I woke in my own bed. I wanted to see Stitch Mouth, just to make sure she was okay.
I had school that day. Despite wanting to stay home and expedite the day, I had to go because going to school was my way of proving to my mother that I was making an active and concerted effort to control my schizophrenia, which I didn’t even have.
When I walked through the front doors of the school and into a huddle of other students, I instantly transformed into my typical invalid self, uninterested in schoolwork or class participation or the drama buzzing through the hall. I spent most of the day doodling in my notebook. Pages filled with sketches. A forest and a small house. A garden and a pile of split wood. I couldn’t draw very well, or at least, not the best, but I drew various interactions between Stitch Mouth and her family. Her dad cutting wood. Her mom gardening or singing. Her brother running around or sneaking off with her doll. Stitch Mouth nearby.
I looked up. I wasn’t quite sure which class I was in. By the tone of the teachers’ voice, I wondered if I had accidentally gone to the wrong class, which wouldn’t have been the first time. I asked, “Yes?”
With a hint of sarcasm, Mr. Cahoon asked, “Is everything okay back there, Sarah?”
“Yep.” I didn’t like Mr. Cahoon very much. He was one of the few teachers who never seemed to notice how I had changed, probably because he was too busy helping the girls between classes; the prettier the girl, the more motivated he was to help them. Weird, right?
“You seem quite absorbed in your notes. Is there anything you need clarification on based on the information I’ve been providing?” He was leaning back casually against his desk, staring at me through his fancy Armani glasses.
“Nope. I’m fine.” I slid my arms over my notebook.
“You don’t have any questions?”
“None at all?”
“Nope. I got it.”
“So, the things I have been saying have been helpful to you?”
“Are you sure?”
I was missing something, but I didn’t know what. The class was muffling their chuckles throughout the awkward banter between myself and Mr. Cahoon. I was used to the sniggers. They followed me everywhere I went anyway – I was like a hippo carrying around those little birds, birds that were always laughing.
I wanted to be left alone, but I didn’t want to talk back and upset Mr. Cahoon. If I did, he’d probably do the teacher thing and take the notebook from me. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want him or anyone in class to know anything about Stitch Mouth, even if they would have no idea about the little girl in the sketches. But they didn’t have that right. They didn’t have the right to know about Stitch Mouth or her family at all. She was precious to me. And they would only mock.
Mr. Cahoon probed, “So, why are you so focused upon your notebook? I don’t think I’ve seen you this interested in class since the semester began.” Thankfully, he went on and said, “Well, Sarah, I have been explaining to the class why I am wearing the same exact outfit I was wearing yesterday. Some of the students were quite attentive to the fact that my pants and tie were the same.”
“Oh. Why is that?” I hoped my question would return Mr. Cahooon to his favorite topic – himself.
It worked. “Well, as I have already explained, I was locked out of my house last night. But being that I live off a teacher’s salary, I was unwilling to pay for a locksmith at 2:00am. So, I slept in my car. When I woke up, I found that my phone had died. With nowhere else to go and being unable to call anyone, I simply came to school in order to charge my phone and call a locksmith from here. And since I was already present in the building, I decided to stay and teach.”
“Why were you coming home at 2?” I asked.
Mr. Cahoon’s face went suddenly red. “That is my business, Sarah. And not yours.”
My question sparked others. Students began to ask Mr. Cahoon why he was out so late, filling the room with predictions, which included bars and strip clubs and midgets and drugs. Mr. Cahoon got so upset, he sent two of the boys to the principal’s office and warned the rest of the class that anyone bold enough to make any other outlandish accusations would face a similar fate. After that, Mr. Cahoon actually started teaching.
I returned to doodling.
I drew the inside of the house. Stitch Mouth’s father and brother sat near the fireplace. Her mother stood near, singing, and at her side was a small girl with no stitches and no purple skin. Just a girl with her family.
As I drew, I wished more and more that the witch had never taken Stitch Mouth. But then I realized something. If my wish came true, Stitch Mouth never would have returned to help me. I didn’t know how to feel about the selfish and desperate desires that rose up so quickly inside of me. It was a battle between two wants, and I couldn’t exactly say which one I wanted to win out. I wanted Stitch Mouth to have never been taken. But I wanted her with me, needed her with me. I placed the pencil down and closed the notebook for the day.