I’m going to feel this wine tomorrow.

She finished brushing her teeth and looked into the small, round mirror on the wall. It was a bit warped so she looked like one of those pictures you could take on your MacBook that distorted your face and made it into something funny. Nothing about the portrait she looked at appeared humorous, however. She could still see her fear and fatigue washed over her pale face.

For a brief moment Allie thought of the plane ride and the mirror. She moved her hand to touch this one, but pulled it back.

Don’t be stupid.

She held a backpack full of memories involving mirrors going all the way back to her first recollections of being in preschool. Bernardo had called it her obsession, but she’d only told him a handful of the stories. A man both obsessed and possessed couldn’t say a word on that topic.

In her small bedroom with the sloping ceiling, Allie found her phone and thought about turning it on. But she resisted. She didn’t want to know what sort of messages awaited. He would find a way to reach out even if she blocked Bernardo in every single way known. He’d discover a way and then he’d smile as he threatened her.

It’s so easy to be caught up in the smile shuffling through some unseen door. It’s so easy to be sucked in before you realize the smile is like a movie poster, designed to capture your attention and get you in the seat regardless of whether the film is any good or not.

Oh, but his smile . . .

She could see him now, just like always, just like the way she used to remember him by. Smiling those pearly whites, the dimples flashing, the dark eyes looking so dynamic. This brilliant, creative spark in a world full of mediocrity.

Swept off her feet. That was how she had been. This whirlwind, this breathless leap, this intoxication. Too delicious to have an aftertaste. Too sudden to have a hangover. Those aftereffects would come, of course, and they would be bitter. But in the beginning, there was only the sweet, tempting taste of devotion.

Words, so many and so yet so few, bounced off the clouds and the stars. She had been mesmerized the way some kind of member of a cult might be. Falling under a trance and not realizing the traces of desolation hovering all over her.

In her dreams, the places she feared to go, Allie saw him holding her hand, smiling. Walking alongside of her, fitting. Laughing with her, loving. Basking in the wonder of new love.

For a while it was really, truly wonderful. There were no signs or omens. There was nothing to tell her to run. She felt—Allie believed—that he understood her.

She could not fathom that someone would reach such a deep place without a clue of how he got there. Without knowing what to do once he got there. Without being worthy of coming anywhere close to this place.

Bernardo didn’t leave this place. Instead, he stayed and became a terrorist of the heart and the soul.

Allie still sometimes dreamt of the man she thought she had fallen in love with since that man was completely and utterly a figment of her imagination.

She put the phone back down and turned off the lamp, then crawled underneath the heavy blankets hoping sleep would arrive quickly.


Her twirling head and the thoughts bouncing inside it seemed to have other ideas.

Like always, Allie would eventually think about that movie. The one that had started everything, the inciting incident that she could blame.

At that time in her life, the idea of an artist fascinated her. She was interested in a little bit of everything, and even felt like she had a talent as a photographer, yet she still didn’t have the spirit of an artist. She didn’t realize the door she had opened, however. Sometimes the truth was like learning the mysteries behind a magician’s tricks. You saw things differently. You might even wish you didn’t know how the magic worked.

This happened early on when Allie began to learn more about this wonderful and mythical film called “Charmingstance”. One of the most moving scenes came near the end with a woman walking alongside a river and then stepping in it and scooping water onto her hands and feet. It was this simple and profound redemptive moment that encapsulated the movie in just a few moments. The song behind it came from Peter Gabriel. The magic truly came from his song “Washing of the Water.” Maybe the mystery came from how they were able to secure the rights for it.

When it came down the truth, however, Bernardo had dispelled it with brushing it off with a laugh.

“I never wanted that scene in there to begin with. And that song was just so—so boring. I hated it.”

This mythical, magical moment suddenly crumbled. Allie had believed that this man she loved carried this pulsing heartbeat and soulful melancholy inside. But this was one of the first times when she realized that sometimes the art produced in the end didn’t necessarily paint an accurate picture of the artist.

Chunks of the foundation began to fall, and this would be a foreshadowing of the murkiness that would follow. The romance, the love, the passion, the falling without a need for a parachute . . . All suddenly disappearing. All dissipating.

“But what about the moment where he ends up—” she had ended up saying and explaining her thoughts and feelings on the things that meant the most from the film.

Only to find an answer she wished she didn’t know.

“I love how she ends up going out and finding out the truth–” she admitted to thinking.

Only to hear that he wanted a different ending and that he hated the clichéd and corny ending that was in the film.

Life was very different when you suddenly peered behind the curtain to get a true glimpse of your Great Oz. It never looked the way you first imagined.

Nothing in Allie’s life would ever look the same again.