The Last Day

It was the last day of summer.

The last day the frogs leapt in unison. The last day the Rooks flew into town, sailing on the wafts of music which floated up between the long fingers of flutists. The last day peach gowns were worn, gossamer and chiffon wafting gently in the breeze as though underwater.

It was the longest day of the year, the shortest night. Some reckoned the night didn’t come at all, because the sun was peeking blearily over the tip of the horizon, hiding her fiery hair, but not quite low enough so her rays didn’t escape and lighten the blackness of night.

Penny’s parents were preparing for the sunset, the sunset that would never come.They ran around the kitchen like headless chickens, and she smiled to herself.

She watched them from her corner in the kitchen, where the small window fit neatly into the little alcove, and was a porthole to the view of the sharp, steep landscape outside their house. She sat on a small red cushion, worn and faded from years of use, on the small wooden window seat.

When she turned back to the view outside, she saw the Rooks. An entire flock of them. A colossal black cloud, swirling over the mountainous city, like an ominous vortex. Their hoarse cries rising in the sky, a bellow of extortionate proportions. The very utensils shook on their hooks, the mugs rattled and the cupboard doors vibrated with the sound of over a thousand of them, and Penny slammed her hands over her ears.

The music from the city was drowned, and the sun sank lower in the horizon. She watched as they soared around the city once, twice, and a third, final time, before they swooped upward, covering the sky, and bringing darkness onto the world. Pitch blackness draped her window, and Penny found herself looking at the glass and seeing only her dim reflection, and the reflection of the wooden kitchen in it.

She turned to her parents, they had stopped what they were doing, and were standing, frozen, eyes on the window. The house began to hum with the screeching outside. It was beyond anything she could imagine, and even though they heard it every year, the sound was momentous. Time-stopping. Gut-wenching. She felt it in her bones, her heart was beating to the sound of it. Her breathing changed to match the shift in tune. The sound was increasing. Louder and louder, the vibrations more and more intense, until, as the clanging orchestra outside reached its peak, a sudden silence filled the room. The darkness outside surged, replaced by a dim twilight, and Penny stared up at an empty sky.

The Rooks had vanished.

The remaining twilight would hang over the world for a few weeks, before the black tendrils of winter edged their way across the sky, bringing frost and snow.

The last day of summer.

 

 

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Dinner and Charlotte

When Charlotte made dinner, the kitchen was a bomb site.

A no-man’s land of waste and debris.

Two children flailing their arms, running in and out of rooms.

Screaming.

The smaller one, with the large, round, peachy cheeks, chasing the older one.

Large, fat tears rolled gently down her cheeks, which wobbled with each step she took.

Charlotte wailed, taking her burnt chicken out of the cracked oven. Her blue bows twitched atop her head, sitting on a pile of chestnut curls, all askew.

The older ones watched, shell shocked, from the corners.

Charred vegetables. Broken chair legs. Fire licked the stove ring, the choking sound of gas a gentle, whirring background noise.

What’s wrong, Emilia?!’

‘She isn’t giving me my balloon!’

You should share with your sister, Emilia.’

Charlotte wiped the sweat from her forehead.

A car drew up outside. The engine rumbled, jittering, vibrating, humming through the floor. Then silence as it switched off.

The screaming indoors worsened.

A sigh, in the car.

Then he emerged, his shirt rumbled and his face drawn.

When he darkened the front door, the screaming stopped. The children froze. Charlotte bit her lip, staring at the charred remains of dinner.

He took a deep breath. The damage could be heard from outside, but it did not prepare him for the abhorrent sight before his eyes.

Let us go out for tea,’ he said, calmly.

Charlotte dried her hands on a dishtowel.

It appears,’ she began slowly, ‘that a tiger came to tea already.’

Her crimson face, in all its weariness, broke into a gentle, oh so faint, smile.

The End.

