Too Late

Lina grabbed one of the dolls in her room and tossed it out the window and into the backyard. She then grabbed a second one, a third one, a fourth one, and a fifth one. With each one she tossed out, her cathartic rage grew. She hated these fucking dolls. She hated that her mom collected all these things and littered the entire house with them. She hated that her mom had forced them upon her and her sister, saying shit like, “all girls love dolls.” Her mom would scold her if Lina even dared to play with cars or anything that wasn’t a doll.

Today though, she’d gotten home after working all day at the same dead-end job she’d been at for ten years. She was sick and tired of everything. She had sat in her boss’s office as the boss screamed at her and blamed her for poor sales. Apparently, it was her fault, as a bottom employee to make sure customers wanted to come into the store and buy some crappy new rubber shoes. But if she wanted to keep the job, she had to take it. She had to hear the boss lay out this entire construct about how it was Lina’s fault because she hadn’t arranged the stock properly, because she hadn’t done her makeup right that day, or because she didn’t smile enough.

When she entered her house though, she was prepared to see her mom, tending to some new doll. God, she hated that so damned much. Her mom would waste so much money on dolls instead of buying her blood pressure medicine. Then, the mom would feel like shit, and it was up to Lina to try and come up with extra cash to buy the medicine or take her to the doctor yet again for something they knew very well was the problem.

Instead, Lina found a paper with a short message on the table. Taking the paper, she read it as all the dolls around looked at her with their creepy static glass eyes.

“Burn all of the dolls before it’s too late,” it said.

Lina, confused, shouted, “mom.” but no one in the house responded. She went room to room in a mad search that only increased her anxiety and stress. After everything today, her mother was missing, and she had left some cryptic—and creepy—message on the table.

She tried calling her mother next, but she didn’t pick up her phone. She tried calling some of her mother’s friends, but no one had heard of her in a week. Apparently, there she’d been ghosting people as of late. Though there was the one strange fact. She had given everyone something, a doll, mentioning it was one of her favorite ones, and she wanted them to have something meaningful from her so that they wouldn’t forget her.

Lina’s anger grew, and she couldn’t take it anymore. This was just one of those bullshit stunts her mother would do just to get some sympathy and attention.

“Fine!” she screamed and started to rampage throughout the house. “If you want me to burn ‘em, I’ll burn every single one of them.”

She cleared out the first floor first. Just the living room had around 100 of these things, and they were all equally disturbing. They all wore dresses, the most feminine and frilly she’d ever seen, and they were all mostly pastel colors. Of course, they also ranged in nationalities and ethnicities, some with varying styles from around the world. Yet they were all extremely girly, something only a child would find cute.

“I guess this is what you always wanted. You wanted the perfect girl, but you got me instead.”

It didn’t help that her younger sister had ditched them when she turned 16. She fell in love with some biker girl and left town. From time to time, Lina would receive a letter from her sister. Sometimes they would even talk on the phone. But her sister never spoke to their mother. As far as either of them knew, mother considered her dead.

Lina had developed an absolute hate for all these things because of it. She had even sword never to wear a dress in the house to spite her mom, so she only ever wore her uniform from work, which was as bland as it could be. Brown pants and a black shirt.

The fire picked up surprisingly fast. Old fabric seemed to be extremely flammable. It had taken a lot of work to get rid of all the dolls in the house to start the fire pit in the back, and she was sure there would still be more hidden away, but she’ll figure it out later. This was enough for now. When mother return, she’d realize that she shouldn’t have made such a childish thing because Lina was going to go through with it.

It took a few minutes. It was shockingly fast. The fire grew very intense, then calmed down into a soft warmth. Lina sat by it, her skin telling her to sit a little further back. The smell almost made her gag, but she wanted to see all of them melt away.

Mother didn’t return that night. She didn’t return the following day. She didn’t return all week. No one heard from her at all, so Lina submitted a missing person report. The cops assured her they would try their best in finding her. Still, every other day, she’d call her sister and ask the same question, “have you heard from her?” The answer was the same.

The theories were plenty. At first, she’d thought it was just for attention. Later she swore Mother had grown this idea that she had to reconnect with her daughter. The real reason would come up about a year later, when the cops found her. She’d been dead for a long time. It hadn’t been accidental, and it wasn’t murder.

Lina didn’t cry when she got the news, not until she got back to her house and saw the paper on the fridge. She’d pinned her there during her rage, and then forgotten about it. She would look at it from time to time, but it eventually became like one of those adornments in one’s house. You just grew so used to them that they became invisible, like the dolls. Like her mother.

Then she realized why her mother had said it. Her mother had given the dolls to her friends so that they’d remember her. But to her own daughter, she told to burn them all. Now it was indeed late. She had burned them all. And now she had nothing to remember her mother except for that paper.