I’d like to thank Leah Holbrook Sackett for her flash fiction submission “What The Looking Glass Reflects”, a melodramatic tale with an intriguing atmosphere. Reflective and relatable, yet fantastical and surreptitious.
Leah is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. This is also where she earned her M.F.A. Her short stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self. Leah’s debut book of short stories “Swimming Middle River” was recently released by REaDLips Press.
Learn about Leah’s published fiction at LeahHolbrookSackett.website
Follow her on Twitter: @LeahSackett
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Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash
What The Looking Glass Reflects
Carol liked to stand in corners when she was anxious. It calmed her down to tighten her focus on a dried drip of paint, the seam in wallpaper, or a crack in the wall of the visiting Professor’s house. Her husband was a professor of History at Sweetgum University. The booming emptiness of the house, like a quarry, played on Carol’s nerves. It reminded her of the children she could not have to fill the large house. Her body was not agreeable to the arrangement of keeping a tenant for more than 3 months. This, too, made her anxious. If she were to dwell on the idea of a baby too long, it required a Xanax and a corner to calm her down.
Staring into the back of William’s head while watching a loud Sunday football game was also a trigger. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, each day, that was a trigger. The upside was she had tried many corners in the house and had a rating system based on her sense of urgency. The corner in the small dark dining room with light filtering through the blinds was one of her favorites. She liked this one because she could look askance out the window as if cheating at some game. She also liked the lovely wisteria color paint that deepened and lightened based on the time of day. The corners became her friends, and she talked to them. Softly, of course, lest Will catches her again.
The first time Will caught Carol standing in a corner was in the bedroom with the blue scrollwork wallpaper. It was just outdated long enough to be trendy with that shabby chic look. She liked to trace the scrollwork with her fingertips. Caught-up in a particular favorite curly-que, she did not hear Will coming. Carol stopped her whispering and froze. She could feel Will staring at her back. With a great effort that made her eyes sting, she turned to him and said, “It is just the most lovely design.” Will agreed and ushered her from the room. The next morning the corner was filled with a large, gilded full-length mirror made from Sweetgum. She must have spent one too many times in the corner. She wondered how Will got it into the room while she slept, her head hammered from that one glass of wine. The mirror was enormous with a giltwood frame from floor to ceiling. It was carved with five-point star leaves. Her anger with Will for filling her corner was ebbing.
Perhaps a mirror makes a better coping mechanism. This mirror may be just the therapy Carol needed. Sure, it was just another crutch, but you need a crutch sometimes. She climbed out of bed and followed the details of the carvings. She smiled, a little smile though it was, at herself with the glow of her face in the flattering daylight. With the heat of the day on her face, Carol climbed back into bed and was soon napping. She woke from lilting, little giggles. Of course, no one was there, but a single gold stud earring and her wooden knitting needles were resting on the bedclothes. It was as if someone had gone about snatching her things just to return them as gifts.
As late afternoon set in, Carol sat in bed with a book and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. She must have dozed off because she woke with her hand in a puddle of melted ice cream and the pint on the floor. It was growing dark. Moonlight was on the heels of the fading day. It filtered through the window, creating little dancing lights upon the looking glass. It was almost as if there was movement inside. Quietly, she tiptoed to the mirror. It was swimming like water, and a small chubby face and arm reached out of the glass beckoning Carol to enter. Carol froze in awe at the visage of a cherub, a baby in the looking-glass. Inviting her into an orchard of Sweetgums. Abruptly, she heard Will enter with the dull thud of the front door. When Carol turned back to the mirror, it was solid. “NO,” she cried and slammed the palm of her hand against the mirror. There was a heart-breaking crack that ran through the mirror and disappeared in ripples of reflection. With bloody palm and bare feet, Carol entered the looking glass. Will ran up the stairs to his wife’s cry of “NO.” The room was empty. No one was home.
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