She sat at her work station, blasting rock and roll, painting life like features onto the face of the porcelain doll. The proprietor, Mrs. Neely, had
left early to prepare for a party and had made it clear that she expected Joanna to have the doll completed by this evening. It was a special gift to
be hand delivered by Mrs. Neely, personally, to the child of one of her old friends. These were direct orders and her orders were not to be taken
lightly. Mrs. Neely was a stern and demanding employer and Joanna knew all too well that she could be replaced as an employee as easily as one of the
dolls in the custom shop.
Joanna, an artist, did not fancy being a starving artist so she tolerated Mrs. Neely’s rudeness and harshness with a forced smile and spent her days
off from work sculpting and painting her own dreams. She felt extremely lucky for the past three weeks since she happened upon the sign in the shop
window seeking the help of an artist. Many of Joanna’s artist friends were, quite literally, starving and some had even dropped off the face of the
earth or so it seemed. Aspiring, young and pretty girlfriends had, seemingly, given up and without a call to Joanna or a note, they disappeared.
Joanna turned the radio off and looked down at the new doll. The emerald green eyes of glass were so life like that they were spooky. She turned off
the light at her work table and went to fetch the ornately decorated gift box from Mrs. Neely’s desk. Mrs. Neely’s office was a dusty room in the
back of the shop. Joanna thought it odd that her employer would leave her own office so untidy and grubby. Boxes of old and broken bits and pieces of
dolls lay scattered around the floor.
As a stark contrast to the dingy office the top of the box was adorned with the most beautiful ribbons and the inside lined with luxurious paper. She
placed the doll inside the box and reached for her coat. She startled when the phone rang. It was late in the afternoon and she wondered who would be
calling. The thought to not answer the phone crossed her mind. Just leave the box where Mrs. Neely had instructed and go on home. It had been a long
day and week and she had a new sculpture that she desperately wanted to finish.
“Neely’s custom dolls and gifts”, she greeted the caller as she had been taught.
“Joanna dear”, it was Mrs. Neely.
“Oh! Hello Mrs. Neely. I was just leaving. I’ve got the doll done and she is in the gift box. I will leave her on your desk just as you asked”.
Joanna stated as she hoped her employer would be thrilled that she completed her task timely.
Mrs. Neely was silent on the other end of the phone. “Was there no pleasing this woman”, Joanna thought to herself!
“Joanna, about that, it seems that I’ve become ill and will be unable to deliver the doll myself to my dear friend. I will need you to take it. I
am sorry for the short notice but, I simply must insist that you make the delivery yourself”.
Joanna moved the receiver away from her mouth and sighed.
“Of course, Mrs. Neely, I would be happy to make the delivery to your friend. I hope that you feel better soon. Is there anything else that you
need?” Joanna inquired.
“No dear, the address is in my book, on the desk, under H for Hawthorne. Gregory Hawthorne. I shall see you on Monday, have a wonderful weekend!”
Mrs. Neely hung up.
How odd, Joanna thought, this request to be. There were many delivery services available and this certainly went above and beyond her list of job
duties but, she reminded herself of the ‘starving artist’ adage and went to the address book and located Mr. Hawthorne’s address. 696 Skyline
Drive. That area is a good distance outside of town. Skyline Drive was an area of vast estates up the mountain and deep in the woods. Well, she better
get going before it turns dark, she thought, or she will never find her way.
She put on her coat, placed the gift box under her arm and locked the shop door on her way out. She opened the door to her old jalopy and placed the
doll in the seat. Joanna went around to the driver’s door and tugged on the handle. It wouldn’t open. Joanna tugged and pulled and ‘pop’ it
finally sprang free. She slid into the seat and put the key into the ignition. She turned the key and the engine coughed then rattled and finally
sprang to life. “Please, please, don’t stop on me tonight!” Joanna begged her old jalopy. Off out of town she and the gift soared passed all of
the shops of town and up into the hillside. She mused that the houses got bigger the farther out of town one got.
Joanna slowed the jalopy as she neared the address. Thankfully the house numbers were displayed largely on the gated entrances. Joanna inched forward
and rolled her window down. She reached for the buzzer to announce her arrival and the gate began to open. Surprised, Joanna, creeped the car forward.
She saw no cameras but thought there must be cameras in the trees above as she looked up through the cracked windshield.
At least her timing was good. It was getting grey as the sun set and night was quickly approaching. She looked over at the decorated box and said out
loud “Let’s get you delivered Dolly and get back to town”.
Joanna drove, slowly, along the winding driveway. An enormous house of gothic style architecture appeared around the last curve and as Joanna pulled
up to the elaborate entrance, the old jalopy died. “Great!” Joanna thought, “No good deed…and all that”.
Joanna retrieved the box from the passenger seat and shoved her door open with her shoulder. “I suppose it is time to replace you Bessie, that, or
put you in the shop”, she said aloud.
Joanna climbed the stairs and rang the bell. From the inside there was silence. “Great” she said aloud again, “It’s going to be dark soon”.
Suddenly the door opened slowly. Joanna peered inside stepping gingerly across the threshold. Across the grand foyer her gaze was captured by a
magnificent statue. It looked familiar to her. What was it?
“Aha! The fallen angel, Lucifer!” she remembered. The foyer and grand staircase were a replica of a cathedral she had toured while visiting an
Aunt years before University. Mesmerized and enchanted by the beauty of the marble statue, Joanna laid the box aside and reached out to touch his foot
and heard footsteps on the stairs behind the figure.
“Hello? Mr. Hawthorne?” Joanna’s voice quivered. Perhaps she had invaded unwelcomed or her arrival had not been forewarned by Mrs. Neely.
“Yes, I see you there Joanna. I’ve been waiting.” The voice from the stairs said in a deep and hypnotic tone. “Please take the doll into the
library by the fireplace. I’ve taken the liberty of making us both a drink. Choose whichever you like and I’ll be right behind you.”
edit on 10-4-2016 by TNMockingbird because: (no reason given)