Ten Seconds to Now

One day, Friday discovered that she could see into the future.

It had altogether been a rotten week. Mom’s new “friend” (she always called them “friends” – Friday had no idea who she thought she was fooling) had practically moved in, and Friday had had to spend every day after school holed up in her room, avoiding him. It helped her avoid her little brother Tuesday too, who’d been more annoying than usual, following her around and whining about his math homework. On top of that, the cat had puked twice on her rug, her favorite show was on break, and her jerk friends had called her stuck-up when she refused to moon over Bryce Johnson with the rest of them, which had somehow escalated to the silent treatment.

So she had been entirely not in the mood when she glanced up at the mirror (distracted from her homework by the thought of how she could prove tomorrow at school how much she didn’t care that they were no longer speaking to her), and her reflection had smiled rather sarcastically and then flipped her off.

This did not, at first, shock her. Friday’s mother worked a 9 to 5 at a local So-Cal tech company answering the phone, and bought every inane invention her company couldn’t pay to get rid of simply by being told she could get it “at cost.” Months before she had replaced Friday’s mirror with the stupidest contraption yet: a big, ugly computer monitor with a camera hidden in the frame, whose awful image quality was topped only by the fact that it lagged by about ten seconds. She was more than used to her reflection moving on its own.

She straightened with vague irritation and gave the mirror a flat, sarcastic smile before flipping it off in turn. By now her reflection looked stunned, like it couldn’t believe she had just done that, and Friday thought (rather stupidly) serves you right, before she realized that her mirror wasn’t lagging ten seconds behind, but ten seconds ahead.

Suddenly and officially: What?

Her follow-up thought was blindly rational (it’s a prank, it’s got to be, are these things hackable?), and the next was simply Impossible. As always the image was so badly pixilated that Friday couldn’t make out the zits on her face or her eye color (blue, and the only thing she liked about her looks now that her hair – dyed red and cut into what she had recently decided was an ugly A-line – didn’t count), but the reflection moved like her, reacted like her, and Friday’s every movement matched what her reflection had done without her even trying.

She stared with her mouth open until she became aware of the stupid look on her face, clacking her mouth shut and simultaneously realizing mirror-Friday had done the same only ten seconds before. Abruptly her reflection stood up and Friday leaned into the mirror, watching it go. It disappeared into the hallway without looking back, apparently in a hurry, and Friday was left with nothing but an empty screen and a pounding heart.

She felt her heart ratchet up another notch when it hit her for real: her mirror was lagging from the future.

Another moment passed before she heard a door bang downstairs. She stood, practically dashed for the door to see if her mom was home and realized, so that’s where I was going to in such a hurry.

Normally Friday finished whatever she was doing without bothering to come down and say hello. In fact, most days she’d come up with a few more things after that so that when Mom called her for dinner she had an excuse to wait until the meal was half over. At that point it’d be cold, but she could eat and get out of there as quickly as possible. But weird crap like this had to be shared, and immediately.

“Mom!” she called, taking the stairs two at a time. “You won’t believe what my mirror is doing. It’s lagging forwards. You know how—”

“It’s what now?” the “friend” asked, looking up from his briefcase. Mom was nowhere in sight.

Mom dated rotten men. That’s just how it was. The grass is green, the sky is blue, and Friday’s mother dated worthless guys. She had done so since Friday was six and Dad had kicked the proverbial bucket. Friday stopped before she descended the last step, hand still on the rail, and considered the latest model.

Frank assessment: ugly. Simon had a beer gut, bald patches obviously desperate to meet up with one another, and a shirt pitted out to the mid-rib point. He was also smiling, but it did nothing for his very square jaw, which floated just above his shoulders. She sneered at him and didn’t move closer.

“Where’s Mom?” she asked. For the life of her Friday couldn’t figure out where Mom found these guys. She was actually quite pretty (for her age), dark blonde with a nice face, and why exactly she kept searching for guys at the bottom of the barrel was beyond Friday’s comprehension.

“Your mother’s still at work,” Simon said. “What can I do for you?”

Leave, she thought. Or tell me why you spend so much time at our house even when Mom isn’t home, you creep. In the kitchen Tuesday gave her a thumbs up – that must’ve been him coming in from the garage – eating a fruit rollup without his hands. It dangled from his mouth like a limp, multi-colored tongue, disappearing with nauseating rapidity into his maw. Ten year olds were disgusting.

“Heya, Friday!” he said.

“Nobody cares,” she snapped at him, blithely ignoring his hurt look. “Forget it,” she added, this time to Simon. “It’s nothing anyone here is going to care about. I’ll just—”

The garage door opened for a second time, this time ushering in Mom, her arms full of groceries. “Hello!” she said, eyes taking in first Tuesday, then Simon, then, brightening visibly, Friday. “Oh! Hello, Friday! How’s school been?”

“Wonderful,” Friday said, putting as much sarcasm into “wonderful” as she could muster. “And don’t—”

But Mom was already starting on the old joke, smiling. “TGIF, honey.”

