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When I was about thirty, I owned and operated a small vintage fashion store in the middle of Gable, Massachusetts. My grandma had given it to me when she had retired, probably because of my hobby. I collected mannequins, not just for business, but because I'd always liked them. I have some unexplainable love for lifelike replicas of a person. My friends thought they were a bit creepy, and generally didn't like coming to the shop because of them. However, Mark, was different.
Mark was a taxidermist, which is probably why I liked him. We both had a passion for the idea of capturing life in an inanimate object. At the time, we'd been dating for about six months. I had fun around Mark. We made each other happy. As a matter of fact, Mark was with me when I got the first gift.
A package had arrived on my doorstep sometime in January. Mark had driven me home from the movies, and he carried the box inside for me. The return address, was my grandmother's house. Grandma lived just an hour or so from the shop, although she never really invited me to visit anymore. But we spoke on the phone a lot. When I opened the package, there was a heap of bubble wrap hiding the gift.
I unwrapped it, and I saw what was inside. Some kind of plastic or porcelain hand. Obviously belonging to a mannequin or large doll. When I saw it, I wasn't really sure what to make of it. My grandma was old, but not senile, last time I checked. Why would she send me this small part of a larger structure? I tried calling her to ask, but I couldn't get through to her. She never picked up, not once. I was confused, until Saturday when I received the next gift.
Another package had arrived on my doorstep. Inside, another mannequin part. This time, it looked like a forearm. I found later that the hand actually hooked on to it to create an entire upper arm. I finally understood what grandma was doing when I received the next piece a few days later. She was sending me bits of a mannequin like a puzzle to put together. Exactly the kind of thing Gram Gram would do.
A month past, I had gotten bits of the mannequin every few days. By the end of the month, I had a full upper torso with arms. In another few weeks I got the waist, hip, thighs, knees. But I still could not get through to her. I got a little frustrated. Why wasn't she willing to talk to me? After a little bit, I stopped putting together her gifts. I wasn't willing to play her little game if she was going to ignore me for months on end. When a new package came in the mail I would toss it into a pile with the others. Each time I wasn't sure if I had gotten the last piece or not. I didn't care.
They kept coming though, box after box. The pieces actually started becoming a bit more specific, I was receiving porcelain eyes and plastic fingers. It looked like the finished project would've ended up looking more like a doll, rather than just a mannequin. I still didn't care.
Eventually, the packages stopped. Grandma still hadn't answered her phone. I had called her every other day, for a few months. One of those days, a Tuesday, I believe it was, Mark came by. I let him inside, we had plans to go to dinner that night, our one year anniversary. He came in and noticed the pile of parts in the corner. He asked why I stopped putting them together, I didn't respond. Instead, I told him to wait in the living room while I got ready to go. I went upstairs, got dressed, make up, all that, and came back downstairs. Mark stopped me before I got to the living room.
"Cover your eyes," he said. "Follow me"
He led me into the living room. I asked if I could open my eyes. "No, not until I say so," he whispered in my ear now. "Happy Anniversary darling, open your eyes." I did.
Mark had put the pieces together to form a life sized, white porcelain statue that looked an awful lot like...
As I said before, Mark was a taxidermist. He shared my passion for capturing life in an object. The police would later tell me that he had been preserving parts of Grandma for months after she had died. Sending them to me little by little. Piece by piece.