Alyssa made the drinks, and Belle slumped at the table, her mind still whirling with all the things that she had learnt. Just like before, she had been given a great lump of information, but not the means to be able to understand it all. She knew that Alyssa was burning to know what had happened, but that she was too ashamed of her most recent behaviour to be able to demand that Belle tell her all about it. She wondered how she was going to work out what she had to do before her mother and Jamie got back. She was running out of time.
Over coffee, Belle agreed to help Alyssa out with the cleaning up of the flat. She wasn't sure how she could help, but she guessed she could push a broom, or at least offer moral support. Or something. She guessed it was a good idea to do this before Mandy and Jamie arrived back home, anyway, and apparently it was already late in the day. She had been in front of the mirror for quite some time, it seemed. Belle could feel Alyssa's eyes burning her, wanting to know more, and eventually Alyssa worked up the courage to ask, "So, what happened in there ... before?"
Belle gave a sigh, "Look, I don't know that there's anything I can tell you. It's strange, I get given these lumps of information. It's like ... imagine a big ball of chewing gum, that's gotten stuck in your hair. You can't just rip it out, you need to untangle it slowly, from the outside in to the middle. I don't know how to disentangle that big knot. I don't know how to find out what's in the middle.
"You cut blobs of chewing gum out of your hair, you don't disentangle them."
Belle's lips straightened into a frustrated line, and before she could speak, Alyssa interrupted, "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. That was mean."
Belle sighed again, "It's okay. I know it's frustrating for you, but it is for me too. I need to think about this for a while, I think a sleep will help. I feel really whacked out. But I always seem to feel a lot better after a sleep."
Alyssa nodded sadly, even though Belle couldn't see it, and then said suddenly, "What's it like, Belle? When you ... go in to the mirror?"
"I don't know if I woudl call it going in to the mirror, it's more like ..." she paused, thinking, "It's more like they come out to me. Well, the one does. But the one is made up of the many." she gave a laugh, "that sounds stupid."
Alyssa was thoughtful, a memory had occurred to her all of a sudden, "No," she said slowly, "It's not stupid. I remember that. A face, in the mirror, that was made up of ... smaller faces. Not just faces, either, hands and mouths and eyes and people, changing, changing into things. From good things to bad things and sad thing to happy things."
By this time, Belle was nodding. That was exactly what it was.
"So who are they, Belle? Who are those people? And who is the one?"
Belle raised a hand in a stop sign, "Slow down. One question at a time. The people, the small faces in the mirror, are the worries that the worry dolls hold. Or, more to the point, they are the people who have had the worries. The changes in them are the worries themselves." Belle shook her head, "That doesn't make much sense. The idea is that the people who worry, they worry about changes in their normal lives. Like, they worry that someone who is happy is going to suddenly be unhappy, or that the smile they see is a lie, or that they are healthy now, but won't be very long, or they are sick but instead of getting better, they might die. Does that make sense?"
"Strangely enough, yeah, it does make a kind of sense."
"The one is ... I'm not sure. The one is like a collective consious, maybe, of all the dolls, and all the worries. It's like a ... a guiding force for them, or something."
When Belle stopped, Alyssa said nothing, she was taking it all in. Eventually, she raised her head, and looked at her sister again, "Why are they in the mirror?"
Belle shrugged, "No idea. Not even an inkling." she paused, "How about ordering that chinese meal? And waking me up when it gets here?"
Alyssa chuckled, "Okay, but you have to promise to help me clean up after dinner."
Belle smiled, "Sure. But I want sleep and duck first."
When Belle woke up, she felt marginally better, although she realised that she what she really needed was a full night's sleep. She guessed she would get it soon enough. For now, though, the smell of soy sauce and jasmine rice was drifting through the house, and it was making her stomach rumble. She padded out to the kitchen, for once without a trailing dog. He was still asleep on his bed in the corner of the room, snoring softly in his doggy dreams.
Alyssa was paying the woman who had made the delivery out of the money that Jamie had left for them under a magnet on the fridge. She thanked Alyssa and left, and Alyssa brought the bag into the dining room. Belle was already assembling plates with chopsticks for Alyssa, and a fork for herself. Behind blind did not make the use of chopsticks easy, so she chose to forgo them in preference of being able to actually eat something. They sat at the table and Alyssa pulled things open, explaining to Belle what they were as she did so. Belle munched on a dim sim as this was happening, and as soon as Alyssa had everything open she dove in. She was starving.
When the phone rang, she ignored it. Alyssa got up to answer and Belle continued eating.
"Hi Liss, it's Mum."
"Oh hey Mum, how's the holiday?"
"Good! Really good. The weather is lovely, it's been good to just relax."
"That's great, Mum, I'm glad you're having a good time. So are you coming back tonight?"
"No, that's partly why I'm calling. We thought we might come back tomorrow night instead. Will you girls be okay?"
"Yeah, we're fine. We're just having dinner now."
"Ah great. What are you having?"
"Belle wanted Mongolian Duck, so I ordered Chinese for her."
