by Laura Rossi
Publication date: February 14th 2021
Genres: Adult, Dark Romance, Psychological Thriller, Suspense
“I dream of waking up and being someone else—my hair, my eyes, even my voice, completely different—and each time I go to the mirror to check my reflection, to see what I look like, I’m her. Every time. Her. It’s her reflection that stares back at me, but I’m the one who controls it. I’m in control, and that’s exactly why it feels so good. I control her and what happens to me; I control both lives—mine and hers—and I have what I want the most: her looks, her status, her marriage. There’s nothing left of me, and only I know the secret. Only I know it’s me inside, it’s me under that perfect porcelain skin, it’s me behind those sweet, smart deep brown eyes.
And I have him. He’s mine—just mine now. I’m not the other woman anymore. I’m everything he needs.”
“A story of mystery and intrigue weaved together with prose so delectable, so sublime. A must-read. A masterpiece. A thrill.”
It’s like a cold breeze. I hold my breath as I place the mask over my skin, eyes closed, head spinning.
It’s the wine; it’s the wine.
I chant the words, my heart like drums playing in the background, and I fasten the strings around my head, securing the mask over my face.
Open your eyes.
I open them to a new world.
Tell me, what do you see?
Another me, like every time I’ve put on Ivy’s mask—her gift to me, a part of who she was, of who I’m starting to feel.
It’s powerful, the means of disguise. You cover yourself, all morals drop to the ground, out of the way.
My pulse quickens as I stand there, staring at a woman with no fear of being judged.
Is the crime a crime if it stays a secret? Is the perpetrator guilty, if never discovered?
“He fucks me first.”
Ivy’s words wash over me first, then flashes of memories that aren’t mine follow. I imagine her, him and their secret meetings as if I’ve witnessed them—a silent audience to her second life.
“Then he watches the others fuck me.”
Others… My guts twist, picturing it all in my head.
“I’m everything he wants me to be, and when I’m with him, I’m the girl with the mask who doesn’t say no.”
The girl with the mask…
I’m the girl with the mask now. I pace around the dark apartment, becoming familiar with the disguise. And I wonder, why me? Why has she left such a controversial, personal object to me?
“You are the keeper of my secrets, Doctor. Do you have any secrets?”
I walk to the window and spy the world from behind the mask. I wear the mask when all else fails to calm me, when I’m tired of hiding. I search for the meaning of it, for the connection with Ivy like she’s still alive, so very much present, her message I can’t read.
What do you want from me? What were you trying to tell me?
The world outside is quiet, the courtyard empty. I scan the street, then the building opposite mine, eyes lingering on each and every dark window until I see it.
One window in the building block is on, and there’s someone.
I move closer. My eyesight slowly adjusts to the dimness and I make out the figure of a man.
Half-naked, his skin a backdrop of inked words and drawings.
He’s on the side. I get a glimpse of his back as he leans down, gliding the paintbrush all the way to the end of the canvas.
Black, tainted canvas.
I walk to the left hand-side of the window to get a better view of the man, of the painting. It’s a naked woman lying down, her leg slightly up and wrapped around another figure. I can’t see anything else.
The man walks to one side of the canvas, pushing his long brown hair back, then scratches his beard.
Wild. It’s the first word that comes to mind.
Wild and rough, savage around the edges. He sways in front of the painting, his hands hard on the black canvas, so focused on the colours, the lines and shades. He looks up to something or someone. Maybe there’s someone in the room with him, I can’t tell.
A pair of loose, brown trousers hang on his hips.
I can’t see his face well. I tilt my head to the side, mesmerised by the sharp, precise movements of his hands, big and painted-stained hands, intrigued by the beautiful woman in the painting.
And then, all of a sudden, he stops, pushing his hair back again. Slowly he turns, looking out of his window, his eyes tracing the building all the way up, like he’s looking for something.
He stops. On me. On my window, like he can see me.
He can’t see me.
It’s dark; my lights are off.
I take a step back nevertheless. I wait, holding a breath, waiting for him to look away.
I can’t see the colour of his eyes—he’s too far away—but his eyes are big and intimidating.
I’m unable to move; I don’t want him to see me.
He can’t see me.
I reassure myself but still, that feral look in his eyes makes me shudder. I suddenly feel cold. I pull down the jumper over my bear thighs and stand as still as I can, still holding my breath.
He looks down at his hands, roughly rubbing the paint off his fingers for a moment, then he glances my way again and smiles—not just like he can see me but like he knows me.
But he doesn’t. I’ve never seen him before. Have I? Is he the person I saw outside?
No. This is the first time I’ve seen him.
Despite the need to run, I stand there paralysed.
With the slyest of grins, he finally steps away, and for a split second I see the black canvas clearly: a man and a woman, their naked bodies tightly entwined with one another.
My eyes grow wide, as I take a step back.
Masks. They are wearing masks.
I can’t blame the wine, not this time. For the first time, I doubt my mind. This is what insanity must feel like.
Who do you think you are?
Crazy. I think I’m crazy.