There’s a new girl today. She sits in the back with a scowl on her heavily make-upped face. Her short, spiky blonde hair has streaks of purple and blue in them. They won’t stay that way though because the principal won’t allow it. Long hoop earrings hang from her ears and she wears a leather jacket, although it’s far from cold outside. She’s smacking on gum loudly as the teacher calls her up to announce her.
“Students,” Mrs. Ramirez smiles. “I would like you to meet your new classmate, Dahlia. She just moved here from Mississippi.”
Dahlia gives a sarcastic wave. Mrs. Ramirez seems uncomfortable in her presence, and I wouldn’t blame her. Dahlia is tall, and she looks like she can take out a brick wall.
“Please spit out your gum. The trash can is--”
“Whatever,” Dahlia croaks as she tosses it into the can. She looks straight at me and sneers. “What are you looking at, Barbie?”
I don’t respond as she walks back to her desk in the very back.
When the bell rings, she stops in the doorway and I run into her on accident. She turns around and runs her tongue across her teeth in annoyance.
“I’m sorry,” I say, trying to slip past her.
She throws out her arm, blocking my path.
“I don’t believe you are, Barbie.”
I shift uncomfortably. “I’m sorry,” I say again. “My name isn’t Barbie--”
“Give me a break. You scream plastic. Everything about you is fake.”
Whispers start behind me. I don’t know what to do!
“Excuse me,” I say, bobbing my head in the direction of her arm. “Please let me through.”
She pulls her arm away and I walk down the hall, the whispers following me.
Dinner that night is different. My mom seems to be in a hurry and my dad seems to want to talk about everything.
“Amabel, how was school?”
I almost choke on my food when he speaks up for the first time.
“Um, it was okay. There’s a new girl.”
“Oh?” He asks as my mother stands up. “What’s her name?”
“Dahlia,” I say, picking at my food.
“What a pretty name,” My mom says as she leaves the dining room.
“Is she nice?” My dad smiles.
I don’t know about nice...
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You should invite her over for dinner.”
The food in my mouth turns sour as I swallow it. Invite her over for dinner? She hates my guts and all I did was look at her.
I nod anyway and stare down at my half-eaten food.
That’s enough, I tell myself. You don’t need any more to eat.
I take my food back to the kitchen and shove it all down into the garbage disposal. Mom is long gone already, her dishes in the dishwasher. My father retires into the kitchen as I’m placing my dishes with my mothers.
“I’ll be out for a while, kiddos,” my dad calls as I walk to the living room. “Call you when I leave.”
“Where are you going?” I ask him. I just want him to admit it. If he admits it, I’ll forgive him. He won’t disgust me as much anymore.
Just admit it...
He smiles amusingly, though his eyes search for an excuse.
“This late?” I ask as I stand in the doorway to the living room, my willpower to hole everything back starting to crumble.
He shakes his head.
“You know what your mother said about prying.”
I nod and turn, infuriated.
I’M NOT BLIND YOU UNFAITHFUL, SELFISH MAN!
I plop down on the couch in a huff and switch on the TV. I never watch it anymore, and I probably still won’t. It’s just comforting to have the noise while I think. While I try not to think.
My dad leaves with a soft “Goodbye, love you,” and shuts the door behind him.
I wake up with a start, the TV droning on as the front door opens. It’s around midnight.
My mom stumbles in, alternating between giggling and crying. How did she make it home?
She leans up against the wall by the front door and let’s out a low sob. She staggers into the room, her hand pressing against her forehead as her drunken eyes fall upon me.
“Amabel,” She says, her lip quivering.
She pulls me up to my feet suddenly, angry. She shakes me.
“What are you doing?”
“Answer me!” She shouts, slapping me across the face. I stagger backwards, holding back tears as my mother fumes.
“Go to your room!” She screams, pushing me down onto the ground.
I land with a hard thud on the ground, my arm slamming into the coffee table. I need to escape from her. I need to escape from my mother.
I scramble to get up and she grabs my hair, yanking me back. I cry out.
“Don’t tell a soul.”
I run up into my attic, into my room, and I slam the hatch shut, sitting on it. My mother goes back to crying on the couch and I’m left alone to fall asleep with the monster downstairs, the monster in his bedroom, and the monster that isn’t where he’s supposed to be.
