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Chapter 2 : The Calm Before the Storm
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The thought whirled around in my head as I gripped the bathroom’s marble countertop tightly, gritting my teeth as I stared down at the sink.
No one’s afraid of a mirror. What kind of person would be?
The kind of person that had looked into one thousands of times, never satisfied and always disappointed with the reflection staring back at her, I answered silently. The kind of person that had flat-out refused to look in a mirror all summer, hoping and praying for a God-sent miracle.
It was true. I had hidden my struggle so well that to this day no one knew. It had been a battle against myself, most of which was spent lying quietly under my covers until I cried myself to sleep. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I didn’t need it. I had determined that if I was going to fall apart, I was going to do it quietly and out of sight, on my own terms. The process had completely destroyed me, but now I felt a small glimmer of hope that maybe this time the reflection would heal me, not hurt me.
I took a deep, calming breath, closing my eyes and whispering a silent prayer. Don’t let it be a buck-toothed, frizzy-haired girl with freckles, I prayed, whipping my head up and staring head-on at the face staring back at me.
I stared. And stared. And stared. And then, I began to cry.
These weren’t the tears I was used to. They were hot and happy tears, streaming down my face in thick turrets. That dorky girl that was always twenty steps behind everyone else was gone. In her place was an older version, with straight teeth, clear porcelain skin, and tamed hair that fell in waves upon her shoulders. The freckles dusted on her nose were still there, and her goofy grin was still alive and well. Her body wasn’t perfect, her curves weren’t all present, but that didn’t matter one bit.
It was a miracle. I wiped the tears off my face and grabbed my bag, rushing downstairs with a spring in my step I forgot I could even have.
“Rose! Well, don’t you look beautiful today!” my mother commented as I bounded into the cozy kitchen. She was at the stove, making breakfast, the smell of which called to me enticingly. Small strands of her gray-brown wavy hair had escaped her bun and hung in wispy tendrils at her cheekbones. She reached up a hand to her face, her wedding ring sparkling in the sunshine as she wiped her glistening brow and smeared pancake batter across her forehead. I smiled my first genuine smile in months and ran to her, clinging to her tightly, afraid if I let go she might disappear.
“Thanks Mum,” I whispered, letting the feeling of warm happiness caused by her motherly embrace spread from my chest all the way to my fingertips, cherishing the sweet comfort of such a joyful moment.
“Sweetheart, are you all right? We’ve hardly seen you all summer, it seems you never take a break from studying!” Mum said, pulling gently away and gripping my arms. She pushed back a strand of red hair from my face and smiled fondly. “You’re just like me when I was your age,” she murmured, smiling at what I’m sure was a whole flood of memories.
“I had some... really important things to do. Things to... fix. I’m okay now, though, Mum. I’m better than okay,” I replied happily, grabbing a towel and wiping the batter from her brow. She smiled her crooked smile and arranged my hair to cascade down my shoulders.
“You look so much like your father. He’ll be so pleased to see you out of your room!” Mum said, tapping my nose playfully and returning her attention to preparing breakfast. I smiled and rolled my eyes, settling comfortably on a stool as the smell of pancakes filled the tiny kitchen. Pots and pans glistened on their hooks as sunshine spilled through the lacy curtains framing the window. I closed my eyes and relaxed as the rays warmed my pale, sunlight-deprived skin.
“Bloody hell, Rose. It’s the first day of school and you’re already falling asleep at the breakfast table?” I jumped and opened my eyes to find my younger brother Hugo leaning against the doorframe, one hand gripping his backpack strap and the other stuffed in his jeans pocket. His brown eyes sparkled mischievously and his freckled face was grinning crookedly.
Mum whipped around, pointing the spoon she was using to mix the batter at Hugo accusingly. “Watch the language, young man. You could get detention at school for that kind of behavior!”
Hugo rolled his eyes and held up his hands in pretend surrender, pulling up a stool next to me. I mussed up his thick red hair playfully and he grinned. After a few moments he glanced up at Mum, who was busy at the stove. When he determined she wasn’t paying attention to us, his goofy smile disappeared, replaced by a more reserved, tender expression.
“It’s good to see you out of your room. I… I missed you, Rose,” he murmured in a low voice, smiling timidly. My face broke into a smile and I grabbed his hand, happy tears welling up in my eyes.
“Thank you, Hugo. I missed you a lot too,” I whispered. He blushed and nodded gruffly, slipping his hand from mine and staring out the window. He cast me a sideways glance, still blushing bright red, and I laughed.
“Rose? Is that you?” a voice asked from the door. I turned around to see my father standing in the doorway. My grin faded into a timid smile at the sight of my dad. His red hair was slightly messy from just waking up and his reading glasses sat slightly askew on the bridge of his nose. He was clutching a newspaper in his hand and gazing at me intently, his blue eyes shining.
“Hey Dad,” I murmured, getting up from my stool and walking hesitantly towards him. He dropped his newspaper and took me in his arms, holding me tightly as he softly kissed my forehead. I could feel Mum and Hugo grinning behind us.
Dad pulled away and put his hands on my cheeks. “Rose, it’s so good to see you. Look at you.” Pride was practically shining in my eyes. My heart, which was once as cold and black as ice, was overflowing with happiness.
After that, we all sat down and ate breakfast together. It was just like old times, talking about our lives and laughing hysterically. Mum fussed about the kitchen and kept bussing us more food. Dad discussed recent newspaper articles he had read and told funny stories about his siblings. Hugo kept belching out loud and every time Mum slapped him with a dish towel. I sat back and watched my family, cherishing in the feeling of finally belonging somewhere again.
I should have known that things couldn’t stay that way. I mean, who was really that happy? How could a heart be overflowing with happiness and stay that way? It had to end sometime. Somewhere down the road, tragedy and loss would always strike, like a snake hunting for its next victim.
In my case, it struck much sooner than I could ever have imagined. The tragedy occurred so suddenly that it shook me to my very core. After that, I knew I would never be the same. Nothing would be the same. Every time I think of that undeniable, undisputable fact, I begin to cry. It’s as if the tears will never stop.
They may as well not ever stop. I might as well spend the rest of my life crying. Because that’s what life feels like: a never-ending roller coaster of mixed emotions.
It was, literally, a living Hell.
* * * *
Hey everyone! My goal for this first chapter was to start creating a contrast. After Rose got over her fear of her reflection, she returned to a life of warmth and comfort. I wanted that vibe to be so strong in this chapter that it's almost cheesy. Because following this, Rose won't have that happy comfort for a long time. So I really wanted this chapter to broadcast warmth and compassion, so that when the following sad chapters come they will provide a very sharp contrast between complete fulfillment and unbearable tragedy.
You'll just have to wait and see what happens! Review! (Please!)
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