"Oh my GOD, look at YOUUUUUU. You are just PRECIOUS, LOOK AT YOU."
Her hair was kind of weird--gelled, separated ringlets that I was tempted to brush out, but you know how that is: you ain't ever gettin' that back the way it was. And unlike Tonner Edward's original shellacked coiffure, it looked reasonably good. She had very soft bootcut corduroy pants, with "REAL POCKETS! YOU HAVE REAL POCKETS! And belt loops holy shit," a fleece-lined hoodie (which of course she couldn't use the hood of, because of the giant ringlets), and a wee little embroidered peasant blouse with a green tank top underneath. Her socks and shoes were bagged separately ("THEY LACE UP, OH THAT IS JUST PRECIOUS"), because it's like Tonner knows we want the fun of putting tiny clothes on dolls. That's basically why we collect dolls, you know: a sickness of love for tiny things.
And then she fell over.
"I'm sorry, they made me kind of weird," she said while I was helping her get her jacket on. (She was already starting to shiver a little, even though it was--at that point--June.) "I mean, they gave me high-heeled feet but flat sneakers. And my legs keep twisting around to the side? I'm not sure what's up with that."
"So... clumsiness was pretty much installed at the factory."
She laughed. "Yeah, pretty much. Is that okay? I mean, if you need to send me back or whatever--"
"No, no! Absolutely not!" I said. "You are PRECIOUS."
She blushed. "Well, thank you."
Reader, you will forgive me for checking both the invoice and the label on her box at that point. Considering that I didn't remember her outfit from anywhere in the movie, either, I was starting to have my suspicions. But nope, there it was:
By the time I got her upstairs, everyone knew she was coming. Probably because they'd heard me go all clappy-squee. The Shelf is a family, certainly, but it's also getting to be more of a village than a single-family home, if you get what I'm saying, so a new arrival is not as big a deal now as it used to be. There were a few groans of "Oh, not again" that I hoped New Bella didn't hear. The Littlest Edward had scampered up to The Littlest Bella's beddrawer to get a better view, but he had more of a curious look on his face than anything. By and large, everyone went back to their own business, leaving Galadriel to glide over and do the welcome-wagon ritual at my desk by herself.
"I can't go through this again," she said, stricken.
"Gladdy, she's right here, she can hear you--"
Bella discreetly averted her eyes, albeit with visible concern.
"Not another one, not another--accident--"
"It's fine, it's fine--it's gonna be different this time, I'll take care of everything--just--do your thing."
She sighed fretfully. "Welcome, then, young human. I am the Lady of Lórien --"
By this time, Bella had re-verted her eyes and gotten a good look; her face lit up. "Oh! Is it really you--!"
"Yes. By definition, I am really me," said Galadriel (perhaps experience had predisposed her to be cranky).
"The Lady of the Golden Wood! It's such an honor to meet you."
Galadriel gave me a look that plainly said, I don't know what's going on here, but I don't understand it and it frightens me.
"Wait--you've read Lord of the Rings? I thought you just read stuff like... Austen and... the Brontës and... stuff."
"Well, yeah, but then I kept reading." She looked up eagerly at me: "Who else lives here?"
I looked across the room: Lizzie had dragged Anna back to the circle, so the D&D game hadn't quite broken up yet, and Bella had thrown me for such a loop that I was feeling reckless. "Well! I tell you what! Let's go find out!"
And of course, who should we run into on the way across the room but Eowyn and Faramir One, bringing Windfola back from his exercise in the living room. They both wore curious looks at first--neither of them had any idea who this new doll was, or why I would have gotten her. And then I said--knowing, even as I said it, what reaction I was going to get--"Oh, hey! Eowyn, Faramir--this is... this is Bella."
Faramir glanced over at Eowyn, who was in the strange position of being one of three dolls who had read Twilight, and the only doll who had read further into the series than that. As such, she... knew things. I wasn't sure how much she knew, but I did know that she'd read far enough into Eclipse to try to kick the book across the room (and only stub her toes for her trouble). As such, Eowyn did not have a whole lot of patience for Bellae. She narrowed her eyes.
