Broken Image

Broken Image

Written by Nuuan

Robert Hatt, more commonly known as Bob to the other migrant workers, plopped down heavily on the benches of the stained and faded portable camp table. A rusty Green pick up behind him, paint faded and worn so much that the primer underneath could be seen in places where the sun could do the most damage. The bed of the old truck held a once white aluminum camper, the paint oxidized to the point that it appeared more like a chalk that could be easily wiped away exposing the bare metal of the camper.

The front of the camper extended over the top of the truck’s cab creating the well-known over the cab sleeping area that the type of camper held. Louvered roll out windows along each side that appeared to have never seen cleaning obscured the dark interior and a single door at the very rear of the camper in place of the missing tail gate allowed the only entry. A faded blue tarp, attached at one end to the top of the camper and the other end to a pair of wooden poles provided a small amount of shade from the summer heat.

Leaning toward the rear of the truck, Bob pulled a large metal cooler from where he had placed it early that morning where its contents would survive the heat of the day. Flipping the lid open he reached into the watery ice mixture inside the dented cooler fishing out a can of Milwaukee's Best.

Bob was on his fourth beer when a Hispanic woman came walking over carrying a plate, "How many of those were you planning on drinking tonight?" She asked in a heavy accent while sliding the plate onto the table in front of Bob.

Looking at the plate that held a mixture of rice and beans along with a tamale, Bob knew the woman's family could ill afford much even sharing something as simple as this plate of food could stress what little funds a migrant worker could manage on what they made. Looking back up at the woman, "Maria you are too kind."

"What you did for my Teresa was not also?"

"All little girls deserve at least one pretty dress," Bob thought back to that day several weeks ago when he Miguel, her father, had explained why the girl had not been her usual cheerful self for several days. That following Sunday Bob had made an excuse that he wanted Teresa to go with him into town to help pick up some things he needed.

It wasn't truly a lie as there were some things he did need to pick up, but his main goal was to get Teresa a new dress. He knew the girl's parents would refuse to let him spend that much money on something they felt was not a necessity, although in Bob's mind he could think of nothing the girl needed more at that time. Her self-esteem was in the gutter, other kids in school were calling her names, no she needed a big shot of confidence and what better way to get that would be to go to her junior high dance, the same dance she had become so upset over for the past few days, dressed to the nines.

Once Teresa discovered Bob's plan she tried to refuse but Bob knew her heart was not in it and flatly told her that she was not leaving the store without a new dress. Bob watched as the young girl went from rack to rack looking at the multitude of dresses in the store. One dress she kept coming back to, it was a light purple, Bob thought the color might be called lavender. It was a beautiful dress that Bob thought would look great on Teresa but she continued to look around. Bob noticed that every time she went back to the lavender dress she would look at the price tag before going off to look at other dresses.

Walking over Bob plucked the dress from the clothing rack it hung from then walked up to Teresa, "I think this one is very pretty, try it on and see if it fits?"

Looking at the dress Bob held Teresa stammered, "Yes it's very pretty but it costs too much."

"You should be looking for one you like, not one you think I can afford."

Bob grinned as the girl exited the changing room, "Well what to do you think?" From the smile on Teresa's face Bob already knew the answer to his question.

"It's, it's beautiful," Teresa beamed.

"Then we'll take it!" Bob grinned.

"But the price..." Teresa's voice trailed off as she looked down to the ground sheepishly.

"Do you like it?"

"Um, yes I love it."

"Then it's worth every penny." Bob smiled, "Now let’s go find some new shoes to go with your new dress."

"What?" Teresa's eyes went wide.

"Oh and some pantyhose too," Bob chuckled, "And a baseball bat."

"Why would I need a baseball bat?" Teresa giggled.

"Not for you, it’s for your father so he can keep all the boys away that will be flocking around you when they see you in that dress."

At the checkout the total came to quite a bit more than Bob had in his wallet. Undaunted Bob pulled out his driver's license along with the gold card he so carefully hid behind it. The look on the woman's face told Bob that she thought the card was stolen. Before she could voice her concern Bob quickly said, "I know I do not appear like someone that should have one of those so feel free to call and check on that if you have any concerns."

~o~O~o~

Everyone out working the field looked up when the owners pick up, followed by a large black SUV pulled up. Two men and a woman all dressed in nice suits climbed out of the SUV, meeting up with the farm owner between the two vehicles. At one point Bob saw the owner pointing in his direction. Sighing heavily, Bob stopped what he was doing, stood up and began walking out of the field toward the group.

Several rows away Miguel watched, fearing the three were INS looking for undocumented workers. Miguel was pretty sure everyone on their crew was legal but he was no expert and it was possible that some may be using forged papers. Miguel's fears became confusion when he spotted Bob walking toward the three. Why is Bob going to them? Miguel thought, They can't be here for him, he's American.

