reflection of beauty

It was hot. A pressure system was closing in, tossing the trees, feeling like thunder. That little, narrow, rutted back road just went on and on into the twilight. No street lights. No other cars. A warm breeze blew in the open window carrying sounds of crickets and the sweet smell of jasmine. Once night fell, the only illumination in the world would be his lonely headlights shining on the road, and not even that if the gas ran out.

Wind swept up through a fringe of trees, blowing the topmost branches apart to reveal a roof of gables and chimneys silhouetted against the violet sky. Jake slowed to a crawl until his headlights caught a gravel driveway going into the woods.

The driveway sloped up to park-like grounds guarded by live oaks and an ivy-covered wall. Jake parked, looked through the bars of the wrought iron gate, and saw a flagstone walkway, an overgrown hedge, and a rose garden. He turned off the engine, wincing as it shuddered and died. He gripped the steering wheel for a moment, and prayed for his old car. He looked in the rear view mirror, smoothed back his dark, wavy hair. His eyes looked tired. He squeezed them shut, opened them wide, smiled. Then he stepped out onto the drive.

The wind was cooling things off, lashing the trees out of the way of the moon that was just coming up, full and bright. When he pushed the gate open, its hinges groaned. To his left was a large stone mansion. Ivy climbed the walls. Paint was peeling off the trim. The front of the house was taken up by a long porch of Doric pillars holding up a flat roof that provided a veranda for the rooms on the second floor. The windows were dark; the door closed deep under the porch roof like nobody was home.

Jake walked down the weedy flagstones into the rose garden, looking up at the house from the tail of his eye. It was getting dark but the moon was bright enough to see by. The garden had been left to grow wild, but the rose bushes were blooming. He found a particularly fragrant wallpaper-colored rose. It reminded him of his girlfriend back home, the one who jilted him because he couldn’t find a job. He broke the rose branch as if he could give it to her, and was suddenly startled by a loud banging sound coming from the top of the house.

Something bright and fine fluttered up in the wind and blew towards the balustrade of the veranda. A tall, slender woman came forth, wearing a veil that covered her from head to toe; a fine, sheer veil, light enough to let the moonlight shine through it and cling to the front of her body and face as it was blown back by the wind. As she turned towards the moon, Jake could see the outline of her profile. It was delicate, precise. She seemed to be scanning the garden with her veiled over eyes. He was about to shout up to her when he saw a flash at her side that looked like a gun.

Jake stepped back into the shadow of a myrtle tree, crushing the rose to his heart.. The woman floated in his direction and looked down. She stood still for a moment. The wind blew the veil up around her in the moonlight, then lifted it behind her like wings as she turned to go back inside.

Jake stuck the rose into his belt and considered the potential for employment. The house certainly needed a lot of work. He went up the stairs, noticing how worn and scuffed they looked. The white pillars wore a patina of moss. He crossed the porch to one of the tall windows and looked in. The house was dark, but candlelight glimmered in a far room. Jake went to the door, picked up the lion’s head doorknocker and banged it down three times. Nobody answered. He rang the doorbell. Still no answer. On trying the door, he found it open, so he went in.

A cat sprang back, and then reared up, splaying its claws. White and fluffy as a cloud the cat was, with eyes as bright as fireflies, and wearing a collar of silver sequins. Jake walked forward, and the cat jumped back, growling, and then stormed away up a flight of stairs. Jake broke out in a sweat.

“Hello!” he called.

No answer.

He looked around for a telephone. There didn’t seem to be anything modern in the front room at all. In the dark, he saw gleaming furniture, dark wood, and crystal, and dull gold. There hung a painting of a French peasant woman grinning out from behind a spiders web of broken glass. Looked like someone had taken a hammer to it. Jake quickly glanced at the brass nameplate on the frame.

La Voisin.

“La Voisin? The sorceress?” Jake whispered. Curious. He detached himself from his questions and continued towards the flickering candlelight.

