The Nutcracker Doll

I want that one. The huge display case showed a variety of Nutcrackers, mostly gray or black haired. Some were dressed as Santa, Bull fighters, or even King Arthur but this one, this doll that stood in the middle of the Nutcracker army, dressed like a French solder with dark blue pants, a gray-bluish hat with a purple feather, a red shirt, a coat matching the hat, a Musketeer cape draped over him and… flame red hair as the fire of the sun shining in the display light, and swirling down to his shoulders like tomato juice. This is the Nutcracker I want, Larry Bakersfield thought as she pressed her open, sweaty, palms to the glass. She didn't care if she left marks on the glass and she didn't care if Mr. Duncan yelled at her until his face turned blue all she cared about was putting her hands on to that wonderful, marvelous, enchanting doll and feeling the smoothness of its painted face.

People passed her, smiling at her like she was a five year old who wanted a new toy instead of a seventeen-year-old 11th grader who was shopping for a new Christmas dress. But Larry's expression did not waver. She had been at the mall for three hours looking for the perfect dress for when her cousins Tony, Marie, and Leasel came to Christmas Dinner from Claremont. She had obviously no success; the dresses were either too small, too large, or too slutty, and after some window-shopping she had stumbled across Mr. Duncan's Toy Shoppe. He, Mr. Duncan, had apparently gotten a good deal from a Nutcracker making company and was selling them for half the price but unfortunately for Larry the price was still too high.

D'Artagnan, Larry mused, the doll's name is D'Artagnan, the bravest of all the Musketeers. "

"Aw… does the wittle baby wanna new toy?"

Larry tore her eyes halfway to her right to see her friend Molly Phillips walk up to her, arms covered in shopping bags. Molly was rich and that was an understatement. Her father owned an oil company, a car dealership, and the only Starbucks in the whole mall. Her mother was also lawyer, and a senator. So Molly's name was known throughout the whole town. She wasn't a snob though; she donated every old piece of clothing, toy or any other object to the poorest of charities and was a volunteer at the local fire department. But it still didn't change her love for shopping. She wasn't beautiful, she was a mixture between pretty and baby doll cute. Cinnamon brown hair that fell past her shoulders in waves, green eyes, freckles, and a size fourteen body.

"Hey Molly." Larry returned her eyes to the doll. Molly turned to look where

Larry was staring and a Mona Lisa smile crept up to her lips. "A doll Larry? And I

I ought you were more mature then me." Grinning, Larry removed her palms from the glass. "I wouldn't talk if I were you Molly after all you collect Barbie dolls." "Collector's Edition Barbie dolls!," she argued. "Whatever." She turned to look at her beloved Nutcracker yet again. Molly sighed, "Look, if you want the doll so bad why don't you buy it?" "I can't," Larry whined.

"Why not?" She asked. Larry turned to look at and asked in a sarcastic tone, "can't you guess?"

Molly stared at Larry until she finally got the message, "I always forget you're poorer then me." "You're poor?" Molly glowered at her and said, "you know what I mean." "Yeah," Larry sighed, "I know too well."

Larry pressed her left palm on the glass again and made a squeaking noise as she ran it slowly down the pane. Molly caught her hand two seconds later, "Do you realize that that is the most annoying habit in the entire universe?" "Yes," said Larry playfully. "Aw stop mopping around, you pathetic little weasel, just buy the doll."

"I told you I don't…"

"Okay, answer me this then," Molly asked exasperated, "why of all the stupid things in the world, do you want a Nutcracker?"

Larry sighed and faced Molly, "when I was little my Grandmother took me to see the Nutcracker Ballet at the Kennedy Center. Oh it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The dancers were like angels and the music, oh man; the music was like sheer heaven. Harps, Cellos, Violins, everything playing the most wonderful songs while the dancers danced with smiles on their faces. But my favorite part was when the Sugar Plum Fairy danced with the Nutcracker prince, holding each other like lovers, moving together like the ocean and sand, and when they smiled at each other, they looked like all they wanted to do was hold each other and dance until they could dance no more."

Larry sighed with the memory, "That's when I decided I wanted a Nutcracker. A Nutcracker prince all to my own, like the Sugar Plum Fairy."
Larry paused again but this time with a disappointed voice, "But every Christmas I asked for a Nutcracker, I never got one. Even after I knew Santa wasn't real and asked my parents for everything in my life, I still didn't get it. I hinted to my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my brothers, heck I even hinted to the mailman that I wanted a Nutcracker but all my efforts died in vain."
She then pressed her nose against the glass and stared at D'Artagnan. Molly looked back at the case and spotted the much-wanted Nutcracker.
"Is that the one you want?"
"Uh-huh."
Molly swallowed and said, "Hey Larry, you never know you might get a Nutcracker this year, after all Christmas is a time for miracles."
Miracles Larry thought could a miracle really bring me something I've wanted since childhood? But then the voice of reality kicked in. C'mon Larry you know as well as anybody else miracles don't exist.

