Wednesday, 14 January 2009
The Girl and her Doll
Sarah-Jane was given a doll when she was five. Every evening she would talk to the doll and tell it her hopes and fears. I say it, but her is more correct. The doll was called Loulou by Sarah-Jane and was loved dearly. More than that I cannot guess at. I like to think I am a rational man, but my rationality cannot explain Loulou at all. I knew Sarah-Jane when she worked in the office below mine. She was shy at first but we had a common interest in books and costume and this led her to talk perhaps more than she might have otherwise. She was generally shy, but I gave her reason to trust me and would not betray that trust once it was won.
So little by little she told me about Loulou. She had talked to Loulou since she was five and now that she was no longer a girl she still used to talk to the old doll when she felt unhappy or lost. There was something else I discovered about Sarah-Jane and that was animals either disliked her or were actually frightened by her. I could not understand why any animal should fear the lean, shy, young woman, but then I am a rationalist.
We had been meeting for lunch at the small cafe on North Street where I would eat and she would mostly drink coffee - in fact now I come to think of it, I never saw her eat. Four months after we began meeting for lunch, she invited me to her flat for coffee and talk that evening. I was careful to be sure that she was alright with me coming to her home. I had come to have a brotherly affection for her and did not want to ruin it. She assured me that it would be fine and smiling told me that Loulou would approve. I answered that I should like to meet Loulou having heard so much about her.
"It would be best tonight anyway," Sarah-Jane continued, "There is still time."
This seemed an odd comment to make, but I was used to Sarah-Jane making the occasional odd comment, so I thought nothing of it. Instead I offered to meet her on the street after work and we could walk to her place together. She said that she would like that and we went back to our respective offices and the tedious minutiae of work.
That evening I met her and we walked back to the high, broad Victorian house that had been turned into flats. The garden was a little overgrown but otherwise the building was charming. I noted with delight the stained glass panels in the porch windows and the Minton tiles on the floor of the hallway. None of this meant anything to Sarah-Jane but she was happy that I was happy. We climbed the stairs to her flat and entered. There were three rooms as well as the bathroom and kitchen.
Through an open door I saw a double bed and beside it sitting on a table against the wall was a blonde and blue-eyed doll. Sarah-Jane introduced me to the doll and asked if I would put the kettle on and give her a little time to get changed. I agreed and went out of the bedroom hearing the door shut quietly behind me. Somehow I felt I was being excluded from a private conversation between girls as I had been at school. Still, I would respect her privacy and made a pot of tea.
The evening went quietly and just before ten o'clock I got up to go and Sarah-Jane hugged me. I held her gently and kissed her chastely on her warm soft face. She looked up with a serious expression on her face and thanked me for coming. I answered that it had been a pleasure and that next time I should cook her a meal.
"Oh you don't have to do that, I don't eat much anyway," she said with barely a whisper and lowering her gaze suddenly.
To lighten the mood I asked her if I had passed muster with Loulou. She smiled and said Loulou thought that I was a nice man. I said I thought Loulou was a very pretty doll and wished her goodnight.
I had to come in early to work one morning and was not happy about it. Along the way I heard a whimper and saw a man staggering through the streets. He was not drunk, but bloody and looked as if he'd been in a fight and lost. He suddenly collapsed and I phoned for an ambulance after laying him down on his side in the recovery position as much as I could remember. The incident took some twenty minutes and I continued to work thinking over what had happened. The man had looked as if someone or something had savaged him.
I climbed up the stairs to my office and saw that Sarah-Jane's office door was open. I knocked and strolled in calling out and heard a sob. I called out again and then I noticed that Sarah-Jane was crouching on the floor with her arms wrapped about her, in tears. I was about to crouch down by her but somehow I could not. Something almost primal in me would not let me. Indeed, I was strongly impelled to back away and hide somewhere. Then Sarah-Jane looked up and whimpered. There was something not quite human, something almost fey about her then.
I spoke her name and she stopped sobbing and silently gazed at me her eyes fixed on me.
"A man... there was a man. Loulou didn't like his - manners," she whispered.
"What happened Sarah-Jane?" I asked softly, aware all the time of the hairs on my neck standing up in fear.
For the first time since I had met her I was very frightened, but I didn't know why.
"A man came to my flat and got in. He was very - rude to me and Loulou didn't like his manners," she said very softly.
Then, "I'm hungry, but I'm on a special diet," she said.
I said I'd get her some food and asked what she wanted.
"Coffee. And steak. Raw. I-I I'll get Mattie to cook it," she said with the faint trace of a growl in her voice.
I backed out of the office and she slowly seemed to unfurl from her crouch. It was then that I realised that she was naked. I was horrified, believing that she had been in danger. As I moved back into the office she looked directly into my eyes and fixed me with her gaze. I knew suddenly that she had been in no danger, but that I was unless I left very quickly. I backed out of the office again and shut the door behind me. I went down the stairs peering over my shoulder and went and bought a large steak and a large coffee, though somehow I didn't think she needed the coffee much. When I returned to the office, she was gone. Only two of the other women were drinking their coffee and talking. When they saw me they asked if I'd seen the full moon last night.
"It was so beautiful and yellow," one of the women said.
I said I had not and went up the stairs to my own office. Sarah-Jane was not up there. I never saw her again. But four weeks later I was passing a second hand shop and there in the window was a blonde blue-eyed doll who looked exactly like Loulou. I never could explain her.