Glass Dawn

© 1998

       “Dawn!” she called for the third time. She hollered her own name and knocked on the mirror once again. “Why don’t you come when I call?”

       Dawn waited at the glass, studying herself. It was still herself, for the time being. She glared at her reflection, willing the girl she knew must hear her to show herself.

       The lips in the mirror pursed. The eyes looked greener as they narrowed, and the cheeks took on a paler complexion. Dawn saw the subtle changes and knew them not to reflect her own face anymore. She never seemed that white in photographs, and her own gaze was never quite that knowing. The picture in the mirror spoke.

       “You woke me up.”

       The words were very solid. Dawn sat down on the floor in front of the mirror, her reflection copying her almost exactly.

       “I was beginning to think you couldn’t hear me.”

       “Well, I was asleep.”

       “So you said.”

       “Well, what is it?”

       Dawn hesitated. “You sound angry with me.”

       The figure in the mirror sighed. “You could talk more.”

       “What do you mean?”

       “You’ve been ignoring me. Why do you think I was asleep?”

       “I haven’t—I talked to you just last week!”

       “And in the meantime, you’ve been confiding in your diary.”

       Dawn paused.

       “Don’t think I don’t know what you do,” the other Dawn replied. She flicked her brown curls haughtily. “You expect me to like being replaced by a book?”

       “Well, it was a gift from Grandma!” Dawn retorted. “What was I supposed to do with it, leave it blank?”

       “She’d never know the difference. She can’t see you. I can.”

       Dawn let out a big breath. “I know. That’s what I want to talk to you about.”

       “Well, what is it this time?”

       “I saw you watching me.”

       A mischievous smile played across the lips of the glass Dawn.

       “It’s not funny. Don’t look like that.”

       Glass Dawn’s expression sobered. “What’s wrong with me watching?”


       “Everything?” Glass Dawn scanned her counterpart’s face. “What do you mean, ‘everything’?”

       “It’s creepy,” she whispered. “I saw you in the lake when I was out with Tim.”

       “Your little date?”

       “Hush up! It wasn’t a date.”

       “You can’t hush me up, Dawn. I can say what I please.”

       “And apparently you can go where you please, too. Well, stay away from me when I’m with Tim. It’s not your business, it’s none but my own.”

       “I’m not just another person, you know,” said Glass Dawn.

       “But you’re not me either.”

       Glass Dawn seemed to consider it.

       “Not entirely true,” she replied. “I don’t have my own identity. Yours is the only one I have.”

       “I don’t want to share,” Dawn protested.

       “You don’t have to.”

       “I still don’t understand this stuff. Nobody else I know talks to their reflections. What are you, anyway?”

       “I could ask you the same question.”

       “Well, I’m Dawn.”

       “So am I.”

       “But that doesn’t answer my question!”

       “Doesn’t answer mine either.”

       Both were silent for a moment. Finally Glass Dawn spoke again.

       “I’m sorry I spied on you when you were with Tim. But I’m not going to stop.”

       “Why won’t you?”

       “Because I’m always going to be here, Dawn, and even if I’m just a memory someday I’ll be a memory that won’t ever entirely leave you alone.”

       “Well, when I’m with Tim I want you to leave us alone.”

       “You are alone,” laughed Glass Dawn.

       “Not if you’re there.”

       “Dawn, let me ask you this: What do you think I am?”

       Dawn thought.

       “I guess you’re sort of my past and my imaginary friend.”

       “That rings true . . . if I’m your past somehow, though, then how do you expect me to continue to exist if you don’t keep adding memories to me?”

       “What?” Dawn was thoroughly confused.

       “If I don’t keep ‘spying’ on what you’re doing now, then I’m only your past up to a certain point. I’d stop being your past and just be . . . your childhood, I guess.”

       “That might be good,” Dawn replied, considering.

       “But you also said I was your friend! You would . . . let a friend die?”

       “You wouldn’t die.”

       “But I’d be frozen. You can’t let that happen.” Glass Dawn put on her serious face.

       “Why can’t I let that happen?”

       “Because . . . lots of awful things would happen.” Glass Dawn drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her body.

       “What could happen? I have to grow up. Growing up means I leave childhood behind.”

       “Well, you may have noticed it’s getting harder to wake me up lately. . . . ”

       Dawn nodded.

       “Someday, if you stop talking to me for too long, you’ll forget me.”

       “I couldn’t forget you! I’ve always talked to you.”

       “Maybe you wouldn’t forget that you talked to me, but you’d forget what we’d talked about. You’d remember your childhood, but you’d forget what childhood was like.”

       Dawn frowned. “No I wouldn’t.”

       “You would if you stopped talking to me long enough. That book can only do so much . . . writing your thoughts in a diary is one thing. I am something else.”

       “Please understand.” Dawn got to her feet, looking down on her reflection. “It’s time I grew up. I’m almost a teenager. I can’t keep believing in unicorns and people in the mirror, you know.”

       Glass Dawn shook her head. “No, that I can’t understand. I won’t.” She stood too, matching her counterpart. “Ever wonder why I sometimes know the answers to questions you can’t answer?”

       “I guess that’s true,” Dawn said slowly, recalling past instances.

