Lisolette smiled shyly at the mirror, but her reflection did not smile back.
Of course, (as the voice in her mind that sounded increasingly like Mama never failed to remind her pretentiously) the flat plane in front of her certainly was not a mirror. Still, it did not hurt anyone for her to pretend that the metallic criss-crosses in front of her were actually the shadows of Mama’s lattice fence falling on her bathroom mirror, instead of their being bits of chain-link that smelled so acrid that her nose crinkled. So, in Lisolette’s mind, the fence could certainly be a mirror. After all, there was even a reflection behind it.
Lisolette frowned as she looked at the reflection-that-was-not-a-reflection, wondering why it did not smile back. She knew that the face certainly wasn’t her own, because it looked nothing like her, but she was still sad. She cocked her head to one side, studying the face. He (she knew he was a boy, although Mama would not have approved) looked to be about her age (she was, as she would proudly say, eight and a quarter years old), although he certainly looked a lot less happy. His dark brown eyes bored intently into her own twinkling blue ones.
“Hello,” Lisolette said uncertainly. (Mama always wanted her to be polite) “My name is Lisolette.” (She remembered too late that Mama also told her never to talk to strangers… but the boy on the other side of the fence seemed to be nice, no matter how strange) “What’s your name?”
The boy blinked at her quietly, his fingers tracing patterns in the dusty ground beneath his crossed legs, and then murmured quietly, “My name’s Daniel.”
“That’s a funny name,” Lisolette blurted out instinctively before cringing. (Mama would have scolded her for that)
“So is Lisolette,” Daniel retorted sullenly, looking away.
Lisolette opened her mouth to reply and then closed it, thinking. Lisolette was
a little strange, after all. She knew, though, that Lisolette was a better name than Daniel, because Mama told her it was an “our-yin” name (Lisolette didn’t know what a yin was, or why it belonged to everyone; Mama refused to tell her), meaning it was always better than anything else, just like she was. Lisolette was about to reply when she suddenly remembered why she was here and broke off into an excited chatter: “Mama told me that there was some bad juice here, and that’s why there was this big fence, so that the bad juice wouldn’t hurt me.” (Mama refused to tell her what was wrong with the juice, and Mama only frowned angrily when Lisolette asked if it was orange juice or apple juice) “She told me not to come, but I’m not afraid of the juice and I wanted to come exploring.” She grinned fiercely. “Do you know where it is?”
Daniel looked up at her curiously, his fingers stopping in their tracks in the dust. He blinked, and then Lisolette heard him slowly say, “There are juice here.” (Lisolette noticed that he pronounced “juice” the way that Mama pronounced it, with an ‘ew’ sound at the end, like the juice was icky)
“Mama also said it was because the Furry wanted to keep us safe from the juice.”
Daniel opened his mouth to respond and then just stopped, staring flat out at Lisolette. “That’s not how you pronounce Fuh –”
Lisolette cut him off with her excited chatter as her eyes fastened on Daniel’s bald head. (Once, when she was six, she had gotten lice and Mama had had to completely shave her head) She pretentiously flicked her blonde braids over her shoulders and asked, “Is that why you get to wear stripey clothes?” She pointed at Daniel’s blue and white striped pants and shirt, frayed and tattered. She tugged uncomfortably at her own stiffly starched dress and sighed.
Daniel meekly looked down, resuming his tracing of lines in the dirt.
Lisolette continued, saying her thoughts out loud as they came to her. “And then this is a hospital, right?” It all made sense to her as she stared at the squat grey buildings that dotted the compound on Daniel’s side of the fence. Some people, like Daniel, must have lice, which was why he was bald. And the other people who listlessly walked around must have gotten sick because of the bad juice. Lisolette looked at the tall smokestacks in the rear of the compound and blinked. Those must be the ovens, then, where they made schnitzel sandwiches (Lisolette loved schnitzel) for the sick children. “Do you like it here?”
Daniel paused, blinking, and then instinctively raised his hand towards Lisolette through the fence, as if he wasn’t sure that such a strange girl was only a phantom of his imagination.
Lisolette found herself doing the same thing, mirroring his movements.
For the briefest moments, their fingers brushed. Daniel was surprised to realize that she was real. Lisolette was surprised to feel how skeletal his fingers were.
“Hey!” The voice belonged to neither Lisolette nor Daniel, but Daniel was the one to recognize it. He jumped, literally, alarmed. His head darted back and forth, eyes fastening on the tall brick tower that was on the edge of the fence, roughly fifty feet away. The voice continued, “Get away from the fence!”
Daniel nodded obediently, his eyes widening, and hurriedly disentangled his fingers from Lisolette’s and ran towards the dull, grey buildings that dotted the dusty ground.
Lisolette still remained, kneeling by the fence, her fingers still poking through the chain-link-juice-fence as she stared after him (she decided then that he was her friend). “I’ll come back tomorrow!” she shouted, bewildered. “Will you?”
A hundred feet away, Lisolette saw Daniel’s pale, frightened face nod quickly and then resume fleeing. It was then that she noticed how crooked his nose was.
Still confused, Lisolette sprung up and walked slowly away from the fence, through the woods and the long miles back to her own home, in an entirely different kind of world.
When Lisolette returned the next day, a schnitzel sandwich in hand for Daniel (after all, Mama’s schnitzel was probably much better than the stuff at the hospital). She was surprised to see that most of the compound was empty, and Daniel wasn’t there.
Sighing, Lisolette settled herself down in the dust on her side of the fence, prepared to wait.
The sun arced over the sky, and Lisolette found herself picking at the sandwich, wishing that Daniel was there to share it with. Finally, when the sun was barely touching the horizon, she knew she had to go home (Mama would be worried).
She looked forlornly up at the schnitzel-sandwich-smokestacks in the heart of the compound, watching as clouds of black smoke roiled around them. Perhaps, she thought, Daniel was happily eating his own schnitzel somewhere, Lisolette forgotten. Something told her that he wasn’t.
Lisolette sighed, looking with envy up at the dark tendrils of smoke in the quickly-darkening sky (they were so free to fly, while she sat here, tethered by gravity to the dusty and painful earth), wondering if they could tell her (she was on the other side of the juice-fence, after all; maybe it was too far) where her reflection had gone.
Author's Note: No, it's not actually juice/Furry/our-yin/schnitzel. I'll let you figure those out... ._.