Liz never goes to Mackie Raye’s house unless it’s an emergency, and she usually lets herself in while he’s away. Looking him in the eye makes her want to vomit. That was one of the reasons she’d divorced him. She’d mistaken a regular old frog for a frog prince. Took one too many kisses to figure that out.
She has yet to reclaim the last of her property — her old CD collection — which is why she’s taken the trouble to walk to Mackie’s house on her day off, and Valentine’s Day of all days. Mackie’s at the office now, and he won’t be back for another six hours. She won’t have to deal with his snarling bulldog glares or his unprovoked and awkwardly articulated insults. She’ll slip in, find her stuff, and slip back out like before. Mackie doesn’t even have to know.
Liz sighs as she struts up the oil-stained driveway to the front door. Just looking at the house bundles all her nerves and organs into a tight-knit little ball. She takes a deep breath and tries not to think about his chubby, freckled face, or that crooked posture that made him look like an overweight Shaggy from that old Scooby-Doo cartoon, or the toddler-esque way he stared at his shoes whenever she sent him to his room for pestering or embarrassing her. Two years of anger and disappointment seep out of her memory and into the ball, straining it further.
His friends tell her that she’d been too hard on him; at work last week Angie, one of Mackie’s online gaming pals, even had the nerve to say Liz had ruined him. She’d said it nice and loud so Liz would be sure to hear. “The bitch ruined him.”
“Mackie Raye was ruined to begin with,” Liz had replied. “Not my fault he won’t grow up.”
“You think any guy who won’t let you shape him into your retarded fantasy boy won’t ‘grow up’. There’s irony for you.”
“You were never married to him,” Liz hissed, “so what the hell do you know?”
Liz finds the keys not-so-cleverly hidden beneath the doormat and lets herself in. As always the living room is cluttered with the same old junk: cardboard boxes filled with old toys and magazines and CD’s he always refused to put away, piled spitefully against the wall where once Liz had arranged a set of Ashley bookshelves for her Linda Howard books.
“They’re coming in this Thursday, so I want all this junk moved into the garage to make room for them.”
“They can’t go in the, ah, the garage. The heat'll ruin them. You never read those, ah, cheap books more than once. Why can’t, ah, why can’t they go in the garage?”
“My books. I decide where they go and what kinds of shelves they sit on.”
“Our house. We, ah, didn’t decide we needed bookshelves. We didn’t decide on half the…the shit we got cluttering this hole.”
“It wouldn’t be cluttered if you’d clean it up once in a while like I asked you to!”
“Oh, ‘asked’, she says. ‘Cos she’s always, ah, so polite. Always chooses her words so lovingly.”
Liz’s eyes pan across the room and fall upon the furthest corner, where her flashback crashes against a human figure slouching in a dining chair, facing the corner as if in Time-Out. The stress ball bursts and flings its parts around inside Liz’s ribcage.
Her panic subsides just as quickly as it came. Mackie’s friends always keep Liz up-to-date on his creepy habits (the ones she doesn’t already know about), but the LoveDoll she had to see to believe: a life-sized, fully articulated sex toy customized to suit the buyer’s tastes. Mackie bought it two weeks ago according to Lance. Liz can’t deny the LoveDoll is part of the reason she came today; now that she knows it’s real she still can’t believe it, and moves in for a closer look.
It’s hideous. The generic face wears a permanent idiotic grin. What’s worse, its resemblance to Liz is offensively apparent: its short strawberry blonde hair curls in the same perky ringlets; its gross, rubbery skin wears the same California tan; no doubt its chest and caboose are just as full, if not fuller; and the eyes staring dumbly at the floor shine with the same shade of green. Probably stands at the same height down to the last centimeter. It sure doesn’t dress like her, though. Liz never wore a French maid costume in her life, even on Halloween. Certainly never wore one for Mackie Raye.
Ah, but this is Mackie’s new and improved Liz. The “Liz Two-Point-Oh” model. Liz Two-Point-Oh does whatever Mackie wants. Liz Two-Point-Oh can’t open her mouth to tell him what a child he is or how bad he is in bed. The laughter of Classic Liz goes unacknowledged by the gourmet doll.
“You must be Mackie’s new girlfriend,” she says, running her fingers through the thing’s hair, then retracting her hand in disgust. “I’m sure he’s told you all about me.”
The doll sits and stares. Liz returns to the task at hand, starting with the pile of battered cardboard boxes lined up against the opposite wall. The first two are filled with vintage videogames and Japanese toys of macho robots and creepy, big-eyed, busty teenagers in skimpy swimwear. Liz takes one look at the collection and rolls her eyes with a snort.
