Stop gawking at me like that, Sarah. You’re making me feel weird.
“Oh, sorry. It’s just amazing that I can hear you now. Why can I all of a sudden?”
I have no idea. But I’m glad you can. It was so boring being left out of every single conversation between you two. All you two do is talk about sad things all the time.
“Don’t listen to her,” Stitch Mouth said. “She’s almost always like this. She hides how she feels through her sarcasm. If she’s scared, she’s sarcastic. If she’s angry, she’s sarcastic. If she likes you, she’s sarcastic.”
And if I don’t like you, I’m sarcastic as well. So, you can never really know.
Stitch Mouth said, “Oh, please. I know you like me.”
Or do I?
Stitch Mouth rolled her eyes. Balloon Girl laughed.
I said, “You have a really beautiful voice, by the way. I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t always sound like she’s singing.”
That’s strange, Sarah, because to us, your voice sounds very much like a song as well.
“Really?” I was so excited.
No. Balloon Girl laughed at my disappointment.
“Sorry,” Stitch Mouth apologized for Balloon Girl. “You may end up preferring her mute. I do sometimes.”
What fun would that be?
“I don’t mind,” I said, smiling. “I’m just thrilled now that the three of us can talk together. But when I first met you – and you were standing in the corner looking super creepy – I figured you had some gross demon voice or something.”
You mean like this, rahrahrahrahrahrahrah!
“Oh my gosh! That sounded just like a heavy metal band!”
I have no idea what you’re talking about. But I like it already. And as for what you imagined my voice to be – she tilted her arms out before her – I cannot blame you.
Stitch Mouth interrupted, “If you think I can sing, you should hear Balloon Girl.”
I clapped. “Can you sing something now?”
Not a chance.
My anticipation deflated. “Why not?”
After returning to the home of that witch, there is very little I feel like singing right now.
Stitch Mouth huffed. “After all the trouble you just gave me! Now you’re the one who’s too traumatized?”
I have feelings too.
I laughed and Stitch Mouth did too.
Balloon Girl then commented, The house of the witch has changed. We never saw it like that.
“Thankfully,” Stitch Mouth said.
Yes. She’s been feasting for years.
“Why did we end up there?” I asked.
Stitch Mouth shook her head with obvious concern.
We don’t know. Either the witch has more powers than we know. Or, it was simply something that happened.
Stitch Mouth nodded, still contemplating. She touched her purse.
Don’t, Stitch Mouth.
Don’t second guess yourself. You have done wonderfully these past weeks keeping us safe. We still trust you.
“I’m not so sure you should,” Stitch Mouth said.
Sarah, do you still trust Stitch Mouth to do as she has done?
There, it’s settled. The two oldest girls in the room have voted, and we still trust the youngest littlest girl.
Stitch Mouth tipped her hip in playful aggravation. “You’re always so tricky.”
What did I do now?
“I mentioned singing and you changed the subject. You’re such a tricky little girl.”
Tricky little girl who’s two months older than you.
“Yes, yes. You know what will help cleanse away the feeling of that place, don’t you?”
I think I do.
“A song. And I have the perfect one,” Stitch Mouth said.
“Which one?” I asked.
“The song we sang the night we died.”
Don’t look like that, Sarah. We like it. It’s our favorite song because we made it up together, even if it got us tortured and killed.
Stitch Mouth giggled.
“I just want to listen to you two sing.”
Oh, so we should just sing for you?
While you sit and listen?
“Um, yeah.” I smirked.
Not a chance.
I laughed nervously. “I forgot how.”
“Nonsense! You can never forget how to sing!”
“I think I did.”
“Such nonsense!” Stitch Mouth began tugging at my hands.
Are you two done? Stand up and sing Sarah. For all the trifling ways in which we spend our nights in fear of the witch, there is only one way to let her know that we are not afraid.
We took positions in front of the fireplace, standing in the very spot Stitch Mouth used to sing with her mother.
So, the witch always wanted us to sing songs to her stupid ugly face before we had to go to bed. It was some dumb song about how the witch was some super great mom and blah blah blah. But we made up our own version. Stitch Mouth, you begin.
Stitch Mouth brought two fingers to her lips in sudden remembrance of the loose cage over her mouth. When she lifted her chin, her chest lifted as well. Her voice had always been beautiful, discovered in the slight evidence of each word she spoke, but this time, when she sang, the fullness of such beauty unfolded. Balloon Girl harmonized with her, and yes, her voice was possibly even more beautiful than Stitch Mouth’s. They sang:
She’s ugly, oh so ugly, our mommy dear,
Ugly as a donkey’s rear.
