Louisa was a bright young girl. She could read and write from a very early age, baffling her parents, who had never particularly tried to kindle such a studious attitude in her. She recalled the maps and science illustrations she had seen in her books with photographic clarity. Once even, she perfectly recalled the name and face of her mother’s best friend at the age of six, having met her before only once when she was two. Beneath that head of fiery red hair, was a brain that couldn’t forget a lick of information. She burned through page after page, book after book and class after class. And the bright young girl became a bright woman.
However, as an old woman Louisa’s mind was not what it used to be. This is what she realized as she stood staring at a picture of her younger self. The Louisa of the photograph still had her sparkling smile, her flaming curls, and eyes alight with the life she had ahead of her. Today she could only feel a flicker of the warmth of the photograph Louisa still inside her. And that man beside her, who was he? Louisa frowned. He could have been a stranger for all she knew, and yet, there he was, standing beside her younger self, their arms entwined from shoulder to fingertip. She stared for a little longer as she tried to recall, but nothing except dancing shadows jumped to her mind’s eye.
Once there had been the feeling of a sturdy hand in hers. One that enveloped her wrist and enlaced their fingers together. Once there had been an eye that appraised her. It looked into her and saw her for everything she was— could read her every memory.
But those memories were gone. That man’s identity had melted away, floating out her ears like smoke.
Louisa’s joints were old and unworking, so oftentimes she stood very still, like a wax figure. This wasn’t helped by her waxy complexion, nor the way the winkles of her face seemed to drip from her bones. She thought maybe she had seen a wax figure somewhere before. Maybe she had the chance to see one in her youth, though she was sure it was the kind of thing she ought to remember.
Where had the old Louisa gone? Or rather, the young one. Into her bedroom mirror she stared and stared, sure that her eyes would snag on a detail to spark her recollection. But the person she saw was a stranger. Not a hair on her head had kept its flame— instead fizzled out to a vaporous white cloud. The burnished amber eyes of young Louisa were replaced by these cold, coal ones.
Her attention was finally drawn away from the woman in the mirror when she caught sight of the candle on the shelf behind her. It had seen many uses, tucked into the corner of an unfamiliar room, and reduced to a shriveled stump.