The second-hand Super Sindy Home arrives in our frigid, old house as abruptly as anything arrives when one person wants rid of it, and another wants something for free.
‘Where do you want it?’ my father asks my mother, as if it was not him who had been talked into taking it from a colleague at Amstrad.
My mother looks down at cardboard panels and plastic floors the colours of jellied sweets. She runs a finger around the high, tight neck of her cream jumper, clears her throat like she is struggling to breathe.
‘In the spare room,’ she says, twisting the murky pearl of one earring with one hand, the other resting lightly on the balustrade of our grand galleried staircase.
An armchair is moved from my spare room into another one of the spare rooms to make space for the Super Sindy Home opposite my bed. It is erected with the same speed and care with which it had been disassembled; the lift never works properly.
My mother finds the box of dolls in the corner of the room, under a fine-dining picnic hamper. The four Sindys, two Barbies, the one Ken doll shared between them, and even the old Wall’s vanilla ice-cream tub they are kept in, had all belonged to my cousin. The clothes are either the original styling, or hand-knitted by someone else’s grandmother and as moth-eaten as my mother’s jumpers.
The Super Sindy Home comes with a collection of furniture that both is and isn’t trademarked Sindy. I take out a smooth peach-plastic sofa that smells of banana Chewits. I bite the sofa, hard, and lie the beige dolls in a row, running a finger around where their genitals should have been. Only Ken is dignified with underwear.
I open the miniature wardrobe and tap a finger on the back, just in case.
The spare room, with two beds, although there is only one of me, is dark with early sunset. My arms prick with cold and my toes itch with chilblains. I go downstairs holding my older brother’s copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
At the front door, my mother spritzes perfume into her boned velvet bodice, and gathers a handful of taffeta skirt to step into her heels. My father shucks the sleeves from his jacket.
‘Back already?’ My mother sighs, looking at my father.
‘Does she know how lucky she is to have that doll’s house?’ he says, straightening shoulder-pads in the mirror, shining his cuff-links on his thighs.
‘Yes,’ I say, shivering.
‘If she did, she’d be upstairs playing with it,’ my mother says.
I press the cardboard walls, their blushing wallpaper and 2-dimensional lilac bedside table lamps, slowly out of their frames, until only the ribs of plastic floors remain.
My mother shouts instructions to my older brother, who never replies, before slamming the door behind them. From the leaded light window above the stairs, I watch my parents crunch down our freshly-gravelled driveway in silence, four Super Sindy Homes apart.
Afterwards, I lie on the floor in the coffer between the beds, pulling my duvet, and a visitor’s, to hide. I stare up at the gleaming wardrobe, always locked now, so that I can’t disturb my mother’s puff-sleeved evening dresses, preserved perfectly in clear plastic dry-cleaning bags.
When I stretch out both arms, I can touch boxes of Christmas decorations crammed under the bed frames on either side. I push them, imagining they are the brick and flint walls held taut between the stiff-leaved collonades of our house. When I push they will fall away like cardboard, dragging the two beds, the plastic holly wreaths, the picnic hamper with its real plates and silver cutlery, with them. Everything will tumble down and freeze in an eternal winter.
If I close my eyes – if I lie still for long enough – I almost believe I have turned to stone, sword heavy in my hand.
Charlotte Turnbull lives with her family on Dartmoor, UK. Her writing has won prizes, featured in Litro, Ms Lexia and Barren Magazine among others, and been reprinted in translation (Italian).