Ray leans over Rebecca’s shoulder and crosses her right leg over her left. There is the familiar clunk as her pump clatters to the floor. “Oh, Rebecca,” he says, and replaces the red heel on her slender foot, then pushes her chair in toward the kitchen table. Ray places a napkin on his lap and gives Rebecca’s hand a squeeze as he says grace. Then he eats: scrambled eggs with Tabasco, news radio in the background.
Except for the occasional exclamation, Ray does not speak to Rebecca—that would be odd. Sometimes, it seems, she looks so hard into his eyes he thinks she’s about to say something. Other times she’s all blank stare, drifting.
There is a curtained window above the kitchen sink shaded by a large Poplar tree. If someone happened to walk by and look in they would see what appeared to be a couple enjoying breakfast.
Sept 2, 1998, at 1:05PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Yes, I remember speaking with you last January. Welcome back. There is approximately a four-month wait for Rebecca. This can be reduced to two months with an expedite fee of $500.
To answer your questions:
1) You are correct, heads are interchangable. You wrote, in addition to Rebecca (Style #2), you were eying the Stephanie head (Style #8) which is regularly $250, but I can give you 10% off as a volume discount.
2) The skeletal system is too flexible to allow her to stand upright. Rebecca will have the relaxed state of a sleeping girl.
3) You can soak Rebecca in a hot bath or put her under an electric blanket to create the sensation of body heat. Silicone retains heat very effectively.
On his way to work Ray stops at the Seven Eleven to buy a cheese danish, some floss and the paper. He is tall, slim and handsome which gives people, women mostly, the misperception he knows his way around the female sex. “Fine day, isn’t it?” the cashier says, eyes cast down, and slowly counts out Ray’s change, touching his palm with two quarters and a nickel. “Come back soon.” She looks into his eyes. Ray nods and leaves.
As the car idles Ray reads the front page and local business section before turning to the obits, a habit he’d taken to when his mother died five years ago. Ray and his mother lived as if they were one life slipped inside the other. They sat for hours, quiet together, Ray reading, she knitting or doing the crossword. As such, they communicated.
The week she died he clipped her obituary and, while it didn’t bring his mother home, it pinpointed her to a specific place even if it was only page thirty-two of the Des Moines Register.
He kept her room exactly as she had left it and slipped the piece of newsprint into a copy of Ladies Home Journal. Once a week he went in to dust and wind the bedside clock.
On Sept 15, 1998, at 11:05 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Thank you for your online order. This email serves as your receipt.
Body #4 (fully articulated)
Dress: blue gingham/white sandals
Notes: No makeup
Natural Hair (auburn, client sending color chip) $200.00
Tattoo (client sending picture/location) $125.00
Expedite fee $500.00
Grand Total $7616.75
**ALL SALES ARE FINAL**
When Ray hears the delivery truck pull up to the house the sensation is that of a white, hot flash—blinding but on the inside. He opens the garage door and waves the truck up the drive. It takes three large men to lower the wooden crate off the truck bed. If they know what it is they don’t let on.
Ray signs by the X and watches the truck pull away. As the garage door closes, a puff of air floats the yellow receipt up off the crate. It dips from side to side, rising a bit each time as it falls. Ray sits on a broken chair and stares at the crate for a long while. Sitting, not doing, in the stillness of the garage with the crate’s potential resting before him, Ray could not so much stop time as hold it till he felt ready.
At a later point, as if on command, he takes the electric drill from the pegboard and sets to removing the one hundred and twenty screws on the crate lid. Twenty minutes later he lifts the top and sees a shoulder covered in gingham. He breathes in, wipes sweat and swallows. As the peanuts fall away, Rebecca, shipped upright and seated, looks as if all she is waiting for is an outstretched hand to help her up.
Ray hoists Rebecca over his shoulder and carries her into the house setting her gently on the living room sofa. At first it feels awkward. He finds himself going wherever she isn’t, occasionally coming upon her with genuine surprise. He starts to feel like the house isn’t his. “This is ridiculous,” Ray says out loud and puts his fork down. He walks to the edge of the linoleum and peers into the living room. He sees Rebecca, right where he left her, reclining on the sofa.
As he approaches he clears his throat and sits in the chair adjacent to the corner where she lies. He leans back staring straight ahead, trying to look at her from the side. Her ears are pierced with cheap studs. Ray makes a mental note to buy new.