Mom had never given Friday a satisfactory explanation as to why she had named her children after days of the week, though not the days they had been born on; Friday had been born on a Sunday, her brother Tuesday on a Monday. Friday’s had obviously been a TGIF joke. Tuesday, the youngest by six years, was the favorite, though Mom denied it.

Simon was back into his watches, cleaning them, but glanced up to give the Weeke family what Friday deemed a leering smile.

“And happy Tuesday,” Mom continued, dropping the groceries on the counter and brushing a hand through Tuesday’s hair, a lighter blonde than her own. He ducked out of it when it went on longer than his pride could take, but otherwise didn’t look annoyed.

“It’s Wednesday,” Friday said, correcting her mother, though she probably hadn’t forgotten which day of the week it was. Tuesday, fruit rollup gone, stuck his blotchy red and blue tongue at her and went for another one. She wasn’t even annoyed, still determined to pass on the weirdest news since, well, ever. “And you wouldn’t believe what—”

“Not before dinner,” Mom said to Tuesday, pulling a carton of eggs onto the counter. For some inexplicable reason he actually put it back, though Friday knew full well her mom would’ve never followed through. “Does chicken sound all right, Simon?” she called into the living room. He gave her a cheesy “Sounds great!” and Mom turned back to Friday. “Well,” she said brightly, “What won’t I believe? Oh, but since you’re down here, maybe you’d like to help me—”

Friday cut her off, slamming the door on telling Mom about the mirror. “Awesome. I’m glad you actually wanted to hear how my day went.”

Immediately Mom looked stricken, but Friday pretended she didn’t notice. She turned and stomped back up the stairs, fast enough to keep Mom from trying to apologize. She was nearly at her room when she heard the new boyfriend console her mother with, “She’s just at that age,” like he knew something about it.

If Mom didn’t want to give her the chance to tell her about the mirror, if she was more concerned about whether her useless boyfriend approved of dinner…

Sadie – a grey tabby with white paws – sat regally in front of the mirror, sniffing it carefully, but Friday ignored her. Because unbelievably, inexplicably, already standing in the mirror was Friday’s reflection holding a sign that said, backwards and in hastily drawn block letters: GIVE HIM A CHANCE.

“No,” she snapped, and then remembered that she was talking to a mirror. Sadie flicked her ears at Friday’s sharp tone, but remained otherwise unconcerned.

Mirror-Friday threw down the note with a disgusted look on her face, which finally chased away the mirror-cat, and gave her a look. She then immediately – and pointedly – turned back to the bedroom door.

“Don’t you dare,” she snapped again, tone still sharp. But she had no choice. She grabbed her homework, turned it over and blindly picked one of the sharpies she kept in a mug on her desk, and angrily wrote out “GIVE HIM A CHANCE.” Sadie watched her, either unaware or unconcerned that her reflection had already run off.

Friday held it up in the mirror, reading it again, and glared at herself. Idiot, she thought. Stupid, idiotic, freaking…

But she had to go downstairs and suck it up. She followed the cat down and past the living room, ignoring Simon’s attempts to ask her how her day was, and, so that things wouldn’t be awkward, told her Mom that her day was fine. And if she ended up helping her mother with dinner, and if her mother looked happier than she had in months, and if it turned out that dinner together wasn’t so bad after all – even with unwanted male company sitting at the head of the table where Dad had sat years and years back – then that was none of the mirror’s business.  The world had changed forever. She’d figure out exactly how later.

#

Fun fact: the ability to look ten seconds into the future was surprisingly useless.

It had been over a day since the world had supposedly changed forever, and Friday had thought long and hard about how she could put it to good use. Then she’d thought long and hard about how anyone could put it to good use. At last she’d admitted to herself that any use it had would have more to do with luck than actual foreknowledge. What was she supposed to do, carry the thing on her back and set it up in her classroom to find out if they were having a pop quiz ten seconds before the teacher announced it? Even then, she’d have to learn how to read badly pixelated lips.

She gave the thing a glare, hands on her hips. Useless. Absolutely, fantastically cool, and totally useless.

“You know you shouldn’t speak to your mother like that,” Simon said from behind her.

She started violently and whirled. The mirror was perched on her desk, which in turn was shoved up against the back wall but over to the left, crowded between a bureau and a bookcase where it had no view of the door. Simon was actually standing in the middle of the room, surveying her clutter and just out of range of the mirror’s view, having come into her bedroom without permission.

Totally, utterly useless, even if she had just spent another entire meal with “the family” because the mirror had shown her that she did. Besides, it had ended a little uglier than the night before (Mom near tears and pretending not to be), so what did the mirror know?

She backed into it anyways, crossing her arms and trying to take up as much of the image as possible. There wasn’t a chance in the world that she was going to let Simon know what her mirror could do. He was not on her list of persons she planned to share her secrets with. Okay so maybe no one was right now, but Simon was on an entirely different list, one filled with people she was going to kick out of her life as soon as possible.

“You’re not my dad,” she sneered. “If Mom doesn’t like how I talk to her, she can tell me herself.”

He shook his head – a condescending move that made her like him even less than usual – and said, sternly, “Your mother is very easily hurt.”

