Mirrors are dangerous things and reflections they show are not always those one would expect.|
Copyright C 1999, 2002 Daedalus
This story contains what is known as "transgender material". It does *NOT* contain any elements of m/m, s/m, b/d, humiliation, pain, or anatomically detailed descriptions of sexual acts. If this lack offends you, do yourself a favour and read no further.
All characters and situations described herein are fictional and any resemblance to any real or fictional persons or events is purely coincidental.
The story may be freely copied, archived and distributed, on the condition of this header remaining its integral part.
Mirrors are dangerous things and reflections they show are not always those one would expect.
"Of course it was written by a woman! Any idiot can tell that from the way she expresses a genuine feminine viewpoint!.."
This was just plain silly. True, Andrew always had the knack of coming up with a novel angle on practically anything. That's what it takes these days to be a successful media critic. That and a certain flair with words, a smart-alec attitude and preferably a frustrated ambition to be a writer.
This though, was clearly one of those occasions when mister too-clever-by-half had gone round the twist - and that despite the fact that he could pontificate at length about the Anima being really masculine in nature, on account of it being a product of the masculine rather than the feminine psyche. In his search for a novel angle on the current hot best-seller, all this psychological sophistication obviously went by the board. Men are such linear creatures...
His idea that the author of _Mirror, Mirror on the Wall_ was a man was just stupid, and I made the fact clear in no uncertain terms, throwing back at him some of his own erudition. OK... I might as well admit that I rather enjoyed delivering my impromptu diatribe: it was simply an opportunity too good to miss. He could always dominate an intellectual argument and it was rare enough to catch him straying into more socio-emotive areas.
He listened to me without interrupting, almost sliding out of his easy chair, his hands linked around a knee stuck up into the air. It was the lack of a response that finally brought me up short. Always a bad sign when he is not bothering with interruptions.
"A fair effort," he said when he was quite sure I'd finished. "But then, I understand, even parrots can be taught to repeat whole phrases, without apparently the slightest idea of the meaning. Still, decidedly a fair effort. I concede all your psycho-theoretical construction - I could hardly do otherwise without contradicting myself. But it just so happens that it simply does not apply in this particular case."
The patronising so-and-so! He was either in a mean mood or on a losing ground and trying to provoke me into lashing out. So I grit my teeth instead.
"And what makes you so damn sure? No, don't tell me... The life-long and so far fruitless ambition has finally born a fruit after all. You are the author. Right?!"
He just blinked at me for a while and then said: "An interesting idea. Almost, one might say, a good shot. And if I were?..."
"Don't make me laugh..."
"I have no intention to. I only asked a question."
"No you flaming well didn't! *I* asked a question and you have avoided answering it. I repeat, what makes you so damn sure!?"
"Let's pursue your fascinating conjecture. Suppose I wrote it."
"Yeah, OK... I see. Your artistic pretensions have finally gone to your head. Be honest with yourself - you lack the equipment to really appreciate a woman's point of view. No let me re-phrase it. You lack the equipment to appreciate ANY point of view!" Oops! That didn't come out the way I intended it. Andrew had been known to be a touch sensitive to innuendo in the masculinity department. "Other than your own, that is..." I added lamely.
But it was too late. He shot up to his feet. "OK, Miss Smarty Pants! Choke on this!" he spat and to my surprise shut his eyes.
How to describe what happened next? Perhaps it is best to be honest. I have no way of describing what happened next, but a second later, when he opened his eyes again, locking them against my incredulous stare, those eyes were large, blue and belonged to a male wet-dream of femininity. She would have been a caricature if she weren't so damn near-perfect. Long mane of golden waves cascading over her shoulders and back, large blue eyes with impossibly long eye-lashes, sculpted face with voluptuous red lips, a body with all the right curves in all the right places... To top it all, she was dressed in a provocative, cleavage showing, floor-trailing, bias-cut dress of royal blue clingy velvet. And I didn't have to see her heels to know they would be inches high.
I took all of it in, more or less in a single glance, which was just as well because in the next heartbeat Andrew stood once again in her place, quickly averting his glance.
I picked my jaw off the floor and just sat there, not knowing what to say or do. It was Andrew who broke the silence, moving over to the drinks cabinet.
"A glass of something?" he asked with a slight catch in his voice. "Gin and tonic? Or something stronger?"
"Thanks," I said finding my voice again. "G&T would do nicely."
He fussed with two glasses for a while. In fact he fussed very much longer than it should have taken to pour my drink and whatever it was he was going to have for himself. But that was OK by me. Seeing one's boyfriend turn into a whorish sex-bomb and back again in a space of a few seconds, was not exactly something for which my education and life experience had prepared me. I needed time to decide whether I'd seen what I thought I'd seen. The jury was still out, but as an expert witness I was inclined to think that I thought I did. Let the members of the jury make what they will of it. Do I sound incoherent? That's OK too. I was.
