They all tramped into the flat, incredulous, and Belle stretched out on the futon while Alyssa and Luke wandered around looking, unsuccesfully, for stray worry dolls, with dubious help from Rudolph. Eventually, when they had not found a single one, Luke perched near Belle's feet on the futon, and Alyssa decided to make popcorn. With the smell of butter and salt drifting into the air, and the popping of the kernels in the bag noisy in the otherwise silent room, the three of them avoided each others' eyes, uncertain how to bring the feeling in the room back to normal. It was only when Alyssa brought the popcorn bowl out of the kitchen, put it between Belle and Luke on the futon, and settled herself on the floor, that the silence was broken, "So, Belle," Alyssa said, as she stuffed a handful of popcorn into her mouth, "Perhaps we should update Luke on happenings?" It was only then, as Alyssa looked to her sister for her opinion, that they realised she had fallen asleep, mimicking her dog that lay beside her on the floor, also dead to the world. Alyssa and Luke looked at each other and laughed, and eventually decided to pull the floor cushions out from the reading nook, and watch a movie while they waited for her to wake up.
When Belle did wake up, the movie was coming to an end, and Luke and Alyssa were entwined on the cushions, asleep, their breathing deep, even, and almost perfectly synchronised. Belle had that energised feeling again, and she swung her feet to the floor and stood up all in a rush. She padded over to the toilet and, when she came back in, Luke was sitting up on the floor, Alyssa still asleep beside him, "Hey Belle," he said softly, to let her know he was awake.
Belle smiled, "Hey Luke," she parodied.
"Excellent. Can I, ah, make you a coffee ... or something?"
"Yeah, that would be great. Thanks." she replied. She stepped cautiously past the prone form of her sister on the floor, grabbed the blanket off the futon, and headed out of the front door. When Luke joined her, steaming mugs in hand, she was sitting on the step, wrapped in the blanket, breathing deeply, her face turned up to the night air.
Luke settled beside her, wrapping his jacket around himself to ward off the chill in the air. There was no moon tonight, the only light that cast from the door behind them, affording him no more than a few metres of vision. He wondered idly, and not for the first time, what it was like in Belle's world, to not have even this much vision, to be caught in a permanent and unrelenting blackout. He couldn't imagine it.
"The other night, you said something, and I have been thinking about that."
Belle said nothing, waiting for him to elaborate. The silence hung between them like a physical thing.
"I ... um. You said that when you look in the mirror you can see, and I was wondering what you meant by that."
Belle remained silent, and only when it appeared that he was being serious, and expecting a serious answer, did she say shortly, "I meant I could see."
The silence grew. Eventually, Belle decided to elaborate, "I mean, normally I can't. When I look in the mirror, and talk to the one, I can see. Like, stuff. Whatever. Like you do."
"I don't ... I don't understand." Luke stammered, clearly uncomfortable with this admission.
Belle frowned, "I don't know how else to explain it, Luke. Are you dense on purpose, or what? Normally, I can't see anything - nothing at all, just blackness. When I go to the mirror, and I speak to the one, or the one speaks to me, I can see. I can see the room, the mirror, the images in the mirror. I can see the people who are in the room with me. I can see. How else can I explain this?"
"So when you say you can see, you mean you an actually, like, see stuff? I thought you might have meant it, I don't know, like metaphorically or something. That's ... wow. That's weird."
"You're telling me." Belle said dryly.
"Who's the one?" Luke asked abruptly.
"The one? The one in the mirror. The mirror is full of worry dolls, and of the worries they hold. The one is all of them, all at once. The one can explain it, all of it, and the one is the thing that's going to help me understand it. I think."
Luke nodded, and the two of them lapsed back into silence.
Belle and Luke were still sitting in a companiable silence, the coffees now consumed, when the door cracked open behind them and Alyssa peered out, her hair messy and her face rumpled. "Oh, here you both are," she mumbled in a sleep-riddled voice, "I was wondering what had become of you both."
Luke stood, and hugged her, kissed the top of her head, and bundled her back into the flat, mumbling something about keeping her warm. Alyssa allowed herself to be taken back inside. After a few minutes, Belle followed them in, saying "What happened to the popcorn?"
"We ate it." Alyssa pointed out, "Hours ago."
"Damn. Got any more?"
Alyssa thought briefly before saying, "Yeah, I think there's another packet in there. I bought a box of them not that long ago."
Belle went to the kitchenette, started opening cupboards and ratting through them, feeling a packet of microwave popcorn, until Alyssa came in behind her and said impatiently, "You'll have everything on the floor doing that Belle, here let me look."
Belle, mission accomplished, went back into the loungeroom and sat down on the futon, legs crossed. She leant over and gave Rudolph, who was still sleeping soundly on the floor, a pat, and he didn't budge under her hand. She smiled to herself.
"Well," she said as soon as she heard Alyssa put the popcorn into the microwave, "I think I've got the beginnings of an idea."
