Thank you to blackrandl1958 for creating this gothic horror event. When I heard about the theme, I just about cried because I love the genre very much. So much, in fact, that I had to write two stories. Thank you to Pixel the Cat for editing, Bebop3 for the excellent feedback and D for the help and support.
Lola had platinum blonde hair that rested just below her breasts and crystal blue eyes that appeared to follow me when I moved through the room. There was a glint in their expression that made her seem omniscient. Her lips were parted and painted a vivid red. The dress she wore was white and far too short, exposing a generous portion of her luscious thighs, and her skin was perfect and surprisingly soft-looking. She looked ... well, exactly as she should, I guessed.
“What the hell am I going to do with that?” I asked Mark, still stunned.
Mark snorted. “What do you think, moron?”
I knew from the moment I unwrapped her what she was for, but I couldn’t believe Mark thought I was desperate enough to fuck a mound of plastic. There was something intrinsically perverted about the whole concept. “No way. That’s sick.”
He handed me a pamphlet that contained all sorts of filthy directions for how to get the most out of my new “pleasure doll”. I was beyond horrified.
“Take it back, Mark. Seriously. It’s all Tina needs to see.”
Mark sat on the sofa next to the doll and made a show of grabbing her leg. “Dude, it’s fine. You were whining like crazy the last time I saw you that you guys haven’t had sex in three months. That’s unacceptable. You deserve an early Christmas present.”
“I’m not fucking a doll.”
My friend shrugged and swept his gaze over her admittedly attractive form. “I would, for sure. A buddy of mine has one and it’s all he talks about.” Mark patted her cheek and grinned at me. “You can do anything you want to her and she doesn’t give you any shit for it. It’s brilliant. You don’t need to ask for permission or wait for her to be in the mood.”
As much as the whole thing skeeved me out, there was something appealing about that. Tina and I had been together for five years and everything was boring and predictable. Sex was something I needed frequently; I was ready to explode. I told myself that’s the only reason why “Lola” the doll looked so good at that moment.
“You sound like you work for them. That could have been a nice commercial.”
He laughed and got up, casting one last lustful look at Lola. “I don’t know, man. She’s hot. What difference does it make if she has a pulse or not?” He put his hand on my shoulder. “Think about it, okay? Keep her for a few days. If you’re not wowed, I’ll send her back.”
“You can return them? Seems kind of nasty to me. Who would want a used one?”
“I’m assured this one is brand new and that returns are washed thoroughly.” Mark grabbed his coat. “Call me in a couple days.” His lips stretched wickedly across his face. “Let me know what it’s like.”
“Yeah, yeah, bye. Talk to you later.”
He left Lola and me alone in my apartment with fading laughter. Prick. This was so like him. That’s why I hated confiding in him, but he had been my oldest friend and he was the only one I had who wasn’t completely in love with Tina. All of my other friends thought I was being a selfish asshole when I said things weren’t working out. Mark listened.
I stared down at the doll’s slightly spread legs and shook my head. Sometimes he listened a little too well.
I was freaked out by how she seemed to be staring me down, almost daring me to touch her. I rushed to get my coat and tossed it over her head, messing up her perfect hair. Still, my eyes were drawn to the sensual body.
My cell rang, startling me from my gawking. I ran to it and checked the screen: Tina.
“You’re late!” she yelled, nearly deafening me. “You were supposed to meet me at the tree lighting twenty minutes ago.”
She sighed. “You forgot. I knew you were going to forget.”
“I didn’t forget, I’m just running late,” I lied, looking for my shoes. “Listen, I’ll be there in ten.”
“No, not if you’re still at your apartment. You know what the traffic is like now. You’re not getting here for another thirty, at least.”
“I’ll be there in ten,” I repeated, hanging up. I would pay for that later but it was better than hearing her say the same thing over and over while I tried to get ready.
Once I was dressed, I looked Lola over and wondered what the hell to do with her. Tina might want to come over and she would seriously have a heart attack if she spotted a sex doll on my sofa. I took her and unceremoniously threw her into my closet, hoping that Tina wouldn’t poke her head in there.
