Reflection (500-Word Story)

As usual, Cirillo is late. He’s probably fallen asleep again, Mila thinks as she walks to the empty apartment unit alone. The old handyman’s lived with her family for over fifty years. Now that’s loyalty for you, Mila chuckles. But where the hell is he? He’s supposed to help her inspect the empty unit.

They need to make sure the apartment’s spotless, or the tenants don’t get their full deposit back.  No one ever did, for Mila always found a way to charge them for something. A torn shower curtain: $20. A cracked mirror: $75. One missing key: $100 – though she simply replaces the interchangeable core and pockets the rest. What are they going to do?  Report her?  She’s got receipts to prove every replacement.

Mila checks everything downstairs. It’s spotless and she feels a slight pang of disappointment begin to settle. She has no plans to give them back their deposit, so she knows she’s got to keep looking for a reason to keep it all.

With the kitchen cabinets still smelling of Lysol, she makes her way up the stairs and goes through the bedrooms. Her son should really be doing these inspections with her, or by himself.  Instead he does nothing. Like her, he waits for the rent payments to come in each month and considers himself paid for his trouble.

The first bedroom is immaculate. How did these people get the place cleaned up so well so fast? It didn’t look like they even lived in it! They’d stayed two months and by the third month, they were gone. They’d found another place a few blocks away, they told her, one with a pool, though when Mila checked it out, there was no pool.

Mila forces herself to stop bitching. She has to inspect one more room and she’s done. Maybe she’ll have to crack a mirror and tell them it had to be replaced. She’d take a picture of the mirror first as proof. She doesn’t really want to give back their deposit. Not if she can help it.

Except for Cirillo’s tool belt lying on the floor, the second room is spotless. And cold. Mila hugs her arms about her, standing in the center of the room. She remembers the stories the tenants told her, how the room was always freezing, how they’d wake up to someone touching their arm, cold fingers around ankles or wrists.  Someone calling their name.

Kids these days, she scoffs. Smoked too much pot their brains have become addled. As she opens the door to the closet, she’s startled to see her reflection on a mirror hanging just beyond the door. Ha! She smiles. Mirror left behind in closet:  $50 for disposal.

She turns away, but her reflection reaches for her, startling her. With sightless eyes, its mouth gapes open in a silent scream as cold fingers wrap around her wrists before Mila realizes what she’s seeing.

There is no mirror.

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