I Used to Talk to Dolls

I sat looking at all the dolls in Mrs. Pettycoat’s window. I just had to have one, so I told my mother. She seemed to be looking into her purse, pretending to play with her wallet before taking a big exhale. “I’m so sorry I seem to have left my credit card at home!”

I was disappointed, but the store clerk looked at me with a sweet smile. “Perhaps this doll would be more to your liking? We have so many that this one is only five dollars,” she smiled down at me and then looked up at my mother. 

I looked at the doll, which was blonde with a long blue sparkly evening gown on. I was shockingly pleased because she was so glamorous.

“Five dollars?” asked my mother.

“Yes, for the pretty princess, only five dollars,” the shopkeeper grinned again, and I remembered thinking it was like sugar.

“Well, Angie, if that is what you want, you will have it by all means.” My mother seemed pleased, and I was even more so.

The doll had come in your typical cardboard box with the opening covered in plastic to showcase her beauty.

I held the box on my lap during the ride home. There was something satisfying about her appearance. Her perfectly combed long blonde hair, plump reddish cheeks, and long lashes blinked on their own, covering big blue eyes.

I held her closer as we approached the street where our pretty white house with pink shutters was. It was a tiny home at the very end of a dead-end road surrounded by woods.  

I noticed my father’s car was not in the driveway. I sighed, a bit relieved. Dad wasn’t always the calm parental figure my mother was. They fought a lot over what my mother spent. So today, buying me the doll was an expense he wouldn’t like. My mother knew not to tell me to hide it from him. She knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret. A new doll was precious, and there was no way I was parting with it.

That evening I woke to hear my father yelling at my mother about something. I got out of my bed, crept to my bedroom door, and opened it about an inch. My father was furiously going on about how much he makes and that my mother only takes every penny. I thought about the doll, and at that moment, I decided to hide it from my father. I put it in my closet in a chest with my old baby clothes. I didn’t say anything to my mother about it. When it was all said and done, I figured she would forget about it, now concerned with other worries.  

I never took it out of the closet unless I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed. I began taking it out only at night when my parents were in bed. I’d comb her hair, put her in other delicate dresses, and tell her all my secrets. In my mind, I believed she listened to me.  

I loved my doll and was sad I had to keep her hidden. I didn’t want it to remind my father of my mother spending his money. I had good reason to be afraid. One night while I was sitting at the table, my mother asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween.  

“I want to be a doll,” I said, grinning.

My father was unamused.  

“Why not be a ghost? Then I don’t have to spend so much damn money on costumes.” my father said, scraping his fork against his teeth.

“We can make her a doll very easily, Christian,” my mother said. 

“I’m not spending any money on a costume. Throw a sheet over her damn head, cut some holes out for eyes, and let her walk around like Casper.” 

“Oh, I have some old clothes upstairs and a funny wig. I can make Angie into a doll easily. I won’t have to spend a penny. Not one single cent of yours” said my mother half angrily. 

My father only ignored my mother and then looked at me. He smiled almost wickedly, and I knew he was thinking something evil. I loved my father. He could be a wonderful man, but he was cruel when he wanted to be, especially to my mother.  

“Say, have I ever shown you my old costume from when I was a kid?”

I shook my head, and my mom looked at him suspiciously.

“It is in the basement in the second box down the stairs; say go get that box for me, will you?” he asked my mother.

“After I finish up these dishes,”

“I said now!” he was no longer grinning at us.

My mother didn’t want him to become violent, which he could sometimes do, so she did as instructed. She opened the basement door and went slowly down. When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she yelled to my father, “Where is the box, Christian?”

My father winked at me and then got up and shut the basement door locking it. He burst into laughter like I had never seen. 

“Your mother is scared to death of the dark,” my father laughed. “Do you think we can see how long we can get her to stay down there before she freaks out?”

“I don’t like this game, daddy,” I grew concerned for my mother. It was true she hated the dark, only I never knew why. I imagined it was something to do with when she was a little girl. 

“Eat your dinner. I’ll let her up as long as you finish every last bite,”

I hurriedly ate my dinner as I heard my mother screaming for someone to unlock the basement door. She began to grow frantic now. I stood up with my plate clean, showing it to my father.