I headed off to Rockefeller Center, trying to forget about the lifelike quality of Lola’s plush skin.
Thirty-five minutes later, I arrived just as the festivities started dying down. Tina was going to be pissed, and if I had thought that maybe a romantic night would put her in the mood, I’d royally fucked that up.
I found her a little while later after exchanging a few terse messages back and forth. She stood with her sister, Caroline, with a pinched look on her face that had nothing to do with the cold. Caroline, on the other hand, looked pleased. She hated me and I knew she was counting down the days until Tina broke up with me.
“Hey,” I started gently, “sorry I’m late. You were right; traffic was gruesome. Mark stopped by before I left and I just lost track of the time. I really am sorry.”
Tina softened a little. “Mark stopped by? For what?”
“Probably with a gaggle of Christmas strippers,” Caroline snapped. She wasn’t a fan of Mark ever since he asked her husband how he put up with her at a party we’d hosted. “Anyway, we’ve been freezing our asses off. Let’s just go to dinner.”
Tina bumped her arm into Caroline’s with a warning look. She looked back at me with warm brown eyes and forced a smile onto her face. “Mark doing okay?”
“He’s fine. Caroline’s right, let’s go to dinner. I made reservations.”
Dinner basically consisted of Tina and Caroline talking about the different performers that had been at the lighting, what they wore, and if they liked them or not. I zoned out, wondering if my drought was going to finally be broken once we got back to my apartment. Although she should have been furious with me about being late, Tina kept glancing at me with little flirty smiles that sent my pulse racing. I watched her laugh with Caroline and I couldn’t help but compare her with the manmade woman I had back at home.
Tina’s hair was dark brown and just touched her shoulders. It bounced with every movement she made, which was a major turn-on for me. Her cheeks had a natural flush that didn’t need makeup, and her lips shimmered with dark pink lipstick. My eyes lowered to her nearly perfect breasts that pushed fetchingly against her sweater. She was beautiful, inside and out, and I knew I was lucky to have her. Everyone knew how fortunate I was and loved to remind me of it. I didn’t want to end things with her, but something had to give. My frustration had morphed into a sentient being. I needed a body underneath me.
“Rob, are you even listening to me?”
I turned to look at Caroline. “Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I asked how work was going.”
I smiled with feeling for the first time that night. “Great, actually. I just took on a new client this morning.” I was a divorce attorney and I loved my job. I was admittedly a bit of a workaholic, but nothing gave me as much satisfaction as getting a killer deal for one of my clients. It was like figuring out a giant puzzle and I found immense satisfaction whenever that last piece clicked.
Tina gave me a high-five from across the table. “Awesome. Any interesting details yet?”
Tina was a professional organizer. She essentially helped people get their shit together. She got my love for the job, which was one of the reasons I stayed in the relationship.
“I’ll keep you posted.” I turned to Caroline and took a deep breath. “How’s work going for you?”
Caroline was a nurse. She usually had a sad or inspirational tale to tell. Judging by the way her eyes lit up, I was guessing tonight’s would be inspirational. She launched into a grand story, paying most of her attention to Tina.
I gave myself permission to fade out and fantasize again. This time, thoughts of platinum blonde hair and sinfully red lips haunted me. I was surprised to find myself attracted to these qualities, deliberately not letting myself dwell on just who—or what—those qualities belonged to.
Alarmed and a touch disgusted, I focused on Caroline’s words and drove out thoughts of the doll.
Dinner ended without any incident. Caroline gave Tina a hug and me a perfunctory kiss on the cheek before disappearing in a crowd of people.
“Your sister really hates me,” I said.
“She doesn’t hate you. If she hated you, she wouldn’t bother giving you a hard time.” Tina wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck. Her nose was an adorable pink. I took her hand and squeezed.
“Let’s get a cab back,” I suggested.
Tina smiled and leaned over to give me a teasing kiss. “I can’t come over tonight.”
I groaned against her mouth. “Why not?”
She pulled back, leaving me aching. “I have an early morning. I have to go to Westchester and meet with a client.”
