A draughty old attic. Dogs barking in the distance. Enter AMY, sitting before her dollhouse with a doll in her hand.
Amy (dressing her doll) There you go, Amelie. Daddy will be coming home soon, so I should probably tuck you to bed now. He doesn’t like it when I play with you, you see. But you’ll be fine, won’t you? Daddy didn’t hurt you that much the other time. But you must understand. He doesn’t mean any harm. Well, I don’t know that much about him, but Mommy told me he’s a good man. He’s nice to us … most of the time. Did you know? He bought me a new tricycle the other day and took me out for ice-cream, just the two of us, after my visit to the dentist. And at dinner he called me his little princess, and Mommy his big princess, and Mommy said what did that make him then and he said that made him our prince of course. He said we’ll be one big happy family and we’ll all be very happy and Mommy smiled and said yes and I smiled and said yes too and then Daddy asked if I wanted more ice-cream and I said yes again, yes please, that is…
(A slam of the front door.)
Amy (freezes) Daddy’s home!
She shoves the doll into the dollhouse, creeps out of the room and down the stairs.
Downstairs. Kitchen. Enter BROWNER, who tosses keys on the table.
Browner (muttering to himself) Bitch. What the hell does she take me for? Come and go as I please, my foot! Like I’m not the one stuffing her with money every week. Like all I do isn’t sponsor her shopping sprees and weekend getaways and spa sessions and salon visits. And now she tells me I’m an irresponsible jerk? Because oh sure, as long as I don’t treat her like a fucking queen and act as her personal slave and along with being her ATM machine, I’m an irresponsible jerk. Never mind if she’s dumping her daughter at home alone. Never mind if I’m the one who has to take her to the dentist. (sarcastically) Because my job is a freelance one, anyway, right?
Backyard. Enter CHRISTIE, on the phone.
Christie (twirling a lock of her hair) So I said to him, If you want to leave, fine by me. I don’t need you anyway. But then he yelled, Fine, I’m leaving! And then I realized I can’t do that. I can’t do that to my baby. She needs him. We need him. I love him, I really do. But it’s not just about me anymore. Amy needs a father. (Voice starts to waver.) She’s been so lonely, the poor child. She stays in that creepy old attic all day and keeps talking to those dolls her grandmother left for her. I’m telling you, I’m worried. What if all this has affected her more than I thought?
Enter BROWNER. He bursts through the screen door into the backyard, having overheard CHRISTIE’S conversation.
Browner (folding his arms and appraising his wife) So, you’ve realized. And here I was, beginning to think you’ve completely forgotten you have a daughter.
CHRISTIE hangs up the phone hurriedly and turns to face him.
Christie Browner. You’re home.
Browner Surprised? Trust me, you’ll be more surprised to find that your daughter’s grown up in a few years and you don’t even recognize her. (Cuts CHRISTIE off as she begins to speak) No, you listen to me. You know what? The kindergarten called. They told me Amy’s becoming increasingly antisocial, and even rejects the company of her peers. She shuns them, Christie. Which normal kid do you know rejects the idea of a friend? She’s getting unhealthily attached to those ridiculous dolls and I’ve told you before but did you listen? No, of course not. The kid’s not mine. I wouldn’t know a thing about her; I have no right to say anything. But guess what? I’m the one who’s taking care of her these days, while you go off gallivanting and throwing my money to the wind.
AMY sits at the foot of the stairs, clutching the rag doll in her pocket as she listens in on her parents’ conversation.
Amy (whispers) Shh. Be quiet, Nora. Mommy’s upset. You hate to see her upset, don’t you? Remember the last time she cried? (Buries face in the doll) She told me I’m all she has. Mommy says she wants me to be happy, and when I’m happy, she says she’s happy. She says we need love to be happy. And Amy loves Mommy, and Mommy loves Daddy. And Daddy loves Amy and Mommy. But Mommy’s not happy now, is she? She’s crying. Daddy’s yelling at her, and she’s yelling back. They’re upset, Nora. Mommy and Daddy are upset. (Tears begin to well up in her eyes.) Mommy says she’s unhappy when I’m unhappy. Am I making her cry now? Am I, Nora? Is Mommy crying because of me?
She watches her mother and step-father quarrel for a while longer before charging up the stairs and returning to her room.
Christie Browner, look. You knew what you signed up for when you agreed to marry me. You said you knew! And you said you didn’t mind one bit that I have Amy. In fact, I distinctly remember you telling me you’ll treat her like your own.
Browner And I haven’t? And this is not what this is about – you know that.
Christie If I wanted money, I’d have easily found any person to fill in your seat. Why would I have chosen to be with you? You think that you can just throw me some pocket money a month and be rid of me? Well, I’m sorry if I’m such a hindrance to you. I’m sorry you don’t see me as an adequate wife or mother to Amy and you’re the one bearing all the responsibilities in this family. (Voice wavers, then breaks.)
Browner (softens) You’re being ridiculous, Christie.
Christie Yes, I am. In fact, I’m ridiculous enough to go upstairs and get my baby so we can get the hell away from you. I’m through with you, Browner. I’m through with you never being around. I’m through with feeling like I can’t do without you –
Browner You can’t. You know that.
With a sob, Christie flounces back into the house and bursts into her daughter’s room, the draughty old attic.
Christie Amy? (Looks around.) Baby? (A tremble in her voice)
The room is empty. The dollhouse is gone, as are all Amy’s dolls.