THE OBSIDIAN CAT
A Tale From Blythe Cove Manor
“Home is the sailor, home from the sea,” Ethan Pollock shouted his standard greeting as he came through the double doors of Blythe Cove Manor. A smile as large as the Atlantic Ocean covered his wind-burned face. It always felt like home when he was on the Vineyard. “Where is everyone?”
Blythe Calvert appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“Ethan,” she whispered. Her voice not loud enough for him to hear clearly. However, he saw the surprise on her face.
“There you are, my one and only love,” he said, heading for her with arms outstretched.
Ethan greeted her the same way each time he returned to the Manor. Grasping her in a bear hug, he whirled her around the room.
“Put me down,” Blythe protested, her tone covering a lighthearted laugh.
Ethan steadied her on her feet and stepped back, but holding her hands at arms length. “Tell me you’ve got some raisin scones and coffee in there,” he teased.
“Don’t I always?” Blythe answered. “Sit down and I’ll bring you some.”
Blythe brought two cups of coffee and a plate of scones to the dining room. He wasn’t sure if he was the reason she always had scones as part of the breakfast, but she’d introduced him to them and nobody made them better. Sitting next to him, she asked, “What are you doing here?”
Ethan bit into a hot, buttered scone and closed his eyes as if the food was pure ecstasy on his tongue.
“I’m here for the ceremony. At the last minute the Navy assigned me here.”
“At your request, I’ll bet.”
“At my request,” he nodded. “So is my room free?”
“Great, I’ll get my gear.” Finishing the scone, Ethan went outside and returned with a dufflebag. He entered the Captain’s Room, an ocean view room with walls the color of the sea. He’d stayed in this room for four visits, since he first came here ten years ago and found Blythe, the woman who was like a second mother to him.
The room was the same, familiar as the deck of a ship, looking out on the ocean and waiting for him like an abandoned lover. The walls had been painted and the bedding was different, but everything else was in place. However, he felt something was different, something had changed. He couldn’t define it, couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but there was a different feel to the room.
Shrugging it off, Ethan unpacked quickly, taking a box from the bag and setting it on the dresser. His other things, he put in the drawers and dropped his shaving kit in the adjourning bathroom. Then he quickly changed from his uniform into jeans and a black sweater. Neither item sported a logo or signature. Wearing a uniform all the time had cured him of labels. Everyone knew he was a sailor when he wore his uniforms. In jeans and a sweater, he was just one of the crowd. And today he wanted that anonymity.
He needed to get outside. He’d been confined on the USS Terrance for the past four months. It was time to see the land, and get that eerie feeling about the room out of his head. He had to check the ceremony space for the Memorial Day exercises. There was no rehearsal. They’d done that on the ship and after so many times he could go through the motions blindfolded. He wanted to check and see if any of his buddies had arrived and check out what they planned to do for the weekend.
As he headed for the door, something in the dresser mirror caught his eye. Stopping, he stared at the space, his breath suddenly coming in rapid pants. A woman stood in front of a chair near the bed. Jerking around, he looked at the same space in his room, expecting her to attack him. No one was there. The space was empty. Returning to the mirror, she faced him, unsmiling, unmoving. Again he looked around. All he saw was empty air.
She only existed in the mirror.
“Who are you?” he asked, his voice barely above a croak.
She didn’t respond. Ethan didn’t think she could see or hear him, although her huge brown eyes looked directly into his. Turning around, he again looked at the space where the mirror showed a person. There was no one there.
And no one in the mirror when he looked back.
Ethan blinked. Had he really seen someone? Was it a trick of the light or had he been too long at sea? He’d been a seaman for ten years. Never had he hallucinated. He’d dreamed occasionally, but never about someone he didn’t know and had never seen.
Moving to the chair, he felt nothing as he stepped in the space where the mirror reflected the woman’s image.
Ethan took a deep breath and shrugged off the incident. He needed fresh air, land air, and he needed to walk on ground that didn’t move under his feet. Lifting the box, he’d set on the dresser, he went again in search of Blythe.
“Here’s your gift,” Ethan said, holding a box. He set it down at the kitchen table where Blythe had just put something in the oven of her Aga stove.
“What could this possibly be?” Blythe asked rhetorically. “I have everything I need.”
“Oh no,” Ethan shook his head. “You can never have everything.” Ethan never returned without bringing her a gift. During his prolonged sea voyages, when they docked, he’d send her a gift if something caught his eye. And the covered box had done just that.
Blythe tore the paper away and opened the tall container.
“Where is it from this time?”
“Japan,” Ethan replied. “And if the story is true, it’s thousands of years old and was once owned by an Empress of the Ming Dynasty.”
“Really,” Blythe said with an expression showing she didn’t believe him for a moment.
“Wasn’t the Ming Dynasty Chinese?”
He nodded. “But the man selling it was Japanese. And rumor has it, she used it to keep the emperor in line.”
Blythe raised an eyebrow.
When the paper was gone, she opened the top of the box and peeked inside. Ethan didn’t try to find her exotic gifts. When he saw something that made him think of her he’d buy it and very often ship it to her.
“A cat,” Blythe said.
Ethan reach into the box, lifting the life-sized statue out and setting it on the table.
“It’s beautiful.” Blythe looked at it with appreciation.
“And heavy,” Ethan said. The statue weighed over fifty pounds.
Blythe gave it an appreciative look. The black cat was made of a highly polished obsidian glass as black as midnight with green eyes that flashed like real emeralds. Around the neck was a band of green and white gems that looked like emeralds and diamonds. The eyes seemed to stare at Ethan. He had felt that way when he first saw the cat in Japan. He’d been compelled to buy it. Even if his mind hadn’t told him it was perfect for Blythe Cove Manor, the seller nearly forced it on him. Somehow Ethan knew he had to have it. And it reminded him of the woman in the mirror upstairs, only her eyes were brown.
“Is this real?” Blythe asked, pointing toward the necklace.
“Not for what I paid for it. It’s made of obsidian. I asked him that and I was surprised that it was carved so smoothly, since obsidian usually breaks into shards.”
Blythe narrowed her eyes and scrutinized the head and back of the statue. “Thank you, Ethan. It is beautiful, but I’m not sure how Martha’s going to take to having another cat around.”
