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Chapter Nine

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Chapter9Penelope turned and ran down the steps as she felt the tiny sleeve of her already worn out dress tear in Tom’s hand.  She ran around to the side of the house that had more trees than not and after about six yards of running hazarded a look behind her to see that Tom was following close behind.  It was hard to think and run at the same time.  If she could just get a little more ahead in the race she could run back around and try the door on the porch.

Then she saw her opportunity—a crawl space under the house.  If she could get Tom to follow her in there, surely his size would slow him down!  Penelope made a break for it, startled but determinately ignoring the small flying things that had appeared on her right, almost as if it was working with Tom to corral her.  She wriggled into the crawl space and struck out hoping that there would be another way out close to the porch, and she wouldn’t have to do loop-de-loops inside, or get caught here if Tom decided to block the entrance.

Under the house, the dirt and tiny rocks were scuffing Penelope’s knees, but she kept crawling.  The flying things, maybe some kind of fairy she wondered, had stayed out in the sunshine.  They peered at her from cracks in the skirting around the crawl space.  She heard scuttling around her and squished the fear inside about dark spaces and under the house places.  She looked back and saw that yes, Tom was following her.  Now, if only she could spot another opening—the ground was so uneven that she was not given a clear view of the house perimeter from underneath.  Then she saw it, on the other side from where she had come in.  She had crawled around so much that now, Tom was closer to it than she and watching her, she was sure that he knew what she was thinking.  He purposefully moved closer to the exit she had spotted.  Penelope had no choice but to go back and hope that Tom didn’t get out from under the house and up to the porch before her.

She pulled herself out of the access hole and swatting the little flying things that crowded around her, whiting out her vision and stinging and scratching.  She ran round the front of the house.  Penelope had a clear shot to the front door and she took it without hesitation.  Flying things followed her and darted in and out of her line of site, but she reached the front door just as she saw Tom round the side of the house at the end of the porch, still just far enough away from the steps.  Penelope fumbled with her key and stooped down so she didn’t have to mess with taking it off her neck.  The door opened!  She yanked out her key with some difficulty and slammed the door from inside just as she heard and felt Tom’s full body hit it on the other side.

She allowed herself a sigh of relief.  She was finally back on the other side of the dragonfly door, but she wasn’t in the attic of her new house like she had been when the door had suddenly become portal to Ocean End.  Penelope didn’t really think it would have been that easy, but she had hoped.  Inside the house was dusty and as she studied a place on the floor where the dust hadn’t got to and a chair about five feet away that fit the spot perfectly, Penelope knew she was in the dollhouse.  That was one of the pieces of furniture that she had moved when playing in the blue walled room.  She wandered slowly up the front hallway and saw that the dining room was just like the one in the dollhouse as well.  There was no doubt about it, she was still far from home.

Penelope couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about this house still wasn’t quite right.  Assuming that she was in the dollhouse, there was something here or not here that didn’t correspond with her memory of that dollhouse in the blue walled room.  Having wandered now through the entire first floor, and having at least poked her head in each room, Penelope still couldn’t pick out what it was that was wrong.  She started upstairs when she saw it.  A mirror, one of many throughout the entire house that Penelope had so far explored, that were not in the dollhouse in the blue walled room.  Staring off into the reflected picture in the mirror across from the stairs, she saw something else now.  Though remarkably similar, the banister, the wall—the picture in the mirror was not of the house she was standing in.  It was of her house!  She could see the flowers poking into the bottom of the mirror picture that her dad has brought to her mom the night before.  They had been put in a vase on the table in the hall—about where the mirror Penelope was looking into would be situated now.

She quickly ran down the few stairs she had climbed and closer to the mirror—peering into it from either side as if into a window where the view might, and did, change with the angle with which she looked.  No one was there.  Penelope now ran to each mirror one after the other just the same.  In each mirror she could see part of her house reflected back at her, but no one there until she reached the dining room.  There in the mirror was her dining room table in her old house, and sitting at it were her mother and father and herself.  Penelope stood like stone in front of that mirror watching herself eat dinner with her parents.  She watched as the family talked together, she watched as the Penelope in the mirror twirled her fork absently.  But, Penelope thought, I don’t know how to spin a fork like that, and as she thought this, the Penelope in the mirror looked up from the table and smiled at the mirror.

Penelope ducked out of the view of the mirror just then.  Her heart racing and still completely confused, she knew now, someone had taken her place.  All her worrying about how upset her parents would be was for nothing.  They didn’t even realize she was gone!  She sank to the floor of the dollhouse dining room, her fear overwhelming her and making it hard to breathe.  She stared so hard across the room, it was as if the edges of the room were becoming black.

Eventually her heart stopped pounding so loud in her ears.  The light that came through the windows was getting bluer and bluer with the approaching night.  She looked around at the darkening room trying to figure out something she could do.  She could not stay here, Penelope knew that with every bit of her.  She must figure out a way to get back.  Perhaps for the first time since she had come to Ocean End, Penelope retraced her steps in her mind.  There must have been something that she did while exploring her own attic that caused her to end up here.  She had gone to the attic in the night with her flashlight.  Penelope didn’t even know where her flashlight might be now, but it couldn’t have anything to do with her trip because she lost it after being in Ocean End.  Once up in the attic she had ridden the rocking horse, leafed through some books and dug through a costume chest, but it couldn’t be anything to do with these things.

Penelope stood up finally and began to wander as she walked.  She had played with the dollhouse in the blue walled room: the doll house that was replicated here in Ocean End.  Penelope stopped again and looked at the dustless spot on the living room floor where she had neglected to replace the chair.  She had reached in this world when she played with the dollhouse and then she couldn’t get out of it.  The displaced furniture was like her signature on the house.

Whether or not it had any bearing on Penelope’s situation, she moved the chair back into its correct position.  She then set about moving all the displaced furniture downstairs and up back the way they had once been.  She had never been in these upstairs rooms before this and as she worked she noticed in the mirrors her imposter moving through the upstairs hallway of her house as though getting ready for bed.  She continued working with greater determination, focusing her work on righting all the rooms on her way to the attic door.  Her actions must have caught the attention of the imposter because it was following her now, watching what Penelope was doing.

The impostor’s attention to Penelope’s actions encouraged Penelope into thinking that she was doing something that actually might help her get back home.  She ignored the other girls waves and stared while she continued what she was doing.  Finally, Penelope stood in front of the attic door.  Where the attic door in Penelope’s house had a blue and green stained glass dragonfly window in it, this attic door had a mirror.  Penelope saw herself standing in the upstairs hallway of her house in that mirror, but she knew it wasn’t really herself she was looking at.  The imposter looked a little worried, Penelope thought, and she really hoped that it wasn’t just her imagination.  The girl on the other side of the mirror frowned and pushed through the door, vanishing from sight.

Penelope opened the door and walked into a mostly empty attic save for the replica of the blue walled room, over in the corner away from the top of the stairs.  There were no mirrors up here and this encouraged Penelope somehow.  She sped to the abandoned playroom and ran smack into herself.  Penelope yelped and jumped back to put some distance between her and the imposter.  “Stay away from me,” Penelope shrieked.

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