‘You have to close your eyes,’ Megan said. Smiling, Frankie closed her eyes and allowed Megan to lead her into the room.‘Okay,’ said Megan, ‘open!’
Frankie opened her eyes and stared. There, on her chest of drawers, propped against the wall, was a beautiful mirror. It was large in size – Frankie could see her and Megan’s full reflections from their thighs upwards – and it was framed in white marble, carved into the shapes of flowers and leaves, running down the side of the mirror.
‘It’s beautiful.’ Frankie ran her hand down the side of the mirror, pausing to feel the intricate carving of a flower. ‘Where did it come from?’
‘Gran sent it for you.’
‘All the way from France?’
‘Yep. She said as it’s your sixteenth birthday you deserved something special.’
Frankie shook her head. ‘It really is special. I love it.’ Then she caught site of Megan’s pouting reflection. She turned to her sister. ‘Megan, cheer up,’ she said softly. ‘I’m only going to be in the next room.’
‘I know, but I’ll miss you. I liked sharing a room.’
Frankie smiled. So did I. But I’m sixteen now, it’s about time I had my own room. Plus, you’re going to have so much space now. You were always saying I took up too much space.’
Megan grinned. ‘Yeah, well you did.’
Frankie laughed. ‘Why don’t you go and carry on moving your stuff around? Now I have this built in wardrobe it means you can have my old one to spread your clothes out.’
‘Okay, I’ll call you when it’s done.’ Cheerful again, Megan skipped off out of her room, leaving Frankie alone to admire her new mirror.
Frankie really thought it was beautiful. She stood and gazed at it: the glass, the marble, the flowers and foliage intertwining around the corners.
Inevitably, her eyes met their reflection in the centre of the glass. Her dark hair hung to her shoulders and her pale face stared back at her. She couldn’t get used to being sixteen. Her parents had insisted she move into her own bedroom. Frankie had found this change to be a good one, but what worried her was what other changes would be expected of her now that she wasn’t a child anymore.
Suddenly she noticed a spot of light in the reflection, just above her left shoulder. She turned around to see where it was coming from, but there was no sign of it in her room. She looked back to the mirror – the spot was still there. She tilted her head to one side, trying to think what was causing it. The spot was getting bigger; it was starting to obscure her face in the mirror. She narrowed her eyes. It was still growing. Afraid, she took a step back. She was about to call out for Megan when the light started to fade. Frankie stared; it was morphing into the shape of a face. It was becoming clearer; Frankie could see a face made of light, with angular features. The brightest light was emanating from its eyes. Just like the mirror, it was beautiful and, although it was strange, Frankie couldn’t pull her gaze away from it. A pair of full, strong lips were forming, reflecting the light in their pout. The light streaming from the mirror’s eyes became thinner, more focussed. He stared at Frankie.
‘Are you Frances?’ said the mirror. He had a soft voice.
‘I know you are. Your grandmother told me about you.’
Frankie could feel herself trembling. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out.
‘Come closer, girl,’ the mirror continued. ‘Let me see you.’
Frankie paused and then took one step forwards.
‘Oh dear.’ The mirror’s lip curled into a sneer. ‘She didn’t tell me you were ugly.’ He closed his eyes and turned his face away from Frankie. ‘You’re too ugly. Your face hurts me.’
Frankie watched as the mirror groaned. Light filled every part of the glass, making her shield her eyes with her hand. Then there was a loud cracking sound, and the light was gone.
‘Frankie?’ Megan ran into the room. ‘What was that noise? Are you ok?’
Frankie dropped her hand and stared at the mirror. A series of long, deep cracks had appeared from the edge of the glass and joined in the middle.
‘What happened to the mirror?’ Megan whispered.
Frankie shook her head. She couldn’t tell Megan the truth. ‘I don’t know.’
Two days later, Frankie was alone in her room. After the incident with the mirror she had covered it in a large piece of white cloth, mainly so that her mum wouldn’t see that it had cracked. She had managed to convince Megan to keep quiet about it, though she knew that twelve year olds weren’t very good at keeping secrets.
