I had asked myself that same question. I’d seen things before—my grandmother’s earrings at the bottom of my bathtub, even though they were still in my ears. Classroom walls collapsing around me, maggots squirming in my food.
And I had seen Claire. I saw her in mirrors. I heard her voice.
“You two kids have fun.”
I saw Jude in mirrors. I heard his voice, too.
“You need to take your mind off this place.”
But now I knew that I had heard them say those same words twice. Not just in mirrors at home. In the asylum.
I didn’t imagine those words. I remembered them. From the night of the collapse.
But at the precinct it was different. Jude spoke to an officer. I strained to remember what he said.
“Can you tell me where I can report a missing person? I think I’m lost.”
I never heard him say those words before. They were new. And he said them before he touched me.
He touched me. I felt him.
That was not a hallucination. He was real. He was alive, and he was here.
MY MOTHER WAS STILL WAITING FOR AN answer to her question, so I gave her one. I shook my head fiercely. “No.” Jude was alive. He wasn’t a hallucination. I was sure.
She sat there immobile for just a beat too long. Then, finally, she smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Daniel’s here to see you,” she said and stood. She bent to kiss the crown of my head just as the door opened, revealing my older brother. The two of them shared a glance, but as Daniel entered the room he expertly masked his concern.
His thick black hair was uncharacteristically messy and dark circles ringed his dark eyes. He smiled at me—it was too easy, too quick—and leaned down to wrap me in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” he said as he squeezed. I couldn’t quite hug him back either.
Then he let go and added too lightly, “And I can’t believe you took my keys. Where’s my house key, by the way?”
My forehead creased. “What?”
“My house key. It’s missing from my key ring. Which you took before driving my car to the police station.”
“Oh.” I had no memory of taking it, and no memory of what I did with it. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Not like you were getting into any trouble or anything,” he said, squinting at me.
“What are you doing?”
“Giving you the side-eye.”
“Well, it looks like you’re having a stroke,” I said, unable to help my smile. Daniel flashed one of his own—a real one, this time.
“I almost had a heart attack when Mom almost had a heart attack,” he said, his voice quiet. Serious. “I’m—I’m happy you’re okay.”
I looked around the room. “Okay is a relative term, I think.”
“I’m surprised they’re letting you see me,” I said. “The way the psychiatrist was acting, I was starting to think I was on lockdown or something.”
Daniel shrugged his shoulders and shifted his weight, obviously uncomfortable.
Which made me cautious. “What?”
He sucked in his lips.
“Out with it, Daniel.”
“I’m supposed to try to convince you to stay.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “For how long?”
He didn’t say.
My face grew hot. “Mom didn’t have the guts to tell me herself?”
“That’s not it,” he said, sitting down in the chair beside the bed. “She thinks you don’t trust her.”
“She’s the one who doesn’t trust me. She hasn’t since . . .” Since the collapse, I almost said. I didn’t finish my sentence, but judging by Daniel’s expression, I didn’t need to. “She doesn’t believe anything I say,” I finished. I hadn’t meant to sound like such a child, but I couldn’t help it. I half-expected Daniel to call me out but he just gave me the same look he always gave me. He was my brother. My best friend. I hadn’t changed to him.
And that made me want to tell him everything. About the asylum, Rachel, Mabel, my teacher. All of it.
If I told him calmly—not panicked, in a police station, but rationally, after a full night’s sleep—if I explained everything, maybe he would understand.
I needed to be understood.
So I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, like I was preparing to launch myself off a cliff. In a way, I guess, I was. “Jude is here.”
Daniel swallowed and then asked carefully, “In the room?”
I shot him a glare. “No, you ass. In Florida. In Miami.”
His expression didn’t change.
“He was in the police station, Daniel. I saw him. He was there.”
My brother just sat there, mirroring our mother’s neutral expression from just a few minutes before. Then he reached for his backpack and pulled something out of it. “It’s the security footage from the precinct,” he explained before I had a chance to ask. “Dr. West thought it would be good for Mom to show you.”
“So why are you showing me?”
“Because clearly you don’t trust Mom, but she knows you trust me.”
I gave him a narrow look. “What’s on it?”
He stood and popped the disc into the DVD player beneath the ceiling-mounted television, then switched it on. “Tell me when you see him, okay?”
I nodded, and then both of our heads turned toward the screen. Daniel fast-forwarded it and tiny people scurried in and out of the police station. The counter sped forward and I watched myself walk into the frame.
“Stop,” I said to Daniel. He pressed a button and the footage slowed to a normal speed. There was no audio, but I watched myself speak to the officer at the front desk—I must have been asking where I could find Detective Gadsen.
And then I watched Jude appear in the frame. My heart began to race as my eyes lingered on the image of him, on his baseball cap, on his long sleeves. Something on his wrist caught the light. A watch.
There was a shiver in my mind. I pointed at Jude’s figure on the screen. “There,” I said. My hand trembled annoyingly. “That’s him.”
We watched as Jude spoke to the officer. As he brushed right by me. Touched me. I started to feel sick.
Daniel paused the image before Jude left the frame. He said nothing for a long while.
“What,” I said quietly.
“That could be anyone, Mara.”