Short Story – Narcissus

“Mirror, mirror,” I say plaintively, but before the words are out of my mouth I know that they have made no difference. My image stares back at me, pale and bland and freckled, lacking depth. There is no fire in my eyes, no sensuousness about my mouth. Everything about me seems slightly out of proportion – eyes to nose, mouth to chin, breasts to hips – pinched where I should be generous, wide where I should be slim. And yet, perhaps, another wouldn’t notice it.
I dress with care to flatter, apply makeup which slims and plumps, although my eyes still pierce through the reflection to my naked flaws.

My phone bleeps with a text message – it’s sleek and black, and has GPRS, although I haven’t bothered to figure out how to use it. I know who it’s from without looking – there have been four similar within the last hour.

“I told you,” I send back irritably, “I’m working late tonight. Please stop bothering me. We’ll do something tomorrow.” As an afterthought I add “I love you,” and an X. Clingy people irritate me so. But I’m too kind hearted to tell him. I’ll have fun tonight, and go see him tomorrow, and he can take me to dinner or something. It’ll cheer him up.

The taxi pulls up outside, and I skip out of the house, slipping the phone into my black rubber bobble bag.

Later, in the bar, I relax in the glow of my friends. I recount an incident at work; they laugh. “You’re so clever,” says Lynn. “I wish I had a way with words like you.” I bask, although I have to concede that Lynn probably never will have fluency and subtlety like me. Possibly because I work at it, possibly because she is by nature clumsy. She’s a loyal friend, though. I like her, although she irritates me somewhat. The conversation turns to Abby’s genetics paper. It doesn’t interest me a lot – I don’t know much about it. Abby is explaining it at great length and hogging conversation time. I look around the table, but everyone else appears to be riveted. I draw a little doodle with my fingertip on the bar.

My eyes wander to the next table – and I catch the eye of a youngish guy, looking across at our table. Was he looking at me..? He is now. I smile, and lean back towards my friends, artfully sliding a quip into the conversation. People laugh. Abby looks annoyed, but she’ll get over it. I keep sliding my eyes back to the guy in the corner – every time I see him looking at me I get a little thrill. I look around the table at my friends, considering them – Abby tall and red haired, beautiful and intelligent; Lynn curvy and well dressed, Beth dark haired and dark skinned, all of them beautiful, and he’s looking at me. Me.

I make my excuses and go to the bathroom, smiling at him as I sway past. The reflection in the mirror looks sadly similar to the one that greeted me at home, although I note the eyes sparkle, the mouth twists slightly with confidence, the image itself looks very slightly sexier, glowing. Reassured, I slink back to the table, ordering another bottle of wine from the barman, who also holds my eye for longer than necessary, I feel.

“Who is that man..?” whispers Abby, raising an eyebrow toward the corner table. “He’s gorgeous.” I’m lost.

Later that night, as he props himself up on his wrists, leaning post coitally over me with his hair touselled over his forehead, he gazes transfixed into my eyes. “I think I might be falling in love,” he says.

I look back up at him, at his large, dark eyes, like deep pools, at the reflection I see there, and suddenly my proportions click into place – my nose is not too wide, my cheeks are not too slender, my mouth is generous without being too large – reflected In his lucid eyes I look sultry, sexy, alluring, bewitching. I make a little moue with my lips and am entranced by what I see. My face – designed to be viewed through your eyes.

“Me too,” I say.

In the hall, smothered by the bag, my phone bleeps twice, and then is silent.


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