There was once a beautiful woman who wanted nothing more than know love and to love and be loved in return. She wore her best clothes always and make up and surrounded herself with jewels and the finest most expensive objects and love did not come to her. She was cursed.
If any man looked at her with love his heart would turn to stone and he would turn into a statue. She did this to them with her eyes. If she looked in their eyes and saw the love there that was the end. She would have them taken away and put somewhere in her gardens and soon the power of the curse became known and no more suitors came with roses in their hands and love in their eyes.
She lost hope and her wiles became desperate. She would have her picture painted and hung in palaces around the country in the hope of finding her love. She spent longer and longer each day on her toiletry to keep her looks and her beauty but to no avail, she grew older and began to grow ugly.
One evening, just as the sun was setting, a young man arrived at her door. He knocked politely and, when she beckoned him in, entered quietly and kept his face to the floor. He did not look at her. She anyway, did not want him to look at her, she had come to hate herself and believe she was the ugliest foulest creature on this earth. Nothing would love her ever and she had come to accept that bitterly and that knowledge and bitterness turned her evermore inwards and the lines on her face grew deeper and her eyes smaller and pinched.
He said, “I have seen your picture my lady and I thought it sad and lonely and I have an answer to your problem”
She did not believe him and was about to kick him out, angrily she hissed at him “how do you know what my problem is, and how dare you think you can fix it”
He did not move but, still with his face to the floor, said “Please let me try, what have you to lose? Let me try”
She was suspicious but agreed to let him try. He took a small round mirror from his bag and gave it to her. “It is very simple but very hard” he said “It will hurt a lot, are you sure?”
The woman was still suspicious but something in her really wanted to try and so she took the mirror and said “What now?”
“I want you to sit and look at yourself in that mirror until you look at yourself with the love you wish to see from someone else’s eyes” he said
“Easy” she snorted and he said nothing but just smiled at the floor.
“I will be back tomorrow” he said “It will take a little while, be patient and you will know when you get it right” and he left and closed the door softly behind him.
She went and adorned herself with her favourite necklace and earrings, did her hair just the way she liked it, she used rouge and eyeshadow and blusher and lipstick and when she felt she was ready she sat down and held the mirror up in front of her eyes.
At first nothing happened, she began to get bored and her arm began to ache, she looked at herself and looked at herself and she looked at her hair and her eyeshadow and her lipstick and her jewels and she thought how good she still looked despite her age and her lines around her mouth.
Then she began to see imperfections, this line too deep, this line too long, her mouth thin and bitter, her teeth yellow and that gap that she always tried to hide with what she always thought was a winsome sideways smile. Her eyes were too narrow and deep-set, the eye shadow only served to accentuate their positioning. She began to look at her make-up as ridiculous, who was she to try to beautify herself? It made her look like a doll or a clown. She put the mirror down and thought “this is stupid, I have never thought like this before, why am I doing this” and she went to get up but instead something made her sit down and she found herself looking at the mirror again. She looked so ugly! Her eyes like black holes with all the eyeliner, her mouth a hideous dark purple colour that stained her teeth, her nose too pointy, her skin pasty and caked with the paste she used to make herself fashionably pale. She remembered her skin when she was a child, how brown and smooth and clear it had been.
She got up and went upstairs and removed all her make-up and jewels and undid her hair and washed it. She washed her face completely clean and went downstairs again where the mirror was waiting for her. She sat down and again lifted the mirror to look at herself, this time with a little trepidation as to what was waiting for her. She sat and looked again and this time saw herself as old and pasty and wrinkly and bitter and lonely and she started to cry that no-one would ever love her. She had been living a lie all these years, how everyone must have laughed at her; seeing her look for love when she was so plainly ugly and desperate and unlovable. She wept and wept and she said to herself, “I will never leave this house again, I will stay hidden till I die, it is my fault all those young men are dead, they looked at me and I was so ugly they turned to stone in fright, I was selfish”
She cried for a while and then she began to get angry. It was not her fault the men had come looking to her for love. It was not her fault their hearts had turned to stone and they had become statues still adorning her garden. How stupid their faces looked, with their puppy dog eyes gazing at nothing adoringly, their hands outstretched that once held flowers or a gift for her. So much hope. Some had the beginnings of fear in their eyes where they realized what was happening to them but most were too stupid she thought. Stupid men. That was her stupidity, she thought, that she wanted to find love in the first place. Well, never again! She hurled the mirror in the ground where it smashed and she went round the house looking for other mirrors to break. Soon all of her mirrors lay in shards on the ground and she had to be careful where she walked so as not to cut herself. She sat down feeling pleased with herself. When that young man came back with his eyes to the floor she would give him a piece of her mind, how dare he come and upset her like that!
