Lisa loves spending time with her maternal grandmother. Almost all her holidays, be it Fourth of July, Labour Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas, she has spent with her doting grandma. It has always been a long standing Montgomery family tradition to gather at their grandmother's ancestral home for any occasion.
She had always loved visiting her grandma Rose for three very important reasons. The first being, she, Lisa, was her favourite granddaughter, and second, she absolutely loved her grandmother's cooking. Especially her double chocolate chip cookies, which she thought was heavenly. And the third, her grandmother’s priced possession.
It was the most coveted heirloom within the Montgomery household. Handed down from generation to generation over the years, from mother to daughter to grand daughter.
It was not a valuable piece of jewellery nor expensive china or silverware. It was a beautifully handcrafted vintage dollhouse which belonged to her grandmother Rose. It was gifted to Rose's mother Agatha on her eighth birthday by her father, who built the dollhouse himself, along with every little piece of furniture and fitting inside it, including the miniature dolls. It was then handed down to Rose when she had turned eight years old.
Rose Montgomery had cherished that dollhouse ever since that day. It had been her pride and joy. She considered herself very lucky to have received such a wonderful gift from her mother whom she adored more than anyone else in the world. Her grandpa had poured all his love, heart, and soul into the dollhouse and every little piece in it.
It was this dollhouse that Lisa was going up to see. She felt like a pilgrim climbing a hill to gaze upon a miraculous religious relic adored and worshiped by the faithful through the years.
Lisa tiptoed up the stairs to the attic, careful so as not to make a sound, as she didn't want anyone to know what she was up to.
She wanted to take a peek at the most loved, most cherished item among her grandmother's possessions. It was what her mother and her aunt Abigail ever talked about whenever they got together.
Her heart began to race as she reached the landing. She stood there in front of the attic door, nervously glancing down the stairwell to make sure she was not being followed by her younger sister Christina. She could hear the faint sounds of chatter and laughter of her mother, grandmother and aunt as they sat in the dining room, reminiscing about times gone by.
“Phew! The coast is clear!” she whispered to herself, heaving a sigh of relief as she stepped forward anxiously, reaching for the door handle and turning it. The door opened with a click. She pushed it back ever so slowly, half expecting to hear a choir of angels to start singing a heavenly tune as she crossed the threshold and walked inside nervously. Her eyes fixed on the object she longed very much to gaze upon, to touch, to examine every piece that was carefully placed inside.
She knew deep down that she wasn't supposed to be up here. She was treading on forbidden ground. Her grandmother had instructed her and her sister not to venture into the attic unsupervised. And Lisa knew the reason why. Grandma Rose guarded her dollhouse like a sentry guards the entrance to a fortress.
Lisa took a deep breath and went closer. Just as she was reaching to pull back the white linen sheet covering the dollhouse she heard a mouse like voice behind her.
“What are you doing? You know you aren't supposed to be up here?” her sister Christina said wagging a tiny finger at her.
“Shhh!…not so loud, Christie, I don't want grandma to know we are up here!” whispered Lisa annoyed that her sister had found her out.
She walked towards her sister as she continued, “I just wanted to see the dollhouse, that's all, I can't wait till next month!” she concluded.
“What's happening next month?” Christie asked confused.
“My birthday, silly, I will be eight, grandma has promised to give the dollhouse as a present on my birthday!” she declared gleefully.
“How do you know?” Christie inquired with a suspicious look in her eye.
“I overheard mommy telling aunt Abbie, just before we came here!” Lisa exclaimed, unable to contain her excitement.
“That’s not fair, what about me? I love the dollhouse too, I want it too!” cried Christie.
Shhh!...keep your voice down, they'll hear us! Whispered Lisa covering her sister's mouth with her hand, trying to muffle her voice.
“You are still too young to own a dollhouse like this. You wouldn't know how to handle it, I am big enough so grandma is giving it to me!” Lisa replied proudly.
“Still, it isn't fair, I am her granddaughter too, it should belong to both of us!” Christie continued with her protesting.
“Well, I happen to be her favourite granddaughter, and she has promised to give it to me, and that's that. So stop your whining and suck it up, little sis!” Lisa said.
It's not fair…I would be…!
“What’s going on up here?” a voice said interrupting Christie in mid sentence.
Both girls turned at the same time to see their grandmother standing in the doorway, with her arms folded, staring at them with an accusatory look in her eye.
“I thought I told you girls that this attic is off limits!” Rose said looking at each of their horror stricken faces and smiling to herself.
“Yes, grandma, you did” answered Lisa.
“Then what are you both doing up here?” she asked.
“I had nothing to do with it, It's Lisa, she was the one doing all the snooping, I just followed her up here to see what she was up to, that's all!” cried Christie.
“What’s happening up here?” Ashley, their mother asked as she walked through the door followed closely by aunt Abigail.