Hi, he thinks. Then out loud, “Hello.” Ray swallows and rises. “Rebecca, I’m Ray,” he says, and extends his hand. He takes a deep breath. “Nice to meet you.” You’re so beautiful,” he thinks, and starts to say as much but changes his mind and ends up exhaling a sort of choking sound. He laughs out of embarrassment, the clog of a sound he’d just produced echoing in his head and laughs some more. “Not you,” he says. “What I—” He laughs harder, doubles over and catches himself against the arm of the sofa, his giggling now high-pitched and baby-like. His stomach aches with the convulsions. After a minute or so he wipes his eyes and sits beside Rebecca. He lays his hand lightly over her long fingers and stays like that for a full fifteen minutes before falling asleep in a column of afternoon sun.
When Ray wakes the room is dark and he is hard. He looks over and sees Rebecca lying back on the sofa, legs crossed at the ankles. He runs his hand along the lower part of her arm, up and down slowly. Soft, he thinks. He senses no resistance.
In the dark he can’t quite see her so he runs his hand further up her arm into the gully between her shoulder and neck. With his other hand Ray reaches down to adjust himself but immediately, as if by magic, his pants are at his knees, Rebecca’s dress is up, and as if propelled, he is inside her.
After five vigorous minutes Ray rolls off breathing heavily. He leans his head back, opens his mouth and exhales. With the fingers of his left hand he feels his way over and pulls Rebecca’s dress down giving her leg a friendly pat.
For the next forty-eight hours Ray explores Rebecca with great enthusiasm. He lays her down. He sits her up. He spreads her legs. He bends her knees. He puts her on her stomach, side and rear. He uses pillows, blankets and a heating pad. He puts her legs over, beside and behind her head. He especially likes her on her knees, elbows bent, at your service. He stops only to eat, sleep and watch 60 Minutes. By the end of day two he feels he knows Rebecca well enough to attempt oral and finishes with a loud whisper of, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Dec 2, 1998, at 2:42 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Glad to hear Rebecca arrived safely. Re: perfume—do not apply directly to the skin. KY and baby products (no Vaseline!) are all we recommend. As for makeup, try Origins. It’s a little pricey but their line is pretty much all-natural and we’ve had no problems.
“5’10”, 36-25-30,” Ray tells the saleswoman in lingerie. “Something classy,” he says, looking back at the short, squat woman who jostled him with her shopping bags. “Nothing cheap.”
“Gown and robe? Bra and panty? Teddy? Chemise?” the saleswoman asks, gesturing toward four different mannequins with each pronouncement. Ray walks up to the first and rubs the silk robe between his index and thumb. “That’s nice,” he says, and reaches up to right the mannequin’s wig which had tipped too far to the left.
Once home, Ray enters the house quietly and drops his keys on the table. He walks past the kitchen and down the hall stopping first in the bathroom to fill the tub. He then makes his way to the bedroom where he takes off his boots and lays on the bed. “Becca,” he says leaning over in the dark, feeling with his fingers for her lips. “Evening, sweetheart,” he says, gently kissing her and, whether it is the lip balm he’d applied that created a fine suction or something more, he experiences Rebecca kissing back. He rests on his side, an arm draped over her hip, “I got you something. Come on,” he whispers then hoists her over his shoulder and carries her down the hall into the bathroom where he gently lays her into the pool of steaming bubbles.
Afterwards, Ray pulls the plug and the tub begins to drain. The soapy water is milky white. After drying himself he towels Rebecca’s hair and wraps it turban-style around her head. Using the hand-held sprayer he hoses off the islands of bubbles that remain on her skin. He then mixes a solution of one-part baby shampoo to five-parts warm water and, using a turkey baster, sets to gently cleaning. Ray hums a bright but nameless tune as he carefully squirts and refills, squirts and refills.
There was a time Ray had enjoyed aspects of live women—the smell of fresh-washed hair, seeing legs atop high heels, the flutter of animated hands, but women were unpredictable. They often became upset. Janice, the last woman he’d dated, three years ago for four months left his house half naked at 2:00 am after Ray had reached over her to jot down an idea during lovemaking.
“Janice?” Ray called, stumbling out of bed. He made it to the hallway just as the front door slammed. He stood flaccid and confused at the living room window as he watched her Jetta peel away.
Ray rubbed his tired eyes and walked back to the bedroom. On the way he passed his mother’s room and stopped. With his hand on the knob he stood there for a full minute before continuing down the hall.
On June 3, 2000, at 1:10 PM, email@example.com wrote:
We have had many special requests for custom configurations over the years, but yours is a first. I spoke with Rick and, while he has never attempted a pregnant body, he is confident he can meet the challenge. In order to execute this we have to build a custom mold requiring an additional charge of $1500 for a total of $8000 for the four-month body only. And, yes, of course, the Rebecca head will fit. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Three months later a second Rebecca arrives, identical in every way to the original except this one appears four months pregnant. Ray is particularly pleased with the taut roundedness of Rebecca’s belly complete with a dark line of skin running from the belly button down. And, while he knows it can’t be true, he could swear, when the light hits her cheeks, she looks just the slightest bit flushed.
