Consider this Your Invitation to a Special Doll's Tea Party - A Dark Short Story
The perfect place setting for a tea party.
"Carrie, what will I do? Momma's having another one of her tea parties today. I've got to wear that scratchy ol' blue dress with the big, wide ribbon and those horrible, pinchy shoes. You know, the ones I hate. Why do I have to go to some dumb ol' party with a bunch of dull ol' ladies, anyway?"
Laurel sat on the edge of her bed, bare feet dangling, toes wiggling. A breeze gently lifted the pink gingham curtains at her window and just as gently ruffled her curly, brown hair, the scent of lilacs lingering. Pushing her hair away from her face with a sigh, she leaned closer to hear her companion's comments.
"What did you say, Carrie? You want to go to the tea party? I sure don't see why. We have to sit up straight in the chair, then we have to hold the cup like this."
Laurel sat up straighter, lifted her arm and held her fingers in imitation of her mother holding a cup and saucer.
"That's hard for me to do. It hurts my fingers to stretch that way. Then, they all talk a bunch of grown up stuff, like what to do 'bout somebody leaving somebody else or they talk about what they bought the last time they went shopping. YUK! An' we still sit there in our chairs. An' we can't interrupt unless to say 'pass the sugar, please.'"
Laurel collapsed onto the bed, giggling as she imitated the voices of her mother's friends.
"There never are enough of those little, bitty san'wiches or the little cakes to eat. Anyway, the cakes are the only thing worth eating. And Momma will only let me have one. 'It's not ladylike to eat too much,' Momma says."
Laurel sat up once again, her expression thoughtful as she talked about her mother's tea party.
" 'Course you sit in your chair most of the day anyway, Carrie, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad, not for you. All I can think about is getting away from those smelly ladies."
Laurel held her nose, and jumping from the bed that was just a little too high off the floor for her, feet skidding a little as she landed with a small thud. She did a little twirl and skipped across the room to the window, looking out wistfully. She placed her palm on the window and pressed against the screen that was in place to keep the bugs out on warm days, days like today.
She could see the swing her Daddy had put up for her last year hanging from the oak tree near the apple orchard, trees heavy with fragrant blossoms. The rope was thick and still looked tanned, not yet worn by the sun or the rain. The seat was a sturdy piece of wood. He didn't find it himself. He had Jason to do that. Jason was the handyman that took care of the outside work around the house, but her Daddy made the swing and it made her feel proud and happy.
She saw her bike in the middle of the drive where she left it when her Momma had called her in earlier. "Oops," she mumbled under her breath, "Daddy's not going to like that."
When she turned back to her friend, she made a face.
"They smell like some kinda flowers. I like flowers but not perfume flowers. Not good!" She shook her head. Her light brown curls bounced wildly. Laurel skipped back to her friend's side.
"Besides, they hug me too tight, then they tell me to turn around 'so I can have a good look at you, sweetie.' " The last part of the sentence she delivered in the high pitch of what she thought was voice of her mother's friends.
"Then what do they do next? Oh. Well, Carrie, they all talk about how much I've grown and it's only been a little while since they were here last." Laurel looked pained as she talked. Her little friend continued to stare, brown eyes wide and huge.
"Oh, I'd much rather be down at the pond fishin' or anything, else. I don't want to go to some ol' tea party." Laurel frowned and jumped from the bed again where she had just made herself comfortable. Her mother would say she was fidgeting. She stood on her toes, mimicking the way the ladies walked. Then she squeezed her friend in imitation of the ladies' hugs she dreaded.
Dragging her friend by the hand, she ran to put her ear to the door and listened. It was a thick door. The house had belonged to her grandmother and the doors they made when her grandmother and grandfather bought the huge house were all very thick, very effectively muffling most of the sounds from the other side.
Laurel's mother was thinking ahead to the tea as she climbed the stairs and crossed the landing to her daughter's door. Eight of her very good friends were arriving at 3 o'clock. This was her opportunity to show off the new tea set she discovered at her last antiquing adventure, the one which she had to literally drag her Jonathan to. Laurel was easier to handle when her husband came along. Her excursions always turned up some really good finds.
She smiled as she thought of how lovely her set looked. If she could believe the authenticity of it, the set had belonged to Dolly Madison before she became First Lady. It was a lovely shade of cobalt blue, her favorite color, almost the same shade of blue as the dress Laurel was to wear today. Again, she smiled. This time she was thinking of her precocious little seven year old. At times she was a real handful. It was during those times that she appreciated what her own mother must have gone through with her.
Reaching for the ornate doorknob at Laurel's door, Laurel's mother paused a moment, hand midair, examining her mental checklist, making sure she had forgotten nothing. Looking at her watch she exclaimed, "I can't believe I only have twenty minutes to get Laurel ready! Where did my time go?"
