“Cas, we shouldn’t.”
“Shouldn’t what? We’re only gonna take a look around.”
And take a look around they did. Carl had unlocked the back door and from the moment she caught the first glimpse of the contents of that house she was mesmerised and her feet were doing the walking. Plastic and porcelain faces lined every inch of the downstairs living space. What little floor space was left was taken up by prams. The whole place was a mass of satin and frills. Wide eyed dolls stared at them from every angle, some with dummies in their mouths, some with blonde hair curling out from frilly bonnets. Some peered back at them from beneath hooded knitwear and baby grows. The ones without dummies pouted in a rather unsettling fashion. Some had ridiculously full cheeks and were dressed in full regalia for this bizarre pageantry.
“Oh my God!”
“Told you she was a freak.”
“What’s she doing with all these?”
“The clothes, they’re so clean.”
Carl wrinkled his nose in distaste. Murella reached out a hand to touch the fabric of one of the dresses but hesitated.
“Oh my God. She’s been putting nappies on them.” Cas tipped one of the baby girl dolls into an upright sitting position. The blue eyes blinked at her. She didn’t like that at all. She let it tip back onto its crocheted blanket.
“Look at this one.”
Evidently Carl had found the queen. He held it gracelessly by the back of its head using his other hand to support its bottom. His fingers were hidden at the top by the mass of red ringlets that fell down to its shoulders and, at the bottom by what looked like a prom dress luxuriously full with underskirt netting. He looked like a ventriloquist trying to distract the audience from the fact that his hand was shoved up a plastic dummy’s arse. She was wearing a jewelled tiara and pink satin shoes. Having presented it to Cas and Murella he turned the doll’s face towards his own and looked at it as if it was the scum of the earth.
“We should go.”
“Yeah let’s go.”
Carl intended to go too, but not until he had simply placed the doll on the carpet and stamped on its face with his dirty shoe. One blow and its face caved in accordingly. Both Murella and Cas’ mouth dropped so that their expressions mimicked the little ‘o’ expressions on the rest of the dolls’ faces. He then picked it up, briefly looking at its muddy little face and squeezed it onto the window sill facing outwards to greet the world in between the pink bow blonde and the blue bonnet prairie girl. Two minutes later and the two girls had dropped to their knees and were on all fours hiding behind armchairs. A key had turned in the front door. Carl was stood backed up against the wall shielding behind the open living room door. Was it a cocktail of excitement and amusement plastered across his face? From where she was crouched, Murella looked across at Cas. Cas’ face was set, calm and determined. It encouraged Murella to keep control of herself. The two maintained eye contact. Cas very slowly and steadily raised her index finger to her lips urging Murella to keep silence. Meanwhile the woman muttered something to herself as she walked back out of the house again. Maybe they could later use that as confirmation that she was in fact insane. Perhaps Carl intended to share the entire story with a pair of Adidas trainers. Who knew?
“Come on let’s go.” Cas led the way. Out on the black path Carl still had his pigeon chest pushed out to the world.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“She deserved it.”
“Maybe she did but you still shouldn’t have done it.”
“It’s just a doll, plastic.” He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. It was the bright green dummy. He placed it in at the side of his mouth and chewed on the teat. Murella thought of the baby boy doll, his mouth now empty, reaching after the soother with his little ‘o’ lips. Carl took the dummy out momentarily. The last thing he said to her before he walked off down the path was, “You can’t rat on me. No-one likes a dirty snitch.”