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It is just a doll. A forlorn doll on my lonely shelf. A forgotten doll, with crystal blue eyes and long, flowing brown hair that matches its beautiful red dress. It cannot get up and move; it cannot speak for itself. It does not matter. I do not want it.
Briefly, I examine it. This is the second time. How stupid. And yet, there is not one fingerprint emerging from the thick blanket of dust to tell me she put it in here. I do not care. I yank its pale, fragile, porcelain arm and carry it recklessly to her room. The extravagant hat that costs more than my kidneys falls from her head and flutters to the ground like a red leaf in autumn. It is not my fault. It is not my doll.
“Mom, you put this stupid thing in my room again.” I say, throwing it on her bed. I do not care if it breaks. And if the hat is in my way when I return to my room, I will step on it.
She pauses from arranging pictures on her dresser. There are unpacked cardboard boxes in the corner full of her clothes. She is also in the middle of changing her bed sheets and vacuuming. She needs to pick one thing and finish before starting another….
“Oh, she is beautiful! Where did you get her?” She asks, carefully picking it up and brushing off some of the dust. She also corrects the silky hair that I have messed up. It is strange…I thought she would have seen it before. I thought she put it in my room twice.
My mother is a doll person. They were the last boxes she carefully packed away and the first boxes she opened. Each flawless doll sits on the shelves behind the couch in the living room. More are in her study, and more are on the shelves of the room I am standing in.
She collects bebe dolls. They are a French masterpiece of young girls, dating back to the 1850s. France is where we moved from, so her hobby is rather…domestic, I guess. Many of her dolls are older than she is. Sometimes I think she loves the dolls more than she loves me. After all, I am not a beautiful little girl dressed in extravagant garments. I do not know how my father accepted her…obsession.
“I did not get it,” I reply. We are speaking French, of course. I know English…but I do not like speaking it. “I found it on my shelf.” Again, I disregard the fact that I did not find any fingerprints through the dust…maybe I just did not look hard enough.
“Ghislain, she is very pretty. May I keep her?” She asks, looking at me earnestly. My name is French, so it sounds nothing like how it is spelled. I have no idea why my mother named me that. It means ‘hostage’ and ‘pledge.’ But I do not hate my name. I just think it hates me.
I shrug. “As long as it is not in my room.” I tell her and she smiles like it is the happiest gift in the world. “But you should probably check with the previous owners of the house to see if they left it behind. They might miss it.” I add. One less doll would be a relief.
I step on the hat when I walk back into my room. My boxes are still mostly unpacked, and I do not care.
The next morning, I find the hatless doll sitting on the round kitchen table. It stares at me intently, wherever I go. It is nothing new, really. Other dolls do the same. So I ignore it, grab the toast that my mother probably set out for it, and head out to the bus.
I have been going to school for a few days already, so the introductions and French curiosities have been reduced. Instead, there is talk about a new girl.
I watch her as she enters the class. She looks familiar. She has flawless, pale skin that makes her look like a ghost. Her brown hair is straight and silky. It flows around her fancy, expensive red shirt. She is wearing jeans with it, which does not look right. And her eyes, crystal blue, will not leave mine.
The teacher introduces her. “This is Reine, everyone. She is from…France, I believe?” He asks.
She nods shyly, still looking at me. And she takes the empty seat next to mine. Her eyes do not leave me the entire time, and I have a funny feeling in my head. It is like a warning signal. Something is wrong.
I get back home and the doll is where my mother left it. Its hair is a little strange, though. Almost like it has been out to play in the wind. I do not care. I am just glad it is not missing, because I have an ominous feeling. The warning indicator in my head persists.
I go up to my room and fall asleep. Being stared at is tiring.
When I wake up the doll is once again on my shelf. It is strange, because everything else seems to have been shoved off. And there the beautiful doll sits, still hatless. I remember I put the hat in my closet to get it out of my sight, but I do not go to get it. Instead, I take the doll back to my mother’s room.
“Please do not put the doll in my room.” It is more of a demand.
My mother spins around. She looks breathless and worried, but it is dispelled once she sees what is in my hands. “Oh, thank goodness. I could not find it. And I have not been able to get in touch with the people who lived here before. I am going to call it quits.” She says, taking the doll and hugging it to her bosom.
I sigh. There goes another activity she is stopping in the middle of. But it does not concern me, as long as that doll stays out of my room.
But it comes back in the middle of the night. I do not know how, but I wake up and it is there. It sits on my shelf, and my door has not been opened. I would know if it had, because I am a light sleeper and the door creaks loudly.
I frown. The doll is staring at me again, and I do not like it. I also hear whispers in my head, but the doll is not moving its lips…why would it? I do not care. The whispers are probably left over from the dream I had, even though they have nothing to do with it. Because over and over, in a crystal clear voice, I keep hearing “you will be mine.”
I am at school again and the girl—Reine—is sitting next to me again. I try to ignore her, even though I want to know why she is wearing the same outfit and why she keeps staring at me. I also want to know why the warning signal in my head will not go away.
“Ghislain,” she speaks for the first time. Her voice is crystal clear and it rings through my head. For some reason, I think I have heard it before.
I finally turn to look at her. Maybe if I do not ignore her, she will not try to get my attention so much. “Good morning.” I reply casually.
