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Sonya Proth was having boy trouble. Oh, she was personable enough, and with good looks to boot. However, Benjamin Corner had spurned her flirtations ever since she had commenced them in the eighth grade. She also showed a partiality towards Hamman Porcley, Bryan Urbum, Deal Washington, and Buck Olmslem. None of them liked her, however. But Benjamin was her main concern, so she was not bothered by this.

Her best friend, Tracy Winters, had tried countless times to convince Sonya that pursuing Benjamin was foolish, as he was unworthy of her, but she wouldn’t listen. Benjamin, she said, was her motivation for getting out of bed every morning. She had to impress him, and, therefore, she worked hard in school. For this reason alone Tracy saw Benjamin as a healthy influence.

Sonya had a very strange marking on her right arm, which was shaped like a half-crescent and glowed brightly during a full moon. She had often wondered about it, but her mother never could explain when it had first appeared or whether anybody else in the world had one. In a way, she liked it, because it made her feel unique. However, her uniqueness sometimes made her think she was unworthy of Benjamin, thereby lowering her self-esteem.

One day in tenth grade, Sonya made a very daring move. She asked Benjamin Corner to the Sadie Hawkins’ dance, knowing full well that he was waiting for Arnista Bumpkiss to ask him.

“So will you go?” she repeated,, after receiving no response from him the first time.

“I’m sorry, Sarabella.” (He always called her ‘Sarabella’ seeming to think that was her rightful name. Sonya didn’t seem to mind, though.) “I’m going with someone else.”

“Who?” Certainly Arnista has not asked him yet? Sonya thought.

“Eloise Primwater,” came the curt reply.

“What, that sourpuss? Are you sure you’d rather go with her than with me?” Sonya asked, batting her eyelashes and using her most dulcet voice.

“I’ve already promised her, haven’t I? Can’t renege. Against the code of chivalry.” Although Benjamin said this with confidence, it was obvious he didn’t believe his own words.

“Well then, bye.”

“Bye,” said Benjamin, in a rather cold voice.

Tracy went to the dance with Matthew Urbino and reported to Sonya that Benjamin had been dating both Arnista Bumpkiss and Eloise Primwater at the same time. Sonya asked how that worked out, and Tracy replied that Benjamin had spent half the time with Eloise before she left and the other half with Arnista once that girl had arrived, just a few minutes after the former had gone. Benjamin must’ve purposefully made sure that the two girls would not meet. It appeared that he had succeeded in this endeavor.

Sonya Proth was one of those people bad luck always seems to follow. We have already observed that her fondness for men was never reciprocated by any of them. Indeed, no boy developed a crush on her until the summer before her junior year in high school. And that was not a good one, either.

The Proth children had not seen their cousins in six years, and therefore, it was like meeting for the first time when they had a reunion at the Mihart Hotel near the Orange Park in southeast Ohio. There, Fasserbly Proth, Sonya’s first cousin, was often found wading in the pool. He at first was oblivious to Sonya’s charms, but when he saw her in her gorgeous bathing suit and noted that her vivacity was well to his liking, he felt enamored by her. Never had he wanted anything more in his whole life! He imagined their beautiful wedding, the huge mansion they would inhabit, the kids they would raise – what an amazing dream it was! Sonya’s brightness and intelligence did nothing to mitigate his love for her. Even when she spoke incessantly of Benjamin, he’d listen quietly, for to him her voice was always as euphonious as a thrush’s. Sonya quickly became Fasserbly’s whole world, and he would not give her up for anything.

