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  • Writer's pictureSharon Sheridan

13 Years Ago

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

The phone is ringing. What time is it? Nova was asleep; the warmth of her little body curled up on my lap, her soft breath against my neck. Wait - the phone's ringing. Shifting as quickly as possible, without disturbing her, I reach for the receiver. “Vanessa - Oh thank God - these guys – following -” Jerry sounded breathless rushing to get his words out. “They tried to grab me – got away – they’re following - nearly home – call police – take care of Nova - baby I love y-” The line went dead. Jerry. Oh my God. I’ve got to get to him. My mind was racing; nearly home, he said he was nearly home. He had to have called from the phone box near the fields. I needed shoes, where the hell are my shoes? Please don’t let me be too late. It was the only thought left in my head, as I tried to put Nova down without waking her, before grabbing my trainers and running to the door. “Momma! Wait – Momma!” Oh God, what will I do now. I ran back to her. “Baby, I’ll be back in a minute, just wait here, ok?' “No – Momma it’s dark - I don’t want to stay here. Where you going? Don’t go.” She was pulling on her furry slippers as she reached for me. “Baby, listen,” squatting down, brushing the hair back from her face as I spoke, trying to hide my terror. “Momma’s going to get daddy, I think he’s hurt, ok? He needs me baby girl, he needs me quickly.” “MOMMA – NO!” Huge tears began rolling down her cheeks as I led her back into the living room. Pulling her hand free she ran to the sofa, grabbing her cardigan, struggling to get her arms into the sleeves as she followed me on little legs, desperate to keep up. I made a split-second decision, scooping her up as if weightless, the adrenaline urging me on, I took off, running as fast as I could. I know I should not have brought her; I had no idea what I was bringing her to. Something was very wrong; I couldn’t shake the dread that was building in the pit of my stomach. Nova clung to me, tucking her face into the crook of my neck, as I ran. Rounding the corner I saw the phone box. Then I saw him... Jerry was on the ground. My strong Jeremiah Cardui was lying on the ground - not moving – oh God. “JERRY!” I don’t know how I got to him, how my legs carried me those last few feet, I was just there, falling on my knees beside the man who was my whole life. “DADDY – wake up!” Nova’s terrified voice was screaming, I don’t remember putting her down. She was pulling his hand, trying to shake him awake. Warm, thick liquid coating my hands, as I try desperately to stop the bleeding. There was so much blood. It was strange because his skin was still warm, but he was completely still, his heart not beating, his chest not moving. I stared at the dark pool bleeding out onto the ground, surrounding his head, a macabre halo for my beautiful husband. This isn’t real. This can’t be real. Nova stopped screaming. The silence consumed me. I glanced over to check she was ok; her huge eyes were fixed on her daddy, then she turned to me, and my heart broke all over again; her unshed tears glistened in the streetlight, she looked lost. I wanted to hold her, but realised my hands were covered in her daddy's blood. I looked at my hands and she did the same; her bottom lip quivered, and tears tumbled silently down her soft cheeks. "Momma." One word, a soft whisper and then she froze, frowning as she tilted her head, listening to something. She turned towards the phone box, stood staring at it for a few moments, then began walking towards it. I sat on the ground, unable to move, I couldn't leave him lying here alone. I just sat, watching Nova as she walked on shaky legs towards the phone box. She paused again and then walked inside, kneeling on the floor, putting her hand on the glass, motionless, her head tilted, as if listening to something. I watched our child with Jerry’s blood congealing on my fingers, whilst an endless stream of tears slid down my cheeks, soaking Jerry's shirt. The police arrived; Jerry had managed to call them before he was attacked. After several hours at the station, an officer took us home. We returned to a cold empty house, it matched my hollow soul perfectly, but my heart, oh my God, that was in pieces; I don't know how much more I can take. Nova was the only living thing keeping me going. I walked into our home knowing that Jerry would never walk through our doorway ever again. I carried her in, she was fast asleep, putting her in our bed; the thought of being away from her now was unbearable. She was far too young to have to deal with something like this, let alone see it. I felt terrible for exposing her to such horror. She had withdrawn totally, spending the whole time in the phone box, with her hand on the glass pane, silently staring at nothing, while flashing blue lights had lit up the night; sirens screaming at the injustice of a man stolen far too soon from his family. She must have been in shock at seeing her daddy like that. I wondered how much of this she understood, but then how much does any four-year-old understand about death. Over the next few weeks, I watched her; she was all I had left of our little family; I watched her constantly. She began to change. She became quiet and serious. She hardly spoke any more. I mentioned it to our doctor, once I had finally forced myself to go to the surgery; he prescribed anti-depressants for me, and suggested Nova’s behaviour might just be her way of coping with the loss of her father. Nova’s obsession with mirrors continued. She seemed to spend hours sat in her room, whispering to the mirror. What was unnerving, was how she would fall silent the moment I walked in, she would just stop and stare at me, with her huge blue/brown flecked eyes. The only time I ever heard her laugh, or sing, or do anything normal, was when she thought she was alone with a mirror. Sometimes, I would tiptoe onto the landing outside her room, just to watch her, to hear her voice. I missed her so much, the chatty little girl she had been, full of laughter and silliness. This obsession with mirrors seemed so harmless at first, children have imaginary friends; I had read that trauma could trigger this kind of behaviour in children, inventing a friend they could confide in, as a way of coping. I was wrong. “MOMMA!” I heard her blood curdling scream and ran upstairs. I’ve never heard such a terrified sound from my child. “Momma! Don’t let him take me! NO! Please let go!” Bursting through the door, assessing searching for danger. Nova was in front of the mirror shaking violently, clutching her hand to her chest. Huge eyes staring at the glass, her cheeks smeared with tears. “Baby what is it?” Scrabbling up she flung herself at my thighs. “What happened baby, tell me.” Looking up, fear in her expression. “Shush Momma,” she whispered. There is something so unnerving about hearing such a strangely controlled voice coming out of a four-year-old child; it sent a shiver down my spine. “He’ll hear you. He wants to take me away," she whispered breathlessly. "He was pulling me into the darkness Momma, it's scary.” She moved closer as she spoke. “My hand went in, it was cold - Momma, don’t let him take me. I don’t want to go into the darkness – it’s too scary.” I was terrified for her, my poor baby. Something had frightened her, and whatever it was, real or not real, her fear was undeniable. After that night, Nova seemed to be possessed or haunted. She would burst into tears at random times, hiding from her reflection; at other times she would jump up throwing her hands over her ears, screaming shut up or go away or something similar. I didn’t know what to do when she had these fits, she would be inconsolable, and I felt helpless to witness such terrifying behaviour. The only respite was at night, at night she slept soundly, curled up next to me. Two weeks went by, with no change, the outbursts happening several times a day; I was at my wits end not knowing what to do. Every night I sat beside her bed, watching her sleep, and finally I had to admit that we needed help. A few days later, our perfect little girl was admitted to Priory Hospital, for intensive psychiatric therapy, under the care of Dr Gregory Jenkins. PART ONE

