Scene 4: Doll Clothes
Saturday came, warm and sunny. Karen dressed for play in her powder-blue coveralls and a white tee shirt. All morning long, she folded and unfolded the doll outfit, and then finally put it and the doll into her doll suitcase.
After lunch, and full of enthusiasm and hope, she hurried out to Mama’s car. At one-thirty, Mama drove her the twenty minutes to Claudia’s. Claudia lived in a large white bungalow with an immaculately maintained green lawn in the upscale Beverlywood neighborhood.
Karen followed Mama up the long sidewalk. At the end, they climbed three red tile steps to the front porch. Mama pushed the doorbell button, and they waited. After a few minutes, Claudia’s mother opened the door and welcomed them in. Claudia’s mother looked like she could have been a model. She was over five-and-a-half feet tall with shoulder-length brown hair and matching brown eyes. Slender, she wore a size five dress and radiated kindness.
“Come in, come in,” she said.
Mama said, “I’d love to, but I thought I’d go grocery shopping while the girls played. And I have some errands that can’t wait. I should be back in an hour if that’s okay with you? Then we can visit.”
Karen and Claudia’s mom waved goodbye and went inside.
“Karen,” she said, “I’m so happy you’re visiting Claudia. You know she doesn’t have a lot of friends, so your visit will be special for her. I buy her everything she wants, but she’s still not happy. I really don’t know what more I can do. Maybe if you’ll be her friend, she’ll be happier.”
Karen’s heart swelled with warmth. She was going to make life better for Claudia. She was going to be a good friend.
Claudia’s mother led her down a short hall and into a huge bedroom overlooking the beautifully landscaped backyard.
She said, “Claudia, your friend is here. I need to do some things in the kitchen, at the other end of the house, but if you need me just yell. Okay?”
She hurried away.
Claudia sat in her wheelchair in the middle of the room, upright and regal, as if she were a queen. A beautiful white wooden table stood in front of her with a chair on the other side.
“Hi, Claudia. How are you doing, today? This is a great bedroom.”
Karen walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows and admired the backyard.
“I am well,” Claudia replied. “This is the house’s master suite. I am in charge here, and this is where I choose to live.”
Karen waited for Claudia to ask how she was, but Claudia did not ask or respond to her compliment. Instead, she talked about the dolls.
“Why don’t you have a seat at the table? You can put your doll and her clothes on it. Why don’t you let me take a look at them? I’m sure you won’t mind getting started. I’m in a hurry.”
As Karen sat on the chair that Claudia pointed to, she caught her balance and realized it was a toddler chair, a chair for a tiny child. Sitting in it forced her to look up at Claudia, who now appeared much larger. Ignoring a premonition that the afternoon was already going wrong, she unpacked her doll.
Claudia picked it up and said “I have a small, cheap doll just that size. It’s much smaller than a Barbie. It’s in the toy chest over there.” She pointed to a huge, white box at the foot of her bed. “Get it for me, will you?”
Karen hurried to the box and brought the doll back to the table. It was the same size as hers, but badly worn. The long, brown hair was frazzled, and the doll’s pink face was marred by scratches and pencil marks.
“Let’s dress up our dolls,” Claudia commanded. “It’s too bad you don’t have a real Barbie. These little dolls are pathetic, like you.”
Karen forced her smile to remain in place and her voice to sound cheerful. “Okay! But, what’s the rush? Can’t we talk for a while and get to know each other? Don’t you want to show me your room and your house?”
Claudia’s eyebrows came together. “Let’s see your doll clothes. Let’s see what you have!”
Karen laid out the doll outfit she had brought, the tiny red hat, the matching red Mary Janes, and the frilly white bobby socks. They were all in perfect condition, just as they had been when she had unwrapped them from their packaging, many months ago. Beside them, she smoothed out the black and white checked gingham dress Mama had sewn by hand.
Claudia picked up the dress. “This is handmade. You didn’t make this.” She said handmade as a compliment and the rest like an insult. “Go back to my toy chest and find some outfits that will fit.”
Karen obeyed rather than risk a confrontation. She was there to make friends, and she could not find the courage to resist Claudia’s bullying.
The girls took turns dressing and undressing each other’s dolls. Claudia seemed to relax and even laughed a little.
Then she snapped, “It’s time to exchange doll clothes, and then you can leave. You’ve been here long enough. I’m done with you. Here!”
She pushed a light blue check dress toward Karen and scooped up the gingham dress Mama had made along with the rest of the outfit. The dress she was worn and stained as if she had touched it with greasy fingers. The cloth was so old that the whites had yellowed.
Karen felt sick. Claudia was not interested in her. Claudia did not want friendship. She just wanted the doll outfit. She knew Claudia was deliberately intimidating her, but she could not find the courage to stand up to her overbearing behavior. She felt paralyzed.
“Okay,” Claudia said. “Now, I have the best dress and you have a rag. You can go now. You know your way out. Get out of here. I never want to see you again.”
Karen clenched her teeth. She could not speak. She stuffed her doll and the ragged dress into the suitcase and ran through the house and out the front door.
Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.