When nightmares ended, she returned to the blessing of forgetfulness. (HM Classic Story)
FEATURED in The WDC Newsletter: Drama: NaNoWri(Lessons)Mo - Editor's Picks by nicki , November 29, 2011
HONORABLE MENTION in The Classic Story Contest by Lornda , February 2, 2012
FEATURED in The WDC Newsletter: Mystery: A Writer's Guide to Murder Weapons - Editor's Picks by darkin, March 21, 2012
Angela didn’t like to see her reflection in the mirror. Not that she wasn’t attractive; on the contrary, she was a beautiful woman. Yet, not even she, in most cases, understood why; only after one event that completely changed her life, did she understand. The unusual feeling had been there for so long that she could not recall when it really started. It came to her memory in nightmares. Yes, she not only remembered, but relived it. Only in the morning and after waking up, like water on fire, the nightmares went away, and she returned to the blessing of forgetfulness.
It started when Angela Susana Matias was seven years old. As a child, she liked to play with her mother’s makeup in her house in Rio de Janeiro. One morning, she was standing on a little bench in the bathroom and in front of the sink’s big, round mirror. Her eyes were two big blue points amidst the dark and pink stains of mascara and blush. When she was ready to apply the bright, red lipstick on her small lips she noticed that something was ... somehow wrong, distorted.
Perhaps it was already wrong for a long time; maybe since the moment she was born. It was so obvious and yet, so subtle, that she only noticed it now. Her eyes somehow had disappeared. In their place were two black, solid spheres; dark eyes, bright like glass—impenetrable... but alive, awake, and they were looking at her! Her very own reflection was staring at her! The blood froze in her veins. Despite being only seven years old, she could say she knew the meaning of horror, even though she wasn't able to voice it correctly. She couldn’t think. The lipstick fell from her hand into the sink. She was paralyzed, and felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up; a chill running through her body like lightning. With her heart drumming in her chest, she stopped breathing.
Angela thought she would remain this way until she lost consciousness or even died of asphyxia; but when her own reflection winked and smiled back at her she became terrified. She breathed again and ... stepped back. Unfortunately, she had forgotten that she was on top of a bench, and she crashed on the bathroom’s floor. Somehow she knew that her head had not reached the edge of the bathtub for a few inches. Before the fall, she felt a soft hand hold her head and move it toward the right side before the fatal blow.
Angela opened her eyes. The mirror was out of sight. She took control of her body. She got up from the ground. Her voice, which had failed before, returned with all the vigor of a seven-year-old, and she screamed at the same time that she ran down the corridor of her house. Only after numerous attempts from her parents to persuade her that nothing was there, did she return to the bathroom. Of course, there was nothing wrong; there was nothing there, but she still remembered those impenetrable, dark, and mysterious eyes for many nights ahead.
Six years later, Angela woke in the middle of the night, her throat abnormally dry; reaching over to the bedside table she picked up the empty glass. She crossed her room and hallway, walked into the dark bathroom and switched on the light. She glanced at herself in the mirror to see how her appearance fared the night, and ... she wasn't there.
She only saw an empty bathroom reflected in the mirror ... a clean, immaculate bathroom without any human presence! There was ice in her veins instead of blood. She tried to scream but only a moan came out of her throat. In an instinctive act of terror she shoved her hand in her mouth and bit it with all her strength. Bittersweet taste of blood filled her mouth. She fled from the bathroom, running in the dark. Guided only by instinct, and motivated by pure terror, she threw herself on her bed and took refuge under the blankets. Her irregular breathing returned greedily. Warm tears ran down her cheeks but she remained silent. It was just a hallucination caused by sleep; just that, right? What else? Was it that ghost—that spirit—with those dark, glassy eyes playing tricks on me?
Sobbing and feeling the wound in her hand, she ended up falling asleep while sensing soft hands caressing her long, dark hair. She heard a whisper in the darkness of her mind: “I was somewhere else, sorry. I’ll never leave you again, promise.” She always remembered that voice—or murmur—but she never connected the two events.
