Little Lorna Mae suffered with night terrors; her parents had bought her a large doll with a pale face, blinking blue eyes and blonde ringlets. She was called Susan, it said so on the floral box. Susan was supposed to make Lorna Mae happy and, hopefully, stop the hideous dreams and images that crashed around her mind during the night. But Lorna Mae didn’t much care for Susan; she didn’t like the odd clinking sound that her dead eyes made when they snapped shut. So she placed her in the white trunk, with the rattles and other baby toys she had grown out of.
As approached, Lorna Mae’s small six year old frame jolted upright. Her parents rushed in, wearily clasping dressing gowns around their bodies and went through the motions. Lorna Mae’s eyes remained wide open as her brain was caught in a horrific trance. She couldn’t wake up, nor go back to sleep, so she cried and screamed, not even recognising her tired mother and father. There was nothing they could do but hold her, forgive the pushes and scratches she bestowed upon their faces, and find Susan the doll, tucking her up close underneath the lavender bedspread.
Susan the doll wet the bed. Lorna Mae knew it couldn’t have been her, her pyjamas were bone dry and she hadn’t done that since she was three. Susan had a mean smile on her stupid face, she looked different today. She tried to explain but her mother scolded her, slapped her legs for uttering silly fantasies and wicked lies, as she bundled the stinking sheets into the washing machine. She wasn’t allowed dessert, which made her cry as it was strawberry cheesecake, and she stomped up to her bedroom to stew and sulk.
Niceties returned with kisses and the usual bedtime story at . She brushed her teeth and snuggled into the freshly laundered bed linen. Susan the doll was placed beside her head on the pillow. Her eyes snapped shut and made that clink noise that made Lorna Mae feel a little bit sick. As soon as she heard her mother’s steps on the creaky stairs fade, and the living room door softly shut, she got up, stuffing Susan back into the trunk and pitter-pattered back to bed.
She fell asleep, sucking her thumb despite the regular chastisements from her mother. It helped for a while, she felt soothed and serene in her dream time. But the monsters in her head awaited their nightly frolic and so they arrived, laughing and closing down the hatch behind them. Susan was there, devilish grin, pulling at her bed covers and this was just too much for her brain to behold. Like clockwork, in trooped her exhausted parents, securing her down as she thrashed and sobbed.
‘It’s Susan,’ wept Lorna Mae.
‘She’s here, tucked up next to you, just where I left her,’ explained her mother, stroking her hair.
‘I hid her away. She came back. She’s alive,’ the little one cried.
‘Don’t be silly, you’re just having another bad dream.’
‘I don’t like her,’ Lorna Mae sobbed, salty tears racing down her flushed cheeks. Her mother snapped.
‘I don’t know what to do with you any more; you’re such an ungrateful girl.’ Her mother bustled out of the room, slamming the door, leaving her young daughter trembling and afraid. This wasn’t a night terror. Lorna Mae was wide awake.
She looked down at Susan, who had a wet face, like she’d been crying too.
‘I don’t want the bad dreams. I don’t want them to be cross with me,’ she announced.
‘I wish I was you,’ she added.
‘Do you really want to be me?’ asked the doll, causing Loran Mae to gasp in shock and jump out of bed.
‘Well?’ asked Susan.
Lorna Mae considered the question.
‘Yes I do,’ she replied sadly.
‘Go to sleep now. You’ll get your wish,’ beamed the doll.
Susan clinked her heavy lids shut. Lorna Mae thought that she looked like a dead person with her rigid arms sticking out by her sides. She shivered, pulling the covers up to her chin and closing her eyes.
When her mother came in to wake her for school, Lorna Mae saw her body rise from slumber and leave the room. She tried to follow, but as she had become the doll, she was rooted to the spot. She watched her mother make the bed, but she couldn’t speak to her. It was a very long and lonely day.
When Susan, in Lorna Mae’s human flesh and gingham uniform, returned from school, she was full of joy, chattering non-stop about what a wonderful day she’d had, skipping in the yard with friends, how juicy the lunchtime apple tasted. She noticed the wet face of the doll, but pretended that she hadn’t.
At bedtime, her mother came to tuck them in, Susan said, oh so sweetly ‘I’m sorry for what I said about the doll, I do like her really, and she is helping. I don’t think I will have a bad dream tonight.’ Lorna watched a beautiful smile emerge on her mother’s face.
‘Goodnight darling,’ she whispered, kissing the top of Susan’s head, padding out on to the landing, feeling hopeful.
‘I’m going to be a much better you,’ Susan vowed, rolling over and settling into an undisturbed sleep. Lorna Mae clinked her eyes shut and her thoughts finally melted away.
There was much fuss and happiness in the morning, her parents relished their first uninterrupted sleep in a long time. They celebrated, decorating Susan with new pretty hair bows and kisses; they made her pancakes with golden syrup for breakfast, which had never happened before.
As the week went on, Susan slept peacefully. Lorna Mae’s parents looked years younger and she had to agree, Susan did do a much better job.
‘Mummy, thank you for Susan, she really helped. But I don’t think I need her any more. I thought it might be nice to give her away, so another little girl can love her?’
‘Oh my sweet girl, what a lovely idea. If you’re sure, we can drop her off at the charity shop in the morning?’
‘I’m sure Mummy.’
Susan went to school. Lorna Mae was left in the doorway of the charity shop. She felt dizzy, seeing all the legs and feet of the people rushing by, so she clinked her eyes shut.
The next thing she was aware of was a small girl prising them open.
‘What a beautiful doll! Mum, can we buy her? Please?’ she begged, stroking Lorna Mae’s curls adoringly.
The little girl’s mother patted her enormous belly full of baby aware that, any day now, her daughter would feel rather left out and envious at the excitement of the new arrival.
‘Yes Hannah, it can be your special present from the baby.’
Lorna Mae smiled.