“Oh Jessica-I forgot to tell you about the dream I had last night.”
Alice Davenport turned from her mirror to look at her companion. She lay the brush that she was using to tease her hair with on her vanity and ran over to the bed she and Jessica shared. She giggled before doing a belly flop on the twin bed, sending Jessica tumbling onto the floor.
“It was glorious…oh Jessica don’t be so silly,” Alice reached out to Jessica’s hand and pulled her back up, propping her on a mountain of pink pillows. “Anyway-we were running in this lovely flower garden. It wasn’t a normal garden, of course,” Alice laughed to herself. “It was massive-absolutely massive. The garden went on for miles and miles and miles.”
Alice stretched out on the bed, and smoothed out her pink satin dress. She looked up at her ceiling, smiling at the intertwined cobwebs.
“And then, when we fell down to roll around in the flowers…it was frosting. We were rolling around in frosting flowers, Jessica!”
Alice turned on her stomach and stared at the one friend she had ever had in her twenty-nine years on earth. Jessica sat straight up, staring back blankly with her ceramic doll eyes.
“It was one of those silly dreams, you know.” Alice got up from her bed and went back over to her vanity. She searched the lace-covered top for her favorite shade of lipstick-a bright hellfire red. She applied it over the cracked, existing layer that already adorned her lips and smiled at the pale, lightly lined face staring back at her.
“But I suppose that’s all dreams, isn’t it?” Alice tilted her head to examine the bright blue eye shadow that crumbled over her eyelids. She gathered her teased blonde curls into a high bun before letting them tumble down to her shoulders. Satisfied, she blew a kiss to her reflection and spun around, letting her short pink dress twirl. As she spun, she caught a glimpse of her frilly white underwear in the mirror and giggled aloud at the sight.
“You wanna know my dream, Jessica? My ‘wish-for dream’?” Alice skipped over to her bed and propped her doll up so she was facing her, giving the impression of someone listening intently.
“My dream is that mommy and daddy let me out of this house one day and I can just find someone to play with…all day. A friend, Jessica. Not that you’re not a perfectly fine friend, but someone who is a person, like me…and can skip rope and draw pictures and play board games.”
Alice sighed. “Yes, that would be the best dream. But mommy and daddy won’t be letting me out of the house anytime soon. I’ll be stuck in this room until I’m old and gray.”
Alice slapped her bare knee and shook off her bad feelings, replacing her frown with a manic, lipstick smeared smile.
“Well enough gloom. Whadya say we play our favorite game?”
Alice snatched Jessica’s small, molded hand and skipped over to her window, which overlooked an expansive, overgrown backyard.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel-let down your hair!” Alice sang and she shoved her beloved doll’s head through the open window, letting her long synthetic hair hang.
She was holding her halfway through the window, and bellowed even louder,
“RAPUNZEL, RAPUNZEL, LET DOWN YOUR HAIR!” Alice yelled, letting Jessica slip through her hands, and land on the grass three stories below with a soft thud.
“Oh no!!” Alice leaned out the window and saw Jessica lying on her back, with her arms and legs pointing up as though reaching for Alice. Jessica’s face was cracked in two, and the left side lay open on the grass next to the rest of her.
“Oh no, no, no, no!” Alice stamped her saddle shoe on the floor, making dust dance around her frilly pink socks. Tears started to tumble down her face, cutting sharp trails through her makeup and falling, multi-colored on the floor.
“No, no, no!” Alice went back to the window to look once more at her only companion, now more lifeless than ever on the grass. As her tears fell like bombs on the lawn below, Alice saw something that put her off crying. The fence that separated the Davenport house from the sidewalk started to creak open.
Alice gasped. There hadn’t been visitors to the house in ages. Dr. and Mrs. Davenport were not very social, and usually spent all their free time in the study, away from people they considered beneath them.
As the gate opened a bit more, Alice saw that there was a little girl behind the door. A little girl with blonde hair just like Alice.
The girl went over to the doll, laying in the overgrown grass and bent down, putting her hand on Jessica’s head to inspect the damage. Alice could barely contain her excitement.
“Yoo-hoo! Hello!” Alice waved a hand out in the girl’s direction. The little girl looked around before making eye contact with Alice. She stared for a moment, before waving back.
