A Face in the Mirror
A face flashed in the mirror, for the briefest second.
Tara did a double-take. She stared at the mirror for a solid three seconds, waiting for the image to come back, but there was nothing. She took a glance around the bathroom she was in, glad there was no one else to see her and think she was crazy.
She saw the flicker of movement again, and turned to see a face that was not her’s staring at her out of the mirror. Though she could barely see the face, she could tell that whoever the face belonged to was female. The woman was unmistakably beautiful despite a long scar marring her cheek. She met Tara’s eyes and said something, her lips moving without sound.
Tara reached her hand out to touch the mirror, although she didn’t remember making the conscious decision to do so. As soon as her fingers made contact with the glass something jolted, the entire world shaking around her. All of her senses heightened for a second, and then faded out, everything going dark.
When she was next aware of herself, there was a blip in her memory. She couldn’t quite grasp what it was she was forgetting, but the more she concentrated on it the more it faded.
“Tara! Tara, can you hear me?” someone said, right next to her ear.
Tara jerked awake, sitting straight up and nearly headbutting the school nurse. She was still lying in the bathroom, but the nurse was standing over her. Her best friend, Julia, was standing next to the nurse looking concerned, and two or three other classmates stood around them.
“How do you feel?” the nurse, Ms. Bradfield, asked.
“I- I don’t know.” Tara stammered. She felt dizzy and not quite right, like her vision and senses were a little bit out of sync with her brain and she was getting all of her information a second or two later than she should be. She had a vague recollection of a woman with haunting eyes and a scar on her cheek staring at her, but not context.
“Do you remember what happened, Tara?” Ms. Bradfield asked.
“It’s fuzzy. I don’t really remember anything after being in the bathroom. I remember washing my hands, and then nothing.” Tara said.
Mrs. Bradfield nodded sympathetically like that was what she had expected. “Why don’t you come to my office, and we’ll try and find out why you fainted.”
“What happened?” Tara asked.
“You were gone for so long in the bathroom,” Julia said, “You took forever to come back to class, so Mrs. Langford sent me to find you. You were collapsed on the ground when I got here.”
“I think I fainted,” Tara said. “I feel light-headed.”
“Grab my shoulder.” Ms. Bradfield offered, helping Tara up.
“Please, Ms. Bradfield, can I come with her to the nurse office?” Julia asked, “I want to make sure my best friend’s okay.”
“I’m sure I’ll be able to handle her.” Ms. Bradfield said, “You’d better go back to class.”
“I don’t know if I can walk on my own.” Tara said, “Maybe Julia can help walk me there.”
“Fine.” Ms. Bradfield agreed. She turned to look at the other three girls.
“McKenzie, Kate, Zacroya, go back to class.” Ms. Bradfield told them, “I know you three are just here to get out of class. Julia, you can help me walk her to the nurse’s office, but you have to go back to class after that. One of you tell Mrs. Langford where Julia is.”
“I will.” McKenzie volunteered.
“Good, now get going.” Ms. Bradfield shooed the girls off.
Tara stood up slowly. Her legs shook, and she almost fell over before she grabbed Ms. Bradfield and Julia for support.
“Sorry.” she muttered, “I’m okay now.”
“Don’t apologize, it’s okay.” Ms. Bradfield assured her.
Julia held her up on one side and Ms. Bradfield supported her on the other as they walked. Julia glanced at a clock as they passed it.
“Classes switch in two minutes, we’ll get caught up in the rush of class change,” Julia said worriedly.
“We’ll just have to hurry.” Ms. Bradfield said. They heightened their pace but still had a bit to go when the bell rang. Students poured out of the classrooms, most of them ignoring the three of them and going around.
Michael, one of Tara’s friends and Julia’s boyfriend, spotted them and fought through the current to get to them. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Tara sunk her head, “Nothing happened.” she mumbled.
“She fainted.” Julia told him.
“What happened?” Michael repeated, looking more worried.
“That’s all there is.” Tara said, “I fainted, we don’t know why. I’m going to the nurse now.”
Michael didn’t push it, but she could see the worry in his eyes as he turned to walk away. Tara pretended she didn’t notice Julia mouth something at him as they continued onward.
They continued to the nurse’s office and finally made it to the door. Julia reluctantly left them and hurried back to Mrs. Langford’s class to get her stuff. Ms. Bradfield wrote her a pass.
Once Tara was seated, Ms. Bradfield handed her a juice, “I’m not sure what caused you to faint, but it might have been a lack of blood sugar. This should get your blood sugar up if that was the case.”
“Okay.” Tara accepted the juice, taking a sip.
“Tell me exactly what happened as far as you can remember.” Ms. Bradfield said to Tara.
“Well, I had just finished going to the bathroom and was washing my hands.” Tara recounted, “I remember looking up and feeling slightly dizzy. Everything started spinning and then it went black.”
“Did you do anything that you think could have triggered it? Did you have gym today, or exert yourself a lot?” Ms Bradfield asked.
“I had gym yesterday, we were playing volleyball. I mean, I had a cross country race on Tuesday, but that wouldn’t cause any problems four days later I wouldn’t think.”
