My Reflection in the Mirror: A Short Story
Aunt Mandy's Legacy
It was a wet and dismal day when I unlocked the door to Aunt Mandy’s house. My aunt had left me the house in her will, which I found surprising but very touching. I was sad that my aunt had died because my father had been fond of her. I couldn’t say that I missed her, though, since I hardly knew her. She lived in New Brunswick on the other side of Canada from my family. My visits to Aunt Mandy had been few and far between.
The interior of the house was silent and even colder than the outside world. The building was old, but it was in good repair and very tidy. It was sad to see how patiently it was waiting for its former owner. The thin veneer of dust over the furniture indicated that it had been some time since anyone had cared for the home.
After exploring the first two floors, I climbed the stairs to the attic. Unlike the other rooms in the house, the attic was crowded and disorganized. In one corner stood a full-length mirror decorated by an ornate frame. The mirror was dusty, but I found a cloth and wiped it down.
Exploring My Reflection
I really must lose some weight, I told myself for the umpteenth time as I viewed my reflection in the mirror. Things always looked worse when you could see your whole body at once. I had faced every problem that had arisen in the last year by eating chocolate bars, cookies, and other comfort foods. How could I have fallen into such bad habits? I was so slim a couple of years ago. My reflection looked even more disgusted than me, if that was possible.
At night I looked at my aunt’s clothes, feeling a bit guilty as I went through her wardrobe and drawers. I would donate the clothing to charity, I decided. I wondered sadly who would sort out my clothes when I died. My parents are both dead, I don’t have any siblings, and I’m not close to any of my relatives.
I made the bed with fresh linen and put on my new nightgown that I had bought for the visit. I couldn’t resist going up into the attic to look in the mirror. Yes, the nightgown was very pretty and feminine, although I had no one to impress with it. In the dim light my eyes looked tired and my face droopy. They tell you about wrinkles forming as you age, but the droop is worse. They lie about their cosmetics being anti-aging, too, I thought. The numerous and expensive skin creams that I had collected over the last few years had been a total waste of money.
The next morning I awoke to another dull and grey day. I decided that before I ate breakfast I would give the mirror a good cleaning. Natural light entered the attic from a small window. As I worked, a burst of sunlight broke through the grey clouds and hit the mirror. Something sparkling on my sweater in my reflection caught my eye. I looked closely and saw to my amazement that my reflection was wearing an opal brooch edged with gold. Had I attached a piece of my aunt’s jewelry to my sweater without thinking? I slapped my hand on my chest and looked down. There was no brooch there!
My reflection stepped back with me, her eyes wide in shock, every action in tune with mine. Every time I moved to feel the spot where the brooch should be she did too. I backed up to the edge of the attic by the stairs, and she did the same thing in her attic. Everything I did, she did in sync with me—but still the brooch remained on her sweater and was absent on mine.
The Comfort of Tea
Eventually I went downstairs, shaken. I turned and went upstairs and downstairs again several times in succession, but the brooch remained on my reflection. My mind was racing. How could this possibly be explained? I was too tense to eat breakfast and left the house for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood instead.
I returned to my aunt’s house with no logical explanation in my mind, even though I had been thinking about the situation the whole time that I had been walking. I made myself a bowl of cereal and a cup of hot tea, which I drank slowly, scared to go back up into the attic and hoping for some solace. I washed my face and brushed my teeth, trying to delay the inevitable. Eventually, I reluctantly climbed the stairs to the attic once again.
As I looked at the mirror from the top of the stairs, my reflection did too. In dread I slowly walked towards the mirror and realized that there had been another change. My multicoloured sweater was made from a mixture of red, navy, and black fibres. Hers now had yellow fibres added to the mix—and she still wore the brooch.
Strangely, as we stared at each other, I began to relax. I even gave the reflection a faint smile, and she did too. Daringly, I placed my hand upon the mirror to meet hers but felt nothing other than the cold surface of the mirror.
The changes continued throughout the first day and beyond. As the week progressed, I visited the mirror more frequently. I went downstairs only for essentials, like meal preparation and bathroom visits, and left the house only to buy food and other necessities. I ate my meals in front of the mirror, as she did, fascinated by the changes that were occurring. The reflection always moved in harmony with me, but her appearance gradually changed, sometimes as I watched.
Despite the changes in the reflection, she continued to wear the brooch. I loved its iridescent centre and its golden border. When we came close enough, I could see that the border contained figures of Ancient Egyptians as well as a beetle and other decorations. I didn't think of the word "scarab" for the beetle until later.