I ran a hand through her hair and tugged lightly on the end. “I’ll get you up.”
“Mmhm, but all of my stuff for tomorrow is at my apartment.”
“I could come over your place.”
Tina kissed me again. “I’d love that, but I really do have a lot of stuff to prepare. This is a giant deal for me. If it goes well with her, she’s going to refer me to a lot of high-profile people.” Her expression turned remorseful. “Please don’t be angry with me. You know this is all I’ve wanted for the longest time.”
I sighed but nodded. “I know. It’s okay.”
“I’ll make it up to you on Friday. I’ll come over and we won’t leave your place all weekend.” She rubbed my chest. “I promise, okay?”
“Deal.” I bent my lips to hers and fought the urge to drag her back with me.
Then I hailed her a cab and gave her one last warm hug before heading back to my place.
Lights from the city drifted through the curtains, casting a hushed glow onto everything in my apartment. I hadn’t turned a lamp on yet. I stood in the center of the room and listened to the faint sound of cars and people from below. Something about that relaxed me. At least, it usually did. I was edgy this particular night for a slew of reasons, most importantly due to the fact that an attractive but nonliving creature was in my closet.
Mark’s words came back to me: I could do anything to it that I wanted. She would take it with that crafted smile on her face. Was it really all that different from masturbating? Myriad possibilities flooded my imagination and overwhelmed me.
Icy rain began to slap against my windows, tugging me from my sordid thoughts. I looked out the window and saw people scurry for cover. It was supposed to rain all night. It seemed fitting.
I pulled a beer from my fridge and opened the closet door. I only peered in; I didn’t turn on the light. The smell of perfumed plastic greeted me. I stared at the dark clump that faintly resembled a body in the shadows and tried to talk myself out of what I really wanted to do. I wanted to yank Lola out and do things I’d never done to another person, knowing she would have to let me. It was a heady sensation.
My hand reached out and touched skin. It felt like skin, anyway. I kept wondering if it was better or worse that she so closely resembled a human being. I also wondered if it was better if I thought of her in terms of “it” and “doll” rather than “she” and “Lola”.
I opened a second beer and continued to just stand there. The second beer managed to convince me I was overthinking it. My hand wrapped around hers and I took her out of the closet. Carefully, I placed her onto the sofa and sat next to her. I couldn’t help but stare at those ideal breasts. They reminded me of a high school girlfriend’s, and I smiled at the memory. Lola’s were far better, though. Had the makers created nipples? I had to know. I slowly pulled the dress from her body and peeked. I couldn’t make nipples out in the darkness, so I reached over and turned on the lamp. Her face was turned forward, but I couldn’t shake the feeling she was somehow aware of my touch. Instead of it being creepy, it excited me. I decided I liked that she was so humanlike. I pulled on the fabric again and my mouth watered at the sight; not only had the creators made her nipples a delicious pink, but they were hard and obscenely real. I had to touch.
My eyes flicked up to Lola’s face, but she continued to stare straight toward my kitchen. My hand lifted to her breast and I just went for it. Her breast was shockingly warm in my hand, and her hard nipple pressed invitingly against my palm. I reflexively squeezed and grinned when I found that it was very much like holding a woman’s breast. In fact, it might have been better. She was absolutely flawless.
God, the things I thought of doing to her should have disturbed me, but I was lost to lust. I could have sworn her chest rose and that a faint whisper seemed to say...
The freezing rain fell in punishing waves against the windows, bringing me back to awareness. I looked down in shock at where my hand was. I yanked it away and looked at Lola’s face. She hadn’t moved.
“Jesus Christ,” I said into the hushed and vacant apartment.
Unsettled, I put her back into the closet and vowed to have Mark come back and get her the next day.
Her mouth was on my chest. Warm lips and wet tongue trailed down and over my stomach. My hands went to her hair, pulling lightly. The pleasure was so outrageous I couldn’t even open my eyes to look at her.
