Notes and Disclaimers: This story is my own copyright, please do not use any of the characters without my permission, thanks awfully. This was written at the specific request of Dany Johnson, editor and publisher of Dyploitation ezine, for her February "doll" issue.
An original fiction by Erica Friedman
Going through the attic after my parents died was hard. I knew I should have done it sooner but there never seemed to be time. Now the new owners were going to be here in a week and it was go through the stuff, or theyd throw it all out.
Most of it was junk, of course. Some of it was funny the award-winning macaroni sculpture I made in third grade, for instance. A lot of it was stuff they had gotten from their parents, and I guess, hadnt known what to do with it. I didnt know, either. I threw away as much as I could stand to the first day, then went out to a local bar and got myself thoroughly trashed.
I woke up with a headache, and another full day of sorting through the artifacts of my life ahead of me. I thought about asking my friends to help, but Ive never been good at that kind of thing. My friends were always complaining about the fact that I never let them closer, but Im just not comfortable at being unhappy in front of other people. So I ate two alka-seltzer for breakfast and grabbed a cup of coffee at the diner.
The next few hours were dusty, and hot, and tiring. I thought hard about buying a six-pack to get through it, but Im not good at that kind of thing, either. So I just hunkered down and sorted. By the end of the day about half the attic was cleared and I had a few things I was planning on taking home with me.
That night, I dropped the boxes in the foyer and practically fell asleep where I sat. I drifted off to the noise of the TV - but about 2 AM, I found myself awake and restless. I heated some toast and eggs and had a late dinner/early breakfast. Since I was already awake, I thought Id start checking out what I brought home with me.
The first box was mostly photos. I sat and cried for a little while, reliving memories of my childhood, my parents and my late brother. I cried some for them, and a lot more for myself. As far as I know, I dont have any cousins and now that my parents are gone, Im it for my family. Its a heavy burden sometimes, when I think about it. Especially as I dont plan on ever having kids.
The second box was full of what passed for antiques in my family. Teacups from my grandmother, things like that. The third box seemed to be filled with nothing but packing material. I dug around in the filler and finally felt something solid. I lifted the object and stared in fascination. It was a doll one I that had been mine as a child. Nina, I had called her. I smiled as I remembered the way I had dressed her. I had worn boys clothes she always wore girls clothes. I remembered the day I told my mother that Nina was my girlfriend and that I would marry her.
My smile faded as I stared at Nina. I must have been no more than seven, eight years old when I had said that. About three weeks later Nina had gone missing. I had looked all over the house, but never found her again. I cried myself to sleep for a month, but eventually I got over it. Now I looked down at Ninas porcelain face, her soulful brown eyes that looked a little sad and far too real, I realized that I hadnt lost her at all.
Damn you. I whispered to my parents lemures. You hid her. I gritted my teeth and thought of all the things left unsaid between us things that would never be said now that they were gone. It was better this way.
Before they got hit by a drunk driver, my parents hadnt ever accepted me for who I am. Not from the time I was eight not ever. Now I didnt have to lie anymore. Not that I ever really lied. I remembered their pinched faces when I told them I was quitting college to join the military, they way they paled when they visited and I introduced them to Barb then Janice then Karen. They always referred to my lovers as my friends which drove me nuts. All of a sudden I felt exhausted. I threw myself on my bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
When I woke up, I was clutching Nina, the way I used to when I was a child. I looked down at her, and smiled. I cant have you in bed with me, sorry. I told the doll. I stuck her on the headboard shelf. Youll probably break when I roll over.
Something snapped inside me that night. All the anger, all the frustration, all the unresolved issues seemed much less important in the morning when I awoke. I went back to my parents house and finished cleaning out the attic in one spurt. I let the new owners know that I was done, and that Id leave the key with a neighbor. Feeling tired, but refreshed, I returned home.
I dropped the last few boxes and bags on my bed and greeted Nina jauntily. Her face almost looked like it was smiling. I remembered that about her. Whoever had painted her had been a genius. When you were sad, Nina looked sympathetic, when you were happy, she looked happy for you. The perfect friend.
The next few weeks were busy. My friends wanted small pieces of me the way people do when they want to reassure you, let you know that they care. I didnt have any grief to share with them, which I think annoyed them immensely. Sometimes I think that all lesbians are social workers by nature. At last they stopped trying to console me and I was able to get my normal life back.
The guys at work were great. They took me out for a few beers and that was that. No therapy, no processing. Sometimes I like guys better. Sometimes.
When life got back to normal, though, I found myself lonely. I hadnt felt that way in a while. After Karen left I was glad to have my place to myself, no one ragging at me, or trying to change me. I felt a bit more like my old self, I found myself telling Nina one day ready to go out and meet new people. I thought I saw a sparkle in her eye, but I knew that was just an illusion.
So out I went. To the local bar, to rap groups, to clubs. But every woman that I met seemed to lack something, some essential quality I needed. I ended up eating a lot of potluck, drinking a lot of overpriced beers and going to sleep alone in my bed.
You know, I said to Nina, if I could find someone like you, Id grab her in a moment. And I laughed. If I squinted, I could see that Nina was laughing too. Since Nina had come back into my life, I found myself talking to her more and more often. The way some people do to their pets - or you might with an old friend. I told her how my day went, how my nights didn't, and she always listed, just as she had when I was a child.
