Selena sat down in front of the last remaining pile of her mother’s possessions.
This sorting had been a long time coming; even though her mother had left her a note – a deathbed note, no less! – telling her to get rid of all of it, it had felt like getting rid of her memories of her mother. But finally she had looked at her husband and her children, and realized that life needed to be for the living. They hadn’t even been able to use their own living room for months, because of all the boxes of her mother’s things, and all of her extra furniture. It was definitely time to do as her mother had requested.
But had her mother meant the locked keepsake box too?
All while she was growing up, Selena had been told that the items in the large keepsake box were dangerous, and that the family had been charged with keeping these dangerous items out of others’ hands. But her mother didn’t even know what was in the box – and Selena had not been able to find a key; it was just a family legend about items that Selena had never seen in her whole life.
“Mom?” Tom asked, walking up and sitting next to her on the floor. “What’s all this?”
Selena gazed over the piles of journals, photo albums, and figurines. Everything else – all the furniture, the clothes, the books and paintings and silver and dishes – was already gone, given to other family members or donated to the thrift store. She probably wouldn’t keep any of the figurines, either, and would likely only hang on to the photos, and maybe a few of the journals. “It’s the last of it,” she answered. “The last of Grandma’s things.”
Tom looked at it silently for a moment. “You went through a lot of stuff,” he said. “This is hardly anything.” He leaned forward and touched the keepsake box. “Is this the special box?” he asked. “The one you said you weren’t supposed to touch?”
Selena chuckled. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m trying to decide if I should keep it, or if Mom – Grandma – was telling me to get rid of that too.” She picked up the get-well card on which her mother had scrawled, “Get rid of all this stuff … none of it matters.” “I’d have to break into it to see what’s in it. I don’t have a key for it.”
Tom squinted at the lock on the keepsake box. “It looks like the same kind of lock as the one on Madeline’s stupid diary,” he noted, and climbed to his feet. “Madeline!” he called loudly to his sister. “We need your diary key!”
Selena didn’t think Madeline’s key would work, but she let Tom drag his sister – and her diary key – into the living room and over to the keepsake box.
“I bet it fits,” he said, pointing to the box. “We have to open it and see what’s in it.”
Madeline, at first irritated and reluctant, opened her eyes wide as she recognized the special box Grandma had told them never to touch. “O-okay,” she said hesitantly, crouching down and wiggling her little diary key into the lock on the box. It went in with a little effort, and turned.
Surprised, Selena leaned forward and stared at the box. “I think it worked,” she said. She reached out and tugged the hinged lock upward; it swung easily, releasing the lid of the box for the first time in well over fifty years.
Inside was a mirror – an ornately-framed oval mirror about eighteen inches high – and a piece of folded paper that had originally been sealed with a circle of red wax. Both were wrapped with a length of flowered silk.
“Wow,” Madeline breathed. “Pretty!” She picked up the paper and unfolded it. “I can’t read it, Mommy,” she complained after a few seconds. “It’s not in regular words.” She handed the paper to Selena, who realized immediately that it was in French.
“It must have been written by Great-Grandma Louisa,” she said. “She came here from France.” She read through the page once before translating it aloud for the children. “This mirror has been named. It is now connected to the Calahuolca, and will call to it. In this way, we can return the Calahuolca to its origin, and it will not be allowed to stay in the world. But until it finds its mate, the mirror must stay whole and guarded.”
“What’s a Cala-boca?” Madeline asked, her tongue tangling over the strange word.
Selena shook her head. “I have no idea,” she said. She examined the paper more closely; it was obviously extremely old, probably too old for Great-Grandma Louisa to have written it. She shook her head again. “No idea at all.”
“We should keep this stuff,” Tom said, putting a protective hand on the edge of the keepsake box. “It sounds important.”
Madeline agreed. “We should keep it just in case,” she said. “In case this Cala-boca shows up.”
Selena grinned. “But what then?” she asked. “We don’t even know what that means, or what this mirror is supposed to do.” Inside, she agreed with her children, but she couldn’t really explain why.
“It says to keep it guarded,” Tom pointed out. He took the paper from his mother’s hand and placed it carefully back on top of the mirror; just as carefully, he shut the lid and pushed down the lock. “We can keep it in the closet in the hall,” he suggested. He shrugged then, and gave a sheepish half-smile. “I don’t know, Mom,” he added. “It just seems important. And Grandma always thought it was. We should keep it.”
“We should keep it,” Madeline repeated.
Selena looked at the keepsake box. Her whole life, it had sat at the back of her mother’s closet. It was … comforting … to have it in her own closet now. For whatever reason, she decided to listen to the cryptic message written on the paper.
“Okay,” she said finally, and picked up the keepsake box. “Madeline, open the closet door. We’ll put it in the back, on the top shelf, safe and sound.”
“How will we know if Cala-boca’s coming?” Madeline wanted to know. She pulled open the closet door and held it for her mother. “Do you think it’s something weird?”
“I hope so!” Tom said cheerfully. He helped Selena tip the box up onto the top shelf of the closet. “I can’t wait!”
“Me either,” Selena said. She shut the closet door, wondering how a mirror could be expected to call anything, and what that thing might be.