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It is three am, Hallie wakes from her dream. (You know her reoccurring dream, the one about the….oh you have not heard about her dream? Really? Well, let’s start from the beginning.)
One year ago Hallie moved to Dublin, Ireland with her family (her adopted family that is, they found her as an infant on a ship headed for America grasping half of a golden key with an emerald in the center). She first came here because she received a letter in the mail on her seventeenth birthday inviting her to come live in an estate she inherited from a family she did not even know existed. Curious about her past and biological family she agreed to move.
As she stepped off the plane, her heart began to pound, she was finally going home. Walking down the hall a strange man greeted Hallie and her family with a car to take them to the estate. Pulling into the three mile driveway, she could not believe what her eyes were seeing. Her home, her true home was a castle. (Now don’t get too excited, this is NOT a fairytale there is no handsome prince, just a drafty old Irish castle.)
Taking one look at it she said to her sister Lesley, “Wonder if it is haunted?” Lesley a quite logical girl simply rolled her eyes and stepped out of the car. The two of them proceeded up the steps to the front door where the strange man introduced himself and John Murphy and handed them each a key to the house. This reminded Hallie of the half key she now wore around her neck and she asked him if he knew anything about it. He said “you will one day discover your answer” and nothing more.
That evening the family settled in and cooked a warm meal over the fire in the castle’s vast kitchen. (Considering there is no electricity, this was a bit difficult for this very modern American family.) As their parents decided to head to their bedroom, the girls thought it would be exciting to stay up and explore for a while. Though old and drafty the castle was mesmerizing to these two teens. Each room completely deferent from the previous. There were three floors including the dungeon, only there was on lock in which to unlock its enormous door.
Getting tired, the girls decided to stop exploring for the night and continue the following day. (For it was summer and there was no school to speak of.) On the way back up the winding stone staircase Hallie stopped as she saw her reflection in a window, her long red curls flowing over her night gown. Only her hair was long, straight, and blond; and she was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Staring off in almost a trance she began to lose herself until Lesley cam rushing back down shaking her out of it. “What is wrong with you” she said. “I was almost back to my room before if realized you were not behind me.
“Sorry, I saw my reflection and – oh never mind, lets go to bed.”
“Looks like somebody’s not getting enough rest these days, psycho…”
Finally they get into their rooms and lie down. Hallie cannot stop thinking about the image. She just cannot seem to fall asleep. So she heads down to the kitchen to heat a glass of water. Realizing it is 3:00 am she rushed back to bed in fear that she may wake her parents.
Waking late the next afternoon, she has missed breakfast and heads back down to the drafty kitchen to concoct a sandwich “Hallie style” she says to her self and giggles. Sitting down to eat she begins to wonder about her experience the pervious night. “Was I hallucinating? Was that me? No, it could not have been… but what was it?”
Startled by her sister calling her name she snaps out of it. The two of them decide to go explore the courtyard. It was nothing less than magnificent, with every type of flower imaginable. In three corners were statues of a tiger, a dolphin, and the largest of all a phoenix. (Funny, the phoenix has always been one of Hallie’s favorite myths.) At the statue of the phoenix the two girls sit to rest. Hallie notices that three of the phoenix’s claws are gold with emeralds, just like her key half. Lesley, hearing thunder decides to go back to the castle while Hallie stays for a bit.
Suddenly, a violent storm strikes and the statue as well as Hallie are struck by lightning. Hours later she wakes up lying next to the phoenix, her golden key half tightly in her hand. Slowly standing, she braces herself on the statue accidentally pressing the claws of the phoenix inward, and opening a secret compartment. Just as she begins to look inside she hears someone calling “Kathleen, Kathleen, Kathleen….” then she realizes its Lesley calling “Hallie, Hallie Hallie,” and she truly wakes up.
“Hallie are you alright? What happened? I was walking back from the garden and I turned around and you were gone.”
“Yeah I think I’m alright, but what do you mean? You knew I was staying in the garden for a while, with the phoenix statue.
“Phoenix statue? Did you hit you head? We were only outside for about fifteen minutes before you disappeared and blacked out.”
“No, stop kidding around. I’m serious! C’mon I’ll show it to you.
