The Mirrors (part forty-three)
When he stands, prize in his fist, he can’t see Harold. There is no street to see him on. Rolling clouds surround the viewer, smoke to stifle and choke. You know yourself a witness from a strange vantage, no sense alive in you but sight. One of the attics is below; the house it tops glows and implodes, the collapse of beams ripping gas pipes. Now a pretty seashell hue, like an expensive lampshade’s, mushrooms through the dust.
Time, from this welter of destruction, mirrors a picture gentler, more poignant than that of the field. You are William again, and your brother is reading a storybook aloud. Jane knows the words, kicks her heels, itches to grab the book and set the sense of it straight. Harold cannot, really—but quick-minded, he invents things to explain the pictures.
“Harold! It’s Scottish. Ah ween…that means he thinks so.”
He is a little figure of a brownie, wearing long-johns and pointed cap, hopping a gremlin dance on one leg.
“Shut up,” William tells his sister. They’ve all had a little schooling, but Jane alone learns like a whip—
A more present part of him says, you forgot.
It can’t matter. His sister likes Charmante, wasn’t prepared after all to dislike her. “A woman better than you is about right.” Teasing. “I see improvement already.”
So, that Jane had wanted to be a teacher, and Charmante had been one…
Maybe, William thinks, it was a salvation he hadn’t said it.
And his thinking, mind aloft of the onslaught, costs the power carrying him its strength. Enough. This was truth, in this mirror-land. He saw it. Not any means of righting wrongs, of gripping the hand and pulling the lost one into embrace… Only the endless replay. He could see Harold disappointing, himself to his sister unfeeling, his mother not angry, only tired, losing their growing up to the work she did.
The phantoms luring you to their ranks had no more. They lied. The room became a room again, a circle of mirrors missing three.
He saw Charmante in a struggle with Carmine.
Sight came unmisted, clarity blooming as her second mirror fell. Fell, but could not be taken. The balance of strength sat not automatically on Nat’s side; Nathaniel Carmine, as such, was slight of build, a cerebral vampire by habit, pasty from indoor life, winded by cigarettes.
Charmante in physical tenacity at least his equal. But who was he?
William, trust me. You’ll be more help to her if you help me first.
Veronica’s voice faded, William’s reply a mumble. He was back, her love (she would say it), but herself departing…
She was in the garden. At the table, turning in her hand a porcelain angel. Charleton lay by the wall, the bullet hole under his eye liver-hued. The eye like a windfall plum gone rotten.
The other open.
How do you come to be here? I want to know, I want to tell.
Charleton, I will be your voice.
The Mirrors (part forty-four)
(2020, Stephanie Foster)