“Your two daughters have been snooping around in my attic!”
announced Rose, pointing at them.
“It’s not my fault mommy, Lisa was here first, I only followed her, to see what she was up to!” Christie continued, crying and running to her mother.
“I am sorry mommy, I am sorry grandma, I only wanted to see the dollhouse!” Lisa confessed looking earnestly towards her mother and then at her grand mother.
“It's alright honey, but your grandma's right. You shouldn’t be up here snooping around when she has specifically told you not to!” said Ashley lovingly gazing down at them.
“Oh, for heaven's sake mother, let them be. They are just kids. You sound as if they had robbed you or something. They just wanted to see the freaking dollhouse! What's the big deal?” exclaimed Abigail annoyed with her mother's interrogation?
“You stay out of this ‘Miss. Big mouth!” said Rose pointing a finger at her youngest daughter. “To you it may be a ‘freaking doll house' as you so eloquently put it, but for me it's much more than that. It is a labour of love! My grandpa made this with his own hands, every piece you see was handcrafted by him. It's worth much more than all the expensive toys out there, these days!” declared Rose.
“Golly! You make it sound like it's the eighth wonder of the world!” exclaimed Abigail with a smirk.
“To me it is!” cried Rose now getting slightly agitated at her younger daughter's remarks.
“Alright…you two that's enough! Let's not start ‘World War Three' because of a dollhouse, shall we?” Ashley declared cutting in before either of them spoke again.
“Come along girls, let's go out for a walk!” Ashley said as she walked towards the door.
“Ashley Montgomery, the peacemaker! Ladies and Gentlemen” said Abigail doing a theatrical bow, which made the two little girls start giggling as they all filed out of the attic, leaving the dollhouse un-touched.
Later that night……..
She sat up in bed and glanced towards her sister sleeping snugly under the covers. She pulled the covers back and got off the bed, slipping her feet into her fluffy rabbit night slippers and tiptoed towards the door, halfway through the floorboards creaked under the weight of her feet. She stopped dead on her tracks and glanced anxiously towards her sister's bed. She was sound asleep. “mommy’s right, she does sleep like a log!” she said to herself, smiling.
She reached the door and opened it carefully and crept outside into the dark hallway. As she got near the stairwell leading up to the attic, she looked back, making sure that nobody was behind her. She ascended the stairs to the attic, opened the door and went inside.
The next morning……….
Ashley was in the kitchen making breakfast while she chatted with Abigail. Lisa and Christie were busy watching cartoons on TV while devouring their breakfast cereal hungrily.
“Hey, slow down you two, you are supposed to eat your cereal, not force it down your throat!” Abigail teased as she broke out laughing.
“Maybe, they are late for an appointment?” Ashley chimed in winking at her sister and joining in on the merriment.
“Hey, Ash, I’ve been meaning to ask you, how come mom didn’t pass the dollhouse to any of us?” asked Abbie.
“Well, when we were growing up all you did was dismantle every toy you got, thinking that you could put them back again. You had this cardboard box full of dismembered dolls, remember? I am sure mom thought better of it, seeing how you treated your toys!” answered Ashley.
“Yeah…I remember!” replied Abbie laughing.
“I, on the other hand, didn't care for dollhouses or dolls, all I was interested in was mom's Tupperware collection!” Ashley exclaimed, making Abbie and the girls laugh even harder.
Their laughter was cut short by a blood-curdling scream from upstairs.
“Mom?” cried Abigail.
Ashley was the first to reach the first floor landing followed closely by the rest.
“Mom? Where are you?” shouted Ashley?
“Up here in the attic!” came the reply.
They all dashed in to the attic and found Rose kneeling on the floor in front of the dollhouse. The linen cloth covering it, was on the floor. Two of the miniature dolls were broken, the pieces scattered about on the floor.
“Oh my God! Mom, what happened?” Ashley asked, in shock.
“I came up here to look for some old magazines and I found it like this!” she said through sobs.
Ashley turned to face her daughters. Lisa who was right behind her shrugged and said, “I didn't do anything!”
She then looked over at Christie, who was hovering near the doorway looking down, refusing to make eye contact.
Ashley went towards her and knelt in front of her and asked, “What happened here, Christie? Did you do this?”
Christie slowly lifted her head, eyes brimming with tears and said, “It isn't fair, why should grandma give the dollhouse to Lisa?” I am her granddaughter too. Why can't I have it?”
“Is that why you broke the dolls, Christie?” inquired Abigail walking up to her.
“Yes!” replied Christie.
“Why?” probed Abigail.
“Because I was jealous, because grandma loves Lisa more than me and I didn't want her to have the stupid dollhouse, that's why!” Christie shouted as she turned away and ran from the room, crying hysterically, as the rest ran after her.
They found her lying in her bed, face down, crying to her pillow.