As if on cue, Martha stole into the kitchen and stared at the statue. Sitting up on its haunches, the statue mocked Martha’s normal position. But Martha was jealous. Usually a laid-back creature, Martha arched her back in a hump and growled at the statue.
“Does that answer your question?” Ethan asked.
Blythe laughed. Martha backed out of the kitchen, never taking her gaze from the black statue on the table.
“That’s weird,” Blythe said. “Martha’s never acted like that before.”
Ethan followed the movement of the cat. Turning back to Martha, he remembered the woman in the mirror.
“Blythe, is anyone else here?”
“Not at the moment. I’m expecting guests for the ceremony this weekend. They are all due Friday night and staying until Tuesday morning. Why?”
Ethan was about to tell her, then thought better of it. He’d never seen ghosts, apparitions or anything unusual at the Manor, although there were rumors of strange things happening from time to time. Those things weren’t limited to the Manor, every place on the Vineyard had some supernatural story or other. But Ethan had never witnessed any of them first hand. Even now, he found it hard to believe that he might have seen something that wasn’t there.
“No reason,” he lied. “I just wanted to make sure I don’t have to leave my room.”
Blythe smiled. “The room’s yours as long as you need it.” She picked up the cat. “Now, where shall I put this?” she asked rhetorically. Ethan knew she had a place for the things he brought her.
“How about on the landing?”
“The landing sounds like the perfect place,” Blythe said. Again, they went through the ritual of placement they did whenever he arrived in person.
The stairway to the second floor was wide. It had a landing on which a window-high cabinet sat that held a collection of gifts Ethan had brought back from various parts of the world. Ethan set the cat on that cabinet close to the wall. At the bottom of the stairs Martha stood looking up at them, an arch still in her back.
Ethan rubbed the cat’s head, and smiled. As Ethan and Blythe headed down the steps, neither saw the eyes in the statue glow a bright electric green, then settle back into their normal emerald color.
Jenna Taylor danced about her room at Blythe Cove Manor, turning ballet circles in her bare feet. She’d taken lessons as a child, but dropped them years ago. Then passing a dance studio on her way to work one morning, she went in and resumed study just for the exercise. That was kind of how she got to Martha’s Vineyard.
She’d heard so much about the place from her friend Adrienne and several others who’d visited, but coming here on a whim was both out of character and exciting. She was lucky the B&B had a room for her, it being Memorial Day weekend and all. There were ships in the ocean and she couldn’t walk two steps without seeing guys in white uniforms. Good looking guys, she added.
And now that she was unpacked, it was time to begin her adventure. She only knew one person on the island. Adrienne English, manager of the St. Romaine Hotel. Unfortunately, the St. Romaine had no vacancies when Jenna decided to come. Adrienne suggested Blythe Cove Manor as it was within walking distance of the hotel. And here she was, on the Vineyard, her beautiful room sporting the soothing sounds of the sea. As she walked toward the St. Romaine, her nerves were already calmer and there was a lightness to her step. Jenna looked back at the building with its lovely flowers and views of the ocean.
Jenna heard loud laughter coming from the bar when she entered the lobby of the posh chain that boasted hotels in all the major cities of the United States and some places overseas.
“Jenna, you’re here.” Adrienne rushed across the lobby and hugged her. “It’s so good to see someone from home.” Stepping back her friend looked her up and down. “Although, I’m surprised to see you pull up stakes and did something spontaneous.”
Jenna was a planner. She worked with details. She liked having an itinerary, knowing when and where she was going. She would research the area and decide in advance what she wanted to do and see.
“I’m a little surprised too, but I’m glad I came. This place is beautiful.” Jenna looked through the large windows at the front of the building. The manicured foliage spread to the sea in the distance. A second burst of laughter came from the other side of the lobby. “What’s going on in there?” she asked.
“The USS Terrance is in the harbor. Those are some of the sailors.”
“They appear to be having a great time.”
“They’re sailors,” Adrienne said as if that was explanation enough. “Let me get my purse and we’ll go somewhere quiet and talk.”
While she waited, Jenna turned and looked into the darkened room where the noise came from. She wondered what they were talking about. What could be so funny that it produced gales of laughter?
Her eyes met a man’s who wasn’t in uniform. He wore jeans and a sweater. His eyes bore into her, narrowing and staring as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Jenna felt exposed, not naked, but like he could see into her mind. She trembled feeling a coldness enter her body.
“Come on,” Adrienne said just as the man took a step toward them.
Eager to get away from the glare of his gaze, Jenna walked faster than normal to reach the door and go through it.
She took a deep sea-filled breath of air when she was outside. “Where are we going?” she asked a moment later when she’d regained the use of her voice.
“I thought we’d eat lunch at a little restaurant I know. Then if you’d like to see the little shops along the main street, we could do some shopping.”
Jenna laughed. This is what they used to do when they both lived in Amherst, Massachusetts. Adrienne walked her to a small red car and they drove the short distance. Jenna’s mind went to the man in the bar. Why had he looked at her with such…she didn’t know what to call it. It wasn’t anger, but there was a hardness to his gaze like when you see someone you think you recognize, but can’t quite remember what they did to anger you.
She was absolutely sure she’d never seen him before. Yet, somewhere in the depths of her mind, she had the feeling that he knew her.
“What are your plans for the weekend?” Adrienne asked after they reached the restaurant and had ordered drinks.
“You don’t have to entertain me. I know you have a job and this is a busy weekend for hotels. I thought I’d play the tourist and soak up the sun. Visit all the usual places tourists go and see what the island has in the way of entertainment.”
“Blythe can help you with that. She has information on touristy things, but if you really want a feel for the Vineyard, go to a few off-the-beaten-path places. The island has some spectacular sunrises. The ocean is deep and blue and mysteriously changes color as the sun moves from East to West.”
Jenna understood why Adrienne opted for this island. It was a northern paradise. Minus the palm trees and tropical climate, it had its own charm and its own pull for people to come.
Jenna passed the afternoon meal catching up with Adrienne. Both talked about their family, friends they knew and their jobs.
“What about men?” Jenna asked while they window shopped along the main street. “Anyone special on the Vineyard or anyplace else?”
Adrienne shook her head. “Not at the moment, but don’t worry. I’m not hurting for dates. What about you? There’s a whole world of men out there. Are you seeing any of them?”
The stranger’s face come into Jenna’s mind, strong and unbiddened.
“There’s no one in particular,” she said. “But on my way here I saw someone in the hotel that I felt as if he knew me.”
