Author: fanta-esque PM
One Shot. A Victorian doll maker must cope when his family is struck by tragedy.Rated: Fiction K - English - Drama/Horror - Words: 2,124 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Published: 02-03-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2771428
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
June 15th 1871
I took the children for a walk today; it was the first time we'd been out since the accident. I think it did us three the world of good, or at least as much good as such a small venture can do. I thought it would be good for the girls to take some air, I know I needed it. When I told the girls Mary smiled for the first time in days. Ophelia said nothing, she had not spoken since that night. I did not want to tax them so soon after the accident so I thought a brief stroll in the park would be best. It was nice to see a number of our neighbours who all stopped to enquire after us. What a sight the three of us must have looked! Myself and Mary still marred by burns while little Ophelia, the most damaged of us all looked perfect and untouched but remained mute. Some of our neighbours eyed her unspoiled skin with suspicion but were kind enough not to mention it. Still I could not help but notice that many of them offered Mary a penny, sweet or other small fairing but passed over her sister to offer their condolences to me. Mary did not seem to notice, she took her sister's hand and walked ahead of me trying to engage Ophelia in idle conversation but receiving not a word in response.
We went back to the shop, ever since the fire we had been living in the small rooms above my workshop. Thankfully the blaze that had destroyed our home had left my livelihood intact, a small shred of luck considering what had happened but a welcome one. As Mary sat upstairs plaiting Ophelia's hair I looked through my recent creations. They were ready to go on sale I just needed to tidy the shop front and I would be able to provide for my daughters. I would have to open the shop soon.
Mary has starting asking questions about her sister. She keeps asking why she doesn't speak anymore. I tried to explain to her that we had been through something terrible and that sometimes people were struck mute by such things. She understood but she was still upset, "I hope Ophelia speaks soon," she'd said. I promised her I would do what I could for her sister but she would have to be patient, I opened the shop today and business would probably be busy for a while. Not because my work was in such demand but because people would be curious to see how I was fairing after the accident. Gossip travelled fast even in a place as large as London, many were under the impression Mary and myself had been hideously disfigured in the blaze, others were just saddened to see me working without Margaret by my side. Some of my friends offered to take the girls during the day but after such a tragedy I wanted Mary and Ophelia where I could keep an eye on them. They had taken to playing in the shop window, it told people that we were open. As it happens there are a smattering of birthdays this month and my dolls are in high demand.
After Mary was put to bed I sat with Ophelia downstairs in the workshop trying to get her to talk. I thought I might be able to coax a few words from her, try to help her over the loss of her mother but the results far exceeded my expectations. Time passed quickly for us, it has been a long time since I sat with just one of my daughters. Before the fire one of them often found their way to my workshop and would watch me work. It was nice to have that again, it was good for Ophelia too, by dawn she was speaking again. When Mary woke up her sister was the first one to wish her good morning.
Mary hasn't smiled much since the fire. Ophelia hasn't smiled at all. Mary doesn't want to talk about it so I thought I might spend another evening with her sister, maybe if Ophelia smiled more Mary would follow suit.
That gentleman passed by again. He stepped into the shop to collect his order. It is probably the most delicate doll I had crafted for a customer. It was for his daughter's debutante ball, a beautiful little thing that when wound would walk across the table. He praised it and said it was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen. He said he would certainly recommend me to his friends and would commission something new when he came this way again. He said he wanted something unique for a moment I caught him looking at the girls. His eyes passed between little Mary still bearing the marks from the fire and the unblemished skin of Ophelia but I soon distracted him with drawings of my next works. Talking to Ophelia a few nights ago had inspired me to try and make my dolls speak a few words. The potential for them was tremendous and I had my little Ophelia to thank for it.
Ophelia woke me with a smile this morning. I had important news to share with her and her sister so I gathered them in the workshop and told them that I would need them to keep themselves occupied for the next few days while I worked on a new commission. It was a painful conversation. In the past whenever I had a commission that would have kept me particularly busy Margaret would take the girls into the house and play with them. But now she was gone and there was no one to divert them. "You have to look after each other now," I told them, to my surprise it was Ophelia who took Mary's hand first and with a smile led her into the back room where they would play with the older dolls that no one had bought yet. I started work but did not notice how quickly time passed. It seemed that no time at all expired before Mary started tugging at my arm asking if they could have something to eat. It is with some horror that I remember how I brushed her aside and somewhat gruffly told her to go and find her mother. Mary had left the room before I realised what I had said, I followed her and found her sitting in the back room crying into Ophelia's arms. Ophelia's smile was gone and instead she fixed me with a stare that was quite chilling.
