Jenny saw red when she emerged from her bedroom the next morning to find Rick snoring on the sofa and a half-full glass of flat beer leaving a ring on her cherrywood coffee table. She was about to kick him awake when an extra shadow falling from the mantle over the fireplace caught her eye. Standing there, among the picture frames and candlesticks, was a little girl, about two years old by the look of her. Jenny began to dart across the room, making it halfway there before she stopped short and realized that of course, the child was a statue, bearing unmistakable signs of Rick's hand in its creation.
"I think she came out all right," came Rick's sleep-thickened call from behind her.
"She's beautiful," Jenny whispered, reaching out to touch the perfect pink dress, the perfect matching ribbons at the ends of the perfect pigtails. "Perfect."
Rick started to protest, but stopped as he was struck by how like Jenny the statue's face really was. It was a child's face, to be sure, but was in every way a tiny Jenny.
"You know," he said, "I think you're right."
Though it was inadvertent on his part, having set out to merely create a little girl such as the one who might have lived in that forsaken room where he'd found the weird metal doll that was now the statue's skeleton, it seemed that what Rick had crafted was a peace-envoy. Now that Jenny had a child that was part her and part Rick, she was able to admit that her bout of baby frenzy was motivated by nothing so much as sibling rivalry. With life rapidly returning to normal, Jenny suggested that they go out for breakfast to really get the day off to the right start.
"...and really," she said over her second cup of coffee, unable to stray from the topic for long, "she'll be the one jealous in the end, with a kid that won't make a peep all night or cause any disruption whatsoever, for that matter. What should we name her, do you think?"
Rick had been phasing in and out of the chatter, but choked on his coffee at that last. Was she serious about this? "What do you mean, name it? What for? It's just a doll." Jenny glared at him, making him fear for a second that the cease-fire was over.
"Every doll has a name," she said, injecting a full dose of Don't-Talk-To-Me-Like-I'm-Stupid into every word.
"Not every one," he answered as blandly as he could manage. "The doll on the Island of Misfit Toys didn't have a name. Now I think of it, none of the toys had names."
"Charlie-in-the-box!" she fired back.
"Yeah, and no one wants a Charlie-in-the-box."
The settling of mugs on saucers was thunderous.
"Fine-Okay, name it-it doesn't have to, whatever you-if you think it's--"
"You first," Jenny ordered.
Rick smiled. "Name it--her whatever you like."
"How about Ilsa," she volunteered, a trifle too brightly.
He winced and said, "you know Ilsa and Rick were lovers, right?"
"Oh. Well, Isabella, then. For Ingrid Bergman's daughter. How's that? I think your dad would like it."
"Works for me."
Jenny wailed. They'd arrived home to find the little plaster girl broken on the hardwood floor.
"Don't worry," Rick said, "I'll fix her."
When he stood Isabella up on his workbench to survey the damage, he found that it wasn't as bad as it had seemed at first. The sculpting compound he'd used was naturally resistant to cracking, and the only true breakage was at the joints. At the hips and knees, the cracks went all the way through to the metal bones underneath, as if someone had tried to twist the legs off or make the doll run. Now there was an idea, Rick thought. Instead of repairing the wounds in the "flesh," what if he worked with them and made Isabella a little more lifelike, with articulated limbs? A quick inspection informed him that the skeleton inside would support that concept so, satisfied with the genius of his idea and eager for his wife's anticipated delight, he got to work.
A few hours later, Jenny was all smiles once more, taking delight in sitting Isabella next to her on the sofa, and dancing her around the dining room table. Rick observed this with amusement, though it was tempered with a twinge of worry over what he felt was truly bizarre behavior for a grown woman. Eventually, though, it got late, and even a new toy such as Isabella couldn't keep Jenny's eyelids from drooping forever. While Rick went about locking the doors and turning off the lights, Jenny placed Isabella reverently upon the mantle once more and joined her husband.
Rick woke once in the night and swore aloud when he tripped over the lifelike doll, lying as she was right outside the bedroom door. He tossed Isabella on the sofa, continued to the bathroom, then went back to bed, vowing to give Jenny a piece of his mind. If she was going to regress to the age of six while she played with a doll, fine, but she could at least be a responsible six-year-old and put her toys away when she was done. He briefly contemplated waking her up to share in his crankiness, but ultimately decided he'd get his chance in the morning.
He was wrong. The guys with guns showed up in the morning. Strike that. The big, scary guys who hated Asians and had government-issued authority to use whatever tactics deemed necessary showed up in the morning. All thoughts of irritation at Jenny were long forgotten as she clung to him, vibrating with the effort of keeping her tears at bay while they were informed that they'd be vacating the premises immediately. No, not in a day so they could pack their things. Not in an hour so they could shower and change clothes. They would vacate the premises immediately. As the MP was telling them for the last time, no one noticed the sound of a pair of feet not clad in heavy boots marching through the house.
Rick saw no merit to arguing. He gently but firmly hauled his wife with him out the front door, doing his best to ignore the red dots from laser sights that were dancing on their backs as they went. When they'd joined their neighbors on the sidewalk, the guns began to lower. Jenny turned for one last look.
"Isabella!" she screamed.
"Are you crazy?" Rick hissed, but followed Jenny's pointing finger to a shadow moving past the MP standing in the front doorway. He had no time to marvel at the doll's impossibly outstretched arms or wonder how he'd missed whatever motorized components propelled it forward.
"What the fuck?"
Suddenly the laser lights had a new stage to dance upon. The soldier who'd shouted started to laugh, then Isabella took a clockwork step forward. He drew and fired in one seamless motion. Isabella took another step. When the magazine was empty, they all stared, soldier and civilian alike at the toddler's corpse, watching as the plaster dust settled upon her, white against the pooling red.
© 2009 Heather Harris