He always felt guilty about it afterward.
â€œHere, Chloe, letâ€™s get you into the cart,â€ he said calmly as he lifted her up. Nothing strange about that, he thought as he began his shopping. One by one, he put orange juice, cereal, granola bars into his cart, stocking up. His heart pounded.
He meandered to the other side of the store, eyeing the cheap sandals and colorful towels.
â€œChloe, sit down please,â€ he said distractedly. â€œChloe, want to pick out a doll?â€ he said brightly. He quickened his pace, nearly rushing toward the toy section. Finally, he thought. Calm down, he thought.
He slowed down as he neared the doll aisle. He lurked, wishing that he didnâ€™t feel like such a creep for being here. He peered down the aisle, thrilled to find it empty.
â€œOkay, Chloe, Daddyâ€™s going to buy you a doll. Any doll you want, okay?â€ he smiled at his four-year-old daughter. He moved slowly down the aisle, as if in a trance, and straightened each doll. He neatened their clothes and caressed their hair. He used one finger to manipulate their moveable eyelids, opening each lovely eye so that every doll was looking at him.
â€œDaddy, I want to get out!â€ Chloe screamed from the cart.
â€œNo, no, Chloe, you have to stay in the cart,â€ he barked, too loud. He was so close. He snatched up a box of granola bars from the cart and tore it open. â€œHere, have a snack.â€ He thrust the wrapped granola bar into her hands.
â€œOpen it, Daddy!â€ she wailed.
â€œYes, dear,â€ he mumbled. He looked desperately up and down the aisle. No one yet, he thought, relieved. He ripped open the granola bar and handed it to Chloe. He scanned the dolls, all neat, tidy, and looking at him with their loving eyes. He pulled out his phone and snapped a photo, trying to keep his hands from shaking. He smiled at the photo.
â€œWhich one do you want, Chloe?â€
My submission, including the third definition of manipulate: to change by artful or unfair means in order to serve one’s purpose: to doctor, for this week’s Trifecta challenge.