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It Came With Violets

Sharmon's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Love Letters to Poe, microverses.net: Octavos, Tiny Spoon, The Society of Classical Poets, Backchannels, Third Wednesday, The Storyteller Magazine, and other journals. She lives in the deep south and writes shorts, flashes, poems, and novels in multiple genres but favors speculative work.
I feel as insubstantial as these pressed violet petals that haunt like a pantoum. I tuck them back into the book of poetry I'd found while browsing a flea market--alone, of course. Sunlight streams through the tall window, twinned in the cheval mirror standing by the mantel. Tilted in its oval frame, the glass bounces the light around the room, plays across my retinas, light-blinding me for a moment.
I don't trust mirrors.
I riffle through the book's foxed pages, and a photograph flutters onto my desk as if on mothwings. Sepia-toned figures, a man and a woman gaze out from some ambered moment. He's standing at her side, slightly behind, resting a hand on her shoulder. He, and she, a still-life; her Gibson Girl updo, his carefully pressed ribbon tie.
By their expressions, it's a solemn event. A funeral? A wedding, maybe? Her eyes avert from the camera lens, her gaze drawn to some unknowable thing. As they pose, I imagine they are being watched by a cluster of people. Onlookers who stare, as I am, and do not think of me.
The mutton-sleeve of her power overshadows the narrow nip of his waistcoat. They touch dryly, her strutted lace beggars the long black crease of his trousers. Their breaths held to prevent the flight of that captured moment, she clutches violets with gentle hurt.
A breeze whirls in through the window, and lifts a hurricane of papers from my desk. It sends them circling the tinkling chandelier, higher, to the lofty coffered ceiling. The room shifts. In the cheval mirror, my hand goes to my forehead against sudden dizziness. Papers drift down from the heights like new snow.
Never trust mirrors. They are vain and want everyone to look at them. They commit prestidigitation on a daily basis, engulfing entire rooms and holding them captive within a quarter-inch-thick pane of silvered glass. They pull off the impossible, and aren't even humble enough to be flattering with their reflections.
From the photo, the dark points of the man's eyes fix on me. A softer breeze breathes across the photo, lifts violet petals from the pages of the book, and brushes them across my lips. A prismed flash, rose-gold, silver-blue, the sick thrill of vertigo. The light cannot hold the air in its dissolving hands.
I am ephemeral, my veins flatten beneath my sepia-toned skin. The cheval takes me in, the room recedes.
With my next tentative taken breath, I feel the unfamiliar pinch of restriction around my waist. In the mirror, I am corseted, mutton-sleeved, Gibson Girl coiffed.
He stands darkly behind me. And lightly, lightly I feel his hand's parchment weight rest possessively on my shoulder.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 2nd, 2020


I've always had a fascination for old photos and mirrors--each so mysterious and full of stories. Have you ever studied a thing so intensely, so long, that you feel the thing drawing you into it, almost have the sensation of magnetic movement? That is what prompted this flash that began as a poem. I only began writing flash fiction a few months ago and discovered it is a whole different animal from poetry and shorts--an animal that allows petting but sometimes snaps.

- Sharmon Michelle Gazaway
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