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I hope my readers will enjoy this piece as much as I have.
Our 1940 Volkswagen beetle pulled up the rocky pathway to the old house on the hill. The clouds above gurgled in a sound similar to that which a helpless kitten being strangled produces. A singular droplet of water splashed the windshield and was followed by many more. Vincent exited the car and opened the door gingerly for Mother. I pressed my hands to the cold glass, trying to ignore the sinking feeling inside me. Instantly, I wanted to be back home in my own house, cozy in my bed but I knew I couldn't, home was far away. We had to cross an ocean to get here and we drove for hours on empty grey roads leading through vacant ghost towns until we got to this dismal place. Vincent Lovison unlocked the door and helped me out. My new patent leather shoes sunk into the saturated soil. I could even taste the mildew floating in the moist air.
“This is where we're stayin’?” I asked, gazing up at the monstrosity that rose out of the marsh lands: Blackdall Estate, Astoria Oregon. Massive as it was the mansion was old and dilapidated, slowing sinking into the bracken swamp.
“Don’t worry Michael, you’ll make plenty of new friends at school.” Mother smiled up at our new house. Mother’s smile had grown tight and forced over the more recent months. “Vincent! Get our bags,” she ordered the young man diligently waiting beside us. I started to trudge up the stone pathway to the door. There was a wooden porch that looked as if at one time it could have been painted but now was chipped and the colour had faded until it was unrecognisable. It creaked as I took a step onto it. I looked behind me, Mother was arguing with Vincent who was soaking wet and struggling with our luggage. The rain was falling in cool silver sheets like tears of a grieving maiden.
I pushed open the door and took a step inside. The floorboards groaned with the sudden weight. I shrugged off my frock coat and it slumped to the floor, dust settled around it elegantly in plumes. I stepped on the stair, I knew my chambers were on the second floor. My hand glided up the rail with a certain unease. The door was open a slight crack. I pressed on it and it swung wide, revealing a drab sombre little bedroom. The four post bed was probably too small for me and there was an old mirror covered in a thin white sheet. I sighed, miserably, I had thought at least my room might be cool but was once more disappointed. I had to leave everything behind, my friends, my house, my father, my dog...for what? A dark musty house that’s over 150 years old.
I missed Gwendoline and Ivan. I could imagine them back at home talking about books and discussing their dreams. I could picture Ivan with his bulky glasses and ebony hair laying in the swaying grass field behind our old house with the newest issue of 10¢ Action Comics in his hand, Gwendoline with her thick melichrous curls straddled up and tied into a tight braid leaning up against the old oak tree smiling with her thin chapped lips. God did I missed my best friends.
I fell back onto the bare cot and stared at the ceiling wondering if they were thinking about me too. I could hear Mother downstairs screeching at the domestic. Vinny clamored up the stairwell. He rapped lightly on the door before coming in. He was holding my suitcase. I took it and waved the servant out of the room. Father had bought me it for my tenth birthday, it was glaucous with a small tight calico pattern painted elegantly across it. I remember his face as he broke the news, he was grinning from ear to ear, you could see the gleam, a sparkle almost in his amber eyes. He gathered me up into his arms and squeezed me around the waist.
“Happy birthday Michael! I have something for you,” he had said gripping my shoulders.
“Ooo what? Tell me!” I had squealed excitedly. He was still wearing the grey plaid suit he wore to work everyday with the tight red bow tie. Father was always eccentric compared to Mother with her dull, eggplant dresses and plump pouty lips. Mother stood there shaking her head, tawny hair piled up onto the top. Father ran over to his car and pulled out the suitcase. It was tied with a vermeil bow. At the time I had been confused, almost disappointed, I had secretly hoped for a new toy or something.
“Wait, you’ll see chap,” Father put his hand on my shoulder and smiled reassuringly, his dark curls tumbling over his eyes. He tugged on the ribbon and it unfurled. Then he undid the two brushed silver clasps and popped open the lid. Within were two tickets to America.
“I get to come with you next time?!” My heart flew up my throat. I was going to get to go with him all the way to the Americas! Except I didn’t. Except only days later did Father get drafted. Except Father left and a flag came back. I traced my fingers along the clips and flipped them open, letting my fingertips run over the rim. Tucked within were the two ticket stubs and a black and white photo of my dad and me smiling. There was also a picture of my two best friends waving; written on the back was ‘We will miss you Mikey, write to us” and scrolled in the messiest handwriting was the two of their addresses. But now that Father was gone, was my old home even home anymore? An immense feeling of hiraeth overcame me. I could feel warm saline streams pouring out of my eyes. I sniffed brushing the tears away. I pulled Sir Edward Paddington out from under all my clothes. Mother had told me to get rid of him and that I was too old for stuffed animals but I had secretly stuck him in and buried him beneath all my colourless sweaters. I hugged the tiger to my chest, my shoulders shaking uncontrollably.