“Mmm,” I sighed. It had been so long. Too long. My cock was already hard and tingles coursed through my entire body. I needed to be inside her and soon. Her barely-there kisses were nearly enough to make me come.
She whispered in an almost unfamiliar voice. “Beg me.” Her lips tickled the skin by my hip.
Her mouth descended onto my cock and I gasped. One of my hands pulled too hard on her hair, but she didn’t complain. My other hand grasped at the sheets desperately as if it would stop me from coming too fast. She hummed around my flesh and slowly worked her way on and off of me. Whenever she reached the head, she tongued it in a generous circle. This was unusual for Tina, whose blowjobs were amazing but predictable.
She touched my balls and played with them with her naughty fingers. I felt my arousal sharpen and knew my orgasm was coming. I opened my mouth to warn her but only a throaty moan spilled out. My eyes popped open as I looked down at her shadowed bobbing head.
Headlights shone through the window behind the bed, illuminating the sight. My heart stopped when I saw the top of a blonde head and eyes the color of the sky. I bucked against her, suddenly terrified, but my cock had different ideas. It somehow became more swollen in her mouth and jerked against her tongue. There was a flash of satisfaction in her eyes, and then the headlights disappeared, leaving us in near blackness.
“Tina,” I said nervously, my voice shaky because of fear and because her speed intensified. “Tina?”
She pulled her mouth off of me. Her wet lips brushed my cock as she whispered, “You know my name.”
Then she sank back onto me. My entire body jolted at the sensation and I started coming. It was unreal, but it was the most electrifying, biblical, indescribable, outstanding orgasm of my life. Almost painful pleasure flooded my body until I was a shaking, muttering mess.
An overwhelming desire to rest came over me. I wanted to know if I was dreaming, or if I had just been mistaken in my lust-filled moments, but my eyes closed and I obediently sank into the deepest sleep I ever experienced.
I woke with a tremendous hard-on. I remembered the night before instantly. My hand went out to grab Tina, but she wasn’t there.
Could I possibly have just dreamt it? No. My cock still felt wet, somehow, and though I was turned on, there was less pressure to relieve myself than I’d been experiencing lately. It wasn’t a dream; I had emptied myself the night before into Tina’s mouth. Definitely Tina. It wasn’t like her to sneak in and out, but she did have to get to that client meeting.
I thought of the blonde hair and blue eyes I had seen, but I told myself that part was fanciful imagining, bound to happen after all my dirty thoughts. The person who sucked me off the night before was Tina, no doubt about it.
I thought only about my appointments that day as I showered, freaked out but not willing to admit it yet. My clothes somehow found their way onto my body, and I went out to the kitchen to make some coffee. As I poured myself a cup, I looked up and a strangled shout escaped.
Lola was on the sofa. Naked.
Frantically, I thought back to the night before. I only had two beers when I got home, not enough to forget that I had specifically placed her back in the closet. I had no intentions of messing with her further and I certainly hadn’t taken her clothes completely off. I even had made a mental note to call Mark and get him to take her back. I looked around for her dress but it had vanished, as had her panties, if she’d been wearing any. There was something especially profane about her sitting there, nude and smiling in the wan sunlight that poured in from the windows. Like a robot, I went into my bedroom and found one of Tina’s nighties that she left in a drawer for when she slept over. It was blue, like Lola’s eyes.
When I went back out into the living room, I half-expected her to be gone, but she sat perfectly still on my sofa, looking as if she were waiting for me.
I put the nightie on, ignoring the way her skin felt against my own. I picked up my cell and called Mark.
“What’s up?” he answered.
“You’ve gotta come back here and get this doll.”
“Whoa, whoa. I thought we agreed on a couple of days.”
I looked her over and tried to ignore the vague impression that she was listening. “It’s freaking me out.”
Mark sighed. “You really need to live a little, dude. It’s not like you’re cheating on Tina or anything.”
“Please come pick her up,” I said, trying to sound firm and not pathetic.
He sighed again and agreed to come by after work. “Just make sure she is exactly as she was when we opened her.”
I struggled swallowing. “Okay. There’s just, um, one problem.”
