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The Girl Made of Glass
I was starting to get worried. It had been three days since I had last seen Master Nigel Montomeh, who had left to collect more sand, glass, and other odds and ends for his many inventions.
And to make additional body parts for me for when I happened to crack or shatter.
You see, I’m one of Nigel’s first inventions. A woman made entirely of glass with cogs and springs forming an engine for me so I could move about and speak and hear. He dubbed me “Bellaphina, after my daughter,” and I had been known as “Bella” for quite some time. I was made of blown glass that he formed into hands, feet, and other required body parts. My eyes were made of a special machine connected through translucent wires to my engine and had been painted a deep green that Nigel called Emerald. My hair was also made of blown glass; wide tear-drops that were tinted a light blue and connected to my head through hooks. But my favorite feature were my deep, rosy lips that were hinged and also connected through wires to the engine in my belly.
I was “fascinating” as Nigel always said, and would make him famous when he introduced me to the Inventors Society.
He had said that precisely twenty-five years ago.
As those years passed, I had seen Nigel’s mental health decrease. He had started to get paranoid and had once even accused me of stealing the key to his workshop when it had been in his coat pocket. I had lost a glass arm that day as a result of continuously denying it.
Despite that; I was worried. After all, Nigel had been kind before all of that. He had even bought me the latest fashions and brought them back to Harwitch Manor when I asked him to buy me some on my first day alive.
I sighed gently, the warm air from the machine in my stomach being let out through my mouth.
Evelina, the Italian maid Nigel had hired to keep me company, pushed open the library door and strode in with a tea tray.
I glanced briefly back at her, then returned my gaze to the world outside the window, “I’m worried.”
Evelina couldn’t understand me; since she only spoke Italian. The few words she knew were “yes” “no” and “Miss Bellaphina.” Nigel was able to converse with her and was attempting to teach me as much Italiana as he could, but none of the words would stick with me. Nigel would mutter, during our lessons, that he had made some sort of mistake. Why couldn’t I retain information continuously given to me for three years? I didn’t know. I could remember names and places, but trivial things like Geography, cooking, and languages sped past me.
Besides the language barrier; Evelina was a good friend, but a poor maid. It was probably because I spoiled her with my dresses and helped her to dust and mop whenever possible.
Evelina set down the tray on the table next to me and set to filling the single teacup. Of course, I couldn’t drink or eat since I was comprised of glass, but Nigel said the experience was exquisite when supplied with good food and the proper tea.
She said something in Italian, then motioned out the window and then to her sad, worried face. I nodded, indicating I was exactly what she had gestured; worried.
“There is no storm,” I made our motion for storm; wiggling my fingers over my head then shook it, showing there hadn’t been one. “He’s never been delayed before.”
Evelina glanced out the window as well, then returned to sipping her tea. I sat down deeper in my chair and tried to crack open the poetry book I had been devouring the day before. After a second of reading, I slammed the cover shut and sighed heavily.
Evelina started at the noise and said something to me in thick Italian.
I gave her a questioning look and then returned to peering out the window. I tapped my glass fingers gently on the cover of the book sitting in my lap, running through possible scenarios keeping Nigel from returning to us. Perhaps he had had another mental breakdown and was trapped in an asylum. The thought made me shudder.
“We have to go find him, don’t we?” I pointed to myself and then out the window. Then I made the sign for Nigel, which was a mad face and scolding finger.
She shook her head, saying “no” in English.
I knew that, out there, neither of us were accepted. I would be considered a freak, and Evelina would be seen as a foreigner that hadn’t been “civilized yet. I personally thought it was ridiculous, but Nigel said it was natural for the world to fear those different from them.
Especially someone such as myself.
“I know you’re scared, Evie,” I gave her a frightened face then pointed to her, “so I’ll go by myself.”
She cocked her head to the side, confused.
I pointed to myself, then out the window, “Me. I’ll just go.”
She nearly dropped her teacup and spilled the tea all over the borrowed red dress I had lent her, “No! No, no, no!” She did drop the teacup that time, but on the floor and grasped my hands, “No, no, no!”
“I’ll be fine,” I assured her, squeezing her hands, “fine.”
