See that doll over there?
Of course you do, look harder. She's wearing a dress the same colour as the seat, that's why you missed her.
Those long, black silk curls, the soft velvet skin, peachy-white, with just a touch of cream? The painted face, pale cheeks, pink mouth, far too light coloured to be lifelike? The sewn limbs, tipped with white lace stockings and gloves, all peeking out from the long sleeves and train? The old fashioned dress, a style so simple, so quaint.
It's not easy to tell what colour it is, you wonder how many have argued over if it's blue or green or yellow or simply faded darkness. It could easily be any of those or none, time might have taken its toll. Some might say she was black, black as night, black as sin, though there's so little light in this room, it hard to tell. She was never made to be a children's toy, but her purpose was blurred through the decades, she has been one.... and often.
Walking across the room....its not large, but narrow, you wonder. You wonder what colour her dress is. You wonder what her maker gave her for a face. You wonder why you've never seen her before. You wonder why it is so clean in here. You wonder why you felt like apologising to her when you entered the room. You wonder why she seems to stir when you touch her, a flutter of painted lashes that can never move, as if she had been dozing. You wonder about sleeping with your eyes open. You wonder why after you sit down and place her in your lap she stiffens before settling in, and why you feel more welcome now that she's relaxed against you.
You dismiss these wonders, half-formed thoughts and feelings that both unsettle you and put you at ease. It's just a room, and she's just a doll. She's just fabric and paint. She's just a repository of childhood dreams and wishes and love. Stop wondering now. She's just a doll, and you haven't even taken a good look at her face yet.
It's a nice face, though the mouth baffles you. It's just sharp enough for a smirk, just wide enough for a grin, and just soft enoughfor a smile.. It's like she can't decide if she's happy or sad. You look at her eyes for a clue, but they only confuse you more. You can't tell what colour they are, though there's laughter in them, but you can't decide if it's mocking or delighted or forced either.
She doesn't look how she would like to look somehow.
You suppose she's really old, her original colours rendered indistinguishable by time. She's not immediately noticeable, but she invites second looks, though you have a strange inkling that if she did not want looks, no prying eyes would ever find her. Somehow this feeling refuses to go away or buried. It ridiculous, of course, how can a doll want? How can fabric and paint register attention? How can an ornament that has seen children grow up feel? She has watched the erosion of innocence. Of course she can feel.
A stray noise reaches your ears. Oh dear, you forgot, the kids. You came up to find something to amuse them, remember? Yes, you did.
You look at her, considering. No. she could never be happy among them, this delicate product of a bygone era. She could never exist in their dreams, never hold their wishes. They would never love her.
She knows this, that's why she's sad. She's made to last, you know in your bones she's by far your elder and she'll probably outlast them. She's just a doll, that's why she mocks you. But someday, someday. A child will find her, and this extravagant creation of fabric and paint will love and wish and dream again. That's why she's happy.
She's a doll. Just a doll. Stop looking now.