She rose unnoticed from the couch and approached the mirror slowly. The woman who looked back at her was so nicely plump and softly curvy that she had to smile. As Daffodil raised her hands she watched the woman in the mirror do the same, smoothing them over her belly and hips, reaching around to the small of her back, a motion which revealed the outlines of muscles in her shoulders and arms. Her skin was a dark amber color like maple syrup, slightly lighter on her palms, slightly darker on her nipples. She was struck by its loveliness. Though she had seen her own color before simply by looking down at herself, she had never noticed how unique it was, how it separated her from the inanimate objects around her, how it glowed as if lit from within. She had never seen herself as so obviously alive.
Fascinated she moved even closer to the mirror, now studying her face. Her hair was short and glossy black, curling a little around her ears. Her eyes picked up the gold light spilling from above and became almost honey-colored. Her features were strong and well-defined, but her plumpness gave them delicacy. Her mouth was a sweet, vulnerable strawberry.
She put her hands on her cheeks in an almost comical way, as if she were surprised about something. She was, however, merely trying to ascertain that her face actually felt on the outside like the thing she felt it was on the inside. She could see it, true enough, but there was a connection between seeing it and identifying with it that she had not yet made. Her own face had suddenly become unfamiliar. It was very disconcerting. A wave of mild dizziness struck her and she turned quickly away from the mirror. Perhaps this line of philosophical exploration would be better left until after she’d eaten.
When she turned, Aster was standing near the couch. He had several items of clothing draped in an orderly pile over one arm and was in the process of transferring them one by one to a rolling metal rack. He saw her face and immediately laid the remaining clothes on the arm of the couch.
“Oh, my dear, you look pale,” he said, crossing quickly to her. He took one of her hands. “Come sit down.”
But Daffodil found that she did not want to run away from this mystery after all. Still holding Aster’s hand, she turned back to the mirror instead and looked hard at their two reflections.
“What is it? What do you see?” asked Aster.
“I just … I didn’t know what I look like,” she replied uncertainly.
“You’re not displeased, are you?” His tone was subdued and serious, perhaps because of her paleness. Her eyes were a little starey, too, peering out from sockets that had become dark only in the last minute. He resisted the urge to touch her face, to smooth some color back into her cheeks, to wipe away the confusion that crouched on her brow. Instead, he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it warmly. “Tell me what troubles you,” he said.
Daffodil watched him kiss her hand in the mirror. He looked just like himself. She could feel his touch and see it at the same time, but she still felt as though a connection was not being made somewhere. She still didn’t accept that the woman in the mirror was her.
“I don’t look like I feel,” she said, a little surer this time. She reached forward and touched the image of her own splayed fingers. It was cold and hard. “I don’t know what I thought I looked like before this, but I didn’t expect … I just thought I looked different.”
Her shell shocked gaze met Aster-in-the-mirror’s eyes and she wondered if that meant Daffodil-in-the-mirror was seeing the real Aster. Existence seemed to lurch around her. “Uh-oh,” she said softly and that wave of dizziness, stronger this time, made her sway backward.
Aster caught her deftly with his free hand and pulled her in close to steady her. Despite his concern, he noticed how wonderfully she fit in his embrace, her smooth brown shoulders, her face in the hollow under his chin. For one stunning moment he felt her breath on his neck. Such a small, delightful intimacy! He sighed and began to draw her towards the couch.
“I think what you need,” he said, “is a little something sweet. You’d be surprised what a bit of chocolate can do for your equilibrium.”
They sat down, Daffodil still nestled in the crook of Aster’s arm. He doodled a finger in the air over the gold foil box for a moment and then selected a plain piece of dark chocolate.
“Try this, blossom,” he said and offered it to her on an open palm.
She picked it up and, after inhaling its rich, complex aroma, popped it in her mouth. It began to melt right away and her senses seemed to brighten, the pall of her uncertainty lifting before its mighty sweetness, its smoky, somehow opaque flavor. Aster was gratified when she pulled back from him, eyes wide and alive again, lips smacking noisily. “That’s great!” she exclaimed.
“Indeed,” he replied. “Feeling better?”
She nodded vigorously, her eyes already searching the box. “Can I have another one?”
Aster watched as she mimicked his earlier doodling gesture. She seemed about to choose another dark slab of chocolate and then settled instead on a translucent pink lozenge, the color of cotton candy.
“What’s this?” she asked and before he could answer she popped it in her mouth and began to chew. The crunching sound filled her head, drowning out his eventual reply, and the taste of a perfectly ripe strawberry filled her mouth. “Mmm!”
Aster smiled. Now that Daffodil had lost that off-balance look he had recovered some of his expansive good humor. He looked about for his handkerchief, discovered it sticking up from between the couch cushions and offered it once again with a flourish.
“Well then, my sweet-munching flower queen, if you’ve refreshed yourself sufficiently, there are some lovely things here that may improve your relationship with the mirror.”
Daffodil paused, looking dubious, her hand frozen inches away from the handkerchief. Her eyes flicked nervously toward the mirror and then back to Aster. “Maybe I could just try them on for you and you could tell me what looks best,” she said.
Aster felt the beginnings of another blush creeping around his collar, but would not let his facade crumble again. He was familiar with his own strange power to put people at ease, had cultivated it quite diligently in fact, and he had never wanted to use it more than now. He took a deep breath, mustered his most confident tone, his most serene expression, and said, “I would be honored.”
Picture Credit – lightstargod