My toes curled against the cold of the tiles while I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. Faint moonlight shone in through the high window of the bathroom, illuminating my reflection in the mirror above the sink.
I stared into the image of my own eyes and shivered. How precise was the timing of this, anyway? I wanted to check my phone, which lay on the shelf next to the towels, charging. But the light of the screen would ruin my nightvision, so I wrapped my arms around my chest for warmth and waited.
It wasn’t long before the chimes of the neightbours’ grandfather clock echoed through the walls. One, twice, thrice…
“Bloody Mary!” I screamed into the mirror. “Bloody Mary!” My face contorted with raw despair. “BLOODY MARY!”
The last syllable bounced off the tiled walls and faded away. I held my breath, ears primed for any sound but that of the blood rushing through my veins.
I so hoped to hear my mother’s voice again, even if it was just to yell at me.
Initially, everything was silent. It seemed that my mother had taken no notice whatsoever of my incantations. And how could she? I had been so foolish. Superstitious at best.
I was about to go back to bed, but the instant I reached for the handle of the bathroom door, I heard it. Scuffling. Like someone dragged their feet across the carpetted landing on the other side of the door.
My hip hit the edge of the sink as I stumbled backwards. In the moonlight, I saw the door handle jiggle once. Very slowly, it arched down and at click of the releasing lock, the door opened.
I tried to swallow, but couldn’t.
There, outlined against the lightless shadows of the landing, stood a young boy. His pale face was gaunt, and his pyjamas sagged on his stick-thin limbs. With sunken eyes marred by dark circles, he glared at me from the threshold.
“Shut up, mom. It’s late and I want to sleep.”
Out of sheer relief, I began to chuckle. But then it hit me.
I don’t have a child!