Read Eyes in the Mirror Online
Authors: Julia Mayer
A week later, I got home from school and stood in front of the full-length mirror in my closet. I tried opening the door and standing behind it. I tried standing in the closet in the dark. I stared at the mirror. “Abracadabra, open sesame,” I said to my reflection. I stood back and looked her directly in the eye, saying, “I'd like to get in, please. Open the door and make way for Dee. I'm ready to come in and I want to meet you, so open up.” I thought I saw my reflection twitch, but no door opened. None of the words made any difference.
The girl in the mirror was exactly who I wanted to meet, someone who lived in a world like mine but was still just the opposite, but it wasn't until my mom got involved that I had any sort of breakthrough.
She was worried about me. I guess she, of all people, couldn't believe I was vain enough to be looking at myself all day, but she also couldn't understand what I was looking at besides my own reflection. I came home from school the day after I'd tried all the magic words to find her taking down the mirror in my room.
“Mom, my mirror!” I screeched.
“Sweetheart, I'm concerned about what you're seeing in this thing. It's a distraction to you. I don't want you getting involved in thisâ¦in this staring at yourself all the time.” She said it calmly, and hard as I tried, I couldn't argue her out of her decision. She held the top of the mirror firmly, and I grabbed the bottom. As though I would ever overpower my mom. We must have pulled and let go at the same time because the mirror fell and broke at the same moment that my mom lost her balance and fell into the shards on the floor, disappearing to the other side of the mirror.
I saw it in slow motion, but it happened so fast. For a second, it looked like she was going to fall and cut herself on the glass. But rather than getting cut, her hand went straight through the floor, and then her arm. It was like when you see a car accident happening, but you're a block away and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
She just kept falling, and every time I reached for her, she seemed to slip through my fingers. Ghostlike. Disappearing into my floor.
Into my floor?
How can someone just disappear into a floor, into shards of glass on the floor?
For a moment I thought I would be able to grab her leg, but just as I reached for it, she was gone. Gone into the mirror. Into the shards of a mirror that was broken on my floor. Into the world that I hadn't even really believed existed. But there had to be something. There was no other explanation.
She should have just fallen and gotten scratched up. Her hands should have bled, and maybe her pants should have gotten cut up. But instead, she just kept falling. Falling past everything into something. Or into nothing.
I stared after her, looking at the empty hands I had thought were holding on to her. What had just happened? I was speechless, terrified, alone, petrified, horrified. I had made my mother disappear, the one person I loved most in the entire world. The one person I could trust, the one person who knew what to do when terrible things happened. I stared at my colorless face in the shards of glass on my floor.
My mom is usually the person I go to when I don't know what to do. She's the one who fixes things when I mess them up. She's the one whoâ¦just disappeared. People don't just disappear. They don't just fall through floors or into mirrors or into other worlds. How would you get them out if they did? Where was my mother? What the hell had just happened? There was only one person who, maybe, might believe me.
I ran to his house and knocked on the door. Jamie answered and looked at me just a little bit wide-eyed.
“Dee, what's wrong? You lookâ¦Are you okay? Come in. Sit down.”
I tried to catch my breath as I sat down and started talking. “I'mâ¦Well, I thinkâ¦I don't know. I'm not sure.”
Then I blurted out the whole story. I was terrified he was going to think I was crazy.
thought I was crazy. But I had just seen it; it had just happened a minute ago. But I still couldn't believe it. When I got to the part about trying to find the door, he whistled quietly, “I don't think anybody has ever taken me that seriously, let alone when I'm stoned.”
“Focus! My mom is missing!”
“Okay, so what do we need to do? How do we get her back out?” he asked, popping up and beginning to pace back and forth across the living room.
“I think I have to go in after her. I mean, now that I know how, I don't think there's any other way to get her out.”
“Do you really think that's a good idea? I mean, what if it doesn't work? What if you get stuck, or you get hurt or something? What if you didn't see what you thought you saw? What ifâ¦” The what-ifs kept coming. And finally they ended with, “Why don'tâ¦why don't I go with you?”
I looked at him. “Oh, no. You don't have to get involved. This is my thing. I just wanted advice, and I needed someone to talk to.”
“I want to go with you,” he said, sitting down on the couch next to me and rocking back and forth a little bit.
“I really think this might be something I have to do alone. This is the world that I found, and it's my mom I'm trying to get back. I don't know. Plus I think it would help if you could be here to cover for me. Can you come up with a good reason for me to be gone?”
Jamie popped up and started pacing in a circle around the living room again. I loved that he was always moving, never boring. “Well, your mom's a nurse. So you two could be going away to take care of someone. Like your grandma or something.”
That made more sense than anything I could have thought of. And the babbling that came out of my mouth was nothing compared to the babbling going on inside my head. There were thousands of what-ifs. What if she was already gone? What if there was no way to bring her back? What if I never saw my mom again?
We called my mother's office and told them she was taking a couple of sick days. I couldn't imagine that getting her back would take more than a couple of days. Provided I was able to find her. I asked Jamie to tell the school the following day that I was with my mom somewhere. I wanted to get going as soon as possible. I was so scared that something might happen to my mom. Jamie walked me toward the door. I stopped him at the front and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Be careful. Just watch out, and come back if it doesn't feel safe. And if it's awesome, well, no matter how much you like it, promise to come back?” he asked.
I nodded and turned to walk back to my apartment. I could see my feet moving but I felt numb. Something in me had taken over, and my feet were moving me forward without my head giving them any direction.
When I got home, I went into the bathroom, the room with the hardest floor that would make breaking the mirror easiest, and dropped another mirror. I watched the glass shatter and could feel myself pause. I reminded myself that I needed to do this. I took a deep breath and felt even my lungs tremble. I tried to fall into it just the way my mother had, and I guess it was close enough because when I fell, I didn't land on the hard, cold floor covered in broken glass.
