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Raggedy Anne

Annie sat on the couch in front of the fireplace. The old photo album was laying on the table, and she wondered if she could make Mirrium understand how many others had played with the Raggedy Anne doll laying beside it.

The first picture with the doll, was on the first page of the album. Sepia colored, it showed her grandmother as a child. She sat on a bench beside the door of a sod shanty. Her family was one of the first to settle on the great plains. They tore their living from the rich grasslands, cutting great chunks of earth from the turf to build shelter from the wicked winter winds and icy blasts of snowy weather. Once they managed to expose the soil, they sowed wheat and corn, selling the crops in the fall after hours spent threshing and winnowing the seed from the long shafts of ripened grain.

In her grandmother’s arms, lay Raggedy Anne. Her bright red woolen braids dull dark brown, and her gingham pinafore shades of yellow and tan. The expression on her face, showed her rapt attention to the doll’s comfort as she cuddled it carefully.

Annie flipped a few pages, and Mirrium placed a finger on a dull black and white photo.

“Is that mommy?” her sweet voice piped up.

“No sweetie, that’s your great grandma. That’s my mommy. But yours looked exactly like her, and they are both named Maggie.” She bit her cheek, trying to keep tears at bay. There were times when grief still overwhelmed her.

“But my mommy’s in heaven now. Grammie gives me cookies when I go visit her.” Mirrium climbed into Annie’s lap and wrapped her arms around her grandmother’s neck. “Don’t cry.” She planted kisses on Annie’s cheeks.

“I miss her child, I always will.” Annie sniffled twice, and then pointed to the doll in her mother’s arms. “Do you see, she has the same doll as the other little girl had.”

“The one in the brown picture?” Mirrium scrunched up her face trying to understand.

“Yes, dear.”

Mirrium’s eyes widened a bit. “Grammie’s really old though.”

Annie chuckled softly. Aging and generations were a tough concept for a small child to comprehend. She picked up Raggedy Anne and smoothed the dress down where it had caught in a fold under it. God she could see her daughter’s face in Mirrium. Her granddaughter was young to be an orphan and her little brother, only weeks old had no way to remember at all. She’d make sure they both understood what a heroine Maggie had been.

“Was that mommy’s doll?” Mirrium asked.

“It was, and she was what let Auntie Morgan and Auntie Alanna find you so you could come live with us.” Annie doubted Mirrium would understand just yet, but it never hurt to start letting them understand the miracle of Morgan’s psychic gift.

“Was she your doll too?” Mirrium, who would turn five in a few days, was asking all the right questions. Sometimes it surprised her how wise this kid was.

“Yes, she was.” Annie’s eyes glimmered with unshed tears and she reached for a tissue. Blowing her nose, she wondered if she’d ever get past the heavy burden the death of her daughter put in her life. She closed the leather bound photo collection and set it aside.

Mirrium slipped off her lap and grabbed the next one eagerly. Pulling it to the edge of the coffee table she dropped to her knees on the rug and flipped it open.

“Mommy’s a baby here, like Scotty.” Mirrium said half to herself. She turned past the picture of Maggie at three months, the first time she’d smiled for the camera. The next one she stopped at was the one of Maggie’s fourth birthday party. Annie could hardly remember the names of all the children who’d crowded into their living room that snowy January.

There were several pictures. Children playing games, she remembered them singing happy birthday, voices out of tune, more shouts than melodious. Maggie tearing the wrapping off gift after gift until she came to the last one. Her own mother had wrapped the Raggedy Anne doll in a baby blanket, and kept it on her lap, hidden under the table while they’d eaten hot dogs and birthday cake.

“Look gramma, Grammie gave mommy the doll.” Mirrium had found the picture she was looking for. “Did you play with her too?”

“I did, I loved her too. She’s named Annie, just like me.”

Mirrium giggled. “That’s funny!”

She couldn’t help but smile. This child who’d been through so much already, brought joy with her.

“And now she’s yours, sweetie,” Annie held the doll out toward her granddaughter.

“Really?” Mirrium’s heart shaped face turned up and her startling light green eyes lit up. “I never had a doll. Jeremy had all the toys cause boys deserve them. He let us play with them though, me and Rosie.”

“This dolly is yours now Mirrium, and girls deserve toys too, and Annie the Raggedy Anne doll is just for you.” The aftereffects of living in such a horrifyingly dysfunctional situation reared themselves again. She wondered if they could overcome the twisted beginning to Mirrium’s life.

“You can show Rosie when she comes to visit next time, and Jeremy too.”

“Will Rosie have a dolly too?”

She’d have to make sure Gabe and Julie made sure of it. At least Rosie still had her mother, Maggie’s death as she gave birth to Scotty had been a slap in the face. After over twenty years of wondering what had happened to her baby girl, to know they were so close to rescue only to have her yanked away without ever being able to hold her again, made her scream in her sleep.

“Of course, she will,” Annie held out the doll again, and Mirrium took her.

She watched as tiny hands laid the doll on the glass table in front of the sofa. They explored the texture of Raggedy Anne’s face and hair. She lifted the dress to see what was under it and held Annie doll’s cloth hand for a minute. Then she picked her up and hugged her. She could see Mirrium’s mouth move as she whispered something to her newfound friend, and then she cradled the doll in her arms rocking it and began humming.

Somehow, living in a kidnapper’s demented family, Mirrium and learned the tune to a lullaby. Small shreds of normal glimmered through the awful reality she had shared with her mother and the other survivors. There had been love, from the girls who’d made each other strong, never giving up on their dream of freedom. Of the seven who’d been taken, four had made it out alive, and her own daughter had been the spark who helped them out of their nightmare. She had to hang on to Maggie’s heroic efforts.

She refused to take on the guilt. Even after years of therapy, it still crept in. Why hadn’t she stayed home that afternoon so long ago, why wasn’t she watching her precious girl? Detective Wilcott had reminded her frequently, it wasn’t her fault. Put the blame where it belonged, on the kidnapper. Big John and his wicked father and even more evil son. It was over. Maggie was at peace.

Giving Mirrium the doll which had connected Morgan to the first clues of what happened to Maggie completed a circle. It was closure and she felt her daughter’s presence, as if she were standing there with them. Generations of strong women had played with Annie, the Raggedy Anne doll, and with love leading, she hoped she’d see Mirrium pass her along once more.

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