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N.B. I didn’t like this at all. I wrote it, it needed to be written, but it left me with a strange, disgusted feeling in my gut. So I tried to insert a Carlotta-the-fourth feeling around Charlotte, although I’d hate to think of Carlotta-the-fourth feeling like that. Given her era, however, it must have been inevitable. I also wanted to try a ‘Tiger Who Came to Tea’ ending, because making reality a little surreal takes the harsh, uncomfortable edge off it.

My mum says my dad drives her mad. My aunt says her husband drives her nuts, and that he intends to retire in a remote, mountainous area and she doesn’t want to retire there with him. My old neighbour buys her groceries separate from her husband, and they bicker like cats and dogs. They have been married for fifty odd years. I told my mum, ‘I really don’t want to end up like that.’ She replied, ‘well, you will, eventually. Married couples do eventually get sick of each other.’

I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to rely on my kids to make my marriage interesting. My mother in law doesn’t like to travel or be alone with her husband unless her kids are there. They just don’t have a relationship. And, I don’t know if its because I am 23 and ‘inexperienced’, but I strongly feel that that situation can be avoided. I feel like you can make an effort to like each other, and change with each other, and complement each other over the years?

What is your opinion on the matter?

 

Honey and Welcome

I welcomed him. I greeted him. I said hello. I saluted him. I received him. I embraced his presence.

I offered him cake.

He was in my home.

His shoes on my holey carpet. Honey dripping down the side of his teacup. A metal teaspoon inside my honeypot. Internally screaming. The honey stick lay on the kitchen table, untouched, right next to the pot. Untocuhed. Use the honey stick, idiot, you will ruin my honey.

There was sliced, toasted bread on a plate. Butter in a butter dish. A loaf of cake with dry icing and glace cherries on top.

A window broke upstairs. My fingers clenched around my teacup. I saw his bright blue eyes rise to the ceiling. My knee jerked up and down under the table. Breathing hard and fast. I picked up a piece of toast and began to slide the soft butter over it. Then, looking directly at him, I picked up the honey stick and dipped it into the honeypot. The honey oozed gently onto my toast.

More glass crashed upstairs, glass splintering on the floor, the tinkle almost beautiful. Systematic crashing. Swinging in, and out again. I closed my eyes. Maybe he hadn’t heard. I needed to distract him.

‘You really should not use metal teaspoons in honey.’ I said, levelly, taking a bite to soothe my nerves. The floorboards upstairs really were creaking too much.

He didn’t seem to register what I said, so I spoke again, a little louder this time.

‘Would you like another cup of tea?’

‘No.’ he said, shortly. He stood up. ‘Are you alone?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘There is someone upstairs.’

‘Don’t be so ridiculous. It’s just the cats.’

‘Do you let your cats break windows?’

‘Nonsense. No windows are broken. They are just playing with their toys.’ I took another bite. Everything is normal. Everything is normal. EVERYTHING IS NORMAL.

The crumbs joined together and solidified in my throat. A giant lump of despair and toast, welded together tightly. Like metal. I swallowed. It refused to go down.

‘I am going upstairs.’

I stood up quickly. Blocked his way through the kitchen door, swallowing hard. The ball of chewed toast refused to go anywhere, so all I could do was stare helplessly at him, leaning my hand against the frame and my hip on the other end. I jerked my head towards the table, where the honey dripped from the honey stick and on to my table cloth. He was already speaking into his phone. His voice was muffled, and I thought it was because my tears clouded my vision.

I was choking, that’s what it was. I was choking and that is why I couldn’t hear him. I tried to tell him so, but he looked right through me, beyond me, speaking gibberish into his phone and pushing past me on his way upstairs. I felt weak, flailing, gasping for breath.

‘Stop!’ but it sounded like ‘‘Mllop!’

My tongue was swollen, that’s what it was. I was allergic to honey.