How did Sonya feel about this undue attention from her cousin? To put it plainly, she was somewhat glad that she didn’t have to worry about no man ever liking her, but at the same time she was completely freaked out. Though the Proths stayed at the hotel for a fortnight (Grandpa Comen Proth was both wealthy and friends with the manager, so the whole family received a discount), Sonya only visited the pool twice. She avoided Fasserbly as much as possible. He paid Darwin, a second cousin once removed, to record her chatted with Burma, Jill, and Turcleats – three amiable aunts of Sonya’s. He would use his computer to erase the older women’s parts in the conversation, and sleep listening to his sweet cousin’s voice rambling about her sorrows regarding Benjamin Corner. Once, Fasserbly had Hannah, Darwin’s little sister, sneak into Sonya’s room and steal her sandals for him, while his darling love was in the park. These he placed on his heart, in the hopes that when Sonya put the shoes on again she’d forget about Benjamin and put Fasserbly at the top of the list of men she liked.

This hope was faulty, however, and his action did nothing that he thought it would. All too soon, he was saying farewell to her, not likely to see her pretty face (save by picture) till Christmas, when they’d have another reunion.

Sonya spent the ensuing five months flirting with Benjamin, though her efforts were tantamount to an archer shooting his arrow completely off target. She even resorted to asking Tracy how Matthew and she had fallen in love and contemplating whether under those same circumstances Benjamin would’ve taken a fancy for her.

As time went on, Sonya fell deeper and deeper in love with Benjamin. Suddenly her grades began to slip. She managed to keep them just above passing, however. Even so, Sonya’s parents wanted a private tutor to help her.

They had a meeting with Mr. Hinecourt, the principal of Sonya’s high school. He called all his fellow principals in the district, and Mr. Mammogram, the principal of Pine Springs High School, said that he had the perfect young man for the job, who was set to commence work at four-thirty on the twenty-first of November.

Terton Phillips was nineteen, tall, gangly, and had dark-red freckles all over his face. He also had red hair and an apparent “high-brow,” the marks of his intelligence. However, he was unlikable in all other characteristics. For instance, when he ate cheese, he involuntarily snorted, and if you so much as hinted at a movie Demi Moore had played in, he would throw down his work and tell you everything about that movie, from goofs to the awards it had garnered (including the year), and little known facts about the actors and actresses in it.

What was far worse was the fact that Terton fell in love with Sonya the moment he first laid eyes on her. He had never been enraptured by anyone before, and here was this pristine nymph thrown into his life. He tried to keep it cool, but when Sonya leaned in close to see how to work a particular algebraic equation, he spilled his hot cocoa into his lap and their lesson ended for that day.

After a fortnight of tutoring (Terton even came on Sunday, though he wasn’t paid then) Sonya was back on track, as she was a quick study. Unfortunately, Terton did not go away. One night she heard him sitting outside her window singing a love song as though he were a troubadour. She was growing steadily annoyed with him, and soon wished that her grades had never fallen and that her father had never hired Terton. It never occurred to Sonya that she was sort of treating Fasserbly and Terton as Benjamin was treating her. Tracy noticed this but was kind enough not to say anything that might upset her friend.

Christmas vacation was upon them at last, and this time Grandpa Comen Proth had them convene at 419 Pemberly Road, a gorgeous seaside mansion not too far from Sonya’s home. Sonya though that, though she was away from Benjamin and near Fasserbly, at least Terton would not bother her for a while. In this pleasant hope, she was dead wrong.

Terton had come to 419 Pemberly Road after all, and once Sonya’s father put in a good word for him, he was all set to stay. He soon met Fasserbly, and how long and frequently they spoke of Sonya’s greatness, her beauty, and their unworthiness of her! How often they stood outside her room door just in the hopes of getting a glimpse of her. Sonya was their world, their inspiration, their reason for living! Neither Fasserbly nor Terton could enter into a conversation without mentioning Sonya’s name a few times. Needless to say, they made several people sick of hearing about their poor relationship with the girl, though they could always find a listener in young Hannah Proth (age 11), who already had a crush on a boy and hoped to learn from Fasserbly and Terton how to win his heart.

Sonya was more vexed than ever by this duo. The only guy she desired attention from was Benjamin Corner! Only her three aunts could understand how she felt, for at seventeen they’d been just like her. None of them got their wishes granted, however. Nevertheless, they encouraged Sonya’s pursuit of Benjamin, for they thought it a proper thing for a girl her age.