Frankie had thought a lot about what had happened. She had tried to reason with her memory of it. She knew that the mirror couldn’t really have spoken to her and she worried that she was going crazy. She decided to have another look at it.
Taking a deep breath, she reached up and pulled the cloth down from the mirror. It looked normal. It still had the beautiful frame with the flowers carved into the marble. It was also still cracked. Not wanting to get too close to it, she stretched her arm out and lightly touched the glass. She could see her reflection, heavily distorted, staring back at her. She shook her head.
‘What on earth did happen?’ she said.
She suddenly noticed something in her reflection. The spot of light was back, above her left shoulder. She swallowed hard, determined not to be afraid. It was just a mirror.
Just as before, the spot grew until it covered her reflection. She watched as the same face formed. It was distorted from the cracks but it was still the same beautiful face made of light.
The mirror’s eyes came into focus and his gaze settled on Frankie.
‘Oh it’s you again,’ the mirror said. ‘Are you not satisfied with what you did to me the last time?’
Frankie shook her head. ‘I don’t understand,’ she whispered.
‘You stupid girl,’ he snapped. ‘Your disgusting face made my glass crack. You’ve infected me with your ugliness.’
Frankie didn’t know what to say. ‘I… I’m sorry,’ she stammered. ‘Am I really that ugly?’
The mirror opened his mouth and laughed. He had the straightest teeth Frankie had ever seen.
‘Of course you are.’ He sneered as he looked her up and down. ‘I am surprised you didn’t already know that. You are ugly, and you are fat.’
Frankie’s vision blurred as her eyes filled with tears. He was right. She could see her round face and chubby limbs, and she wasn’t surprised that he was disgusted by her. She didn’t deserve such a beautiful mirror.
‘Do stop snivelling. Are you trying to break me even more?’ The mirror paused. ‘If you continue to break me, your mother will find out. Imagine how angry and disappointed she and your grandmother will be. Do you want to upset them?’
Frankie shook her head.
‘Your grandmother spent a lot of money sending me all the way over to here. What are you going to do?’
She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. ‘I don’t know what to do.’
The mirror smiled. ‘There is one way I can be mended and restored to my original beauty.’
‘I’ll do anything.’
He looked her in the eyes. ‘You need to become beautiful.’
Frankie looked at the floor, fighting the urge to cry again. ‘I can’t be beautiful. I’ve always looked like this. Mum says it’s just the way I am.’
‘Nonsense,’ the mirror spat. ‘You can be the most beautiful girl in the world. But you need to work at it.’
She looked back up at him. ‘How?’
He smiled. ‘You need to complete three tasks. Listen carefully.’
Frankie sat down on her bed. ‘Please tell me.’
‘You are a fat whale. This is the first thing you need to change. From this day onwards you must not eat. You will take up running every day and skip as many meals as you can. If you have to eat with your family then eat some, but then you must go to the bathroom straight afterwards, push your fingers as far down your throat as you can, and get rid of it all. This is vital to being beautiful.’ He paused. ‘Do you understand?’
Frankie nodded. It made perfect sense.
‘Good,’ he continued. ‘Once you have started losing that repulsive weight you will need new clothes. You will also need make up to cover your strange pale skin. If you have designer clothes and make up, you may become beautiful.’
‘Won’t that be expensive? I don’t have any money,’ Frankie said.
‘Your mum has a job doesn’t she?’
‘Yes, but only as a cleaner. Also, she wouldn’t let me spend money on those things. She’d say it’s a waste.’
‘You will take the money secretly. Think of it as a loan, Francis. Once you are beautiful you will be rich and you will be able to return every cent.’
Frankie swallowed. ‘What’s the third task?’
‘You need to grow up.’ The mirror emphasized the last two words, as though speaking to a small child. ‘No more hanging around with that baby sister of yours. It’s pathetic. You need proper friends and you need to behave like an adult.’
‘But I love Megan,’ Frankie said quietly. ‘She’s my best friend.’
The mirror shook his head. ‘Pathetic,’ he repeated. ‘If you want to be beautiful, this is what you have to do. These tasks will take time to complete. Visit me every Sunday, to show me how you are progressing.’
