Emmi Maeda couldn't help but smile as she stuffed the registration paperwork into her bag. Six months ago, she wouldn't have thought it possible to be looking forward to restarting her freshman year of college.
She couldn't believe how freeing it was to be moving forward again, finally. Nothing could bring her down today, not even the sadness stirred by the memorial plaque honoring her father. The rift his death created between her and her mother would come back to haunt her soon enough. For now, she clung to the hope filling her and bounded down the stairs into the sunshine bathing UCLA's campus.
A short time later, her godfather, Jake, rang her cell.
"I'm done with translations, and I'm about to head out to that meeting. Do you want to come along and get a free lunch on the studio?"
"Sure. I'm over by the student center. There's a charity rummage sale happening. I'll be wandering."
Emmi laughed. "And probably buying some pretty, shiny thing I don't really need."
"Catch you in a minute, Em-chan."
Emmi tucked her phone into her pocket and stared at the long table before her. More specifically, she stared at the not-terribly-pretty and definitely not-shiny thing that had been holding her attention for the past fifteen minutes. It was an old mirror, a familiar mirror. But how could it be familiar if she hadn't seen it before? At least, she didn't think she'd seen it before.
The mirror was about eighteen inches tall and set in a badly tarnished brass frame. One of the side supports was loose. The rectangular, box-like base had a dent on one side, and the silvered coating on the mirror's glass was flaking terribly around the edges.
An old Japanese superstition she'd learned as a young child echoed in her mind: The oni in the mirror will get you if you're careless, Emiko-chan. Keep the mirror covered if you're not in absolute need of it.
If any mirror had an ancient Japanese demon waiting to take her soul, this one did. Still, she wanted—she needed—to own it, weird vibes be damned.
She touched her fingertips to the mirror's frame, only to jerk her hand back. Surely, she hadn't imagined it. The metal had vibrated very, very slowly. She touched it again, picked it up. The vibration became steadier. She should have put it down and run the other way, yet she had to have it. Curiosity overrode her fear. She needed to have this—
"What? Did someone beat you to all of the pretty and the shiny?" Jake asked, interrupting her thought.
"I can make this kind of pretty and shiny, once I find something to polish it," she said, a little defensively. "Do you think it's brass?"
"Could be. The overall styling makes it look Japanese."
"I know. It reminds me of the wooden one my grandmother got from her grandmother."
Jake nodded. "After lunch, we'll find a hardware store and pick up some polish."
* * ** *
Jake and Emmi's lunch meeting with some movie execs began with sympathetic looks and empty comments about how much her father would be missed in the industry. Emmi smiled cordially when one said he hoped she and her mother were getting on all right. Things were far from all right; they could never be right again, but Emmi decided to just nod and let them get on to their business with Jake—coordinating stunts for an historical action film to be shot partially in Kyoto and Tokyo.
With the topic of discussion turned away from her life, Emmi thought about staying with her grandparents in Hawaii for a while. They'd been asking her to come for months, and since she'd arranged to make up some of her classes via the online program, nothing was holding her back. The thought of staying with her grandparents was starting to sound good, despite their ultra-conservative Japanese belief that unmarried girls of nineteen shouldn't date unless an arranged marriage was part of the bargain.
Emmi was picking apart a bread stick and waffling between taking a tankini or a one-piece to Hawaii, when Jake tapped her on the arm. That's when Emmi noticed the casting director was staring at her. A lot.
"How would you like to be in the opening scene? There's no dialogue per se. All you have to do is look pretty and scream. You can scream loudly, right?"
"I suppose so."
"Let me hear."
The casting director nodded. Jake smiled.
Emmi looked around. The place was crowded, and this was a nice restaurant, not a fastfood joint. People just didn't go around "auditioning a scream" in a place like this.
Then, Jake had to go and say, "Go for it, Em-chan. Kenny would want you to."
Emmi smiled. Her father did have a twisted sense of humor, and he would have liked to see this.
Still, her heart pounded, and she felt like such an idiot. How could she scream for no reason? She was no actress. She wanted to work behind the cameras some day, not in front of them.
Jake grinned his encouragement, making her feel even more pressured. Emmi tried to remember everything she'd ever heard about actors calling up personal things to help bring life to scenes.
Then, it came to her: the accident. She saw the kamikaze gull heading straight for the car. She heard its screech and the squeal of the car's brakes as she instinctively slammed the pedal with both feet. She felt the impact of metal against metal . . . .
Emmi screamed the way she'd screamed that day.
"Emiko!"Jake finally yelled, shaking her.
