At first, Betty thought it must just be her mind playing tricks on her. Maybe she had indeed left the milk out to sour all night. And her favorite shirt with the sweet peas embroidered on it was getting pretty old–that would explain the missing threads of the brightest colors. “I never was a good cook,” she told the birds on the third morning in a row she’d burnt her toast.
But then it was though someone began to whistle to her from the bathtub and the light fixtures and the doorjambs, one right after the other, every night before bed. The toes of her shoes were stuffed with autumn leaves each time she tried to put them on. The sugar was salt and the salt was sweet.
She looked into the mirror one morning, her hair tied into a thousand impossible knots, and told herself, “You’re going crazy.”
Laughter bounced around the room like little bells the moment the words were out of her mouth.
She turned her back to the sink and picked up a can of hairspray as a weapon. “Who’s there?” she whispered, wishing she sounded bigger.
The giggle was at her ear this time, she could feel the breath of it.
She screeched and dropped the hairspray. “You’re crazy but don’t panic. No need to panic,” she told herself.
Betty walked calmly to her bed and sat down, facing her dresser against the near wall. She looked at the photo of her parents that sat on top of it, begging them for wisdom. She pitied the struggling potted ivy next to it and lamented her mostly-empty jewelry box. Squinting, she turned on a lamp, walked to her dresser, and looked the box: there were tiny scratches all around the brass latch.
She picked it up and heard the tiny crown clink against the side. It had been ages since she’d taken it out. She opened the box, held it up and sighed, wishing for the hundredth time it fit her.
“Give it to me,” someone said behind her, making her jump and drop the crown back inside. “That’s mine.”