Mutual Appreciation

Photo: pixel2013. Free use via Pixabay license.

Tracy lay, spreadeagled on the bedroom floor, in the waning sunlight. Suzy picked her up, and shook her. Again.

More dust fell out of her hair. Black stuff. Maybe, bugs? Tracy’s dress was falling off. It was torn. Well, it HAD fallen off, earlier. Fallen, or was pushed. Tracy needed new clothes.

Suzy brushed Tracy’s hair back from her eyes. She’d been playing with her all day, and was starting to like her.

If you held her head right in your hands, or tilted her properly, Tracy’s eyes would open and close. They did. Suzy looked down at her. Tracy’s eyes opened, and stared mildly, somewhat vacantly, back at Suzy. Not entirely vacant, though, were those eyes. Suzy tilted Tracy back a bit, and she blinked, again. Vacant, but not quite entirely.

Tracy was from the fifties, or the sixties. She had real, pop-open eyes, and real eyelashes. She had (whatever it meant to say so) Real Hair. Her hair was exquisitely crimped and curled, and wasn’t ever going to change. This hairstyle was Forever. Her skin was soft, not hard. She was still, undeniably, pretty.

Because of her appearance otherwise, though, Tracy looked as though she had been “raped.” Suzy’s aunt had said so, a few hours earlier. If you held her up and shook her, nothing would happen, except the black dust would come out of her hair. She’d keep the same dozey expression on her face. Her clothes were falling right off her. She looked like something really bad had happened to her. If you lay her on her back and tilted her around, though, her eyes would open and close. Suzy was starting to get the hang of it, of sort of talking to Tracy.

Tracy wasn’t exactly smiling. She had the same sort of vague look on her face that Suzy had seen on other ladies’ faces, at other times. Just almost smiling, and who knew what had been going on, really. Only, she looked like a cross between a baby and a grown-up lady. It was something about the way her lips were pursed, and the way her eyes would open and close if you tilted her right.

Tracy was about eighteen inches tall. She was wearing the remnants of a “pink ball gown”. Aunt Ruthie had said so. Most of it had been ripped off (Suzy’s aunt had said that too, starting to sound a bit upset…), but it was still on, around her shoulders and covering most of her body. It had been made of silk, or something smooth and silky, anyway. Tracy had even had real cotton underwear, which (when Suzy checked) kept falling off of her bum. “The elastic has gone,” Aunt Ruthie said.

Tracy even had the beginnings of breasts. Now, it wasn’t a pretty sight for a little girl, for Suzy, to see. Suzy’s Aunt Ruthie had said so.

Suzy thought that Tracy needed a bath. She didn’t know what a “ball gown” was, but she felt certain that what Tracy needed wasn’t another one of THOSE.

Tracy had been in the attic, just before the garage sale, and Suzy’s Dad had wanted to get rid of her. He’d even said she was “Garbage,” and to throw her away.

But you can’t just do that. Suzy could see that, and so could her Aunt Ruthie. Not with eyes like Tracy’s.

Suzy and Aunt Ruthie had decided to “at least wash her face.” So that’s what they had done. Now, Tracy had a clean face, and most of the dust had been knocked and shaken out of her hair.

Aunt Ruthie had had to go, when Uncle Charlie came to pick her up for her meeting. Suzy had forgotten about Tracy for a while, during dinner, and then again when her friend Mark had come over. Mark liked to throw things. Suzy would rather make up stories, and decorations, but Mark was better than no friend at all on a Sunday night. So they’d had a throwing match, with Suzy’s dolls and Mark’s Action Figures.

Now Mark was gone too, and the last rays of the sun were making shadows in the room, still bright, as Tracy lay, face down on the floor.

Suzy picked her up, and shook her, again.

More black dust fell, but not as much. If there were any bugs, they couldn’t have been as bad as the bugs Mark was always talking about. Suzy figured that Mark had just been trying to scare her. She’d never really seen any bugs at all. Meanwhile, Suzy could see that Tracy’s legs, and the rest of her body, were still filthy. “Just black!” as her aunt would have said.

“You need a bath,” she said to Tracy. She tilted Tracy’s face up a bit, and Tracy opened her eyes. She looked dazed.

Suzy understood something, and decided to fix it. She went to the bathroom and got some toilet paper, and then rubbed the toilet paper against the soap in there, with some warm water. And then she came back and gently washed Tracy’s whole body until she was clean.

She didn’t drown Tracy in the sink, or blow her up with firecrackers, like Mark would have done. She didn’t throw Tracy in the “Garbage,” like her Dad would have done. And she didn’t cry, like Aunt Ruthie had almost done. She knew that Tracy was just a doll. First, she gently removed the remnants of the pink dress from around Tracy’s arms. Her underwear wouldn’t stay up on her bum; so she removed that, too. And then she washed her clean.

Suzy had an old tee-shirt that was too small for her. She went and found it.

When Suzy got back, Tracy was lying, sort of on her side, with her head tilted in a funny way and her eyes closed, again. This was really the only time that Suzy got, what you might say, the creeps.

“It’s just me,” she said. Nothing happened. Of course, nothing did. Tracy just lay there, looking like a murder victim, a naked one, now, but at least clean. She was on her side, her arms sticking out funny. Her back was to Suzy. Tracy was a doll.

Suzy was seven.

Suzy took a deep breath and picked Tracy up with her left hand. With her right, she held the clean tee-shirt for Tracy. The tee-shirt, instead of the “ball gown”.

As she turned Tracy over, Tracy’s eyes opened. She looked at Suzy, and Suzy looked back.

“You’re a doll,” said Suzy.

“Thanks,” said Tracy, blinking. “So are you.”

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