"Excellent. Excellent. So, um, how's everything been ... otherwise?"
"Good Mum. Great. We've just been sitting around watching DVDs today. We've been relaxing too. The weather's pretty cold and miserable."
"Oh I see. Well, that sounds alright. Can you make sure that Belle gets to school alright in the morning?"
"Mum, she's fifteen. I think she can get herself ready for school, don't you?"
"Heh, yeah, I guess so. I forget sometimes, how grown up you both are now. Okay, well, behave yourselves, and we'll see you tomorrow night. Make sure you call me if you need anything."
"Sure Mum, of course. Enjoy the rest of your holiday. And stop worrying about us."
"Ha! I'll never stop worrying about you two. See you tomorrow, Liss. Love you.
"Love you too, Mum. Bye"
"Say love you to Belle, as well, okay?"
"Of course Mum. Bye."
"Mum says she loves you" Alyssa reported dutifully.
"Oh right." Belle muttered through a mouthful of duck, she swallowed and asked, "When are they coming back?".
"Tomorrow night, she said."
"Excellent." Belle said brightly, "I need an excuse to stay home from school tomorrow then, unless I suddenly work out what this thing is about in the next hour or so."
"Why?" Alyssa asked, frowning.
"Well, I know that Mum's involved somehow, but I don't know how. And I want to try and work it out before they get back. I think I'm going to have to approach Mum pretty carefully, whatever I have to talk to her about. She seems just seems so ... fragile right now."
"Yeah, you're right," Alyssa agreed, thoughtfully, "She sounded as though she wanted to know what had happened with the worry dolls, but like she wasn't quite brave enough to ask. I didn't tell her anything," she hastened to add, "I told her we'd been watching DVDs all day. She did say to make sure you got to school alright in the morning though."
Belle raised an eyebrow over a mouthful of rice.
"Yeah, I know. I told her you were old enough to get yourself to school these days."
"Too right." Belle mumbled indignantly.
After dinner, they packed the dirty plates into the kitchen sink, but didn't wash up. Alyssa made Belle promise to do it tomorrow, in return for her not telling their mother about her missing school tomorrow. Belle, all too readily, agreed. Together, they traispsed out to Alyssa's flat to clean up. Rudolph had woken up in time to join them, and now walked out between the two girls. The had barely stepped outside when Alyssa suddenly stopped. Belle frowned at her, "What is it?" she asked.
Alyssa swallowed, as though she was nervous, "Luke's here." she said shortly, nervously.
"Oh good," Belle said guilelessly, and continued to walk towards the flat, "he can help us clean up the dolls."
Belle waited at the door of the flat, Rudolph at her feet, for Alyssa to catch up. Partly, she didn't want to walk in without someone to tell her where the dolls were on the floor, but mostly, she wanted to hear what happened between Luke and her sister.
Alyssa waited where she was for Luke to come up to her. She had no idea what she felt in this matter yet. She wasn't ready for a confrontation, and she wasn't sure if he was coming bearing an apology or an argument. She tried to steel herself for either. He unfolded his lanky body from the driver's seat, but kept his eyes down. She tried to work out if the lack of eye contact was from anger or shame, but couldn't decide. She watched him walk towards her, willing him to lift his eyes, and eventually he did. The hang dog look in them nearly broke her heart.
"Hi." he said softly as he got closer.
"Hi yourself." she replied, just as softly.
"How are you?" he asked, out of politemess, but also to put off the words he knew he had to say.
"Good thanks." she responded, formally, although the flash in her eyes as she said it belied the words the spoke.
"That's good." He paused, "I came to say I'm ... came to say that I'm sorry."
Alyssa nodded, not quite trusting herself to speak, and dropped her own eyes from his gaze. Softly, with tears threatening to choke her, she said "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have," she swallowed, trying to remove the lump from her throat, "I shouldn't have, yelled at you."
"You didn't yell at me. You were yelling at the situation. I'm sorry I took off. I was angry."
Alyssa shrugged, and Luke caught her shoulders as she did so, and pulled her in to him.
"I love you, Liss." he mumbled into her hair.
Alyssa let the tears flow, then.
Alyssa finally broke away from the embrace, scrubbed at her face, and sniffed.
"I have a very messy flat." she said finally.
Luke laughed, "Yeah, I guess you do."
"Belle was going to help," Alyssa looked up at her sister, who was standing at the door to the flat and pretending she wasn't listening, "But I'm not sure how useful she'll be. She's dead tired too, she's been at the mirror most of the day."
"I'll help you," Luke said, "Maybe she can lie on the futon and tell us about what she's been seeing."
"Yeah, maybe. She hasn't told me much so far, but I've been such a bitch to everyone today, I haven't wanted to press too hard. Mind you, she says she hasn't worked it all out yet."
"I say we go clean up, and just let her talk if she wants to talk. Come on."
Luke took Alyssa's hand, and led her to the door of the flat. It surprised both of them when the door was opened, and the flat was devoid of a single doll. Even the salad bowl stood empty.