Pregnant Rebecca is heavier and more difficult to move around, one hundred twenty five pounds of dead weight, but when Ray imagines his future, it’s as if his chest has bust wide open. Each day he can’t wait for the sun to fall so he can get to bed and happen upon a swelling belly in the middle of the night. When he does he simply caresses it, caresses her. The infinite roundedness and what it holds, perfectly packaged and protected, fascinates him. Ray presses all five fingers into the pliable silicone and, as the material regains its shape, he senses potential pushing back. He does not have sex with her. He reserves that business for original Rebecca, now headless on a cot in a downstairs closet.
Ray wraps a variety of holiday gifts and cuts another piece of ribbon. They are all for Rebecca so he needn’t label them but he does and sets them beneath the table tree. Reflections from glass ornaments climb up and down the walls as gas flames dance across fabricated logs. Ray sits Rebecca across from the hearth. Her cheeks light up from the glow. Billie Holiday plays on the stereo. Ray warms a glass of brandy in one palm and rests the other on top of her rising belly. Her hair is pulled back in a loose pony, face washed, scrubbed fresh and natural—a mother to be.
More and more Ray wants to share new Rebecca with the world, with those whom he comes into contact throughout the week—the checker, the mechanic, the waitress. He knows on some level this will never happen, but still, he thinks. He pictures the hostess’ face as he walks into the diner to be seated. “Two, Annie,” he would say.
Having leaned against her, Rebecca has slid several inches down the sofa. Sitting low and at an angle she looks confused or perhaps frightened. “Sh, sh,” and, “now, now,” Ray says, laying his head atop her belly. He imagines a kick, but after thirteen months he wants more.
On Jan 14, 2001, at 12:05 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Please review the order below. If it meets with your approval, sign and fax back. I am happy to answer any questions. As always, we appreciate your business.
Body #4 $5995.00
Special order: $1500.00
**Notes: 8 months pregnant**
**ALL SALES ARE FINAL**
To live in a constant state of expectancy is thrilling. Ray packs an overnight case and keeps it under the bed. Occasionally, he takes it out and goes over the contents. Will Rebecca be comfortable in this, he asks himself holding up a flannel nightgown. As the seasons change he swaps out wool for cotton, boots for sandals.
In preparation for the big day Ray practices. On weekends, around two or three in the morning, he loads the suitcase and buckles Rebecca into the passenger seat. He raises the garage door and the two of them sit, as if. After fifteen minutes or so Ray gets out of the car, walks just beyond the garage, onto the drive and looks in at Rebecca, ready to go.
Engrossed in this vision, Ray doesn’t notice the approaching car delivering the day’s news. A tossed paper catches him mid-calf. He falls more in surprise than pain. There is the sound of breaks screeching and the repetitive bell of the car door as the newspaper man jumps out, keys still in the ignition.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you,” the man says, running towards Ray then, “You ok?”
“I’m ok. I’m ok.” Ray fends off help and pushes himself to standing. He shields his eyes from the headlights.
“Sure you ok?” the man asks, looking around. He sees a woman in the car and yells in her direction, “I’m sorry.” Ray follows the man’s line of sight and sees Rebcecca, staring from the front seat, leaning to the left, mouth slightly open. She looks foreign to him. The man takes a step toward the car.
“I’m ok. We’re ok,” Ray says, limping as fast as he can toward the garage. He waves the man off, hits the button and the garage door begins to lower. The man, still standing in the drive, disappears in sections from the head down.
Ray rushes to the car, to the passenger side, throws the door open and unbuckles Rebecca tearing her nightgown in the process. He hoists her heavy body over his shoulder and runs her downstairs where first Rebecca and the four-month body are waiting on a beanbag chair and a cot, respectively, in the spare bedroom.
Ray is hot and he is sweaty. He lays eight-month Rebecca down rather indelicately. She hits the wall with a thud. “Sorry, I’m sorry,” he says, and begins unscrewing her head with haste, catching and tearing some hair in the threads. “I’m sorry,” he repeats, this time yelling and begins attaching the head to the four-month body, but as he does so something doesn’t feel right, there is no comfort, so he tries placing the head on the original body until he catches a glimpse of himself and the three headless dolls in the mirror. He freezes and in that instant it is as if a photo is snapped in his mind, a permanent memory created, never to be altered or undone. Another end, he thinks. Silicone head in hand, Ray falls back against the wall, heaving.