Just this morning I heard the doctor telling Dad, "Mr. David, your daughter doesn't need a physician, she needs a psychiatrist." That old fool. What does he mean I need a psychiatrist? Does he think I am mad? I know I am not crazy. I am normal, perfectly normal. It is just that sometimes I feel. my hands. But first I should tell you about myself. Then you can yourself judge whether I am insane.
 
I am thirteen, but I look younger - about eleven. My mother died a year ago. If you think my mother's death has affected me in some way, you are wrong. Believe me, I didn't care for my mother. She was nothing to me. She was sick, practically an invalid. I don't know how long she had been that way. When she died it hardly made any difference to me. Of course I cried. But if instead my father had died, if something had happened to Dad, then I know I would have gone mad. I love him very much. At least I used to. I always slept with him. His strong arms around me, my little head on his broad chest. I felt so comfortable. so safe. He is very fond of me. At least he was. But now I think he has changed... changed after Lisa's death. No, Lisa was not my mother. I'll explain.
 
Six months after my mother's death, Dad brought Lisa home to dinner. She was his secretary. I had never met her before. She was young, about ten years older than me. Later that night, my Dad told me that Lisa would be my new mother. He was going to marry her.
 
"You need someone to look after you," he said.
 
"But Daddy, we have Shanta..." Shanta was our family servant.
 
"No, child, she is only a servant. You need the loving care of a mother."
 
Two months later, they were married. I was sent to my grandmother's house. Lisa and Dad were going on a holiday. I still remember how sad I was for those two weeks. I was so used to sleeping with Dad, sleeping alone scared me. This was the first time I had been away from Daddy. I couldn't sleep. I would lie awake entire nights, crying.
 
My Dad sent for me when they returned. They had bought me gifts: a new dress, a beautiful pair of shoes. That evening I told Daddy that I couldn't sleep alone. I wanted to sleep with him. "No, Dolly. You have to learn to sleep alone. You are not a child anymore."
 
Even Lisa (she always made me call her that) tried to explain things to me.
 
I was sleeping in mother's room and it scared me. I got up and went to my Daddy's room. The door was locked. I climbed on the ledge and peered through the window. I was shocked. Daddy was kissing Lisa and she was in his arms. She was sleeping just like mother used to. I stifled a sob and rushed to my room, tears streaming down my face.
 
I was filled with hatred. Lisa... how I hated her. I wanted to hurt her... cause her pain... make her weep...
 
It was two days before Christmas. Our house had been whitewashed. We have a large house - double storied and the work had taken nearly two weeks. Lisa was busy arranging things. She wanted me to help her but I had refused, pretending that I had a headache. Actually Dad had asked me to help her. In her condition she was not supposed to exert herself. She was pregnant. I was sitting in my room watching her. She looked funny moving about with her big tummy. She had pulled a stool and standing on it was nailing a poster. It was a picture of a father throwing his little daughter into the air. It was my favourite one. Daddy had given it to me on my birthday. I wanted it in my room.
 
Lisa was standing on the landing at the head of the stairs. An idea occurred to me. I stood up and walked up to her, slowly... very slowly... not making the slightest sound. I wanted to push her. If she fell from that height she would definitely break her legs, I thought. With my arms stretched forward, I waited I think for a fraction of a second, gathering courage to push her. It was then that she turned around. That look...that expression on her face... it will always haunt me. Fear. Oh! How scared, how terrified she looked as she saw me standing with my arms outstretched. She gave a shriek of terror and tried to climb down from the stool. She stumbled and fell - her screams echoing through the house.
 
No. I didn't push her. I swear to God, I didn't even touch her. I peered down and she was lying in a tangled heap at the bottom of the stairs.
 
I heard footsteps. It must have been Shanta because Dad wasn't there at home. I ran into my room and locked the door.
 
"Dolly baby... mistress... she... phone your father..." Shanta was screaming.
 
I didn't go to the funeral.
 
That night father was sitting in his room drinking. I went up to him and asked, "Can I sleep with you today, Daddy?"
 
He didn't say anything. He just looked at me with disgust and hate in his eyes and raised his hands to strike me. I fled to my room scared.
 
I don't exactly remember when I started having the dreams. They were always the same... Lisa was standing on a hill. I was squeezing her white throat. Her tongue was sticking out and my hands were bloody.
 
I woke up screaming; terrified, I looked at my hands. They were itching, burning. I cannot describe the sensation. It was as if a thousand tiny insects were crawling over my palm. I began rubbing them together. I went into the bathroom and washed my hands in cold water. It was no use, the itchy feeling remained. I ran out of the bathroom. I had to do something. There is a neem tree in our garden. I began rubbing my hands on the bark. The skin of my hand was being pierced by needles. I began scraping with all my energy, my hands a bloody mess... I was screaming and crying when my father slapped me... That was a month ago. And this morning Dr. Anand was telling my father that I needed a psychiatrist. Tell me, am I insane?

 

Previous