Secrets lurked in this house. But few secrets could be kept from the thing that watched from behind the glass eyes of Margaret’s favorite doll, Jessica.
It was late and Margaret had fallen asleep watching the box of false light and sound. It was then that the doll caught a rare moment, an intersection between Margaret’s mother’s sobriety and Margaret’s father’s late arrival home. They acknowledged each other silently, but she called to him as he began walking upstairs.
“My brother is coming tomorrow,” she said.
The man halted. Heat radiated off of him. “Keep him away from Margaret,” he said finally.
His words shocked the doll.
With hope for an explanation in its heart, the doll watched Margaret’s mother draw a quick breath only to let it out slowly through her nose. When she spoke, it was a whisper. “Alright.”
The man said nothing as he carried Margaret and her doll to her room and left them there for the night.
The commotion began early the next morning. As Margaret slept, the doll stalked out to the banister overlooking the first floor so that it could watch everything unfold. Margaret’s father wore a shirt and tie and her mother wore a fresh garment that hung beautifully over her shoulders down to her ankles. The doorbell rang and people poured into the house. It was just one two at a time at first, but soon there were dozens of them, more than the doll had ever seen in its home. It couldn’t tell which was Margaret’s uncle. There were too many and they were all so loud.
Intent on getting a closer look, the doll crept back into Margaret’s room and gently woke her. It then insisted that they put on their most colorful matching dresses. Still groggy, but eager to please, Margaret gladly followed along. Finally ready to be seen, Margaret carried her doll to the top of the stairs.
Suddenly, the doll felt eyes on them. It soaked in the adoration for many proud moments until a nagging suspicion began tugging at it. There, between the doorway separating the kitchen from the dining room, stood a man. He had the same soft eyes as Margaret’s mother, but they were sharp and focused like a raptor.
The thing that nestled deeply in the doll flexed its talons in anticipation.
With some speed, Margaret’s father stepped in front of her uncle, blocking the sunlight from the window. He leaned in close, pinning the smaller man against the wall, and hissed loudly. “If you’re in this house, you’re in my sight.”
Her uncle sputtered and stammered an “I understand” before her father led them both into the kitchen.
The party continued and the doll didn’t mind the engagement overall. People fussed over Margaret and she dutifully turned their conversations toward complementing her beautiful doll.
People were everywhere. Some were in the living room. Some were in the kitchen helping Margaret’s mother with the large roasting sacrificial bird. Some, like Margaret’s father, made their way out into the back yard to burn small sticks and inhale its toxic smoke.
Margaret’s uncle walked upstairs.
This struck the doll as an opportunity, so it slipped away to follow him once Margaret set it down to enjoy a treat from the kitchen. It climbed the stairs and watched him sneak into Margaret’s bedroom. Then he just stood there for a while opening and clenching his fists. His eyes were closed and tears rolled down his cheeks.
Confusion ripped through the doll’s mind. What was this behavior?
Then the man started to rummage through Margaret’s clothes.
Why clothes? the doll wondered. Are they trophies? Are they surrogates for what this type of predator really wants?
With the idea fresh in its mind, the doll stripped its own clothes off and threw a shoe down the stairs into full view of everyone. By the time people looked up to where the shoe came from, all they saw at the top of the stairs was a naked doll with its legs up in the air.
Several seconds passed in stunned silence.
The shouting began as Margaret’s father stormed up the stairs, over the doll, and into Margaret’s room. He slammed the door shut and slid something loud and heavy in the way.
Her mother bounded up behind him. She beat her fists against the door and cried as muffled screams and muted crashes came from within the room.
The secret was out of its cage now. The doll was certain that it would hear the specifics discussed at length in the near future.
And it wasn’t Margaret’s uncle’s fault that everyone would now know what was once so well hidden. It wasn’t Margaret’s mother’s fault or her father’s fault either. Some secrets are simply better kept than others.