This is a short story I wrote for a creative writing class in college.
It was an abnormally sunny day in New York City, October 1938. A young girl with bouncing curls was walking down 5th Avenue. The eight-year-old was thoroughly enjoying the walk home as she soaked in the warm sun, taking her time, and looking in all of the store windows. Molly Arnold, that was her name, always loved window shopping but usually it was dreary and cold. The sun made it a much more pleasant venture. Suddenly, Molly stopped abruptly out of wonder and delight. Starring back at her was an exact replica of herself but incased in porcelain. Its chestnut ringlets lay around her face and tumbled elegantly down her back. Her blue-green eyes, the shade her mother proclaimed unnatural and unmatched by any other, were staring back at her, unblinking. Molly wanted to run into the shop, but she found it was already closed. She ran home excitedly to tell her parents about the find, but they had not arrived home from work yet. She tried to entertain herself with a radio program, but she could not stop thinking about the doll. She wondered how much it would cost and immediately jumped up off the couch to run to her bedroom and break open her pale pink piggy bank where she had been saving for a raincoat and umbrella with matching rain boots since she could remember. However, this was much more important. Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured out of the cracked pig, and she began counting to pass the time. By the time she finally heard the lock click and the door open, she had counted the money twice to be sure she was right: $37.42! That had to be enough to pay for the doll!
Molly jumped up from her bedroom floor and ran into the entrance way, where her parents were hanging up their jackets in the coat closet. Completely disregarding “hello,” Molly excitedly began telling her mother about the mysterious porcelain doll that resembled her so closely she felt that she was looking into a mirror. “And her eyes!” she exclaimed, “They’re my eyes! Genuinely startled but amused, Mrs. Helen Arnold asked her daughter how much the doll cost. Molly explained that although the shop had been closed, she had counted all of her money and was certain that she had plenty to pay for it herself. Mrs. Arnold was so very surprised at this revelation because her little girl was always adamant about saving her money that she offered to take her daughter to the store that Sunday after church. Molly shook her head, positive that she could not wait that long. She had to have that doll as soon as possible! Seeing how determined her daughter was, Mrs. Arnold decided to take Molly to the store the next morning and cancel her weekly manicure.
When morning finally came, Molly woke up extra early. She dressed in a white lace cotton dress – very similar to the one the doll wore – and made sure her ringlets were just as shiny and bouncy as the doll’s hair as well. She put on her fanciest socks and black Mary Janes and even snuck into her mother’s makeup bag to add some Boysenberry rouge to the apples of her cheeks. When she looked into the mirror, it was as if the doll was once again staring back at her.
When her mother came into the kitchen to grab her first cup of coffee, Molly was already dressed and ready. Mrs. Arnold spilled her coffee in surprise. Her daughter hated wearing dresses and refused to even wear one to church on Easter Sunday. She cleaned up the coffee without commenting, not wanting to hurt Molly’s feelings.
Soon mother and daughter were standing hand-in-hand in front of the toy shop. Molly held a small purse with all of her change inside. The store didn’t open for another five minutes, but the girl pulled her mother’s hand toward the shop window on the right side of the door and pointed. Mrs. Arnold’s free hand automatically clasped over her mouth, her eyes wide with shock, as her daughter’s face stared back at her framed in porcelain. She stared at the doll then at her daughter and back to the doll once again. Just then the shopkeeper opened the door, and Molly, still holding tight to her mother’s hand, ran into the shop. Her mother trailed behind her, still in disbelief. Molly’s object of desire seemed like one of horror to her mother, though she wasn’t exactly sure why. Mrs. Arnold’s hands were shaking, and her heart was pounding loudly in her ear. It seemed as if the world had slowed down – the men with brief cases on their way to work, the young mothers pushing their babies in buggies, the news boys riding their bikes for a couple of extra dollars, and even the joggers taking their daily run – everything was moving in slow motion. She felt dizzy. She could not imagine how this would be possible. When her daughter had depicted the doll, she assumed that she was exaggerating about the striking resemblance. It could just be a coincidence . . . but those eyes. How could anyone have replicated those eyes with such perfect detail? Although every internal instinct told her to grab onto her daughter and turn around, Mrs. Arnold went inside anyway to appease her little girl. When Mrs. Arnold was little, she had always been deprived of the things she had wanted the most. Her mother and father had believed that desire was sinful and envying other children’s toys was against the Ten Commandments. So Mrs. Arnold had always tried to be fair and kind to her daughter, never circumventing her most powerful longings.
Inside the store, Molly walked up to the shopkeeper without hesitation, again a strange sight for Mrs. Arnold because her daughter was usually shy. The shopkeeper turned to her to ask if she could be of any assistance, “May I hel- . . . you . . . you’re . . . doll . . . I,” she mumbled in shock, gulping back her fears, though her eyes shown bright and wide with consternation. She shook her head in attempt to regain her composure and finally managed to finish her sentence, “May I help you?”
Molly stood up tall with the posture of a straight-backed businessman, “How much is the porcelain doll in the window, Ma’am?”
“$37.42,” the woman replied.
The mother and daughter’s eyes opened wide in disbelief. Mrs. Arnold hesitated, “Are you sure this is what you want, my dear?” she asked her daughter, her intuition once again warning her to leave the store empty handed.
“Of course, Mother. From the moment I saw her, it was as if she had to belong to me,” the girl sounded certain, unnaturally so, and though her mother felt just as certainly that this was a terrible idea, she nodded to the little girl, still refusing to deny what she wanted so badly. Molly smiled and handed the shopkeeper her purse full of change, “This is all I have, exactly $37.42.”
