a story by Stephanie Dethlefs

She reached up to a shelf in her bedroom closet and brought down the shoebox.

“Here you go, sweetie,” she said. “Have fun.” The door clicked, and I was alone.

I lifted the lid to find two of the few toys my grandmother kept in the house, two small dolls that she inexplicably kept tucked away among her sweaters and blouses. One, a vintage Barbie which had belonged to my aunt, clad in a cotton sweater, pleated skirt and sensible shoes. The other, a plastic figure of a little girl, nearly and tall and twice as wide as the Barbie, dressed in a school uniform.

The little girl doll was the main character, immediately inhabiting all of my own traits save her undeniable sense of adventure and confidence. I lifted her out of the box and propped her up against the pale blue pillowcase without making a dent. The sounds of adults talking from the next room rose and fell, muted through the walls.

Photo by from Pexels

The Barbie was the teen sister, tasked with babysitting. She rolled her eyes as their parents left for the evening, and promptly told her sister to leave her alone. Her bedroom door clicked shut with authority.

Little Girl doll made a grilled cheese sandwich, then watched some TV.  Bored with the five channel options, she rose to turn off the television set, freezing mid-stride. A boy’s voice was coming from her sister’s bedroom.

Little Girl doll was not worried, only surprised it had happened so quickly. She recognized the voice as her sister’s boyfriend. She took her plate into the kitchen and placed it in the sink, then walked down the narrow hall to her sister’s room, where she slid down the wall and rested, elbows on knees, listening through the door, as Barbie teen sister removed her clothes and lay side-by-side with her invisible boyfriend in the shoebox.

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