She sat there for a while lost in thought and then a great emptiness opened inside her and she felt she was looking into an abyss of nothingness. All her clothes and jewelry and hard walls and make-up and opinions could not protect her from that abyss and she felt herself fall into the darkness, a nothing, a spark of light extinguished by the oppressive blackness. She began to cry once more. I am nothing she thought; it is only me and nobody else to help me. She felt sorry for herself, she had been abandoned by the world and forgotten and rejected by it and it hurt her in every cell of her body to think that she was not worth the slightest bit of attention from the universe. I failed, she thought, I am a failure.
She lay on the floor looking out the window at the stars in the night sky. She began to feel something else strange to her, something she had never felt before in her life. She began to feel truly alone, but not in a bad way, she realized she was enjoying this sensation. Nobody else was here; she did not have to ‘be’ anything, not pretty or clever or dressed in the right clothes or, horrors, that anyone should see her without her make-up and jewels and with her hair done correctly. She felt peace, she thought, I can look after myself, I have been searching for someone else to look after me for so long, maybe I just have to look after myself from now on and not need anyone else in my life. She sniffed again, she could feel the tears of self pity starting, no-one would love her, but that was ok, she would love herself. She sat up and picked up a shard of mirror that lay close by and looked in it. And how strange, she thought, that a piece of a mirror shows the same thing as a whole mirror, maybe it is the same for us, that one person reflects the same as the whole thing, that we are all just shards of mirrors broken up into pieces yet we still reflect the whole. She began to see herself as part of everything and to look at herself differently. She saw her faults and they did not bother her, she saw past her outside into her real self and she cried for all the years she had spent avoiding herself. She whispered ‘I love you’ and smiled at her reflection, I will never again turn a heart to stone she thought.
But thinking this thought, her mind became fearful and doubt crept in, how can I love myself after all those years of turning hearts to stone, think of the harm I have inflicted, they must hate me!
Her fear came to the defense and with the same power she had used to turn to stone the hearts of the young men who had looked at her with love it used the mirror to turn her heart to stone and her last thought was it was too late, she would never know love, and love someone and be loved in return.
The young man came back the next morning. He did not knock, as if he knew what he would find. He stepped over the shards of broken glass and came across the statue of the woman lying on the floor with a piece of glass still in her hand, still staring that direction with one tear frozen on her cheek. He smiled gently and taking a small hammer from his pocket he took careful aim and hit the statue hard, once, over the heart. It cracked and the cracks spread and spread until the body was covered in a fine layer of cracks. He stood then and went to the garden and took a bowl of water from the fountain and carried it back inside. He stood over the body and sprinkled a little at a time over her until she was wet from head to foot. Then he leant down and whispered in her ear “come back”
She sat up in a shock. She was wet and covered in mud but alive and happy and feeling lighter than she ever had before in her life. She laughed and the young man in front of her looked at her straight in the eyes and laughed back. She had a moment of fear that he would become hard and still like all the others but it passed and he didn’t and she stared in wonderment at him
‘thank you’ she said,
he shook his head ‘I didn’t do anything, I saw your picture and thought you were beautiful but I had heard all the stories and I did not want to be turned to stone like the others, you had to break the curse, you and nobody else”
He took her to a mirror and there she saw herself young again, clear skinned and clear eyed and smiling, happy and free. She cried a tear of joy at the feeling of release it gave her.
He took her out the back and she freed the statues out the back of her garden and apologized to each one in turn. Then she turned to her new found friend and said “What now?”
He smiled “Now is just the beginning” he said