       “You know why that is? Because by ourselves, sometimes we get confused, but if we talk, things come clear.”

       “Yeah. Why is that?”

       “I’d say it’s because sometimes past experiences don’t make sense without later knowledge, and because later knowledge makes no sense without the past,” Glass Dawn pondered. “Are you getting this?”

       “Sort of. . . . ”

       “Then you understand why you can’t lose touch with me?”

       “It’s. . . . ” Dawn fumbled for the right word, “logical . . . but still it seems like I have to stop being a kid to grow up.”

       “You’re not going to grow up by losing touch with your past,” Glass Dawn pointed out.

       “But what about Tim?”

       “What about him?”

       “Am I supposed to tell him about you? And what if he sees you?”

       “I would hope he could see me! I’d be surprised if he hasn’t yet.”

       “What’s that supposed to mean?”

       “Well, if your boyfriend hasn’t at least seen a little bit of me in you, you must be putting on a mighty good act.”

       Dawn scowled. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

       “Details, details.”

       “Well he’s not.”

       “It’s not like it matters.”

       “To me it does . . . if you share my identity and all that, then why don’t you understand about Tim?”

       “Like I said, we seem to have lost touch a bit,” said Glass Dawn. “If we were as in touch as we used to be, I would understand everything about you. But we’re not.” She paused and looked sadly at Dawn. “Do you still feel connected to me at all?”

       “I’m not sure, but we can still talk . . . that must mean something, right?”

       “Do you think you can still touch me? I can’t remember.”

       “I don’t know . . . it’s been an awful long time . . . did we ever really touch each other? I don’t think that’s possible.”

       “There’s no way it’s impossible.”

       “I thought I dreamed that,” Dawn said quietly.

       “How long has it been since you had a dream?”

       “I don’t remember that either.”

       Glass Dawn held her hand up to her side of the mirror.

       “You want to see if you can still touch me?”

       “But you’re on the other side of the mirror. It doesn’t seem like anything could get through the glass!”

       “Then how can I hear you?”

       Dawn was stumped. “Good point.”

       “Put your hand up, let’s see if it works.”

       Dawn put her hand up to the mirror against Glass Dawn’s palm. It seemed as though she was touching cold glass until suddenly she felt a heat and she was clasping hands with her reflection.

       “That was easy,” said Glass Dawn. “Can we do it with both hands?”

       “Probably.” Soon enough both of their hands were touching, their fingers interlaced.

       “Can you come in here?” Glass Dawn asked. She pulled lightly on Dawn’s hands. But somehow Dawn could not step into the mirror; none of the rest of her would fit inside.

       “It’s not working,” she complained. “Can you come out?”

       Glass Dawn couldn’t get out of the mirror either.

       “Well I guess we’re stuck like this,” said Dawn, making a resigned expression.

       “It didn’t used to be this way,” Glass Dawn reminded her. “I used to braid your hair. And you would kiss my cheek. And I used to be able to give you a hug.”

       “You did?” Dawn didn’t remember that.

       “We can’t anymore. And I guess you’ve already forgotten.” Glass Dawn had tears standing in her eyes, which baffled her counterpart.

       “Do you have feelings?” she asked in awe.

       “No, I just cry for fun,” she barked. Glass Dawn turned away, pulling her hands all the way into the mirror.

       “Can I do anything?”

       “You don’t understand.” Glass Dawn turned back to look out of the mirror. “This means we’ve lost a piece of us. And here you are saying it’s okay to lose more of it, or all of it.”

       “I didn’t say that!”

       “You did. You said it was okay if I froze to death! Well maybe I just will.” She glared at Dawn. “Have you ever seen those grown-ups who don’t know how to have fun? Those people see horses where there’s unicorns and they believe the horizon can move and take all the gold with it. Do you want to be one of them?”

       The prospect of being excluded horrified Dawn. “No!”

       “All that stuff . . . all those childhood dreams . . . they go away if you let them. And when you let them, you turn into those snow people. You can’t let it happen. You’ll freeze too.

       Dawn looked into the eyes of her reflection and saw that it really was her reflection again. The tears were on her own face even though she did not remember putting them there. She touched the mirror again but it was cold.

       “Dawn,” she called. She knocked on the glass once more. Her reflection softened around the edges again.

       “I’m here,” Glass Dawn said softly.

       “Did you sleep well?” she asked politely.

       “I wasn’t asleep,” Glass Dawn replied in a solemn tone.

       “Good.” Dawn reached out again and they clasped hands across the barrier.

       “If you’re just trying to make me feel better you’re wasting your time,” Glass Dawn said, a smile tugging at her lips.

       “One can’t walk around with an unhappy past.” Dawn matched her reflection’s smile.

       “Well, do it for you and not me,” she continued. “I can’t tell you not to grow up, but I can tell you not to outgrow yourself.”

       “I could never do that.”

       “You’d be surprised how many people do.”

       “I promise I won’t.”

       “Good. I’ll be watching you.”

       “You don’t have to watch me every second.” Dawn wrinkled her nose.

       “I’ll watch you in between seconds. You won’t even know I’m there.”

       “Maybe I won’t notice. But I’ll know.”

       She watched as Glass Dawn’s eyes became her own again.