Every Little Piece - By Kate Ashton

Simple reflective surfaces can be used for many complicated pursuits. Applying lipstick, checking for spinach between teeth, and spying on older brothers.

My favorite mirror sat on the nightstand next to my bed. It wasn’t your standard boring one that hung on a wall. This one tilted in a full 360-degree circle and swiveled back and forth. Lying on my bed, I could view my entire room with just slight adjustments.

One small nudge, and my perspective changed.

I usually faced it so I could see the great wall of Haley. Every happy memory covered the surface. Photos, ribbons, newspaper articles, scribbled notes, programs—my life in pieces.

One of those pieces sat sprawled on my plush pink carpet. My best friend, Brin, hunched over her knees, her long dark hair shimmering. She meticulously painted her toenails, so absorbed in the process of adding silver stripes that she didn’t hear me slide off the bed. Or tiptoe across the floor.

I popped in front of her and yelled, “Boo!”

She screamed and jumped back. After annoyance flashed across her face, she burst out laughing. “You bitch!”

I twirled my finger through the coarse black locks springing out all over my head. The wig had been part of my brother’s Halloween costume from ten years ago. Once upon a time it was in great condition but the fake hair was now matted like an old Barbie doll’s.

“Seriously, Haley, we’re graduating tomorrow. It’s the biggest event of our life after birth, and you’re still acting like a three-year-old.”

I pursed my lips together and fake pouted. She couldn’t help but forgive me even though she turned huffy and went back to the stripes. What could I say? I loved to see people smile, especially my friends. Maybe it came from living with an older brother who’s so damn serious all the time. It drove me nuts. Thank God he had me or his mouth would be stuck in a permanent frown.

If it weren’t for me, anyone who crossed onto our premises would have to be given a warning. Watch out—laughter not allowed. Or we’d have to plant a sign with a big X through a smiley face. My parents were as bad as my brother.

“Come paint your nails,” Brin said. “I’ve got the perfect color blue.”

I flounced to the spa set up all over my floor. “Well, you know darling,” I said with an English accent, “I do have a reputation to maintain. I mustn’t leave the house without my nails done.”

She ignored my comment and wiped a smear of silver from her big toe. I didn’t even get an eye roll. “Are you still going to talk like that when you get married?”

I dropped the accent. “Married? Ha! Not likely.”

She added black dots between the stripes, slow and careful. “What about Seth?”

“What about him?” I grabbed the blue bottle and unscrewed the cap. I waved it under my nose and breathed in the chemical smell.

“You’re going to die early from chemical poisoning if you don’t lay off the fumes.”

I shrugged. “Can’t help it. It’s a habit.” When opening a new book I always pressed my nose into the center of the pages and inhaled the smell too. Old or new, it didn’t matter.

Brin cleared her throat with purpose. “You avoided the question. Seth?”

“I have no plans to get married right now. Even to Seth.” I wiped off a bit of blue. I couldn’t stay within the lines if my life depended on it.

Seth and I had been going out since middle school. It started off slow and a bit awkward, dancing at school events with the zombie-sway back and forth while muttering mind-numbingly boring conversation. Somehow we stayed together and the awkward convos turned into a friendship that was more than dates eating pizza and making out in the car before my curfew. Of course, all those things were an important part of our relationship, but it was the tender moments, when he bared his heart, that I held onto. Even if I couldn’t pin them to a corkboard.

“You know how many high school sweethearts make it?” I asked.

“Your relationship with Seth is not a statistic. Where’s your sense of romance? Of adventure? You’re the one who should see you two together forever.”

She was right. But maybe she didn’t realize that behind my endless smiles, lay dreams and doubts. And maybe, just maybe, I was terrified that if I admitted my dreams of a future with Seth, then I’d be the fool. Because as much as I knew he loved me,