As I stand in the mirror inspecting my image from head to toe, I wonder if I see what the world sees. I press my
hands to the cold glass hoping to somehow get a deeper perspective. My eyes see a pretty teenage girl. Not
gorgeous, but pretty. My hair is shiny though I wish it were longer. My eyes are almond-shaped, a deep green; I like
to pretend they bring character to my face. I wish like mad I could erase the spot of freckles off my nose. They make
me look cute. No teenager wants to be “cute.” In my judgment my figure is fine, just beginning to blossom neither
too thin nor too thick. I am happy with what I see in the mirror, but I am haunted by the curiosity about what other
“Delia, I don’t want to make a fuss, but you don’t want to miss the bus,” my mother’s voice sing-songs up the stairs.
Why must she have these little ritualistic, childish rhymes?
I do know in my mother’s eyes I am pretty. I am more than pretty. I am smart, charming, and talented. But every
mother thinks that of their child so it doesn’t really count. Suddenly, a thought occurs to me that stops me in mid-
step, “What if my mother doesn’t think I’m any of those things? What if she finds me ugly, annoying, and dumb?
What if in her thoughts she is constantly wishing I were someone else?”
I shake my head and continue down. "Why would I even think such a thing? My mother is always caring and
attentive. But what if it is all an act? What if she just tells me all those things so that I believe them? No, that is
crazy. My mother adores me. She takes pictures every chance she gets. You wouldn’t do that of a person you
thought was ugly."
“Mom, how do I look today?” I ask cheerfully. I don’t want to let on to my absurd thoughts, but part of me just has to
hear her say it, to reaffirm that I am the apple of her eye.
She looks up from her computer where she is writing her novel and inspects me from head to toe. “You look beautiful
inside and out, Delia.”
Relieved, I rush to hug her, but then I wonder why the words come so easily for her. Is it because she has rehearsed
them so many times alone in her bedroom to make them sound natural? Am I such a disappointment that she wishes
the embrace were over?
I step back and force a smile. It’s just my teenage mind playing tricks on me. I’m finding being creative is not always
a positive thing.
As I rush to the bus stop, I see my friends waving and smiling at me. I have lived here since I was born. We have
grown up being best friends and will undoubtedly always be. There are no secrets among the four of us. We are the
types of friends that other people always wish they had. We don’t have a silly name for ourselves. We are just
genuine, once in a lifetime friends.
“Delia, you always dress so cute. It kills me,” Tarron practically screeches.
As I start to laugh and say thank you the most absurd thing happens. I wonder if she is really making fun of me.
Does she really think I dress stupid? Is she putting me down and I just have never noticed it? No, no this is Tarron
my bff. What if she’s not my best friend forever? Could my parents have worked out some sort of arrangement with
their parents to make them be my friends? That’s stupid. They’ve been at all my parties, and I’ve been to all of
theirs. What if there were parties I didn’t know about? What if every day to my face they act as if we are sisters and
inside they feel sorry for me?
“I can’t wait to get these braces off! Only three more months,” Kathleen’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “You are
sooooooo lucky, Delia, your teeth are perfect.”
Oh my gosh, are my teeth yellow and crooked? Is this another lie to tell me so I believe something different from the
truth? I reach up and touch them. They feel smooth and straight. What is wrong with me?
I look in the big rearview mirror on the bus. I still see the same image I saw this morning. I don’t see a monster. A
small laugh sneaks out. I have been watching too many “Twilight Zone” episodes. What I see is what the world
sees. “Take a rest, brain,” I tell myself.
As I slip into my front row seat for first hour English, I am crossing my fingers Mrs. Maples hands back our creative
writing assignments. I love Mrs. Maples. She makes English exciting which has never happened before this year, and
she doesn’t grade in red so it’s not like someone bled all over your hard work. She really does want you to be
creative not just repeat her ideas like some teachers. I worked my butt off on this paper and really tried to think
“outside of the box.” I can’t wait to see what she thought.
Mine is the first paper she hands back! Her eyes are shining as she gives it to me; obviously, she is proud. I look at
the cover sheet where she has written: “A+ Excellent job! The only regret I have on this paper is that I didn’t think
of the idea first.”
I beam with pride. I notice my classmates are not so thrilled with their grades. I glance at Tarron behind me; she lifts
her paper to show me an A-. It’s a good grade, but usually Tarron does much better than me. Why am I the only one
with an A+?
It’s happening again – the thoughts. Maybe Mrs. Maple’s smile was not one of pride, but pity. Maybe I’m not smart,
maybe I’m so stupid I don’t even know when I’m not doing well. What if I’m not even doing the same assignments as
everyone else? She probably didn’t even read it! They just give me grades so I’ll think I’m smart. Why are they doing
this to me? How could I have never seen it? Frantic, I look through my paper, it still looks great to me. My head is
hurting. I don’t know what’s going on. If this is a part of puberty, it sucks.