“He knew you?” she questioned.
Jenna had delivered the question the way she felt it. “That we had somehow made contact in the past.”
“Maybe you have,” Adrienne teased.
Jenna didn’t feel as if Adrienne was taking her seriously enough.
“What do you mean?”
Adrienne hunched one shoulder. “Strange things have been known to happen on the island.”
“Strange things. What kinds of things?”
They stopped in front of an electronics store. Reflections of both women stared back at them.
“Oh, nothing bad.” Adrienne put her hand out to stop Jenna’s mind from running toward imaginative horror. “Most of the stories involve people finding someone to love or rekindling an old love.”
Again the face of that stranger popped into Jenna’s mind. She pushed it aside. If she was going to fall in love, it wouldn’t be with someone like him. He wasn’t her type. He was broad shouldered and strength of both mind and body oozed from him. Sex appeal was what she’d call it. Yet, she didn’t go for his type. She gravitated more toward men of intelligence. Yet there was something about him that kept bringing him to the forefront of her thoughts.
“So,” Adrienne began. “Who did you see at the Cove?”
“No one. I left to meet you immediately after unpacking.”
“So, you saw the guy in the hotel.”
Jenna made a face. “He’s the last man I’d think of if I was looking for love and I’m not, mind you.”
Adrienne gave her a knowing look. Jenna hadn’t come to the Vineyard to look for a man. The truth was, however, she was always looking. She couldn’t help it. She worked with a lot of men. Architecture was a male dominated field and Jenna not only worked in the office with them, but often the people she presented her designs to and those she worked on projects with, were men. While they weren’t movie-idol gorgeous, they were romance cover hero material.
The man in the hotel fit in the second category. While he wasn’t her ideal choice for someone to get to know, and the expression on his face was far from congenial, she had to admit if he was an image in a portrait, she could stare at it for hours.
Jenna shouldn’t have tried a walking tour her first day on the Vineyard. Martha’s Vineyard might look small, but when walking it, the place was as large as outer space. Jenna was tired. She felt as if she’d covered the entire island by the time she got back to Blythe Cove Manor. There were only a few steps leading to the walkway, but her legs seemed to carry hundred pound boulders as she traversed the short distance to the front door. Pushing it open, she stepped inside, glad that her room had a comfortable bed waiting. She could do with a nap before dinner. But as she reached the steps, her stomach dropped at the thought of climbing the flight of stairs. Then she saw the obsidian cat sitting on the table.
Its eyes searched hers as if they were alive. Without thinking of her tiredness, she climbed the few stairs and touched the head of the statue. Unexpectedly, it was warmer than she imagined. Facing it, the green eyes looked into her soul. Shocked, Jenna instinctively jumped back, unaware that someone was there until her back came in contact with a rock-hard chest.
Scooting away, she turned and came face-to-face with the man from the bar.
For the space of an eternity, neither of them spoke. The cat forgotten, they both appeared paralyzed by the sight of the other.
“Who are you?” The man recovered his voice before Jenna could find hers.
“Why are you following me?” she asked.
“I’m not following you.”
“Then why are you here?” she asked.
“I live here?”
“You can’t.” Blythe had told Jenna she was the only resident until the weekend.
“Why is that?” he asked after a moment’s hesitation. His voice was low and quiet causing a chill to run through Jenna.
“I see you’re both back,” Blythe said, entering the hallway. “Have you met yet?”
“Yes,” he said.
“No,” she said at the same time.
Blythe smiled as she looked from one to the other. “Then the one of you who doesn’t know the other should introduce yourself?”
“I thought I was alone here,” Jenna said.
“After you left this morning, Ethan showed up.”
Blythe glanced from one to the other.
“Ethan Pollock,” he said by way of introduction.
Jenna was reluctant to give her name. Somehow she thought he knew it. And the crazier thing was she knew his name before he said it.
“Jenna Taylor,” he said, extending his hand.
He did know her name.
Jenna had her palm on the obsidian cat. She moved it to shake Ethan’s. When she slipped her hand into his it had a strange feeling of detachment. That she had somehow lost control of it in this world. She stared at it for a long moment, forgetting to drop Ethan’s. It was like it wasn’t hers, only that it was attached to her arm.
“Ethan is in the navy,” Blythe explained. “He drops in ever so often, without notice, for a visit. This time he’s here for the Memorial Day ceremony.”
Ethan pulled his hand away after a moment.
“I realize it’s prior to the dinner hours, but I left some tea and scones in the library.”
Ethan nodded with a smile. Blythe had probably made fresh ones after he went out earlier.
“Excuse me, I have something on the stove.” Blythe left them, still standing on the landing.
“Do you mind if we go and talk for a moment?” Ethan asked.
Jenna’s tiredness had left her. She no longer thought of her legs, how heavy they had been when she came into the B&B. She only thought of her hand and that she’d never had that experience before.
Ethan stepped aside and she preceded him to the library. There was a tea service along with several different kinds of pastries; scones, tea cakes, banana bread and oatmeal cookies on a low table in front of the unlit fireplace. All were favorites of Jenna’s. She wondered how Blythe knew or did she know. Was this one of the strange things Adrienne had eluded to?
“Would you like tea?” she asked. Ethan was a big man, broad shouldered and long legged. His demeanor was commanding, with piercing eyes that didn’t look like tea was part of his vocabulary. She thought of the men in the bar, the sailors who surrounded him. He’s looked different then. He wasn’t dressed in white, yet Jenna knew he was a sailor.
“Yes,” he answered.
She poured two cups and handed one to him. She didn’t ask if he took it with cream, sugar or lemon. She added sugar to hers and took a seat across from him.
For a moment he didn’t speak. He sipped the hot liquid and appeared to be gathering his thoughts or deciding something.
“Have we ever met before?” Jenna asked. Then realizing what she’d said, she went on. “I know it’s a cliche, but I have a weird feeling I know you. And at the same time I don’t think we’ve ever met.”
He leaned forward, placing the cup on the tray in front of him. Then he folded his hands and looked her directly in the eye. Jenna felt as if a bomb was about to explode.
“I don’t know if you’ve met me, but I’ve met you.”
Jenna said nothing. She waited for him to continue, to explain what he meant. How he’d known her name.
“What I’m about to say will make you doubt my sanity. And since you don’t know me, it could make you afraid.”