“No, I wouldn’t think so.” Ms. Bradfield agreed, “Have you ever had any other episodes like this?”
“I think so.” Tara said, “Really, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I must’ve just had low blood sugar or whatever, like you said. Can I just call home and lay down for the rest of the day?”
“If you think that would be best.” Ms. Bradfield agreed, “But no cross-country next week, and take it easy over the weekend.”
“Yes ma’am.” Tara said dutifully. Ms. Bradfield gave her the phone and she called Mary, her guardian, to come pick her up. When Mary arrived a few minutes later, Tara waved to Ms. Bradfield and dutifully assured her that she would stay safe and not do anything too dangerous.
“Are you feeling okay?” Mary asked as Tara climbed into the passenger’s seat.
“It was no big deal.” Tara said, “I just felt dizzy and fainted for some reason, Ms. Bradfield thought it might have been low-blood sugar.”
Mary nodded, not saying anything. Tara laid her head back on the headrest.
“I guess you got to start your weekend early.” Mary joked.
“Yup.” Tara said. “Only by like three hours, though. When I get home I should get started on work I missed.”
“So studious.” Mary said, “When I was your age I would have enjoyed my free time.”
“I am going to enjoy my free time!” Tara said indignantly, “AFTER I finish all of my responsibilities.”
“Such a good child I have.” Mary joked.
“Maybe I’m just so good at disobeying you, you never know.” Tara said, raising an eyebrow mysteriously.
“Maybe,” Mary said.
Tara spent the rest of the evening ignoring her friend’s texts and watching Doctor Who, a strategy that worked pretty well, at least until the next morning.
She was rewatching one of her favorite episodes when Mary knocked loudly on her door.
“Ugh. What is it?” Tara groaned.
“Michael’s on the phone, he wants to talk to you,” Mary said through the door. “He’s on the phone in the living room.”
“If he wants to talk to me that bad, fine, I’m coming, ” Tara called, walking into the living room.
Mary handed the phone to her, “I’ll give you to Tara now.”
Tara said hello to Michael.
“Took you long enough to pick up,” Michael said.
“I was locked in my room walking Doctor Who, Mary had to come and bang on my door.” Tara said.
“You wanna to come to Crawford Manor tomorrow? You’ve been ignoring all texts, so I was elected out of our friends to call you and ask you.” Michael said.
“Crawford Manor?” Tara asked.
“You know, that old house upstate, the one that was just renovated as a museum?” Michael said.
“Oh yeah, that one.” Tara sighed. “You really know how to get me where it hurts. I’ve been wanting to go there for forever.”
“I thought that would get you out of your fog of low spirits.” Tara could hear the smugness in his voice.
Tara sighed, “Fine. I’ll ask Mary. Who else is going?”
“Me, Julia, Delaney, Cordarius, and Rob is actually going to be the tour guide and he gave us a discount, which is why we decided to do this now,” Michael said. Rob was Julia’s older brother.
“Because it’s less money?” Tara said, amused. “I forgot how broke all of you are.”
“Just because you have an internship at some fancy lab doesn’t mean the rest of us do.” Michael said.
“First of all, you guys could have applied for the internship too, it was an opportunity for everybody, and second of all, I don’t get paid for that,” Tara said.
“Well, regardless, the rest of us, AKA me, are broke,” Michael said. “So, if you’re in, let everyone else know. ”
“I’ll text if Mary says yes,” Tara said.
“Sounds good,” Michael told her. “We’ll pick you up around one and drop you back off around five or six, sound good?”
“I’ll check with Mary, but it sounds great.” Tara agreed. She hung up. “Mary, Michael invited me to tour Crawford with him tomorrow. He’s gonna pick me up and then drop me back off. Can I go?”
Mary looked up from her place on the couch, “Will you have to eat dinner on the road?”
“I guess.” Tara answered, “I’ll be back around six.”
“I’ll save some lasagna for you in case you don’t get anything.” Mary said.
“Okay,” Tara said, giving her a thumbs-up. “I’m going back to my room.”
“Have fun wasting your time on this planet binge-watching Netflix and slowly turning into a slug.” Mary called after her.
“You know me so well.” Tara joked. “Actually, though, I’m going to do some research on the Crawford Manor. I want to be informed about where I’m going.”
“You just want to be able to impress and one-up the tour guide.” Mary accused.
“You do know me well.” Tara said, “I’m impressed by your in-depth knowledge of my psyche.”
“Ha-ha.” Mary said sarcastically, “Really, though, don’t embarrass the poor tour guide. Let him do his job.”
“Rob is the tour guide, actually.” Tara said, “So I do want to one-up him. Don’t worry, though, I won’t interrupt him or anything during the tour, just use my new knowledge to prove to everybody how amazing I am.”
“Of course you do.” Mary said, “That’s my little girl, always wanting to prove she’s better than everyone else.”
Tara rolled her eyes and ran up the stairs to her room. She crash-landed into her rolly chair, spinning around and skidding across the room.
“STOP SCRATCHING THE FLOOR!” Mary yelled from downstairs.
Tara guiltily stopped the chair. “I’m NOT scratching the floor!”
“You were.” Mary called back up.
Tara went back to her research, and after a few hours was satisfied with what she knew.