Evelyn woke up to the sunlight streaming through her small dirty window. She pulled the thin blanket up tighter to her neck, her legs already close to her chest in an effort to keep her body warm. The heat in her room had gone off again, and despite the sunshine, it was cold. She didn’t want to get up, but she had an appointment for her methadone shot in an hour’s time. The injections were a lifeline to Evelyn; a heroin addict and alcoholic, she needed them to keep her straight.

Reluctantly, Evelyn pushed back the cover and untangled her legs. They were slightly numb from being in that position, so she had to rub them to get the circulation going. She had injured her right knee as a teenager and it was never properly seen to, so she had a slight limp.

The furnishings in the room were sparse. A bed frame, mattress, a three drawered dresser, a single basin, a tiny fridge and two ring burners were the extent of her accommodation. She did realize she was lucky to have this and at least it was a step up from homelessness, which she had been up until six months ago.

Six months clean (apart from the methadone) and determined to keep it that way.

Evelyn quickly undressed and dressed again. She took a granola bar off a shelf above the fridge. She had put that up herself; finding a piece of discarded ply and brackets in the alley. It couldn’t hold much but she managed to keep a few toiletries on there and some dry goods.

She ate quickly and splashed water on her face; then brushed her teeth.

On top of the dresser, there was a china figurine of Snow White and three dwarves. There was a chip at the back of Snow White’s dress and the dwarves paint had faded but they were all that remained of Evelyn’s childhood, that and a worn copy of the book of Snow White. They were precious to her. She touched them lovingly, caressing each one. She kissed them and placed them back on the dresser. Evelyn did this every morning; it had become a ritual for her.

Grabbing a coat, boots, fingerless gloves and her change purse, Evelyn left her room, locking it behind her. The bathroom was shared by all of the rooms on the floor, so it was usually occupied. Thankfully this morning it was empty. She carried a comb in her coat pocket and looked briefly at the reflection in the mirror, running it through her short-cropped hair. Evelyn didn’t like to look at herself; it made her feel uncomfortable. The only thing Evelyn liked about herself was her name. It was made up of her grandmother’s name, Eve, and her mother’s name, Lyn. She said her name with pride when asked and spelt it out clearly.

After using the toilet and washing her hands, Evelyn vacated the bathroom. She kept her head down walking the hallway and took the stairs to the outside street.

The sun was out, but the wind bit through her thin coat. There was a market today in the square which usually sold cheap clothes. Evelyn knew she should go there and get something more substantial but she hated being around all the people; it made her anxious.

Instead, she stopped into her favorite shop at the back of the High Street. It was called an “antique shop,” but really it was a second-hand store. There didn’t seem to be many “antiques” in it. Evelyn loved exploring the old store. It was run by an older Asian lady who spoke broken English. She was always huddled behind the counter, reading an Asian paper; a cup of tea in her hand; quietly talking to herself in Mandarin. She looked up when the bell tinkled on the door of the shop and nodded to Evelyn as she came in.

Evelyn started coming to the shop after she got her room in the hotel. It was a way to distract herself from the street and the drugs available there. The old lady didn’t seem to mind and she knew that Evelyn would never buy anything, but as long as she was respectful to her and the items in the shop, she was okay with it.

Evelyn marveled at the china cups on the shelf. She often dreamed about buying one and drinking a cup of tea from it.

There were other ornaments and plates, worn-out desks, chairs, old-fashioned toys, and some out-of-date magazines. Occasionally, Evelyn picked something up and looked at it, but she was careful and treated each item with the utmost care.

At the back of the shop, Evelyn spotted a new item. It was an oval mirror on a stand. It was bigger than a hand mirror but not big enough to be put on the back of a dresser. It was a dark wood and seemed to be unvarnished. It was rough to the touch. The glass inside the mirror was speckled with a few black spots and the reflection was slightly wavy and not sharp like a normal mirror. Evelyn looked at her reflection and wasn’t uncomfortable about it, like she normally would be.

