The Other Side of Me

Helen Chambers

              A confident stranger with newly-cropped hair stares back at me in the mirror. Does she feel lucky, I wonder? She tosses a coin, we both watch it spinning in a low slant of sunlight which elbows its way through the shuttered windows of this closed-up house. Heads means leave tonight: so I slam the front door behind me. It shakes in that plasticky way of fake woodgrain. For show, like everything in his house.

              I inhale fresh air to displace the chemical stink of his aftershave and head for the bus-stop. An airport bus door is clanking closed as I walk up, so I let it drive off without me . I’m done with ‘walking into doors.’

              Ahead is the train station with its enticing blue light. The automatic entrance hisses open and I step through an invisible wall of heat. The weight on my shoulders lightens.

              Blinking at flickering departure boards, I toss the coin again. So many new doors I could open: too many choices. Heads for north, tails for south; heads for east, tails for west. He doesn’t know it, but he pays for a first-class ticket.

              In the ladies toilets, I dangle my severed pony tail over the toilet bowl. His door key follows with a splash, and I’m gone before the flush finishes. The short-haired stranger catches my eye in the mirror, and winks at me, grinning. On the train, mentally trying on some new lives for myself, I wonder how long before they open his wardrobe. Perhaps when his authentic smell overwhelms his aftershave.

Helen won the Fish Short Story prize in 2018, was nominated for Best Microfictions in 2019 and has short and long-listed stories in Mslexia, Strands, Retreat West amongst others. She loves walking – head in the clouds, feet on the ground. Find her on the Web at: