The Antique Mirror
Catherine wandered through the tiny aisles of the antiques mall. Knickknacks surrounded her as she paced among books, furniture, and pictures of bygone days that filled the dusty old store. She glanced at everything, yet saw nothing at all. The deeper into the store she browsed, the more the number of antiques overwhelmed her, until a creeping claustrophobia crawled up her spine. While hurrying through the labyrinthine aisles toward the front door, one object caught her eye.
The old mirror hung above an old-fashioned iron stove, flanked by yellowing pictures of Tom Mix and James Dean. It was an oval with an ornate brass frame. The tarnished and clouded glass had black spots sprinkled over its surface, but Catherine’s bemused, yet intrigued, image peered from the flowery, corroded metal frame. Something about it attracted her—perhaps it was the way her face appeared out of its hazy freckled glass—and Catherine decided it needed to hang above her night-table.
At home, Catherine smiled at her own reflection while she cleaned it. The shopkeeper told her the mirror may need to be re-silvered, but Catherine liked the dark, warped image of herself on its surface. The corroded brass and black spots gave her reflection an eerie, Gothic semblance. She looked like the imagined heroines in the gothic novels her older sister, Emma, had read to her at bedtime. Little Catherine had both cringed in horror and squealed with delight as Emma’s soft voice filled the darkened room. Her words painted a snaking dreamscape of villains and ghosts, and through the pages they traveled to dark castles and gloomy dungeons in faraway lands.
Catherine fought back hot tears as a lump snagged in her throat. She tried not to think about Emma too often because the pain still welled up, threatening an overspill of dark and despairing emotions. But now, alone and gazing into a clouded mirror, she loosened her restraint and let the tears streak down her cheeks.
Emma went to the grocery store one bright summer afternoon and never returned. The police found no signs, no clue to her whereabouts and no suspect. Years dragged on with no news of her beloved sister, and the case grew cold. Emma became just another statistic; her face was a fading memory. Catherine’s childhood vanished with her sister. Catherine’s love of gothic novels was all that remained of Emma.
Catherine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Then, she stroked the book that always lay on her night-table. It was the same tattered book she took out of her childhood home and carried through all the changes in her life, but never read. At least, she had never finished it. Emma had been halfway through it when she went missing, and Catherine never had the heart to read it to the end. She picked it up and smelled her sister’s memory as she leafed through the pages, never reaching the end. Catherine feared that if her eyes ever landed on the last words, then Emma would never return.
Catherine pulled herself together and hammered a nail into the wall above the night-table. With a soft, satisfied yet tragic smile, she hung the mirror on the nail. Catherine gazed at her reflection, and for the first time in her life, thought she looked like her sister. Impossible, her logical brain whispered. Emma was blond with piercing blue eyes and milky white skin, while Catherine had a dark complexion with soft brown eyes and black hair.
“Like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet,” Emma’s voice rose out of the deep well of Emma-memories in Catherine’s mind and filled the room.
She reached her hand out and touched the damaged surface. Her heart jolted with electricity; Emma’s broad smile beamed through the darkened glass and radiated from the corroded brass frame. At last, Catherine had found her sister.