Katherine Lewis was born in a small coastal town in New England. With a BFA from NYU for Film & TV Production and an MFA from USC for Writing for Screen & TV, Katherine lives in Los Angeles and works in the entertainment industry in children's media. She is co-author of the upcoming book Convergence: Incarnation, the first in a planned series. www.theconvergencebooks.com
A Ghost Story
How does this work again? The last time I kept a journal, I was a little kid. Every entry began with “Dear Diary” because well, wasn’t that what you were supposed to do? I found those diaries a couple years ago cleaning out my childhood bedroom. Reading that little girl’s deepest thoughts was cringey. The things she hoped, wished, and begged for. She wanted things so badly. To be an artist. To make a living by making things. To make her mark on the world. She was sure if she just believed hard enough, it would come true. And where did it get her? In debt, for starters, after going to an expensive art school. That debt forced her to take a job that seemed art-adjacent- working at an ad firm. It was the only way to support herself while she did her art on the side. Soon, she became consumed by that job- the long hours, the hard work. She told herself that she still had time to be an artist. If she just kept trying. Just kept believing. I’m so much happier now that I’ve let all that go. It’s allowed me to have the life I never realized I wanted. Married. First baby on the way. Living in our own home. Greg has been a gift. He changed my whole life, even though he wasn’t the kind of guy I saw myself being with. One of those finance guys with a 401K, stock options, and a set of custom-made golf clubs. Sensible. Stable. Solid. When I got pregnant, he didn’t even hesitate to propose. Where most guys would flee or fumble over what to do, Greg stood his ground and committed himself to me. To us. I couldn’t turn that down. And I love Greg. Even if he wasn’t what I was expecting. Love is never what you thought it would be, right? It’s been an adjustment- getting pregnant and then getting married and then getting this new place. But I’m glad to be rid of all the things I had to give up. A dead-end job that I never even wanted in the first place. An overpriced and cramped apartment. Dating apps filled with trashy guys who use you then ghost you (I’ve never fully understood that term- because when guys have disappeared on me, I ended up feeling like the one who didn’t exist anymore). It’s the end of the first trimester- we’ve just started telling people. I decided I don’t want to know the gender. I can’t even say why exactly. I just want to be surprised. Greg wasn’t on the same page. He’s a planner- he wants to know everything. So, we agreed- he’ll know the gender, and I won’t. Although now, whenever we’re trying to make a decision together, he often will jokingly threaten to tell me the gender of the baby, if I don’t agree with what he wants to do. He’s got a weird sense of humor. Anyway, his company just absorbed another, so he’s spending most of his time at the office. But it’s actually been good for us. We seem to get along better, not spending a lot of time with each other. But it has given me a lot of time to myself, which is new to me. I’m used to constantly being busy. I’ve been trying to focus on getting our new house in order. Greg bought this place for us and our family. It’s one of those pre-designed models in one of those pre-designed neighborhoods. I should be more grateful, but we’ve been here for almost a month, and to be honest, I hate it. I hated it from the moment Greg brought me here. When I walked into the house for the first time, my stomach dropped. It seems so generic, with its light pastel color scheme, laminate floors, and marble counters, but I knew immediately something was just… off. A terrible feeling crept inside of me that made me feel small and unwelcome. But I put on a big smile for Greg. It would’ve been awful to tell him my real feelings. I thought that by now, it would feel more like home. But that feeling of unwelcome has only grown in the time we’ve lived here. If it was just a “feeling,” it might be easier to ignore. But then, I’ve been having those dreams. They started from the first night we spent here. When I’ve had nightmares in the past, I could usually remember bits and pieces from them. But these are so intense, they jar me awake, and when I try to remember them, I can only ever pinpoint a single detail. A bright, searing light. A piercing scream. The sensation of being held in place by an invisible force. Between the feeling of dread when I’m awake and the horror I experience when I’m asleep, it’s hard not to feel that there’s something in this house telling me that I’m a stranger intruding on a life that I don’t belong in. Something that wants me gone. But that’s not exactly a thought that’s good to dwell on. I see how crazy it seems, now that it’s written down on the page. I read somewhere that nightmares are normal during pregnancy, so that’s probably all it is. Greg would say the same thing, if he knew. I haven’t told him about the dreams, the same way I didn’t tell him about my feelings about the house. He would just laugh at me. He doesn’t even believe in the idea of luck- there’s no way he’d believe my fear of the house and the dreams meant anything other than I was overly hormonal. I think that’s what I appreciate the most about Greg. He’s always so logical and reasonable. Whereas I tend to react impulsively and worry all the time. I’m sure that without him, I would go crazy for sure. If Greg knew about this journal, he would scoff at it. And I can’t blame him- I’m not really sure what the point of it is. Mostly it’s a way to pass the time. Plus, Sharon told me that she kept a diary during her pregnancy with Greg, and it’s one of her most treasured possessions. Having Sharon as my mother-in-law has been great. Yes, she can be a lot, but she means well. She was a stay-at-home mom, raising Greg and taking care of Greg’s dad, who passed away a few years ago from heart failure. When I was having doubts about quitting my job, Sharon helped me realize that it was a perfectly okay thing to do. She said there was nothing wrong with choosing to be a full-time mom, and that it would be the most important job I ever have. My mom wasn’t as understanding. She saw me quitting my job as a waste of everything I had worked for up to that point. Not only that, she told me that I wasn’t being smart- what if things didn’t work out with Greg? I would be broke- unable to support myself and the baby. When she got pregnant with me, it wasn’t planned. She married my dad after that, but they were too young to really understand the decision they were making. They got divorced a few years later, with my dad just kind of blipping off the radar after that. My mom worked 60 hours a week to support us. She retired recently though and got remarried. Now she spends her time at home, helping to raise her new husband’s adolescent daughters. She’s all the way across the country, so hasn’t been able to visit the new house yet. But she did fly in for our wedding. I almost wish she hadn’t come. In the brief moment we were alone together, I caught her staring at me. When I asked her what she was thinking, she just blinked and said, “It’s just funny, that’s all…” and trailed off. We haven’t spoken very much since then. She sends packages every so often, with things for the baby. So that’s nice, I guess. I think that’s why I’ve grown so close with Sharon. She’s the kind of mom that I want to be. So, if she kept a diary, then what’s the harm in me doing the same? But it’ll be something I don’t share with Greg. Knowing him, he’ll want to read it. He can’t stand the feeling that there are things he doesn’t know. About me. About anything, really. And honestly, it’ll be nice to have something that’s just mine again. Even something small like this.
