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Becoming Her

The Face in the Mirror

By Aariel GalloPublished 2 months ago 18 min read

The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own. The moment we set foot in this building and I had seen it, something about it had been off. Looking now at the face that was smirking back at me, I knew I had been right.

One week ago, we had come through the front door, sweating and lugging large suitcases stacked with smaller bags on top of them, tied on with any type of cord or fastener we could find. When we made it up the stairs to our tiny, but beautiful new apartment and shoved open the squeaky, over painted door. We’d plopped ourselves down on the sofa, looking triumphant.

It was Tasha’s idea to move to Paris for the summer. I would never have dreamed of doing something like that on my own.

“Let’s do it Em. This is our best chance. Next semester we will have to crack down on our studies, so if we don’t have fun now, we may as well give up and call ourselves middle-aged.”

I’d met Tasha our senior year of high school. We’d been the only two girls who didn’t have a best friend built into our social lives at that point, and so we took in our mutual awkwardness and decided that we could live with it. Even though she could be anti-social like me, she had the desire for real adventure. I liked the concept, but the actuality scared me off. She was better with boys, too. She turned heads with just a toss of her long, shiny dark hair when she walked into a room. Her dark eyes had a twinkle of mischief and an air of mystery. Plus, she had amazing skin.

I might be jealous if it weren’t for the fact that she was my best friend. She was the funniest, kindest and coolest person I knew, especially since most of her the time she was content just hanging out with me.


Emma. The boring one.

I knew that people called me that behind my back. Tasha assured me they didn’t, but it was no good. I’d heard one of the rudest boys in our high school say it to his group of guys at a party not too long ago. We were all in college now, so you would think that it wouldn’t matter the same way.

I was too embarrassed to tell Tasha I heard them. She would have gotten in their faces about it. I hated confrontation, so I just cried a little about it later.

Here in Paris, weeks later, we looked at the tiny place that would be our home for the next two months and grinned at each other.

“Well, roomie?” Tasha said. “Still not sure if this was a good idea?”

“It’s so tiny…” I replied.

“Oh, come off it. It’s gorgeous. Just look at the view.”

She ran to the narrow windows that ran from floor to ceiling in sets of two. Outside, we could see the daytime bustle of the city of lights, as well as the twin building across the street with its nine floors of apartments and the tower of a small cathedral on the street glimmered. How could I deny this was a magical place? I was more excited than I had thought to be here.

“Okay,” I told her. “It’s incredible.”

Tasha laughed, which was just as magical, and then we toured the rest of the small space. Everything was very well thought out, and they used all the space for a purpose. The enormous bed in the single bedroom was a Murphy bed, and there was a folding, roll-out desk that stored underneath it flat when it was a bed. The surrounding bookshelves had quaint travel books about Europe and France, along with art books. There were a couple of statues, tiny replicas of famous sculptures such as Rodin’s the Kiss and Venus de Milo. They made the place feel more touristy, but I didn’t mind.

There was another bed that folded out in the living room, out of the couch. We made a deal to swap use of the bedroom week on/week off to be fair. I’d drawn the short straw for the first week out in the living room. As we walked around and noted the tiny bathroom shower and separate room with a toilet, I saw the mirror.

It was the size of a large picture on the wall, and framed in a rich metal filagree. Above the center of the frame was the bronze face of a cherub staring down with blank eyes that seemed hollow, even though they bulged outwards.

The moment my eyes landed on it, I stopped, unable to look or move away.

“What an ugly mirror,” Tasha said, propping her arm on me. “Looks like an antique.”

“Yeah,” I muttered. I couldn’t explain why, but it unnerved me. I stared at my reflection on its somewhat muted surface. My face didn’t look… right. In fact, my eyes, which were blue, appeared to be dark, almost black.

I blinked.

I knew I must be tired, so I said nothing. I didn’t want Tasha to think I was going to complain about every little thing.

I should have said something, because now it’s too late.


The morning after we moved in, Tasha woke me up with the smell of fresh pancakes she was making in the kitchenette. We had gone shopping at the local neighborhood store the previous evening.

“Bonjour, sleepyhead!” She greeted me as I sat at the tiny glass table near the windows in an alcove near the front door.

I was in no mood to say a full on “bonjour” so I mumbled something like “buncha” in return.

