"Let's go in the kitchen and talk. You can tell me all about it."
She reaches to take the cloak from her guest, only to find it totally soaked. "Anna, will you run upstairs and get the robe hanging in my closet? We can't have Barbara here catching her death of cold."
Anna is only too happy to oblige. "I can hardly wait to tell all my friends that Barbie's at our house. In her birthday suit, even.""Henry! Alice! Guess what?" "You'll be safe in this house. No one will even know you're here."
"...yeah, just like all the pictures. Really big ones. Huh? They look all natural to me. Pure plastic. Tell everybody to come...the team, the whole gang. Yep. Over at my house. Right away."
"I want the phone after you're done. I have to call Lindsey, Teresa, Alissa, Marissa, and Kerilynn."
Betty guides her guest into the dining alcove where she closes the curtains against the storm. "There. No prying eyes can see you in here."She puts the teapot on the stove.
"I have to say this, Barbara. You hardly look your age. A little stiff in the joints and that cupid's bow mouth went out of style in the 1930s. But other than that, you look like you were born yesterday."
"Thank you, Betty. I have good genes. Well, I don't know if I have any genes, actually. But I do have a chemical make-up that is anti-aging. You know we Plastic People will be around long after all other forms of life have faded from the earth."
"I've heard that said before. Some say Plastic People are the new link in the evolutionary chain, particularly resistant to the effects of global warming and environmental pollution."
"Nature always comes up with a solution to any problem."
"You're very wise."
"Well, I am 50. And I was born fully grown, so you can add on another seventeen or eighteen years. Let's see...that would make me...67 or 68. Old enough to have seen many fashions come and go. "
"You've come a long way, Barbara."
"Yes, I have. Especially considering I was born with nothing upstairs. Brains were considered a total waste in a girl, you know, back in 1959. So my head was left totally empty. Then along came the 1970s, and women were expected to have careers. As you may be aware, there are few career choices for those without brains: store window mannequin, Miss Calliefornya, politician. That kind of thing. I wanted to be a doctor, or an astronaut, or a teacher, all of which require at least some grey matter. So I had a brain implant. In fact, I've had several brain augmentations over the years."
"So tell me, Barbara, why do you think you're in danger?"
"I have many enemies, you know. It seems like anytime somebody's unhappy with something in life, they blame it on me. Supposedly I've ruined three generations of young girls, all of whom wanted nothing more than to grow up to look like me, thus setting them up for a lifetime of frustration and depression. "
"That's so unfair. Maybe those people should spend less time blaming you and more time being positive role models themselves."
"Exactly my thinking. But people love to have someone to hate. I've been beheaded, burned at the stake, dismembered, and had my hair pulled out by the roots. All in effigy of course. But I often feel that I'm living on borrowed time."
"I think I read something about that. It's all so sad. So what happened tonight?"
"Well, I was invited to join some friends for a swimming party. That's why I'm wearing my birthday suit. I was riding in a cab to the location I was given when I started thinking. You see, I recognized that address ... it's not a swimming pool, it's a coffee shop! I know it well, for I've had several birthday parties there. But why would anyone in their right mind have a swimming party in a coffee shop?"
"That is a puzzler."
"So I put 2 and 2 together and realized that I was being lured to the coffee shop--not for a swimming party--but for some other nefarious purpose. I had the cabbie stop and jumped out and ran off through the neighborhood. I was terribly afraid that he was in on the plot and would follow me, or tell my assasins what happened and they would come after me. I saw the light in your window and thought you might provide me some sanctuary. And the rest of the story you know."
"Have a cookie. It will make you feel better."
"Thank you, you're so kind. I think I'm going to cry."
To be continued....