What had happened to her own daughter? Where had this child come from, the mother wondered. Who was she? Why did she sit for hours staring at her baby brother, contemplating...who knew what?
It was enough to drive you mad...especially, if you had a history of madness. But the doctors had assured her that was all behind her, a thing of the past...
A short story.
I loved her as a baby, doctor. When she was first born. I told the policeman that. “No one could say I didn’t love that child,” I told him.
It was later that she became, well, not quite a stranger, not at first, but not quite somebody I knew, either. I would see her, sitting on the living room floor, reading. All the time reading. She was always serious. Too serious, I used to tell Jeff. It was as if she were someone I knew only vaguely, at a distance. Like one of the neighbors’ children, but not a right-next-door neighbor, either. Some little girl you knew well enough to wave to when she went by on the sidewalk, and she would wave back and call, “Good morning, Mrs. Mommy.”
Mrs. Mommy. Did you ever hear of a child calling her mother that? I never did. That’s when I began to wonder. What if I really weren’t her mother? But she was the same little girl, wasn’t she, the one I brought home from the hospital, the one I nursed, the one who got me up nights? I never minded that. No, truly, I did love her. I loved my adorable little Caroline. But I may as well confess it, since you want to know: I didn’t love this girl. This stranger. And I couldn’t understand when she had taken Caroline’s place, and why. Or how? That was the mysterious part, the most mysterious. Where had she come from? And where was Caroline?
Jeff was no help. “Do you think Caroline has changed?” I asked him, casually, because I didn’t want him to think—well, there was that other business, but it was so long ago, and the doctors assured me there was nothing to worry about. We asked them, Jeff and I together, before we decided about children.
“Hereditary? Heavens no. There’s nothing to worry about.” They all assured me.