The smell of jasmine blossom wafted like the wind was saturated with its perfume. A darting wind. A heavier smell when its gusts washed past your face. The entire street was full of backyard vines, all crisscrossing their way from neighbour’s fence, to neighbour’s fence. It was always the same in November, here at Kingfisher Bay, in Queensland’s south-east. The hamlet of houses, yet to be taken by the greedy developers, had water views of the Pacific from most of its streets, those that didn’t had lots that were far larger, and still extremely nice, with a one-minute stroll to the beach. The sort of scene any raconteur could describe for hour upon hour. The townspeople refused to sell out to any builder for fear of commercialisation of their paradise. It was 1991 and here, on the east coast of Australia, it is summer. Hence the full-bodied jasmine blooms.
A resident for forty-two years, Rosemary-Ann Sunlark had known most of the residents somehow, at some time, somewhere or another. She had seen babies born, people get married – people leave and arrive. She knew all the stories and had been there whenever her friends’ passed away. Rosemary-Ann knew the truth behind the murder of schoolteacher, Jackson Silverspade, going back twelve years. She had kept her mouth shut to protect his daughter from evil. It seemed somehow right, to allow Silverspade’s cancer-ridden brother to take the rap. He’d very nobly volunteered. A long involved drama right in the middle of the small town-let, which at that time provided the residency for one-hundred and thirty-two houses, most quite small. Rosemary-Ann had been born at Kingfisher Bay herself, just prior to the 1950’s. During the 1970’s, when young and toasty-hot, the black-haired stunner would walk with a strut, not a walk. A strut. She glided along with the poise of a panther, with its tail high. Her trim figure making light work out of the atmosphere. The limited men of the town followed her everywhere, to get a glimpse of her sexy walk. They all asked her out but she teased them all with almost kisses and scantily-clad clothing. Never committing to any of the men in or around town. She eventually met and married a man from outside. Her strut, once used as a lure, became more of a prance. Her hair is not so black anymore. It’s been this same salty mist since as long as she could remember, now. Time had moved on. The village has expanded to one-hundred and fifty-one now, plus an extension to the town’s shopping mall.
Inside her house, at 17 Honeythief Road, Rosemary-Ann edged past her hallway mirror. She hadn’t opened the curtains or folded back the bed or even put the kettle on yet. The light in the hallway was only being provided by a small shard, streaming through a crack, made by the tall window’s offline drape, which was behind her. She paused at her reflection in the poor light, happy to see herself looking better than she’d expected. Rosemary-Ann was still wearing her nightie. She thought; I’ll start with this one behind me, meaning the curtains.
Rosemary-Ann turned and reached for the divide in the brocaded pair. As they parted and the sunlight poured in, a flash seemed to go off in the hallway. She had never been glancing over her shoulder before, to notice how bright it became when the rays hit the glass. She smiled, thinking; The things you learn.
Rosemary-Ann could now clearly see her head-to-pelvis reflection in the morning’s best hue.
“Do you like what you see?” she said, then frowned, thinking; I didn’t say that… She did.
She took a step closer and said, “What?”
“Do you like what you see?” Again both she and her reflection said. Only, to Rosemary-Ann it felt like she was the image and it was speaking.
Her answers, she was controlling. “Sure, I can’t complain. Pity about Brian… but, what can I do about it now? Are you my conscience talking, or something?”
“Oh, If only it was quite that simple!” said the reflection. Rosemary-Ann lip-sinking perfectly. “Come a little closer and we can talk some more. It’s been a while.”
She took two more paces forward, duplicated perfectly by her own image. She smiled from nervousness, as much as anything. Her mind racing; I have heard about crazy wild situations out there – people hearing voices, etc. But this was unexplainable.
