The Vara in the Mirror
by Danielle A. Cloakey
This story is dedicated to and inspired by 11 year old childhood cancer warrior Vara, also known as Sweet Vara James (SVJ). She is fighting a relapse of Wilms Tumor – kidney cancer- and is so close to being done with treatment. Originally this story was supposed to be written for her birthday back in November, but since she will be done with treatment soon, I thought it would be nice to have it to celebrate the end of treatment. Special thanks to Vara’s mom Emily for putting up with endless and seemingly random questions from me! Vara, I hope you enjoy this story, and that it helps your imagination soar. I hope you always embrace the YOU you are at any given moment. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet girl. May you always believe that the impossible is possible (after all, Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible”).
Vara gazes at her reflection in the mirror, and runs the fingers of both hands against her scalp. Peach fuzz! She wonders if it will grow back different. She has heard of that happening. Her hair before was just like Mommy’s, chocolate brown and a bit on the long side. Vara smiles at her reflection. She did it. She made it through the impossible a second time. And now, hopefully, she will remain healthy.
She holds her reflection’s gaze as she thought about all the good that came out of her being sick. She’s a voice for children with cancer. Who better to be their voice than me? I have been where they are, and I’ve been there twice.
She sees something strange in the mirror, a movement, and her breath catches in her chest for a moment. But nah. It couldn’t be. She shrugs her shoulders and looks down at her hands. When she looks up again – there! – she saw another movement.
“Who’s here?” she whispers. She wants to call out for Mommy, for Pinky, or for the dogs. She’s scared that she’s not the only one in the room, and she is scared that she is.
“Don’t be afraid, Vara.”
That voice sounds just like hers, except maybe older.
“There’s no reason to panic. I’m going to appear on your side of the mirror. Please don’t scream.”
The mirror gets blurry, and then there’s a popping noise, like popcorn popping, but louder, and a bright light temporarily blinds Vara, knocking her off the bench she was perched on.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are you okay? I’m sorry. I should have warned you about the light. It’s just… well, it’s just been a while since I’ve had the chance to be on this side of the mirror.”
Vara rubs her eyes and tries to open them, but there is light leftover imprinted in her brain, and she just can’t yet.
She feels somebody kneeling next to her, and that someone takes both of her hands.
“Give it a moment. It will go away soon.”
“Who are you? Why do you sound like me? And how did you come out of the mirror?” Vara splutters.
“I’m you. An older you, in the future. Not just two years from now, either. It’s more like several hundred years ahead of you. And as for how I got out of the mirror, I just jumped.”
Vara’s mind races with thoughts that don’t make sense. She decides to peek. She sees her very own face, which, okay, was how she imagines she would look in two or three years time.
“But how is this possible?”
“Oh, believe me, it’s possible. I just can’t explain how. You’re you, and I’m me, and we are both Vara,” future Vara says, and she lets go of Vara’s hands and gets to her feet. She extends a hand to Vara.
Vara slowly takes it, and she is hauled to her feet. “Did you…” She trails off, wanting to ask but not wanting to at the same time. “Were you sick?” She finally says.
Vara nods. “I had cancer. Twice.”
“Cancer?” the other Vara repeats. She looks puzzled. “Never heard of it. Well, I have, but just as a word to describe something bad. You know, a verb.”
Hope blooms in Vara’s chest, and she smiles so hard that she is surprised that her face doesn’t break.. If this is true, then there is hope. There will be cures. Cancer will be vanquished. She does a little happy dance. The other Vara raises her eyebrows.
“It’s why I barely have any hair,” Vara explains. “There was something in me that wasn’t supposed to be in me, and they gave me medicine to make it go away. That medicine also made my hair fall out. The first time I was sick, they took out one of my kidneys.”
“Wow, dude, you’re freaking Super Vara,” the other Vara says, and touches her on the arm. “You’re okay now, though?”
Vara nods. “We just got no evidence of disease on my scans. Hopefully I beat it for good this time.”
“I hope that too,” the other Vara says, and then she takes a deep breath. “I have something to ask you, and you probably won’t want to do it. If you don’t, it’s okay, and I’ll leave you be.”
Vara waits, her eyes on the other Vara’s.
“Would you want to jump to my time? I have something I want to show you.”
“What is it?”
The other girl hesitates, and then shakes her head. “I have to show you,” she says. “I don’t know how to explain it in words. Oh!” She sees the sudden worry in Vara’s eyes. “Don’t worry, V. It’s nothing bad, I promise. You’ll love it.”
Vara looks at the door behind the other girl, her mind racing. “Well, I don’t think my mom would let me,” she says lamely. “I’m only eleven.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. You will return to the exact moment you leave, so it will be like you never went anywhere. You’ll be fine, I promise. I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
“Well, okay,” Vara holds out her hand, and the older girl takes it.
“Close your eyes,” she says. “When you open them, we’ll be there.”
Vara quietly obeys. And waits. And waits. Her feet never leave the ground. Confusion fills her head, but she still waits.
“Vara, you can open your eyes. We’re here.” The other Vara’s voice is sing-songy and it sounds far away. Vara’s eyes flutter open. She is surprised to find her older doppelgänger hasn’t moved. And then even more surprised at where they are.