I heard a soft humming noise. “It could be worse…”
“Who said that?” I jolted up. The room was empty and I was all alone. I stood up nervously. The only thing in the room besides the bed itself was the mirror. I crept up to the it and pulled off the covering to only see my own plain reflection staring back at me. I heaved, I guess it was only my imagination. Mother says you make up thing within your head to deal with grief. I pressed my palm to the silver glass, matching my hand in the mirror. I turned my head slightly to match eyes with someone else. I screamed and spun around but there was no one there, yet the girl remained in the mirror. I kept hyperventilating, my chest rising and falling at an expanding pace. I shook my head, eyes bugging. She looked back at me with mauve almond shaped eyes. Sad eyes. She pushed her nose up to the the mirror and let delicate fingers sweep down in a sad lonely motion. I jolted back.
“Mum! Mothar! Come! Please!” I scrambled away from the speculum anxiously.
“God blimey Michael! You would think the roof is coming down.” Mother swung open the door and let it wack the wall on the other side, leaving a dent. Her thin eyebrows bent down and her plush lips were gnarled into a bitter frown. Her eyes stayed narrow as she knelt down next to me. “What’s wrong? I’m sorry I yelled.....it’s just-” Mother wrapped her plump arms around me.
“The mirror Mum, there’s someone inside it!” Over Mother’s shoulder I could see the girl sitting within the parallel room.
“No, Michael. There’s no one inside the mirror. That’s not possible.” She patted my shoulder, “You’ve been reading too many books.” She stood up and covered the mirror with the sheet. My Mother was not a warm woman in any circumstances., “Here we’ll leave it like this, and if it’s still bothering you I’ll have Vincent move it down stairs.” She smoothed her rhodopsin skirt and fixed the door. I rose still shaking with fear. I rubbed my left arm with my right trying to ignore the strawberry flush spreading across ivory cheeks. I dug my teeth into my bottom lip and tasted the faint flavour of blood. Mother didn’t close the door, she walked back down stairs in a hurry. I felt the slight feeling that even my presence seemed to annoy her.
Later that night I continued to hear the almost inaudible tune of a wordless song. I buried my head under my down pillow and pulled up my paisley quilt.
“Please don’t be afraid of me…,” The girl in the mirror cried softly. “I’m all alone in here and so are you.” I plugged my fingers into my ears. It's...all...in...your...mind!
“I’m not ‘ere all alone! I have Mothar an’ Vinny,” I answered to the mirror. I clutched my Star of David that hung on a thin gold chain.
“But do you...really?” she murmured.
“Shut up. Shut up. Shut Up! Just leave me alone.”
But the sad ghost girl didn’t leave me alone, she just kept trying to talk to me over the weeks. I couldn’t sleep at night and grey bags began to form under my eyes.
“It will be better once you start school,” Mother assured me as she made dinner one night a few fortnights since we first moved. I sat at the wooden dining table in the front window staring out into the soggy marsh. The pastel sun was disappearing between the tall rotting trees draped in laurel green hanging moss. My eyes were half glazed over and I could only distantly hear Mother’s voice. Mother slopped some lentil soup into my bowl and sat down across from me lifting up her spoon with her thick eburnean fingers.
“Michael, did you hear me?”
“ ‘uh?” My eyelids fluttered open, “What were you saying?”
She frowned and slurped a sip of her soup, “I am expecting you to be mature about this. You will start at your new school in three weeks, so I need you to pull it together and quit all this!” I froze, I had learned my lesson last time: that no matter what I said, if it regarded girls in other worlds or mirrors, not to mention other dimensions she was not going to believe me. It wasn't an act, it was more than just the move. I had tried to get Mother to convince Vincent to move it like she had told me, but she just told me I was being ridiculous and infantile.
“I don't know what you mean. I'm fine.”
“Ah Huh…” she curled her pink tongue unconvinced.
“It’s true!” I pleaded, something inside me just snapped, “You expect me to take the news that my fathar perished by the ‘and of those bloody Germans calmly. You dragged me away from my friends and our ‘ome in London for what? I ‘ate it here” I pushed my meal away.
