Thanks to dariol at freeimages.com for the photo
Rosemary stayed in the shower as long as she dared, given the current water situation, then sighed and turned it off. Delicious steam filled the room, even after she’d dried herself and applied lotion, but she didn’t have time to linger. They were expecting her at her father’s retirement party in less than an hour.
She turned on the fan and cracked the door to clear the mirror so she could apply her makeup. While she waited, she went into the bedroom and pulled on the blue dress she’d bought for this special occasion. Hard to believe her father had resigned after twenty years as the concertmaster of the local symphony to play in a string quartet in Portland, Oregon, though she supposed it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He’d complained for quite some time that he could no longer handle the drought and the heat and that, furthermore, neither could his violin, which wouldn’t stay in tune and had developed a slight crack.
The steam had cleared, so she went back into the bathroom and halted. She blinked hard and looked at her reflection in the mirror. The face looking back at her wasn’t her own. She blinked again and told herself that she couldn’t be having a flashback, not now. It had been over a year since the last time she’d dropped acid. Please, she begged herself, we have to leave in fifteen minutes. Pull yourself together.
Nothing changed. The old woman in the mirror continued staring at her.
Maybe some water would help. If she could find the kitchen, that is.
Stumbling down the hallway, she found that nothing else in her house seemed out-of-place. Her husband, already dressed, watched football in the family room. She glanced in at him as she passed. He wore a blue suit coat, the same one he’d been wearing half an hour ago. His dark hair and profile looked completely normal.
Maybe the flashback had ended already. Hoping that was the case, she went on to the kitchen where she gulped a large glass of water, then returned to the bathroom The old woman still regarded her, with deep wrinkles, bright blue eyes, and long wet grey hair. Rosemary smiled, the old woman smiled too. Rosemary touched her ear, the woman touched hers.
No, Rosemary thought, no. I’m thirty-six years old. My hair is light brown, and I haven’t developed any wrinkles yet. My cheeks are still full, not hollowed out like that.
The woman in the mirror now had the same frightened expression as Rosemary suspected she sported. Seeing how scared the old lady looked, Rosemary calmed a little. The woman meant her no harm. It was simply some kind of illusion. One she didn’t have time to explore. She began applying her makeup, even though it proved difficult as the ancient woman leaned forward, copying her every movement, with one terrible exception: the brushes and pencils dipped into one wrinkle after another, the colors all wrong for her washed-out complexion. Rosemary just hoped her real face would look okay.
Before she turned away from the odd reflection, she wondered, If this is me, thirty or forty years from now, what can I learn from this wise me?
The answer flashed into Rosemary’s mind. “It isn’t about how much money you make, and it isn’t about how many things you own or how much prestige you have, or even how many people’s expectations you’ve fulfilled, it’s about following your heart.”
She groaned. That sounded too much like a greeting card or self help book. Was she really going to turn out that trite?
After slipping on her nylons and shoes, she went to the second bathroom to ensure that she looked like, well, herself. She did. So that had been a flashback, the whole event some figment of her troubled brain.
Yet Rosemary couldn’t stop thinking about the words, as she collected her husband, and they drove towards the party. Her father had resigned his position to follow his heart and his violin into something he’d always wanted. And what about herself? Why was she working in the orchestra’s office, and sitting in the second violin section, when she’d always dreamed of playing and singing in a rock band?
Fantasies, unrealistic fantasies, she’d always told herself. Ones which didn’t pay the bills. She’d let her fear rule her for far too long. She didn’t want to grow into that old woman without even trying to feed her soul.
“Darling,” she told her husband on the way home, “I want to move to Austin, and write songs and start a band now that my parents are moving away.”
He glanced over at her. “Do I get to come along?”
“Only if you want to.” She felt nervous saying that. He must think she’d lost her mind.
He smiled broadly, his eyes on the road. “I never thought I’d pry you away from here, but I’ve wanted to leave for a long time.”
She smiled back, relaxing. “Why didn’t you?”
“I know what’s important, and you’re it.” He took his hand off the steering wheel and wound his fingers through hers. “Besides, I’ve always indulged my passion.”
“Really? Is science writing it for you?”
“Can’t you see the way my work absorbs me? I want the same thing for you, instead of always trying to make your father happy by being what you think he wants.”
“I love him.”
“So show it by following his example and going after your dreams the way he has, not by playing second fiddle to him.”
His words opened up a space inside her as inviting as a high mountain meadow in summer, yet she knew it wouldn’t be as easy as he made it sound. “What about money?”
“What about it? It isn’t as if you make much now. We’ll get by somehow. We have my income and we have each other. Come on, Rosemary, for once let yourself do what you want.”
Tomorrow the doubts would arise again, but for the moment she felt ready for anything. She pushed a CD into the stereo and sang along, her voice clear and strong.