I heard his feet pounding on the stairs and when he reached the landing, suddenly, all was still. No crashing. No creaking floorboards. Just his still body staring at what I knew for certain was in the bedroom. The rope. The blood smears. The body dangling from the ceiling. The jerking of the corpse. So hard it swung into the fragile glass. Splintering into purple skin and spattering on the wall. Red and white. Clear and cloudy.

I sunk to the floor, still choking, dying, poisoned, maybe.

I welcomed him into my home. I saluted him. I gave him my best honey.

‘Detective Winters. May I come in?’

He was handsome. His eyes frosty blue, like the china I bought sixteen years ago before it went out of fashion.

I greeted him. I let him right in.

His feet pounded on the stairs as he raced down, I could hear the clink as he fumbled with his protective weaponry. Or whatever they use to hold you, seize you, take you, confine you, constrain you, detain you.

A cloud over my brain. I was losing oxygen. I was sure of it. The atmosphere was draining. It wasn’t the toast, it wasn’t the honey. The air was conspiring against me. I was dying. This was it. I felt his hands on my wrists, he was shouting something, I slumped against his chest. How solid. I couldn’t move. This was the end.

Love Letters #38

Have you ever sunk down into the belly of London?

There are vertical escalators, and sometimes they squeak and squeal, groaning under the weight of a thousand feet every second of every day. Never stopping. Hundreds of stories and minds. Millions of thoughts, whispered in thousands of accents, drowned by the voices of people getting things done.

There are pictures on the metal walls, pictures that move and shift and change shapes, kaleidoscopic in their constant swirling motion, and for a moment you want to go to the theatre and see Les Miserable, and the next moment the thought vanishes from your brain as you frantically feel your way through pale yellow tunnels, following the crowd and wondering if you are going the right way, can’t turn back or else people will shove you back the way you came, the rush of hot air pulling you further and further into the belly of London.

Old walls, crumbling civilisations giving way to new ones.

I was born in London.

Tooting.

Same hospital as my mother was born in. So strange, that thought. Twenty four years apart.

My father fell down the stairs and broke his coccyx bone the day I was born. He was rushing to the hospital to see his first child. For twenty three years he hasn’t been able to sit properly.

When I was six years old, my stomach curled and unfurled itself as I clutched a small pink straw bag, descending on those vertical escalators down, down down below the crowded surface of the busy city.

Do we have to go on the tube? Can’t we go on the overground train?

Don’t be so silly, Lenora. Look sharp now, quickly!

My mother, seasoned, marching through the tunnels with myself and my little brother in tow. Stepping onto the train, grabbing the back of her skirt, sick with fear.

Then the hurtle, the loud screaming of the train on those metal tracks, the blackness outside the windows. Why were there even windows, if there was nothing to look at? Terrified. Barely able to breathe. Is this the stop? Can we get out?

No!? Ohhhh. 

A soft groan, deep in my belly.

Any minute now the lights would turn off and the train would stop and we would be stuck down here in the dark and heat forever and ever and

forever.

Loud, screaming, hurtling, whistling, wailing. I would close my eyes, begging for this nightmare to be over.

When I was eleven I read a story about the people who cleaned the underground tunnels.

You wouldn’t believe what they found there. Giant rats, and fleas the size of cockroaches, flittering in the darkness. An old woman spoke of the horrors of those tunnels. Yet, they were a refuge to many during the war. Safe havens, in giant brick pools under the ancient city of London. Curving under the Thames and even crossing by the long forgotten rivers that people seldom remember, yet traverse past daily.

And still, I was terrified.

The tube?! Really?! We can get to Victoria on the overground. What about a bus?! A bus is so much better.

Oh, grow up, you silly girl.

Stuck to my seat, sometimes shoved under someone’s armpit, holding tight, my stomach swaying as the train hustled and swerved and screamed its way through those hot, windy tunnels. Fear seeped through my skin, soaking my clothes and beading on my upper lip.

The roaring becoming louder, and louder, and louder, rising in volume and ferocity,

 – why is it so angry -?!

