Andie knew that she had precious little time. Her legs were unsteady, and with each step she took across the floor of the unkempt apartment, she reached her arms out in a weak effort to achieve balance. It was difficult to focus; voices were drifting in from a great distance, souls she knew had gone on long before.
“Go,” Andie implored herself. The closet door was just feet away. She hobbled closer, shaking her head to clear her senses of these sounds and memories that cluttered her mind.
Her fingers touched the doorknob, but it was like feeling with nerves that had gone to sleep. Andie twisted and turned until the knob gave, and she pulled with great effort on the door. Inside were several tubs into which she had thrown anything not of use to her. With her alien hands she opened them and searched as frantically as possible. Her entire body was beginning to feel like those hands, and the voices were growing insistent. Andie wanted to cry but felt no tears as she pawed through the discarded items. And then—finally—she found the doll.
When she went to stand, Andie’s legs refused. She looked toward the girl on the couch. The light of the afternoon was dimming. Andie crawled across the carpet, encouraging herself with a voice that turned to echoes. This had to be done. Her mother had to know that throughout these last ruined years, Andie had never forgotten her, never stopped loving her.
She reached the couch and tossed the doll onto the limp body. Then she pulled her legs to her chest and hugged them close, listening as the voices spoke to her the truths, watching as all of the light dimmed and everything was finished, was beginning, was eternal.
Through the crooked blinds, pale sunlight spilled through at odd angles. The coffee table was piled with magazines, empty cigarette boxes, discarded bills, and scratched CDs. Soda cans stood sentry at the table legs. Several blankets were piled in a corner, and a gym bag sat between the coffee table and TV, its contents pulled out and strewn around. A few meals worth of dishes crowded the couch.
An empty syringe had rolled underneath the coffee table.
On the couch lay the girl of twenty-three, pale, emaciated. She lay on her back, her right arm extended over the edge of the couch, scarred, used. Her face was expressionless.
In the crook of her left arm was a worn cloth doll. It wore floral pajamas, its hair in short yellow ringlets, and a thin curved smile that ended in bright pink circles. It lay content and motionless against a chest that no longer rose and fell. In this sad place from which Andie could never be rescued, the doll was the only proof that the life she had lived was once full of love.
Giselle breathed deeply as her friend Emma took a seat across from her in the café, asking softly, “How are you holding up?”
It had taken a week to get to the point where words weren’t preceded by tears, so Giselle responded cautiously. “I’m doing better.” She looked down at the cloth doll she was cradling in her arms. “I got this from the detective; he gave it to me yesterday. He said it was…with her when she…”
Her grief swelled, and she turned her glazed eyes to the window and the rainy street. Emma reached out to rub her arm gently. “A toy from when she was little?” she guessed.
Giselle nodded. “I helped her…we made it together. She didn’t want a fussy doll, she just wanted one she could squeeze and hold at night. It was back when I started having to travel for the business and I was gone all the time. Andie…she wanted a doll that looked like me.”
Smiling gently, Emma said, “The esteemed doll maker Giselle Townsend, in pajamas, huh?”
“Yeah,” Giselle said with a small chuckle. “From our prayer time.” Her attempt at a smile faded, and she cast her eyes downward.
Emma used a whisper. “How long has it been since you’ve seen her?”
“Two years. Since she dropped out of college.” Giselle absently stroked the doll’s velvety pajama top. “I always wondered if she thought of me.”
The doll’s happy face had faded over time, first from use, then abandonment, but the sparkle in its large brown eyes seemed as bright as ever. “I suppose now I know.”
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