She fingered the platinum-blond hair of the old barbie doll. It had been hacked short in third grade. One of its arms had been torn loose by Scruffy, her dog. The sundress that it wore was pale yellow, faded by the sunlight of too many backyard picnics.
Kelly smiled sadly. So many memories – so bittersweet. Something in her yearned for those warm days filled with lemonade and friends. She wanted to reach back to the times of giggling with her sister as their Barbies dressed in ballgowns and danced with Ken. It had been so sweet, so innocent, so unlike Kelly's life now. She started up from the edge of her bed when she heard the front door bang. Jim was home, and Kelly had forgotten to start supper.
Kelly tried to slip into the kitchen so that maybe, just maybe, he might not notice that she had been daydreaming and forgotten her duty again. She winced when she brushed her bruised shoulder against the white wall. Jim did not like it when she forgot things. She hoped he might not be too upset today.
“There you are,” Jim's gruff voice startled her. “Where have you been, woman? You know, I work hard all day and I come home to what? No hello, no supper...”
“I'm sorry. Sorry,” She turned to look timidly up at her husband. His eyes looked glazed from alcohol. It was a look so familiar those days.
“Well, maybe sorry isn't good enough. 'Sorry, sorry, I'll do better.' But it never happens, woman. You never love me like you should,” He took a step toward her with a accusing finger. “Sorry doesn't cut it. For two years – two long years – I have tried to teach you how to behave. Everything I ask is so simple. Every other wife in America could do the simple things I ask.” He slapped her across the face. Kelly stumbled to the side.
“Please, Jim, I'll -”
“Don't whimper at me,” He roared.
Before she knew it, she was on the ground. Pain exploded through her. She crumbled to the linoleum floor with her eyes squeezed shut to try to bottle up the pain.
“Maybe that will teach you,” Jim muttered as he stumbled out of the house. Kelly tried to stand. She lurched toward the phone table and cracked her arm against it. A scream escaped her trembling lips as the pain ricocheted through her bones. Kelly glanced at the front door. She hoped he wouldn't come back for awhile. Picking up the phone and balancing it on her shoulder with her ear pressed to the receiver, she dialed seven numbers. Seven numbers she had wanted to press for two years.
“Mom? Could you... could you please come and take me to the hospital? I think I broke my arm. Maybe you could bring over a box for some of my stuff. I don't think I'll be coming back any time soon. Please hurry.” Kelly hung up the phone and sank to the floor, clutching her bad arm.
Kelly lay recuperating in the bedroom of her childhood. Pink ponies danced across the wallpaper. Her mom had let her pick out the pattern when Kelly was seven. She had loved pink then. Come to think of it, she realized she still did. She looked down at the cast on her arm. It wasn't signed by anyone. All her friends she had left behind to have Jim. He hadn't allowed much time for friendships. She sighed heavily.
Something in a box by the bed caught Kelly's eye. She got up from the bed, bent down, and picked it up. A smile flitted across her face. It was the barbie doll with platinum-blond hair. The doll with a broken arm, yet it smiled bravely all the same. Kelly sat down on the bed and held the Barbie for a long time. Then slowly, with a brave smile, she picked up the phone on the nightstand to call up her best friend.