(Oct. 21, 2022) — [See Part 1 here.]
“Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred.” Cassandra could almost hear her mother’s voice and feel her hand as it smoothed over the freshly brushed hair. The child stared at her reflection in the dusty mirror, her uncombed curls fallen around her shoulders. Mama was gone, and her Uncle Roland’s large house frightened and intimidated her. She felt much happier surrounded by the clutter in the attic. Here, she felt enclosed and hidden, like the way she felt when her mother would hold her and wrap her in her large cloak.
Cassandra felt a shiver of loneliness and pulled her doll tighter into her embrace as she stepped away from the mirror and walked over to the attic window at the front of the house. Her eyes widened when, at that moment, she saw a figure of a woman, all in black, standing at the edge of the woods. The wind had swirled a layer of red and orange leaves behind her, as the woman stood there, hand outstretched to Uncle Roland. Cassandra whispered, “Mama.” She turned, raced out of the room and down the stairs. She didn’t stop till she stepped out onto the front porch. Agnes was now beside Uncle Roland and growling at the stranger. Uncle Roland turned sharply, and shouted to his niece, “Cassandra, get back in the house!”
Ignoring him, the child bolted toward the vision before them. Uncle Roland caught her as she passed and pulled her close. Suddenly, the woman began to sway and her eyes began to close. The wind died down. The lady collapsed to the ground along with the pillar of leaves. Cassandra ran to the woman the moment her uncle began to loosen his grip. Her heart sank as she studied the pale face. She muttered, “Not Mama.”
Uncle Roland laid a gentle hand on his niece’s head. “No, but she does appear to need our help.” Without a word, Cassandra turned and hurried back into the house, perching herself at the top of the stairs where she could sit barely seen but could fully see all things happening below.