“The Burglar”

The front window of the dollhouse was broken, smashed, as if some tiny burglar had tried to gain entry and rob the place. It gave me a thrill of illicit joy to see—it wasn’t my dollhouse, but my sister’s, and there was no love lost between the two of us. She was the Favorite, after all. The youngest always is. I was the eldest, saddled with things like Responsibility and Should-Know-Betters. There was no room in my life for things like dollhouses, only grades and chores.

Of course, I was blamed for the destruction, by both my sister’s shrieks and my parents’ frowns. 

But then our house was broken into the next night, while the whole family was out at dinner—through the same window, my sister’s bedroom. The burglar alarm went off, the police showed up, and we returned from dinner to a swirling phantasmagoria of red & blue lights. Nothing had been taken—at least, nothing that we knew of.

It wasn’t until my sister discovered that one of her dolls was missing that I realized what had been stolen that night. “Daddy doll is missing,” she informed me, her lips curving in petulance. “You took him, didn’t you?”

“Why would I do that?” I retorted. “I don’t play with dolls. It was probably that burglar.”

“Why would a burglar take my doll?” She said, haughty as always. “Anyway, it wasn’t Mommy. I asked. So that leaves you.”

“Well, it wasn’t me,” I said, and left it at that.

That night, we sat down to dinner as we always did. We never waited for our father to come home—he usually worked late—but that night, his cold dinner grew colder, and then colder still. It even went past our bedtime, past the time he would come in and stamp his kiss on our foreheads, and still he did not appear.

The next morning dawned, and our mother fretted—our father was nowhere to be found. She packed my sister and I off to school. The day was gray and slimy with spring. Ice crusted the mud puddles. I got home from school first, and immediately glued myself to the television. There was still no sign of our father, and mother was at work.

Later in the afternoon, my sister got home, and went right for her dollhouse. After a moment or two of rustling around, she came into the living room and stood in front of the television, blocking my episode of Tiny Toons. 

“Now Mommy doll is gone,” she informed me, crossing her arms over her skinny chest. “Did you take her, too?”

I hadn’t.

She looked at me hard and held her breath, then started to cry.

“I’m sorry,” I said, suddenly flushed with guilt. “But I really, truly didn’t take them.”

Her sobs quieted, but her tear-splashed eyes got dark. Solemn. “Now Mommy won’t come home. Just like Daddy. They’re gone forever.”

“That’s silly,” I said. But even I felt the lie of it in my chest, with the heaviness of a dropped bowling ball.

“No it’s not, you watch,” she said, her voice rising, shrilly, in terror. “Then it’ll be Brother doll gone and you’ll be gone and I’ll be all alone forever!”

I shut up. I said nothing.

Then the fear hit, raw and immediate, shocking me into motion.

I ran down the hall—setting her to crying again—to her bedroom. To the dollhouse. 

On the floor of her bedroom, it was open wide: a yawn full of rooms. There, in the dollhouse’s den, was Sister doll, standing at the mouth of the hallway. No Mommy or Daddy doll to be found. And no—

I pored over every room, my panic starting to rise. 

Where, oh where, was Brother doll?

I was nowhere to be found.

I tracked my gaze down to the broken window at the front and outside of the dollhouse. The curtains there rustled in a small breeze. 

I looked up, to the broken window in my sister’s bedroom. 

The curtains there rustled, too.