The Looking Glass – Part Five
Having a Gullah housekeeper came with its own set of privileges, as well as experiences.
Marie remembers as a little girl, the stories Harriett shared about her people. It was rare they allowed outsiders into their circle. But Harriett’s grandfather fell in love with a Creole woman from New Orleans and brought her back to their village.
Harriett’s grandmother was well known for two reasons during the years; she was an outsider, and her potions worked. Harriett had great respect for the wise old woman. Her grandmother realized early on that her granddaughter had the healing, and from the birthmark on her leg, the woman knew the blood of her ancestor’s flowed through Harriett.
Marie figured her Mama and Papa kept Harriett around for her cooking, as well as her potions. Mama had nothing but praises, especially when it came to the salts and the medicine Harriett made up for Marie’s headaches.
“Marie?” She heard Matthew call her name. “Earth to Marie.”
Shaking her head, Marie came out of her trance.
“What is a ‘Gullah,’ and how do I find me one?” Matthew said jokingly.
Marie giggled. “You don’t just find one, silly.” Batting her eyes at Matthew, she said, “You go to them and ask for their healer.”
* * * * *
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Jilly as she sat up from the cot. “I just saw Marie; I mean, I saw my boyfriend, but I was looking through Marie’s eyes. They were in the antique shop where I got the mirror.”
Mrs. Montgomery walked over to Jilly and sat down beside her. Jilly could see she was having a hard time believing this was really happening. “Please keep the vile language to a minimum, dear,” she said as she patted Jilly’s knee with one hand, and fanned herself furiously with the other.
“Harriet, what do you make of all this nonsense?” asked Mrs. Montgomery.
Harriett’s grandmother starting speaking to her in a language only they and the children in the room could understand.
“Now, missus, you may not want to hear what my grandmother has seen. She seen our Marie in another time and place, but it don’t look like our Marie. And this here body is not our Marie. It’s like her mind was taken over by another person’s mind, and Marie’s mind went somewhere else. Do you understands what I’m telling you?” Harriett asked.
Marie’s mother just stared at Harriett. “Woman, you are making about as much sense as this whole entire thing is making. No, I don’t understand what you are telling me. Can you explain it more easily?”
“Not sure how much simpler I can s’plain. Ms. Marie, the Ms. Marie, I know, is not here anymore. She was replaced by this Ms. Marie, only she’s not Ms. Marie, she is someone else, from the future.”
Jilly started to laugh.
“I knew this would be a mistake,” said Mrs. Montgomery, getting up from the cot. “See, she is clearly in need of some isolation. She’s hysterical. We need to get back before Mr. Montgomery becomes suspicious. Please, give her some salts to stop that hideous laughter.”
Jilly jumped up from the cot. “I am not hysterical. I’ve been trying to tell you; the mirror did this to us. It switched our brains but not our bodies.” Everyone in the room stood still. They listened to Jilly’s story of how she came to be and how she was their relative from the future, 2019. “I know there is a way for us to reverse this, but I don’t know the particulars of how.”
Looking over at Harriett, Jilly said, “I know you can help us. I was back there for just a second, but I was back there. Please, if you and your grandmother came back to the house, in front of the mirror in my bedroom. Maybe that’s the extra push we need?”
Mrs. Montgomery was apprehensive. “I’m not sure how. I mean, with your father always around. Let me think of something.”
* * * * *
Marie and Matthew left Mr. Billings antique shop with the promise they’d be back to inform him of what they found.
“Maybe if I do a search on the internet to find a Gullah healer?” Matthew was talking mostly to himself as he knew Marie had no clue about the internet.
“What’s the internet?” she asked.
Rolling his eyes, he sighed. “Too complicated to explain at the moment.”
Pulling out his phone, he did a Google search for ‘Gullah healers.’ Scrolling, he found their history, their beliefs, and then he found what he was looking for, the area in which they lived and worked. Grabbing Marie’s hand, he said, “Come on, we need to go for a drive.”
As they approached Jilly’s house, Matthew took out a key fob to unlock the door to his car. He opened the passenger side and waited for Marie to get in. She stood still, not knowing what Matthew wanted her to do. “Get in,” he said, “and put your seatbelt on.”
Confused, she nervously sat down on the seat with her hands in her lap.
Matthew started the car, and as he pulled away, the dashboard began to ding. “Sorry, I keep forgetting all this is new for you.” Reaching over her, Marie thought he was going to kiss her. But to her surprise, Matthew grabbed the seat belt and placed it around her waist and shoulders, clicking it in place. She blushed.
Marie couldn’t believe she was in a horseless carriage or how fast they were able to travel. She was excited and couldn’t stop smiling. Her Papa loved this type of stuff. She couldn’t wait to tell him what the world had to look forward to. Since the end of the war, the men were worried about what would become of their way of life. If she does get back home, she can tell them it’s not the end of the world.
