She had only been scavenging the floor for a moment when she heard the deep, piercing voice of her father.
“Relene! Up, off the floor,” he said, brushing the grass from her chin. “Daydreaming again?” Father was an intimidating man with small, penetrating eyes. “Back in the house.”
As soon as he was gone, Rel lowered her goggles and looked up at the gray brick tower. She entered an open cage and shimmied past the broken Machine Golem in the middle; she wandered into the garage, past the car, and stood before an old, worn out fishing pole. She clutched it, holding it above her head triumphantly, screaming, “Yes, I’ve found the Rod of Lost Tears! Now, I may use it’s thread of everlasting…”
“What did I tell you?” said Father, standing at the garage door.
“Oops,” said Rel, taking off her goggles.
“Get over here.”
“I will. But first I have to…”
Rel cringed at the boom of her father’s voice, slinking to his side, eyes on the floor. “Right.”
“Inside,” he ordered, pointing his finger into the garage door. “Don’t give me that look!” He followed her into the kitchen, guided her to a bag of rice and gestured for her to sit. “There, right there. Now, what did I say earlier? Sit here and think about it. No more of these foolish games. Not right now.” Father carried a wad of papers, shaking his head. “Not now.”
Rel lowered her goggles, staring at the inside of the prison.
Lily appeared, sitting to her left, legs crossed on the floor. “Oh, my princess, I am sorry. What do you plan to do?”
“He’s sealed the forward gate,” Rel said grimly. Through the lens of her goggles, she glanced at the front door. It appeared as prison bars, and the rice she was sitting on turned out to be a stone slab. Rel was shackled by invisible chains. “Unless I find the key, there’s no hope of recovering the mirror. It’s hopeless.”
“It would be, Mistress,” said Lily triumphantly, “Good thing I managed to swipe this from his person!” Drawing a hand from the side of her skirt, Lily revealed a small silver key.
“Oh, Lily, I knew I could count on you,” cried Rel as Lily undid the chains.
Metal clinked to the floor, fading into rings of black smoke. Rel bounced to her feet and clutched the Rod of Lost Tears, “What about the gate? Not even a Ring of Heroes could burn through this.”
“There, Mistress!” said Lily.
“A hole in the side wall,” said Rel, staring at a large crack in the prison, just left of the main gate.
“Will we fit?” asked Lily.
“We must!” said Rel valiantly.
Mother stood in the front yard, just beyond the hedges, talking on her cellphone. “I know, I know. Yes, we will have the money. Just a little more time…” She paused. Mother watched the front window as Rel clamored out, got stuck, and dropped through the opening, dragging a doll behind her in the grass. “Um, I’ll have to call you back. I can’t talk… Yes, yes, I know. Well, my daughter… Uh huh? Yes. Yes I understand.”
Rel dashed into the Blue-Tree-Thing Forest, Lily following quickly behind.
“What about Jawroot Jawroot?” said Lily, trying to keep up.
“What’s a jawbutt jawbutt?” said Rel, breaking past the trees, and seeing the emerald glow of the lake.
Lily repeated, “Jawroot Jawroot! The guardian of Jawroot Jawroot Lake! He is ferocious, monstrous, with teeth like knight lances. That, and he is not very polite!”
Rel Rel stumbled to the edge of the lake, lifted the goggles from her eyes, and looked down into the water. A fish, two inches long, with silver fins and dark eyes, swam in small circles in the shallows. She grinned, “Oooh, that is scary,” and placed the goggles down.
Once the purple lenses lowered over her eyes, she saw Jawroot Jawroot as it really was: a gigantic fish that towered over the surface of the water. It had glowing yellow eyes, spikes rising from its back, and a mouth like that of a great white shark. Jawroot Jawroot tore through the water, creating surges of white hair in crazed circles around the lost mirror.
“Are you freaking kidding me?!” Rel Rel stuttered. “How am I supposed to get the mirror with that thing in the water?”
“Rel? Rel, get over here, now!” came a voice in the distance.
“Where are you? Mija, answer me. Oh, where could she be, I saw her run this way.”
Lily flicked her eyes into the trees, “It’s your guardians?”
“Oh no, not now. I haven’t got the mirror yet!” Rel splashed into the lake frantically.
“You best hurry, princess.”
“I know, okay, okay!” Rel Rel dove into the water, running on top of the massive fish. “He’s slippery!” She clutched Jawroot Jawroot’s highest fin with one hand, grasping it firmly, while she held the fishing pole with the other, trying not to get thrown off. “Fly now, Rod of Lost Tears!”
As she cast, Jawroot Jawroot thundered through the water, trying to shake the little girl from its head. Rel Rel was jerked about, to and fro, still holding onto the rod. “I got it!”
The hook snagged upon the lost mirror, picking it up from the mud.
“Reel it in, Mistress!” cried Lily from the shore.
“I’m trying to!” Rel’s other hand was locked to Jawroot Jawroot’s head fin.
“Let go!” came Lily’s voice.
“Are you nuts?” cried Rel Rel.
“Relene? Relene!” came the voice of her parents.
“Oh goodness, there she is!” said her mother, to Father, from the other side of the lake, just beyond the large oak that led into town. They saw her with an old beaten rod, over a terrified silver fish.
“You must do it now, Mistress!”
Father marched through the bushes, “Relene, here! Don’t make me come over there!”
“I know!” Rel let go, spinning, trying not to lose hold of the rod. Bubbles! A fish surging upon her, its mouth wide, teeth, so many, many teeth!
She turned the reel, tugged up, hand spinning desperately. Jawroot Jawroot was upon her! The rod bent, the line tugged violently, ringing like a ribbon of silver light, gathering into the handle of the rod.
Rel pulled as Jawroot Jawroot leaped from the water. “I almost have it!”
“Rel, enough!” Father yanked her backwards.
The mirror was flung into the air, carried at the end of the fishing line, landing on the muddy shore. It squished to a sloppy stop, right at Mother’s feet.
Rel, coated in mud, soaking wet, hair smeared across her cheeks, clothes ruffled and sticking to her body, trudged up to Mother and smiled. “Look, look, I found it! Aren’t… aren’t you proud of me?” She pulled the goggles onto her forehead.
Mother eyed the mirror, shaking her head at the messy little girl. “You’re such a hassle, mija. I don’t have time for your games. I really don’t.”
“Tell me you’re proud of me,” said Rel Rel.
“Get on home,” came Father’s gruff voice. “Get on home. Now.”
Mother thrust the compact into Rel’s hands. “Now.”
Mother and Father wandered back up the hill together. They exchanged glances, saying something Rel couldn’t hear. She opened the compact, staring into the grimy, dingy reflection of herself.
Lily eyed her curiously, “What will you wish for, Mistress?”
She sighed through her nose, tears masked by purple bangs, droplets of lake water on her cheeks, “I wish for… Attention.”
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