Kay knew when she picked up the ornate and old-fashioned mirror, marveling at its uncanny heft, that its price was too good to be true; so she wasn’t surprised when she hung it up in her hallway and found someone else’s face looking back at her.
“Hi,” she said, tentatively.
“Hey there!” the mirror replied in a cheerful sing-song. “It’s great to meet ya!”
Her coworkers suspected her of having a new boyfriend and teased her at coffee runs or lunch breaks, gently and friendly at first.
“Looking good, bud!” The mirror might say to her before she left the house. Or perhaps: “I like what you did with your hair! Super cool!”
And Kay would walk in the door of the office with a little smile that confounded her nosier cubicle neighbours.
Her refusal to gossip was diagnosed as a symptom of coldness, hostility. Growing weary of the dispensed silence in the lunchroom she told her coworkers about the mirror. Its heavy brass frame with worked vines, the steep discount and laughing saleswoman, its relentlessly sunny disposition.
“It’s not natural!” and “You’ve been had!” and “You have to get rid of it before it turns on you!” Sisterly camaraderie swiftly replaced the glares and whispers, and she was grateful for that.
Still, Kay made her excuses, and continued to enjoy the cheerful “You have a good day!” as she left every morning and the “Bet you crushed it at work today! Go you!” that greeted her when she returned in the evening.
The helpful advice and support cooled as the teasing had, freezing over into suspicion the longer Kay went without confirming she’d destroyed the cursed mirror. The narrowed eyes and chilly silence sank into her bones until she finally agreed to move the mirror from the hallway into the storage closet until she could decide what else to do.
“Absolutely, I get why you’re doing that,” the face in the mirror said after she apologized and explained. “No worries, bud! You do what you gotta do!”
As though her hands already regretted her decision, Kay’s fingers trembled and the mirror fell to the floor, the glass shattering and the brass frame bent beyond repair.
“It’s for the best!” and “I told you it was unnatural, good riddance!” and “You’ll be much happier now that it’s gone, you’ll see!” and “All of us chipped in to get you this new one!”. She was one of the girls again.
The new mirror—not a bargain, but cheap enough—hung in the hallway, and the only face it showed was her own disappointed one. The splintered fragments of the old mirror were in a garbage bag, of no use to anyone and yet still hoarded.
One day, while trying to find the box of spare lightbulbs, Kay stumbled and caught her toes on the bag which resounded with a frightful tinkling of glass shards and a tiny “oof”.
She tore open the black plastic, seeing many eyes that were not her own, their corners crinkled in joy. “Hey, bud! Good to see you! It’s been a while, huh?”
Fishing out each piece with tenderness and tears, she bound broken edges with pretty tape and hung them from ribbons, tucked them into nooks, and glued them to the inside of cabinets. Her apartment glittered and refracted and wished her well each and every morning.
When the others asked her playfully about her new boyfriend, she replied in kind. Some days she made up stories, some days she simply gave a secret smile and a wink. Whenever a lunchtime frost threatened, she made sure to remark how bright her hallway was, and there came a thaw.
And underneath her blouse, polished and hanging from a chain, a circlet of glass would whisper: “Doing great, bud. Proud of you.”
Victoria Feistner is a writer, graphic designer, and artisan in equal parts, although some of those parts are more equal than others. A speculative fiction writer for over twenty years, she finished her first novel at age 18, and has been published in magazines such as GigaNotoSaurus and Stupefying Stories, among others. Victoria lives in Toronto with her partner and two
jerks cats; examples of her work can be found at victoriafeistner.com.