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Mirror Mirror: A Short Story About Resilience and Healing

She pushed the unruly hairs away from her forehead. Their coils sprang back defiantly—an apt metaphor for her chaotic life. She reached for her phone, but the screen’s brightness forced her to squint as she read a post from a Facebook “friend”: It’s never too late to start over. She sprang from her bed, ran into her bathroom, and took a deep breath. Hoping the words would be convincing, she whispered, “I feel joy and abundance all around me. I am worthy of love and kindness. Today, I seize the opportunity to start anew.”

She closed her eyes and imagined herself thriving. Her hair flowed with the wind, and her almond-shaped eyes radiated life—no, peace. “Yes, I can do this.”

“Do what?” a loud, expectant voice came from behind her. I can start over and change my life.” A hardy, almost comical laugh shattered the silence between them. “Remember the last time? Yeah, that didn’t go so well. And the time before that? Whelp, let’s just say you’re not good at “starting over.”

She didn’t have a rebuttal. This was her. This was her life. They were right. She wasn’t good at starting over. At this point, she imagined herself being a doctor or a lawyer, maybe even a teacher—something respectable like her sister, the therapist. Lord knows how often their mother berated her about finding a real job. But real jobs are for people who don’t have panic attacks when a man comes too close or brushes up against them. Real jobs are for women who smile politely and say, “How may I help you?”

She gripped the edges of the sink, and for a moment, she felt like she could rip it from the wall. How often had she stood before this mirror, reciting these exact words? “You know it’s kinda your fault, right? What did you think he asked you over to do, bake cookies at midnight?”

The tears came fast, first gathering at the bottom of her eyes, then cascading down her cheeks steadily. She wiped away her tears and forced herself to look. The mascara smeared under her eyes from the night before reminded her of the eighteen-year-old college freshman. Instinctively, she brought her hands in front of her chest and clutched the fabric of her nightgown to cover her nakedness.

“You are so broken and pathetic.”

“Yes, I am,” she moaned and dropped to the cold tile. The conviction she had just seconds earlier dissipated like her drive to complete her degree after that night. She rocked back and forth on the floor. First, slowly, then at a tempo that matched the ache in her heart. “God help me. I am so broken. I can’t do this by myself,” she wailed.

Then, as quickly as the feeling came, it went. What was so elusive before seemed simple now. She stood to her feet, gripped the edges of the sink for the last time, and glared at herself in the mirror.

“You are no longer welcome here!” She remembered something her Granny used to say, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus!” She shrieked, “Get thee behind me, satan!”

She slapped the mirror with the palm of her hand. “Yes, this is me! I’m broken!” She slapped the mirror again. “But I’m worthy. I don’t have to start over because this is my story. It happened to me. He raped me,” she screamed at the shell of a woman looking back at her.

It was the first time she had said the words aloud. Before, she had thought that if she just didn’t say it, maybe that feeling in the pit of her stomach every time she saw him on campus would go away. She didn’t want to be one of those girls. But she was—one of those girls.

“Nah, I’m not starting over; I’m…” She looked around the tiny bathroom as if the word was hidden somewhere on the wall. Perhaps it was neatly tucked behind the candle she burned during bubble baths, as her “self-care” routine.

Then it hit her. The word flashed into her mind and illuminated her thoughts like his smile when he asked her to come for a late-night study session. She believed him when he said it was the only time he had free because he worked to pay for college in the evenings.

She straightened her back and cocked her head to one side. She pursed her lips together and remembered the one dimple on her left cheek. She studied her features for a while and admired the shape of her nose and her thick eyebrows.

Then, with conviction, her voice just above a whisper, she said, “I’m healing.”

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