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The Girl in the Mirror
I barely made it into the bathroom and locked the door before the sob that had been building up in my throat burst out of me like a balloon. I quickly grabbed the hand towel hanging on the thin railing opposite the toilet and pressed it hard against my nose and mouth to stifle the loudness of it. Tears bloomed out of my eyes, blurring my vision. I stood there in front of my mirror, my shoulders shaking. When my sobs died down I grabbed a bunch of toilet paper and cleaned up the grossness that had come out of my nose. Then I looked in the mirror. I looked in the mirror and I saw a girl. And this girl smiled, but this was not a comforting smile, no, this was a taunting smile, and it was very cold. I stared weakly at this girl in the mirror.
“You poor dumb fool,” she said mockingly, “You think you’re smart? You poor thing.” she shook her head at me with a smirk on her face.
I spoke but my voice was weak from crying.
“I tried!” I cried, a sob starting to come out again,”I studied hard and really tried!” Once again my shoulders shook and once again I pressed my face into the hand towel. “Well clearly you didn’t try hard enough! You’re so dumb! Look at Akash, he gets A’s on almost everything! Why can’t you be like that, huh?”
At this point I was crying so hard into the towel that it was becoming impossible to breathe and as I took the towel away from my face I heard loud footsteps coming down the hallway, getting louder and louder. I froze, recognizing these as my brothers footsteps. I looked at the girl in the mirror, but she was gone, and all I saw was my own face, tear soaked and looking awful. I quickly flushed the toilet to make it seem like I had actually used the bathroom, and then started to splash water on my face.
BOOM! BOOM! My brother pounded on the bathroom with his huge fists.
I wiped my face, checked to make sure that there was no evidence that I had had any sort of crying episode and whipped the door open to glare right back into the eyes of my evil twin, Akash. Akash had everything I wanted. The perfect grades, the good looks, and most of all, our father’s pride. Everything I have done in the past and do today is to make him feel love and pride for his daughter, but many of these things I didn’t do very well either. I always managed to trip over my feet in tennis, always made the crows fall of the telephone poles when singing in a choir, and piano lessons were just a total disaster. Then there’s Akash who has always had the spotlight shining on him. It’s always Akash this! and Akash that! And he just soaks it all in and later rubs it in my face. I know that if our mom was alive she would be at my side no matter what. And in that moment as I stood glaring at my brother, again I felt hot tears of anger on the verge of spilling out , but there absolutely no way I was going to cry in front of Akash. So I turned away from him, stomped down the hall, my fingers curling into fists.
“Being a crybaby again?” Akash snickered.
I avoided answering, as if I had I would have probably cursed at him three different languages (english, hindi, and spanish, because why not?) and that would not have been good, because then I ran straight into my dad. He stood at the end of the hallway, blocking the entrance to my bedroom.
“Hi dad,” I said in a small voice.
He just looked at me with that same expressionless look, which meant that he had already found out my test score. I sighed.
“I’m sorry dad, I-,” I started to say, but he cut me off.
“I don’t want to hear it Navya.” My mouth turned completely dry and I kept my eyes focused on a dark part of our wood floor, my eyes tracing the vague shape of the darkness. Over and over again.
“You need to try harder, and focus more. You cannot be getting scores that are so low.”
“You don’t understand anything!” I silently screamed at him in my head.
“I want better scores from you in the future, and if you need help, you can ask Akash.”
Yeah right, like I was ever going to ask him for help. That would be a nightmare. With that ended conversation I went round him and locked myself in my room.
The next week at school, once again dread filled me as our Chemistry teacher, Ms. Tarren passed back our chemistry quizzes.
“How do you think you did?” my best friend, Amrita asked me in a fearful whisper.
I just shook my head, assuming the worst.
As soon as I got my quiz, I quickly stuffed it into the depths of my backpack, not bothering to see what I got. Amrita, on the other hand, looked at her’s with a grin on her face.
“I actually didn’t do too bad! I got a B+!,” she said with relief. In that moment, Akash came up behind us. I ignored him and started copying the homework down that was written on the board. He came to my side and whispered,”What Navya, failed again? I wouldn’t be surprised. Dad won’t be too happy will he?” And he waved his own quiz in front of my eyes. A solid 100% shone on the top, written in sparkly gold ink.
I would’ve punched the life out of him but at that second the bell rang, and Akash smirked at me one more time and then joined his friends. As soon as I got out of the class, I burst into tears, and ran into the nearest bathroom with Amrita behind me calling my name. Anger bubbled inside me and I had the greatest urge to smash something. I stood hunched over the disgusting bathroom sink and again found myself looking at the girl in the mirror.
“You are so stupid! Why do you even bother trying when you know that you’ll fail?” she said with my brother’s identical smirk on her face. “You aren’t smart, just face it. You’ll never be as smart as Akash. Never.”
I sobbed and sobbed, just feeling completely useless, and unable to stop. Amrita came in looking concerned and I collapsed against her as she pulled me in for a hug. After I quieted down, I cleaned up my face and we went to our usual eating spot in front of some trees.
“I don’t know what to do Amrita,” I said, my voice a little shaky.
She looked at me with sympathy and said softly,”Is it because of your dad?”
“Yes, and I just can’t put up with Akash anymore and when my dad finds out about the Chem quiz I’ll be in so much trouble, and I just…,” I let out a sigh of frustration and covered my face with my hands,” I just don’t know what to do.”
She ate her nutella sandwich and stared off into the distance.
“You can’t be beating yourself up like this Navya,” she said finally,” Your dad doesn’t see how hard you study and how much effort you put into everything. He doesn’t have the right to yell at you.”
