I take the last steps two at a time and grab her in a bear hug. She feels so frail. So small. Delicate like the thin graphite of a pencil, or a budding corn stalk.
“What’s wrong?” she asks. She asks so normally. I forget where we are. She smells very rich, like double cream, and the smell and her little hand wrapped around my thumb reassures me and then I’m crying, shaking, rattling against her.
“What’s wrong?” she asks again.
“Come on,” I say, wiping my eyes. “Let’s just go home.”
“But,” she says, looking up at me with wide eyes, a wry smile, a quizzical mouth, she says, “but we are at home.”
She touches the wall. The wallpaper, dark red, bubbles like blistered skin under her touch. I don’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s that simple. I don’t believe it. It begins to change colour, from red to grey. I’ve seen the grey wallpaper before, and the pattern is familiar. She takes her hand away and the colour retreats until the wall is red again. I pinch my arm. I touch Ginny’s shoulder. I ran my hand across the wall.
“See?” she asked. “Did you see that?”
She takes my hand, her fingers are cold. It is much colder now than it was a minute ago. I am cold, too.
“Come and hear the screams,” she says, “come and see them.”
By the hand she leads me up the stairs and along the hallway to the closed bedroom door. She pauses and looks back at me, smiling, one hand on the knob.
“Are you ready?” she asks. “We’ve been here before, you just can’t remember. I’ll show you.”
“Don’t be scared,” Mum had said.
Ginny opened the door.