Everyone in the place was staring, and Emmi wanted to crawl under the table and die. She pulled away and ran for the ladies' room. Her body shook. Her stomach ached and tightened. She went to the sink and doubled over, certain she was going to throw up. It seemed like forever before the queasy feeling passed, but once it did, Emmi splashed some water on her face and forced herself to go back out to the restaurant.
Luckily, Jake and his movie friends were finishing their lunch. Some people stared, but she kept her head held high. The casting director smiled at her.
"Miss Maeda, you've got the part in the opening scene if you want it."
Emmi looked at Jake. He gave her that same proud look her father used to give her. Tears stung her eyes, as they had too many times in the past few months, but she refused to give in this time. She was not going to cry. She'd embarrassed them all enough for one day.
"Thank you. I'd be honored."
* * ** *
When they returned to Malibu, Emmi took the mirror up to her room. Common sense prodded her to clean it up, but an inexplicable unease prompted her to leave the mirror in the white plastic bag. Her grandmother once told her that kimono carried the feelings, and in rare cases, the spirits of their previous owners. Emmi wondered if the old superstition about kimono went the same for all personal possessions. Perhaps that was how the demon in the mirror legend began. Maybe this thing was haunted. Emmi put the bagged mirror into the closet and then went downstairs.
Jake was out on the deck talking on his cell.
"Tinseltown's new starlet breaks onto the horizon," he said with a chuckle. He offered the phone to her. "It's Jonny."
Emmi's heart sank. She was certain her older brother had no desire to talk to her. She'd gotten that point months ago. She shook her head then stretched out on the sofa and began flipping through the multitude of satellite channels, none of which had anything good on. She cycled through again and stopped on a documentary about samurai films.
She couldn't help but smile when they mentioned several movies devoted to the Shinsengumi. Her father had been quite a "fanboy" of the Shogunate police troop. At night he’d read her history books instead of the usual bedtime stories. She'd heard so much about the civil war that had brought down the last shogun that it felt more real to her than the boring renditions of American history she'd gotten in school.
* * ** *
Emmi couldn't sleep that night, and there was nothing to watch on TV, so she decided to sit out on the balcony of the condo and finally polish her new mirror. It wasn't creeping her out quite as much. Emmi decided her silent chanting of, "There are no onis, there are no onis, there are no onis . .. ." must have helped.
Despite being beat up, the mirror really was a pretty thing. Emmi didn't understand why no one could see past the grime and the dent to notice. She put a bit of the smelly liquid polish on the rag and began gently rubbing over the raised petals of the sakura cherry blossoms.
The full moon had shifted position by the time she had removed the worst of the tarnish. Emmi set the mirror down on the small, glass-topped patio table before going to the kitchen to wash her hands. Making her way back through the darkened living room, she noticed that the room was slowly growing brighter, and she turned to see if the light reflected from the upper floor from Jake coming down.
It was still dark by the stairs.
The weird glow was coming in from outside. "Ja—" Emmi clamped her hands over her mouth. She didn't want to wake Jake.
Emmi hurried to the sliding glass balcony door to look at the mirror, but once she stepped onto the patio, she realized the glow that she thought she'd seen was gone. She must have imagined it. A trick of the moonlight?
She slid the mirror to the center of the table and rested her head on her hands, her gaze gliding from one raised metal flower to the next. The craftsmanship was beautiful. It was like a sculpture in a way, so mesmerizing, and even more familiar now than it had seemed at the rummage sale.
The moonlight glinted off the glass. Emmi cocked her head to the side and then looked over her shoulder. Jake wasn't there, and yet she was certain she'd caught a glimpse of a bare-chested man with long black hair reflected in the mirror.
She was reminded again of that weird, old legend about the oni in the mirror, and she wondered again if a ghost had started the legend rather than a demon.
"Daddy?" she whispered.
Emmi held the mirror in her hands and drew it closer to her face. Again, she felt that weird vibration when her skin touched the metal. Soon, the humming began to flow through her. She wasn't afraid, even though part of her knew she should be.
She continued to stare at the old, mottled glass. There was a man in there, deep, deep within—as if he was at the end of a long, dark tunnel. He was Japanese, definitely Japanese.
"Daddy?" she whispered again.
© Kit Forbes
Falling Through Glass
Author: Kit Forbes
Publisher: Noble Romance
When she accepts a walk-on role in an historic action film, the last thing nineteen year old Emmi Maeda expects is to be zapped to the Kyoto of 1864, via an antique mirror, but she is. She soon finds herself chased, attacked, and practically seduced by sword wielding samurai and put on the marriage market by an ancestor.
On the upside, her arranged husband, Kaemon, is a hunk (and a real live prince). On the downside, Emmi accidentally kidnaps the future Emperor of Japan, and Kae might have to kill her then commit ritual suicide to atone for Emmi's misdeed.