What the Looking Glass Reflects

By Leah Holbrook Sackett


Miriam liked to stand in corners. When no one was watching. When she was anxious. It calmed her down to tighten her focus on the dried drip of paint, the seam in wallpaper, or a crack in the wall for she lived in an old house not of her design. It was a Professor’s house. Her husband was a professor of History. She was a professor of English, but there hadn’t been an opening at Oberlin for an English professor at the time. So, she worked on publishing and waited. He was busy being tenure and all.

The thing that made Miriam anxious was the quiet of the large house. It reminded her of the children she could not have to fill it. Well, could not or had not yet. 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. She took a lot of Xanax, and she had a lot more triggers. The back of William’s head while he watched a loud football game. 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 that deepened and lightened based on the time of day. The corners became her friends, and she talked to them. Softly, of course, lest the maid, Helen, or Will hear or see her, again.

The first time Will caught Miriam 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 It was just outdated long enough to be trendy with that shabby chic look.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 particularly favorite curly-que, she did not hear Will coming. Miriam stopped her whispering and froze. She could feel Will staring at her back. With 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 when she woke late as usual with the late, late morning sun shining on her face, the corner was filled with a large, gilded full-length mirror.

It must have been one too many times in the corner. She wondered how Will got it into the room while she slept. It was enormous with a wood gilt frame from floor to ceiling. It was carved with rosewood branches and birds. She could very nearly hear them singing. It was so beautiful that her anger with Will for filling her corner was ebbing. Perhaps a mirror makes a better coping mechanism. She can be found looking in a mirror or a compact from her bag. She cannot be expected to go back to work and be found talking to herself in classroom corners. This mirror may be just the therapy she needed. Sure, it was just another crutch, but you need a crutch sometimes. She climbed out of bed and traced the details of the carvings with her fingers. She smiled, a short smile though it was, at herself with the glow of her face in the flattering lighting. When Helen came with the breakfast tray, she dismissed her. She was too mesmerized and drowsy. Miriam climbed back into bed and was soon napping when she woke from the sound of lilting, little giggles. Of course, no one was there, but a single gold stud earring lay by her feet in a mess of flower petals. Next to her tummy she found her wooden knitting needles. It was as if someone had gone about snatching her things just to return them as gifts.

She said nothing of the odd awakening to Helen at dinner. Helen could chatter on her own for hours. Will was working late. Miriam took the opportunity to dismiss Helen for the night and make an early night of it herself. She sat in bed with her 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 dark, but the moonlight filtered through the window creating a dancing glow upon the looking glass. It was almost as if there was movement inside. Quietly, she slid from the bedclothes and her bare feet felt the Persian rug beneath them. Miriam tip toed to the mirror. It was swimming like water, and a small chubby arm reached out of the glass beckoning Miriam enter. Miriam froze in awe at the toddler arm waving through the glass; then she heard Will enter with a Slam of the front door. When Miriam 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 that disappeared in ripples of looking glass. With bloody palm, and bare feet Miriam entered the looking glass.

Will ran up the stairs to his wife’s cry of “NO.” And the room was empty. He expected to find her in that damn corner. It was empty, except of moonlight. No one was home.

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