Ellie leant her head against the cool glass, closed her eyes. A sob escaped her lips, as her shoulders heaved once, twice, wracked with the urge to scream out loud. Tears rolled silently down her cheeks, falling to the water in the basin far below. One. Two. A third, then the fourth ran along her nose as she tilted her face down slightly. It wobbled on the end of her nose, tickled. She inhaled the steam from below, it caught in her throat and she choked.

Peeling her head from the mirror, she gazed at her reflection through the slight haze. She really ought to turn the extractor on, but she couldn’t move. The face that stared emptily back at her couldn’t possibly be her own. The eyes were dark shadows, the hair slightly too ginger. She reached a hand up, stroked the glass, leaving finger trails through the condensation that began to run and drip downwards. Soon her vague reflection was twisted and distorted as she opened her mouth to let out one last, painful sob.

###

“Thought you were gonna be in there all day, sweetie.” Her mum chewed on a slice of toast as Ellie came in, scraped a chair across the floor and dropped herself into it. “You okay?”

Ellie ignored the question, reaching out for the cornflakes, pouring too many into her bowl. Milk splashed onto her pink varnished nails as she poured too fast. Sugar scattered across the table, dusting the daily paper her mother had been reading. Samantha gently brushed the sugar grains away, closed the paper and laid it carefully beside her plate.

“It’s hard for us both.”

Ellie chomped on her cornflakes, a dribble of milk escaping the side of her mouth. She wiped it away with the back of her hand mechanically. Samantha reached across the table to take her hand, but Ellie pulled away. The clock ticked softly, punctuating Ellie’s chomps and slurps as she deliberately, meticulously ate as noisily and as sloppily as she could.

“I thought we might go up there later? When you get home from school?”

Ellie finished her coffee, slammed the mug down.

“Why would I wanna go up there?”

“Well, I… I just thought…”

“They’re not there, you know,” Ellie spat. “The only thing up there is grass and stone. A few empty words. They’re not there. They’re not anywhere, anymore.”

“No, but it’s a memorial, isn’t it?” Samantha’s hands opened and closed helplessly on the table between them. “We could take some roses up with us. Your father liked roses. And I’m sure you could take your iPod, play a few of Abbey’s favourite songs. I know I don’t like that kind of music, but you could play it for her.”

“Roses smell like shit,” Ellie got up from the table. “And why play music when there’s no-one to listen to it?”

Ellie walked out of the room. Samantha could hear her daughter scrabbling with the zip on her bag out in the hall. “Think about it?” she called. “You can decide when you get home from school, okay? Okay?”

Her only answer was the slam of the front door.

###

The route to school took Ellie down Hazel Street, then out onto the main road. She was already on the right side of the road for school, but she deliberately crossed over. Couldn’t walk past that spot. Not right past it.

When she drew level, she stopped, and looked across the road. The old dry stone wall had been rebuilt, a small slip of red and white hazard tape fluttering in the breeze, the only sign that any repairs had been made. The kerbstone still had the large slice missing, but the black rubber marks on the road were long since washed away.

That morning, she and Abbey had argued over the bathroom, same as always. Ellie had won. Then they raced each other down stairs, same as always. Abbey won. They’d raced their dad to get their boots and coats on. He, of course, had won. Mum waved them all off. They’d got to the end of the road when Abbey remembered the bag of their old clothes for the charity shop. It was still behind the door upstairs. Abbey had turned to go back, but Ellie had said no, she’d get it. She could run faster, after all. The run was bracing in the cool October air, warmed her up nicely. Mum was waiting at the door with the bag, and Ellie had grabbed it and turned back down the path without a breath.

She’d reached the bottom of her road, and was following her sister and father along the road. She had nearly caught up with them, had slowed down. They had stopped, turned to wait for her to catch up. They didn’t see the big wagon coming down the incline behind them. Didn’t see the driver twisting and pulling the steering wheel, throwing his entire body about, desperately trying to get control on the black ice of the road, deadly and invisible. Only heard the crunch of the wheels as they hit the kerb, mounted the pavement.

Dad went under first. The truck hit him square in the back, and he went down like a domino, flat on his face. It broke his spine, but he didn’t die until much, much later in the ICU, hooked up to wires and tubes and surrounded by beeps and pings and whirrs, none of which could help him once the heart attack struck, putting him in cardiac arrest.

Then the truck hit Abbey, less than half a second after her dad. Ellie was still running, running hard, as the world seemed to slow down around her. Abbey sank to her knees, then fell forward, as the truck rumbled over her. Her ankles shattered first, her feet splaying out either side of the front wheel. Then her legs were dragged under, then her pelvis popped open and that was when Abbey finally got the breath to scream. Ellie and the truck were now aiming right at each other, but she was still too far away. She could see her sister’s eyes, wide and terrified as her chin hit the floor and the truck gobbled up her spine, her arms waving out to either side as the wheel finally got her head. Ellie couldn’t look away as Abbey’s skull cracked and exploded out like a squashed tomato, then disappeared underneath. The truck carried on, only stopping when it hit the wall, demolishing it, its bloody front wheel skipping out over the ditch beyond, hanging in the air. It spun slowly for several moments before coming to a final stop.

