Chris loves his new doll.
Its china face, with delicate hand-painted features, is framed by curling golden locks. He likes to trace its face with careful fingers. He can see his murky reflection in its glistening shoes and its dress is so soft he can't stop running his hand over the sapphire blue cloth. His parents aren't sure who gave him the doll, but six-year-old Chris can't be parted from it.
When he asks for black patent leather shoes, his dad glances up from the bills spread on his desk and his mom starts looking for her Caravan's keys.
When he asks for his chestnut hair to be bleached, his dad's head tilts and his mom takes him to her salon.
When he asks for his fingernails to be painted a soft rose pink, his dad grins and tosses his wallet over the dinner table to his mom.
When he asks for a blue velvet dress, his dad doesn't look up from his newspaper and his mom later shows pictures on her phone to her cooing book club ladies.
He sits upright at the table without kicking his heels on the chair legs, addresses his kindergarten teacher solemnly with considered words, and stops playing touch football during recess with the other boys in his class. The doll stays by his side, guarded jealously with a youthful ferocity.
When he asks his dad to teach him to shave, his dad beams and they go to the master bathroom where he shows Chris how to sharpen the blade, apply the shaving cream, and carefully scrape it off. Chris observes with large, studious eyes.
When he walks into his parents' bedroom two nights later, his dad dies with a surprised gurgle bubbling out the slit in his throat and his mom is found the next morning with her wrists cut, blue eyes wide in horror.
Chris is in the basement facing the doll, painted blue eyes placidly meeting teary blue eyes, when he is discovered by a policewoman. He keeps murmuring, over and over in a petrified chant, "It was just a game", as he is wrapped in an orange blanket and carried from the silent house.
The doll is left in the unlit basement, unwavering gaze fixed on the padlocked door at the top of the stairs.
It's still waiting there.