Once inside, Phoebe turned on the faucet. I was desperate for water; I lurched forward to the sink and cupped a handful, raising it to my mouth. I drank deeply, though most of the liquid spilled through my fingers, and quickly darted to catch another mouthful, and another. I didn’t think I could ever drink enough until, finally, the staleness in my throat softened, and the burn died away. I looked up in the mirror.
I was pale and my skin was damp. My hair hung limply around my face, my eyes staring blankly into the silvered glass. I didn’t look like myself. I didn’t feel like myself.
“Bloody Mary,” Phoebe said.
I jumped. I’d almost forgotten she was next to me. “What?” I asked, still focused on the stranger in the glass.
“If you say ‘Bloody Mary,’ three times after midnight, she’ll come to you in the mirror and scratch your eyes and throat out,” Phoebe said.
I stared at her in the mirror. She was looking at the ceiling.
“I just said her name twice.” She smiled. The faucet dripped.
“She had miscarriages,” Phoebe continued. “They said it made her crazy, so she would steal other women’s babies. But then they would die too. She killed them.” Phoebe met my eyes in the mirror, thoroughly creeping me out.
What was I supposed to say? I cupped one last handful of water and splashed it on my face instead of in my mouth.
“Who did you kill?” Phoebe said. Her voice was chilling and clear.
I froze. The water dripped from my face and my fingers onto the tiled floor.
“When you got out of bed, you said you didn’t mean to kill Rachel and Claire. But you weren’t sorry about the others. That’s what you said.”
“It was a nightmare.” My voice was shaky and hoarse. I turned the faucet off.
“It didn’t seem like a nightmare,” she said.
I ignored her and turned to leave. Phoebe stepped in front of me.
“Who are Rachel and Claire?” she asked, piercing me with her eyes. They looked hollow in her white moon face.
“It was just a nightmare,” I said again, staring back at her. I tried hard not to give any outward sign that what she repeated had any basis in reality, but inside?
Inside I was crumbling.
“You said you were glad you killed the man, that you wished you could have crushed his skull with your own fingers.”
“Stop it,” I said, starting to tremble.
“You told me about the asylum,” she said, backing up slightly. “You told me everything.” The corners of her mouth turned up in a disturbed smile. “I know about him,” Phoebe said, her grin spreading. “How much you want him. How much you love him. How desperate you are. But he doesn’t love you back,” she said in a singsong voice.
Did I tell her about Noah? I closed my eyes and my nostrils flared. I wanted to scream in her face, to tell her to shut her too-wide mouth, but I couldn’t. Not without giving myself away. “I’m going back to bed,” I said, stepping around her. My voice trembled when I spoke. I hoped she didn’t notice.
Phoebe followed close behind me. Too close.
We made our way back to our room without speaking. Phoebe climbed into bed, wearing a satisfied smile. I wanted to smack it off of her face, but in the back of my mind, I knew that the person I was most furious with was me.
Losing time, writing in notebooks—it was frightening, yes, but it hadn’t hurt me. Not yet. And as long as I didn’t tell anyone, maybe this would just be temporary, and I could get out.
And find Jude. Make sure he could never hurt me again.
But Phoebe couldn’t know those things she said unless I told her. Which meant that my already tenuous self-control was slipping.
I drew the blanket up to my chin and stared at the wall. My mind wouldn’t quiet, and I couldn’t sleep.
And so I laid awake until the darkness turned to daylight, and then at seven a.m., stood up to face the day.
Phoebe started to scream.
“What is wrong with you?” I hissed at her.
She wouldn’t stop.
Residents began to cluster by the door. A counselor broke through just as I met Noah’s eyes.
Wayne squeezed by until he stood just inside the doorway to our room. “What’s going on here?”
Phoebe somehow seemed to shrink back against the wall and lurch forward with her accusation at the same time. “She was standing over me while I slept!”
Wayne’s shifty eyes shifted to me.
I raised my hands defensively. “She’s lying,” I said. “I was just getting up to change.”
“I woke up and she was standing right there,” Phoebe keened.
I fought off a wave of fury.
“She was going to hurt me!”
“Calm down, Phoebe.”
“She’s going to hurt me if you don’t stop her!”
“Can everyone just back up a second? Barney! Brooke!” Wayne called, his eyes on me the whole time.
“We’re here,” Barney’s deep voice boomed from somewhere behind me.
They entered. I was rooted to the spot, just a foot away from my bed.
“All right, Phoebe, try and relax,” Brooke said, floating over to her and sitting beside her on the bed. Phoebe had started to rock back and forth. “I want you to do the breathing exercises we talked about, okay? And the counting.”
I heard Phoebe begin to count to ten. Meanwhile, Wayne and Barney were both focused on me. Wayne had taken a step closer.
“What happened, Mara?” Wayne asked.
“Nothing happened,” I said, and I was telling the truth.
“I can’t live with her!”
“Phoebe,” Wayne said, “if you don’t stop screaming, we’re going to have to take you to the room.”
She shut up instantly.
Brooke looked up at me from Phoebe’s bed. “Mara, please just tell me what happened last night? In your own words?”
I fought the urge to lift my eyes to the doorway and search for Noah. I swallowed. “I ate dinner with everyone else.”
“Who did you sit with?” she asked.
“I—” I didn’t remember. Who did I sit with? “Stella,” I said finally. I looked to the doorway and she edged in next to Noah. He looked down at her and a strange expression passed over his face.
Brooke said my name and drew my eyes back to hers. “So you had dinner with Stella. Then what happened?”
“I took a shower and then we came back to our room. I put on my pajamas and went to bed.”