She continued to tell me no until I held up my glass hand and stood gently, pulling her with me, “What could happen? I won’t go far. Just to the town.” I pointed to it, pulling her over to the window, “just that far, Evie.”
She clutched my arm, still shaking her head, “No.” She prattled on in Italian, motioning with her hands that someone might smash me, whether it be accidental or not, she wasn’t sure.
I smiled softly, glad Nigel had helped me achieve the motion from the first time I had opened my Emerald eyes. I framed her face with my hands, “I’m touched at your concern. But I know that Nigel needs me. I have to go to him. Understand?”
She jutted her lower lip out and stamped her foot, “No!”
I sighed and pulled away, “I’ll bring extra glass parts with me and the pistol Nigel gave me in case someone ever broke in.”
Evelina had motioned that the pistol was an unladylike thing to have in one’s room when I first received it, but the object fascinated me. I had never used it, but had practised holding it correctly by studying a book with an illustration of a man preparing to shoot his son in the chest. The book Evelina would most certainly shake her head at as well, but she didn’t have to know everything.
I hurried to the stairs, Evelina grasping for my sleeve as I evaded her, “No, Miss Bellaphina!”
I laughed at the way she said my name, like it was “Beghlephiana” instead of the more natural and elegant “Bellaphina.” But when I looked back at her, still laughing, she looked near tears.
I stopped halfway up the stairs, “Oh, Evie.” I pulled her in for a hug, one that was obviously uncomfortable for her since I didn’t melt against her like another human would have. I jutted out and never softened.
“No, Miss,” she sobbed, “no!”
“I’ll be fine!” I insisted, “truly, I will be. Just you wait.”
She pulled away, her tears falling freely. She pointed to herself, then at me, then at the door at the foot of the stairs leading out into the world. Excitement stirred within me as I realized I would soon cross that threshold.
“You want to come?”
She most likely didn’t understand, but she nodded anyway, “Yes.”
I sighed gratefully, “Fine.” I blurted.
I nodded, “Yes. You can come.”
She sagged in relief and descended down the stairs in a flash of red silk. She returned moments later with a satchel and a few items of clothing less flashy than her dress.
I grinned, and we headed into my room together. Once there, I grabbed a messenger bag from under my bed and started filling it with patchwork skirts Evelina had made me and simple blouses. I also had to stuff two wooden peg legs in there with other replaceable glass parts, since the glass legs were too large to fit.
“Perhaps we should don something less noticeable?” I pointed to my midnight blue dress and her scarlet one, shaking my head.
She nodded and hurried back downstairs to change into her maid’s uniform. While she was gone, I dressed in a white blouse with a high collar, a creamy pink skirt and a matching vest, and a white pair of lace-up boots.
Evelina returned once I was done with her black dress, white cap, and apron, carrying one of the wigs Nigel had made me. “Yes?” She pointed to it and I nodded.
Carefully, I removed the teardrops from the subtle hooks in my head and pulled the wig on. It didn’t look natural in the slightest, but the sun hat with a fake daisy on the right side hid most of it besides the tail at the nape of my neck.
Next was attempting to hide my glass face. I simply pulled on white gloves for my hands, but hiding my face would be much harder. I rummaged around in my things until I found a thin veil made of pink chiffon. I doubled it and then tacked it to my hat with a hairpin.
I motioned to it and Evelina grinned toothily, “Yes!” She clapped, and I nodded, using my gloved fingers to make sure it covered every last inch of my glass face.
“You ready?” I picked up my satchel and waved it in her face and she did the same with her’s, “okay, then.” I shook off any last jitters and guided her down the stairs, still full of that unending excitement.
Evelina took the heavy, brass key off the hook next to the door and slipped it into my purse before opening the door. I squinted against the bright sun and surveyed the gloomy cliff-side our mansion was poised on. The cliff-edge was to the back and the road snaking down to the town was barred by a gate to keep people from tipping over the edge. It was shockingly underwhelming.
But I let the momentary disappointment fade and grinned at the town in the distance, “There will be more to see!” I decided.
Evelina looped her arm with mine and we started down the dirt road. She engaged me in conversation by pointing at flowers and clouds that shifted to look like objects. One thing seemed to excite her entirely too much; a bird in flight. She made me understand that it was rare to those parts, and I began to share in her enthusiasm.
But it only lasted a short while.