“Sussh, you need your rest.”
Hallie tried to convince her sister she was telling the truth for about a week, but gave up when Lesley threatened to tell their parents about Hallie’s delusions. Now every night for almost a year Hallie has had this reoccurring dream about the phoenix. (Now does that clear up the dream question?) For months, Hallie would go behind her sister’s back out to the courtyard to seek the lost phoenix, and each time she would return home more disappointed. After about six months of looking she gave up, but the dream came more frequently and grew more and more intense each time, waking at 3:00 am each time.
This time as Hallie wakes from her dream, which is beginning to seem more like a nightmare it’s her eighteenth birthday and she decides to go search one more time for the statue, disregarding that it was yet again 3:00am and a storm was brewing. Walking slowly down the corridors, Hallie once again sees her reflection, and once again it does not look like her, this time she has short black hair and is wearing a barrette. Shaking off the image and looking again she sees herself and is satisfied enough to go outside; trying once more to retrace her steps. As she is walking and thinking about that day when she first saw the phoenix, a bolt of lightning strikes the center of the courtyard leaving a trail of smoke right to Hallie’s feet. Startled, she follows the burning ground wondering what she would discover at the end of it. After about three minutes of walking the trail ends and she gazes up to find non other than the statue of the phoenix. Quickly, she looks for the three golden claws with the three emeralds. Seeing them she hesitates, but pushes excitedly waiting to see what was inside. She rubs her eyes in amazement, it is the other half of her key, the key she held so tightly as an infant. Pulling the other half out of her shirt on a necklace and puts the two halves together, a perfect fit. Next, she runs to the dungeon hoping to find the pattern on the door. When she reaches the door the patter is there and she pushes gently and a lock appears; now she can use her complete key to unlock the door that has kept her wondering for a year.
Once inside she sees three doorways, the first two open and the third locked. She enters the first seeing photos of an Irish girl that looks very much like her, she begins to read a journal telling the story of a girl found on a ship and adopted by a foreign family. Seeming a bit ironic she drops the journal and enters the second doorway. Only she finds the same scenario, a girl that looks like her and a journal relating all too much to her own life. Stepping backward she realizes these are the two girls are the girls she saw in her own reflection previously. Backing too quickly, she trips and is surprisingly helped up by Murphy. “I told you that you would discover the meaning behind the key,” said Murphy.
“I still do not understand…I…” but before she could finish he began to explain it to her.
“You are a special girl Kathleen-”
“My name isn’t-”
“Your true name is Kathleen Elizabeth O’ Riley or it should be Kathleen Elizabeth Boudwin, but I will get to that in a while. On the day you were born a curse came upon your family. You were the first born girl on your father’s side of the family in one hundred years, only you were not supposed to be born. Your mother was forced to marry your father and was in love with another man, whom she had and affair with even after her marriage. It is he who is your real father not the man who first placed upon you this curse. This curse was to cause you a life of pain, suffering, and haunting for three centuries, he wanted you to lose everyone you ever loved because your mother refused to give up the one she truly loved. He was a French man with the name of Boudwin who dreamed of living in America someday, so did your mother. She knew of this curse and as she grew ill after your birth she did her best to reverse it, yet the best she could do was fix the curse so that you lived those three centuries as painlessly as possible. So she and your real father placed you on a ship sending you on elsewhere in Ireland, away from your horrible step father. There you lived for one hundred years, to die and live again repeating a similar life, but better than the previous. Now you are living your third century the best century, and I am here to tell this to you before I go.”
“Go? Where are you going and how do you know so much?...”
“I am not really John Murphy; I am Brenton Boudwin, your biological father. I have lived these three centuries guarding this castle waiting for your last seventeenth birthday so that I could send you that letter to come to your inherited estate. I wanted to see you and how you’ve grown before I had to leave. I cannot be here with you for the rest of this century, I must leave tonight, the night of your last eighteenth birthday at 3:00 am. I love you my little phoenix always remember that.”
The two of them spent the rest of that day until 3:00 am talking about the past present and future. When his time came her father took a key out of his pocket, unlocked the third door in the dungeon and said, “Be good my little phoenix, make this lifetime your best; I’ll be seeing you soon enough.”