Mist hung over the lake in a heavy cloud, writhing and swirling like a living being over the cool water and darting in and out of the surrounding trees. Grandmother stood on the balcony, wind yanking at her straggling silver hair and fiery eyes looking out, beyond the horizon. Her black dress and laced hat wrinkled slightly in the breeze, echoing the lines on her haggard face.
He had been spent. He’d had a wonderful life, looking at him was like looking in a mirror.
Grandmother looked down at the curved metal railing, and at the taut skin on her claw-like hands.
“Perhaps that was why I loved him so much.”
Her voice cracked as she spoke, a million and one thoughts croaking out in that one sentence, a million and one regrets. She remembered herself.
A tall young woman, caramel hair soft and flowing, down over her shoulders and flicking up and out at her hips, like a silken waterfall. Her nose lay dainty and perfect in her face, and her flaming golden eyes stood proudly out in her sparkling china skin. She wore green dresses, knee-length and fluttering as she walked with her head held high, proudly showing herself to the world.
She truly was a beautiful young woman.
Grandmother shocked herself when her heels turned her around, back to face the door of the balcony. Her bedroom was beyond it, and inside her bedroom, a patterned curtain draped over something. In the corner, just a curtain. The curtain was thick, flowery patterns wearing away over time, yet the sheet had been untouched for years.
Grandmother found herself in her bedroom. She faced the curtain.
“I am beautiful.”
Like a mantra, she repeated it again. Her skin felt rough and tired, loose and frail to the touch of anyone but herself. She held her own hand and all she felt was warmth and softness. She always has been the young woman, sprightly and free, and ever so beautiful. And she always will be.
But she caught up. A breeze came in through the open door and her heart thumped itself along in its tired way. She heard the warmth leak out of her body and seep into the world around her. As she breathed in, she struggled for air – the air she did get tasted stale and overused.
The mirror hid under the curtain, begging for light.
Grandmother steeled herself.
In 40 years she had not once seen her own reflection. In 40 years she was still the most beautiful young woman in the world. She had not changed in 40 years – she wasn’t sure whether she had managed to convince herself of it yet. If she thought she was young and beautiful, would she not be?
Her son was her own reflection. He was like her, and his passing at 25 left him preserved forever in his beauty.
She loved him, for she loved herself.
She loved herself.
“I am beautiful.” She said, and tore away the curtain.