It annoyed her that he was right. But her mother was a lot of things – vulnerable, irresolute, and easily talked into bad decisions – and most days Friday didn’t like her. The other days she didn’t like her at all. If she’d spoken cruelly her mother had deserved it. And if she hadn’t deserved it, then her mother should be the one in here, telling her so. That’s what mothers did. That’s what they were supposed to do.

The knowledge that she was in the wrong anyways only made her angrier. “What right do you have? Who do you think you are?”

He made a move towards her but she jumped forward, determined that he wasn’t going to get any closer to the mirror, and the sudden move made him stop. He seemed surprised at her defiance. “I just want to get to know you.”

“Fine,” she said. “I don’t like you. Now you know me better.”

He pursed his lips; if he had a temper she hadn’t found it yet. It bothered her that he seemed to take her every sneering insult with the patience of a yoga master when the guy had a “career” in selling people useless crap. Mirror or not, everything in her was telling her not to give this guy a chance. She didn’t like people who came into her bedroom without permission and acted like they belonged there.

“I think,” he said at last, “that you have an idealistic idea of who your dad was. It makes letting any other man into your life harder.”

She gaped at him, but then let her mouth harden. “I knew it. You did talk Mom into moving the picture.”

There was one picture of the entire Weeke family together. Tuesday was still a baby, Friday a six-year-old grouch on her dad’s lap. Friday couldn’t remember for the life of her why she looked like someone had rained on her parade, but she liked the appearances of the rest, Dad with his sunburn, Mom grinning at him like he’d just told a joke, and Tuesday’s face scrunched like he was about to cry. It looked like the moment just after the photo should have been taken, but it was the shot that had made it onto the living room wall. They must have been a nightmare in the studio.

Dad had died a few days later, in the line of duty. The story was heroic if you stopped it there, but it tanked as soon as anyone asked for more details and Friday had to explain that some punk kid had shot him in the face over a speeding ticket.

It was an old story. It didn’t even hurt anymore – hadn’t in years – and in So Cal having a single mom was the new norm. But this creep didn’t have the right to tell her what she felt about the only picture in their house that had all four of them together, before Dad died and Mom started dating the kind of guy that talked her into moving family photos from a prominent place on the wall to a drawer in the kitchen. Friday had put it back up again as soon as she’d noticed.

And she did not have an idealistic idea of her dad. She had only a handful of memories of him left. Simon could blow it out his ear.

Simon, not privy to her thoughts, only shook his head, expression gentle. “No, I didn’t. I discussed it with your mother, but it was her decision to take it down.”

“Right,” she said, arms crossed. “Is that all?”

“Yes,” he answered. “But Friday,” and here he took a step forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. His sudden proximity made her uncomfortable, but she didn’t dare step back and away. She had the sudden, awful feeling that he would follow her, and if he did he might see the mirror. She had no idea why that felt like such a bad idea. But it did. “I’m not trying to give you a hard time.” Right. Because adults never wanted to give you a hard time. “I just want to be your friend.”

She said nothing and he closed the distance a little more. She was hard-pressed to stand her ground, but she held herself ramrod straight, oozing the confidence she suddenly didn’t feel. “Do you think you could be all right with that? Do you think you could try being friends with me?”

Salvation came unexpectedly. She still had her eyes locked on Simon – who had started to creep her out in the worst way – but her peripheral vision was good enough that as soon as she saw movement cross the door behind him she called out, “Tuesday! Did you still want help with math?”

Tuesday stopped short, but then hopped into the room, apparently taking her calling out to him as permission to come in. Normally she would’ve disabused him of the notion, but the moment he’d moved into the room Simon had backed off, and relief made her more forgiving than usual. She would’ve slung an arm around Tuesday’s neck if she thought it would get Simon to leave faster.

“Really?” he asked. He looked into her face as though trying to figure out how serious she was, and whatever he found there made him smile. He glanced up at Simon but seemed otherwise unperturbed by his presence in her room. “Yes! I’ll get it, I’ll get it, hold on I’ll be right back.”

He darted out of the room and Friday gave Simon a flat smile, meant to unwelcome him from her space. “I’ve got things to do,” she explained, as though he hadn’t just heard the exchange between the two Weeke siblings.

“Of course,” Simon said, rubbing his palms on his pants. They left dark, ugly patches of sweat on the denim. “Well, you know where to find me.”

She did: in her mother’s recliner, eating their food and spreading his smelly presence across the living room. And she would never, ever actually look for him there. As soon as he was gone she swallowed, surprised at how shaky she felt. Unsure what to do with the surge of angry energy the encounter had left with her, she caught sight of the mirror. The entire room was moving in it, and it took her only a second to realize that mirror-Friday had apparently decided to move it farther along the wall.

She knew where it was going before it stopped, so she went to the bookcase, shoving it down along the wall without waiting to make sure she was right. Grabbing ahold of a desk corner next, Friday started dragging the whole kit-and-caboodle, inching it into place. Fortunately the floor was hardwood, and Mom always used those furniture leg pads to keep them from scratching the floor. It made for easier sliding. She nodded as soon as it was set-up to face the door, checking once to make sure it was centered, shimmying it a little to get it just right. Simon would never surprise her again.