She sat up straight, the movement increasing the distance between them.
“I can assure you I’m in my right mind. Blythe can tell you I’ve never shown any signs of mental illness, but this is going to be hard to believe.” He paused and took a deep breath. “Today when I arrived, I saw you.”
She nodded. That was possible, although she was apprehensive about what else he had to say.
“In my mirror. In my room. That’s where I saw you. You weren’t in the building. You weren’t in my room. When I looked behind me, I expected to see you standing there, but the room was empty except for me. Yet you remained as an image in the mirror. Then you faded.”
How did she respond to that, Jenna thought. He could be out of his mind, yet she didn’t think so.
“How was that possible?” she asked, realizing her voice was only as loud as a whisper.
He shook his head. “I have no idea. But you were there. You were wearing this exact outfit and your hair was–” he took a moment to look at it – “it was exactly as it is now. When I saw you in the hotel, I thought I was having some form of sickness, maybe a daydream or a lost of sea air.”
“There’s plenty of sea air here,” she said.
“I know, so that couldn’t be the reason. After a moment you faded and I convinced myself you weren’t real. When I saw you standing on the landing, I was sure you weren’t there. That is was a trick of some sort. It couldn’t be real. Then I saw you at the hotel, but you were across the room with the sun behind you. When you bumped into me moments ago, you were real.”
“What about my arm?” she asked.
“Your arm?” His brow furrowed.
Jenna glanced toward the door that led to the hall and the landing where they’d shaken hands.
“Did anything happen when you shook my hand?”
He looked more confused.
“You saw me in the mirror. I felt as if my hand did not belong to me when you held it. I didn’t feel as if it even belonged in this century.”
Ethan stood up and walked the length of the room and back. Jenna knew he was trying to process the information he’d just given her. She was trying to do the same.
“I’ve heard there can be…” she hesitated.
He stopped moving. “Can be what?”
Jenna looked at him, searched his eyes for some plausible answer.
“Unexplainable things that happen around here,” she said.
“I’ve been coming here for years and I’ve never experienced anything unexplainable,” he said. “I know people say things, but they are just stories to get the tourists to spend their money.”
“What about the mirror? Can you explain that?”
The silence between them stretched, but neither could break it with anything that made sense.
Ethan’s tea was cold when he lifted the cup and took another sip. He and Jenna had sat quietly for a long time. Something had to be done or decided. They couldn’t go on sitting here until the sun set.
“Would you come to my room with me?”
Jenna’s eyes widened.
“I didn’t mean like that,” he said. “I want to check that mirror again.”
“You think it’s the mirror?”
He shook his head, but in a way that said he wasn’t sure. He was grasping, not at straws, nothing as solid as a straw, but at open air.
Jenna stood up and Ethan did the same. Together they started for the door. Her hand was close to his and without thinking he took it. It seem like they had to do this together, be linked together. Somehow they were linked, but he didn’t understand how and why.
On the landing, she stopped. “Where did the cat come from? I don’t remember seeing it when I came down these stairs before.” She stared at the statue. Ethan knew it was beautiful. That was the reason he’d bought it. He watched Jenna touch it, running her fingers along the necklace.
“It feels real,” she said, turning to look at him.
Ethan shook his head. “It was a gift for Blythe.” Ethan looked at the small display. “Most of the things on this table, I gave or sent to Blythe from wherever I was.”
“The eyes are mesmerizing,” Jenna said. Her voice held awe as if it was a beautiful work of art, something that needed to be discussed in quiet tones.
As they turned to go up the steps, Ethan noticed Martha prancing back and forth at the bottom of the stairs. She looked up at them, but didn’t follow.
Ethan unlocked his door and went inside. Jenna remained on the threshold. He turned to the mirror and looked at the space where she’d appeared before.
“Am I there?”she asked.
He shook his head. She came into the room and stood next to him. Their reflections looked back at them, but there was no third image in the mirror, only the reverse image of the room behind them standing exactly as it should.
Again Jenna’s hand was in his. He couldn’t tell how it had got there. Had she taken his or the other way around? Whatever had happen, he felt like it belonged there.
“Why don’t we forget this?” she said. Dropping his hand, she stepped back, moving toward the door. “Nothing has happened and it doesn’t appear to be happening again. We’ll both be leaving the island at the end of the weekend. We’ll go back to our normal lives and this will just be an unexplained adventure.”
She tried to smile, but Ethan could tell it was forced.
“That must be it,” he said, not agreeing or disagreeing with anything she said. “We can chalk it up to time zone changes.”
Ethan knew that wasn’t what it was, but he was willing to drop the subject. In a few days, he’d be gone and so would she. They’d never see each other again.
Jenna left him and headed down the hall. Ethan moved to the open door and watched the sway of her hips as her walk away.
Closing the door, he again checked the mirror. She wasn’t there.
Jenna barely made it to her room before the shakes overtook her. Her hands shook, her arms, even her legs were weak. What was going on? She closed her door, backing up against it to support herself. She’d felt it again, that otherworldly sensation when she held Ethan’s hand. The sensation had extended up her arm to her elbow. It wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, she liked it, but the entire scenario scared her. She was an architect. She dealt in discrete lines and arches. Her structures were made of iron, steel, and concrete. There was no gray areas to them. They were solid and substantial. What Jenna experienced was an environment that changed, shifted and didn’t appear to follow the laws of physics.
She tried to put it out of her mind, telling herself she was just tired from the trip and out of her element of control. But pushing memory aside was easier said than done. She couldn’t get her mind off the sensation in her hand and the fact that Ethan has said he knew her, had seen her in his mirror. And she had the feeling that she knew him.
Jenna physically shook herself. The shakes stopped. She wouldn’t go with this line of thinking. She’d call Adrienne and see if she was free for dinner. The two hadn’t planned to eat tonight, but Jenna needed to get out of the room, out of the building and away from a place where she couldn’t explain what she knew to be true – or what she thought she knew to be true.
Reaching into her purse and lifting her phone out, she opened her contacts icon and found the number. Before hitting the dial button, she saw something from the corner of her eye. Turning around, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Jenna grasped her chest as all the air in her lungs seemed to whoosh out. Across from her image, on the opposite side of the bed, stood the image of a man.
