“You killed him, Wendy!” My mother snarled. She leaned in toward me, her hand clenched into a fist, and I knew she was using all her willpower to keep from hurting me. “First you killed my son, then you drove my husband insane and killed him. You killed them both!”
“Mom . . . Kim, whatever!” I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples. “That doesn’t make any sense. I was just a baby! How could I kill anyone?”
“How did you get Matthew to drive you here?” she demanded through gritted teeth, and an icy chill ran down my spine. “He would never drive you here. He would never let you see me. But he did. What did you do to him to make him do it?” I lowered my eyes, unable to even pretend to be innocent. “Maybe that’s exactly what you did to Michael!” Her fists were clenched, and she breathed so hard, her delicate nostrils flared.
“I was just a baby,” I insisted without any real conviction. “I couldn’t have . . . Even if I did, there had to be more people involved. It doesn’t explain anything! Why would anybody take him or hurt him and put me in his place?”
She ignored my question. “You were always evil. I knew it from the moment I held you in my arms.” She had calmed herself a bit and leaned back in her chair. “It was in your eyes. They weren’t human. They weren’t kind or good.”
“Then why didn’t you just kill me then?” I asked, growing irritated.
“You were a baby!” Her hands shook, and her lips had started to quiver. She was losing the confidence she had come in with. “Well, I thought you were. You know I couldn’t be sure.” She pressed her lips together tightly, trying to hold back tears.
“What made you so sure?” I asked. “What made you decide that day? On my sixth birthday. Why that day? What happened?”
“You weren’t mine. I knew you weren’t.” She brushed at her eyes to keep the tears from spilling over. “I had known forever. But I just kept thinking about what the day should’ve been like. With my husband, and my son. Michael should’ve been six that day, not you. You were a horrible, horrible child, and you were alive. And they were dead. I just . . . it didn’t seem right anymore.” She took a deep breath and shook her head. “It still isn’t right.”
“I was six years old.” My voice had started quavering. Whenever I’d thought of her or what happened, I’d only ever felt numb. For the first time, I really felt hurt and betrayed.
“Six years old. Do you understand that? I was a little kid, and you were supposed to be my mother!” Whether she really was or not was irrelevant. I was a child, and she was in charge of raising me. “I had never done anything to anyone. I never even met Michael.”
“You’re lying.” My mother gritted her teeth. “You were always a liar, and a monster! And I know you’re doing things to Matthew! Just leave him alone! He’s a good boy!” She reached across the table and grabbed my wrist painfully. The orderly came up behind her. “Take what you want, take anything. Just leave Matthew alone!”
“Kimberly, come on.” The orderly put his strong hand on her arm, and she tried to pull away from him. “Kimberly!”
“Leave him alone,” she shouted again, and the orderly started pulling her up. She fought against him, screaming at me. “Do you hear me, Wendy? I will get out of here someday! And if you’ve hurt that boy, I will finish the job I started!”
“That’s enough,” the orderly bellowed, dragging her out of the room.
“You’re not human, Wendy! And I know it!” That was the last thing she yelled before he carried her out of my sight.
The staff let me sit there for a minute, trying to catch my breath and get myself under control. Matt couldn’t see me like this. I really, really thought I was going to throw up, but I managed to keep it down.
Everything was true. I was a changeling. I wasn’t human. She wasn’t my mother. She was just Kim, a woman who had lost her grasp on reality when she realized I wasn’t her child. I had been switched for her son, Michael, and I had no idea what happened to him.
Maybe he was dead. Maybe I really had killed him, or someone else had. Maybe someone like Finn.
She was convinced that I was a monster, and I couldn’t argue that I wasn’t. In my life, I had caused nothing but pain. I had ruined Matt’s life, and I still was doing that.
Not only did he constantly have to uproot himself for me and spend every minute worrying about me, but I was manipulating and controlling him, and I couldn’t say for sure how long that had been going on. I didn’t know the long-term effects of it either.
Maybe it would’ve been better if she had killed me when I was six. Or better yet, when I was still a baby. Then I wouldn’t have been able to hurt anybody.
When the staff finally led me back to the waiting room, Matt rushed over to hug me. I stood there, but I didn’t hug him back. He inspected me to make sure I was all right. He had heard there was some kind of scuffle and was petrified that something had happened to me. I just nodded and got out of there as fast as I could.
So . . .” Matt began on the drive home. I rested my forehead against the cold glass of the car window and refused to look at him. I had barely spoken since we’d left. “What did you say to her?”
“Things,” I replied vaguely.
“No, really,” he pressed. “What happened?”
“I tried talking to her, she got upset.” I sighed. “She said I was a monster. You know, the usual.”
“I don’t know why you even wanted to see her. She’s a terrible person.”
“Oh, she’s not that bad.” My breath fogged up the window, and I started drawing stars in the mist. “She’s really worried about you. She’s afraid I’m going to hurt you.”
“That woman is insane,” Matt scoffed. “Literally, since she lives there, but . . . you can’t listen to her, Wendy. You aren’t letting anything she said get to you, are you?”
“No,” I lied. Pulling my sleeve up over my hand, I erased my drawings on the window and sat up straighter. “How do you know?”
“That she’s insane. That . . . I’m not a monster.” I twisted my thumb ring nervously and stared at Matt, who just shook his head. “I’m being serious. What if I am bad?”