I shut my eyes and pinched my nose before taking a deep breath. This was going to sound bad. “I, um, don’t know where her clothes are.”
There was a brief silence on the other side. Then Mark let out a low whistle. “So, you did sample the goods.”
“No. No, I didn’t. I swear. I have no idea what happened.”
“Uh-huh.” Mark burst out laughing. “Look, no judgment.”
My embarrassment shifted into anger. “No, really. Listen to me. I didn’t do anything.”
“Right. So I guess she just took off her own dress, is that what you’re saying? The doll is good but not that good. As far as I know, she wasn’t built to do that.”
Fuck, but Mark was right. What had happened to her dress? Then a dark, cold thought came to mind. “Tina.”
“Tina must have found her. She was here last night.”
“Oh, fuck, man.”
I rubbed my face and let out a stream of curses. “That’s why she left without saying goodbye.”
“You better call her and explain.”
“Yeah, thanks, Mark,” I said sarcastically, hanging up on him. I called Tina’s number immediately and debated whether or not I wanted her to pick up.
Too soon, her perky voice answered. “Hey, babe!”
“Uh, hi. Hi, sweetie.”
“Sweetie?” Tina knew I wasn’t one for pet names. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“Great. The meeting was a success. I think business is really going to pick up now.”
The panic I’d felt a few minutes earlier faded; she didn’t sound upset. “Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m happy for you.”
“I have to run. Call me later?”
An alarming thought caused prickling fear to run down my spine. “Um, sure. Hey, Tina? Not that I’m complaining, but you really surprised me last night.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know, with the sneaking in thing.”
There was silence, and then Tina said, “I didn’t. What are you talking about?”
For a moment, I couldn’t find words. She asked me again if I was all right. “I’m fine,” I said, my eyes automatically going to Lola’s unmoving form. “Totally fine.”
“You don’t sound fine. Someone snuck in?”
“I just had ... a really strange dream, I guess.”
“Rob, you sound off. Are you sure you’re okay?”
I crept over to Lola and bent down to peer into her eyes. The light reflected in them, making them look even more lifelike than before. I shivered. “I have to go, Tina. Everything is fine. I just thought you were here.”
“Okay. I’m worried about you. Call me later?”
“Sure,” I said, hanging up without saying goodbye.
Faint light made Lola’s skin glow. I watched her, waiting for some movement. Then my phone vibrated with a text from Mark. I reluctantly took my eyes off of Lola to read it.
Can’t return doll without original clothing. You better hope Tina is in the mood to give it back to you.
I typed out a response, trying to ignore the hollow terror spreading from the pit of my stomach throughout the rest of my body. She doesn’t have it. She didn’t find her. I must have blacked out.
Mark answered immediately. Man, you’ve lost it. Hope it was good last night, that’s all I’m gonna say. And remember: no judging.
I put my phone down and poked Lola’s shoulder. The skin gave a little when I touched her, and she was as warm as I remembered, but she didn’t budge.
“Are you,” I swallowed, feeling ridiculous, “alive?”
We stared into each other’s eyes for what felt like an eternity. Then my phone went off again, making me jump. This time it was my receptionist, wondering why I was late. I ran around my apartment like a wild man. Right before I left, I deliberated about what the fuck to do with Lola. I ended up putting her under my bed, numbly wondering if I had officially lost my mind.
I ran down the stairs and out into the cold morning, praying that I’d find that dress when I got back. She had to go. Fast.
The elegant and cool Mrs. Holloway was in my office when I arrived. She wore a gold dress that probably cost more than a year’s worth of my rent and diamonds flashed on nearly every one of her long fingers. She smiled when she saw me, but it was devoid of any warmth.
“Robert, you’re here.”
I cleared my throat and made an effort to straighten my tie. “So sorry to be late, Mrs. Holloway. I had a bit of an emergency this morning.”
She stood from her chair and smoothed her dress. “Emergencies happen.”
Her folder wasn’t on my desk. I cursed my receptionist and wondered how I would explain that I wasn’t prepared for our meeting. Then I noticed she was already putting on her fur coat.
