“You’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not real—”
“—you’re not real—”
“—you’re not real—”
The girl on the floor had her eyes shut, knees hugged close to her chest, with her head down. Repeating the words like they were a mantra. Rocking back and forth in front of the mirror, while the girl in the mirror stood looking at her.
“—you’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not–”
As the chanting continued, the girl in the mirror knelt with a wince and began to sing.
“I’ll love you forever, I’m like you for always. As long as we’re here, we’re who we’ll be. Peace be with us, we’re safe in the light. Together we’ll be, forever tonight.”
Elle looked up. The girl in the mirror looked just like her… except she had bruises on her arms and legs. Some small, others not so much.
“Are you real?” Elle asked with a frown.
“I’m you,” the girl in the mirror said, offering a reassuring smile.
“But I’m talking to you.”
“That must mean I’m real.”
Elle shook her head. “No. You’re not. Mummy said if I’m not good the monsters would take me away. They’re under my bed. Are you—”
“Mummy needs a new sense of humor. I’m not a monster,” the other girl said with a frown. “Do I look like a monster?”
“No,” said Elle after a moment, though her eyes lingered on the other girl’s skin. She wiped at her face. “So am I crazy then?”
“You’re fine, Elle, but… I need your help.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m you. We’re each other. Can we talk?”
“Why are you – who did that to you?” Elle asked, gesturing to the bruises on the other girl’s arms and legs. Some of them were horrific, the flesh yellow and blue, streaked through with red and purple spider-webs of clotted blood.
“That’s what I need to talk to you about.”
“You should…” Elle shivered. “Do you have a mummy like me?”
The other girl looked away. “Just like yours.”
“You should tell her someone’s hurting you,” said Elle. “Because that’s not right.”
“I know,” the reflection said, meeting Elle’s eyes again. Staring at her without blinking.
“So why don’t you?”
Elle came to her feet, fists clenched. “Then try harder.”
“I am.” The other girl stood up, bringing them eye to eye. “Elle, you have to listen. This is about us. Not me.”
Elle stared at her for a moment, then folded her arms. “Okay.”
“Good,” said the other girl. “When you go to school tomorrow, go to the office.”
“But I haven’t been bad.”
“I know you haven’t. Neither have I. But you have to go anyway.”
“When the lady at the front asks what you want, you tell her you need to talk to the school counselor.”
“But why would I –”
“Tell her it’s important. And when you see the counselor – when you’re alone – I want you to show her these,” the other girl said, gesturing to her arms and legs.
“I can’t,” Elle said immediately. “She won’t be able to see you. She’ll think I’m crazy. And anyway, there’s no mirror in the office.”
“You can,” the other girl said.
“You can show her.”
“Pull up your sleeve.”
Elle looked down at the long sleeve of her blouse. Her eyes went to the other girl, to those terrible bruises, then back to her own arm. Slowly, she reached for her sleeve and tugged. As it came up, she winced, then gasped at the sight of the bruises. Every shade of horrible, running all across her skin until they disappeared beneath the fabric.
“Promise me you’ll go to the office to-tomorrow,” said the other girl, her voice breaking on a sob.
Elle looked up. The girl in the mirror was crying. Their eyes met and Elle swallowed carefully.