“What’s that?” she says to the doll’s back. “He still refuses to grow up? You coulda fooled me.”
Refuses to grow up. Refuses to do anything. There’s another reason. He was so pathetic in the beginning that he would waited on her hand-and-foot; then in the last few months of the marriage he refused even her tiniest requests, like cleaning the goddamn living room. Liz kicks an empty tissue box out of her way with a disgusted sigh.
She pauses her quest when she finds the photo on the wall. It shouldn’t be there because the last time she saw Mackie in that house he was throwing out all the photos he had of her. For some reason he’d kept their luau picture. Mackie and Liz smiling with their arms around each other, he in a white tee and blue shorts, her in a white tank top and rainbow sarong, both wearing tutti frutti leis. The smiles are genuine, the smiles of people having an absolute blast.
Mackie had never been to a real party before that one. In her mind Liz sees him amidst their friends and coworkers, dancing like Baloo the Bear with a pina colada in his hand. He’d been a hoot that day. Told some great jokes and really got into the spirit of things. The timid gaming geek seemed to let go and enjoy himself for the first time in his life. And she’d been glad to have him there.
Less than an hour after that photo was taken she’d scolded him for giving her a kiss while she was trying to talk to someone, and banished him to their hotel room alone. She hadn’t been quiet about it, either. On any other day he’d have hung his head and done as he was told; that time he just stared at her a moment, politely reminded her he wasn’t a puppy dog, went to the bar and got another drink. He’d never talked back to her before, and he’s done nothing but talk back since.
Classic Liz glances at the corpse-like LoveDoll, dumbfounded that he’d actually bought the thing. A smooth synthetic effigy for poor little Mackie to pour all his hatred and frustration into…and God only knows what else. He must use it all the time. Or maybe just on special occasions. What other outfits does he dress it in? The maid outfit can’t be the only one.
Does he talk to it? Does he treat it like it’s really her, as if she’d come back to him and patched things up? Maybe he just slaps it around once in a while when he gets angry. Maybe the very sight of it makes that chubby face blaze like a freckled red dwarf and sends him into a conscience-free slapping frenzy. Maybe that’s why he threw it in that embarrassing getup and shoved it in the corner like a scolded kindergartener.
Maybe she had been too hard on him.
Liz shakes this thought from her head.
Five minutes of rummaging passes before she notices how quiet the house is without the bleeps and bloops of Mackie’s gaming sessions or the erratic clackity-clack of fingers dancing across a keyboard. The quiet is insistent — almost conscious — and begins to weave her insides together tighter than before. She’d been to noisier funerals.
She considers putting on some music, but then the neighbors will know she’s there, and they’ll tell Mackie, and he’ll call her apartment later and give her an earful.
She talks to the doll to relieve the tension.
“Where’d he put those CD’s, Liz Two-Point-Oh?” she says.
The doll, of course, says nothing. Liz sighs.
Like the doll seven feet to its left, the dilapidated jukebox adopts a slouched posture, its cracked and warped wooden frame only holding itself together by some miracle of gravity. The glass case in its underbelly is filled with CD’s and there’s no doubt in Liz’s mind that Lou Reed and Blondie and the others are hiding in there somewhere. She plops herself on the floor Indian-style and begins to sort through them, tossing one after another into the trash boxes nearby.
“You let him play this garbage in the house? Lemme do you a favor…”
In goes Pantera. In goes AC/DC. In goes Rancid. In goes Linkin Park. How insecure could a guy be about his masculinity to listen to this garbage?
In goes Garbage. How appropriate. Liz laughs at her unspoken joke and throws a knowing smirk at the doll as if it could appreciate humor.
The doll sits sideways, turned at the waist so that its chin rests on the back of the chair and its sightless eyes stare directly into Liz’s.
Liz springs to her feet. She teeters on uneasy legs for several minutes, chest heaving in shaky gasps, tears welling in her eyes. The doll sits and smiles stupidly at her knees.
The ball in Liz’s gut trembles with rage.
“Mackie!” she shouts.
There’s no reply but an echo.
Liz storms into the kitchen adjacent to the living room. “Mackie!” she almost shrieks. “You better show your face before I lose my temper!”
When she still doesn’t get an answer, Liz stomps through the kitchen, flinging open cupboard doors and kicking over chairs. She bursts out the back door into a deserted backyard. She can’t figure how the big marshmallow can move so quickly. She rushes back into the living room, hoping to catch him in the act of posing the doll. Liz Two-Point-Oh sits alone and unchanged, turned around in her chair as though she’d been watching Liz rummage through her ex-husband’s things.
“Where is he?” she says, glaring at the doll, her voice cracking, unsure why she's asking the doll in the first place.
