Short Fiction: A New Life, A New Journey

She was young and thin, almost to the point of emaciation.  The welts had mostly subsided, but there was no position she could find that didn’t cause them to ache.  The principal had called again.  With six missed days in two weeks, she must have suspected something.  They never let her leave the house until the marks had faded, though, so suspicions are all M. Thayer would have.  

Mom swore they would leave.  She said that after the first beating, but stopped lying after a few years.  Her new husband would support them both, she had said.  Admittedly, he often spent well on his wife, but not his stepdaughter.  She was a nuisance in his perfect life.

His voice rang through the house.  It was something about work.  A missed promotion, a raise, or something similar.  She couldn’t hear her mother’s voice, but it was certainly calm and soothing, adding reinforcement to her husband’s idea of being overlooked because he was a white man.  He would rail against minority hires or equal opportunity being the cause of all his troubles.  The first time she was beaten was when he came home in a rage, then saw the pictures of her dad.  She never saw them again after he took them.

The sound of something tapping against glass caught her attention.  Wincing, she rolled up to a sitting position and looked at the windows.  There was nothing there.  Not a huge surprise, though.  They moved her bedroom to the second floor after the first attempt to escape.  Looking around, she could see nothing that could be the source of the sound.  A soft voice could just be heard coming from the bathroom, and it was calling her name.

“Clarissa.”

The voice had a pleading tone and gave a sense of urgency.  Slipping out of the bed, Clarissa followed the sound of her name.  Once the light was on, though, there was no one there.  She shuddered and turned to leave, but something about the mirror’s reflection stopped her.  It took a moment before understanding dawned; the reflection did not have the welts and scars that she carried.  Staring at the image, Clarissa froze when the reflection began to cry, reaching out to touch the glass.

She started to extend her own arm, to place their palms together, but stopped short by inches.

“Are you me,” Clarissa asked, voice trembling.

The image nodded to her.

“I am you, and not at the same time.  I am your reflection, so in some ways your opposite.  Take my hand, love.”

When the hands met, Clarissa was perplexed that the fingers slid through the glass, intertwining.  The reflection’s grip was gentle, the thumb caressing her own hand.  Without thought, Clarissa began to do the same.

“Is there anything you cannot live without, something you feel must not be left behind?”

Clarissa thought of the missing photos and other mementoes of the happier years.  She shook her bowed head, feeling the heat of tears down the cheeks.

“No.  Those things are gone forever.”

Nodding, the reflection began to softly pull her forward.  Clarissa climbed the vanity and was dimly aware of her stepfather’s voice in the bedroom.  She scrambled the last little bit, tumbling through the mirror into the reflection’s arms.  They turned to see his face on the other side, gaping at them.  Clarissa spat at him and tried to pull her reflection away, but she would not budge.

“Not yet,” she said.  Clarissa watched her hand close on a baseball bat, her eyes never shirking from the puzzled face that grew more angry.  A redness began to deepen across his face, spreading out from the nose that had grown over the years from alcohol and stronger substances.

“Fuck you,” was all the reflection said before swinging hard at the mirror.  As it shattered, Clarissa could see shards rip into his face, briefly hearing his scream before there was nothing before her but a blank wall.

She turned to the reflection, fresh tears streaming down her face.  The other Clarissa kissed her cheeks before gathering her up in a fierce embrace.

When the tears subsided, the lips by her ear spoke with strength.

“Now, let us find you a new life, love.  You cannot stay here forever, but we will find you a new place in your world to rediscover yourself and to thrive.”

Clarissa smiled, taking her opposite’s arm, allowing herself to be led away, down a dimly lit corridor to search for a new future.

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