I open my eyes.

I am twenty three years old. I am sitting on the tube for the first time in three years, and before that, for the first time nine.

London has not been my home for twelve years.

Yet, every time I step off the train and into Euston or King’s Cross, a rush of overwhelming familiarity hits me.

The smells and the noise pollution, rising high in the sky, thousands of lives picking their way through thousands of machines, breathing in exhaust fumes and coffee grounds, heels on newspapers, sweat pooling in the creases of skin, accents and countries and worlds colliding as people get on with their business.

And I love the tube. I love the tube with all my heart.

I love the feeling of standing on the furthest end, watching everybody and their engrossed detachment from the world around them. The ginger man sitting next to a nun, sneaking peeks at her reading material. The woman who is watching a Netflix show and the audience of standing commuters, eyes glued to her screen behind the grimy glass that separates her seat from the doors.

I love the hurtling, screaming ferocity. I love the traffic of humans, all hurrying, running, racing, sweating, on the same journey but so trained in avoiding any real contact with each other. Physically pressed up against each other but mentally floating high above the tunnels through which they are carried at top speeds.

I don’t love London at all. I might love the memories I have, which lurk around unexpected corners and in strange places. That place that I vomited outside the Natural History museum. That spot in the British library where I tried to hide those chewits. That fountain in Hyde Park where I sprained my ankle and subsequently cried all the way home on the 319. That tree where the dog barked at my brother and I, scaring our five and four year old selves half to death. That rookery where we rolled down the hills and I got grass stains on my blue Alice in Wonderland dress.

But I love the Tube.

I love the old terror that rises in my throat like bile, because my twenty three year old self recognises it for what it really is;

Adrenaline.

Excitement.

Adventure.

Thrill.

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When the Sun Rises

Sunrises, in the silence of a morning.

Birdsong, and sleeping windows. Fresh breeze, footsteps echo. Why do they echo so early in the morning?

Why does everything seem louder, somehow?

And goodness, why does the world feel so fresh, when only a few hours earlier the atmosphere was simmering in the drunken, filthy haze of a long, lived-out day?

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Footprints in the Sand

This short piece of fiction is part of a challenge put together by fellow blogger Frank from AFrankAngle – Check his post out!

On Footprints in the Sand.

Here is mine.

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Footprints in the Sand

The sun rose slowly in the horizon, its rays gradually strengthening to the music of waves crashing on the shore. Loud, then soft, then loud again, as the tide pulled the frothy waters away from the ascending sand-dunes, only for it to come scrambling back up again, reaching foamy fingers higher up the dunes each time.

The beach was empty, save for a few gulls calling dismally as their soft bodies were buffeted by the winds high in the sky.

The remains of yesterday were completely wiped away by the tides. It was fresh and new as though someone had washed the world and removed all human traces from the sand. No sandcastles, no left-behind toys, and all conversations that wafted on the gentle sea breeze had long been snatched away, sailing far over the seas to distant lands.

No, the beach was fresh this morning. Ready for a new horde of laughter and life. Lively in anticipation, bringing rose-tinted blue skies and soft, pillowy clouds scudding across as though in a hurry to be gone before the sun had completely reclaimed her power.

The beach was empty, for now, in these blissful early morning hours. The beach was empty, and restful, yet oddly restless.

The beach was empty, and yet a set of footprints made their way solidly across the dry sand just inches away from the water, pattering, forming, collapsing in on themselves all along the beach line and into the brightness in the distance, and there was nobody there to make the mark.

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The Red Dress

Gathering dust, in the far corner of her wardrobe. She didn’t check in on it any longer, but Annabelle always knew it was there.

A flash of scarlet when she rummaged at the back after her comfortable leggings. A small tug at her heart. A shrug. A passing thought that she would come back to it later, when she was smaller, trimmer, sexier. Maybe Ted would look at her differently then. Maybe.

