Across by Richard Dickson

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SUMMARY: Entry in the February Flash Fiction Contest

He had just cut himself shaving when she first appeared in the mirror.

He shut his eyes against the sting, let out a sharp hiss, then opened his eyes to see her staring back, her face filled with concern as the blood trickled down his cheek. She reached out, seeking to comfort him, then drew her hand back in surprise as it touched the mirror's surface. Her hands moved over the glass, seeking a way through, and tears welled in her eyes as her frustration grew, and as the blood dripped from his jaw into the sink.

"Honey, are you okay?" a voice called from the bedroom. He turned to shout a quick answer, and when his gaze had gone back to the mirror, it was only his own blood-streaked face that had looked back at him.

He told himself he must have not gotten enough sleep. But then why did he find himself unable to look his wife in the eye the rest of the morning? And why did every stray empty moment the rest of the day fill itself with the face from the mirror? The pale skin, the full red lips, the deep dark eyes rimmed with tears, the flowing raven hair, all seemed to be there with every blink. A co-worker had found him staring idly into the bathroom mirror, cold water running over his hands.

"I must not have gotten enough sleep," he said blankly.

He looked for her in the rear view mirror on the way home, in the darkened television screen when he got there, and once again in the bathroom mirror, but still she eluded him. He distractedly went through the motions of making dinner, and, had it not been for his wife's surprised shout, would have never noticed he'd nicked his finger with the knife.

Sucking on the wound to staunch the bleeding, he trotted to the bathroom. He reached up to the mirror and opened the medicine cabinet for some antiseptic, a dull throb in the tip of his finger.

When he closed the cabinet, she was there again.

At first, her face glowed with a broad smile of recognition. Then she saw his finger, and her lower lip trembled as her eyes moistened. Again she reached out, but stopped herself, remembering the last time, and the tears flowed harder. She beat against the mirror, and he ached as he saw her sadness. He held his finger up. "See, it's all right. It's just a little cut," he whispered as his fingertip brushed the glass.

And the tip of her finger slipped through where his blood had stained the mirror.

"You say something?" his wife called, her footsteps drawing nearer. And suddenly the face was gone and only he remained in the mirror.

"I said it's all right," he said. "It's just a little cut."

She cleaned and bandaged his finger in a playful way that hinted her desire, yet through the love-making that followed, his mind was on the face in the mirror, and the one thing in common both times it had appeared.

His wife was leaving town the next day to visit her sister, and he managed to muster a convincing good-bye kiss as she left the house. He was calling in sick to work almost before her car had left the driveway.

Now, he stood before the mirror.

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