Friday, April 6, 2012
Three Months Ago
The squirrel, like me, had been running from something. In his case, a fox. In my case, the hateful rumor that Lucy Pritchard spread about me.
Mom wasn't concerned about Lucy. She said to ignore her and she'd stop. I'd been ignoring her forever, but judging by the amount of time I spent crying in the girls' bathroom, that strategy hadn't worked out too well.
So the woods became my refuge, and the squirrel, my luck. If it hadn't been for him, I would have never found that mirror. More importantly, if I hadn't seen the fox chasing the squirrel, and if I hadn't seen the squirrel hesitate, then disappear through the glass, and if I hadn't seen the fox rear back, then run away, I wouldn't have known what the mirror could do.
It seemed ordinary enough – tarnished oval frame, glass surface that showed exactly what you expected, thin wire at the back for hanging it on a wall. But the wall was long gone. Now it rested on the forest floor, supported by a tangle of vines.
I wanted to touch the surface, to see what lay beyond, but something about the squirrel's hesitation made me skittish too. That evening, I was content to watch until the cold breath of night forced me to go home.
The squirrel never came back, but I did, the next day and every day after. I found something there I couldn't get with my guidance counselor's sterile words or my mother's “reassurances.” Peace. I never told anyone about the disgusting notes that appeared in my backpack. Instead, I opted for the presence of the mirror.
Sitting there in the shade of an Oak tree staring at the possibilities, I felt settled, maybe for the first time ever.
Two Months Ago
A scruffy gray mouse went through the mirror. It was the same day my clothes mysteriously appeared in the boys' locker room after gym class. Rather than suffer through a billion whispered rumors and having to explain to my teachers why I was still in my gym shorts, I went home to my woods.
The mouse walked with a limp, like maybe he was missing a foot. I was too far away to tell for sure. He wasn't being chased, and he didn't look back like the squirrel had. He kept his gaze forward as he gingerly stepped through. That was the moment I knew the mirror wasn't something to fear.
After that, I started conducting experiments. Leaves, sticks, then eventually my favorite books and my old teddy bear went through. The glass surface rippled, sucking the different parts of me into its world. What was it like there? Was it quiet? Safe?
One Month Ago
Lucy got bored with her constant ridiculing and stepped up her game. She recruited Mike Johnson to borrow my cell phone. He said it was because he needed a ride home, but what he really did was send texts to half the school announcing I did something with him that I'd never do. That was the day I dropped my phone into the mirror. I couldn't face the responses, the offers, the pictures that got sent to me.
My parents were called the next day, and I sat in the principal's office listening to the evidence pile up against me. I'd ditched the phone. Mike and Lucy were straight A students, and I cut school at least once a week. Naturally, I was pronounced guilty. The principal suspended me for inappropriate conduct, and while my parents promised to set me straight, my chest caved in on itself.
I wasn't allowed to leave the house, but pain clawed inside of me, struggling to escape. Unable to think, unable to breathe, I snuck out and found myself kneeling in front of the mirror. The moon was full, showing me the way my hands trembled and the way my mouth hung open, gasping for something I couldn't find. I closed my eyes and stuck my hand through just to see what it would feel like.
I was relieved when it didn't feel like anything. Not hot. Not cold. Just a peaceful numbness that traveled up my arm and nestled itself in my soul.
An Hour Ago
Fred James cornered me in an empty classroom. Biology was over. The teacher had gone to lunch. I stayed behind like I usually did, pulling my cheese sandwich and my can of Pepsi from my brown paper bag.
Fred sauntered into the room, shut the door behind him, and threw a handful of crumpled ones onto my desk.
“I hear you do this now,” he said.
“What?” I asked, pretending not to see the leer in his face. Maybe if I pretended hard enough, this wouldn't be real.
He touched my shoulder and I jumped up, putting the desk between the two of us. My seat was in the back corner, and the door seemed so far away. Still I tried. I scooted around the desk, but he was right there, the star defense of our football team, all muscles and brawn. He wrapped me up, and I screamed.
“Quiet!” he said. “Do you want to someone to hear?”
I bit his arm.
“Ow! You little --” He shoved me against the desk. I fell hard and started crying.
After that, he must have decided I wasn't worth it, so he grabbed his money and left.
I ran all the way home, through the woods and straight to the mirror. I collapsed in front of it, my hands and knees barely supporting me.
As I lift my head and see the purple around my eye and blood on my mouth, I know it has to end. A month ago, when I stuck my hand through the mirror, I'd felt a sliver of peace, and now its absence is a knife bleeding me dry. I have to feel it again, not just for a moment, but always.
I touch my fingers to the mirror, and just like the mouse, I don't look back.
Story by: Krystalyn
Photo by: Ksenia Klykova