By @S F Brooke
Trigger Warning: Attempted Suicide
Catrina Valeriz — Cat to friends and family — was not a very popular girl. At five foot ten she was a bit of an outcast height wise and to be honest she didn’t have much of a figure. She found that out soon enough when the girls at her middle school made fun of her skinny legs and her freckled face. It didn’t help that she had glasses either. Shooting up like a weed in fifth grade was more of a curse than a blessing when Cat was young. The mirror was her worst enemy, even more than her sexy athletic older sister or the girls that were making fun of her at school. Cat would gaze in the mirror every morning and hope that the next day something would change. Her height. Her weight. Her nose. Her eyes. Anything. Nothing was perfect enough for the image she wanted to portray so she threw her inner self away. She threw out the parts of her that made her Cat and found the niche of things that would make her popular.
By eighth grade, Cat was Queen-Bee and then….her parents moved and she changed schools. She started over again. Only this time she had a newfound sliver of confidence in herself as she explored new areas of teenagehood. The mirror grew with her as she grew taller and found that slouching made her seem smaller. She learned that makeup was the it thing even though she didn’t like it all that much. Cat learned that she loved looking into a camera with a cute boy’s arm around her waist. The mirror smiled wickedly as it chipped away pieces of that once innocent girl. Cat gained friends who were little more than groupies but for a time she felt like she belonged. With both her parents working and her older sister at college, Cat grew into a false persona that masked the real Cat Valeriz, but who cared about that anyway?
High school was Cat’s second chance at the popularity contest. Walking in with a short skirt and small heels drew heads quickly, her blonde hair and flirtatious blue eyes were already on the lookout for her next boyfriend. Dating was always something that society had pushed and why had Cat bothered to protest? Not when the men swooned over her and she could manipulate them to do what she wanted. Her mirror had cracks in it from the scars the words of several ex’s had caused her but that was covered with the persona. Cat flew through the ranks, the titles Queen-Bee, Mean Girl, and Miss Popularity cementing onto her soul as she went from class to class. At home, she cried in front of her mirror as she took off her contacts to reveal brown eyes and her layers of makeup to show her still prominent freckles. Her reflection came up behind her, grabbing her shoulders tightly, and whispered that tomorrow would be better but it was best to leave the mask on for now. People wouldn’t think the real Cat was good enough. She always listened. The mirror hadn’t changed from being her worst enemy, she was just immune to its poison now.
High school was Cat’s playground and she ruled it with an iron fist that no one opposed. Her heart grew hard to the jabs and names that were thrown her way when she sashayed down the hall. She forgot her love of science and the sound of her flute that had been growing dust for years. Cat ignored her parents’ pleas for her to talk to them. They didn’t understand what she was going through. She had an image to keep up and it didn’t involve them.
By college, Cat had two different faces. The one that everyone knew her as, the straight-haired blonde with blue eyes and a grin that could gut you like a knife and then the face her mirror saw that was getting darker and less vibrant by the day as she lived her lie with a clenched smile. Cat went away to college to live in the dorms with her friends, new ones as Cat had outgrown the old ones, her dorm always filtering out boys as she went through her first year of college. Her mirror was smaller in the dorm bathroom, with less room to share with three other girls, but it was still prominent. She had less privacy here and soon the contacts stayed on longer and the hair remained straight instead of naturally curly and she learned to use her time alone to perfect her crumbling persona. Her Cat masks were slipping and bleeding into one another and that would just not do. Not when Cat was Miss Popular. She was finally perfect to the outside world and the old Cat was nothing but a glimmer left in a childhood home. Cat had enough confidence that it was oozing out of her, most days so much so that it left her feeling tired and exhausted when she was home. Schoolwork pilled up and another two years went by with the juggling act that humans called sanity.
Cat found herself in a doctor’s office, a prescription in her hand for an antidepressant. How could she of all people be depressed? It didn’t make any sense. She was perfect, she was achieving perfection at the cost of herself but in the mirror, she looked fabulous. She was Catrina Valeriz, she didn’t have time to be depressed. That summer came and along with it new adventures and competitions to be the best amongst the young adults. Cat’s mirror cheered her on as she drank from a keg and kissed boys sloppily at parties. Her mirror watched as she came home and the pills in her cabinet looked more inviting than ever before. Her reflection beat against the glass as Cat brought up a handful to her mouth, downing the pills with tap water. The old Cat screamed and cried when she lost consciousness and started seizing.
