I don’t know how old I was the year I came to live with the Macklesons; they took me from outside the Parkers’ house where I was lying alone on the front lawn. They put me in a room with their seven-year-old daughter Serena and I spent the next two or so years sharing her bed.
Serena proved to be a restless sleeper so I spent most nights on the floor beside her bed, knocked there by a flinging arm or outstretched leg. After a while I simply began rolling off the bed and onto the floor myself, knowing I’d end up there anyway. Unfortunately Serena often stepped on me in the middle of the night on her way to the bathroom. Once I tripped her, hoping she’d pay more attention to where she was going.
She looked down, narrowing her eyes and trying to focus in the darkness. When she saw it was me that had caused her to stumble, her face twisted into the meanest, angriest scowl I’d ever seen on her. Usually it was all smiles and kisses, proclamations of how I was her best friend ever, but on this night she even kicked me. I guess I deserved it for tripping her, but she started it by stepping on me, like I was so insignificant to her. She should’ve been upset to find me not beside her in bed; instead she made me feel like I was such a burden that not even the floor was a proper place for me.
The year Serena turned ten her best friend was Katie, and she didn’t like me one bit. Maybe it was because I bared my teeth the first time she ever looked at me. She screamed and ran out of the room and wouldn’t come back until I went away. From then on whenever Katie came over I had to stay in Mr. and Mrs. Mackleson’s bedroom.
“It’s not in here, is it?” I heard her ask every time they were about to enter Serena’s room. That’s right; she called me it. She whispered it, too, like maybe she was afraid to hurt my feelings, but I have extraordinary hearing; I could hear her coming up the front walk. Before she even rang the bell I knew Serena would come and get me and take me to the master bedroom.
One day when Katie came over Mrs. Mackleson had a headache and was resting in her room, with the door locked. That was the day I was dumped in Evan’s room.
I never liked Evan. A kind of evil radiated from him, like the heat that steams off of the Mackleson’s driveway after a sun shower on the hottest of August days. Even Evan’s room seemed filled with that same suffocating energy. But the day he came home from an afterschool soccer game and found me lying on his bed, the evil lying dormant manifested itself. He took me into the bathroom and submerged me in the toilet. He bent me over myself and put my face between my legs, twisting me up so bad I couldn’t move. He propped me against Serena’s closed bedroom door and left me there.
I thought Evan would get in trouble for doing that to me, but not even Serena seemed very upset at him for what he’d done. She yanked me up by the leg and tossed me in her closet.
“If you would keep her where she belongs Evan wouldn’t have had the opportunity,” Mr. Mackleson said. Serena told him Katie didn’t like me; she thought I was creepy. I realized then that Serena did, too.
Worse than that, she didn’t love me at all anymore.
At first I was upset at having to spend my days alone in the closet. I would hear Serena laughing to friends on the phone, her fingers tapping on the keys of her computer as she entered chatrooms, the tapping of her cell phone as she liked things on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. She’d watch television or listen to music and I could picture her dancing, singing into her hairbrush as she performed in front of the mirror, pretending to be Taylor Swift.
I remember when I used to have a front row seat to the show of her life, sitting on her bed watching, waiting for her to scoop me up, giggling, her partner in the dance. Even when times weren’t so happy, she would fall on her bed in tears, bury her face in my lap and cry to me about the injustices in a tween’s world. How I wanted so much to be there for her these days, comforting her. Now all I could do was lie in the closet and listen to her anguish, powerless to make her feel better. Didn’t she know I was still here? That I could still take her tears away if only she’d let me?
Then one day it finally ended. Serena threw open her closet doors and began rummaging through the pile of clothes and books and bags and shoes on the floor. She was coming for me! I tried to thrust a hand up through the mess, but she found me with little help. Her fingers wrapped around my arm and I felt so full of joy that I literally started, soaring through the air. Then I landed on the floor beside her bed, realizing she had tossed me over her shoulder, just one more thing in the way of what she really wanted to retrieve from her closet: a purple knit sweater with multi-colored hearts that had slipped from its hanger onto the floor, the one I’d used as a blanket on cold nights because it smelled like Serena.
