A is for Alison
There was something tragic about dolls. Or maybe it was the way little Ali DiLaurentis poured over them long after her classmates had moved on to video games and braids.
Her brother Jason figured it was the latter.
For the few times he ventured into her grand room, she was always by her dolls, their porcelain shiny and hair immaculate.
"Ali, maybe it's time to go outside, play with real people." He suggested, perching himself on her white dresser lazily.
"No." She smirked, ever the charmer at such a young age. "Real people wouldn't understand."
Jason shook his head at his little sister's logic and eyed her for a few moments, the girl with the silky blond hair in the pink dress that billowed out around her. Alison was pretty, she was years ahead of her elementary school classmates because she knew what pretty meant in this world. Jason suspected Alison didn't think any real people were pretty enough for her. People weren't collector's items.
"What about that neighbor girl? She seems nice." Jason offered, fiddling with one of Ali's crystal studded hair-brushes.
"No, Spencer. The one your age."
"She seems a little... haughty." Alison wrinkled her nose and continued to brush her doll's hair. She paused for a moment to look at her doll, it had chestnut brown hair and wore a plaid blazer above a simple white dress. Ali was so consumed with awe at her pretty toy that she let it slip from her hands, falling onto the hard wood floor and attaining a crack on its crown.
"Jeez!" Jason jumped at the noise. "... Is it okay?" He asked, trying to appear blazay.
Alison nodded, running her fingers over the tiny crack. "Yeah. It's porcelain, easier to repair than say, flesh."
Jason shrugged at his sister's familiar-yet-cryptic speaking patterns. He exited to let her tend to her broken toy.
Alison placed the doll back on it's shelf and decided to go speak to the neighbor girl.
"Hi, I'm Ali." Ali walked casually around to the back of the large Hastings's manor to their green, lush backyard where Spencer Hastings was skipping rope alone. Alison was surprised by this, she was under the impression that when you had a sister, you never had to play alone.
"I'm Spencer." She said, throwing the rope down and extending her hand formally. Alison complied, shaking it with a friendly smile. "I know."
"You live in the big freaky house, right?" Spencer teased. Ali nodded.
"Not everyone gets it, but it has a certain je ne sais quois." Ali admitted, opening her mouth again to explain the wording she used. But Spencer simply nodded, pushing a lock of chestnut hair off of her forehead, where a small sweat was brewing.
"It's perfect, I think. It's tough, but it's pretty. It's for looking, not playing or touching. Or thinking really." Spencer sounded sure of herself, but she was babbling slightly. Alison thought it was endearing and was impressed by her new friend's wit.
"Wanna play a two person game?" Asked Ali in a way that wasn't really a question. She picked up a neon green ball and tossed it to Spencer, who caught it with an "oof" sound.
"Better keep up with me." Alison smiled.
The morning of her first day of sixth grade, Alison tied a purple bow in her silken hair. She pulled on both ends to tighten it as she stared herself down in her full-length mirror, like she did every morning. She gave herself every kind of look imaginable, she eyed herself suspiciously, carelessly, creepily, flirtatiously, and finally, mysteriously.
"I'll go with mysterious." She said aloud, smoothing out a non-existent wrinkle on her purple skirt. She straightened out the already straight strap on her white bra and made sure it was visible above her red off the shoulder top.
Alison DiLaurentis was a conqueror, a fighter, a charmer, and a lover. And today, the most important of days, she finally looked the part. Her doorbell chimed Spencer Hastings's signature two chimes, signaling the beginning of their carpool days. Alison muttered under her breath and walked stonily over to her all-important dolls, still intact on her shelf, with the exception of the one she broke right before meeting Spencer. A wave of anger rolled inside her and she shoved the doll off of her shelf, shattering to to pieces. Loudly.
Alison stared at the glossy remains of her favorite doll. She bit her lip to keep from smiling.
"If you want to be in my collection, you need to be perfect." She whispered to the mess she created, effortlessly converting her smile into a sneer. She scooped up the broken pieces and discarded them into her waste basket.
She noticed that, during her fit, she had broken another one of her doll's hands. She examined the newest, useless doll. It was tiny, with dark hair, clothed in a black and red dress, the hole where the hand used to be was jagged. A ridge dug into Ali's skin and gave her a small cut on her finger. Alison bit back tears when she saw the wound. She had to be perfect today.
"Alison, Spencer's here are you ready?" Called Alison's mother.
"Yes." Ali responded. Wiping her bloody finger on the dress of the hand-less doll.
She was perfect, it was the doll that wasn't. And Ali tossed her head and descended down the steps.
Spencer and Alison sat down at a long lunch table in the bustling middle-school cafeteria, Spencer was fidgeting and looking around for a group to sit with. "Spencer, stop it!" Alison said harshly, pinching her friend's knee.
