I never fancied the doll at aunt Lalka’s house.
Aunt Lalka was a beautiful woman who lived by herself on a small but lovely house surrounded by large fields of daffodils. I knew her by chance and often, I would run over the hills to her place and enjoy the sweet treats she always saved for me. Aunt Lalka made the best crème brûlée, you know.
Beautiful aunt Lalka had an antique doll which she kept at the most noticeable place in the cupboard.
Through the glass I saw her ugly face every time I came to aunt Lalka’s house. With an unusually menacing expression on her face, the doll looked as if she would launch from her seat and claw at the first unfortunate one getting close enough to her.
“She’s disgusting, aunt Lalka. Who was the sicko that created such a thing? Just look at her! All dolls are supposed to be pretty and smile and make girls happy, aren’t they?”
“Well, not all dolls, my dear. And, she does smile. Not very often, though.”
“She does? She’s just a thing. How could she change her expression?”
“That’s the secret which makes her so precious to me. Shhhhh…. This is just between you and me, OK?”
“Right, aunt. But can I see her smile, please? I mean, it doesn’t have to be right now. Call me when she does and I’ll run as fast as my feet can.”
Aunt Lalka’s house was two hills away from mine and it would normally take a thirty-minute walk; still, if I ran, I could make it in only ten minutes.
“If you wish so, my dear. But there’s something I must tell you first: you may not like it much when she smiles.”
“Why is that?”
That might have been a warning for me and I might have allowed it to slip my mind. All were in my head at that moment was the doll’s mysterious smile.
I didn’t have to wait too long. Aunt Lalka called me in the early morning and said I could come to her house after the school’s end and might even enjoy the cupcakes she’d just made. As a result, the morning lessons have been a real pain to me, for all I was waiting for was the bell’s ring.
Yet, when I finally came to aunt Lalka’s house, it was already two days after.
That day, when I was all ready to run over two hills to aunt Lalka’s house, I saw mother waiting for me at the school’s gate with dreadfulness written all over her face: little sweet Robin had been ravaged by a pack of wild dogs coming out of nowhere and hadn’t made it to father’s rescue.
I thought I’d heard thunders at that very moment. Robin, my sweet, sweet little Robin whom I wouldn’t trade all the treasures in the world for, was no more.
“I’m sorry about your little brother. You see, even the doll looks sad, too.”
When I glanced at the doll, she was the same as I remembered her to be: ugly with bulging eyes and an expression as if she was about to murder someone.
That was only an object, right? Why on earth should I care how it looked when my dearest little brother had just passed away? How stupid of me!
Still I visited aunt Lalka’s house to enjoy her sweet treats but the doll’s existence was pushed back to the farthest corner of my head. I was almost about to forget it, until…
“Oh look, she’s smiling.”
I heard aunt Lalka’s cry of surprise.
Out of curiosity, my eyes traveled to where the doll was.
She was indeed smiling!
The smile did make her face a thousand times better, I had to admit. Nevertheless, there was something, something I couldn’t put a name to, something ominous in that smile of hers.
Had to be my imagination.
… was it?
That same afternoon, my father’s accident came as a huge shock to us. As sudden as it’d done little Robin, death took him as fast as lightning.
Something flashed my mind.
Father’s factory, where the accident had happened, was located in the northern region to our town. That day, the doll had turned her face to the North and smiled.
A coincidence too coincidental to be just a coincidence?
This time I took notice. This time the doll looked to the East and smiled.
I ran as fast as my feet could. To the eastern field, where mother was working.
I barely made it to the scene to see the tractor trampling my mother under its massive feet.
I was alone now, truly alone in this world.
Aunt Lalka, sweet and gentle aunt Lalka took me to her loving embrace.
“Poor little girl. I know it must be hard but don’t worry, I’m always there for you. And Calmie too.”
This was the first time I’d learnt of the doll’s name.
“Maybe just Calmie.”
“What do you mean, my dear?”
“You know it all, right aunt Lalka? What Calmie can do, and did?”
“Yes, dear. I was once like you, disgusted by Calmie’s look and intrigued by her smile. What she did for you, she’d done for me twenty years ago.”
I stayed quiet and listened to aunt Lalka’s soothing voice as she was holding me in her arms.
“Admit it, dear, you wished for their deaths. Little Robin stole everyone’s love from you. Your father never wanted a daughter and your mother was always smothering you with housework and endless naggings. You hated them, that’s why you keep escaping to my house.”
“And you’d wished the same?”
“Only I’d been more aware of my wish than you. See, dear, if you’re kind to Calmie, she’ll fulfill all your wishes.”
“Do you know what my wish is at the moment, aunt Lalka?”
“What is it, dear?”
“Why don’t you take a look at Calmie?”
Aunt Lalka let go of me. As she looked at Calmie, the doll stared right back at her.
Calmie was smiling.
Aunt Lalka’s screams were neither sweet nor gentle.
Calmie, without her smile, was ugly yet again.
“I used to think you were very beautiful.”
I picked Calmie up and studied her face which was now bearing an uncanny resemblance to aunt Lalka’s.
“Shall I call you ‘Lalka’ then?”