On Christmas Eve, the Proths did some last minute shopping, Sonya going with her dear aunts; Fasserbly going with Terton, Hannah, and Grandma Dot, Comen’s wife; and the othe other Proths going in the Hummer. Sonya purchased a snow globe with tiny figurines of mermaids and a squid in it for Hannah, a spotted bowtie for her father, and a garden-making treatise for her mother,

She also bought a maroon sweatshirt for Tracy. The latter had a weekday clothing system that went something like this: “Lime Sundays,” in which she wore a green blouse, preferably light-green; “Lavender Mondays, “ in which purple was either the color of her shirt or pants; “Black Tuesdays” in which from head to toe she had to be wearing black; “Blue Wednesdays,” for wearing jeans and a blue blouse to school or a frilly, azure-colored dress; “Rainbow Thursdays,” where she admonished herself if she had not put on a plethora of different colors; “Maroon Fridays,” where maroon was her thing, and “White Saturdays,” in which she wore nothing but white. However, she had very few things that were maroon and would be extremely pleased to receive something of that color.

When the whole family had returned, Fasserbly and Terton tied to corner Sonya and lavish such fulsome praise on her that she was unlikely to hear from anybody else’s lips in her life. Luckily, she was able to avoid them, as she might’ve also received some undesired physical attention.

After dinner that night, Sonya slipped out of the house unnoticed. Her parents would’ve never permitted her to venture out of doors without an escort,, but she was seized by an impulse that she couldn’t resist. Something was waiting for he out there.

Sonya meandered along the beach, until she came to a small shack. This she entered, incognizant of what she’d find inside.

She opened the door, but noticed nothing but a long, vertical mirror in the middle of the room. Toward this she ventured. Upon peering into the glass, she gasped. Benjamin Corner was there, sitting on a crate and wearing the kind of clothes you’d expect a hobo to be decked in. She turned from the mirror and gazed around the shack for her beloved. Not seeing him, she called out his name. She looked back at the mirror. Benjamin was still there, now tugging at the hem of the dress of Sonya’s reflection. Then she noticed something even more astonishing – her reflection was wearing a grimace on her face that could only mean one thing: she was repulsed by Benjamin’s behavior! But how can that be? Sonya wondered. I’d be flattered if the real Ben did that to me.

This is not to say that Sonya was not finding it peculiar that her reflection was not mimicking her every move, but the freakiness of that fact had been mitigated by the appearance of the apparition that looked liked Benjamin. Nor was Sonya cruel and heartless, but being as she was infatuated by Benjamin Corner, she was sure that even if she did not love him, she would treat him with utmost kindness and enjoy is lionization of her.

After a moment or two, Sonya raised her eyes and noticed some writing from a strange language. However, it gradually seemed to change into English letters, though certainly not English words. She read them aloud.

“Eratica, onis surflu!” she said.

All at once, Sonya heard a noise somewhere in the shack. She started to scream, but someone had put an invisible finger to her lips.

“You can speak Mystique?” said a rather soft voice.

Sonya turned her head so as to discover the owner of that voice, but to no avail. “Show yourself before I answer!” she replied, thinking it was both shrewd and prudent to be wary of this intruder.

“I’m afraid I cannot do that, Sonya. You see, I am a disembodied spirit, and without a body I must remain invisible to you.”

“Disembodied? Wait, how do you know my name?”

“Well for one thing, now that you’ve said the magic words, it’s written right there on the mirror.” And sure enough, there it was, in blatant, icy- blue letters: SONYA PROTH.

“What is the meaning of this?” Sonya asked, starting to become terrified.

“You have yet to answer the question by which I opened this conversation,” said the disembodied spirit, exasperatedly.

“First, you must give me your name. I cannot answer a stranger,” rejoined the girl.