I never thought time could go by so fast, especially when you have too much of it. I’ve been going to doctor’s appointments. Grocery shopping. Prenatal yoga. Reading parenting books. Joining mommy blogs and support groups. Researching private schools (well reading the research Greg and Sharon have done about private schools). Being pregnant is still something I can’t wrap my brain around. There’s a small human growing inside of me. I’m still me, but I’m now also something else. Somehow new and old, at the same time. There’s something primeval about it- the most notable, primal side effect being the ceaseless vomiting. You’d think with all the medical advancements we’ve made, they could cure morning sickness for pregnant women. Whenever it happens, Greg is sure to tell me I’m still the most beautiful woman in the world. But he does make me brush my teeth before he’ll kiss me. Possibly the strangest thing about being pregnant has been feeling the baby moving around and kicking. So far, it’s only happened when I’m alone, and I haven’t told Greg about it yet. Because… well… when I feel the baby move or kick, it always seems to coincide with something bizarre happening in the house. The first time I felt the baby jerk in my stomach, the lights flickered, flashing on and off and on and off and on and off until it stopped seconds later. Last week, I felt a kick just as I heard soft footsteps creaking the floorboards in the room above me. When I went upstairs, no one was there, and the baby’s kicks subsided. The last time it happened, I had been reaching for my phone, but found it wasn’t where I had just set it down. When I eventually found it, it was on top of the fridge, even though I hadn’t been in the kitchen in hours. Sometimes, in those moments, I wonder if the baby is trying to tell me something. But then, sense returns to me, and I think of what Greg would say about all of this. Not that I would ever tell him about these strange little occurrences. He’d think I was crazy for sure. Not to mention the fact that it’s too early in my pregnancy for the baby to be moving and kicking at all. Even if I’m imagining these things, they’ve really scared me. It makes it a lot harder to be alone for so long in a place when you’re on edge at all times, just waiting for the next bout of strangeness to happen. I realized that even if I didn’t want to tell Greg, I could still confide in someone else. I went through the contact list on my phone, pausing on names of friends who I would’ve called months ago. If they didn’t believe what I was saying, they still would have enjoyed the story for what it was worth. And then we could’ve laughed it off and caught up- swapped funny anecdotes, gossiped about mutual enemies, made plans to see each other in person. Ever since I got married and moved out of the city, I’ve fallen out of contact with almost everyone. Or at least, my friends seem to be too busy in their lives to ever respond. I remember what that was like- being so consumed in my job and personal life that anyone who wasn’t in my immediate vicinity just receded to the background. So, in a way, I can’t blame them. But in another way, I can’t help but feel that it’s intentional. I always sensed that they didn’t like Greg. Whenever I invited Greg out to dinner with my friends, it just felt like whenever Greg spoke, there was a long pause and then someone would quickly change the subject. Throughout the night, everyone’s eyes avoided mine and Greg’s. They all came to the wedding, of course. But there was a forced quality to their smiles and congratulations. I kept catching them trading looks with each other, with raised eyebrows and subtle smirks. After that, my text messages went unreturned. My phone calls went to voicemail. But I’m sure they’re just busy. It doesn’t matter though. I’m happier keeping all of this to myself.
Greg and I got into our first big fight last week. I decided to surprise Greg by decorating our baby’s nursery. It was actually a pretty fun project. I picked out the paint, the crib, the rest of the furniture. I even painted a mural on one of the walls and made the baby a mobile to hang over the crib. It’s the most artistic work I’ve done in months, and it felt really good. Since I don’t know the gender, I did my best to keep everything neutral- to make sure it would be good for a boy or a girl. In my opinion, a baby is a baby- they won’t notice if their room is pink or blue anyway. So, what’s the difference? When I had finished, I showed it to Greg, opening the door with a flourish and a “TA-DA!”. He was furious. At first, I thought he was joking. I can never tell when he’s joking. But he was serious. He couldn’t believe I had made all of these decisions without him. Hadn’t even consulted him about the paint color or researched what kind of mobile would be most beneficial to our baby’s development. I had just picked these things on a whim. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t even know if the baby was a boy or a girl, so how could I know what was right for the room? I tried to state my case, explain my intentions and the decisions I had made. Even pointed out the art I had done myself to prove I had put thought and care into everything. He stormed out of the room and slept in the guest bedroom. I was heartbroken. I hadn’t meant to upset him so much. I was only trying to do something for him in return for all he’s done for me. When I talked to Sharon about it the next day, she tried to help smooth things over. She explained to me that Greg has always wanted a family. He’s always had a specific image of what his life would be like, with a wife and kids. And so, it wasn’t easy for him to have someone else try to step in and replace what that image is. She asked me what I had always dreamed of- how I had pictured my future family. But I couldn’t answer. The truth is- I never imagined myself getting married and having a kid. I admitted this to Sharon, and there was a long pause on the other end. I had to ask her if she was still there. She told me that if it didn’t mean as much to me, what was wrong with allowing Greg to have a say in the nursery? I didn’t know how to answer. Did this mean more to Greg than it did to me? He had certainly gotten more upset than I ever would have if he had surprised me with a nursery. Sharon also reminded me that it might be better for Greg to be the one to design the nursery, since he knew the gender of the baby. I relented. When Greg came home from work, I told him he could redo the nursery however he wanted. He was so happy and relieved. It turns out he had already come up with a plan for the room with Sharon and had really been looking forward to putting it together. The plan was based around the gender of the baby though, so unless I wanted to know the gender, I wouldn’t be able to help. So, I guess I won’t see the baby’s nursery until the baby is born. He’s getting started on it this weekend. I asked if we could at least keep the mural or the mobile I had made, but he’s not sure if they’ll go with the theme. We can talk about it later. Maybe this is what being married is. Compromising, even when it doesn’t feel good.
I think I’ve spent more time throwing up than not, during this pregnancy. The doctor tells me it’s normal. Some women get morning sickness worse than others, but to just follow the diet regimen and try to relax. He thinks it might be stress-induced. Sharon can’t understand why I’m throwing up so much- she wants me to get a second opinion. She didn’t have morning sickness at all when she was pregnant. It can’t be normal- there must be something I’m doing that’s causing it. Or at least that’s what she tells me almost every day. Maybe she’s right. But I’m following all the instructions from the doctor and the parenting books and the mommy blogs as closely as I can. One mom advised me to ask my mom about her pregnancy, to see if she was as sick as I am- but she can’t remember. The only thing she could tell me was that “it sounds like my body doesn’t like being pregnant.” Sometimes, when I’m on the bathroom floor, hanging over the toilet, about to puke up everything inside of me, I think I see someone standing just behind me in the reflection of the water. But it’s too distorted to tell. And then my eyes fill up with tears, and I’m vomiting. In that moment, it feels as if my own life is leaving me, piece by piece. Like I have to be weaker for the baby to be stronger. And on that note, I have to go throw up again.
