She spent Sunday morning doing homework before she drifted to the doll studio. She'd painted eyebrows, eyes, and lips on Caroline when the phone rang. A familiar, male voice said, "Is this one of the Dunlaps? I'd like to order another doll."
Lily frowned. She knew the voice, but couldn't place it. "Yes, this is Lily Dunlap. How can I help you?"
"This is Doctor Cornell Cross. You did Sunny's doll for me. The more I look at it, the more I realize how perfect it is. I didn't get that one in time, but I still think it would have meant a lot to Sunny. I have two other patients who could use dolls. No hurry on the one. Georgina's going to be here a while. Behavior modification. But if I mailed you a picture of Blair, could I ask you to rush her order a little?"
If Cornell Cross needed dolls, that meant those two girls had serious problems. Lily hesitated. Did she want to do another doll for Cornell Cross? Not really, but what if his idea was right? What if a doll could help a troubled girl cling to hope, a symbol of her healthy self? And how awful would she be if she told him no? She sighed. If a doll could really help someone…. Lily swallowed hard. "You could fax the pictures, so I can start on Blair's right away. If I really push, I could finish hers next weekend and send it special delivery." That way, Blair's doll would be out of the house as quickly as possible. Blair must be pretty unstable if Cross was in such a hurry, and unstable girls were the ones that made Lily nervous.
"Perfect. Give me the info, and I'll send the photos as soon as I hang up. And remember, you can take your time on Georgina's."
While Lily waited for the fax, she chewed her bottom lip. Cross obviously saw Georgina as a long-term patient. Good. But Blair must be critical. Not so good. Would every doll replica for a person with serious mental or emotional problems give off strange vibes? Working on Sunny had been a creepy experience. But then Sunny was having all kinds of problems—manic-depression with huge ups and downs. Blair could be entirely different. At least, Lily hoped she was.
The fax machine hummed, and Lily went to look at the girls' pictures. The first had to be Blair. Haunted, dark eyes gazed back at her—a waif with pale, translucent skin and an aura of fragility. She looked as if she might dissolve away. Lily sighed. She had a feeling this doll wasn't going to be any easier to work on than Sunny had been. The second picture showed a girl with a round face and lots of attitude. A stud protruded from her right nostril and small circle earrings followed the line of her eyebrow. Another circle looped at the corner of her lips. She wore spiked, dirty blond hair. Her hazel eyes were rimmed with lots of black liner. Dull black polish painted her fingernails. A tattoo decorated the left side of her neck, disappearing under her black jacket. A few kids at Lily's school were Goth, but they wore their studs and piercings more as decoration, where Georgina's looked like armor—a don't mess with me type vibe.
Lily squared her shoulders. The sooner she started on the dolls, the sooner she'd finish them. But first, she'd do the last painting on Caroline. She went to the work table and dabbed a small dot of peach paint on an absorbent cotton square. She smudged it on Caroline's cheeks and blended the edges to create a delicate, light blush. The paint wouldn't dry for three days, plenty of time for Lily to mold Blair's head and get a good start on her doll.
She had the cold water putty draped over wadded up newspapers and was shaping Blair's face when someone knocked at the door. "It's open. Come in!" She couldn't stop in the middle of this step or the putty would dry before she could shape it properly.
Jackson stepped out of his boots in the foyer and padded back toward the studio. "Are you in the middle of something? Will I bother you?"
"No, but I have to work while I talk."
He stopped when he saw Caroline's head and shoulders drying on the other end of the table with her doll's muslin body lying next to them. His green eyes went wide. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"
"Lots of guys think so. They swarm to her like flies until she scares them away."
"She comes off as bossy, I'll give you that.' He dropped onto a stool and leaned his elbows on the work table. "But I'd say she's just direct. She speaks her mind. So does Woodrow. I like that." He reached for the picture of Blair and pulled it to him. "Who's this? A new order?"
Lily explained about Cornell Cross calling for two more dolls.
"Woodrow's not going to like this." Jackson studied Blair's photo and shook his head. "That girl looks like she's never been happy a day of her life."
"She looks permanently sad, doesn't she? If Cross is right and a doll can help her, how could I say no?"
"It's one syllable. It's easy."
"Would you have?"
Jackson grimaced. "You know me—Mr. Softy. It's not my strong point."
"Mine either." Lily finished molding Blair's face and started on the solid column of putty for the neck.
Jackson reached for Georgina's picture and gave a low whistle. "She looks like she could knife you."
"Cross said she needed behavior modification."
"Probably anger management. She's scary."
Lily stopped working for a second to glance at Jackson. "You never drop in during the day for a visit. What's up?"
He fidgeted with the newspapers she was going to crunch up to shape the doll's shoulders. "I don't suppose if you made Caroline's soul mate doll and it's not me, you could just hide it and pretend you didn't see anything when you made her replica, could you?"
"And lie?" Lily stared at him.
He looked away, breaking eye contact. "No. Yes. I'm sorry. It's just that I…"
"You really like her, don't you?"
"Other people go to singles' clubs and mixers to meet people. They take their chances, and a lot of them are happy."
"I couldn't see the doll and not make it."
"I'm being a putz." He pushed himself off the stool and started for the door. "Don't pay any attention to me. I'm an idiot. Just do whatever it is you do. But hurry. The waiting's driving me nuts."
"I'm going as fast as I can," Lily told him. "But putty and paint both take time to dry."
"I know. Pretend I didn't come. You're doing us a favor, as is. I'll go home and quit pestering you." He hesitated at the door. "If you see the soul mate doll, and I'm a lot older than I am now, would it be cheating if you made the doll younger, my age now, so we don't have to wait years before we get together?"
"Okay, okay, I'm going."
"You'll be back for supper tonight, won't you?"
"Are you kidding? That's free food and sitting at a table and talking instead of grabbing something and sitting in front of the TV."
"Is that what you and Woodrow usually do?"
"Maybe." When Lily frowned at him, he said, "We're guys. Give us a break."
Shaking her head, she shooed him out the door. Then she went back to the work table and finished the neck and shoulders for the Blair doll and connected the head. She pushed the picture of Georgina aside. She'd concentrate on Blair first. By the time the guys came for supper, she had Blair's body pattern traced on muslin too. She'd gotten a good start in one day. When she came home from school tomorrow night, she'd sew Caroline's clothes and dress her doll, and then she'd see Caroline's soul mate. She smiled. If everything went right, when Woodrow and Jackson came for supper on Tuesday night, she'd have a small, rag doll of Jackson sitting on his dinner plate—a sure sign that he and Caroline were right for each other.