She noticed on closer inspection that the image in the mirror did not have a perfectly clear outline. It appeared to be fuzzy, almost like a double-image. Rosemary-Ann began a fifteen-minute conversation with herself about all kinds of things she had done in the past. Naturally, because it was her in the mirror, she knew all her own answers. However, some made her angry. She finished and stormed off with: “Right …so, in that case, I shall probably see you tomorrow!” She remained away from the hallway for the rest of the day. Rosemary-Ann could hear sobbing when she sat to watch her favourite TV show that evening. She felt invaded.
Forced to leave by the hallway door to go shopping, the following day, Rosemary-Ann could not help herself and took a peek at the mirror as she passed by with her back turned to it. The mirror stopped her in her tracks with; “Not like you to turn your back on someone. Especially yourself!”
She immediately turned to face the mirror properly. “I haven’t got much time this morning.” She raised her handbag, convincingly. “Shopping, you know. Busy life. Find a man or something…”
Her image forced her to smile at that one ─ as if it weren’t true or something. Then fired back with an odd question. “Don’t you think it is time to let me out of here?”
“If you confess to all of those things that we both know you were responsible for…” Her hands were firm on her hips now. “I can escape from being trapped in here!”
“Who the hell are you?” barked the middle-aged well-proportioned widow.
“I’m here because of everything that happened twelve years ago.”
“What do you mean, trapped?”
“You probably don’t believe in the forces of fruition. Do you?” Her reflection’s voice had become severe and she looked even younger today than ever before. “It is this power which controls a soul’s destiny. Now speak the truth about Jackson Silverspade, so that I can be set free. Yes, I am you but I am trapped inside this mirror. I have been in here for twelve years. Have you not noticed how much younger than you, I am?”
“I probably just need glasses now. What am I talking to you for?” She slammed the door behind her, in a huff, and pranced off in the direction of the mall.
Rosemary-Ann maintained wearing her darkest sunglasses all the way into her kitchen, to avoid confrontation with the mirror. She placed the four grocery bags down on the cottage-style bench and began singing to herself to break the silence. A day in the garden would make her forget the silly things she said to herself this morning. Flowers would brighten her home. The well-meaning woman with a skeleton in her closet was moving around her house like she was on a cushion of air. Her footfalls, so light they barely raised the dust. She went out quietly.
That evening, as a film came to its closure, she heard the mirror calling her name. But it wasn’t her usual name. She was being called Rosepetal-Ann. This was the name that Jackson Silverspade had given to her when they had a two-year love affair. Again she heard the name and covered her mouth with her hand to stop saying it. She rushed around to confront the mirror. Her self-questioning more than healthy at this very second. “Why are you using that horrible name?” Her sanity beginning to be put through the mill.
“You don’t feel right because Silverspade’s brother, Charlie spent three years in a prison hospital before eventually succumbing to cancer. You should have told them, Rosepetal-Ann!” The mirror’s voice venomous and meaningful.
“Who knew he would last that long? It seemed the best for everyone concerned. Charlie was most adamant.” Her reply, monkish and uncharacteristically austere.
“There is also Brian to consider. How could you possibly live a lie like that and for that long? Oh, but he got what was coming to him. Didn’t he?” Her reflection’s eyes, locked in trans-like fashion, anchored her with a refusal to break the stare.
“Serves him right. Live like a weakling, die like a…”
“Exactly! Go and yell it in the streets, Rosepetal-Ann!”
“No! And you can’t make me!” She picked up a vase and flung its flowers to the floor. The cerulean blue, no-hard-feelings present from Jackson, was Czechoslovakian glass. The object twinkled, poised to throw.
“Don’t even think of it!” She shouted to herself, the vase trembling. “If you smash the mirror, I will die in here. I will never be set free…”
“Why should I care if you are free or not? You’re never nice to me!” Her arm struggled to propel the vase forwards.
“Please! I beg of you. Please don’t smash my mirror. It is where I live and where we can talk.”
“ALRIGHT!” she shrieked. Rosemary-Ann placed the vase back on the travertine table and began picking up the flowers. A mess had been made by the water from the vase on the tiles. She went away and fell asleep.
