"Please know that I am as grateful as I am sorry!" I declared as I came in.
She laughed. "You don't sound like yourself."
Yeah, that was overdramatic. "I don't exactly know how to say thank you under the circumstances."
"How about 'Thanks much!'? That's usually how you do it."
Well, that was a perfect impression. "I'm sorry, have we met before?" I asked, taking a seat by the bed.
She gave me a look that was half friendly and half sardonic.
"I mean, before you saved me from getting hit by that cab."
She sprang from the bed. "You don't recognize me at all?" she asked, smiling.
"Oh my god, lie down, you're gonna hurt yourself!"
"Look at me," she said, feet dangling off the bed.
I looked at her face and felt almost jealous.
"Well... the stitches aside, you look very pretty."
She rolled her eyes. "It's me, it's Sylvia!"
Uh, from high school? Kindergarten? Old neighborhood? "I'm so sorry, I don't remember you."
"I was your doll when you were five!"
Right. "You seem to have a concussion."
"Think! You had many dolls. Which one was your favorite?"
That's easy. "Julia."
"Brown hair, full bangs, orange cheeks?" she asked, pointing to her face.
"You said your name was Sylvia." And many dolls have those features.
"It was Julia for about a week, and then you were like, 'But Julia's such a common name!' so you changed it."
Fuck, that's true. "How did you know that?"
"Because you told me. Duh."
Crazy or not, she saved your life, so be nice and just smile.
"You also told me to look after you."
Hmm. "When did I say that?"
"Remember that stormy night? Non-stop thunder and lightning, power was out? You were so scared and you asked me to protect you."
Lots of stormy nights in everyone's childhood, and I'm sure all kids talk to their toys.
"Since then I've been looking after you," she explained. "So don't feel sorry about all this. Just doing my job."
I pretended to look at my watch. "I gotta go now, Sylvia. Get well soon, and thanks again." I would have loved to stay if you weren't so damn creepy.
"Okay," she replied, smiling. "I'll go in five minutes."
"You're all bruised up. They won't let you go."
She laughed. "They won't see me go. And I can't stay here any longer."
"Don't worry about the bills, the cab company's paying for everything."
"Yeah, but I have to be near you!" she said, all perky.
What the hell? "Of course you don't."
"But I've been taking care of you for the past seventeen years, I can't just stop!"
Stay calm, don't panic. "Why not?"
"Because you ordered me to protect you, remember?"
Just play along. "Well, I take it back. I don't need your protection anymore, but thanks."
She stared at me, then teared up.
Shit, I might have to call the police on this psycho. "Listen, Sylvia. I'm very, very thankful to you, but I don't get what you're-"
"It's okay, I'll never defy your orders. Just promise me that from now on, you'll turn down the music whenever you cross the street."
Whew! That was easy. "I promise."
A year later, my parents decided to move South and sell their house. Packages containing my old things were delivered to me. Diaries, books, toys. Sylvia was among them. Her hair was just as brown and her bangs just as full. But instead of a smooth, porcelain face, Sylvia now had scars all over her cheeks.