I didn't land. At all.
My body trembled. My head swirled. The world disappeared behind me and exploded in front of me at the same time. I forced my eyes open, afraid of what would happen if I closed them.
There were colors I had never seen before. The sun burst open. I was overwhelmed by beauty and light and a complete feeling of awe. I made desperate attempts to feel any part of my body, but my legs seemed to have disappeared. It felt like hours before I could find them. I struggled to stand but couldn't tell which way was up. Which were my arms and which were my legs.
And then all of a sudden, everything was black. And I was there. My body was still. I could be sure again that it existed. That I existed. I was compelled to step forward and almost jumped back as I saw my leg step out of a mirror in front of me and into a school bathroom.
I knew I didn't want to go back, but going forward seemed terrifying. I couldn't just stand there, so I stepped out and looked around, unsure of what to do and how to react. Why here? What was I doing in a high-school bathroom, and who was the reflection looking back at me? I touched the mirror and my hand went right through it, like I was touching a pool of water. This was what I had wanted when I'd touched the water in the bathtub the first time.
I wanted to run out of the bathroom and race down the hallway looking for my mother, but I heard people coming. I didn't know how they would react to me, so I locked myself in a stall. Would they look like me? Would they recognize me as an outsider? Would they ask what I was doing here?
One of them leaned into the mirror, and I worried that she was going to fall straight through. But the mirror was solid and she applied lipstick fine.
“Do you think this color is too orange for my skin tone?” she asked one of her friends.
Her friend cocked her head to one side and squinted. “No. I think it's pretty. I mean, not for me. But definitely for you.” They nodded to each other. I heard one of them wash her hands, and they left the bathroom.
I was so disappointed. After all of this work, the people were just the same as the people I had left. They were the same makeup- and boy-obsessed girls I had left behind. I couldn't focus on that, though. I had to find the people I was looking for. Where was my mother? Was she okay? Where was my reflectionâthe girl I kept seeing in the mirror?
I walked out of the bathroom and looked down the hall. I found my mother immediately and tried to wave, but she didn't see me. I went over and said hello, and she looked at me but didn't seem to recognize me.
“It'sâ¦it's me. Umm, do you want toâ¦”
She looked at me, and I thought it was her. I thought she was seeing me, her daughter. But she wouldn't say it. She just leaned forward in that sympathetic way adults do when a little kid comes over and says something completely ridiculous.
She looked at me that same way for another minute before seeming to decide I was okay. “I'mâ¦I'm sorry. I'm just a substitute.”
“Butâ¦no. You're not just a substitute. You're the real thing. You'reâ¦” But I couldn't bear to say it again. I was afraid I might burst into tears if I did. “I guess, umm, okay,” I said and began to turn around.
I saw her walk away quickly out of the corner of my eye, and just as I thought I was about to lose it, something else caught my attention. There she was. My reflection.
It took me another day to figure out that my mother was teaching in this world and another two days to figure out how to get her out and back into the world where she belonged. After the first time, I couldn't talk to her. It upset me too much to think that my mother didn't know me. I needed her help. I needed her to comfort me and care that I was upset. I would walk up to her and be just another student. Just another kid in school. Except a stranger, because I didn't have classes with her. Well, I didn't have classes at all.
I spent a few days wandering the school, going back home through the mirror to sleep at night and returning in the morning. After the first time, the sensation was never as intense. I was just walking from one world into the other, like walking through a door. A dark door.
I switched between following my reflection around and following my mother around. Within the first hour of arriving, I wasn't sure which one was more important to me. The two talked a lot, which made it a little bit easier. I could watch them together without having to run back and forth all the time.
A few times I tried to get close enough to hear them, but I was concerned about them seeing me. I wasn't sure how I would explain myself. I wasn't even really sure they could see me. I thought they could, but it was confusing and I didn't want to make the situation worse by making this woman who didn't know that she was my mom not trust me and not want to come back with me.
On Thursday morning, I saw my mom, or the woman who was usually my mom, walk into the faculty bathroom. I knew it could be my one shot. I followed her in there as quietly as I could and hid in one of the stalls. I watched her walk out of a stall through the crack in the door. She had been wearing variations on the same outfit for three days, and I wondered, not for the first time, where she had been sleeping. The clip-clop of her shoes across the floor stopped, and she smoothed her skirt and turned the water on.
I prayed silently that what I was about to do would work, that I wouldn't wind up with the woman in front of me having a big bruise on her head instead of finding my mother on the other side of the mirror with me.
I unlocked the door and pushed it open while she was looking down and washing her hands. Before she could look up and figure out what was happening, I ran up behind her, put my arms around her, and ran straight through the mirror, holding on and toppling out over her on the other side.
I stood up, and my mom looked at me confused. What if this was just some woman who looked like my mom? “Mom? It's you, right?”
“Of course it's me. Who else would it be? Are you okay? What just happened?”
She recognized me! “I'm fine. I think you were trying to get something from the top shelf andâ¦” I had a brainstorm. “You've had a fever the last couple of days. You've been really confused.
“When I saw you up here, I just knew you were going to fall, so I came in to try to get you before you did. But you slipped and we fell. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have let you get up. I think the better question is are
okay? Does your head hurt?”
“Oh. Well. Yes, I think I'm okay. I feel a little bitâ¦strange. I must have been having some strange dreams. But I'm sure it's nothing.”
She had no recollection of what had happened. Or maybe she did, but she thought it was feverish hallucinations. I thought that made more sense than any other explanation I might have been able to come up with. I wasn't going to push her to think about it in any more depth than she already was. I certainly didn't want her to figure out that she had been spending her days in an alternate universe.