Black Petals Issue #95 Spring, 2021

Iris' Vanity
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Blue Meet-Fiction by George Aitch
Dark Alleyways-Fiction by Adam Phillips
Iris' Vanity-Fiction by Tristan Miller
Scalp Cleanse-Fiction by Kajetan Kwiatkowski
The Muscus-Fiction by Alice Stone
The Wrong Place-Fiction by Ante Caleta
Things That Happen-Fiction by Guido Eekhaut
Tidal Horror-Fiction by Sal Braden
Two Martinis In-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Vampire-Fiction by Gene Lass
Hypnic Jerk-Flash Fiction by Vismay Harani
Speed Dating-Flash Fiction by Alexander Condie
Step Out-Flash Fiction by Ed Nobody
The Packing Bay-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Trophy Kill-Flash Fiction by Eddie D. Moore
Occupational Hazard-Flash Fiction by Doug Hawley
The Definition of Crash-Poems by Paul David Adkins
Ghost: A Working Definition-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Vampiric Threnody-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Leelanau Lake Monster-Poems by Richard Stevenson
Ballast-2 Poems by Angelo Letizia
Pit Bull-3 Poems by Pete Mladinic
Shadow of Sleep-Poem by Teresa Ann Frazee
Microcosmus-3 Poems by Daniel Snethen
The Higher Dimensions-Poem by David C. Kopaska- Merkel

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Art by Hillary Lyon 2021

Iris’ Vanity

By Tristan Miller

 

          Bernard knew he was forgetting something. He pondered as he drove home from work, carefully combing through his thoughts when it hit him.

          He forgot to buy an anniversary gift for his wife, Iris.

Every year he forgot her gift and would search for something last minute. Anything.  This year was no different. He went to turn around when a twinkle of light caught his eye. The light came from the side of the road. Slowing down, he saw it came from a set of wooden furniture. It glimmered in the setting sun, compelling him to stop.

Maybe it’s something Iris would like, he assured himself. He pulled into the adjacent driveway.

When he got out, the sight captivated him; it was a dark wooden vanity carved of cherry oak. Bernard held his breath as he saw the light that caught his eye; a green gem encased on top of the mirror rim. A tingle of excitement grew in him.

Bernard looked down the driveway and saw a man approaching.

“Interested?” he asked with a smile.

“Why, yes I am,” Bernard answered, “How much?”

“It’s yours,” he said with no delay. “Free of charge.”

 Bernard felt suspicious at this response.

“One question,” he said. “What’s wrong with it?”

“We had a small fire. There’s some smoke damage and my wife doesn’t want it anymore,” he said.

Bernard looked at the vanity and saw no smoke damage. He didn’t dare protest though.

”Would you like some help loading it up?” the man continued.

“That would be very helpful,” Bernard said, but deep down he still felt suspicious. It unsettled him. Then he imagined how delighted Iris would be if he brought this home. Seeing her face light up would be worth anything in the world.

This year will be different, he thought.

 They loaded it up and he took it home.

#

          Iris felt let down with every anniversary gift Bernard gave her. She said that he didn’t need to get her anything, but they both knew a white lie when they heard one. Hoping to avoid disappointment, she didn’t get her hopes up.

          Bernard arrived home in good spirits. He smiled and took her hand, leading them outside. Bound in a large ribbon, sat her new vanity. The green gem glimmered at the top. She broke into tears of joy.

He finally got me an expensive gift, she thought to herself.

 She cried with outstretched arms and hugged him tightly.

#

          That night she sat in front of the vanity and brushed her hair. She stared at her reflection, unable to resist smiling.

“What a luxury this is! How thoughtful of Bernard!” she said into the mirror.

Maybe he isn’t such a bad husband after all? She considered. Lately, he had been working long hours at the law firm and they didn’t see much of each other. She stayed home all by herself watching television and reading beauty magazines. Bernard claimed that it wasn’t unusual at their firm to work late, as did his colleague Patrick Weisman. Iris accepted it, but Patrick’s wife didn’t. Alleged rumors concerning her spread, but what could Iris believe? It didn’t matter. What does matter is Bernard gave her a thoughtful gift. 

She sat thinking when she noticed someone behind her in the reflection. A tall woman with raven black hair and beautiful green eyes stared back blankly. She gasped, then quickly turned to see Bernard standing where the woman had been. She looked back at the reflection to see it was still him.

          “What’s wrong?” he asked.

          Iris laughed in relief, “Nothing is wrong. I thought I saw someone in the mirror. It was just you though.”

          “It’s me in the flesh, right here,” he said. “I hope you like your present.”

          “I love it,” She surveyed him flirtatiously. “Now it’s time for one of your gifts.”

They made love then went to bed.

#

          The next day Iris wanted to express her gratitude. She made a marvelous dinner with all of Bernard’s favorite fixings-- including her famous apple pie. He deserved to feel special. In fact, she would surprise him. By the time Iris prepared everything, he still wasn’t home. A half-hour later she received a call.

