Jane spent the rest of her Sunday alone, which, on balance, was fine with her. Sunday was her day for decompressing. The day was a short interval of rest between whatever she had going on during the weekend, and the chaotic start of the workweek.
It was around three o’clock in the afternoon when Jane decided to take a nap—a rare luxury, given her lifestyle and packed schedule. She reclined on the sofa in her living room, her mind a jumble: David, work, Thailand, and the doll. The damn doll.
Why had they allowed themselves to fight over a stupid doll? That was almost as inexplicable as the dreams and the weird coincidences.
Just before she drifted off she heard a faint voice from the spare room. She was in that twilight state between waking and sleeping. When she woke from her nap about an hour later and fuzzily recalled the utterance, she would doubt that she had heard anything at all. It had to be her imagination playing tricks on her. She had been thinking too much of late about the doll, about the nightmares that she and David had experienced.
The single word, faint and in young girl’s voice had been: Mommy.
The next day, Monday, Jane found herself distracted at the office. David had neither texted nor called her since leaving her condo the previous morning. That wasn't like him. They weren’t a clingy couple who called each other a half-dozen times per day (they were both way too busy for that kind of excess); but a day rarely passed without two or three text exchanges.
Then she remembered his presentation, his departmental meeting. Perhaps there was a problem with one of David’s assignments, a problem that fully consumed his time and attention. She couldn't be sure. By mutual agreement, they rarely talked about their jobs, except in broad outlines. (They both agreed that they spent more than enough time at work, and thinking about work. They didn't need to bring all that stress and conflict home, and into their relationship.)
That night, at home, she started to push the speed dial button for his number and stopped herself. No, she wasn't going to become the girlfriend who was desperate for attention and reaffirmation. Experience had taught her that was a good way to become someone’s ex-girlfriend.
There was no harm in sending a text, though:
“I hope you’re okay.”
An hour later, a text came back:
“Okay. How are you?”
She was more stung by his perfunctory reply than she would have been by a failure to respond at all. He had offered no explanation for his long silence; he had not even acknowledged his silence, in fact.
Was this David’s way of trying to ease out of the relationship?
They had preserved their bond (even without sex!) throughout his extended trip to Germany. They had no real issues. There were no arguments about either side trying to push the other into an early commitment, no notable jealousies on either side.
Everything between them had seemed to be perfect, until…
Until the doll became involved. David had been distracted by it before he had known of its existence. (Somehow!) Then his mood totally changed the first time he saw it.
Jane tallied up all of the losses she had endured since ‘Lawan’ had come into her life: Dusty, and now (probably!) David. A boyfriend and a cat.
What was next? Was she going to be diagnosed with cancer? Her parents were in good in health, but they were both well into their sixties…
Stop it! This was exactly the type of superstitious thinking that had so annoyed David—that had somewhat inexplicably set him off.
For what it was worth, she still didn't accept the notion that the doll atop the bookcase in her spare bedroom was haunted by the ghost of the adolescent girl she had seen in her nightmare. The dream girl was probably, as David had suggested, a cultural meme that had somehow been worked into her subconscious mind and recycled there. Jane didn't believe in ‘angel dolls’, or ‘spirit dolls’. The basic premise of the luk thep, to use a nontechnical term, was a load of hooey.
Jane was, however, open to the idea of “bad vibes”, as vaporous and new agey as that sounded.
The doll wasn't haunted—it probably wasn't haunted. But it might contain negative energy. There were places and objects like that in the world, right? And consider the suggestibility of people and circumstances when exposed to practices like séances and voodoo. Negative energy could be physical or psychological, or perhaps some combination of the two. Negative energy was a concept that could be accommodated to the belief system of a finance major or an engineer.
And it was safe to say, at this belated juncture, that the doll Khajee had named ‘Lawan’ possessed some kind of negative energy. Or else the energy possessed the doll. (Either way, it amounted to the same thing.)
That night Jane slept easily, having at last arrived at a decision. This would be her last night sleeping under the same roof with the doll. Forget about eBay—she was going to take action first thing in the morning, before she left for work.
A little after 6:30 a.m., Jane walked into the spare bedroom with an empty, 20-gallon black garbage bag.
She was reminded of a ritual she had often endured with Dusty, before the cat had disappeared. When it was time for a visit to the vet, she would place Dusty in a cat carrier. The carrier was an oblong plastic container with a handle. (A longtime cat owner, Jane knew better than to let a cat roam free in her car while she was driving. A cat—unlike most dogs—would not sit still in the passenger seat.)
Like all cats, Dusty had hated any variety of spatial restraint. After several trips in the cat carrier, it seemed to Jane that Dusty had learned to recognize the carrier when she brought it out of storage. The cat appeared to actively avoid her when she removed the carrier from the closet. So Jane had learned to be furtive.
She wondered, now, crazily, if the doll atop the bookcase—or whatever bad vibes might inhabit it—had any grasp of the purpose of the black bag.
“Too late, Lawan,” Jane said, lifting the doll from the spot it had occupied for several months now. “I’ve come to serve your eviction notice. You’re no longer welcome here.”
Having placed the doll in the bag, Jane exited her condo. She double-checked the lock. (She had made a habit of double-checking the door since Dusty’s disappearance.) She carried her attaché case in one hand, and the garbage bag in the other. It was that time of morning when many of the building’s residents were leaving for work, and she passed several of her neighbors on the way downstairs, then out back to the dumpster. None of them made any remarks about the black garbage bag in her hand. At a superficial glance, there was nothing strange about what she was doing. All of the residences disposed of their garbage in the dumpster.
Standing before the dumpster, Jane set her attaché case on the ground. She grabbed the neck of the bag, and gave it a little swing for momentum. Then she heaved the bag over the side of the dumpster.
It was done. Jane heard, but did not see, the bag containing Lawan plop down amid other garbage bags and loose debris. Today was garbage pick-up day, as chance would have it. The Rumpke truck would be here within a few hours. By the time Jane arrived home from work tonight, Lawan would already be in an incinerator or a landfill.
A robin landed on the pavement not far away. In the suburbs near the city, the robins were bold: they knew that humans posed no threat. Was this the first robin she had seen this season? She believed so. Jane was willing to take the bird as an omen—a good omen.
According to the online weather forecast, today the mercury would climb into the upper seventies. It really did feel like spring out here. Early summer, even.
Jane thought of David. He had been a bit of a jerk, and she was annoyed at his apparently deliberate silence since Sunday. However, he might have been legitimately spooked. She would call him this evening and tell him that the doll was gone. He might interpret that as a victory, a concession on her part. Oh well. Jane had observed long ago that it was always a bad idea to view a relationship as a tennis match, where you kept track of every point won and lost. The bottom line was that the doll had somehow been toxic; but the line below that was that the doll was now gone, and gone forever.
The dumpster was in an enclosed area behind the building. She would have to reenter the building and proceed to the far end of one of the first-floor hallways to reach the resident parking lot. As Jane turned way from the dumpster she felt buoyant, filled with certainty that an important obstacle (if only a psychological one) had been overcome. She and David would make amends. The two of them would have a good summer together.
To be continued…Check back soon for Chapter 13!