by Melissa R. Mendelson
Family photographs were tucked away in cardboard boxes. They had seen too much tragedy. The little girl was still missing, and her sister, Alex refused to give answers. One box was torn open, full of dolls, and she destroyed them all. Even the teddy bears with them weren’t spared. Some of them still held an ugly, burnt smell.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Doctor Leif.” Mrs. Waters wrung her hands. “That was the movers on the phone. They’ll be here tomorrow morning.” She looked at the cardboard box full of broken dolls and burnt teddy bears.
I watched her gaze move over to the stairs nearby. I could almost hear her heart thump and laid a hand on her shoulder. She shook, trying to keep her tears from erupting, but she failed miserably, wailing like a banshee.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Waters.” I embraced her, trying to chase away the touch of death, but it cut right through me. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered as she clung to me.
“She’s upstairs,” Mrs. Waters cried. “That’s why I called you. She locked herself in her room.” She tried to push away her tears. “You don’t think that she will do it again? Do you?” She stared into my eyes. “Maybe, she was released too soon. Maybe, it was a mistake bringing her back here.” She looked at the broken dolls and burnt teddy bears again. “I shouldn’t have brought her back here.”
“You’re moving tomorrow,” I finally said.
“To my sister’s in Florida.”
“I think that would be best for her. She was at my facility for a few months, and she needs a clean start. Somewhere far away from this tragedy.”
“I don’t know what to do.” She stared at the box.
“I’ll check on her.” I pulled myself away from her.
The staircase was dusty, angry at my footprints, wanting to forget whatever happened that night. The babysitter fell down the stairs. It was a miracle she didn’t break her neck but blacked out while the girls were upstairs, screaming, and nobody could explain the strange claw marks along the banister. But Alex knew, and she paid dearly for it.
The hallway upstairs was dark. I found the light switch along the wall, and I was blinded for a moment. At the end of the hallway, one door was covered in yellow police tape screaming, CAUTION. I didn’t want to remove it, but the family that would soon take over this house would not want to find that yellow police tape here. I shoved the tape into my pocket and slowly opened the door.
Nothing but darkness. A cold breeze slapped at me from a nearby shattered window. Funny enough the bed was made, but she never got the chance to sleep in it. Finally, I brought up enough courage to turn on the lights and looked at the floor, at a small pool of dried blood. The blood belonged to the girl, but her body was never found. And the police stopped looking. The only one with answers had jumped out of the window a few days later, breaking her leg, then rushed to the E.R., and soon committed to my facility. And I tried to help her, but I should never have allowed her mother to bring her back here.
“Alex?” I walked over to her bedroom and knocked on the door. “It’s Doctor Leif. Can I come in?”
When Mrs. Waters brought Alex home, she refused to go upstairs. She slept on the couch, barely spoke, but she made sure to eat her food and take her medicine to avoid being brought back to the facility. She refused to talk about that night. When pressed about it, she would scream in response. Her mother told her that they were moving, and she seemed okay with it. That was until her mother brought the box downstairs, triggering something, and those dolls and teddy bears were destroyed.
“Alex, I don’t want to call the police, but I will. If I do, you know what will happen, and I don’t want that to happen. Do you?” I raised my voice a notch, hoping that she would recognize my serious tone. “Okay. I’m calling the police.”
The door opened. Alex quickly retreated to the corner of the room near the closet and leaned against the wall, pulling her knees up to her chin. She refused to look at me, but I could tell that she had been crying.
“I won’t jump out the window again.” She followed my gaze over to the window, and I was surprised at how strong her voice was. “I just wanted to be left alone.”
“You really scared your mother,” I said.
“Is that why she called you?”
“Yes.” I reached for a desk chair nearby. “You mind?”
“No.” Alex stared at her feet. “She didn’t do it.”
“Who didn’t do what?”
“The babysitter. She didn’t kill my sister.”
I froze at her words. She didn’t know that the babysitter had recently overdosed on drugs. I couldn’t tell her.
“She’s gone.” Now, she looked at me. “Just like my father. He couldn’t take it either. He got into his truck and took off. Nobody knows where he went, and I know that he’s never coming back.”
“You don’t know that.”
“He’s gone. The babysitter’s gone. My sister is gone. Nobody believes me. You don’t.” I flinched at her tone.
“You jumped out of your sister’s window,” I said.
“I just wanted to forget that night. I keep seeing it in my head, keep hearing my sister scream.” Alex fell quiet. “She’s not dead.”
“Alex, look at me. Where is she? If you know who took her, then…”
“She can’t come back.” Alex cried. “You don’t understand, and if I try to explain it, you’ll lock me up.”
“You’re not crazy. You’re hurting, and I can help you.”
“I can’t tell you the truth!” Alex glanced at the bedroom window nearby.
“Okay, Alex. It’s okay.” I wanted to draw closer but dared not to. She was too fragile right now, so I stayed where I was.
“The porcelain doll was alive.” Alex continued to look at the window. “It attacked her and me. It threw the babysitter down the stairs. I thought I killed the doll, but…” More tears fell down her face. “I’ll never get that night out of my head. Maybe, I am crazy.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Didn’t you just hear one word that I said?”
“I heard everything, and I still believe in my assessment.”
“That you need to leave this house, and you need to put that night behind you. If your sister is gone, really gone, would she want you to punish yourself like this?”
“No, she wouldn’t. I never hated her. She was just always there.”
“Younger siblings are like that.”
“I couldn’t save her. Maybe, I should be punished. Maybe, I should be locked up, but she wouldn’t want that. She loved me.” Alex cried harder. “I couldn’t save her!”
I sat on the chair, listening to Alex cry. She had refused to cry for so long. It was finally coming out, and it needed to. I waited until she was done. It took a long time.
I said, “Forget that night.”
“If I can’t?”
“Then, put it in a box. Lock that box. Bury that box.” I watched Alex nod. “Your sister would want you to live, Alex, so live for her.” I finally moved toward her, helping her stand up. “Let’s go. I don’t want you staying in this house. I’m going to take you and your mother to a hotel.”
Hours later, I returned home. Whatever Alex and her family had gone through was beyond tragedy, and I had questions. I still could not believe what she had said because it was insane, but I knew that she wasn’t crazy. So, what the hell happened, and where was her sister? There were no answers, so I ended the night as I always did with a glass of red wine and the news.
Top story tonight. Parents murdered. A little girl missing. The police led a bloody male teenager over to the back of a squad car. Another girl, around Alex’s age, stood by an ambulance with a blanket around her shoulders. She had the same stare that Alex did when he first met her, and the cameras and their lights and microphones pushed into her face. Everyone was asking questions, the same questions that Alex was asked.
The girl stared at everyone, then cast a glance over to her brother now in custody. Her mouth opened but hung open for a long time. It was like she was trying to find the words to say just like Alex did.
She finally said, “The porcelain doll killed my family,” and my glass of red wine fell to the floor, shattering into a million pieces.