Sleep hadn’t come quickly after the image of Ethan faded. Usually Jenna had no trouble falling asleep, but her normal routine had been thrown off kilter. Jenna was grateful when time for breakfast rolled around. She was the first person in the dining room. Taking a table for two she looked out on the morning light. Only a few cars passed the B&B, but she could hear the sea in the distance. It was mildly calming. Jenna questioned whether she’d really seen Ethan in the mirror? He’d told her he’d seen her, but when she stood next to him only their real-life forms stared back at them. Nothing corporeal appeared.
But he’d been in her mirror. She was a logical person, but she’d seen what appeared and it was him.
After two cups of coffee and a plate of fruit, Jenna got up to leave. She saw Blythe coming toward her.
“You can’t survive the morning on just that,” Blythe said indicating her half-eaten breakfast. She held a dish in her hand heaped with food. Setting it on the table, she said, “Sit down and try this. It’ll make you feel better.”
Jenna wondered if she looked tired. She had slept most of the night, just not all of it. Apparently, it showed enough in her face for the proprietor to notice. She retook her seat and Blythe smiled as she returned to the kitchen. Jenna looked at the plate. Two strawberry crepes lay there covered in whip cream. Bacon as crisp as if she’d cooked it herself lay on the side next to scrambled eggs. The aroma wafting off the food had her stomach churning. Jenna dug into the plate and in no time it was empty of everything. Just like the scones, pastries and bread that had been in the library, Blythe knew what she liked. Had Adrienne told her?
Finishing a third cup of coffee, Jenna picked up her map and purse and headed out. for her room. Blythe had been right. Jenna felt better. She stopped and admired the obsidian cat as she pushed her arms into her sweater. She smiled at the cat.
“It’s going to be a great day,” she told it and slipped out the door.
And it was. Jenna didn’t think about the mirror or the manor until she was returning to it just before dark. She was bone tired from walking and the effect of the sun and sea on her day. She’d spent several hours on the beach. The water was too cold for swimming, but the air was warm and it gave her time to think. She didn’t come up with any solutions, but she didn’t feel anxious. At least not about the supernatural. She missed seeing Ethan.
Part of her day had been looking at every man she passed, hoping one of them would he Ethan. None of them were. She wondered where he was and why he hadn’t been around since they discovered the mirror images.
As she headed back to the manor, she thought about getting something to eat. Yet her hunger wasn’t strong enough to send her to a restaurant. Blythe always had something in the dinning room to take the edge off. Jenna could make due with that. But all she wanted now was a bath and a bed.
Martha met her as she came through the door. Jenna reached down and rubbed his back. She said nothing. Martha ran away, heading toward the library as if she saw something more interesting. Jenna was not put out. She went to the stairs, grabbing the newel post and pulling herself up the two steps to the table that held the obsidian statue. The emerald eyes gazed at her. She’d promised it she would have a good day. Jenna stared at it for a long time. For some reason, she felt the need to touch it. Placing her index finger on the cat’s toe, she let it linger there for a long moment. The stone was warm, room temperature, but nothing more. Moving her hand to her head, she thought the sun had drained her of energy. She needed to get to her room.
At the top of the stairs, she glanced at Ethan’s door. It was closed and there was no telltale light coming under the bottom. Moving past it, she went inside her own room.
The moment the lock clicked in place, the world around her changed. Doppelgangers, Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes, all the old paranormal movies crowded into brain. Scenes whirled around her like Dorothy caught in the tornado that took her to Oz. Only Jenna wasn’t going to Oz. She was fighting her way through a maelstrom of black and white movies she didn’t know how to get out of.
That had to be it. She was being tricked. But this was too elaborate. And how could both she and Ethan be tricked by the same unknown person? No one knew she was going to be on Martha’s Vineyard. The decision had been purely spontaneous. There wasn’t time for anyone to plan a hoax this complicated.
So if it wasn’t a hoax, it had to be real. Jenna shuddered at the thought of that. Turning around, she faced the mirror. With short, cautious steps she approached it until she could see herself full in the glass. The image of Ethan waited for her. It appeared seconds after her own reflection. It was only there for a moment before it began to fade…no not fade, transform.
Jenna refused to blink, afraid she might miss something if her eyes closed for even a second. He was still there. More uniforms joined him. They were blurry, out of focus, but all in the same bright white that Ethan wore. She’d never seen Ethan in his uniform, yet she recognized him immediately. Watching them assemble, she could discern no faces, no features crystalized to a point of identity. But Ethan was there. She didn’t need to see him to recognize him.
There was an insignia on the sleeve, too unclear to read, but it stood out as gold and black. The black could be navy blue. It was a dark color. His face was clean shaven and he didn’t smile. But like the cat on the table downstairs, his stare seemed to follow her no matter where she stood. Then the group formed and began a practiced routine. Jenna watched in awe as they went through precise movements. She squinted, trying to make the scene clearer. She wanted to see who they were. Then behind Ethan someone missed a step and tumbled into someone else. The entire complement went down like a cloud of white dominos.
Jenna gasped. Her hands went to her open mouth and she closed her eyes. When she opened them, everything had gone back to normal. The mirror was clear except for her wide-eyed image and the room reflecting behind her.
Jenna didn’t understand. She wanted an explanation to what she’d seen. She wanted to know why she was seeing these things. In her experience, there was a reason for everything. Pulling a short blanket from the bottom of the bed, she wrapped it around her shoulders and went down the back stairs, pass the obsidian cat and out into the night. The backyard was empty of everything except chairs and the night sounds. Sauntering over to one of them, she took a seat and leaned back far enough to see the stars. The vastness was calming.
She didn’t know how long she sat there. After she’d seen the pileup in the mirror, she was reluctant to witness another.
“Can’t sleep?” someone asked.
She jumped at the sound of the voice, then realized it was Ethan’s. Sitting forward, she looked at him. He held two cups. She could see the steam coming from them.
“I didn’t try,” she said. “Where have you been?”
“Miss me,” he smiled.
“I did,” she said baldly.
“Why? Has something happened?”
Thoughts of standing in front of the mirror and seeing him twice was on the tip of her tongue to reveal, but she held back. She felt they had some connection, whether it was psychic or steeped in a common experience she didn’t know. And until she did, she wouldn’t discuss things she couldn’t explain.
He took the chair next to her and handed her one of the cups.
“I figured coffee at this hour would keep you awake. It’s hot apple cider. Blythe used to make it for me when I was a kid.”
