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1. Doll-Syndrome

“It was so nice seeing you again, Karen! You have such a wonderful family!”

My mom walks away from Karen Morgan, one of her many distant friends. She’s been a whole lot quieter for the last few months, and I have a feeling that it has something to do with my dad. He’s been cheating on her for maybe four months now and she just found out about two months ago. She always had a problem with drinking, but it’s never been this bad. I think it’s because she doesn’t want to confront him about it in fear that she’ll lose him and tear apart this family and ruin our image as perfect.

But it’s just a theory.

We walk out the front doors of church and to our shiny new car. Dad just got a promotion and decided to congratulate himself with a silver Jaguar. He’s a doctor. I never thought doctors could get a promotion until it happened. I don’t even know what for. Might be because of his affair.

“Amabel, honey, could you do the dishes when we get home?” my mom asks with a smile. She has short blonde hair and bright blue eyes. It fits her square face so well that it makes her look way younger than she is. The sea foam green suit she wears with the shiny broach makes her look professional though, completely changing your mind on the whole twenty-year-old her face suggests.

“Sure,” I smile back, afraid to upset her. I don’t particularly favor her when she’s drinking, which is usually when my dad disappears. She can get really abusive, so I tend to leave her alone when she takes out the flask she holds in her purse.

“Aw, man, mom, I was going to do them,” Tobiah jokes, pushing me to the side a little bit. He’s my brother. He always wears too much cologne to cover up the smell of the stuff he smokes. His muscles are huge, mostly because he’s the star player on the high school football team. It’s his senior year after all, and he wants to go out with a bang. He’s worked hard to keep up with the scholarship to play football for college. He’ll get a free ride, even though he doesn’t need it. We have more than enough money for both of us to go.

Every girl falls all over him when he walks down the hall, and he knows it. He basks in the attention. He got my mother’s hair, giving him the look of a superstar, complete with the amazing blue eyes. It’s thick and light blonde, and he always has it combed back perfectly like a ken doll.

I guess it’s kind of ironic, the resemblance to a ken doll he has, considering our last name is Doll. Tobiah Doll and Amabel Doll.

“Yeah right,” my dad laughs. “You’ll probably head to the gym as soon as we get into the driveway.”

My dad works out with Tobiah a lot too, but only twice to three times a week. He’s busy the rest of the time. Work, he says. I don’t know how my mom didn’t see it...

But anyway, my dad has thick, blonde hair too. His eyes are always bright green, joyful to see anyone else but my mom. His eyes always seem to dull when he’s around her. I’ve always wondered why he looked at her that way. What’s so bad about her?

My dad slides into the driver’s seat, his smile filling his entire face as he rubs the steering wheel proudly. Tobiah, though we can both drive, slide into the back seats as my mom shuts the door. The car is quiet as always. When we’re out somewhere together, we talk. Always. It’s only when we’re alone where we see the walls go up between each other, my dad separating his secrets from my mom, my mom separating hers from him, Tobiah hiding his from all of us, and then there’s me. I hide everything I know from the people who don’t know I know their secrets. Even if they knew, I knew it wouldn’t change anything. They would put on their pretty fake faces, smile, and tell me how absurd it is for me to be thinking things like that.

Pretty little fake faces.

I have it too. The Doll-Syndrome. Fake it till you make it. Smile when you don’t want to. Be polite to someone who’s spitting in your face. Be what they want you to be. Do what they want you to do. Be a doll and shut up and play pretend. Put on your dress. Act like you care. Don’t tell the world your problems and you won’t have any yourself.

But I’m tired of the Doll-Syndrome.

I want to be human. I want to act human. I hate pretending that I’m something I’m not.

But I have to.

I’m head of the Drama Club, head of the Debate Club, Homecoming Queen, the top of my class, the head of the Book Club, President of the Spanish Club, President of National Honor Society, President of the Recycling club, Class President, and the lead in a play. I can’t crack up now. Not in my junior year of high school. I have so many people counting on me... I can’t just change how I am and go through a mid-life crisis.

We pull up into the driveway to our three-story house.

“Oops, I left my light on,” I say, startling everyone in the car.

I jump out of the vehicle and pull my key out of my pocket, unlocking the green door. In the entryway, I place the pink key in the shape of a guitar on the table resting on the left wall. I start to climb the stairs to the second story, going through the living room, running my eyes over the green wallpaper because the pattern looks really interesting. At the top of the stairs is the game room, complete with a big TV and two couches, including a pool table and a Foosball table. Bounding up one more flight of stairs into the attic, I breathe in the smell of my room. It always smells like rain and wood up here.

We converted the attic into a room for me because I felt like I needed a bigger space. My old room is in the process of becoming a weight room for dad and Tobiah to work out together in.

The wooden floor is covered with a pink rug, my bed sitting on the opposite side with the matching comforter. We painted the walls white and I hung pictures and posters up all over them. My vanity sits on the left-hand side when you’re facing the bed, and my dresser is on the other. Behind the entrance to my room, my dad had constructed a closet that was big enough to hold all of the clothes that don’t belong in my dresser. The doors slide back and forth and they’re made of mirrors.

I absolutely love it up here. I can see everything on my street from the window above my bed, though sometimes that isn’t a good thing. It’s one of the ways I know how my dad is cheating on my mom.

But I don’t have to get into that now and ruin a perfectly good Sunday. God is good, and I want it to stay that way for the rest of the day. I don’t want anything bad to happen. No drunk mother, no cheating dad, no low-life brother, just me, myself, and I—and the dishes...


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