The doll doesn’t reply.
Liz snarls and runs down the hall to the bedroom. She throws open the door to the walk-in closet -- the mirror hanging on the inside bangs and rattles and nearly falls to the floor. She tears shirts and pants off their hangers, hoping to find her fat ex huddled behind them, sniggering like a four-year-old. She searches the bathroom and the shower. She nearly upends the bed to check underneath. Nothing but shoe boxes and old issues of Penthouse and Toyfare.
Where is Mackie?
She returns to the living room on the verge of screaming his name, certain she’ll catch him this time, certain she’ll catch him changing that disgusting LoveDoll’s pose with that brainless ogre-smirk on his face.
The word is lost in her throat. The thing sits in the middle of the floor, legs spread, head hanging like a pallbearer, facing the hallway, as if it had been moving across the room to follow her when it heard her coming back, and—
It’s ten feet from the front door.
Cutting her off.
For centuries she stands in the hall, watching the LoveDoll, waiting for it to move. It just sits with its chin on its chest, as if waiting for Liz to move first.
"It’s your fault," it seems to say. "It’s your fault I’m here. It’s your fault I’m wearing this stupid dress. It’s your fault he treats me the way he does, but I’m gonna get rid of you. Yesss, won’t that be nice? I’ll get rid of you and then everything will be just rosy."
Liz can’t breathe. Her insides twist and tremble with a cluster of screams that can’t seem to find their way out. It’s waiting for her to run. She’ll have to step over the thing’s foot to get past. It could grab her then and…
"What’ll I do with you afterward, hm? Chop you up in the bathtub? Bag up all your pieces like leftovers and toss them in the dumpster? It’s trash day today, and no one knows you’re here. It’s just you and me. You can vanish into thin air. Mackie doesn’t even have to know."
Liz goes for it. She sprints and bounds clear of the doll. She sees the door. Only five feet to the doorknob.
It’s moving. It’s behind her, she can feel it. It’s right behind her. She resists the urge to look at it. She can’t afford to. She keeps her eyes straight ahead, grabs the doorknob, twists and pulls with all her might.
It’s bolted. The thing bolted the door. Her trembling fingers fumble with the latch.
She gives in and looks over her shoulder.
Liz awakens in frigid darkness to the muffled sounds of panting and moaning and bed springs squeaking in agony. Her eyes can't seem to adjust to the dark and her head is swimming as if she'd been drugged. She's too dazed to move or speak or do much of anything besides wonder where in hell she is.
The moaning voices grow louder. They're painfully familiar but she can't put a name to them. If her head would just stop spinning 'round and 'round maybe she could remember what happened to her.
She can just barely see the shape of a leather boot in the darkness, sitting limply to her left on the carpet. Dead ahead of her is a glowing rectangle of light in the shape of a door.
The walk-in closet from her former bedroom.
Mackie is having sex with a woman on his bed, and he's left Liz sitting in the closet, drugged out of her mind and helpless.
She remembers trying to unlock the front door, to escape the house. Mackie had been home after all. How many days have passed since she blacked out?
What is he going to do to her next?
The lovemaking stops. Mackie and his new girlfriend laugh and speak to each other in muffled gibberish. Liz tries desperately to move, to stand up, but the very thought of doing so throttles her with vertigo. What the hell did he give her?
The woman's voice is louder, speaking sweetly right outside the door. Does she know Liz is on the other side? Was she his accomplice kidnapper? What she wouldn't give for the strength to leap out at her, scare ten years off her life before bashing Mackie's head in with the bedside lamp.
She hears the squeak of the doorknob turning. More talking.
The door swings outward, rattling the mirror hanging on its inside. Blinding light floods the little room as the closet light is flicked on. Liz waits for the dumb bitch to squeal in horror at the sight of Mackie's prisoner. It's a sound she'll relish: the sound of Mackie's new girlfriend discovering what a twisted pervert he really is.
There's no squeal. The woman stands calmly before her, naked, beautiful, and horrifically familiar: short strawberry blonde hair curling into perky ringlets; her glistening skin wearing a golden California tan; her chest and caboose shockingly generous; her stunning green eyes staring directly at Liz with mean-spirited glee.
Liz Two-Point-Oh says something over her shoulder in Liz's voice, her face full of wry disgust. She laughs at Mackie's reply, whatever it is. Then she plucks one of his shirts off of the rack, gives Liz a cruel smile that could curdle milk, and seals her back in the closet.
She'd left the light on so Liz could see the mirror on the door, and the hideous plastic face smiling dumbly back at her from within.
The LoveDoll sits in corpse-like silence, but inside Liz is screaming.
Written by Mike MacDee