“I said every last bite,” he said, ignoring me. 

I looked at the plate, and it was scraped bare. I didn’t know what more I could eat.

My mother screamed again.  

“CHRISTIAN, LET ME OUT OF HERE!”

He continued to ignore her, chuckling to himself. I looked at my father, tears in my eyes.

“Daddy, please let mommy upstairs,”

“I told you not till every last bite is eaten,”

“It is; there is nothing on my plate,” I begged.

“There is another plate still to be eaten,” he said, shoving my mother’s plate in front of me.

“But what will mommy eat? There isn’t any dinner left.”

He laughed and picked up a newspaper and began to read it. All the while, my mother was now beating on the door. I began to cry, barely choking down the food on my mother’s plate. I was scared my father would lock me down there if I didn’t eat the food on my mom’s plate. 

Finally, I choked down the last of it when I heard something loud coming from my bedroom. My father stopped what he was doing and looked towards the balcony of the stairs.  

He was suddenly concerned and decided it wasn’t worth dealing with my mom and me. He opened the basement door, and my mom looked horrified. My father walked past her and up the stairs.  

He walked around, looking for the source of the loud sound. My father finally stopped by my bedroom door.  

“Is this a joke, Angie?” he asked, coming downstairs.

“What?” I asked. 

My father held up a drawing. It was red paint, and I had never seen it before.

“Do you think this is funny?” he asked me. 

“I don’t know, daddy,” I didn’t know.

“Look at this disgusting drawing. Do you want to hurt your father?”

Right now, I did after what he did to my mother. I shook my head no.

He put the picture in front of my face, and I could see what looked like a little girl stabbing a tall man. Under it, in red ink, it said daddy and me. I did not draw the picture. I had never seen it before in my life. My mother ripped the drawing out of my father’s hand to see it. Then she looked at me.

“What would ever make you draw such a thing?”

“I didn’t draw it!”

I ran to my room and shut my door. I cried so hard because I knew that this meant I would be in trouble. My father opened my door, and that is when I saw him look at me.  

“Turn off the lights and go to bed. You will go to bed every night this week by seven sharp. You can always draw a new picture if you don’t like it.” 

I cried into my pillow that night, figuring that I wouldn’t be allowed to dress up for Halloween by the weekend. I knew my father would keep me home. I looked at the closet door where my beautiful doll was. 

“I hate him! I wish he were dead!”  I cried into my doll’s shoulder.

I cried all night until I had to get up for school. By morning the house was changed. No longer was it dark and brooding. My father was at work, and my mom was in a cheery mood. I didn’t know why, but it made me mad.

“Angie, I have a wonderful idea for your costume. I just need to borrow Mrs. Johnson’s sewing machine. When I’m finished, you are going to love it! Now off to the bus stop before you’re late!”

I left the house, my dress a bit wrinkly and my hair half done, but I was glad to be out of that house. I didn’t know what it was but whenever I was away from my house and my doll I was happy. I was obsessed with my doll baby when I was home, and everything was a bit scary.   I never did indeed understand what made me so possessed by a doll. I continued to dress her up, love her, and dote on her as if I were some kind of slave to her.  

It wasn’t until I was away that I noticed my behavior. My father let me dress for Halloween, and my mother took great pride in what she had done for me.

When I saw my costume dress, I nearly fell over. She had used one of her old ballroom dresses and dyed it to match my doll. She put a blonde wig on my head and used her own makeup to match my doll’s makeup.  

“Angie, isn’t this the best costume yet?” My mom was so proud.

I looked over at my doll as my mother held it up, and I remembered I always kept her hidden in my closet. I assumed my mother had long forgotten her. I had taken great care to keep her out of my parents’ prying eyes.  

I looked at the doll, and then I looked at my mom. I managed a smile even though it was a bit odd. Even as a child, I recalled thinking it was strange. I wasn’t sure how my mother had found her hidden deep in the back of my chest. She had never gotten into it before, and as I stood trying to figure out what was going on, I saw my mom’s expression change.  

