What were they doing?! Had they gone insane, or something?! Why were they being so cold to her all of a sudden? Had she done something wrong?
No…she didn't think so…
So why did they stuff her in the box? They practically crammed her inside and took off. Why were they being so quiet? Where the hell were they taking her?! They had been driving in the car for nearly half an hour in silence!
What the hell was going on?!
Wait…wait a minute! She had heard of this! The others told her that this might happen one day—that they'd grow tired of her and abandon her by the roadside.
Oh my god! Were they abandoning her?! They couldn't! They just couldn't do that! She was their Little Lotte after all, wasn't she? Wasn't she their favorite? Didn't they adore her?
They did! They did! There was no way that they were doing that, right?
Or were they?
She struggled to see out of the rim of the cardboard box. Her neck was very stiff and she had a hard time looking around the car.
She was able to see her Father in the driver's seat. His face was grim and angry. He seemed to be concentrating on seeing through the windows shield.
She stiffly turned her head to the side to get a look at her Mother who was sitting in the passenger seat. She could only see the back of Mother's head, but even still, Mother seemed angry.
Why was everyone so upset? She must've done something wrong…she must've offended them somehow…
With all the effort she could muster, she turned her head slightly to the left. She told herself that her Sister would make things right, that if she looked over at her, Sister would be smiling. Sister always did. Sister usually pulled her into her lap and played with the ribbons in her hair. Sister was never angry with her…
Sister was sitting in the backseat next to her box. Sister wasn't smiling at all. Sister was scowling at her. Her face was the meanest thing she had ever seen. Every contour of Sister's face was carved out of malicious hate for her.
She wanted to gasp in surprise, but her mouth wouldn't open. The car stopped, and she was thrown back into her box. She slid down to the bottom of the box in a tangle of legs and arms.
Ouch, that really hurt.
Her body was so stiff and hard. She couldn't reposition herself into a more comfortable arrangement. It was as if she was paralyzed. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't move her body.
Panic filled her chest.
Oh god, what was happening to her? Why couldn't she move? Why couldn't she sit herself back up? What was going on?
It was enough to make her want to cry, but the tears wouldn't come.
She heard the clicking and fumbling of seatbelts. She heard the door to the front seat open and then slam.
Was someone coming to get her?
The door next to her box suddenly opened. She was hit with a cold blast of wind and stinging rain. The cold chilled her instantly. She wanted to shudder, but her body refused to do so.
"Karen, do you want to say goodbye to Lotte?" asked Father, lifting her box in his arms.
Karen was Sister's real name. She expected Sister to say, "What do you mean by goodbye? I want to keep Little Lotte forever!" but instead, to her horror, she heard Sister reply: "Get that ugly thing away from me! I never want to see that nasty thing again!"
She was already frozen, but somehow, hearing Sister's words stopped her cold. "No wait!" she wanted to cry out, "Sister, how could you say that? I thought you adored me! I don't want to leave you!" but nothing came out of her frozen lips…nothing at all.
Oh god! Oh god! Oh god! They had warned her about this! They had warned her that this would happen and she didn't listen.
"You better be careful, Little Lotte," they told her, while they had sipped knowingly on their tea, "Sister is easily bored. You may be her favorite now, but in a few months she'll get rid of you, just like she got rid of Teddy."
She had only briefly met Teddy. Teddy was Sister's Old Favorite before she came along. Teddy seemed nice enough. He was always in a jolly kind of mood. And when they had their tea parties, Teddy was always the one who provided the festive atmosphere. He was funny and well liked by the others.
But one day…Sister got upset with him.
In his carelessness, Teddy had forgotten to wear Sister's ribbon around his neck. Sometime in the fall, Sister had bought him a very handsome pink ribbon to wear. Without fail, Teddy wore it daily, he was proud of his little ribbon.
But that day he forgot to wear it. And Sister got upset.
The next day Teddy was gone. And from that day, Sister began to pay a lot of attention to her, and she eventually became Sister's prized companion. Of course she often wondered about what had happened to Teddy, but somehow she soon forgot about him.
"You better be careful, Little Lotte. Sister is easily bored. You may be her favorite now, but in a few months she'll get rid of you just like she got rid of Teddy," their voices ran through her mind, as Father slammed the door to the car and carried the box away from the car.
Oh no! This couldn't be happening to her! They couldn't be doing this! Sister loved her! Sister had no reason to be angry with her! She didn't do anything wrong! She couldn't have! She was Sister's favorite!
Father's movement jumbled her around in the box. She was thrown back and forth in various uncomfortable positions. She craned her neck to get a look at Father.
Father was grim and serious. He did not even look at her as he walked.
Just where was he taking her?! What was he going to do with her?
