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When I Begin Crying

My ears are dull from the buzzing that comes from the beat up old vacuum. The ghetto machine only picks up a third of the dirt-and-food on the restaurant’s floor, forcing me to go over it several times before I can call it good.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Shawna, the bartender, turning off all the lights in the front. I think to myself about how much I hate the dark and how it gives me the creeps. Thankful to be almost done, I push the vacuum across the floor as rapidly as I can. Rounding the last table, I suck up the little bit of debris that’s left on the ground. With a click, I shut off the vacuum and lean it against the wall. It’s quiet in the restaurant, eerily so.

“Shawna…” I call, trying to keep my voice level. I walk towards the front and circle around the bar. Craning my neck around, I look for her. I can’t see where she went, perhaps out for a smoke. “Shawna…” I rasp, under my breath, standing in the dark on the far side of the bar.

My skin begins to crawl at the thought of being left here, alone. Briskly, I walk to the outlet. All I want to do is unplug the vacuum, put it away, and get the heck out of here.

That’s when I see the reflection in the glass. “Shawna,” I squeak, spinning around to face the kitchen doors. No lights are on in there, and no one is within sight. I pivot on my heel, back to the mirror. The blood rises to my face. My heart rate quickens. Nothing is in the reflection. You were just imagining it, I tell myself. I inhale sharply, You will stay calm.

My body is shaking slightly, no longer able to stay in place, nor wanting to. I rip the cord out of the socket and loop it around the vacuum, in a hastily fashion. Too freaked out to go behind the counter, I shove the vacuum down the tile floor instead of putting it away. Not stopping to watch were it skids to a halt. I sprint past the hostess stand, swiping my keys in one fluid motion, and continuing down the back hallway. I can see my reflection out of the corner of my eye. Something’s wrong with the mirror. I plant my feet on the ground, and slowly swivel towards the mirror. What I see, staring straight back at me, is not my reflection. A silent scream rises out of me. The back door slams open.

“Betsy, what are you still doing here?” Shawna inquires.

“I…a…e…” I stammer, still staring at the mirror, unable to look away from to glance at Shawna. Instead, barely able to breathe, I watch as the ashen-faced woman with long, stick straight, jet black hair, begins to dissolve. The last of her features to vanish—are her eyes, which are like black lumps of coal with flowing red lines running through them. She winks at me, and then, she’s gone.

“Betsy?” I shift my head in Shawna’s direction, still not willing to take my eyes off the mirror.

“I…uhh…had to finish…vacuuming,” I respond, answering her prior question.

“Oh… I didn’t realize it took that long. Well, did you punch out at least?”

“Uhh…no,” I briefly glance at her, then zero in on the mirror again. “I forgot, I guess.”

She sighs, “Well, I suppose I can do that for you. You go home. Okay?”

I nod my head, scanning the mirror one last time. Then, I push past Shawna and out the back door. I can tell by the tilt of her head and the expression on her face that she is perplexed by my behavior, but I’m far past caring about that.

As I round the back of my Ford Explorer, I glance into the backseat, looking for anything out of place. Everything seems to be normal. Slipping the key into the ignition, I slid into the seat. I try turning the Ford over, but it just stalls out. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. I crank it over again, hoping desperately that it will work this time. The truck roars to life, and I suppress the bile that has risen to the back of my throat, into my stomach, once more. I slam my door, throwing the Explorer into gear at the same time. Wiping around in the parking lot, I barely pause to check for traffic, gunning it straight onto the highway. I take a right onto county road T, and fasten my seatbelt.
My heartbeat slows, and I feel like I can breathe again. I wait another minute, then, turn on the radio. Singing along softly, I begin crying.





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