White tapers flared up from heavy silver candle stands covered with dripping wax, marching down the center of a long dining table. A fire was crackling in the grand fireplace. The night was too hot for that, but the light was pleasing. There was a partially eaten turkey on a silver platter with grapes, some covered dishes, silver, and surprisingly, a clean china plate, a wine glass, and silverware laid out as for a guest. Beside the plate was a crystal carafe of red wine with a card leaning against it that said Welcome.

Jake looked around, poured some wine into the glass. Further down was a dish with a half-eaten meal, a fork and knife across it, a rumpled napkin, and a goblet with a pool of red wine in the bottom. He must have interrupted the lady’s dinner. The wine was very good. Jake poured another glass and lapsed into staring at the far wall, at a large mirror flanked by twin vases of roses, tiger lilies, and ferns. His face was reflected back amongst glittering motes of firelight from a thousand pieces of shattered glass.

The clock on the mantelpiece gonged nine times.

He didn’t hear her come in, but he smelled her perfume. She was wearing a mask. Pale, pretty, banal, it covered her face, even under her chin. A close-fitting white hood concealed her hair and a long, filmy scarf, of the same fabric as her sequined dressing gown, was wound around her neck, leaving the mask alone to make its eloquent statement.

“I heard you breaking my roses. Why did you do that?” Her muffled voice was soft and young.

The mask both fascinated and repelled him. It must have been unbearable in the heat. She couldn’t be getting much air through those little nose holes. And why was she hiding her face anyway? He imagined the worst of disfigurements.

“They’re beautiful,” ha said and handed it to her.

“In my family, we never pick our roses. We believe that breaking a rose branch is unwise.”

“Huh?” Jake said. “I’m – I’m sorry. It’s just that I’d been traveling a long time looking for work. Looking for anything. I felt like I’d come to the end of the line and those roses looked lucky.”

“Lucky, you say?“

It was weird how detached the voice sounded, how the whole room felt weighed down by her presence, like a pressure system about to break. And the eyes…

Thunder cracked; lightening blazed at the windows. The wind rustled the trees outside.

“Heat’s broken,” said Jake. “What a relief.”

“Yes,” the woman said. “Relief.”

“What’s your name?” Jake asked. “Mine’s Jake.”

He stood up and reached for her hand, but she folded her fingers, and drew them away. Her fingernails were very long and silvery. After a moment, she rose and picked up a candle branch.

“I have a spare room you can stay in for the night. I imagine you could use some rest,” she said.

“I’d really appreciate that. But I don’t want to impose—“

“Come. It’s at the back of the house.”

As they moved through the darkness, the candlelight caught on the silver of another broken mirror, and another. There were large rooms opening off with more opulent mirrors, more portraits, more broken glass. Her diaphanous lingerie glowed in the rays of the candle flame. He had trouble believing her capable of such destruction.

She stopped at a door at the end of a hallway.

“Here is your room. I hope you find it comfortable. There is a bathroom across the hall. Good night.”

“Hey, I want to ask you something. I can’t help but notice that things around here need fixing. I’m pretty good with a hammer and nails. I’d be happy to help you out in exchange for room and board and some gas money,” Jake said.

She regarded him through the mask. With that loneliness pouring out of her eyes, Jake figured his offer was a shoo-in.
“I’ll think about it,” she said, and took the candle back down the hall.

Jake went into the bedroom. It had French doors with floor-to-ceiling windows on either side that looked out on a garden and a swimming pool. The air was soaked with the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle. The garden was banked high with dark trees bending under a rush of heavy rain. He wondered what she looked like under that mask. Her figure was graceful, exciting. How could she let a stranger stay in her house? He sat on the springy bed with a sigh, lay back, and fell sound asleep.

***

In his dream he saw flashes of light flying in all directions. Someone at the top of the house was screaming, howling, screaming again. Something crashed like it was hit with a sledgehammer and shattered to bits.

