I went downstairs, and in the kitchen, I spied an array of Danishes carefully constructed into a mountain of glazed and sticky pastries. “What’s all this?” I asked, followed by, “Can I have one?”
“Of course.” My mom was digging in the fridge, pulling out different things.
Danish in hand, I asked, “Are you having one of those Pampered Chef parties or something?”
“Oh, so these are all for us?” I joked.
“Yes. I got them for you.”
I stopped chewing. “For me?”
“Yes. You’ve gotten too skinny.”
“I’m not as skinny anymore. I’m even gaining a little weight.” I pinched at my belly as proof.
“Not enough though,” my mother said.
“Enough for what?”
She paused. “To look like your old self. To look healthy.”
“So, these Danishes are for me. Like, all of them?”
“Yes, I got them for you, Silly.”
My head rang with alarms. My mother never called me Silly, the name Stitch Mouth used so often to tease me, and it had clanged like a bad piano key. I placed the pastry onto a napkin, my appetite gone.
“Finish the Danish,” my mother offered as she opened a packet of bacon at the stove. “I’m making breakfast. To celebrate.”
“What are we celebrating?” I asked, watching her.
“We’re celebrating how good you’ve been doing. You know, with your schizophrenia symptoms.”
“Dr. Tariq said I don’t have schizophrenia, remember? He said I never even had schizophrenia.”
Pointing her spatula at me, my mother corrected, “But, there were symptoms, Sarah. You know, sometimes I think maybe you lied to Dr. Tariq about not seeing that woman.”
“I told Dr. Tariq everything.”
“Oh, I doubt that.”
“You really think I lied to him?”
She took on a condescending tone. “Of course not, Sarah. You could never lie. Anyway, from what I’ve read, schizophrenia never truly goes away. Which means that woman in your window will likely never leave you.” She was staring at me with eyes that had never been hers.
My heart was racing. I wanted to be back in my room. I wanted to be back with Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl.
“Don’t go,” she said sweetly.
My mother smiled.
“I just have a lot to do,” I said, trying to act casual.
She grinned at that. “I’m sure you do.”
I shooed a fly from the pastries. Another fly flew across my face and I swatted at that one too. “Mom, can you stop talking like that?”
“Like that.” I didn’t want to give away any hint that I sensed the witch. I had to pretend. But I had to pretend better.
“You’ll have to be more specific.”
“Like you’re a weirdo.”
There was a flash of anger. “Anything you want, Silly,” she said, turning back to the stove.
I didn’t like the feel of her, the way of her, and I definitely didn’t want to be in the home with her. But I had no choice. I decided to try and be nice, maybe that would make her stop acting the way she was. “Everything smells great, Mom.”
“Thank you for cooking.”
It wasn’t working. I tried something different. “I was telling a couple of friends about dad.”
Her body went rigid. “That’s good.”
“I was thinking. Maybe the two of us should talk about him more. I think maybe we need to.”
“Maybe.” She began taking bacon out with the tongs and placing them on a plate covered.
“I’d like to. I miss him. I know you miss him too.”
She nodded. She cracked eggs and sprinkled salt and pepper on top. “Over-easy sound good?” She sounded more like herself.
I swatted at a couple of flies. They wouldn’t leave me alone.
“Those things have been everywhere,” my mother commented while carrying our loaded plates over to the table.
“Where are they all coming from?” I asked. I found the flyswatter hanging in the pantry and killed one, smacking it flat against the window.
“There’s no telling,” my mother said. “Anyway, breakfast is ready.”
We sat to eat. Bacon, eggs, English muffins. My mother carried over the pile of pastries to join us, like a guest she wanted to include. I took tiny nibbles.
As my mother ate, she didn’t take her eyes off of me. She too ate very slowly, and she didn’t seem bothered by the flies at all.
Talking about my father worked a moment ago, bringing my mother back out, so I said, “Do you think dad is doing better?”
“I hope so.”
“Me too. Do you think he still goes bowling?”
“I don’t know.”
My mother was tossing back and forth between herself and the witch.
“Thanks, Mom. Everything was delicious.” I had eaten enough.
“You’re very welcome,” she said. “Have I ever told how much I love when you call me Mom?”
“What else would I call you?”
My mother didn’t answer and she didn’t say anything more. As I began placing the plates and silverware into the dishwasher, my mom began to hum. She didn’t sing the words. But I knew them. She hummed merrily and my mind played the words.
She’s here, she’s here
Our Mummy dear!
Open the door and let her in,
Not to do so would be a sin.
It won’t take long,
Only the length of a song.
When she’s through eating you,
We can eat you too.
I went to my bedroom and locked the door.