"For the holidays, we are going to do a Secret Santa. So everyone write their name down and put into the bucket." Ms. Brahms's ringing voice filled Larry's ears the next day, wrenching her away from her precious daydreams about Christmas morning. Larry yawned with her mouth covered and gazed around the classroom. It looked like Santa's workshop had exploded. Wreaths, toy reindeers, plush Santa dolls, snowflake stickers, and plastic mugs filled with pretend hot chocolate stuck to the banners of tinsel. Ms. Brahms must really like Christmas, Larry thought as she turned toward the green and red dressed church bell.
"Only one name per person and there is no trading allowed so if you get someone you hate or someone who doesn't like cheap things, tough. Also you have to get your secret Santa a present that is ten dollars or above so no little bottles of shampoo or panty hose."
A few people grumbled and folded their names in half so they could drop it in the bucket and not be singled out. Larry was the second to last in putting in her name into the silver bucket. The last person was Darla Jean Merryweather. She had walked up to the bucket with her name all crumpled, thrown it in, and walked off without a backwards glance. Larry could only assume how she felt. Darla Jean's family was very poor. She, and her father, mother and sister lived in the trailer park next to the mall. Mr. Merryweather was a factory worker, Mrs. Merryweather was a seamstress at a second-hand dress shop and Melody-Anne (Darla Jean's five year old sister) looked like the kid from The Six Sense. Darla Jean however looked well fed and rabbit cute but you usually couldn't tell because she frowned so much. She had raven blue hair, dark blue eyes, freckles, a round determined chin, and raspberry colored lips. Her clothes consisted of grease and sweat stained T-shirts, paint splattered jeans, tennis shoes with patches sewed onto it, and hair pulled back in a rubber band. I wonder how she's going to afford her secret Santa gift this year? Larry propped her head up onto her elbow and looked at Ms. Brahms shuffling the pieces of paper.
"Okay, now one at time I want each and every one of you to come up and pick a name and if you get your name you can buy yourself a present."
As Ms. Brahms singled out specific boys and girls and made them come up and pick a name, Larry's mind wandered. She imagined waking up Christmas morning, running down the steps of her town house, into the living room with her two younger brothers, and three cousins, and ripping open each present until she struck gold. But finally, after three or four unwrapped presents, she spots a silver wrapped gift with the label To Larry From Mom & Dad, and grabs it, tears it open and finds the beautiful Nutcracker doll, D'Artagnan, waiting for her eager hands.
"Larry Bakersfield, come up and pick a name."
Larry jerked awake and dragged herself out of her desk. She peered into the bucket and picked up a crumpled piece of paper.
"Now, that everyone has picked their secret Santa. We will continue the lesson", Ms. Brahms turned to the map of England plastered onto the chalkboard and began in her lecture. "It was during the reign of King Henry the 7th when the War of The Roses took place and…"
Totally oblivious to the lecture of England's heritage, Larry opened her piece of paper and was shocked instantly to full operating capacity.

Darla Jean Merryweather

"So you got Darla Jean?" Molly asked with an eager face. Larry swirled her Decaf Mocha Latte in her plastic cup and nodded. Molly tried to suppress a grin but did not succeed. Larry looked over at her and made a face, "you don't have to look too pleased about it." Molly chuckled and said, "I'm sorry. It's just that Darla Jean hasn't, for the past two years, liked her Secret Santa gift. She always donates it to charity or gives it to other people in the trailer park, she never keeps it for herself."
"I wonder why that is?" Larry wondered. "Probably because she's afraid that it might make a smile on that sour face on hers." Molly then pulled back her hair and imitated Darla Jean's frown. Larry laughed but then changed it to a cough, "that's not funny." "Then why are you smiling?" Molly teased. "Because…because I have a hormone problem." Then Larry colored after realizing what she just said. Molly however just grinned and said, "if that were true, don't you think you would have a boyfriend by now?" This time Larry threw back her head and gave out a full throaty laugh. Half the people in the Starbucks Coffee shop turned to look at her, questioningly.

