I got very good at going without food. Mother locked me in the attic for a week on nothing for two days and then only bread and water thereafter. Once a day she would come up and stand above me reading that damn bible as if trying to exorcize a ten year old demon. Then she would march imperially down the stairs again. It was as if she was not my mother any more. Maeve wept and wept and wept as she clutched her growing collection of lucky charms. I just stood at attention and howled that I could endure anything anyone threw at me. Then everyone left and everything was fine. Other than the fact I was hungry. But after a couple of days I did not even feel especially hungry. I told myself I liked to be alone. Being alone was good. Being alone was better than being with people.
I explored the attic. It was moldering like the rest of the house . It was full of moldering, abandoned junk no one wanted and so left behind as renter replaced renter. I made the attic into my second home. I learned to open the round attic window and crawl out onto the ledge and hang my legs over the edge of the roof and look around the grimy neighborhood. The postman would wave at me. Maeve would scream. Mary would stick out her tongue. I found broken furniture and arranged it around my new bedroom. I told myself it was better to be alone anyway. I did not enjoy sharing my bedroom with anyone. It was better to be alone. I found a big mirror turned against the wall so I carefully turned it about so I could see my reflection in it. I stood at attention and saluted myself. I was small and thin and dark haired with dark eyes. My eyes are dark grey but for some reason my pupils dilated in an odd sort of way so my eyes appear dark and disturbing. Maeve once told me I had ‘unquiet eyes’ and when I asked her what that meant she only shook her head.
I found one old trunk that was locked and I finally managed to break the lock which was rusted. I opened the trunk and was delighted to find it full of odds and ends someone forgot. The top pull out tray had old tintype photographs of a pretty young girl posing with various people. I recognized some of the buildings around town including the hospital where Father worked. Then I recognized someone in one of the photographs with the strange woman. It was Father. Father was standing by the strange woman and he was smiling. So was she. And they were standing side by side in front of the hospital.
I pulled up the top tray to look deeper into the trunk. I found a pretty dress and a swell fur stole. It was the type made of minks left intact with their little heads and feet and claws all intact, their little eyes filled with glass beads. It seemed so delightfully gross. There was a nice hat too with bird feathers and a dainty veil. I thought it looked so much better than Mother’s old fashioned bonnets. There was this long hair pin that empaled the hat like a weapon. Then I found a bag. I pulled it up. Then I realized it was a doctor’s bag. Father had a bag like it. It had no name embossed. I thought it would be neat to find doctor stuff inside so I opened the bag and indeed I found doctor stuff inside. Wrapped in newspaper was a very, very, very tiny baby. I thought it was a doll so I touched it. It was a real baby. A mummified baby. I hastily shoved it all back into the trunk and slammed the lid down as fast as I could. But now the attic did not look so cosy and fun to sleep in at night by myself.
I banged on the door screaming there was a dead baby in the attic but Mother just ordered Maeve not to give me even bread and water until I stopped inventing evil tales. I piled junk all over the top of the trunk. Then I stumbled and I found the tintype photographs. I grabbed them and curled up by the big mirror on the other side of the attic and I studied the pictures of the lovely woman. One of the pictures showed her wearing the hat and minks which looked dreadfully like weasels around her neck. I found the phonograph of her and Father and she was wearing the hat in that. Oddly, the pose seemed different somehow. I don’t remember them holding hands before. I shoved the photographs under a moldy cushion. It was dark when the sun set and the moon cast eerie shadows into the attic. I felt very scared but finally I fell into troubled sleep only to wake the feeling of some very small hand and tiny fingers touching me. It felt like the tiny hands of a baby reaching out to touch me. I ran to the window and spent the rest of the night outside crunched up on the ledge.