The days and weeks passed by. When she woke up one morning it had been five years. She thought guiltily of the dress, flattened by years pressed between old winter jackets, and ate another slice of cake. Her stomach distended comfortably within her elastic waisted jeans.

One day she checked in on it. Pulled it out, held it against her body. She wondered if she could slip into it like her old self could, and imagined how it would slink past her shoulders and surround her waist, hovering, floating, around her knees. Silk and gauze, satin and chiffon, all combined intricately to create an image of vivid, crimson beauty.

She sighed. She couldn’t make herself do it, and put it back on the hanger to wait another five years.

‘I’ll lose a few pounds then it will be fine.’

She didn’t, though.

In the middle of the night, when the dew glistened on the grass, singing as they perched atop the dark green blades, their voices rising in the black night, like the tinkle of a thousand small glasses clinking together; the wardrobe door opened.

It creaked a little, and Annabelle’s eyes opened. The ceiling glittered, as though there was moonlight shining on a body of water, and she found that odd, but she didn’t say anything.

The red dress swished a little. She didn’t know how she knew it was the dress, but she knew. She dared not look, for a strange fright took hold of her, clasping her neck gently with cold fingers. It slid out of the wardrobe, and as though there were a pair of dainty feet beneath the folds of chiffon, it danced ever so slowly across her floorboards, barely making a creak, and flew right out of her open window.

A gust of cool night air brushed her cheeks, and she felt her cold tears freeze.

The soft song of the dew outside drew her from beneath her sheets, and she glided over to the window in her red satin pyjamas, her eyes wide in wonder. For the world under the starry night sky was unlike any world she had seen before. The dew glittered on the grass like a thousand diamonds, and she saw the red dress among its blades. Only there was a woman within the chiffon folds, so faint and transparent she barely saw her, save for a flash of her throat as she turned her head gracefully in the moonlight, and a flutter of long, black lashes. Her hands hovered above the grass, caressing the plants, and she danced to the tune of the dew.

Annabelle stood, staring. She felt light as a feather, as though she, too, could glide out of the window and dance in the dew. She felt beautiful, like the invisible lady in the dress, and her limbs ached to move, but her eyelids felt heavy, and slowly, lulled by the soft music, they fluttered shut.

When she woke up the next morning, she was back in her warm bed. She threw her covers back and darted across the room, flinging her wardrobe door open. There was her dress, right at the front, the hem soaked.

She glanced back at her window. It was closed.

Later that evening, when glasses clinked and the chatter of content adults rose towards the ceiling of the large drawing room downstairs, a stunning young woman walked down the stairs. She was soft and warm, her jet black hair piled at the back of her head, and gleaming curls cascaded down her bare shoulders. Teetering on the edge of her shoulders, the satin sleeves of her crimson dress nestled. She walked confidently, and her dress brought out the glitter in her large, dark eyes. Ted could not take his eyes off her. Who on earth was she?

Annabelle walked down the stairs, feeling quite unlike her usual self. She glanced around, watching people talking and laughing amongst themselves. She wished she didn’t wear it. She felt the satin stretch a little around her waist. It looked so glamorous in the mirror, but now she wasn’t quite so sure. She had the sudden urge to wear it tonight, instead of her loose grey gown that she always wore. Her mother handed her a tall glass of something red and sweet, and she held it in her hands, looking around to mingle.

‘Goodness gracious me, is that Annabelle?’

She glanced up.

‘Janey! You decided to come after all!’

‘Yes, darling, but you look fabulous!’

‘Do you really think so?’

‘Oh, darling, you are positively stunning! I didn’t recognise you at first! And goodness me, Ted can’t take his eyes off you.’ She leaned towards her conspiratorially, breathing the last sentence out at her, before gulping down the rest of her drink and setting it down on the table next to her, ‘Right, I’m off to dance with some fine young gents,’ and she gave Annabelle a peachy kiss on her flushed cheek, before sailing gaily away.

