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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Ana Urkiza Ibaibarriaga > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2000 | Elkarlanean

In front of the mirror

When the alarm clock began its usual wearisome, nagging call, Elena felt as if she were trapped between the sheets.

-Another day!

Fernando did not wake up. Or he might have been pretending to be asleep. He had his back turned to her, as if rejecting the dawning of a new day. Elena had to go to work, even if only to keep her feet on the ground and greet the new day. Fernando did not want to face up to anything at all; with his irresponsible back he concealed the reality, the lack of love, the hate and the indifference that had been building up over the previous few months.

Elena got out of bed and noticed her loose pyjama trousers, giving the impression that she had spent the whole night struggling against something she did not want. She had deep, dark bags under her eyes as if preserving the memory of all the tears shed the night before. Her hair lankly stuck to her head and her face was pale and sad.

In the shower she turned on the hot water tap. Fernando remained in bed without stirring. When no hot water was forthcoming she remembered that they had run out of butane gas the night before. Reckoning that a glass of cold milk would suffice, she turned off the tap, twisted her hair up into a small bun and washed her face with cold water. She wiped her armpits and between her legs with a wet sponge, and after spraying herself generously with deodorant, felt revived, as if the sponge had soaked up the past along with the last exhausted rays of a possible love relationship, which had come to end the night before.

On returning to the bedroom she mechanically removed the hairs from the comb on the dressing table, because Fernando liked it that way and because she did it every day.

She glanced at the mirror for a moment, looked at the woman who appeared opposite her, and from there her eyes strayed to the back of Fernando who carried on pretending to be asleep.

He did not stir.

The mirror told her she had managed to conceal the bags under her eyes and she bucked up a bit as she pretended to put a timid smile on her lips. She felt brighter. "One more day and it will all be over," she murmured to herself. She acknowledged the woman on the other side of the mirror with a small wink plus a hint of complicity, which would raise her spirits for the whole day.

Elena phoned home from work two or three times, but without success. Fernando did not feel inclined to answer the phone, or else he had gone out.

She called again at midday and left a message on the automatic answering machine:

-I'm not coming home. I have to have lunch with a colleague.

Her colleague's flat was huge. It had two large bathrooms and before doing anything else Elena told him she wanted to have a nice bath.

When she had washed and perfumed herself, she had a good look round the apartment, as if she wanted to enjoy every single square metre. And when she had informed the apartment of her presence, she turned her attentions to her colleague, asking him to teach her to lose her shame and gradually opening herself up to the heat of new caresses.

It was dawn by the time Elena got home. She had nothing to lose. Fernando was bound to be asleep, on his front as usual; he seemed to be insisting on denying the truth, as if he was living in his own little world and did not care a damn about anything else.

Elena threw open all the doors of the house. She suddenly felt the need to breathe fresh air.

But to no avail! Everything seemed poky and dirty to her, everything aggressive and old, everything as greasy and slippery as ever...

Alone and with ceremonious silence, she watched how she gradually removed her clothes in front of her dressing table mirror. The mirror made a sign for her to look at the bruises she had on her body and she surveyed her chest, her belly and her thighs, the unequivocal proof of passionless nights spent with Fernando. The rest of her was adorned in sadness. She was naked and Fernando was asleep, unaware of anything at all.

Calmly, she sat down at the dressing table, picked up her lipstick and anxiously began to apply some to her lips, with the utmost care like someone who is biting off mouthfuls of a strawberry tart but without pausing in between. Her lips trembled and she only managed to paint a rough red outline around her dry mouth subjected to shame and pain.

Tears caught her by surprise once again, the same sorrow that had plunged into her between her heart and her belly during the preceding days and weeks. Between mute sobs, she was capable of interpreting the most hidden message of the smallest gesture, despite being unable to see clearly; it seemed to her that the face of the woman reflected in the mirror had changed. She had an evil expression, a cruel nature, a countenance immersed in the scent of revenge and finality.

Wishing to protect her privacy Elena instinctively moved her hands to her breasts, suspecting that the unknown woman in the mirror was looking at her.

She sensed that she was in mortal danger. She felt alone and that no one was going to help her. At that moment she recognised the face of finality, that no one would ever notice her misfortune.

The woman in the mirror got up from the dressing table, took a pistol out of her bag and pointed it at Elena's face.

-No! -a blood-curdling scream came out.

And she shot her, as she was fleeing for the bathroom, without giving her the chance to clean between her thighs.
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