);

CATOPTROMANCY by Anne Gresham

You’re too old for this game, even though you’re too young for the ugly words your friends are hissing about you behind your back.

You’d rather be anywhere else right now than crowded into Jessica McCall’s bathroom, but your parents are friends with hers. They said you had to go to this sleepover, and so here you are. 

The air is heavy with Noxema and hairspray, and the counter is littered with half-empty cherry lip gloss tubes, eye shadow experiments, and dollar store nail polish. Just like you and every other giggling preteen crowded in front of the mirror, Jessica is trying to figure all this shit out too. 

You’re thinking about that when Molly flips off the lights. You’re all working so hard to be pretty, to be cool. None of you make these new rules, or even know what they are, but you’re all killing yourselves trying to play by them. 

You’re tired, and you want to go home.

Still, in spite of yourself, you chant along with the others: “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.”

Somebody snickers and whispers. You hear your name. You know they’re talking about what Nick Pierson told everyone. How you let him finger you even though you were on your period behind the field house last night. 

You didn’t. All you did was laugh when he tried to kiss you.  

You weren’t trying to be mean. You just didn’t expect it. He’d turned so red. You felt terrible. 

At least that’s what you remember. But after hearing about it all day long, you’re suddenly not so sure.

Now everyone knows better than to get caught being nice to you. You’re something dangerous, something untouchable, something somehow not the same as you were when you woke up this morning.

You find yourself wanting to believe in the childhood demon you’re trying to summon. If she appears, you’ll have permission to believe in a world beyond junior high, a world of terror and magic where your sole responsibility is to bear witness, where no one will care what happened behind the field house anymore.

In the instant before Molly turns the light back on, your friends all forget how deep puberty’s teeth have sunk. They hold their breath like excitedly frightened little girls.

But not you. You realize with a jolt of disappointment and rage that you know something about monsters and mirrors your friends haven’t figured out yet.

You’ve learned that monsters really do come when they’re called. Worse, you’ll be locked in a miserable battle with the one you’ll see when you catch your reflection for a very long, very unfair time.

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