"That's my letter!" shouted Megan. "You had no right to read it!"
"What?" snapped Helen. "It is not your letter. It's mine."
"She wrote it to me."
"Why on Earth would she do that?"
Megan faltered. 'Because-- because--"
"Please, for the love of God," barked Michael, "go upstairs."
"Michael." Helen whirled on him. "What is she talking about?"
"She found the note in the trash," explained Michael irritably. "Now, Megan--"
"She did?" exclaimed Helen, turning her glare towards her daughter. "Why are you going through the trash?"
"She said she knew what was wrong with me," pleaded Megan.
Frustrated, Helen closed her eyes and put her hand on her forehead. "Oh Jesus."
"I want my letter." Megan suddenly lunged for the papers in her mother's hand, but her father grabbed her and held her fast.
"It's not your letter, Megan!" snapped Helen. "Stop it!"
"What does it say?" Megan begged, her face desperate.
"Like I said, it's bullshit."
"Tell me. Please."
"Megan," warned her father. "Remember what we talked about."
Megan looked at him angrily.
"What did you talk about?" interjected Helen.
"I'll tell you as soon as Megan goes upstairs." He fixed Megan with a threatening look.
Megan glared at both her parents, then sullenly turned and stomped up the stairs. She went into her room and slammed the door as hard as she could. Flopping down on her bed, she seethed with anger.
It was her letter.
Or was it?
Maybe Maria hadn't received the reply Megan had sent. Or maybe-- she had ignored it?
Suddenly, she felt a sting of betrayal. Whose side are you on, Grandma? I told you she had thrown your letter away!
Through her bedroom door, raised voices wafted up from downstairs. Her parents were arguing. She rose and crossed over to the door, pressing her ear against it to hear better, but the house was pretty solidly built, and the door effectively muffled their words. Not wanting them to hear her, she slowly turned the knob and pulled the door open a crack.
"Read that," her mother snapped, and Megan heard an angry rustle of papers. "Read that, and tell me again that this woman should be involved in Megan's life in any way."
There was a long silence, broken only by the clipped staccato of footsteps. Helen was pacing.
"Wait," said her father suddenly. "Wait...what?"
"You see what I mean?" asked Helen triumphantly.
"Is she serious?"
"I have no idea. Either she's serious, and she's lost her mind, or she's not, and she thinks this is some kind of joke."
"Some joke," said her father incredulously.
"I know. "
There was a long pause, and then her father spoke. "Hmmmm...okay."
"Still want to contact her?" challenged Helen.
"Not so sure that's such a good idea," mused her father, and Megan winced. He was going back on his promise now?
The tears leaped to her eyes, and she despaired. Who would help her? Not her mother, whose own anger put her beyond reach; not her father, who once again was acquiescing to her mother's demands; not Maria, who ignored her request for help to go over her head to her mother, who had already refused to hear her once; not her friends, as she no longer had any. She was all alone, a girl with a freak condition and parents who, in spite of all the doctors and the precautions, were ultimately too weak to do everything they could to help her.
Then she remembered the museum fountain, and how the lush, clear water had flowed with abandon, filling the air with whispers that cried out to her.
Quietly she slipped out of her room, hoping that her parents' argument would distract them long enough for her to do what she needed to do.
She crept into the bathroom, carefully closed and locked the door behind her, and walked over to the tub. She bent over, pulled the drain closed, then opened the faucet. The water flowed heavily into the tub, frothing over the drain and sending a ripple, gentle but insistent, towards the back. Slowly the water level rose, and Megan watched with fascination until the water was several inches deep.
How much is enough? Will this do it?
She shut off the tap and waited, listening, but after a few minutes, it was clear that her parents hadn't heard anything.
She took off her shoes but elected to keep the rest of her clothes on; she thought that being found naked would be humiliating. The rash would be troubling enough, but there was nothing to be done about that.
She decided not to leave a note. Notes were what had caused all the trouble in the first place, and anyway, they would know why.
Then Megan climbed into the water and lay down.