On some level, I had always known. My fears, my so-called imaginings, were real, and that one day I would discover what dwelt beyond the mirror...

~ Nova Cardui ~

1

Something doesn’t feel right.


I stand completely still outside the door and listen.


Quiet voices, a stool scraping on the tiles, a tap running. I’m an idiot, this is school, I’m safe here, but I can feel it. I can feel the energy drawing me in. It’s there, it’s in the art room waiting for me, but there’s no way for it to be here - there are no mirrors here.

I inch backwards, ready to turn and run, when the doors swing open, and I’m caught like a deer in headlights, frozen. Someone brushes by (well I am stood like a moron blocking the entrance), and then Mrs. Gregory spots me, signaling to join them by waving way too enthusiastically – well poop. I’m willing myself to move into the room, but my feet have turned to lead, and I have no idea why. I force myself to move beyond the threshold, I’m being an idiot, school is safe, it can’t see me here, but as I enter the room, I can’t believe my eyes…


Mirrors.


I’m going to throw up.


Mirrors.


The room is filled with mirrors.

It’s there, in every single reflection, the darkness, creeping over the silver glass, like some kind of insidious creature, pulling me closer. Then I hear the voice, that soft beckoning voice, whispering to me to come closer, to come to it.

It’s seen me, it knows I’m here - no – shut up shut up - shut up – I don’t want to hear it - oh god. I can’t hide my horror

as I stand swaying, trying not to pass out. I just need to get the hell out of there – fast. I can taste the tears falling past my lips, my legs won’t stop shaking and still I’m moving closer, craving the dark being behind the glass, but also terrified and desperate to escape.

“Nova? Are you unwell?” Mrs. Gregory’s voice seems very far away, but I cling to it like a lifeline, dragging me back from the edge. “We’re starting our next art project on reflections - you don’t look very well at all. Perhaps you should go and see the nurse?”

