“Good morning, ladies and gents. Rise and shine. Let’s let in a little light, shall we? Oh, look at that, grey and greyer out there today. Tut, tut. I’ll lose my wager with Monsieur Thorn, I will. Bet him a Dead Lime Pie that snow would come Wednesday. Now I’ll have to go digging on the hill later. Best start the fire, too.

“What’s that? Oh, yes. You do indeed look mighty fine today, dear. Very… what’s that word? Comfortable? Content? C—oh, never mind. Let’s just straighten you up. Tuck in the old blanket, comb that thinning hair. Haha, yes, don’t worry, you’re still handsome. Dapper, even, one might say. Housecoat and pipe, ready to lounge. Though that doesn’t mean the same thing to youth these days, does it? I know, your eyes are tired of reading. But you have to memorise that Shakespeare before Madame Larry picks you up tomorrow. She’s expecting a savant, you know.

“Forgive me the fond little bop on the nose. You don’t mind, do you?

“And oh, hello, Annabelle. Your petticoat is mighty fine. Oh, yes. I do so love that silk. Blue as your eyes but—oh my! Have you been staying up past your bedtime, young lady? I do expect better of my guests. Now, don’t cry. It’ll smudge the paint. There. All better. You ought to take a leaf out of Elisabeth’s book. For there’s a lovely creature who knows how to handle herself, wouldn’t you say?

“Elisabeth, darling, your curls are très bien today, très bien. Here, let’s add a touch of rose on those cheeks. And a little luck spell for papa to go with it. Young Miss Holly was eyeing you from the window on Friday. I saw her as I went to fetch supper from the Fishmongers. A spoiled child like her ought to take home a special gift this Christmas, wouldn’t you agree?

“My darlings, my darlings. You’re thinning out this time of year. I shall make a new display for you today. A dash of sage, a hint of lavender, patchouli; yes, mayhap even clove. The customers will come, and out the door you’ll go.

“And finally, Jacques. Dear, dear Jacques. Don’t be so morose, my darling. Got to keep that collar perfectly crisp now, we have to impress the little lads and ladies. Straighten the jacket here, polish the boots there, et voilà, spick and span. Oh, yes. You’ll do nicely for the Vicar’s daughter, I think. She needs a little dream dalliance, in my humble opinion.

“But of course, you mustn’t take the word of this old witch.

“And, lo! The clouds have sprung a leak, and sunlight graces us his presence. Good day to you, ol’ baleful one. Thanks be for your rainbow.

“And good day to you, Miss Teresa, Master Thomas, Miss Juliette. Come on in, the store is warm. Cookies are baking. Works are making.

“I’m sure that I can find a doll you’ll like.”

To be.

Four toy realistic dolls looking over a suitcase
Photo by Pixabay on
Header image by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.

This short story originally appeared on Reddit/WritingPrompts’ themed prompt, ‘Cozy’.

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