By J.L. Corbett
This is an interesting conversation. I am listening, understanding, I’m gonna interject any moment now. I’m not thinking about being on the couch, being in bed, being on the internet…
Everyone’s talking very loudly, and yet I can’t seem to catch onto a conversation. Our group is large enough that I have a choice between stale gossip to my left or film theory to my right. I stare at the table and scratch at the damp label on my bottle of Kopparberg.
I am having fun.
It’s embarrassing how loud we are. I feel like everyone in the bar is glaring at us, wishing we’d inflicted ourselves upon one of the other twenty bars on this street.
How long has it been since I last said something? It feels like forever. I steal glances at the eight other people squashed around the table (which is only really designed to accommodate six) and I wonder if any of them have noticed the horrible air of discomfort caused by my presence.
I extract myself from the table and head upstairs to the loos.
Nobody even noticed. I could’ve left the bar, and nobody took a second glance. God, how humiliating.
The ladies’ toilets smell faintly of urine, but I take my time. I feel safer up here, insulated from the pressure of The Great Uni Reunion. I read most of the graffiti inside the cubicle and even contemplate adding a doodle of my own to the crude tapestry, but I quickly decide against it. I don’t do stuff like that.
As I wash my hands, I catch my reflection’s eye in the dirty mirror. God, I look awful. Why did I even come to this bloody thing?
The event invite had popped up on Facebook about a month ago, and back then I had actually thought it might be nice to see the old university gang again. Rosy images had floated into my mind – all of us laughing over drinks in a cosy corner of a pub, reminiscing about those early days of adulthood. There’d even been a bit of hugging.
But all the pubs had been playing the England match, and so we’d ended up in this grim little bar instead. Worse still, there’d been barely any reminiscing so far; everybody seemed far more interested in taking turns to regale the group with boastful stories of their lives post-university. I had yet to take my turn.
I scrutinise my pale mirror image. Ghastly.
It’s a word that barely makes it into my everyday vocabulary (it feels horribly middle-class in my already slightly pompous Southern accent), but which never fails to blurt itself inside my head whenever I catch sight of my reflection. Pallid, ghostly, ghastly.
They’re all waiting for me to go home, I bet.
My reflection’s gaze is getting a little too strong for my comfort. I should be brainstorming topics of conversation and hyping myself up enough to return to the group, but instead I appear to be locked in a staring match with myself. Mirror-me’s left eye is beginning to twitch.
Am I doing that, or is she?
Her lip curls into a warped smile and her shoulders begin to tremble with silent, barely restrained laughter. Tentatively, I touch my fingers to my lip. She does not.
This is probably the sort of thing which I should find worrying. I gawk at the ghoul in the mirror with morbid fascination.
Voices yell from the stairwell outside the door, and I jolt. Mirror-me turns her head smoothly towards the source of the noise, keeping eye contact with me for as long as is possible without snapping her neck. She’s still wearing that manic smile.
I’m dimly aware that the voices are still shouting and giggling outside the door. There’s a muffled crash and the laughter heightens. The voices sound familiar. Is that my name they’re calling?
“Coming!” Mirror-me calls back to them. She glances back at me, gives a playful little wave and disappears past of the edge of the mirror, presumably off to drag my drunk university friends out of the stairwell and back into the bar.
My shoulders sag in relief and I slump to the floor, safely trapped inside the mirror.
J.L. Corbett is the editor of Idle Ink, an online publisher of curious fiction. Her short stories have been featured in Schlock! Webzine, TL;DR Women’s Anthology: Carrying Fire, The Cabinet of Heed, STORGY Magazine and others. She owns more books than she can ever possibly read and doesn’t get out much.