|Strange Face of Love
Author: Guede Mazaka
"A cat's eye?"
Snorting, Faye waved it away with a smoking butt. "Don't be ridiculous," she called back, moving deeper into the shop.
"A lizard's tail?" The wizened old woman trailed after her customer, picking off wares from the crowded shelves. "Whatever ails you, I'm sure I have the cure here somewhere." She stopped, cocking her head at the other woman, and then shoved all the dried oddities she held back onto a shelf. "Just what are you looking for?"
"Hell if I know." Faye dragged on her cigarette, then sighed, shoulders drooping ever-so-slightly. "But I don't think it's here," she muttered, twisting on one saucy white heel and moving to leave.
As she did, silver glimmered and for a moment, her heart jerked. But it was only a mirror, Faye discovered once she'd turned back. Not a gu-that was one weird mirror. All old silver, black spots contrasting sharply with the riotous turquoise inlay. And engraved in the very center, deep lines fracturing her reflection as she peered closer, was a…
"The pentagram he bought in hell."
"Hey!" Instantly jumping back, Faye glared at the shopkeeper. "Don't sneak up on me like this," she snapped, glancing back at the wall.
And the star shape was gone. Blinking furiously, Faye mentally counted the number of drinks she'd had so far today. Not nearly enough.
"It was a he, wasn't it?" the hag persisted. "Listen, I like your face. It reminds me of…I'll give you a free look."
"Free?" Faye arched an eyebrow. "Free what?"
"In the mirror." Laying a hand on Faye's cheek, the age-wrinkled woman nudged so both their gazes went back to the aforementioned object. "Ask it your question."
"I don't have a damn quest-" catching herself, Faye sighed and stared at the polished silver. Might as well. It wasn't like she had anything better to do. Or anywhere else to look. Squaring her shoulders, she scrunched out her cigarette and glowered. "All right, old lady's mirror. Why?"
For the first few seconds, she saw just what she expected: dark sunglasses, sharp-cut hair and wan complexion. About to give up, Faye began to say something, and then stopped. Something in there…she leaned closer…her hair wasn't that color. Not…gold. And definitely not that long.
In the flash of a moment, another woman was looking back at her. Sad, was Faye's first thought, jostling into her mind way before beautiful leaped in. And she suddenly knew: Julia. "Spike, you idiot-"
But the shapes and shadows swirling in the tarnished window hadn't yet settled. Before Faye's confused eyes, wheat curls straightened, bleached themselves to bone-white. The large eyes narrowed into the impenetrable slants she remembered, and her cheek registered the brush of feathers, just before a coal-black set of wings perched on the lean shoulder. Vicious.
Frustration, her constant companion these days, rubbed up against Faye's spine, and she shook off the strange lassitude that'd gripped her. Pouncing forward, she seized either side of the mirror and said fiercely, "I know that. I asked you to tell me why!"
Her eyes suddenly burned, but Faye refused to stand down. Swiping a hand over her face, she started to snarl again, "Tell me-"
The mirror was flickering. A couch. A kitchen, warm and cozy, just large enough for the two pressed against its countertop. The stark whiteness of the bandages, and then the razor dark of smart suits in an alley. In a meeting room, in a bar. Brilliant red splashing over their gleeful grins, abruptly covered by the wispy black veil that drifted down in between them. A man's hand falling on a turned-away shoulder, the fingers squeezing once before sliding an inquiry up to a strong neck bared in trust. Stroking that nape tenderly. But the faces remained turned from each other, both pointing forward to the gilt angel dancing in the distance.
A gasp choking in her throat, Faye suddenly found herself chanting, "Don't look back. Don't look back. Don't-"
One man turned, and she saw those pupils widen to swallow all the innocence, hurt blazing once before familiar sarcasm clanked down over those eyes. Shielded and sealed as they regarded the strange face of love, resolute and pitiless, still staring in the wrong direction as the angel fell. Bright pearly wings were soiled to charcoal, and the radiance fell into the cage.
Across the silver surface, ripples appeared, like water sluicing down a windowpane during a storm. Her cynicism once again taking over, Faye watched resignedly as the two men pivoted, backs to each other now a prelude to a duel instead of a gesture of faith, and strode off down opposite paths. And her eyes followed the one in blue and the one in black as their ways angled apart, recrossed, and finally, inevitably smashed.
"Hell!" Tearing herself backwards, Faye shook her head furiously and forced herself to focus. She was Faye Valentine. She could gamble and cheat and shoot. She was in a bizarre folk medicine store.
"Did you see your answer?"
Turning a searing look on the other woman, Faye hastily shook out another cigarette and lit up, carefully not looking at the mirror. "You could say that."
"Ah." The shopkeeper began to draw away, but then hesitated and asked, "Who was Spike?"
"Who's anybody?" Faye retorted. She flipped a few bills at the old woman, who snatched them out of the air with stick-skinny fingers. "Who are you?"
Stalking out of the door, Faye nearly missed the other woman's last remark. "Don't look back! He's right on your trail!"
"And what's the point of looking back?" Making a derisive noise, Faye turned her steps back to the Bebop and to Jet. Good, solid Jet, who knew how to forget and walk away. Who knew how to take it. "Well, I can, too. Take it like a man," she told herself, and the twist in her tone made it more a vow than a statement.
Above her, the cloudy skies at last began to give up their burden of rain, and water slicked runnels down Faye's cheeks. Doggedly facing forward, she untied her sweater and pulled it on, then continued on her way.
* * *
Strange Face of Love
Let go of your love
A cat's eye a lizard's tail
Don't look back Don't look back
The rain's soul makes killer cry
Don't look back Don't look back