Friday was at her desk, digging through her backpack and thinking about how she could get rid of Tuesday without helping him with his math homework, when her little brother came back. He didn’t even look at the mirror – he was used to the lag and had no interest in it – but shoved his textbook at her and said, “Long division is stupid.”

And to her absolute irritation, mirror-Friday let him stay.

#

Tuesday had taken to doing homework in her room. Friday wasn’t exactly sure why, but it was strangely nice to have someone else there, never mind that he was a mouth-breather and irritating after about an hour, at which point she’d kick him out. It didn’t deter him, though. It was amazing how quickly something could become normal.

Friday looked up from her math homework to see what was keeping Tuesday so quiet. His homework was still sprawled out on the bed, and who knew if it was done; he had a piece of string and was dangling it over the edge of the bed, jerking it up every time Sadie made a grab for it.

“What do you think of Simon?” she asked.

Tuesday looked up at her and Sadie took the opportunity to maul the string. Tuesday kept his grip and she rolled, kicking at it with her back feet. “Seems okay,” he said, and then: “Oh! He let me look at his watches!”

Friday had no idea why this would be thrilling to a ten-year-old. She cocked an eyebrow at him but he was teasing the cat and didn’t see it.

“Anyways,” she said, getting back on point. “Does he ever make you uncomfortable?”

That actually got Tuesday’s attention. He looked up at her. “No. Should he?”

Friday wasn’t sure how to respond, but Tuesday had moved on already, apparently not that interested in her answer. “He’s not like the laundry guy.”

It took Friday a second to put together who he was talking about but then she snorted, remembering Mike. He’d brought his laundry to their house every Saturday because Mom would throw it in with the rest of their washing. “Do you remember the cereal guy?”

Immediately Tuesday started singing, “And oh-oh-oh, cheerio-oh-ohs.”

She laughed outright this time and Tuesday, encouraged, startled the cat back under the bed by jumping to his feet and singing it louder.

“Shut up,” she demanded cheerfully, still laughing. “Did you know that I’m the one who got rid of them?”

That did shut him up. “No way!” he said sounding shocked, but also like she was kind of awesome. Friday felt surprisingly flattered. “Are you why Robby left?” Ronnie, actually, and the kind of guy that tried to kick Sadie every time he saw her and said nasty things to Mom about her looks and her cooking and the way she cleaned the house and…well, suffice to say they’d both hated him, so she didn’t bother correcting him. He was long gone. “How?”

“The usual,” she said. “If you’re annoying enough, anyone will leave.”

They were both silent for a moment, enjoying the thought of how much power they actually had, when Friday frowned, realizing something. “You know guys shouldn’t actually treat girls like that.”

Tuesday tsked at her and sat back down on the bed, like she had just seriously insulted him. “I know that. I have a girlfriend, you know.”

Friday stared at him. Tuesday, teasing the cat again, didn’t notice. “You do? You’re ten.

He sniffed loftily, like he’d never heard anything so immature in his life. “So is she.”

She snorted. “Right.” He looked insulted, but she continued before he could start defending himself. “Well, just make sure you treat her right.”

“What do you know about it?”

Annoyed to be called out by a ten-year-old – she had never had a boyfriend, and, in fact, had never wanted one, except for right this moment so that she could rub it in her little brother’s face – she almost started arguing. Before she could get going an idea hit her. “Treat her the way Dad used to treat Mom.”

Tuesday dropped his irritated expression. “You remember Dad?” Before she could answer he went on. “What did he do?”

Friday faltered. Yes, she remembered Dad, but she’d only been six for crying out loud. How was she actually supposed to know how Dad treated Mom? She’d only said that to get Tuesday to listen to her. Maybe he’d been a jerk too. Maybe that’s why Mom only ever looked for jerks. Maybe Mom had been doomed to jerks from the start.

“Well,” she started, rather than admitting that she had no idea and losing any kind of sway she had over her brother’s behavior, “he used to…” she floundered, “…hold open the door for her, and carry the groceries inside instead of making Mom carry everything.” That didn’t sound like enough so she went on, trying to think of all the things Mom’s boyfriends didn’t do. “And…and he’d tell her how much he loved her all the time and how pretty she was. He’d change your diapers—” Tuesday made a face “—and help me with my homework and he did all the yardwork like a real man does, instead of leaving Mom to do everything like she was his hired servant. He could cook and do sports and paint—” she cut herself off suddenly, wondering if she’d gone too far.

“Wow,” Tuesday said. He’d laid back on the bed to gaze at the stars taped to her ceiling, expression amazed. So apparently she hadn’t. “I bet he was a great cop too.”

“The best,” Friday confirmed immediately, congratulating herself. She was going to be able to milk this for years. She would make sure her little brother, a surprisingly cool little kid, would grow up into an equally cool man. The kind he ought to be. Not like the jerks that dated their mother.

“You know,” Tuesday said after another long moment of staring at the ceiling, probably imagining the father he’d never known, “you’re actually pretty cool.”

Friday laughed, but when he looked at her she didn’t bother explaining that she’d just been thinking the same thing about him. She was, however, struck by a sudden desire to keep the comradery going between them. And to get that note of “you’re awesome” back in his voice.

