Ceremonial Doll x

"No!… Relax… watch the candlelight… the warm light… the lovely light… the flame… relax… the flame… "

‘I thought I heard voices. Did I doze off? Maybe not. What’s Jodi saying? Something about the candle? Lovely the way it flickers… stretches… yawns… like a woozy golden string.’

"Sleep… sleep… a deep… comfortable… sleep… You feel perfectly relaxed… Perfectly relaxed… You can hear me… You can answer… You can speak… Brandy?"

"Yes."

"Are you comfortable?"

"Yes."

"Tell me what you feel."

"Floating… Peaceful."

"Who is Jodi?"

"You."

"Do you like her?"

"Yes."

"Do you love her?"

"No."

"Yes you do. You love her."

"Yes."

"Who is Simon?"

"My friend."

"Do you like him?"

"Yes."

"Do you love him?"

"Maybe."

"More than me? More than Jodi, I mean?"

"More than Jodi."

"Who is Adrienne?"

"I… "

"Who is Adrienne, Brandy?"

"A doll."

"What kind of doll?"

"Little girl’s doll."

"Is she your doll?"

"Yes."

"And her name is Adrienne, like yours?"

"Yes."

"You’re Adrienne?"

"No. Yes. I don’t know."

"What does Adrienne look like?"

"Black, beautiful hair."

"Is she a doll?"

"No."

"What, then?"

"A dancer."

"Where?"

"Many places."

"In Los Angeles? In California? Where does Adrienne dance?"

"At fairs."

"What fairs?"

"Country fairs. In hamlets."

"Are you Adrienne?"

"I was."

"When?"

"Before."

"Before when; before Brandy? Were you called Adrienne before your name was Brandy?"

"Yes."

"Where, when? Another place, another time?"

"Yes."

"How long ago?"

"Don’t know."

"But you do know Maniqua?"

"She does."

"Who does?"

"Adrienne."

"But I thought you were Adrienne. How does Adrienne know Maniqua?"

"Don’t know."

"How?"

"Don’t know! Maybe read my mind. Part of the game."

"What game?"

"Daddy’s. They all looked just like me."

"Who did?"

"Dolls. Daddy made up stories. Every doll was me, me, me, me, me, and me."

"You’re not making sense. I want us to talk. Are you listening?"

"Yes."

"Listen very carefully. When you wake up—repeat."

"When you wake up."

"No. When I wake up—repeat."

"When I wake up."

"I will hate Simon."

"I will hate… Simon?"

"Yes, you will hate him."

"Yes, you will hate him."

"I will."

"I will."

"And you won’t want to go away with him."

"And you won’t want to go away with him."

"I won't."

"I won't."

"Instead, you’ll want to stay right here. With me. With Jodi. Wouldn’t you like that?"

"Not really."

"Yes you would! All three of us, then: Jodi, Brandy, and Simon. Just a few more days. Wouldn’t that be nice? The three of us? Wouldn't you like that?"

"Don't know."

"Yes, you would. And, yes, you'll persuade Simon. Say yes."

"Yes."

"Good. I’ll make you happy, Brandy. Just wait and see. You can love us both, okay?"

"Okay."

"Now, very soon you’re going to wake up. Not yet, but soon. You won’t remember a single thing we’ve said. You will only remember looking at the pretty yellow flame. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"But you will remember you’ve promised to stay a few more days. With me. Because I love you very much. And you will make sure that Simon also agrees. Say I promise."

"I promise."

"Good. Now, when I pronounce your name—Brandy—you'll be awake. You'll think you’ve stared at the candle for only a little while. You won’t remember anything; but you must keep your promise. Understand?"

"Yes."

 

"Brandy."

"Oh. I’m sorry; was I asleep?"

She bit her tongue immediately. Jodi reassured her.

"It’s all right. You may speak now. Maniqua wouldn’t come."

"I didn’t expect she would."

Pretending this insulted her, Jodi turned away.

Brandy rose to apologize; the room appeared to warp as she collapsed back into her chair.

"Are you all right!?"

It was Jodi, now, who rushed to Brandy’s side.

"I don’t know. Yes. A little dizzy, is all. Must be I'm allergic to that bittersweet tea."

"Let me get you a glass of water."

"That might help."

Jodi filled a tumbler and carried it back from the sink.

"Do you feel ill?"

"No." Brandy drank. "I must have stood up too fast. Like the blood—you know that feeling(?)—rushed to my feet?

Jodi pressed Brandy's hands.

"You’re cold as ice!"

She rubbed them until the friction brought back some warmth.

Brandy puckered her lips, moving her tongue underneath, still aware of the tea’s peculiar tang.

