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My form shimmered into existence on the other side of the glass. My skin prickled until it returned to its usual shade of pitch. My nails elongated into jagged claws and my fangs poked the edges of my lips. My hair cascaded in tangled waves down my back. The soft, golden glow from my eyes reflected off the glass in front of me.


I was being summoned by my friend.


I reached out a slender hand and placed it against the glass. The smooth, reflective surface wavered under my touch before it disappeared altogether, and I was able to climb through into Veronica’s bedroom. I slunk forward through the opening from the teen’s floor-length mirror and rose to my full eight-foot height, minding the low-hanging ceiling fan.


The room had changed quite a bit since I had last visited Veronica. Now thirteen, her room was devoid of all Barbie dolls and pillow pets. Where there had once been stuffed bears and colored paints, now lay a random assortment of clothes strewn about the floor. Posters of young teen idols were plastered on the walls, and a large wooden desk had been pushed underneath the window on the other side of the room. Directly across from me was a giant mound of handwoven blankets atop a narrow bed. The window to my right allowed the moonlight to illuminate a lying form, resting under the covers. Feeling something cool underneath my foot, I looked down and saw that I was standing on a curling iron, its cord still plugged into the wall. My tail flicked in annoyance on its own accord.


“What? Did turning thirteen suddenly make you a slob, young flower?” I asked as I advanced toward the bed. 


Though the lights were off, Veronica was not asleep. Her form bolted upright at the sound of my voice, and she waved a blaring light directly into my face. I raised a clawed hand to shield my eyes as I heard the girl snicker. “Well, you can’t expect me to focus on cleaning my room and getting my homework done. You have to choose one, and Abuela deemed homework was more important. So, can you really blame me?”


I shook my head at the stubborn girl. “Yes, well, proper hygiene never goes out of style, young one. And I would also like to see you. So if you would please turn off your light before I go blind...”


Veronica laughed as she turned off her flashlight. “You’re the one who always appears at night and I can’t see in the dark, so excuse me for wanting to actually see you.”


“You can see me well enough with the moonlight, can’t you?”


She shrugged, still smiling. “I guess.”


I grinned. “So, what was so important that you called me, little flower? You haven’t summoned me for a while now. How long has it been? Five weeks? Two days? Three hours? It couldn’t have been so long. Your hair is still a youthful shade of chestnut.”


Veronica rolled her eyes. “It’s been about a month now. Seriously. I don’t call on you that often.”


“The last time you summoned me, about four days before your birthday I believe, you needed help deciding what bracelets were...what was the word? Frozen? Cool? Well, whatever it was, you had mentioned a ticking clock app on your weird communication device and--”


“I know now that I don’t want to wear those bracelets anymore,” Veronica interrupted. Even with the limited moonlight, I still saw her blush. “You don’t need to bring it up again.” 


“Even still, flower, you summoned me before then with a concern about if a young boy fancied your companionship--”

Veronica hefted a pillow over her shoulder and threw it at my head. I merely stepped to the side to avoid it as the girl huffed. “Don’t talk about Mateo!”


“What a reaction! Care to tell me what happened with him? Did he reject your affection? Did he say that he despised you?”

Veronica turned around and grabbed another pillow. “No, I do not care to tell you. That’s private.”


“Alright, but...oh ho! The time before that, when you needed my assistance quizzing you on your country’s state capitals? You just could not seem to remember the capital of Florida. But I’m sure you remember missing that question on the test, right? Just one point away from an A.” 


Veronica chucked another pillow at my head. This time, I effortlessly snatched it out of the air and held it away from her. Veronica lurched forward, trying to retrieve her pillow from my hand. I simply held my arm back, holding it between two of my six fingers so that my claws did not tear it open.


She groaned. “You’re supposed to be helping me, not making fun of me!” Though her tone was cold, her smile revealed no malice.


“Oh, am I now?”


“Yes! Abuela doesn’t tease me about my mistakes, you know. She just gives me a disapproving look.”


“But what’s in a look? I assure you, young flower, it’s much more gratifying to poke fun at the past times you’ve summoned me than to merely stare at you.”


“I would prefer that to this,” Veronica huffed, sitting back on her heels and crossing her arms. 


“Alright, then.” 

“Alright, what?” 


“I’ll just stare at you until dawn since you prefer that to me talking.” 


“Oh come on, I didn’t actually mean--”


“No, no. I’ll just stand here silently until you ask me to speak again.”


Bending my head, I met Veronica’s determined glare with my own version of her Abuela’s “disapproving look.” About a minute ticked by before Veronica started to squirm under my watchful gaze. She shifted from her spot on the bed, turning away from me. The glow from my eyes illuminated the extra wisps of hair that stood out at odd ends on her head. She started fiddling with a loose thread on one of the quilts. When she glanced over her shoulder to find me still staring at her, she groaned and threw up her arms. 


