Home > The Dollhouse(11)

The Dollhouse(11)
Fiona Davis

“My sympathies, Walter.” Words were inadequate; Darby knew that much. “Did your father ever remarry?”

“No. It’s been just me and my two older brothers. I hate both of them.”

“My stepfather’s fairly difficult as well.”

“Has he ever broken your arm? That’s what my older brother did. On purpose.” An edge had crept into his voice, one that unnerved her.

“No, no broken bones. He’s just a bully, I suppose.”

“Hey, what do you say I kiss you?” He licked his lips again.

When she spoke, her pitch came out higher than normal. “We don’t really know each other yet, Walter.”

“Come on, just one kiss.”

“No, thank you.”

“Do you want to know how he did it?”

“How who did what?”

Walter took one of her arms and bent it behind her back. “How he broke it. Like this.” He leaned in close and his breath was on her cheek. “Kiss me or I’ll break it.”

Darby tried to pull away, but the twisted arm prevented her from putting any distance between them. “Walter. Stop, that hurts.”

“They always fix me up with the ugly one, but they really pulled a mean trick on me this time.”

“What?” Darby’s heart beat wildly. His tone reminded her of Mr. Saunders, menacing and whiny at the same time. “Please, stop.”

He pulled her arm a little more and she yelped.

“I’ll break it, I swear. The least you could do is to kiss me. It’s dark enough that you don’t have to see me and I don’t have to look at you. The two freaks.”

“I’m not a freak. You’re not a freak, Walter.” He was going to kill her, rape her. Would Stella hear her if she cried out?

He leaned in close. “Kiss me.”

She did so, a fast touch of the lips. He let go of her hand only to encircle her with both arms and smash his mouth into hers. She pushed away with her palms, hating the doughy feel of his chest and the rancid taste of his tongue.

“Stop!” She tried to cry out, but he muffled her with his mouth. His hands clutched at her body, her breasts and between her legs. If she didn’t do something, he’d be on top of her and she’d be pinned beneath his weight.

Too late. He pulled her down off the rock. She lay on her back, panting, and he kneeled up and began undoing his belt. She only had one chance.

The dirt was gritty beneath her hands, loose. She grabbed two handfuls and flung it into Walter’s face. He cried out, and she bent her knees and kicked hard with both feet into his groin. He flew backward, rolling on his back with his hands cupping himself. At first he didn’t make a sound, until a high-pitched cry turned into a bellow.

There was no time to search for Stella’s shoes. Darby turned and ran, screaming out Stella’s name. She followed the road until it curved back out of the park, where there was light and people and safety. Her umbrella dress was torn and dirty. Stella was still in the park, possibly in danger, but Darby couldn’t go back in and look for her. As she ran to the hotel, she looked for a policeman or a police car in vain.

“You’ve missed curfew.” Mrs. Eustis sat in one of the lobby chairs, a clipboard in her hands. “And you’re a mess. Not a good way to begin your stay here at the Barbizon, Miss McLaughlin.”

“I was with Stella, we were . . .”

“You were what?”

If she told her what she and Stella had done, they’d both be in trouble. And she couldn’t do that to her only friend.

“We got separated. I’m sorry, I got lost.”

“Stella came back fifteen minutes ago. You should have stayed closer to her and you wouldn’t be in trouble now.”

Stella was back already? “Yes, ma’am.”

In the elevator, the same girl was working the gates and the lever. “You okay? You look like you had a tough night.” She had shiny dark hair and a Spanish accent. Her brown eyes scanned Darby’s face.

“I’m fine.” Darby tried to wipe her nose with her fingers, as a dam of tears threatened to break through any moment.

“Use my handkerchief,” offered the girl.

“Thanks. I’ll get it back to you.”

A couple of girls dressed in bathrobes and curlers stared when Darby emerged from the elevator.

Stella popped out of her room, toothbrush in her hand, and paused for a split second before coming forward.

“Where did you go?” Darby whimpered, detesting the weakness in her voice. “How did you get back so fast?”

“We didn’t see you when we came down from the rock. And I couldn’t find my shoes anywhere in the dark. Where did you go?”

“That boy—Walter—attacked me in the park. I missed curfew.”

Before Stella could reply, Candy emerged from the bathroom and scrutinized Darby closely. “How did she do?”

Darby blinked with confusion. “What do you mean? How did I do what?”

“Walter, right? Did he try to get up your skirt? He tried the same thing on one of the other girls last week.”

Darby turned to Stella, looking for clarification.

Stella raised a pale hand to her neck. “I didn’t know any of this. You’ve got to believe me.”

Candy piped up. “He’s an ass. But he’s my cousin, so you better not say anything.”

“I don’t understand.” Darby balled up the handkerchief in her fist. “Why would you set him up with me on purpose? He tried to hurt me.”

“My, my, so dramatic,” Candy tsked. “He didn’t hurt you at all. You’re standing here talking to me, right? So he got a little randy and tore your dress. It wasn’t all that great to begin with.”

Darby began to weep. She knew she should hold it in, return to her room, but the sobs came fast, wrenching sounds that erupted from her very core. She dropped her chin to her chest and wrapped her arms about herself, totally alone. The girls stared and Stella took one hesitating step toward her, and then backed quickly into her room.

She was a failure. The letter to Mother was ruined, as was her favorite dress that was really an ugly dress. Tomorrow first thing, she’d pack up and leave for Ohio. This was what happened when you tried to live a larger life.

A voice boomed down the hallway. “That’s enough. Leave her alone!”

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