Faye followed the rivulets of rain down the windowpane. “It’s so dark,” she murmured cradling her swollen belly. A flash of lightning lit up the room and James’s silhouette loomed over her.
“It’s a short storm,” he said. “Won’t last long. Look, what I found lurking in that locked cupboard we uncovered.”
Faye studied the doll, dressed in black crepe, propped in the corner of the crib. Her blond hair shone like a halo and she wore a crooked smile. The hairs on the back of Faye’s neck rose as she stared into dead, cold eyes.
“The space will come in handy now we have an extra person in the household.” He put his arm around her shoulders and Faye leant into him and sighed. A tiny foot kicked inside her.
“Okay, Twinkle. James, we must agree on a name, soon. We cannot call our daughter, Twinkle.”
James laughed, the deep throaty laugh that had first attracted her to him. It resonated around the canary yellow painted room dotted with dragonfly motifs and a pair of rainbow curtains. They had both agreed they wouldn’t give in to gender stereotypes.
“I thought we weren’t going to do all that girly stuff with dolls?” Faye looked up into his eyes, a smile tugging at her lips. Every week he brought home something new; a pair of tiny booties, a music box, a tiny silver bracelet. A muted clap of thunder sounded in the distance.
“I told you the storm was on the way out.” James kissed her nose. “It’s just a doll, pretty in an old-fashioned way.”
“It’s creepy. And we don’t know where it’s been.” Faye turned back to the cot. She shivered, she was sure the doll had been in the other corner.
“Did you move her?”
“Nope, I’ve been kissing you and I hadn’t finished. Don’t worry, I’m told mums-to-be can get a little spooked.”
Faye pushed him away. “I’m not spooked, James.”
A frown creased his brow and she regretted her sharpness. She took his hand. “Come on, time to unpack the pram. This is just like Christmas.”
A week later, Faye returned home with her daughter and laid her in the cot. James’s eyes glistened with pride.
“She’s beautiful, like her mother.” He put his little finger in a tiny palm which snapped tight around it.
“Are you sure you’re happy with her name?”
“Abigail? Yeah, it’s just right. Don’t know why, but it is.”
Abigail smacked her lips in agreement. Her eyelashes fluttered like tiny butterflies.
“Come on, she’s about to fall asleep.” Faye tucked in the blanket. “And thanks for getting rid of the doll.”
James scanned the room. “I didn’t, I left it over there.” He pointed to a tiny wicker chair. The light in the room faded as storm clouds gathered outside. “Not more rain, surely.” James switched on a night light. “Don’t want her to be afraid when she wakes.” Just then the front doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it!” James said.
Faye walked over to the cupboard and pulled at the ceramic handle. It wouldn’t budge no matter how much she rattled. She checked on the rise and fall of her daughter’s tiny chest before tiptoeing out of the room.
“I was telling Mrs Reynolds about the mystery of the doll we discovered in the nursery,” James said as she entered the lounge. Faye smiled at their elderly next door neighbour. She wore a plastic rain hood over a tight perm. Her face was lined and rather grey.
“Oh, yes, very weird. I can’t get that cupboard door open though, love. Some handy man!”
“A doll?” the old woman shook her head. “I thought it had been destroyed.” She stared into the distance, her fingers playing with a silver crucifix around her neck. “In fact I’m pretty certain.”
“Why would anyone want to destroy a doll?” Faye asked.
“Happened years back…” Mrs Reynolds paled. “Where is your baby?” Faye and James exchanged glances and ran up the stairs two at a time, their neighbour behind them.
“Damn, the door is stuck.” James kicked, splintering the wood as it fell open.
“Oh, Lord.” Mrs Reynolds fell to her knees and clasped her hands in prayer. The doll lay in the indentation where the baby had been. A hospital bracelet on her arm displayed the name Abigail.
Faye screamed as a single blood-red tear fell from a glassy eye.
* first published on Storyshack in 2014