There is one light aglow in the little house. It flickers like a spotlight above the table, the resin food glistening beneath it. A glazed roast chicken. A basket of bread. Jam that never goes down. I watch you as you sit there, staring at the feast. Sometimes you stare at the newspaper, too, but you never pick it up. Your hands don’t work that way.
You have one of those painted faces. Beautiful, with a small nose and rounded cheeks, dashed with rouge. Curls frame your face; they are auburn and look like fire when the sun shines in through the tall window. Once, those curls were tidy, but that was a while ago, when you were boxed and new, when your clothes were free of stains and the dust hadn’t gathered beneath your eyes.
You are young, but not too young. When you first arrived I wasn’t sure about you. Were you the lady of the house? You didn’t look as regal, but that was fine; sometimes we could dress you up, in a different frock. Sometimes satin, sometimes something flouncy with pleats, that would move as you twirled around in that little kitchen. I knew you weren’t staff – certainly not – you didn’t have the uniform.
You had a companion once. The man of the house. With his little oversized suit and mop of curly dark hair. He’d sit at the same table in the little kitchen, with his newspaper and coffee that he never finished. He’d read the paper but never turn the page, and the both of you would sit, all silent and unmoving.
But he took a tumble. Down the slippery, wooden stairs, his porcelain body all smashed up. He was no good after that. That’s the trouble; you’re too fragile.
Now you wear that same expression each day, until you’re moved to another room in your big, open house. And I watch. I listen.
I watch as they arrive with food left untouched, food you say tastes like wax because everything does to you now. I watch as they bring flowers, more and more, until they take up the kitchen and suffocate you with forced colour, forced apology, and I see your painted face, how it smiles when you see those people, how it vanishes once they’re gone and you’re back at the table, and the dust, the grey dust that surrounds your eyes – you wipe it away on your sleeve and sit there, sit there until the light flickers again.
You don’t move. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You don’t see me, or hear my silent shouts across the room. I’m here, I’m here.
Because everyone knows dolls don’t speak. They can only watch.
When the last light goes out in the little house, I wait. Until tomorrow, when we will sit together again, silent and unmoving.
Elle is a novelist and flash fiction writer from Bristol, UK. Her words have appeared at Retreat West, The Drabble, 5 Minute Lit and more. She’s fond of the seaside, ghost stories and filling her house with too many books. You can find her on Twitter: @seventhelle
photo by edgeeffectmedia.com (via unsplash)