As Ashley was about to approach her, Rose stopped her, her own eyes full of tears, saying, “Please let me talk to her, I get the feeling that I am to blame for all this!”
Ashley nodded and let her mother approach the weeping child on the bed. Rose sat on the edge of the bed and gently placed a hand on her back as she coaxed the child to turn and face her saying, gently “ Christie, sweetheart, please sit up and look at me?”
The child did so reluctantly, as she wiped away her tears with the back of her hand.
“Christie, sweetheart, I am so sorry if I made you feel unloved. You are right, I shouldn't have favoured Lisa more than you. I am sorry that I made you hate her, feel jealous of her. It was wrong of me to do so. Please forgive me, darling?” Rose implored through tears.
“I am sorry for ruining your doll house grandma!” cried Christie.
“Oh! Honey it's okay. It can be replaced at any time. You, on the other hand, my darling granddaughter are irreplaceable! Both of you are, she said looking over at Lisa, smiling through tears as she hugged Christie tightly in her arms.
Later that evening………
Ashley, Abbie and Christie were in the den watching TV when Lisa burst into the room and shouted, “Grandma’s burning the dollhouse!”
“What?” cried both Ashley and Abbie in unison as they rushed out into the back yard.
“Mom, what are you doing? Are you crazy?” shouted Abbie watching the fire as it started to engulf the precious dollhouse.
“I should've told you this a long time ago”, said Rose turning towards them, eyes glistening with tears . “I stole the dollhouse away from your aunt Lily!”
“What? We have an aunt named Lily?” shouted her daughters in unison again.
It wasn't supposed to come to me. It was supposed to go to Lily, she being the oldest. I was so jealous of her getting all the attention and all the best gifts, so one day I snuck into my grandma's bedroom and took her emerald brooch out of her jewellery box, she loved that brooch so much, it was her most priced possession as it was an anniversary gift from grandpa.” She replied, avoiding her daughters shocked and bewildered faces as she continued.
“I took it and hid it in Lily's suitcase as I have seen her admiring it during one of our raids into grandma's room. When grandma was looking for it and couldn't find it, I told her that I saw Lily admiring it one day in her room. So naturally Lily's suitcase was searched and the brooch was found.
“Grandma how could you do such an awful thing?” cried Lisa.
“Believe me sweetheart, that wasn't one of my proudest moments” she exclaimed, with tears rolling down her cheek.
Your aunt Lily never forgave me. She was always suspicious of me ever since that day. I can't blame her really, it was all my doing. I brought it upon myself. We remained on unspeaking terms ever since she left for college.” she concluded with a sad sigh.
“Is that why you never spoke of her, never even mentioned her?” inquired Abbie.
“Yes.” replied Rose.
“Why!” asked Ashley.
“Because, I felt guilty and ashamed. I didn't want you girls to think I am such a horrid person. That's why. It's the main reason why I didn't want any of you going up to the attic. I didn't want you finding anything out as I kept all of our memories hidden away in that blessed attic. The dollhouse was just an excuse to keep you away.” she replied.
“So is she still alive?” inquired Ashley.
“No, she passed away four years ago. I received a letter from her once, saying that she had gotten married and had her first child, a baby girl. She even went on to say that she had forgiven me. I was so happy to read those words that I went down on my knees and wept. I even wrote back and told her that I would gift the dollhouse to her daughter, Joanna!” replied Rose.
“But you didn't, did you?” asked Abbie.
“No, I changed my mind at the last minute!” she said through sobs.
“Oh, mom, how could you be so cruel? Even after she forgave you!” cried Ashley.
“Believe me darling, I felt so rotten inside and out. She stopped corresponding after that.” said Rose.
“Oh my God! We have a cousin sister out there who probably has no idea that we exist!” cried Abbie.
“So, is that why you are burning the dollhouse, grandma?” Christie who have been quiet all this time, finally asked.
“Rose burst into tears when Christie called her ‘grandma' as she extended her arms towards her, Christie ran towards them as Rose bent down and lifted her up into her arms, as she hugged her grandma tight.
“Yes sweetheart, that is why I am burning the dollhouse. I should've done it a long time ago!” she answered.
She continued as she gestured Lisa to come forward while she put Christie down and knelt down in front of them and continued.
“I don't want you girls fighting over, being jealous or even hating each other over anything. You are all you have in the end, each other. Just like mommy and aunt Abbie has each other. I want you to remember that. I may have favoured Lisa before, but from this moment on I am going to favour both of you equally!"
Rose paused for a moment before continuing.
I think the reason I favoured Lisa was because, it was my way of trying to redeem myself from the injustice I caused Lily. You remind me of her. You even look like her!” she said looking at her oldest granddaughter.
She hugged the two girls again as tight as she possibly could as they all continued to sob while the roaring fire turned the dollhouse into a pile of ash.