When the house was behind us and the road widened and branched off, she noticed a car that had been driven into a ditch. Her brown eyes widened, and she pointed it out to me with a “No!”
I calmly gazed at it, both of us stopped at the end of our road, and then tugged her forward, “We’re just walking; they can’t stop us for that. It isn’t odd.”
Evelina clutched my arm tightly and fidgeted with the cuff of my sleeve.
I patted her arm gently and continued to pull her with me until we were nearly passing the car and the young man fiddling with the front left wheel of it.
“Hi, ho!” A strong, deep voice stopped us in our tracks, “where are you lovely ladies off to this fine morning?”
Evelina started shaking instantly, and I gently shushed her and turned, my veil fluttering around my face. A man grinned at us by the car, “Hello, Sir, we’re off to the town.” I gestured to it, trying to curb my own fears, “I see you’re having car troubles? We’ll leave you to it.”
The man, who was in his prime with a well-trimmed beard, nice, strong features, and bright, bustling eyes, shook his head, “No! You cannot mean to walk all that way?”
I nodded mutely, “Yes, Sir.”
His eyes roamed over to poor Evelina, “Why, your friend looks sick! I cannot leave you on this dusty old road! Once my son fixes up the wheel and we pull it from the ditch; we’ll drive you.”
Evelina tilted her head to look at me, brown eyes questioning what he was saying. I pointed to the car, then to him, and then to us.
She shook her head, “No.”
I looked back at the man and shook my head too, “We’ll be fine, Sir.”
He waved away our answers, “I insist!” He looked back at his son who was watching us warily, “wheels don’t change themselves, Oliver!”
Oliver returned to his work with a little help from their driver.
I started to pull Evelina away, but her boot caught on a rock and she fell backwards. I instantly released her and stumbled backwards, only to be caught by the older man. I hurriedly pulled away and rushed to my friend's side.
“I told you!” The man helped me pull Evelina to her feet, “You'll fall all over these dreaded rocks! Let us drive you.”
I was about to resist again, but Evelina tugged on my arm and pointed to her foot. The heel of her boot was broken, and she winced when putting weight on it.
I looked back at the car and then to the manor. Maybe we should turn back? No. I had made it that far and was certain Evelina’s ankle would be fine in moments.
“All right,” I consented.
The man grinned and held out his weathered hand, “I’m Henry Ports and that’s my son, Oliver Ports, with our driver Guillaume.” He lowered his voice at the mention of their driver, “He’s French and a lovely old chap, but can’t speak a lick of English!”
I glanced at Evelina and shook his hand, “I’m Bellaphina Montomeh and this is my friend Evelina Ajello.”
He looked Evelina up and down, “Why is she dressed as a servant?”
I smiled wanly, “She is a servant for my mas⎯father Nigel Montomeh.”
He wrinkled his brow, “I didn’t know anyone lived with Montomeh?”
I nodded, “He doesn’t talk much about me.”
“Wheel’s fixed, Father,” Oliver stood and dusted off his trousers, “we’re ready to go.” He studied me and Evelina carefully then turned to Guillaume and spoke to him in thick French.
“Don’t worry, ladies, Guillaume is going to get the car out of this blasted ditch and then we’ll be on our way!”
“We’ll see,” Oliver said, “it’s deep and Guillaume isn’t the best driver.”
Mr. Ports leaned toward me conspiratorially as Guillaume fired up the engine, “We hired him but three days ago and he’s dreadful at keeping to the roads!”
I chuckled politely and so did Evelina, “I see…”
Guillaume managed to get the car back on the road, and Mr. Ports took Evelina’s hand to help her into the back. I watched anxiously as she winced from her ankle and then as Mr. Ports climbed in next to her.
I turned my head and Oliver stood beside the car door, ready to help me in. I clenched my fist and then slid my hand into his, worried he would somehow feel the glass underneath my glove. He didn’t. I thought I was in the clear and placed my boot onto the lower step.
Then a gust of wind lifted my veil up to my nose, and I hurriedly pulled it down, wrenching my grip from his and nearly losing my balance. Oliver quickly caught me and I looked down at him, trying to gauge whether he had seen anything, but his face was blank.
I climbed into the car and took my seat opposite Evelina.