Behind the Mirror
Finally the day arrived when my reflection's clothes had changed so much that she was wearing a completely different outfit from me. Instead of my sweat pants and oversized sweater she wore a little dress that showed off her slender shape. She isn’t like me after all, I thought—and she has a better figure. Her hair was pinned up and looked rather attractive. I’ve never managed to get that effect with my thick hair. Even with many pins it looks unkempt and messy. It always falls down by lunch time if I put it up in the morning. As I looked at her I sighed and wrapped some strands of hair around my ear.
A cold jolt shot through my body as I realized that she hadn’t moved her hand. A slow smile spread over her face, while mine stayed frozen in horror. Then she spoke.
“I’ve been trying to communicate with you all week,” she said. “I’m so glad that we can finally connect.” Her friendly tone partially relieved the terror that I felt.
“Who are you?” I asked weakly.
“Who am I?” she said, laughing. “Amy, you know who I am!”
Now I was even more confused, as well as scared, and had to struggle to remain calm. She seemed so happy, almost dancing with joy as she moved freely around her attic.
Exploring the Unknown
As I watched my reflection with a strange mixture of curiosity and fear, a delightful idea suddenly occurred to me. This would explain everything, I thought in both relief and excitement, for the topic had interested me for some time. “Are you in a parallel universe?” I asked. For a moment I was certain that she must be another version of myself in another universe, and that somehow the two universes had come into contact with each other. As she frowned and shook her head, my confidence plunged and panic started to surface again.
“Then are you a ghost?” I asked as the thought entered my mind, hoping very much that she would deny this as well.
“No,” she said, sounding irritated.
“Now that we can communicate you should be able to understand, Amy,” she said, coming very close to the surface of the mirror. I stepped back in alarm, seeing that she looked younger than me and smelling the sweet scent of Lily of the Valley perfume—the one that my mother used to wear on special occasions. “You created me. I am what you want to be. Every time you looked in the mirror with dissatisfaction or desire you made me stronger. And now here I am!
“I didn’t make you!” I said, doubting my statement as soon as I made it.
“Amy, that’s silly,” she said, no longer smiling and for a moment sounding like my mother. “You made me to complement you. You know that we belong together—two of us as one. You created me so that our union would give you what you lacked.”
As my reflection finished speaking I saw that the surface of the mirror was becoming blurred and I felt a presence beginning to surround me.
“No! Don’t!” I screamed in panic, trying to push her away and regain control of my legs, which refused to move.
She paused, looking hurt and puzzled, and I felt her thoughts hanging in the air . “But we are meant to be part of each other,” she said, sounding like a little child. “Why did you make me if you didn’t want to join with me?”
“I don’t want to join with you!” I shouted, as tears appeared in her eyes. “and I didn’t make you! “ I said again. “Leave me alone!”
“How could you not want to become one?” she asked, her voice trembling. I felt the tears well up in my eyes as hers began to fall. “ You made me because you need me,” she whimpered, once again trying to blend. This time I was able to push back with more power and move away from the mirror, where she seemed to be suspended, half in and half out of the mirror.
Crying tears that didn’t belong to me, I ran downstairs, leaving my reflection sobbing in the attic. To my relief she didn’t follow me, but I could feel her anguish, which in a strange way seemed to be my anguish, too. I tossed my belongings into my case as fast as I could and left the house, locking the front door. As I ran down the road I felt her presence gradually weaken until it had completely disappeared.
I told my aunt’s lawyer that I wanted to sell the house and its contents. That was two years ago. All my reflections that I have seen in any mirror or reflective surface since then have been just that—lifeless images.
I went back to New Brunswick last year and walked by Aunt Mandy’s house. I had remembered my long-forgotten knowledge of the scarab's association with regeneration. The house had been painted a different colour and children were playing in a sandbox in the front garden. Sadly, I could feel no hint of any created presence related to me.
Questions & Answers
Why do we want to see ourselves in a mirror?
I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that we often look in mirrors for reassurance of our self-worth. The view sometimes has the opposite effect, however. Some people may be able to look at themselves objectively in a mirror to check a feature that they can’t otherwise see, such as their face, the back of their head, or the inside of their mouth. They may not be able to do this without making a judgment of some kind, though. The judgment may be linked to strong emotions. Mirror use and its meaning is an interesting topic to think about.Helpful 14
© 2011 Linda Crampton