"Sorry, Ali." Spencer said, running her finger's through her slightly curled hair to calm herself. "Who should we sit with?" She asked, picking up her apple to bite into it.
"No, who should sit with us?" Alison laughed mysteriously. Spencer joined in nervously.
"See anyone you like?" Asked Alison, leaning in and whispering it. Spencer giggled as Alison's blond hair tickled her neck.
"Her?" Spencer pointed to a girl in a thin, black top and tight blue jeans, long brown boots stretching up her calves. She was reading some old looking book, sitting alone.
"Maybe." Alison considered the girl with a flick of her hair. Why was this beautiful girl sitting alone, reading? She would be welcome at any table. Maybe she was honing in on Alison's mysterious bit? Alison studied the girl as she licked her finger and casually flipped the page, ignoring the tub of sliced fruit on her tray completely.
"Hey you!" Alison called, somehow making obnoxious loudness dainty and cute. The girl looked up.
"Name?" Ali inquired, arching a brow. The girl looked a little confused and pointed to herself, pushing her pale finger into her ribcage and mouthing "me?".
Alison nodded, silently reminding herself to be patient.
"Aria." She called out, a grateful smile spreading across her lips. Alison tilted her head, Aria looked so pretty when she smiled.
"Come sit." Alison offered in a voice that made it clear that it wasn't a question. Aria hastily gathered her stuff and got up to join them.
"Scoot!" Demanded Alison to a confused Spencer, who gulped back hurt but complied.
"I'm Ali." Alison removed the bow from her hair and flipped her locks in one fluid motion.
"Hi." Aria waved shyly to both girls. Only Spencer returned the wave. "Thanks for the invite."
"No big. Cute bracelet." Ali pointed to her leather studded cuff on her right wrist.
"Thanks, my brother got it for me."
"Wow, you're lucky your brother has good taste. Mine doesn't at all." Alison pouted.
Aria giggled. "I have a feeling my mom helped." But Alison ignored her.
"What about you, Spence?" Alison waited a beat before continuing. "Wait, you have a sister, right?" Alison giggled like having a sister was embarrassing. Spencer looked down, not wanting to berate Alison in front of their new friend. She giggled along with Alison, knowing it would earn her some brownie points. Aria joined in after a confused second. Once the laughter died on their glossy lips, Alison got down to business.
"Here." She said, tying her purple bow around Aria's left wrist, as if staking a claim. She never broke eye-contact with Aria, noticing how goose-bumps spread when her tan fingers brushed the inside of her new friend's pale wrist.
Spencer almost turned red with jealousy and Alison rolled her eyes internally, not wanting to deal with her stick-in-the-mud friend after lunch.
"Thanks." Aria whispered, mesmerized. Ali eyed her, her eyes going all gooey on command.
"Anytime." And she smiled a diabetes inducing grin, causing a not-so-subtle scoff from Spencer, who loudly announced that she was getting another lemon water.
"What happened to your hand?" Asked Aria, noticing the small cut on Ali's finger.
"Nothing. So how do you like Rosewood Junior High so far?" Asked Alison, biting into a cut-up pear from Aria's fruit tub.
Alison quickly discovered how hard it was to be Alison DiLaurentis. She came home exhausted everyday, hiding it well. She kept her work-load light by teasing and guilting her two cultured, smarter friends into doing it for her. Everyone wanted a piece of her.
She barely had time to admire her dolls.
One airy Thursday evening in late October, while she was writing out plans for her first Halloween party in her notebook, she couldn't ignore the dolls anymore. They were the only things connecting her to her old life. The lonely one she used to lead, hauled up in her dark room, caring for things that couldn't feel.
Her dolls where the only things that didn't fear the mysterious, twisted Alison DiLaurentis. The dolls had to go. Ali shut the notebook with a soft thud. She gingerly grabbed an ugly Christmas sweater and lined her blue waste basket with it.
She shoved doll after doll into the basket, hot tears of anxiety and determination leaked down her face.
Beautiful plaything after beautiful plaything crashed to pieces. Alison looked at the mess in the basket and finally, finally felt like screaming.
From joy. From finally making herself invincible. She patted her face dry with a rough piece of notebook paper and hid the crushed dolls far in the back of her closet. She balled up an old red dress in the back of her closet and screamed into it. Congratulating herself.
Until she remembered.
She walked briskly to the box in the corner of her room, containing the last doll he had ever gotten as a gift. She shut her blinds, not wanting anyone to see her, not even the movers who were here night and day, preparing her neighbors for a big move. She opened the box with her sharp, opaque painted nails, destroying the polish job completely. Ali reminded herself to fix it later.
Once she moved the packing peanuts out of the way, she unwrapped the doll from it's bubble wrapped cell and held it up. She studied the immaculately painted face, running a finger over it, feeling the soft fabric of the yellow dress it donned, running a finger through the smooth, night-colored hair. Maybe she could save this one, just just once. No.
