Christy just couldn't stop looking at the big box wrapped in pink with the pink ribbon. There were other presents on the table but Christy knew that that one was special. It was from her mother and Mark, well, mainly from Mark, Christy knew. He had married her mother a few weeks before and had been trying very hard to win Christy over. It was he who had bought the lovely party decorations, everything all in pink and frilly, as well as the balloons. Her mother had made the cake. It was white with pink trim.

"Oh Tina, this is going to be my best party ever," Christy said to her favorite doll tucked under her arm. Talky Tina only smiled vacantly in her usual fashion.

Mark had put a lot of work into the party's preparation, and he really hoped that Christy would like it. A somewhat shy and retiring man, Mark had all but resigned himself to bachelorhood when a young widow named Annabelle and her daughter Christy had magically entered his life. He was very much in love with Annabelle and considered Christy to be a happy bonus. Mark loved children but had been told that a case of the mumps in his teenage years had made the prospect of fatherhood unlikely for him. He had been devastated by the diagnosis, but in his dreams he had envisioned marriage to a woman with a child or children and the hopes of fulfillment as a stepfather.

One by one Christy's guests began arriving, and finally it was time for the party to begin. Christy couldn't wait until it was time to open her gifts. Finally the big pink box was right in front of her and she was undoing the pink ribbon. The wrappings fell away and she gave a cry of delight.

Inside the box was a very lifelike doll with soft brown curls and a sweet smile. Annabelle showed Christy a special button on the doll's backside that would make the doll cry 'mama' and wave her arms and kick her legs. The doll's name was Wonderful Wendy, and although she couldn't talk like Tina, she could do so much more than Tina could. She could cry, laugh, and even wet her diaper. Christy thought that she was wonderful. "Thank you so much, Mama and Mark," she said, kissing each one of them on the cheek.

The last guest had left and Christy was still engrossed in Wonderful Wendy. Mark saw the doll Christy usually carried around with her lying on a chair. He walked over and picked it up and looked at it. He had never really paid it any attention before. Absentmindedly, he pulled the string that made her talk. "My name is Talky Tina, and I don't think I like you very much" she said. Mark was startled but recovered quickly. "Well that's too bad, because I happen to love little girls," he said, gently lying the doll back down.

As the days passed, Christy and her new doll Wendy had a lot of fun together. Christy took Wendy with her everywhere she went and showed her off to all her friends. Wendy slept with her in bed every night. At first she kept both Tina and Wendy in bed with her, but then it seemed like the bed was too crowded, so she started leaving Tina on the shelf for the night.

One day it occurred to her that she hadn't really played with Tina in a while. She picked Tina up and pulled her string, expecting her to say "My name is Talky Tina and I love you very much" like she usually did, but this time the doll didn't say anything at all.

"Are you all right, Tina?" Christy asked, pulling the string again. Tina still didn't say anything. Christy felt so sad. She decided to be as nice as she could be to Tina from now on in hopes that Tina would start talking to her again.

That night Christy was getting ready for bed and couldn't find Wendy. She had looked everywhere in the house for her and was starting to panic. She knew that she couldn't sleep until she knew where Wendy was.

She was just about to give up and go back to search her room again when Mark asked her, "Christy, why did you throw your new doll away?" Christy saw Wendy in his hand. Her hair and clothes looked sticky.

"I didn't throw her away! I've been looking all over for her!" Christy exclaimed.

"How did she end up in the trash can then?" Mark asked softly. Christy could see the hurt in his eyes and she could hear the hurt in his voice. She felt terrible and wished that she could make him believe her.

"I don't know! Honestly I don't!"

"All right then," Mark said gently, handing the doll to her. Christy took Wendy into the bathroom and tried her best to clean her up. Then she took Wendy back to the bedroom with her. Talky Tina sat waiting for her in her usualy spot. But was that a wicked gleam in Tina's eye?

Several days later Christy was in the kitchen helping her mother bake a cake when they heard a scream from outside. Startled, Christy looked up, and in a few moments Mark appeared with a towel wrapped around his hand. He left a trail of big drops of blood behind him coming from the direction of the garage.

Annabelle was alarmed. "Oh, honey, what happened?" she asked.

"I was doing some work in the garage and I was sure I had turned the saw off when all of a sudden it came back on again by itself. I think I might be missing a finger or two."