“What is wrong, Angie?”

“Where did you find her?” I asked finally.

“I found her on your bed, silly.”

“I don’t keep her in my bed. She lives in my closet,” I said. I was mad at my mother’s betrayal. She had never gone through my things before. My mother was supposed to be the good one. I was angry, but I hid it. 

“What difference does it make where I found her? Aren’t you happy with the costume?”

I only nodded. 

She put blush on my cheeks and drew on some cartoon-like eyebrows. When she was done, I looked as plastic as my doll.   I was happy with the costume but couldn’t get the thought out of my head about the doll. We went outside, but soon my mother stopped.

“I forgot something inside. Wait here; it will only be a minute.”

It seemed forever, but then my mother came out all smiles. She had painted red clown makeup on her mouth to look like she had a big wicked smile. She had also put her hair in pigtails, and I laughed. It was going to be a fun night.

My mother’s makeup seemed to run down her cheek. It looked like blood under the street lights. 

“Mom, your makeup is messy,”

“It is okay; people will think it is part of the costume!”

My mother took me out trick or treating. We went to each house as I happily collected candy in an old sack my mother had given me. I had left my doll at home on the sofa. I had meant to bring it with us to show I was a replica of the doll itself. I forgot it as I realized how many houses were passing out candy that year. I went from house to house. When the night had dwindled on, and the last kid dressed like a vampire got his last Reese’s Peanut Butter Bar, we headed home.

When we got home, I went straight to the living room, where I knew I would find my father watching some scary movie. It was something he did every year while my mother took me trick or treating.

When I got inside the house, I said hello to my father, who seemed transfixed in the television movie he was watching. I found my doll on the floor next to his recliner and took her to my room. I went up the stairs, candy under my arm. I opened my bedroom door and turned on my bedroom lamp. As usual, I laid my doll on the floor and began talking to her.  

“I got three of those big suckers that look like pumpkins. I got three ghost marshmallows, a bunch of chocolates, and my favorite sweet tarts.” 

I overheard my father saying something to my mother when I heard them begin to fight. I shut my bedroom door and sat on the floor with my doll. I had started to get into my familiar routine of talking to my doll until I got tired. I had forgotten to take off my makeup and fell asleep on my floor with my baby doll in hand.  

I only stayed up for about an hour each night after bedtime, but the late nights eventually got to me. When I awoke, I found myself in the middle of a puddle of blood. My Halloween costume was covered in blood; at first, I thought it was fake blood from something I had received for Halloween. Then I looked, and it seemed to spill over into my room. 

The doll was lying beside me, completely bare of any blood spatter. I was beginning to get worried that I had fallen or hurt myself in my sleep but felt no pain. Then I saw that the puddle of blood was coming from the hallway. I stood and opened the door, and there on the floor was my mother. She was breathing heavily, and I noticed that she had a wounded stomach. I looked around for my father.

I didn’t see him right away. I only wanted to help my mother. I called out to my father, but he did not answer. I looked at my mom, who was still alive, but even at a young age, I could see she would not be around long if I didn’t find help.

I raced downstairs to where I had last seen my father. He was still sitting in the chair with his head facing the television.  

“Dad!” I yelled.

He said nothing, and then I ran around to face him and looked at his face. He was pale white, and a knife was inside his eyeball. I screamed and ran from the house to my next-door neighbors for help.

The rest of the night was a blur, except when I watched my mother being carried away in an ambulance. I kept hearing her screaming to the EMT and one of the police officers.  

“It was that doll! It was that doll!” as she screamed this, she kept pointing at me as I stood in my costume. I said nothing at all. I didn’t understand why she was saying it was the doll. 

One of the officers came over to me and sat with me for a while as they went over to the crime scene as we waited on my aunt Macy, who finally arrived a bit later to take me home with her. I got into her car, and one of the officers handed me my doll. I petted her hair and said nothing. 

I was still in my doll costume. Together we sat in the back of the car. We looked exactly alike: same hair, same blue sparkly dress, same curly pigtails, rosy cheeks, and bright blue eyes. The only difference was I had a smile on my face, and she had none.  

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