Maybe Dahlia is right. Maybe I am a Barbie doll. Maybe it’s worse than the Doll-Syndrome. And maybe I can’t go back to being skin and bones--human, instead of being plastic.
I fell asleep on top of the hatch, my alarm startling me. My arm throbs. A bruise formed overnight from hitting the coffee table.
My heart breaks thinking about it.
In class, Dahlia throws a piece of paper at me. In red ink, it reads BARBIE. A few girls snicker as I look back at her proud face.
She stops me again, but this time no one is around as we walk out the door.
“Hey Barbie,” She smiles, smacking on her gum.
“What?” She asks.
“Amabel. That’s my name.”
She laughs. “Stupid name.”
I feel my heart start to bleed, last nights episode tearing me apart and the secrets I hide cutting into my soul.
I clear my throat, pushing away the tears.
“Do you want to come over for dinner?”
She looks at me confused, smacking on her gum a couple times.
“Now why would I want to go to your house?”
“Free food?” I offer, trying to peel my mind from the thoughts filling my head. “Look, if you don’t want to--”
“No, no!” She laughs, still blocking my path. “Why not learn why you’re so fake?” She blows a bubble. “I’ll go.”
“Okay,” I say shakily. I wasn’t expecting her to agree. “I’ll take you at six from school.”
“Whoa, no way. I can drive myself. I’ll find your house. Bet it looks like a Barbie Dream house.”
She walks away with sass in her step.
I make it home after saying goodbye to John. We’re both so busy...
I tell my parents about Dahlia, and my dad seems overjoyed. Another person to impress.
Half after six, a red Mustang pulls up in the drive. Dahlia gets out and rings the doorbell.
I open the door and she pushes herself inside, her jewelry making a ton oh my gosh noise.
My mom and dad greet her, hesitating at first by her look and the aura she gives off, but they seem to like her. More or less. And the Tobiah looks at her like she’s cute.
We start to eat.
Half way in, Dahlia speaks up.
She looks around at us and I shift uncomfortably, pulling a knee up to my chest and pushing food around on my plate.
“Yes we, we don’t really talk much while we’re eating. It’s bad table manners to have food in your mouth while you speak,” My father smiles and takes another bite. “So Amabel says you’re new. Where did you move from?”
“Doesn’t matter,” She says, plopping a bite of broccoli in her mouth. “So what do you do mister...?”
“Doll.” My father smiles.
Dahlia chuckles and shakes hear head. “Of course.”
My dad clears his throat. “I am a doctor at the local hospital.”
“Ah,” Dahlia says, disinterested. “Big house. Probably comes with the job.”
“So does the car,” Tobiah jokes, receiving a scolding look from my mom.
I pull the other knee up to my body and rest my head on them, looking at my food.
“Amabel, that’s not polite. Put your legs down,” My mom says.
I do as she says and place them on the floor. I finish off half of my food and tell myself to stop.
“Not hungry, Barbie?” Dahlia asks, noticing my plate.
“Barbie?” My mom asks.
Dahlia smiles sarcastically. “Yeah. I picked out the little nickname for her.”
She gives me an accusing look for a moment and goes back to eating.
“What’s that smell?” She asks suddenly, looking around the room and resting her eyes on Tobiah.
My mom seems startled. “What smell?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just a smell...”
Does she know? Does she know about Tobiah’s addiction?
“Well Tobiah just got some new cologne,” My mom offers.
“Mm,” Dahlia mumbles and goes back to eating.
Everyone finishes and we follow Dahlia to the door to walk her out.
“Hey, Barbie. Walk me to my car,” She demands after thanking my parents.
I jump ahead, nervous and scared of what might happen.
“So what’s up with the bruise?” She asks after the door closes. “Don’t act dumb. The one on your arm.”
I look down at it. “I hit it on the coffee table.”
“One tall coffee table.”
We walk in silence to her car and she unlocks it.
“Well, at least I know why you’re plastic now.”
“What do you mean?” I ask as she slips into her car. “What do you mean ‘plastic’?”
She shakes her head and drives away, leaving me in my long driveway.