He pulled apart another one today. Ib would have to remember to pick another one up before she left for work. Otherwise, he would destroy her pillows again. She picked up piece after piece of ragdoll: the button mouth, a bit of raggedy hair, and a fragment of the dress. She loyally picked up every piece, the same way she had done since the diagnosis. Then she heard him.
“Where is she? Where is she?”
She followed the voice to their bedroom, and there he was, on the floor, running his hands up and down the floorboard as if something might magically materialize if he just rubbed hard enough. It pained her to see him now when she could still see how he was so clearly before.
The fading purple locks, now a sickly gray color, and even his eyes were stained gray with cataracts he refused to admit were there. Doctors said it didn’t matter. He didn’t have much time left anyway. It wasn’t “worth the trouble.”
Oh, but if only they knew how much he was worth to her.
She walked over to her side of the bed and sat down, just watching. Not too long ago, Garry would’ve heard her come in. Now, he didn’t even glance up. She’d have to take him to get his hearing checked next.
She patted the bedspread, the one he picked out when they were supposed to be shopping for a mattress. It was red and blue roses, his favorite, though he never could explain why, and she just couldn’t say no.
“Garry? Why don’t you lie down?”
Garry shook his head, his mop of gray hair covering his eyes.
“I don’t have time. No time. I’ve lost her again. She always runs off. She’s gone… she’s gone…”
He trailed off into more mumbling.
She sighed. She knew this script. She really did need to stock up on more dolls.
“Who are you looking for?”
Finally, he angled his face to look at her and used a shaking hand to move the hair from his eyes. Two blank mirrors reflected back nothing but her. Gray hair, chopped off to her chin, sagging cheeks, and what used to be smooth features were wrinkled and marred with time, nothing like what he remembered. Not anymore.
“Ib. She’s a little girl. Brown, long hair, and red eyes… kind of like yours…” his face lit up at this realization, “Could you be related?”
She shook her head and frowned.
“No, but I know her very well.”
Then he frowned, and for an instant, his eyes seemed to clear, as if he was about to remember something very vital, but just as quick as it appeared, it was gone again. His face went back to the floor, and he once again began his search.
“Where is she? Where is she?”
Her body shook, and her eyes brimmed with tears.
I’m here, she longed to say.
But she couldn’t. She couldn’t bring herself to argue with him again, to watch Garry break over and over. Instead, she would break. Somehow, that seemed better. It was easier this way. She would just have to remember to buy another doll.
A doll with long, brown hair and red eyes, with a pretty little dress, a toy he loved until he would wake up and realize it really wasn’t her. It was the closest she would ever get to him remembering her, but another doll and he would forget Ib all over again.
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