There are similarities to Vara’s world – the sky is still blue, the grass still green, and there are buildings with people going in and out of them. But there are no streets, no traffic, and where there would have been streets, there were beautiful and colorful gardens filled with birds and their songs.
“Wow,” Vara says. “It’s so pretty. But how…” She shuts her mouth, realizing that the other Vara won’t know how to answer her questions. Yes, Vara, this is normal. It will be normal.
“Come on, we gotta catch the train,” the other Vara says, and holds out her hand. Vara takes it, and then they are flying through the gardens. Their feet barely touch the ground, and then they aren’t on the ground at all or even outside, but in a speeding thing that looks to Vara like those standing scooters that you pump your foot on the ground and gain momentum. But there is nothing – as far as Vara could see – to make the contraption go. She shrugs. She is more excited to see what the other Vara has in store.
💗 💗 💗
Vara follows the other Vara into the house and through rooms bright with sunshine and cozy with love. Pictures of this Vara decorated the halls, and the younger Vara finds her eyes lingering on the ones where she thinks Vara is eight, nine, and ten, the full head of hair in every image. She feels a pang in her heart, like this healthy Vara could have been her, should have been her.
No, she thinks. I’m happy. If I never had cancer, I wouldn’t know Sadie and Lily, and I wouldn’t have met Mike, and I wouldn’t be a voice for childhood cancer awareness. And it will get better. It just has to get better.
“So, V, what do you think?”
Vara turns to look, The other Vara had changed her clothes. She is now wearing yellow pants and a shirt, with a matching mask around her eyes. She is also wearing a yellow cape.
“Oh, cool!” Vara says. “You’re dressed as a superhero.”
The other Vara laughs. “Not just dressed as one,” she says, wiggling her eyebrows. “It has taken me a long time to control it, but I can make people do what I want them to.”
“Mind control?” Vara asks.
“I don’t like to call it that, because it doesn’t sound very nice, but yeah.”
“Have you done it on me?”
“Only so you wouldn’t be afraid when I came through your mirror,” the other Vara says, reaching out to touch the other girl’s shoulder, “It took me a long time to control it the way I do, and I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons along the way. The main thing I’ve learned is not to use my power for personal gain.”
“Yeah, that’s always a no-no,” Vara agrees. She can’t help but feel jealous though. “If I had the power to mind control, I would go to Washington DC and make people listen.”
“I would make a speech about how kids with cancer matter too,” Vara explains. “We don’t have kid size medicine. We are treated with adult size medicine, and sometimes it doesn’t work. It is probably why I had to fight my cancer twice.”
Super Vara nods. “I get it,” she says. She is quiet for a minute and then asks, “What is the craziest thing you can think of doing? The one thing you’ve always wanted to do?”
“Hmmm…” Vara says, thinking. Skydiving? No. Even crazier would be…
“Carpool karaoke with James Corden!”
Super Vara bursts into laughter, and it isn’t long before Vara is giggling right along with her.
When she could talk again, Super Vara says, “We might be able to pull this off.”
“Seriously?” Vara says excitedly. “How?”
“With a little bit of magic, of course!” Super Vara says and grabs the other girl’s hand. “Do you trust me?”
Vara doesn’t hesitate. “Yes!”
Super Vara squeezes her hand. “Okay,” she says. “Here’s what we are going to do…”
💗 💗 💗
Vara opens her eyes to her very own bedroom in her very own bed. Panic tears at her chest, and she bolts upright. There is a message written on her mirror and she scrambles off her bed, in a hurry to read it.
It was good to officially meet you. Have fun, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! I’ll be seeing you.
There’s a knock on her bedroom door. “Vara? Are you awake?” Mommy’s voice floats in from the other side, Vara hears the door knob turning, and she hurries away from the mirror so that her mother wouldn’t see the message.
“You are not going to believe this,” Mommy says, her eyes bright with excitement. She clutches her cellphone in both hands. “But James Corden is on the phone and he is wondering if you would like to carpool to school with him!”
Mommy nodded. “Way!” She gives Vara a onceover, and then shrugs. When you have fought so hard and so long for your daughter’s life, you learn to pick your battles. Vara looks okay in Wonder Woman leggings and an oversized childhood cancer sweatshirt. As always, Vara’s ever-present headphones are around her neck, and Mommy is sure her phone is in her sweatshirt pocket, where Vara’s right hand is also,
Vara squeals in delight and runs out of the room and bursts outside, remembering just in time to grab her school bag. Sure enough, James Corden idles in his car in front of her house. He leans over the passenger seat and opens the door.
“Hey, are you Vara?”
Vara can only nod.
“Then come on! We don’t want to make you late.”
She gets over her initial shyness quickly, She climbs in the car and throws down her bag between her feet.
“May I have your attention please? May I have your attention please? Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? I repeat, will the real Slim Shady please stand up,” Vara deadpans.
James looks surprised. “Oh, it’s like that, huh? Not wasting any time, are we?”
Vara shakes her head and pulls on her seatbelt. “Are we gonna go?” She asks. “Or… Are we going to have a problem here?”
James laughs for a minute, and then he pulls the car away from the curb. “Oh, I think we’re going to have a problem here…
And they rap and laugh and rap and then laugh again. It’s the best morning ever that Vara can remember. She knows, deep in her heart, that she will see Super Vara again. After all, she lives in Vara’s mirror.
💗 💗 💗