“If you give me just one minute I can...”
“Don’t bother, honey. Tom took care of me.”
I froze. “He did?”
“Well, naturally, I was very upset to be kept waiting. This divorce isn’t your average divorce. I thought you understood that.”
“Of course I did. I do.”
Mrs. Holloway drummed her red nails on my desk, the clicking sound setting me on edge. “If you did, you wouldn’t have been late. See, emergencies happen, but they can’t happen for the lawyer representing me. This divorce is too important.”
“I agree, Mrs. Holloway. I can’t apologize enough.”
“Yes, I’m glad you understand.” She picked up her purse and bared her teeth one more time in something that might have been a smile. “I am disappointed we can’t work together, Robert. We would have been a good team. I was really very fond of you.”
She walked out, leaving only her perfume behind.
Tom sat on the edge of my desk. It drove me crazy when he did that, and I figured he knew it.
He was a partner in my law firm, and an old friend, but our relationship had transitioned into more of a frenemy situation than anything else over the years. He and I were both fiercely competitive and we both had the fierce tenacity to win at all costs. Still, Tom was probably more human than I was when it came to the job. He didn’t always have the heart to follow through when he knew it would bring immense pain to another. It made him a great person, but not the best lawyer. There was also the awkwardness that he once drunkenly professed his love for Tina, but I tried not to think about that too often.
“What happened to you this morning? I had to console your 8AM client.”
I sat back in my chair and sighed. “I know. Sorry about that.”
“That was the new client that had you buzzing yesterday, right?”
“Well, I hope you’re not offended, but she’s decided to work with me.”
I looked up, reminding myself it wasn’t socially acceptable to punch him in the face. “She told me. I understand.”
Tom then offered me a pleasant smile. “How is Tina? Is she coming to the holiday party next week?”
“Yes,” was all I said.
“Great. Haven’t seen her since the 4th of July party.”
“Look, man, I have a lot of work to catch up on.”
Tom looked down at my desk, then at me. “Right. Sorry. I’ll leave you to it.”
Before he walked out, he turned to look at me. “You sure you’re okay? You look terrible.”
I sighed and put a smile on my face. He wasn’t going to go away until I gave him some explanation. “I didn’t sleep great.”
Tom nodded. “Gotcha. Well, if you need anything...” He turned around and walked out, missing the middle finger I gave him behind his back.
The truth was I was pretty fucking far from okay. I had a doll who might have come to life the night before, and whether or not she did, I was fairly certain I was fucked in the head. I also had a girlfriend who was great but wouldn’t have sex with me and a major client who just walked away from me and toward my professional nemesis. It wasn’t a great Thursday.
I threw myself into my work and didn’t look back up until it was 8PM and the rest of the office was black. The rain had returned, punishing and bleak against the walls of the building. I sighed and rushed outside, letting it smack against me in angry drips.
When I finally walked up to my apartment building, I had almost forgotten about Lola, who was thankfully not sitting on my sofa when I walked inside. I entered my bedroom and leaned down on my knees to see her. She was still under the bed, her blue eyes open and deceptively guileless. I swept her out and placed her on the bed, then paced around the room. I paused after a few minutes, stalked to her and heaved in a breath.
“Are you ... alive? Can you understand me?” The light from the lamp flickered in her eyes. The freaky human quality of them provoked me. “Answer me!”
A knock came from the front door. I jumped and nearly fell on my ass. There was only one person it could really be: Tina. I threw Lola underneath my bed and ran my hands through my hair.
Tina was waiting in the hallway. Her hair was back in a bun and she looked tired and worried. Her eyes assessed me and she frowned.
“This is a surprise,” I said. “I thought I wasn’t seeing you until tomorrow.”
She nudged by me and stepped into the apartment. “Your tone freaked me out before. Someone snuck into your apartment?” She eyed the place, studying it for mysterious strangers.
I sighed and shut the door behind her, praying to all things holy that she wouldn’t feel the urge to check under my bed. “I was dreaming. It was so real.”
