I woke to the whispering of my name. My clock blinked at me in glowing red numbers 11:59, the eternal time of my dream-like world. The two girls were in the corner of the room. Stitch Mouth had her hands clasped together near her waist and was rocking slightly, as though anxious about giving a presentation. Balloon girl, well, she was just being Balloon Girl, but the faces on the balloons were avoiding me, looking up at me just a moment before looking down again.
“You’re back,” I said. I had forgotten just how scary the girls truly looked. But I was also thankful for a second night in a row that began with them and not the woman in the window.
Stitch Mouth asked guardedly, “Do we look so terrible? When you first sat up and saw us, I could tell we frightened you.”
I released the sheets from my hands. I had been clutching them. “Yeah, but no. I mean, you’re definitely – I mean – I don’t know how to say it.” I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.
“Go ahead,” Stitch Mouth offered.
“Well, you’re definitely freaky.”
She smirked sadly. “We are. Even if we don’t want to be.”
“But that’s okay,” I assured.
“Yeah. I mean. It’s just something I can’t quite explain, I guess. I mean, you may look like you do, but I’m still glad you’re here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Compared to waking up to the woman in the window, I’d have to say having you in my room is a million times better. But it’s not just that – there’s something else too.”
“What else is it?” The bob of Stitch Mouth’s hair tilted with her head.
“Your song. The one from last night. It was as if – as if nothing evil could have a voice like yours or sing such a song. I sang it all day.”
“You liked it?” She was happy.
“Very much. It may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Oh, I doubt that.”
“No, really. It was beautiful.”
“So, you don’t mind if we help?”
“No.” I shook my head in absolute confirmation. “Not at all.”
Stitch Mouth thought about something. “But Sarah, you say you enjoyed my song, that nothing evil could have sung it, but what of the Sirens?”
“Those Greek things?”
“Yes. How do you know we are not like them, enticing you towards death with angelic voices?”
“Oh. Well. I guess you could be. But I don’t think so.”
My words touched along. “Well, the Sirens never did anything to help anyone, but you helped me last night. And according to the myth, they were beautiful, right? And, well, you know.”
“Yes. We are certainly not that.” Stitch Mouth winked, and Balloon Girl nodded. The faces on the balloons were looking at me again, curious about who I was, as though trying to figure out if I could be trusted.
I continued my logic, validating my growing belief. “The song you sang last night, it was different than anything I’ve ever heard. And even though you colored the window to hide me, it was your voice that made me believe you were here to help me. I slept the best I ever had. It felt like I was safe.”
Stitch Mouth bowed. Then she asked, “Are you ready?”
“For the night to begin?”
“Oh, like, for you to hide the window again?”
“No. I can’t. Not until I must. Are you ready to begin? Are you ready to change everything?”
I didn’t budge. If anything, I stiffened. “Wait, but what about the window? I thought the woman couldn’t find us. Remember, you colored it black with your magic chalk.” Despite the window being right there for everyone to see, I still wanted to believe that the woman’s entrance into my life had been closed off forever.
“It’s not magic, Silly, and it only works for one night. That’s the rule. It’s only a trick.”
“Then do it again.”
Stitch Mouth paused. Considered me. “As much as I would like to, I cannot.”
“I only have a limited amount of chalk. And you are not ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“You are not ready,” she said again. Balloon Girl shook her head, validating Stitch Mouth’s claim.
I assured, “I’m ready,” having no idea what she was even talking about, but hoping my response would make her do something else with her magic chalk.
“I don’t want to say this, Sarah, but you are not. Not yet.”
“Well, if you’re here to help me, why can’t you just make the woman go away with your bag of chalk or something so that she never finds me again?” I sat up higher. “I thought you were going to keep her away. I thought she wasn’t coming back.”
“I’m sorry, Sarah, I am. But she’s far too powerful to be defeated by simple chalk, no matter how powerful my gifts, our gifts, might be.”
I took a deep breath, accepting what she said. “I know,” I acknowledged. “I just, I guess, I was just hoping it was done. I thought maybe you hid me and it would all be over. But I guess I really knew this wouldn’t be over so easily.”
“It never is,” Stitch Mouth said. “But the witch is coming. Her time has begun. Tonight, we run.” Stitch Mouth turned and focused her gaze through the window, pinching her red eyes together, as though looking through a telescope. “Yes. She’s getting closer. We must go.”
“There will be time for questions, Sarah.” She waved, beckoning me over. “Come. We must go.”
I climbed out of bed. “I’ve never been through anything like this before,” I admitted.
“Neither have we,” Stitch Mouth stated lightheartedly.
The three of us went to my bedroom door. Balloon Girl remained a step behind, oriented towards the window, like a final guard, with her balloons drifting at the ceiling.
“Where are we going?” I asked. I thought maybe we’d be running downstairs and out through the front door.
Stitch Mouth answered while sifting through her purse, “Somewhere else.” Her purse matched the red bow in her hair, as if being color coordinated mattered even if you were dead or undead or whatever she was. As I watched her, something changed in an instant. Stitch Mouth suddenly appeared to be a little girl, as though a layer of her morbid appearance had disappeared and beneath was a sincere and thoughtful young girl I could see.
Balloon Girl backed into me. Reflexively, I edged away from her, not wanting to touch her scrawny bones. I said to Stitch Mouth, “But the woman always finds me when I run.”
Stitch Mouth smiled and held my hand, and while I expected her touch to be cold as a corpse, it was surprisingly warm. She said, “That’s why we’re not going to her places.” Then she colored the knob of my bedroom door green. “No more questions for now. We must go.” And with that, I heard my window slam open. There was a grunt. An irritable huff. The woman was coming through, and she was not happy.
Stitch Mouth pulled the door open and we all went through, entering a place that was no longer my home.