When it comes right down to it, this is all my mother’s fault.
My mother has always loved dolls. When I was a little girl, she gave me some of the dolls she’d had as a child: gorgeous, eighteen-inch beauties with real human hair and eyes that closed. Each came with an extravagant wardrobe hand-made by my grandmother, including everything from evening gowns to muslin underpants. Each doll was pristine, clean and cared for – my mother, even when she was little, was meticulous with her things.
Oh, how she wanted me to be a doll girl…but I hated them. After all, what could you do with a doll? Dress it up? Change its clothes? Do its hair? I didn’t even like doing my own hair. And baby dolls? I was the youngest, but I still knew about babies. Sure, they were cute; but then there was the feeding and the changing and the cleaning up. And the crying. I never saw a baby that was anything like one of the elegant dolls my mother gave me.
I never understood the purpose of dolls. I still don’t. And my mother still loves them. Which is how I ended up with Celia in my bedroom on the nightstand.
Celia is one of those weird Kewpie dolls, with the red mohawk and that mischievous sidelong look. She has clothes, at least, although my mother tells me they are not original. Someone sewed her a hideous poufy purple dress, and tied a matching satin bow around her plastic head. I am having trouble deciding if the clothes make her more or less weird.
“She won’t like it,” I told my mother, when she brought the doll for my daughter. My daughter is eight, and an organizer. She collects only Barbies because they are all the same size. She strips them naked and lays them down in neat rows on the floor, arranged by hair color. Her room looks like a little Mattel morgue.
“That’s okay,” my mother said airily. “If she doesn’t like it, we can sell it. It’s in good shape; that woman at the garage sale didn’t know what she had. You can help me list it on eBay, can’t you?”
My daughter, with her wonderful streak of brutal honesty, took one look at Celia and frowned. “What’s that?” she asked me.
“It’s a doll,” I told her. “Grandma brought it for you.”
Her nose wrinkled. “It’s kind of weird.” She looked at me. “Maybe you should keep it.”
So Celia ended up on my nightstand, waiting for the day when I’d have the time and inclination to take some fuzzy photographs and list her online.
The timing has been awful. There’s the Job from Hell, of course, which still pays the bills; but mostly it’s my damn novel. Turned down by twenty-seven agents already, with three rejections pending. When I started all this I promised myself I’d give it at least a hundred; but that was back when I thought, in the back of my mind, that my novel would sell really fast. Twenty-seven form rejections later, I’m realizing I may have a problem. Evenings I spend editing the damn thing, polishing it down to the bone. If anybody ever asks me for pages, I’ll probably have nothing left to send. But I keep polishing anyway, and lately I don’t sleep very much. My daughter comes by her OCD honestly, I guess.
So last night, while I was sitting up in bed poring over my double-spaced printout of Chapter 2, I was not entirely surprised when Celia stood up, jumped onto the bed, and sat down next to me.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people is…oh, hell, you guys know who you are.
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