Loud musical sounds came out of little boxes in the door. “What is this?” Marie asked Matthew.
“It’s called Rock and Roll music. Just sit back and relax, enjoy the tunes. We’ll be there shortly.”
Marie did as she was told, but her mind was racing. She couldn’t believe her eyes or her ears. This was an experience she would have to write about in her journal, one she hoped to be able to share with her family if she ever saw them again.
* * * * *
The carriage ride home allowed everyone to gather their thoughts of the afternoon’s events. Harriett kept staring at Jilly as if she were trying to read her thoughts.
Mrs. Montgomery kept fanning herself as if her life depended on it.
Jilly kept thinking about what she saw while under the influence of Harriett’s grandmother’s spell. She knew there was a way back, and now it was just a matter of time. The right time. If the mirror had been in that tiny shack, Jilly was positive she would be sipping a margarita with Matthew at the Lone Star Bar right now rather than sitting in this stuffy coach.
“I’ve got a great idea,” Jilly exclaimed. The two women jumped. “I’ve been thinking. Why don’t we move the mirror to Harriett’s grandmother’s place? Then we could repeat what we did today, and you can have Marie back. I’ll be back with my boyfriend, and we’ll all be happier. What do you think?”
Harriett looked over at Mrs. Montgomery. “The Mista wants the mirror out of the house. That could solve that problem. But my mammy, well, we’d have to be sure the mirror was covered at all times, it certainly wouldn’t be a good idea if she was shipped elsewhere.” Harriett smiled, just thinking about it.
“That’s an excellent idea,” said Mrs. Montgomery. “Papa does want it gone. We could have your husband hitch up the cart to the buggy and take it over to her. Papa would never know any different. He already knows the store won’t take it back. And he’s been hesitant in removing it as he knows it would break Marie’s heart.” Looking over at Jilly, she continued, “He doesn’t believe in all this nonsense. He’d rather lock you up in your room until you come to your senses. But if you act like it’s okay with you, I’m sure he won’t be any the wiser of what our plan is.”
The three women agreed the mirror would be moved to the tiny shack. The sooner, the better.
By the time Mr. Montgomery walked in the door that evening, the house was filled with the smells of dinner cooking on the woodstove and biscuits baking in the oven. Mrs. Montgomery poured him a drink, and they sat in the parlor, discussing his day.
Jilly was up in her room, writing in Marie’s journal. She wanted her great-great-grandmother to know how hard she worked to get the others to listen to her and to document it in case Marie decided to chalk it up as a bad dream.
* * * * *
Marie knew there was a Gullah/Geechee community close to where she lived because Harriett and her husband made the trip every day. Of course, that was when there were only dirt roads to contend with. Matthew tried his best to follow her directions. But the roadways were different now. The Gullah tended to stay where they settled, and soon, they came upon a sign advertising handcrafted sweetgrass baskets.
“Bingo. Let’s go in here and see if someone can help us.” Pulling into the parking lot, both of them got out of the car and walked toward the store. Next to the store was an open stall, where they saw an old woman weaving baskets in the heat of the day.
“Excuse me,” Matthew said. The old woman looked up from her work. “I’m hoping you can help us. We’re looking for a healer?”
“Who you?” the old woman asked.
“I…we…have an unusual request,” Matthew stuttered. “We were told a healer could help my friend get back home.”
“Where’s home?” the old woman looked them both up and down. “Don’t they have means of transportation these days to get home?” She glanced passed them to the car out in the parking lot. “Looks like you gots a way home to me.”
Marie butted in. “Ma’am, where I’m from, I have a Gullah housekeeper, Harriett’s her name. She’s a healer, and she’s from these parts here. She can’t seem to do it herself, and she needs help.
“Well, then, why don’t she come around here herself?”
“Because she’s in 1868.”
The old woman stopped weaving. Closing her eyes, she started chanting and rocking back and forth. Marie touched Matthew’s arm and gave him a look. This old woman was a healer!
After what seemed like a long time, the woman stopped chanting, and when she opened her eyes, only the whites were visible. She started speaking in a language, neither one of them understood.
A young woman hurried out of the store and ran over to the old woman. “Mama, what are you doing?”
The old woman came to. “These people need our help,” she said.
The young woman looked over at Marie and Matthew suspiciously. “What kind of help are you looking for?”
“Passage,” the old woman said.
“Come, let’s go into the store out of this heat. Mama and I need to hear the whole story.”
The four of them headed into the cool of the storefront. The young woman locked the door and ushered them into a backroom. Sitting at a round table, Marie began to tell her story. The two women listened with open mouths as if they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. When she was finished, the young woman took the old woman’s hand in hers.
“Oh, mama, the story is true, great aunt Harriett told us to be ready.