It all started a few minutes after Mama had rearranged our room. She had put the last finishing touches on it and was letting us try it out while she went to check on her daughters. I was with Maggie, helping my cousin Lucy to get situated in our vanity chair, trying to distract her from the fact that she missed her big sister so much.
Suddenly, I heard a wail from the other side of the room. Startled, I turned to see what was going on. Maggie turned as well. There was Hailey, staring at her best friend Danielle, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Tell me you're joking!" she pleaded.
Danielle looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry, Hailey, it just seemed like the right thing to do."
By this time, Maggie and I had made our way over to where Hailey and Danielle were standing. Ella and Emily were there, too, worried by Hailey's cries.
"What's wrong, Hailey?" I asked. "What happened?"
Hailey just shook her head, trying desperately to stop crying. Danielle looked over at me uncomfortably.
"I just told her something that was supposed to be a secret for a couple of months...it just slipped out!"
"What did you tell her?" Maggie asked immediately, her voice almost accusatory.
Danielle sighed. "A couple of weeks ago, Mama talked to me about something she wanted me to do, if I was okay with it."
We waited as Danielle paused, probably trying to decide where to begin. Maggie tapped her foot impatiently. I put a hand on her arm, and she stopped.
Danielle flipped one braid over her shoulder and continued. "You know how Mama is giving her daughters and their cousins dolls for Christmas?"
I nodded along with everyone else. We'd all known that was the plan. In fact, we'd made frequent visits to the bottom drawer where the Christmas dolls lay waiting. Whenever the house was empty, we'd open the drawer and let them get out and stretch their legs and arms. There were 5 dolls in there: an American Girl Josefina who was shy and sweet, an American Girl Felicity who loved to make new friends, a Gotz Elisabeth doll with glasses who liked to go by Lizzy, a soft spoken and sensible Gotz Lily doll, and a Gotz Madison doll who was...well...rather difficult to get along with. While the others all expressed how thankful they were to be out of the drawer, Madison would just complain that we waited so long. She had a strong opinion about everything and never seemed to be satisfied with anything we did. She even made Josefina cry once!
"...been having second thoughts that she was the best doll for her niece," Danielle was saying. I realized that my wandering thoughts had made me miss part of the conversation.
"Who?" I asked timidly.
Danielle turned to me. "I was talking about Madison. Mama doesn't think she'd make a good playmate for her niece, since she's so stubborn and unkind."
I glanced nervously in the direction of the dresser where the dolls were. Could Madison hear Danielle?
"Don't worry," Danielle said softly. "She's not there anymore."
I blinked. "She's not? What happened to her?"
"Mama sold her on eBay 2 days ago. She was hoping that Madison could be happier somewhere else."
"But now her niece won't have a Christmas doll!" Ella interjected in a worried voice.
Then it hit us...that's why Hailey was so upset! Danielle was going to be Mama's niece's Christmas doll.
"Why you?" Maggie asked hoarsely. I looked over at my best friend, and she looked back at me. I knew we were thinking the same thing: Could this happen to me, too?
Danielle looked thoughtful. "She thought my personality would be a good match for her. Mama's not sure if she can find another doll for the right price between now and Christmas. And she didn't want to split up the sisters. Maggie, you're busy helping Tess with the blog, and Emily's leg limbs are too loose for a little girl. Mama told me she's too nervous to fix Emily's legs for now. Katie's busy traveling, and Lucy's too little. That leaves me."
"What about Rose?" Hailey asked through her tears. "She never does anything with us. Maybe she would work!"
Embarrassed by my little sister's lack of tactfulness, I peeked across the room to where Rose stood, a mournful expression on her face.
Danielle looked down at her toes. "Rose is listed on eBay right now. The auction ends on Saturday."
I was horrified. "Whatever for? Why is Mama doing this?"
"Mama told me that Rose has some joint problems that she just can't fix. She's hoping that whoever buys Rose will be able to give her back her health. And because she's so loose in her arms, legs and head, she also wouldn't be a good Christmas doll for Mama's niece."
We all stood in silence for a while, except for Hailey, who was still sniffling. Ella sat back in her chair and leaned her head on Emily's shoulder. I felt numb with shock. I couldn't believe Mama was making these decisions. Didn't Rose deserve to stay here, even if she had loose limbs? Couldn't Mama find any other doll for her niece?! She had 3 whole months before Christmas. Didn't she realize what this would do to Hailey? She and Danielle had been inseparable since Danielle started going to the same school and then joined our doll family. I mean, sure, Hailey was way more outgoing than me and could probably make more friends. But there was something special about Danielle, and Hailey was always fiercely loyal to her friends.
Danielle broke the silence. "I wasn't supposed to say anything...Mama didn't want everyone worrying. But I wasn't thinking and talked about how different things would be when I had a girl of my own...and then, of course, Hailey wouldn't stop until she knew everything."
Hailey looked at her friend with new eyes. "That's where I've seen that dress before!" she blurted out.
Danielle looked confused. "What?"
"The dress you're wearing!" Hailey continued. "You always wear the same thing, but today you're wearing a dress...Madison's dress."
Danielle was obviously uncomfortable. "Mama wanted to make sure it fit me okay. This is how I'll look when I go to her niece for Christmas."
Suddenly, Lucy came running up behind me with frantic tears in her eyes. "Tess, is Katie going to leave us forever, too? What if I don't see her again?" She flung her arms around me and started sobbing.
My heart broke for her. This was most likely another reason Danielle was supposed to wait to tell us. Mama must have known how it would frighten Lucy. "Shhh," I soothed. "Katie's coming back, Lucy. She's just visiting and then she'll come back." I tried to calm the what if's that suddenly spun around my brain. What if Mama decides that one of us needs to go somewhere else? What if she chooses me or Maggie, or one of my sisters next? How could I stand it? I shook my head. It was no use thinking that way. I'd only panic myself.
Hailey suddenly flung her arms around Danielle's neck. "What am I going to do without you, Danielle?" she sobbed.
Danielle hugged her. "You'll be your same, beautiful cheerful self, and find lots of other friends. And we'll still see each other! I'll belong to Mama's niece." She chewed her bottom lip as Hailey wept on her shoulder. "Look, Hails, I know you don't understand it, but I really think this is the right thing to do, and I want to do the right thing more than anything. You know how important that is. I want to make Mama's niece's Christmas really special...they've had a really hard year. And more than anything, I want God to be pleased with my life. Please don't make this so hard!"
Hailey pulled away and tried to stop crying. She took her glasses off, wiped her eyes, and cleaned her glasses off on her skirt. "I...don't...know...if I...can...do it" she sniffed.
Part 2 coming soon!!!