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She

She was a jellyfish, floating under a wave. Bobbing gently with the ebbing current. Her translucent hair swaying silently around her still face, eyes tightly shut, sealed like death merged with life.

She was the calm in a strong wind. The centre of a storm. The silence as the raging destruction hurled life over a precipice and into the unknown. The deep breath, pregnant with dread.

She was the shadows when you slept, the coat behind the door, the woman silently watching as you tried to coax yourself to sleep. She was there, even though you convinced yourself she was just the dressing gown. Everything looks frightening in the dark.

She was surreal reality, dread behind a closed door. She was the exhibit they ignored, because it made them feel uncomfortable. She was the haunting in Connecticut, the dried eyelids in a box. She was the soft breeze that blew out the candles when the windows were closed. She was the buzzing sound of a wasp when there was none to be seen.

She held her breath for as long as she could, and when she surfaced, life flooded into her in the gasps she took of the air which hummed with oxygen. Her eyes flew open, and reflected the vivid blue stretched over her head. The waves crashed on the distant shore, and her muscles ached with the struggle for life. She kicked, hard, and glanced back. Silhouettes stood on the beach, children’s laughter carried off by the wind.

She was alive, not dead. Death hadn’t captured her yet. The current was far from her curled toes, and she pushed her chest forward with strong strokes of her slender, young arms. Back to the shore.

Back.

To life.

‘Darling, you were away for so long!’, Mam said, as she meandered with long, swaying strides towards the blanket which lay slightly rumpled in the hot sand. She bent over and towelled her hair dry.

‘I was drinking the sea,’ she murmured.

‘Do you want a sarnie? Before Chris eats them all. We’ve got egg mayo and tuna.’

‘I nearly died, mam.’

‘Don’t be silly, we were watching you the entire time.’ her mother said, cheerfully, handing her a sandwich out of a fat orange Sainsbury’s bag next to her foldable beach chair.

She took it, a fat rectangle stuffed with filling and molded like a pillow in saran wrap. She looked at the sea, crashing gently on the shore. Swimmers splashed as the sun beamed down beautifully.

I could have died, if I’d wanted to. 

Me and Machine

The train poured out of the tunnel, and endless stream of boxcars and flat empty carriage holders, on and on and on, the engines roaring in a crescendo of deafening sound, yet the pull of the train too slow to warrant such a noise so it made it seem like a weak, outdated machine.

Maybe the train was just too heavy, and so the engines had to work extra hard. I counted forty boxcars and then I lost count, as more kept spilling out of the gaping hole of the tunnel at the furthest end of the station; the mouth of this huge cavern of a station echoing with humanity drowned in the noise of the machine. Boxcars filled by robots, operated by robots, stacked by robots and sent off by robots to factories run by artificial intelligence.

So much power created, and the world carried on pretending to be the humdrum efficient system humans had created it to be.

And still it kept coming, more and more, vomiting out boxcars as they trundled along to the ends of the earth. I watched them glide past, too fast to jump on without serious injury or even fatality, and too slow to not contemplate doing the latter.

In the end, when the noise faded after the last boxcar holder, devoid of its box, melted into the wavy distance of burning horizon, the station sat in silence. Hunched over after the hefty belch it had just expelled from its gut.

I looked around me. Emptiness. Stillness. The laughter and chatter I imagined beneath the roaring noise of firing pistons had disappeared with the train, and I was left alone.

Was it my imagination, there there were people around me? The heat blazed outside the gaping lips of the station, where trains go after they have surfaced from its gut. The sky was brilliantly blue, deliciously deceiving, for I knew my skin would burn and curl up into brown flakiness the minute I stepped out of the shadow. I was alone. Sitting on a bench. Clutching my canvas bag close to me, feeling my sweaty thighs meld together under the soft cotton of my dress, which felt a little damp from the sweat I imagined pooled there.

