Fresh Breath of Life

By Nathalie S. London

CRASH!

Mom’s favorite crystal vase exploded into a million tiny pieces that glistened in the light like droplets of water before raining down the sitting room carpet.

My head snapped, mouth gaping, eyes wide to look at Violet.

Smirking, she slowly lifted a finger to her pale lips. This was a game to her.

I debated my options. Running wouldn’t help and telling the truth would only make things worse, but what choice did I have? I was out of time; footsteps were already rushing across the second floor’s corridor, clearing the grand staircase in record time.

The maid stopped dead in the sitting room entrance. Mom, on her heels, burst past her. They both stared in turn at the shattered vase and at me. Alexa, my maid, wore that look on her face that assured me she wouldn’t want to be in my shoes for anything in the world at that very moment. Mom’s face confirmed it wouldn’t be a fun afternoon.

Mom flew across the room and knelt by the shards of crystal, holding them like delicate dead baby birds. This was bad. Very bad. Back on her feet, she grabbed me by the arm. Her pearls swished around her neck as she shouted: “Adelaide, what have you done? What have you done?! This vase has been in the family for generations!”

I knew that. Alexa knew that. And Violet knew that . . .

“It wasn’t me, I swear. It was . . .” I tried to explain in vain.

“Oh, not that again. You’re too old for this. You need to learn to take responsibility for your own actions. I have had enough of your childish fantasies. Dr. Holt says you should be over all that by now.”

By the window, Violet shook her head, amused. Would I never learn? She knew full well what was going to happen. She enjoyed getting me into trouble from the moment she came into my life. She said she’d been watching over me as a baby, and I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t around, playing with me as a big sister would. I never took much notice of the fact that she never seemed to grow older.

“But I . . .”

“I don’t want to hear another word about naughty imaginary friends, you understand? Just you wait ‘til your father gets home, young lady.”

I knew this meant a spanking the likes of which I had never seen before.

“Go to your room,” she finally roared.

She didn’t have to tell me twice. Eyes on the carpet, I marched out of the sitting room. Alexa whispered, “I’ll come see you,” as I passed by. I didn’t look up as I climbed the stairs two at a time to reach my bedroom before letting the tears spill over.

Sobbing in my pillow, I never heard Violet enter, though I wasn’t surprised she hadn’t used the door. “Are you alright?” she asked, settling on the bed without so much as making a dent in the mattress.

I shrugged, sniffing. “Why did you do it?” I asked after a time.

“To show you I’m right. They’ll never understand you like I do.”

“Alexa does.”

“Alexa pities you, the ‘poor insane girl’.”

That stung.

“If you come with me, you won’t have to deal with them anymore.”

Lifting my face from my wet pillow, my eyes found her by the carved mirror in the opposite corner. She stroked the wood, casting no reflection in the glass.

“For the hundredth time, no.” But it was a week refusal. Was my broken heart actually considering her offer? Maybe.

“You wouldn’t get old, wrinkly and mean like Mother.”

“What would we do there, on the other side?” I found myself asking.

“Play. There’s no bedtime there. And no spankings,” she reminded me of my punishment still to come, as if the humiliation wasn’t enough.

She stepped behind the mirror, instantly appearing on the other side. With a motion of the hand, she beckoned me over. “Wouldn’t it be great to answer to no one but yourself, Adelaide?”

“Yes . . .” I conceded, sliding off the bed and coming to stand in front of Violet’s reflection. “Will it, you know, hurt?”

“Not at all. All you have to do is touch the glass, Addy.” She placed her hand against her side of the glass, encouraging me to do the same.”

An invisible force was pressuring me to touch the mirror. “I don’t know . . .” I was starting to feel uncomfortable and cold. Had it gotten dark outside?

“Don’t you want to be free, Addy?”

“I do.” Hypnotized, I raised my fingers to the cool glass.

In the dimly lit room, I could have sworn that Violet’s eyes had turned black, like two deep inkwells.

“Touch it,” she commanded.

As our fingers met, something strange happened. I felt weak and my legs wobbled, then I blacked out for a moment. When I came to, it was no longer Violet I was staring at in the mirror, but myself.

“Violet, what’s happening?” I banged on the glass, but it didn’t yield nor break. Was I trapped?

In my bedroom, wearing my dress and brushing my hair, Violet stared back serenely. “Thank you for setting me free, Addy. Or should I call you Violet, now?” Tilting her head to the side, she studied her – my body. “You have no idea how good it is to feel the air fill my lungs again and not be numb.” She touched the fabric of her dress, awed.

There was a knock at the door. Alexa.

“Alexa! Alexa!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

“Don’t waste your breath,” Violet whispered. “You don’t have any. Besides, she can’t hear you. No one can.”

“Are you okay, sweetheart? Are you coming down to dinner?” Alexa enquired through the door.

“I think I’m going to enjoy being you, Addy.” Violet blew me a kiss. “Coming!” she called before disappearing from view.

“Violet! VIOLET!”

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