I am starting to think I was a fool to spurn the kind offers of my neighbours. Margaret always said I worked too hard and now I was starting to agree with her. Unfortunately the only way I could support the children was to work long hours. I did not want to leave the girls in the care of a friend but I could not have them playing in the workshop while I worked, they were simply too disruptive. I am going to ask Mrs Harriman if she would be kind enough to take the girls for a few hours just so I can work without distraction. She has a young son and a daughter Ophelia's age so I am hoping they will be happy enough there.
Sending them to Mrs Harriman seems to have been a mistake. Mary didn't want to go, she said she wanted to stay with me and got quite upset when I insisted she went. Ophelia did not say much, she told Mary that she would look after her while they were gone. Mary was so afraid that something might happen while she was gone, she didn't want to leave, but I insisted. I told Mary and Ophelia to remember what I had told them before, that they had to look after each other now. Ophelia was the one to coax Mary away, still she fixed me with that chilling stare and said, "don't worry, Mary. I'll look after you now."
Mary hasn't forgiven me for insisting they pass the days at a friend's house while I finish my commission. Things are becoming quite tense as Mary refuses to speak to me when I see her, I try to be patient but I usually end up shouting at her. Ophelia doesn't say much, she doesn't get involved but after Mary turns away from me, crying, it is Ophelia who takes her hand and says "father said I should look after you now." It's starting to be unusual, the way she insists on repeating it like a mantra almost. Mrs Harriman apologised but said she would not be able to take the girls as often as she originally suggested. It seems Ophelia does not want to play with the other children or rather the other children don't want to play with her. She said she does not blame me but the children find her pristine skin and monotone voice intimidating, she assured me she did not judge me for the way Ophelia turned out after the fire but that she was somewhat unnatural. I understood their apprehension, frankly I'm surprised Ophelia was accepted as well as she has been, she received more than her fair share of confused looks when she emerged from the fire with barely a scratch. I received a fair share of horrified looks myself from those who knew what had really happened. But Mary does not know...to be honest I am not entirely sure Ophelia does not know and I am hoping that for the moment at least that's the way I can keep it.
Something terrible happened today. Mary was crying again, she wouldn't stop. It wasn't something that I had done, she was just letting everything out. The loss of her mother, the sudden change in Ophelia, the fire, the upheaval it had caused and I couldn't stop her. I was trying to work but she just would not stop crying. I'm sorry to say I lost my temper, I snapped at her which just made her crying worse, in the end I shook her to try and stop her. Ophelia was standing between us and she pushed me over. I did not realise she had such strength, she must have just caught me off guard. She comforted Mary, all the while maintaining, "father said I should look after you now." And the way she looked at me...it was...chilling...
What have I done? Why did I do it? Ophelia has run mad. I took her to the workshop tried to see if it was something I had done that made her so hell bent on 'looking after' Mary. But she resisted me, I didn't know she would do that. God forgive me for what I did but I could not lose Margaret and Ophelia to the fire! I could not bear to lose one of my daughters, I thought that my skills in the workshop could create an adequate replacement for Ophelia, at least until Mary and I were ready to let go of her. I should have known that a doll maker cannot create life, or replace it, and nothing could replace by sweet, darling Ophelia. She fled from my workshop and left me there, I didn't want to follow her and drag her from her room lest it disturb Mary. I don't know what to do.
I woke to smoke. I thought I was dreaming, that I was reliving that horrible night again in my mind, but the shouts from the street assured me it was real. I ran to the window, my neighbours were gathered in front of my shop, calling for water. I could feel the heat from the flames already, how had I not woken before? I went to run from the room to find Mary but I could see her in the street. Mrs Harriman had hold of her, she was standing with the girls before her. Mary sobbing into her skirts, her stricken face lit by the flames and Ophelia, standing in front of her looking right at me. In her hand a candle. Surely not? Her lips were moving and I could just make out what she said, 'father said I should look after you now.' Ophelia. What have I done?