The key fit. She opened the door of her new apartment and ran through the rooms. The high ceilings, the tall windows, the original wooden floors, the elegant spaciousness. She loved it. She loved old buildings. Close to the park, close to the center. All hers. All hers! Who would have thought? Finally, the universe was on her side. Now it would begin.
She only brought one bag with her, with decorations for the bathroom. The bathroom was small but perfect. Old tiles, a bathtub on feet. A tall mirror framed in dark wood with carved flowers over a cracked marble tabletop and a tiny sink. It looked like it came straight from an old black and white detective movie. When she came to look at the place, she knew there had to be a white flower on the table next to the sink. She placed the orchid and the three white, 100% organic Egyptian cotton towels. He would have forced her to return them, she was stupid to buy expensive, good for nothing things.
Admiring the result she noticed some hairs in the reflection of the mirror. Black long hair. A girl must have lived here before, this place oozed femininity. This space should stay clean and clutter free, make-up in closed bags from now on.
‘Angèle?’ June’s voice followed by a rhythmic knock.
She threw open the door. June smiled brightly. ‘This location!’
‘I know!’ she said.
She gave June a tour.
‘And now, for the pièce de résistance,’ she said and gestured June into the bathroom.
‘Cute,’ June said. ‘It’s like you step into a different time.’
‘It’s strange, but when I walked in here, I knew it was meant to be.’
‘Look at these carved flowers, and that dark wood. It must be original.’
She watched June’s fingers touch the frame. In the mirror dark hairs moved up towards the reflection of June’s neck, circling like a predator around her neck. Suddenly it speeded up, like a whirlwind that faded the image. June coughed and grabbed her neck. Black hairs in her hands. June ran the tap to drink and washed her hands. ‘That was strange, like there was hair around my neck and in my throat or something.’
‘There are some black hairs.’ Angèle pointed.
‘That’s just old filth,’ June said. ‘How could they have been on my neck? We are both blonde.’ June took one of the new towels. ‘New towels, huh!’ She grinned. ‘These won’t dry my hands.’
In the corner of her eye Angèle noticed that something moved in the mirror. Her reflection seemed to be off. It didn’t follow her correctly, it moved slower than her. One of her eyes winked. Her mouth grinned slightly on its own. Ice cold air brushed along her spine which unbalanced her. She held on to the wall and shut her eyes.
‘I just feel a bit faint.’
‘Are you sure you are ready to move on, on your own?’
‘Did they give you medication?’
‘You cannot out-medicate life, June. I am fine, it’s in the past.’
June looked questioningly, her big baby blue eyes now locked into hers, buzzing with confidence and unbroken wonder. Eyes from a world where a therapy session solves any problem and where people are in control over their circumstances. Beautiful eyes of ice.
‘Let’s go get coffee and cakes to celebrate,’ June said soothingly.
The next day, her brother helped her move in the little she had. He didn’t want to stay for dinner. That girlfriend was probably against it after everything that happened. June would come to pick her in two hours. June insisted to have her own key, which made her feel safer. Someone could reach her, even when she didn’t want to be reached.
That mirror must have been a hallucination, it must have been tiredness, which made sense because she hadn’t slept well and she had walked a lot. Didn’t they train people in the military with sleep deprivation, so they would experience what that feels like, to not be able to trust your senses? It was just her imagination going wild. She shouldn’t be her own prisoner now.
Decisively, she marched to the mirror and looked in. She saw her very own startled eyes. Her very own eyes. Nothing to be afraid of. She sighed deeply and purposely. Confront your fears to move forward. She ran a bath, took lavender bath soap and watched the bubbles foam high in the water. The warmth of the water calmed her, she read The Secret and tried to visualize all that would be different as vividly as she could.
Afterwards, grounded and heavy, she wiped a small part of the steamed mirror free. A black hair strangled around her fingers. She wiped her hands off on the towels, but the hair stuck. She ran cold water from the tap and watched the hair rinse away from her hand. That’s gone. Out with the old. She faced herself. Hello, new me.
Her image distorted. It grimaced, followed by a smile.
She repeated to herself, this is not real, I am not crazy, this is not real, I am not crazy. ‘I am in control,’ she said, while forcing herself to look straight in the mirror.
‘Weak’ her image mouthed slowly. Was it out loud or in her head? I am not hearing voices, I have never heard voices, I am not schizophrenic, this is not real. ‘You are not real,’ she said.
Her image smiled at her. Its hands came up and pointed at her. Suddenly the hands threw themselves forward, out of the mirror, grabbing her throat. She felt the fingers pushing in her skin and pulling her to the mirror, hard. She choked, pulling her nails into the hands as hard as she could. It hurt. Her head went slowly into the mirror, it felt sticky. All went black. Deeply silent. Empty. A large strand of hair stuck in her throat, merging into her, spreading. She heard a shrill voice somewhere far, but too soft to be heard and she didn’t care. She floated further and further on waves of darkness.
June stood in the hallway, watching the people bundled up inside that little space. They talked about the human impossibility to strangle yourself and that Angèle had come close. They acted as if she wasn’t there, but she might hear it on some level. The landlord stood next to her, looking more annoyed than worried. He kept mumbling about women, more to himself than to her. Women got all sorts of ideas in their head from antiques, about curses and ghosts and whatever crazy things women like to believe. That bathroom had to go out.
‘Angèle is not crazy,’ June said. ‘She’ll be back.’
‘They never come back,’ the landlord said.
‘She just needs a bit more time after her accident,’ June said. ‘Her boyfriend ran her over with his car.’
The landlord nodded. ‘Sure.’
‘She will be back.’
They brought Angèle outside, and within one minute, everybody left. June put some clothes in a bag to bring to the hospital. She decided to take the mirror with her. The landlord would just throw it out, which would be a pity. She carefully took the mirror off the wall and carried it under her arm. It was surprisingly light. Everything would be alright, better than alright.
The reflection under her arm showed a standing June, smiling smugly. A strand of black hair on her sleeve.