Renant and Shine
A Short Story by Karina Sanchez
Written using the suggestion "Mirror"
Originally featured on 09-06-2007
As part of our series "Alternative Universals"

Ren stood in front of her mother’s full-length mirror and watched her reflection expectantly. She was disappointed to see that everything was as it should be. Waving a hand in front of her face, she frowned. Auntie Bernadette’s reflection hadn’t been so boring. Ren had heard it talk, when she had spied her aunt through a crack in the door earlier. Just like the mirror in Snow White.

Reaching a hand up, Ren pressed five splayed fingers against the reflection of her face. The mirror was cool and hard. “Not fair!” Ren said, stomping her foot. The mirror girl threw an identical fit.

Disgusted, Ren turned and left her mother’s dressing room. She wanted to ask Auntie Bernadette about what she’d heard, but then she would have to admit that she was spying when she was suppose to be playing in her room. She was sure that she would get in trouble. Instead, she would be extra sneaky and watch Mama and Auntie closely. Maybe she could figure out how the mirror worked.

For days Ren had kept a close watch on her aunt and mother, but had seen nothing. She was beginning to think that she had imagined the whole thing. Lying on the floor of her parent’s bedroom with a comic book open in front of her, she kept a distracted eye on her mother’s dressing room door. Her mother had gone in to change for supper.

Ren heard her say, “Not now, Renant—“

She missed the rest but she was very curious about who her mother was talking to. And she had said Ren’s name. Standing, Ren crept towards the cracked door. She could hear muffled conversation. Dying to know what was going on, Ren did the only thing she could think of.

Pushing the door open, she began to say “Mama” but the words died on her lips. Her mother’s reflection was reaching out of the mirror to zip her dress. Ren must have gasped, because the arm shot back into the mirror and her mother’s reflection actually disappeared.

Her mother spun around, a look of fear on her face. She relaxed some when she saw her daughter. “What is it, Renant?”

Unable to speak, Ren pointed at the mirror.

Sighing, her mother crossed her arms. “You might as well come back, Audrey. She saw you.”

The reflection slinked back into view. She was, of course, the perfect match to Ren’s mother. She had the same light brown hair and the same petite figure; she was even wearing the same clothes. When Audrey spoke, her voice was the same, but the tone was completely different. She sounded far away, like she had stretched cotton over her face. It was a hollow cold sound that Ren found frightening, but she tried not to show it.

“You were right, Collette. I should have been still. You were the one that asked me to zip your dress, though.”

“And you were the one who disappeared instead of mimicking. There’s no need to place blame. We were going to have to tell her eventually. I just wish that it was later and on our own terms.”

This wasn’t what Ren had imagined. The two adults talking about her like she wasn’t there. She was close to tears. “Mommy? What’s going on?”

“Oh, baby,” Collette said, kneeling down to hug her daughter. “It’s okay.”

“Should I come through?” Audrey asked, anxiously. “Would that make it better or worse?”

“I don’t know. Ren honey, this is your Auntie Audrey. She lives on the other side of this mirror. Well, the other side of all mirrors really.”

“But how can she live in the mirror?” Ren’s voice was hiccupy with trepidation.

“All the women in our family have doubles that live on the other side of the mirror. It’s like having a twin sister.”

“Do I have a mirror sister?”

“I’m afraid not. You did honey, but she passed away. Like Grandma Helene, remember?”

Ren nodded. “You mean she died. How did she die? Why didn’t you tell me about her?” Ren had a thousand other questions but her mother stopped her.

“Her name was Celeste. When you were both babies, she was very sick. She wasn’t strong like you are.”

“Celeste,” Ren mumbled, feeling out the name. “Poor baby Celeste. Did I know her, mama? When I was a baby?”

“When you were very little, honey; that’s why you don’t remember it now.”

“I’m sad that she’s dead.”

“I know, Renant. It’s okay to be sad. There is something very important that you have to remember. You must not tell your father or anyone else. You can only talk about it with me or Auntie Bernadette, and only if no one else is around. Do you understand? It’s very important that you tell no one.”

Ren hugged her mother tightly. Her words came out muffled against her mother’s neck. “I understand, Mama.”

“Good, we should go down to dinner now. You should try not to think about this.”

“That’s right, sweetie,” Audrey added. “It will be better if you pretend like nothing has happened.”

Ren refused to look at this other version of her mother but nodded and said, “Okay.”

Collette took her daughter’s hand, “We can talk later, Audrey. I’ll make sure that Bernadette is here.”

Mother and daughter left the dressing room together. “I’m sorry if that scared you, Ren. I was going to tell you when you were just a little bit older. It’s nothing to worry about, though, your reflection will never move.”

That made Ren feel worse instead of feeling better. Even though she couldn’t remember her mirror twin, she missed Celeste. She couldn’t stop thinking about Auntie Audrey’s arm coming out of the mirror. The image was both horrible and fascinating.

 

***

 

The entire world was reflective. Every surface, every stone, every building, every blade of grass— throwing your image back out at you. Everything the correct shape and size but without its own colors. Like the ocean only ever able to mimic the sky. If something was solid or had its own color it had to have come from the other side. Except for people. One is born with a mirror shine, and then slowly begins to take on the colors of the twin. Every person in the Shine had their own twin. At any given moment they could be pinned down by the need to mimic. It was a matter of preservation. Shine was small and an invasion from outside would be catastrophic.

Occasionally, there were those who were unable to keep up the pantomime. Celeste was one such person. As a baby she had been unable to keep up the pretense of copying her twin, Renant. It was clear by the time she was a toddler, Celeste would never be able to be a mirror. She hated Renant and was jealous. She wouldn’t mimic; she wouldn’t be still.

There was a place built specifically for people like Celeste. Wood and brick and mortar were brought into Shine. A low, squat building marred the otherwise perfect ocean of reflection. Nothing in the building was reflective. Celeste had been moved there when she was two. Now, at seven, she had come to terms with her new home. It was actually a relief that she didn’t have to mime. Her mother came to see her every day. This fact didn’t stop her from being jealous of Renant’s freedom. She desperately wished that they could switch places.

“How are you feeling, Celeste? Did you have a good nights sleep?”

“Uh-huh. Did you bring me a flower mama?”

Her mother reached into her bag. “You know that I’m not suppose to bring you anything, but I don’t see how one flower can hurt.”

Celeste reached out a small hand to pluck the mirrored bloom from her mother. “Thanks, mommy. I miss outside.”

“I know you do, sweetie. I have to go for a little while, okay? I’ll be back tonight to read you a bedtime story.”

Celeste hugged her mother tightly. “Okay. Will you read me Goodnight Moon?”

“Of course!” her mother said, laughing. She had read Celeste Goodnight Moon every night for the past two months. Kissing her daughter’s cheek, she turned and left the small room.

Celeste was alone. Smiling to herself, she held the shine flower in front of her face. In it, she could see the small image of Renant. She appeared to be in the bathroom, washing her hands. She was unaware of Celeste’s presence in the mirror. It wouldn’t be long now before the time was right for Celeste to make her move. Let Renant see what it felt like to be trapped in a room.

Read More By Karina Sanchez

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Portland Fiction Project

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