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Anonymous, North Hertfordshire College

February 2022

Eyes rolling at petulant shoppers as fast as the conveyor belt to her right, Mia was done for the day. Completely done. The pre-Christmas rush was robbing her of both festive spirit and patience. Convinced the clock was actually ticking backwards, she held her breath for her relief in the war against unreasonable demands.

As someone came to take over her station, the first real smile of the day graced her face, lighting up her previously plain features. She scrambled up her belongings and all but sprinted back to the locker room. Peace washed over her. The irony that a dingy locker room that smelled faintly of mould and damp was her current saviour was not lost on her. Not wanting to waste a second or risk being asked a question, she yanked on her coat, covering every inch of the uniform. Bundled up in a scarf, hat and gloves, she made a break for freedom.

Avoiding eye contact was the key. The last thing she wanted was to have a keen customer recognise her and insist she fetches something from the back. She rushed through the shop, head down, focusing, hawk-eyed on her goal: the doors. Freedom. No more screaming brats.

Finally, she was outside. The winter wind whipped her hair and autumn’s last leaves spun to the ground in twisting tornadoes. She trudged wearily home, desperation fuelling her tired feet. Her old, wood front door was a welcome sight and she slid her key into the lock in relief. A bath. That’s what the doctor ordered.

One hour and an obscene amount of bubbles later, humanity had crept back into her. Mia pulled on her dressing gown, its white fluff like a cloud around her. Her normally blonde hair was dark with water and dripping lightly onto her collar. Running a comb through her hair, she pondered food options. There must be something for her around. Preferably something quick and easy – the latest episode of Strictly was waiting for her.

Mindlessly going through the motions, it took a while for her to realise what was wrong. Brushing her hair, she dipped down to grab a band, noting something in her periphery. It took a second for it to register and she flipped up, staring into the mirror. She blinked her heart racing, breath coming in gasps. Convinced the long day had finally pushed her over the edge, she brought her brush back up to resume her routine. But no.

She was brushing her hair, but her reflection wasn’t.

Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, her vision faded around the edge. Surely not. She waved. Once. Twice. Her reflection didn’t. It cocked an eyebrow questioningly, an amused smirk playing about its lips.

Mia watched in horror as its…her…hand reached out towards her. Time slowed to a crawl as she watched in morbid fascination as a hand, eerily like her own, seeped out of the mirror before her.