The Doll that Saved Christmas
By: Peggy Gerber

Chloe huddled in her closet pretending to be invisible. Her parents were fighting again, and she clamped her hands over her ears to to block out the sounds of vases and lamps crashing against the living room walls. Her father was lashing out in a drunken stupor, screaming, and cursing as her mother cowered in the corner. Chloe had always been terrified when her parents fought, but this time was worse because she knew it was her fault. Why did she have to beg her mother to buy a Christmas tree when she knew it was against her father's wishes?

As the fear built up inside her, seven-year old Chloe came up with a plan. She decided she would hide out in her neighbor Hildy's apartment until it was safe to go home. Hildy had always been kind to her and sometimes when her dad wasn't around, she and her mother would join Hildy for tea and cookies. It was their little secret because her dad had forbidden them from going. He said there was something very strange about Hildy and he didn't like her.

Chloe emerged from her closet, took a deep breath, and crept silently across the living room floor, praying her father wouldn't see her. Once outside, she looked up and there was Hildy, standing outside her door with open arms. Chloe fell into her hug and burst into tears. Hildy didn't have to ask what happened. She could hear the screaming echoing throughout the hallway.

Hildy brought Chloe into the kitchen where there was a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of her favorite cookies waiting for her at the table. She sat down and began poking at the marshmallows floating in her cup, wondering how Hildy knew she was coming. When she asked, Hildy just smiled and said, "I'll be be right back. I have to let your mom know that you're here. Don't worry honey. Everything will be okay. I promise."

Hildy ambled across the hall and knocked on her neighbor's door. Chloe's dad, Frank yanked it open and growled, "What do you want?"

Hildy calmly explained, "Chloe is at my house having a little snack and I will not bring her home until everyone has calmed down."

Frank sneered, "Who do you think you are to tell me how to raise my kid, you batty old witch?"

"Oh, I am just a friendly neighbor who knows how to dial 911 and Child Protective Services."

Frank spat on the floor and slammed the door in her face.

When Hildy returned to her apartment, she found Chloe standing by the bookcase caressing one of the dolls in her collection. It was her most treasured doll and she took it off the shelf and gently placed it in Chloe's arms. She said, "Chloe, meet Felicity."

Chloe had been instantly drawn to this exotic doll and moaned gently as she cradled her soft, warm body lovingly in her arms. She began to stroke Felicity's long raven black hair and ran her fingers over the tiny beads that were intricately woven into her brown suede dress. When she looked into Felicity's beautiful, round face she was mesmerized by shining porcelain eyes as blue as the ocean.

Hildy winked at the doll, then put her hands on Chloe's shoulders and said, "Felicity has always been a very good friend to me, but now she has chosen you. Before she becomes yours though, you must promise to take very good care of her." Chloe's face lit up as she she made a solemn vow.

That night, Chloe took Felicity into bed with her and felt relaxed for the first time in weeks. There was something about this doll that made her feel calm. She snuggled Felicity close to her body and was just drifting off when her dad stomped into her room. He snatched Felicity out of her arms and roared,"I said no gifts this year. Especially not from that nosy-body witch next door."

As the tears began streaming down Chloe's face, two savage red lights beamed out of Felicity's eyes and bore into Frank's, temporarily blinding him. The doll whispered menacingly, "How did you like being blind? If you dare to frighten my girl again, I will burn the eyes right out of your head."

Frank's hands began to shake, and he dropped Felicity on the floor like she was on fire. He ordered Chloe to throw that devil doll out the window. Chloe began to whimper as she slowly got out of bed and picked Felicity up, remembering her promise to always take good care of her. For the first time ever, she defied her father and brought the doll back to bed with her. When Frank realized what she was doing, his mouth twisted into a snarl, and he slapped her across the face. He had never hit her before, and Chloe cried out from shock as much as pain.

Hearing the commotion, Chloe's mother raced into the room just in time to witness the abomination. Suddenly, every ounce of fear she ever felt towards her husband evaporated and she bellowed, "Frank, get out of my house now!"

Frank scowled and stomped out the door in a rage, too angry to speak.

That night was Christmas Eve, and Chloe's mom gave her the exact gift she had been wishing for. Together they packed their bags and moved in with Chloe's grandparents.

The next morning Chloe awoke to the aroma of freshly baked Christmas cookies wafting through the air. She climbed out of bed a little disoriented, gathered Felicity in her arms for courage and began looking for her mother. When she heard her mom's voice, she followed it into the living room where she saw all her cousins sitting around the Christmas tree laughing and opening presents. Her family shouted, "Merry Christmas Chloe" and magically her heart grew wings, and she began laughing too. She winked at Felicity, gave her a big hug, and joined her cousins around the tree.

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