Angela had forgotten all this, when, fifteen years later, she entered the bathroom of Avenida Paulista’s subway station. It was after seven, and she still had the whole night ahead of her. One more night with five hours of sleep. Why was her boss so radical and so demanding? Why was her life so boring? What had she done with herself? And the loneliness. She felt as if she carried piles of dust in the many shelves of her troubled heart. Is there any hope for me?
Avenida Paulista’s subway station was a brand-new one in São Paulo. It had been inaugurated five months ago and the restrooms were huge; a series of twelve bathrooms, six on each side. The bathroom sinks had their own elegant sink soap dispensers and beautiful round mirrors. The mirrors were not embedded in the wall but attached to it by about half a centimeter of empty space. It was so easy to shatter and remove, and this had happened to three of them. She smiled at the knowledge that the best habits of Brazil had not been lost yet: destroy things that were different, nicer looking and new; maybe a way of expressing anger towards power and wealth of the richest.
The bathroom seemed deserted, but Angela did not mind that. The subway station was quiet and not very crowded; especially at this hour. She was used to being there; as if it was part her life. She walked to the mirror to check her makeup. She removed part of the contents of her bag and lay them next to the sink.
Angela was in a hurry. The bank’s VIP customer expected her in the restaurant on Augusta Street. She still had to take two different subways in order to get there. She missed not having a car of her own. All her co-workers did. She really needed to grab that account tonight. She worked on her appearance for five minutes, in silence, only listening to the noises coming from outside and of water dripping from one of the faucets. She looked at her reflection, quickly. She was tall and slim, with long dark hair and deep, sad eyes. Men turned their heads when she walked by; others whistled. Sometimes their wives or girlfriends would angrily pull them by their arms. She checked her purple silk blouse and looked at her watch. It’s time to go or I'll...
She should have noticed him before but she didn’t. He must have been standing there all that time, hiding behind the half-opened door, staring at her. Angela saw the figure move in her direction... silently, like walking on air but ... it was as threatening as a demon. She dropped her red lipstick on the floor and tried to turn, startled.
Her attacker grabbed her from behind and held a stiletto to her neck.
Angela felt the pressure of the knife’s edge on her neck.
He seemed to know very well what he was doing; and he did not want her dead, but terrified. Feeling her agitation, he relieved the pressure of the stiletto, but not completely.
Fear took over her. He wore a dark, worn-out blue cap. He was tall and thin, but strong enough to immobilize her. His face was pale and impeccably shaved, and full of determination and coolness. Angela thought he would rob her, and then go away, but she felt the pressure coming from his pants against her body. It was rape, not robbery.
Desperation took hold of her consciousness and her body began to shake, involuntarily. A rape victim?
He smiled. He was enjoying her reaction. Usually, they took longer to realize what would happen. They offered money, credit cards, and everything else they had in their purses, but only after he told them what he would do with them. This one did not. She was more intelligent. He also liked the smarter ones as well.
"You will live to remember this!", he said in an anticipating tone, having fun, as if memory was a blessing, and not a curse.
His breath was fresh; mint. She did not smell the slightest hint of alcohol or drugs, and his eyes; he was cold and focused, determined, powerful. A cold-blooded rapist, perfectly aware of what he was doing. She hated him already. Her eyes filled with tears. What should I do?
Suddenly, he shifted to the left and away from her neck. He threw her against the cold, clean wall of the compartment opposite the mirrors. You are mine now...
The blade pressed harder and Angela thought it was already inside her neck. She slowly ceased resisting. She imagined what it would feel like to bleed to death while leaning against a bathroom’s door. How long would it take before she lost consciousness? Was the blade disinfected? She almost laughed hysterically at the idea. Suddenly, she lost all hope when she felt her attacker loosen his belt. She looked away. She would not bear to see his expression of joy. Maybe if she thought of something else, he wouldn’t rape her, and go away. She looked at the mirror in front of them. She could barely see his face on her shoulder but she knew that he was loosening the buttons of her tight black jeans. That's when she tried to focus at the mirror, looking at her eyes. Then, she saw ... them!