"Odd taste."

"Hm?"

"That tea."

"Allow me."

Jodi, bending over, slid her tongue into Brandy’s mouth, then kissed her.

"Sleepy, my sweet?"

Stunned, but not repulsed, Brandy replied.

"No. As a matter of fact I'm feeling wide awake. Maybe I can meet your friend another time."

"We could visit Maniqua tomorrow… that is, if you're willing to spend the night."

"I’ll ask Simon. We’re not in any big hurry. I’ve rented a motel room in town for the entire week. Except I left my present."

"Your what?"

"Huh? Oh, nothing… But where will we all sleep? Simon's hogging the bed."

"I have a hammock out back and a good sleeping bag. Have you ever slept in a hammock?"

"Not since I was a girl scout."

"It might be a bit snug with the two of us, but it’s wonderful to be rocked asleep by a breeze. If you’re really not sleepy yet we could do some star-gazing. You can see millions."

Brandy hesitated; Jodi quickly addressed her unvoiced concern.

"You go check on your friend while I get things ready. Remember, if he calls, we won’t be far. Prop a note by his pillow. That way, if he wakes, he'll know where to find us. Okay?"

"Okay."

Brandy, candle in hand, returned to the living room. Jodi followed her in, then detoured toward the wardrobe where she rummaged for her sleeping bag and something on which to write. Handing Brandy a note pad and a broken red-orange crayon, she pointed at the window (indicating the trees beyond), then padded off (content that her plan had worked).

Simon, lying on his back—hands overlapped on his chest, legs crossed at the ankles—breathed as if immersed in an untroubled slumber. Brandy watched for a moment (as he, she recollected, had once watched her).

‘"Don’t get any ideas," I told you. Well, you certainly haven't. Or, if you have, you've kept them all to yourself. Chastity, like loneliness, Simon, is a sin."

Taking the naked crayon, she wrote: WE’RE OUT BACK on the note pad, then placed it like a sandwich board next to his head.

‘As soon as Jodi’s asleep, I’ll come lie with you.’

Thus resolved, she tiptoed out into the darkness.

"Jodi?"

"Over here."

"It’s freezing."

"Not inside this eider down. Climb on in; I’ll warm you up in a jiffy."

Jodi opened the sleeping bag, its shape like a blunt banana, its nylon sheath conforming to the hammock’s pliant sling.

"Will this hold both of us?"

"How much do you weigh?"

"I’m not telling."

"Well, I’m just shy of a hundred pounds; you can’t be much heavier—even with those extraordinary curves."

"Yeah, bigger bust, bigger backside, bigger… "

"You’re not overweight, just pleasingly plump."

Brandy still demurred—Jodi misinterpreting the hesitation.

"It holds five hundred pounds; I think we’re safely below that."

Reluctantly, Brandy eased herself inside. The lining smelled of incense and freshly powdered skin.

"Jodi, you’re naked!"

"Do you mind?"

"Aren’t you cold?"

"Just my nose. Hey, look up."

The sky, through the branches overhead, was sprinkled with pinprick stars.

"Oh, my goodness gracious… Never, in my life, have I seen so many!"

"I told you. Aren’t they incredible? I can only look so long and then I get lost. It’s like magnifying something too many times. You forget who’s looking at what, it all seems so vast. And we're so small, by comparison, unimportant."

"Except to ourselves."

Their tree-slung bed, by design, embraced both bodies in a tip-to-toe squeeze. Brandy shifted; Jodi 'inadvertently' squished against her side—though 'purposely' slipped her hand through the flaps of Brandy’s nightie.

"You shave down here?"

"Is it rough already?"

"No, not at all… not if I move my fingers down… like this. Smooth as a peach. Why, though? "

"Why shave, you mean? Who knows?"

"Peach halves 'n' cream; yummy!"

Jodi, where she probed, felt a telltale goo. Encouraged, she nuzzled her face into Brandy’s (equally hairless) underarm… breathing deeply… inundating herself with its quintessential scent...

… while Brandy scanned the heavens for various constellations, poignantly aware of something throbbing against her thigh; Jodi’s member, stiff with impatience, lobbied for caresses, begged for those administered...

…when, in the living room, Brandy had obliged, had even gone so far as to suckle Jodi's pert protuberance, nursed at it like an infant nourished by a teat, marveled at its sprightliness—comparable to the sex of a precocious little boy.

Jodi's hand, enclosing ductile fingers, guided them to the source of her alternating pride and shame, moaning upon contact, flinching with a pang both painful and exquisite.

"Did I hurt you?"

"No. I’m tender, is all."

"Jodi, you should have told me."