I just had another dream. I can barely stop shaking to be able to write, but I felt like writing it down might help me remember. It’s so hard to think- I can feel it slipping from my mind. The only detail I can remember is the feeling of my legs going to jelly and collapsing underneath me. When I woke up, I found myself on the floor. Somehow, I had fallen out of bed. Greg was still asleep though- he sleeps like a rock. I don’t understand these dreams. How can they feel so intense that I throw myself out of bed, and yet, I can’t remember anything about them? What was it that made my legs give out from under me? I should get back to bed. Greg might sleep deeply, but I don’t want to risk him waking up and finding me down here, writing in my journal. It’s too much to explain.
I’m having a baby. I’m going to be a mom. I’m going to be a mother. I needed to see if the words looked as strange written down as they seem in my head. They do.
The good news is, the vomiting has lessened, finally. Those mommy bloggers know their stuff. I switched to organic supplements. Started meditating. And have limited my time spent on the phone, which includes cutting back on my conversations with Sharon. Sharon understood, after I sent her the blog for her to read herself. All the changes I’ve made make me feel much calmer, more like myself again. The bad news is, Greg knows that I think the house is haunted. Things have been getting stranger here. I know how this is going to sound, but I swear, I’m not making it up. Sometimes, when it’s quiet, I think I hear a woman laughing. Not an amused or happy laugh. But the kind of mocking laugh that you’d hear when you’re gossiping with your friends about someone you hate. I’ll hear the laugh when Greg texts me, saying he’s going to be home late. Or when I’m trying to learn a new recipe that I saw on a mommy blog, but it’s not turning out at all like the pictures. Or when I’m reading a book that Sharon recommended- and then bought and had delivered to the house. I can feel the baby moving around when the laughing happens, like it’s responding to it as well. I’ve tried looking around for the source of the laugh, trying to find a way to explain it. The laugh always sounds so close. Like it’s a woman spying on me from the other room, and being so disgusted by what she sees, she can’t help but laugh and blow her cover. If it was just hearing the woman laugh, that’d be one thing. But… I’m not crazy. I know I’m not crazy. This is what has been happening, and it’s okay for me to write it down here. Of all places. Okay… I’ve been seeing a woman in the house. Well, I guess I haven’t been seeing a woman, but just a figure. The shape of a person with long hair. I have just connected it with the woman’s laugh I’ve been hearing. I’ve never seen the Woman (as I’ve come to call her) fully. She always seems to slip away, before I can make out anything clearly. I’ll see her out of the corner of my eye. When I turn, she’s already slipped into the next room. I hurry to follow, but I’m never in time and find the room empty. I’ll feel her right behind me, but when I spin to catch sight of her, there’s no one. Sometimes, I find myself turning around in circles, sure if I just keep trying, I’ll be able to lay eyes on her. When I go out to get the mail or take a walk around the neighborhood, I’ll see her peering out the window at me, watching my every step until I return. But the worst is at night. I’ll be woken up by the baby stirring inside of me to find the Woman standing over me. We stare at each other for a moment- I won’t be able to move or scream or look away. Then the Woman will turn and walk out of the room so casually, it’s as if she’s grown bored with me. I didn’t know what to do. I was sure this was the entity I had sensed in the house all along. The one that’s always made me feel out of place, like I shouldn’t be here. The one that had been making lights flicker, hiding my things, and causing my baby to move and kick. And now she was showing herself to me. I couldn’t make sense of it. Still, I didn’t want to tell anyone. And I wasn’t planning to. I never should have said anything. But one day it just slipped out during a conversation with Greg’s mom. Sharon was telling me about the dangers of screentime when you’re pregnant. I’ve been watching a lot of television during the day. I like to keep it on when I’m home alone- it comforts me. I made the mistake of relaying this to Sharon the other day, and she’s been lecturing me ever since. She was telling me about how the baby can hear anything I can hear, and it can make all the difference in their future IQ. She was asking me if I wanted the baby to be an idiot, when I heard the Woman’s muffled laugh from just beyond the doorway. Suddenly, I became so angry. It was like a flash of heat went through me. What made this Woman think she could laugh at me like this? What was so funny about my life that she felt like she could mock me, while hiding herself away? As if it’s fair to judge someone but remain out of sight. And so, I yelled at the Woman to shut up. The words just came out of me- I couldn’t help it. Sharon, of course, was shocked. She thought I was talking to her. Couldn’t believe I had the audacity to speak to her that way. I quickly tried to apologize and explain, having to cover my other ear to block out the sound of the Woman’s hysterical laughter, now rebounding throughout the house. I told Sharon that I hadn’t been talking to her, and she demanded to know who else was in the house with me. And so, I was forced to come clean. I didn’t feel like I had another choice. I explained about the house- how I had always felt uncomfortable here. About the moving objects. Hearing the laughter. Seeing the figure. Sharon was very quiet. I told her I knew it all sounded crazy- if someone told me any of this, I would think they were crazy. She finally responded, telling me she thinks I just have an overactive imagination. Something that was probably worsened by watching TV all day. All I could do was agree with her. I promised not to watch TV at all, and to go on more walks outside. Get more exercise and fresh air. Whatever it took to clear my mind. She seemed nullified by this, so I thought I had smoothed things over. But apparently, I was wrong. When Greg came home from work, he wanted to talk. Usually, he sticks to a pretty tight routine. Wake up at 5:30am, shower, dress, go to work, work, commute home, eat dinner, do some more work in his home office, then be in bed by 9pm. So, Greg deviating from his normal schedule to talk (something he hates doing), I thought someone might have died. But then, he told me his mother had called him at work to tell him about the conversation we had that day. Calling Greg at work was only supposed to be for emergencies, I thought. Or at least, that’s what he told me. He wouldn’t take my call otherwise- even the time my tire blew out on my way back from the grocery store, and I didn’t know what to do. When I tried to get put through to him, his assistant relayed the message back to me that he couldn’t come to the phone, but he had instructed her to help me get in touch with roadside assistance. So, at first, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed that his mom had been able to get through to him for something so trivial. How was that fair? I’m his wife. Then, Greg launched into why it was impossible for ghosts to exist and a house to be haunted. He told me about how science just didn’t support those ideas. And neither did common sense. He said he thought his mom was right- maybe I was just watching too much TV. Had maybe seen a scary movie or show, and let it go to my head. I told him that I knew it all sounded crazy. But that crazy things happened sometimes. It’s not that I want to believe the house is haunted, but I wasn’t making anything up. I would love to find another explanation, but I just haven’t been able to. But this just upset him. He didn’t understand