A Gift

Tania wasn’t sure why she’d kept it. A round mirror with a gold bevelled edge, the glass curved. Her touch was hesitant as she removed the wrapping, half expecting him to materialise, or be reflected in the surface like a messenger from the past.

He had given it to her near the end, when they still embraced with longing, and conversed with tenderness, but held back small pieces of themselves, the most private morsels kept safe.

Tania felt a strange facsimile of love as she sat in front of the cupboard, tissue paper rustling at her feet and the mirror on her lap, a moth’s erratic flail at the window. Moonlight cast an unnatural glow on the paving outside as the memories came. She remembered alternating pain and pleasure, unanchored. Hurt morphed to liquid warmth, bliss, then back again.

They didn’t argue. There was an unravelling, a letting go. Her feelings calcified. He drew close, pulled back, filled her with beautiful words, left her parched with none. The only thing she was sure of was the pattern, leaving her bewildered and numb.

She still loved him when she stopped communicating, when she had their daughter alone, seizing the robust arm of a midwife. She still loved him when she read his plaintive messages, moved house and made her number silent.

Tania walked to the end of the hallway, the mirror tucked under her arm. She knocked on Jess’s closed door and entered. Her daughter was huddled on her bed, her laptop on her knees. The walls were emblazoned with posters, decals and photographs. Only the space above her head was empty.

‘This is for you,’ she said and handed her the mirror. ‘Perhaps it could go behind you, above the bed.’

Jess stared into it, her brows knotted. ‘It makes me look like a fish. Where’d you buy it?’ She flicked her tawny hair and placed the mirror beside her.

‘It was a gift, from a long time ago. One day I’ll tell you the story.’

Jess tilted her head and met her mother’s eye. ‘Tell me now.’


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