The Doll - Magenta's POV (Riff - age 13; Magenta - age 9)
** Rewritten and posted September 9, 2001. Thanks to my editor, Jamie. **
The doll was made of cloth and draped in a burgundy-colored gown. A tiny bonnet sat on its head, held in place by a shiny black ribbon tied in a bow. The doll had been a gift from my mother, for my ninth birthday, and I cherished it because I rarely recieved such gifts. I carried it with me to the Academy the next day, tucked neatly into the front pocket of my corset.
All children of upper-class families were sent to the Transylvanian Academy, which taught language, science, seduction, and bisexual art history, along with extensive training in the performing arts. My family was not wealthy, but Mum and Papa were servants of a noble family by the name of Furter, and the Furters were generous (or pretentious) enough to ensure a good education for all their servants. So it was through the gates of the Academy that I stepped that particular day, carrying my precious doll.
I normally walked with my brother Riff Raff, who was four years my elder. Riff was a quiet boy who earned exceptionally good marks in science and math, and who had no interest in clubs and sports, and so he was something of a loner. He never seemed ashamed to be hanging with a little kid like me, though it must have ruined his chances of making friends his age. The two of us had become close over the years. I was young and naive, and I believe Riff felt it was his duty to teach me everything. He set an hour or two aside each day for us to do schoolwork and to practice dance, a popular pasttime on Transsexual. Each session strengthened the bond between brother and sister, and soon each dance became a special, secret experience shared only by the two of us.
On this day, I made the journey to the Academy alone. Riff was sick with the flu and would be absent for days. There was no fear that he would fall behind in his lessons, since he was so far ahead of everyone else. It was a shame, I often thought, that my brother was destined to become nothing more than a servant of the Furter family; he had so much intelligence and talent to offer.
As I skipped into the playground where the children gathered before school, humming the Time Warp to myself, my doll slipped out of my corset and fell softly to the ground. I was halfway across the yard before I realized it was gone. With a start, I turned and scanned the yard. Finally, I saw a small pile of satin lying on the ground near the gates.
"Francesca!" I called to the doll with relief, breaking into a run towards my toy. I was only a few yards away when I was stopped in my tracks by an older boy who looked to be about Riff's age. He had a mass of oily black hair and a plump face dotted with freckles. Had he been wearing a more pleasant expression, I would have almost thought him attractive ... but his mouth was twisted into a taunting smile, and he fixed cold eyes at me.
I froze, not sure of what to do. Before I had time to think, two more boys stepped up behind the dark-haired one, who leaned in and peered into my face. He reached out a hand and tugged lightly at a lock of my hair. I jerked back in fear and stared mournfully at my doll, lying in the dirt beyond those three boys.
"Where are you going in such a hurry?" asked the leader.
"I was going to get my doll," I answered, my eyes drifting towards the black silk ribbon.
The boy laughed heartily. "You vere going to get your doll?" he echoed, mimicking my accent. My face flushed to match my name, and I focused my eyes on my hands to avoid crying.
A blond boy bent and clutched the doll in his hands. He tossed it into the air and caught it roughly. "This ugly thing?" he asked, giving it a squeeze. "DeLordy could rip this thing in half in a second, couldn't you, 'Lordy?" He glanced at the dark-haired boy and handed him the doll.
I screeched. "No! Don't!" The tears were already welling up in my eyes, threatening to roll down my cheeks at any moment. I willed myself not to cry, not to show them I was afraid. "Don't hurt her."
DeLordy grinned. "Well, see, I wouldn't hurt your little doll if you hadn't been running so fast. This is MY playground, and only I'm allowed to run on it for free. Anyone else who runs has to pay me first."
I looked up at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes. "Pay you?"
He nodded with mock solemnity. "Yeah, five credits."
My hands shot into my pockets, but I only turned up a few coins. I held the money out desperately. "This is all I have. Please give me my doll!"
DeLordy seemed to be thinking it over. "Here, let me see." He took the few coins and counted them, then counted them again. The sound of the first bell rang out, signaling the start of classes. He squeezed the coins in his palm and slipped them into his pocket. I breathed a small sigh of relief.
"Watch what you do from now on. My father is tight with the Furters, and he can have you expelled." DeLordy took the thin fabric of the doll's dress and gave it a firm tug, ripping the material so that its white cloth skin lay exposed. He threw the doll to the ground and marched towards the school, his gang following close behind. The sound of their cruel laughter faded as I was left alone in the yard.
I dropped to my knees in the dirt and gathered the torn doll to my chest, stroking its yarn hair soothingly. After I was certain that Francesca was calm, I stood and ran home, caring more about the safety of my doll than the reaction of my parents when they found I had skipped school.
The moment I was through the door, I sprinted up the stairs to the room I shared with my brother. Riff was sprawled on the top bunk, his long blond hair lying disheveled on the pillow, a paperback book in his hands. I climbed up to the bunk and threw myself into his arms, causing the book to tumble to the floor. Now I let the tears come as I buried my face in my brother's chest, sobbing and mumbling into his shirt.
