Last Laugh

Every now and then, it seemed when she opened her mouth two voices came out. One voice was hers, breathy and soft, squeaky when nervous, giggly when happy. She didn’t like to think about the other voice. To think about the voice was to summon the voice.
It started in assembly during class elections. She was bored, looking at her split ends wondering if Mrs. Trapp would be on her case if she opened her phone.
“As if high school wasn’t bad enough, now we have to listen to this circus. All clowns and monkeys.”
She snickered and the others sitting around her laughed.
She realized she was the one talking. Her face flushed.
In study hall the voice shouted, “Is it okay if I look up how to be a school shooter or does that cross a line?” The room erupted in laughter and she was sent to the vice principal’s office. Mr. Harlan sat on the corner of his desk and told her he was disappointed not angry. No one listened as she tried to explain.
In the supermarket where she bagged groceries the voice sang saucy limericks. In class the voice made wisecracks. During detention she launched into sea shanties. Detentions followed more detentions. Then came the suspensions. Her mother screamed and her stepdad grounded her. They couldn’t understand the change in their sweet girl. She couldn’t explain she hadn’t changed that she was still here behind the voice.
She became terrified to open her mouth, even to eat, even to drink.
She grew pale and thin. Refusing to leave her room, she took to wrapping her head in a scarf tied tight. Her dad even flew in to try to reach her. The voice would only tell his startled face knock knock jokes. Her parents and her stepdad got into a fight. Covering her mouth she ran from the house running from the voice, from the anger, from the pity. She fainted on the Stones’ front yard.
She woke up in the hospital on fluids for her dehydration. Her throat hurt. Her limbs were heavy. Kind faced counselors talked at her, her parents sat at her bedside making soothing conversations. Her class sent her a big get well soon card. She traced the names of the kids she didn’t know and who didn’t know her. Inside the voice snickered. But nothing could make her open her mouth.

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