          “Don’t wait up for me tonight, Iris,” Bernard said. “It’s going to be a late one.”

She hung up the phone and sighed. How could I be so naive?

Things were back to normal again she guessed. He just had a good day, but now he’s back to being a shitty husband. She knew not to get her hopes up, yet she did anyway.

Never again, she promised.

The wind whispered faintly from the kitchen window. A night breeze felt cool on her skin, yet unsettled her. Iris, unnerved by another night in an empty house, closed the window and decided it was time for bed.

She went upstairs without cleaning the kitchen.

Iris sat down at her vanity and began removing her eye makeup. She stared back at herself with blue eyes the hue of a blooming pansy. Many times she swam in those eyes of hers, thinking of ways she could beguile her husband... or any man who would actually give her attention. She thought of her husband’s colleague, Patrick. It wasn’t the first time. Patrick is a great man and deserves better than his wife, Iris thought. Everyone knows she sleeps around.

 Lost in her fantasy, she suddenly realized someone else staring back at her from the mirror-- a lovely woman with captivating emerald eyes. Her coal-black hair cascaded over pale shoulders. Iris gaped in fear. The dark-haired woman burst into a bright flame. Her body disintegrated into a cloud of black smoke that hung ominously in the air. Iris felt an overwhelming burning sensation all over her body and began to scream.

          Outside, Bernard pulled into the driveway. Stepping out of the car, he heard a deafening wail from inside the house. He dropped his keys and sprinted toward the front door. Inside, smoke poured from the kitchen. Bernard quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher. Spraying the red glow in the heart of the smoke, the fire died to reveal a pie in the oven had caught fire. He breathed in relief for the moment-- when the cries came again. He dropped the extinguisher and followed the echoes upstairs. Hideous thoughts taunted him. He crashed through the bedroom door.

Iris sat at her vanity, shrieking into her own reflection.

#

          After he calmed her down, Iris explained the story. He listened and comforted her, but she knew he was skeptical.

          “Why would you go to bed when there was a fucking pie still baking in the oven?”  he asked. “You almost burned the house down. If I didn’t come home you would be dead.”

          “I was beginning to wonder if you would be coming home at all,” she spat.

          “I can’t help that I’m good at my fucking job,” he said. She stared at him with contempt. His face flushed. He continued speaking, this time in a patient tone.

          “Honey, I’ve been thinking. I’ve suspected, but not until now am I more convinced. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m going to just come out and say it… maybe you’re...going through menopause?” the last word escaped as a whisper.

          A fire burned in Iris’ eyes. She didn’t have to say anything, Bernard knew her rage. She grabbed a blanket and placed it over the mirror.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

She grabbed a second blanket and threw it at him. “You should sleep on the couch tonight.”

He knew better than to argue.

#

          Weeks passed and the matter faded. In retrospect, Iris began to question herself. Maybe she over-reacted at the anomalies in the mirror?  She believed it was her subconscious bringing something to light; the recent trouble with her marriage--which was only getting worse. He continuously failed to read her signals. They rarely went on dates or had sex anymore. His absence was out of hand. She could admit she was no longer happy. Not only that… but no matter how rude Bernard suggested menopause… Iris was getting older. Did her mother go through similar circumstances? She didn’t know; her deceased mother would never be able to tell her.

          These thoughts led Iris to a conclusion.

Tonight was an important party with everyone from the firm. There was potential for new clients, and greener pastures. She would not admit it to herself right away, but Patrick Weisman would be there… and she needed to look her best. A man with that status could be her out if Bernard continued following his path. She deserved better than that lazy asshole she called her husband. Not only that, but Patrick deserved much better than that slut he called his wife.

Convinced, Iris removed the blanket from the mirror and began her work.

#

          Brandishing her brushes, Iris felt whole again. She sculpted herself as the work of art she would need to be for the occasion.

The room stood silent like a judge before delivering a difficult sentence. She checked her work. Not only was she beautiful-- but she outdid herself beyond expectation. Iris felt the vitality of her early twenties. Basking in her own radiance, she stared.

The bedroom door swung open behind her and she took her eyes off of the mirror, expecting to see Bernard; he was not there. Her eyes fixed back to the mirror, only to find deep emerald eyes where hers had been. The dark-haired woman glared malevolently. Terror overwhelmed Iris. She turned to run, but a cold, invisible force held her in place. Desperately she struggled to break free. The black-haired woman’s face dissolved into wisps of black smoke, revealing Iris’ face beneath. She felt beads of sweat running down her forehead as the terrible smog swirled around the room. Her body heated until she cried out in pain, only to inhale smoke. A sudden flame erupted at her legs. A revolting smell plagued her; the burning of her own hair. Flames engulfed the rest of her body.

