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Mirror Mirror on the Wall by Meredith Miller

I sit across the table from him, my attention split between dinner and husband in equal parts. He picks at his food absentmindedly, and a piece of chicken falls from his plate. It lands on the white tablecloth, staining its pristine state, effectively ruining the thing. 
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Mirror Mirror on the Wall by Meredith Miller

He doesn’t even notice the mistake he’s made; perhaps unaware that he’s just making extra work for me. He has bags under his beautiful blue eyes, which were by now bloodshot from lack of sleep and long hours in the office. He lies still enough at night, but I could tell that he has barely been sleeping at all. It worries me because he won’t talk about it with me, no matter how many times I try to breach the subject. He smiles at me now, but I can tell a fake strained smile from a mile away. Call it women’s intuition, if you will.

Trying to start a conversation, I ask, “How do you like dinner?”

At that his smile widens, and although he didn’t eat very much at all, he exclaims, “Oh, love it, it was a real surprise! How did you make it?” I purse my lips in annoyance, for I hadn’t made the chicken curry at all: it was take out that I’d simply arranged into dishes at home. Luckily he knew as much about cooking as I myself did, and I was able to stutter and bluff my way through a fake explanation well enough for him to spend the next five minutes complimenting my cooking. Still, I keep a bad mood until well after dinner, for he hadn’t said a thing about my new hairstyle and make up and new hot red fingernails. The whole reason that I ordered take out today was because I spent most of my time in the salon, getting myself a makeover for him. Really, sometimes I don’t know the way that this man thinks.

We lie in bed, and we spend some time talking about our day. I neglect to say that I’d been to the salon (I’ll be damned if I mention it before he does) but skim over the other parts of my daily routine: work, the gym, brunch with a mutual friend. In the lull afterwards, I gather up my courage and say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. You’re always tired and rarely home. You’re distant and when I talk to you, it’s like you’re not even there.” In response, he turns over to face in my direction, although I’m lying on my back and looking at the ceiling. He goes on and on about how work has been difficult, how the new position carries a lot of responsibilities with it, and how he has been struggling to cope with everything. In my ears, all of his words sound hollow, as if he were simply breathing out hot air and letting it bounce around the walls of our bedroom. Deep in my heart, I know that he’s lying about what’s been troubling him, and start to get upset. I cut him off in my lawyer voice, the one reserved for the jury in court. I tell him about him that trust and honesty are important in a relationship, and that it isn’t beneficial to be hard headed and secretive about our problems. I then turn from him, unto my left side, as he keeps going on and on about how work has been draining him. He is unaware of the slow seed of doubt that he’d unwittingly planted in me, and as I sleep my nightmares nurture it.

*

I’m sitting alone in the living room. It’s Saturday but he isn’t here. He’d gone early in the morning, in a suit as well as a rush. I tried my best to make lunch for the two of us, but as usual I fail miserably and I end up ordering Chinese. When I called his cell he hadn’t answered, and so I had lunch already and am lazing now, watching a rerun of Doctor Who. I dislike the show but am not really focused on the TV anyway, and as the silly actor walks into a sort of telephone booth and whizzes off somewhere or the other, I sigh. Heroes don’t exist.

Just then, the front door opens. He stands framed by the doorway, a smile on his face as he takes off his necktie. Just then I notice that he looks better than he had all week: His complexion is less sickly pale, his black hair is no longer a splayed mess, and his smile seems more genuine than the one he had given me in the morning. Somehow the sight gives me an uneasy feeling, and when he kisses me while rambling about some business deal that he managed to secure in today’s urgent meeting I catch the whiff of an unusual odor on him. A woman’s perfume. It gives me a shock, but then it all makes sense as I struggle to keep my features normal and fight for calmness. The unnamed fear that had been growing like a worrisome plant slowly, suddenly turns into hard cold bark. I say nothing for now, but vow to myself that I’m going to catch him red handed. Unaware of my plans, he goes on with his animated chatter, which I am now convinced is nothing but a rehearsed speech. The bastard! I pretend to be innocent and interrogate him sweetly until he drops a name. Apparently he was working in tandem with the production manager for his companies’ supplier. I know who to look for. While he sleeps at night I look through his phone. He had it under a password but it was simply the year that he was born. I spend most of the dark hours checking his call register, chat history, messages, as well as photos. I hide in the bathroom so the light doesn’t disturb him and blow my cover. It’s as clean as I had dared to fear, with nothing to incriminate him. But then again, a part of me knew this might happen. He was a smart man, I’m sure he had everything in another phone. Maybe he kept it in the office?

