Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Enjoy this beautiful and eloquent short story written by Mr. Sain’s former student from South Callaway High School in Mokane, MO. Please note this story was written by Ms. Hoover as an adult and after a few moons of experience.


Jessi Hoover, Guest Writer

Date day. They didn’t get enough of them, if Neil was being honest. Actually, he could just listen to his wife. Janey reminded him often they needed more dates. “You should never stop dating your wife,” she would say with a playful grin and a wink. Neil would roll his eyes, “yeah, yeah,” he would smirk and wave off her comment as though it were a fly. He wasn’t really annoyed with her, and she didn’t think he was but he also knew she was hinting at a date night. It had been a month. Maybe two…or was it three? Overdue. It was overdue. Today was date day though and he was looking forward to a whole day out of the house with his wife.

Neil had grabbed his khaki cargo shorts, a tad out of style maybe but they were in good shape, comfortable and there wasn’t a need for anything newer. He hadn’t needed a different size since high school and that was over ten years ago. Glancing at his shirts, he grabbed his Flash tee and pulled it over his head. His wife had gotten it for him a couple years ago for his birthday. He stepped into their shared bathroom to wet his thinning hair, brush his teeth and wipe his face with a hot rag. One more glance in the mirror and he was good to go! Stunningly average, as he liked to say.

Walking downstairs he could hear his wife taking care of their daughter. He found Janey in the kitchen making a row of peanut butter crackers for their daughter, Elliot. Janey’s hair was in a nest of a bun near the top of her head, her cheeks a bit rosy from rushing around getting things together for, well, all of them, and she was beautiful. Elly bounced around the kitchen singing along to the cartoons on the TV. Neil had a good life. It was in the everyday moments like this he could really appreciate just how good his life was. Janey finished putting together the crackers, handed them to Elliot, cleaned up the crumbs, put away the crackers and PB, wiped down the sink, got Elly water, kissed Neil on the cheek and finally headed up the stairs to get herself ready after straightening up the couch pillows, and grabbing Elly’s toys to take upstairs where they belonged.

Neil chatted with his five year old as she ate her snack and then herded her over to the neighbor’s. When he came back he could hear Janey still in their room. What could be taking so long? She hated to wear makeup, in fact she only wore it once a year for the Marine Corps Ball so “the photos didn’t wash out her face and she looked like a real live human,” as she would say. They only planned to grab lunch to go and then find a new place to hike anyway so how much getting ready could there be? He was curious so Neil went up the stairs to see what she was doing. The second to last step didn’t squeak like it usually did.

Janey didn’t know he was watching her. The angle of their bedroom door let him see into the room but she couldn’t see him leaning against the door frame. She was sitting in front of their dresser with the drawer holding all her shorts open and she was just staring. He couldn’t see her face but he could see her shoulders sag and not from poor posture. She ran a hand absently across her stomach and instinctively sat a little straighter but the hand resting on her belly must have sent a signal to her brain because she slouched in defeat once again. Neil could just see the jean shorts she had worn the last time they’d gone to a fair. She had looked amazing. She hadn’t worn those in awhile. He saw as she pulled a different pair of shorts out and held them up for inspection. He loved when she wore those ones. It really made him appreciate just how curvy she was built. But she only folded them and put them back.

Neil wasn’t sure why he didn’t make his presence known. Something made him hold back and just watch his wife, unfiltered and in a private moment that seemed all her own. She pulled out a few more pairs of shorts before settling on an older pair that were beginning to fray in the fold. She wore them often, they must be her favorite. She stood and pulled them on and he noticed she sucked in her stomach ever so slightly to get the button done. He’d never seen her do that before. Janey still hadn’t noticed him so he kept watching.

She slid open the next drawer to find a tank top to wear. Three rows of neatly folded and colorful tops to choose from and she went straight for the same ones she always wore. But her fingers hesitated, she ran them across the tops until she reached a dark pink razorback. She pulled it on and walked to the full length mirror. She stood straight up, shoulders back and chin tilted ever so gently and looked regal…even in an outfit meant for hiking. Her normally playful, bright eyes took on a serious, critical glaze as she scanned her body from top to bottom. She picked at the bun on her head and then slid her fingers under her chin, lifting some imaginary imperfection. Then she turned a little this way and a little that way, each time examining how her body looked with great poise and without. Neil wondered if she did, in fact, see him and was showing off for him.

But as she tore off the shirt and chose another from her drawer he realized that wasn’t the case. She looked flustered and hurt. Deflated and…sad. Neil ached to pull his beautiful wife in his arms but still, he held back. This shirt clung to her curves. He looked with her eyes as she repeated the ritual all over again. He followed her gaze as she held her hand against her hips and belly and only then noticed she was holding the little belly that rolled a tiny bit over the top of her pants into place. She pulled her pants a little higher, yanked the hems down and started her examination all over again only to go back and pick a different shirt. This one hugged nothing, flowing freely around her torso.

She walked into the bathroom next and began a new ritual. The different lighting changed her perspective. Janey again took a critical eye to herself. She looked at her own body, her face, the tell tale bulge of a bag under her eyes and the beginnings of…crinkles on the skin around her eyes, mouth and forehead. Neil remembered in that moment she had entered a new decade of life this year. The thirties. He saw this woman he found so beautiful, this industrious, independent and wonderfully capable woman, tear herself down, to pieces, defining herself by the imperfections that marked her human, mother, wife. He remembered her remark the other day, “when I was twenty pounds lighter,” and wondered if that was what she was thinking too.

Janey brushed her teeth. Re-did her bun and changed her clothes again. She trusted the near blinding light of the bathroom over the dim shine of the bedroom. Neil kept silent as he stood in the doorframe studying his wife. He’d never seen her so broken as he did watching her ready herself. Janey was always so careful to be positive about her body in front of their daughter. She was quick to quench his own insecurities, assuring him how how handsome he was to her. He didn’t understand how someone like that could treat herself like that. Janey heaved a sigh of frustration, trounced by her own mind and walked to leave the room.

Neil grinned at her with his sky blue eyes and the dimples she couldn’t resist and took her in his arms. He felt the softness of her curves, not the toned muscle and flat stomach he understood she longed for, but the gentleness that paired with her nature. He kissed the faint lines of her forehead and stroked her rosy cheek with the back of his fingers. “Ready?” He whispered to her. She shrugged, nodded her head and attempted a smile. Neil looked at her, truly seeing her for who she saw in herself. How could she not see what he saw? He walked her back into the bedroom. Lunch, the hike, leaving the house, that could wait. Janey needed to know just what he saw and he intended to erase every negative thought she had of herself…even if just for the next little while.