‘Honey, look what I found!’ Anna was called by her mum, who was cleaning the attic.
She ran upstairs, and was greeted by a huge dollhouse. It was beautiful.
It had two stories, and was painted white. The doors and windows were light blue, and the fence was painted a nice shade of lilac. Small rose bushes covered the fence and a green mailbox. A small tree with a swing-set stood in the garden. The outside alone was rather detailed, and Anna smiled.
She moved to open the dark red roof, and saw that there were 7 rooms inside the house. The small furniture was real craftsmanship, everything was detailed and looked as if it had been shrunk to a fitting size for the dollhouse. It was rather similar to the house Anna lived in, except for the colours. Anna looked at her mum, and back at the dollhouse.
Anna could already imagine herself playing with this. She reached inside to pick up one of the tree dolls. It was a woman with brown hair, wearing a floral dress.
‘This one looks like you,’ Anna showed her the doll. Her mum, Chris, smiled.
‘I suppose it does.’
‘It’s so pretty!’ Anna whispered enthusiastically. ‘Can I play with it, mum?’
Chris nodded. With a squeal Anna jumped up, and hugged her mum. Chris helped her daughter carry the dollhouse to her bedroom, and smiled when she saw that Anna started playing with it immediately.
Little laughs and giggled filled the normally quiet house for the rest of the day. Anna loved her new toys. She wished she could play with them forever.
Anna looked up. She hadn’t realized it was that late already. She stood up, and walked out of her room. In the doorway she turned, and picked the three dolls up. ‘You’re gonna have dinner with me.’
As she walked downstairs, Chris had just put a pan with pasta on the table.
‘Anna, can you put your toys away? We’re gonna eat now.’
Anna shook her head. ‘I want them to join.’
‘Anna, you know the rules. No toys at the dining table.’ Anna sighed, knowing that this was true.
Chris moved to take the dolls away, but Anna was quicker. She ran to the other side of the table, keeping the dolls close to her chest.
‘Please mom! I promise I won’t play with them! Just let them stay at the table!’
‘No,’ Chris sighed. ‘You know the rules. Put them down now and sit.’
Reluctantly Anna did what she was told. She ate her meal quietly, shooting glances at her mother every once in a while. Chris sighed. If this was how Anna would behave after getting the gift she didn’t know if it was the best idea to let her keep the dollhouse.
After dinner was over, and the dished were put away in the cupboards, Anna was sent to bed. It was still quite early for the nine year old, but she didn’t put up a fight with her mum.
‘Are you sure you’re alright, sweetie?’
Anna nodded, as she crawled under the covers of her bed.
‘Okay, sleep tight.’ She gave her daughter a kiss and closed the door.
She went back to the living room, sat down with a glass of wine and turned the TV on. Maybe Anna just had one of those days. It didn’t have to mean anything. Tomorrow she would surely behave the way she normally would. Right?
She fell asleep on the couch.
Anna was still awake. She had waited till her mum had left, and waited a bit longer to make sure that the coast was clear. Quietly she tiptoed out of her bed, and to the dollhouse that stood on her desk. She turned one of her lamps on, and continued playing with the dolls.
Oh, the stories they could tell her. The amazing adventures they would have! Anna loved playing with her new toys. She played nonstop for hours, until the early morning hours.
Chris had woken up suddenly. She looked on the clock and saw that it was around two in the morning. She sighed, got up, and got ready for bed. When she walked past Anna’s room she noticed the lights being on.
She knocked on the door. ‘Anna?’
She opened the door and saw Anna playing with the dollhouse. A wave of anger washed over her. Why did Anna do this? Normally she wasn’t like this at all.
‘Go to bed, now! It’s two am! Why aren’t you asleep?’
‘I wanted to play!’ Anna screamed. She didn’t want to stop. She wanted to play the whole night long, until noon the next day and do it all over again.
‘In bed. Anna you’re going to sleep now. If I catch you playing with the dollhouse after bedtime again, I’m going to take it away. Am I clear?’
The next day Anna had been up late, and had acted out several times before breakfast already. She had yelled at Chris for not making her pancakes for breakfast, and for telling her to go outside to fetch the mail.
Chris was worried. Why had her normally so sweet and kind turned into a spoiled brat overnight? Did she do something wrong? Did something happen to Anna?
She sighed, and made herself a cup of tea. She remembered the dollhouse from her youth. It had been a gift from her father for her tenth birthday. She had loved it immediately, just as Anna had. She also remembered that her mum had taken it away quite quickly. Back then she hadn’t understood it. But now, she might. If she had also acted like this, she understood why her parents would take it away. She wanted to ask them if what she was thinking was true, but realized she couldn’t. They had died about a year ago. With a sad sigh she looked outside. She saw that Anna wasn’t outside anymore, and heard her up in her room playing with the dollhouse again.
Maybe she should take the dollhouse away. Anna might be sad and angry for the next few days, but in the end it would surely be for the better. And, if she offered Anna to go to the mall and get a new set of toys she probably wouldn’t be that angry. She would’ve forgotten about the house in no time.
‘You fuck!’ Anna had yelled with an unfamiliar, raspy voice at Chris when she had asked Anna to go to the mall. Shocked she looked at her daughter. Where had she learned such language?
‘I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!’ Anna repeated this, louder and higher each time. Chris was angry. How dared Anna?
‘Stop it!’ Anna became quiet and looked at Chris.