“Okay fine! You win!”


“Yes!” I laughed, switching the pillow to my other hand. “Now then, remember the time you summoned me back to your room five minutes after you released me?”


“What? I never did that.”

“Yes, you did. You needed advice on what to wear to your cousin’s birthday party. I selected a dress I thought looked nice, you agreed to wear it, and you dismissed me. But then, five minutes and a talk with your Abuela later, you summoned me again to ask about accessories to go with the dress that your Abuela picked out.”


Veronica blushed again. “Oh yeah, I did do that, didn’t I?”


“Yes, but it’s alright. I forgive you for choosing your Abuela’s dress over the one I thought would look the best on you.”

Veronica smiled and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, just know that I’ll always turn to Abuela for fashion advice.”


“Still, all joking aside, I think it’s good that you have your Abuela to call upon too. She’s always around to help and take care of you.”

Veronica nodded, her eyes glazing over. “Yeah, I love her a lot. I mean--” Veronica started counting off on her fingers,“--she cooks for me, drives me to school, and gives me gifts.  I mean, she even lets me live with her now. She’s always been there for me unlike…”


Veronica’s voice quieted as she became lost in thought. After a moment, she shook her head and gave me a hesitant smile. “But I know that I can always depend upon you too. You always come whenever I need you.”


“It’s because I care for you,” I said, watching the girl closely. Her smile started to grow before I added, “And one day, you may very well, as you say, ‘screw up so badly' that the only way out of the mess would require my aid.”


Veronica turned to launch another pillow at my head but saw that she was out of ammunition. I tossed back her pillow, expecting her to throw it again. However, Veronica merely took it from me, placed it at the foot of her bed, and fell face-first into it. 


She muttered against the fabric, but I couldn’t make out what she said.


“What was that?”


The teen rolled on her side, facing the window and away from me. “This time, I really need your help.”


Expecting her to have another normal and quaint issue, I rolled the desk chair over to the bed and sat down, ready to listen. “What do you need of me, young one?”


“My mother is gonna be released on Friday,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. 


The air became still. Veronica’s body froze in place, her eyes transfixed on the floor. She rarely talked about her mother, and when she did, it was always followed by a flippant mention of her family’s holidays. Veronica shifted something between her hands, but I couldn’t see what it was. 


“And you don’t want to go back?” I asked quietly.


Veronica shook her head. “No…not anymore. I mean, yeah, I used to. I’d have given anything for her to want me again, but it’s different now. She’s done this too many times. She always says she’s changed, but I know she’ll go right back to her drinks, and rehab and then... she’ll leave.” Veronica’s breath hitched.


I remained silent from my place next to her bed. Slowly, Veronica rolled onto her side, still refusing to meet my gaze. “Espejita, I need your help.”


Espejita. The name she had called me the first time I had been summoned. She had been no more than five years old, a wailing girl in the same place she was now. It had been the first time her mother had disappeared. She had sobbed well into the night, crying for her mother to come back. To take her with her. To love her. 


Her mother had returned, but only to offer more heartache in her place.


That was the night I was born. I had appeared by Veronica’s side and looked down on the sobbing child, having no clue what to do. Intending to ask her what she needed me for,  I tried my best to get her to stop crying. I placed my hand on her forehead and whispered that everything would be okay. She now had me.


Veronica drifted into a numb sleep that night but had learned how to summon my presence. More often than most, she called upon me to come to her. I always answered. Rather than be terrified of my monstrous form, she had welcomed my company, as if I could substitute the absence in her life. She was like a little flower seeking the sun. 


But I was only a parasite. 


“What do you ask of me?” I started to reach out a hand. Veronica remained still as if she could sense my hovering hand, waiting for me to comfort her. I dropped it back into my lap.


“Tell me what I should do,” Veronica whispered.


“Only you know what you want to do.”


“Yes, but you can offer me guidance, advice, something.” This time, Veronica met my gaze with pleading eyes. Looking at me as if I was…

I looked away.


“You know yourself, and you know your mother. If you wish for her to be a part of your life, then you can welcome her back. If not, then you don’t have to go with her. It is your choice.”


“But I don’t want it to be my choice.” Veronica stood up from her bed and paced toward the window. She turned the object in her hands over and over. “I want her to choose me.” 


The silence stretched between us. When I remained silent, Veronica turned around. The moonlight reflected off of her head, giving her an almost angelic glow. She tried to meet my eyes again, but I kept my head turned toward the mirror. 


“But she won’t...will she?” Veronica dropped her head.


“I can’t answer that.”


“You know what she’ll choose?”


I hesitated, squirming in my seat, wrestling with my thoughts. I started to sweat. “Not exactly.”


