This story was inspired by a beautiful young woman who battles her demons every day.
When I was a girl, my grandmother gifted me with an antique mirror. It belonged to a set, a pretty, gilded looking glass that should have been a prized possession. Instead, it became a curse, the object of my obsessive need to understand why the man I trusted above all others wanted to hurt me.
Each time I stared into my reflection, the girl looking back at me disappeared a little bit more. I saw the pain, the longing to be free, and the desperate need to run from the monster who stole her innocence.
He was the first, this man who was meant to protect and to cherish. I wish I could say he was the last. He wasn’t. Others recognised the broken pieces of the creature he left behind and felt compelled to play in the tortured ruins.
It took years to find the girl again, the one who loved with all her heart and found joy in the little things.
Years when the only way I could face each new day was to begin it by punishing myself. Countless professionals tried their best to put me back together. At least internally. The cracks on the outside I put there myself.
It wasn’t until I forced myself to look, really look, at my reflection that I began to heal. It became my new daily routine. I put down the blade, and forced myself to absorb the pain of what stared back at me in the glass. Cut after cut I endured as I stared at the evidence of my self-loathing and recounted each separate slice of the knife.
There are times I still see the damaged soul I became at the hands of a monster, but it’s rare. Today, standing in front of a full-length mirror in my hotel suite, there is only excitement in the deep green eyes staring back. The scars on my arms and legs are mostly hidden by the dress, and the gossamer material of the sleeves. My hair is no longer dull and lifeless, hanging like rats’ tails around my shoulders. It is layered in soft glossy waves that add to the romantic cut of my outfit.
“Yes, my sweet, gorgeous girl, you are the fairest of them all,” Drew says from the doorway.
Turning, I beam at my best friend. “Well, don’t you look dapper.” His dark suit fits his tall, lanky frame to perfection. The exuberant yellow bow tie is so very Drew. A ray of sunshine in my once dark world.
He takes the hand I offer and twirls me around, a series of dizzying turns that has me laughing in delight. “We both scrub up pretty well. The schizophrenic and the…what is your diagnosis these days?”
“Who knows. I’ve lost count.” Pulling out of his grasp, I reach to the dressing table for the two champagne flutes.
Drew tilts his head to the side, considering. “Hmm…how about the schizo and bridezilla?”
“I have been a little obsessive, haven’t I?” Handing him a glass, I clink mine against it before taking a sip. “I just wanted the day to be perfect.”
“All Jack needs is you, decked out like that, to make it so.” He winks and downs the contents of his flute. “And speaking of the gorgeous groom, you’ve kept him waiting long enough.”
My stomach flutters, a nervous excitement I’ve managed to hold onto all morning. “I’m ready.”
Drew takes my glass and gulps down the champagne. If I’m high-strung, his swirling energy is set to combust. He takes his responsibilities as Man of Honour seriously, but I had no doubt he would. The title fits him for more reasons that the duties he will perform today.
Without another word, he places my hand in the crook of his arm and guides me out of the suite. We walk down the stairs and along the corridor that leads to the terrace. Drew and I have taken many journeys together, walked hand in hand as we faced our demons, and we’re both a little worried about what the future holds.
Those worries fall from my mind as we enter the gardens and I spot Jack waiting beneath an arched trellis. Besides Drew, he is the only other person who truly sees me, and more, he sees the battles I’ve fought and won, alone or with my best friend by my side.
I can’t tear my eyes from his as I begin to walk down the aisle towards him. The dark blue reflects a heart as big as an ocean and a love that is never ending.
My breath catches when he smiles. It always has. There’s something about the way he looks at me that wipes out the ugly and fills me with beauty. This big, intimidating man with hair the colour of desert sands will always be my oasis.
When we reach him, his eyes dart briefly to Drew. He takes in the yellow accessory at Drew’s neck and grins. A moment later his gaze ensnares me once again, and I’m lost. I can barely keep it together when Drew kisses my cheek and steps back.
“You look exquisite,” Jack murmurs, though he’s barely looked at the dress. His grin gets bigger as he leans down to brush his lips against mine.
I want to reciprocate, tell him how handsome he looks in his dark suit, but he’s rendered me speechless. I could make this my new hobby, staring into his beautiful eyes, and it hits me hard that I can. For the rest of my life.
I’m still thinking about that when the vicar begins to speak, still captured in his intent gaze, and I’m okay with that. His eyes are the best kind of mirror, they reflect everything I’m feeling and give the lost girl I was the chance to finally be free.