"I'll just break you. We'd both rather it be sooner than later." She reasoned aloud, voice thick.
Alison smashed the stupid thing on the ground, hearing but not seeing a crack. She removed the dress and saw the tell-tale, spider-web like marks on the gorgeous doll's stomach.
"At least you can hide it better." She noted. She locked the doll away in her closet, a shelf above the destroyed others.
The next day, Alison entered her new gym class, confidently striding in as opposed to the rest of the girls, who cowered inside their baggy yellow gym uniforms. Alison sneered at her classmate's unshaven legs and messy ponytails, their comically oversized gym shoes barely clinging to their feet.
Except for one girl.
She ran laps easily, her arms cutting through the air. Her shoes molded perfectly to her feet, her tan legs glowing, her dark hair tied in a high, tight pony.
Alison jogged easily, waiting for the sprinter to over lap her, when she did, Alison stuck out her toned arm, stopping the girl.
"What?" Was the girl's response. Alison couldn't tell if she was testy or nervous.
"You're fast." Alison stated more than complimented.
"Thanks." She panted, wiping her sweat-less brow. Other girls slugged around them on the track.
"I'm Ali Di Laurentis." Ali smirked, eying the runner girl up and down slowly.
"Emily Fields." Emily noticed Ali's eyes on her, so Ali forced herself to keep eye-contact.
"Cool name." Alison lied, secretly flinching at it's plainness. Emily blushed furiously.
"Thank-thank you." She clutched a hand to her neck, so hard it would leave a red mark.
"Wanna slow down and run with me?" Alison genuinely wanted Emily to say yes, she didn't even have to use her commanding voice to know the girl would oblige, though.
Emily nodded eagerly.
"I like your sneakers." Emily said a little too fast, obviously nervous.
"Thanks. They're custom made. My dad pulled a few strings." Alison tried not to sound so haughty.
"Fun." Emily said after an awkward beat, then she widened her eyes at saying the wrong thing.
"I could get you a pair." Alison offered, just to show that she could, while waving to some other runner who obviously thought that they knew each other well enough to be on waving terms. The random girl was wrong, but Alison really wanted to impress Emily, for some reason.
"What? What? No! I mean thanks for the offer..." Emily stumbled over her words, but jogged effortlessly.
"Don't be nervous." Alison reminded her, lightly touching the girl's back. Emily flinched violently, another hot blush spread to her cheeks.
"I'm not. Usually." She confessed.
"Oh, I'm glad I make you nervous." Alison joked, and before Emily could spaz over saying the wrong thing again, Alison cocked her head and shouted "Race ya!" Before taking off.
She didn't have to look back to know that Emily was following her.
"Guys, this is Emily. Emily this is Spencer and Aria." Alison had made the decision to include Emily in their little group immediately after gym class, even though she had silently wretched at Emily's green polo shirt and tan khaki's.
"Hi Spencer! Area." Emily smiled like she knew the two girls, causing venomous jealousy to shoot through Alison.
"Aria." Aria corrected as she looked up from the Razr phone she and Spencer had been pouring over.
"Sorry!" Cried Emily putting a hand over her mouth. Spencer smiled and gave Ali a look, like she knew why they girls were being introduced. And she approved.
Alison returned the look, hoping she looked like she didn't care about Spencer's opinion.
Emily sat down on the other side of Aria, and Alison stood, watching her friends for a moment. Everything was complete.
Jason proudly pushed a package towards Alison across their large dinner table. Alison felt dread well in her stomach. She opened the box with heavy fingers, at first struggling to undo the light colored string. When the box was open, she found a doll in the box, unceremoniously placed upside and front first. Alison yanked the doll out by it's bright blond hair.
Jason should know by now that she only liked brunettes.
"It's a... doll." She stated dumbly. She felt it's china skin and stared at it's crude features.
"Yeah, your favorite." He smiled so excitedly that even Ali felt bad taking him down a few notches for not knowing her like he used to. So she did what she did best. Manipulate.
"Thank you so much!" She smiled sweetly, and reached across the table to hug him. "I'll go put it on my shelf right now." She told him, her voice cracking. She hoped he thought it was an affect of the touching gift. Alison took the stairs two at a time, genuinely excited for the next phase.
From under her bed, she acquired a sleek pair of scissors and some colorful Sharpies.
"Let's fix you up a bit." She smiled eerily at the doll, it's face stuck in an expression of wonderment and what was supposed to be a smile. Alison coat the doll's pale lips in bright red ink until their was only a thick red splotch where the mouth should be. She colored in the eyes with a black Sharpie, noting how possessed the doll looked. She added blush and eyeshadow, and took the time to add on actual mascara to the doll's plastic eyelashes. Finally she took the slender scissors in her hand and carefully hacked off the blond hair, smiling as it fell to the ground.