She left me where I landed, and I might have gone back in the closet once she discovered me lying there helpless on the floor, but I was gone before she had the chance.
Later that day Evan discovered me, and decided I belonged in his room instead.
Evan didn’t keep me in his closet. He kept me under the bed, where I stayed until late at night, when everyone was asleep. Then he’d take me out and hold me under the covers, rubbing me on himself. He’d gather my hair up in his fist, or my dress, and jerk me up and down, my face slamming into his thighs. I started to get sticky and smell funny, which he realized, because sometimes he’d wash my hair in the bathroom sink, and finally relieved me permanently of my dress, which he buried at the bottom of his trashcan, underneath rolled up composition papers and empty corn chip bags and candy wrappers. He cut a hole between my legs and stuffed and lined it with socks slathered with Vaseline and bounced me on his lap.
Eventually he grew tired of me, much like Serena had, and I had been under his bed for almost a month when Mrs. Mackleson found me. She stared at me, at first confused, then appalled, and I wasn’t sure if she was seeing me, or seeing her children and all that they had done to me. I wondered if maybe she was thinking about all the things she’d done to them over the years; if they could wear her actions the way I’d worn theirs, what would they look like?
I thought maybe she would take pity on me. That she would see it wasn’t my fault, that maybe she had even come to rescue me. I tried to move my mouth to beg her to take me away with her, but she must have misunderstood because she looked at me in horror, dropping me like I had burned her hands.
She kicked me back under the bed and hurried from the room, slamming the door.
Mr. Mackleson was staring at me. Big, wide eyes like one of those if-you-blink-first-you-lose games. Did he really think he had a chance of winning against me? I was a champion of the empty, blank stare.
He flipped me over, looked at me from every angle, then he sighed, carrying me by one of my legs out of Evan’s room. Down the stairs we went, into the kitchen, and I was beginning to wonder what was going on when we went outside. I felt the panic swelling inside me as he opened the lid to a big blue plastic trash bin on wheels and tossed me inside. The lid slammed closed and I heard him walking away, back into the safety and comfort and warmth of his home.
I began to feel suffocated, trapped in there with bloody meat wrappers and fetid banana peels and the cloyingly antiseptic smell of used Clorox wipes. My mind began to feel fuzzy as all sensation began to slip away from me.
This is it, I thought. This is how it ends.
Sudden blinding sunlight accompanied by a burst of air. Roaring sounds of some modern-day steel and motor version of a prehistoric animal. I am tumbling through space with the banana peels and meat wrappers and Clorox wipes. I fling out my arms and I am hanging on the edge of the gaping mouth, my body swinging for just a moment before I release and land face-down in the grass.
“Oh my God!” a man shouts. “Did you see that?”
“What?” another asks.
“That doll! It looked like it grabbed onto the side of the truck to avoid going inside!”
The other man laughed.
“Well, too bad. It’s going in.”
Suddenly something has me by the neck, but it’s not either of the men. I am being swiftly transported along the sidewalk for what seems like tens of miles until finally I am dropped.
I am chewed and licked, I am massaged by firm gray and white paws. I see a face: Gish! Is it really you?
A door opens and I hear a gasp. Gish drops me and runs in the house. A woman’s voice, sharp, anxious.
Yes! Jacob. Jacob and Denise Parker! And little Samantha. Oh, how I adored little Samantha. How I loved sleeping with her in her crib, her breath all warm and pancakey with hints of sour milk. Until the day there was no more breath, and then it was just me, tossed out onto the lawn like it was my fault.
Jacob is beside her at the door and I can feel the weight of them both staring down at me.
“It’s back,” Denise barely whispers, but I hear her. I’m slightly offended that she, too, has referred to me as it, but I’ll get over it quickly, such is my joy.
Yes. I am back.
I am home.