Riff let me cry for a few moments before gently pushing me away and pulling himself to a seated position. He took the battered doll from my arms and studied its torn dress. "The kids at school did this?" he asked, coughing a bit. I remembered now that he was sick and moved a few inches away, but I stayed on the bed.
"Yes," I replied, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. There was something about the serenity in Riff's voice that made everything seem better. He seemed to be always calm, unaffected by everything. I knew that the Academy kids teased him as much as they did me, but Riff kept his anger inside. He always told me, "If you act upset right away, they'll think you're a threat. It's better to make them think you're on their side. Then you have the advantage." I saw the logic in this, but I could not keep my feelings hidden very well.
"I didn't cry until they left," I offered.
Riff nodded. "Good." Then he was silent for a long time, staring at the doll but past it, not really seeing it. I knew that he was thinking, planning something I could not even begin to comprehend. I wished I was older, so that I could be on the same wavelength as Riff. We were so close, but sometimes I didn't understand him.
Riff returned to school a few days later. On the walk to the Academy, he assured me that all would be taken care of today. When we reached the gates to the Academy, Riff asked me to point out the boys who had caused my trouble. I spotted them easily, lounging beneath a tree at the edge of the yard. Riff told me to watch quietly. He calmly approached the boys and stood before them, arms crossed across his chest. He cleared his throat to get their attention.
"DeLordy." Riff turned his heavy gaze on the dark-haired boy.
DeLordy stood menacingly, and the other boys followed suit. "Yeah, freak?"
"Did you bother that girl a few days ago?" Riff motioned to me. I was standing a few feet away, watching the scene with a mixture of fear and pride.
DeLordy scoffed. "What's it to you? Is that your girlfriend?"
Riff stood unflinching. "My sister," he corrected cooly. "And you will not speak to her again unless it's to compliment her dress."
DeLordy sneered, but he seemed somewhat amused. "Oh yeah? Make me."
"If you insist." Riff reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small glass vial. He held it to the light so that the white powder inside glistened. "How did you rank in chemistry this term, DeLordy?"
"Highest in my class."
"Second highest, I think. Under me."
DeLordy shrugged. "But I didn't work for it. I can sleep in class all I want and still get an A."
"Congratulations. That's quite an acomplishment." Riff tapped the glass vial gently with one fingernail. "I'm afraid, however, that you should have paid closer attention. You see, what I have here is sodium chloride. It's a very powerful chemical which eats away at the flesh."
DeLordy's smug smile wavered, but he laughed loudly. "Sure."
Riff continued as though DeLordy hadn't spoken. "If even a grain of this chemical were to come in contact with your eye, it would burn out your retina. You would be blinded for life, and you would be in agony for months. Every hour of the day, burning agony." Riff swished the vial between his fingers. "If it touched your hand, it would devour your skin and muscle, baring your bone. Most likely, you'd live the rest of your life with a bloody stump where your hand should be." As he spoke, Riff's voice was as calm and cool as if he were speaking of the weather.
DeLordy took a step backwards. "Go away, you freak." His eyes darted across the yard as if searching for an escape route.
Riff took a slow step towards him. "You don't believe me? Want to feel it firsthand?" Riff carefully opened the vial and held it up as if to pour it on DeLordy's face.
DeLordy's friends took this opportunity to run. In a few minutes, the boy was alone, his back pressed to the tree. Suddenly left to fend for himself, he panicked.
"Look, man," he pleaded. "I was just playing with your sister. I didn't mean to break her doll."
"That's a shame, because you did. It's too late now. But, since it was an accident, I'll let you choose between a life of blindness or a life with a stump for a hand."
DeLordy shrunk against the tree, looking suddenly smaller than before. He clutched his hands to his chest and shut his eyes. "No! Please, I'll do anything!"
Riff pulled back the vial. "Apologize to Magenta and tell her how beautiful she looks in her corset."
DeLordy stood shakily and moved to my side. He stared at me, wide-eyed and silent. I smirked, wanting to throw my arms around Riff and hug him for being such a good brother.
Riff shook the vial impatiently. "Well?"
DeLordy jumped in fear and stuttered, "I'm s-sorry I broke your doll, you look beautiful today, I gotta go, bye!" He ran towards the Academy doors at top speed.
Riff smiled and tucked the vial back into his jacket. He took my hand and stroked my palm gently. I wanted to melt. I didn't understand what I was feeling, but it was good.
"That's the last we'll hear of DeLordy, sister."
I beamed, appreciation shining in my eyes. "What is sodium chloride, really, brother?"
Riff smiled wider and led me towards the school doors as the first bell sounded. "Table salt."
I squeezed Riff's hand and laughed softly, humming the chorus of the Time Warp as I skipped across the yard to my first class.