Through the Glass | Teen Ink

Through the Glass

June 26, 2018
By kiesann21 BRONZE, Issaquah, Washington
kiesann21 BRONZE, Issaquah, Washington
3 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Meredith Demmons hobbled along the same path she’d always walked. Worn, perhaps a little dull, but durable. Reliable. A path of weatherbeaten grey stone, grown chipped and scuffed over the years, leading from the church to the cottage that sprawled across the scrubby little meadow. As day approached night, the wind began to pick up, a chill emanating throughout the clearing. Meredith tugged her shawl tighter and continued on. It was a bit cold, a bit unpleasant, but she was used to it. After all, this was the path she’d always walked.

Hunching over, Meredith fished out the rusty key from the spot under the rug where it had lain, just so, every day of her long life. The door squeaked as it opened, a steady squeal that would grate against every fiber of a stranger’s being. But that was just how it was, how it always had been. And to Meredith, that was just fine.

It was a one-room cottage, and perhaps to that stranger it would appear cramped; pots hung haphazard from the ceiling, a single table and chair pushed to the wall, aged washbasin next to a clunky old stove. To the middle-aged woman, however, used to life alone, it was all her steady heart could ask for, all she had ever known. She was content.

Meredith shut the door behind her with a small clang, and counted the ten seconds it had always taken for her eyes to adjust to the dingy light of her home.

But something wasn’t right.

For the first time, Meredith’s steady heart detected a change in the monotony she’d always known. Her crinkled eyes widened at a new light, a brightness, a wall of unmistakable beauty. Her heavy breath caught, and suddenly she was stumbling, hurtling, throwing herself toward this new sight, seized by a desperate hunger she had never felt before.

It was strange, indeed, what had come before her eyes: it was a mirror casting the light, a new mirror inlaid with pearls, with jewels, the glass flawless and sparkling, polished like nothing else she had seen before. But no--it could not be a mirror, because--what was this? In the glass stood a bright-eyed young girl, flushed with vivacity, charming face open, searching, daring. As Meredith peered ever closer, the girl moved with her, staring back with an expression full of questions.

“Hello?” Meredith rasped, throat aching with disuse; but of course there was no answer, no response to her plea. Instead, the girl’s lips moved with her own; a mime, a perfect imitation.

Meredith shook her head, as if to clear it, but the girl did not disappear. She, too, shook her coiled brown locks. Then, catching sight of the golden world behind her, Meredith stopped cold, her breath hitching.

Surrounding the bright-eyed girl was a spacious palace, made of gleaming bronze, with sweeping balustrades, vibrantly colored gardens, golden pools of sunlight casting a warm glow over everything in sight. A long breath escaped Meredith’s lips, full of yearning, longing; and her leathery fingers darted out, as if to touch and enter this world--but of course, they met with icy glass. Perfect, beautiful; but impenetrable.

She bit back a snarl.

Gazing at this girl, cloaked in sunshine, in life, in bejeweled gowns--and then staring down at herself, her entire world seemed thrust into gloom. Her own grey hair seemed stringy, thin, leached of color. Her hut was dilapidated, tiny, rundown. Even the world outside was too cold, too barren, too hostile, when she caught a glimpse of what this girl had to live with.

With a start, Meredith realized that tears had begun to pool beneath her eyes, and she hastily brushed them away. What was wrong with her? This was the life she had always lived. The path she’d always walked. Why should it now be not enough? Her ancient hand slid down the glass, leaving smudged trails of dirt over that perfect palace. No, her world was enough. She would make it enough.

Counting to three, Meredith steeled herself and, agonizingly, wrenched her gaze away from that horrible, beautiful brightness. She was done with it, she told herself. She was over it.

But as she stirred her plain grey porridge over the sputtering black flames, as she settled into the creaking cot and covered herself with its moth-eaten quilt, blowing out the stubby little bedside candle, Meredith found her eyes drawn again and again to that golden sunshine. Even as her eyelids closed and her mind drifted to sleep, still the image burned into her vision. All her life she had been satisfied with the world given her. But now the possibilities haunted her.

