Betty turned around but could see no one. “Who’s there?”
“You dumb girl,” the voice said. “You dropped it back inside.”
Her ears burned where the sound touched them, her face flushed warm where the color ran. “I’m going crazy. I’m going crazy. I’m going crazy. I’m going crazy.” She sat back down on the bed and started to weep.
“What are you crying for? I’m the one who’s without what’s hers.”
She peeked between her fingers, afraid to see something, afraid to see nothing.
A very small girl stood on top of her dresser, knocking on the jewelry box as if she expected an answer. She was no bigger than a ruler and wore a dress made of ranunculus petals embellished with what was sure to be the threads missing from Betty’s shirt.
The small girl began pacing, fading in and out as she walked, like a mirage shimmering in the heat. And hot she was, too. Face red, hands balled into fists that she pounded against her thighs, heat came off her like a stove.
“Are you real?” Betty asked her, blinking furiously.
“You astonish me.”
Betty started hiccuping. A ridiculous reaction to fear that had plagued her since she was a child.
The tiny girl clamped her hands to her ears. “Oh for the love of Pete, stop that racket.”
She held her breath. She hiccuped deep in her throat.
The girl pulled her hands away from her head and squinted at her. “I said, give it to me.”
She blinked some more. “You’re not real. You’re a—” she was interrupted by a violent hiccup “—a hallucination.”
“I am not.”
“You are. I can see right through you.”
“You’re such a dummy.” She walked away and looked back over her shoulder. “You can’t see all of me because I’m too beautiful.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“If you saw all of me at once, your mind would just…” She spun around. “Explode!” She put her fists to the side of her head and fanned her fingers out to demonstrate.
Betty put out a finger to touch her but the creature was instantly at the other side of the dresser.
“I haven’t cursed you yet but don’t think I won’t.”
“Curses aren’t real.” Betty said it more to herself than the girl.
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