Dolls by Eva Langston

            Some people swore the house was haunted.  Haunted by Audrey Taylor, the child to whom it had belonged, or maybe haunted by the dolls who had lived there.  Inside the little rooms, plates the size of dimes sat on the dining table, and the kitchen was stocked with plastic food.  There was a nursery with a miniature rocking horse, and a pink room with a canopy bed.  But there was no family to enjoy the tiny treasures.  Mrs. Taylor had thrown them out long ago.

Audrey’s father gave her the doll house on her tenth birthday.

“Was it very expensive?” Mrs. Taylor asked her husband later when they were alone in their room that evening.  She worried that he spoiled Audrey, who was their only child.

“I think she deserves something nice this year.”  Mr. Taylor climbed into his side of the bed and turned on the reading light.

Mrs. Taylor knew he had bought the doll house as a way of winning back his daughter’s affection.  Audrey and her father had always been close, but recently she’d started pulling away, acting angry and sullen and strange.  Mr. Taylor took it personally.  Mrs. Taylor assumed it was her age.  Audrey had recently begun to develop breasts, and maybe the mood swings were caused by a rage of adolescent hormones.

In the days after her birthday, Audrey’s temperament did not improve.  Like the gray winter weather outside, she was quiet and solemn.  She didn’t want to play with her friends from school, and she spent hours alone in her room, moving the dolls from one room to the next, making them speak in whispered conversation.

One day, Mrs. Taylor stopped outside of Audrey’s door and listened.

“Mommy, isn’t God supposed to protect us from bad things?”

Through the crack in the door, Mrs. Taylor could see Audrey sitting in front of her doll house, moving the daughter doll and the mother doll inside the pink bedroom.

“Yes, sweetheart.”  She used a deeper voice to indicate the mother.  “But we’re only truly safe when we get to heaven.”

“What’s heaven like?”

“It’s beautiful and perfect.  Everyone sits in the palm of God’s hand, listening to the angels sing.  Nothing bad ever happens, and everyone is happy.”

Two weeks later, in the middle of the night, Audrey drank a bottle of her father’s best scotch and jumped from the attic window.  People speculated as to whether or not it was an accident.  Mrs. Taylor tried to comfort herself with Audrey’s own words.  She imagined her daughter sitting in God’s palm, surrounded by singing angels.  But even that made her sob.

Mr. Taylor was mute with grief.  At the hospital, where she was pronounced dead, then later back at home, he said nothing, absolutely nothing.  He went to their room and lay in the fetal position on top of the bedspread.  At least, Mrs. Taylor thought, taking off her shoes and curving her body around his, they could be heartbroken together.

The next day they entered Audrey’s room for the first time since the accident.  They needed to pick out a dress for the funeral.

The doll house sat in the very middle of the floor.  Mr. and Mrs. Taylor walked towards it and bent down to look inside.  The mother doll sat in the living room reading a newspaper the size of a postage stamp.  Upstairs, in the pink room, the daughter lay under the covers in her canopy bed.  The father lay on top of her.  Mrs. Taylor turned and saw her husband’s eyes glazed with tears.

            Nothing was ever the same again after that.

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