Without the black patches of makeup and mascara around them, the eyes she saw were wider, blacker and shiny ... or perhaps they were big, empty, dark holes. She could not see well. Suddenly, she remembered everything that had happened years before; at seven years of age and then at twelve. She had been scared then but -- not today. The shock brought her back to reality. Nothing was better than horror to make you forget things or remember! She was aware of her reflection and of the rapist’s distorted reflection. Now, those eyes ... and everything happening at the same time was too much. Too much to be real. Is this a bad dream? Maybe so, but she had felt pain when he threw her against the wall. You do not feel pain in dreams.
The reflection in the mirror began to act differently. It moved. It grew in size. She thought she saw two enormous, beautiful, white wings that were wide open but she discarded the idea. Angela winked as if to draw her attention. Help me! Her reflection nodded, smiled, raised a pale hand, and maneuvered an arm toward her, right through the mirror. Angela did not notice this at first but when her reflection persisted in the gesture, Angela knew exactly what to do.
She stopped her resistance ... as if giving up the fight. Her attacker noticed this and the blade did not hurt as much as before. He was about to drop his trousers. She couldn’t wait any longer! Using all the force she had inside of her hurt body, Angela spun around---pinning the attacker against the sink. Caught off guard, he did not react in time. Then, something incredible happened.
The reflection reached out through the mirror ... as if a thin barrier of water existed right there. Two avid hands found the rapist. He tried to attack Angela once more, but then he noticed the mixture of astonishment and disbelief on Angela’s face. It was too late for him. He was violently grabbed by his shoulders. Screaming in surprise, he tried to turn around; but at this time, he was pulled back by an incredible, inhuman force, much larger than what Angela would have ever imagined, and thrown through the air and disappeared through the mirror to the other side.
Angela just stood there, on the “other” side, baffled, and eyes wide open.
Still not realizing what was going on, the rapist looked around. Then he saw the dark eyes of his opponent. He saw what Angela had never seen, or would. Her Angel. He screamed in terror.
The “other” Angela, with the stiletto in her hand, was moving closer to him. Terrified, he no longer backed up. He raised his hands in surrender. He begged. He offered his belongings. He pleaded. He threw rings, bracelets, and necklaces on the floor. Angela saw her reflection lower the stiletto. He seemed to breathe and sigh in relief. It was then that the stiletto was used in a quick and perfect way. She thought that it was an intimidating gesture, and she did not believe that the blade had cut him, but the rapist's mouth opened in a silent scream.
His neck gashed open while blood stained the mirror. He touched his neck, but the blood continued to gush like fire through his long fingers. His sweatshirt, white before, was dyed red. Angela saw a puddle of blood pooling at his feet. His body began to shake convulsively. Within seconds, he was dead, eyes bulging and mouth open in a last scream. On her side of the mirror, in her reality, there was no trace of the rapist, or blood.
The black eyes stared at her. She was smiling. This time Angela smiled back at her long-time friend, her beloved guardian angel who had, one day, left her for some minutes, but was right there to save and protect her. She found the strength for a whisper:
"Thank you, my Angel."
The reflection smiled back at her, sweetly. Angela smiled again, and the Angel's black, soft eyes penetrated her soul searched and found her past, present and future; and Angela knew that her Angel had never been a stranger in her existence. It was not just a reflection that stared back at her now. Slowly, the Angel pointed through the mirror, moving her finger - showing her something. They could read each other’s minds. Angela understood---the scene could be seen from the Angel's side. They looked at each other for a very long time. Moving backward, Angela moved to the corner of the bathroom, picked up an empty cleaning bucket, and threw it with all her might against the mirror. A shock wave went through the mirror’s surface, like water being ... cut into pieces. A split second later, the mirror exploded into dozens of shiny little fragments that piled inside the sink.
After the crash, there was only silence in the large bathroom. She could hear her heart drumming inside her chest. Angela looked at the other mirrors but she only saw her reflection. Everybody, everything else was gone: her Angel and the rapist; even the blood on the floor, the jewelry, and the stiletto. She took a deep breath, pulled herself together, and left the bathroom. She was late for her dinner meeting, but she was safe, well, and alive. Behind her were only the fragments of a broken mirror. She didn’t need to dust off the piles of sadness from her troubled heart anymore. "I have an Angel watching over me."