why I would argue with him about something so ridiculous. But I wasn’t arguing, I thought I was just sharing with him and being honest. I told him that I thought he should still be able to believe in me, even if he didn’t believe in ghosts. Greg just looked at me for a long time. His expression was like that of someone who picked up what they thought was an apple and taken a bite but realized they had actually just eaten an onion. He told me that all this getting worked up couldn’t be good for the baby. And that I have to think not just about myself, but about the baby and him. I have to think and act for all three of us, and that I wasn’t doing that. It was just like the nursery all over again. After that, he went into his home office for the rest of the night and didn’t come to bed. In the morning, I tried to talk to him again before he left for work, but he wouldn’t even look at me. Just placed a hand on my stomach and walked out the door. I felt terrible all day. How could I have let this get so out of hand? Why did I push back so hard on what he was saying? He’s right. Of course, he’s right. The house isn’t haunted. Why couldn’t I just let it go? When he came home that night, I apologized. Told him he was right about everything, and I was just confused and tired and hormonal. He forgave me. We joked around a bit about me turning into a crazy pregnant lady. Some women got weird cravings, I thought I saw ghosts. He thought that was hilarious. I’ve actually never seen him laugh that much before. For a moment, as he guffawed, I thought things were going to be okay. But then, I caught a glimpse of long hair disappearing around a corner, and under Greg’s snorts and giggles, I could just make out her muffled, mocking snicker.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I was when I was young and wondering who this baby will turn out to be. I asked Greg and his mom what he was like as a child, and they both said he was essentially the same as he is now- focused, hardworking, smart. It seemed like an odd way to describe a kid, but maybe what’s weird to me is normal to others. I’m sure if they knew me as a kid, they’d find me odd as well. Always playing, always active, a little wild maybe but good-natured. Curious, extremely excitable. Overly emotional. I remember sobbing happily after my mom bought me a violin on Christmas because I had wanted it so badly. I never learned to use it- I didn’t have the attention span- but I loved the possibility of it. I always thought that one day, I would sit down and just learn to play it. But that day never came. When my mom got remarried, she gave my violin to one of her husband’s daughters. I was furious. She didn’t even ask me. When I confronted her about it, she told me I had left it in her house all this time, what did I expect? If I had wanted it, I should have taken it when I moved out. And besides, now, it’s actually being used- shouldn’t I be happy about that? But I’m not happy. I know I should be but I’m not. I could buy myself a new violin, but that’s not the point. I don’t want ANY violin- I want my violin. I want the possibility of it. I still remember how excited it made me, how happy. I wish I could feel that much excitement about anything as an adult. Especially when I found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t excited- I was terrified. It wasn’t something I planned, and there was so much about it that I couldn’t even grasp. What it meant. What it would do to me. Same with getting married. It was just something that was happening- a step in the process. I mean, I am happy. I’m happy. I’m glad to be married and pregnant. Just not as happy as I was getting that violin. Where did that little girl go who was so moved by something so little, she would be reduced to tears? But isn’t that what growing up means? That things become less special? Less magical? Less meaningful? When you were a kid, if you just believed in things, wanted them badly enough, clicked your heels three times, you would get everything you ever wanted. I guess, as a girl, I really bought into this. And now, having grown up and lived in the world, I realize that you can only have so much. Maybe the truth of growing up is that you only get what chooses you, and not the other way around. I used to like to think about that little girl and how she would react to my life as an adult. But now, I think it’s better that she’ll never know. She’d never be able to understand the decisions I’ve had to make. The idea of compromising and sacrificing and doing things you never thought you’d do. And honestly, seeing my life now would bore her to tears. I think the only thing she’d be interested to know about is that I live in a haunted house. She always loved a ghost story.
Instead of watching TV, I decided to try reading out loud to the baby. It’s something Sharon suggested. I thought it’d be fun to read some of my favorites first, as a way to try to- I don’t know- pass on something of myself to the baby. So today, I was reading one of my absolute, most loved books aloud. When I got to the part with the mad woman hidden in the attic, the baby kicked as hard as ever and a vase filled with flowers shattered. I cursed out the Woman. I could feel her just beyond my vision, sneering at me. When I threw out the broken glass, a jagged piece sliced my palm. As I scooped up the ruined flowers to throw out, my thumb was speared by a thorn. Then, I picked up my copy of the book, and the paper cut deeply into my finger, my blood staining the page. I tossed the book into the trash, along with the glass and flowers out of spite. I washed my hand in the sink and watched my blood flow down the drain.
Another dream. This time, I woke up feeling like heat was searing my skin, making it crack and bubble, from the inside out. I was covered in sweat, the sheets soaked through. It made me flash back to how I used to wet the bed as a kid. Up until an embarrassing age. I used to have to leave slumber parties early, out of fear that I’d wet myself and be humiliated in front of my friends. My mom would show up, a jacket over her pajamas, to pick me up. The ride home would be quiet, almost unbearably so. In those silences, I filled in the blank noise with all of my worst fears of what she could possibly be thinking of me. Dreading that quiet ride more than the prospect of humiliation, I finally stayed overnight at a friend’s house. I wanted to prove that I could be a normal girl, doing something that’s so ordinary for a girl to do- having a slumber party with a friend. Whispering and giggling late into the night. Waking up the next morning to a pancake breakfast. Riding home with my mom and telling her what a great time it was and begging to do it again next weekend. But instead, I woke up that night in a puddle, having soaked through not just my sleeping bag, but the carpet underneath me. Mortified and crying, I had to wake up my friend, who woke up her parents, who called my mom. My mom showed up, looking as tired as I’ve ever seen her. She apologized profusely for what I’d done. She cut a check to pay to get the carpet I had ruined professionally cleaned. Seeing the amount, I mentally counted the number of overtime hours she’d have to work to recoup that sum. I wasn’t invited to any more sleepovers after that. Greg woke up to me sobbing over my soaked sheets. I must have been incredibly noisy, to be able to rouse him. Once he helped calm me down, he went and slept in the guest bedroom, having to get a good night’s sleep to get up early for an important meeting at work in the morning. I had a crazy urge to call my mom, ask her to come rescue me from this mess I’d created. But instead, I cleaned it up myself. I wasn’t a little girl anymore. Just a grown woman who had a terrible dream she couldn’t remember that had caused her to perspire an ungodly amount. This time, when I heard the Woman, she wasn’t laughing. Instead, I heard her give a deep, exhausted sigh.