“Come here,” she said, waving him over in her direction. He looked suspicious, but she frowned off his reluctance and added, “I want to show you something.”

He hopped off the bed. “Is it about Dad?” but then he was beside her and she was pointing to the mirror with an open hand.

He huffed. “I’ve seen your mirror before, Friday, I—”

“Shut up,” she said, “and watch.”

She’d wondered before if he was going to notice what was wrong with the mirror, but it was placed at such an angle from the bed that whatever movements he had noticed must have only seemed like the usual ten second lag. He stood with consternation written on his face, staring at it.

Mirror-Tuesday got it ten seconds before he did. His reflection jumped back and Friday counted down to his real-time realization, smugly entertained by how much this was going to shock him.

What the mirror hadn’t been able to show her, when he jumped away, was the sudden fear on his face. “Make it stop, Friday.”

Friday frowned at him, annoyed that he didn’t think it was exciting. “I can’t. Besides, isn’t this cool?”

He seemed petrified by it, startled when his reflection suddenly moved out of sight. He gasped. “Tell me when to move!”

“What?”

“Tell me when to move!” he demanded, voice higher. “I just – the mirror, tell me when I’m supposed to move too, because, because…”

“Uh,” she said, but he looked panicked so she just said, “now.” Tuesday jumped out of view of the mirror, nearly gasping in relief.

“What the heck was that?” she demanded after a moment.

Tuesday shook his head. “What happens if you don’t do what the mirror says you’re going to?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think I just do it.”

He looked at her, and now she realized that his fear was for her. “Cover it,” he said.

She laughed at him, but his fear steeled his face and he repeated, “Cover it up.”

“C’mon Tuesday, this thing is cool.”

His mouth twisted, and he glanced sideways at the mirror. “I bet something bad will happen to you if you don’t.”

“Naturally,” she agreed cheerfully. “The fabric of reality will probably unravel.”

Please, Friday.”

“We’re all toast,” she continued. “I’m first. You’re next. And then mom…”

But Friday, sorry now that she had shown him and not about to do what her brother told her (especially not when it involved some unnamed fear of “something” bad happening to her if she didn’t), was only a little sorry when the fear of it chased him from her room.

#

Friday blamed Tuesday entirely for making her think that the mirror was evil.

She tried to go back to treating the mirror like normal, but the more she tried not to think about it the more she did. Instead of naturally doing everything that future-Friday was doing, more and more she found that she had to think about it constantly. Because what would happen if she didn’t?

It was exhausting. And in a very distant part of her mind it was starting to seriously freak her out.

Things hadn’t been going any better with Simon. Every rebuke she offered him, every barb she threw his way, he deflected with an easy platitude and an easier smile. Now that Tuesday wouldn’t come into her room to do his homework they’d taken to spreading out over the living room, and she was vaguely aware of the fact that she’d joined him so easily because it meant she could never be caught alone by Simon.

Worse, mirror-Friday kept on going downstairs for dinner. Friday had joined them every single day this week and had overheard Mom thanking Simon for the change when she’d been eavesdropping on them one night. “Friday’s been so much different since you’ve come,” she’d said, and Friday had nearly broken her cover (behind the kitchen island, trying to sneak a late snack) just to smack Simon when he’d answered, “I’ve always had a gift for talking to children. You just have to be patient with them.”

Frankly, he creeped her out. And what bothered her the most was that she couldn’t figure out why.

Annoyed, worried, and wondering if her mirror was going to accidentally destroy the fabric of reality, Friday was officially up to here when Simon had looked across the table at Mom and said, “We make such a great family.”

Friday had been working her way through a plate of spaghetti, watching Tuesday twirl his into giant piles on his fork and then slurp them with disgusting fervor into his mouth, and that had been it. She gave him the ugliest smirk she had in her repertoire.

“Are you going to actually buy the cow? Or will Mom give it to you for free?”

She was immediately sorry she’d said it. She opened her mouth to apologize – truly, officially apologize because Mom looked like she’d felt that one as an actual physical blow and Tuesday was opening his mouth to ask what she meant and he didn’t need to know – but Simon finished swallowing a bite of salad and said, quite calmly, “Of course your mother and I are having sex.”

Friday looked to her mother immediately, forkful of food forgotten. But Mom was looking down, down at her plate of food like she couldn’t hear what was going on, eyes downcast like she couldn’t see anything either.

She always did that. She’d done it when the Chief of Police had been explaining about Dad, she’d done it every time Ronnie had said those awful things to her, and sometimes she even did it to her, when Friday said something particularly mean. Friday wanted to shake her mother, make her look up and see, for once, because Tuesday was looking between Simon and Mom open-mouthed. There were things that a ten-year-old should not have to deal with, one of which was listening to his mother’s boyfriend explain what a grown man could make a grown woman do if she didn’t have enough backbone to stick by her morals.

Despite the silence Simon must have known something was wrong, because he looked at Mom and said, “They’re old enough to know what an adult relationship is like.”

Mom kept on looking down. Friday got up.

“Excuse me,” she said.