I can’t breathe, it’s like there’s a huge band around my chest and I can’t get any air in, the noise in my ears is too loud - oh God. I focus on her voice, trying desperately to force the other from my head, but it’s too much. Slamming my hands over my ears, I try to shut out the noise. Closing my eyes, I move. With all my strength, I manage to turn, taking one step towards the door and I can’t stop it.

I throw up.

“Shit.” It’s all over my boots, all over the floor. I’ve got to get the hell out of here, it’s all I can think, so I run, slipping in the vomit, but managing to stay upright. I run as far and as fast as I can, and I don’t look back.





One week later

“Look we’ve sat here for the best part of an hour. Why do you keep coming back to this? I’ve told you a million times already – for god’s sake, why do you keep doing this to me?” He's there, sitting in his jeans, no tie, looking all chilled and what not, completely unmoved by my teenage ranting. His eyes are calm, hell, he just oozes serenity through every pore – damn it.

“Well, Nova,” leaning forward to rest his elbows on his thighs. “How about we go for one million and one,” If his voice was a colour, it would be dark chocolate, deep and smooth. “Please? Humour an old man.”

Hitching the heels of my boots on the edge of my seat, hugging my knees closer against my chest, (come on - could my body language be more closed – take the hint Dr. Jenkins). “Old and bloody devious, that’s what.” Muttering under my breath, yeah muttering, that’s got to be a sure sign of insanity, right?

“Ok.” He breathes deeply. "Now tell me again. What was it that triggered the episode this time?” Holding his hand up before I have a chance to reply. “Nova just think before answering. Cast your mind back to that day, what was the trigger? What made that particular day any better or worse or just different to other days at school?”

I force my teeth to unclench. “There was no trigger, there never is - none that I know of anyway.”

I hate this room; I’ve always hated this room with its darker than dark furniture and faint musty aroma, masked by something artificial, attempting a poor impersonation of something natural. I always feel trapped, hemmed in, just so bloody claustrophobic. There’s no way I’m telling him about the mirrors in the art room - been there done that - he’ll just start going on for the next forty-five minutes about how I need to face my bloody fears. I let my head fall forward, my face buried in my palms, breathing, and steeling my determination not to yell, not this time. “Look,” releasing a bone deep sigh,

“Dr. Jenkins, I don’t know what you want me to tell you, and we’re just going around in circles right?”

I figure if I keep calm, he’d back off. “How about we call it a day huh?” Doing my best to make my voice sound pleasant and sweet. “I’ll go home and think, I promise, and by next time, who knows? Maybe I’ll have remembered a trigger. How about that?”

He lowers his glasses, narrowing his glacial grey eyes at me (it’s never a good sign).

“Nova, your mother is worried, she feels things are getting worse. Why did you skip school? “He pauses and waits for my non-existent reply before exhaling.

“Look Nova, you know me, I’m not a stranger, where’s the trust gone? Why do you refuse to let anyone help you?”

I stare out of the window, at the gardens beyond his office. A blackbird catches my attention, a mass of dark, shiny feathers, a pair of black beaded eyes, scanning the vast expanse of green for potential lunch candidates. It caws and hops, mechanically but swift, its beak descending into the blades – score – squirming pink worm flesh. Nice one.

“No one can.”

“Pardon?”

“No one can help me. You all think I’m nuts, the strange imaginings of Nova Cardui - but it’s real.” I run my fingers through my hair before making eye contact. “So, you tell me, Dr. Jenkins. What would you do if you were the only sane person in a world of bloody insanity?”

“There’s no point going any further, I see you are determined to battle with me today, Nova.” He glances at his watch, removes his glasses, and begins cleaning them on his shirt sleeve. “I’ll see you next month.”

“You have a date, Dr Jenkins.” Rising from the chair, “Same time, same place, same old - same old,” rolling my eyes, my voice trailing off into a mutter as I turn to grab my coat.

Dr. Jenkins holds the door open. “Have a pleasant journey home, Nova.”

“Ditto.”

I leave feeling the same way I always feel, relieved to be outside again, disappointed to have wasted yet another hour of my life, feeling no closer to curing my problem anytime soon and of course guilty (a more recent emotion I've been

encountering) for being such an arse to the good Doctor Jenkins, who is only trying - and failing - to help.