Ellie had slipped on the ice then, fell and must’ve knocked herself out. She couldn’t remember anything after that. Only the cold days until the funeral, the service, the tears.

One year ago. To the day. Ellie rubbed her eyes, snorted hard, wiped her nose and eyes on her sleeve. Then turned on, towards school.

###

School was awful. Everyone knew, of course they did. They’d been told, spoken to by their form tutor and head of year. Warned to be respectful, be sympathetic. Ellie couldn’t stand it. She felt like a leper. No-one knew what to say to her, whether to smile or hug her. Even her best friend, Steff, cuddled her with stiff arms as they met by the door to the form room.

By the end of second period, Ellie’d had enough. Straight after morning break, she waited until the teachers were all ensconced in their classrooms, then wandered off down the corridors, out to the girl’s gym. Only one side of the double changing rooms where being used this period; she could hide out in the opposite side. Unseen, unheard.

The light from the high windows cast long shadows across the terracotta floor tiles, as she stepped between the rows of benches and coat hooks, through to the shower area at the far end. She stepped down into the water tray, dropped her bag, then collapsed against the wall beneath the showers. She sat down in a small rivulet of cold water running from the far end. She didn’t care. She just drew her knees up to her chest, slammed her face down on them and cried.

###

Mirror image, you two. Dunno how you tell each other part.

We know who we are, don’t we?

Ellie smiled at her sister, and Abbey grinned back. It was like looking in the mirror. Abbey parted her hair on the left, Ellie on the right. When they let their hair down, loose and wavy, bright ginger framing their pale skin, pink lips, and green eyes, they were identical. Except, reversed.

They were different in other ways. Ellie loved dance music, techno and acid punk. Abbey loved goth rock and heavy metal. Ellie liked pink nail varnish, Abbey wore black or dark blue. Ellie wore pumps and ballet shoes, tappy heeled strappy toed complicated sandals. Abbey stuck to her Chucks. Loved her converse, had fifteen pairs in various colours and designs, one for every year of life. Very rarely wore a matching pair.

But when they looked at each other, they knew they were the same. Had played a game when they were younger, pretending to be each other, then dressing identically just to confuse their parents.

Like looking in a mirror…

A frosty mirror…

Hazy, distorted…

Hair falling down around her face, scraping a wiry pattern in the steam…

The face looking back up at her, eyes dark, empty sockets…

And on the palm of the hand, pressed against the glass, scrawled on the skin in black ink, a single word…

HELP

###

Ellie woke with a hitched breath, ready to scream. She was lying down, her face sweaty and stuck to the floor, her hair matted from a nearby pool of water. She hauled herself up, looked around. No reflections. No mirrors.

Black hollows instead of eyes…

She shook her head, trying to wipe the image from her mind. No reflections. Alone.

“What I’d give to have you back, sis.” The cavernous room swallowed her words without even an echo. A shiver ran through her spine, and she hugged herself tightly.

Dragging herself up from the cold floor, she ambled across the changing rooms to the door, only to finally remember her bag and have to wander back for it. As she reached the door a second time, the bell rang for end of period. She looked at her watch, saw it was lunchtime. The thought of food made her stomach curl, and as she walked out onto the corridor, the smell from the kitchens hit her and she doubled over, hands on knees, breathing deeply through her mouth trying not to throw up. Mustn’t. Mustn’t.

###

The rest of the afternoon was torture, but Ellie endured and was finally on her way home. Again, she crossed the street to be on the other side of the road. She walked straight past, this time. Couldn’t bring herself to look.

No reflections…

She slammed the door as she went in, thundered up the stairs and threw her bag down beside her desk. Kicked her bedroom door shut, then threw herself down on the bed.

“Ellie?” Her mum’s muffled voice from the far side of the door.

“I told you, I’m not going!”

There was a pause. Then her mum walked away, across the landing, down the stairs. Minutes later, the front door opened and closed. The garage door rattled up, and Ellie looked out the window in time to see the car turn out onto the main road. She was alone. Again.

She rolled back onto her bed, kicked off her shoes, pulled her tie so hard she pea-nutted herself and roared with rage as she fumbled with the tightened knot. Eventually it loosened enough to get over her head, only just, pulling at her ears. She screamed as one earring caught, then pulled. Blood poured down onto her shoulder, and the pain blistered through her jaw. She ran to the bathroom, and wad after wad of red, sticky toilet paper went down the pan. Eventually, the bleeding stopped and she looked at the ragged flesh in the mirror.

