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The International Writers Magazine:

 Mirror, Mirror...
• Oswaldo Jimenez
Annabelle walked into her tiny bathroom and  stood before the full-length mirror with the same resignation of Joan of Arc waiting for the executioner to light a fire beneath her. She undressed slowly in front of the glass, shedding layers of clothing she wore to keep warm and to conceal her homely figure. When the last piece of intimate clothing hit the tiled floor, Annabelle’s naked body was ignited by a pillar of sunlight coming through the skylight, causing her pale skin to glow.

Annabelle walked into her tiny bathroom every morning, before her child awoke, and faced the familiar stranger staring back from the vacuous flatness of the looking glass. The stranger’s eyes regarded Annabelle’s body from within the mirror with curiosity and silent contempt. The quality of the leering was such that it might as well had been the stranger’s hands touching Annabelle’s body: her hanging jowls, her sagging breasts, her protruding belly, her pubic area, and finally, the swollen appendages that kept her planted to the tiled ground.

She lifted her hand and pinched a handful of flesh from her bulging abdomen. The sudden pressure sent chills from her nape to her coccyx and shattered the invisible barrier separating Annabelle from Annabelle’s reflection. She stood mesmerized by the reality of her naked body; a disquieting reality she preferred not to accept, or try to comprehend. 

She shut her eyes with a sigh.

She kept her eyes closed while she bent her knees slowly as if kneeling at the altar of some vengeful god. Her fleshy buttocks pressed on her calves as the weight of her body rested on the backs of her legs like chin to fist, elbow to thigh, foot to floor. Her eyes remained tightly shut. The darkness inside her head was comforting and safe. It had become a sanctuary where she retreated to seek protection from the realities of her life; a hiding place from the world, safe and distant, where nobody could look in. 

Annabelle bent her body as if she were about to crawl inside the cabinet beneath the sink.  She hesitated before reaching for the brassy knob on the small door of the tiny cabinet. She sighed, again, and pulled the door open without opening her eyes. She groped behind the box of tampons, moved aside some brushes--still tangled with clumps of hair--then reached behind the bottle of peroxide, next to the rubbing alcohol; where the rubber bands she used as a tourniquet, and the shiny tin box, lay hidden behind a red bottle of drain clearing solution. 

Annabelle remained in a near fetal position. The flesh from her warm breasts pressed on her straining thighs as she held the metal box in her trembling hands. She cradled the tinny box and carefully lifted it out of its hiding place. After she cleared all the obstacles in the cluttered cabinet, she placed the box on the bathroom floor and lowered her head, without hesitation, and rested her red-hot forehead on the cool surface of the tinny box containing the object of her desire. Her back rose and fell as she took quick, sharp breaths that sounded like a whisper in Annabelle’s ears: hush, hush, hush.  Her trembling fingers gripped the little box with anticipation while her body shivered and shook with the desire of an addicted moth lusting for the radiance of a distant star.

She administered the burning solution to herself with the skill of a surgeon.The instant the sharp needle pierced her translucent skin the hot solution danced inside her veins and filled her with hope, warmth, happiness, and love. She felt euphoric, valiant, invincible, and desirable. The radiance of a thousand suns illuminated her darkness revealing a world where she triumphantly stood over a vast battlefield where the mangled corpses of her vanquished tormentors: the bill collector, her priest, her ex-husband, her absent father, lay in grotesque rigor mortis next to the specter of her vanquished, vulnerable self.   

The sun in the sky continued its eternal motion marking the seconds of infinite time.  

It was time for her shower. Annabelle liked her showers hot. Very hot. As hot as her skin could stand. Hot water rushed from the shower-head squealing like a pig being readied for slaughter when she turned on the shower. Steam climbed the sticky walls of the tiny bathroom like clouds of thick smoke from a funeral pyre determined to obscure the heavens and block out the sun.

The sound of falling water triggered a memory from Annabelle’s distant past: 

 “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird. And if that mockingbird won’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. And if that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass..”

The melody of the water crashing to the floor of the shower-stall sounded more like the sizzle of bacon on a frying pan. When Annabelle stepped into the stall the sting of the prickly water pelted her skin making her shiver. She kept her eyes shut. She didn’t need to open her eyes: she had a clear mental picture of every inch of the stall.  She knew how far to extend her hand to reach the bar of soap, the razor, the bottle of cheap shampoo she stored upside-down to squeeze out every last drop of the pinkish solution that always smelled too sweet, and always felt cold when it oozed-out of the bottle into her hands.

Her hands moved as if weighted down by some invisible force. She squeezed the shampoo bottle until it made the sound of a fart. She rubbed her hands to make a lather then smeared it in the tangle of her frizzy blond hair.  She dislodged the soap forcibly from where it had stuck and wetted the bar on the falling water. She rubbed it between her hands then  slowly caressed herself feeling the burning heat between her legs. She hesitated. She felt she shouldn’t, but inevitably, she was already aroused. The pleasure she felt, however, was a mechanical reaction to the friction, the hot water on her skin, and the euphoric effect of the drug in her body.

The tingling sensation of an approaching orgasm trigged a remorseful memory: she remembered kneeling in confession, forcibly asking her priest for expiation after describing to the man in the confession booth her innermost feelings and emotions; all the while sensing his silence, like hands, reaching from behind the curtain and groping her soul.

A stray ray of sunshine poked through the skylight and hit the flat surface of the looking glass. It went blazing into the shower stall where Annabelle stood shaking with pleasure from within and without. Her eyelids ignited at the same exact that the water turned cold, freezing cold. The jagged edges of the freezing water sent Annabelle crashing back to her senses: fear, loneliness, angst, and despair. She lurched away from the injuring water and flipped the handle off. She stood frozen behind of the moldy shower curtain like an embalmed mummy with her arms wrapping her breasts.  An afterimage of redness permeated the darkness inside her skull. Her eyes remained shut.

The shrill voice of her 5-year-old daughter burst through the bathroom door.
“What are you doing in there Mommy?”  
“Are you O.K. Mommy?” 
“Can I come in Mama?” 
“Are you O.K., Mommy?”
Annabelle’s eyes opened wide. The shock of recognition startled her. 
The mirror reflected a stray ray of sunlight where droplets of water and speckles of dust floated, tangled in a dance macabre.
She replied in with a tremble in her voice:
“I’m fine, Annabelle Lee....”   
“Mommy’s good.”

© Oswaldo Jimenez April 2012

The River
Oswaldo Jimenez

Lawrence Frost ( Larry to you ) was the only child in a household where love and responsibility had always gotten along very well. He’d been born under the sign of Aquarius to an upper-middle-class family who had  provided him with the right education which had buoyed him to success.

Oswaldo Jimenez

They had reached a phase in their relationship she called ‘cocooning.’  “Everyone in our age-range is doing it,” she had said to him with a smug, matter-of-fact tone in her voice that reminded him of the tone his mother had used when calling him to dinner.

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