Tina stopped her inspection and put her hand on my face. “You scared me.”
“Don’t be sorry. I’m happy to worry about you.”
I rested my hands on her hips, delighted to be in her presence, actually touching her and smelling her. She lifted up on her toes and put her forehead against mine.
“You work too hard,” she said. “It’ll burn you out.”
“I miss you,” I whispered.
She knew what I meant. Her cheeks flushed. “I know. I’ve been busy, too. I promise things will settle down soon and we’ll go back to normal.”
I stifled my groan of frustration and kissed her nose. “I’m looking forward to it.”
I persuaded her to stay for dinner and ordered from her favorite Thai restaurant. She didn’t take her eyes off me during the meal, but she didn’t say much.
“Okay, what is it? Now you’re worrying me.”
She put down her food and shrugged. “Tom called me this morning when you were late to work.”
She waved her hand dismissively, then leaned across the table. “You’re never late to work. Then you tell me about some weird dream you had, and you never have weird dreams. I’m over for dinner and you’ve barely touched me, and you keep staring over my right shoulder. There is something up with you that you’re not telling me.”
“I swear I’m fine.”
“Maybe you should tell me about the dream. Might make you feel better.”
That definitely wasn’t going to happen. I let out an uneasy laugh and said, “I don’t even remember it, Tina, seriously. Just forget it.”
“Why haven’t you kissed me yet?”
I pushed my lips onto hers, hoping it would make her stop with the questions. Luckily, it seemed to do the trick. She picked her food back up with satisfaction and grinned.
“That’s more like it,” she said. “I dreamt about Billy Idol once. You know, he sang “Dancing with Myself”.”
“I know it,” I laughed and shook my head. “Was it a sex dream?”
“No, no. Nothing like that. He was handing out samples at the grocery store and when he saw me, he started singing “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific. You know it?” Tina leaned forward playfully and lifted her eyebrows. “Fucked me up for days.”
I laughed harder, remembering why I loved Tina so much. She always knew how to get me out of my head. I put my hand on her shoulder and brought her closer so I could give her a better kiss than before. One she deserved.
“Love when you kiss me like that,” she whispered.
As we cleaned up, I thought about asking Tina to stay over. The thought of being alone with Lola made goosebumps break out on my skin, but surprisingly I wasn’t much in the mood for sex. If she slept over, it was going to happen.
She must have expected me to ask her because she didn’t hide her disappointment when I said goodnight. “You sure? I could stay and wake you up if you have another bad dream.”
I pecked the tip of her nose. “This weekend. I’m just too exhausted tonight.”
Tina nodded. “You do look tired. Exhaustion does weird things, Rob. You need to get some sleep.”
I stared down into her trusting face and felt a rush of affection for her. “I love you.”
Her smile was soft. “Love you more.”
She left a few minutes later and I let her, even though I wanted to grab her, drag her back and tell her everything.
I looked around my apartment, shuddering at the darkness. There was a chill that I would have sworn wasn’t there moments before. I went around the room and turned on all the lamps, stupidly thinking that it would help.
After every light was on in the apartment, I turned some football on and pretended everything was normal. I pretended so well that when I heard the laughter, I thought maybe it was just coming from next door. The laughter wasn’t louder than a whisper, but it was definitely laughter. It was a harsh and ugly sound that made me shiver.
I muted the TV and listened. It certainly wasn’t coming from anywhere other than my apartment. It was coming from the bedroom, in fact. My heart thudded unpleasantly in my chest as terror took a hold of me.
“Fuck.” I took three deep breaths, grabbed a knife from the kitchen and headed for the bedroom. The wood floor creaked beneath my feet and the laughter stopped.
She was still under the bed when I walked in, but I could have sworn her smile had grown.
“Fuck,” I said again. I shook so bad that my teeth chattered in my mouth.
I put her in the bathroom, feeling safer if she was in another room behind a closed door. Still shaking, I put the TV’s sound back on and focused on the screen, letting the news ground me. More stabbings and robberies, more political nonsense and celebrities acting ridiculous. The world hadn’t changed outside of my apartment, so maybe I was just imagining things. That had to be it. Maybe Tina was right. Maybe I was just exhausted and it was fucking with my head. My heartbeat slowed and I started feeling normal again.