I laced my fingers together, and nodded. Maybe she was right.
Amrita suddenly got up and packed up all her things. “I forgot! I have to go to my creative writing club! Do you want to come?”
I gave her a small smile,” No you go, maybe some other time.” I felt like I needed some time to myself.
She smiled sadly at me. Hoisting her backpack on her shoulders, she said quickly,”Navya I’ll bring you the prompt that we get after school! I think it will help you to write everything down. And who knows? Maybe you have a hidden talent for writing!”
I laughed,”Maybe!” Maybe I would be able to prove the girl in the mirror that she was wrong about me. And maybe dad too.
After school, Amrita gave me a prompt from her club.
“Just try it out. I know you will love this and you will thank me for getting you to do this later!” she said very enthusiastically,”And also we are entering a writing competition, so you can enter a story if you want. And guess what? If you win, you’ll get $1000 and a little medal!”
I grinned and shook my head,”Slow down, I’ve never even written a story before!”
My best friend just smiled and said,”We’ll see!”
When I got home, I got out the story prompt. I read it, and I started to write. An hour later, I was finished and actually I was pretty proud of myself. And Amrita was right, it did make me feel a lot better. I wrote about my personal experience of being the dumb twin and having a parent who I always desired attention from. I wrote this, putting all my anger, frustration, and desperation I had felt my entire life of living in my brother’s shadow. And most of all, I wrote about my enemy, the girl in the mirror, how many times she had provoked me and pushed me further and further away from who I was and what I was truly capable of doing. When I gave it to Amrita to read the next day, she looked at me with her mouth open, looking awed.
“What? Is it bad?,”I demanded, wondering if I had overdone my story.
Amrita just shook her head and stared at my story, and then looked at me again.
Finally she said,”Navya, I’m entering this in the competition. This is amazing! I had no idea you could write this well!”
I hesitated,”I don’t know about the competition, but-”
Amrita gave me a full on “you don’t know what you’re talking about” look and I decided not to say anymore. The next week, I was staring at my story, and looking at the big beautiful red ribbon pinned to the top and became dumbstruck as Amrita pressed an envelope into my hand that said,”Check of $1000.”
I looked at her, not knowing how in the world I won, and her jumping around me like a crazy person.
She stopped and seized my arm,”Navya you have to show your dad when you get home!”
“Oh, I don’t know about that..” I said trailing off, wondering how dad would react to this. I hadn’t even told him that I had entered this competition. But it so happened that he saw it without me showing it to him.
I left it on the kitchen counter, and when I came back, I heard an alarming sound. It was my dad yelling. But not at me, at Akash. When was the last time Akash had been yelled at? I started to back away, as this opportunity would probably come once in my lifetime, but it also stopped me. True, it was nice to see Akash getting in trouble for a change, but I also felt some pity, because after all, he was my brother. So I walked in, seeing dad purple in the face, and Akash looking ashamed of himself, it was a beautiful site to see.
“Hey dad, so I entered a writing competition last week and I actually won it, so if you want to read my story, you’re welcome. Same goes for you Akash,” I said casually,”Oh, and I also won $1000.” And I left, hearing absolute silence afterwards. When I came back into the kitchen, my dad was holding my story in his hands and when he looked up, he had tears in his eyes.”
I froze, completely taken back. My dad was crying?
He sniffed, looked at my story, and looked at me with sadness and shame in his eyes.
“Navya… I’ve been such a horrible father..I had no idea,”He said in a small voice. I just stood there, still shocked. I stepped closer.
“I’m...so so sorry. I just had no idea,” dad shook his head.
My eyes started filling up with tears.
“Can you forgive me?” he asked with a hopeful tint in his voice. I started crying and I rush forward and he wrapped me up in a bear hug. After a moment he said,”You know, you’re mother used to write stories all the time.”
I looked at him with wide eyes,”Really?”
He smiled and stroked my hair,”Really. I’m pretty sure that’s where the talent came from. Certainly not from me. I’m very proud of you beta.”
I laughed, and laughed even more as Akash came in and took in the scene.
“What’s going on?,” he asked, totally confused. And for an answer, dad went over to him with me and pulled him into the bear hug as well.
Later, when I went into my room, there was a small book lying on my bed. Curiously, I sat down and opened it and was shocked to see it say,”To my beloved daughter Navya, from mom. There is a little something I wanted to say to you before I passed on to my other life. When I was your age,school and studies were impossibly difficult for me, but I loved to write. And when I see you, an adorable 4 year old, I know that you’ve inherited my talent. I love hearing the stories you make up on the spot, and I really hope you will continue to share stories with your own children when you’re older. Navya I really hope you don’t go through the same thing I did in high school, struggling to do well but not quite succeeding, but if you do, know that you aren’t alone. I will always be there beside you to hold your hand and we will struggle and succeed together. Goodbye my love and I’m very sorry that I can’t be there to watch you and Akash grow up and learn.”
“Your mother told me to give that to you when you were at the right age,”dad said from my bedroom door.
I felt like I couldn’t talk, so I just gave a small smile and nodded and with that he left, hopefully to yell at Akash some more.
Right then, I marched to the bathroom, and when I looked into the mirror, I saw myself. The girl from whom I had endured so much struggle, helpless, and defeat was now gone and instead there was me, shining with pride.
And I spoke to this girl once more.”Sure, I might not be as smart as Akash, but guess what? I’m never alone, I’ll never be alone, and I will succeed.” And I did.
Poughkeepsie, New York
Green Bay, Wisconsin
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