Quickly skipping over the crop rows Miguel caught up to Bob, "What is going on? Who are those people?"

"They're my past finding me again."

"Your past?" Miguel questioned, "You are in trouble with the law?"

"No, nothing bad like that," Bob could see how Miguel might think that Bob could be hiding from the law. "There are some people in my past that I wish to forget and they refuse to let me."

"What people could that be?"

"My parents."

"Bob, these people say they have important business with you," The owner stated with Bob and Miguel still several steps away.

Mr. Hatt," The woman stuck her hand out toward Bob.

Ignoring her gesture Bob looked coldly into her eyes, "Tell my parents I want to be left alone!"

"Mr. Hatt," The woman lowered her hand, "I believe you are mistaken. I do not represent your late parents."

"They're dead?" Bob Puzzled.

"You didn't know?" Bob shook his head, "I'm sorry sir but they died in an auto accident over a year ago. We have been trying to locate you ever since."

"Whatever they had, I don't want it. Give it away to charity or something."

"Like I said Mr. Hatt, I do not represent your parents, I represent the estate of your grandmother, the late Mrs. Ruby Bradley."

Hearing his beloved grandmother's name Bob's stance softened slightly, "Grandma Ruby died ten years ago." Bob's gazed continued to soften toward the woman, "I remember you, you were at her funeral. You were the one that gave me that envelope with the letter and stuff in it."

The woman nodded, "Yes that was me, when my father retired I took over as your grandmother's legal counsel and executor of her estate after she passed."

"Okay but why are you here now?"

"Your grandmother's will was quite specific." The woman explained, "Everything was held in trust until after your parent's death, more specifically your father's death. It seems your grandmother held a very strong dislike for the man."

"She wasn't the only one," Bob spat.

"So if you will come with us, we can take you home," The woman held her hand out once more.

"Home?" The confusion evident in Bob's voice.

"Yes Mr. Hatt," The woman smiled warmly, "Your grandmother left everything to you.” Seeing the look of distrust in the large Hispanic man's eyes, she pulled a card from her purse that she handed to him. "This is Mr. Hatt's address, you are more than welcome to visit, of course that is if Mr. Hatt wishes?" Looking over at Bob as if to question if she had done the right thing.

Miguel turned the card so that Bob could read it, "Yea that's grandmother's address." Bob nodded.

"Your address now Mr. Hatt," The woman smiled at Bob before looking back to Miguel, "If you have any problems on the trip up call that number on the card."

Looking from to his friend, "You are like family to us Bob, and Maria would kill me if we did not come to make sure you will be okay. It'll take us a few days but we will come."

~o~O~o~

Bob found it difficult to believe how little had changed in the large home, everything was exactly like he remembered it from his childhood, including the small playhouse that stood several yards in front of him partially hidden by the limbs of the large weeping willow it was built under. If not for the bright yellow walls and white shutters it could have easily went unnoticed behind the vine-like limbs hanging from the tree. Sweeping the curtain of draping limbs to one side Bob all but disappeared behind the foliage.

Inside the outer limbs of the large tree, it had been pruned back creating a large dome behind its hanging outer limbs. The grass under the tree's canopy was manicured with great care to grow so well in the low light conditions under the dense foliage. Bob stood there drinking in the atmosphere, reliving the happy memories he had spent in his own childhood version of Shangri-La.

"I've always loved this place," Bob was brought out of his trance by a familiar voice behind him.

"Um hi Mrs. Allen," Bob turned to toward the new arrival.

"Please Mr. Hatt, as I have asked before, please call me Darlene."

"I will just as soon as you stop calling me Mr. Hatt," Bob grinned.

Knowing a lost cause when she saw it the family attorney decided instead to change the subject, "Your grandmother has this built just for you didn't she?"

Bob nodded, "I spent many afternoons under the shade of this tree."

"Happy afternoons I would imagine,” Darlene smiled, "This spot reminds me of a fairy tale, every time I come here I half expect to see a fairy flying by."

Grinning from ear to ear Bob pointed up into the foliage of the tree, "They're really shy and hide up there in the tree when people are around."

Darlene chuckled, "Having spent as much time around your grandmother as I did, I don't find that as unbelievable as you may think."

"What's that?" Bob noticed she was holding what appeared to be a long ribbon folded up in her hand.

Handing the bundle to Bob, "This is what I came to find you about. With your friends scheduled to arrive tomorrow I thought you may want to explore that while you have some privacy."

Letting the ribbon fall open Bob saw that it was tied to a large strange looking key, "What does this go to?"

"Your grandmother said it was the key to your legacy," Darlene shrugged. "She said you would know where it is as it was your favorite place to play when you were a child."