She took a sip. “Mmm, I haven’t had this in years.”
“What brought you out here if it wasn’t the inability to sleep?”
“I’m sure you know.”
“Something I said earlier?” he asked.
She took another sip, giving herself a small reprieve before answering. “Partly,” she said. “I no long believe you’ve lost your mind. But I have no explanation for why you could have seen me in the mirror, or…” she paused. “How you knew my name.”
He smiled, his entire body relaxing. “That’s not supernatural. When I saw you at the hotel, I asked one of the bellmen if he knew who you were. He didn’t, but the woman at registration said you and the manager were friends. She knew your name.”
“Small world,” Jenna commented.
“It is,” Ethan said. “What do you do in that world, when it’s on it’s axis that is?”
“I’m an architect. I design and build offices and an occasional expensive home.”
“How many of those homes have you designed?”
“Do you live in one of them?”
She shook he head. “I live in an old house in Amherst. It doesn’t appear to have any form of design. The rooms are small, closets nearly non-existent and the kitchen looks like an add on.”
She nodded. “Like they built the house and suddenly thought, maybe we should add a place to cook.”
He laughed. Jenna liked the way his voice seemed to reverberate from deep within him. She thought about telling him what she’d seen in her room, but it sounded too fantastic. She knew he’d believe her. He’d had the same experience. But she was hesitant. The mood between them was light and friendly, like they’d known each other for years and she was reluctant to change that. Earlier they’d been cloaked in mystery, one that had yet to be solved.
Tomorrow was early enough to begin searching for an answer.
Or finding the question.
Memorial Day dawned in Blythe Cove Manor on a perfect day. The weather was warm and the breeze off the Atlantic was comfortable. Huge, beautiful clouds that indicated no rain hung in the sky like a Devine portrait.
Jenna sipped her coffee in the diningroom with a number of families who’d arrived for the holiday celebration. She’d hoped to see Ethan and share a little time with him, but according to Blythe he’d been up and gone for an hour before she came down.
“More coffee?” one of the servers who came each morning to help Blythe asked.
Jenna pushed her cup forward and smiled. The woman filled it, returning the smile. “Have a nice day,” she said.
When she moved to the next table, Adrienne was walking toward Jenna. With a smile, Adrienne got a cup of coffee from the urn that was always available and grabbed a scone as she sat down.
“What are you doing here?” Jenna asked, both surprised and pleased to see a friend. “I thought you had to work the entire weekend.”
“I wouldn’t miss the program. With all that’s going on, everyone is out of the hotel. They’re all going to the parade. I’m going too. And so are you.” Her smile was impish.
“Just so you know,” Jenna said. “That was on my agenda.”
“Well drink up. We want to get a good seat.”
They finished their coffee and scones.
“I’ll just run up and get my camera,” Jenna said, as she stood.
Rushing to her room, she grabbed the camera from the dresser and pulled on a sweater she’d laid on the bed. Quickly she closed the door and hurried down the stairs. On the last step she stumbled, bumping into the table and jostling the statue. Without thinking her hands came out and grabbed the cat, steadying it before it toppled over. She let out a breath and noticed the carvings on the back of the statue. It would have been impossible to see if not for the light coming from the overhead window. She couldn’t read it. It looked like hieroglyphics, but there was something familiar about it. Setting it back in place, she glanced up. Her reflection appeared in the glass of a picture on the wall.
“Oh my God,” Jenna said, although no one could have heard her even if they’d been within earshot. She closed her eyes, her hand gripping the cat so hard, she could have crushed the obsidian into powder. When she opened them, the image was gone, yet her heart was thudding in her chest and her breath came in rapid pants.
The sound of Martha’s growl drew her attention to the bottom of the steps. Jenna released her hold on the statue and took a step back. Her gaze swung between Martha and the statue. “You don’t like her, do you?” she asked.
Martha couldn’t speak, but the hump in her back answered for her.
Jenna went down the final two steps, ran her hand along Martha from neck to haunches and headed back to the dining room.
“Ready?” Adrienne asked.
Jenna nodded. They went to the front door. Jenna glanced back. Martha watched her with all-seeing eyes.
Outside, it appeared the fleet was in. Jenna took a deep, restoring breath of the sea air. Everywhere she looked there were sailors in white.
“There was a military complex here in the 40’s, but it was closed,” Adrienne said. “The government decommissioned it in 1946.”
“Where are we going?”
“They hold the parade at the Regional High School on the football field. It’s a sight, seeing all those beautiful guys in uniforms.”
Jenna’s vision…that was all she could think to call it…came back to her. She wasn’t sure if there was a football field behind what she’d seen. Her focus was on trying to see the sailors faces, more so trying to see Ethan’s face. Everything else had been unimportant. Was there a patch of green in the vision too? She couldn’t remember.
The walk was like its own parade. Jenna and Adrienne followed the crowd and entered the high school football field. They found seats on the top row of one set of bleachers. Apparently, other temporary seats had been brought in for the parade.
“These are perfect,” Adrienne said. “We’ll be able to see everything.”
On the grass, a huge wooden floor had been set up. Speakers and amplifiers were already in place.
Jenna looped the camera strap over her head and pulled out her cell phone.
“Who are you calling?” Adrienne asked.
“No one, I want to look something up.”
“I’m not sure.”
Jenna’s fingers clicked on the small keys as she tried to remember the symbols she’d seen. It seemed to take forever to find anything, but finally the article she’d been looking for came up. The cat was wasn’t Japanese or Chinese. It was Egyptian.
Jenna read the story behind it as fast as she would an edge-of-the-seat novel. When she got to the words symbol on the back used to authenticate, she stopped. There on the screen was the same symbol she’d seen on the back of the cat at Blythe Cove Manor.
“Jenna, it’s starting.”
Adrienne drew her attention. She replaced the phone in her purse and watched as the sailor-musicians march out to the platform and lifted their instruments. Following them was an honor guard. The parade started, but it wasn’t a parade at all. It was a show of precision and skill. Adrienne explained that it was called a parade, but that was the name of the program.
Men and women in white began a routine that had them turning from one formation only to create another. Their moments were in unison, practiced and unflawed. Applause erupted along with collective gasps by the spectators at a movement that appeared so well executed it elicited a response.
Jenna tensed in place. This was it, she told herself. She knew this was the place where the vision had taken place and it would repeat. No, not repeat, take place. Everything had happened in the future, after she or Ethan had seen it in the mirror. And it was going to happen today.
