As Halloween is nearly upon us time to return to Expat Moments for something a little more unnerving.
“You must have been very proud of her,” said the hotel owner.
I never knew her.
“We’re all proud of her,” she continued. “This is just my little tribute.”
“That’s nice,” I said. I didn’t mean it, obviously.
There mounted on the wall of the sitting room was the subject of our awkward conversation – a shelf on which the hotel owner kept her prized collection of “individually authenticated” Princess Diana dolls.
“She would have been so excited about Will and Kate’s wedding, don’t you think?”
The hotel owner certainly kept them all in good condition, there was no disputing that. I pictured her on a step ladder on her tip-toes, reaching out unsteadily as she tries to grab a doll to bring down for its once a week dusting. I couldn’t take my eyes off the collection. I had noticed them as I left the hotel bar for my room and I found myself stopping and staring intently at what I thought a strange collection. It seemed to me so odd to find in a New England hotel, until the elderly owner of the collection appeared by my shoulder.
“They get lots of admirers,” she said.
“Yes, I’m sure.” On hearing my accent, the hotel owner was doubly keen to talk to me about the “People’s Princess” and politeness forced me to stand there listening as she told me about the many, many Princess Diana books she owned, and how upset she had been when she died, but I found it hard to concentrate on what she was saying as ten doll’s eyes stared blankly back at me.
“Has anyone ever said that they find them…” I was unsure how wise I was in broaching this, “…just a little unnerving?”
“Are you one of those,” she said, her tone frostier. “Did you not like her? Well, I like you,” she said, addressing the dolls.
I didn’t sleep well that night. The whisky I had drank in the bar to warm me from the New England winter disagreed with me and I lay miserable in bed listening to the creaking of the old hotel.
Outside my door, I could swear I could hear the scratching of something trying to get in. The hotel owner must have a cat, I reasoned, I actually concluded that she probably owned half-a-dozen felines – and no doubt all named after British royalty.
When I did sleep, in my dreams I saw those ten doll’s eyes staring impassively at me. I dreamt of the dolls. Of one of them entering into my room, a knife in its hand, a reimagining of Chucky for genteel PBS watching old women. The doll stood on my chest and plunged its knife down. The princess of our hearts had come to claim mine…
The next morning groggy from the previous night’s drinking and poor sleeping, I went to check-out from the hotel. As I closed the door to my room I noticed a number of scratch marks towards the bottom of the door. Strange, I thought, I didn’t notice them before. I hoped that I wouldn’t see the owner as I had no desire to listen to another inane conversation about Royalty or even worse have her claim that I was the one responsible for scratching the door.
I was relieved to see not the owner but a young girl on reception.
“How was your stay?” she said.
“Fine,” I said.
Carrying my bag out to my car I passed the sitting room and I couldn’t help but look to the mounted shelf on which the collection of Diana dolls was housed, and there where they had been five dolls were now just four.
STAY TUNED for next tomorrow’s Halloween post – we’re sure you’ll go batty for it.
If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!
Img: by awindram.