A soft rhythmic, three beat tap at my door awakens me from my slumber. I rise up from my bed, yawning and hop off reluctantly, my feet swinging off the bed and hitting the floor loudly. I wince at the sound. The window is open, and I see it is daylight. I bask in the warmth of the sunlight, and for one second, I feel the most free I have felt in at least two years. My hand turns the door handle, and there she is.

She is very beautiful, like a chinese porcelain doll, with her translucent, pale skin and gleaming, silky hair. However, there is nothing soft about her- her face is all angles, like it has been chiselled to perfection by a Greek sculptor, the way the beautiful Greek goddesses are depicted. She could have been Hera’s doppelganger, who was as stunning as she was ruthless. Her figure is hidden by a long black coat that sweeps the floor when she walks.

We call this palace the dollhouse. There are many other girls just like me. Most of us are nine years old, and the oldest are eleven. But I know she loves me the most- she said so herself. She always tells me I am the most beautiful, she caresses my long blonde tresses, and admires my blue eyes. As she holds me I am filled with hope, and I pray she has some mercy on me. But the men keep coming.

She calles them home for feasts and banquets which we are never allowed to attend. But by the end of the night, one always comes to my room. Every morning I wake up with bruises on my legs, arms and torso. I don't know where they come from, but they always hurt, and the scars dot my pale skin like freckles, like an ugly constellation of reminders that I will never be fully perfect, like her.

Now, she strolls in elegantly and places a syringe into my palm. ‘Inject this tonight, my love.’ She gives me a soft kiss, and leaves a dark red lipstick print on my cheek. It looks almost menacing. She places a dress on my lap and turns to leave, ‘Wait!’ i yelled out after her. ‘Yes, child?’ she replies, and comes back into my room slowly. ‘Can you make sure no ones comes here tonight?’ She knows what I am talking about, her dark eyes narrow into slits. ‘Dont worry, I’ll keep you safe. Take the syringe.’ And now she's gone and I feel relieved.

I put on the dress and admire myself in the mirror. It is pretty and pink, it looks like something a member of the royal family would wear, and for one second I imagine myself as the princess of this castle and all the other girls as my subjects, and then dismiss that thought as soon as it occurs. The dress has a plunging neckline, and it is very short, cut till my navel. I don't feel like Im nine years old anymore. I feel beautiful. I only wish it would cover my up a little more. I feel very exposed, my bruises are turning purple and looking at them makes me nauseous.

At night I hear men’s laughter and cheers in the dollhouse, and take a glance at the syringe, but then stop myself from reaching out for it. They wont be coming in tonight, and anyways the syringe always erases my memories of the previous night. The murmurs are getting a lot closer, and I can hear chatters a few doors away. I hide the syringe under my pillowcase. I wont be taking it tonight.