The shopkeeper counted the money to double check the amount. Amazed at the coincidences of the resemblance and cost, the shopkeeper wrapped the doll and placed her in a box. When Mrs. Arnold opened the trunk of the car to put the box inside, Molly screamed in terror, “NO! You can’t put her in there. She might get broken. She won’t be able to see in the dark! She has to sit with me!” she demanded in an authoritative tone. Molly was successful in her argument and entered into the car with the box in her lap. During the ride home, the child took the lid off of the box and starred the doll in the eyes, flattening down its dress with her free hand, and making sure that every detail was in its correct place. Once home, the doll was taken to Molly’s bedroom. The little girl was ecstatic because she could trade clothes with the doll and dress it up, since it was exactly her size.
Molly played with her doll in her bedroom for the rest of the day. She found matching outfits for them, and matched her makeup exactly to the doll’s. For brunch, Molly and her doll joined Mrs. Arnold on the back patio in matching party dresses to sip Cool-Aid and eat her favorite snickerdoodle cookies. Mrs. Arnold was becoming slightly less anxious about the resemblance at seeing her daughter’s happiness, but she still felt uneasy about those unnatural blue-green eyes. She would swear that when she looked at them they were starring into her soul – as if they could actually see her. Meanwhile, Molly was having the time of her life, playing “house” and pretending that she and the doll were really twin sisters separated at birth who had found each other after years of feeling like they were missing a part of themselves. In all actuality, Molly did feel this way. The moment she had seen the doll, she felt that it was meant to be in her life – like the doll was made for her. They were made for one another.
That night, after Mrs. Arnold had tucked her little girl tightly into bed, she went to her bedroom to get ready for bed herself. Her husband wasn’t going to be home that night because he was on a business trip, so she planned on relaxing and reading a book curled up under the blankets. Before she turned on the light in the bedroom, Mrs. Arnold thought she saw movement out of the corner of her eye but disregarded it as only the cat. But, when she turned the light on, Molly was standing in front of a mirror staring into it, unblinking. In the next second, she realized that it was not Molly, but the porcelain doll and laughed it off as her daughter trying to scare her. She picked the doll back up and carried it back into her daughter’s room, quietly so as not to wake her. Then she went to the kitchen to grab herself a cup of hot tea and get her book off of the table and returned to her bedroom. She put her most comfortable nightgown on and turned on her bedside lamp before shutting off the room light.
With her back to the bed, she felt a shiver go straight up her spine. She turned around back to the bed cautiously, and saw her daughter tucked in under the covers of her bed with her eyes shut. Surprised, Mrs. Arnold went to kiss her, but as her lips touched Molly's forehead, she realized it was cold and hard. With goose bumps on her skin, Mrs. Arnold picked the doll back up and went to Molly’s bedroom, angry that her daughter would continue to play tricks on her. Upon entering the bedroom, Mrs. Arnold turned on the light and soon realized that her daughter was not in the bed. With the doll still tucked in her arms, she yelled for Molly, but there was no answer. She began frantically searching the house but could not find her daughter anywhere. She went back into the Molly’s room, but she was still not there. She then picked up the phone and called the police to report her missing. She didn't know what else to do.
The police were there within the hour, and made a preliminary search of the house, while a detective asked Mrs. Arnold questions about hiding places and if there was any reason her daughter would run away. Mrs. Arnold shook her head, saying that she had never been able to deny Molly anything she wanted, so she could think of no reason for her to be upset. The policemen, who had been searching the house, returned with no answer. But, they found it peculiar that the woman had two matching life-sized dolls and that the second was lying in the little girl’s bed. Mrs. Arnold looked at the doll still in her arms and frantically ran back into her daughter’s bedroom. Lying in the bed was the image of her daughter, but made of porcelain, as was the doll in her arms. But where was her little girl?
In her mother’s arms Molly felt safe, but she could not seem to make a sound no matter how hard she tried. Her lips just would not part. Her mouth felt dry. She tried to blink her eyes, but they were frozen in place. She had an itch on her nose, but it was impossible to scratch it because she could not move her hand to scratch it. As her mother turned away from her bed with a sob, Molly caught a glance of her twin doll laying in her bed underneath her favorite Beauty and the Beast comforter. All of the sudden, a grin spread across the doll’s face from temple to temple as if maliciously laughing at the little girl’s ironic fate. Then the doll swung its legs over the edge of the bed, and grabbed Molly out of her mother’s arms. Mrs. Arnold took both the doll and Molly into her embrace, holding them tightly. She kissed the doll on the forehead and left Molly lying carelessly on the floor as she ran downstairs to tell the police she had found her daughter. Molly wanted to cry out, but no tears would form. She could not follow her mother or even protest, when she was left behind.
The next morning Mrs. Arnold packed Molly into the doll box and placed her in the trunk of the car. The doll made no objection and happily rode along in the car. In the trunk Molly wanted to scream out in the darkness. She was afraid of the dark and dreadfully afraid that she would never see her mother again. When they reached the toy store, Mrs. Arnold and the doll walked hand in hand, Molly still trapped in between cardboard and tissue paper. The shopkeeper almost fainted when she saw the pair walk back into the shop and returned the porcelain girl. Shivers ran through the woman as she looked at the walking doll who smiled up at her, an innocently insidious smile. Molly was taken out of the box and put on display in the window, where she watched her mother drive away and her imposter wink back at her through the rearview window.