She eyed me nervously and subtly motioned to my veil having ridden up. I shook my head, telling her not to act strange. Mr. Post hadn’t seemed to notice, but my true concern was his son.
Oliver climbed into the car next to me and all was silent. I shifted uneasily until Mr. Post urged the driver forward and then looked at me, “Fine weather. Eh, Miss Montomeh?”
I smiled thinly, “I find it dreary.”
Mr. Post laughed, “It’s always dreary in London! My Dear, it seems you don’t get out much! This is the finest weather England has to offer!”
I chuckled weakly, “I live a very… sheltered life.”
“And why is that, Miss Montomeh?”
I stiffened and glanced over at Oliver, “Nigel was very private with his research.”
“Research?” He pressed, leaning towards me, “from what I hear he’s hardly an inventor, as he so blatantly suggests.”
I pressed my lips together under my veil, trying not to fly into a rage, “Well, Mr. Post, most people would call him crazy, but in my experience he is a genius.”
“In Miss Ajello’s as well, I assume?” He tipped his head toward Evelina and she gave him a blank stare.
“Evelina doesn’t speak English, Mr. Post,” I snapped, clenching my fists.
“Leave the girl alone, Oliver,” Mr. Post urged, clicking his tongue, “don’t pry into private affairs. Mr. Montomeh has always been private; I’m sure Miss Montomeh knows more of him than we do.”
Oliver leaned back in his seat.
“Now,” Mr. Post grinned, “what were we saying about the weather?”
The ride lasted around an hour, and Mr. Post’s increasing conversation was almost as annoying as Oliver continuously “forgetting” that Evelina couldn’t speak English.
“Mr. Post,” I said for the hundredth time, “she can’t understand a word you’re saying.”
Oliver pursed his lips, “Ah, I keep forgetting.”
“Heaven’s sake, Son!” Mr. Post scowled most unbecomingly, “just don’t look at the poor girl at all!”
Oliver grinned at me haughtily and we rode on in silence.
When we arrived at the town, known to Mr. Post as Felicer, I descended with the help of Oliver. Was it my imagination or did he squeeze my hand a little too hard? I watched Evelina step down, then took her arm and tugged her away from the men. She winced at putting pressure on her ankle when facing me, but covered it up when turning to see the two.
“Thank you, Mr. Post, for the ride,” I inclined my head toward him, then at Oliver, and, to Oliver’s quiet humphing, to Guillaume.
Evelina followed my lead, and then we turned.
“Wait,” Mr. Post gently tapped my arm, “I do hope you have a friend or family member in town, of the male gender, obviously, to escort you ladies. If not, I gladly offer up my son!”
I turned, trying to hide the horror on my face.
Evelina wrenched my arm and hurriedly told them something in Italian.
“What in the blazes is she saying?” Oliver hissed, scowling.
I quietly shushed Evelina, “We have someone in town.” I confirmed.
Mr. Post nodded, a grin on his weathered face, “Good! Then I will bid you a good day!” He spun on his heels and Guillaume and Oliver followed him down the street.
I shuddered as Oliver glanced back at us, “I don’t like that boy,” I muttered to Evelina.
Despite our language barrier, Evelina seemed to know exactly what I was talking about and nodded, “Yes.”
I sighed anxiously and surveyed our surroundings. The stores and houses were neat and tidy, so were the sidewalks and glamorous people trodding upon them. My eyes widened (metaphorically, of course. A machine cannot widen), and I let my mouth hang open.
Evelina sniggered and pulled me onto the sidewalk, her limping from her broken heel and aching ankle. I let my eyes wander to the shopping windows and stopped Evelina to point to a gown made of silk and delicate beading on the bodice, “I adore this!”
Evelina growled at me in Italian and tugged at my sleeve. I curbed my disappointment and started walking alongside her again. We weren’t there to shop. We were on a mission.
“Where should we start first, anyway?”
I motioned my words with my hands and she laughed a little. She pointed at me and then at one of the shops.
“What? You want to go shopping?” I asked excitedly.
She shook her head, knowing that what I said was the wrong interpretation, “No!” She didn’t say anything more, just started pulling me down the streets and past numerous buildings with dresses I would have died (metaphorically) to have.
Finally, we stopped.
