Girl in the Broken Mirror
Author: Savita Kalhan
Genre: Young Adult / Fiction.
Year: May 2018
Blurb: Jay’s creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, to end with ‘they lived happily ever after’. But the way her life is panning out she’s not sure it will ever reach that stage.
She and her mother are moving in with distant relatives, and they have super strict rules for girls.
Jay is expected to have only Indian friends, if she has any at all. How can she see her school friends, Chloe and Matt?
But this is only the beginning of a nightmare for Jay. When her life implodes, how can she hide the shame - and how will she find a way to keep going?
THE GIRL IN THE BROKEN MIRROR is ultimately about hope and understanding, and where help can be found – even in the darkest situation.
The sunlight blazed obscenely through her windows, blinding, dazzling. It stretched out its long, warm fingers towards her, but Jay did not let them touch her. She reached for the alarm clock and turned it off. The alarm had been going for ages and the clock said nine fifteen. She hadn’t heard it ringing before because of the incessant buzzing in her ears. The buzzing hadn’t stopped all night. Only now did it fade away a little and allow her to hear.
She hadn’t closed her eyes after . . . after he had gone. She had lain amid the soiled sheets, staring into empty space, all night. There were no tears. There was nothing inside her but a huge empty well. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, close her eyes again. His face was in there, and if she closed her eyes she would see it.
A quiet tapping on her door startled her, but Jay did not respond. She waited, listening, and heard her mother’s soft voice. It found a way through the faint buzz that was still in Jay’s ears and made her aware of the hollow inside her. She stuffed her hand in her mouth and moaned silently. There were still no tears.
‘Jaya, beti, are you sleeping?’ Her mum’s voice dropped to a whisper – ‘It’s all right. Don’t get up yet – it is very early. I’m going out for a little while, to the mandir’ – and then her footsteps moved away from the door, fading until Jay couldn’t hear them any more.
She wanted to call her back.
She wanted her mother to come back and hold her and rock her and say, ‘Everything will be all right. Don’t worry. I’m here, Jaya.’ Her mother would never call her beti, her darling daughter, again. How could she, after what had happened?
It was too late to call her back. Her mum had gone to the temple to pray. And emptiness filled the space she had left behind.
The clock ticked loudly, punctuating every moment of silence as it approached ten o’clock. Time was moving on, leaving Jay stranded behind. Ten o’clock came and went. She heard the muffled vibration of her phone. She knew who it was. Matt. Her best friend, her soulmate and, recently, much more. But that would be history now.
Every few minutes, the phone vibrated again and again, but she could not answer his calls. She could not speak. The phone stopped ringing eventually. Complete silence descended once more. Another knock on the door. A loud rapping this time.
‘Jay? It’s Ash. Jay?’ He knocked insistently and Jay thought for a minute that he might just open the door and barge in. She held her breath. She’d forgotten that he’d offered to fit a bolt to her door. He’d thought he’d saved her, and then he’d gone up to bed. He didn’t know. No one knew about what had happened later.
After knocking on the door a few more times, he went away too. She didn’t call him back either. The bolt was useless now. Worthless.
Only when it got to midday did her brain begin to hum sluggishly, and she started to think – not about what had happened, because her brain would shut down even at the briefest image of it. But she thought about her mum, and how she did not want her mum to see her like this. She usually got back from the mandir around two o’clock.
Jay had to do something. She had to get up. She had to wash, clean herself up. Make herself look respectable for her mother. Make herself look as though nothing had happened to her. That was what she had to do.
And beyond that, her mind was a blank.
She pushed back the bedcovers and swung her legs out of bed, and fell back as the pain hit her. Everything hurt. Moving more slowly, she gingerly raised herself off the bed. Her legs shook so hard she had to hold on to the bedside table for support. She leaned heavily on it until the dizziness passed, her legs still trembling. Sobs tore through her clenched teeth as she forced herself to stand.
She did not want to look down, but her eyes went that way anyway. They made her look. They made her stare. They made her see the things she already knew were there. The things she did not want to see. The bruises, the dried blood and the sticky stuff on her legs. She moaned and then retched violently several times. There was enough to clean up without having to mop up sick too. She hobbled across the narrow space to the chest of drawers, picking her bathrobe up on the way. She fumbled with the knot, which her stiff fingers refused to tie, and caught sight of the four half-moon indentations etched deeply into each of her palms. As she stared at the perfect marks, her brain shut down once more. The room blurred, and she slumped against the chest of drawers and slid down to the ground. She curled up, hugging her knees to her chest, gently rocking herself.
Jay did not know how long she stayed like that.
She had to get up before the black void returned. She dragged herself up and gathered a pile of clean clothes. She paused at the door, making sure there was no one there, before stumbling across to the bathroom, weaving through the debris strewn across the wooden floor of the gym next to her basement room, and holding her breath against the sickening stench of stale alcohol. She stepped inside the bathroom and locked the door.
Jay dropped her clothes on the floor and switched the temperature gauge in the shower to its hottest setting. Soon the room was enveloped in steam. She removed her bathrobe and the remains of her pyjamas, and stepped under the scalding water. It burned her, but it didn’t take away the other pain. And emptying a bottle of shower gel didn’t make her feel any cleaner.
She tipped the contents of almost a whole bottle of Dettol on to her body, and put the rest on to a sponge and scoured her skin with it. Scoured each and every part of her body that hurt. She cried through all of it, not realizing she was crying until she’d stepped out of the shower and was standing in front of the mirror over the sink.
She wiped the steam away with one hand, the other steadying her on the sink so she did not fall, and she caught sight of her face. It was red raw from the hot water. Her right eye was bulging, the bruising livid shades of purple and black. Her lip was swollen and cut. Her eyes were empty. This was not Jay. This was someone else.
As she stared at the stranger in the mirror, her tears ran dry and the numbness returned. Jay put on her clothes and stumbled back to her room. And then she heard the murmur of voices from the garden. They were out there, the whole family, having lunch in the sunshine. She heard Aunty Vimala’s voice.
Then another voice spoke.
She covered her ears, but the muffled voices still made themselves heard. She didn’t want to hear them. She did not want to hear his voice. She couldn’t stay here. She had to get away. She had to leave.
Jay bundled a few clothes into a rucksack and found a baseball cap to hide beneath, but she had too much hair and it was dripping wet. She stood in front of her pink-heart mirror and tried dragging the hairbrush through it. Large droplets of water sprayed the air.
There were too many knots and no time. The rise and fall of the voices in the garden felt too close; she had to get away from them. She tugged the hairbrush harder, but her frustration made the long tangled mess worse and she began to cry. And then the brush was flying out of her hands straight at the mirror, hitting it with a crack. The mirror split in two, splintering the reflection of her face, a face she didn’t want to look at anyway because it was repulsive and grotesque.
The girl in the broken mirror was not Jay.