1. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.

    Contest Winner! Congrats Contest #163 Winner: @Storysmith for "Dolls"

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Oct 20, 2014.

    Contest (163) - Theme: "Little Black Dress" courtesy of @BeckyJean
    Congratulations @Storysmith for "Dolls" The writing was excellent, the story was a clever roller coaster ride.

    Send me a PM with your theme for the next contest. And we'll use it in three weeks.

    @Wreybies will get your bronze medal to you soon.

    Competition was tough again and I remain impressed by the quality of entries we are getting in this contest. I haven't seen a bad story in a long time.

    @Delise came in second with a sort of creepy tale, "My Husband's Victim".

    Again an honorable mention goes to the tied third place entries, both sad tales, @Jaro for "One More Night" and @BeckyJean for "A Dress for Two Occasions".

    Thanks again to all the forum members who voted.

    Dolls [1785 words]

    “Mummy! Mummy! She's stolen my dress and won't give it back!” Arianne looked down to see her daughter Daphne running at her knees, tears springing from her big brown eyes.

    Arianne made her excuses to the most eligible bachelor she had met in months, and crouched down to enclose Daphne in her arms.

    “What are you talking about, sweetheart? Who took it? You're still wearing it,” she said, indicating the threadbare red party dress that last fit Daphne properly last Summer.

    “Not my dress. Susie's. The little black one. Barbara took it,” wailed Daphne. Susie was Daphne's Barbie doll, and the dress was Arianne's birthday present to her just two weeks ago. It wasn't much, but money had been scarce since Flynn had walked out on them.

    Engulfing Daphne's hand in her own, the two made their way through the barbecue to where Daphne had been playing. When they arrived, Arianne saw Susie lying on the ground. The old doll had seen better days, with dirt encrusted in every line and her hair and face polluted with orange felt-tip. The brown loom bands ensconced in her hair gave her crazy looking pig tails and a pony tail. On the grass beside her lay her other clothes: old and worn, little more than patches of fabric. Arianne recognised them all: here a red gown, there a brown skirt or an orange blouse.

    Opposite Daphne's pile lay Barbara’s. Her dolls were immaculate, their blonde hair looking like they had spent the morning in a salon. The clothes, too, looked as though they had just been unboxed. Was Barbara a freak child who kept the dolls and clothes like this, or did her parents simply buy her new ones whenever they showed any wear?

    Barbara could almost have passed for a Barbie doll herself. The white dress, cherubic face, angelic blue eyes and divine platinum hair: all were imlicit slights against Arianne's daughter. Then Arianne spotted the doll in Barbara’s hand, and the black dress that she wore – this one of Daphne's still as unsullied as the other dresses on Barbara’s dolls.

    “Barbara, sweetie, is that Daphne's dress on your doll?” asked Arianne, keeping her voice as calm as she could.

    Barbara shook her head. “No. This dress is mine. Mummy bought it for me.” The girl's face was so sweet, so trustworthy, that Arianne could scarcely doubt her. She turned to Daphne.

    “Are you sure that's your dress?” she asked her daughter. It was the wrong question, and Arianne immediately felt that she'd betrayed Daphne by asking it. Her eyes welled once more, and Arianne couldn't catch a word of the squealed reply.

    At that moment Ophelia appeared at Arianne's side. The perfect mother for the perfect daughter.

    “Barbara, what's going on?” asked Ophelia.

    “Daphne says I took her doll's dress, but I didn't. You bought it for me,” she said, holding up the doll like evidence in a court.

    “Well, we have to be going now,” said Ophelia. “We're skyping Drew in thirty minutes. He's in China with his work.” Drew was the inevitable perfect father and husband, though Arianne could never quite remember what he did. Lawyer, accountant, trader? All that mattered in the neighbourhood was that he was a source of great wealth for the family, and all knew it.

    “But are you sure that Barbara has a dress like that?” asked Arianne. She felt like a peasant petitioning a queen.

    “I can't keep track of all of my daughter's dolls' clothes,” laughed Ophelia. “Besides, it looks more like one of Barbara’s” No need to say that that was because it wouldn't fit in with Daphne's ragged clothes. Arianne was about to object, when Eloise appeared to leave her outnumbered.

    Eloise was Barbara’s au-pair. If Barbara was a Barbie doll in girl's form, Eloise was the grown-up version. Hair that outshone the Sun hung to her waist, and a tight blue dress drew stolen glances from every man there. Arianne had often wondered whether Ophelia had hired Eloise to fit in with the Barbie collection. Secretly, she hoped that Drew had chosen this stunning woman and was cheating on Ophelia with her, though she couldn't truly believe that their perfect marriage would ever have any such problems. What did a woman with one child, who spent all of her time with the child, need an au-pair for anyway?

    All words caught in Arianne's throat as the au-pair collected up the dolls and took them away, the black dress included. Daphne took her hand and watched.

    Bed had never seemed so tempting. Arianne felt like she'd been walking no-stop for days, and what felt like an iron clamp on her lower back made her wary of bending over.