"Well?" he finally said handing me the glass and settling back in his chair, "Aren't you going to ask me 'Where are the mirrors?' or something to that effect?"
The stupendous inanity of it helped me to regain my feet. Men can be so naive, I thought to myself, as he lifted his slim glass of whatever it was. He really thinks I must be impressed. Let's face it I was, but if he thought some such visual wizardry - however miraculous - had any relevance to our argument...
"Impressive," I said, "And one day I will ask you about the mirrors or holograms or 3D projections or whatever new technological wizardry you've managed to get hold of. But I am not going to be distracted from pointing out the idiocy of your ridiculous assertion. Only a dumb man would think that projecting an erotic daydream image has anything to do with experiencing life as a woman, so in fact you have simply confirmed my point."
Andrew sighed. To my surprise it sounded like a genuine sigh, rather than a theatrically exaggerated polemical device. He muttered something which sounded like "What the hell!" and there she was again, that hussy, sitting in his place, still holding the same glass in her manicured hand. Some part of me couldn't help noting that that sort of glass with that sort of drink looked much more at home in that sort of hand, but I refused to get distracted by that too.
"No mirrors," she said, and damn her blood-red talons if even the voice wasn't the perfect breathy sort that men find so inexplicably irresistible. "This is for real." She crossed her legs, making quite sure that I wouldn't miss the frock being side-slashed to mid-thigh. "All the way, in case you are wondering."
"Yeah... And I am the Queen of Sheeba, or more appropriately, King Solomon! Andrew, even if it were for real, do you really think that taking on the image of a male sexual fantasy is going to tell you anything about what it is like to be a real woman?"
She sipped her drink for a little while, looking at me thoughtfully, with her head slightly to one side. "The book," she said at length, "is about the heartbreak and loneliness of being a very desirable woman. What makes you an expert? What do YOU know about what it is like to be a desirable woman?"
I didn't even consider my response. Any Zen master would have been proud of me! The next second my drink was in her face and dripping all over her, spreading in dark stains through that ridiculous frock. "Bitch!" I said. "If you take on the looks of a bitch and the manners of a bitch, expect to be treated like a bitch!"
She put her glass down very carefully and stood up wiping her creamy bosom with one hand.
"Out of character," I said nastily. "You were supposed to faint or at least burst into tears."
She must have studied with the same Zen master - her open wet hand hit me across my left cheek. It was meant to hurt and by golly it did. I clutched at my face, looking at her incredulously, completely at a loss as to where this absurd situation was going.
She sat down again, briefly examined the damage to the frock and wiped her face on a sleeve. Then looked up at me.
"Now that we've got that out of our systems," she said pleasantly, "Could we resume our discussion in a more civil modality, please?"
As I continued to stare, completely thrown by the mismatch between the words - so very Andrew - and the person before me, she added "Sorry about the slap. It wasn't exactly unprovoked." She glanced down at her dress again. "Would you like a wet towel or something for that cheek? Cold compress does help." She grinned ruefully. "I should know!..."
"Thanks. Aren't you going to change?" I asked, surprising myself. "It can't be very pleasant..."
"Honey," she said, disappearing into the kitchen, "I ain't got a female wardrobe to hand." She returned with a wet kitchen towel and handed it to me.
I gingerly patted my still stinging cheek with the towel and then pressed it on quite firmly. "Sorry about that drink. It wasn't exactly... unprovoked... Could I have another, please?"
She grinned: "Gin and tonic again? Or something stronger?"
"Absolutely stronger. Got any whiskey?"
"Sure.... On the rocks?"
"Stuff the rocks!..."
She raised a perfect eyebrow at me, but without further ado poured me a couple of fingers of amber liquid, which I am sorry to confess I upended in one gulp - vodka style.
"Oh, heck...," she said, "It is uncomfortable and you won't be convinced otherwise." With these words she got hold of the neckline and stretching it out, pulled the frock down and stepped out of it. It is hardly necessary to say that what she wore underneath, matched the image exactly. Skimpy negligee of dark-blue satin included (of course!) a suspender belt, holding in place sheerest stockings imaginable.
She kicked the heap of velvet aside with one of the vertiginously-heeled silver pumps and plonked herself on the sofa next to me.
"Come on," she said. "You might as well feel me, or you'll never believe it."
I mutely shook my head and just stuck out my hand with the empty glass in it. She thought about it, then took the glass, got to her feet and went to pour me another drink. It was only a few steps, but I watched her undulating posterior in a haze. It occurred to me briefly that I must be hallucinating. Too much drink, or something. But when she turned back handing me the glass with a generous portion of whiskey, I am afraid I simply upended it again. Mistake, I know, but that's hind-sight for you.