She smiles. It is a small, subtle smile, and for some reason, I think I have seen it before. “Do you like hats?” She asks.
I do not say anything. I do not want to say anything…for some reason I just want to look at her. For some reason, I have become mesmerized by her incomparable beauty, her flawless features, her crystal complexion…I stare, wanting this moment to last forever.
She smirks back now. “My name means ‘queen’ in French.” She says.
I nod hypnotically. Yes. Yes, she is a queen. I want to do her bidding. I want her to push me around and punish me for my sinful stares. Every moment, she is more beautiful….
“Ghislain! Hey!” A boy I met recently begins to talk with me and my gaze is broken. Shivers run down my spine. What was I thinking? How could I be so entranced by a young girl? I try not to look at her for the rest of the day. She is strange. I do not need to be involved.
Back home, the doll is in my room. I want to throw her out the window. But every time I look at her, I cannot touch her. For some reason, she stops me in my tracks. I do not understand it. And before I know it—
“Ghislain, it is time for dinner. What have you been doing all day?” My mother enters my room. The creaking door breaks my gaze away and I realize…I realize I have been staring at the doll for the past few hours. Has time flown that fast?
“Okay, I will be right down.” I tell her and risk another glance at the doll as she leaves. But even though I want to join her for dinner, I want to stare at the doll more. I forget about eating. It does not matter. The warning in my head does not matter. The whispers, drowning out that warning do not matter. Only the doll matters.
School again, and Reine continues to stare at me. I cannot help it. I risk a glance and I am immediately entranced. I do not understand. This was not happening at first. And yet, I do not mind it. I enjoy it. School does not matter. Family does not matter. Nothing matters but her, it seems.
And she smiles happily, staring back like she cannot get enough of my awed eyes. We do not speak. We only stare. And the more I do, the more I see how perfect she is. She is slender and small, like a doll. Her back is straight, her shirt falls around her nicely. Her skin is pale and flawless; her eyes are crystal clear pools on a perfectly symmetrical face. Her cheeks and lips are tinged the perfect color of pink; the air around her is strong and powerful and innocent. Her hair is like a path, leading me away. I follow it without defiance, without restraint.
Finally, she speaks. “Do you want to see me again, Ghislain?” She asks.
I nod. I am in a trance, and I am in a love, and I am in a mind that thinks of nothing but her. My queen, Reine.
She giggles. “Bring the doll and the hat to this classroom once school is over.” She says in the beautiful voice I want to hear again and again.
I burst through the door and run up to my room.
“Ghislain, what in the world is going on?” My mother asks, surprised. She holds a few dolls to her bosom, making sure my stampede does not break them.
I ignore her and grab the doll. I pull my closet open and grab her hat. Then I run for the school with my mother calling my name out repeatedly from behind. She does not matter. Only Reine matters. Only the doll in my hands matters. Nothing else and nothing can stop me.
I burst into the classroom. Reine looks kind of transparent. I bow low to her and set the doll on a desk. Then I wait for her to say something. But it is okay if she does not say anything. Staring at her is enough.
She giggles softly. “You will be mine.” She says in her beautiful voice.
I nod enthusiastically. I am not blinking. My eyes do not want to be parted from her.
“Sit down.” She orders and I do so immediately. She circles around me and wraps her hands around my torso from behind. Then she whispers in my ear. “Do you want to be mine? Do you want to be with me forever?” She asks seductively.
I nod. I want nothing more than to be with her forever.
“Then promise yourself to me.” She whispers. “Promise, before time runs out!” Another giggle and I notice her arms fading a bit around me. “Pledge your soul to me!” She says in her soft voice.
“I pledge my soul to you, Reine, my queen.” I say. The words have been put into my mind, and I wholeheartedly follow them.
She laughs, and it is evil, menacing. My trance shatters and I stand up, turning to her. I look from her to the doll. The color in her arms is coming back. She looks more solid now. She is still quite beautiful, but I am able to see past that now.
“You are the doll,” I say and my voice cracks with my realization. Reine is the doll, and she has been manipulating me…I do not understand….
She takes the doll’s hat and puts it on her own head, then smiles maliciously and glances at my bare arms with her blue eyes that have turned icy.
I glance down too—and now I am fading. I am losing color. I am becoming transparent. I can feel my body wanting to go to Reine, but my mind says no. And yet, my mind is slipping away.
“You hid my hat. I must punish you.” She says. In my mind, she tells me to come to her.
I do not want to obey, but my feet take steps to her anyway. They are heavy and foreboding as my body continues to disappear. Finally, I stumble into her, but the impact has no affect. I fall through her and disappear for good.
Gill ambles into the classroom, hoping Ghislain will be there. Ghislain is cool. Ghislain is good at sports, and he’s a chick magnet because he’s French. But it’s weird, because he’s been acting strange lately. Ever since that girl, Reine came.
“Hey, Gill! He’s not here. Neither is Reine. We can recruit him for basketball another time.” A friend of Gill’s walks up and pats him on the back once. Then the friend takes his seat. Gill walks over to his desk. Huh. There’s a doll on it. He raises an eyebrow. It’s beautiful and it looks so innocent. He’s not usually a doll person, but he wonders… “Can I keep it?”