Winner of The Writer's Cramp on 5/7/12
I SEE YOU
Kathi knew exactly what Beth was going to say to her even before she went into work on Monday morning. And sure enough, Beth was right there to greet her as she walked in the door.
“What the heck happened to you?” Beth asked as she helped her boss take off her coat. “You look like you didn’t get a wink of sleep all weekend.”
Kathi walked over to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup. She knew she didn’t need to explain, but if she didn’t, Beth would likely start thinking of her own answers.
As she sat down at her desk, she looked at her secretary.
“Actually, I didn’t.” She glanced at the morning invoices, then returned her attention back to Beth. “Tell me something, Beth. Did you ever have a recurring dream?”
Beth sat down in a chair with a puzzled expression. “No, not that I remember. Why?”
“Well, the reason I look like hell is because of this dream I had Friday night.” She took a sip of her coffee. “Well, it was more of a nightmare. Somebody keeps telling me to look in the mirror.”
“Somebody?” Beth asked.
“Yeah. Somebody or ‘something’. I’m in my bathroom, sitting on the toilet, and I keep hearing this raspy voice saying ‘Look in the mirror. Look in the mirror.’ Over and over. I look around, but there’s nobody there.” She rubbed her eyes. “Friday, Saturday and last night. It kept waking me up. That’s the reason I look the way I do. I haven’t been sleeping, and I’m literally scared to death to look in a mirror to even put my makeup on. Not to mention not being able to sleep.”
Beth took a drink of her own coffee. She’d never seen her boss like this, and she wasn’t sure what to say. “So…what do you think you’ll see if you do look in the mirror?”
“That’s just it, Beth. I don’t know what I’ll see. It’s like that voice is taunting me. Or warning me.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what it means.”
“That is strange, Kathi. But if it’s just a dream…I mean, what are you going to do? Never look in your mirror again?”
Kathi shrugged her shoulders, but she knew that wasn’t the right answer. “No, of course not.” But that was the only answer she could give.
“You know what, boss? You need to take the day off. Or a few days. You haven’t given yourself any time off since I worked here, other than weekends, and that's been ten years. Go buy yourself something, or go to the park, or... I don’t know. But if you ask me, you need a vacation. You’re killing yourself. I can take care of the clients for a few days.”
Kathi glanced at the invoices again. The business was all caught up, and she knew Beth was being sincere.
“Alright,” she said. “Maybe you’re right. I guess I have been working too hard. But are you sure you can take care of this place by yourself?”
“You know I can, Kathi.” She stood up and handed her coat to her. “Now you go get some rest.”
# # #
Twenty minutes later Kathi was back on the highway heading home. She felt a little better about giving herself some time off, but she doubted if that was going to solve her problem. What? she asked herself. What will I see if I look in that mirror? She knew the voice was speaking about her bathroom mirror, because she’d already chanced peeking into the rear-view mirrors of her car a few times without seeing whatever she was supposed to see. Or hopefully, not see.
Look in the mirror. Look in the mirror. She could still hear that voice. It was like it was anchored in her mind.
Look in the mirror.
Kathi suddenly realized how childish she was being. Beth was completely right. It was only a dream, and she couldn’t very well go on avoiding her bathroom mirror for the rest of her life without selling her house. She made up her mind right there on the road that the first thing she’d do when she got home was go straight into the bathroom and confront this stupid fear, dream or no dream, voice or no voice.
# # #
Since her divorce, Kathi was used to walking into an empty home by herself, but today it seemed a little more empty than normal. Clouds had moved in, and she hadn’t bothered to open the drapes before leaving for work this morning, giving the front room a rather dark atmosphere. She immediately flipped on her lights as she stepped in the door.
Without thinking about it, she called out, “Hello?” and then realized how foolish she was still being. But the sound of her voice still gave her some comfort when nobody answered. She set her purse down on the counter and went to the bathroom.
The mirror was mounted on the wall over the sink to the right as she stepped in, and it reflected the small window and her shower stall at the other end. All appeared empty from this angle.
But what will I see when I look directly into it?
“Enough!” she blurted out. “This is crazy.” She walked over to the mirror, but kept her eyes on her feet. Taking a deep breath, she raised her eyes to the mirror.
And there was her tormentor:
A laughing, 108 year old reflection of herself, staring back into the eyes of a 40 year old screaming Kathi.