In truth, I’ve been afraid for so long. Afraid I’m not sane. Afraid of my desire for whatever is behind the damn mirrors, afraid of being taken back to the crazy hospital for reasonably deranged people like me. Afraid of leaving my momma all alone.


The day had continued to be dismal while I had been shut away in his office, and so turning my collar to brace against the cold, I set off home, dreading the reception I was no doubt going to get – Dr. Jenkins always phones ahead whenever we finish early. I figure a detour through the city might be necessary, potentially disastrous, but necessary.

The back of the bus, on the right, is my favourite seat. I watch the humdrum, focusing only on what is safe to see, while my head resonates against the window. No reflections, none that I can see anyway, (the joys of daylight, when windows are just windows), only the rumbling sensation of the engine through my skull. I stagger to the front of the moving bus and climb off at a stop in the centre of town.

Pulling my hood up, to retain a miniscule amount of warmth in my body before trudging aimlessly down the overcrowded streets. I watch giant ants scurrying into shops, as more scurry out, plastic carriers clutched. Was I slow or were all these people in fast forward mode? Above me a tiny piece of blue sky appears briefly, before being totally swallowed up by the contiguous grey. I shuffle down the High Street, watching only the insects.





2

I saw her approach, her surroundings different today; she weaved in and out of a crowd, shrouded by invisibility. Her garments wrapped about her body, even her head. I could not see her eyes; she kept them downcast as she drew near. Look at me. I willed it, pressing the bond between us; I need to see those eyes…




3

One cup of coffee at the store on the corner, then home, that’s the promise I make to myself. Dodging the harassed lady with twins in a tandem pushchair, whilst side-stepping the elderly couple on my left, I turn the corner, my head filled with the travelling scent of Arabica beans and warm sweet pastries. For no particular reason, I chance to look up, tearing my eyes from the red brick paving stones. There is a shop display, not even recognizing the scrawny girl, with dark unkempt wavy hair escaping her hood as me, my normally olive cheeks turned pinker by the relentless cold wind. I see the crowd around me – realization dawning. Spinning to check my surroundings - my heart quickening - oh my god - it can see me. I stand frozen for one long panic-stricken moment, my feet refusing to budge – “Oh shit!” I only realize I've spoken out loud when the elderly woman I passed frowns. Not here - not in public - oh no - please god - no. My chest grows tighter; the oh-so-familiar heaviness fills my head, there’s no air, no sound, only the pounding in my ears as my blood thunders through me. MOVE my voice screams inside my mind, move away - turn away – he can see you. I stare down at only blackness; the pavement disappearing all around me. I’m standing on the brink of a huge, cavernous hole, totally petrified, as the darkness begins to devour the ground beneath my feet, dragging me to its depths.

I’m slipping into the blackness, free falling.

Pain. It registers sharply.

My knees slamming into stone jolts my brain back into the here and now. I throw my hands forward, desperate to save my face from the impact, palms and elbows taking the brunt. Frantically blinking, I see only blackness around me, the sound of my heart whooshing at full speed, filling my ears, while I try to claw my way back. Wrenching my mind away from the pull of the mirror, the voice in my head; hands groping blindly, as I crawl to the edge of the pavement, my weight slumping against the wall, while all I can do is pray to any bloody god that exists, that I’m out of his reach.

I sit just breathing, not really giving a shit about where I am. The pull has gone, I can’t feel it anymore.

He can’t see me.

The steel band around my chest begins to loosen, and I gulp the air down greedily, not really caring what I look like, or who can see me. Safe. I just know I’m safe - for now.

Finally, my vision begins to clear, and I can just make out blurring lines, light and shadows, voices near me.

“Are you alright?”

The old lady I swore in front of - oh man. I drag my thoughts through the dense fog that’s wrapped around them, managing to nod. “Er-um thanks,” I cough, dragging air into my lungs. “I’m okay, I just - I just lost my balance – I think.”

“Nova?”

I look up squinting, trying to ignore the screaming complaints from my neck and head as I’m slumped on the pavement like a sack of potatoes - Great. My awareness and embarrassment come running back hand in hand laughing at my predicament. Why does there always have to be a witness that can identify me, and would no doubt be superfast to spread the happy news of my abject humiliation. Why can’t I just be some anonymous freak – presumably drunk – who collapses in the street? There’s some guy I vaguely recognize towering over me. Oh, good grief, even worse he’s some guy who has joined our sixth form, transferred or something like that, and up until now we haven’t exchanged a single syllable, let alone a word. I’ve meant to, um, well, intentions don’t always materialize – okay, in truth, I probably would have kept myself to myself - like I always do. Large hazel eyes stare down at me from a head that is attached to a mega tall body (at least it looks tall from down here). The boy trades places with the lady, dropping his bags on the ground, in a most un-insect like way.

