I ducked out into the hall and found them rolling around in a Tasmanian Devil ball of fury. They're both crazy-super strong/fast or whatever, but given that Tonner Edward has a good ten inches on The Littlest Edward, I would have put the odds in his favor. But here's the thing: Tonner Edward had been so smug about having "a more complex construction" than a mere action figure like The Littlest Edward--you know, clothes and hair that are actually separate from his body and such--but what that meant was that TLE had a lot less for an opponent to grab hold of. And also, since TLE was a lot smaller, he kept slipping out of Tonner Edward's sight as well as his grasp. The fight turned decisively in TLE's favor when he grabbed hold of Tonner Edward's epaulets and swung up onto his back to seize the collar of his coat, which then allowed him to lunge down for a good throat-gnawing (which effectively left Tonner Edward too busy grabbing and shrieking to do any damage of his own), and once he got hold of The Hair, it was all over. The whole thing happened so fast that by the time I got to them, The Littlest Edward was slamming Tonner Edward's head into the carpet over and over again: "STAY! AWAY! FROM MY! BELLA!"
"WHOA WHOA HEY HEY I SAID HEY! HEY! OW! GODDAMMIT!"
Trying to break up the fight myself? Bad idea. I jerked back my hand with a nose-shaped dent in the back of my hand and the boys froze mid-thrash, as if they'd just suddenly realized what they were doing.
"Okay. Everybody calm down. Everybody be cool. Let go--let go of his hair--no, I'll hold him back, he won't--you won, okay? It's okay. You won. Let go. I SAID LET GO."
Everyone took a brief timeout to straighten their pea coats and rearrange their coiffures and glare at each other covertly.
"Look, okay, here's how it is: I bought Little Bella for Little Edward. Hence the 'Little.' She was made for him. Literally, by the same company, for him. I'm sorry, man, but he gets her. I mean, if she'll have him." Little Edward looked wounded. "Look! I'm not saying she won't! I'm just saying--you know--free will is good! It's her choice! But seriously, they're both from the same product line," I said, addressing Tonner Edward. "The odds are not in your favor. And let's face it, he kicked your ass fair and square. He gets dibs."
His eyes were still dark. "What if she doesn't choose him?"
The Littlest Edward growled.
The Littlest Bella had made such a bad impression on me that I wasn't even sure she was good enough for my little sparkle cowboy, so it seemed best to leave the ground rules open-ended: "Well... okay. You have to stay out of the way. You can't interfere. You can't sabotage him, you can't trip him up or go behind his back or engage in any little intrigues or whatever. But, you know... people have a funny way of running into each other. Mostly because there's only like three rooms up here. If she happens to approach you, if she makes the first move--well, it's reasonable for you to respond to that. And if she happens to like you better, well... if you're better suited for each other, that's the way the vampire sparkles, I guess. Those are your rules of engagement."
Tonner Edward glowered. "I don't know that I can agree to something weighted so heavily in his favor--"
"SWEAR. Swear on your honor as a gentleman that you will not touch her!" Little Edward said, so suddenly and so adamantly that I wondered what thoughts he saw flashing through Tonner Edward's mind.
"Good luck with that, I don't think he has any--"
And Tonner Edward shot a look at me as though I had cut him to the quick, which was unexpected. He stuck out his hand: "FINE." And so they shook on it.
And then The Littlest Edward headed back towards the Sparklerosa.
"What! You're not even gonna talk to her, even after all that?"
"It's feeding time," he said nervously. I didn't ask whose.
Back at my desk, Bella was taking off the cap and mittens. "They were fighting over who got to ask me out first, I bet."
I pursed my lips--hard. It's just her first day, I thought. Both the Edwards were shits their first day here, and one of them even got over it--give her time to settle in. The worst part? She was right.
She laughed when I didn't disagree. "So who won?"
"The little--the one your size, actually."
She snorted. "They both looked pretty lame."
Well, this is just fantastic. "What about the mittens?"
"They're okay. I just feel really... I don't know. Dumb, I guess. You can give them back to Laura or whoever."
Galadriel came gliding over. "Welcome, young..." She looked at Bella, and then she looked at me...? Awkward.