I feel disfigured. I can’t even look in the mirror anymore without having this overwhelming sense of shame. I’m fat. I’m bloated. I’m always sweating, ever since that last dream. I’m not like how I’m used to seeing me. Greg assures me that I’m radiant. Even complete strangers tell me I have a pregnant glow, and then touch my stomach without asking as if to steal that glow for themselves. If I’m glowing, it’s because I’m radioactive. Or at least, that’s how I feel. Like there’s an alien that’s lodged itself inside of me, and its alien DNA is infecting my human genetics. Spreading a virus into my system. Slowly turning me into something else. There’s only four months to go until I give birth. Thinking about that gives me chills. That this creature will soon want out. But that’s no way to think, is it? That’s not how a good mother thinks. A good mother would never think of her baby as an alien. Call it a creature. What’s wrong with me? How can I write this down? I hide this diary now. Finding different nooks and crannies around the house that I’ve only discovered because I’ve spent so much time looking around for them. I kept it out of sight before, but now I’m determined no one reads these words. Because what would they think if they did? They would think I was horrible. That I was the worst person ever to be pregnant. That I am the last woman in the world that should be a mother. I do everything I’m told to do. I am a model patient. My doctor tells me so. I follow every article that Greg’s mom sends me. I don’t watch TV anymore, like I promised. The only thing I do is listen to classical music and read classic literature out loud, to increase the baby’s intelligence. Or whatever it is that’s supposed to happen. I report to Sharon what I’m doing to be a good pregnant woman. But according to her, there’s always more I could do. And I agree. I let her tell me what else can be done, and then I do those things. But then I have these moments. Moments where I feel like maybe I shouldn’t be trying to help this baby get smarter or stronger. It already feels like it knows more than I do. Like it’s controlling me without my being able to stop it. It’s already taken over my life. My habits. My actions. My thoughts. Lately… I’ve started to wonder if the baby is working with the Woman. If they’ve somehow teamed up so that once the baby is born, I get locked away, and they’ll take over my life for good. Sometimes I worry that together, the baby and the Woman have possessed me. The baby influencing me from the inside, the Woman from the outside. The baby moves and kicks when it’s time for the Woman to taunt and ridicule me. They’re communicating. They’re planning. It doesn’t help that I can’t sleep. Or that I won’t sleep, is a better way to put it. I’ve started to think that they conspire while I rest. That if I’m awake, they can’t openly plot my demise. Also, not sleeping means no dreams. No terrible dreams I have no memory of. I tell no one though. How could I? I’d probably be arrested. Maybe I should be. Instead, I asked Greg if we can move. That upset him. It made him think I was ungrateful for the home we have. Why was I having such a hard time adjusting? Hadn’t he given me everything I asked for or didn’t know to ask for but needed? Didn’t I realize how stressful of a time it was for him at work? He didn’t have time to think about finding a new home. He had to focus on being able to afford the mortgage on this one, since he was the sole earner of the family. Not to mention all my student loan debt he’d agreed to take on. Now, he’s suspicious of me. I’ll catch him staring at me at dinner, as if he’s studying me like he would a broken formula on one of his spreadsheets. He’s trying to figure me out. Solve the problem. Late the other night, he found me wandering in the basement. I had been trying to discover where the Woman might hide out. If there was a secret corner of the house that she resided in. I had crawled on top of the washing machine and was peering over the back of it when he called my name. I turned around to find him staring at me in horror. He couldn’t believe I had managed to climb up onto the machine in my condition. What could I possibly be doing that was important enough to risk the baby’s health? I couldn’t tell him my true motives. Instead, I told him that I thought I heard a mouse. That was a mistake- I should have lied differently. He took it as another slight against the house. Against him. That he would allow his family to live in a place with vermin. He sat me down and told me firmly that he thought I wasn’t putting the baby first. That instead, I was getting too caught up in my own superficial wants and needs, and that in doing so, I was hurting our child. Didn’t I see that I was causing stress for myself, him, and the baby? Why couldn’t I just be easy? Why was I resisting all of the good things I had? I began to cry, feeling caught, humiliated, and in some way, relieved. So it wasn’t in my head. Someone else could see how terrible of a mother I was being. Greg sighed, checking the time. Then he patted my shoulder, saying it was probably just hormones. That the emotion wasn’t real and would pass. He guided me back to bed, where I pretended to fall asleep beside him. The next day, I got a call from Sharon. She would be coming to stay with us, to help me through the next few months. She moves in next week. In a way, I’m glad. Now I don’t have to be as afraid of myself. But in another way, I’m as trapped as I’ve ever been, with only a week remaining until my prison guard arrives.