Rubbing his chin, Bob tried to think what this key would fit, "My favorite place to be was right here and there is nothing here, especially nothing that would need a key."

"I've been in every room in the house and there is no place that I have seen that key would fit."

Bob gasped, his eyes wide now as he realized there was one room in the house that unless his grandmother told her about, she would have no idea it was there. "I know where it is!" Bob took off jogging toward the house.

~o~O~o~

Memories of his childhood came flooding back once Bob stepped into the room. Memories that were all forgotten. The room wasn't quite as Bob remembered it from his childhood as all the furniture and racks of clothing that he remembered were now covered in white sheets. The middle of the room was barren with the exception of one single piece of furniture covered in another of the protective sheets. Bob knew immediately what this was as he had stood in front of it with his grandmother so many times in the past.

Why would she have kept this?
Memories of that day still plagued Bob with nightmares even after thirty years. Bob couldn't remember when it had started, but at some point he had begun spending several weeks every summer with his grandmother. Within two years Bob was spending his entire summer living with his grandmother. A single tear ran down Bob's cheek as he remembered how happy he was then, how much fun he had staying with his grandmother, the one woman in his life who had loved him unconditionally.

The last time he had been in this room, a room that held such fond memories, Bob was a couple of months away from his eleventh birthday. Summer was coming to a close and his parents had come a few days early to take him home. At the time Bob had no idea why his father had grew so angry, and like any child he ran to the one place he felt most comfortable, the place he felt safe. His father continued shouting as he followed Bob into this room. Bob tried to hide within the racks of clothing, still unsure of why his father was so angry.

Once his grandmother had run into the room, his father began shouting at her. While the two argued Bob's mother drug him out of his hiding spot by the hand. The last thing he saw before his mother pulled him out of the room was the large ornate dressing mirror shatter from the blow of something his father had thrown in its direction.

Bob walked over to the covered mirror, gently caressing the finely carved wooden frame under the protective sheet. Realizing that the antique oval mirror was too much of a treasure to his grandmother, of course she would have replaced the broken glass.

"It took your grandmother almost fifteen years to put it back together," Bob turned to see Mrs. Allen standing in the doorway. "She wouldn't allow anyone to help her, said that only she was able to fit the broken pieces back in the correct order."

"Why, why wouldn't she just replace the glass?" Bob asked.

Shaking her head, "You're grandmother had her reasons and she was adamant on putting it back together for you."

Gently Bob pulled the white sheet off the mirror, taking great care in making sure it did not snag on the woodwork and topple the large antique. Dropping the sheet to the floor Bob could now see that someone had painstakingly pieced together the broken mirrored glass and glued them back into place, some pieces so small his grandmother must have spent weeks with tweezers sorting and placing them into the clear yellowish gum-like substance his grandmother had used for glue.

Taking a few steps back from the pieced together mirror Bob studied the dark leathery face that looked back at him. His reflection reminding him of a Van Gogh painting with how the broken pieces of the mirror distorted his reflection. His thoughts moved to the last time he has gazed upon his reflection in this mirror almost thirty years ago. His eyes became watery as he thought of his grandmother, the last happy memory of her was in this exact spot, with her standing directly behind him, her hands on his shoulders, a wide smile on both their faces.

Tears ran down both cheeks as the memories of how happy he was with his grandmother. He could almost see them together in the mirror as his vision blurred in and out through his tear filled eyes. Standing there trying unsuccessfully to fight back the tears Bob swore that the reflection he saw of himself was fading and in its place a little girl wearing a pretty blue dress covered by a white pinafore began to appear. Behind the girl a woman stood, a woman Bob would never forget, it was his grandmother.

Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, Bob looked up just in time to see the girl mirroring his moves. He looked down at the leathery skin on the back of his hand, the girl looked down at the creamy smooth skin on the back of her hand. He stepped closer to the mirror, the girl stepped closer to the mirror. Bob gasped as he recognized the girl he saw in the mirror. "Impossible!" he spoke, watching the girl's mouth move in sync with his own.

"Do you see that?" Bob twisted around to look at Mrs. Allen while pointing at the mirror.

"Your reflection?" She quizzed. “Of course I can see it."

Turn back to the mirror Bob could still see the girl in the broken glass. How is this possible? He asked himself, Am I going crazy? Staring at the broken image of the eleven year old girl in the blue dress. After all the years he still remembered how the skirt would swish around caressing his legs, how the knee socks felt against his calves and how pretty it made him feel wearing it. How his grandmother always had him wear a pinafore over his dresses to keep from getting them dirty. Tears streamed down both cheeks as he reached up and touched the broken image from his childhood.

