Disclaimer: I own nothing.
He had always known his porcelain Dollie was not real. In some small, significant way, she had always been unreal to him.
In college, to a young, naïve child more "Feenie" than "Phoenix," she had been unreal in a too good to be true kind of way. No pink-sweater-wearing, constantly ill dork was really lucky enough to date a beautiful crystalline princess. Every day of their time together was a dream.
Then the dream had turned to nightmare and Doug was lying dead on the ground and a woman was telling him in a cold, clinical voice but he didn't know what she was saying except for murder. He didn't understand what was going on until his Dollie was accused of murder and he had to do something even though that wasn't real.
She existed, after all, in a dimension separate from the rest of humanity, in a small glass box to be admired and cherished and protected, look-but-don't-touch. To kill him she would have had to shatter the glass, and she hadn't, so she was innocent and the whole trial was nothing but a circus, an extravaganza of glittering fakery.
Then she vanished, like smoke, like the ethereal creature he'd always known her to be, his beautifully fake Dollie was gone and he was left with only very real sorrow and very real depression.
Iris hadn't been real either. The gorgeous, black-haired girl that was all the things good about Dollie with none of evil or murder hovering about her. And the "Dollie" that was within her, the "ghost" that had possessed her during that time—it wasn't real because Dollie wasn't dead. Gone, but not dead. And then Iris was gone too, and see, he was right—she hadn't been real either.
So when he opened the door one dark, rainy night to find his porcelain Dollie shivering and soaking, looking not a day older than she had in college, futilely holding her useless, dripping lace parasol above her head with both hands, he knew it wasn't real this time either. A dream, an illusion, a trick of his mind or more likely of his heart.
She smiled at him when he took that little glass hand and led her inside the door. She ever only smiled just a little, but in that smile was all the joy in the world and it was college and "Feenie" and "Dollie" all over again. He knew she wasn't real, but the happiness he was feeling was real, at least for now, so he didn't mind that all the rest of it was beautifully fake.
And he led a dripping-wet porcelain ghost of his past into the living room, sitting her down on his lap like a child, promising her hot tea and a warm bed for the night.
And his future came in through the door and saw his past sitting in the room and he cried and ran away, and Phoenix only smiled bemusedly because didn't he see that none of this was real?