J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Ransom Barbie AKA Playthings
When I went into my daughter’s room, it was in its usual disarray. The floor was barely visible beneath a layer of toys, leggings and hair fastenings—many of which I wasn’t sure whose they were. And she of course was smack dab in the middle of it, completely oblivious to the world crowding in around her.
She had her favorite set of dolls spread around her, but I had to stop, nearly crushing Tinker Bell when I noticed one of her favorite dolls taped to the floor with electrical tape, four concise strips keeping her prisoner to the beige carpet.
I sat by Ana. “What happened to her?” I pointed to the imprisoned doll.
“Sierra?” Ana asked, squeezing the doll’s fashionable top hat back on her head. She looked like a time traveling heroine out of a steampunk, ready to dive into action at any moment. “She’s different.”
“OK,” I laughed. “But what happened?”
“She tried to leave.”
I could play along. “And you had to make sure she didn’t?”
“Well, I want to keep playing with her. I love her.” Since when did she start sentences with well? Was that normal for an 8-year-old?
I tapped my chin. “But does she want to leave?”
Ana finally looked at me, tilting her head. “I guess so.”
“Well,” I started and heard where my daughter got it from. “How would you feel if you wanted to leave and someone strapped you down?”
“But I’m a girl, not a doll.”
“That’s true, but just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t think they have the right to keep you. It just seems unfair, to me,” I said, putting my hand to my chest. “To keep someone from the life they want to live…as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
“It would hurt me.”
I straightened the twisted legging around her left leg. “How so, sweetheart?”
“I’d miss her.”
“You wouldn’t be happy for her?”
“Because she was happy and got to do what she wanted to do, just like you.”
She furrowed her brow, shook her head. The lip came out. “No.”
I knew the end of a conversation when I heard one. I raised my hands. “Hey, I was just sharing a different point of view. Remember? Like we said?” Her father had said sometimes I treat her too much like a little person, that she was a little girl and I had to accept that she wasn’t a little me. Not yet anyway. “They are your dolls, Ana. It is your choice.” I kissed her forehead and the lip receded, though the frown remained. “I’ll get lunch ready, so if you could make a path to the door so you can come out in five minutes, I would greatly appreciate it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” she said, setting the free dolls up to sit upright. I left her to it.
When I went to retrieve her for lunch, she had done as I asked and there was literally a pathway to the door. I almost snorted I laughed so hard, which of course made her happy.
She bounced to the door and grabbed my hand. “I let her go.”
“Who?” I’d forgotten what we were talking about.
Oh, ransom Barbie. “Well, that was very nice of you. Where did she go?” I saw the loose strips of tape on the floor now.
“Out the window.”
“Ana,” I chided, walking quickly to the window. “I told you not to throw things out the window. You could hurt someone. And you’re breaking your valuables.”
“I didn’t throw her, mommy. She went out the window when I untaped her. And she told me to tell you thank you. She was so nice, mommy.”
I frowned out the window. There was nothing below in the driveway. Perhaps she had went into a bush. “Did she now?”
“Yes, she said it was very…um, obliging.”
I stopped and looked at her. “Obliging?” The hell?
“Where’d you learn that word?”
“Sierra said it. I just told you.”
It wasn’t a mystery I was going to solve right then. I closed the window and tiptoed back to the safe path in the middle of the room. “Right. And how did Sierra leave? By rope?”
“No, in her flying machine.”
I nodded along. It was a more creative story than usual. Maybe a little too creative. “Oh? Well, I hope she travels safely. When will we see her again?”
Ana looked sad then. “We won’t. She said she had to go home, to her kingdom and it was a long way from here. She said she’d miss me.”
I hugged her. “I know she will. Come on, let’s eat.” I glanced back at the closed window.
I should have checked the sky.
J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.