This past week was torturous. I can't even describe how emotionally drained I feel right now. Thank you for all of your kind comments, dear readers. They've helped me carry on.
Things were pretty quiet after Emilie's sudden departure, aside from some rearranging of our curio top by Beast'sbelle. I'm not sure why she thought this week was the best week to start moving things around, but as we all know, sound judgement does not appear to be her strong suite.
I'm sorry, I really should stop that. I'm angry at her, but I don't need to be unfair. She's tried to talk to me several times this week, but I haven't been ready to sit down for a heart to heart just yet. After yesterday, though, I find my resolve is weakening. A little.
But I'm getting ahead of myself!
Eugene and Rapunzel felt our pain, but there wasn't much they could do. They tried to be available when we needed them and give us some space when we needed that more. Yesterday was one of those days, so early in the afternoon, Eugene and Rapunzel took their girls for a walk to the living room. (With school back in session, we have a little more freedom to wander around the house, as long as we listen for the car pulling in the driveway and have plenty of time to get back to our places.)
Robby and I had been sitting quietly together for a few moments when he leaned over. "Do you need anything? Lunch? A book to read?"
I shook my head, trying to not feel angry at his simple question. The only thing I needed was Emilie, thank you very much! Then I felt a twinge of my conscience at my rude thoughts. I rubbed my head and looked away from my husband.
"What is it?" he asked gently.
I sighed. "I just...I feel so foolish," I admitted. "This week has been really hard..." My voice broke, and I took a moment to regain my composure before I continued. "But I'm beginning to realize that I was part of the problem, just like Ella told me in the comments on the blog."
Robby wisely remained silent and let me continue.
"I'm still angry at Beast'sbelle," I stated firmly, feeling a surge of anger just saying the words. "I think she grossly misjudged the situation and put us all in a horrible position with her thoughtlessness." I paused. "But...if I wouldn't have been so quick to assume that she was trying to force us into parenthood, if I would have just taken her words at face value...I still probably would have gotten attached to Emilie, and it still would have been hard, but I would have constantly had the fact that she was for someone else in the back of my mind. I don't know, maybe it would have helped, at least a little bit."
"I'm afraid I got a bit carried away myself," Robby admitted.
I hid a smile at the thought of my steady husband getting "carried away", but I knew what he meant.
"She was one special little gal," he continued. "We connected on a level that I didn't think was possible. But that wasn't Beast'sbelle's fault."
He took my hand. "I wish you'd talk to her, sweetheart. She wants nothing more than to make things right."
I gently pulled away from him, pretending to fix the hem of my dress so I wouldn't hurt his feelings. "I know, Robby, but I just can't yet. I'm still too mad. She should have known what this would lead to. She should have..."
I was interrupted by the noise of someone clearing their throat behind us. Robby and I both turned to see who it was.
At the end of the curio, just where Emilie had stood last week when she said goodbye, was a doll I'd never seen before.
She had dark brown hair and a kind-looking face that, at the moment, seemed pinched and worried. I also noticed that she was wearing the dress that Rapunzel had worn to my wedding. I wondered if Beast'sbelle had asked her to lend it for the festivities. (I know, a random thought in the middle of such a strange situation, but haven't any of you ever done that?)
The doll looked nervous at the sight of the two of us gaping at her.
"I'm sorry to bother you," she said softly, "but are you...Belle and Robby?"
"Yes," I responded curiously.
Robby slowly raised himself up to a standing position. He believed in the importance of acting like a gentleman, especially when there was a new doll in the room.
"I'm Faith," the doll went on, rubbing her hands together nervously. "Emilie's...well...Mrs. H found Emilie for us."
Robby and I both froze at the same time. So this was Emilie's adopted mother. Then I wrinkled my nose. "Mrs. H?"
"Yes," Faith said, nodding. "You know, the mistress of the house? I believe you call her 'Beast'sbelle'."
I supposed it would be rather silly for a Barbie to call Beast'sbelle by the name we called her, but still...Mrs. H? It made her sound ancient!
I didn't have time to muse over that, though. What on earth could Faith want from us?
"Won't you have a seat?" I asked her politely, scooting over so she had room by the Princess tin that now took up a portion of our curio top.
Faith nodded and gingerly sat where I had been.
Robby sat down next to me again and put his arm around me. Faith couldn't seem to look at us. I glanced over at Robby and saw the same curiosity in his face that I knew must be in mine. What was she doing here?
Several moments passed, and still our visitor said nothing. I decided to break the ice, or address the elephant in the room, as you humans like to say.
"How..." I paused. I hadn't thought my question would be so difficult. "How is Emilie?"
Faith finally turned toward us at my words. Her eyes looked strangely dull. "Emilie is...having a hard time." Each word seemed to pain her.
"What do you mean?" Robby asked, his voice full of concern.
Faith sighed and began fiddling with the material on her skirt. "This is so hard. I'm sorry...it's been a very rough week." She looked up at us with sympathy. "I know it's been a difficult week for you as well." Her eyes went back to her hands. "The truth is, Emilie is not doing well. She won't eat, she can't sleep, she refuses to let go of Posy, her fuzzy rabbit."
Faith took a moment to wipe her eyes. Her voice trembled when she continued. "She cries constantly. We've done everything we can to make her feel welcome, but nothing seems to help."
I wasn't sure what to think at this news. A very small part of me was overjoyed that Robby and I obviously meant so much to Emilie, but that joy was quickly overshadowed by concern for Emilie's well-being and compassion for the doll before me. Faith looked like she'd had just as horrid of a week as I'd had.
