Caroline didn’t know how long she stared, motionless and terrified at the sight of it. The lifeless doll sat on her bed, its accusatory blue eyes burning into her mind as the glass irises remained fixed on her. She felt too afraid to move, aware that the doll could see her. She’d bought it when she’d first arrived here, though she could no longer understand how she might have seen fit to give such a horrid thing to one of the children. Those wretched eyes could see her, see straight through her and into her soul. She swore the doll’s eyes twitched, waiting for Caroline to move. Waiting for her to expose her guilt.
So very familiar. She knew that she had seen these eyes and a swell of emotions stirred in her. Memories began to form but refused to break the surface of her mind as she dared to move closer. Yes, she knew these eyes though she could not yet place when she had seen them before. Somewhere dire, she knew. Someone very sick or in trouble had once looked at her with this expression. Someone who needed to see a doctor but wouldn’t make it in time. Someone who needed Caroline to take care of them. The memories stirred more viciously within her and she felt the bubbling of hatred deep within her under her fear. Still, it was far too buried yet and the face of this person would not come to her. Only the eyes. Those brilliant, blue glassy eyes with their infuriating expression that was both pleading and pathetic at the same time.
This doll was for one of the children. Caroline had seen it sitting in the window of a shop on the main street of town, the display showing it like an innocent little girl. How she’d admired its beautiful golden curled locks and its bright eyes from behind the glass. She’d carried it, thinking of how lovely a gift it would make. A fine present to give for Christmas, though it had been too early to think of such things at the time. It was to be for a special occasion though. Something befitting of such a pretty porcelain face. That was when she arrived with the hope in her heart. Now, it was all ruined and the doll’s dirtied face seemed to reflect this. Her failure was smudged on those formerly pristine cheeks and spilled over into those tangled gold curls. The feathering hairline cracks in the perfectly painted face felt like they told the story of her life over the past few months. And the tragic stains on the ripped heirloom lace trim of a dress that might very well have been fit for a baptismal gown seemed to tattle on her now. Evidence of the things that had been botched and done to cover up the truth. The only thing that seemed to remain of the original untarnished poppet that she’d seen from that window was the unsoiled eyes. How real they looked and the image of them burned into her mind. Caroline knew that she would never escape that wretched expression now. Knew the first time she saw the eyes wide with shock and horror and finally anger of what was to come. She knew that she would forever be haunted by those eyes. Eyes she’d come all this way to escape! Oh god why couldn’t she escape them even here?
Her hands trembled as she realized she was clutching the doll, shaking it in her hands as though it were an errant child. Her breath staggered as she looked into those eyes, searching for answers. Searching for redemption.
“My sister,” she muttered, half under her breath. “Oh you could never have been my sister. I have so very many sisters. So many young girls in this family already. I have so many sisters but only one brother.”
Her fingers ached as she clung to the doll in her twitching hands. She looked at those eyes, feeling that anger coming through now. That familiar fiend in her that had carried her nearly to the completion of her task. Nanny had been wrong to try to chain this wretch in her. Oh Nanny, how she had been so very wicked. Such a cruel woman who would have caged Caroline’s demons only to unleash her own. How she’d hated that woman. How she’d fought against her when she felt this soothing fire building in her. This was the seething of her soul and as Caroline felt the rip of the fabric under her nails, she knew that she would never be able to return to that house in France. Not without what she wanted. Without fulfilling her promise. She resented their eyes on her but she would emerge from this ordeal and they would know they were wrong to chain her. He was wrong to deny her his respect. Oh she would show them because even Papa couldn’t keep this rage from surfacing. And now he wasn’t here to holler and Nanny was in the ground where she belonged. And the eyes upon her now, she knew, would know fear again. They would know the demon within her. Her anger would hit the mark this time. The fabric of the soft doll’s body had tears in it now large enough to fit her fingers in. Still she grasped, her nails digging harder into the stuffing, making the holes larger. She grit her teeth as she stared into the doll’s unfeeling eyes, wishing to see the suffering she longed for there.
“So very many sisters,” Caroline seethed, though she couldn’t tell if she spoke to the doll or to herself. “So many traitors among us. They learned such things early, my sisters. My eldest sister went to the gallows for her wickedness. My middle sister, Lucille, why she is in a pauper’s grave now. She was sent there when she was cast from the family for a shameful tryst with a stable hand. Thought she could outrun the rules of the house by keeping to the edges of the estate. Couldn’t escape my eyes, she couldn’t. There are rules to be obeyed and punishments to be found when they are broken. Papa, he saw to it that she died penniless. He is like that, my dear Papa. He knew how things needed to be to maintain order in such a house. He’s so much sicker now so he needs so much more help. Help from someone so like him. But still, I have so many sisters. Too many sisters. I have so very many sisters and until now, I have never been alone.”
She brought the doll close to her face, staring into those eyes, hating them. She felt the surge of anger course through her and she felt the urge to scream at it. How dare this wretched thing mock her. This was to be for the children, she thought bitterly. This wretched thing would have given away her secrets. Tattled on her about all those little secrets she held. She hated it. Hated what it looked like now, all torn and exposed for what she was. She hated this doll and everything it would have been. Hated those damned eyes and the expression that pleaded at her to let go. To stop. Her trembling hands balled into fists, tearing out the soft batting of the body, letting it tumble to the floor beneath her pacing feet. For the children. For the ones that were right. For the children to come. Ones that would sit at her Christmas tree. She snarled in the doll’s face.
“I have too many sisters already,” she said through gritted teeth as she clutched the doll’s hair. “Too many damned sisters in that house. In my house. Too many women in that house for my liking and too many damned sisters! I don’t need another. I don’t want another! No more of you coming into my house! I don’t want your beauty and your filthy, lustful eyes in my house! I have enough sisters!”
Her voice was barely raised but her throat felt as though she’d been hollering at the top of her lungs. In her rage, she’d torn the doll’s body in half and ripped a fistful of golden curls from its head. Still, the eyes were upon her. Those accusing eyes staring through her hatred until Caroline could take it no longer. She violently smashed the doll’s face against the floor and watched as it shattered, the pieces skittering like vermin across the dirty floor of the room. Her voice was barely above whisper as she looked at the defeated pieces on the floor. She crumpled the remains of the heirloom lace in her shaking fists as she looked upon what she had done.
“I have too many sisters to add another,” she snarled, “but only one brother.”