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My eyes snap open to utter darkness and an incessant beeping. I turn my head to the source of the sound and glare at the digital red numbers of my alarm clock.

“Shut up!” I groan, grabbing a random pillow and chucking it at the device. The pillow knocks the clock off the shelf. The beeping sounds sputters and dies as the numbers blink and slowly fade. I grin at my success.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Mom bursts into the room. I yelp and squint at the doorway, unable to tell if it’s the sudden light flooding my bedroom or Mom’s smile that blinds me. It’s ridiculous, really, how someone can show that many teeth.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” she screams again, throwing in a little dance. Her bright blue eyes twinkle with excitement, and her long blond hair swishes gracefully around her shoulders as she twirls.

“Wow,” I say mildly. “You’d think you were the one turning sixteen.”

Mom flops onto the bed and playfully shoves me, giggling. I can’t help but laugh with her. She has this ageless innocence that draws in hearts and holds them by her side for life.

Except for my father, of course. He left after The Accident. Packed his bags a couple days later and never looked back.

“After school, we’ll go to a nice place for dinner, okay?”

I shake my head, snapping out of my reverie, and smile at Mom. She beams at me before jumping up and clapping her hands together.

“Alright, Lil, get up and at ‘em!” She laughs again and disappears through the doorway.

I sigh, then chuckle quietly. Even after The Accident, and Dad’s Takeoff, she still manages to put a smile on my face. Amazing.

I don’t see why sixteen is so important. The Big Number. The All-Important Age. What’s so different about sixteen than twelve, or ten?

Stalking off the the bathroom, I curl my lips in disgust at the girl in the mirror. She glares back at me.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . . .” I snarl at my reflection. “Who’s the ugliest of them all?”

The girl says nothing, just stares.

I snort. “I guess Accidents happen, huh?”



*

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*

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*


“How was school?”

The menu shakes in my hands. I grip it tightly, and my knuckles turn white. Get it together, Lily. Pretty hard, when everybody around us continuously throws glances my way. I meet the gaze of a young mother holding her baby, and her eyes erupt with pity. I immediately snap my head forward, staring at the table.

“Lily?”

“Huh?” I say distractedly, looking up at Mom.

“Are you okay, honey?” she asks. Her eyebrows furrow with concern.

And I burst into tears.

“Lily!” Mom says, clearly shocked.

“I - I’m sorry,” I blubber, sniffing. She quickly rummages through her purse, pulls out a tissue, and places it in my hands. Her eyes are huge and round.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” she asks gently.

I wipe my eyes and blow my nose before forcing myself to meet her eyes.

“It’s just . . . I don’t know. I thought once I turned sixteen, something would change. Because I’m older now. I thought that maybe - maybe people could stop staring. They’re everywhere, Mom. Always staring.”

I gesture at my face. “I thought this would have all gone away by now. The Accident ruined everything. Everything. I’m sixteen, Mom. I’m supposed to be beautiful.” I sniff, embarrassed by my sudden rant.

Mom says nothing, just tilts her head at me curiously. Then she reaches into her bag and pulls out a rectangular package that’s covered in red wrapping paper. Smiling, she silently sets it down in front of me.

I glance at her, confused, and she nods at the package. I hesitate, then begin tearing the wrapping paper off. Underneath lies a box, white as snow.

“Should I - can I open it?” I ask. Mom nods again.

I clasp the lid and gently pull it off the box . . . and gasp; I can’t help it. Inside sits a small circular mirror, surrounded by cream-colored feathers. The handle is just as lovely, but decorated with red feathers. I reach out, my hands shaking slightly, and touch it. It’s cool, and stone-hard. Must be marble.

“It’s tradition,” Mom explains. “When a girl turns sixteen, she is believed to have reached womanhood, and receives a mirror.” She reaches out and carefully holds the mirror.

“For the record, Lily, I love you. Really, I do,” Mom says, smiling. “But you can’t expect people to accept you until you accept yourself.”

She holds the mirror up, and I stare into the reflection.

A girl looks back at me, her eyes big and round and bright green. Her hair is long, wavy, and brighter than the sun. She could be pretty.

Except for The Scars covering the left side of her face. Jagged, crooked, ugly. From The Accident. I stare down, unable to meet the eyes of the girl in the mirror.

“You’re so beautiful, Lily, inside and out,” Mom says softly. Her eyes twinkle. “And I thank God, or whoever’s up there, every day. I am so thankful - so thankful - that you’re alive, that you’ve lived through everything. You’ve gone through a lot, honey, more than most. And I’m so thankful, and so proud, and just so - so . . . happy.”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . .” I say quietly.

“Who’s the fairest of them all?” Mom finishes.

I stare into the mirror again. Something’s different. The girl is smiling now. And that curve of her lips lights up her entire, beautiful face.

My face.

I gently set the mirror down, and lean across the table to hug my amazing mother. She squeezes me to her tightly.

“Happy Birthday, Lily.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

When we part, she accidentally knocks over a water glass. The liquid spills all over the table and onto my jeans.

“Oh no, Lily, I’m so sorry!” Mom apologizes, frantically grabbing napkins and dabbing at the mess.

“Mom, its fine. Really, Mom, it’s okay!”

I grab her arm. She looks at me, and the panic in her eyes fades. I smile at her.

“Accidents happen.”



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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

CandYamsThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 20 at 3:27 pm:
Amazing! Couldn't have done better :)
 
LanimalThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 20 at 4:57 pm :
Thank you! :)
 
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AmarUlHaque said...
Jan. 14 at 5:15 am:
Superb work !! :)
 
LanimalThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 14 at 3:54 pm :
Thank you so much!! :)
 
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Linsanity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 11 at 1:45 pm:
Fantastic!! :) 
 
LanimalThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 11 at 2:40 pm :
Thank you, random stranger! ;)
 
LinaOzzie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 11 at 7:41 pm :
No problem person-I-don't-know! :)
 
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