This tale is based on a tweet that read
If only mirrors reflected our souls,
instead of our skin.
If only mirrors reflected our souls, instead of our skin.
— C.G.Ayling (@CGAyling) December 15, 2013
Chapter 1. The Mirror of Souls.
Paris’ shrill scream slashed through the mansion.
All too familiar with her mistress’s unpredictable mood swings, Maria hoisted the skirts of her maid’s dress high and ran. Her sprinting feet made no sound on the solid oak floors. She had chosen her sneakers for the silence of their synthetic soles and because they left no marks on antique hardwood flooring. She slowed her frantic pace as she neared the room in which Paris habitually took her breakfast. She knew that the slightest squeak would enrage Paris further.
Two deeply drawn breaths served to slow her heart and a few quick flicks of her hands to straighten her dress. A smile brought the appearance of a calm she could not feel. Maria stole a hasty glance at her watch – 3 p.m. Surprisingly early for Paris to rise.
Face serene, Maria opened the parlor door and stepped into the hurricane. A quick glance at her mistress gauged Paris’ mood. Bad. Very bad.
Lips pinched bloodless, Paris glared at her personal maid, “Daddy told me you approached him about a RAISE!”
Paris’ words chilled Maria as completely as crushed ice bathed in venom.
Maria swallowed. A throat suddenly tight with fear prevented her answering. Keeping her eyes downcast, she nodded.
“You stupid, worthless Mexican bitch!” hissed Paris. “Don’t you know daddy’s time is too important to waste on trash like you?”
Still unable to speak, Maria shook her head, and kept her eyes down. Feeling the trembling in her hands, she clasped them together in front of her and prayed she looked obedient.
Maria’s silence seemed to enrage Paris. After an incoherent moment Paris stamped a slippered foot and screamed, “Don’t try your cute shit with me you fucking whore! And look at me when I’m talking to you!”
A cruel smile of satisfaction creased Paris’ lips as Maria’s head jerked, revealing eyes wide in fright. Paris lowered her voice and ground her words through clenched teeth, “You goddam illegals are all the same. You come here begging for work, you claim skills you don’t have, and you expect us to pay you while you learn.”
Scorn curled Paris’ lip into a sneer, “How many of my dresses have you ruined with your stupidity? Any one of them was worth ten of you! Then, as soon as you can perform the simplest of tasks without fucking them up you start pleading about your starving family back home in Meh-he-co.”
From the glint in Paris’ eye, and the exaggerated emphasis on her last sentence, it was obvious she intended insult to both Maria’s family and to Maria’s Mexican homeland.
Paris paused a moment while she glared at Maria as if daring the maid to defend herself.
Maria lowered her eyes to prevent Paris from seeing the outrage building in her heart.
“Look at me, bitch!” Paris said more as a hiss than a sentence.
With insolent slowness, Maria lifted fire-filled eyes and met Paris’ glare.
Paris looked away first.
After a few seconds, Paris shook her head. Her voice suddenly turned all honey and cream, “So you’ve got some spunk after all. Okay then, time for a new game plan. This is how it’s going to be. Or you’re gone!”
Paris eyes gleamed at the surprise that flickered in Maria’s eyes. She continued speaking in the same sugary sweet, smooth voice, “You’re a good Catholic girl, aren’t you?”
A puzzled frown appeared for an instant before Maria smoothed it away and nodded.
Paris continued, “Well so am I, and I’m on the pill, so you will be too.”
Maria shook her head.
Voice matter-of-fact , Paris said, “Maria, Maria, Maria… It’s for your own protection, really. I mean, if you refuse I’ll have no option but to call Immigration and tell them I’ve discovered you’re an undocumented illegal. We can’t protect you if they come and ask for you. You’ll be locked up, and probably knocked up before they finalize the paperwork for your extradition to Mexico. We both know how overworked ICE is, don’t we?” Paris deliberately paused as she gauged Maria’s mood, “ICE, sort of a cold name for Immigration Customs and Enforcement, but if fits doesn’t it?” A grimace of distaste passed over her face, “I mean, you could be inside for months. And while you’re inside, who knows how many will be inside you… You know what those holding camps are like.”
Though clasped tight, Maria felt her hands quiver along with her knees. She pressed her lips together, composed herself, and murmured, “But why?”
A victorious smile flashed onto Paris’ face, “Because daddy likes you and I’ve seen the way you look at him.”
Maria shook her head in denial and opened her mouth to speak.
Paris lifted a hand to silence Maria. As Maria’s mouth close, Paris continued, voice a little softer, “I’m not saying anything is going to happen… But if it does, well, things could get bad for you. Unless, of course, you’re protected. We all want to protect you, don’t we?”
As Maria nodded as she felt a tear glide down her cheek. She swallowed and looked down without answering.
