Walking by my daughter’s room with an armload of laundry, I pause to listen at the door. It’s always closed these days with Becky’s preteen need for privacy and I see no reason to invade now.
I hear nothing, as usual.
Zoning out in front of the washing machine, I absently work through the chore. The dryer’s heat makes me sweat; the vent must be clogged again. That’s something for Carl to do when he gets home. Of course, that’s not likely going to happen. Not now, anyway.
I sit in the living room of my otherwise empty house and listen to my mother’s clock tick while mending Becky’s dolly; the dress ripped and the face soiled from her little tumble.
Holding the toy in front of me, I admire my handiwork. “There you go, Annie. Good as new.”
“Thank you, Mommy,” said Becky from the rocking chair under the clock, her legs scissoring above the floor. “Say thank you to Mommy, Annie.”
“Thank you, Mommy.”
Becky said her doll could talk, ever since we brought her home from the Curiosity Shoppe. Carl and I laughed it off as overactive imagination.
Annie talks all the time now; I hang on every word.
The doll is very old: hand-sewn with button eyes and carefully dried corn silk for hair. I brush Annie while Becky watches. We are mother and daughter, frozen in time without a single tick or tock to mark its progress.
“I miss you, Mommy.”
“Oh, I miss you too, Sweetie.”
“Don’t be sad.”
“I can’t help it.”
“Let Annie help you.”
“But, you’re just a toy,” I say to Annie.
“It doesn’t matter. Becky loves me and you love her,” says the doll. “Make-believe and make-it-real.”
“Let Annie help you,” Becky says again followed by “I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too.”
My little girl fades and I am alone once more. Tomorrow makes it one year since they left me. The policeman brought me Becky’s doll. He said it was thrown clear before the blaze. I hug Annie, place her in Becky’s chair and wipe away sloppy tears on my sleeve.
Pouring my heart into that doll, I talk to Annie. I tell her the story of my little girl, of her hopes, dreams, quirks and habits. I leave nothing untold, both the good and the bad. Annie knows all our secrets. She is Becky. She is me. Finally, I close my eyes and imagine away the hurt, whisked away like a bad storm.
The clock starts ticking again. I open my eyes and the chair is empty. I hear a girl’s giggle from upstairs.
Rising, I smile and whisper, “Thank you, Annie.”
Photo by SkyFireXII