball every Halloween after this for the rest of her life.  Perhaps that's why Althea Warren had insisted on having this ball after she died. 

Felicia disappeared around ten o'clock, and no matter who Megan asked no one knew where the girl had gone. By that time everyone was comfortable enough and had consumed enough of the cocktails that most everyone was dancing and those who weren't were chatting happily in small groups.

Megan had always been happiest in large groups of people so she mingled and got to know a few of the people from her great aunt's guest list.  It seemed that none of them had known her, but Althea had known most of their parents or grandparents.  She had been a popular socialite in her time, although the general consensus was that no one had ever really liked her personality.

The band suddenly stopped playing and everyone turned to the landing at the top of the stairs.  The man who Megan had been speaking with got a confused look on his face and turned his eyes to the landing as well.  At the top of the stairs there was a woman dressed in a gown identical to her own.  The woman smiled when she saw that everyone was looking at her, then motioned to the band that they should continue.  The band struck up again immediately and the dancing continued as before.  It seemed strange to Megan that the woman could possibly have ended up with a dress exactly like hers, but she was certainly one of the guests that her great aunt had chosen.  This was probably some great practical joke that the old woman had managed to execute from the grave, although it seemed very strange.  Althea Warren had not seemed like the type to play practical jokes, but on the other hand Megan had only met her once.

Megan wandered around for a while before she decided to take a walk out on the porch, but when she got to the door she realized it was stuck and would not budge no matter what she did.  She reminded herself to have Steven look at it as soon as possible.  The people in the crowd were so wrapped up in what they were doing that Megan's many attempts at small talk went unnoticed for quite some time.  She was just beginning to feel lonely when Felicia walked out onto the landing at the top of the stairs.  That eased her mind.  Felicia certainly wouldn't ignore her the way all the guests seemed to.  Megan started toward her and Felicia looked up and smiled, but when she came close to her Felicia walked right past her instead of stopping to speak with her.  Instead she walked over to the woman who was wearing the gown identical to her own.  The woman had been standing at the top of the stairs in front of the silver mirror looking out over the ballroom. 

Felicia leaned close to the woman's ear and talked very quietly.  Megan had to move close by so that she could hear it.  She tried to be inconspicuous keeping her body on the other side of a large, potted Ficus tree at one end of the landing.

Felicia was smiling as she spoke, but her eyes strayed to the mirror on the wall behind the woman.  "Do you think she's figured it out yet?"

The other woman smiled rather wickedly and shook her head.  "I doubt it.  The young woman didn't strike me as one of the sharpest knives in the set.  She's probably just beginning to understand what's going on."

Felicia nodded and then the look of amusement on her face faded, and she frowned.  "When am I going to be paid for my services?  I did what you asked despite great risk to myself.  I could get thrown in prison for doctoring those records to get her old assistant fired.  If you hadn't lost that mirror in the first place it would never have been at an estate auction for her to buy in the first place, and none of that would have been necessary."

The other woman's face darkened with anger.  "That mirror was stolen from me as you know very well."  The darkness lifted and she laughed sending a chill down Megan's spine.  "Besides with all the dark magic you've worked, you are worried about a little prison sentence.  If I were you, I would be more worried about my immortal soul."

Megan could feel her pulse speeding up until it felt like her heart would burst out of her chest at any minute.  There was a gut wrenching feeling of dread building inside her and a fury that she could never have imagined possible.  How could Felicia have betrayed her like this?  Megan had trusted her, adored her.

The woman spoke again then, "You will be well paid for your work and for that of your family's work before you.  They did me a great service when they created that mirror for me.  I thought all would be lost when I found that I could have no children in that last body, but fortunately my stupid, little sister did manage to accomplish something in her life when she gave birth to this one.  Although, this new bosom is somewhat of an annoyance.  I suppose beggars can't be choosers."

Felicia grinned.  "Felicia was quite pleased with her new appearance.  Although she was always very pleased with her appearance.  I have never seen a woman so fascinated by her own reflection."

Megan couldn't take it anymore, she stepped out from behind the plant and starred at the two of them angrily.  Just then the clock began to chime midnight and Megan's eyes grew wide as the face of the woman before her began to change.  The features molded themselves very slowly.  It was like looking at a face in the reflection of a pond when ripples disturbed the water.  When the change had ceased it was like staring into a mirror.  Megan couldn't speak or even breath her terror was so complete.  She raised a hand to strike the woman, and it connected only with the smooth, unbreakable glass.  The woman on the other side of the glass fixed her hair in the mirror and laughed with a deep satisfaction before turning to go back downstairs to the party which she had so carefully planned.

When the woman who now looked just like her had turned and started walking down the stairs, Felicia turned to the mirror and whispered.  "I'll fix this."

Megan didn't know what to do.  She couldn't move or feel or breathe or anything all she could do was stare out of the glass as this woman walked around pretending to be her.  The night went on and the party ended.  Althea who was now Megan's reflection climbed the stairs and looked into the mirror grinning viciously.  Megan pounded on the glass with her hands, but it did nothing but make the woman laugh.  In the mirror behind Althea, Felicia suddenly appeared and stood smiling at her.  She raised her hand and spoke something in a strange language. 

Megan felt her legs give underneath her, but when she collapsed, it was on the floor on the other side of the mirror.  In the reflection she saw the old face of Althea Warren as she had been the day she came into the shop.  "You little gypsy bitch, we had a deal."

Megan stared up at her with eyes wide in horror and wonder, but Felicia reached down and squeezed her hand.  "The deal was that we would move your soul into another body after you died.  I did this for you, and I switched it back.  The deal didn't say you got to keep it forever." 

"You lying, treacherous, gypsy whore, you'll pay for this."  Felicia laughed and raised something that she had been holding in her hand all along.  It was a fireplace poker from the set near the hearth.  She smashed it against the mirror sending glass flying.  Megan saw the woman open her mouth in a scream, but the sound never made it beyond the shadow in the glass.