Paris spoke, voice once more businesslike, “That’s better. I think we have an understanding. I hope we have an understanding?” Paris’ emphasis on the last sentence made it a question that demanded an answer.
Without looking up, Maria nodded again. Hot shame flushed her face.
“Good, good. Make an appointment with my doctor today, they’ll send the results of your blood work to me. Provided everything checks out we’ll keep on as though none of this ever happened, won’t we?”
Again, Maria nodded.
“Great. Oh, and since we have an understanding I’ll be increasing your wages from minimum to…” A pause as Paris made a rough calculation, “…let’s say two hundred dollars a day. Tax free, with room and board thrown in. I don’t know why I’m so generous. Oh well, I always do what I say, so that’s it then.”
Acknowledging the dismissal, and fully understanding the veiled threat Paris’ words carried, Maria curtsied and began turning to leave.
Paris halted the maid’s departure by saying, “Oh, there are more perks I almost forgot to mention! You’ll be getting free medical, dental and vision care as well! That means you’ll be getting monthly physicals from my personal physician, he’ll take care of anything we need. Now come and give me a massage, my shoulders feel so tight.”
Without waiting for a response, Paris turned and walked to the table where she sat down and rolled her shoulders.
Shaky knees slowed Maria as she walked behind Paris. She began to knead the muscles on Paris’ slender shoulders and neck, taking special care to be gentle.
After a couple of minutes Paris said, “Speaking of doctors, I have a checkup myself this afternoon, so I’ll brief Mike when I see him. Mike’s fingers are as gentle as yours so don’t worry about the exam, you’ll probably enjoy it. I know I do.” With an anticipatory sigh she continued, “Your first appointment will be tomorrow morning at nine, that’ll give you time to finish daddy’s breakfast. How in God’s name daddy can get up that early I just don’t know.”
Maria continued the soft circular motions of her hands without speaking. Paris didn’t like anyone except her friends speaking unless in direct response to an order.
After another minute, Paris shrugged to indicate the massage was over, “I’ll have my usual breakfast and another cup of coffee.”
Silent, Maria padded to the door. As she opened it Paris grunted. She stopped, watching the knuckles of her hand turn white as she clenched the door handle.
“I almost forgot. I’m expecting a delivery this afternoon – a gorgeous antique mirror I found in Sotheby’s latest catalog. I got it for a steal, only two million pounds, don’t know how much that is in real money, but who cares? I just loved the frame! As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it! I don’t really care about the mirror, so I’ll probably trash it and have a portrait of me put into the frame instead. It had such a cute Spanish name, what was it again?”
Standing, Paris pointed toward a spot on the wall, “I want them to mount it over there.” She snorted in derision, “Because of some stupid superstitious hype it has a canvas cover that only the new owner is supposed to remove. I don’t care about any of that crap, and I don’t want to look at a dusty old mirror, or get antique dust all over me. So as soon as they leave I want you to remove the cover and polish the mirror. I guess I may as well see myself in it before I decide if I should keep it.” Paris laughed in delight, “God, I’m so smart! I just remembered the name of the stupid old thing and I don’t even speak Spanish! It’s called El Spejo de las Almas, whatever that means.”
At mention of the legendary name a wave of fear flooded Maria. An instant later gooseflesh raced up her spine. Foreboding stayed with her as she turned to give Paris the English translation.
A pang of hunger hit Paris as Maria open her mouth to speak. Paris shook her head abruptly, “I don’t care what it means in English! I’m sure it sounds prettier in Spanish! Go on! Hurry up with my breakfast.”
Obediently, Maria turned away, left the parlor, and silently closed the door behind her. She managed a few quick steps down the hallway before her trembling knees forced her to lean against the wall for support. Another chill wave cascaded up her spine as she murmured the English translation aloud, “The Mirror of Souls…”
Memories from her earliest childhood rushed into her mind. Rapturous tales from her great grandfather about their noble heritage, along with his loving assurances that she truly was a princess, in not only nature, but also in blood. A real princess… she had all but forgotten those memories.
Could this truly be El Spejo de las Almas, the very same Mirror of Souls from which her most ancient Spanish ancestors had fled almost five hundred years earlier?
Surely it couldn’t be…
Or could it?
Will I continue with this work and take you into a world where a mirror shows you who you truly are, instead of the skin deep surface other people see? Honestly, I doubt it as I simply don’t have the time. But I do hope this premise makes you reflect on exactly what you’d see were you to gaze into such a device. Would it change your life, and make you flee? If so, what changes might you make to improve the image you see reflected in the Mirror of Your Soul?
I’d like to acknowledge the expert editing assistance lent me by Beth Seville, a wonderful person I met on Twitter. If you enjoy dealing with genuinely nice peaople, send a message to @GeneralMom. You may tell her @CGAyling recommended her if you wish, but there is no need.