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What Is and What Should Never Be

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Minnesota, 1999

It isn’t until she is slamming the door to her room, thankful that her roommates are still out, and frantically searching for her backpack that she stops, takes a deep breath, and allows the sting at the back of her eyes flow down her cheeks. She feels stupid and used and useless and she can’t believe that she actually thought that there was someone out there who loved her. Everything, from the first moment that she had stepped into Ingrid’s house, had been a lie, and if there is anything that she was good at, it is detecting lies. And now she couldn’t even get that right.

The hot tears of betrayal turn into steaming trails of anger and out of the corner of her eye she sees the bag wedged between the dresser and the wall, inside out and empty, exactly like her life. She laughs, loudly, not caring if she wakes her foster brothers and grabs the bag, setting it roughly on the bed. She doesn’t need much, never has, filling the sack with a few pairs of undergarments, a pair of jeans, and rolling some shirts, fitting them between the gaps. It is barely half full and so she scrambles under her bed, reaching for the old shoebox that contains the most important things. Pulling it out, she sits back against the wall and removes the top, peering inside.

She doesn’t understand how something that was obviously made with so much love could come from someone who didn’t want her. It is the only item that truly belongs to her and it serves as a reminder that not only is there someone out in the world who took the time to make this blanket and weave her name, it is someone who gave her away.

She rubs furiously at her cheeks, stuffing the quilt with her clothes and looks at the clock. It is almost nine which gives her plenty of time to catch the ten o’clock bus to Minneapolis and it is with that thought that a boy falls through the mirror.

He falls unceremoniously on the floor, banging his head against the bed-frame, and he groans. He shakes his head, running a hand caked in dirt through unruly dark hair, and in his other hand she sees him holding a crumpled piece of paper. She is too stunned to scream or even move, and just as she decides to throw her pack at him instead, he looks up, and she freezes.

She had studied the Mountain Bluebird in geography last semester, and she remembers thinking that their lovely shade of blue was one the most beautiful things she had ever seen. The boys’ eyes are even lovelier.

They stare at each other, mutely, for what seems several hours until the boy stands, awkwardly, tugging at his pants as if they constrict his movement.

“H-hello,” he squeaks, voice high and then he coughs, cheeks turning a light pink. “I mean, hello. Please pardon my undue arrival.” And then he bends at the waist, bowing his head.

She doesn’t mean to let the hysterical giggle erupt from her chest but the situation is so bizarre and she was nearly run over by a car not one hour ago, and she is nearly cackling before she remembers that there is a stranger looking at her as if she were insane.

“Sorry,” she says, out of breath. She crosses her feet and bends her knees in a pitiful attempt at a curtsy. “Hello.”

The strange boy simply raises a disbelieving eyebrow and for some reason, it irritates her and so she glares back, shackles rising. “Look buddy, I don’t know who in the hell you are or how you did that trick, but this is private property and you should get out!”

The boy’s eyes widen and he steps back. For the first time he takes a moment to look around and his shoulders harden, genuine fear in his stance. He opens his mouth and then shuts it, frowning. “It wasn’t a trick,” he says, almost whispering.

She nods mockingly. “Uh-huh. Right.” She spreads her feet, trying to imitate a fighting position. “Did Kevin put you up to this? Did you come here to steal my camera?”

His shoulders relax but his face fills with confusion. “A what?”

She rolls her eyes. “Don’t be cute. You think you can come here and—“ She pauses, observing his clothing and notices just how haggard he looks. On second inspection, she sees that his pants are more like capris, tattered and stained, and he wears long socks with brown, leather shoes that look like they’ve been through a blender. He has on a simple white shirt with suspenders. All items look like they are two sizes too big on his already too thin frame and with a heavy heart she realizes that his situation just might be worse than hers.

“Who are you?” she asks instead, setting the bag on the floor.

He scratches the back of his ear and again his cheeks fill with a slight blush.

“M-my name is Killian Jones, my lady.” And he looks down in shame, as if he were expecting some sort of punishment.

“Um,” she replies, not entirely sure what to do. Lady? She certainly isn’t a lady. “Do you need help?” she asks instead. “I’m Emma, by the way.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” he replies. “And yes, I do believe I need a bit of help.” He scratches behind his ear again.

He smiles and it lights up his whole face and Emma feels a low swoop in her stomach, making her own cheeks burn.

“What do you need?”

“Uh,” he says, looking around the room again. He squints at Gameboy lying on the dresser. “I am looking for my brother.”