Things got rather hazy after that, or to put it more precisely, that was the last I remember of that day. I woke up next morning in Andrew's bed, in Andrea's arms. The first was not unprecedented. As for the second, I was feeling too dreadful to be bothered.
For a few minutes I simply lay there, re-assembling my recollections of the previous day. "Andrew," I croaked after a while, "Is it really you in there?"
For some reason that amused her. "You bet!" she purred. "Or did you think you unconsciously constructed a novel alibi for indulging unsuspected lesbian fantasies? Sorry, honey, I don't do multiple personalities. Not even to satisfy your jaded appetites."
I wasn't at all up to following the characteristically convoluted meaning, but aside from the "honey", that was Andrew all right. Reassured, I crawled out of the bed and staggered into the bathroom to relieve myself, and to try getting rid of the consignment of sewage somebody unkindly deposited under my tongue.
By the time I felt able to face the world again, Andrew was busy setting out breakfast on the kitchen table. Taking one glance at me he put away one of the cereal plates, poured a large mug of steaming black coffee and thrust it into my hands.
"Thanks..." I mumbled, sagging onto a chair.
"My dear," he said lightly, "Didn't your parents teach you NEVER to drink whiskey like that?"
I just shook my head and sat there, wrapped in his towel robe and sipping the coffee. It helped. A bit, anyway. Enough for me to stagger back into the bed afterwards for a proper, and this time refreshing snooze.
When I woke up, Andrew was gone. On the table in the kitchen was a scribbled note saying he wouldn't be back until next day and quite unnecessarily reminding me where to look for the spare key. I made myself another mug off coffee, dressed up, locked up, pushed the key through the letter box and went home.
* * *
I didn't manage to catch up with Andrew until nearly a week later. It's not that he was avoiding me, yet I had a definite impression that he was not exactly looking forward to seeing me again. In the circumstances I didn't find that entirely surprising. So when we did get together for lunch, I didn't press him until after the meal, when we got back to his place and settled for a drink in his living room.
"Cheers!" I said taking a glass from him. "Now then, we seem to have some unfinished business, which at the very least requires clarification."
"I thought you'd see it that way," he grumbled. "I really don't know what'd got into me, after all that time... Look, I can only apologise for inflicting my, er..., idiosyncrasies on you. It must have come as quite a shock, if I read your reaction aright."
"Andrew, cut the nonsense - I am no wilting flower. You know perfectly well that I am dying to ask what you expected me to ask straight away. So, come on, Mr Smoke-and-Mirrors, spill the beans!"
"Hm... Which particular bag of beans would you like me to spill?"
"Should I help you to refresh your memory? Let's see... Your uncle Pete left you this chest for your personal use..."
"You forget, my dear - Freudian jokes are rather passe these days. But to answer your question, no, not a chest. A mirror, actually. And it wasn't my uncle..."
I groaned. "Smoke and mirrors after all... how can you bear such a corny story line? And I suppose the mirror allows you to change into whatever shape you wish, so of course you chose..."
"No, silly, it wasn't like that at all! It simply reflected... Her. Andrea. There didn't seem to be any choice in the matter."
"Am I to infer a secret yearning for womanhood?" The very idea seemed absurd. Let psychoanalysts babble what they like, Andrew struck me as the last man in the world to be turned on by that sort of fantasies. Then again, there was no escaping the fact that we were already far into the surreal territory anyway.
"No," he said simply. "And it didn't strike me that way, if you want to know. She wasn't me. Not then. She was an object of desire, shown to me by the magic glass."
"So you tried to fuck her." I grinned at him and promptly wished I didn't. But instead of lashing back, Andrew looked sheepish. "You didn't! Did you?"
"Well, not as such..."
Yes, well, I could well imagine. "Spare me the details!... Unless they are germane, of course - are they?"
"No, no... Not at all. In the end, I just wanted to look at her - all the time. And eventually she looked back at me from another mirror - the one in the bathroom. It didn't immediately struck me as significant." He suddenly blushed,
Unfair, I know, but I couldn't resist another shot: "So you got to fuck her, in a way, after all."
"Uh... Let's say it was a most interesting night, OK?"
There was a sudden edge to his voice, warning me not to probe further. I heeded the warning and changed the tack: "But, you can control it, obviously."
"Oh yes. Though not when looking into the mirror - that mirror. Not any more. Also, the more I looked at that reflection, the harder it seemed to be Andrew and the easier to slip into being Andrea."
"What is it like, being her?" I asked, genuinely interested. "Do you actually like it?"