***

Jake was confused about where he was. Why was he laying across an unfamiliar bed in his clothes? He stood up, stiff as an old stick, and looked out at the swimming pool. There was at least six inches of water in the bottom, brown, with dead leaves floating in it. Azaleas and bougainvillea glowed against the greenery. The branches of a dogwood tree stretched out over a table and chairs of whitewashed iron in one corner of the yard. The air was fresh and everything sparkled from the rain. A memory came back to him of screams in the night, the sound of glass breaking.

He was burning to know how the mirrors got shattered, even the one in the bathroom where his face had been divided into three jagged parts all in dire need of a shave Rubbing his stubbly jaw, Jake looked out at the morning He wondered if his hostess was all right. The white cat was chasing a sparrow around the pool. The poor bird flopped around with a broken wing as the cat readied its aim and pounced. The cat tossed the bird so high in the air that it fell into the swimming pool. There was a banging sound overhead. Jake stepped outside in time to watch the cat leap from ledge to ledge up the side of the house and disappear into an upper story window.

Jake got dressed, and found the dining room again. Breakfast was laid out. Hot under silver lids were eggs, bacon, grits, and toast. Coffee steamed from a silver urn. Jake noticed the lady’s plate was streaked with egg yolk, bread crusts on the side.

He looked over the candles at the mirror on the far wall and almost knocked his chair over. Had someone fixed it? He rubbed his eyes and looked again. There was a flawless reflection of himself standing in the room looking like he’d seen a ghost.

He poured a cup of coffee and wandered over to the mirror. His eyes fell upon a 17th century painting of an attractive blonde coquette in blue flowered satin holding a half-mask. The name plate on the frame said: Madame de Montespan. He was picking shards of broken glass out of the heavy gilt frame, when his hostess came in.

“Oh, please don’t waste your time on that.”

Her voice was unmasked.

Jake looked up quickly and saw her standing in the archway wearing a wide brimmed hat with a black veil over it that hung to the floor on all sides. It was made of fine gauze, just opaque enough to obscure her face. Underneath she wore a silk dressing gown that glinted with sequins. Her hair shone through, wheat blonde and rippling to her knees.

“Madame de Montespan built this house,” she said.

She moved across the room like a cat, slow and watchful.

It was on the tip of Jake’s tongue to ask her why she was always covered up, but he checked himself. He wondered if she went out like that.

“I decided I shall need your help after all. The trim needs painting and the windows – some of them are broken – they need to be replaced. I will give you room and board until you finish the job, and $1000. What do you say?”

Her posture was steely as she faced him, as if bracing herself for rejection.

“That sounds great. I’ll get to work today if you provide the paint and stuff. If you don’t mind my asking; how did all this glass get smashed?”

“Vandals,” she said. “The house had been locked up for years, but not well enough, apparently. Local boys must have broken in and had themselves a good old time destroying everything. But, I don’t care about the mirrors just yet, or those picture frames. They don’t let the storms in.”

Jake didn’t have the audacity to ask about the storm he’d heard during the night, the screams and breaking glass. She stared at him through the veil so hard Jake thought he could see the blue of her eyes. Then she walked out.

Cans of white paint and some brushes materialized by the swimming pool. There was getting to be an ominous feeling about the place made worse by the bell jar humidity, and the cat always watching him, swishing her tail in the debris. He was painting the window trim, when he looked inside and saw the lady standing there veiled and looking at him.

The days passed in a close, humid haze. Jake’s nerves were on edge when he had the accident. He was ready to tackle the upper story windows, and all of a sudden found a ladder leaning against the side of the house that wasn’t there before. He shrugged it off, grabbed a bucket of paint and climbed to the high second story windows. He was on the top rung when the ladder started shaking. Jake grabbed the rain gutter and looked down to see the cat rubbing her head against the stringers. Once she caught his eye, she started yowling with a voice like rusty hinges. Suddenly a loud crack erupted. His feet went out from under him. Jake grabbed the stringers, flailing for a foothold. Nothing. The paint can keeled over. Shit! Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang; the rungs broke all the way down, the frame screeched apart, and he fell, hard.

He lay on the paint-spattered grass wondering if his back was broken. The house loomed up, casting its shadow over him. That half-painted window stared down like an evil eye. The cat floated over, sniffed his face, and purred.