“Fine. I am known by a plethora of names in a plethora of languages. However, you can call me Morlado.”

“Okay, Morlado. Uh…could you repeat your question? I have been meditating on a lot of things since this conversation commenced, and have, therefore, quite forgotten it.”

“It was whether or not you can speak Mystique.”

“Oh yeah. I don’t think I can, for I’ve never heard of it.

“And yet you can read it upon your first time seeing it?” Morlado asked wonderingly.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Oh!” Her face brightened. “The writing on the mirror? Why, of course I can read it. It’s common sense.”

“No, that’s where you’re wrong, my friend. Not just anybody could read what you did just now. You must have a mark somewhere, a symbol of the Mystiquan zodiac. Hold up your right arm!”

Sonya complied, albeit puzzled. Then she saw it. The silver half-crescent was glowing brighter than ever. Astonished, she started to query Morlado about the reason for this, but he spoke before she had a chance.

“Yes, of course. You’ve been branded by Lardvark and Willey.”

“Who’re they?”

“Why, they’re elves who were sent to Earth a dozen years ago to mark those worthy of passing through the mirror that leads to Eratica.”

“The mirror that leads to – where, exactly?”

“Eratica. The land of dreams and love.”

“And the mirror that leads to that place is –“

“Right there in front of you.”

Sonya took a step toward it, then halted. “What would happen if I were to touch the glass on that mirror?”

“You’d be transported to Eratica, never to see Earth again.”

“Is there any positive side to all this?”

“Why, of course! Well, I suppose you, being an Earthling, have never heard any legends of Eratica. You see, in that world, all feelings of romantic love are backward from this one, and all other worlds. In the mirror, you noticed just now that Benjamin was groveling at the feet of your reflection. Why do you suppose that is?”

Sonya lowered her face to think, not even pausing to ponder how Morlado knew the name of her beloved. The disembodied spirit did not wait for an answer before he continued: “It’s because on Eratica, you find him revolting and equivalent to scum on your shoes, as he feels about you here, although he wears a veneer of kindness that conceals it.

But, on Eratica, you are in love with Fasserbly and dote on Terton, though they both ignore you. Your opposite number on Eratica had tried long and hard to ingratiate herself with these two, but to no avail. If you step through that mirror now, you’ll have Benjamin Corner’s undying love and you’ll be free from your cousin’s and tutor’s fits of ardent passion. I believe this is what you always wanted, Sonya?”

“Why, it is! But……..Answer me this, Morlado: will Benjamin in Eratica be the same in every other respect? Because I cannot love him if he’s different from the one I’ve come to know.”

“Oh, you won’t recognize any difference, save that of his emotions. Go on, now.”

“Okay I’m putting my trust in you, Morlado. Goodbye.”

“’Bye,” said the disembodied spirit.

Sonya approached the glass and reached out her hand. Her skin never made contact with the mirror however. She felt as though she were falling down a funnel into a sifter. This lasted for about 4.5 minutes, before she felt her body hit the cold, hard ground.

“Are you all right?” Benjamin asked, agitated.

Sonya opened her eyes. She wondered temporarily why Benjamin was there, then the memory of the past few minutes came rushing back to her. She did something she never would’ve done on Earth.

“Ben, do you love me?”

“Why, why of course I do, Sarabella.”

“Then come closer.”

“You want me to come closer, Master?”

“Master? So that’s what she makes you call her?”

“I don’t savvy, Your Highness. Even if you’re referring to yourself, yoouu don’t force me to call you that. I just believe it fits your station.”

“My station! What about yours?”

“Mine? It is forever to be your servant.”

“What if I were to say I was similar status to you?”

‘I’d be horrified, my queen.”

“All the same, come closer.”

Benjamin acquiesced with this command, and received what he had not anticipated, a sharp peck on the cheek. ‘A kiss for me, miss? But I’m unworthy!”

“On the contrary, I think you’re very worthy.”