“Michael! You do not use that language with me!” Mother's tongue was sharp and her words sliced holes. She was the type of woman men were intimidated by.
“Whatever,” I pursed my lips and got up.
“We can’t just go back to our old house. You know this just as well as I do so you have to stop being so stroppy!” Mother’s spoon clambered to the table. I glared at her and walked back upstairs. This was one of those times that I wished Father was here. He would understand, he would listen to me unlike Mother. If he were here I could tell him about the little girl in the mirror and he would believe me. To be honest, I always prefered him to Mother. I sat down on my bed scowling. Why did we have to leave? I hated this place. It was bad enough when Father passed but to add on to it I was in a whole new house, a whole new town, in a country I didn’t even want to be in.
“I told you you were all alone here,” the mirror whispered softly. I stood up and took a deep breath before pulling the curtain off the mirror. The girl was about my age, maybe a few years older, with long ginger hair that tumbled down to the middle of her back in copper ringlets. She had a heart- shaped face with thick lips and chatoyant eyes so toxically blue they were purple. I almost felt sorry for her, in a way she was right, I was just like her. She was sad and I was lonely. She was sitting on her knees, wearing a slate coloured dress that went to her knees and black mary janes with a kitten heel. I never intended to become her friend but as the weeks went on that's exactly what happened.
The girl said her name was Vivienne. I would sit in front of the mirror and talk to her after school each day. Minutes turned into hours, hours into days, days into months, months into years, she said that she missed me when I was gone and I believed it. I would come home with drawings and photos I had taken with the camera I had gotten for my twelfth birthday. Vivienne wanted to know all about the outside world so I wanted to show her. The camera was the newest model, a 1942 Kogaku Canon. It even had a leather case and Mother had bought me film to go with it.
We spent the afternoons laughing, talking, reminiscing, playing and....growing up. I started to realise that I no longer wanted to leave this place because I didn’t want leave Vivienne...soon I became aware that I was falling in love with her.
“Baby's breath, lavender and lilac, ‘ow ‘ard is that the remember?” I muttered leaning on the counter of the small florist shop downtown. The ditzy young lady behind the counter frantically gathered up flowers and tied them with a crimson ribbon that reminded me painfully of Father’s cramoisy necktie. It still hurt every day even though it had been almost four years since he fell in battle in the year 1940 and about three and a half since the move.
“This young man, is going to make some lucky girl so happy. Who is she?” the ingénue cashier asked curiously, tucking short dusty brown hair behind large ears.
“Someone very special that has made my time ‘ere worth it,” I replied, plainly taking the flowers off the counter.
“Well good luck then.” She then smiled at me. “I like your accent.” She had a very pretty smile, but it didn’t edge away charmolypi that had enveloped me. I pushed open the glass doors and ducked outside. Like most days here the sky was silver dazzled with low hanging mist, drizzling off and on. Though for the moment the rain had ceased and the air was filled with the soft scent of petrichor. My feet tapped lightly as I tristfully trotted down the sidewalk. It was early spring and lacklustre flowers were sprouting up all over the place. I was still wearing my uniform from school: khaki shorts above the knee and a humdrum raveled sweater with an albicant dress shirt. I silently wondered if Vivienne would enjoy the flowers, she found herself quite fond of things from this world. She liked to sing and dance as well. When I had first started talking to her she would put on ballet recitals for me.
I dashed up the cobblestone pathway, past the “For Sale” sign stapled to the mail post and unlocked the front door. Mother wasn't home, she was most probably working, but I didn't mind. I climbed up the rickety stairs and opened my door a crack.
“Ai Vivienne....I’m ‘ome,” I breathed tucking the bouquet behind my back. I lightly knocked on the mirror and waited for her to appear. She came into view and sat down in front of the speculum. Her face lit up at the sight of me and she pressed her fragile hands to the glass.
“Michael!” she exclaimed, luscious lips spreading into a perfect smile.
“I’ve brought something for you!” I said, unable to hold in my excitement.
“Do tell,” Vivienne coaxed with a slight wisp of amusement. I pulled the flowers out from behind me. Vivienne blushed and took them from my reflection, her windex coloured eyes filled with utter wonder. She twirled, letting her skirt that matched the shade of sky outside spin up around her. “Oh thank you so much Michael. How did you know purple was my favorite colour?” I didn’t know, I had just noticed that whenever we were drawing she drew herself wearing purpure skirts and sketched her madder hair in silk violet ribbons, but I was glad my assumption had made her happy. She smiled at me then glanced at her Atrous pumps then back at me.