    For the rest of the day, she'd led her daughter around every toy shop in town, searching for a replacement dress. But they were never right – blues and whites and greens, but never a black to replace the one Daphne had lost. Now Daphne was asleep, and Arianne gratefully slipped between the covers into her own bed too.

    But sleep wouldn't come to her. She felt terrible for letting them take the dress away. Daphne never mentioned it, never got upset when they couldn't find a dress in the shops. Somehow that made it worse than if she had blamed her mother. And she new that Daphne's father would get her the dress if she mentioned it to him. After hours of deliberation, she reached a decision – she would enter Ophelia's house under cover of darkness and take the dress back.

    She would need to dress like a burglar. How did they dress? Like spies in the movies? Looking through her wardrobe, she could find no skin-tight black outfits. Instead she made do with a black party dress that had known better days, with black tights underneath.

    As she turned to leave the room, she thought to cover her face. Looking through a drawer, she found a blue ski mask that Flynn had bought her for a holiday. She'd throw it away after tonight; no more skiing holidays for her, and no more presents from Flynn. But she would wear it one last time. With one look in the mirror at the strange figure that she presented, Arianne turned and left.

    Getting into the house was easy: Ophelia had lent her a key in case she ever locked herself out. But entering a stranger's dark house without their permission left her nerves on edge. What would she do if she was caught? Would Ophelia call the cops? If they did, what would happen to Daphne? The butterflies in her stomach fluttered more and more as she climbed the steps, with each creak a cry of alarm to the sleeping household.

    On the landing, Arianne paused, wondering which way to go. She'd never been upstairs in this house before. A patch of yellow light showed under one of the teak doorways. That must be Barbara’s room, she thought. Ophelia wouldn't need a night light.

    The door creaked slowly open to her touch. Stepping onto the plush carpet in the candle-lit room, Arianne's breath caught in her mouth. This was Ophelia's room, and she was lying on the bed just in front of her. Beside Ophelia, Arianne could see the mound of Drew under the duvet. Heart in mouth, she backed out of the room.

    Anger flashed up in Arianne's heart. Ophelia had told her that Drew was in China. Why had she lied?

    Unless... Could Ophelia be having an affair? Arianne had to bite on a knuckle to stop herself from giggling. Surely not. But she knew that she couldn't leave without making sure. Mentally calling herself a fool, she re-entered the room.

    Dropping onto all fours, she made her way to the other side of the bed. The sound of the breathing of the couple was like a weight crushing her, breeding fear in her every pore. But finally she reached the far side of the bed.

    Praying that he would still be asleep, Arianne stood up to look into his face. Was it someone she knew? But the face staring back at her was that of Eloise, the au-pair. Ah Eloise, thought Arianne, so you're Ophelia's Barbie doll.

    Shortly afterwards, Arianne was finally in Barbara’s room, looking through the sleeping child's dolls by the flickering street light outside. At last she found the doll wearing her daughter's black dress, and a surge of victory swelled in her heart.

    An unbidden thought flashed across her mind. This doll meant nothing to Barbara, but would mean so much to Daphne. It wouldn't even be missed if she took it. Immediately she felt guilty for considering it. Was she a reverse Santa Claus, to enter a child's room by night and take toys away? Even taking the dress felt wrong now. She would leave it.

    Even as she decided to leave the dress, she felt her fingers removing it from the doll. The Velcro fastening let rip a cry of alarm, but no watchmen came running. Balling the loot, Arianne left the room.

    As quiet as a mouse, Arianne left the house. As quiet as a mouse? As quiet as a rat.

    Arianne awoke in her bed. Did last night really happen? She felt for the dress, and there was an empty pit where her heart should be when she couldn't find it. But then questing fingers brushed against the familiar fabric, before cupping her treasure.

    Taking it to the window, she threw back the curtains to admire her grail in the orange glow of the early Sun.

    Navy! No, it wasn't possible. But it was true. The dress was navy blue, not black. She had taken the wrong one in the poorly lit bedroom. She hid the dress under a pillow as she heard Daphne approaching her door.

    “Mummy, mummy, look what I found! It's Susie's new black dress”

    Arianne stared in bemusement.

    “Where did you find it?” she asked.

    “It was in my room. I didn't take it out yesterday, because I didn't want to lose it. But I forgot.”

    Arianne held Daphne as Daphne held Susie in her smart black dress.

    “Mummy, did you go out last night?” asked Daphne.

    “Yes,” said Arianne. “I was looking for something I'd lost.”

    “Did you find it, mummy?”

    Arianne looked into those deep brown eyes. Did it matter if other families seemed to have more than hers? She had Daphne, and that was all that mattered to her.

    “No,” she replied at last. “But I did find something else I'd lost.”
  2. Steve Silverman

    Steve Silverman New Member

    Dec 26, 2014
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    What a terrific story and one I can relate to. At one point the suspense had me on the edge of my seat. I never had daughters only sons, and when they were young, we had similar incidents.
    I can empathize with the Arianne character.

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