She wants to be our mommy,
But she’s nothing but a witch.
She’s ugly, oh so ugly, our mommy dear,
Ugly as a donkey’s rear,
She wants to be our mommy,
But she’s just a mangy bitch.
“That’s a female dog!” Stitch Mouth burst out, hands over her belly. Balloon Girl laughed just as hard, bone legs jostling.
I laughed with them. “Yes, I know what it is. But that’s not what I was expecting.”
What were you expecting?
“I don’t know. It’s just, your voices are so beautiful. And that song was ridiculous.”
Exactly. You should have seen the stupid look on that witch’s face when we sang it at the top of our lungs. She was all like – Balloon Girl’s face dropped and her jaw flopped open as she mimicked the stunned fury of the witch.
Stitch Mouth laughed hysterically.
The witch couldn’t believe we would do such a thing.
Stitch Mouth asked, “Do you like it? Our song?”
“Very much,” I said.
It’s funny, isn’t it?
I chuckled. “Yes, it’s very funny.”
Stitch Mouth said, “It’s probably not the funniest, but when we were living with the witch, anything helped. As Balloon Girl said, you should have seen the look on the witch’s face. It was the best. Do it again, Balloon Girl.”
And Balloon Girl did, mimicking the sagging face and Stitch Mouth laughed so hard it gave her hiccups. When she couldn’t stop, Balloon Girl offered, Should I slap you again to help you?
“No! hic–you stay–cup right there! You–hiccup–evil little girl!”
And now, Sarah, you must sing with us.
Our voices intertwined, and Balloon Girl and Stitch Mouth’s voices lifted my own, like two brave birds escorting a timid bird towards the sky.
“Wonderful!” Stitch Mouth cheered.
It really was.
Stitch Mouth then said, “I’d like to make a request. I have a song that I’ve wanted to share with both of you.”
A song I have not yet heard?
Stitch Mouth looked away towards her brother’s room. “It was my brother’s favorite. I wrote it for him a song as his birthday surprise. matter how irritated I was with him, or how angry he was with me, I would sing it to him each night. It was also the last song I ever sang to him.”
Are you sure you do not want to keep it then?
“I want to.”
The song Stitch Mouth sang was the simple story of a brother and sister, carried by a sweet and sullen tune. The song soon grew roots inside of me – both the words and melody – a gift Stitch Mouth placed directly into my heart. When she finished, Stitch Mouth said, “I’d like to spend some time in my brother’s room, if that’s okay.”
Stitch Mouth left us. Balloon Girl and I rocked side by side in our chairs.
Sarah. Do not say anything, other than whispers. Stitch Mouth must not hear us, do you understand?
You must know, Stitch Mouth has not always been truthful. We did not die on the night of our song.
No. I was beaten unconscious. And when I woke, I staggered to Stitch Mouth’s bed, only to find that she had been strapped to the mattress and her mouth had been sewn shut. She smiled when she saw me, and told me she was okay. For days, she could hardly eat, so I chewed her food into smaller pieces and fed them to her. I rubbed her brow each night till she fell asleep. The days continued and Stitch Mouth slowly healed. We thought the witch had forgotten our song.
One day, the witch left, seeking another child. A few days later, she returned. She unlocked the door and told us all to come downstairs because she had a gift. A gift for Stitch Mouth. The witch said, “If you love smiling so much, you’ll love smiling after you see what I’ve brought you.” Downstairs, trembling near the front door, stood Stitch Mouth’s brother. In a combination of joy and fright, Stitch Mouth clapped her hands to her mouth. I could see how she wanted to run to her brother and kiss him. But she stayed there, trying not to let the witch see anything. Her brother cried at the sight of Stitch Mouth and would have run to her, except the witch had gone to stand beside him, pressing her fingers into his shoulder. Stitch Mouth begged and cried for the witch to let her brother go, promising the witch anything she wanted. “If I do, will you promise never to sing one of your songs again?” the witch asked. “Of course,” Stitch Mouth said, crying. “And you promise?” the witch asked. “With all my heart,” Stitch Mouth said. Then, without warning, the witch slit her brother’s throat and let him drop to the floor. Stitch Mouth ran to her brother. She held him. The witch at least let her do that. Stitch Mouth kissed her brother through sewn lips, weeping over him. He died there, curled in her arm.
And when the witch was tired of watching Stitch Mouth hold the lifeless body of her brother, the witch dragged Stitch Mouth away by the hair. That night, Stitch Mouth asked just one thing, “How did you get him?” That is when the witch answered, “I always find a way.”
That was the night we died. And so, we sang together our goodbyes. The rest you know.