“Will she choose me?” Veronica asked with hope stitched into every word. 


I swallowed. “It does not matter what your mother chooses. Only what you will do. She can’t rekindle a relationship with her daughter if you don’t want to be a part of her life anymore.”


Veronica groaned and dropped the item from her hands on the bed. She raced around the side, grabbed her pillow, and threw it against the far wall. “You’re not answering me! You’re just going in circles. This is how Abuela talks. Always answering a question with another question.”


“Technically, I didn’t ask another question--”


“Espejita, stop. If you aren’t going to help, then leave. Please.” She sat back down on her bed and pulled her knees up to her chest.

I looked down at the discarded object resting on the bed. It was a round compact mirror, embroidered with purple flowers. I stretched out a hand and carefully picked it off from the covers. Bringing the item closer to my face, the glow from my eyes illuminated the smooth black surface. 


“That was my Mom’s.” 


I looked down. Veronica still had her back turned to me, but she was peering over her shoulder at the circle in my hands. 

She watched as I pressed a claw against the rim of the mirror and it sprung open in my hand. I looked down at the smooth glass and saw… nothing. Just a reflection of the dark wall behind me. The mirror peered right through me as if I didn’t exist.


Veronica continued.  “The day before she left, Mom gave it to me, saying I needed to watch it for her while she was gone. She said that it would remind me of her because I was a reflection of her. She said that I would grow up one day to be and look like her. I was her little espejita.”


I met Veronica’s gaze, and I saw that look again. She was looking at me like I was someone so dear and important to her. Someone she could depend upon and trust. Someone I could never truly be. 


Closing my eyes, I handed Veronica back her mirror and stood up. “I’m sorry, little flower, but I can’t help you with this one.”


“But you’re my friend! You’re supposed to help me!”


I kept my gaze trained on the window, unable to look at my creator as she leaned toward me from her position on her bed. My fangs bit into my lips. 


“Why even come if you can’t help me? You don’t have to tell me what to do. Just offer advice or guidance or something! Or is my mom wanting me to move back in with her after being released from rehab for the third time not important enough for you?” Veronica’s voice dripped with rage and pain. 


She had every right to be upset with me; this was supposed to be her proper reaction to me. But ever since that first night when she had called upon me, and she had clung to me as if I were the only thing in the universe who cared about her… she hadn’t been afraid. I decided then and there that I would continue to be present in her life. If she was in a stressful situation, no matter how benign, I would be there. At the beginning of our friendship, I had only cared about her preservation. It was the foundation of my existence. If she needed to talk on the phone with someone important, I would help her write a script, detailing exactly what she should say during the conversation to avoid embarrassment. If she had a question in class, I would recommend that she keep her hand down and find a different way to get an answer so she could become better at problem-solving. If her friends didn’t respond to her texts right away, that meant they hated her and she should drop them before they could hurt her. Each time Veronica called on me, I began to care for her more. Now, I cherished her reliance on me and wanted to see her thrive.


I could never be the friend Veronica needed. But maybe, just maybe, if I were finally completely honest with her, she could start making her own decisions but still allow me to be a part of her life. 


“You’re not going to want my advice,” I said finally. 


Veronica huffed. “Well, can I  be the judge of that?”


Needing to sit down, I fumbled for the desk chair and slumped down into the seat. If I had known that by doing so, I would be eye-level with Veronica, I would’ve remained standing. Staring directly into her confused brown eyes only made my gut clench with despair, knowing that what I was going to say next would devastate her.


“I don’t know if I can really give you good advice anymore because I’m not what you think I am,” I continued. “You see, I’m...your anxiety, the physical embodiment of your fears and weaknesses.”


Veronica was silent, her eyes wide. “What do you mean? My anxiety?


I shrugged. “I’m just the physical embodiment of your fears and weaknesses. You summoned me to hold your insecurities for you. I am your self-preservation.”


Veronica’s forehead scrunched together. “But how can you be something that causes me stress? You help me.”


“I try to. Since that first night when you had summoned me and you weren’t afraid of me, I began to want your kindness. I wanted to be your friend. While my nature causes you stress and unnecessary worry, I do try to be good.” 


As I explained, Veronica carefully inched away from me. She shook her head slowly at first as if doing so would dispel the truth, but as I continued, her head shook faster like it was about to snap off of her neck. 


“I’m so sorry, little flower. I’m so sorry that I never told you about what I truly am. Just know that I never meant to cause you pain. Every time you called for me, I always answered because I’m the one who needs you. I need you to not be afraid of me. I wanted to be someone you could depend on. I--”


“Then why tell me all of this now?” Veronica asked. “What changed?”


I found myself drifting toward her, my torso pressed against the side of her bed. Veronica leaned against the wall, the furthest possible point away from me. 