The air outside breezed against her face, warm but comfortable. She leaned against the back porch with her eyes closed, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood as it faded into twilight and wondering exactly what she was going to say to Mom to get her to understand.

She’d suspected, of course. Not just Simon, but other guys. But she’d never known, and it turned out that knowing for sure was harder than she’d expected.

The door slid open behind her, the sound of glass running along gliders, and she knew it was her mother, come to…well, who knew. Defend herself maybe? Apologize, but not do anything about it? Friday couldn’t decide which was worse, so she jumped in before Mom could get going and she was forced to find out.

“We go to church, Mom,” she said. “And that may mean nothing to you, but it means something to me, and it means something to Tuesday, but if he starts to think that Church is just a bunch of breakable rules that don’t matter then—”

Simon hugged her from behind.

Friday started and froze, trying to figure out exactly what was going on and, more to the point, what he thought he was doing. By then he was squeezing tighter and suddenly she realized that he was feeling her breasts with his arms, and oh no, oh no please, she thought, that’s why he creeps me out.

“I’m sorry,” he said, pressing into her legs. “I’ve never wanted to make you dislike me. I never—”

She jabbed back with her elbows instinctively, twisting out from under his arms, and she was back inside before she could find out what else he’d never wanted. She had no idea how she’d made it back into the house so quickly. She couldn’t remember opening the door.

Mom looked up from where she was picking up plates from the table, opening her mouth to say something, but Friday gasped out, “Simon wants you out on the porch,” because it was the only way she could think of to make sure that he didn’t follow her.

She was up the stairs before Mom could ask anything else, Friday depending on her to do as Simon had supposedly asked. She burst into her bedroom, going straight for the mirror, and of course mirror-Friday was already there, silently talking at her.

When she stopped it was Friday’s turn. “How could you not know?”

She gripped her hands together, trying to get them to steady, voice audibly shaking in her own ears. “You were the one who told me to give him a chance. You did.

“Is it better over there?” She could hear her voice getting more hysterical. “Is that it? It’s better over there?”

Mirror-Friday stepped away from the screen. Friday stood staring after her for another long moment, then opened her mouth but couldn’t get anything to come out. She squeezed her hands together, remembered him squeezing her chest, and somehow that finally gave her the courage to lean in and ask, “Which one’s the reflection?”

Mirror-Friday came back into view for just a moment, but then she threw her baby blanket – the one she kept in her wicker hope chest – over the mirror and she was out of sight.

“Fine,” Friday said. “Don’t tell me what’s coming.”

The blanket – yellow, with Noah’s Arc stitched into the thinning fabric – smelled like mothballs when she pulled it from the chest at the end of her bed. She took a moment to bury her nose in the old familiar cloth anyways, remembering safer times. She felt calmer by the time she was rearranging the blanket, making sure that Noah was centered just-so.

“Oh,” Tuesday said from behind her; Friday nearly pulled the blanket from the mirror. “Good. I’m glad you’re hiding it after all.”

Instead of explaining why she had suddenly decided to follow her little brother’s advice, Friday turned to him, folding her arms across her chest so that he couldn’t see her hands, which had started to shake again. “Lock your door at night.”

“Why?” he asked.

She didn’t explain. “Don’t ever let Simon into your room alone.”

“Why?” he asked again, sitting down on the edge of her bed. Sadie sauntered into the room like she’d been waiting for a lap to present itself, and jumped up on Tuesday.

“Just don’t,” she said. How was she supposed to explain this? How could she? “I don’t like him.”

“Hm,” Tuesday said, starting to work on Sadie’s chin. She stretched out her neck for him. Friday had thought she was the only one who could get her to do that. “He seems all right to me.”

“I don’t care,” she said. “I don’t want Simon to…just…” There was nothing she could say. Besides, he’d probably leave Tuesday alone – if teenage girls were his type – but what if he didn’t? How did these things work? Did they target one specific person, or would he go for anyone that was available and—

She realized that she was crying.

Tuesday leapt to his feet, Sadie tumbling away with a miffed “Raowr!” before she steadied herself, looking back over her shoulder like she’d just been abused by Hitler himself. “Friday! Don’t cry! What’s wrong?”

“I can’t—” she tried, but she couldn’t get it out. She tried again. “Simon—” but no go.

Tuesday stood uncertainly at her shoulder, clearly and fretfully trying to decide whether he ought to pat her on the arm. At Simon’s name he seized on something he could do to reassure her. “It’s okay!” he said. “We’ll get rid of him! I promise, first thing we do we’ll get rid of him!”

Friday only cried harder.

“Promise!” he said desperately. “You only have to be annoying enough, remember?”

But that wasn’t why she was crying. “Why do you believe me?” she choked out.

“I dunno,” he said. “Does it matter?”

And it really, really didn’t.

#

The blanket stayed where it was. It looked silly – one faded yellow spot of color in a room that was mostly dark woods and blue-painted trim – but every time she thought about removing it there came the awful thought that it would show Simon in her room. She’d kept her room locked through the night, but what if she saw mirror-Friday open the door and let him in? Would she actually have to do it?

