Previously on The Secret Life of Dolls: Tonner Edward's ailments and Anna's crimes revealed.
Let's fast-forward a little. At the end of last year, Anna was released from the Cabinet of Shame. And then I gave her a trident for Christmas, because I'm dumb. She was fond of trying to sneak up on Tonner Edward and poke him with it, but he is not only supersparklespeedy but could mind-hear her coming, so it was kind of a futile prank at best. Mostly he would just turn around and give her a weary look: Really? We're still doing this?
Fortunately, she was soon occupied with the intrigues of the Squirrelmageddon. The Middle-earthians were busy sharpening their plastic swords, tightening their bowstrings, and stockpiling fresh supplies of toothpick arrows. Galadriel gave up her fits and starts of trying to unravel the prophecy and focused on peering to the future as it related to battle full-time. I gave Lyra a kebab skewer for a spear--she already had her dagger, but I was hoping she wouldn't have to get close enough to a squirrel for hand-to-paw combat. She and Serafina helped Iorek patch up his skyfoil, and the rest of the time, he and Lyra very studiously took turns playing squirrel, to practice their attack moves. It generally ended up with the two of them rolling around laughing, but their dedication was otherwise admirable. Meanwhile, Legolas was trying to bribe the university raccoons with lembas to stop supplying arms to the enemy (which kept The Littlest Bella busy baking), but we couldn't be sure they weren't playing both sides anyway. Purple Arwen spent a great deal of time distilling more miruvor for first aid, and I even caught Fugagorn flexing his fingers and cracking his knuckles, presumably to keep the Hands of a King in good shape for healing. White Arwen, on the other hand, set about the traditional war-time duty of Arwens: sewing banners. She got a bit held up when Ellowyne Two dropped one of Bella's jelly doughnuts on her new white Edwardian Pimp outfit and demanded that White Arwen (with her expertise in white fabrics) drop everything help her get the stain out. It was an emergency, after all, because Ellowyne Two was stuck with her old green hoodie outfit until the new one could be cleaned. The jelly persisted, but Arwen was too serene to complain.
And they all had plenty of time to prepare, because, as Helm's Deep Aragorn pointed out, campaign season was pretty much over and the squirrels were mostly hibernating until the spring. However, Tonner Edward also took out his depression on the local wildlife, much as Faramir Two had hoped he would. Thus, hostilities ceased for the winter in part because Tonner Edward ate half the enemy. The squirrels were going to be pissed when it was time to fight again, of course, but there would only be half as much squirrel pissosity now, so it was all going to come out in the wash. Probably.
I decided to get Lyra a helmet just in case.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Christmas decorating seemed to have awakened some kind of nesting instinct in The Littlest Edward. He became very anxious for Bella to have a proper house of her own--something enclosed, rather than just her open, exposed beddrawer.
"You know there are mice in the attic," he said savagely--
"Whoa, simmer down there, Sparkles--"
"--and you know they must have come in through openings in the walls. You know how cheaply the house was built--you complain about it all the time. Newspaper instead of insulation! Leaks in the attic! A bird--a bird!--got caught in there once, the holes under the eaves were so big. Look me in the eye" (he was clutching my sleeve now, said eye fierce and wide and goldenscotch) "and tell me that the mice won't sell us out. That there is no way the squirrels can get into this house. THEY MIGHT ALREADY BE HERE. You don't know."
"I think I have more dollhouse stuff in the attic," I said weakly.
We had three major possibilities:
1) The pink and blue My Little Pony Dream Castle, which you could only fold into a rather flimsy triangle, and so was not a terribly useful fortification (and also, I couldn't find most of it). We were already using the horseshoes, the yellow basket, and a few other pieces at the Sparklerosa as it was. "I'm pretty sure I've still got the baby dragon, if you think that'd help." "I'll think about it."
2) The red and white Strawberry Shortcake Berry Happy Home, which didn't technically have a back but could be pushed against a wall; the only problem was that the scale was a smidge too small for the Littlest Shelfians. (Bella already had some of the kitchen appliances, for example, and bitched about them constantly. I mean, more so than usual.) So we set that idea aside as a possible emergency shelter for the ponies, although Little Edward was strangely drawn to the porch swing.
3) The pink and pink and pink and pink My Little Pony Paradise Estate, which had a very open and indefensible layout, not to mention a swimming pool, which Little Bella would probably lose no time drowning in. However, if you took that and the patio out, and you simply pushed the four rooms together--voilà. Instant house. There wasn't a solid door that could be closed, but, as a Vampirus scintilla, minimus or not, Little Edward was certainly strong enough to push everything back together at night.
The doorways and windows were a bit low, but the ceilings were quite lofty inside; there were even ceiling fans (although they needed repair). Even Edward had to admit that the sticker "furniture" on the walls was kind of stupid, particularly since the Estate also came with actual furniture, but he had an answer for that: the cardstock scrapbooking paper sturmclanhad sent him. A dust cloth, some wallpaper, a little cleaning spray--he could have a real home for Little Bella fixed up in no time. We were still not sure where to put it--I wasn't sure where we would have room; Edward wanted to be as near the Sparklerosa as possible; Bella was adamant that she was not going to live "on the candy horse farm, are you serious?" So we had a bit of the fox-goose-grain problem going (once again). But for the moment, The Littlest Edward had set up a little home improvement workshop out in the hall. Domestic arrangements were a problem for another day.
"So... does this mean you're going to... live together?"
The not-color drained out of Little Edward's face. "Uh--of course not. She'll live here. I'll--watch. I mean. Watch the house. From the stable. Yes."
"You could always get married." Reader, I cannot deny that there was a bit of slyness in my tone. Of course, I was also curious as to why he wasn't jumping at the opportunity, given that Edwards as a species are usually obsessed with marriage, RIGHT NOW, all the time, A LOT.
"Well--I--isn't it--too soon for that? I mean--we should probably--court--a little longer."
Ah. Still bashful, our little sparkle cowboy.
I heard a listless snort from the bookshelf, whence Tonner Edward had apparently been watching the proceedings. "Oh, I'm sure she'll want to spend the rest of forever with the scrapbook king as soon as possible. Queen of the pink pony palace, who could turn it down--"
The Littlest Edward rounded on him then, so vehemently that I actually took a step back: "I have creatures who depend on my care, I have responsibilities, I have a home and a profession and a woman who loves me. What do you have? Nothing. You have nothing. And you never will. I'm less than half your size but I'm twice the man you are."
Even the ponies looked shocked.
I have seen a lot of terrible looks on Tonner Edward's face, but the expression there now was by far the worst; I think Little Edward could have stabbed him in the heart and he would have felt it less. And the worst part, of course, was that it was true. As far as their rivalry went, I think it was a blow he never entirely recovered from. He turned around and left the room without a word.
I had no idea at the time that things could possibly get worse.
(Continue to part two.)
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