dolls

They are not worth her time.

---

When you step in the room they're sitting still, posed like fraternal dolls. They are looking at you expectantly and that alone should make you turn around and runrunrun as fast as you can. You close the door behind you anyway. While you are taking off your coat you can see them out of the corner of your eye, pale and tan inches of exposed abdomen and silver-fair hair sliding in and out of focus. She has her hands folded on her lap. His are resting neatly on his thighs. Their shoulders touch and the cut of their ribs jut in unison.

He speaks first. He always does. "We've been waiting for you."

She gives a subdued giggle. You're glad for that, at least; glad to know he hasn't been shoving pills down her throat as usual. You get tired of seeing her with rabid eyes and chapped lips stretched painfully tight over her teeth. He seizes those grimaces as reason to shoot down your protestations about the pills. 'After all,' he says, 'she's happy. See. She's smiling.'

To you it is a baring of teeth, not a smile. But you don't cross him. No one ever crosses him, he is to be petted and indulged at all times, regardless of or perhaps due to the fact that he has had a privileged upbringing and is the ringleader of you all.

She relaxes her stiff posture suddenly and lets her head loll back on his shoulder. Your eyes travel again to the jut of her rib cage, more pronounced now with the arch of her back, and move to the spill of silky silver-gold spirals down his tanned muscles. Against the color she looks nearer to death than ever.

Your suspicions are aroused. "What did you give her?"

He strokes her hair and looks at you with steady narrowed slits. "Look how happy she is," he hums instead of answering. You do. She doesn't look especially happy to you. Her eyes are sewn to her cheeks by her eyelashes, which lay thick and black against her bones and occasionally twitch. Spider-like. Her lips draw tight. You look to him.

"Mmm."

"Don't be like that." He nudges her and her eyes jerk open. She snaps to her feet and stumbles to you, hanging on your shoulder. She smells sweet and looks at your mouth with hard innocence. She has never looked you directly in the eyes. He makes another of his odd humming noises and she jerks some more, looking more like a puppet than ever as she presses her lips against your neck.

"We've been waiting for you," he says.

"We've been waiting for you," she echoes faintly against your skin.

"You were late today."

"You were late today."

"We expected you sooner."

"We expected you–"

"Stop that," you order her, disturbed but unfortunately used to this, and pull hard on a handful of curls.

She looks obligingly at the ceiling but doesn't give the slightest indication of pain. He winces instead, as if everything that is done to her is felt through him. It may be true. You have never met an individual as soulless as her before. She wanders through life docile, twisting and turning at the touch of his hand, and smiles her unwitting doll-smile at his every order.

He hums.

She draws away from you and steps neatly to him, coiling into his lap like she is slipping into water. They both look at you again. You step closer because you have to but not because you want to.

He nudges her again and obediently she holds out her arms to you. You kneel down in front of her. They are nearly painful to study. They are so alike that at times if it were not for his height you would not know them from one another. He is too effeminate and she is too hard to place. The moment she is out of your line of vision you have forgotten what she looks like, and yet when she is in it you know every centimeter of her body with vivid clarity.

"Who are you?" You ask with a sigh. She hugs you tight because to her you are soft and warm and comfortably curvy. She always rests her head against your chest where she can hear your heart beat and you do not know why that is so important to her.

They aren't in love. They aren't dating or married or boyfriend and girlfriend and they are certainly not soul mates. But they are together, as surely as she has his fingerprints bruised into the alabaster of her hips. You do not know where you fit into the twisted family ties that he calls their love and you call their depravity. You do not know why you are still here when the two of them fill you with such sickness and despair. Perhaps it is the fact that you are more than welcome to either of them at any time you wish. That suits your needs and your tastes. You do not care for having the other one watch during but you accept it for china-doll or surfer-boy skin.

The difference between their observing methods during those times both intrigues and revolts you. When he watches it is with a flat, sickening satisfaction. He practically purrs, a well-petted cat reveling in the amusing games of his humans. When it's her, her eyes stay wide and almost unfocused. They burn into you and always, always, you feel like you are betraying her with every touch of your fingers on his skin.

Your fingers, too, play a part in what is something of a commodity to you. There are an overwhelming number of similarities between you and she. Your hands are the same size, down to the centimeter, with matching fingers and near-identical nails. Your skin, your height, the texture of your hair, a million little things that no one else would notice. They are all the same. And yet beside her the two of you couldn't be more different. She is angles and a light, off-kilter prettiness. You are a breed of heavy dark clumsiness. Your lips are full and so are your breasts, your rounded hips; everything about her is small.

