Hey you ‘Looking Glass of no Return’! Do you really know my future? Can you show me all the things I want to do in life? Will it all happen before I’m 30? 

I look at myself, covered with acne, pale in spring from studying too long. The cat is dishevelled through eating poisonous cat food mum makes him eat. I see my messy bedroom. Shoes and glitter all over the carpet, spilt mascara, spilt beer.  I try to cover it up with clothes and jewellery. Cigarette butts I hide in the ashtray under my bed.  My mum hasn’t noticed I smoke. I don’t really, only when I’m drinking. The cat, Jaspar, never sits with them. He keeps me company, makes my life more bearable. Maybe I’ll end up taking him away from the torture chamber to the beautiful palace to live with Princess Belle. How about that Kitty? 

I’m staring at the Looking Glass, the kind Alice had. I wonder if it really does have magic powers like the gypsy said, or is it just another scam? I could have had a henna tattoo instead. There’s something different about it. I want to know that one day I’ll be out of here, living my own life, doing things my way. If I had more money, if it wasn’t for the studying or the debts…’if’ isn’t a word that goes away easily. Why not just look at it anyway…

She held the small mirror on its pink and jade stick, with her long spindly, artistic fingers. She watched her face grow into different shapes, moving like those pictures on Youtube when someone takes a photo of their face every day for a year. She watched and felt mesmerised.  This was even better than Youtube! ‘You’re crazy!’ she heard herself say to her suspicious mind. ‘What makes you think a 22 year old can look into a mirror and see herself 10 or 20 years into the future just cos some Gypsy Storyteller told her it would?’

Her mind drifted back, ‘Must have been daydreaming.’  She put an old chipped finger-nail into her mouth and bit some of it off. Waiting every evening for Him to come home, put his feet up and blow his bongo after a couple of pints. Nearly time now. Waiting for her to cook his disgusting dinner of lamb’s legs or pig’s insides and hear him afterwards grunt like a pig and shout at someone… usually her. ‘Where’s my charger? Belle have you got it? Are you festering away up there with your study books as usual? Get a life girl!’

Almost time now, her freedom hours slipping away rapidly, not that it was ever really freedom, just more free than when he…

The door slammed open (if that was possible). She felt on edge, the feeling that she had to be on guard. Felt her body tense up, muscles close in. Her teeth clenched in her mouth and her stomach ached and churned. It was like the aftermath of a shock, as if it could spontaneously bring on her bleeding, and if she didn’t remember to breathe properly she wouldn’t breathe at all. It was like being snared in a trap; a wild animal caught and losing its life forever, trapped in a zoo for the rest of its life, out of the wild…out of life.

She clutched onto the sacred object, suddenly seeing it as sacred, a mirror that would take her to the future and give her hope. What if it didn’t give her hope? What if she died before she was 30? Would she be trapped forever? She had to change her thoughts. She scrambled under the bed for her last roll up, picked it up then threw it away again. ‘Don’t want to end up like you dad!’

It was as if he heard her thoughts. ‘What’s that girl of mine doing? Stuck with a book inside her head again?’ His footsteps roared up the stairs towards her room. She could almost smell the booze on his breath already. Quickly she hid the sacred object under the bed. ‘Take me outside. Take me to a park!’ She heard it speak. Did she really hear it say something? Was the mirror talking?

He was in there as usual without knocking. ‘What a bloody mess!’ She saw his fist like a dagger, as if he would dig it into her at any moment. ‘I just got one word for you Belle – rubbish tip! Clear it up or you’re barred all weekend.’ She felt the lump in her throat getting bigger, wanting to cry, shout or scream. She couldn’t utter a word. ‘Got no voice on you?’

‘I’m 22 Dad. How can you bar me?’ She muttered in a croaked voice. 

‘It’s my bloody house girl and I’ll decide what you can and can’t do so clear this junk up now!’

‘And I’ll report you to the bloody child protection agency!’ she thought out loud in her head, wondering if there was an equivalent for 22 year olds. She was too scared now, tiny little child in an adult body, too scared to do anything but tidy her room. 

He left. He wanted a brandy and a forced kiss from his slave wife. She waved her arms at his invisible footprints, threw a plastic bottle at the door and whispered ‘fuck off!’ Her mum was too scared of him and her brother just did drugs but at least he’d escaped into his own bedsit.

She rocked herself backwards and forwards on the messy floor unable to stop the steady trickle of sweaty tears. ‘This life’ she moaned. ‘This life will take me to my death.’ She had thought about it many times – get a bottle of aspirin.  There were enough drugs in this place. She could just do it one night and escape. Get away to the land of heaven and be done with this miserable existence. ‘Then they’d be sorry! Then they’d see what they’d done to me. Or would they?’ If it wasn’t for her art work she’d do it, put an end to it all. ‘I’d never get to exhibit, be a famous artist. I’ll bloody show you one day dad! I’ll show you…and maybe, maybe that looking glass will show me…unless I’m destined to be a dead artist by 30…’ 

The mirror stirred again. ‘Take me Belle, take me outside…’ it was a kind of murmuring, a mutter from an inanimate object, but a sacred magical object. Anything was possible. She saw that in art. A picture could be 3 dimensional. It could look like it was a real world or a photo. Her art was about chaos, the chaos of her life. Her tutors loved her work. It was what kept her going – old battered cars on fire with minstrels playing trumpets inside the flames; coffee cups turned upside down with liquid caught in mid air hurling over people’s heads in a crowd. Or flowers with magical faces screaming at everyone to leave them alone and then squirting them with fairy spray. 