“That’s Jessica,” Alice called out. “Say, would you mind bringing her up here to me?”
“She’s broken,” the little girl called back. “And I’m not supposed to go in houses I don’t know.”
Alice thought fast. She didn’t want to lose the one opportunity for a friend that she had had in years.
“Do you live around here?” Alice asked sweetly.
“Over in that red house.” The little girl pointed across the street. “I was playing in the yard and then I saw something fall over here.”
“Well then, we’re neighbors aren’t we? It’s okay if you come in here.”
Alice watched the girl work this out in her mind. Finally, she decided that perhaps Alice was right.
“Take the side door, it’s open and it leads directly up to my room here.” Alice closed the window and clapped her hands excitedly. Finally, she would have a friend-someone to play with who wasn’t made by a machine and had painted on eyes. All her sorrow about Jessica was fading away, and being replaced by a happy warm feeling that was completely new.
There was a knock on Alice’s bedroom door about thirty seconds later, and she bounded over like a puppy to answer. When she did, the little girl was standing there, holding Jessica like a baby.
“Well thanks!” Alice held out her arms and the little girl surrendered Jessica, along with the left piece of the doll’s face.
“This is the weirdest house I’ve ever been in.” The little girl said, looking at the high, drafty ceiling of Alice’s room. Do you live here all by yourself?”
Alice tossed Jessica on her bed and put the broken face piece on her vanity.
“No, my parents live here too. They’re probably in the study or library doing something boring. What’s your name?”
“My name is Bailey, what’s yours?” The little girl asked.
“Alice Julia Davenport. Say Bailey, would you like to play a game of checkers with me?”
Bailey looked around the room, and then back at the overjoyed woman smiling down at her.
“I guess that would be okay.”
Alice clapped her hands and jumped up and down. Her tears were dry now, she had found a friend.
“Where’s your checker set?” Bailey asked, looking around the drafty room.
“Under here!” Alice bent down and dragged an ancient checker board out from under her bed, along with a burlap sack full of checkers. She dumped them all out onto the floor and yelled-
“I call red! I’m always red.”
“That’s okay. I like black better anyway.” Bailey collected the black pieces and started to set them up on her side of the board. “How old are you?” She asked Alice in that bold way that only small children could get away with.
“I am twenty-nine and three quarters. How old are you?” Alice asked back.
“I’m only six. I’ll be seven in two months. My mama is twenty-nine.” Bailey looked at Alice’s tear-stained, overly caked on face. “But she doesn’t look like you.”
Alice touched her face and looked down at her light pink skirt. “Oh, really? Is she pretty?”
“Yes-but I think you’re pretty too.”
“Really?” Alice’s face broke into a wide smile. “You promise?”
Bailey nodded. “Yes. I like your hair.”
The two new friends played five games of checkers in a row before Bailey noticed the sun starting to set.
“I better get on home. Mama gets worried if I’ve been out for too long.”
“Are you sure? You can’t stay any longer?”
Outside the closed window, across the street a woman’s faint voice called out “Bailey? Bailey!”
“That’s my mama now,” Bailey pointed towards the window. “You can come over for dinner though-mama won’t mind.”
“Oh no I better stay here.” Alice smoothed out her dress as she stood up. “But you wanna come play tomorrow?”
“Sure, maybe.” Bailey got up and dusted off her cut-off shorts. “Bye, Alice. It was nice to meet you.” Bailey leaned over and hugged Alice around her middle. Alice, surprised but pleased, embraced Bailey tightly. “Bye Bailey. I can’t wait to play again!”
When Bailey left her room, Alice danced in place for a whole hour.
“A friend! A friend! I finally have a friend, Jessica! Mommy and daddy can’t take that away from me-never, never, never!”
Alice could barely sleep that night, and when she woke up the next morning, she went right over to her window, hoping to see Bailey playing across the street. When Bailey wasn’t in her yard in the morning, she decided to pass the time by putting on her face.
Alice sat in front of her mirror. She still had the hopeful feeling in her stomach that Bailey would come out after lunch, so she shook away her bad feelings and took to working on her makeup. She applied the heavy lipstick she always wore and dusted on her eye shadow before going back over to the window,
where she sat and waited until nightfall. When the sun finally went into the horizon, Alice gave up any hope she had of seeing Bailey. She had already started to cry, and her tears fell with giant splats into her lap, staining her pink dress blue.
