By Annie Bergin Page 36
“Remember when I went to visit my aunt?” she began, her voice a whisper that was
almost as hushed as the breeze. I nodded, and I could feel my own breath holding tight in mythroat and my skin shiver in dread at the fear my friend seemed to be fighting.
“That was quite a while ago,” I answered, hearing my voice tremble as I spoke. I looked
again at the doll, not quite knowing what to think as I took in the fabric face and the dark eyesthat seemed to be smiling back at me. There was nothing creepy that I could see in her hand-made face, and no sinisterness I could find stitched into the flower-filled smock or the dressbeneath. I waited. Again a shudder rippled across my skin.
“Well,” my friend said,
looking once more at the bag and the letters within, “someonemade this for when I left.”
“Why?' I asked, clearly not getting it.
“For company,” came the reply.
“You need a
to hang out with while you're at your aunt's?”
“Not me,” Mhena answered, her voice barely above a whisper. “They made it for
“They–?” I stopped. “What did you say?”
Mhena leaned forward in her chair and carefully took the doll from my stunned grasp, hereyes a sad sort of calm that floored me almost as much as her words. I continued to stare as shethen took the satchel and removed some of the parchments with a familiarity and a tendernessthat told me she had done so many, many times before. With gentle fingers she smoothed someof the creases aside, careful not to smudge the contents that I still couldn't see, and then sheextracted one of the sheets and handed it to me. I was almost too shocked to take it, until finallycuriosity won out and I accepted the parchment from my friend.It was a heavy art paper, smooth to the touch and almost oatmeal in color, and upon itssurface was an exquisite sketch, a charcoal artwork with fine detail and careful blended strokes.My mind tried to formulate a thought as I stared at the piece, absorbing every detail of itsfeatures, but no thoughts would come. Instead I felt a strange, cold sense of fear that slid quietlythrough my soul and nestled in the very depths of my being.
“We didn't want to tell you,” Mhena told me, regret heavy in her tone. I was only partly
listening, trying hard to stay in the present while the image before me seemed to draw me back toanother day and time, a moment of my life that someone had somehow captured on paper andreturned to me for reasons only they seemed to know.
“But I don't even remember this–”
I became lost in the image, seeing myself through the eyes of another, sitting on a tallstool by the bar of the Hideaway, with ringlets and curls that spilled down my shoulders, butwith my face lost in a moment of thoughtful sadness that was so real I could almost feel it again.There were others in the picture, partly drawn outlines or suggested in their presence by a fewcarefully drawn strokes of the hand, adding to the bustle and activity that summed up the tavernon a typical day. But it was that face, that one single moment of
which someone hadwitnessed, then sketched so tenderly to capture forever; did they really see my life as soheartbreakingly lonesome?
“How many other people know about this?” I asked, hearing a sharpness in my voice that
even I didn't expect. “You said 'we',” I reminded her. “So who else knows?” I knew by her face I
wasn't going to like the answer.
“We were only doing what we thought was best.”
“Wait,” I said, suddenly having a horrifying thought. “Does this have
anything to do with
what happened at the park?”