The next morning she had decided to go and see some of her friends in the village. Folks from the good old days – without opinions based on rumours from the past. Deep-seated relationships built from years of loyalty. The girls at the tennis club would be a great place to start. So what if she hadn’t shown her face around there for a year or two? They would always make an old friend welcome. Perhaps tell the odd truth to some here and there. Get it off her chest… so to speak.
So, a beeline was hastily made for the quaint Kingfisher Bay Tennis Centre, ignoring the ghost in the mirror completely on her way out. Her fairy-steps silent in her tennis shoes, her heart growing excited about the discovery of a new slant to her personality, now that she was at peace with her reflection. Rosemary-Ann walked like the wind, no tennis racquet in her hand. The jasmine wafted, the buzz of activity around the people could just be heard amidst the sound of balls being struck. Back-and-forth across the net, they hurtled. She went inside. They were all there. A huge greeting smile flashed across her face. But nobody listened to her stories. Had they all forgotten? Didn’t they care anymore? She sat right down beside her oldest friend, Marjorie Baker, and told her about her affair with Silverspade. She told her how, when threatened with; ‘Leave your wife for me, Jackson, or else, I might kill you!’ Jackson just laughed at her. No response from Marjorie. She turned to Phillip Hedin-glover and told him she had always wanted to have an affair with him. He didn’t even care. Rosemary-Ann spun in her seat and launched a conversation at Stacey McKenzie’s exposed earlobe. “Yes, it was a pity about Brian, because all his family was from across the border in New South Wales. Having to drive quite that much. Still, if only he had been less accident prone. I’m quite surprised they didn’t think it could have been murder!” Stacey erupted into laughter, for some reason. Even after opening up a can of rude old worms, to her so-called besties, Rosemary-Ann felt completely ignored. She watched a few games and remembered what it felt like to smash one past the opponent’s outstretched racquet. Then, volley one down the line for thirty – love. The chatter after competitions, about who beat whom, and why. How the boys all loved her short white dress and asked her for a game. She soon left. Somehow the townspeople did not quite seem the way they used to. She felt alone here for the first time in her life. Rosemary-Ann walked the long way home, via the central public gardens and across the little bridge, which spans the gorge. Many marriage proposals have been made on the little timber structure, with its gorgeous weathered old planks and handrail. The dramatic view over the crashing waves adds excitement to every second spent standing on it. It was the spot where Brian had asked her. Many memories rushed back; I have to talk to the mirror…
She whisked away like a startled deer and made haste for 17 Honeythief Road. A nice pot of tea will fix everything. Across the park, through the village square. Down the road, past the school she attended every primary year at. Weave between the gates of the alleyway behind the restaurant. This street backs onto hers. Nearly there.
“Ghost in the mirror! Ghost in the mirror!” she shouted, bursting through her front door. “We have to talk.” Her head was erupting with a million questions.
Rosemary-Ann didn’t have to open the front door, because it was already open. First, she stared into the mirror, the whole purpose for rushing back. There was no reflection. She went right up close, face against the glass. Her fingers splayed, one hand high, the other hand low. Her breath was not fogging up the mirror. “Mirror! Tell me what has happened?”
She backed away and stared, willing an explanation. She had not even noticed what was on the floor, just metres away. Her eyes were trained hard on the mirror but she was nowhere to be seen. She suddenly heard her own voice coming from deep within the glass. Her reflection started to materialize. Very transparent and with its usual double outline. She said, “Too late, Rosepetal-Ann.”
By itself, the mirror shattered into a million tiny pieces. Rosemary-Ann averts her gaze and finally sees what is on the floor. She sees her time is spent. She sees her own dead body with paramedics working feverishly. She sees that they are too late and she had died of a heart attack, on that first morning, when she met the mirror ghost. The flash she saw when the curtain opened was the brain’s view of cardiac arrest. Water still lay on the floor from the vase which was obliterated. It was still morning. She had visited the club as a ghost. No wonder they did not see her. She asked herself; were the conversations with her reflection, before or after she had died?
But, did she or didn’t she commit murder?