“Why didn’t she come today?” Alice asked Jessica, who still lay mutilated on her bed. Her one eye looked up at Alice almost pityingly.
Alice pushed Jessica off the bed and crawled in. The great amount of happiness she had felt yesterday was drained from her, and it even took more than it should have when it left. Now, she was doubly sad.
The next day, Alice was awoken by the sound of children playing on the sidewalk outside the great fence. She rushed over to the window and opened it to see if any of them were Bailey. After a few minutes, she spotted her playing jump rope with another young girl.
“Bailey!” Alice screeched out of her window. “Bailey it’s me!”
Bailey glanced up at Alice but quickly put her head down. Alice watched in sorrow as Bailey whispered something to the other girl and they moved out of Alice’s sight down the block.
“No! No, no, no!” Alice slammed her window shut and stomped around her room. “Why won’t she be my friend anymore!??” Alice threw herself on her bed and cried herself back to sleep. It wasn’t until a rock hit her window many hours later that she stirred awake. Another rock came into contact with the glass, almost shattering it into a million pieces. Alice peeled her face from her pillow and opened the window to see Bailey standing in her yard.
“Bailey!” Alice exclaimed. All her sad feelings could go away now.
“I just came here to say I’m never to come here again!” Bailey shouted up at Alice.
“But-but why?” Alice asked, devastated.
“My mama said that you aren’t real! She said that this is a bad house and that nobody lives here. She said that a long time ago a family lived here but the daughter went nuts and did something awful to her parents and then she died. She said nobody’s been here since and I am not to come back either or she’ll wallop me!”
With that, Bailey ran away across the street to her house. A few minutes later, Alice heard the faint slam of Bailey’s front door.
“Well that’s just silly isn’t it, Jessica?” Alice picked Jessica up from her resting place beside her bed and smoothed out what was left of her hair. “I guess some people are just silly. It’s okay, it’s just a spooky old story.”
Alice bent down by her bed and retrieved her checker board. Slowly, she set up all the pieces and stared at it for a moment before giggling to herself. “I like being red, Jessica.” She said to her doll before sitting in front of her vanity.
As the weeks went by, Alice started to forget about Bailey. It wasn’t until there was a tiny little knock on her bedroom door one sunny afternoon that she even remembered having a friend.
Alice opened her door and saw Bailey standing there, looking scared and sheepish. Her hands were in the pockets of her overalls and she was looking at the ground.
“Bailey! Hi! You wanna play a game or something?”
Bailey looked up at Alice’s powdered face. “I just wanted to say I was sorry for saying those awful things to you. It’s just that my mama made me talk to a doctor about being here and they both told me that you weren’t real-but you’re right here in front of me and you look pretty real to me.”
Alice’s smile sank quickly downward. “Well, then I guess they’re wrong. Grownups are always wrong-especially stinky old doctors. What else did they tell you?”
“They said that like fifty years ago there were two parents that lived here and they had to keep their daughter in the attic
because she was talking to people who weren’t there and doing really bad things to the other kids in her school. They said that she was an awful little girl and then when she grew up she got even worse and they were gonna put her away but she didn’t wanna be put away.”
Bailey paused to take a breath.
“And then somehow she got a baby inside her and she was playing with the baby when it was born and she dropped it right outside the window of her room because she knew her parents were gonna take the baby away too.”
“And that was when her mommy and daddy were gonna put her away forever but before they could she made them go to heaven with a knife and then she went and jumped out her window. But I know that can’t be anything to do with you because you’re so nice and you’re right here and that bad lady went to the bad place.” Bailey looked around and lowered her voice to a whisper. “She went to hell.”
Alice listened intently to Bailey’s story. When she was finished, she took Jessica off her bed and looked at her broken face before giggling wildly.
“That was a really scary story. Say, Bailey-you wanna play my favorite game?”
Bailey nodded, relieved Alice wasn’t cross with her.
“It’s called Rapunzel.” Alice took Bailey’s hand and led her over to the window.
“It’s a really simple game and a lot of fun. If you play it right, you’ll want to play it every day forever and ever.”