I’m in the final trimester of this pregnancy, and I have officially become “they” instead of “me.” When Greg or Sharon refer to me, it’s always “they did this today” or “do you two want to go for a walk?” I am myself and this baby. We are two in one body. It’s become much harder to find time alone to be able to write in here. I am under constant surveillance by either Sharon, Greg, the Woman, or the baby. The Woman has been especially put off by Greg’s mom. I feel her now like a shadow looming over the house. Like she has expanded from a single figure to an ominous presence. I think she sees Greg’s mom as an obstacle to her conspiracy with the baby. The baby is also agitated by Greg’s mom’s presence. Sharon will often bend down and try to have conversations with my stomach. I think she talks to my belly more than to my face. The baby moves and squirms whenever she does. Sharon interprets this as a sign of the baby loving her, recognizing her voice, and is encouraged to do this more and more. But I know the truth. The baby is just trying to get away from the noise but is unable to. This is the first time I’ve felt I could relate to this thing inside of me. I, too, find myself slowly backing away from Sharon as she speaks to me, but am also not able to escape. Greg and his mom seem thrilled to be reunited in the same house. Sometimes, at dinner, I feel more like an audience than part of the conversation. They discuss Greg’s day, his work, his co-workers, his schedule, his wants, his ambitions. Just during one night at dinner, the two discuss more details about Greg and his life than I’ve ever gotten him to share with me in the entire time we’ve been together. You’d think an expecting mother would be encouraged by a mother and their child having such a close, enduring bond. But instead, it makes me sick to think that this baby would want to connect with me this way for the rest of my life. That after I give birth to it, I’ll have a constant obligation to this child to soothe and nurture and help. Hasn’t this nine months of letting it live inside of me been enough of my time and effort? And what about the baby? Shouldn’t it want more out of life than me? My input? My advice? There are so many more people in the world for it to connect with, to seek comfort from. So much more to want than to tell me about how its day was at work over dinner, with their spouse looking on in silence. And besides, doesn’t this thing know that one day I’ll die? Long before it does? So why get so attached to me, to the point where it will cripple them when I’m gone? I suddenly remembered one summer afternoon, when I was 15, I lost control of my bike and crashed into a tree. My fingers were ripped up and bleeding. I was crying uncontrollably. I ran inside to my mom, who was getting ready to work a double shift. She just stared at my trembling fingers, watched my tears and blood drip onto the floor and mix together. She told me, “You’re old enough now to take care of this yourself. There’s $20 on the fridge for you to order dinner. Love you.” Then walked out the door. I pulled myself together then. Cleaned up my hands. Didn’t even wince when I applied the rubbing alcohol to disinfect my cuts. I washed my face, then ordered myself a pizza. I was old enough to take care of myself. As Greg and Sharon laughed at a joke Greg had heard from his co-worker, I excused myself from the table and threw up for the first time in weeks.
He said it was an accident, but I know it wasn’t. Because Greg is a terrible liar. He was slipping on my flip-flops for me, as we prepared to take our routine nightly stroll after dinner. My bump is too big now for me to reach my own feet, and my feet are too swollen to fit into any other shoes. I feel more like I’m a blimp in a parade than a human woman getting some fresh air and exercise. But as he stood back up, avoiding my eyes and slick with perspiration, he stammered, “I hope our little girl has as pretty feet as you do.” First of all, my feet are ugly. Even pre-pregnancy, they were calloused and rough, my toes so long, they resemble a small child’s fingers. As I was about to chastise him for lying to me about my feet, I felt the full meaning of what he had actually said hit me. Our little girl. The baby was a girl. I’m having a girl. I was frozen in fury. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so angry in my life. He finally looked at me, and it was like he just discovered a wild bear had broken into the house. He backed up slowly, all color draining from his face. He apologized immediately and profusely. My eyes were so wide, I thought they might pop out of my skull. I just let him continue to apologize, knowing already that I would never forgive him for this moment. This is something I will bring up during every fight, every disagreement, every bitter moment for the rest of our lives. It is a wound that will never heal. A betrayal that can never be undone. Eventually, he stopped apologizing and got himself together. I was being immature, according to him. And I should show him more grace than this. Why wouldn’t I just say something at least? The silent treatment is for children. Couldn’t I react like a normal mother would, finding out what gender their baby was? I should be thrilled! Crying with joy! I ripped open the door and stomped away from him, taking my anger out on the ground beneath me. He was smart enough not to come with me, I’ll say that for him. It was during my walk that I realized Greg wouldn’t have told me on his own. He may not have agreed with my wish to not know the gender of the baby, but I had set a rule for him to follow. Not that he liked for me to tell him what to do, but he did love following rules. And so, he went along with what I wanted. He wouldn’t have decided to break my rule on his own. He would have needed permission. Someone above me in the hierarchy of his life. His mother. I came to a stop, as the realization hit me fully. Of course. Sharon was tired of having to avoid mentioning the gender of the baby. She had helped Greg put the finishing touches on the nursery and had been so excited for me to see it, when I reminded her that I couldn’t. She became frustrated, demanding again to know why I didn’t want to know something so crucial about my child. I tried to explain my thinking to her- that I wanted to be surprised. But if I’m being honest, I knew that knowing the gender would solidify that the baby wasn’t an it but a who. It would change the way I felt about them- not in a good or bad way. Just in a way I hadn’t felt prepared for. For Sharon, I’m sure she had her reasons for wanting me to know the gender. In fact, I know that part of the reason was the “surprise” baby shower she was planning for me. I was lured to a fancy tea service, where friends, old co-workers, and Sharon were suddenly shouting “Surprise!” at me. I looked and saw a giant “IT’S A GIRL!” banner. All of the decorations were princess-themed. All of the presents were pink. I realized then that the reason she wanted me to know the gender was because me not knowing would have ruined the party. Looking around at the decorations, at the forced smiles of friends who I hadn’t heard from in months, at the expression of smug anticipation on Sharon’s face, I felt the baby kick. It was the first kick that I didn’t associate with the strangeness going on in the house. I felt like this kick was for me. In response to my anger. In response to my disgust. In response to identifying Greg’s mom as my enemy, finally. And then I realized, this was my first moment with my little girl. That was the first moment she felt like mine. I let this feeling shield me from the baby shower, from the people who only cared about me enough to show up for a party. I found myself wondering what the Woman would think of all this. I wished she could see all of this happening. Hear my thoughts. That we could sit together and laugh about it. I felt the baby kick again and knew she wished the same.
I think that Sharon has sensed the alliance between my baby and me. She has doubled her efforts to talk to my stomach. But I know that all she’s doing is making my baby like her even less. Out of Sharon’s earshot, my baby and I laugh about her misguided attempts of bonding. It feels good to have someone to gossip with again. The Woman has been elusive recently. I find myself looking for her around corners, not because I sense her but because I miss having her around. For as much as she terrified me, the house doesn’t feel the same without her. Now when my baby kicks and moves, I know it’s not an omen of something to come, it’s a message for me and me alone. Sometimes, I think my baby is telling me that she misses the Woman, too. I’ve managed to distance myself from Sharon by telling her that we need to rest- the we being my baby and me. She can’t refuse me this and will generally leave me in peace, as I lay in the bedroom. I hear her walking past the closed door from time to time, stopping and listening on the other side of it. Little does she know, I’ve managed to hide my favorite snacks and activities (including my phone loaded up with streaming apps and a pair of headphones) in the bedroom. My experience keeping this diary hidden has really come in handy. My baby and I have all the time in the world together now, and it’s the best I’ve felt in months. Years even. But the closer my baby and I grow, the farther away from Greg I feel. I can barely even look him in the eyes anymore. His face makes me feel confused. It’s like I’m looking at someone else. Is this what he’s always looked like, and I’m only just noticing? It’s easier to just not look. He’ll talk to me, and I’ll focus on a point right above his head on the wall behind him. This would be okay if his voice wasn’t as repellant to me as his face. I can’t tell if it’s his cadence or the register of his vocal cords that assails my ears and sparks such instant irritation within me. I find that I can’t even hear what he says anymore, so consumed am I with resisting the urge to run screaming from the room. It doesn’t seem to matter though. He doesn’t expect any kind of real response from me. I can usually just get away with nodding and smiling or making some non-committal sound. Wait… I have to go. I can hear Sharon coming by on one of her rounds. If she offers me any more products to rub on my belly to get rid of stretch marks, I will scream.