Anything was possible in art. She would be the best fine artist in Europe one day. That was what she would be. But she wanted the mirror to prove that to her, to show her it was really possible. Her tutor, Stuart Montgomery, said she could do it. He had high hopes for her. ‘One day’, he said, ‘you could reach millions with your paintings.’  She wanted to believe him. Someone had to believe in her, someone had to love her in some way, even if it was just for the love of her paintings…

There was that murmur again, a voice from under the bed. The mirror speaks. They always say that to girls. But she had a special mirror. It wanted to go outside. She had to get out before her dad came out of the kitchen. She pulled her cotton jacket from the hook on the door and grabbed her woollen flowery bag. She was off with her sacred object, the mirror that spoke. Nothing else mattered in her life for this nanosecond in time. She trod stealthily downstairs clutching onto her bag and her heart. The door clicked as she shut it firmly behind her then ran as fast as she could to the park.

Instantly she was in a more beautiful, harmonious world; a scene of colour and vibrancy. Spring time didn’t exist inside the house. It was a dark winter that lingered on forever. A robin called her and she followed as it flew towards the pond. Elegant white swans floated along like majestic beings with their own special secrets. Squawking ducks played at being under and above the water. She wished she was a bird or a duck, instead of being the ugly duckling in an alien family. She’d left the roll ups in her bedroom.  She didn’t need them here. Her heart was warming, slowing down its pace, feeling safe. The voice underneath her arm pit spoke again ‘Take me to the trees. Watch and listen. I have much to tell you…’

She hurried towards the birch trees, becoming more and more intrigued by the speaking mirror. No people here though several families around the pond. ‘Take me in your left hand and press the play button’. It was acting like a DVD player ! A button suddenly appeared, ‘Backwards or forwards?’ a voice asked politely.

 ‘Take me to my year of success!’ she asserted slamming down the forward play button. ‘You have asked and so you shall be shown. Only an advanced soul would make such a request.’

She waited, smelling blossom and daffodils, sitting on the soft earth beneath nature’s shelter. She watched mesmerised by the spinning mirror, taking her on a journey through time and space like a magical video camera. Sensations in her stomach and throat made her feel woozy and unsteady. She clutched onto the bark of a tree. She was travelling in space, riding on the back of a mirror to her future self. It was better than drugs. She was an astronaut, cosmologist and computer programmer making her life into a whole new programme. This was better than a helter skelter or roller coaster. This was bigger and brighter than anything she had ever known before. She felt it in every cell of her body. 

The picture began to appear but not one she recognised. There were big letters at the top of the mirror video: ‘YOU ARE 50’. There was a slim woman, dark skinned, wearing a white and pink sari. Around her sat many people of all nationalities. There were pictures of the woman on every wall. She was decked in flower garlands and a bindi over her third eye. She was surrounded by beautiful paintings of deities. Belle knew something about India. She had always wanted to go there. ‘But where am I in this?’ She asked impatiently. 

‘You are in your rightful place my child. Do you not see who you are looking at?’

Belle laughed. ‘Are you telling me this spiritual woman is me?!’

‘You have asked to see yourself at your year of success.’

‘Then you lie mirror because I do not see myself. How did I become this woman then? Tell me!’ The mirror sighed and spoke once more.

‘You connected to the divine and asked for help and healing. You went through a long process during your lifetime. Rewind a bit and ask to see this. Belle closed her eyes this time and asked God to show her the absolute truth and pressed rewind.

She was shown a series of scenes. In one she appeared to be taking an overdose, then a hospital scene and drugs being pumped out of her. A rehab centre for heroin addicts where she looked deathly pale and weak. Then a scene in a kind of temple where she was working in a garden, eating simple vegetarian food and being looked after. She saw herself praying daily, calling out for help.

Finally she saw herself in a beautiful healing sanctuary where an Indian woman was placing her hands over her, repeating a mantra and playing sacred Tibetan bowls. Suddenly a moment of complete understanding swept over her.  ‘I know who I am mirror. I understand now! I’m a spiritual artist. I will paint the great masters and saints. I will paint beauty and be revered for it. But now that I’ve seen all this, will something change?’

‘Yes Belle, you will change because you know who you are and you will get to your destination quicker now. Put me away and get on with the rest of your life!’

The mirror did not speak again.  It just became a mirror. Maybe people can get addicted to looking at themselves in the future. Maybe there are things we are not meant to know. The mirror would always be magical in Belle’s eyes though and she never forgot who she was. She consulted with many angels on her life path because somehow she believed there may have been an angel inside that mirror…