“You are so not a morning person,” she sighed while setting down a plate for me.

This was true. I wasn’t, however I was happy to have some breakfast to help the situation.

“Well, I’m off,” Tasha told me suddenly. She grabbed her handbag and checked herself in that hideous mirror.

Her statement worked better than coffee.

“What? Where are you going?”

Tasha a smile on her lips. “Okay, you’ll think I’m crazy, but I’m meeting up with that French immersion club I joined last year. We planned to go to the Louvre today and speak nothing but French with each other. It will be a great way to start out my summer here.”

Her summer here. Not our summer, but hers.

I felt a sharp pain in my sternum. It burned and made my heart skip.

“Oh,” I said.

She looked contrite after that. “Oh, come on, Em. I know you don’t care about that. You want to go out to restaurants with me later, not go speak French and look at boring art! So not your thing.”

She was right, but it didn’t matter. I felt abandoned in a foreign country. We’d only just gotten there.

I couldn’t say all that, though. I would never say that. I would not be made into the clingy friend. I felt that way enough as it was.

I shook my head and took a breath, pasting a smile on my face. “Of course. I’ll meet up with you later. No worries.”

She gave me a smile. Her outfit looked incredible. She was dressed to impress, and she knew it. Black, pleated leather skirt, cute sneakers (mandatory for walking in Paris), black and white checked silk blouse, and a stylish black felt hat with a medium brim that she wore set back from her face, her dark fringe framing her tanned complexion.

“Alright,” she let out a huff. “Later.”

I was alone in the small apartment.

The silence and the strangeness seemed to settle like smoke in the room. I ate a few bites of the pancakes and then found that I wasn’t that hungry after all. Rather than have her find the remnants in the trash bin, I decided to take them out to the trash chute. I was wearing my oversized sleep shirt, but I didn’t think anyone would be out in the hallway at this time of day.

I opened the front door and stepped out, leaving it open behind me and scanned the hall for the trash chute. It was about ten steps away, so I hopped out, and quickly ran to the chute, opened the door, tossed the bag of pancakes into the darkness, and slammed it shut again. I dashed back to the apartment door, only to find it had swung closed. I tried the latch.


I sighed.

Well, perfect, I thought. Of course, these things happen to you when you have practically no clothes on and don’t have your phone. Just when I was wondering how long it would take Tasha to tour the Louvre and get back, I heard a voice downstairs. Someone was talking to someone at the ground level.

I decided it was now or never. Maybe I could borrow a phone.

I padded quickly down the stairs and into the entryway of the building. No one was in sight.

I didn’t want to open the door out onto the street, but I felt that maybe I should see if someone not the street could help, when I heard a strange noise behind me. It was a scratching noise, and I jumped a mile in the air.

“Pardon,” an elderly woman said. She swept the floor, looking me over with slight disapproval. “As-tu besoin d’aide? Do you need help?” she asked.

“Ah, oui,” I admitted. “I’m locked out of my apartment. Do you have the keys?”

She stared at me like I was insane. Then her eyebrows lifted, and she nodded, looking as though she was taking a great burden on herself, she said “Come with me,” and began walking up the stairs, clearly unhappy to be doing so.

It seemed being silent was the best course, so I followed mutely until we reached my door. I did not know how she knew which one was mine, except perhaps she must know that some English girls rent the room the other day. I supposed she was the caretaker. She unlocked the door and warned me sternly not to leave without a key.

“I promise I won’t,” I told her. Then I saw her look. It was one of genuine concern. She peered into the apartment and I swore her eyes went straight for the mirror.

I turned to look at it and then swung my head back to see her scuttling away, faster than she had done when she had come up the stairs.

I shrugged. As I closed the door and went to go shower and dress, I felt strange. It almost felt like I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the door had closed on purpose, and as I came out of the shower clean and dressed, I couldn’t help but avoid looking at the mirror. It felt that somehow, if I did, I knew I would see something I didn’t want to see.


Dinner that night was nice. Tasha and I went to a charming little cafe and then drank more wine than was advisable with our decadent meal. I was stuffed to the brim, so we went walking along the Seine to stretch out and work off some of the rich food.

