Smooth cannot describe the glass. Smooth meant it would be easy. Nothing in the realm of magic is easy, Andrea knew. It was the Earth that ushered in hopelessness. The Great, a magician of extraordinary talent, knew. He knew the ways to happiness.
She touched the mirror, the reflection. In it her long locks flowed as if in space. She touched her head; her hair was flat and straight, not curling and wild like it was in the mirror.
Andrea turned, startled to be face-to-face with The Great. She was told he would not meet her. Still, she came anyway. She had been shown the glass room with the glass chairs and the mounted mirror as large as a wall.
“What’s there?” she asked him. He was a small man, or elf, or whatever form of creature he was.
His hands were crossed and behind his back. As if in thought he was silent.
Andrea said, “You came.”
She looked in the mirror and she touched her scar that ran from her ear to her jaw.
“The mirror captures it well,” he said.
“I hate that scar! I wish it could be erased! I wish I could be erased!”
“The scar is a sign of life. The scar is a healing of what has wounded us. Why did you come?” The Great asked.
“You know why.”
“Tell the mirror. It’s a living thing, like you. Touch it.”
Andrea did as he commanded. The hand went inside the instrument of transformation that the mirror represented.
“Why did you come?” he asked again.
“To trade places.”
“A life for a life?”
“Pull back your hand.”
Andrea obeyed the Great as if transfixed by the magic and not rational thought; she trusted him.
“If you agree to the terms, you will trade your life for the woman in the mirror. If you agree, you then walk through it and begin a new life, and she will take your place.”
“She gets no say?”
“It is a cost. The mirror has the power, it chooses for you both. If you do not agree, then you have the power to break the magic. The women in the mirror owe too much to magic to object. They have squandered its power before.”
“I am free of my burdens if I chose to trade?” Andrea wiped away a tear that had formed at the thought.
“Yes,” The Great placed his right hand on her shoulder.
She turned to the mirror and her hair was not brown, but black and she was dark-skinned and wearing a diamond necklace around her neck.
The Great began, “The first offering is the life of a doctor’s wife. No burden of want, there is plenty. You are adored by your mate. He is steadfast and strong. You have two children and many luxuries. You are the envy of all the women in your social circle.”
“This would be my life?” Andrea asked.
“Yes,” The Great answered.
“It would be a dream come true.”
“Yes. That is why you came.”
“Do I just move forward to make the switch? Her life for mine?”
“Just like that, you’ve decided?”
Andrea turned away from the woman in the mirror and glanced to the magician. “Is there a trick?”
“No trick, but a truth.”
Andrea breathed heavily. “Do tell. How will I decide otherwise?”
“The woman whose life you will lead dies in an accident in five years’ time. Your life will be cut short. You do not see your children raised.”
Andrea turned back to the mirror. “No, I do not want it. Show me another life. A longer life.”
Then she saw a swirl inside the mirror like a wave crashing inside. The next image was of a plump woman who wore an expensive suit and designer glasses.”
“She will live to be ninety-four,” The Great said.
“Children?” Andrea said.
The Great chuckled softly. “She is the CEO of a major corporation. This woman is passionate about her work. She is well-respected.”
“Oh, yes! That is what I want! I want to trade!” Andrea said.
“Do you wish to hear the rest?”
Andrea placed her hand against the mirror. “There is more?”
“She never finds love after her husband divorces her. She is lonely. He only child moved far away to avoid her. Her staff hates her. Her friends don’t like her, but they fear if they don’t return her calls she will retaliate against them, for most work for her. She spends the holidays traveling alone to a remote beach. She has no one willing to visit her on those days and so she goes alone to a place where she can pay for company to relieve her loneliness.”
Andrea pulls her hand away from the mirror. “No, I don’t want that!”
The mirror produces a new image. It’s her as a fair-skinned beauty.
Andrea says, “Who is she?”
“Me? But she is beautiful.”
“How is her life? What is wrong with it?”
“Oh, magician, if you pull off this third choice, I will be eternally grateful. Tell me how is her life?”
“Perfect. She is adored. Her family has wealth.”
“So why would I not trade places with her? Is she happy?”
“She is not valued for her true self, only for her beauty. She has no value other than this. No intelligence, no talents, nothing else but being beautiful. As she ages, she will hate herself more and more. She will be rejected for the upcoming beautiful girls by her lovers.”
“Oh, no it is not worth the joy of beauty if there is nothing else. Is this all there is to choose from?” Andrea asked.
The Great rubbed his chin. “There is one more.”
The mirror displayed Andrea as she was. “It is a simple life. Illness cuts short the vigor of youth. There is a tiredness of life, a weariness of the journey. So many problems of day-to-day living…”
“Who would want this life?” Andrea looks down to the floor.
“But you only heard the bad, not the good."
“This, Great One, is my own life. Are you saying there is nothing better for me?”
“The good of this life is hidden. It is a love of children for their mother, a spouse for his wife, a love for her by her friends.”
“Isn’t there any other choice?” Andrea says
“You have those the mirror offers you.”
“But they are far worse than my own life!” Andrea said.
“Yes, but that is the truth. Whoever you trade your life with will carry your burdens, but you must carry theirs. Is your life better or worse than these?”
“Love. You use it as a trick.”
“It is a gift,” The Great said.
“But I have much love already.”
“And these lives have flaws beyond your understanding as is the case for every life.”
“I shall choose my own life,” Andrea said.
“You choose wisely. And Andrea, your scar…”
She looked in the mirror at her own reflection. The scar was gone.