"Touch it. Squeeze it. Never mind the agony—believe me, Brandy, pleasure without it is incomplete."

"But, I don't like to cause… "

"Wet it, then. Use you."

Brandy spread a film of her own emissions over Jodi's "little man."

The coo that this elicited was like an un-caged dove's.

Returned to star-gazing, each woman lost herself in the nebulous Milky Way that stretched across the cosmos like a shimmering necklace, swathed in mists as lustrous as mother-of-pearl, infinite, near and far, at once aloof and all-encompassing…

… then, like moon-tugged tide pools, they climaxed in unison...

… as wind (obstructed by goose down) rocked their cozy chrysalis, lulled its sated occupants into a swoon of post-orgasmic calm, then ushered each exclusively into the Lap of Morpheus.

 

'Damn; I have to go to the toilet. And it’s freezing out. Maybe I can wait until morning. Or is it morning? No, it’s still dark. And no, I can’t wait. I wish to God I had somebody else’s kidneys. Ooo, the ground 's like ice! Where’s the door—shush. Is it there? Yes—quiet. Where’s the pot? Ah… That’s better.'

'Damn; I didn’t go. I’m still lying in this stupid hammock. Get up, Brandy. No sense stalling. If you gotta pee, you gotta pee. Ugh… Ooo, this seat is chilly!'

'Damn-it-to-hell I still haven’t gone! This time I’m gonna have to get up for sure. I really have to pee. Where are my shoes; or didn’t I wear any?… Ooo, the ground’s still frigid. Okay, where am I? Right. Quiet now; don’t wake everybody up just because you're about to spring a leak. Wait a minute. How did I get into the bathroom so fast? Something’s odd here. I can’t pee. I’m pressing but it won’t come out: no tinkle; no ‘weewee’—silly-ass terms. Concentrate now. Push… It’s no use; I must be fooling myself again. Jeezus, this could maybe go on all night. I guess I’ll have to start all over, hustle on back and give myself a good rough shake. Me shaking me; that’s weird. Well, get going. Stop foot-dragging… Wait a minute. I shouldn’t have to ‘walk’ back. Why not fly? That would be more fun. Viola. Straight ahead… stop… turn… go… stop… turn… the door! I went right through it! And here I am with Jodi, two peas in a pod. Where’s Simon? Back in the house, I think. Yup; right where I left him. Wonder if I should wake him, could wake him? Wonder if he and I are both sound asleep?'

'Hey, Simon, wanna come play?'

Brandy?

'Oh my God, I did it! Hey, Simon. Float on up.'

I can’t. Somebody’s holding me.

'I don’t see anybody. Here, take my hand.'

Suzi!

'Who?'

What do you want?

'What? Come on, give me your hand. I’ll help you up.'

Go away. It’s a trick.

'Simon, it’s Brandy.'

Liar!

'Honestly!'

Revenge; is that what you’re after?

'Revenge? For what?'

Don’t pretend you don’t know.

'I don’t know. Tell me. Revenge for what?'

For what? For your baby, that’s what. "Our" baby—or so you’d have me believe. Where’s the corpse? I thought you always…

'Simon, look at me.'

Can’t you leave me alone?

'Simon, please. I don’t know what you’re talking about.'

Has someone put you up to this?

'You’re scaring me.'

Who, Suzi?

'I’m not Suzi; I’m Brandy!'

Who?!

 

"Brandy?"

Upon hearing Jodi’s voice, Brandy snapped awake.

"Huh? Oh, sorry. Go back to sleep. I have to pee. "

Jodi’s heavy-lidded eyes blinked once then closed.

Brandy, holding the hammock as stationary as possible, unzipped the sleeping bag and eased out. The ground (as in her dream) was frosty underfoot. The moon had made its arc across the starlit sky. Tremblingly, she hurried into the house and groped her way to the bathroom.

‘Thank goodness it’s real this time; I thought I’d burst! Imagine having to shuttle, indefinitely, with a waterlogged bladder. Am I really here? You’d think I’d know the difference. Seems like just a minute ago I was floating around outside… with two distinct Simons… one asleep, the other raving like a lunatic, mistaking me for someone he was accusing of who-knows-what. This place gives me the willies. I wish we’d never come. If I hadn’t promised Jodi… Did I dream that, too? Jeezus, Brandy, it’s time to sort fact from fiction.’

Relieved at last, Brandy flushed the toilet, wiped her crotch with tissue, then blushed at finding a patch of mucilaginous residue. Had she been complicitous, or somehow seduced? Why, with a male nearby (for whom she longed), had she let herself be charmed by an amatory female? Confused, she walked to the living room and lay down next to "him."

*

*

There was hoarfrost...

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