Rarely did Evelyn speak to the lady, but she found herself speaking in a strong voice, “How much is this mirror, please?”

The old lady looked up and smiled. She had some teeth missing and it made her lisp. “Not thure. Come in yetherday. Look at back.”

Carefully, Evelyn turned the mirror around and saw a tag. It read, “$25.” It may as well have said $1,000, as there was no way Evelyn could afford it. It wasn’t anything she needed. She was in need of a coat more than this mirror. Even so, Evelyn took out her change purse and surveyed the contents. She had $5 in coins and this was to last her till the beginning of next week when she got her next welfare cheque.

Despite this, Evelyn dropped the $5 in change on the counter.

“I’d like to make a deposit on the mirror, please. I’ll come in every week with $5. Please put a sold sign on it.”

The lady put her tea down and pushed aside her paper. She grabbed a tag from a drawer underneath and wrote “sold” in black felt pen.

She handed it to Evelyn with a roll of scotch tape. “Put on mirror.”

Evelyn shakily did as she was asked. The lady wrote out a bill of sale and passed it to Evelyn with a pen. “Put name down and thine bottom.”

Evelyn printed her name on the top and signed the bottom of the paper. The lady gave her a copy. Both were smiling and the old lady cackled.

After her injection, Evelyn went to a soup kitchen to have some lunch. She would need to visit the kitchen more often now that she used up all her cash. Evelyn didn’t seem to mind; she was happy that she made a decision to buy the mirror.

Evelyn seemed more positive about her future than she had ever been. She kept her weekly injection appointments and took extra care in cleaning the shared bathroom (everyone on her floor had a day of the week to clean). She even did another person’s day, which she had never done before.

Evelyn only visited the shop once a week when she dropped off her $5 payment. She looked intently at the mirror, touching the rough surround. She could barely believe it would be hers in a few weeks.

The night before she was due to make the last payment, Evelyn had a dream about Snow White and the dwarves.

In her dream, she was walking in the forest, picking flowers. She wore a long skirt, a puffy white blouse, and dainty ballet-type slippers. In her hair was a red ribbon. She was humming and birds and animals seemed to be following her. She eventually came across a cottage which she entered. It appeared to be empty. It was messy, with dirty dishes in the sink, cobwebs in the corners, and food crumbs on the floor. Immediately, she went to work cleaning, singing as she went. Afterwards, she felt tired and wandered upstairs to the bedroom. Small unkempt beds lined the room. Evelyn quickly made the beds up. In the corner of the room stood a dresser. On top of it was her mirror. The one she would be picking up today. She picked it up carefully and looked at herself in the mirror. She immediately saw that she was Snow White. While admiring her reflection, the image quickly changed to a grotesque ugly hag. It spoke to her.

“You’re not the beautiful Snow White; you’re nothing; you can’t fool me; go back to your worthless life; stop pretending…”

The old hag started laughing and the mirror became hot to the touch. Evelyn dropped it and it broke into many pieces.

It was then that she woke up, covered in sweat.

After the nightmare, Evelyn wondered if she should have the mirror. Maybe the old hag was right; she wasn’t worthy.

Realistically, Evelyn knew she had wasted $25 on it and she might not get her money back from the Asian lady. If she did, she worried she would try to buy some drugs. She felt she had no choice but to get the mirror.

With the last $5 paid off, Evelyn took her precious mirror concealed in a brown bag back to her room. She placed it on her dresser. Oddly enough, it didn’t look out of place. She had some sandpaper she had used on her shelf and gently sanded it, trying to smooth out the rough edges. Her next investment would be a tin of varnish and a brush. Evelyn had no idea how much that would cost, but she would go to a nearby hardware store to check out prices. She tried cleaning the mirror, but the glass was damaged and the reflection still fussy. Evelyn actually preferred it that way. She placed her Snow White figurine and the dwarves around the mirror, placing the book under it.

