All I knew was that the mirror was staying with me. I couldn't say why, only that it felt like mine.
I arrived at Dad's a few short minutes later; I long ago stopped calling it home. The driveway at his house was steep and all auburn gravel. It was dotted with dandelions and other varieties of weed; a stark contrast to what it was like when we were still a family. It looked old and overgrown, a relic from a time past which really is an accurate description. His Silverado was no where to be seen, but I thought I'd try anyway.
I walked the uneven and cracked concrete sidewalk that led to the front door and ascended the steep wooden steps, then rang the doorbell. This still felt odd to me; almost like knocking on my own bedroom door, but I thought it to be tactful. There was no answer right away, though I could hear someone inside.
Pushing the button again, I waited. Probably I had woken him. I didn't want to wait very long as I had a strange urge to look into my new mirror again, if only to verify that it was, indeed, only a normal mirror. As I turned, having given up on Dad making it to the door in any timely manner, the door opened behind me with a loud creek. He looked surprised to see me, like he was caught off-guard, but he invited me in. Of course he would, anything less would have been ridiculous.
Dad said that he was happy to see me, but there was no smile when he said it. He gave me a hug, but it was more suited as a hug that distant cousins might give each other at a family reunion; awkward and forced. We talked, but never connected.
Over the next two days, I withdrew even further into myself. I was already a loner, but believe me I found a way. I spent most of my time in my bedroom. There was no reason for my behavior that I knew of, only that I felt happier when I was alone in my room. It confused me to no end. I hated the idea of being alone, but when I was alone in my room I never felt alone. A paradox if ever there was one, but it's the truth.
It wasn't until Thursday that I realized why.
Thursday night, three days after I left a horrible amount of evidence in the Crawford's attic, I was laying on my bed reading a particularly pleasant novel when Mom knocked on my door. She didn't wait for me to invite her in. Opening the door just wide enough to poke her head through, she nodded in the direction of the kitchen. I placed a bookmark at my page and then followed her. Apparently, the garbage was overflowing. I smiled and said I got it.
It took quite an effort to squish the trash down to a level that allowed me to tie the bag. I got quite frustrated doing it despite my philosophy on negative feelings and kicked the bottom of the can nearly hard enough to knock it over. The task seemed to get easier as my frustration increased, and I lifted the bag out of the can with little effort, tied it, then slipped into my untied shoes.
Garbage overflow was located about sixty feet from the house, at the side of the garden shed. The air outside was warm and moist and smelled charmingly of moss. The ground was pleasantly soft under my feet, and I was feeling quite good now despite my ridiculous bout of frustration. I felt strong, too; I carried the garbage bag at my side and level with my shoulder.
I reached the shed and let the bag fall to my side, then lifted it. It felt good. I lifted it again, then again, enjoying the feeling, when I heard some clattering sounds from inside the house. Neglecting to secure the bag in one of the locking cans that surrounded the shed, I sprinted back to the house and through the door.
From the door there was a clear path down the hallway to my bedroom door, and Mom was outside of it pointing into it and looking at me. I rushed to her side, not because of concern for her but for some reason unknown to me. In my bedroom was a frightened squirrel. It had gotten into my can of salted peanuts and was now desperately trying to get back to the window. I had to get it out of my room. It seemed important, urgent, like I was rushing to put out a small fire in my home before it spread. I tried chasing the squirrel, hoping that would give it some more motivation to jump back out the way it came in, but the window was high and there was nothing for it to climb. I dragged my bureau to the wall under my window and then began making a racket of noise until the squirrel jumped up and out the window.
Mom looked at the window and issued a thin cough. I knew what it meant, and apologized. One doesn't leave windows open and unattended in this house. She seemed satisfied with that and went on her way, but I didn't feel the same way. Something required attention. The urgency I felt hadn't left with the squirrel. I began looking around my room, desperately trying to find the source of my problem. I opened the bottom drawer of my bureau and no, Mom hadn't found the magazine. That didn't seem to matter. It wasn't the problem. I looked under my bed; the shoebox was untouched. That didn't matter either.
I laid on my bed, breathing heavily and trying to calm myself, trying to figure it out but it continued to elude me. Hyperventilation began to set in and I couldn't catch my breath; urgency had progressed to panic. I closed my eyes and cleared my mind. I stopped thinking. It was all I could do. For what must have been five minutes I laid there staring at the inside of my eyelids and it seemed to work because the panic eventually receded.
I laid in bed feeling calmer by the minute and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Eventually my breathing slowed until it had resumed a normal pace and my panic stricken mind felt at ease once again. I opened my eyes. The room seemed brighter than usual and my eyes couldn't quite focus, but I felt better.
Then I felt something at my side, under my hand. I was inadvertantly stroking it. I knew before I even looked what it was; the smoothness of the center, the many bumps and grooves of the side-my mirror. And it made sense, too. At once I knew that this was what was causing my panic. I had to make sure that it was safe. It comforted me. I didn't know it that night but that is why I never felt alone when I was alone in my room. It was why I was happier there. The very idea that a squirrel could have done anything to the mirror was absurd and that is why, in hindsight, I should have seen what was coming.
In my closet, watching me in the way of both a parent and child, a shadow grew larger.