Molly turned from Larry's embarrassing state and then snickered. Larry wiped the laughter tears from her face and looked at Molly, "what…what are you looking at?" Molly tipped her head towards the window. Larry looked in her direction and saw Darla Jean and Melody-Anne walking down the marble path straight to Mr. Duncan's. Melody-Anne was skipping around and pointing at things in the various store windows and kept saying, "when we're rich, I'm going to buy that!" Darla Jean however looked meaner then a rapid wolf, totally opposite from her rambunctious little brown-eyed sister.
"Hey Molly, I got to go," Larry said suddenly, "see you tomorrow?" "Of course," Molly chirped. Larry picked up her pack and sped out of the Café. Looking around for a moment she spotted Darla Jean, who was standing outside of Mr. Duncan's toyshop while her sister peered into the display case with her face in total awe.
"Hey Darla Jean!," Larry cried out. She turned around and saw Larry walking towards her, "hey…uh Lucy?" Larry frowned and said, "Larry…Larry Bakersfield. We're in European History together." "Oh yeah," she realized with a nod of her head. They both paused for a second. Larry spoke yet again, "so, how are you doing?" "Oh I'm just looking around with Melody. You know, window shopping." "Cool"
Another pause.
"So, um…uh…what do you want for Christmas Darla Jean?" Larry asked. Darla Jean raised an eyebrow and said, "why do ask?" "Oh…I'm… I'm just…uh…getting presents for all the people I know." "Won't that make you broke?" Darla Jean said with a cock of her head. "I'm getting a hundred dollars for Christmas" Larry replied hastily. Darla Jean's expression turned sour again. I'll take Most Stupid Things to Say for 500 Alex, Larry thought grimly.
"Well…um…anyway I was wondering…if…uh… you wanted anything this year?" Darla Jean opened her mouth to reply but was cut off by Melody-Anne.
"Darla Jean… can I git that Nutcracker in the midlil?" the little girl squealed. She pointed at D'Artagnan. Larry held her breath in fear but Darla Jean just sighed and said a in a sad voice, "I'm sorry Songbird but we can't afford it."
She walked up to Melody-Anne and took her hand. Melody-Anne looked up at her with sorrowful eyes. "Kin I at least name him?" she asked after a few minutes. A hint of a smile crept up Darla Jean's face while she answered, "sure."
Melody-Anne squealed in delight then looked back at the doll. "I tink I'll name him Darttaning," she stated with a familiar cock of her head.
"You mean D'Artagnan?" Darla Jean turned her head to Larry as soon as she spoke. Melody-Anne, however, spilt into a toothy smile and said "Yeah, that's his name Farttanyen." "D'Artagnan!" Larry practically screamed. She couldn't believe how loud her voice had become when she corrected Melody-Anne. The little one clutched her older sister harder. Darla Jean looked at Larry, puzzled for a moment but then spoke to Melody-Anne and said, "Songbird, why don't you go in and play with the trains?" "Allwhite!" said Melody-Anne instantly forgetting her fear.

She skipped into the store while Darla Jean turned to scowl at Larry. "Why did you yell at my little sister?" she demanded. "I just like hearing names pronounced correctly," Larry replied quickly. Darla Jean raised an eyebrow and Larry exhaled a breath. "I'm sorry Darla Jean," she apologized, "I'm just a little tried." Darla Jean glanced at the window then back to Larry and said, "I forgive you." Larry smiled. "Well, I have to go into the store and wrestle Songbird from the trains so later," Darla Jean said and turned to leave. "Wait, Darla Jean!" Larry cried out. She glanced over her shoulder. "What do you want for Christmas? And this time please answer me," Larry whined like a spoiled puppy.
Darla Jean looked at the ground and murmured so no one but Larry could hear, "I want Songbird to get what she always wanted." "And what would that be?" Larry asked, puzzled. She paused and finally said, "a Nutcracker."
"Excuse me Miss, where is the new Britney Spears CD?" Larry looked up from the broken CD case's she was sorting through only to see a fat, bespectacled, man with a white shirt splattered with pizza sauce grinning at her. Newsflash, murderous pervert rapes girl in Sam Goody Store, Larry inhaled a deep breath and said "Over there on those lower shelves." "Could you help me look?" He asked and grinned. His grin reminded Larry of the serial killers who were sentenced to life in prison then executed illegally. "Sorry," she said sounding not sorry at all, "but I'm kind of busy right now but I think Eric can help you." She motioned to a bulky co-worker. The fat guy looked desperately at her.
"But I…really wanted you to help me." "Can I help you sir?" Eric asked as he folded his arms.

