The mirror crack’d from side to side.
It’s all I can think of. I keep returning to the pond to watch the line, to will it away. I am scared of the line. More than the silent birds, more than my mother’s gradual fading, more than these secrets between us that I am afraid to broach. I want to take my mama to the line and show her.
She’ll understand then. She’ll tell me everything I need to know.
Or she’ll disappear.
I keep seeing Commelina, though she no longer comes over to me. She’s agitated these days. She skirts the edges of the pond, her dark eyes scanning. I think maybe she expects Rio to return through that crack. She could be right. I’d prefer that. I’d prefer the return of her husband to my mama’s disappearance. Or mine. That’s what the line says to me. Endings. It began with the pond. Or at least I think it did. For me, anyway.
There are times I’m certain it began with my mama.
And that it will end with her.
This evening I visited Assumption and Avarice. They are also quiet with foreboding. They won’t speak of the line. They sent me to see it, and that’s where it ends for them. They serve me tea and cake, and tiny pastries filled with cheese so strong it makes my eyes water. And we sit in silence, a Blue Jay and two snowy owls, communing without words in the cool confines of the kitchen.
Steam rises between us. Obscures our faces. But we do not need to see one another.
I am here, and they are here. Until we are gone.
That’s how it should be. That’s how it always is, for everyone.
Before I left, they gave me a box. Nothing special. Quite ugly in fact. An old, battered tin box, fraying paper clinging to the lid on yellowed glue, dents and dings warping the once square shape out of skew.
‘What is this?’
‘Can I open it?’
They shake their heads. Synchronised swimming. ‘Not yet.’
One of them reaches out to touch my arm, just above the elbow. Such cool hands they have, their fingers smooth as marble. ‘You’ll know.’
‘It was mama’s, wasn’t it?’
I know I’m right. The knowledge came through my skin from the box itself. I tilt it just a little. Something heavy inside, and something that makes a faint scratching noise. Their hand goes from my elbow to steady the box. An admonition in that movement. Unmistakable. I feel like a naughty child, caught stealing.
‘Be careful with it,’ they tell me. Sharply. ‘It is a memory, and memories are fragile. They warp, fade, sometimes they change beyond recognition.’
‘But it was hers, yes?’
They share a look. One that cuts me out of the conversation. I am no longer in the room. In the world. I am a whisper, locked in a box, lost and forgotten. I hold myself in my hands. Then they look at me, and I exist again. It is the most peculiar sensation. Not entirely unpleasant.
‘It was,’ they say. ‘But she must not see it.’
‘Not yet. Soon she will ask to see it. Then you may show it to her.’
I think this means that soon my mama will tell me her secrets. I hope it means that. There’s so little of her left though. If she takes too long to come around then she may be gone before she gets the chance to bring me into her confidence. I pass her when I come home, and we carefully avoid each other’s eyes. That’s how we communicate now.
It’s all we communicate. Our desire not to see one another.
I place the box in my dresser, where I know she will not go looking, and then sit staring at my face in the mirror. I don’t see my face at all though. I see the pond again. That mirror-smooth surface intersected by one long unbroken line. And I whisper it to myself. All of it. Daring it to come, and terrified it will listen.
‘The mirror crack’d from side to side. “A curse is come upon me”, cried the Lady of Shalott.’
© Ren Warom 2014