The Girl and the Doll, Part 2

“Oh, is that so?”

“Only carriages travel along the road in front of our house, right? If someone’s walking along the road, it means they got off at the carriage share stop. And any person who gets off at that stop is most certainly on their way to our house. Isn’t that right?”

“I suppose so.”

“Because our house is sooo far from anything else. So that means she’s coming here!”

Anne added, “And I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

“Someone’s been playing detective today.” Anne’s mother’s words came leisurely, quite in contrast with her daughter’s rapid deductions.

“This is not a game! Come on, we’ve got to shut all the doors and windows… we’ve got to keep that doll… that doll lady from getting inside! It’s OK, Mom. I’ll protect you.”

As Anne spoke, she enthusiastically pumped her fists in the air. Her mother couldn’t hold back a humoring smile. She still seemed to think the child was making up stories. Even so, with slow movements, she brought herself up and out of bed as if to at least indulge the girl by playing along. With the hem of her long, pale peach bedclothes trailing the floor behind her, she went to stand at the window side.

The light of the sun exposed her thin frame from under the bedclothes.

“Dear me, I don’t suppose that’s the Auto Memories Doll. Come to think of it, she was due to arrive today!”

“What’s an ah-toh-meh-mreez doll?”

“I’ll explain later, Anne. Help me get changed!”

For the next few minutes, Anne’s mother threw off all the Magnolian elegance she demanded of her daughter as she rushed to make herself up. Anne herself was not prompted to go so far as change her outfit, but a second ribbon was placed upon her head, this one matching the color of the smock dress. Her mother, as one might have expected, chose for herself an ivory one-piece dress made from layers and layers of frilled lace, over which she threw a shawl of calming chartreuse. On her ears, she affixed studs shaped as roses. She spritzed the air with a perfume made of thirty varieties of flower, then spun in circles, bathing herself in the mist.

“Mom? Is something big happening?”

“Bigger even than a visit from the prince of a faraway land.”

It wasn’t a joke.

The clothes Anne’s mother had chosen were things she saved for only the most special of occasions. As Anne watched her, she grew restless.

I don’t like this one bit. I wish that visitor would just disappear.

Anne’s anxiousness was not a result of excitement. Usually, children are filled with a sense of expectation alongside nervousness when a visitor arrives. Not so for Anne.

This was because, for as long as she could remember, the only reason anyone came to visit her mother was to ask for money. Her artless mother was overjoyed simply to have guests, and she always went along with their requests. Anne loved her mother, but she was troubled by the woman’s poor money management and weak sense of self-preservation. She couldn’t help but suspect that this doll-like individual was just another scoundrel after her family’s fortune.

But the most disagreeable part was the visiting woman’s appearance. Even from far away Anne had been able to see that the woman had just the type of style her mother adored. To have her mother’s heart captured by anyone other than herself was, to Anne, an extremely unpleasant notion.

Her mother wasn’t having any of it. “I want to see our guest right away,” she insisted, and so the two prepared to head outside, where they would wait to receive the guest. Anne carefully led her mother downstairs and outside. The trip down the stairs alone was enough to leave the woman breathing heavily.

They walked out into a world of dappled sunlight slipping between the trees. Having for so long been confined to the mansion, her mother’s pale skin looked frightfully out of place.

Mom seems somehow smaller than before.

She rarely saw her mother’s face in the sunlight as of late, but it seemed to Anne to be filled with many more wrinkles than before.

The girl felt a stinging in her heart.

No one can stay the hand of a fatal disease.

Though Anne was young, she was the sole heir to replace her mother in managing the Magnolia household. Your mother’s remaining days are few, the doctors had told her. And, we want you to be prepared for it. It seemed God would show no mercy even to a child of seven.

If that's how it’s going to be, then I want her to myself, all the way to the end.

If there wasn’t much time left, Anne wanted all of it to be spent on her.

It was amidst such hopes that this stranger had entered Anne’s world.

“I’m sorry to intrude.”

Though the green road was overflowing with sunlight, the visitor now before them seemed to best its radiance.

The moment she saw the “thing” up close, Anne was convinced that her sense of foreboding had been well-founded.

Oh… no. This is the person who’s going to take Mom away from me.