She had to warn Ethan.
The music ended and the crowd exploded in applause. Jenna’s eyes searched for Ethan. Quickly she checked face after face until she found him. He was in the middle of the procession. The complement of men and women marched, turned, and repeated routines that had them passing through lines that if not precisely executed would have them trapped and tangled. So far the steps were exact, but one would be missed, and soon.
She knew it.
She had to get down there. She had to let him know. Why hadn’t she told him last night while they were talking in the backyard? She wished she had.
“Where are you going?” Adrienne asked when Jenna stood and started for the steps.
“I’ll be back,” she called over her shoulder. Her camera hung around her neck like a noose. Holding onto it with one hand, she gripped the handrail on her way to the bottom.
Jenna’s mind whirled. Time-travel wasn’t possible, she told herself, but she’d experienced it. She’d had her share of Saturday nights with a solitary glass of wine and nothing to keep her company but a black and white movie. Several time-travels scenes flicked through her mind as she seemed to tread through thick air in her quest to reach the bottom. Was her fate the same as it was in all those movies? Would she be the cause of the disaster, like the hero or heroine of those movies? Would she cause the very disaster she was trying to prevent? Could she be on her way to ensure the pileup?
She didn’t know, but like those movies she had to try.
There was a barrier to keep spectators away from players on the field. On this day it was keeping her from reaching Ethan. Jenna had to take the chance. She reached the bottom, her head whipping right and left, looking for a way to get to the field.
Then luck seemed to grant her a reprieve. The white clad group split into four sections and each began walking toward a different part of the parade field. Ethan headed toward her. She waved, gaining his attention.
Cupping her hands over her mouth, she shouted. “Pivot right and take two steps.”
Ethan frowned, but kept in step. He’d heard her, but she knew he didn’t understand her meaning. He couldn’t turn to seek an explanation or he’d lose his step. She’d cause the mishap, but Jenna shouted her instruction again, watching as he stayed within his group and completed the formation back to the center of the platform.
“Pivot right,” she whispered to herself. Ethan was too far away to hear her. No one could her. All she could do now was watch as the cloud of white uniforms collided into each other and the entire formation spilled like toy soldiers on to the make-shift floor.
Ethan hadn’t understood what Jenna said. Her words made no sense. What did pivot right mean? He’d seen her face, however, and it was distraught with worry. He kept step, moving with the group, his eyes darting left and right to keep in step and in line. Something was going to happen. She was trying to tell him, but he couldn’t look back. The parade took him to a different part of the stadium for the next three revolutions.
Keeping in step, he went through the routine until the four sections of the group became a single body. Not breaking formation, he checked the place where he’d last seen her, but before he could find her, he saw something unexpected out of the corner of his eye.
Without thinking, he pivoted right and took two steps. A man a row behind him and to the right lost his balance and was falling forward. Ethan’s arm came forward, grasping the sailor under his arm and executing a circular movement that put him back in place and appeared to be part of the parade. He saluted the sailor, then pivoted back in place.
The crowd applauded unaware that the movement was unrehearsed. Ethan returned to his own formation and the complement completed its program without incident.
How had she known, Ethan wondered. Was it the mirror again? It had to be. No one could know the future.
But Jenna knew.
Ethan couldn’t get to Jenna fast enough. The moment the parade completed it’s final act and the sailors marched off the parade ground, he headed for her. His progress was hampered by men complimenting him for saving the program. The sailor in question was grateful for being saved from catastrophe.
It took Ethan five minutes to get through the crowd and another five to find Jenna amid the sea of white clad sailors mixed with the multicolored apparel of the family and guests.
Jenna was talking to a woman he didn’t know when he spotted her. The woman was the same one who was with her that day in the hotel when Ethan first saw her in person.
Maneuvering like a man on a mission, he headed straight for her, impatient to allow anyone to stop him. Thinking nothing about manners or the rudeness of interrupting, he needed to talk to Jenna. And he was going to do it now. Her friend spotted him coming and then Jenna turned to look. She smiled brightly. He would have smiled too if he’d been in a better mood. Ethan needed information and he was going to get it from her.
Before he reached Jenna, her friend whispered something and moved away. He could tell she understood when a superior officer was on the deck and what the proper protocol was.
“I have to talk to you,” he said when he reached Jenna. Without giving her time to answer, Ethan took her arm and led her toward a spot outside the fence and away from earshot of anyone else. With an abrupt stoppage of motion, he turned her around and demanded, “How did you know?”
She didn’t waste time asking what he meant.
“I saw it in the mirror.”
“When?” There were no mirrors on the parade grounds.
“Yesterday. Last night actually. It’s what kept me awake.”
“So you have seen things in the mirror. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was trying to understand, make some sense of what I’d seen. I hadn’t put it together then. I didn’t understand what it meant.”
“And you have now?”
She looked directly at him, then nodded. “I think so.”
“Could you lose some of the anger and I’ll explain what I believe.”
He sighed. She was right. He shouldn’t be angry. She’d saved the parade, averted a mishap that would have caused chaos, possible injury and embarrassment to the Navy. Taking her arm, he threaded it through his and began a slow walk toward an empty set of bleachers.
“It’s the cat,” she stated, when they reached the seats. Neither of them sat, but stood facing each other. “I was on my way out,” she began. “I tripped on the stairs and bumped into the table. The cat wobbled and I caught it before it could fall over.”
“Wobbled? That cat weighs at least fifty pounds. The table would fall before the cat.”
Jenna’s eyes opened wide as if the realization at just come to her.
“It’s the cat,” she said again, her voice surprised and breathy. Taking a step closer to him, she went on. “Think about it. Each time you saw a vision, what happened just before you saw it.”
Ethan looked into the distance, but he wasn’t seeing the grassy field, or the parking lot in the distance. He saw Blythe opening the package, then he put it on the table. Moments later she was a mirror image.
“You’d touched the cat.” It was a statement.
He nodded. “And you touched it just before we went up to my room to look in the mirror. You said you didn’t see anything.”
“I didn’t.” She paused. “Not then. When I went to my room, your image was in the my mirror.”
“And when you saw the parade field mishap?”
“I’d touched the cat on my way up the stairs. But it wasn’t a mishap. It actually happened. The sailor tripped and fell into the one in front of him causing a chain reaction. The entire group went down. There was a huge pileup on the floor and it was impossible to return to any formation.”
