“I am not a doll,” she tells her friend, voice not quite managing a dispassionate dismissal.
The witch nods. “Of course.” She pauses a moment before slowly continuing, as if something just occurred to her, “Many dolls say so before they find their way to their true selves.”
The guest’s mouth twists in an unreadable expression. “I am perfectly content being a person! Why would you suggest otberwise?”
“Dear, I only brought it up because whenever you tell me about your week, I cannot help but remember all the dollminded ones I’ve helped.”
The guest sips her tea, then sets her cup down, a thoughtful expression on her face. The serving doll bearing its teapot dutifully refreshes her cup.
“I feel like you’ve been saying that a lot more often lately. I haven’t been unloading that much stress onto you, have I?”
The witch laughs. “Every weekend, without fail, you tell me all about your workaday worries, the loneliness of living by yourself.”
She locks eyes with her guest.
“How you long for companionship and purpose.”
“Not…not that kind. I’m very independent. It’s important to me to be independent.” The guest rubs her eyes, fretting. “Your dolls may be happy little thralls, but you’ve said before it’s a certain kind of person who willingly chooses that life, and that’s just not me!”
“Hey, it’s alright,” the witch responds, patting her friend’s had comfortingly. “You’re right. It isn’t for everyone, and I will not force it on you if it is truly not what you want.” Reaching down, she pulls a small book from her bag. “But would you indulge me for a moment?”
The witch places the book in her guest’s hands. The cover reads “On The Nature of Dolls.” Each page contains precise, hand-written stories and notes about dolls. The witch points to a section containing brief accounts from some dollminded ones prior to their choosing dollhood.
“Just read through some of these for me and tell me if any strike a chord with you. Would you, darling?”
Sighing, her guest flips through several pages. Then several more. Her face is painted with increasing concern as she reads what might easily have been stories about her.
She sets the book down, closes her eyes for a good long time, then she opens them again. Her expression is one of almost pleading.
“No…no, this isn’t me. It can’t be me. I am strong. I am…independent, I…” After a struggle, she visibly composes herself again.
The witch’s guest abruptly thanks her for the tea, then departs.
“Did she turn us down again?” the serving doll with the teapot asks.
The witch sighs. “Yes, but that was the closest yet. How much of my fugue tincture do you think she consumed in the tea today?”
“It was a lot this time, Miss. I don’t think she’ll remember any of the conversation.”
The witch takes the pen and ink offered by another doll and opens the book, flipping to the Accounts of the Dollminded section.
With careful strokes she writes, amending the section to include more stories her friend volunteered today.
Her friend will not remember sharing any of it, but she will recognize yet more of herself next time in this account of dollhood.
She is so very close now.