“I always knew you were bad. Knew it from the moment your tiny teeth made an avalanche of my Romanian blinds, and you, a mere tot – ”
“You always tell that story. Can’t you come up with a new one?”
“But – it’s the real one. I always knew you were a bad little girl, and yet I took you and fed you and bathed you and now look at you.”
I was looking at me. In fact, Grandmarie wasn’t even in the depot with me, only the frightful stuffed animals and the defunct dressing table with its infamous mirror. As long as I had a mirror and my own touched mind, I would never be lonesome.
Choosing to abandon the argument, I leaned forward. I was searching for some spot on the mirror’s marred surface that wasn’t too encrusted by wear to reflect the pale writing in my eye. One day last week, I hadn’t been able to find it. I had not tried since then, terrified of forever locking the door to my past and Charles and… but now I had nothing to lose, I might as well find out. Find out, more like as not, that I was wrong all the past eight years, and there really was no magic, and I really would be all alone when they shipped me off in the train to Bedshriver tomorrow. You can see I felt no tiniest upset whatsoever at the notion of being alone.
I couldn’t see the initials in my eye. Instead, what looked like the wing of a pale butterfly opened into two, fluttering and bumping against the tight walls of my iris. As I stared, my pupil dilated – insolent science! – and near crushed the poor thing, but it escaped at the last moment and popped right out of the mirror, floundering through open air and rocketing straight into my chest in a blue blaze of sniffly dust. I let it fall into my palm, where the wings opened into the initials CLD – just for a moment, before writhing and reforming themselves longer and thinner. I squinted to read the script: Flamingo Cake Fight. Just Through the Mirror.
“You’re joking,” I shot back at my palm. The moonbeamish ink began to melt to nothingness on my skin. I felt something between a tickle and a shiver shimmer across my hand, up my arm and into my neck. The spot on my neck where the syringe would incise tomorrow in preparation for the opening of my skull and the wrenching out and tossing away of my mind’s bad parts. Does desperation function as innocence once did? My fingers were trembling scarcely one quarter of an inch from the mirror, yet I was eons and earths away from touching it. What if it should turn out to truly be a pointless piece of withering glass?
“Pleasance!” Now that was really Grandmarie, yowling from the sitting room. “Did you get your coats together yet? Pleasance, I must speak with you. Alice Pleasance Dormitory Gracer! Alice!”
She squawks like a badminton bird just before its head conks into the ball, I chuckled into my shoulder. Suddenly, before it could fall away from me, I let the veil of blue dust rise like breath and lift my legs as my muscles agreed: One, two, onto the dressing table-top; three, through the wavering oval. Like water’s fingers it whisper-traced the outline of my body. Finally it closed behind my ponytail and flicked me. What seemed as long as the fall of a doll off a tea table landed me unscathed upon a cushion of grass. Grass that smelt of mint and bladed up from my eye level into a sky laced by a pink dawn.
“I know you,” I said as if he was there. “I’ve been here before.” And yet every new morning was a blank book, ready for my life to scatter across the pages in whorls and poems brighter than any ink. I haven’t had breakfast yet, I realized. With that, I launched off my bare feet, and ran as forever as I could into the wonderful bad, hungry for colors and strangeties as yet unimagined.
Image credits in order of appearance:
By Lewis Carroll, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3304397
By Gustave Léonard de Jonghe – the-athenaeum.org, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5154074
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=314025