My Mum loves going into Op shops. I think it’s because that’s where unwanted and discarded things are thrown. My Dad threw her aside like one of the threadbare and eccentric shirts she’s constantly bringing home.
I suppose it’s like therapy for her. Saving the things that would otherwise be deemed useless. Not that it makes us look classy, having broken pottery around the house because it was about to be put in the bin.
I just thought that it was one of Mum’s quirks until the day that she bought Stacy home.
It was my younger sister’s Sixth birthday. Ellie with her brown curls and cheeky blue eyes. Her body in that awkward transition phase between Little Kid and Tween. She had gangly limbs that she didn’t quite know how to control properly and gaps in her teeth. She was always sticky to touch.
I was constantly wiping Peanut Butter where it was smeared at Ellie height on walls and furniture. Ellie is always eating that stuff and she smears it everywhere. Since Mum works a lot and it’s just the three of us I have to do a lot of cleaning and looking after Ellie.
“Stop stealing my earphones! And stay out of my room Elephant!” she hated it when I called her that. It usually ended with her in tears and me in trouble with Mum. I’d feel bad but I was the older sister, it was my job to torment her at least every once in a while.
We didn’t have a lot of money for gifts. So Mum must have counted her lucky stars when she found that doll. Barely damaged… Just one arm that was deformed. It looked like it had been melted, turning the hand into a shapeless lump.
It was probably the result of another child playing a bit to vigorously with her. Either way she was perfect apart from that. Woollen strands of red hair sticking up everywhere and a black thready smile stitched on.
Googly eyes that wobbled when you shook her and a little plaited pink dress. She wasn’t much, but when Mum showed her to me I knew Ellie would love her.
My gift to Ellie of a My Little Pony DVD may have bought about a smile, but when Mum gave her the doll Ellie’s entire face lit up. She told Mum that it was the best present she’d ever gotten and named the doll Stacy.
Everything was fine for the rest of Ellie’s birthday, she carried Stacy in her arms and fell asleep with her at the end of the day. I went to bed feeling like I’d at least scored some brownie points even if my present had been second best to the doll.
I woke up in the middle of the night, half asleep but aware of pain in my left hand. It looked normal when I turned on my lamp. Maybe a little red but nothing to warrant concern. I was puzzled but not enough to actually think much of it.
The next morning, I thought about mentioning it to mum but decided against it. She was excitedly telling me about a rare Persian cutlery set she’d had her eyes on for a few days. I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt her.
Ellie wasn’t awake when I left for school but that wasn’t unusual. I started school before her and left mum most mornings to get Ellie up. In a quiet moment during History class I checked me phone and I had four missed calls from mum.
I rang her back as soon as I could find a private space, and when I heard the note of fear in her voice I knew something was very wrong.
She was sobbing, I couldn’t make out most of what she said but I did catch one word. Coma.