Nothing was broken, but Jake was furious. He hobbled to the dining room and surprised her eating. Too fast for him, she flung the veil over her face, leapt to her feet, and stalked off.

***

Jake fumed but he decided to stay until the job was finished. Then she’d pay him and he could go. But not before he called out the SOB that jiggered the ladder.

She seemed to want to make it up to him. Prodded him to take her for a stroll in the rose garden. Jake obliged. During each walk she came closer until, one night, she took his hand. Its warmth pleased him, but looking for her face he saw the mask. He must have let his revulsion show, because she tore away and ran.

***

He didn’t see her for a few days after that. Jake mulled things over and decided to finish up fast, collect his pay, and go. He kept seeing things. Mirrors that he knew were broken, miraculously restored. Same with the picture glass. And every night he was woken by screams and crashing and shattering noises echoing down from the upper floors. He hadn’t gone upstairs yet. Maybe he wouldn’t.

When she finally did appear, the atmosphere was strained. She was wearing a pretty latex mask that covered her throat and ears, and a revealing silk dressing gown. It’s wide V neckline offered a tantalizing glimpse of pure ivory skin and delicate collarbones. Her long, flaxen hair tumbled over her shoulders.

“I’m going tomorrow afternoon. I’ll take my pay and move on,” he said coolly.

Her eyes behind the mask were wet, as if she was crying though no tears rolled down her latex cheeks.

“But Jake, you can’t go.” She wilted on a velvet chair. “I’ll pay you more – $3,000. If you’ll paint the inside walls.” She was crying. Her sobbing sounded harsh and strangled under the mask.

“Look, I’m not convinced you have any money“

“But I do! I have lots of money. I’m rich.”

“I will accept your offer under one condition. I want to know your name.”

She looked up at him. “Lenore,” she said. “My name is Lenore.”

That night was worse than ever. Jake had finally drifted to sleep when he heard a loud shrieking at the top of the house. It was Lenore, calling out to someone over and over, and screaming again.

Suddenly a gun fired. One shot, then another, and another, each shot punctuated by the sound of breaking glass. He heard her roaring. There was another shot, glass shattering, silence. Jake leapt out of bed, put his bathrobe on, and headed up the stairs. Loud echoing sobs guided him to the third floor of the house, down a long corridor to a room at the end with a half-open door. Quietly as he could, Jake stepped into the candle glow and saw her.

She was huddled on the floor in front of a big, full-length mirror, crying. Jake couldn’t see her reflection because the glass had been blasted out. It sparkled in silver shards all over the room. Four bullet holes were bored through the mirror backing, straight into the wall. Lenore held the gun loosely in a hand bleeding from glass cuts. A mask was lying across the floor as if she had flung it aside, but her hair was so thick and disheveled that Jake couldn’t get a glimpse of her face. When he moved forward to take the gun away, her head shot up, same as if she’d seen him in the mirror.

“Get out!” she screamed. She pointed the gun at him from under her hair. “What are you doing here? Get out!”

Jake headed out to his car, threw his baggage in the back seat, then hurried to the gate and closed it. He glanced up at the veranda with a sense of foreboding. What would became of Lenore? He quickly got into his car, slammed the door shut, put the key in the ignition, and turned it. Nothing. Damn! He got out and walked around wondering what to do. Maybe there was a gas station up the road. Wasn’t there a pay phone somewhere so he could call for a can of gas? But then – Jake squatted down to see if it were true. It was. His tires had been slashed. He looked through the gate and saw the cat sitting on the walkway licking her claws.

Jake locked the car and headed down the driveway to the road. It was a bright, sunny morning. There had to be a town somewhere close by. He looked with dismay at that lousy dirt road with nothing but woods on one side and pasture on the other. He started to walk in the direction he’d been going in before he stopped at the house. There was nothing back the way he’d come.

