The Porcelain Doll

Flash
Carla Scarano D’Antonio


Photo Credit: Jacqueline Poggi/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

She stands near the black bedside table with its hard marble white top, just her height. Her mother lies on the huge bed; the soft blue quilt covers her shape. She is still, at one with the bed. Her eyes are closed, the profile of her head clear-cut against the pillow and the rest of the room blurring behind.

Her mother had dropped like a stone and her father, his face red, had picked her up and put her into bed. Her uncles and aunts arrived. They washed the little girl and made her wear a white dress and white shoes.

“Why doesn’t Mum move?” she says.

“She’s sleeping,” Aunt Marisa says. “Don’t worry, Lucia, she’ll wake up soon.”

Lucia runs into the corridor and one of her uncles holds her in his hands and lifts her up. She giggles; he smiles, but tears are around his eyes. She feels his grip tightening her stomach.

He puts her down and she wanders about the house looking for her toys. There is the big plastic doll with a purple sleepsuit. She had cut a hole where the navel is to free her belly. Mum told her off but Lucia thought the doll was happier with that hole. And the porcelain doll her mother gave her. It’s broken but Lucia still loves it.

Mum and Dad were shouting at each other. She grasped the doll’s blond curls and hit it on the floor harder and harder, to drown their screams. They came to rescue the doll: her legs broken, the chest cracked, the face with a cut like a scar across its nose and cheek. Her Mum had a similar one across her lips, and they were big and red. She also had dark spots on her arms and neck.

But Lucia didn’t let them take the doll away. She held it tight and caressed the breaks and holes again and again as if her fingers could magically mend them.

“Do you think she’ll wake up?” she hears one of her aunts say.

“I don’t know,” another one says. “The doctor said she is all right. It was the medication, wasn’t it?”

“He said so. Why is she taking these tablets?”

“Low blood pressure, they say. But it might have bad side effects. I’d have called an ambulance.”

“Yeah, me too. He said she hit her head falling down. Can you believe it?”

“Things happen. She’ll be all right in a few days. Oh, hello, Lucia, how are you? Your little doll has beautiful hair. What a pity her face is broken. Maybe we can buy a new one.”

Lucia shakes her head. “She’ll heal,” she says. “She’ll heal one day.”

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Carla Scarano D’Antonio lives in Surrey with her family. She has a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and a degree in Italian Language and Literature from the University of Rome, La Sapienza. She obtained her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in various magazines and reviews. Alongside Keith Lander, Carla won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 for their translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020. She worked on a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading and graduated in April 2021. Twitter: @scaranocarla62 Email: scaranocarla62[at]gmail.com