Emory drew his pocketknife as he threw the doll’s lifeless body onto the bed. She lay motionless, her blue plastic eyes staring nowhere, wearing only a skimpy black dress and fishnet tights. He kneeled on the bed above her, running a hand through her blonde ringlets, pressing the knife to her inner thigh. Silent and motionless, she lay on the bed as he cut through the fishnets and into her leg. Her cold silicone flesh soon lay in frayed strips through ripped tights. He grabbed clumsily at her legs, pushing her flexibility to the limits. She never spoke; she never moved. Slapping her with his knife, he sliced into her nose.
Twenty years ago, Emory shuffled through the door in muddy sneakers. Tossing his backpack on the end of the sofa, he sat on the dampened entry rug to remove his shoes. His cheeks pink with embarrassment, he continued the soft crying that began only ten minutes into the ride home on the school bus. He had endured a full ninety minutes of agony, all from a stupid rain-smeared hand-written letter from a girl.
Abby approached quietly from the kitchen, counting the steps in her socked feet. Her left hand on the doorframe between the living room and hall, she predicted the conversation to follow as she listened to her little brother cry. She was grinning when Emory looked up to her blank crystal-blue eyes.
“Stop smiling. That’s just mean.”
“Em, did you have a rough day?”
“She broke up with me. In a letter. On the bus.”
Stepping forward from the doorway, Abby walked in a calculated path towards the front door, her hand held out and downward to feel for Emory. Finding him still on the damp entry rug, she tousled his hair. She kneeled beside him, lifting his face in her hands.
“She’s just a silly thirteen year old girl, lil bro. Just a silly girl.” Abby’s eyes stared through him, past him. “Besides, I still love you plenty.”
Emory rested his head against her chest, crying. “Why can’t she love me?”
Abby ran her hands under his shirt, rubbing his back the same way that put him to sleep at night. “I still love you, Em.” She lifted his chin and kissed him on the mouth as he stared into her unblinking eyes. “I still love you.”
Every summer, Abby and Emory visited their grandparents in Georgia for a few weeks between June and July. Their grandfather maintained a few acres of peach trees, and the children would escape for hours in the grove, eating fruits until their legs were sticky with juice. At the edge of the property ran a small creek, and they would sit on the rocks by the bank wasting hours telling stories and playing. Emory would take Abby’s hand and run her through the trees to the opposite end of the grove. Her eyes open to the wind, she giggled, running faster than she ever would without her hand in his.
The summer after Emory turned ten, they sat together on the largest rock, hands stained with peach juice, playing truth or dare.
“Who’s the first boy you kissed?”
Abby blushed. “I’ve never kissed a boy,” she confessed, twirling a loose strand of curly blonde hair in her fingers.
Emory sat up on his rock, amazed. “Get out! I thought you’d done everything!”
“No, it’s true,” she sighed, extending her tanned bare legs in front of her. “No boy would ever love me.”
“What? You’re crazy.” Emory stared at her chest, the edge of her white bra visible through her low v-neck shirt as she leaned back. “Who wouldn’t love you?”
“Truth or dare, Em?” She turned her head in his direction.
“Dare.” He stared at her cleavage, aware she could not notice.
“Kiss me on the mouth.”
Neat crescents soon lined the doll’s inner thighs from knee to hip. Emory stood back and looked at the form on his bed, closing his knife and placing it on the nightstand. She had the same blank blue eyes, the same curly blonde hair, and the same slight nose as Abby. When he kissed her, she never blinked—even when he bit her lips. He turned away, grimacing. She could never be real enough.
The large wooden crate she came in stood open in the second bedroom of the apartment, walls painted the same pale lilac color of Abby’s bedroom back home. Emory ran his fingers over the splintering crate. He had named her Gail when she arrived two weeks earlier, strapped and padded into the crate he’d paid extra to ship quickly. She wore only black crotch-less fishnet tights and a revealing skimpy black dress, and her eyes stared through him with that familiar blankness. He grabbed her silicone arms and dragged her out of the box, rough enough to bruise if she had blood.
The first night, he took the doll to bed with him. She lay motionless with her legs open in invitation. He left her dressed, and took his time. He peered down her dress, over her long legs, up her short skirt—all the while, she never breathed, never blinked. He left the lights on, and didn’t close his eyes when he kissed her.
When Emory graduated from college, he took a job at his old high school teaching remedial algebra. He picked out a cheap two-bedroom ground level apartment, and brought Abby over one night after he’d finished putting everything away. She quietly counted steps from the front door to the sofa, the bathroom, and the kitchen. Checking to clear the counter, she hopped up, sitting and facing Emory. He could see her white panties from where he stood, and grinned.