She was just a doll. Just an inanimate nothing, a clever collection of plastic, a thing just a few steps up from Barbie. It had been a dream last night and I had certainly been mistaken about the laughter.
The wind increased and whined against my building. The news segued into the weather report and the weatherman stated that we were in for at least a foot of snow.
“You’re not going anywhere for the next twenty-four hours,” he gravely reported. It felt more like a threat to me. My eyes jumped to the bathroom door and I wondered what she was doing in there. Just like that, the temporary security I’d felt vanished.
Part of me knew how irrational I was being. She wasn’t alive; she wasn’t doing anything but resting in the tub, just as I left her.
A primitive part of me didn’t believe that at all. I knew with certainty that my life was in danger, even if it sounded absurd. That thing in my bathroom might not have been alive, but she wasn’t just a doll, no matter how many times I repeated that to myself.
I had to get rid of her tomorrow.
I woke to the sound of footsteps. Someone was in the room. I fumbled for the lamp and sent it to the floor, instead. The lightbulb shattered on the floor.
“Damn it,” I hissed. I reached for my phone and turned the flashlight on. With a shaking hand, I cast the light around, hoping I was wrong.
Nothing was there.
I put my feet on the cold hardwood floor and went to the bathroom. I turned the light on and let myself breathe when I spotted Lola’s body in the tub, right where I left her.
A crashing noise came from the bedroom. I ran back in and saw that the wind had burst open the window, sending in waves of snow that piled onto the floor. I shivered at the shock of the cold and slammed the window shut. My heart was still racing when I settled back into bed.
I wasn’t aware of falling back asleep, but I was aware of the tickling sensation of something touching my stomach. My eyes flew open. The lamp I could have sworn I’d broken earlier was on and Lola hovered over me. She laughed when I began sputtering and pushing at her.
“Get off me!”
She only giggled harder. I thrashed around beneath her and pushed too hard, bringing us both to the floor. My head smacked against the bedside table, and then there was only a numbing darkness.
When I came to, Lola was gone. The lamp was still lit, mysteriously back in its place and unbroken. The floor, previously wet from the snow, was dry. Had I dreamed the whole thing?
I was dazed as I fought to stand. Once I was finally on two feet, I marched to the bathroom. There she was, sprawled out in the tub, just as I left her.
I stared down at her for a few moments, fury and fear waging a battle in my chest. Eventually I was able to speak.
Mark stared at me over his coffee. “So, you’re telling me you think the doll came to life.”
I put another sugar in my own and gestured in the air like a madman. “You tell me. How do you explain what I just told you?”
“Uh, extreme exhaustion? She’s just a doll, Rob.”
“Then you take her!”
He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t want sloppy seconds. Come on, dude, you have me worried. I think you’re working too hard.”
He’d said that to me at least fifty times since I called him, asking him to meet me after work. I barely made it through the day, eager to meet with Mark and have him come up with some solution.
Sighing, I sipped my coffee and tried to think of a way to prove it to him. I couldn’t. “Can you please just take her? Throw her in a dumpster for me. Anything.”
“Sure, I can do that for you,” Mark said gently, as if I were fragile. Maybe I was. It didn’t matter to me; I was just relieved she would be gone soon.
We trudged through the snow back to my apartment. I went straight for the bedroom where she was waiting. Once I saw her, I stopped in my tracks. Blood faded from my face and horrified tingles crept along my back.
My mouth opened and could only form one word. “No.”
Mark stepped beside me. “What’s the matter?”
“She’s wearing her dress.”
He went over and looked her over. “You found it? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I couldn’t say anything else. Her blue gaze was fixed upon me and I knew that she was watching me, waiting for me.
Mark grabbed he and threw her into a trash bag. “Honestly, Rob, you’re scaring the shit out of me. She is just a doll made in a factory from some no-name town in Europe or Asia or whatever. She’s not real.”