“I can’t believe we are really here,” Tasha nearly shouted, spinning around on the cobblestone walkway that bordered the river. Passersby ignored her. Everyone was in their own world as the sun set in Paris. The lights and the smells and the sounds were very intoxicating. Everything seemed more fascinating. I felt like spinning right along with Tasha, but given the amount of wine I’d had, my head was already feeling dizzy.

“I know. It’s pretty great,” I confessed. Even the experience of being locked out of the apartment couldn’t dampen my spirits. I didn’t wanted to tell Tasha about it. I was way too embarrassed to say anything.

“Now you get it,” Tasha embraced me, pulling me along on our walk until we were strolling arm-and-arm. “That’s why we came. To really feel alive. To get the hell out of England for once in our lives.”

I grinned. It was just great to be here. Away from that mirror.

We walked for miles and miles and finally got too tired to go on. Tasha was trying to insist that we figure out how to take the metro, since according to her French club, it was super easy. We couldn’t even find the station entrance to get to the train we needed to take back to our apartment.

I was getting annoyed, but also couldn’t help feel a bit relieved. I didn’t really want to go back. I couldn’t wait for my week in the bedroom.

“Ok, fine, let’s get an Uber,” Tasha sighed when we still couldn’t find the metro entrance. Her phone died, so I ordered it for us.

On the ride back, Tasha sleepily leaned her soft head on my shoulder. Looking perfect, even in her drunken, exhausted state. She made it look so easy, being pretty and cool and not having a care in the world. She never would have locked herself out of her own apartment, not in a million years. Or if she did, she would make it into a funny story - something to tell at parties to crack people up and make her quirkiness into a strength.

I just felt pathetic.

“Emma,” she murmured, eyes still closed. “I feel so lucky to have you.”

I smiled. She let out a snore.

“It’s me who’s lucky,” I told her.


“Nothing. We’re almost home.”


“You’re going out again?”

I couldn’t understand it. This was the third day in a row that Tasha had spent with her French club. It was like she couldn’t be bothered to spend any time with me.

I wanted to ask her why she even bothered moving here with me if she didn’t want to be around me, but I was too afraid to. Too afraid that the answer would be that she had only needed someone to help split the cost of living with her.

“I’ll be back later,” she assured me. She smiled fondly, her red lipstick highlighting just how appealing that smile was.

“Fine,” I told her, turning back to my book. I knew I was pouting, but I didn’t care.

It was worse that she didn’t even notice, didn’t even sigh. She just waltzed on out, too happy to see other friends to think about me.

It was that day that I heard it. The voice.

At first I thought I was hearing neighbors. I poked my head out and everything was silent.

The voice was soft, but very clear. Still, I couldn’t understand what it was saying, or where it was coming from.

No radio was on. No television. My phone was silent. Zero messages, which was typical these days. It used to chime constantly with messages from Tasha.

The voice came again, sibilant but with a menacing command.


I strode around the room, trying to find the source.


I almost given up when I walked past it; the mirror.

The voice came again, silky smooth into my ears.

It wasn’t possible.

I gazed up at the weird cherub's face, its eyes meeting mine, and my stomach gave a churn.

“What the hell…” I said. My hand reached up to touch the face, and that was when I noticed the reflection. “What the hell?” I repeated, but my tone was different, full of shock. I did not look like myself. My hair, my eyes, all transformed in the reflection. Mousy brown hair was now black. My eyes were dark, with a look of terror in them. As I looked at myself, my skin began changing from my lightly freckled pallor to the smooth, perfect tan glow I always dreamed of.

This couldn’t be real.

My mouth changed into a shape that curved pleasantly, full and soft.

This wasn’t me in the mirror.

“Devenir elle,” the mirror whispered.


“Do you want to hang out today?” Tasha asked me in the morning.

I was stunned by the question. “No French club?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I have to go run an errand for Gregoire, but after that, I’m free.” She grinned.

I was glad she hadn’t noticed the way I had run to the mirror that morning. She was such an early riser, already making coffee. I had woken up with a feeling of dread and a need to see my face. The reflection showed my normal, Emma-esque face wide-eyed, staring back at me.

“Sure. That’d be great.”

She gave me a look, noticing my lack of enthusiasm.

“Listen,” she said. “I know I’ve been busy, and I’m sorry. I promise to be a better roomie.”

Roomie. Not friend.

“It’s ok. No worries.” Emma, forever a doormat.