When Evelyn came back from the soup kitchen that evening, she felt unusually tired. She decided to have an early night. She boiled water in a pot on her burner and made a cup of tea. She ate a digestive cookie with it. Looking at the mirror before she brushed her teeth, Evelyn picked up her mirror. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all,” she said aloud. She laughed at herself and placed it back on the dresser.

Someone was talking; softly at first, but then louder. The walls of the rooms were thin and Evelyn often heard voices, noises, and even fighting in the night. She had gotten used to them and didn’t normally wake up, but the voices seemed close; in her room. She didn’t get up immediately as she was scared someone might be there. Peering in the darkness, she noticed a light coming from the mirror. She sat up and quietly approached it. Figures appeared in it. Unidentifiable at first but soon they came into focus. It was like watching a computer screen or TV. She saw a woman and a young girl. It was a birthday party. The little girl was 4 as there were four candles on the cake. The little girl was opening a present; a box. Inside the box was her Snow White figurine and all seven of the dwarves plus a pristine copy of the book. The figurines were new and undamaged. Evelyn looked more closely at the little girl and realized she was looking at herself at that age. The woman lighting the candles was her mom, Lyn. Evelyn dropped the mirror as if it was burning hot. Luckily it landed on her bed.

The images stopped immediately. Gingerly, Evelyn picked the mirror back up. There was no light or images, just the fuzzy reflection of herself.

Evelyn put the mirror back on the dresser but turned it over. She crawled back under the covers, covering her head with the blanket.

The next morning, Evelyn righted the mirror. “Did I dream it?” she asked herself aloud. She sat on the bed with the mirror in her hands, willing it to come alive again. Nothing. She put it back on the dresser, touched her figurines and got on with her day.

The following night, the same thing happened. Evelyn awoke to voices and images coming from the mirror. This time, she didn’t pick it up but turned it toward her bed so she could sit on the edge and watch it from there.

She saw herself as a young child playing with her figurines in her bedroom. She was softly singing to herself. There was a commotion in another room. Evelyn stopped playing and retreated to her closet. She still held her Snow White figure. She could hear her mother pleading with her father, “stop it, please,” and then something smashed. Silent tears fell down her face; suddenly the door to her bedroom opened. The closet door opened and she saw her father’s angry face looking down at her. “Get outta of there, ya baby.” Her father grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the closet. Evelyn’s mother was behind him, pleading with him to stop. “Shut up, you stupid bitch,” he snarled at his wife. He then grabbed the Snow White figurine from Evelyn and threw it down. It hit the carpet, but the back of the ornament caught the dresser and chipped it.

Evelyn’s father was drunk and in a rage. He was angry all the time, but when he drank too much, he became violent towards her mom and sometimes her.

Evelyn ran to her ornament and picked it up, cradling it in her arms. Tears were running down her face and she was sobbing. Her father picked her up and put his hand up to hit her. Evelyn didn’t cower but spit in his face. “You’re nothing but a bully,” she shouted. Evelyn’s mother gasped; her father put his hand down looking at Evelyn in disbelief; he then covered his hands with his face and started to cry. He sat down on Evelyn’s bed and wept. Evelyn took her mother’s hand and left the room.

Suddenly, the images stopped. Evelyn shook her head in amazement. That’s not what happened. Evelyn relived that day, as it had haunted her all of her life. She did hide in the closet; her father did pull her out of there and he did throw her beloved Snow White; however, she never spit in his face, she never called him a bully, and he never broke down crying. He did in fact raise his hand to hit her and her mother pulled him back. He then slapped her mother and stormed out of the room. Both her mother and herself hugged each other and cried.

Why were the images different?

Evelyn placed the mirror face down again and went back to bed. To her amazement, she fell asleep immediately without any bad dreams.

Evelyn went to bed the next night anticipating another set of images, but none came. She felt disappointed. She even got up in the night and held the mirror, wishing for something to happen.


For all installments of “Mirror, Mirror…,” click here.