There’s something inside me, I tried to say.
“There’s nothing inside you, Mara.” Tears filled her eyes. “It’s in your mind. It’s in your mind.” More pressure on my stomach. My vision darkened.
“Call 911, Jamie.”
Get them out
“But what about—” Jamie said.
“I can’t tell how deep the cut is. She keeps moving her hands to cover it, but there’s a lot of blood and she’s pale and shaking.”
“Believe me,” I whispered.
“What did you— Oh my God.” Jamie’s eyes went wide.
“Don’t talk, Mara.” A hand on the back of my neck, cradling my head. “Jamie?” Stella asked.
“There’s something in the house,” he said, backing away.
“What? Jamie, I need you. She looks really . . .”
“It was just sitting by the door to the garden apartment,” he said. “It said ‘perishable’ on it, and so I opened it, but it was just this leather bag inside with a note.”
“What are you talking about?” Stella’s voice was shrill.
“I thought it was for my aunt, but the note said—the note said—”
Stella looked at me, then at Jamie. “What are you—”
“Someone knows we’re here. That note—that bag—it’s for us.”
“Did you look in it?”
“I thought it was for my aunt. I’m going to get it.”
“No, Jamie. I need you to stay—shit.”
Some of the weight lifted from my stomach. My eyelids fluttered, and I heard footsteps recede. Then they came back. Something thumped on the floor.
Get them out
“She keeps saying—she keeps saying that,” Jamie said.
“She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”
“The note, though. It says believe her, Stella. What does that mean?”
“I don’t know! I don’t fucking know. I’m just as lost as you.”
“What if—what if there is something inside her?” I heard something unclasp, and then, “Oh my God. Stella. Stella, look.”
“It’s a bunch of—doctor shit. Gloves, thread, gauze, scalpels. Jesus, who left this?”
“Any drugs?” I felt pressure on my stomach again. Stella was trying to pry my hands away.
“No. Wait, maybe—yes.”
“Can you get another towel? She’s bleeding through this one.”
A few seconds passed before Jamie said, “Got them.”
“Switch with me so I can look in the bag?”
The pressure lifted on my stomach for a second, and I gasped.
“Press down hard,” Stella said.
“Are you going to call 911?” Jamie asked.
Stella paused before answering. “We might not need to.”
“Let me see for a second.”
The pressure lifted. “She’s still bleeding but not as much, and it’s not superdeep. I could maybe close it on my own, but—”
“She’s saying that there’s something in there.”
There is there is
“Can you—can you hold her hands down so I can really look?” Stella asked.
There was pressure around my wrists, radiating through my arms and shoulders.
“Mara.” Jamie’s voice. “You’ve gotta let us look, okay?”
Jamie held me, pinned me down, as Stella prodded me with something sharp. My entire body winced.
“She’s right. She’s fucking right,” Stella said.
“How did she know?”
“How did she know?”
Another stab of pain. I screamed, I think, because one of them moved to cover my mouth with something.
“Mara, you have to be quiet. Jamie, what’s in the bag, drug-wise?”
“I can’t look while I’m holding her down.”
Stella’s shadow lifted, and I heard the sound of metal against metal as she rummaged. “I’m going to give her this so she stops moving.”
“She really didn’t cut that deep. I can do this, I think. Okay, Mara—Mara? Can you hear me?”
“I’m going to close your—uh, incision. It might feel like you can’t breathe, but you can breathe, okay? And you’re going to be fine.”
Get them out
“We will,” she said, and I felt the bite of a needle in my shoulder as she plunged a syringe into my arm.
THE FIRST THING I NOTICED when I woke was that our marriage bed was soaked with blood.
I lit a tallow candle, and the smoke and sulfur filled my nostrils as a tiny flicker of light showed me Charles, my husband. He was painted in shadow; the line of his back, exposed to the waist, was smooth and still. It did not rise and fall with his breath, because he was not breathing. He lay on his stomach, his head tilted to the side, a pool of blood puddled beneath his face. His eyes were open, but they did not see.
I heard nothing but the rush of blood in my ears, the harshness of my own ragged breath in the air. I threw off the blankets that covered him, and he did not move. I watched a bead of blood drip from his nose, and he did not wipe it away. I choked on a sob, covered his body back up, wound my fingers in my hair, and pulled it to try to wake myself. It did not work, because I was not sleeping.
But it did bring me back to myself enough so that I heard a new sound—the crack of something against the bedroom window. My head snapped up, but my eyes saw nothing.
With trembling fingers I reached for the brass candleholder by the bedside. A spill of hot tallow hit my fingers, and I flinched at the pain, then welcomed it. It shoved aside the horror for a moment, allowed me to think of something else. I crept numbly toward the window and peered out of it, the candle reflecting in the distorted glass.
The professor stood below Charles’s house—below our house—silhouetted by light from the gas lamp across the street. He raised one arm and pointed at me, accusing.
What a mad thing to think! A shrill giggle escaped from my throat, and my laughter blew the candle out. I had not seen the professor in six months, since I had become engaged, and his presence here, now, was as senseless to me as the events that had transpired.