Walking, thinking. One car whizzed past. He walked some more. Surely this road got some traffic or why have it in the first place? He kept walking and the sun got higher. Another car drove by, honking at his outstretched thumb as if he was breaking the law. It was getting hot. Thirsty. Jake stopped walking and looked up the road and down. Screw it, he thought kicking a stone into the woods. He walked back to the house and was crunching up the gravel driveway by sunset. He followed the cat onto the porch and went inside. The house was cold and quiet. He dreaded a confrontation with Lenore. He crept stealthily back to his room. Nothing had been disturbed. He looked out the window at a pink sunset above the garden and the empty swimming pool. A swim would sure be nice.

He stepped outside and looked at the upstairs windows. Dark. Quiet. He wondered if she’d come down to the dining room as she always did at seven o’clock. Did she even know he’d been gone? The cat followed him, meowing softly.

Jake jumped into the dry swimming pool and cleaned some dead leaves off the drain. Chucked the tiny bird skeleton into the bushes. He could clean the pool and fill it back up with the garden hose.

There was no trace of Lenore that night. Not even water splashing into the pool called her down. The full moon was peeking over the roof by the time the swimming pool was full. The night was still hot. Sweet scents of grass and flowers, a hint of magnolia swept in on a warm breeze. Jake stretched, pulled his sweaty clothes off and jumped into the water. Swam a few laps. Finally he could breathe. Relaxed, he floated listening to the crickets. Lightening bugs glittered in the leaves. The white cat ambled along the edge of the pool. She stopped to look in, watching Jake from her reflection on the surface of the water.

The wind picked up, lashing the trees. The water began to ripple and grow choppy. Jake stood up shivering, every nerve on edge. From the house there came a wild, unearthly scream.

The next morning there were cans of interior wall paint and new brushes next to the pool. Jake wasn’t sure what to do. Leave, or stay and face this thing down. He decided to tackle that room at the top of the house where the shots were fired, clean the glass up off the floor, plug the holes. See how he felt after that.

He wondered if he should check on Lenore. A chill went up his spine. On the second floor he paused and listened. There was a murmuring sound coming from one of the rooms. Lenore talking to someone who didn’t answer back. Was there a telephone?

The first thing Jake saw on entering the room was the gun. La Mat Confederate. Ladies’ pistol. He picked it up and checked for bullets. Empty. He dropped it into his toolbox. At least he could eliminate one danger. The bullet holes gave him the shudders. He pulled the shattered mirror off the wall and stashed it in the tunnel of a walk-in closet where he leaned it against a railing of clothes perfumed with mothballs. He immediately spackled the bullet holes.

It was a large bedroom, furnished with a four-poster bed hung with blue brocade draperies. There was a walnut dressing table with a 3-way mirror, broken. It took a couple of hours to get all the glass up. When he was done sweeping, Jake went out through the French doors to the balcony, and looked out over the treetops, pondering that dirt road to nowhere. A hot breeze swept in, buffeting the long curtains. He took them down and threw them on the bed.

He had to take some pictures down. First among them was a large, glamorous photograph of a fashionable young mother. A striking brunette, beautiful, but disturbing. Instead of cuddling her baby, her head was thrown back offering her curving white throat and bosom to the viewer. The gesture should have been seductive, but it wasn’t. More like a snake about to strike. The baby, dressed in a long gown of embroidered lace, was most unfortunate. Her face was covered with fur.

Jake glanced at the nameplate on the frame: Lucrece de Montespan. The child was nameless. He got it off the wall and into the walk-in closet. At the other end of the room was a space under a dormer window. A rocking horse, shelves of antique dolls, a dolls’ house suggested a child’s playroom. There was a photograph on that wall too. A little girl wearing a typical child’s dress and a pretty doll on her lap, stared sadly out.

White fur covered her face, even under the chin.

Jake took the picture down and looked around for more. There was only one other, hidden in the corner, behind the dressing table. It was fur face again as a teenager. Her pale hair was up in a long ponytail, exposing her tufted ears. The background was an arrangement of black veils. Art, or whatever it was, Jake stashed those photographs where he didn’t have to look at them, and got to work.

