The other little girl who looked just like Penelope smiled. “Stay away from me,” it said calmly. Not knowing what to do or how to respond, Penelope stayed quiet in return and watched the imposter watch her. After a little while, the other one began to speak again.
“After being in Ocean End a full day you must have learned that no one who ever ends up here can leave. You should have given up by now.”
“But you left,” Penelope said automatically, then continued as the full idea dawned on her, “you were trapped here weren’t you?”
The other Penelope inclined her head ever so slightly, then looked as though she thought better of it. “I was in Ocean End.”
Penelope pushed on, “you lived in this house didn’t you? You watched from these mirrors. You watched me go to the attic last night.”
Penelope’s imposter nodded slightly, “I watched you go to the attic last night. I followed you to the attic and took your place. I got away from eternity in a dusty haunted house in Ocean End. But I’m the only one who’s ever left. I’m going to be the only one who will ever leave Ocean End. How did you get back in the house anyway?”
“I-,” Penelope stopped herself and reconsidered what she was going to say, “I didn’t notice any ghosts in the house.”
The imposter smiled proudly, “you mean, other than yourself?”
“I’m not a ghost,” Penelope said.
“You must be, how can a haunted house not have a ghost?” The imposter was still smiling, but Penelope suddenly felt as though she had gained the advantage.
“You can only stay there if I’m here, you mean. You were trapped.”
The imposter frowned angrily and repeated, “How did you get back in the house?”
“I had a key.” Penelope said firmly and as she watched the eyes of her imposter lock on to the key about her neck, she realized that she did have something to bargain with. “My parents gave me this key, it’s the key to my house,” she continued, keeping a close eye on her counterpart. “I suppose you’ll have a hard time explaining how you don’t have a key, come Monday, when you have to let yourself into your house, My house, after school.”
The impostor’s, “not if you give it to me” was grunted out as it lunged at Penelope, but Penelope was ready for this and ran back down the attic stairs and through the door into the dollhouse. She could hear the imposter follow her. She knew this would be another chase to get back to a door. She knew somehow that she needed to be in that attic, in the blue walled room, with that doll house. Of all the house, in the attic is where this all started and in the attic is where the imposter came back to this world. Heading for the first floor on the stairs now, Penelope rounded the banister at the lowest step just as the imposter jumped over the rail to head her off in the hallway. Knowing that this was her chance, she threw herself into the other girl and knocked her off balance and onto the floor. Then Penelope turned back and ran up to that attic door once again.
It wasn’t long before Penelope could again hear footsteps matching the speed of her own behind her, but she reached the attic door first, turned herself inside and turned the lock. She was insanely grateful that there was a lock on the door, but she did not let that stop her for long. She headed straight for the blue walled play room and once inside, closed and locked that door too. She looked down at the dollhouse, stooped down and looked inside and saw that all the furniture she had righted in the house had been righted here too. She sat down in front of it and closed a window on the second floor that she must have opened when she had played with it. Then she reached down, almost absent mindedly and closed the tiny replica of the blue and green stained glass dragonfly window door. That was it, Penelope didn’t know what else to do. Too afraid to open the door and venture back out into the attic, Penelope just stayed sitting there, staring at the dollhouse, hating it and everything it put her through. It was dark now, she could barely see around the room but for the moonlight that shone in through a dirty window.
Even though she had expected it at some time, the pounding on the door startled her. Penelope stood up and whirled around and watched as the lock and then the door knob turned. When light first hit her eyes, Penelope squinted a bit, enough not to focus on the figure on the other side until, “Penelope, I told you earlier not to play up here yet. You’ve been rotten all day—what’s got into you!” The voice that said this was the voice of Penelope’s mother. Penelope rushed forward and promptly attached herself to her mother’s waist. Before much more than another heartbeat had passed Penelope was sobbing great big happy tears. Her mom pushed her back just a little to ask what was wrong and became instantly distracted with the myriad of little welts and bruises all over her daughter. “What’s happened to you?” she asked.
But Penelope could not think of how or what to tell her. Her mother thought that her daughter had never been missing. After a few frantic seconds, Penelope settled on, “I locked myself in and thought I couldn’t get back out again,” that would explain the crying, she thought. She continued with “I guess I wasn’t careful enough climbing through the attic,” that would explain the bruising. And she figured she would throw a little more in for good measure, “I found this dress in the costume box, but I don’t think I like it anymore. Mom? I’m sorry, I don’t think I should play up here either. I’m really tired. Can I go to bed now?”
Penelope’s mother looked a little surprised, but happy that her daughter was once again compliant and polite. “Of course,” she said and lead Penelope out of the blue walled play room and down the stairs to the attic door that had a blue and green stained glass picture of a dragonfly on it.
While washing up, Penelope peered at herself in the mirror above the bathroom sink. Though she didn’t see anything but the reflection of herself, the real Penelope, in her own bathroom, she imagined her imposter on the other side—trapped once again. She spared the mirror a thoroughly angry look and stuck her tongue out at it before heading to bed. She put on her nightgown and turned down her bed. Tomorrow, she thought, she would write about what she had seen and experienced. Tomorrow she would try and find out if maybe the imposter was a ghost. This had been an idea that had come to Penelope when she pondered what may have happened to the child for whom the blue walled playroom was built. Once in bed however, Penelope didn’t think too much about the imposter, she remembered how hungry she was and contemplated getting back up for a snack. Instead, she fell promptly to sleep and had absolutely wild and funny dreams that had nothing to do with Ocean End.