I found it rumpled in the back of a garage sale. A china doll, pink lace dress covering the thin body. Maple curls lapping the head, blue eyes gazing innocently. Small white boots cover socks, boots so beautiful they are precious. I ask the lady how much it is. She replies without a glance. Quickly I search in my pocket for a few coins, handing them over hastily. The lady's uneven demeanour scares me. How old is it? I ask quietly, my curiosity coming across in a whisper. The lady shrugs, she doesn't know. I escape then, heading off with the doll in my hands. My pacing shoes are nothing like the dolls.

I wonder where the doll came from.

Maybe the doll was owned by the daughter of a Lord, and every day she would pull her from her shelf full of her special toys and brush her hair. She would find a new dress, maybe blue, and parade her in front of her other dolls, a crowd of spectators. On a special day she would set up her tea set and pretend to eat cakes with the doll sitting next to her, slumped over her cup. She would even venture to the garden, and sip tea on the grass under a willow tree. Then, at the end of the day, the doll would be placed once again on the shelf, waiting for the day to begin again.

Maybe the doll was once given as a present. The paper ripped off excitingly, the girl's face falling as she saw it wasn't toy dog she had been wanting. The girl moved on quickly to her other presents, ripping them open one by one. She loved them all, except the doll. At the end of the day, she put her new toys into her toy box. The doll went to the bottom, still enclosed in its box. It sat there growing dust, not even been spared a glance by the girl as she often rummaged through her box. When the time came for the girl to clean out her toys, the doll was so far pushed down it was forgotten and remained in the girl's possession.

Maybe the doll once belonged in a toy store. It sat high on the shelf, in a straight line, identical dolls sitting beside. People would come, anxious children with pockets rattling, ready to spend their pocket money. They would finger the toys with a grubby touch, their eyes passing over the dolls. One by one, the dolls would be bought, excited girls handing over their coins. But the doll remained on the shelf, until it was the last one. Slowly, people began to want other things, and the doll still waited for a child. But the doll was never bought, and remained sitting on the shelf.

Maybe the doll was once a humble girl's. She loved the doll, its lace, its boots, the glassy eyes. But the delicate china was hard in her hand, and she was afraid that it would break at her touch. So she kept the doll, sitting alone, far from everything, scared that it would shatter at the smallest breath. She spent her time times staring at the doll, sometimes, when she dared, fingering the dress. Or unlacing the boots just to tie them into another bow. But she longed to play with the doll, to hold it in her eager grasp. But never she dared, and the doll stayed in its corner.

Maybe the doll was given to a daughter from a doting father. The father saved his meagre money, waiting for the day when he could afford the doll. And when the girl saw the present her father had bought, she was elated. She would sit and brush the tips of the maple curls, dressing the doll again and again in the one dress. It was her only toy, and she loved it. With time the dress became worn, the curls bristly, the shoes grey. But she loved the doll, and for all its imperfections that it grew, it was still hers and she would always love it.

I wonder where the doll came from. She could have belonged to anyone. I reached my house then, pushing open the door to cross the threshold. I took the doll to my room, not bothering to take off my shoes. I placed the doll on my shelf, the third one, the one that I could reach. I promised to myself that I wouldn't let the doll grow dust, nor would I let it break at my touch. It was mine now, and it didn't matter where the doll came from, all that mattered was that it was here and the new tale that had already begun.