“Fuck.”

Black hollows for eyes…

“Fuckin’ell!”

She slammed both doors on her way back to bed, and pulled her shirt open so hard three buttons pinged across the room, one rattling against the window sill. She stripped off her shirt, pulled her tights off, and collapsed onto her bed. Staring up at the ceiling, she closed her eyes and tried to breathe. Did not want to cry again. Had to take her mind off it. Ellie lifted her skirt up onto her stomach, slipped one hand inside her briefs as the other pulled her bra up and began squeezing and fondling her breasts. Soon her chest was tight from the misplaced bra, and her back was sweaty as she slipped a finger round and round her clit, in and out of herself, until, finally, a pathetic excuse for an orgasm shuddered through her body. She moaned, but there was no real joy to the feeling. She yanked her bra back down over her breasts, wiped her fingers on the duvet cover.

Swinging her legs off the bed, she stood up, had to sit back down for a moment as a wave of dizziness came over her. Breathing deeply, she forced herself up and across the room, through the second door. This room was the room she and Abbey had shared. A play room when they were kids, now a study with two desks back to back below the window, a set of drawers each side. Posters and a map of the world lined the walls. The room was split in half, one side pink for Ellie, the other a rich purple for Abbey. Ellie sat down in her chair, then got up and walked round to Abbey’s chair. It had barely been touched since the morning of the accident, except to be dusted by their mother. Now Ellie pulled it out. She had never dared sit in it while Abbey was alive. Never dared since she had died, either. Disrespectful. It was Abbey’s chair, not hers. She stood with her hand on the back rest for a long moment, then took a breath, and sat down, pulled herself close to the desk. Felt no different to her own chair.

Opening a drawer, she pulled out the first object that came to hand: Abbey’s black nail varnish. She held it up to the light, twirled it between her fingers, nearly dropped it, caught it and placed it down on the desk. Sweat on her back stuck to the chair as she leaned forward, and Ellie sighed. Shower.

She turned the shower on, didn’t bother with the extractor fan again. Mum would go crazy, but what the hell. She waited until the room began to get steamy again before pulling her skirt off, then her bra. Standing in just her briefs, she looked at the glass panel of the shower cubicle, wiped her hand through the condensation.

Someone was watching her…

Ellie spun around, nearly slipping on the mat. She could have sworn she’d seen a face, behind her, peering over her shoulder, reflected in the glass. But there was no-one there. Just her, and the steamed up mirror over the washbasin. She looked back at the shower cubicle, already misting up again, wiped it again. No reflection this time.

No reflection…

The water was heating up the room now. She was beginning to get dizzy again, beads of sweat standing out on her forehead. She pushed her hair back from her face, turned to lean on the basin.

As she lifted her head, she looked straight into her blurry reflection. The deep, black eye sockets stared back at her. She was getting really dizzy now, the world was beginning to spin around her. But she couldn’t stop looking at her reflection.

Black hollows…

She lifted the mirror off the wall, it slipped in her fingers, heavier than she thought. She clumsily laid it down on the floor, knelt down next to it. She was so close to the mirror now, but still the eye sockets were deep and black and empty that looked back at her.

My reflection…

No reflection…

She leaned closer, her breasts squashed down onto her thighs, her toes beginning to tingle as she cut off the blood supply in her knees. She leaned so close, her chin and nose and forehead touched the glass, her hair falling down about her. Her hands touched the glass, and the world began to dissolve around her.

Mirror image, you two…

The word written on the palm of her hand, HELP. But she hadn’t written that there. And shouldn’t it be…

Reversed?

Black hollows…

Pulling her down.

Falling.

Falling…

And Abbey’s voice now, softly in her head.

What would you give?

Pulling her down…

What would you give…?

###

She felt the glass crack, and jerked her head up. Where her misty reflection had once been, dozens of misshapen eyes and mouths now grimaced back at her. Blood dripped down the side of her face from her ear, but she didn’t seem to notice.

She got up from the floor, unsteady, using the basin as support. Got in the shower, washed herself down, then turned off the water flow and stood in the tray until the last few drops had landing on her forehead, on her toe. The last wisps of blood swirled away down the plughole as she stepped out onto the mat.

Confusion overtook her for a moment, and she flexed her arms and neck as if waking from a long, deep sleep. Found her towel, rubbed herself dry. Tied the towel at her waist, found a smaller one for her hair. Rubbed, then left her hair loose and damp on her shoulders.

She carefully stepped around the broken mirror, not looking at it once. Walked slowly at first, and then more surely, into the study room. She walked straight to the left hand chair, sat down. Picked up the little bottle of black nail varnish, looked down at her own pink coated fingers. Some was already peeling off.

She opened the bottle, and methodically, meticulously, painted over the pink with the black.

###

Inspired by Slowly Drowning, by DeviantArt user ~xx-scadoosh.

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