Chris sighed. All of this started after Anna got the house. Now the yelling again. She couldn’t take it anymore. She walked forward, and grabbed the house, ignoring Anna’s pleading screams and sobs, and threw it out of the window.
‘I’m sorry Anna, but this is for your own good.’
Chris walked out the room, leaving her daughter alone.
Part of her felt bad. She hated doing this. Seeing her daughter like this hurt her, a lot. But she was not going to let this behavior pass. Something was off about this house, and something needed to be done about it.
She went outside, armed with a set of matches, and lit the remains of the dollhouse on fire. Chris stood there and watched, until every single piece was turned into ashes. She heard Anna scream from inside the house, and sighed. She would get a new dollhouse tomorrow, but one that was brand new. Surely that would make things alright again. She put the fire out, and walked back inside.
That evening Anna seemed back to normal. She cheerfully talked about going to school the next day, and even apologized for her behavior. Chris smiled, happy knowing that she was correct.
The next day she dropped Anna of at school. She was glad everything was normal. She had cleaned all the ashes in the garden, and cleaned the house. Chris smiled, deciding to take Anna to the store after dropping her bag off at home.
When she picked Anna up from school, and drove home, she expected a lot of things. A happy ‘thank you’ for getting the news that she would get a new toy, or a ‘no thanks’ because maybe she didn’t want it. What she didn’t expect was a high, happy squeal when Anna had entered her own room.
‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’ Anna had screamed excitedly. Chris frowned. Why was she being thanked?
She walked up to her daughter’s room and gasped. There it was. The dollhouse. In all of her glory. It possibly looked even prettier than before. How could this be? Chris had burned it. She had cleaned the ashes. There was not one piece left. How did this happen?
She didn’t have much time to think. Her daughter had wrapped her arms around her, and started playing with it again. When Anna noticed that Chris was still there she told her to get out of her room.
‘Anna, be nice.’
‘Out!’ Anna yelled.
Chris sighed, letting it slip for now. She wasn’t in the mood for yet another fight.
Anna didn’t leave her room for hours. She was stuck in there till dinner, refused to come out, and stayed in there until the late afternoon of the next day. And even then, she only left to go to the toilet. She had taken all her dolls with her, and went back quickly as if she was scared to find out that the house was gone.
Chris worried. She felt like her daughter was glued to the dollhouse. It wasn’t healthy. She sighed. After she had put some food on the desk in Anna’s room, she went to bed. She was exhausted.
Even though she felt like she hadn’t slept in ages, she had a hard time falling asleep. Thoughts kept crossing her mind. She was so worried about her daughter, that she was certain that if this lasted any longer she would go insane. She decided that the next step would be to call a psychologist, and to let them take a look at Anna. Something was wrong, and it needed to be solved.
After what seemed to be hours, she finally fell asleep. A bit restless, but sleep nontheless.
The bed moved. A small body sat next to Chris’. She woke up slowly, and blinked.
‘Anna? Is that you? What are you doing up so late?’
Anna stared at her mother.
‘Why don’t you want me to play?’
‘Oh honey,’ Chris smiled tiredly, ‘Can we talk about this tomorrow morning? It’s really late.’
‘Momma, I want to know why.’
‘Anna, I want you to be a good girl and go to bed now. Tomorrow you can play with whatever you want.’
Anna looked at Chris. ‘They say that you’re lying.’
‘Who says that?’
Anna giggled, jumped up and ran out of the room. Chris quickly followed her into the hallway and screamed at what she saw.
Anna lay there, on the carpet, covered in burns.
‘Why did you hurt me, mommy?’ Anna asked, while tears streamed down her face.
‘Anna? What happened? How…?’ Chris sat down next to Anna, and looked worried.
‘Mommy, why did you hurt me?’
‘I… I didn’t hurt you. How did I hurt you Anna? Anna, this isn’t funny. Let’s… I’ll call a doctor, you need to go to a hospital and…’
‘NO!’ Anna screamed. Chris fell backwards. She looked at her daughter.
‘No mommy,’ Anna looked a lot calmer now. ‘They want you to play as well.’
‘Anna, can’t we do this tomorrow. We really need to get you to a doctor.’
‘No,’ Anna said, her voice raspy. ‘They want to play with us mommy. They want to play now.’
Reluctantly Chris followed Anna into her room, and sat down in front of the dollhouse.
She joined her daughter in her game, moving the dolls carefully and talking to them as if they were real.
Time passed slowly, and after a ray of sunlight had entered the room, Anna noticed that her mum was still there. She was still playing.
‘Thank you mummy,’ she said. She smiled at her mother.
‘Anna?’ Chris looked up. It was strange hearing a voice coming out of Anna’s mouth that wasn’t quite right.
The nine year old girl smiled when she got up, and walked towards her mum.
‘Thank you for playing with us mommy.’ She gave Chris a hug. ‘Now we can stay here forever.’
Chris frowned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Stay here with me, mummy. Don’t leave. Just stay with me, and play with me, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever…’
Chris drowned the voice of her daughter out. She looked around. The room, her daughters room, had turned to ashes. She had been sitting in the ashes of her daughter’s room for hours and hadn’t noticed it. She looked at the doll in her hand. What was going on with her?
‘Mommy? Will you stay with me?’ Anna asked.
‘Anna, where are you?’
Chris was starting to feel panicked. Where was her daughter?
‘I’m in here mommy! Come play with me!’
She looked down and saw the doll in her hand. It smiled at her, and opened its mouth.
‘Come play with me, mommy!’