My throat was dry, but the shops were closed. I sat and waited for the next train, the next glimpse of humanity to cure my aching loneliness. I would imagine human chatter under the noise of mechanical efficiency. After all, machines were created by humans.

I can’t be the only one left in the aftershock of viral destruction. It can’t be just me and the machines. Me and the remnants of man.

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The Girl in the Mirror

‘My mother was a witch.’

He laughed loudly. Throwing his head back to let his mirth spill into the night air. She looked piqued at his reaction to her confession.

‘I mean it. She really was!’

‘Okay, sure. What, she was so mean to you?’

‘God, no. Never mean to us at all. She was an enchantress.’ 

She watched his eyes search her face for the lie. There was no lie, however. She bit her lip.

‘Go on,’ he prodded, finally.

She had the night sky in her eyes.’

He rolled his.

When she spoke, her voice was like the angels. So gentle, so quiet. A calming effect in the stormiest of seas. When my little sister bawled my mother sang to her. She swayed about the room, swishing her skirts and singing until my sister, sprawled on the floor, stopped her fit and stared in wonder.’

He shrugged, ‘She loved her mother.’

It was more than that.’

The silence hung between them like a heavy drape. The air was still, the stars above twinkling brightly. The city spread beneath them, their feet resting solidly on the edges of the plateau. He was staring out at the lights, she couldn’t read the expression on his face.

‘Well?’

Well?’

‘More than what?’

Oh. She was ethereal. Every mundane experience we had was something magical when she became involved. The table was a plateau. The fox was a wolf. The bread was cake dripping with honey. The blossoms were homes for the fairies and the daises were their purple tinged dresses.’

He turned to look at her then. His blue eyes looked black in the darkness. His face was thrown into shadow. She saw his outline against the backdrop of lights, which spilled into the inky blackness of the sky above, so that the stars over the city vanished, even though the ones above them were so brilliant.

‘You really loved your mother.’

His voice was soft. Sad.

I loved her, yes. But even if I hadn’t, even if I hadn’t’

‘How did she die?’

She looked down at the city again. She could hear it, all the way from here. The sound of  a rising highway. The sound of hundreds of machines. A loud, yet soft humming. A thrumming in the earth. The roots of concrete and people. She knew this was not the natural noise the earth made, and it made her feel part of something greater, somehow. As though she wasn’t entirely alone.

She didn’t.’

‘What?’

She didn’t die. She just tripped back through the mirror from where she came’

‘Emily, come on..’

‘My father always said that she stepped out of the mirror one day. He called her the Girl in the Mirror, when we were children, and we would laugh at him, calling him silly. He would tug at her long black tresses sometimes, and his eyes would look at her sadly. Once, when I was ten years old, he held her in his arms and whispered, ‘thank you for giving me your four little gifts’ – he meant us, of course. When she went back in, he told us it was her time to go back, and that she had left us four for him to always remember her by.’

‘Emily..’

She did not look at him. Her large violet eyes reflecting the thousands of lights spread before her.

There’s a girl in my mirror. I know she is not me. Sometimes when I blink, she doesn’t. Her smile is a little more sly than mine.’

‘I think this is all your imagination.’

And once I caught her making faces at my little sister.’

‘A coping mechanism, to cope with the pain of losing your mother..’

We are enemies now.’

‘Emily..’

I’ve always wondered who my mother’s Other Woman was. And if she looks like her at all. And if she knows her Mirror Woman came out and lived with us for a while.’

He didn’t say anything. Her face had a faraway quality to it. He realised that she wasn’t even there, with him, at that moment. He didn’t know if she’d heard anything he had said. He began to wish he hadn’t said it at all.

A low breeze wafted suddenly through the trees behind them, tugging gently at her long, ethereal black tresses, that cascaded all the way down her back. He heard it, swishing in the leaves and rumbling in the sky, he saw her dress move with it, but he didn’t feel it.

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