Eleven years ago
A couple things made that day stand out more than any other: it was my sixth birthday, and my mother was wielding a knife. Not a tiny steak knife, but some kind of massive butcher knife glinting in the light like in a bad horror movie. She definitely wanted to kill me.
I try to think of the days that led up to that one to see if I missed something about her, but I have no memory of her before then. I have some memories of my childhood, and I can even remember my dad, who died when I was five, but not her.
When I ask my brother, Matt, about her, he always answers with things like, “She’s batshit, Wendy. That’s all you need to know.” He’s seven years older than I am, so he remembers things better, but he never wants to talk about it.
We lived in the Hamptons when I was a kid, and my mother was a lady of leisure. She’d hired a live-in nanny to deal with me, but the night before my birthday the nanny had left for a family emergency. My mother was in charge of me, for the first time in her life, and neither of us was happy.
I didn’t even want the party. I liked gifts, but I didn’t have any friends. The people coming to the party were my mother’s friends and their snobby little kids. She had planned some kind of Princess tea party I didn’t want, but Matt and our maid spent all morning setting it up anyway.
By the time the guests arrived, I’d already ripped off my shoes and plucked the bows from my hair. My mother came down in the middle of opening gifts, surveying the scene with her icy blue eyes.
Her blond hair had been smoothed back, and she had on bright red lipstick that only made her appear paler. She still wore my father’s red silk robe, the same way she had since the day he died, but she’d added a necklace and black heels, as if that would make the outfit appropriate.
No one commented on it, but everyone was too busy watching my performance. I complained about every single gift I got. They were all dolls or ponies or some other thing I would never play with.
My mother came into the room, stealthily gliding through the guests to where I sat. I had torn through a box wrapped in pink teddy bears, containing yet another porcelain doll. Instead of showing any gratitude, I started yelling about what a stupid present it was.
Before I could finish, she slapped me sharply across the face.
“You are not my daughter,” my mother said, her voice cold. My cheek stung from where she had hit me, and I gaped at her.
The maid quickly redirected the festivities, but the idea percolated in my mother’s mind the rest of the afternoon. I think, when she said it, she meant it the way parents do when their child behaves appallingly. But the more she thought, the more it made sense to her.
After an afternoon of similar tantrums on my part, someone decided it was time to have cake. My mother seemed to be taking forever in the kitchen, and I went to check on her. I don’t even know why she was the one getting the cake instead of the maid, who was far more maternal.
On the island in the kitchen, a massive chocolate cake covered in pink flowers sat in the middle. My mother stood on the other side, holding a gigantic knife she was using to cut the cake to serve on tiny saucers. Her hair was coming loose from its bobby pins.
“Chocolate?” I wrinkled my nose as she tried to set perfect pieces onto the saucers.
“Yes, Wendy, you like chocolate,” my mother informed me.
“No, I don’t!” I crossed my arms over my chest. “I hate chocolate! I’m not going to eat it, and you can’t make me!”
The knife happened to point in my direction, some frosting stuck to the tip, but I wasn’t afraid. If I had been, everything might’ve turned out different. Instead, I wanted to have another one of my tantrums.
“No, no, no! It’s my birthday, and I don’t want chocolate!” I shouted and stomped my foot on the floor as hard as I could.
“You don’t want chocolate?” My mother looked at me, her blue eyes wide and incredulous.
A whole new type of crazy glinted in them, and that’s when my fear started to kick in.
“What kind of child are you, Wendy?” She slowly walked around the island, coming toward me. The knife in her hand looked far more menacing than it had a few seconds ago.
“You’re certainly not my child. What are you, Wendy?”
Staring at her, I took several steps back. My mother looked maniacal. Her robe had fallen open, revealing her thin collarbones and the black slip she wore underneath. She took a step forward, this time with the knife pointed right at me. I should’ve screamed or run away, but I felt frozen in place.
“I was pregnant, Wendy! But you’re not the child I gave birth to! Where is my child?” Tears formed in her eyes, and I just shook my head. “You probably killed him, didn’t you?”
She lunged at me, screaming at me to tell her what I had done with her real baby. I darted out of the way just in time, but she backed me into a corner. I pressed up against the kitchen cupboards with nowhere to go, but she wasn’t about to give up.
“Mom!” Matt yelled from the other side of the room.
Her eyes flickered with recognition, the sound of the son she actually loved. For a moment I thought this might stop her, but it only made her realize she was running out of time, so she raised the knife.
Matt dove at her, but not before the blade tore through my dress and slashed across my stomach. Blood stained my clothes as pain shot through me, and I sobbed hysterically. My mother fought hard against Matt, unwilling to let go of the knife.
“She killed your brother, Matthew!” my mother insisted, looking at him with frantic eyes. “She’s a monster! She has to be stopped!”
Drool spilled out across my desk, and I opened my eyes just in time to hear Mr. Meade slam down a textbook. I’d only been at this high school a month, but I’d quickly learned that was his favorite way of waking me up from my naps during his history lecture. I always tried to stay awake, but his monotone voice lulled me into sleeping submission every time.
“Miss Everly?” Mr. Meade snapped. “Miss Everly?”
“Hmm?” I murmured.
I lifted my head and discreetly wiped away the drool. I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. Most of the class seemed oblivious, except for Finn Holmes. He’d been here a week, so he was the only kid in school newer than me. Whenever I looked at him, he always seemed to be staring at me in a completely unabashed way, as if it were perfectly normal to gawk at me.