I studied the building in front of us and read the sign aloud, “The Inventor’s Society?”
Evelina clapped her hands together and pointed more forcefully at it.
“Ah,” I grinned down at her, “you indicated me as the machine, eh?”
She clapped again, and I stepped up the stairs to knock. That’s when I noticed that the door was ajar.
I glanced back nervously at Evelina, who had noticed it as well.
“Do we go in?”
Evelina joined me on the stairs and nudged the door. It creaked open, and she jumped behind me, frightened. I edged backwards too, fingers outstretched to ward off anything that jumped out at us. Nothing did, and I let my arms fall to my sides.
“I’m sure it’s usually open, right?”
Evelina was silent, and I carefully pushed the door all the way open.
Something foul smelling made Evelina curl her nose and gag, “Eugh!”
I frowned, wondering what it smelled of, “What is it?”
She pointed to her wrist, pulling back her sleeve to show me her veins.
“Blood?” If I had a heart, it certainly would have stopped beating, “are you certain?”
She pursed her lips and covered her nose with her arm, not answering me. I took a short step inside and beckoned for Evelina to follow me. The building was silent and the plush red carpet and papered walls of gold flowers were left undisturbed. Nothing seemed to have been meddled with, and all the pictures of various men in tailcoats were hanging proudly on the walls as they seemed to have always been. One stuck out, and I smiled as I recognized Master Nigel. He still had the same handlebar mustache and slicked back hair.
More comfortable with our surroundings, I strode down the hall, leaving Evelina to scramble after me. The hall emerged into a wide, oval room with various imposing objects about six feet high covered in sheets.
Evelina whimpered behind me.
“They’re only machines,” I assured her, walking past them and into the parlour. Everything seemed still, at first.
Then I saw the body.
It was wedged deep within the corner near the empty fireplace, a bottle of whiskey overturned at its feet. I stopped short and just had enough time to let out a shrill scream when Evelina clamped her hand down hard on my arm.
The scream died in my throat and I pressed my lips closed, staring in horror at the body.
“Bellaphina?” She pointed shakily at the body and pushed me closer.
I let out steam through my nose fearfully, and made my way over to the poor bloke. I could hardly see him, wedged the way he was, but closer I could tell he wasn’t Nigel. The man was much younger and clean shaven. I sighed in relief and knelt next to him.
Something wet squished between my fingers as I placed them next to him, and I reeled back in horror.
My gloves were bleeding red.
Evelina gasped, and I hurriedly tore it from my hand and tossed it into the fireplace, scrambling away all the while.
“I don’t think this was an accident,” I breathed.
Evelina shakily helped me stand and looked up at me questioningly, fear creasing every line of her face, “Miss?”
I pulled her further from the body and shook my head, “Something awful has happened here. I just hope Nigel is okay.”
Evelina whimpered, and I knew, from the tugs she inflicted on my arm, that she desperately wanted to return to the manor. But what if Nigel was somewhere within the building? I couldn’t leave him.
I turned to Evelina, “I want you to wait outside.”
She shook her head, and I forced myself not to concede. I didn’t want anything to happen to her. I was replaceable, a machine meant to break permanently someday and be renewed by Nigel. But a human was much more fragile and not so easy to replace. I wanted her safe.
“Evie, please, do as I say.”
She still didn’t listen, and I pursed my lips and tugged her to the door.
“No!” She tried to scrabble her way back inside, but I slammed the door shut and locked it from within.
She was silent.
“I’ll be out in a moment, Evelina,” I told her through the mahogany wood.
“Yes,” she whispered back.
I let out steam again and turned back so I was facing the hall. Somehow, it looked more sinister and dark once alone. I pressed my ungloved hand to my chest and slowly made my way to the staircase. It was brilliant and something seemingly out of a fairy tale, but I didn’t feel like a princess as I slowly ascended. I was slow, afraid of alerting anyone sinister above, but when I made it to the top, all was quiet.
There were several rooms that stood wide open and empty, except for those tall forms clothed in sheets of white. I carefully edged one of the sheets aside and stared up at a strange looking being of metal and brass. I shivered and covered it back up. But two doors troubled me more than the machines. They stood shut, side-by-side, with handles made of copper. And they were locked. But the most troubling thing of all was the lack of a keyhole on my side. How did one get in?