She liked to have Laurel join her with her friends. She thinks she is an exceptional child, but, she sighed, "Sometimes, daughter, you are just too exasperating."
She hoped today would be an exception.
Ears pressed to the door, Laurel, clearly agitated, exclaimed, "I think I hear Momma coming now. She's coming to get me dressed. I just know she is. Maybe I can hide. That worked real good when she wanted me to play piano for her club meeting. Remember? She didn't find me until nearly dark." Laurel smiled remembering the adventure.
Her companion looked on, glassy eyed, smiling.
"That was lots of fun. The attic is such a nice place. It made me sneeze, but there was an awful lot of interesting stuff up there. That's where I found I found you. I'm glad I did, but I didn't like it when Momma made me stay in my room all the next day."
"What should I do, Carrie?" Laurel's expression was pensive as she thought of the previous times she had disobeyed her mother.
She glanced around her spacious bedroom for an escape. She momentarily eyed the open window, but immediately dismissed any thought of using that as an escape route.
"The window is much too high up and any jump would land me in Momma's roses, anyway." An unpleasant, thorny thought.
Still searching, she looked over at her reflection in the floor length mirror she had begged her mother to bring from the attic to her room. That had taken some doing and a lot of convincing. Her mother felt the mirror wasn't an appropriate decorative piece for a little girl's room.
"Too ornate, too dark," her mother had said. Whatever that meant. But Laurel loved the mirror and her mother loved her, so she gave in.
Now she looked at the blue dress hanging by the mirror. When she looked back into the mirror, she saw her reflection, a wild eyed little girl of seven clutching a doll by the hand. Unlike most of Laurel's other dolls, this doll was made to look like a little girl and stood nearly as tall as she was. She stared at her reflection and the doll stared back.
"What do you mean, you'll trade places with me, Carrie? Even I know that's impossible. You can't walk. And you don't look like me. Well... maybe a little."
Laurel bent closer to her doll's mouth. "What? Hold you up to the mirror? Like this?"
Lifting the doll, Laurel turned left and right, eyeing the reflections of the two. For a minute Laurel wished she could trade places with her new found friend, Carrie. But then she remembered that Carrie couldn't walk and Carrie was too small. Carrie was just a doll.
"Ok, Carrie," Laurel said, squeezing her eyes shut, "I'm wishing, like you said to." Or at least that's what Laurel thought she said, but there was no sound and her mouth didn't feel like it was working right. When she opened her eyes she saw that Carrie actually did look like her and that somehow she had become larger. In fact, the mirror revealed Laurel to be Carrie's former size. What was worse, she couldn't feel the little girl's hand she was clutching. Laurel's body tingled, but made no moves.
"Laurel, dear, it's time to get dressed for my tea party." Laurel's mother spoke as she opened the door and entered the room.
Everything looked the same to her mother. There was Laurel's bed with the pink gingham coverlet that matched the pink gingham curtains that stirred slightly at the window. Laurel's toy chest sat in the corner, overflowing with an assortment of toys worthy of any tomboy. Her dolls neatly lined the cupboard shelf, mostly abandoned. And there was her beloved little girl standing in front of the grotesque mirror she reluctantly had the handyman, Jason, drag from the attic, at Laurel's insistence, the day after she found Laurel hiding behind it in the attic. All the ornamentation, all the dark wood never sat right with her.The cherubs in each corner had imitations of smiles that looked to her like evil smirks, as if they knew some vile, unpleasant secret. Each time she looked at it she regretted allowing Laurel to talk her into bringing it from the attic.
Carrie whirled away from the mirror to face the woman at the door. Laurel's mother noted her flushed face, hoped she wasn't feverish, then eyed the doll clutched in the little girl's hand. She steeled herself for the mini conflict she expected to erupt when she tried to convince her daughter to get out of the jeans and Ked sneakers, into the blue dress and "pinchy" shoes. And most of all, to leave that sinister looking little doll in the attic.
"Hello, Mother," Carrie said excitedly, "I'm ready to get dressed now! I can't wait to go to the tea party!"
Laurel on the other hand, said nothing, but her thoughts were racing and her heart was pounding and she tried to speak, but no words came out. The horror she felt began to spread throughout as she realized that sometimes wishes did come true, just like her mother always said.
"This is the first time she's called me Mother," Laurel's mother thought. "And she's ready to get dressed? What a turn around for Laurel."
She breathed a sigh of relief. That was one tug of war she wouldn't have.
"Still," she mused, "how strange for Laurel to change so suddenly and agree to attending the tea party without a fuss. Well, I've always wished for that and, as I've always told Laurel, sometimes wishes do come true."
Copyright 2011 Cynthia Turner
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