"Now I know," Faith continued, taking a deep breath, "that she will eventually adjust. We can provide her with a good home and an older sister who loves her already." Her face crinkled up at this last part, and she had to wait a moment before she could go on. "But we want what's best for Emilie." She managed a smile that was almost a grimace from the effort of keeping back tears. "She talks about you two constantly. It seems she formed a very special bond with you."
Faith took another moment. "I'm sorry," she half laughed, half sobbed. "This is one of the hardest things I've had to do, but I'll get it all out eventually."
I didn't know what to say, so I just sat and waited.
"Mrs. H explained what happened with you two and Emilie to me," Faith said slowly. "She knew I needed to be aware of the situation in case Emilie had a hard time dealing with it." She looked off into the distance. "I've never seen Mrs. H so distraught. She feels horrible about the whole situation." She brushed back a stray strand of brown hair. "I remember how long we waited for our first daughter, and the joy we felt when Beast'sbelle finally found her for us. I can't imagine how hard it would have been to have her taken away just as we were getting to know and love her so much. I know you two weren't looking for a daughter, but I can understand how Emilie would have stolen your hearts...and then she was taken from you." She shook her head. "The point is, I want what's best for Emilie, not me...and I think the best thing would be for her to...to come back and stay with you." The last words ended in a sob.
I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself. Of course, I wanted Emilie back! I wanted what was best for her, too. And I can't even tell you how many times I plotted and schemed about ways to get her away from her new family in the privacy of my thoughts. But thinking of some random Barbie family that had her instead and seeing this sweet, broken doll before me who actually was part of her new family were two very different things. For the first time since everything had happened, I thought of things from their point of view. How long had they waited for Beast'sbelle to find them another daughter? How horrible it must be to have the little one you'd waited for for so long do nothing but talk about the couple she'd been with before.
I glanced over at Robby, wondering what he thought. I could see the sorrow and compassion in his eyes, the same hesitancy to gain from this doll's misery. What could we do?
And then it hit me. I cleared my throat nervously. "Faith, Robby and I love Emilie with all our hearts, but we want what's best for her too. I think it should be her decision." I could tell by the gentle squeeze Robby gave me that he approved.
Then my husband added, "We need to make it as easy as possible for her, though. Maybe Beast'sbelle would be willing to talk to her without any of us around. We don't want her to feel pressured into making a decision either way, and I think having us there when she was asked would be too hard for her."
"That sounds reasonable," Faith agreed, wiping her eyes once more. "I'll see if Mrs. H...I mean, Beast'sbelle would be willing to talk to her."
She slowly got to her feet. "I should be getting back. Will and the girls will be worried about me. Thank you for your time."
And without another word, she turned and started for the edge of the curio. There was such a solemn, dismal look to her posture that my heart went out to her. Really, if things continued in this fashion, it was very likely that Emilie would be coming back to us, and Faith knew it.
I jumped up from my spot, rushed over, and tapped her shoulder. "Faith?"
She turned. "Yes?"
Now that I was here, I'd suddenly run out of words. "I...I just wanted to thank you. I know how hard that must have been."
Faith nodded. "This has been a horrid situation for all of us, I think."
On impulse, I sprang forward and gave her a hug. I know it was a bit forward of me, but I just felt so sorry for her, so grateful for her sacrifice, so worried about the outcome, and so connected to her through our shared sorrow, that it all came out in a hug.
She seemed a bit shocked by my behavior at first, but within moments, she hugged me back. For a moment, we were just two dolls, hurting and drawing comfort from each other, without the complication of our situation.
The moment passed, but I had a feeling that Faith and I would always have a special connection after this. My new friend waved as she left. "I'll let you know what Beast'sbelle says," she told us as she swung over the edge.
After she left, I made my way back to Robby. He took me into his lap and stroked my cheek tenderly. "I'm so proud of the way you handled that," he said.
"I feel so muddled right now I'm not even sure of myself," I admitted. "I never really thought of Emilie's new family until now. I think they almost have it worse than we do!"
Robby nodded. "It was very brave of her to make the offer she did."
I leaned over and put my head on his shoulder. "I don't know if I could have handled the situation that gracefully...especially considering the way I've been moping and carrying on this week."
Robby played with the ends of my hair. "It was a serious loss," he assured me. "You had every right to be upset. Just don't let bitterness and anger poison your thinking. That's when you can't ever move on from the hardships you face."
"You make it look so easy," I grumbled playfully.
Robby shook his head, quite serious in spite of my teasing. "I'm a long way from perfect, Belle. I was very angry with Beast'sbelle too."
I remembered the set of his jaw and the look in his eyes on the day Emilie left.
"But Beast'sbelle's error was not intentional, and I know I'd want to be forgiven if I was in her shoes."
I sighed. "Point taken, dear. I know what I need to do...I just...I still need some time."
"Don't let it go too long," he whispered into my hair. "You never know how long you have with the ones you love. You can't let disputes and disagreements constantly get in the way of your relationships, or one day, you'll regret that you never got to make it right."
I knew my husband spoke wisely. How could I, of all dolls, forget this lesson after I almost missed the chance to apologize to Robby after our first big argument? But I'm ashamed to say that I needed time to think about his words. I still didn't want to forgive Beast'sbelle...not yet.
In the meantime, I'd be waiting on pins and needles to hear what happened with our precious Emilie. Although, even if she ended up coming back, I knew her return would be bittersweet. I would know that our happiness was causing pain for another family. :(