by CZERIZHA KAIZEL S. ADZUARA
WHEN THE night grows quiet and the sound is left for the cicadas, Helen silently sits before the vanity mirror.
With its carved curlicues, the wooden frame devours her whole. It was the same mirror that devoured the features of Helen’s mother; and their female ancestors, who did the same rituals and asked the same thing from the mirror.
She gazes at her face by the candlelight. The darkness of the night vignettes her features.
Helen begins her ritual.
First comes the cleansing. She wipes the grime and history of pain off her flesh. Then she gently peels the rough patches on her skin and lips. Helen flinches, but the pain is a part of the ritual. It is built in.
She swallows the trickle of blood on her lips.
Then, the toning comes second. Helen holds the vial. The smell of witch hazel wafts in the air along with the herbal ingredients Helen knows nothing of. Nonetheless, she pours the potion upon her palm and swipes it across her cheeks.
The ritual is almost done. She finally hears the whispers from the mirror.
Last is the balming. Helen eases the pain with a cream given by their family’s sorceress. She caresses her cheek in circular motions as she is about to speak her incantation. Helen chants:
Mirror, Mirror, hear me!
tell me whose lover I will be.
The chime of cicadas wanes. The whispers turned into a mocking laugh until it dwindles to silence.
Helen only sees her reflection. F