Stranger Staring Back At Me

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story that involves a reflection in a mirror.... view prompt


Fiction Romance Sad

Eyes, brown. Glance at me, scrutinizing every feature. Eyebrows, dark. Lifting at any opportunity in a questioning manner. Nose, small, but not extremely. Scrunching with confusion. Lips, thin. Curling from an unknown, overwhelming weight. A face stares straight at me. Empty. Vacuous.

“Amber,” I hear behind me. I see a man walk up. Tall, but slightly hunched over, as if he had been in the same position for a long time. I turn away and the glass face disappears. I gaze at him. Eyes, blue; deep with an emotion I cannot quite interpret. He is perfect. “Come on, we need to get ready to go.” He seems to care for me. I put on a dress that I see lying on my bed. It is made of a silky material and is red. It looks formal. The man puts my hair in a bun and he gives me a gentle hug. Who is he?

Although his hug feels somewhat natural, and the feeling of his arms around me does not feel out of place, I murmur, “I’m sorry, do I know you?” My voice sounds dry and awkward. The silence hangs in the air. His brown hair drapes onto his face as his expression falls. The sun suddenly drops onto his eyes, guiding his gaze back to mine. ‘I’m sorry, Amber. I’m Liam.” He doesn't explain further. Not a man of many words. I force myself to smile, and a lop-sided, uncooperative one springs upon my face.

I pick up a photograph on the bedside table. A girl and a boy stand, around their mid-twenties, looking deeply into each other’s eyes. The boy is Liam. The girl is a striking brunette, brown eyes, and a captivating smile. She looks alive and spirited. She is beautiful. I feel a sudden and unexplainable pain in my head.

“Let’s go,” Liam’s sincere and comforting voice states. I feel relaxed in his presence. Although, I do not know him. The tension in my head does not subside. We leave the house. Coming to an endless road, with many different turns and intersections. Cars beeping, people talking. So loud and chaotic. Everything feels wild. Liam turns left. He knows these streets. We walk into a house. I see countless faces, all bright, joyful. All striking and attractive, unlike the one staring back at me this morning. That face was hollow. I hear people looking at each other and saying, “Bad Day.” I wonder why they think so. I follow Liam inside, and a man and woman, around my age, walk towards me, wearing an artificial smile. “Hi, Amber.” I see the woman unsure of whether to give me a hug or to stand still, rocking slightly and lifting her arm by an inch. I cross my arms, closing my body language off. What is happening?

She takes notice of this and stays in place. “You’re welcome to sit down. We have something for you.” I sit. I turn in my chair and see the face with the blank expression staring back at me. My throat feels dry. Why do I not recognize that face?

I feel disappointment and fear coursing through my veins. An array of emotions bundle up in my throat, prompting a lump to form. My eyes water. I have been here before. I must know these people. The woman says, “I am Carol, here is something for you.” She hands me a book. Endless words on a page. It is called ‘Jane Eyre.’ The pages feel like they had been touched before. The book does not look new. The name sounds like one I’ve heard before. I suddenly notice that the noise outside has died down and that the group of people that were previously perusing the house and the front- yard have all left. Should I also leave? “Thank you, I love it,” I whisper as I look at the couple. Their eyes are gleaming with kindness and warmth, with a hint of distress which they unsuccessfully try to hide. I wonder why I over-analyse every aspect of a face. Liam, assumingly sensing my inability to think of any further conversation, says, “Well, we must get going, thank you for the gift.” He speaks for me. Oddly, I am grateful. As we leave, the house is empty, and I see ‘Happy Birthday’ stickers hanging around. Liam looks at me, with sorrowful eyes. I look at him, my thoughts jumbled. Why did they give me that book?