Emma nods sympathetically. She can’t empathize, of course, because if she did have a biological sibling, chances were she would never meet them. “We get a lot of runaways here,” she explains, standing straighter. “But most of us are orphans. Maybe when my foster mother gets back she can help you.”

He nods sheepishly, pursing chapped lips, bright blue eyes wandering nervously around the room. Everywhere except her own inquiring eyes. “You’re very kind.”

Emma snorts and she is about to retort sarcastically when she catches sight of her clock again. “Damn,” she exclaims, picking up her bag. “I have to go.”

“No, please, wait!” The boy exclaims, reaching out and grabbing her arm and then pulling away as if stung. “I—“ He pauses and his cheeks burn a bright red. He blinks and his entire face transforms, the corner of his mouth turning up into a grin. “I’ve never seen such fabric before,” he says, gesturing to her pants. “What is it?”

Emma looks down, frowning. “My jeans?”

The boy squints, mouthing the word silently. “I’m beginning to believe that something went wrong.”


“Ah, yes,” He scratches behind his ear… again. It’s kind of adorable, Emma thinks before squashing the thought away. “Yes,” he continues. “I believe I am in the wrong place.”

“You think?” Emma asks, eyebrow raised sardonically.

This time, the boy looks back at her and glares. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, my Lady, I must bid you goodbye. Thank you, most graciously, for your time.” He bows mockingly and turns back to the mirror.

“Wait!” Emma yells and then her jaw drops.

The boy—Killian—looks back, “What?” he asks, mildly irritated but Emma can’t look away, her eyes transfixed on his foot that so casually rests in the air—inside the mirror.

“Wha—how? I thought—” She thought it had been a trick of the light. A delusion brought on by her distraught state. Perhaps her vision had been blurred by the constant rain of tears and yet there the boy stood, with a leg literally inside a mirror… “This doesn’t make sense,” she says because it really, really doesn’t.

“What doesn’t make sense?” Killian asks, stepping back out of the mirror, into this world or whatever.

Emma points at the mirror wildly. “That! How are you doing that!”

He frowns, looking confusedly between her and the mirror. “I had to go through something. Mirrors are just one of the many ways.”

“Many ways for what?” Emma practically screams, the tiny tendrils of terror beginning to poke into her stomach.

“Traveling,” he answers placidly.

Emma sputters, looking at him as if he were insane. “And how the hell would you do that? Magic?”

He cocks his head. “Of course.”

Emma snaps her jaw shut. She counts to ten in her head. “I’m dreaming,” she concludes, nodding at nothing.

“I can assure you that this is very much real,” Killian says, looking at her sympathetically and then he jumps. He looks down at his chest in despair. “The pull…” He shifts uncomfortably and then looks back at Emma. “I must go. I was only allotted a few minutes before the portal opens again and it appears that my time is up. Goodbye, Emma.” He turns to the mirror and places a shaky hand on the frame, stepping through.

“Wait,” Emma says softly, still not quite believing what she is seeing with her own eyes. Even if it is a dream, she has to know. “You said you were looking for your brother.”

“Yes,” he replies solemnly.

“I don’t understand. Why did you come here then?”

He bites his lip, looking up at the ceiling, and if she is not mistaken, his eyes shine with unshed tears. “I asked for it to take me home. I suppose I should have been more specific.” The boy—Killian Jones—smiles then, giving her one final, brief look before stepping through and disappearing into an impossible void.

Emma sits down on her bed, a creeping sadness growing through her limbs.

Trust your instincts.

She startles at the memory, feeling the burn of Ingrid’s hand in her own and the rabid determination in her seemingly-cold eyes telling her to stop the car.
It isn’t real. It can’t be real and yet her she is, having just witnessed what she had only read about in books.

Like Harry Potter…

No. She looks at the mirror that is still and unmoving, reflecting the loneliness of her room.

It was only a dream, Emma. Magic isn’t real.

“Emma?” a quiet voice asks and her heart nearly stops.

Ingrid stands at her doorway, looking at her kindly. “You’re leaving again?” she asks, though her face doesn’t change.

Suddenly Emma is angry and she remembers that merely an hour ago this woman had tried to kill her. “Stay away from me.”

Almost instantly, Ingrid’s features change and Emma can swear that the room’s temperature drops. She walks slowly toward her, like the jungle cats Emma has seen on those nature documentaries. She raises an arm and Emma notices a lavender stone sitting on the palm of her hand. “I’m sorry, Emma, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Emma jumps from the bed, hands raised in defense. “If you don’t stay away, I will call the—“

Emma never finishes her warning. Her eyes droop and the world goes dark.