Anna told the doll with the blue-stitched eyes all her deepest secrets and the doll kept them in her yellow yarn hair. Her beloved Aunt Margaret had given her the doll for her seventh birthday just before school started, and Anna named it the most splendid name she could think of: Genevieve.
Genevieve sat on the bed keeping watch over Anna’s room on her very own lacy pillow. Anna was loathe to take her special doll outside lest other children besmirch the crisp, blue cotton dress or stain the cunning white shoes with their grubby little hands, and so Genevieve sat alone until Anna came home from school.
One day Anna came home in a rage. She flew up the stairs to her room and flung herself face-down onto her bed, not even bothering to take off her shiny purple rain boots. They dripped muddy drips on the hooked rug beside her bed as she poured out her woes to Genevieve.
Anna loved the swings more than anything else on the playground, especially the day after a good rain. She loved the way the fudgy mud looked swinging back, and the way her purple rain boots touched the blue sky swinging forward.
Today the boy in the red coat wanted to swing, but they were all taken. Anna explained very kindly that he could have hers when she was done if he would wait just a little while longer.
The boy in the red coat did not want to wait.
“Genevieve, he pushed me out of my swing and into the mud and my hands got scratched and now I have two pink bandages and one green one and I wish the boy in the red coat would get pushed and see how he likes it!”
Anna took a deep breath. She stroked the doll’s hair and felt a little better.
The next day at recess the boy in the red coat ran to the swings, pushing past Anna and the rest of the children.
Nobody saw quite how it happened, but they all saw the boy in the mud under the swings, crying with all his might and holding his broken arm. Anna and the other children stared at him in shock.
She confronted Genevieve as soon as she got home.
“Genevieve,” she whispered, “are you magic? Did you push that boy?”
She searched the blue-stitched eyes for an answer, but found none.
“Genevieve, if that was you, make there be cake in my lunch tomorrow. Please.”
Anna kissed Genevieve’s cotton forehead and went to eat her dinner.
There was no cake in her lunch the next day. Although disappointed, Anna was not surprised; her mother didn’t believe in junk food, and a silly cotton doll wouldn’t change that. Resigned, she munched on her baby carrots.
“Hey Anna, my mom packed two pieces of leftover birthday cake in my lunch and I’m getting kinda sick of it. Want some?”
Anna stopped mid munch to stare at Olivia who had plunked down on the seat across from her.
“Sure,” she swallowed the rest of her carrot, “why not?”
The next week she asked Genevieve for a red balloon, a new pencil, a pack of gum, and three bags of sour gummy worms that she ate all in one sitting. The week after that she asked for an eraser shaped like an apple (because Gillian had one), a rainbow sprinkled doughnut, a pink party dress with lots of sparkles, two new pairs of shoes, and nine chocolate bars. The week after that she asked for three hair bows, a giant box of crayons, a bicycle, a gold heart necklace, a 5 lb bag of suckers that she stashed beneath her bed, a kitten, three more chocolate bars, and a cozy, bright pink coat.
It was the coat that caused the problem on Friday.
Anna was riding the school bus home, counting the number of red coats, five, and the number of blue coats, seven, and was beginning to count the purple ones when she felt someone poke her ribs.
The girl was hanging over the back of Anna’s seat. Her coat was so white it made Anna’s eyes ache.
“I’m counting the purple coats,” she replied politely.
“Because I am and I can.”
“That’s dumb,” the girl laughed.
Anna clenched her mitten clad hands into fists.
“It’s not dumb,” she frowned, “and you aren’t very nice.”
“Like I care what you think,” she of the white coat shrugged, “but it doesn’t make counting coat colors any smarter. You’re just being stupid, and your coat is ugly.”
And with that pronouncement she sat back in her seat.
Anna’s face turned a brighter shade of pink than her coat.
“You’ll be sorry,” she muttered under her breath,“just you wait until I tell Genevieve.”
That night before bed she asked the doll for two things: for revenge on the girl with the white coat, and four more chocolate bars.
Monday at school Anna found out that a stray dog had bitten the girl and she needed seventeen stitches.
Anna felt giddy with power, and a little sick of chocolate.
That night at dinner she told her parents about the girl who had been bitten.
“And she needed seventeen stitches” she ended gleefully.
“Now Anna, that’s not very nice,” her mother scolded. “Why are you so happy she was hurt?”
“She made fun of me. So I had Genevieve take care of her.”
“What in the world are you talking about,” her father asked. He put down his forkful of meatloaf and cocked an eyebrow at her. Her mother took a drink of water from her glass and wiped her mouth.
“Genevieve,” Anna repeated, “I tell her what I need and she helps me.”
Anna didn’t mention all the candy, or that Genevieve was the reason her parents had bought her all those nice things lately. She saw the condescending look her parents exchanged. It made her angry.
“Go ahead, ask me for anything. I’ll tell Genevieve, and she’ll make it come true. Go ahead. Ask.” Anna’s bottom lip trembled.
“Honey, that’s just not true,” her mother said.
“Anna, the doll is a doll and nothing more,” her father added, “that’s enough of that.”
“Daddy, just ask! She can give you anything!”
“Anna, I said that’s enough!”
Anna pushed back from the table.
“Genevieve is not a doll, she is my friend and she helps me!” she yelled. “She gives me whatever I want and she can hurt anyone who hurts me, even you!”
“Go to your room now, Anna,” her father commanded.
Anna rushed upstairs, furious. They should believe her.
They would believe her soon enough.
Anna grasped Genevieve tightly by her cotton arms.
“Make my parents believe me,” she took a deep breath, “or make them pay.”
For two entire weeks nothing happened. For two weeks Anna fumed and pouted and threw every kind of tantrum she could think of, but Genevieve no longer listened to her secrets. Her blue, unblinking eyes only stared into Anna’s brown ones as Anna by turns berated, pleaded, bribed, and threatened.
One day, in a black fury, she threw the doll across the room. Genevieve hit the wall and fell into a tangle of arms and legs, her smile stitched firmly in place.
Three days later, her parents died in a fiery car crash while out on a date.
When Anna heard the news, she rushed to her room and picked up her doll, her face streaked with tears.
“I take it back, I take it all back,” she sobbed, “let them live! I want my mommy and daddy back! Oh Genevieve, bring them back!”
From under Anna’s bed came a scritchy-scratchy sound. She turned just in time to see a most loathsome creature, muddy brown, with three black horns, sharp claws, and a long tail crawling out from under the bed. It smiled most patiently, revealing the sharpest set of teeth Anna had ever seen.
And then it spoke in a voice like squeaky cabinet hinges and rusty, clanging chains.
Anna was at once terrified and confused.
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Reginald of the Underbeds, and it is I, and not the doll who has been granting your many wishes.”
“But, but then why did my parents die last night? I made that wish weeks ago. Can’t you bring them back? I didn’t mean it!”
Reginald gave a dry little cough.
“No. Take. Backsies,” he repeated slowly. He clasped his scaly hands over his portly stomach and made an apologetic little smile.
“And as to the other matter, well, you made so many wishes I was quite exhausted.”
Another apologetic smile.
“You see,” he said simply, “I was on vacation.”