Annabelle anxiously unwrapped the towel from around his hand to see the damage. Luckily, all his fingers were still attached, but there was a huge gash in the side of his hand.

"Oh, Mark, I'm going to have to take you to the emergency room," Annabelle said, grabbing her purse and keys. "Christy, you'll have to come along as well. You better go use the bathroom first because it's a little bit of a drive."

"Can I take Tina and Wendy too, please?"

"Only if you come right away."

Christy ran to her bedroom, snatched up Wendy, and looked in vain for Tina.

"Oh mom, I can't find Tina anywhere!" she cried.

"Tina is in the garage right next to where I keep my tools," Mark said. "Christy, were you playing with her in the garage?"

"No!" Christy was shocked.

There wasn't time to fetch Tina before heading to the hospital, so only Wendy went along. Annabelle and Christy had to sit in the waiting room for several hours while Mark's injured hand was stitched up, and it was after dark when the family arrived home. Christy went upstairs to her bedroom to put on her pajamas. To her surprise, Talky Tina was back in her usual spot on the shelf. Christy picked the doll up.

"Tina, did you make Mark hurt his hand?" She pulled the string, and an evil laugh came out of the doll. Enraged, Christy flung her to the floor. "You shouldn't have done that, Tina! Mark is a nice man! I think he's the best daddy in the whole world!"

From the floor Christy could hear the doll's piping voice. "You shouldn't have done that, Christy."

It was autumn and the leaves were falling from the trees. Mark, Annabelle, and Christy were all busy raking the leaves into piles. When the pile was big enough Mark doused it with gasoline and threw a match on top. He wouldn't let Annabelle and Christy help with that part because he said that it was too dangerous.

"It's getting chillly out here, Christy," Annabelle said. "Why don't you go get a jacket and put it on?"

"Okay, mom," Christy said, heading for the house.

"Now, where did I put those matches?" Mark asked himself.

As soon as Christy entered her bedroom she noticed that it smelled funny. She barely had time to notice since at that instant she tripped over Talky Tina, who was lying right in the doorway, and slammed her head into the bedpost. Unconscious, she slumped to the floor.

A few minutes later Annabelle was wondering why Christy wasn't back with her jacket yet. At the same time she and Mark both noticed the black smoke coming from the house.

"Oh my God, Christy's still in there!" Annabelle screamed.

"Stay back," Mark said, racing to the garage for the ladder. He propped it against the side of the house while Annabelle ran next door to call the fire department.

When she returned neither Mark nor Christy were in sight. She felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Then she saw Mark swing out the second story window onto the ladder, carrying Christy's unconscious body in his arms.

In a few moments a fire truck and ambulance had both arrived. Mark and Christy both had to be taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, and Christy had also suffered a minor concussion, but neither one of them had suffered any permanent damage.

Six months later

Mark, Annabelle, and Christy now lived in another house in another neighborhood, but it was close enough to their old neighborhood that Christy didn't have to change schools. All the furniture, clothing, appliances, toys, dolls, and everything else had been completely destroyed in the fire, so the family had had to start all over again from scratch in accumulating material possessions. Much more important to them was the fact that they had all survived and that none of them had suffered any permanent injury.

One afternoon, Mark and Annabelle both arrived to pick Christy up from school. They both seemed unusually happy and excited.

"Guess what, Christy? You're going to have a new baby brother or sister! In about seven and a half months from now," Annabelle told her, her eyes shining.

"We're going out to dinner to celebrate," Mark added. He still could barely believe his good fortune, that the predictions about his fertility had been wrong after all. "And you get to pick the restaurant!"

"Pizza!" Christy said happily. A new baby brother or sister would be a lot more fun than just another doll.

The construction crew had come to clear away the charred and blackened remains of a devastating fire. One of the men, Charlie, thought he saw what looked like part of a doll leg sticking out from under a piece of debris. He moved the debris and to his amazement, there lay a doll in what appeared to be nearly perfect condition. With a good cleaning up to remove the black smudge she would be as good as new. He would take her home to his own little girl, Cathy, who loved dolls. He noticed a string on her side and pulled it to see what would happen. "My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much," the doll said. With a grin the construction worker tucked her under his arm and continued with his work, thinking to himself how thrilled Cathy would be to see her new doll.