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Mirror Mirror in the Box

A journey in finding the beauty in YOU

By A. L. BenwarePublished 2 months ago 10 min read
Mirror Mirror in the Box
Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash


The sound startled me from the (finally) comfortable position I had found in the corner of the couch. I look around my empty house in a panic before realizing the sound had to have come from outside the front door. With a hand clutching my chest as though I was somehow keeping my rapidly beating heart from jumping out of the skin there, I opened the door to which I saw a lone box. I heard the faint buzzing of the drone that had likely dropped off the mysterious package.

I didn't remember ordering anything, but then again those late night, anxiety driven shopping sprees had a tendency of catching up with me. I looked down at the perfectly square, sleek white box and sighed when I saw it was addressed to me with no return address. Usually, the culprit of such a thing was the consequence of another birthday that some family member bought in a frenzy of remembering my existence.

I picked up the mystery parcel, which was quite light for it's size, and moved it to sit atop the dining room table. Grabbing the nearest sharp object (in this case a fingernail file) I ripped the tape, flipped open the cardboard flaps, and stared down into dark chasm the box to I was looking at myself and the dining room light above my head. It was a mirror, no note, not slip; just simply a mirror. A mirror that showed the dark rings that had formed under my eyes after yet another night of fitful non-sleep.

With shaky hands I carefully lifted the reflective panel out of the box and realized that it truly was just a panel. There was no fancy border or filigree, and when I flipped it over I noticed a bright blue sticky note much like the ones I stick on the wall by the door so I can remind myself I need keys on a daily basis. Scribbled in handwriting that might as well have been as familar as my own, read:

You are now participating in a date night game. I doubt things will rhyme, but follow the rules and we'll be at dinner in no time- HA I did it! Love, your not-so-secret-admirer. P.S. I have nothing clever to say here, but your next clue will be near the only place where the smell of burnt hair is acceptable.

My hand playfully connected with my forehead as I chuckled and placed the mirror gently on the table. There were so many things in this life I could plan for, but my husband was never one of them. I cleaned up the trash from the box and made my way up the stairs to the main bathroom.

The cluttered remains of our last night out littered the counter and it was quite clear a tiny human girl had gotten into one of my bright red lipsticks due to the smears on the inside of the sink bowl. The tiny blue corner of a sticky note was just visible through the carnage of make up and beauty tools.

This torture-looking device reminds me of when we first moved in together, how you would spend hours trying to get the springy-est curls, but you never thought they were curly enough. I did. You are beautiful. Use this thing and then go to the dresser for your next clue.

I smiled and looked up to see my reflection again, this time the one lining the bathroom counter. In it I saw the slightest bit of silver creeping into my now flattening curls. As I waited for the curling iron to heat up and that famed burnt hair smell filled the room, memories of duct taped liquor boxes full of my meager means flooded my mind.

I could see my husband, handsome as ever, laughing at me as I attempted to carry four boxes up the three flights of stairs to avoid yet another trip up the cursed things. The sneer on my face in response had made him laugh harder as he unburdened me from two of the boxes and carried them the rest of the way to his small apartment. Our small apartment. I swear I could still smell the mildew-y, floral wallpaper that had loved separating itself from the wall in the kitchen/laundry room.

I slid my hair into the clamp of the curler as I thought about the cranky old neighbors, the drunken all-nighters during the summer, and the day of graduation when we had moved out all those boxes of our life we had worked so hard to get in there. I looked in the mirror again and smiled at the freshened up result of my work. Over the years I had gotten so much faster with the curls as it was my go-to style for our date nights and the less effort, the better. I smiled at the curls and the grays I had worked so hard to earn as I made my way to our bedroom for my next clue that had been stuck directly on the dresser mirror.

This is where we first looked at ourselves as husband and wife. Never have I ever made a better decision in my life. You were worried about falling out of the top of your dress. I surely wasn't. In the first drawer is an outfit I think you'll remember well. Put it and what I think is your favorite make up on and walk out back to where I famously fell. (I rhymed TWICE here in case you didn't notice)

I smiled at his note remembering how that dress squeezed every part of me and I swore if my chest didn't bust out of the top of it my rear end surely would. I opened the drawer and my eyes widened at the velvet "little black dress" that I doubt would be anywhere near decent for me to wear now that I had child bearing hips and a couple extra pounds to shove in. When I picked up the dress my favorite eyeliner and bright berry lipstick rolled into view. He really did know me so well. I smeared the makeup on my eyes and lips and shimmied into the now only slightly tighter fitting dress and my eyes hesitated to look at my reflection. As I crammed my feet into a pair of black flats when I caught my own eye.