She grinned. “Great. Then I’ll see you at noon.” She rushed out, forgetting her coffee in her hurry.

Well, maybe this was something, I thought. Maybe it would be more like old times if she just put in the effort and I just was patient with her. That whole thing with the mirror was probably just my subconscious telling me I was having issues, which was not news to me.

I took a long shower and put on a fun outfit, hoping we would go out on the town again, maybe do something touristy together for once, like go to the Eiffel Tower. That might be fun. At least we could make some memories.

Noon came and went. Tasha didn’t come back. I looked at my phone, staring at it and willing it to ring or for a text to pop up.


I texted her:

“Hey, are you coming home?”

Twenty minutes went by. I was getting mad. Finally, a text lit up my phone.

“Sorry, got caught up. Yes! I will be home soon xx”

I felt a sigh of relief go through me. She would not ditch me. Still, why didn’t she let me know before now? I felt stupid, sitting there waiting for her.

An hour later, I heard her keys in the door. It opened, and she tumbled in.

“Finally…” I began, and then I saw she wasn’t alone. A young guy came in behind her and shut the door.

They were speaking French to each other, and she was clearly explaining who I was to him. I guess she hadn’t told him she had a roommate.

“Nice to meet you,” he said. He had a French accent.

“This is Gregoire,” Tasha explained, as if it was enough.

“Oh,” I said, stunned. What the hell? She’d promised we would have time together. I could feel anger bubbling up inside of me. My throat felt tight. I could hardly speak. “That’s great.”

I thought she would notice my tone, but she didn’t. She smiled, too used to my complacency to hear the difference.

They walked toward the bedroom.

“Wait,” I said automatically.

They paused, looking back at me.

“It’s my turn for the bedroom. It’s my week.” How could she not remember?

Tasha blinked. “Oh, come on Em.” She gave me a meaningful look, tilting her head toward Gregoire, their need for privacy clear.

I didn’t give a shit.

“It’s my turn.” I could hardly believe the words were still coming out of my mouth.

The look Tasha gave me was one I had never seen on her perfect face before. It was an ugly look. She continued to look at me like that for a minute and then smiled, a wide, uncomfortable smile.

She turned around and walked right into the bedroom. Gregoire gave me a sheepish shrug and followed her. The door shut behind them.

All I could see at that moment was red. I wanted to scream, or throw something or bang on the door and demand they get out. How could she be so unfair, so uncaring? My Tasha had never been this way before. The sting of betrayal spread in my chest until I was clutching it as though I were in physical pain.

It felt like actual pain.

I clenched my teeth and felt tears pouring down my face.

Then I heard it.

“Devenir elle…”

My tears stopped. I looked up at the mirror. The cherub smiled down.

“What?” I asked.

“Devenir elle.” The voice was a caress on my cheek. I put my hand there. As I did, my eyes went to my reflection.

The face looking back at me was not my own. It was a lovely face, vibrant, framed by dark hair. I reached out to feel the cold glass on my fingertips.

“Devenir elle…”

I stared into the eyes that I had admired many times, envying their mischievous beauty.

I heard a scream come from the bedroom. Gregoire suddenly bolted out of the door. He looked at me and did a double-take back to the bedroom, which was wide open. I saw Tasha’s leg sticking out on the floor.

“You…” he gasped. He said nothing else, but ran to the apartment door. It closed behind him with a click.

Slowly, I walked towards the open bedroom door. I pushed it all the way back and walked in.

There she was, on the ground - Tasha. She was as lovely as ever except…her face was as grey and dried as a husk. She wasn’t moving. I went closer. She wasn’t breathing. I bent down and felt her chest. She had no heartbeat.

I stood up and walked over to her purse, examining the contents. Phone, wallet, condoms, powder and… her lipstick. I took out the shining rose gold tube and put the purse back on the bedside table.

I walked out of the bedroom, stepping over the body and went straight to the mirror.

The mirror.

It beckoned me, and I was not afraid anymore. I opened the tube of lipstick and gave it a twist. The exquisite red emerged. Carefully, I set it on my lips and applied a generous coat, squeezed them together and then scrutinized the pout on the face in the mirror.

Tasha’s face.

“Devenir elle.” Become her.

My red lips spread into a wide, pretty smile.


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