"But..." I spluttered, staring stupidly at the small girl in the photo frame who was still holding out her hand expectantly. "But you're a photo!"
The little Carla huffed and with drew her hand. The glass where it had touched rippled slightly, like a tidal ring.
"Huh!" She said indignantly, crossing her arms. "You're one of them are you? Just because I'm a photo doesn't mean I'm not real!"
"I never..." I began, but dropped my argument almost immediately. It was no use arguing with her. "I'm sorry. This is a first for me."
"No it isn't," continued the girl in a bratty tone. "You've seen me move before, during those awful tea parties."
"My mother's high teas?"
"Our mother," she corrected. "She's just as much mine as she is yours. I'm a younger version of you, you know. Just stuck behind glass," she sighed and gazed at the borders of her cage broodingly.
I watched her for a moment, unsure how to react to this younger version of me.
"Would you still like that tissue?" I asked, running across the room to retrieve the prim little box which stood there.
I watched as she took a tissue. Her arm reached forward again, not pausing when it met the glass and a hand, quite life size, stuck out of the frame. Ripples appeared around her wrist and died away before reaching the borders. She pulled a tissue from the box and with drew within the frame again, the tissue become a photo, the glass left rippling from her touch.
Despite of, or maybe because of my awe, the girl regarded me with big brown eyes.
"Little Carla," I started.
"Please! Don't call me that!" She interrupted. "It's so downgrading. I sound like a junior or a minion. And I," she met my gaze with a challenge. "Am neither."
"What am I to call you then?" I asked.
"They call me Elsie in the land," she said. "It's like 'l' and 'c' but spelt proper, like a real name."
"Well, Elsie," I said, taking care to pronounce her name. Goodness knew what she'd do if I'd said it wrong. "I have a question, well several actually. Who, or what, are the other people? And what is 'the land'?"
"And they say children ask questions," she laughed. "Teenagers are jut as bad. The maids are the other people. The one's you're preparing for right now. They see me, see me move, and just scrub my glass extra hard as if it would fix things! Ooh!" She bunched up her tiny pink fists. "If I could touch them! The things I would do!"
"Yes, yes, yes," I said hurriedly. The maids would be hear soon, and I didn't want to be see taking to myself, in a picture. "What is 'the land'?"
"The place, where all painting and photos can go," Elsie said. "It's beautiful...and exciting. I should take you sometime! Let's go! Let's go now!"
I took a step away from the frame, wary of Elsie and her fists. Who knew how strong those little hands were, and if I'd ever leave the photo. Mother wouldn't be too happy with her daughter appearing twice in the one photo.
"Maybe later, Elsie," I said. "I can hear the maids."
And sure enough the sound of two women gossiping was growing louder. "Will I see you again?"
"You'll see me, but will you see the real me?" She taunted. "Can you convince your mother to move me? To your bedroom or someplace nice? It's awfully drab in here."
"I'll do my best," I promised. I inched towards the door.
"Wait!" Elsie called. "We'll need to arrange a time! How about four o'clock in the afternoon. In two days time?"
"You got it," I told her.
She smiled, and then became a frozen photo again. I slipped out the main door just as the maids entered from the back.
To be continued...