It was with weary eyes that Meredith awoke the next day. For a brief second, for one placid moment, she was content. It was a normal morning, like all mornings before; waking up in her faithful old cot, frosty cold and musty scent blooming in the air.

Yet in the next instant, Meredith’s eyes landed on that tantalizing mirror, and the hunger was awakened once more.

One peek, just one--it wouldn’t hurt. It couldn’t hurt. At least, that was the refrain of her desperate mind as she was drawn once again to the allure of that beautiful image.

As Meredith approached the mirror, her jaw dropped. The sky--oh, the sky!--was awash with so much color, hues of gentle pink and yellow plastered across the pale-blue world. A handsome young man now gazed tenderly down at the girl, his well-muscled arm slung around her. But what truly startled Meredith, what shook her to her core, was the child that lay, smiling, in the girl’s arms.

The little boy was small, fragile, with porcelain-white skin so clearly soft. Tufts of copper hair framed a pudgy little face, crystal blue eyes gazing with love, radiance, pure joy at his laughing parents. The young man reached out a hand to tickle his little arm, and the boy giggled blithely upward.

It was in those wide blue eyes, in those tiny fingers clutching tiny toes, that Meredith saw what she had been without for so long. And soon, that hunger grew to a fever.

The hut was suddenly empty, cold, starved of the love so evident in the boy’s eyes. Meredith was alone, utterly alone. When had anyone ever looked at her like that?

A whirlwind of terrible thoughts now blew through Meredith’s mind, through the entire rundown cottage. It was almost as if the coldness of outside had seeped into her heart and was turning her insides to ice, inch by inch. That brightness became the one thing Meredith could see; anything else was nothing, inconsequential; too meager and unsubstantial to trigger her interest.

To a stranger, Meredith now might have appeared almost as a feral beast; deranged, crazed, dangerous. The woman who had just woken up blithe found herself stricken, blinded, by the possibilities in front of her. Once again, she prodded at the mirror, slapped it with her fist, seeking desperately to enter it any way she could. But it was no use; each time her hand again met with cold glass, bruising her callused old knuckles. Cursing, she rubbed them as a torrent of bitter tears leaked from the corners of her sagging eyes.

“Why?” she spat at the mirror, lifting her gaze again to the golden world. “Why are you doing this to me?” But of course there was no answer, the girl’s lips again mimicking her own.

It was too much for Meredith; too much for her desolate mind. With an anguished cry, she reached for the old poker by the fireplace. “I’ll get there, mark my words. I’ll have that life if it’s the last thing I do.”

With each step toward the mirror, the girl too stepped forward, but her clouded expression echoed uncertainty, anxiety, fear. To Meredith, it seemed almost as if the girl had seen her truly for the first time and was disgusted, disdainful of the wrinkled old woman before her. Such a sight throbbed at her heart, her brain.

Quickening her pace, Meredith strode to the glass. She hefted the poker over her shoulder--and deftly, heavily, brought metal to glass with a resounding crack.

A million shards of colored glass shattered onto the dusty wooden floor, and as they fell, the golden brightness faded until Meredith stared down at fragments not of the beautiful young girl, of the glowing child, of the handsome man; but of her real self. Reflecting off the pieces of glass was a tired, common woman, cracked with bitterness, fractured by jealousy. She was not a bad woman, not a violent person. Those cracks came from the glass, from the tempting, terrible mirror. She was still the same woman she’d always been.

Slumping her shoulders, Meredith picked up the dustpan and broom and abashedly, ashamedly, swept the glass shards into the trash. She mopped the rest of the floor, tidied the room, washed her dishes, and stepped out the creaking door.

And quietly, resignedly, Meredith Demmons hobbled once again along the same path she’d always walked.

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