"It's such an honor to meet you," said Bella, clinging to the tried and true.
Eowyn gave me a side-eye that Gladdy would have been proud of.
"Give her a chance!" I whispered. Faramir extended his hand with automatic chivalry, but, judging by the squint of his eyes, he seemed to be doing complicated arithmetic in his head ( [Eowyn likes Little Edward] x [because she likes those books x (which nearly ruined everything) ] = [so she doesn't like Little Bella because Little Edward likes Little Bella + (also Little Bella is kind of annoying) - (but she's a really good cook) ] but Eowyn never liked Tall Edward and... but... so... Tall Bella... carry the two...) "I don't know what's going on either, but it might be good!"
"Your horse... he's really beautiful...?" Bella offered tentatively. "One of the Mearas?"
"Okay, great, yeah, civil unrest avoided, that's great, so, hey, we'll talk to you guys later--" I hustled Bella off (gently) to the D&D circle. Best to get the worst of it over with, I figured. "Heyyyyyyy guyyyyyys! New kid in town! Tonner Bella! I know you'll all make her feel welcome! ALL OF YOU."
I am sorry to report that Faramir Two (who had lived through Eowyn's Twihard phase and the toll it had taken on his brother-self) rolled his eyes. Anna took one look at Bella Motherfucking Swan and puckered her lips viciously; Elizabeth looked over, saw that, and rolled her eyes. Then Anna started mutely vibrating with hate where she sat. Lizzie nervously began to stroke Anna's hair, which would have been easier if it hadn't been bristling. The Littlest Edward did climb down from the dresser and come forward to offer Bella his hand, though somewhat shyly. I wondered then if Tonner Bella's Outrageous Flavor was overpowering him, given that she was two and a half times larger than his own Bella and must have been throwing off one hell of a tastyblood aura. But he seemed to be holding up fine--
"Have you ever killed anyone?" asked Lyra. Always dependable, our Lyra.
Bella looked down at the dice and the half-filled character sheets. "Well, no--I've never played before."
"No, I mean really killed someone. Everyone else here has. You en't a coward, are you?"
Bella looked around at the others. "S'up," said Legolas with a little salute. Then she looked up at me (looked back at Legolas, realized who he was, and gave an incredulous little shake of her head) in confusion.
"I'm sure she'll be plenty happy to kill people when the time rolls around," I said quickly.
She reached out then to pet Pan (who was sniffing around at her shoes), much to Lyra's horror and indignation: "You don't go touching people's daemons like that!"
So Bella shrank back, afraid to say or do anything else, and watched the others pull the game back together. The Littlest Edward kept glancing over at her, but whatever he was thinking, he kept it to himself. Then Iorek trundled over, perhaps in some ursine sense of chivalry, and nose-butted Bella in the shin.
"YOU MAY PET ME."
He then rolled over obligingly, his little plush legs lazily pedaling the air while Bella rubbed his belly and tried to keep a straight face.
"Iorek! En't you got dignity anymore!"
"I DO," he said, unshaken. "I ALSO HAVE TUMMY RUBS."
By that time, the gang had gone around the circle and gotten to Tonner Edward's turn; Edward, of course, had abandoned the game, never having wanted to play it in the first place, and they were now short a player.
A nasty grin crept across Anna's face. "You can play the orc."
"He's only half an orc but he's pretty stupid and a cockroach is chewing on him right now," Lyra added helpfully. "It's a three-foot cockroach."
"Sure, okay," said Bella, laughing. "Gotta get my start killing things somewhere, I guess."
And so that was how Tonner Edward discovered her, finally lured back when he began to hear the thoughts of the other dolls, catching glimpses of her through their eyes: smiling, brushing her dark curls back over her shoulder, laughing as she rolled a die across the floor. I turned around to see him clutching at the door, and a second later, she turned around as well; he stared at me as if I had stabbed him in the heart--the look of a man who had not fully seen the garden of Eden until the gates slammed shut in his face.
(Secret Life read-through; fan community; TV Tropes page); the brand-new Cleolinda Industries tip jar)