Like The Prose 2021 – Day 10

Today’s prompt asked me to write about denial. As a parent and a teacher, I’ve had plenty of experience of being told, “It wasn’t me!” and thought that might be a good starting place for my story. What if my protagonist genuinely hadn’t done any of the things she was accused of? What if it was actually her reflection coming to life when she was asleep and doing things that the ‘real’ person got blamed for?

Unfortunately, this is a very sketchy version of the story – it will have to wait until I have more time to develop the idea properly and turn it into the story I’d like it to be. For the time being, sit back and enjoy the first draft of “It Wasn’t Me!”

“It Wasn’t Me!”

Someone,” said Laura’s mother sternly, “has eaten the rest of the chocolate cake.”

“It wasn’t me,” Laura whispered.

Someone,” said Miss Spencer, with an angry look on her face, “has flooded the girls’ toilets.”

“It wasn’t me,” Laura muttered.

Someone,” Maxine said meaningfully, “told Jake Watts I fancied him, and now he won’t stop pestering me.”

“It wasn’t me,” Laura protested.

Of course, no one ever believed her denials. “But I saw you,” people would say, shaking their heads as Laura refused to admit culpability. They said it so often, that Laura began to wonder if they were right. Perhaps she was doing all these things – only without realising, like a sleepwalker.

*

As the years rolled by, Laura began to wonder if she had a split personality. Were there two sides to her nature: a ‘good’ Laura and an ‘evil’ Laura? (She had studied ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ for her English GCSE.) She certainly had no recollection of the things she was being blamed for, and they were becoming increasingly more embarrassing.

Take last Sunday, for instance. One of her neighbours claimed to have seen Laura spraying graffiti on the wall of the local old people’s home. As if Laura would ever do something like that! And only yesterday, she’d been stopped in Tesco by a security guard who claimed to have CCTV footage of her shoplifting a few days previously. The person in the grainy black and white footage did look a bit like her she decided, but whoever it was, they were stealing a bottle of Malibu and Laura never touched alcohol; besides, she was allergic to coconut. The last straw, though, was when the rather handsome man who’d just moved in next door put a polite yet frosty note through her letterbox asking her to refrain from sunbathing nude in the garden as his elderly father had been visiting the day before and had almost had a heart attack when he caught sight of her. Since Laura had been suffering with a migraine on the day in question and had spent the entire afternoon lying in bed in a darkened room, it definitely hadn’t been her – and there was no way that she would ever expose herself in the back garden. It was bad enough trying to change into her swimming costume under the cover of a towel at the beach.

Miserably, she climbed into bed and turned out the light, and as she drifted off to sleep, her reflection climbed out of the mirror and began to plan what she would do while Laura slept. The graffiti had been fun, and she’d enjoyed the Malibu she’d stolen from the supermarket. As for the naked sunbathing… She’d thought it would be amusing to tease the man who lived next door. He was far too stuffy for her tastes – as boring as Laura when you came to think of it – but she’d wanted to see him blush with embarrassment. How was she to know that his father would spot her? Or that the old man had a heart condition? Still, at least the ambulance had come quickly.

She stared once more at Laura, sleeping soundly and dreaming of goodness knows what. It was annoying that she could only leave the mirror when Laura was unconscious, but the woman seemed to favour ridiculously early nights, meaning that between the hours of 9pm and 5am, anything could happen. (Migraines that allowed her to escape in the daytime were an added bonus.) Perhaps she should go clubbing tonight? Or there was a new karaoke bar in town that was open until midnight. Laura’s reflection smiled: whatever she did, she would certainly have a better time than her alter-ego.

*

It was around 2am when the shadowy version of Laura began to wend her way home. She had danced herself dizzy, partied like it was 1999, and completely murdered every song she’d attempted in the karaoke bar. It had been wonderful.

Feeling slightly the worse for wear with a whopping alcohol-induced headache, she stopped for a moment, wondering if she was going to be sick. Perhaps she shouldn’t have had that kebab after all?

That was when she saw him. A man was running down the street, clutching what looked like some kind of briefcase. Presumably he was late for a train or a bus – well, he should know better than to be making such a noise when she had a headache. Instinctively, she stuck out her leg, tripping him up. The briefcase flew open as it hit the ground and Laura’s reflection stared in surprise at the jewellery boxes that spilled onto the pavement.

She was just about to reach for one or two of the boxes when the world started to shimmer and she knew Laura was waking up. “No!” she shouted desperately, but it was no use: as Laura regained consciousness in her bedroom, her reflection found herself trapped once more in the mirror. What a time for the woman to have woken up needing a glass of water! It was at least half an hour before Laura turned off the bedside lamp and sank back to sleep, and her reflection knew that the burglar and his boxes would be long gone by then.

*

The photo in the paper definitely looked like her, but she hadn’t been anywhere near the Jewellery Quarter on the night in question. It was a pity, really: the unknown woman had foiled what was potentially one of the biggest robberies the city had seen in a long time. Whoever she was, the Good Samaritan could expect a substantial reward from the grateful shop owner.

Laura was just making another cup of tea when the front doorbell rang. Her good-looking neighbour was on the doorstep and he wasn’t alone.

“I hope you don’t mind…” He blushed, turning his ears an endearing shade of pink. “Only, I recognised your photo in the paper, so I called the police and told them where you live.”

As if in a dream, a bewildered Laura allowed the two police officers to enter her home, then made them cups of tea and plied them with homemade flapjacks. Since they were so convinced that she was the woman they were looking for, she deemed it more convenient for everyone just to go along with it – and the ten thousand pounds in reward money was definitely a bonus.

Dan, her good-looking neighbour, put in another appearance as the police left. Stammering slightly, he asked her if she was free for lunch. “I was going to ask you out anyway,” he added hurriedly. “Before I saw you in the garden, I mean.”

And although Laura knew full well that Dan had not seen her in the garden, she smiled roguishly and muttered that she might feel like sunbathing again later – if he cared to join her.

Standing in front of the hallway mirror, Laura gazed at her reflection as she applied lipstick. “I know it was you,” she muttered under her breath. “You see, the woman in the video footage at Tesco looked just like me, but she was wearing her watch on the opposite wrist. Anyway, for once, your tricks have done me a favour: I’ve got money to spend and a date with Dan.”

Her reflection’s eyes widened with shock. “You knew?”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Laura said cheerfully as she turned to leave.

“But it’s not fair!” protested her reflection. “It wasn’t you: it was me!”

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