“Are you okay?”

I close my eyes resigned to the fact that I’m a freaking weirdo. What do I say? Yeah, I’m fine, just taking a load off? Don’t panic this happens - not usually in public, I’m a freak who sees a shrink because everyone thinks I’m not dealing with a full deck?

“Um yeah.” Opening my eyes, I rub my sore knee, trying not to listen to the endless diarrheic dialogue running around in my head, whilst trying to avoid making eye contact.

“I think so, just a bit lightheaded, sorry. I must be hungry or something, serves me right for skipping breakfast.”

He laughs, a quiet, nervous laugh, (yeah, I have that effect on people all the time).

“I’m Tom, Tom Brice. I’ve er, seen you at school.” He holds his hand out. I stare at his hand, then peek at his eyes, before taking it and hauling my arse off that bloody pavement. Fully vertical once again, I can see I was right - he is as tall as he looked from the ground, which must be six feet or maybe an inch or two more.

“Come on,” he bends to pick up his bags. "You better get something to eat before you fall over again.”

Ten minutes later we have finally purchased coffee and a slice of cheesecake (for me of course) and are sat in the coffee bar on the corner of the High Street. Tom had wanted the window seat, it’s virtually impossible to get one, but no, I had to have a table in the middle, no mirrors or reflections for the deranged one. So, we are almost elbow-to-elbow with the two filled tables on either side of us. Tom insisted on paying for and carrying the beverages, which was very nice of him – and completely unexpected.

“So, what’s up with you?” he asks before sipping his coffee.

“What’s up?” I cock an eyebrow whilst simultaneously rubbing my sore knee under the table. “Do you mean what’s wrong, or what am I up to in a general kind of way?”

He smiles. “The second one – I’m not that rude - being as you haven’t bothered to take the time to talk to the new boy. Do you know, if we were little kids, they probably would have chosen someone to show me around and take care of me and of course everyone would have made a huge fuss over the new boy.” He speaks fast without taking a breath.

I can’t avoid noticing how he gestures a lot when he speaks, waving his arms around and stuff, it’s kind of funny. I smile, unable to stop myself.

I can’t believe that one; this guy is talking to me instead of avoiding me like the plague, and two, he is actually quite interesting.

“Yeah well, we’re not infants,” I say, hearing how grumpy I sound. Why on earth does he want to talk to me?

“We’re sixth formers, and unfortunately you have to make your own way now - big guy.”

“Unfortunately, yes.” He fakes a sigh, “but if we were infants,” he leans closer conspiratorially, “I’d have picked you,” he narrows his eyes adding, “just to stop you from treating me like I have a contagious disease.”

I like him – I think. “How on earth could you have possibly noticed whether I spoke to you or not - I mean seriously, there are over a hundred students in our sixth form.”

He props his arms on the table and leans forward, raising his brows. “Not so many with an arse like yours.” Leaning even further over the table he whispers, “I clocked it on the first day.”

I’m blushing, I can feel it burning my cheeks, but I have to smile; he’s definitely a great addition to the deadbeats who stayed on to doss about in school for two more years. “Okay, so you prefer a nice arse to an attractive face?”

He watches me for a moment before answering. “S’okay - I’m good – you have both.”

My cheeks are on fire, too much pressure, so I hide behind my humungous coffee cup; only putting it back down, once my face stops feeling like it could incinerate the whole world.

I watch the man on the next table holding hands with someone (I can only see her hands). She has very long fingers and weird, knobby, almost bulbous joints and for a split second, I wonder what would happen if she buried them, would they sprout little shoots of new fingers? Tom sits tapping out a rhythm, to the tune that’s obviously playing in his head, on the handle of his cup.

“Tom,” my eyes narrowing instinctively. “I get the feeling you’re not really the shy and retiring type.”

Beyond him the steam rises from the coffee machine like fine wisps of silver hair billowing.

He shrugs. “New school, new me. So, what were you doing earlier anyway, it didn’t look like shopping?”

New school, hmm why on earth have I never considered this. I should have gone to a different sixth form, started over, maybe I still can?

“Nova?”

