What is he doing up there?
I pace up and down the tiled hallway. My boyfriend is supposed to be ready to go by now.
I knew when I met him he thought a lot of himself. I'm surprised he even noticed me. I sit at the back of the lecture theatre, study in the law library and play the clarinet in a student jazz band. He is a leading light of the law department and enjoys taking part in mock trials, student radio and rugby.
At last! My beau saunters downstairs looking immaculate as always. Even dressed in a rugby shirt and jeans, he looks like a catalogue model. He doesn't insist I mirror his stylish elegance. This is just as well.
I maintain a comfortable and casual approach to my appearance. My mother always wants me to dress up for family parties, I prefer a t-shirt and jeans, preferably black. Or a long floaty blouse and black leggings. My only concession to my usual dark palette this evening, is a burgundy waistcoat and a moss green cotton scarf.
He pauses to comb his hair in the full length hallway mirror.
"It looks fine," I tell him. “Can we go? We’re going to the cinema, it’ll be dark. No one will see you.”
"Yes, but we’ll be walking from the car park to the cinema. Someone I know might see me."
“What? Surely, even your adoring public will let you have one night off?” I tease.
Even as we walk along the High Street, I catch him glancing at his reflection in shop windows. After the film, we grab a snack in a burger place.
While I devour my chips dipping them in the ketchup like a woman possessed. My fella, daintily nibbles at his burger, being careful not to get mayo on his shirt. Too late for me, ketchup on my shelf already. I dab at my chest with a napkin, while he shakes his head with a smile.
"Every time,” he says with an easy smile.
"Can’t help it,” I shrug.
And it’s true. No matter how hard I try; gravy, biscuit crumbs, milk or soup. I usually manage to drop something in my lap or down my front. My last boyfriend, even had the nerve to suggest I needed a bib. I soon told him where to go. I’m only human, I may be a little clumsy, but that’s the price you pay for being a genius.
My boyfriend loves the theatre of the court room. He should have gone to drama school. He enjoys the opportunity to demonstrate his vocabulary and stage presence in debates on points of law. He absorbs praise like sponge; whether it’s from teammates when scores a try or a good mark for an essay from his tutors.
He enjoys being the centre of attention too. Sure enough, a gaggle of girls from our course come across from another table. From their expressions and the odd catty comment in the ladies, I know they can’t understand what he sees in me. We're certainly an odd couple.
He loves me, despite the flirtatious banter with the posh girls. I’m a quirky owl and he’s a flirty peacock. After the cinema, we head home. Go to your rooms and weep ladies! I’m the only bird who shares their nest with him.
As we get ready for bed, I pop into the open bathroom to brush my teeth. I freeze in the doorway. His blue eyes are staring at his face in the mirrored bathroom cabinet. He turns to look at me. But his face remains in the mirror, and those familiar blue eyes are full of hate.
"What’s the matter? You’ve gone pale?”
"There’s something in the mirror…” I tell him.
He turns to look and his usual, daft old face swims into view.
"Sorry, must have been a trick of the light.”
He hugs me, and pads off to the bedroom for his pre-sleep stretches and sit-ups. My idea of exercise is a walk by the sea or a quick swim in our local pool. But, each to their own.
As my toothbrush scrubs away the day’s food, the mirror simply reflects my round, bespectacled face, brown eyes and kissable lips. I wash, cleanse and moisturise my face, my only concession to the beauty police.
In the bedroom, I watch my fitness fiend exercise in front of the mirror, until I call time on his exertions.
"Come on, Adonis. Stop posing and give us a cudd—“ I gasp.
He turns to get into bed. In the mirror, what should have been a pleasant view of his broad shoulders and pert behind is replaced by a forbidding reflection of his front aspect. His face is angry and his head is shaking in a disapproving manner. I shut my eyes and when I dare to open them again the spooky version of my friend is gone.
He puts an arm round me as he shuffles under the covers.
”You’re shaking…” he says. “What’s wrong?”
"I keep seeing scary reflections of you.”
”You haven’t had a sly snifter of vodka while you were waiting for me earlier.”
”Of course not,” I snap and then add in a tender whisper, “You know, on reflection, I think a kiss will help mefeel better.”
The next morning, I wait in the front room, tapping my fingers on the arm of the armchair.
“Come on!" I get up and shout up the stairs. “We’re gonna miss the bus, hurry up!"
No answer. Muttering dire threats under my breath I ascend the shabby wooden staircase. No off key whistling or snatch of obscure indie music. Silence. I fear the worst, I can feel the thudding of my heart, hear my shallow breathing and a taste of bile enters my mouth as my brekkie threatens to resurrect itself.