He thought about it. "It's not like that. What is it like being you? Do you like being you? The questions don't really apply. Whichever 'me' I am, it's me."
"Oh come on... I don't believe you just learned to move the way she does!"
"Well, no. When I am her, I just do. Just like I do as I do as Andrew - by just doing. If I start thinking about either, I have no idea, but let go, step back and... it is all as it should be..."
It was a hard work making sense of it, but there was something stirring on the edges of my mind: "Even when walking the streets, as... her?" I am not really sure exactly what made me ask the question - call it intuition - but it clearly scored.
There was a heavy pause. "How did you know?", he asked eventually.
I am not one to admit easily to a lucky guess: "It's obvious! Let a man imagine an ideal woman and he imagines a slut. It takes no imagination to work out how Andrea would support herself if she had to. She'd be good at it too, I wager."
"She was," mumbled Andrew, rapidly turning crimson red. "But she wasn't... isn't... my ideal woman!"
There was no point being cruel, so I changed the subject: "What did you do with the mirror, anyway? From what you are saying, it is... was?... rather dangerous..."
"Well, I had to put it away, of course."
"Not demolish or sell?"
"Good Lord, no!" - he seemed genuinely taken aback.
"Good! I want to see it. Just briefly. It sounds like a truly wonderful thing, dangerous or not."
"I really don't think that would be wise," he said weakly - I guess he'd known all along we would be coming to this point.
It took another half an hour. We both knew, of course, that the outcome was never in doubt.
* * *
It was in a small dusty room with a single bare electric bulb hanging on a wire from the ceiling. Among other junk, there was a large oblong shape leaning against a wall, with some old sheets draped over it and secured with a piece of string, clearly making sure that the cover didn't slip off.
Andrew fumbled with the string for a while and, finally succeeding, pulled off the sheet and stepped away from the mirror to stand next to me.
And it was true. Reflected in it stood Andrea in her velvet frock, eyeing us with those provocative eyes of hers. But next to her... Next to her... No, it wasn't me. It wasn't even a hyper-male stud standing next to her, as I'd half expected. No, standing next to her was a huge tiger, looking straight into my eyes.
There was a slight shimmer of reality by my side and I knew that a part of the world conformed to the image, and that if I were to look, I'd see a velvet-clad woman standing there. And that meant...
Time literally stood still and I felt different futures peeling away from me and spinning off to... elsewhere. I smashed the mirror then and there, cutting myself badly and causing Andrew to know what it was to live as a woman without an escape clause. I tried to smash the mirror, but I should have known better, and only hurt myself and then had a flaming row with Andrew and never spoke to him again. I was drawn to the mirror by that hypnotic gaze of the slit yellow eyes, bespelled, knowing my future, until alarmed Andrea pulled me back and... no, let's leave it at that. I turned and ran, quit my job, quit the country and settled down as a farmer's wife in the depth of rural France. I... did many things. Some wise, some foolish, some outrageous; some understandable and some surprising.
And inaction is also an action. I stood there while these futures, and their variations and variations on variations, split off and spun off, leaving only the here and now. I stood there, no longer a crowd, but once again a singular human being, lost in a world stranger than anything imagined by philosophers, ancient or modern.
"Enough, enough...", said Andrea's voice gently into my ear. "You don't want to look at it for too long, believe you me...".
With those words, she put her arm around my shoulders and steered me out of that room, towards daylight and mundane life of a big city. She parked me on the sofa and disappeared briefly, I guess to cover up that incredible piece of glass, and then busied herself with making a coffee and holding my hand and talking to me, about trivia, not expecting any response - just to deposit a detritus of normality over the terrifying chasm that had opened at my feet.
I don't recall much from that day. At one point we made love, Andrea taking the lead, but keeping it very low-key; no high flames of desire, no fireworks, just cleansing pleasure, just giving and taking the way I could never do with Andrew and never imagined doing with a woman. It was just what I needed.
And it worked. Normality reasserted itself, as it usually does, even if what is normal gets drastically redefined in one's mind's eye. Life goes on, We are still good friends with Andrew. We are still girlfriends with Andrea. And I still don't know whether either of them wrote that wretched book. It doesn't matter. In this mortal life, what does one know for sure anyway? Andrew says I've become resigned and less driven. Andrea says I've learned to be more of myself. They approve, though I am not sure they are right.
We never talk about the mirror.
But sometimes, in the middle of the night, when I am sleepless and alone, at least in my mind, I know one thing with a certainty beyond all reason or doubt. And it goes like this...
There is a room I could enter. And in that room, there is a glass covered with an old dust-sheet, which I could lift. And in that glass, burning - oh, ever so bright! - there is a magnificent tiger.
- o O o -