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Every mirror that hung in the small apartment was covered in a white sheet. On the sheet you could see the dust collecting like delicate snowflakes. Thicker and thicker as the minutes ticked by.
If anyone looked at me in the apartment, lightly furnished with things that were only needed; table, chair, bed, they would see a slump curled into a chair. Hair hung over my face, my body crumpled into a mess. It would look like an awful hangover. But that hangover, that look I wore every day, was my life.
Was it a phobia being scared of your own image? Not knowing if the sight you saw would be hideous? I could feel the extra weight when I walked, the slight jiggle of my buttocks when I sat down to a meal of microwave noodles and iced tea. Mum tried to help me, she did, but I refused her help. My heart would beat like a wild rabbit, my palms would sweat, and I’d lose control if someone suggested I look in a mirror. I can't. I don't know if the image would scar me. I've seen pretty girls, and if I was the opposite, they'd be no reason to live with a monster.
It started when I was little. I was five when the fear of being something else then pretty came up to me like lurking stranger. I had looked in mirrors. Lots of times while Mum got me ready for Church or going on a picnic. She would curl my hair and put it in pigtails. Mum would comment that I was a very pretty little girl and how lucky I was.
I didn't feel lucky. The image I saw was ugly. Big nose, small lips and eyes the color of dog poop. Lanky hair that hung like seaweed on a rock and wasn't even a nice looking shade. All my friends were pretty. They wore expensive dresses from boutiques while I wore ones from a thrift store. They smelt like flowers because their mummy let them use their perfume to feel grown up. They would exchange lipsticks and candies that were so effortlessly bought and not counted to see if they'd make the month’s rent. Mum tried her best. She tried to give me the best childhood, but I saw all the imperfections that she tried to hide.
When I turned six, Mum gave me a tiny little pocket mirror for my birthday. On the back was a picture of a fairy, dressed in fine silk and beautiful wings. She had an innocent little face, full of life and happiness. Something that I didn't feel. The anger that I held in for not looking like all my other friends, beautiful and wealthy, burst out like a hot volcano. I screamed at Mum that I was ugly and I couldn't look at the mirror. That I wasn't worthy enough to have it. That my friends should have it because they were rich and we were poor. And with a dramatic pause, I smashed the mirror into the floor so it was cracked. So I could never see the reflection that I despised again.
There was never a moment again when I looked into a mirror. I lost all my friends and never made any again because I became so obsessed with avoiding a mirror, I’d never go out. I didn’t want to see the image of an ugly six year old again. I could have become even more unattractive as I grew up, that I covered each mirror in the house or smashed them when Mum would force me to look in them. Mum sent me to rehab for a while, figuring it was more a mental illness then not liking who I was. I thought I was crazy too. I didn't fight when Mum told me she was sending me there. I wanted to have a normal life, but the thought of uncovering a mirror made me want to scream, to hide away and never surface the face of the earth again.
The day I was hung over a chair, Mum visited. I just moved out after much complaint. She insisted it would be better for me, to make friends at college, maybe meet a boy. So far it had been three months and I dropped out. The looks people gave me were startling. They looked at me as if they were sorry, sorry for the ugly person I was.
Mum's knock threw me out of the stare I was in. I was staring at the covered mirror, wondering if I ever was going to uncover it. But then I just shivered and turned away. I opened the door for Mum, her plastered smile sliding off when she looked me into the eyes.
"I told you I was ugly," I mumbled. My voice was crackly for staying quiet for so long.
"Honey," She sighed. She walked in, shutting the door quietly. The sound made me jump. I had not heard another voice or sound quite loud in weeks, maybe more.
"Are you eating Olivia?"
I nodded and stared off in the distance.
Mum looked over to the kitchen. Cartoons and trash containers littered the counter tops. With a deep breath, Mum started throwing the rubbish into the rubbish bin.
"Olivia," She said, repeating as I didn’t hear her.
I moved my head towards her as if listening, but didn’t make eye contact.
"You can't do this anymore."
I shut out her voice. Every time Mum came round, she would tell me I had to change. I couldn't live this way. But I had and I was still living, breathing, so I basically could.
I could hear her setting down the rubbish and walking towards me. A shock of her cool hand was on my shoulder.
Her voice was so full of love; I bit my lip from the tears that threatened to come.
"My love, why are you hiding?"
I shrugged, "Mum, you know I’m ugly."
"You are so beautiful. So beautiful. If you're Father could see you, my, he'd be so proud to have you as his daughter."
I pulled away from Mum, my voice sharp and angry, "But he isn't Mum. He's dead and I'm dead."
I lashed out. I ran towards the mirror that hung on the wall, covered and dusty.
"Mum stop saying I’m pretty. I am not. Do you hear me?"
I was practically screaming at her. Her body stayed still even though the pain surfaces her eyes.
I pulled the mirror off the wall, "Why did you buy this for me anyways? Why?"
"Because Olivia. You need to know. You need to realize that you're not ugly, you're beautiful."
The way Mum's voice stayed calm, enraged me.
