My mother is driving. Or, I suppose I ought to say, my mother was driving. Now we’re just sitting, one stopped car amongst dozens, waiting for the light to turn green. I am very carefully avoiding looking her in the eye, because if I do she will start her lecture. I think my mother always has at least one, always prepares at least thirty minutes of speech for any time alone with me. Usually they involve my attitude, my failures, or my… problem.
But my eyes keep on sliding that way anyway, and I have to jerk back. Finally the car ahead of us pulls forward and we follow suit, sliding jerkily forward. And as I pull my eyes away this time, they fall on the rear-view mirror hanging between us.
He’s there, of course. I think he’s always there, waiting for me to look. He’s looking right at me, and I look at him, meet his eyes. They are mesmerizing, so bottomless and depthless and yet so very, very deep. I think I could look at them forever and not find the secrets buried there.
Still keeping his eyes on mine, Shard reaches out, just like the time we touched. I know enough not to follow suit. Because of the way the mirror points, it almost looks like he’s sitting behind me, on the back seats, reaching up to grab my shoulder.
Shard smiles and I whirl around. But of course, the seat is empty.
He’s still there, in the mirror, when I look back again. Still smiling, his hand only inches away from my arm. I watch, frozen in horror, as it descends. As it hovers just above my skin.
And, when he finally lowers his fingers to my flesh, I feel it.
I jerk away and look over, desperate both to see and to avoid seeing Shard, because for the first time I really think he might be real. Like our continued interaction has given him some sort of power over me. Because this time I felt his hand, cold and papery and dry as death.
“Stop spasing, I’m trying to drive,” my mom says, as if this is something I have control over. So I sit in my seat, staring straight ahead at the road, catching glimpses of movement in the corner of my eye.
When he touches me again, it hurts a little. I look in the mirror and see him reach for me again, steel myself for the feel of his hand. His eyes meet mine, and I swear he looks almost pleading. Almost like he is begging me not to move.
So I stay still as his hand touches my shoulder, resisting the urge to flinch away as it travels to the side of my neck. I do not move, do not breath, do not think.
And then, very slowly, without looking anywhere but at that tiny mirror, I place my hand over his. Instantly the feeling changes. How did I ever think he felt like death? Shard’s skin my be cold, but it isn’t frozen, it isn’t glacial and unwelcoming. It just needs a little warmth. It’s dry, but not dead, chapped and cracked but still somehow supple.
“Snap out of it,” my mother says, waving her hand in front of my face. I glare at her, then turn my attention back to the mirror.
Shard bends closer to me, so close I can almost feel his breath, can see it stir my hair ever so slightly.
“Hey, Cara. Cara! Caroline James!” Shard’s calm, cold touch is replaced by another’s as my mother’s hand slaps across my cheek. “When I speak to you, you need to listen. Who do you think it is that pays for your therapy every week? That spends hours every day working to feed you? Who do you think…”
And she trails off. I look at her, and my mother’s face is pale. So very, very pale.
“What is that?” she almost shrieks, and I know what she sees. I know, because I see it too. Shard, sitting there calmly as ever in the backseat, only visible in the mirror. But my mother wouldn’t know that, because she is driving and cannot turn around. So, to her, he must seem real.
When he touches her, she screams. And I watch, fear and horror rising, as his nails bury in her flesh, as thin streams of blood flow from the tiny wounds. The car jerks hard to the left, but neither of us take our eyes from the mirror.
I wonder, if I’d have looked away then, would my mother still be alive? Would Shard have disappeared and left her in peace? Or would it have even mattered?
Nevertheless, I do not look away. I see, in perfect, stunning clarity, as Shard leans forward and sinks his teeth into her neck. And then I do look away, only for an instant, only long enough to see the other car. The car speeding toward us, screeching as it tries oh-so-vainly to stop in time.
And the glass explodes, and the world fades.