“So you reasoned that if I turned and took a couple of steps the entire thing could be changed?”
Jenna nodded. “I hoped it could be changed, but I wasn’t sure the future could be changed.”
“Why is this happening?” He looked at her strangely, but he wasn’t really asked her for an answer.
“Where did that cat come from. It wasn’t on that table the first day I arrived.”
“I brought it for Blythe.”
“I got it in Japan.”
“It’s not Japanese.”
“No, Blythe pointed out that it’s Chinese.”
“Does it have a history, a curse, perhaps?”
“You don’t believe in curses,” he smiled facetiously.
“I also don’t believe in mirrors telling the future.”
Ethan sobered. “There is the claim that it’s thousands of years old and was owned by a Ming Dynasty empress. There’s an additional rumor about her keeping the emperor in line, but I don’t think the two are related.”
Jenna was shaking her head as he related the story.
“What?” Ethan asked.
“The cat is Egyptian. It has a symbol on the back. It’s not a curse. Most people consider it a legend, but only a few claim to have seen it work.”
“Go on,” Ethan was interested in what message it had. He didn’t doubt her word.
“The symbol means unity, unending, merging, or coming full circle as in two entities coming together to make a complete whole.”
“And these two entities would be?” he prompted.
“You and me.” Jenna pointed first to him then to herself.
“What do we need to complete?”
“I can’t tell you,” she said.
“I think we both need to go back to the cat and the mirror.”
Ethan took a step. “That will tell us?”
“I believe it will give us a clue,” she hedged.
“Let’s go,” Ethan said.
Jenna pulled back. “Don’t you have to report to someone?” she asked.
Ethan stopped as if memory was suddenly returning to him. “I almost forgot,” he said. “And you have to find your friend.”
“Adrienne,” Jenna supplied. “She’s the manager of the St. Romaine. She had to return to the hotel just after the parade ended, but you have to check in. How about we meet in the library at the Manor in an hour?” she suggested.
He nodded, then leaned down and whispered, “This wasn’t in the mirror.” He kissed her cheek, ran his knuckles down her jaw and left with a wave.
Jenna delayed going to the library for fifteen minutes. She could still feel Ethan’s fingers on her face and the softness of the kiss on her cheek. Both actions scared and excited her. After what she’d seen in the glass above the statue, could she believe in the cat and it’s predictions or was this something that could be changed like the avoided accident on the parade field?
Only one way to find out, she thought. Leaving her room, she went to the library.
The door gave in her hand as she pushed to open it. Ethan was pulling it from the other side. He was no longer wearing his dress whites, but had changed into shorts that reached his knees and a t-shirt sporting the U.S. Navy logo.
“I was about to come in search of you,” he said.
She could hear the anxiousness in his voice.
“I’m sorry. I was trying to figure out how to say what needs to be said.”
“Just blurt it out. I’m a straight forward kind of guy.”
Not in this, Jenna thought, but didn’t voice that. Then an idea came to her.
“We’ve both touch the cat at separate times, but never together, never in unity.” She purposely used the word again.
“You think we should?”
She nodded. “I think it would help to explain the symbol.”
“You seen that before, haven’t you?”
She nodded. “I told you I’m an architect. I had a client once who traveled a lot. Like you, he’d been all over the world. One of the artifacts in his office had a symbol like the one on the cat. It wasn’t the same, but similar.”
“It was Egyptian,” Ethan supplied.
“The statue wasn’t a cat. It was different animal.”
“What did the symbol mean?”
“Everlasting, unbreakable, forever.”
“What are you expecting to happen when we both touch the cat?”
“I can’t say,” Jenna replied. “But I believe we need to do it together.”
“I’ll get the statue,” Ethan said.
“We’ll need a mirror or a glass that reflects us.”
We can use the television as a reflective surface.” Ethan went to one of the bookcase and pushed a concealed button. The bookcase recessed several inches and a large screen television rose, like a specter, from the cabinet depths.
“I didn’t know that was there,” Jenna said.
“Blythe keeps it hidden to preserve the feel of an era.”
Ethan left and in a moment was back with the cat. He had a hot padded glove on each hand. “I didn’t want to touch it until we were together,” he explained.
Jenna didn’t ask if Blythe knew why he needed to cover his hands.
“Sit it there.” Jenna indicated the center of the panel in front of the television. Ethan complied, then stepped back and removed the gloves, dropping them on the end of the panel.
“Anything to say before we try this?” Ethan asked.
“It might not show anything,” she said. “Or there could be a delay. The two times it’s shown me something, hasn’t been immediately after I touched it.”
“Well, let’s see.” He held his hand up to her and Jenna placed hers inside his palm. Then with his left and her right one they crossed fingers and laid them over the head of the statue.
Nothing happened. They held on for several seconds. Still no vision appeared.
“Let go,” Jenna whispered. They both drew back their hands. The eyes of the statue glowed a bright green, brighter than an emerald. Jenna squeezed Ethan’s hand harder.
Slowly something began to form on the screen. They waited, neither of them breathing.
“It’s us,” Ethan said. “It’s a wedding.”
She noted the rise in his tone.
The screen showed them reflections of themselves, her in a lace gown and him in his dress whites.
“Ours,” Jenna said.
“You saw this?”
“Part of it,” she said nodding to his reflection. Neither had taken their eyes from the screen.
“I saw myself in the wedding gown. There was a man next to me, but his back was turned.”
“Yet you knew?” Ethan asked.
Together they watched as the image of themselves faded and disappeared, leaving only the library and the two for them in their present attire reflected from the dark surface.
For a long moment, neither spoke or moved. They only stood watching an unchanging screen with two baffled present day figures holding hands.
“As we see the future and not the present through this cat, when do you think this is wedding is happening?” Ethan asked.
“I don’t know, but it’s a military ceremony and neither of us has gray hair.”
They looked at the cat as if it could explain. The eyes still glowed. They became brighter and brighter, then reaching the height of brightness, burned down until they were no longer green, and no longer glowing.
Ethan raised her hand and held it the way they’d done on the screen.”I guess it’s up to us now,” he said.
Jenna found her throat lodged. She nodded. Feeling something near her legs, she looked down. Martha meowed, her body meandering through her and Ethan’s legs as if tying a sailor’s knot.