In desperation, I look up the woman’s name, and when I found one with the same name who works in the company he mentioned, I pause in confusion. The picture I am met with is of an elderly lady, already close to being in her sixties, by the looks of her. Her greying hair and the wrinkles on her face give no clues. Could he possibly be eloping with her behind my back? Then I scroll down and find another picture of her speaking with her secretary, giving some sort of order with a smile on her face, presenting the image of a kind boss. My lips curve into a smile. That’s it, he’d given me the boss’s name to throw me off the scent, but I now knew who the slut is. I didn’t think he could be so crafty, but I’d come out the winner in the end. There was no way I’m forgiving either of them.

*

I sit at a small rounded table outside the cafe, gesturing the server over with a flick of my wrist. As he scurries off to fetch my double espresso, I inspect my nails with an expert’s eye. Everything is still good, and the bright red hadn’t faded a bit. Pulling out a small mirror, I make sure that none of my makeup had been diminished in brilliance. Everything is good. Confidence surges in me. In a few minutes he arrives, pecking me lightly on the cheek before sitting across from me. I endure the bastard’s talk. This is a new place for us to meet, not more than a minute’s walk from his company building. The street is bustling with passerbies, and so I can’t quite make out what he orders. But that isn’t important, and as he speaks to me I respond lazily, not focused. My attention is behind him, to where the secretary is coming with a friend of hers. It had taken me but a day or two to find out that she always had lunch here. I invited him to see how the bitch would react to me being with him. Had he lied to her too? Or was she in on it?

When she looks over to our table, her eyes pass right over him, and although she only saw the back of his head, I know that she must have recognised him, then pretended not to react. That cinches it. She had known from the start. My mind turns into a snarling pit of venom in an instant, and mentally I curse the two of them vehemently. How dare they play me like a fool? Now his words fall on deaf ears, and I snap suddenly back into focus as he says, “Honey? What’s wrong?”

I decide to give him one last chance to come clean. “Oh, silly me,” I remark in my most coy voice, “I was distracted by that girl. Isn’t she gorgeous?” I nod towards the slut, who is just now sitting down, facing in our direction and completely ignoring us. He was going to confess as soon as he saw her. I was sure of it. Just seeing the vast difference between us two, he was going to beg for forgiveness. I look immaculate, my reddish hair reflecting inner fire, face sculpted like a goddess, while she is barely anything more than a bubbly secretary. I wait with a smirk on my face, but he says, “Well, I guess she looks okay, but I’m not really into- oh wait, I think I’ve seen her somewhere. Hmmmm...”

I stare at him in complete shock. Was he still trying to pretend he didn’t know who she was? Was he going to take me for a complete idiot? Did he really think I was that stupid? Everything spins around me, and my emotions take over completely. I had done everything for him, aside from plastic surgery, and he never noticed, never cared, as if I were never beautiful enough for him. I toiled in front of a mirror every day for years, and he never acknowledged a thing! That mirror was worth more than him. He goes around behind my back, and now he thinks he can pretend he didn’t do anything wrong?!

When I open my mouth, I intend fully to be calm and collected, to explain that I knew everything and that he had wronged me and that I deserve better. However, the words that leave my mouth escape in a screech, stopping everybody around us dead in their tracks. I call him the worst names possible, I point to her and scream my rage. He looks at me first in muted silence, then as I say everything I know, about his sneaking around as well as his cheating ways, his eyes twinkle in understanding, and as I break into sobs in spite of myself he looks oddly angry. In his face is a mixture of anger and sadness, but the bastard still won’t show me guilt. Hating myself, I understand that I was still willing to forgive him, as long as he apologizes and makes it better. I still love him, after all.

But when I look up, I realize that I’m all alone at the table. He was walks away, and I barely glimpse his suit disappearing into the crowd of people going about their daily lives. It takes me a few minutes to collect myself, and when I do I go to the ladies’ room, ignoring the secretary who was still looking at me in apparent bewilderment. I fix my makeup at the mirror, pay and leave. I’m sure they are going to meet up later, after I’m gone.

Screw the two of them. His lies won’t get to me, and I’m not going to let him back into my heart when he comes crawling back.

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