“Huh? Oh sorry, I, er um, was in the mood to shop, but figured I’d grab a coffee first – until of course I was assaulted by a paving slab moving at thirty miles an hour in the opposite direction.” I thread my fingers through my tangled hair, pushing it back, in an unsuccessful attempt to clear my vision, as I grimace inwardly at the thought of him seeing me toppled over, like humpty bloody dumpty.

Tom laughs, I mean he really laughs, like cracked up split your sides laughter, it kind of freaks me out a little. “Sorry,” recovering, “I was just remembering what you looked like sprawled out on the ground.” He stops laughing and pauses, brow furrowing. “Actually, are you okay?”

“Well, I could have bled to death in the time it took you to ask,” rolling my eyes, “but yeah, I’m fine – glad I was able to provide some live entertainment.” I sip my coffee; the queue has dwindled to just two now – typical. One of them is a man, with smooth dark skin, and a close-cut Afro that glistens under the spotlights. He looks rich and in complete contrast to the very pale redhead behind him. He purchases two large coffees and hands one to the redhead – huh funny, they appear to be exact opposites, tall dark and strong - petite, incredibly pale and fragile.

“Nova, that’s a very unusual name.”

I blink, embarrassed to realize that Tom’s been watching me this whole time. What did he say – oh yeah, my name. “Don’t you mean Nova? Nova? What the hell kind of name is that?” I laugh, Tom just watches me laugh with a curious expression on his face. I take a deep breath, serious again. “Um, my mother is a nature loving hippy. It’s Native American, apparently.” I try not to grimace, my name is such a minor irritation these days, it hardly even registers anymore.

Tom is watching me a little too closely, it’s unnerving, “What?”

“Sorry?”

“You look like you want to say something – or be excused, carry on if you need to.”

He frowns, shifting in his seat. “I’m fine; don’t really have any plans for today. You?”

“Not a lot planned, other than facing the Spanish Inquisition - AKA my mother and her game of 20 questions,”

snorting, as the last stupid, sarcastic words leave my mouth.

Tom glances around, seeming nervous. “Nova are you, er, like, seeing anyone – I mean, boyfriend kind of thing?”

Hmmm, he obviously hasn’t heard the nut job rumours yet, that’s a relief – I think. “No…” hesitating, “why?”

He rubs the back of his neck. “I figured someone like you would be.”

“Someone like me?” I glance down at my hands to avoid eye contact, “first impressions can be deceiving you know.”

He looks confused. “I actually quite liked my first impression of you,” he tries to hide his smile. “What makes you say that anyway?”

“No reason.” Aw man, now I’ve put my foot in it. Might as well get freak show tattooed across my forehead. I should tell him, he’s going to find out sooner or later, let’s cut to the chase and come clean, save us all the waste of time this will no doubt turn out to be. “Tom, you probably should know, I, um, I er, I am seeing someone,” I rub my palms against my thighs, “- a shrink.”

“Yeah right, course you are.”

I stare at him, my expression serious. Any moment now he’s going to get up and leave.

He leans back in his chair, looking curious and watching me more intensely if anything. “Why?”

“I have um,” I clasp and unclasp my hands before placing them flat on the table, the coolness of the laminate soothing against my hot palms. “I like, er, I have episodes. You witnessed one on the street back there.”

He stares at me for a long moment before speaking and I try to look anywhere but at him. “So, do you, like, hear voices in your head telling you to kill people or shit like that?” The words seem to be tumbling out of his mouth as if they can’t escape fast enough, it’s kind of funny and cute.

I snort shaking my head. “No. I, um, I don’t like mirrors, they freak me out, and I fall over - a lot – that’s all.” I force myself to look away again, staring at my nails and concentrating on

pressing my cuticles, not wanting to watch him leave, which is why I jump, whacking my sore knee on the table when he touches me. He puts his hand over mine and I look up.

“Mirrors? Seriously?” He squeezes my hand, his expression a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

“It’s a long story; I wouldn’t want to bore you, I-I I just don’t like mirrors.”

“Okay then, that’s okay.” He hasn’t let go of my hand. “So,” he gives me a small smile, “you look like this and you’re obviously not vain, and I do like your arse.”

I shake my head but can’t help smiling. New territory, I could go with this, he might even help. “Um, so, what are you doing for the rest of the day?”

He grins, “Hanging out with you of course.”

“Oh, you’re good.” I pull my hand out of his and reach for my coat.





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