I tried the knob again, shaking and tugging, but to no avail, “Hello?” I called, knocking, “Nigel?” No one answered, and I found myself pressing my ear against the wood. When my veiled ear connected with the wood, it was lit up with noise; chairs scraped, someone cried out, and metal met metal. Someone was definitely in there. But could they hear me? Why was no one answering?
“Hello?” I pounded on the door again but the sounds didn’t cease. I concluded that they couldn’t hear through the door. But why?
I pulled away and listened through the wood of its twin. That silence was empty. Hauntingly so. I pressed my thumb against where the keyhole was supposed to be and felt the small area shift inward. I gasped and knelt so I could see it better. Yes, when I applied pressure, the circle clicked inward and a small opening slipped open near the bottom left hinge of the door. I got down on my stomach and peered inside. Darkness. That was all I could see.
“Well, how do I get in?” I asked aloud.
As if in answer, something else clicked, and the tiny opening shut. I stood and noticed that a new knob had protruded from the middle of the door and the false one was gone. A keyhole was present, and I grinned.
“Now, to find the keys.”
I made my way back downstairs and opened the door for Evelina to tell her of what I had discovered.
She was gone.
I felt worry seed inside me and stepped out onto the stairs, “Evie?” I called.
She didn’t answer.
I tugged the sleeve of my ungloved hand downward so the glass was covered and stepped out onto the streets. I doubted she had wandered far. Evelina was easily frightened. So why did I leave her alone?
“Evelina!” I cried, ignoring the stares people cast my way.
I didn’t want to leave the building unattended and risk someone discovering the body and closing up the place before I could discover what was behind the doors, so I shut it firmly behind me and hurried out into the streets.
“Evelina!” I continued to shout, growing frantic.
Suddenly, as I was passing a dark crevice between two dress shops, I heard a shout of fear.
I turned my head sharply to see her being dragged further into the foreboding alleyway by none other than Oliver Post. Before I could think, I raced inside… and was grabbed by a pair of firm hands.
I let out a cry, “Evie!”
Oliver passed her off to a boy, an Italian boy, who looked no more than twenty, and strode toward me. Carefully, he lifted my veil as I struggled against my captor.
“Well?” A voice behind me snapped, “is she glass?”
My hat was removed and Oliver’s brown eyes glinted, “She is. Like I thought. It’s translucent glass.”
“Miss!” Evelina tried to run to me, but the Italian boy kept a tight hold on her.
“She must be one of Nigel’s,” Oliver mused, “my father always said Nigel had something up his sleeves that would make him famous. And here it is.”
Oliver tried to touch my glass skin, but I bit at him and he reeled backwards, “What do you want with me?” I barked, still fighting my restraints.
Oliver chuckled, “What does anyone want with a glass girl?”
I kicked at him suddenly and heard something crack.
“What was that?” Oliver demanded, “we have to keep her in one⎯!”
Something was smashed against his head and I let out a scream as he fell forward. Glass was glinting in his hair and his head was bleeding.
Evelina stood behind him, the broken top of a bottle in her hands. The man who had ahold of me was so stunned that he let go of me only to be punched in the face by… the Italian boy.
Evelina grabbed my shoulders and gave me a questioning look, “Miss?”
“I’m all right,” I told her, “but why did he help us?” I pointed at the boy who was studying my glass face strangely.
Evelina pulled something from her satchel, a leather-bound book, and opened it. She showed me an Italian word after flipping through the pages and pointed to the English translation below.
I looked between them, noting the resemblances, “Lucky,” I whispered. “How did he find us?”
“I can answer for myself.”
I started at the accented English he spoke and nodded mutely.
“I know Oliver and he told me about an Italian woman carting around a glass girl. I came only to make sure Evelina wasn’t the woman he was speaking of.”
I pursed my lips, “Thank you.”
He shrugged and handed me my hat, having dusted it from dirt after picking it up, “I came for Evelina.” He told her this in Italian and she smiled brightly.
“We have to go,” I urged, anxiously looking back at Oliver.
“You’re right,” Evelina’s brother agreed. “You’ll be wanting to see what’s behind those doors.”
I went rigid, gripping Evelina’s arm, “How do you know about that?”
He grinned, “Because I have the key.”