BellaOnline Literary Review
Bearded Iris by Lisa Shea


The Dollhouse

Susan Pierce

There’s a girl in the dollhouse who stands up straight and has long brown hair that falls to her waist. Her hair curls at its ends and springs up with a bounce. She smiles and wraps a curl around her finger, then picks up the wooden hair brush from her vanity. She sits and brushes her hair. The vanity is in a pink room. Ruffled lace curtains hang from her windows like puffy, white clouds. She likes these things--her curtains, the vanity and her pink room. They are as she would have them.

In the mirror she blinks her doe-brown eyes, round as teacups. Her hair is just a shade lighter than her eyes. Her brush a shade darker. Her face is oval. Her skin clear and soft. Some would say porcelain like the dolls made for her house. But she is not porcelain; she is real, made of flesh and blood, as are all little girls.

On her bed sits a teddy bear. A fuzzy creature with black button eyes. He comforts her on the nights when the lights in her house are off. When the visitor does not come to play.

She wonders if tonight will be one of those nights. Will he come tonight? She thinks as she strokes her hair with the brush. Will he want to play with me? The silky smooth strands fall over her bosom.

She has been a girl for so long she forgot she is grown up. Her body has matured and she looks like a woman. But in her pink room with her lace curtains and her loving teddy bear she is a girl, where she will always remain.

Unless he lets her out.

Will he let her out? Ever? She wonders and looks behind her, away from her vanity and her pink room toward the glass partition that covers the back of her dollhouse, to the beyond where he lives and she does not.

It’s nice in here. Her things are as she would have them. She is safe and he loves her. He keeps her there to keep her safe. With teddy.

Sometimes she wants out. Sometimes she puts her face to the glass and stares. She wonders what it is like. Is the air different? Colder? Warmer? What does it smell like? Is the carpet as soft on her feet as hers is in her room in her dollhouse?

In those moments when she thinks it might be nicer out, warmer or cooler or softer, she presses her face to the glass and wishes.

Those are the nights when he comes to her. He plays with her and makes her forget. She is happy to talk to him, to tell him what teddy said. Or how long her hair has grown. “See,” she says, “it’s getting so long.”

“Beautiful,” he says, “very beautiful.”

She smiles and forgets that she wants out. Forgets the glass wall on the backside of the dollhouse.

When she looks up in the mirror again and sees her face and the sheen of her hair and the reflection of the glass wall glinting off her mirror, she thinks, “Tonight, if my visitor comes I will not forget. I will ask him to let me out.”

And when he comes and strokes her silken hair and she stares at him with her bright round eyes she starts to forget. She leans into his hand and his comfort. She closes her eyes to feel his welcoming touch. She feels her desire for freedom slip away. Why does she want out? Isn’t she happy in here? Doesn’t she love her room and her things?

Yes . . . and yet . . .

She opens her eyes and stares straight out of the glass wall, straight out where other visitors live with room to roam, room to grow, where they are not little girls in dollhouses. Maybe she would love it out there too. She would love the tan carpet as much as the pink. She would, maybe, love the way the air would touch her skin, from room to room and even outside.

She feels a deep breath catch in her breast. She feels her heart beat in her chest. Yes, she would love it. He could teach her to love it with his comfort. He would show her how to be safe. He loves her. He has said so.

But when she pulls away to tell him and he sees the look of excitement come over her face, he shakes his head.

Before she can even speak, he puts a finger to her lips. He brushes the hair back from her cheeks. “What did teddy say today?” he asks.

She clamped her mouth shut. I will not answer, she thinks, and turns away.

“Beautiful,” he says, his endearment to her, of her. “Don’t walk away. Tell me, what did teddy say?”

She crosses her arms over her chest and refuses to look at him. Instead, she stares at the glass wall.

“Beautiful,” he says slowly, calling to her with his voice, to lull her, keep her.

She moves to the wall and puts her hands against the glass. She presses them flat and pushes, wishing the wall would fall away and she could walk out. One step. Two step.

“Beautiful,” he calls, his voice sounding sharp, like a command.

She doesn’t turn around. Even though her stomach flutters and her pulse races, she keeps her hands to the wall and pushes out. The wall will not budge, nor break nor crack. The wall will not set her free. Nor will he.

But, doesn’t he give her everything, every need, every comfort? Why not this? Can’t she visit him as he does her? “Please,” she says hoping he will let her go.

“No,” he shakes his head. “No. Come my beautiful, let´s brush your hair.” He sits at the vanity and picks up her brush. He holds it out for her to take.

She does not want to leave the wall. If she sits with him and he brushes her hair, she will forget. She will close her eyes and forget.

The pink carpet feels like cotton on her toes. It is soft underfoot and warm on cold nights. Her bed waits for her. And teddy. The visitor will brush her hair, then put her to bed and she will wake up in the morning to the light coming in through her window.

But the light is not sunlight. It is lamplight. From his lamps in his room where her dollhouse is kept.

She bites her lip and looks out through the glass. No, she thinks. No.

She turns and strides toward him. He smiles, holding out the brush for her to take. She takes the brush and runs her fingers over the soft bristles. Then with great force, she hurls the brush across the room at the partition. The wall smashes into hundreds of shards of tinkling pink glass.

She is free. All she has to do is walk out. One step. Two step.

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