The mirror has been in my family for generations.
It will only reveal its secrets to a woman; and a beautiful one at that.
The men in the family won’t go anywhere near it, and up until today none of the females in my family have been game to uncover it and test its powers.
I understand their reluctance; what if the mirror does not reveal its secrets to you. The mirror is judging your beauty and if you don’t measure up it is a disgrace from which you are unlikely to recover.
No one will give me a straight answer, but family legend has it that the last female member of the family to sit naked in front of the uncovered mirror was my great, great-grandmother.
She was said to be a famous beauty who gave memorable parties and had many scandalous affairs.
Little is recorded of the reactions of my great, great-grandfather, though I’m guessing that he was none-too-pleased.
It’s been so long since anyone has tested the mirror that no one is actually sure what it does. There are plenty of theories but one thing is for sure, my family has been very successful down through the ages, and even the women who have been too frightened to expose themselves to it have benefited from the presence of it in our family.
How it came into our family and where it came from are two facts that are shrouded in mystery.
My favourite? That it was just an ordinary mirror until it was enchanted by a gypsy princess.
The princess was captured by angry townsfolk who were upset about a poor crop yield, or something like that, and blamed it on the gypsies.
I guess people have always needed someone to blame.
One of my ancestors, who was a poor but chivalrous young man, rescued the gypsy princess.
She was a bit bruised and battered but otherwise unhurt.
She took my young ancestor back to her caravan and gave him a good seeing to, which they both rather enjoyed.
She also gave him the formerly standard mirror. The enchantment meant that the mirror would respond favourable to any female member of his family who was beautiful, naked and brave.
I’m quite sure that I’m all three of those things, so I’m giving it a go.
Most of my cousins have tried to talk me out of it, but I’m determined. If I survive the confrontation, I will be forever known as beautiful, and that will do me.
I’ve got goosebumps and not just because I’m excited; it’s cold in here. Maybe I should have waited ’till summer to do this.
I wonder if the mirror talks?
I wonder if I should ask it a few questions?
Through a dense fog, I hear the splintering of timber. Voices. Male voices.
Something about ‘drifting away’.
I’m being wrapped in a blanket, it’s woollen, I can feel it against my skin. It’s warm.
Strong arms guide me toward my bed. More voices. ‘Cover the mirror’.
Why are these people in my room? What do they want?
I feel very light, and I see myself from a distance. A very comfortable distance.
I’m trying to decide. Do I come back or do I drift away? Drift away seems like a nice idea.
I’m not asleep, but I’m not awake either. I’m in that in-between place. It’s nice here.
When I awake, a day and a half have passed.
I’m feeling rested, and it’s quiet because almost everyone is off at work.
I take my time and bathe.
I look at myself in the bathroom mirror; I don’t look any different, but I definitely feel different.
I spend the afternoon quietly sitting in the garden listening to the birds and trying to collect my thoughts.
Eventually, the various family members begin returning to our large family home.
The house is surprisingly quiet as the women prepare the evening meal.
The men bring in wood for the fire and go about the small tasks that men perform to keep a large house like ours running smoothly. There is very little of the usual chatter and what conversation there is, is carried out in hushed tones.
It is not spoken, but everyone is thinking the same thing.
What happened and how will it affect the fortunes of our family?
Even if they did work up the courage to ask, I would not know how to answer.
Quite simply, I don’t remember what happened.
I know that the experience almost cost me my life and I know that I feel at peace.
Something passed between me and the mirror and even though I don’t know what that ‘something’ is I know that it was good. I know that our family will prosper and I know that I will come to be the head of our family, in the fullness of time.
Everyone is looking at me in a different way than they did before, and that is as it should be.
I’m not the same.
I had the courage to face the mirror and that sets me apart.
My self-confidence goes all the way down to the tips of my toes.
I’m the same height, but I feel taller.
My thoughts are now full of answers as well as questions. The future feels bright and full of possibilities.
Sometimes courage is its own reward, and outward beauty has very little to do with it.
I know that my daughters will be vigorous and wise. The experience with the mirror taught me that bravery overcomes all obstacles, but in the end, it is the love that comes from within that holds a family together, no matter how large or small that family might be.
Painting by Alex Alemeny