The Woman came to me last night. I woke up to my baby kicking wildly and found her standing over me, just as she always used to. Instead of being afraid, I was excited to see her. We had so much to catch up on. She slowly backed out of the room, and I felt like she was beckoning me to follow. I got up quietly and tip toed after her, as fast as I could on my swollen legs. She took me out the back door and to the shed in the backyard. I thought, was this where she had resided all along? How had I not thought to check out here? This would’ve made a great hiding spot for my diary. I opened the shed door, thinking there would be something amazing inside that she was trying to show me, but I found nothing but the tools our gardener used once a week when he came to mow the lawn and tend the flowers. There was nothing but shovels, rakes, the lawn mower, and a couple cans of gasoline. The fumes of the gas made me instantly want to breathe them in deeply, but instead, I clamped my hand over my nose, knowing how dangerous that could be for my baby. I shut the shed door, angry that the Woman had brought me out here for no other reason than to possibly get me high on gas fumes. But the Woman was gone. I could only feel her disappointment in the air. Clearly, I hadn’t understood something that she wanted me to. My baby kicked in frustration, as irritated with the Woman as I was. I made my way back up to bed, rubbing my stomach. She settled back down. I carefully stepped past Sharon’s door, but she sleeps as deeply as her son. Greg only snored when I got back in bed. Hasn’t stirred at all as I’ve been writing. Is that really what he looks like when he sleeps? Sleep is supposed to make us all look younger, more peaceful. But Greg’s mouth is wide open, and spit is trickling out of it, his brow scrunched like he’s trying to figure out a difficult equation even in sleep. This is my husband. This is the father of my child. This is my life. This is the life I’m going to bring my baby into.
I’ve been thinking about my last ex lately. Not in the way I used to. Things ended badly between us. I was devastated. I did anything I could think of to get him back but to no avail. Still, I couldn’t stop trying. I wanted him so badly. Or at least, I thought I did. Thinking of all the other things I’ve wanted in my life, I can’t help picturing myself as a dog chasing cars. Was I really running after these things because of a true purpose, or just spurred after them by some impulse? I would like to think that wanting to be an artist- wanting to make things that mattered was real. But then, how did it go so wrong? How did I let myself get so wrapped up in distractions? An irrelevant job, an irrelevant ex… then Greg. Maybe I’ll never know what I really wanted for myself. What do I want now? The only things I can think of are things I want for my baby, not for myself. But isn’t this what I was afraid of? That my baby would take over my life entirely? Control my future? That we would be eternally linked? I am still afraid. I am terrified of her, no matter how close to her I feel now. But with my due date approaching, I’m also afraid for her. She isn’t even in this world yet, and I feel like I’ve already disappointed her. Like just by allowing her to be created and exist, I’ve already betrayed her. I wish the Woman would come to me again. Please, tell me what I should do. That’s what I want more than anything now- I want to know what to do.
Today, I got a call from a friend I haven’t heard from since my baby shower. And even then, she had just grimaced in my general direction and took a bunch of selfies with her teacup. I picked up, mostly out of shock. Her voice was oddly chipper. I’ve never felt an occasion to use the word chipper until I heard her speak. I asked her if she needed something. That took her off guard. I think she had expected me to be so grateful that she contacted me, I would overlook the months of her absence. She told me that she just found out the best news- she was pregnant! She wanted to see if we could get together and talk about what my pregnancy was like so far, if I had any tricks or tips, musts or must-nots. “We’ll be pregnancy pals!” She chipped. “I hope I’m having a girl, too! They’ll be just like us- besties! Or if it’s a boy, maybe they’ll even get married! Wouldn’t that be great?!” I guffawed and hung up. She tried calling back, probably thinking the call had dropped. But I sent her to voicemail, and she got the message.
I picked out her name, but I refuse to tell anyone else what it is. Greg and Sharon are furious about it. They had been brainstorming names out loud, going back and forth, each name worse than the last. Suddenly, I found myself proclaiming that I had already named the baby, but that I wasn’t going to share her name until she was born. They laughed at first, thinking I was joking, but once they realized I was serious, they became angry, saying it wasn’t my decision to make alone. I told them that she has lived in me for all this time. I know her better than anyone. I know what her name is, but I want her to be the first person I tell it to. They tried to argue with me but were silenced when I reminded them that conflict isn’t good for the baby, and they needed to put the baby first. They went quiet. I know that Greg and Sharon think they can outflank me. That when she’s born, they can get to the birth certificate before I do. Make the decision permanent. To name her something that will be completely unlike who she really is. Making her an imposter from the start. How am I so sure? Well, I saw the nursery finally. It was awful. I have no problems with the color pink, but they used it to the point where I found it offensive. I’ll have to change it at some point, but I don’t know how or when. I’m too huge and swollen to be able to repaint the room or move anything around. Greg and Sharon avoid me now as much as possible. When they do speak to me, I can barely hear what they’re saying. I simply stare at their mouths blankly, until they give up trying to communicate. I think they might be afraid of me. I’m probably the first and only person to treat them like they’re as unimportant as they truly are. I spend my days on the couch, watching TV, only sharing my thoughts and insights with my baby. Rubbing my swollen belly and tapping our own brand of morse code to her. When Sharon sees me watching TV, she tenses but says nothing. I maintain eye contact with her, until she stomps out of the room. My baby laughs uproariously, with pokes and kicks. I tap her a message in return. We only have so much time together, just her and I. And I want to make it count.
