The Birthday Gift

Posted on May 14, 2010


“Happy birthday, Molly!”

Mom and Uncle Bill said it together. Uncle Bill handed her a big box wrapped in shiny pink paper with frothy white bows. Molly’s excitement spiked. Maybe it was Mariposa Barbie with wings. Maybe it was Amazing Allysen or even a Teen Trends doll. Mom had said those were all too expensive, but Uncle Bill could afford any of them. He’d helped them get this apartment when Dad left, so he could get her whatever she wanted, right?

Molly tore into the paper with relish, showing no mercy to the ribbons and bows, or even the box. She ripped the lid off, already planning how to style Barbie’s long hair, or what outfit Allysen would wear first.

“Be careful, now,” Uncle Bill chuckled. “This is a very special doll, and you want to treat her gently, with respect. I got her when I was on business in Hungary last month. What do you think?”

Molly looked down into the box, her excitement deflating like an old balloon. It was one of those old-fashioned dolls, the kind you put up on display. She had pretty blond hair, like Molly’s own, but she was wearing funny clothes. She bet the doll couldn’t even talk or pose her arms and legs. And there were no outfits, just the doll.

“She’s okay,” Molly said. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mom’s face go all concerned like she expected Molly to say something silly or mean.

“Just okay?” Uncle Bill said. “Did I tell you she’s special? Well, I had this little old Hungarian lady make her just for you.” He reached over and lifted the doll out of the box, and as he did, her eyes opened. They were blue, like Molly’s.

“See?” Uncle Bill went on. “She’s made from porcelain. But her arms and legs move, and her head can turn. And look at her pretty hair. This is real human hair. You don’t find many dolls like this nowadays. I showed the lady a picture of you, and she made her to look like you. Can you see it?”

He held the doll out to Molly, and she took it reluctantly. It felt oddly warm in her hands, and she had to admit it did sort of look like her.

“The lady painted her face on with a tiny little brush. It looks really natural, doesn’t it?”

The doll had rosy cheeks and a pouty red mouth, but this face hadn’t been painted to look sweet. Molly thought she looked mean. And those blue glass eyes looked a little too real. The doll seemed to stare back at her.

“I think she’s gorgeous, Bill. Look at the detail,” Mom said. “She looks exactly like Molly. It’s uncanny.”

“Right?” Uncle Bill said. “The old lady said the doll’s name was Tunder. It means ‘fairy.’ You like fairies, don’t you?”

Fairy: suddenly the doll’s attitude made sense.

“Tunder’s a silly name,” Molly said. “Yeah, I like fairies, but the made-up kind. I don’t like the real ones who play dirty tricks on you and stuff.”

Tunder seemed to grow heavier in her hands, and she glared threats at Molly. She slipped out of Molly’s hands and fell into the box, unharmed.

“Molly, don’t throw her! She’s fragile. That’s no way to say thank you to Uncle Bill for his beautiful present. You should be ashamed.”

“I didn’t throw her. She fell.”

“That’s okay, Liz,” Uncle Bill said. “Kids today don’t know real quality when they see it. Molly’s only ten. She has time to learn. I was just hoping to give her a nudge in that direction.”

Mom grabbed Molly by the arm and looked her in the eyes. She had her mad face on, and Molly couldn’t stop herself from frowning.

“You apologize right now, Molly. I’ve taught you how to be polite, and now’s the time. Thank Uncle Bill for his lovely gift. You’re a young lady now, so behave like one.” Molly twisted out of Mom’s grip.

“This is what I mean,” she said. “I didn’t throw that doll. It’s a real fairy, and it’s playing a mean trick to get me in trouble. Don’t you see?”

Mom straightened up and gave an exasperated sigh. Molly turned to Uncle Bill.

“Thank you, Uncle Bill, for giving me the pretty doll,” she said grudgingly. “I hope me being so clumsy didn’t hurt her.” Mom rolled her eyes, but Uncle Bill smiled. He ruffled Molly’s hair like he always did.

“You’re welcome, Molly. You’re still my favorite niece, even if you’re silly sometimes.” He looked up at Mom. “Don’t sweat it, Liz. Kids and their imaginations, you know.”

But Molly wasn’t imagining anything. Tunder the fairy-doll peeked over the edge of the box with a devilish grin on her little face.

“Tell you what,” Uncle Bill said. “Let’s put her on the bookshelf in your room. That way you can enjoy looking at her, and she’ll be safe. And you’ll like her more when you’re older. She’s a keepsake, see?”

So Tunder found a home on Molly’s bookshelf between Harvey the dragon and Lou the werewolf, both of which Mom thought were stuffed toys.

Later that night after Uncle Bill had gone home and Mom had tucked her in and turned off the light, Molly lay in bed staring up at Tunder, wondering how to get rid of a troublemaking fairy. She’d never succeeded in disposing of either Harvey or Lou; maybe it was just her destiny to be the keeper of these creatures so they wouldn’t harm anyone.

“I’m watching you, Tunder,” Molly warned. “Don’t try any of your funny stuff with me.”

She saw the fairy grin down at her, eyes glittering in the moonlight shining through the window.

“Then we are watching each other,” Tunder said in a sparkly little voice. She giggled as Molly pulled the covers over her head.

Posted in: #FridayFlash, Fantasy