And all of a sudden, the most horrifying possibilities wafted through her poor head. Perhaps he was going to throw her in the river and drown her!
Or maybe he was going to bury her alive in the woods!
Or maybe he was going to toss her into a dumpster and leave her to rot as the rats and flies picked away at her cold, hard skin.
"Father! What are you doing?! Where are you taking me?!" she wanted to ask, but the words wouldn't leave her throat. "Are you going to kill me? Why are you doing this to me?!"
The rain stung her skin. It plipped and plopped noisily and distractedly in her ears. She looked upwards from the rectangle throat of the box and saw fierce thunderclouds swirling ahead.
What was going on?! Had everyone gone mad?! Just why did Sister hate her all of a sudden?
She tried to think of a possible way out of this. Maybe if she convinced Father that she had done nothing wrong, he'd take her back, and then she'd explain all of this to Sister…
Father stopped walking. He looked down in the box, his face was grim and cold. His eyes glittered unmercifully, as if he had already decided that he would seal her fate with death.
"It's for your own good, Little Lotte…" Father shook his head with a sigh. "It shouldn't have come to this…" Father was lowering the box.
There was a thump as the box finally touched ground. All she could do was look up helplessly into his face.
What was he saying?! What did that mean? It shouldn't have come to this…? What was he talking about?!
"I'm sorry." Father's face vanished from view and he was gone. She heard his footsteps walking away.
"No wait! Where are you going?!" she tried to scream.
She heard a car door open and then slam shut. The engine to the car started. Wheels began to crunch slowly at the gravel as the car started in motion.
She could almost see it: Sister looking out of the window at her box, Mother shaking her head at Father, and Father driving the car out of sight. She could almost see it!
"Wait! Wait! You can't just leave me here like this!" her lips refused to move. "Stop! Where are you going?! Come back! Come back!" She was screaming as loud as she could but her lips were frozen in place, frozen in a rigid smile.
She knew she had to get out of the box. Maybe if they saw her waving at them they would stop. Perhaps they couldn't hear her.
So she tried to sit up and nothing happened. She couldn't move. She was stuck on her back, like a beetle that had been flipped over.
Her arms and legs were dead. One arm was dangling over the side of her head; the other arm was crushed underneath her back. Both of her legs were twisted in unnatural angles beneath her body.
Her head and neck were tilted slightly to the right. Her beautiful blonde hair spilled over her shoulders along her chest and face.
She was stiff all over and hurting. She wanted to cry. She stared helplessly in one direction, for it seemed her eyes had frozen in place as well. A raindrop dropped near her eye and slid down her cheek, like an artificial tear.
It was obvious to her that no one was going to come back for her. She was going to lay here in this box for the rest of her poor, sad, miserable life.
She just couldn't understand how this had happened to her. Sister loved her! Why would she want to leave her like this!
Wait a minute…wait a minute…! Two nights ago Sister and their parents went out to the store. When they came back, Sister had a package in her arms. It was a brand new furry orange dinosaur that she had named Harold.
She remembered now! Harold took her normal post in Sister's bed that night. Sister had left her on the floor with the others. At the time, she thought nothing of Harold and Sister. She thought it had been a one-time thing.
But she was wrong.
Sister had left her for Harold.
Harold was her New Favorite now.
And Sister had abandoned her.
"NO!" she screamed into the pouring rain, or at least she thought she screamed—a thunderclap might've deafened the sound. She wasn't sure.
Now she was soaked and very scared. What was going to happen to her now that Sister wasn't coming back? Would anyone come back for her?
The box was filling up with rainwater. There was at least two inches of rain that wasn't there before. The water level was going to drown her for sure. She just knew it!
She knew she had to get out of the box.
She couldn't move or call for help. She was alone. Alone in the rain in this box with no one to help her. And she was going to drown.
"Help! Help!" but the words wouldn't come out of her smiling lips—her frozen, plastic lips were sealed tight in the same smile. Had she ever been able to move her lips? She wasn't so sure until now…
She tried to wiggle her stiff body. She tried to move her arms and her head…but there was nothing. Why couldn't she move her body? With Sister she had been able to move, or was it because Sister done the moving for her?
Now that she thought about it, she didn't recall a time she could move at all without Sister's help.
So how did she eat?
Sister fed her.
How did she brush her hair and dress herself?
Sister had done it. Sister had done it all!
The realization struck her like a hammer pounding an anvil. She was choked with fear and terror. She wanted to widen her eyes and gasp in surprise, but she didn't. Her face was a mask, frozen solid in place by many layers of plastic and paint.
If she couldn't move or talk or eat, then what was she? What did that make her? Was she even alive?!
No. She wasn't alive.
And with that last thought that entered her head, Little Lotte floated to the top of the water in her box and drowned.