I go to the nurse second hour and ask if I can just lie down for a little while. I explain that my head hurts, but not bad
enough to go home. I practically beg her to let me take a short nap and assure her that I will be fine. Honestly, I don’
t think I needed to beg. She didn’t care one way or the other. This is obviously just a job to her. She’s probably just
relieved I’m not puking or bleeding. I, on the other hand, would rather be puking and bleeding than having random
thoughts invade my everyday activities.
Evidently, the whole whacko thing must have been from sleep deprivation because I didn’t wake up until the nurse
starting roughly shaking me to either go to lunch or call home, she needs a smoke. I smile at her charming bedside
manner, relieved to be feeling like my old self again.
Everyone is already seated when I get to the cafeteria. It is easy to spot Kathleen at our normal table. She's the
only one of our group that has this lunch period. As I sit down grabbing some cheetos from her plate she says, “I was
worried about you. I heard you went to the nurse.”
“It was just a headache,” I reply, but my mind answers ‘she wasn’t worried Delia she was hoping you wouldn’t sit at
this table much less touch her food.’ I pull my hand back like she has slapped it. She looks at me strangely.
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” I can't let even Kathleen know what is in my head. We both shrug it off and begin talking ninety miles a
minute trying to cram all our words in a twenty minute lunch break.
Whoever did the scheduling and made girls’ athletics after lunch should seriously at least spend a short time in
purgatory. Well, maybe not that, but it is cruel. And Coach Bennett’s philosophy is: “You can puke and run at the
same time.” Actually, I love running. Track is one area of athletics I excel at because you don’t have to be
coordinated. So, after we warm up and Coach informs us he will be looking at us for potential spots on the track team
today, I am pumped. Maybe a good run will clear this foggy head of mine.
I wait for the whistle with my adrenaline already soaring. I am hoping to come in the top five. I'm an underclassman,
so that would be a great achievement. When the whistle blows I focus solely on myself. I hit my stride, pumping my
arms, breathing as Coach has told us to. The wind on my face I am creating makes me feel superhuman. I lose myself
as I am running. The sound of my feet hitting the track is a rhythmic cadence. Each breath I take is like my first. This
moment is mine alone.
I'm not even aware of the other girls until I'm done with the lap and laying on my back panting. It is actually funny to
me that a simple act of exercise can be so exhilarating. I hear Coach Bennett’s booming voice call my name.
“You were first,” he says dryly.
“I was?” I am shocked and excited. I start jumping up and down. Tarron rushes over to congratulate me. Then it
hits me. I couldn’t have been. There are juniors and seniors here. He is lying.
“No, I wasn’t.” I snap before I even knew what I am doing. No one ever talks back to Coach Bennett.
“What?” He actually looks confused.
I don't know what to do, so I just run for the locker room. But the voice in my head doesn't run away. It continues on
and on. “You weren’t first. Either he is lying or the other girls weren’t trying. They want you to think you succeed at
things. It’s part of the game. Look in the mirror again. You only see what they want you to see. They all feel sorry
for you, Delia.”
I know I have to talk to someone. The school counselor is trained for things like this, isn’t she? As I sit fidgeting with
my purse while she pulls my file I try to figure out what to say. I notice how beautiful she is. I want to tell her that I
really did see her as beautiful in case she ever has any doubts, but decide she probably doesn't. I can see my
reflection on her computer monitor. My almond-shaped eyes are still there. I want to cry because I still see the same
“Let’s see Delia,” she says as she opens my file, “honor roll, student of the month, creative writing award, class
representative . . . The list goes on and on. Very impressive. So how can I help you? Interested in college
Part of me just wants to say yes and get out of there, but a bigger part of me wants to understand this madness and
make it stop. “Ms. Fina, do you ever think people see you differently than you see yourself?” I stammer.
She pauses. I’m quite sure that wasn’t what she had expected. Or is the pause because she is surprised I have
finally caught onto their charade? I watch her choose her words carefully.
“Explain more to me what you mean, Dear.” She is stalling for time. Time I won't give her. I will put it all out there
and make her answer.
“I think I see something differently when I look in the mirror than what other people see, literally.”
“Hmmmmm... Well, Delia, what do you see?” All questions and no answers.
“I see a pretty teenage girl who dresses nice, has white, straight teeth, writes well, and runs fast. What do you see
when you look at me Ms. Fina, honestly?”
Without a pause, “Oh Dear, I see all that and the potential for more and more in the years to come.”
“How do I know that is what you see? How do I know you aren’t lying?” I interrupt.