I explained, “You did, little flower. You were what changed. You always looked at me as your friend, but you look at me as if I could replace…”


My words drifted away, but the unspoken word hung between us as if it were a visible apparition. We just sat and stared at each other. I had expected Veronica to become enraged and yell at me to leave and never come back. But she just sat in her corner and watched me with eyes full of unshed tears.


As I tried to think of anything to say that could salvage any hope of forgiveness, the room started to brighten. My head snapped toward the window. The first rays of dawn were beginning to shine into the room.


“Veronica, I know that I should never have lied to you about what I really am, but I want you to know that while I may be evil, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You are good, little flower, and--”


“Espejita. Stop, please.”


I clamped my mouth shut, and my fangs dug into my lips. 


The silence became deafening. I chastised myself for having told her the truth. How could I have been so naive? Thinking that she would simply forgive me and want me as her friend? I had lied to her for eight years, and there I was, asking so much of her. I should’ve just left her alone. I should have not answered any questions, and then maybe I could still have been her friend and--


“You say that your nature commands for you to be evil, but I don’t think you are.” Veronica didn’t look at me as she reached across her bed and picked up her mother’s mirror. She flipped it over in her hands and traced a finger around the edge of the mirror. “If you really are my anxiety, all you would need to do to tear me down is just say that you didn’t like my hair. But you don’t. You’re a reflection of me, Espejita, and if I’m considered good, then so are you.”


My hands shook on their own accord as I watched the girl with awestruck wonder. Now, it was I who couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Does she really believe that I can be good? She still has hope for me, even after everything I told her? But how?


My eyes traveled to the mirror in Veronica’s hands. Her knuckles were white as she brought the mirror close to her chest. Then, I knew. 

Veronica sighed. “You just wanted to protect me. You wanted to keep me safe. But just so you know, you were wrong about what you said earlier. I don’t look to you like I do her. I look to my Abuela now.” She paused, looking like she was gathering the strength to say her next words. “And that’s why I’ve decided to stay here. With Abuela.”


At last, Veronica looked up at me, and though her eyes held some fear and grief, they mostly shone with her newfound determination and hope.


I nodded. My legs wobbled as I stood from the desk chair. The hope from before that she would accept me bloomed in my chest, but I quickly dismissed it. She had chosen her own path. She didn’t need me anymore, and why would she want me anyway now? 


As the sunlight started to bathe the floor with its golden light, I made my way across the room to the mirror. I was just about to place my hand on the mirror, expecting to disappear forever, when I heard a small voice whisper behind me. 


“But… I don’t want to give up on you either.”


I spun around, feeling my eyes grow wide as I stared at the young girl, still sitting atop her bed and clutching the handheld mirror. Did she really just say that…?


“Espejita, while stings to know that you may haven’t been completely honest with me, just because you’ve hurt me and disappointed me doesn’t mean I want you out of my life forever. You’re a reflection of me, so in some tiny way, you’re human too. And humans make mistakes. We both know that I have. And maybe with time, I’ll forgive you. I mean, you can’t really leave me because no matter what happens, you’re a part of me. I’ll always have doubts and fears about everything, and so you’ll always be there. But I would rather you talk to me and offer actual help than if you were to just…stare at me until dawn.”


At that, Veronica smiled albeit hesitantly as she stood from her place on the bed. She walked toward me until she was an arm’s distance away. 


She actually wanted me to stay. I could not begin to process all of the emotions that flooded through my mind as I gazed upon the strongest, kindest, and bravest girl in the world. She really had grown so much and I was just so, so proud of her. 


“And now, as I hear myself say all of this,” she shrugged, “it kind of all refers to her too in a way, huh?”


“She still loves you,” I said, my voice cracking, hoping she could see the truth in my eyes.


Veronica looked up at me and her smile grew. “I know. And yeah, I want to stay here with Abuela, but I’ll reach out to Mom too from time to time. I don’t want to lose that relationship because maybe one day I’ll forgive her.”


I’m sure that I must’ve looked absolutely terrifying with my enormous grin and giant fangs, but Veronica didn’t seem to mind at all. She never did. 


“You’ve grown so much, little flower, and I’m so proud of you.”


I was just about to turn around when small arms encircled my waist. 


My body froze as Veronica hugged me with the force of a boa constrictor. “See you later?” she whispered, uncertainty dripping off of each word.


Her words snapped me out of my shock. I slowly knelt down and wrapped my arms around Veronica's shoulders. “Of course, little flower.”


After what seemed like years, we broke apart when the dawning sunlight grew too close to the mirror. As I stepped forward into the reflective glass, I glanced back over my shoulder. I watched Veronica wave goodbye with a hopeful smile on her face.


“Goodbye, Espejita.”


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