The Girl and the Doll, Part 1

I remember it. She was here. She sat over there, quietly writing letters. I remember. Sitting together with my smiling mother. I’m certain I’ll never forget that scene. Not until the day I die.

That of the scribe is a long and distinguished profession.

With the rise of the Auto Memories Doll, it teetered toward extinction for a moment. But there was no small number of people who loved and protected such tried and true professions.

Even in this age of the automatous scribe’s rise to prominence, there existed lovers of the good old days who, in fact, preferred those traditional ways of doing things.

The mother of Anne Magnolia was one such lover of the good old days.

With freckles, naturally wavy black hair, and nearly rail-thin frames, mother and daughter looked exactly alike.

Anne’s mother was from a wealthy family. She had been doted upon at home until being married off, such that even as she grew in years there was always the air of a coddled daughter about her. From her light, airy smile and artless laughter, anyone would have guessed she was forever young.

When Anne thought about her mother, it occurred to her that she was like a young girl even now.

Though clumsy at everything she tried, her mother was always brimming with curiosity. And each time she declared to Anne, “I’ve got something new to try!”, the daughter would shake her head in gentle exasperation. “Here we go again.”

From paddleboats and dog runs to quilting and ikebana from the East. She loved picking up new hobbies and tended to delight in those things loved by little girls. Whenever she took a trip to visit the stage, it was, inevitably, to see a love story.

She was ever so fond of lace and ribbon, and the clothes she chose for herself were dresses and gowns like what princesses from children’s stories would wear. She forced these things upon her daughter Anne as well, always wanting to be in matching outfits.

Anne, for her part, had her own reservations about a woman of that age always donning outfits covered in ribbons. Yet not once did she voice these feelings.

Anne loved her mother more than anyone in the world. In fact, she felt that she loved her mother even more than herself. The young girl was convinced that she was the only person there to protect her mother, who was certainly not a strong person.

That was how blindly Anne loved her mother.

It was after her beloved mother had fallen ill, during the march of days to her end, that Anne met the Auto Memories Doll.

Though she had many memories with her mother, somehow what always came to Anne’s mind were the few days they spent together with their mysterious visitor.

The “thing” arrived on a very clear spring day.

The single road stretching into the distance was bathed in beautiful spring sunlight. The flowers at the roadside, which had poked their heads out from the melting snow, were waving their necks gently in the wind.

Anne was in the garden, watching the “thing” draw near.

Anne's mother had inherited an old-fashioned, exquisite country house atop a hill. With whitewashed walls and a blue roof, surrounded by thick birch trees, the house looked as if it were an illustration in a fairy tale.

It stood all alone in a spot quite some distance from the nearest bustling town. From the house, one could look in any direction and not see any neighboring homes. And because of that, the arrival of a visitor could easily be ascertained with a mere glance from the window.

“Whaaat… is that?”

Anne was wearing a smock dress with a large, striped bow of light blue at its neck. Her face was a bit plain, but she was adorable nonetheless. Her big, dark brown eyes were opened so wide it seemed as if they were ready to spill right out.

When Anne pried her gaze away from the “thing” bathed in sunlight and walking toward their house, she pushed her floral, patent leather shoes as fast as she was able, running from the garden back into the house.

She blew through the wide entryway, raced up the spiral staircase whose walls were dotted with portraits of relatives, and threw open a door at the top, on which hung a wreath of pink roses.

“Mom!”

Anne burst into the room, completely out of breath, only for her mother to lift herself very slightly up from the bed in order to chide her.

“Anne, how many times have I told you to please knock when entering a room? And how about a proper greeting?”

A tinge of petulance plucked at the scolded girl, but she lowered herself down and plucked at the hem of her skirt in a proper curtsy.

In that pose, she looked the perfect little lady. But in truth, Anne was a child. Just seven years had passed since she came into the world. Her limbs and face were bright and soft.

“Mother, I’m sorry to disturb you.”

“Better. Now, what is it? Did you find another strange bug outside? Your mum isn’t the least bit interested to see it.”

“It’s not a bug! There’s a doll walking toward the house. Umm, it’s a doll, see, but much bigger than an ordinary doll. It’s a girl doll, like one out of that photo book of porcelain dolls you like so much.”

Her speech was unrefined. It came out in short bursts like coughs. Anne’s mother clicked her tongue.

“A female doll.”

“Mom!”

“You’re the daughter of a Magnolia. Your words are to be elegant and beautiful. Once more, please.”

Anne puffed out her cheeks and reluctantly repeated herself.

“A female doll! It’s coming this way!”