She had school the next day. Simon hadn’t been there in the morning (she’d darted from her bedroom to the bathroom and back again in record time before Tuesday told her) but Mom had tried to stop her on the way out to, well…defend herself was too strong a word. Maybe “rationalize” why she kept guys like Simon around. Friday had been trying to decide whether she ought to say something – and what she could say to make her mother believe her – but Mom had looked down at the sandwich she was making for Tuesday so that she didn’t have to look Friday in the eyes, and said, “You don’t know what it’s like to be this lonely.”

That had been the end of that idea.

Unfortunately, he was there after school. The worst of it was that he acted like nothing had happened. No knowing looks, no sudden leering, just Simon sitting in the living room like he had every day for two weeks, waiting for Mom to come home and make dinner. Friday had retreated to her room with Tuesday, and wouldn’t let her little brother leave for anything even though he kept insisting that he had something he needed to do but he couldn’t do it if he was trapped in here by his crazy sister. She hadn’t even let him go to the bathroom by himself, just stood outside the door running times tables with him to make sure that Simon – possibly listening in – knew they were both there. Tuesday kept yelling at her that he didn’t care how many seven times eight was, but she’d only told him fifty-six and kept going.

Once Mom came home she relaxed. One more body around felt safer, so Friday helped make dinner, did cleanup, stood at the sink washing dishes even though they had a dishwasher, and thoroughly impressed her mother with her sudden can-do attitude. Both Simon and Tuesday had retreated to the living room by then, and she felt composed enough to join them by time her mother did. Friday spread out her homework over the coffee table like she’d moved in.

Outwardly it made a pleasant picture. Simon sat in one of the recliners, flipping through his phone as he looked at whatever, his briefcase of watches at his feet. Mom had claimed a corner of the couch, a romance novel in one hand and a coffee mug steaming on the table. Friday was nearly at her feet, ostensibly working on a history essay but not getting a thing done; she had an angle on Simon this way. Tuesday was in the other recliner, oddly quiet, nearly on his back as he used his feet to rock it back and forth as hard as he could. He seemed bored.

Abruptly, Simon leapt to his feet like he’d been scalded, snarling out the crudest combination of swears Friday had ever heard in her life; Tuesday’s face lit up. She could practically see her little brother mentally saving them for later. Simon’s briefcase – which he’d just picked up to admire his set of watches, as he did every night – swung open, sending watches and cat litter to the floor in an explosion of urine-scented dust.

Mom gave a shocked cry but Friday automatically glanced at Tuesday. He was shooting her sidelong glances and grinning.

“What in the—who would—” Mom started and Friday leaned forward, confirming that, yes, that was dirty cat litter. The little brat had actually cleaned out the cat litter, as he’d promised to that morning. She wondered if that’s what had given him the idea, and tried very hard not to laugh.

“Beats me,” Tuesday said, giving himself away. “The cat must’ve done it.”

Friday broke down laughing as Mom turned on him with an outraged, “Tuesday. And Friday, don’t you dare laugh, oh Simon, how can I ever make up—”

“It’s all right, Cindy,” Simon said, brushing cat litter off his clothes, and his utter calmness after that explosion frightened Friday worse than anything else could have. He looked up, but he wasn’t smiling. “I’m a very patient person.”

“Well I’m not,” Mom said, missing how abruptly Friday’s laughter had cut off. Tuesday still looked decidedly smug. “Upstairs, both of you. Go to your rooms now.”

Tuesday was still laughing as they hit the stairs. “That ought to teach him,” he said, punching her in the arm. “And if it doesn’t, Greg’s got a dog,” he added, naming one of his many friends, “so I think we’ll do dog poop next.”

Friday laughed again, certain that he would do it. “Tuesday, that was—”

“Now!” Mom yelled from the bottom of the stairs. She already had a broom and dustpan in her hands. “This isn’t funny. We are going to have a talk about respect and—”

Simon said something then. Friday wasn’t sure what – she was in her room at that point, Tuesday heading off to his own room down the hall with one last jaunty salute – but the rumble of his voice cut off Mom’s threats. Which were, in truth, not very threatening.

Friday laughed to herself, remembering the look on Simon’s face as he’d jumped to his feet. Tuesday had found his temper after all. Both she and her little brother could take whatever Mom dished out, but if Tuesday felt bad afterwards Friday would give him the old hip-hurrah and that would fix him. At the heart of him, he was a very straightforward kid.

But it wasn’t Mom who came into her bedroom. It was Simon.

Friday was sitting at her desk when entered, working on her homework because there wasn’t anything else to do while she waited for the most unthreatening hammer ever to fall. She knew the step was wrong as soon as his foot hit that spot in her floor, floorboards creaking. Friday turned and stood, laughter gone, sorry that she had thought it was funny; sorry that she had a cat, and a body that Simon apparently found attractive, and a little brother who she had discovered loved her dearly.

“You and I need to have a talk,” he said.

Simon didn’t turn around to close the door, just pulled it shut behind him. He moved towards her, but for some reason she couldn’t focus on him, couldn’t even look at him. Instead, she was stuck on the fact that he hadn’t shut the door properly. The latch had failed to engage and had popped the door backwards a couple of inches.