He must have wanted to get out of there fast because he finished painting that room in one day. By the time he was done cleaning up, it was dark. He took the paint cans and brushes out to the landing, and looked back to appraise his work. A savage chill raced up his spine, his jaw fell open; he couldn’t blink it away. The mirror was back on the wall, a shining pure sheet of glass. He watched himself move towards it in slow motion, and touch the surface to make sure it was real. His breath clouded it, his fingers, when he took them away, left prints. Jake pounded down the stairs as fast as he could go.

On the second floor he turned towards Lenore’s room. He wanted to shout her name, call her out, but held back. Better to be reasonable, diplomatic. He needed his money. He paused to calm himself. Lenore’s bedroom door was ajar. Candlelight was spilling out, pulsating over the wall. He strode over and pushed his way in.

It was a lofty, airy. The French doors were open to the veranda and night was streaming in. At first he didn’t see Lenore, but then there was movement. She drifted out of the shadows carrying a mask and stopped in front of a full-length mirror glowing with reflected candlelight. Jake’s heart thudded once and stopped. Her face in the mirror was covered with thick , white fur.

Though he had seen the photographs, nothing had prepared him for the actuality. He exhaled sharply. Instantly, she spun away, threw her arms over her face, darted into the shadows, and screamed. Jake pulled back as she pounded her head with her fists, howling with rage. Feeling like a fool, he fled. He was halfway down the stairs when her heard a resounding crash and the tinkle of cascading glass.

***

Lenore came down to the dining room later that night wearing a mask that looked like Lucrece de Montespan. Jake was sitting at the table drinking his sixth glass of wine.

“That mask you’re wearing – I saw upstairs,” he said.
“Yes. She’s my mother.”

Jake’s eyebrows shot up but he stayed silent. Lenore paced back and forth with an odd twisting gait, clenching her hands together. He felt like she was building up to something.

“As you saw, my mother was a very beautiful woman. Renowned in Society for her taste and charm. In the presence of outsiders, she was those things, always. No one could resist her. If she wanted you to fall for her, you did. But it was all glamour. At home she was another person. Cold, demanding, insulting, and so vainglorious that she had to have a mirror on every wall to see her every entrance and exit, to check her every angle, to watch herself pretending to converse with people in whom she had no interest whatsoever. As far as she was concerned, nobody existed except herself. I was her supreme failure. A sign that she wasn’t perfect. I’m not the first in my lineage to be born like this.” Lenore began weeping, touching the mask with a futile gesture. “She harped on my ugliness, every day, every night. Locked me away in that room upstairs. No one was allowed to see me.”

“Then why those portraits then?”

“So I would not forget how ugly I was. So everywhere I looked I would see my deformity and know the reason I had to be kept away from decent people. There I was as a baby on her lap, furred from birth. I was locked in there with those pictures and that big mirror, while she held glamorous parties down here, filled with all her admirers, went out with her many suitors to the theater, the galleries.” She looked up at Jake with a haunted expression in her eyes. “I know what you’re thinking. Way out here in the middle of nowhere. How did she do that? You don’t know rich people. There’s an airstrip in that meadow across the road. They’d come in from New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore, New York. None of those people even knew she had a daughter. She died in a plane crash. What else? I was so grateful when Miss Belle showed up on my doorstep. I think that cat is the only thing that keeps me from going insane.”

Lenore stood up, bent as willow, and hurried out of the room. Jake poured himself the dregs of the wine.

****

He still had so many questions. La Sorcière de Montespan, perhaps la Voisin had built something into the root of the house, a kind of distortion. A charm. He couldn’t place it, but he felt it. Something twisted, malicious, and ruthless. Like that cat…

He didn’t want to upset Lenore again, but he had to talk to her. He went up to the second floor and stood listening in the corridor. There were splashing sounds, steam coming out of a half open door. Peeping Tom was not his style, but an expanse of magnolia wallpaper, a sink with a broken mirror over it, lured him to look further into the room.

