I take her by the hand and she leads me, scampering, to the living room. I’m going through all the different bullshit scenarios I can make up for why her new “friend” won’t be there when I see it: the little body nestled in the branches of our Christmas tree, illuminated by twinkling lights.
He’s sitting next to a Monster High doll, a blank-eyed goth Barbie that I recognize as Sarah Screams, the doll that Ava put at the top of her Christmas list. I was going to buy it for her but instead it’s posed in our tree next to this repulsive little thing. Just before Ava snatches the Sarah Screams doll, I notice that the elf — Jingles — has his hand up Sarah’s skirt.
“Sarah Screams!” Ava squeals, hugging the doll tight to her chest.
What the fuck.
I feel like the thing is staring at me. I don’t really want to touch it, it seems like if I touch it my skin might burn, but I move to take it out of the tree and my daughter shrieks:
I jump, almost like the words came from Jingles instead of Ava.
“What?” I demand. It feels like the air has been sucked out of the room.
“If you touch an elf they lose their magic!” she insists.
Where has she been learning this shit? More importantly, where did Jingles come from? And the doll?
“Ava,” I say, keeping one eye on the elf, “where did you get these things?” She looks at me over the top of her new toy.
“I told you. Jingles brought it. He came in through the window.”
“Did you take it from a store?” I look around for discarded toy packaging and don’t see any of it. “Did someone give it to you? Be honest with me.”
“Mom-meeee,” Ava whines. She seems frustrated. “Jingles gave it to me! I keep telling you and telling you!”
“You’re telling lies again,” I say.
My daughter looks on the verge of tears, clutching Sarah Screams tight.