Caroline Icke

Royal Holloway Creative Writing Anthology 2012

The Keyhole View, by Caroline Icke

Peeking through the keyhole at a rather uncomfortable angle, I could just about glimpse the glossy little shoes of Granny’s marvelous china doll. Oh, Dolly was pretty. She was very pretty alright, with perfect curls falling about her round and glowing face, shimmering golden caramel in the light through Granny’s Victorian bay window. Each ringlet was identical to the next, deliciously sleek in those immaculately tight coils — nothing like my tousled mousy brown waves, full of knots and unruly kinks. Oh, how I wished that was my hair! And that those were my cheeks; pale, with circular pink blushes complementing the plump childishness of her face. Her lips were small but always smiling, pouting a little with blissful innocence. I could discern none of this through the tiny keyhole, but I knew her eyes would be shining bright; not unlike the dewy coating which grips the tip of a blade of green grass first thing in the early morning.

Granny was still asleep. Normally she would wake early, rising gracefully with the sun. I stared for many minutes — one eye locked against the key hole, the other tightly shut for optimum focus — at the pale blue of Dolly’s shoes. She stood on Granny’s desk as usual. My smallness meant that even when I stood directly in front of that table, my eyes only reached Dolly’s feet, so it was a sight I was well accustomed to. The lace on the bottom of her dress tickled the top of her feet. I had no tickle, but I scratched my foot anyway.

The sun was rising rapidly, and Granny was still asleep. I was annoyed by her silence and fidgeted quietly as my legs began to ache from my half crouching position. Impatiently I flung myself onto the floor and huffed at Granny’s unexpected lie-in. There were fewer windows in the hallway and the lack of sunlight made for a shadowed and cool spot. I thought about Dolly’s yellow cardigan which she wore over her silky blue dress, and wished I could shrink down to such a tiny size and borrow that cardigan as I waited. Of course I had a great number of charming cardigans of my own, hanging in my extensive wardrobe downstairs. I considered running as fast as I possibly could down the grand old staircase to my room to fetch my own yellow cardigan, but I was not allowed to run around Granny’s house. Ladies do not run around indoors she always said. Creeping down the stairs would take up far too much time, and I was sure that the old oak door would creak open and shower me in rays of sunlight any minute now. Cardigans could wait. After all, I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to perch on the high stool where she applied her blue eye-shadow, and lean as close to the desk as possible so that for once I could be eye to blue eye with Dolly.

Another minute on the floor and I was bored of staring down the hallway at the closed door at the other end. I leapt up again and bent down to the keyhole, placing my hand on the cold brass of the door handle but I did not turn it. The window must have been open, for Dolly’s skirt flapped around her ankles. All seemed very peaceful through the keyhole, very peaceful indeed. Dolly must have been enjoying the warmth of the morning sun as its rays rested on her slightly faded back. The breeze would be ever so refreshing too. Oh, how I wished I was on the other side of that big old door!

The creak of a bedspring snapped my spine into an upright position. I waited. My ear was pressed against the wood and I heard nothing but the birds singing outside Granny’s window, and the distant sound of the stream in the garden. Had I imagined it? What odd behaviour from Granny today, I thought, feeling ever more neglected as I slowly, selfishly, turned the brass handle and pushed open the door.

The sunlight hit me hard in the eyes. Shielding them with my hand, I turned my face to the four-poster bed where Granny sat bolt upright against the headboard. Her grey hair flecked out in gossamer strands, un-brushed and somewhat wild, and her eyes were open and cold. I had never seen her so pale and I cannot deny that I was frightened by her appearance, all wrinkled and older than I ever imagined.

‘Granny?’ I whispered. She made no response as I tip-toed across her room towards the frail body sitting stiff in bed. There was something resting in her hands but I was too fascinated by the tragic expression on her face, too appalled by her demeanour to notice what it was that she held. I approached the edge of her mattress.

‘Granny?’

And then I saw those golden ringlets trailing through Granny’s slender fingers.

My eyes snapped to the window as a hoarse breath left Granny’s slowly heaving chest. Headless Dolly stood, mutilated, in the harsh light of what I then saw to be a much too windy morning. I dared not go near her, so terrifying was her cracked neckline then to me, but I could not tear my eyes away from the scene on the desk. Little Dolly, dead.

Granny murmured something about the wind, a crash in the night, Dolly’s head clunking as it rolled around the floorboards. I could see the scratches on her face, a dull grey colour like the dust which had collected over her blushed cheeks. She wasn’t pretty anymore. Looking back at the desk I was less fearful, wondering why Granny had propped up her headless body. She looked ever so bizarre, all prim and proper with her head missing. I was almost surprised as I inspected the hollow inside of Dolly’s torso, looking down her broken neck; I had always imagined that she would be full of something, and much less heavy. Hollow little Dolly, dead to me.

I lay her down on her back, my interest wavering. Granny promised to fix Dolly, but I was already strolling out of the room as she sobbed quietly behind me. I was sure it was New Years Day. I broke into a run and leapt down the grand staircase. Who needs Dollies anyway?

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