Separation

The mirror appeared the same day the girl’s parents explained to her why it wasn’t her fault they couldn’t live together anymore. She, like so many others in the city, was delighted with the new art installation, and amazed at its shockingly rapid, seemingly overnight construction.

While her parents argued, she would leave the apartment, take the elevator to the street, and walk across the busy lanes of traffic to stand by the mirror. The building it sat outside of was non-descript, corporate offices and plastics research facilities. Her father worked in a similar building, she knew, and was unsure how adults told them apart so well. Maybe they didn’t, she reasoned. Maybe the jobs were similar enough to allow them to shuffle around from desk to desk, floor to floor, building to building. She knew changing desks in school wouldn’t have any affect on her, aside from moving her closer to her friends or further away from the boys.

Her teachers noticed her becoming more withdrawn. Her bright smile still shone occasionally, but only during reading, and never on the playground. The girls she played with decided she was no longer fun, after they became unable to convince her to come over after school. She preferred to spend her time at the mirror.

The mirror was curved, and the distortions showed her people as they were. The bend in the surface caused the map to be anything but the territory, and she would trace her fingers along her face while walking past it, watching herself deform and reform, and every version was beautiful.

After her father moved out, she spent nearly every waking moment by the mirror. It was summer then, and she wasn’t required at school. Her mother worked and met with her lawyer and the neighbor tasked to babysit her simply required she check in every other hour. In exchange for silence about this freedom, she was rewarded with candy bars, though she rarely ate them.

It was the hottest night of the year and she had awoken suddenly, unable to breathe. The air was thick and it felt as though the lake the city sat on had taken up residence in the sky. She tip-toed past her mother, asleep on the couch in front of the shifting patterns of a television and opened the door. The elevator carried her closer to where she needed to be, and she crossed the empty street under cover of shadow-buildings.

The mirror was waiting for her. She approached the surface from both sides, inside and out, and stretched her hand out to touch herself. The tips of her fingers met, and the mirror was warm. She pressed and the girl inside the mirror deformed slightly as the surface yielded to her. She recoiled, as did the girl inside, both of them confused. The mirror was a hard surface, but it had given way, felt alive. She pressed a hand forward again, open-palmed this time.

Her hand went beyond the veil, though the surface did not appear broken. The reflection her matched her actions and they now appeared to be conjoined twins at the wrist. She pressed in further, and sank her arm up to her elbow into the silver skin of the mirror.

She looked up at her reflection as it smiled. Her own face, though she could not see it being mimicked, showed nothing but confusion. As she felt the fingers wrap around her arm, she thought to herself how strange it was to see teeth that sharp in a smile.

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