A HAPPY LITTLE GIRL is eleven years old, her eyes are bright and her smile is wide. Her sister is sick and her mother cries because she doesn’t think she’ll make it through the night. She is old enough to understand what death is and feels it hovering over that hospital bed every time she visits. At the funeral her father tells her to always love herself. She wonders, ‘Who doesn’t?’ but thinks it is important, and borrows her sister’s lipstick to write across the mirror in scrawling letters. The message is bright red on the silver of the mirror, and at night, she thinks, it looks like a beacon.
A NAIVE LITTLE GIRL is thirteen when she first feels her watching. She is waiting in the corners, in the shadows. She wonders when she will make her move. At night she dreams she is sinking down into the darkness. The night is unforgiving, its solitude empty. When its shadows coil around her, cold and tender, no one can hear her, see her. The shadows pull her deeper into the abyss. It is a gaping chasm, and she is unsure what awaits her at the bottom. She thinks she can hear voices echoing from the darkness. She doesn’t know who they belong to, but imagines she can hear the ghost of her sister, beckoning to her. She realises that her sister never loved herself.
A TIRED LITTLE GIRL is fifteen and rolls her eyes when the guest speakers visit the school to educate them on the importance of loving themselves. She visits her nightly now. Her mother doesn’t like her – her nightly visits disrupt her sleep and the detriment is clear on her face. Shadows build up beneath her eyes, she is pale like the freshly dead. Her family begs her to send her away, don’t they realise she can’t? If she could, she would have done it long, long ago.
A PLUMMETING LITTLE GIRL is seventeen and carving up her skin to distract herself from the voices in her head. She wears long sleeves in summer, even though it leaves her sweating and feeling like she might melt into a puddle. She stands by her in the bathroom each morning, offering her a mask for every occasion. She helps her paint them on. The masks work, but she feels worse than ever. Each painted smile is a stone in her pocket, and she is sinking further down. She doesn’t leave her room and can barely keep her food down. Lies fall out of her mouth like honey, except it isn’t honey, it is a thick, murky substance as black as she thinks her soul might be. She can’t look in the mirror anymore; she doesn’t recognise the person staring back. The message she wrote long ago still stretches across her reflection. It is dusty now, and the red seems like blood on a silver knife.
A DESPAIRING LITTLE GIRL is nineteen and pumped with antidepressants. She is numb and tired and every breath is a challenge. She sees a psychologist every week and a psychiatrist once a month. They tell her it’s important to love herself, and she thinks of that teenager on the news who killed himself, her sister, the statistics on teenage suicide, and wonders, ‘Who does?’ The medicine keeps her at a distance. Sometimes she disappears, and she feels relief, like a weight has been lifted off her chest and she can finally breathe again. It is a battle of wills, a dance. How long will it go on? She misses being a carefree child. She hopes that the sun will return one day to drive away the darkness, drive away her, but whenever she looks out the window, sunrise is far, far away.
A HOPEFUL LITTLE GIRL is twenty-three and grapples with the darkness everyday. She still comes over to visit, and she greets her with chocolate and a latte. She doesn’t avoid the mirror as much, and some days she can even look at her reflection without flinching. Her wall is decorated with things that make her happy, and the message on her mirror has been inked onto her skin. The scars on her wrist have faded, and she is able to smile. On the anniversary of her sister’s death, she places hydrangeas at her grave. She feels the warmth of the sun against her skin and knows tomorrow will be a better day.
About the Author
18-year-old Erandi Kuruppuarachchi lives in Sydney, Australia. Diagnosed with depression and anxiety at age 12, Erandi is pursuing a career in psychology.