Neither Alyssa nor Luke said anything, but she could tell that suddenly, and possibly like never before, she had their full rapt attention, and she gave another smile.
"Yeah, I think I'm starting to understand waht's going on. But I need to look in the mirror again. This time, Alyssa, I need you to come with me."
"Ahh, Okay. I guess. Are you going to tell us the plan first?"
"No." Belle said simply, "I think you'll understand better if you hear it from the one. Luke, will you join us?"
"Err. I guess so." he stammered, taken by surprise.
"Great! What you will need to do is wait until Alyssa and I are in, with Rudolph, and then come and hold our hands, and will bring you in with us, but no earlier, okay?"
"Ah, okay. Yeah, I guess I can do that. How will I know when though?"
The microwave beeped, and Belle waited while she listened to Belle tip the hot popcorn into the bowl, her mouth watering at the smell, and then smiled in Luke's direction, "It's okay," she said finally, "You'll just know."
Belle sat cross legged on the futon, the popcorn bowl balanced delicately on her ankles, and shoved handfuls into her mouth as she spoke, "Okay, the thing is this, the one only exists when the dolls - well the worries, the dolls aren't really there, it's more the worries - need it to. So it seems as though they've needed something for a while, I'm not quite sure what it is, but it's something important, and they're getting impatient. I know they've been trying to get to Mum, but I think the problem is that Mum can't - or won't maybe? - let them talk to her or, whatever it is that they need to do. So they discovered, somehow, I don't know how, that they could talk to me instead. Or maybe it's Rudolph. Could be both of us. Anyway, I tried to contact them without Rudolph, but it didn't work. At first I thought it was because you weren't there, Alyssa, but that can't be right, because I've done it without you since then. It might have been because Jamie was there ... anyway. It doesn't matter, I guess. The point is that they can contact me and, even though it's taking a while, gradually I'm starting to get more and more of the story." she paused in this monologue to feed more popcorn into a mouth, and was still munching as she continued, "So anyway, the one - the worries - have been around for ... well, forever, maybe, or a long time, anyway. People let their worries go, I don't know if the worries are always told to a doll, or if that bit is only the legend, not the fact, but anyway, people let their worries go ... into the mirror I guess, into wherever it is that the worries are, that the one is. I think when there's too many worries, they kind of build up like ... like the steam when you boil water in a saucepan with the lid on. So the worries have to go somewhere, and I think they sort of become more ... powerful, somehow. I don't know what's supposed to happen then, but that's the point that they're at now, and, well, something is going to happen. I think we need to find out what. And what the hell we're supposed to be doing about it. So, I want us all to go to the one, and ask it - her, them, whatever. I can't have more than one person there when I go in though, other than Rudolph of course, and that has to be you, Alyssa, but I'll be able to bring Luke in later on, I think. Well, I'll try, anyway." Belle pushed another handful of popcorn into her mouth, and realised that Rudolph had woken up at the sound of his name, and was sitting eagerly beside her. It seemed as though he had gotten an energy burst from the sleep as well. "So, anyway, you ready?"
"Ready?" Alyssa echoed stupidly, still trying to take in the wad of information that Belle had just landed on her, "What? Now? You want to go now?"
Belle nodded happily, her mouth full.
"It's nearly three in the morning, though Belle!" Alyssa exclaimed.
Belle shrugged and smiled slightly, "It's all the same to me. Why are sighted people so finicky about the time always?" the corner of her mouth curled up with the irony.
"Because light is important to some of us," Alyssa grumbled, "And so is sleep. Let's all get another few hours sleep, then we can go exploring behind the mirror. I made you popcorn, the least you could so is let me sleep." With that, Alyssa shooed Belle over to one side of the bed, and climbed in under the doona herself, "Now stop talking, and leave me alone for a while."
Belle moved over, affording her sister some room, and Luke curled up on the throw cushions again. Long after both Luke and Alyssa had fallen asleep, Belle and Rudolph lay awake, Rudolph waiting patiently for the humans to wake up, and Belle's mind racing with thoughts. Eventually, she too dozed.
When eventually the three of them woke, much to Rudolph's delight, Alyssa insisted on coffee and breakfast before she went anywhere. Belle and Luke both agreed with the coffee, but convinced Alyssa that they would go out for breakfast to her favourite cafe on the beach, immediately after they had glanced into the mirror. Belle was starting to grow impatient. Over the drinks, Alyssa asked Belle to reiterate exactly how she wanted to run things. There was no doubt that Belle was leading the show now. Belle carefully explained the process she wanted to follow, her enthusiasm tempered somewhat from the night before, and having returned to her normally slightly taciturn self. Rudolph sat at their feet, and paced around the flat by turns. Luke got up and opened the door for him, and the dog headed out and relieved himself, ran around a little in the yard, and then came back in on ly slightly calmer than he had been before. Rudolph knew that this was going to be something big, and he was acting as though he just wanted to get it started, so that they could get it over. Belle was feeling much the same way.