"Dammit Mum. Stop trying. Stop. Nothing is changing."
I threw the mirror on the floor. In a mixture of light and sound, it looked like a masterpiece unfolding. The satin sheet that was nestled over the mirror flew gracefully to the ground without a sound. Shards of glass shattered in a million pieces, the living room light making it glitter easily. I would have stayed longer, but I knew once the pieces settled I would see the masterpiece turn into my worst nightmare.
Mum didn't call anymore or come round. I assumed that and made myself even more invisible to the world. I'd call takeout, a grocery service for supplies, but that was all. Still then I opened the door only enough so the items would barely fit through. Except for Mum and my sister Rosie, I was non-existence.
A call awakened me in the middle of the night. The shrill of the ringtone made my heart beat heavy and I looked at the caller ID.
It was no one I knew, but I answered to make sure they wouldn't call me again. After all, no one lived here.
"Hello," I whispered.
"Is this Olivia Kells?"
My heart raced, "Yes."
"Your mother and sister were injured in a car accident a few hours ago. It took us a while to find your number."
"What," I gasped, tears threatening to spill. The traffic light from outside blazed into my eyes and I turned away to the dark side of the house, "Are they alright?"
The woman on the phone paused slightly, "Rosie is fine. Only a few bruises and cuts, but your mother is barely holding on. They were driving on their way to your apartment, Rosie told us, to visit."
To show me the love that I had so many times turned against, repelled against.
In a gasping breath I managed to say, "I don't know how I can get there. I don't own a car."
"Can you get a taxi Olivia?"
My name. My name was Olivia Kells. My Mother's was Elizabeth Kells. We are related, Mum and I. We share blood. I always hated how Mum tried to help me. How she tried to change me. That's what made me spaz out. I wanted to be left alone. But that was why she helped, well tried to help me. She was related to me, but she loved me more than genetics and blood. Mum loved me because I was her daughter.
The tears fell heavily.
"Olivia? Are you alright"
The stranger who I never met before was concerned for me. The stranger cared for me. Wanted to know how I felt. A person who could live their life not caring about other people's life then their own, wanted to know how I felt.
"Yes. I'll be there soon. Tell Mum I love her."
"I will sweetie. Just be careful getting here."
The dial tone never sounded so sad before. I sat on the rug, long sobs escaping me. My life was falling apart. My relationship with Mum and Rosie was falling apart. I was so obsessed with my own I didn't know them. I didn't know what Mum did on the weekends when she didn't work. I didn't know who Rosie hung out with and who she had a crush on. I didn't even know if she had a first kiss. I was so apart from my family. The only people I ever had, I had rejected them countless times. I had been so selfish stealing from them as I cried over the face I couldn’t change. But wasn’t I lucky? Lucky to be living and not being in the hospital bed as Mum was barely holding on.
I sprang up, running to the hall closet and fetching a jacket that I never had needed before until now. Keys in hand it felt strange, scary. I was going outside the safe cocoon that I had hid in for months. There would be so many places I could see myself, murky or clear reflections. My reflections.
Suddenly I screamed. Loud till I heard my ears pop. I needed to stop. Stop caring only about me. Mum, my Mother was dying and I was becoming scared about reflections. I should be scared about never seeing her again. Her smile, her hugs that I barely accepted, but when I did I felt so fine, so relaxed that I never wanted to let go and make everything go away. My Mummy was fading, as I had many years ago, but without her choice, her spirit deciding to leave or not. When my throat couldn’t bare the pain anymore, I stopped. The silence echoed around me, my scream lingering in the air.
I needed to stop this thing were I was scared at looking at myself. Everyone who came into distance of me saw me. I didn’t see them. I could lose Mum one day or now and I wouldn’t be able to remember a single memory with her because I had been sucked into my world. Scared, cold little world where nothing mattered except my sad self.
With a determined mind and heart, I walked over to the only remaining mirror I hadn’t yet destroyed. I laid my hand on the silky fabric, my fingers slowly gripping the sheet. Let it go Olivia. Let it go. You can't let this take over your life. But I had let it and I needed it to change.
With a breath held and eyes shut tight, I pulled it off in a single thrust. I felt the air first, then the dust particles landing on my face. You can do it. Do it. Do it now Olivia.
I opened my eyes.
I saw me. My eyes, my nose, my ears and hair, my chest and arms. I saw the person I had been avoiding so long. I didn’t look that bad either. The image of something worse had caused me to look away, but now when I faced my fears, I was fine. I wasn’t melting or boiling away. I was standing in front of the mirror in the hall way and I was fine. An overwhelmed heart beat was all that I heard as I stared at myself, looking over the details I hadn’t seen in over ten years.
Without even knowing what I was doing, I smiled at myself. My eyes filled up with light and spirit, my lips looked pretty curved upwards. I was pretty. Mum was right. She had been the whole time.
Tearing my eyes away, I felt a peace I never knew. Mum was going to be alright, I knew it deep inside. My new discovery would give her hope, as it already gave my life meaning. We would all be alright.
We all are pretty.