In the bedroom, the goon is gazing dreamily in the wardrobe mirror. He’s obviously been selecting a shirt to wear. There are a couple, perfectly ironed, on the bed. The one he’s wearing is buttoned halfway up his manly chest.
It’s like he’s hypnotised by his own reflection. I call his name. Then go over and put my hand inside his shirt and tickle him like a toddler.
He looks down at me, the spell broken.
"What are you doing?“
"We’re going to be late, unless you’d like more time to gaze upon your loveliness.”
"Very funny,” he laughs as he does up his buttons and grabs a jacket off its hanger.
“Just going to run some gel through my hair,” he announces.
What! No, he’s not going near another mirror. I wrestle him away from the bathroom.
"No time, we’re going to have to walk. Come on!”
After a quick adjustment to his jacket and hair, I finally get him out of the door. As I turn back to close and lock the front door…
You’ll never win, he will be mine.
A icy whisper that I slam the door on.
"Careful,” he warns me with a slight smile. "You’ll have it off its hinges and the landlord will kick us out,”
He offers me his hand. As we walk hand in hand up the hill to the campus, my mind is racing with fearful thoughts.
What the hell is going on?Are we being haunted? Why is my mirror image not trying to scare me? How can I protect him if something dangerous is hiding in the mirror waiting to pounce?
I spend a fretful morning not listening to thrilling lectures on negligence and land law. Our last lesson is a tutorial.
”Just going for a pee.”
”Thanks for that announcement, do you want me to put it on the notice board?”
He tousles my hair to annoy me.
"Think your funny, don’t you? Proper comedian.”
“Yep, and clever and witty, excellent company and oh… so modest.” I call after him as he turns the corner to the gents.
I look at my watch. He’s been gone a long time. Surely, he’s not gone to the tutorial without me. I try and look nonchalant as I wait outside the men’s toilet.
Five minutes turn into ten. Oh this is ridiculous. I’m going to have to be embarrassed and hold my nose. I go in and the acrid stench of ammonia assaults my nostrils. However, I’m truly sickened by the sight of my ensnared love.
Mirrors! How could I forget?
He’s quite helpless, staring at his reflection. The face in the mirror is him. However, when he turns to face me. His handsome features twist into a cruel, cold parody of the man I love.
"They just can’t help themselves,” the icy, clipped voice cuts into me as if each word is a sword thrust. I sink to the floor as I realise my beloved is gone.
“The vain cannot resist that last look at their physical perfection. Do I still look cool? Have I still got a fabulous figure? Every curious gaze, like a trail of sweets leads them closer into our trap.”
"But why?” I scream, tears streaming hot down my cheeks. "Let him go! Please…”
"He’s not our first victim. Narcissus, he was our original meal. We’ve feasted on many fine specimens of humanity over the centuries. But, we’re in no hurry. Spend too long preening in the mirror and softly, softly, bit by bit, we’ll reel you in."
"I want him back! There are plenty of other self-obsessed students. Please, please give him back..."
"Too late for love, far too late. You loitered in the corridor, waited at the door. He’s lost to your world now. Say goodbye to your prince."
I haul myself to my feet, stagger over to him and embrace him for the last time. I feel the warmth leave his body, he shudders and goes limp. I nearly drop him, but manage to lower him to the tiled floor by the sinks.
I am still screaming in fury and smashing the mirrors with my shoes when the cavalry arrives.
The university authorities are very understanding about the mirrors. They call it 'desperate, griefstricken anger' and an 'unusual manic outburst of fury. Most out of character for such a dedicated student'.
The coroner's verdict is natural causes, a weak heart that could have gone at any time. Natural causes my foot, you weren't there mate.
The final weeks of term are a blur. A memorial service, exams, beach barbecues and a graduation ball. Although, I don't feel like socialising, yet alone dancing,
I take less care of my appearance, as I can’t even glance at a mirror. My best friend moves in, no doubt worried I might do something awful.There’s no point explaining what happened. Writing my beloved's story down, as a warning to the vain, is my only release.
Until, a scary and odd occurance as I brush my teeth at the bathroom sink.YRROW T'NOD Backwards words appear on the steam-covered mirror. I nearly drop the toothbrush and run for it.
The words disappear and are replaced by two more:UOY EVOL I wipe the mirror and stare at the reflection of my flushed and bewildered face.
The image shimmers and is replaced by that of my lost boy. I don’t care if the mirror kills me if it means I can be with him behind the glass. Instead, he half-smiles and says one word, “Sorry.”
Then he is gone leaving me shivering in a towel.
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