“Did you miss having me around all the time?”
“I managed.” She twirled a stray blonde curl between her fingers.
“You know, I’ve got room here for both of us.” He crossed the tile floor and stood in front of her, his hands grazing her bare tanned knees.
“Em, we need to talk.”
“I set up the living room just like home. You’ll know where everything is.” He traced his fingertips towards her inner thighs.
She sighed, taking his hands in hers and holding them in her lap. “I’m moving to Georgia.”
“You can come live with me. I make plenty of money,” he stammered, his face turning pink.
She reached upward, found his face. “That was just a silly game we played when we were little. You didn’t expect to marry me, did you?” She rested her hand on his cheek, touching his mouth with her thumb. “Besides, Grandpa has been having trouble since she died. I’m going to go help.”
“But you can live with me.” She felt his tears run to her fingers. He kept his eyes open as she kissed him.
“I still love you, Em.”
Two years later when Janine moved in, Emory’s daily emails to Abby slacked. Abby had visited only once since moving, and tended to ignore his incessant invitations. Most of what Emory heard about her came through his parents.
One evening, Emory heard the obnoxious scraping of moving furniture as he fished for his door key. Slamming the door open he stood, mouth agape, staring at the disheveled living room. The sofa was against the opposite wall from where he’d positioned it when he moved in, and Janine looked up at him in a sweaty tank top and beamed.
“I thought we could use a little turn-around. From the crap I vacuumed up, I doubt you’ve moved anything since you got this place! Lord, that has to have been two years, hasn’t it? So what do you think?” She wiped her forehead with her hand, staring into him. He closed his eyes after a long moment as her smile slowly waned.
“Fix it? But this opens up the room! It’s so much more inviting and warm.” She cocked her head, smiling again. He could feel her eyes on him, and he turned around.
“Just fix it,” he stammered, his face flushing. He turned quickly, leaving the door open, and got back into his car.
Fumbling through the shipping crate, Emory found the plastic envelope taped inside. The bag contained a packet of FAQs and cleaning instructions, along with a small magazine offering extra wigs, hair patches, and different colored eyes, as well as cleaning and repair kits for all the doll’s anatomically correct parts. In the back of the magazine, he found an ad for a man who would repair any kind of injury on a doll, as well as tighten all her joints and repaint her lips.
“Gail, you’re going on vacation.” He stood in the bedroom doorway, thumbing through the magazine. She never moved. He crossed the bedroom and grabbed her thigh, shoving her off the bed. Her head hit the wall with force, and she lay on the floor, motionless on her side.
“Why do you keep your eyes open when you kiss me?”
“What? Well, you’re beautiful. Why would I close my eyes?” He held Janine in his arms, running his hand through her curly blonde hair and over her bare shoulders.
“Have you heard from your sister lately?”
He sat up straighter, his voice cracking. “She met a guy, swears she loves him. That’s been a month now.”
“Why don’t you ever visit her? I imagine it’s a lot easier for you to travel than it is for her.” Janine looked up at him, pulling the blankets over her shoulders.
He frowned. “I don’t think she loves me anymore.”
“She’s your sister, silly,” Janine giggled. “Of course she still loves you.” She studied his face, his eyes blank as he sat in thought.
Emory reached over and turned out the light.
“Emory, this isn’t funny. Give me back my glasses.”
From his perch on the kitchen counter, Emory watched as Janine stumbled back and forth between the living room and bedroom, arms outstretched, searching for the plastic frames he held in his hands. Her blonde curls hung disheveled around her face, and she hadn’t slept the night before. He sat silently, watching her run her hands over end tables and through the sofa.
“You’re cute when you’re angry.”
Janine spun around having heard his voice and marched towards the kitchen, staring blankly into the fuzzy room with furrowed brows. “I’m not playing. Give me back my glasses. This isn’t funny.”
Emory tucked her thick lenses behind him on the counter, grinning. He didn’t speak.
“You do this to me every week. It isn’t cute anymore. I can’t see a damn thing and I have to go to the store.”
He watched her eyes quiver as she began to cry.
He stood over Gail as she lay motionless on the floor, her silicone flesh hanging in ragged strips from her thighs and her shredded fishnet tights hanging to the floor. The bedroom stood bare now, emptied of all Janine’s trinkets and clothes. He picked up the hand-written letter she’d left on the kitchen table, and crumpled it into a ball.
“You’ll always love me, huh?” he mocked, throwing the paper-ball at Gail. She didn’t flinch, and her expression never changed. Her blank blue eyes never blinked, and stared somewhere towards his head and the ceiling. He sighed, closing his eyes.
“You’ll always love me.”
A emotionally scarred boy abuses a real doll.