“You hungry?” He asks, “Famished,” I answer. “Let’s go get some food,” he says and grins. We enter a little café, it has a vintage look to it, with a song playing in the background which Liam declares is called 'Vienna' by Billy Joel. I love the song. We sit and I pick up the menu, however before I even have a chance to open it, Liam goes to the counter and orders some food. “You know it’s rude to not let me look at the menu before ordering my food,” I say, hearing the statement confidently escaping my mouth. I am surprised by my own words. He smiles, with a face of recognition spreading, and his eyes crinkling. “Trust me, you’ll like it.” I look across the table at him and sarcastically answer, “You left me no choice.”

As the food arrives, the waiter says, “Good to see you, Amber.” I smile. Then, he quickly scurries off into the kitchen. Almost instinctively, I look at Liam. Instead of explaining, he begins eating and gestures that I do the same. I take a bite of the potatoes on my plate and say, "Wow." I hate to give him the satisfaction of choosing a meal I would enjoy, but it tastes incredible. “You were right,” I say sheepishly. “I knew it,” he answered confidently.

As we finish the meal, we walk outside and breathe in the fresh air. I feel directionless. Liam grabs my hand. He asks, “Is this okay?” I look up at him. He is so much taller than me. “I think it is.” I think? Why did I say that?

My head begins pounding, worse than it has all day. I feel my body lose its strength. Is this my reaction to him holding my hand?

My thoughts begin to whirl around, and before I can sort through and interpret one, another thought flies into my brain. I feel like my head is about to explode.

I take my hand away from Liam’s grasp and put it on my head.

“We’re almost home, Amber.” He is calm. I can feel tears in my eyes. This is not a reaction to the handholding, something is wrong.

We arrive at the same house we were at in the morning, Liam carrying almost all of my weight, my legs feeling numb. I half crawl into the bed and lie down. The room disappears out of sight.

I awaken and my headache is gone. I am able to stand. Liam is nowhere to be seen. I slowly get up. I stand in the same place as this morning and see those brown eyes. The person staring back looks like a stranger. I reach out my hands to touch her face, but my fingers smash into something. The figure does not look away, now with her hands in the same position. Around the ghostly face is a wooden frame.

On this frame, hang a few photos.

The image is of a young girl, sitting on a beach and reading a book. Jane Eyre. I recognise it.

Underneath this image, I see another; a teenager in her room, listening to music, with the bright phone screen showing a song called ‘Vienna.’ The song that was playing.

Next to this image, is one with the same girl, maybe a little older, now in a hospital bed, with doctors all around. Before I turn away from the picture, I see Liam in the chair, holding the girl’s hand. I also see the couple from this morning, standing next to Liam. Tears stream down my face before I can fathom the meaning of these images. That girl has the eyes of the one following me around all day.

“Liam!” I call out into the void. Liam runs inside. “It’s me, isn’t it?” I cry to Liam. I begin to hear words in my head, conversations. The pounding in my head is back. I force my brain to focus on the words; Amnesia, good days, bad days, rare condition. The last sounds I hear are the beeping of a machine and a voice which I now know as Liam’s whispering, ‘I’ll take care of you.’

I snap myself back to the present moment. “Hey,” Liam says gently. His arms around me. His embrace is soft and so memorable. How can I forget him?

He looks into my eyes and says, “Happy Birthday. I love you. I hope you remember that.”

July 07, 2021 15:11

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Cannelle L
00:11 Jul 15, 2021

I really really love your story. It was an amazing read. You have a way of putting all the emotions out thare and making them so real. Thank you for writing this. Looking forward to reading more from you! Ps I don't know if it's intentional, but I think choosing to put in Vienna by Billy Joel makes this story a lot sadder (at least for me) because the song talks about how this young person will make it some day, but Amber seems to forget before she does. Either way, I love your story. Great job!


Karina Kilimnik
03:03 Jul 15, 2021

Wow, thank you so much for these kind words. It means more than you know. Also, it was intentional, and I am so happy thank you noticed it! I wasn't sure if it would have been noticeable but I decided to include it as everyone could infer a different meaning from this song. Appreciate your support!


Cannelle L
04:12 Jul 15, 2021

I'm glad that you did! It's one of my favorite songs and I'm sure other people will notice it as well!


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