12 Neat Flowerbeds

‘Places. Places, Get in your places.’

I can’t help but smile at the words as we are ushered in to stand against the striped wall. Every day in that perfect house, surrounded by my perfect family, living my perfect my life – just waiting for the call of ‘places’. Every visitor was treated to the full show, free of charge; and we played our roles like our lives depended on them. Which, in fact, they did. Father, Mother, Son, Daughter – the nuclear family that was the envy of every other nuclear family in the neighbourhood. But they didn’t see what happens behind the curtains: the compulsive cheat with an abusive streak; or his alcoholic wife, popping pills at every chance; the little girl who liked to start fires; and, of course, me.

‘Throw on our dress and put on your doll faces.’

But no one questions perfect. No one questions when a new patch of grass has been dug up in the garden. Just a new flowerbed, they think, one that’ll look nicer than anything you could dig. People see what they want to see, for the most part; but sometimes someone will see a little more than they were ever supposed to see. A wrong peak through the wrong curtains at the wrong time and the dollhouse crumbling down.

‘Picture. Picture. Smile for the picture.’

But we don’t smile. I try, but they tell me to stop – you don’t smile for a mugshot.

– Heather Caldwell

[5/2/17: ‘Dollhouse’]

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