She had a sudden and absurdly awful thought. What if Tuesday walked by? Even Simon wouldn’t want Tuesday to see this.

But that was silly. Tuesday had been sent to his room. He’d never see this.

Her back hit the desk.

“Please,” she said. “Don’t.”

Whatever she could’ve said to make him stop, that hadn’t been it. She must’ve been trying to turn away from him – couldn’t remember now, she thought, strangely detached – because he’d smashed her forwards and, rather than laying on her back, she found that she was pressed with her face into the clutter on her desk. Friday tried to grab her books, pens, anything to throw at him, but she grabbed cloth instead and suddenly the cover on the mirror was gone.

Simon pushed her harder into the desk and Friday managed to look up at the mirror, near cross-eyed with closeness.

Horror-stricken, Friday thought. She had never known what horror-stricken looked like before, but there was mirror-Friday’s face and she knew. Eyes actually almost visibly blue from this range, and Friday could hardly recognize this frightened girl in the mirror. Her reflection was looking up at something that she could see in the mirror, and Friday had never seen such devastation in anyone’s expression. Simon – or mirror-Simon, rather – grabbed the girl in the mirror and suddenly Friday was looking at the back of her own faded red hair. Friday finally looked up higher, to see what had shattered mirror-Friday.

It was Mom. Mirror-Mom, standing in the doorway, eyes cast down and not seeing, not looking, because she was so lonely that she refused to see what Simon actually was. She was looking down at the briefcase in her hands – she’d probably brought it upstairs to clean it out – and she was stepping quietly away as she cosed the door those last couple of inches.

I don’t want to know what happens next, Friday realized.

It only took another second for her wish to be granted. Simon had finally managed to get both his hands around her waist even though she was fighting him with everything she had (quietly, desperately quiet because she didn’t want Tuesday to know what Simon was doing to his sister) and then he’d flipped her to push her back up against the mirror and oh no, oh please no, his fingers were grappling on her belt. Friday looked up, over his desperately greedy face, so focused on getting her that he hadn’t even noticed his future self already getting what he wanted, and there was Mom standing in the doorway. Her mouth was open, her eyes locked on the mirror above Friday’s head.

Friday, still pushing at Simon’s hands but understanding utter helplessness for the first time in her life, thought, take a look, Mom. That’s who you are.

Mom tore her gaze from the mirror and suddenly this was all wrong because she was looking at Friday’s face, eyes locked on her’s, and then she was screaming “GET AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!” and bearing down on Simon with his briefcase over her head.

Cat litter exploded everywhere. Whatever she’d done to clean it up downstairs hadn’t been nearly enough. Tidy Cat hit the mirror and scattered. Simon howled but Mom just kept hitting him until the latch burst open, and then there was more litter and all of the watches she had carefully gathered and placed back in his case smacked the desk like so much artificial hail. Friday, peeling herself off the tabletop, felt them hit her as she ducked away. Simon was trying, desperately, to grab the case, but Mom dropped it and picked up the first thing that came into her hand, which happened to be a box full of Friday’s colored pencils. The projectile did little to stop him, but as soon as her hands were free she found a mug. Mom smacked him across the temple (probably a lucky hit, by the look of things, but that didn’t make the force of it any less staggering), and now Simon was actually trying to get away from, rather than stop, her mother.

“OUT!” She screamed. “OUT OF MY HOUSE!” Simon lurched to his feet, trying to get purchase, and brushed past Tuesday who had come out of his room to see what was going on. Mom shrieked, “DON’T TOUCH HIM!” but no one knew which “him” she meant. Tuesday jumped back, frightened, and Simon hit the stairs and nearly fell down them.

But there was Mom, the most glorious sight in the world, still coming after him, briefcase back in her hands. She’d grabbed it on the way out of Friday’s bedroom.

Simon was on the street by time Mom made it to the front door, Friday and Tuesday behind her. She heaved the briefcase out after him, with a two-handed throw that went very far but very wide. It flopped open on the sidewalk.

“My watches—” he started.

“Ask the police for them,” she snarled, and slammed the door.

She stood for a moment still facing the door, then turned and sagged against it. Her entire body trembled as she reached out towards both her kids, and Friday and Tuesday accepted the invitation. In another second she had her arms around both of them.

Friday could think of nothing to say.

“That awful mirror,” Mom said, speaking over her head. Friday could feel the sound of it in her mother’s chest, where she was folded into her. “I would never…that mirror didn’t have a clue what a mother would actually do if she saw…” she trailed off and all three of them just breathed for a minute. Tuesday, certainly unaware of what Mom had seen in the mirror, seemed to sense that something very big (besides his mother turning into a banshee and chasing Simon from the house) had happened, and remained quiet.

“We’re getting rid of that thing right now,” she said. Friday felt Tuesday wriggling out of Mom’s hold – he must’ve hit the end of his patience – and a second later Mom had both her arms around Friday. Friday stayed. “I’m taking that thing to the trash and we’re never looking at it again.”

“Friday!” came Tuesday’s voice, shocked. “Why are you crying? We got rid of him! You can’t like your mirror that much.”

Never,” Mom repeated.

And Friday, whose mother had changed the future for her, thought that sounded just great.

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