"Human," said Bella, pulling at her sleeves. "Just human, I guess."
Galadriel gave her a long, searching look--piercing, almost--and then she looked at me again, a thoughtful cast to her face. Given all the trash-talking both Eowyn and Anna had done for months, I was surprised when she invited The Littlest Bella over to The Shelf for pie later that evening. Oh Lord, I thought. She's getting her compassion on again.
"Well, this is gonna end well." Then she reached up and whispered something in my ear-- "What the hell, Gladdy! What did I ever do to you!"
"Think about it," she said. "Fourteen?"
"Oh... hfphhhh. Yeah. You got me there."
Of course, Purple Arwen was upset because Galadriel had apparently forgotten that Anna and Lizzie had stolen all the pie, not to mention that none of the Middle-earthers were particularly interested in socializing with The Whiniest Bella, so I decided to make sure that they associated her with something positive (not to mention unprecedented): a mini-marshmallow toast, over a big mango-scented candle with three wicks (fire for everybody!). If nothing else, this won over a pair of rejoicing Aragorns.
(Bella scrunched up her nose at the mango scent.)
"So... what do you guys do?" she asked. I'm not gonna lie, I was proud of her for showing interest in other people.
"Fight, mostly," said Faramir Two cheerfully, handing Legolas a fresh toothpick. "Although sometimes we also shoot things."
"Uh," said Bella. "Guy stuff."
"Fighting is everybody stuff," said Lyra sharply.
"What do you like to do?" asked Galadriel kindly.
"Bitch," Eowyn said under her breath, and Purple Arwen snickered.
Bella stared at Gladdy blankly. "Read... I guess."
"You used to go to a school, right?" (Lyra grimaced at the very mention.)
"Yeah... it was pretty boring, though. I've read all the books and I took advanced classes, so there was nothing really left to do. Most of the other kids were pretty dumb."
I noticed that Bella wasn't eating, though, and after a while she had kind of edged away from the group, her back half-turned from them. Finally I brought her a marshmallow myself, which she took reluctantly, one arm still clasped around her waist.
"So... what's up?" I said, although I might as well have said wrong.
"I'm kind of afraid of getting burned," she admitted. "You know. Fwoom!," and she unclutched her arm long enough to make kind of a "spontaneous combustion" gesture.
Neither of the Edwards participated--I wouldn't have let them, even if they could eat food, which obviously they can't--so The Littlest Edward had to sneak up and tug at my sleeve in order to pull me aside.
"Where is she going to sleep?" he asked anxiously.
"Nowhere for you to watch, that's for sure."
"She looks so cold," he fretted (Bella was sitting huddled on the edge of a box of stationery, trying to pull melted marshmallow off her hair before anyone else saw. Then she fell off). "You have to find her someplace warm. Someplace where he can't get to her."
"He's not going to 'get to her.' He promised on his honor as a gentleman. That he may or may not have." I sighed. "How about the sock drawer? Like... we'll open it up like a little trundle bed and she can have a sock for a sleeping bag."
"It has to be a clean sock--"
"WELL, YES, OF COURSE."
"--it has to be the best sock."
The thing is, in order to have a "best" sock, you have to have a diversity of socks in the first place, and I usually go around hobbit-footed, so... I don't really have that expansive a selection. Athletic socks for going around in sneakers, a couple of pairs of trouser socks for boots, hose for
(She was more than ready to give up on the social gathering. No one really noticed her leave, except Galadriel, who waved. Bella didn't bother to wave back.)
"Pink," she said, wincing, when I revealed her new bedroom. Uh... beddrawer. "The magenta's not too bad. Kind of a raspberry color."
"How about the letters?"
"Letters are cool." Then she spotted something-- "Huh. Cookies. Thanks."
And course I knew then exactly who had sneaked them out of (what was left of) Arwen's pastry stash and left them for her, like a little reverse Santa. I looked around the room to see if Little Edward was, in fact, watching, but all I saw was
Tonner Edward crouched in the shadow of the printer, directly opposite Bella and her socking bag and his rival's cookies, where he stayed all night.
(More from the Secret Life of Dolls; fan community)