Lenore was lying back in the hot, steamy bathtub with her eyes closed. She was peaceful, relaxed and astonishingly beautiful. She looked to be in her early twenties, with pure creamy skin and flaxen hair. Dark arched eyebrows, a straight nose, high cheekbones, a chiseled jaw, a mouth like a rose. His gaze slid down her satin neck , but was stopped by the rim of the bathtub. Jake’s heart pounded. He swallowed hard and withdrew before she could sense him, and caught himself feeling something unexpected. Love. He quietly looked in on her again, dwelling on her face now exposed to him in all its humanity and sweetness. Steam blurred the mirror covering the wall alongside the bathtub reflecting Lenore’s profile. Only her reflection was covered with fur.

Jake backed away, knocking into the banister. Splashing sounds told him Lenore had woken up. Had she heard him? Seen him? He ran. A breeze blew against him, pushing him down the stairs so forceful, so insistent, that he almost fell. He spun around to see a slow, black cyclone whirling in the room, with a voice mixed in, murmuring in French, a monotonous, incantatory rhyme. A powerful wind rove him towards the door. Fighting back, he took refuge in an unfamiliar hallway, lined with rooms he’d never seen before. Jake’s intuition pierced like lightening. There was something he had to find – it was at the root of that house, something buried under the very foundations. The wind pursued him into one room and out into another. Paintings of Lenore’s ancestors, other fur faces, loomed towards him like figures in a dream. A gentleman with the head of a grey wolf, and two more children with brown fur, dressed in the attire of the Old South. Broken glass wasn’t the only damage to those pictures. The eyes in the furry faces were scratched out.

Jake turned another corner and found a stairwell where the wind could not reach him. he hurried down the stairs. A path wound between piles of old furniture into a passage that ended on the threshold of a dark room. The windows were buried under heavy curtains, but he could see that the once magnificent furniture had been let go to moths and dust. His stomach fluttered so intensely, he couldn’t go in. There was streak of whiteness in the gloom, a Greek column supporting the bust of a young man with white-hot eyes and a ring of candles around his head. The candles suddenly lit up. Firelight spilled over a table, illuminating dried flowers, a row of perfume bottles, a pack of cards, a mask, and an ancient cobwebbed mirror.

The mirror suddenly brightened. A long hallway opened up. Gauzy draperies wafted in all the way down to the far end where another mirror shone. A woman billowed out. Dark robes and dark hair lifting in the wind, she floated towards him. Madam la Sorciere, gazing, smiling, beckoning, reaching out for him. Jake backed away. Feeling everywhere for something heavy, his hand fell upon a paperweight. He picked it up and threw it at the mirror. Splinter! Crash! A scream went up! The candles blew out. The mirror was broken; the frame filled with dull, dead darkness.

Jake pounded up the stairs to Lenore’s room. The bathroom was empty; her bedroom door was closed. Out of sheer impatience, he barged through it.

She was sitting at her dressing table putting on her mask. She stood up and backed away, her eyes filled with terror.

“Lenore, Take the mask off.”

“Leave me alone,” she shouted running behind a screen.

“No. I mean it. Lenore. I saw you without your mask. You don’t have any fur. It’s just a reflection.”

It suddenly dawned on Jake that he needed a fresh mirror to support his discovery. He rushed out of the room, flew down the stairs, and out to his car. He clambered in and looked into the rearview mirror happy to see that his own reflection was normal. He tore the mirror down, headed back to Lenore’s room, and barged back in.

She was pointing a gun at him.

“Stay away from me or I’ll shoot,” she screamed.

“Look. I have a mirror from my car. It has never been in this house, so it cannot be enchanted.“
Lenore lowered the gun.

“You don’t have a fur face. Not really. Remember your ancestors were witches? I found the room – their magic room. Please, Lenore, just do me one favor and look into this mirror.”

Jake held up the rear view mirror and walked slowly towards Lenore.

Text: © Alyne de Winter, 2011
Images: © Predrag Pajdic, 2011

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Responses to “reflection of beauty”

  1. Oh my God! You did such a gorgeous job on this! Thank you P.
    I absolutely love the images.
    A million kisses,
    A;yne

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