Eric was six foot two and lifted weights regularly so naturally the pervert backed off. He frowned at Larry then turned on his heel and waddled off. Eric unfolded his arms across his chest and turned to look at Larry. "You think I should call security?" he asked. "I'm not arguing," Larry stated. Eric picked up the mall phone and started to dial the number. After a few minutes of total silence Larry looked up at him and said, "hey Eric." "What?" he asked. "Do you know anything about Darla Jean Merryweather?" Larry asked. He shrugged and said, "a little I guess." "Can you tell me what you know about her?" He looked at her but thankfully said nothing. "Her Dad used to own a book store downtown but it went bankrupt one day and since then Darla Jeans' been a little sour about her lifestyle," he explained. He dialed the number and it began to ring. "She wasn't mad about losing the store, mind you," he went on, "she was only angry because her sister 'would grow up to be a street urchin' (those were her exact words). I guess the only thing she's ever cared about was her little sister."
Before Larry could reply, the security guard answered on the other line and Eric was lost in the conversation. So that's why she wants me to get something for her sister, Larry thought as she took out a CD from its broken case. I know I should get her something she wants but a nutcracker? Larry sighed, especially the nutcracker I want, that's going a little bit overboard.
But the voice of peace on earth and good will toward men filled her head. "Don't you want Darla Jean to be happy and look at the poor child; she looks like a character from Roswell." Larry paused at the last CD case that read the words All I Want for Christmas Is You and with a sigh of dread and knowing full well that she would live to regret this she decided to buy the Nutcracker for Melody-Anne.

"Oh I'm deeply sorry Miss but all the Nutcrackers are sold out."Larry's heart dropped into the bowels of her stomach as she heard the devastating report. Mr. Duncan took off his glasses and polished it with a bit of tissue while Larry tried to figure out what to do. At least he looks sorry for me Larry thought.
"But what about that French Musketeer Nutcracker? Do you have at least one of those still?" His usually perky face was replaced by a look of sorrow and regret. Sighing, he checked the inventory list again and said, "I'm afraid not but I can specially order one for you if you like?" "How long will that take?" She asked with a bit of hope in her voice. "Four weeks at the very least," He stated. Larry's heart sank even lower and said, "never mind then but thanks anyway Mr. Duncan."
"You're welcome," he said with a bit of smile. Larry put her wallet back in her pocket and walked towards the door. "Merry Christmas Larry!" Mr. Duncan called out after her. Not very likely, Larry thought as she imagined how sad Melody-Anne would look on Christmas Morning.
"Hey wake up Larrala Bakersfield! Its Christmas!" Leasel screamed and threw a pillow at her while Larry swore vengefully into her own pillow. "For the last time my name is Larry!" She shouted at her 9-year-old cousin. Nevertheless Leasel continued to shake her and throw various objects at her. "Get up! C'mon get up!" She screamed again. Larry swore again but this time more openly and finally said, "alright! Alright already! I'm getting up." Using both arms, she pushed herself off her pink and blue, satin sheeted, bed. She sat on the right side of her bed and stretched, making her bones go crick, crack as they were exercised and after she rubbed the sleep from her eyes she followed Leasel downstairs to where Tony, Maria, Louis, Cody, Uncle Artie, Aunt Marla, and Mr. and Mrs. Bakersfield sat with a present in each of their laps. "About time you got down here." Louis pouted after his comment and began to tear open his present.
Soon the whole house could be heard with the "oohs" and "aahhs" and "Thanks you're the greatest." Larry got a CD player, an Ace of Base CD, a pearl necklace, a sports watch, a bathrobe with pink flowers all over it, three romance novels, 6 Sailor Moon comic books (all in order), and a nutcracker brooch. Looks like I didn't get a miracle after all Larry thought gloomily as she scanned the bottom of the tree.
"Hey Larry geek, this ones for you." Tony picked a rectangular package and waved it above his head. Larry shoved herself up and grabbed the present from him. The label read: To Larry Love Mom and Dad. Probably another bathroom gift basket Larry thought as she tore open the wrapping. Okay it's in a plastic box so it must be a toy. Larry tore the top part first. Hey it's from Mr. Duncan's Toy Shoppe…wait a minute…this can't be…it just can't be what I think it is. But then she saw a purple feather sticking out of a sky blue French solider hat. Now with more enthusiasm she tore and tore the wrapping until finally, Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, it's…it's…it's, oh my God it's D'Artagnan! A brand new musketeer nutcracker exactly like the one in the display where she first saw him, smiled from his box prison. "Mom, Dad, I love you!" Larry screamed as loud as she possible could, "I love you so much! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" She seized both her parents, hugged them fiercely, and raced upstairs, screaming for joy. Slamming the door, she squeezed the box and was about to tear it open when she saw a piece of crumpled paper lying in the middle of the floor. She set her doll on her desk and bent down to retrieve the paper. As she picked and unfolded it, she saw with a heavy heart and guilty conscience the accusing name.

