Refractured**

My eyes look so blue in this mirror, oceanic almost, and I wonder if it’s through these tides that his lunar gravity rules over me, or if it’s from the saltwater that makes rivers down my ripped up rain face, flooding over, banks breaking onto my cheeks. The drought of his absence dries all the water up, so I become the surface of another moon.

I look at my naked body from third person, seeing myself the way he must see me, looking as someone from the outside. The warm light from my bedroom lamp makes my skin look a little less pale, even as my hair falls dark against it, getting so long now that it almost reaches my stomach as the fibre turns to straw. I would like to cut it closer to my shoulders, but I don’t think he would want that. I comb my fingers through the brunette cascade, a tickling feeling from every thread as I trace seventeen years, the new-grown, naïve softness gradually becoming split wire. I gather it all together and let it waterfall down my back, flush against my spine, and uncover a deep stain of purple spread like infection across my ribs, maybe from where my heart tried to break free from its torture-chamber cage so it could learn to sing a better birdsong.

Sometimes I forget, lost in all the empty white space, that my skin doubles as canvas. Five little yellow suns dotted symmetrically on both sides of my waist, the daylight trajectory of a stranger’s planet, perfectly the size of his handprints, so that even in my isolation I can feel his pressure against me. The blues and purples of a winter sunset too fresh to be fading around my collar bone and neck, but I can’t remember, or can’t tell, what comes from his kisses and what from his rage, black like starless midnight, cloud-covered, unnavigable, shipwrecks across my skin. No broken bones yet. My reflection shows me everything stripped back to the core, the daytime make-up wiped clean so I can see that the patch around my eye is healing, an echo close enough to the sleep-deprived circles smudged along the outline of the sockets for me to wonder if it ever happened at all. A few blue stepping stones across my thighs, footsteps of an aimless wanderer with shoes dipped in paint, illuminating a safe path over the tiger-stripe stretch marks like ripples in the water. The cigarette burn on my hip that he swore was an accident.

I become an atlas, marking the journey from the snow-white perfection with which came my pliable naïveté to the apple with a single poisoned bite, bruised as it hits the ground. He maps his mistakes across me like confession; my body becomes my testimony, his trial. Painted in his colours, still too much empty space left to fill and never enough time, leaving me an incomplete project, a permanent work-in-progress, a symbol of infinite opportunity. It doesn’t hurt, not at the moment. It’s been three whole days without incident, and some of them really are accidental.

He turns eighteen before I do, but as the days count down for his adolescent freedom, so too do they count down for my captivity. I wonder, did my childhood end when I sealed my contract with him in my blood, or does it remain in-tact until I break away from his chains? The caged bird has no need to fly. Only in liberation can she be snatched from the nest.

The mirror shows me myself through his eyes. The baby-white girl metamorphoses into the woman coloured by her experiences, a black and blue butterfly kissed by the storm and stillness of the lunar light. He leaves me promises of his return in the proof of his presence, and the imprint of his touch reminds me of the warmth of his breath, the rumble of his voice, the adoration in his smile. His fire-eyes remind me how to love.

Is this how beautiful I look to him? My fractured reflection wonders back at me.

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