Emily knew the precise moment that Ben returned, she felt him in her scars. She watched him carry some things to the house, heard the door close; she smiled when she heard him call out that Santa was here. He did that once before, in early December, insisting that she accept the gift he held out, not wanting her to wait until Christmas to use the mittens he knew she needed.
She went toward her door now, wondered what he had brought, and then heard Megan’s voice below. Oh no, he probably brought something for her. She scuttled back to her nest by the window and stared outside, was still staring fifteen minutes later when she saw them walk down the street, Ben shouldering a shovel, his other hand knotted with Megan’s.
She touched the skin on her arms, lightly at first, making it tingle. The image of Ben with Megan multiplied across her mind in broken mirrors, a repugnant picture that reflected her own self-loathing. She scratched at her scabs, felt the pricks of pain force away the ticklish sensations. She closed her eyes.
When she opened them she saw a figure standing at her door.
“Who–?” she started, but the figment waned to less than a shadow. Still, though, there was something at her door.
She rose slowly and held her hand out.
Its face was more womanly now, friendly, motherly. Yes, she knew this face. Its pearly white skin so shocking against the ruby lips, the stringy hair a match to her own. Her mother.
She stretched her fingers toward the face. The hallucination faded then sharpened. The eyes began to blaze. She drew her hands back to her own face. What’s wrong with me? The delusion grieved Emily; all around her fluttered a longing.
And a deadly fear.