Alison was in control. She cut off the dolls gray dress to reveal it's cloth midsection, she recoiled in surprise.
"The pretty ones always go first." A hint of a smile on her lips. And she dropped the doll on it's head, bits of china splayed around the room. She kicked the doll she didn't want under her bed. Immediately followed by the markers and scissors.
There, the last doll was gone.
As Ali calmly sauntered back down to the dining room, she realized that even if she didn't want the doll, she wouldn't have destroyed it if she didn't love it.
"What about Mr. Lewis? He's kinda cute?" Giggled Spencer as she adjusted her glasses at lunch.
"Ew! Spence, he's a teacher!" Cried Aria, shaking her head at her friend. Emily laughed along with them. Ali couldn't help but survey the lunchroom, as she did every day. Her eyes fell on the frumpily dressed girl who usually sat alone. Today she was joined by a slightly over-weight girl in a pilly green turtleneck, wearing a bored expression and digging into her chicken sandwich. Tumbling blond curls cascaded down the girl's back, the only pretty thing about her. Seriously, Ali could see the fat bunching up around her bra strap through the turtleneck. Ali gave a slight shudder.
"Ali? You okay?" Emily tapped her back to their table.
"Never better." She said with a slight head shake, marveling at Emily's compassionate look.
"Good, cuz I invited someone to sit with us today." Aria confessed, biting her lip and looking away. Emily and Spencer shared a look and Alison could feel them shying away.
"Who?" Asked Ali, trying to keep her voice calm.
"Hanna. I'm giving her some notes." Said Aria, switching to the voice you use when you try to justify something to an angry parent. Alison didn't have to ponder if she liked the comparison or not.
"Well, you can go sit with her, then." She decided, definitely sounding like a parent dolling out punishment to a naughty kid.
"I don't know where she sits." Said Aria, her defiance gone, she widened her doe-eyes. Emily and Spencer stayed quite.
"Well, use those over-sized eyes of yours to find out." Alison snapped, anxiety getting the best of her.
"Hi Aria!" Said the girl in the turtleneck, coming up behind her with the weird girl in tow. Alison rolled her eyes so hard she swore the entire lunchroom could here it.
"Problem solved. The three of you can go away now." Alison said cuttingly. The blond smacked her pale lips together.
"Hey, I'm Hanna and this is Mona." She motioned to the girl behind her, who looked like she was about to die. How lame. Alison gave an involuntary sneer.
"Spencer." Spencer whispered, very interested in her non-fat yogurt.
"Emily." Emily made eye-contact with Hanna and smiled politely. Hanna practically glowed.
Spencer gave Alison a look, to which Alison replied "They know my name, Spencer. But hi, I'm Alison, in case you're brain dead." Alison turned to face to duo, her blond hair swinging behind her. Her stomach turned at the stench of the buttery chicken.
A minute passed before anyone really moved.
"Be polite, Aria." Said Ali sweetly, "Go sit with them." Aria pressed her tongue to her cheek nervously.
"Okay." She whispered, and Spencer patted her shoulder.
"We-we have room for one more, don't we?" Asked Emily sincerely, pushing her fingers against her neck again. Spencer nodded eagerly at Alison.
"One more. For today." Alison grimaced, nearly choking on the words. Hanna sat down quickly, her tray clumsily scraping the blue table.
"But, get rid of the fatty, disgusting chicken and the tag along to match." Ali ordered coldly. Hanna did as she was told, dumping the chicken into a nearby trashcan and refusing to make eye contact with Monica or whoever. Mona tapped Hanna's shoulder, but she chose to apply a tube of Juicy lip balm to her lips instead of respond.
"Is that Juicy?" Asked Aria as she friendlily snatched the tube from her. Hanna beamed.
"Fine. Bye Hefty Hanna!" Mona glowered. Alison laughed into her iced tea.
"That's funny! Right Hefty Hanna?" Ali stared down her newest addition. Hanna forced a giggle and nodded. Maybe this girl would be an okay addition to the group, but for now, Ali needed to think of ways to punish the girls for their defiance.
A box was delivered to her doorstep later that evening. It couldn't possibly be another doll, could it? Ali tore open the box, ready to be annoyed. But she found a faceless, plastic baby doll instead of a porcelain beauty inside.
"I think we'll both eventually find it's easier to break plastic than porcelain, right? -A for Alison."
The note as written on white card stock in curvy writing. Alison gave a small shudder, but rolled her eyes nonetheless.
Alison was desperately trying to be plastic instead of flesh. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before flesh withered, and Ali didn't plan on getting old anytime soon.
She didn't feel like bothering with the unbreakable doll.