Broken Things by Claudia Wair

Monica sees her dead son in mirrors. He’s always standing somewhere in the room behind her, staring, silent, sullen. Sometimes in the mirror her son is younger, just five or six, playing with his trucks or trains. But most of the time he is his 10-year-old self. He watches her brush her teeth, put on makeup, straighten her clothes. He glares, resentful.

It frightened her at first, seeing him in every mirror in the house. For weeks, she spent nights with the lights on, afraid of sleep. But after so many months, bitterness has replaced fear. So she removes all the mirrors in the house except one that she covers with a brown winter shawl. This she unveils only when necessary.

It isn’t her fault he died. He just didn’t look before stepping into the street, and the car killed him instantly. Still, she apologizes over and over. But he just stands in the mirror, accusing her with his eyes.

What do you want me to say? she asks his reflection. What do I have to do to make you go? But he never answers.

For her, pregnancy was like hosting a parasite. When Brian arrived, it was as though she was caring for a stranger’s baby. She did her duty, nursing, changing, and bathing the child. But little more. She had nothing else to give.

One day, Monica stares back. I’m sorry I didn’t love you, she says. She hopes her admission will make him leave, but he is still in the mirror, glaring.

Soon, Monica leaves the last mirror covered all the time. She does her makeup in the car. She gets used to living in a house without her reflection. She focuses on her work, sees friends on the weekends. The silence of the house soothes rather than isolates her.

But that last, covered-up mirror harbors her resentment. She removes the shawl and speaks to Brian. No more, she says, and lifts the mirror from the wall and dashes it on the floor. Then she sweeps up the shards and the memories and the anger and tosses them into the trash.

Monica feels peace for the first time since her son was born. She feels guilty for breaking the mirror, for not loving Brian, for banishing his ghost. But, she soon finds, it’s a guilt she can live with.

Claudia Wair is a writer and editor from Virginia. Her work has appeared in JMWW, The Wondrous Real Magazine, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Corvid Queen, and elsewhere. You can read more at or find her on Twitter at @CWTellsTales.