Darla Jean Merryweather

But I really wanted this doll. I've dreamed of this moment forever. All I ever wanted was to have a nutcracker of my own. Is that too much to ask? Why? Why should I give the one thing that I've always wanted to a kid I don't even know. But once again the voice of peace on earth and good will towards men entered her head. "What's more important Larry? Your own selfish happiness or seeing a little girl, who never had anything to call her own, receive the only present she ever wanted?" Larry sighed, a long regretful sigh. Santa, She concluded after staring at the name for a few moments, you owe me big for this!
"Mawwy Chwistmas Darla Jean!" said Melody-Anne broke into a big toothy smile as she handed Darla Jean her present. Darla Jean unwrapped to find a brand new edition of Hamlet. "Oh thank you Songbird this is a great present" she said after she tore the last bit of wrapping off. Melody smiled even harder and said, "I had to save up my pocket-money for three weeks to buy that."
"Melody-Anne!" Mrs. Merryweather frowned at her youngest daughter's comment. "You do not tell the person who give you give your gift to how much money it costs!" Melody-Anne looked a little bit hurt. But Darla Jean, sensing sadness from the baby angel, brought out her present for Melody-Anne and said "here you go Songbird." Melody-Anne clapped her hands, grabbed the present, and plopped down on the decaying couch to open it. Suddenly a loud knock came at the door.
"Now who in the world could that be?" asked Mr. Merryweather in confusion. He readjusted his glasses and went to answer the door with the family close behind. He opened the screen door and pushed open the creaky front door. He looked around for a moment and then saw a wrapped present with pictures of bluebirds on it sitting on the front step. Puzzled he picked it up and read the label.
"What's it say Daddy?" asked Melody- Anne as she appeared at his waist with eyes full of wonder. He smiled and handed to Melody-Anne. To Songbird love Santa Claus. The whole family gathered around her as Melody-Anne unwrapped it and then they had to plug their ears to shield their eardrums from the glass-shattering squeal that erupted from Melody-Anne. "Mommy, Daddy, Darla Jean! It's him! It's the Nutcraqker I wanted!" Brandishing it in the air like a world cup trophy Melody-Anne squealed in delight. Narrowing her eyes, Darla Jean recognized it as the exact same Nutcracker that Melody-Anne had wanted from Mr. Duncan's. "But that…that's impossible" she sputtered.

Darla Jean looked around frantically and saw a girl walking away from the trailer park. Bolting from the front step she ran to catch up with her. "Hey you!" she cried out, "wait up! Who are you?" The girl turned and Darla Jean was stunned to realize it was Larry. "Larry!" She said utterly amazed. "Hey Darla Jean," Larry greeted her. "What the hell are you doing here?" She asked in a demanding voice. Larry shrugged. Darla Jean stared at her for minute before crying out in awe, "you! You're the one who gaze Melody-Anne the Nutcracker!"
"You don't have to sound so angry about it," Larry said in joking tone.
"But why? Why did you give her the doll?" Darla Jean demanded to know. Larry shrugged again and said, "I guess I gave it to her because you would have done the same for me had you'd been in my position." Darla Jean gawked. Larry, however, grinned and said, "hey look at it this way Darla Jean. You're sister, who might grow up to have a horrible life, will always believe in miracles till the day she dies." Darla Jean still gawked. "Merry Christmas Darla Jean." Larry murmured softly, and then she walked off without so much as a backwards glance.
Darla Jean stared after her, going over the hundred reasons why Larry shouldn't have given Melody-Anne the Nutcracker, each one more logical then the next. Why? I haven't been nice to her and she's not my friend. Why did she do something that I always wanted do for my little sister? Why? It makes no sense. But then she heard Melody-Anne's squeals of happiness and joy, filling the air like church bells and angel's trumpets. The squeals Darla Jean hadn't heard for years. Years…she repeated in her mind years…years of poverty and unfairness… years that made her the unhappiest girl in the world. She tightened the sash on her robe, and thought about what Larry had said. Miracles…things I have hardly believed in for a long time. She turned towards her family, who were hugging each other and beckoning Darla Jean to the trailer. She sighed and shrugged, and turned in the motion of walking towards her family, but for the first time in her entire life, Darla Jean smiled, a big, Christmas, smile.
THE END