~o~O~o~

"Wake up!" The voice of a young girl penetrated Bob's sleep, "Wake up sleepyhead, we made it back!" bob groaned as the girl pounced onto the bed, "Oh my god you so should have gone with us, Disney World was so totally awesome, Bobbi you were so wrong that it's only for little kids!"

"Teresa?" Bob opened his eyes to see the young girl on her hands and knees bouncing on the bed. "What? Where, where am I?" Bob rose up trying to remember how he ended up in bed.

"We're in your room silly, where else would you sleep?" Teresa giggled,
"Wow you must have slept really hard to forget your own bed."

Brushing the hair out of his face as he tried to sit up, Hair? Bob tried to shake the cobwebs out of his mind. Reaching up he could feel the long hair coming down off his own head. "I've got long hair?"

"God you must have really slept hard! Of course you have long hair girlfriend, but it's a mess! I don't want to be on the same side of the house when you start brushing out the rat's nest you got."

"Good morning Teresa," Darlene spoke from the open doorway.

"Morning Mrs. Allen," Teresa greeted.

"Teresa could you give me a few minutes with Bobbi in private?"

"Um yea sure Mrs. Allen," Looking back and forth between Bob and Mrs. Allen, "Oh my god, you started yours while I was gone didn't you? Oh my god I am so, so jealous. I mean it's really icky and all, and gross, but wow you would get yours before I got mine!" Teresa skipped out of the room grinning from ear to ear, "I'll be down in the kitchen helping mama."

Darlene closed the door behind her as she entered the room, "I'm sure you're a bit confused right now."

"Uh yea that's the understatement of the century!" Bob noticed his voice sounded really strange. "What happened?"

"First thing I should tell you is that I am the only one that remembers you as Robert. Your grandmother chose me because she felt she could trust me to help you learn everything you need to know, so she made it so that I am immune to the changes her magic did."

"Grandma? Magic?"

"Honey what other force do you think could have changed you?" Smiling at the young girl lying in the bed, "Your grandmother was a witch, so was your mother it's in your blood. Your legacy as your grandmother put it."

"In my blood?" Bob's eyes wide open now, "I'm a witch?" Bob looked down lifting the covers up so he could look down at his body, "I'M A GIRL!" she screamed. Throwing the covers out of the way she jumped to her feet and ran into the adjoining bathroom.

It was almost ten minutes before the now young girl came out of the bathroom, "I'm, I look just like I did when grandma would let me dress up. But now I have boobs and a um..." The young girl looked down, not knowing a polite way to say it."

"The word you're looking for is vagina, and its breasts not boobs." Darlene asked, "Are you okay?"

"Um yea I guess, It's hard to describe but it's like I feel like this is how I should have been if that makes sense. But why am I a kid again?"

"I believe it has something to do with that old mirror, which by the way became whole again when you touched it. Not even a hint that it was ever broken."

"But how?"

"That dear is something you will have to learn in the books your grandmother left you."

~o~O~o~

Life had been running along smoothly for Bobbi since she touched the mirror. Bobbi still had yet to learn enough of her heritage to know how the mirror caused the changes but she knew that as long as she continued studying the books her grandmother left her, that one day she would understand how her grandmother had changed reality.

The changes were not drastic as she first though, the mirror had not turned back time thirty years, and it had not brought her parents back from the dead. Instead it twisted reality around Bobbi, It was as if her old self did not exist, she could find nothing about her past as Bob. The only ties she had to her old life were Teresa and her parents who now worked for Darlene or really Bobbi since Darlene continuously reminded Bobbi that she worked for Bobbi even though Bobbi was officially a minor. Miguel, Maria and Teresa were like a surrogate family to her.

One day while reading through yet another of the endless tomes that were left for her she found a letter folded up between the pages.
 
My Dearest Daughter,

Mother told me that she would make sure you received this once you knew the truth about our family. I truly hope that you can forgive me for what I did to you. I hated myself every day for doing it, but I was bound by oath. I hope by the time you read this you have read enough of our family's book to know the potency of an oath. Whatever you do, never swear one like I did when I married your father.

I was young and foolish and never considered our wedding vows as one of our oaths. When I became pregnant with you, I knew you were a girl. I'm sure you have already discovered how our family is different. So I knew you were a girl from the moment I discovered I was pregnant with you but your father wanted a boy. It was then I discovered the grave mistake I had made by swearing the oath to love honor and obey until death do you part.

For years I tried to find a way to make things right for you, but the oath forced me to obey your father. Several times I considered taking my own life, knowing that death would free me of the oath and mother would be able correct my mistake. The only thing that stopped me was mother telling me that she had another way. I do not know the details as mother and I both feared that your father could force me to tell him if he began suspecting.

The one thing that does give me strength is knowing that your grandmother will fix the awful mistake I made, she swore an oath to it. So I know that my daughter Roberta Danielle is the one reading this.

With all my love,

Mom



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