A merger between Dynamic Marketing Solutions and Elite Clientele was announced in the spring of the following year. Elite Clientele would be the surviving entity, and the whole arrangement would be completed in the first quarter of next year.
Being a paranormal investigator provides me no insight into corporate drama. At first, I thought Mage was being dramatic by stating they could all lose their jobs.
At the time of the announcement, she had gotten used to the idea, but it was all news to her friends, some of whom started to panic. To help calm them down, she began researching the topic, which backfired spectacularly. She had hoped that Elite Clientele had a reputation of keeping employees, but instead learned that they usually laid off employees around the six-month mark after the acquisition was completed.
All the fears she had harbored for her friends returned. They needed their jobs to support their families. Every lost job would be a devastated home. Younger children would miss out on their activities, and older children might not be able to afford college. Unless someone could protect them. And she saw no one more fit for the task than herself.
Her efforts came at a predictable personal cost. More focus on work meant less focus at home. She missed important events with her children. Dance recitals, soccer tournaments, Easter egg hunts. She missed the smaller things too, like going out for ice cream or an evening of family bowling.
Or my personal favorite: missing the trip to the haunted house during Halloween.
Henry was not silent about Mage’s increased time commitment to work and made her aware of what she was missing. He complained about having to pick up all her slack at home. Each argument left her feeling a toxic mixture of anger and guilt.
So, she found herself searching for a way to succeed in both worlds. The details of her search were not described in her journals, only that she was coming up consistently short. Every avenue researched led to another dead end. In her own words, her devotion to her two lives made her feel like less than half a person.
Her entries became shorter and less personal, more factual and fragmented. The sense of self she had captured was evaporating more with each entry. But still she didn’t give up. She continued her search for a solution. A way to be in two places at once.
She didn’t write about her exhaustion, but it was evident, as her writing became less fluid and her spelling filled with errors. The flowing penmanship turned into an artless maze of agitation from an uneven hand. Not even when she went through her emotional trials at the loss of her mother or the ordeal her father thrust upon her was her hand so unsteady.
I had the benefit of hearing Henry’s account before I started reading Mage’s journals. So, I kept a sharp eye for any subtle clue for when her search turned to the arcane fields I am more familiar with.
There were some suspicious entries that started mentioning outside-of-the-box thinking. One option was so outside, she had written: “It could be considered outside of this world.” She did not explore this one with the same energy applied to the more conventional options. Something made her hesitate. Possibly fear or feasibility. But it never left her mind completely, continuing to reference the “otherworldly” option. Unlike all the other options, this one she did not mention to Henry. At least not until it was too late.
With fewer details in each entry, I can’t say for sure what made her so desperate that the powers of dark magic became available. I can only surmise from the dates in December that the added stress from the holidays pushed her over the edge. Maybe it was pressure from the in-laws or from the frantic corners of her own imagination. Nothing suggests it couldn’t have been both.
It happened on Christmas Eve of all nights. Her entry was brief as they all had been for a while, but this time the flowing penmanship showed signs of returning. Hope had crept back into her writing. She acknowledged the otherworldly solution had presented itself, and she no longer had any reason to doubt it. She was proud of her accomplishment, writing boldly that she had figured it out all on her own. Without help from anyone.
There was no entry on Christmas Day. However, the day after Christmas had one of the shorter ones: “Went to the office and left the family with their new sitter for the first time. From the sound of it, no one suspects a thing.”
Over the next several weeks, the sitter was mentioned constantly in her entries, while never disclosing their identity. An entry in February was the first time she began to write more openly about her deeds. Specifically: “No one suspects the sitter isn’t me.”
Mage needed to be in two places at once, and to accomplish this, she used the powers of dark magic to create a copy of herself. “The sitter.”
Or, as I call it, a Gwenhwyfach. It’s an obscure term from Arthurian legend, meaning Guinevere the False, who was Lady Guinevere’s evil half sister. Born on the same day, but to different mothers who gave them the same name. As adults, they looked so alike, Arthur couldn’t tell them apart, which led to the real Guinevere’s imprisonment while Guinevere the False impersonated the queen. The story is more complicated, but the point is I call doppelgangers Gwenhwyfachs. Whether their origins are magical or natural.
As I said before, I knew what she had done from the husband’s account. But having learned her state of mind by reading her journal, I found her ability to paint over the unnatural thing she had done disturbing. A terrible bargain had been struck, and there was no evidence in her journal of any consideration she made.
The sitter lacked Mage’s memories, which presented a critical vulnerability. The saving grace for Mage was the sitter always gravitated toward the same knowledge Mage had. Behaving almost in the same way she did. For instance, Mage had speculated in her journal that she didn’t need to go over the details of her wedding day, since the sitter would probably have made the same decisions on venue, flower arrangements, and so forth. The solution was to boost the sitter’s confidence so that she could think the same way and remain safe.
Keeping the sitter hidden must have been a harder challenge than Mage let on in her journals.