“Oh, Sarabella, Sarabella! I fear that this is only a dream, and tomorrow I shall awaken inn my bed facing yet another day of you cruelty.”

“If this is a dram,” Sonya smiled, “let’s not leave it at this.” With that she pulled some mistletoe from her pocket that Terton had placed there to raise over her head later and steal a kiss.. This she held over the Eratica Benjamin Corner, then gave him a long, wonderful lip-lock.

A grandfather clock in the shack signaled that it was one hour before midnight, and Sonya knew that her parents, even the ones here in Eratica, would soon start worrying about her. “I’m sorry to cut this rendezvous short,” Sonya said, “but I really must be going home.”

“Wait! Aren’t you going to say good-night?”

“Sure. Good-night, Ben, and Merry Christmas. Oh, and one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Call me Sonya; not Sarabella.”

Benjamin smiled. “I’ll remember that. But you know, before today, I thought myself unworthy to speak your name, thus I called you by a pseudonym, Sarabella.”

Sonya returned his smile, and then with a flick of her hair, she left the shack. She got home safely, and entered the mansion without anyone noticing. If questioned she could just say she had wandered into a spare room and, being pooped from the day’s activities, fell asleep at once.

She got into her bedroom (which she shared with Hannah) without any trouble. It was well after midnight before she finally dozed off.

“Wake up, Sonya! It’s Christmas!” shouted Hannah, a few hours later.

Sonya did awaken, though quite reluctantly. Then she remembered that along with the wonder of the Benjamin in Eratica loving her, Morlado had promised that Fasserbly and Terton would not be. She decided to see if it was fact.

Whilst Hannah and Darwin opened their presents (Hannah absolutely loved her snow globe; everyone in Eratica was exactly the same as on Earth except in romantic feelings), Sonya asked Terton what he thought of her and was glad when he called her a “blundering, foolish girl.” Fasserbly jumped a mile when she tried to sit on the couch next to him. Everything was going smoothly.

Benjamin and Sonya dated in secret for the next year-and-a-half, not showing any outward affection toward one another until the senior prom rolled around (Benjamin pretended he had taken a fancy for Arnista Bumpkiss).. They eventually got married, and Benjamin did something very unconventional regarding their nuptials. He changed his surname to match hers, for he wanted to honor Sonya. Besides, he figured that the new commercial airline chain he was commencing would sound more melodious if it was Proth United rather than Corner United. Sonya’s grandfather was very proud to have such a man marry one of his progeny. He perished shortly after Proth United became an international business, though he was very blissful to know that his name would be commemorated through something as wonderful as the airplane industry.

The Sonya Proth who switched places with our heroine was in heavy raptures when she found out both Fasserbly and Terton were infatuated by her. She decided at first to pretend she was like the old Sonya and had no feelings for them whatsoever, but when Terton caught her under the mistletoe, she kissed him back with such exuberance that he knew she was simply feigning, though he misconstrued this to mean that Sonya had always loved him.

Fasserbly tried his luck and got the same results. Now Fasserbly and Terton were rivals, and they had bitter altercations over which one Sonya liked best. She enjoyed this very much and watched their brawls over her with happiness.

The Tracy Winters on Earth found the change in Sonya to be benevolent for her. The one on Eratica did not like the new Sonya’s choice. She warned her friend that loving Benjamin might make her become his slave one day in the future, following the natural order of things (natural to Tracy, that is to say): MASTER – EQUAL – SLAVE… With this Sonya broke her relationship with Tracy. If her friend was going to be unsupportive, she was not worth her time.

Did Sonya ever miss Earth? She missed her former relationship with Tracy Winters somewhat, and, though a girl thinks that having a lot of guys adore her is great (Hamman Porcley, Bryan Urbum, Deal Washington, and Buck Ollmslem all loved her now), in reality it’s an unpleasant thing. But Benjamin Corner was worth trading all the Earths in the world for, and, even if she experienced slight nostalgia now and then, Eratica was exactly where she wanted to be.
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