I rushed downstairs. The bite marks were red and obvious, the final proof I needed to show my mother. The woman in the window was not a figment of my imagination.
My mother was sitting at the kitchen table with her computer out in front of her. She asked, “What is it, Sarah?”
I held out my finger.
She refused to look. “Use your words,” she said, as if I was two.
“Mom. Look. Please.” I began trembling. I didn’t want to cry.
“Look at what?” She was intent on something, sipping at her coffee, focused on everything but me.
“Please. My finger. Please, look.”
She finally turned. “What about it?”
I extended my hand again.
“I don’t see anything.” But she was too busy scrutinizing my demoralized expression. My shaky mind was being exposed through the rampant blinking of my eyes and the trembling of my limbs, which made her less concerned for my finger and more interested in what was going on inside my head. I felt as though I could not be trusted.
“Right there.” I pointed with my other hand. “The bite marks.”
“I see them. Sarah.”
“Mom. Please.” I started to cry at the unspoken accusation she was leaving there between us. I would never think of doing such a thing, and knowing my mother would assume something like that of me made me want to cry. I said, begging, “I didn’t bite my own finger, Mom. Please. You know I wouldn’t.”
“I thought we were done with this. That’s what you said.”
I hung my head. “I know. But it hasn’t changed. I stopped talking about the woman because you won’t believe me.”
“Don’t put this on me, Sarah.”
“But the finger.”
Her lips twisted into an expression of disappointment. “Sarah.”
“She hasn’t left, Mom.”
“Who hasn’t left?” This wasn’t like her. The harshness. I could feel the presence of the woman in the window in my mother’s lack of sympathy.
“Her. The woman.”
“Sarah.” She shook her head, as though the girl before her was someone she didn’t know anymore and the real me had disappeared, leaving behind a husk that only resembled her daughter in basic features. “Can we be done with this?”
“She was there. In the dream. But it wasn’t a dream. Because she bit my finger. I have bite marks. What does that tell you?”
“I’m not convinced you didn’t do it yourself.” My mother turned back to the computer. “I’ve been doing some research,” she began like a conclusion.
“Please don’t, Mom.” I felt smaller and smaller before her.
As though I’d said nothing, she continued, “I’m starting to think this may be mental illness, especially with this finger incident.”
“Please, Mom. Don’t.”
“Don’t talk like that. Don’t talk like I’m crazy.”
“I’m not saying you’re crazy. I’m just saying, with these hallucinations and your paranoia. What I’m saying is, I’m starting to believe that you believe this woman is real. They say schizophrenia can manifest around your age. I refuse to believe this woman is real. But I am willing to believe that you need help.”
I brought my finger to my chest like some wounded delicate thing cupped within my hand, too sensitive to let out again. “I’m not crazy,” I said quietly.
“You need to say more than that. You need to explain yourself.”
“I already did.”
“I need something more.”
“I don’t have anything else to say.”
“Don’t look like that, Sarah. You don’t need to look so sad.”