My mom sent me my old diaries. They finally arrived in the mail at my request. I was surprised she had kept them, after being so forceful about giving away my violin. Funnily enough, when I told my mom that I knew the name of the baby but was waiting to reveal it, she understood. She wants to visit soon. I read my diaries out loud to my baby. I want her to absorb the knowledge of who I was as a child, so she can be prepared for her own life. Maybe that will keep her from ending up with a life she resents. She kicks sometimes, and I think it’s her way of telling me she understands a certain thought or feeling I’ve just read out. But we’re running out of time. Sometimes I run out of air as I read and begin to sob. In those moments, I can feel the Woman is close by. She is watching. More than that she is waiting. We’re both waiting for the same thing.
Greg came home from work and slammed the door. When I asked Greg what was wrong, he was taken aback. I hadn’t addressed him directly in weeks. Mostly, I was just happy to see how upset he was and wanted to know what event had transpired to be grateful for. Turns out, he didn’t get some promotion he thought he was entitled to. Apparently, he’s been talking about it with Sharon over dinner, but I haven’t listened to anything they’ve been saying. As Sharon began to lavish Greg in sympathy and unearned praise, I lost interest. Greg noticed immediately when I tuned out again. He looked at me and scoffed, “You might want to pay attention to this- this is about your future, too.” I couldn’t help but crack up. Turns out, Greg is kind of funny.
Another dream. Just the smell of burning this time. The Woman was trying to tell me something. Give me some kind of instruction once again. I whispered, “I hear you” out loud to the dark bedroom. I saw the figure emerge in the darkness. She brushed a strand of hair out of my face. And that’s when my water broke. I haven’t woken anyone. I decided I wanted to write this down first. I’m scared. More than scared- petrified. My baby is ready to come out into the world. She’s going to claw and fight her way out of me. It will take my pain and suffering to give her life. But that’s not what scares me. What scares me is what comes after. Coming back to this house with her. Spending a moment in that hell-hole nursery. Being touched and spoken to and judged by Greg and Sharon. By my own mother. By my fake friends. Even by me. I love my baby. I know that she is a culmination of who I’ve been. A piece of my body. But I will ruin her. Not intentionally. Not because that’s what I want. But because I simply won’t be able to help it. Because I have been ruined. I tried to avoid it. I tried to be someone good. Someone who followed their dreams. But I failed. Look where I’ve ended up. And this failure has scarred me. It’s turned me into something that I never was and never wanted to be. I can feel the Woman’s hand on my shoulder. Every contraction I have, she comforts me. She knows what I’m saying is the truth. The harder it hurts, the truer it is. And I know now who this woman is and what I have to do. But first, I need to have my baby. I must do the thing I’ve been dreading, ever since I found out I was pregnant. Possibly even before that. Maybe even from the moment of my own birth.
She’s here. She’s in the world now. At 2:00AM on the dot, she came out of me so easily, as if trying to spare me pain. She didn’t totally succeed- it hurt more than I ever thought possible. But I appreciated the effort. I made sure the doctors and nurses knew what I intended for her name to be before I gave birth. Just in case something happened to me. I even wrote it down for them. They seemed puzzled by this but were willing to take the piece of paper to pacify the screaming woman in labor. Her name was the first word I spoke to her when I held her in my arms. I held onto her as tightly as I could. I spoke as many words as I could think to tell her- out loud, in my head, tapping them in our code onto her skin. She stared up at me with big eyes, never taking them off of my face. As I write now, I don’t know where I’ve found the strength. I am so tired. So drained. But there’s something inside of me that won’t let me rest. The decision I made before I came to the hospital. I don’t remember how I got myself here. I think I drove but can’t be sure. It was all a blur. When I arrived, they asked if they should contact the father or anyone I’d want there with me. I told them no, I had to do this alone. And I’m glad that I did. The idea of Greg or Sharon being present for any of what I just went through would have been mortifying. Intrusive. Inappropriate. And it wouldn’t have made what I need to do next possible. The hardest part is already over- tearing myself away from her. I asked for her to be taken to the nursery for the night. The nurses recommended she stay with me in the room, but I insisted. If she stays in this room with me, I would never be able to leave it. To do what I have to do. I tapped her a silent final message, then she was taken from me.
Dear Baby, I’m writing this to you because I never want you to have to guess what happened. What I was thinking. What made me do what I did. I want you to know everything. I thought I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone reading this diary. But I want you to. I want you to know who I was, what I felt, how it had been. Because no one ever really tells you how they suffer. Not honestly. Because suffering is not something that’s easily shared. And maybe it’s wrong to want to share this with you. But I think that it’s the only way to protect you. To save you from me and my world. In the brief moments I spent with you once you were outside of me, you were amazing. You cried when you were born, of course, but then you stopped. You started figuring things out right away. You realized you had done it- you were part of the world, at last. They took you to the nursery, and the next thing I knew, here I was, back at the house. Your father and grandmother are still asleep. They have no idea you’re alive and in the world. The Woman is here. My ghost. I used to be afraid of her. My former self. The person who I had killed, so that I could live. She used to hate me. This new being that replaced her. But now, we see each other. We understand each other. We love each other. But we both will only ever hurt you. So will the other people in this house. I know I can’t stop you from being hurt. That this will hurt you. That you will grow up on your own. But I can’t let you follow in my footsteps. That’s the worst possible thing I can think of. You may find that ironic because of the name I gave you. My name. First, middle, and last. Not your father’s last name. The one I so easily took without truly thinking of the repercussions. I wanted to give you a piece of me to have always. As a reminder of where you came from and my enduring connection to you, and as a warning. My worst fear now is that one day- your wedding day- I would look at you and only be able to say “it’s just funny, that’s all…” Because now I understand what my mom found funny about me accidentally getting pregnant and getting married too soon. And I don’t see the humor in it at all. So now, here I am. Back in this house. All this time, it’s only been haunted by me. I hope that I don’t haunt you. That my spirit dies along with my body. That you have a life free of the past. Mine or anyone else’s. My dreams finally make sense. The intense light. The scream. Feeling trapped. Legs turning to jelly, too weak to stand. My skin boiling. Choking on smoke. All signs of what was to come. I realize now what the Woman was showing me. What I was showing myself. The fumes from the shed that filled my senses. Please know, I wasn’t alone when I left this Earth. I don’t mean because I’m with your father and grandmother- they’re still peacefully asleep and unaware. I will be with the Woman. We will embrace as one, before being overtaken. I have to go now. As much as it pains me to tear myself away. The smell of the gas is making me lightheaded. I’m going to put this diary somewhere safe. Somewhere it will be found- not by the flames, but by you. Some day. I just have two more things to say to you. I’m sorry. I love you. My little girl.