The walls have ears, they say. But if there was one thing Elizabeth knew, it was that the mirror had ears too. Ears that heard her every thought, understanding her words before they were ever out of her mouth.
Not just ears, it had eyes too — dark and soulful. They saw beyond her smooth face and delicate features. Eyes that were all-knowing. Eyes that, even now, could perceive her swirling thoughts, probing deeper into her mind like emotional tentacles.
They stared at her pain and glared at her in accusation.
Elizabeth turned away from the mirror, silently cursing the Phantom.
The Phantom wasn’t human.
The Phantom, as she called her reflection, was a hoax. A mask. A stranger of her own marvellous invention. The Phantom did it all — smiling, chatting amiably with others, conducting affairs, grinning on the pages of newspapers that she hated buying but did anyway…
In short, Phantom was the perfect woman. The perfect wife. The perfect daughter-in-law. The perfect hostess.
Elizabeth looked around her at her massive room. She had supervised the decoration, choosing a theme that screamed wealth. Red and gold. Mahogany wood. Velvet.
She turned again to the mirror, hoping she would see something else. Someone else. Maybe a hint of who she really was…
Who was she, anyway?
Who was she before…before…this?
Elizabeth shut her eyes, trying to remember.
Had she been a happy child, running around in glee, playing with her friends and siblings… by a lake, perhaps?
Or had she been a maid, gentle and obsequious, doing all that she was told without argument?
An only child?
“Stop it!” She screamed in frustration, eyes misty with tears. She had been trying for so long. So long…
She just wanted to remember who she was before being tossed into a world of affluence and perfectionism. Was that too much to ask?
Elizabeth heard the voice on the other side of the door. She cleared her throat. “What is it, Sarah?”
“Master would be home soon. May I come in to dress you for dinner?”
Ah. Dinner. The highlight of her day, Elizabeth thought dryly. Where she could sit, stiff and uncomfortable from the tightness of her corset, yet struggling to eat anyway. The servants would file in, serving course after course, as if they could eat it all. When she would stare at her husband seated on the opposite end and wonder why they had such a large dining table anyway. When the only words exchanged would be formal and noncommital.
Dinner was a glamorous affair.
“Be back in ten minutes.”
Elizabeth heard her scurry away and sighed in relief. Solitude was bliss.
Elizabeth stared at the mirror again. But this time, she saw nothing. She saw her life for what it was — an overt attempt at perfection — and knew the truth.
It was all an illusion.