Comparing yourself to her is easy. You can find the similarities within seconds. To do it with him is an impossibility because there aren't any. Your fingers are short and skinny and his are impossibly long. He in general is impossibly long, forever towering above your slight height and looking pleased with the advantage it gives him. His skin is naturally golden. You couldn't say if the texture in your hair is similar. His is always carefully styled and those styles require endless product. Even his eyes are too unusual and calculating to draw resemblance to your own inquiring set.

In the long minutes since you've let yourself keep holding her against you and pondered the uncertainties of life with them, he has grown impatient. He shoves her aside without warning. She falls away and out of your arms, without even a stilted cry, and lays still where she ends up. Half-curled into a ball with her legs sprawling, her hair lying in tumbles across the floor, she looks like nothing so much as a broken down doll. Rough hands seize your arms and pull you forward into him. Another discernible difference between them. She would not hurt you, not intentionally. She couldn't even bear the thought.

Then there is him, and he lives to hurt.

Your upper arms burn around the grasp. It reminds you of 'snakebites' in your childhood. "Let go," you grit. On the floor her eyes close. Again you think of a doll. Throw her on her back and her eyes close. Roll her onto her stomach and she will stare unblinkingly. No matter what you do behind her.

"No." The word is like a joke and he is smiling with an almost insane charm. Still, he obliges. When he clicks his tongue she sits up, head lifting off the floor last (doll broken damn doll) and hands fumbling along the ground till she slaps one against the box. She drags it towards her, nails on carton, pink on red (colors for Valentine's Day, which they don't celebrate), and takes one daintily out of the packet. She is serving tea, unfolding a handkerchief, anything, but certainly not something as uncouth as fetching hand-rolled tobacco-and-pot for her boy. The Boy.

You saw a movie like this once. A snake charmer. Play a little music and the snake is your willing slave; the snake will do anything you desire. Only she is no snake. If anything she is the mouse. He is the serpentine one–no question.

The way you view them is odd in itself. From the direction of your own thoughts you often fancy yourself in love with her. It isn't true, because the second you step out of her presence she is gone from them entirely. You would take her away, if only you knew you wouldn't step out to go to the store one day and never, ever return–not out of any spite or desire to injure, merely for something as simple as forgetting she exists.

If you're in love with anyone, it's him. She has earned your sympathy and your outward affection but he's the one who draws you. He's the one who keeps you coming back. And yet he is the one you loathe. You hate him for what he does to her, hate him for what he does to you. You despise him. You crave him. The two have been unforgivably interchangeable since you've met him.

Now he is holding the cigarette and artlessly blowing smoke all over her sweet-scented hair, watching you get lost in your thoughts again.

You look down at your arms. There are splotchy red fingerprints standing out on your skin. She looks too. A tiny noise of distress is swallowed in her throat. If she isn't coming or expressing concern over you, she rarely makes any kind of noise. You store that away somewhat dazedly as she crawls to you and begins to rub the heat and color away. You look back at him.

"Sorry!" He choruses, not sounding it at all. Every tap of his cigarette sends ash scattering over the small of her back, and occasionally a still-glowing piece will hiss and then leave a tiny pink mark on her skin, but she's much too engrossed in your own afflictions to pay any mind. You pull her out of his reach.

"I have to go," you say. Never mind the fact that you just got there. He watches you with no expression, unnerving you with his unusually light-colored eyes and his silence. On the other hand, she immediately whimpers and tries to clutch at you. You push her off. She falls back beside him. You're always rougher than you mean to be, when it comes to her. Maybe it's just something about her. Maybe it's her that makes everyone want to hurt her.

Then again, maybe it's just you. You were never one to play with dolls.

"Bye," he hums. She looks at him, heartbroken, like she'd expected him to make you stay, and when he doesn't respond she swallows a sob and presses her face into his shoulder. You leave them there like that, sitting still, posed like fraternal dolls and looking after you expectantly. While you are putting on your coat, you catch a faint glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye, pale and tanned, the inches of their exposed abdomens and silver-fair hair sliding in and out of focus. She has her hands clutching at his shirt. He has his wrapped crushingly around her arm. Their shoulders touch and the cut of their ribs jut in unison.

You close the door on them.