A shrill, sinister laugh echoed through the blackened room-- yet Iris knew nothing but her own inferno.

#

Bernard came home to find his wife sprawled out on the floor of their bedroom. He quickly awakened her. She became hysterical, thinking she had burned to death. He held her in his arms until exhaustion overtook her.

When she had regained consciousness, Bernard stood and held her hand in his own.

“Honey, you’re alright. I’m here,” he told her.

 Something in her resonated and she did feel better. He gently ran his fingertips up and down her back. Gooseflesh prickled.

How long ago has it been since he did that? She wondered.

She hadn’t felt this much love and warmth from him in years, she almost melted. It gave her unexpected strength. Bravely, but not without apprehension, she surveyed the room before her. Nothing was burned and no remnants of black smoke remained.

#

          Bernard agreed to get rid of the vanity. He took it to an antique dealer the next morning. The dealer examined it closely. He was clearly interested and ready to offer a price when he noticed something off-putting; the inlaid emerald. His face hardened.

          “Take it out of here,” he said. “Right at this moment. I’m no longer interested.”

          His rude remark upset Bernard... but also piqued his interest.

          “What’s wrong with it? Please, tell me. My wife is terrified to even be in the same room with it. She’s said some disturbing things have happened, and she believes this vanity to be the root of them.”

          The dealer listened. His hard stare softened into pity and understanding.

          “Your wife might not be far from the truth, sir. I will tell you,” he said gravely, “but let me warn you. You may not want to hear it.”

          “I’m all ears,” Bernard replied.

          Both men sat in silence for a moment, before the shop owner began.

          “In old Europe, a woman by the name of Valentina Beauveux became very popular for her wealth and beauty. It was said that she never left her house unless she looked nothing short of enchanting. Folks called her The Emerald Eyed Witch of England back in her day, because of her deep green eyes that captivated even the most strong-willed of men,” the dealer said.

          A chill passed through Bernard.

          “For a wedding present,” the dealer continued, ”her husband Antoine Beauveux had a gorgeous vanity made for her of dark cherry-oak, inlaid with an emerald the very color of her renowned eyes. Though she adored it, eventually she grew bored with her husband. She became promiscuous. Eventually, her husband caught wind of her infidelities. One night, while sitting at her vanity, the constable broke into the room and arrested her for charges witchcraft. Though no proof was ever found, she was still condemned to burn alive before the town and her husband,” he trailed off for a moment.

          Bernard sat silent.

          “No one knows if she truly was a witch, but it is widely known that her husband brought the charges against her. He remarried shortly after and the beloved vanity was auctioned off. However, it did not go to just any owner. Uncannily, wherever the unfaithful found themselves, the vanity appeared. Yet no one has it for long, and a lesson is learned that Valentina knew all too well herself,” he finished.

          They both said nothing for a while. There was one question that Bernard was burning to ask, however.

          “How do you know all of this?” he asked.

          The shop keeper looked at him for a while. He shook Bernard’s hand with a firm grip.

          “Mark Beauveux,” he said darkly. “My forefather auctioned this vanity off for good reason. My only concern for you,” he said, “is how you’re going to get rid of it.”

          That’s an excellent question, Bernard thought.

#

          When he got home he found another car in his driveway. Pulling in, he saw Patrick Weisman and his wife, Evelyn, sitting on their front porch with Iris. Upon seeing the vanity,  Iris’ face grimaced in fear, yet only Bernard noticed.

          “We were just coming to check on you guys,” Patrick said. “We missed you at the firm.”

          “Iris caught some kind of bug and it wasn’t pretty, but she’s feeling better now,” Bernard answered. “Isn’t that right, honey?”

          Iris nodded. Her eyes stayed fixed on the vanity. “Why didn’t they take it?” she asked, her voice wavering.

          “They’re going to call me back with a price,” he lied.

          Abruptly, Evelyn Weisman sprang up in excitement.

          “What a beautiful, ornate, vanity! You’re selling it?” she asked. “Why ever would you? Oh, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know!” Evelyn felt an unexplainable attraction towards it. A force drawing her towards it as if it had been specially crafted for her. In her mind, it had. “Is that an emerald? It almost matches my eyes!” she said.

          Bernard knew what kind of woman Evelyn was... and he did need the vanity gone. He looked at Iris. He knew she would have trouble sleeping anywhere near that horrible thing. Regardless of what she had done, or was planning to do… he still loved her dearly.

          He looked at the vanity, remembering the day he brought it home, then Evelyn.

          “How much?” she asked.

          A wicked grin cracked over his face.

          “It’s yours,” he said. “Free of charge.”

 

My name is Tristan Miller. I’m a 23 year old Michigan State University student studying Physics and Mathematics. I teach around the schools for work, as I am a future educator. I’m also a musician and fill in on drums for metal bands in the mid Michigan area. I enjoy horror but deep down I’m a fantasy nerd at heart.

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