I started going to a local club because it was local. The music was techno, the lights were epileptic fits waiting to happen. Im the squarest butch I know most of them love clubs, with the women cage dancing in your face, but it gives me a squeamish feeling. I sat by the bar and waited for someone interesting to wander by.
The beer was watery, but after a few, I felt more like dancing than I had when I arrived. I asked a few women to dance, one said yes. We were getting into it when *she* walked in.
I swear it was Nina. Same brown hair falling in soft curls, same deep brown eyes, same quirky expression. My mouth must have dropped, because the chick I was with stopped dancing and turned to look where I was staring. When she didnt see anything she found remarkable she tried to get my attention back, but I was already wandering off. Like I was drawn by a compulsion, I headed across the dance floor, mesmerized.
I intercepted her about a third of the way into the club. I looked down into her porcelain face and asked, Nina?
She looked up at me with those deep, deep eyes and almost smiled. Placing her hands on my shoulders, she lifted herself onto the balls of her feet and kissed me. Her lips were cool, then warm. We separated and I led her onto the dance floor.
The music came up slow and I held Nina in my arms. Her body was lithe and lean and she pressed herself close to me, her face against my neck. I could feel her breath on my ear, had her waist under my hands and still couldnt believe it. Was it some kind of magic that had brought her to life?
When she brought me back to her place, I didnt even question it. Although the lights were off in the bedroom, her skin was so pale I could see her move around the room as she stripped. Her body was smooth and cool, her limbs finely sculpted. Her body against mine was more exciting than anything I'd ever felt. I could see she knew that. Those deep eyes that almost sparkled when I told her...I knew that look, I'd known it for years.
I'm not a deep person, or a poet. I'm a blue-collar worker, with a high school education. But the moment Nina laid her lips against mine, everything changed. I saw all the dreams I had as a child, walking through fields of flowers holding her hand, riding along on horses like a prince and princess - all the things that life can never give us. I burned to feel Nina, her skin on mine, to hear the echoes of those dreams.
I romanced her, stroking her for long hours until she took my hand and forced me to enter her. Moving against me, she made no sound, but her eyes spoke volumes. All those years apart, she said, when I dreamed of you. All those nights watching you undress, talking to me, all those nights when I wasn't alive.
She tasted like ambrosia. When I drew my tongue along her cleft and tased her clit until she should have sung with desire, she was silent. But she held my face to her, moving me where she would have me and for hours I let her. She came silently too, but her body thrashed beneath my hands and my lips, screaming out her pleasure in ways that I completely understood...
She made love to me in a frenzy, possessively, like a long-separated lover. Hard thrusts into me, biting, pinching, she felt like a million small whips across my skin. Her fingers would not be content to fuck me, but had to taunt me and my need until I came again and again for her. I lost any understanding of sex after a while, submitting myself to her commands.
I don't know how long I stayed with her. A few days...a week? I don't know. The silky sensation of her skin and her lips was my food and my drink. When I thought I might want to leave, Nina would draw me back into an embrace, her taught breasts pressed into my mouth, or her pale legs squeezing my own, until I had no will at all of my own.
It was a dream world, though. I knew in some part of me that it wasn't real, that it couldn't last. It came to an abrupt end. Nina was astride me, thrusting into me, dragging herself across me until we both came from the friction. Although she panted, no sweat dampened her skin, no sound came from her open mouth. I watched her hair move around her carved neck and caught the glitter of those dark eyes in the dim light. She was so beautiful I could hardly breathe. I couldn't leave her, not now, not ever.
Nina lay next to me, kissed me tenderly and closed my eyes - her way to tell me to sleep. I did, but only for a short time. When I awoke I knew, the way you know a phone call brings bad news, that if I didn't leave tonight, I'd never leave at all.
I slipped out of bed, grabbing my clothes and fled. I pretended not to see the glimmer of bright eyes from the bed.
I forced my apartment door open past the pile of mail that had built up in my absence, and closed it, locking and chaining it behind me. I drew all the curtains closed, locked the windows and stood, huddled into my coat in my living room, staring at the ceiling. I feared to go to my bedroom - feared Nina, as if she were some kind of poisonous snake.
Finally, shivering, I found myself standing outside my room. Pushing the door open, I noticed my hand was shaking. Not sure of what I would find, I hardly dared look.
My room was dusty, and needed to be aired out. A musty smell filled it, the kind of smell that attics and basements create. A smell of not-quite-death. Of decay. I faced my bed, jaw clenched, hands balled into fists, daring Nina to bewitch me once again.
She wasn't there. The shelf was empty, as was the bed. Closets, drawers, all as I had left them, all empty. I sat on the bed, confused and upset. Had it all been a dream? Had I just returned from my parents' house with a bag full of memories and unresolved issues? I started to cry, a wailing tearing cry, until I was facedown on my pillow, crying like a child.
When I woke up the next morning I pretended everything was all right. I called work and told them I had been sick, I ate, I sorted mail, I called worried friends. I lived. I pretended to live, because inside I was dead. Nina was gone and I was still enslaved.
Last night I went through the photographs from my parents' house once more. There were photos of myself and my brother together, in days when we didn't know what life would do to us. Pictures of me as a baby - all dolled up with bows in my hair. And a photo from my 6th birthday. I was wearing a red dress, my hair was long and in my arms I held a doll. She was a cheap plastic doll, with blonde hair and eyes that stared blindly. I turned the photo over. There in my mother's neat handwriting was a caption, "Sara - 6th birthday with her new friend Nina."