“A...Listen Vivienne. I um… want… I-I want to talk to you. Like about, um you know… “ Why was a freezing up? I nervously rubbed my sweaty palms against my shorts. “Us.”
“Us? So?” she looked confused with her slender eyebrows tipped up. “What about us?”
My ears were burning and my cheeks were flushed with a rouge colour.
“Well no one ‘as to know but… I want you to be- be my girl. You know?” I nodded and fanned my hands up in a circular motion.
“You want me to be your girlfriend?” That, I wanted desperately. No one needed to know about her but every word she said just made me fall in love with her harder.
“If you’ll ‘ave me,” I said nodding.
“I’d like that very much,” she said looking me in the eye with a small sultry smile. She seemed so real. No! She was real! I leaned forward to kiss her but only was met with the cold metallic taste of the mirror. My eyes flew open yet hers stayed closed as my reflection kissed her. I pulled away slightly startled. “I’m sorry!” she cried.
“Don’t be sorry,” I pleaded, ignoring the needle being stabbed directly into my chest as the despair that began to engulf me. “I don’t care about that!” God! I wished I could get her out of that mirror, but to no avail. I had no clue how one got trapped in a looking glass let alone escaped one. I used to fantasize breaking the mirror and getting her free, but as I matured I grew afraid of hurting her or destroying her. “I wish I could get you out of there, I really do. I just don’t ‘ave any clue ‘ow to do that.” By then I came to the realisation that we were both weeping. I rubbed my eyes and let the fact that I was in love with-no let me repeat that I was in love with a girl which no one else could see and who was permanently trapped inside a mirror.
“The thing is-” Vivienne sniffled, “There is one way, but-but it may not work.”
“What? ‘ow?” I was desperate.
“It’s dangerous. Are you sure you want to go through with it?” She asked brushing salty droplets out of her almost mauveine eyes.
“Yes, of course. Anythin’” I nodded diligently, sweaty palms losing colour as I pressed them into the glass. I wonder why she had never mentioned it before, but my heart was pounding and I was too eager to say anything. Vivienne leaned in and started to whisper mendaciously into my ear.
I ran upstairs to the attic. I looked around brushing dust off the cardboard boxes. There they were! I grabbed my my old shagreened shoes with two slim fingers. I placed them gently in front of the mirror, and dashed back off. My new suit was hanging downstairs fresh from the dry cleaner. I unhooked it off the hanger and dragged it up to my room, before clipping it over the mirror. I brushed the dust bunnies off the white dress shirt, and pulled out the small swiss army knife that once was held by Father. I braced myself as I slid the blade across the palm of my hand. The blood beaded along the slit that I had opened from thumb to pinky, I bit my lip and smeared the red liquid across the mirror, watching as it dribbled on the reflective glass. Vivienne faced me, and mumbled the words. I repeated each phrase obediently gazing into her seductive eyes. I stepped back and waited for it to work. I watched as her feet stepped into my shoes. She miraculously became 3D, filling up the suit I had attached to the looking glass, her auburn hair paling to a platinum colour that was all too familiar. I stared in silent horror as her nose sharpened along with her jawline, as her top lip thinned as to match my own. My hands flew to my face as Vivienne grew to look more and more like me. I choked on my tears as I banged my fist against the cheval glass, as I looked out at my room from within the mirror watching me pick my hat up off my bed and adjust it on my head. Vivienne smiled at me and spun in front of me. Mauve eyes shining. And then I remembered something my elementary school teacher had once told me when I was seven, “You know Michael, the most colorful insects are the most venomous ones. Though they might look beautiful be weary.” And now at 15 looking into her eyes I realised how right he was. She was a parasite-an insect.
“Vivienne! Let me out! ‘ow did I get in ‘ere!” I yelled punching the unbreakable glass until my fist was bloody. The insect who was once a girl just smiled and shook her? him? it’s? head, blew me a kiss and stepped out of the room, taking my place in the world. “Noooo!” I yelled, boiling hot tears rolling down my cheeks. “No. NO. NO!” This can’t be happening! I was trapped here in this mirror...forever, but no one would ever know. And the sad thing was no one would ever be able to tell the difference between me and that thing, that tick, that arthropod, that insect. I sunk to my knees and let that absorb into my brain.