When was the last time I dressed up? The last time I wore this dress in public was at a fancy hotel dinner party for my company at least 15 years ago due to a lack of finding a dress in my size. That was only the second time I wore it. The first was one of our first dates where he had whisked me off to New York to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. He had bought this dress when I was drooling over it in a random store window along with elbow length black gloves to match. We were much less than wealthy and I had hated him spending the money on me, but I cherished that dress. It was my prized possession which was why I was so scared to wear it again lest anything happen to it and shattering the good memory.

I gingerly slid the straps onto my shoulders now that my shoes were on and I wasn't worried about snapping them and was amazed to find that I actually filled out the dress...better. Those hips our children had given me filled the fabric out in a decadently salacious way and thoughts of pin up model bodies flashed through my mind. I looked...amazing? I actually looked and felt simply amazing. The smile I saw in the mirror was one I had thought to be long gone. I was beaming.

I headed down the stairs before I could think of all the ugly criticisms about my appearance and went to the den. I shook my head at the mirror with the little blue square smack dab in the middle of it. I threw my head back and cackled at the fall he was referencing. It had happened when he hung that mirror much too high and slipped on the ladder causing his foot to become stuck in a rung and him hanging upside down like a big, pathetic bat. We had laughed until we cried and he insisted on kissing me Spider-Man style just because he wanted to know what it felt like and honestly when would he ever get another chance? Still smiling, I plucked the little blue note off the mirror and smiled at his signature chicken-scratch handwriting.

"We are nearing the end of this side quest, my dear. This will be your last clue, though it won't be hard to figure out. Grab your purse and be ready to go before you meet me in my most favorite place on earth."

I rolled my eyes and saw to my small needs and got myself ready to go to this mystery date. He knew surprises like this made me unbelievably anxious, but when I looked at the mirror again I was still smiling. Time had truly gotten away from me over the years and I forgot how much I enjoyed getting dolled up or even looking at myself. The days of playing with my babies and showing them their chubby, giggling little faces in the mirror were long gone, now replaced with running to the sport or club event of the day.

I grabbed my purse and double checked that the door was locked before making my way to our garage. On any given day I would find my husband painting model figures or fiddling with some other crafting venture at his desk in the garage. I think I'll always be able to smell the glue in there, but I've never been able to figure out if I find it irritating or think of it fondly. Maybe it's both. I was always glad he had something for himself even though I myself struggled so hard in finding an identity to do with anything other than being a wife, mother, or a slave to capitalism.

I pushed the door open to find that the garage was pitch black. Before I could say a word only a few of the lights turned on, illuminating one specific point in the room; my husband and what looked to be the mirror that hung on the back of our closet door. He was smiling his same, always beaming, always beautiful smile as I started towards him. He reached out to me and I could feel the buzz of excitement shoot down through my toes when our skin brushed. I realized I was smiling in the mirror as he handed me one last blue note.

"I will never find the words to be able to describe how beautiful you are, so for our anniversary this year, I decided to try and get you to see what I see every single day. Beauty, strength, awe. I wanted you to know that I always see you, I'm never just looking. I am so lucky to call you mine. One last request, my dear, look into the mirror one more time. Tell me what you see."

Tears welled and slid down my cheeks and I did as he had requested. I saw all those memories we shared, the way my body had changed since the last time I felt beautiful, I saw him putting a hand on my shoulder because he knew I was overwhelmed with this mysterious, unbelievably heartfelt gift. I turned and hugged him tightly before turning back to the mirror and admiring who I saw staring back at me; smiling back at me.

"What do you see, dear?" he whispered in my ear as I choked back a sob.



About the Creator

A. L. Benware

I wrote my first poem in second grade, I had my poetry published in an anthology when I was 15 and now I think I have the beginnings of my first(-ish) novel in the works. My mind constantly builds worlds and stories that I hope to share!

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