Cat woke up at the hospital. Her doctor told her she was found by her roommates and an ambulance was called in time to stop the overdose. It was the first time Cat had let anyone see the real her in almost a decade. Her contacts were gone and her hair had started curling against her temples. When she was able to, the first thing she did was look at herself in the hospital room mirror. Her dismay at what she saw made her punch the glass until her knuckles were raw. That was not the Cat she was supposed to be. That was not the Cat she had made. That was not the perfect and confident Cat. What she saw in the mirror was herself. Her broken, shattered self in need of desperate healing from living a facade for so long. The mirror shattered under her fist after so many strikes.
Cat was in limbo for a long while, her mood would always changing. She fell behind in school, missing weeks of classes. Rumors sprinkled with truth floated around her as her mind was muddled with medication. Her reflection laughed and pointed fingers at her, it was her own fault she became this way. Cat slammed the door on her reflection, gritting her teeth as more than just the glass shattered. Her heart did too.
Graduation rolled around and by some miracle, Cat was alive enough to go. To graduate with a crumbling, falling to pieces, broken, and smashed mask that everyone clearly saw through. The young woman completed college, went through that milestone, and grew into an adult with fragile wings of naivety to the big bad world where everyone’s mirrors were constantly there. Humanity’s reflections held twisted images that loved to devour unstable and scared personalities. One thing the world was good at pointing out one’s flaws and Cat’s reflection did enough of that already.
Then one day….there was a boy….a man….a friend… a lover… his name was Bruno. He was someone who saw something in Cat that she didn’t even see in herself. She didn’t know if Bruno found her or she found Bruno, but Cat knew he saved her. Cat was new to the accounting job, seeking favor in all the wrong places and trying to woo as she had done her whole life. Bruno saw straight through that so fiercely that Cat was more than surprised. Bruno’s reflection was one of light that shined so brightly it made Cat’s own hiss in displeasure. It made her shy away from the light, the good that was in Bruno. Cat ran from it. She couldn’t escape for long as Bruno gently coerced her into a coffee date, his own mask sliding off and Cat found that some people didn’t have as big of a mask as she did.
That night she took out her contacts, letting the brown of her eyes shine through for several hours which was the longest streak in years. Bruno kept up his gentle persuasion, talking to her like a person and not an enemy to size up as others had always done in Cat’s life. Eventually, over a series of months, the contacts were lost and stayed off. Her blonde hair came back to its bouncy state and Cat lost a few layers of makeup. Her mirror hated it, jabbing her in the heart with her insecurities and displeasure as she took a look at herself — the true Cat — in a very long time.
Bruno invited her to a place that she had once known, in a different life, a place called church. He grew up there he said and his reflection showed that. Cat hesitantly accepted, not knowing how to dress or what to say as Bruno introduced her to members of his family and friends. There she met another person…a friend…a Father…a Savior…His name was Jesus Christ. Her mirror fought her, hated seeing the change in her, seeing the old hidden Cat be brought into the good light that Christ flooded into her system. Cat did not know much about church or the Bible, but she knew that for once in her life she wasn’t popular and she loved it.
The old Cat kept reappearing and each time she did Cat shared a little more with her newfound Savior and to Bruno. She saw that Bruno’s light was a reflection of Christ’s and she wanted that for herself as well. Her masks were nearly off, hanging by threads now as she worked to be different and to rediscover the old Cat she had left behind in middle school. Bruno encouraged her, prayed for her, loved her as she shared more and more about what her reflection had said to her over the years. One day…she felt new. She felt light. She loved her reflection. Cat’s mask finally fell off and the world was able to see the Cat she had originally been made to be. The funny, beautiful, Cat that loved the Lord, Bruno, and herself. Cat lost the heavy layers of makeup, she lost the contacts that hid her true eye color, she lost the ugly lies she told herself. Cat let Jesus be perfect for her, she didn’t have to try to do that anymore. Cat had gained back her confidence. She was real, true, and whole now that she was the Cat she always was but could never truly be.
Catrina Valeriz — Cat to friends and family — was not a very popular girl….and that was fine with her. She looked at her reflection, her white dress flowing all the way to the ground. Her new wedding ring on her finger was firmly in place as was the cross around her neck that symbolized the true reflection she stemmed to strive for. Bruno came up behind her and cuddled her in his arms, both of them smiling at their reflections in the mirror. Both of them were shining bright.
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