The next morning Frankie woke up early, going over everything that the mirror had said the night before. She must do the three tasks her has asked of her. If she was able to complete them then she would no longer be ugly and the mirror would no longer be broken.
She got out of bed and got ready for school. Even though her stomach was growling, she went without breakfast. She and Megan walked to the bus stop.
‘Will you sit with me on the bus?’ Megan asked her.
‘No,’ Frankie replied.
‘But you always sit with me on a Monday and help me with my maths.’
Frankie was irritated. It was hard to be short with Megan, but she needed to back off. ‘Not anymore,’ she said.
‘Frankie, what’s wrong?’
Frankie could hear the hurt in her sister’s voice. Still, she had to follow through with what she agreed. She said nothing.
‘Have I upset you?’ Megan said.
‘No,’ Frankie snapped. ‘I’m just sick of you following me around all the time.’
Megan didn’t reply. Frankie stepped up onto the bus and sat near the middle. She missed sitting with Megan, especially as she didn’t have anyone else to sit with. She could see Megan sitting on her own at the front of the bus.
The following Sunday, Frankie pulled the cloth down from the mirror and waited for the face to appear. She was nervous about what he would say about her progress. She looked at her reflection in the cracked glass. She tilted her head to one side: she looked even paler than usual. Her eyes were dark and sullen. She looked sad. Soon the familiar spot of light appeared, and grew into the voice she both loved and dreaded.
‘Well, Frances, what a pleasant surprise.’ He smiled at her. ‘You look thinner.’
She nodded. ‘I’ve lost three pounds.’
‘Good. Any problems?’
‘My mum noticed I wasn’t eating, and has started watching me. So I’ve had to be sick a lot afterwards. It hurts my throat and yesterday it even bled.’
‘That just means it’s working,’ he replied.
‘You haven’t got the new clothes or make up yet,’ he said, suddenly sharp. ‘I told you to get them.’
‘I know.’ Frankie looked down. ‘But I just don’t know how. My mum doesn’t have that kind of money in her purse.’
‘There are other ways. Does she have a credit card?’
‘Then that is your answer.’ The mirror filled with light and then returned to normal.
Frankie covered the mirror with its cloth. Then she crept out of her bedroom and down the stairs. She could hear her mum and Megan in the lounge, laughing at some TV show. She snuck past the door and through to the kitchen where her mum’s purse was on the table. Quickly, she retrieved the credit card and replaced the purse. Then she hurried back up to her bedroom and turned on her laptop.
The following Sunday, Frankie leaned on her window sill, looking out at the rain. It had been pouring all day, preventing her from going running.
She uncovered the mirror. Almost as soon as she had stepped back the face appeared.
‘Hello, Frances,’ the mirror said. ‘What is your news this week?’
She pointed down at her jeans. ‘I bought these on the internet.’
‘Very good,’ he said, ‘and I can see you are wearing make-up. This is very good progress indeed.’
He smiled at her, and opened his mouth. Light spilled from his mouth, making Frankie flinch. The light filled the room and when it faded, the cracks in the glass were gone.
‘Well done, you have restored my beauty,’ the mirror said. ‘I am grateful to you.’
‘Don’t thank me,’ Frankie said. ‘I was the reason you broke. My face was to blame.’
The mirror chuckled. ‘No, Frances. I only said that to make you realise what a mess you were, and that you needed to change.’
Frankie stared at him. ‘I didn’t break you?’
‘No, of course not, you stupid girl.’
She frowned. ‘I have made myself ill, I’ve stolen from my mother and I’ve ruined the best friendship I’ve ever had. Do you know, Megan won’t even speak to me now? And it was all for nothing.’
‘Not nothing,’ the mirror spat. ‘Look at yourself now. You are a hundred times better than when I met you. I have made you beautiful and you should be grateful.’
Frankie shook her head. ‘I never wanted any of this. If this is what it takes to be beautiful I’m not interested.’
‘How dare you?’ The mirror’s voice was suddenly deep. ‘You will stay the way I have made you, and you will continue to strive to make us both perfect.’
She stepped forward and, with both hands, lifted the mirror up. She turned around and threw it to the floor. The mirror’s face twisted and groaned, and smashed into an infinite number of pieces.