She is silent and for a moment seems mad. Mad that I confronted her with their escapade of lies and trickery? Or is
she just surprised that the usually polite Delia is challenging an adult?
“Delia, I think what’s happening is you are having some trust issues. You are perhaps beginning to question authority
and that’s a normal progression into adulthood. As long as you do so in productive and respectful ways.”
She rambles on for what seems an eternity. Either she doesn't understand what I am saying at all or she completely
does and I am right. If the latter is the case, she is just trying to throw me off long enough to warn the others that I
am on to them. What do they have to gain from messing with my mind? Is it truly all just an act of charity because I
am so repulsive?
I leave Ms. Fina’s office more confused than when I had entered with a handful of pamphlets that will never leave my
locker. I walk in a daze to my final class of the day. Tarron’s cousin, James, bumps me and yells down the hall,
“Lookin’ hot today, Delia. Going to break some hearts I tell ya.”
I giggle. My heart sinks as I realize he doesn't mean it. Rage builds inside me knowing no one will ever want to date
me. I have to bite my tongue not to scream back, "Enough with the lies, Asshole!"
Last hour is long and unbearable. Everywhere I look people are staring at me. I can read their thoughts so easily
now. I hate pity. Why can't they just do their damn geometry and leave me alone? Quit smiling at me, quit making
small talk with me. I’m tired of faking it. I’m tired of pretending. I get it now. I get that I’m this monster you are
forced to live with. I’m sorry!!! I’m sorry I’m ugly and dumb and everything society hates.
I still have moments where I almost forget. I almost get caught up with the smiles and the small talk, and then my
mind laughs at me. I love these people though. I pretend along with them until I can figure out what to do.
I escape into the world of my Ipod on the bus ride home. Closing my eyes, it looks like I am relaxing, listening to some
tunes when in reality I just don't want to see their faces. To see one thing and hear something else in my head. I
don't know who I am. And this is beyond an “I need to find myself” moment.
I feel sorry for my mom as I walk through the door and she comes to hug me with a smile on her face. Has she been
working herself up for that all day? Could she really be happy to see me? I want so much to curl up in her arms and
feel her play with my hair. I can't do that to her, not if I am this disappointing reminder of life.
I claim a lot of homework and rush to my bedroom. Again I stand in front of the mirror pressing my hands against it. I
want to see something different from what I saw this morning. I want to see the truth. I see shiny, too short hair,
confused almond-shaped eyes, and annoying freckles. Why can't I see what they see? Better yet, why can't they see
what I see? I don’t want to be a monster. I don't want to be different. I want me back. I want my mind back!
I stay in my room looking in that mirror for hours waiting for a miracle. Some sort of realization. Waiting for the
thoughts to stop. I hear a knock on the door and rush into my bed. The covers feel so comforting. No doubt they
don't even want to be against my body. The door creaks open. My father walks in beaming with joy.
“Hey, Princess, I’m glad I made it home before you went to sleep.”
“Are you, Daddy?” I ask looking into his eyes.
He chuckles. “Well, of course I am. What kind of question is that?”
“I’m just being silly.”
He kisses my forehead. I wonder if his lips burned or if he wants to wipe them clean.
“Daddy?” I begin. I can't help it. I reach for his hand. Being the strong man he is he holds it. “Do you ever wish you
could stop your thoughts?”
He looks at me pondering for a moment and finally replies, “No, because once we stop thinking we are dead.” He
stares into my eyes, the slightest smile on his face. I know he can see into my mind, heart, and soul. He knows I
have discovered their secrets and lies. "Do you want to talk about your thoughts," he asks as he tucks me in tightly.
His voice sounds as carefree as if I had just asked him why the sky was blue.
"No, Daddy. There's nothing to talk about. I just wondered, that's all. I'm too tired to talk tonight."
He stops before he closes the door and looks back at me. "Delia, one more thing. There is always something you can
learn from your thoughts. I love you, my angel." With those pearls of wisdom he winks and closes the door.
I sit up, squeezing my pillow, staring into the mirror. My father is the wisest man I know. I used to think he was the
most honest, but now I know no one in my life is honest. I don't try to stop the tears as they silently trailed down my
face. He knew the time had come, my eyes and mind had finally been opened. Maybe he was sad, but my mind tells
me he was more relieved. He was relieved because he knows I love them enough to follow his clear instructions:
Learn from your thoughts.
One last look at the monster masquerading as a normal teenage girl. The mirror does lie, the mind does not.
I roll over and whisper as one last tear runs down my cheek, “Exactly, Daddy, once we are dead the thoughts stop.”
The thoughts had to stop, and I had to free the world of the monster that I must be.
|The Mirror Does Lie
By Audra Ralls