TSS Publishing

Short Story: ‘Lily’ by Laurane Marchive

Laurane Marchive short story online with TSS Publishing

Laurane Marchive is a French writer and director based in London. In 2018, her stories have appeared in Mechanics Institute Review 15 and TSS Publishing. Marchive is a past winner of the French Escales des Lettres and, in 2018, was the joint winner of the HISSACcompetition. She also runs Chivaree,a circus company which has won a number of awards for its immersive physical productions. You can find her on Twitter @LauraneMarchive


Lily

Laurane Marchive

 

From where she is, she can’t see much. The few flat roofs of grey buildings. The glare from the street lights that frame the car park. In the horizon a single tall skyscraper, so tall she can see that it is very tall even though it’s far away and she can’t make out the shape of the windows or the number of floors. Or if there are balconies or not. Or if people live there or if it’s an office block. It might even be an abandoned building. She can only see the outline, but she likes the not knowing. It gives her something to think about.

            Outside the window, she watches the sky turn pink, then purple then black. Around her, the place is still busy. Someone mops the floor. Someone wipes the surfaces. Someone shouts a last few orders but gradually there are less voices and eventually there are only two left. The first says, “Fucking hell, I’m shattered. I’m going to smoke a joint and get into bed” and the second one says, “yeah, me too”. Then the first one says “Can you get the lights”? And all the lights go off.

 

Roxy is alone in the bakery. The only sound is the hum of the freezers, the fridges glow white and yellow in the dark. The ovens have little red lights that shine like hungry eyes. At first she spent nights watching them flash slowly, on and off, and on and off again but after a while she realized that the flashing doesn’t mean the ovens are really alive.

            The red dots are just lights.

            Once the place has been quiet for a few minutes, when she knows nobody’s coming back, Roxy starts her journey down from the shelf. She climbs down and lands on the white tiled floor, between the two giant sinks and the row of ovens. The bakery is familiar to her now, but still it doesn’t feel like home. She always has to tiptoe, to make sure no one hears. No one sees. So she only ever comes out at night. It’s hard to keep track of how long she’s lived here. Is it days? Weeks? Months?

            She tries not to think about it but details from the past crawl to her whenever she’s not paying attention. A Duvet with a Frozen print. Tomato sauce and beef ravioli in a can. Lily.

            All she can think of is Lily.

            Lily and Roxy. Roxy and Lily. The troublesome duo, the inseparable pair. Bickering all the time, but also best friends. There were car rides through Kent with Lily’s parents. Walks around Dartmoor. Trips to the local Toys’R Us. That time when Lily was terrified of sharks after seeing bits of Jaws on her dad’s computer and she spent the night holding Roxy. Tight. So tight Roxy thought she might break. But in the morning they were both fine and there weren’t any sharks.

            Roxy went to school with Lily. She learnt to count with Lily. She was there when Lily had her tonsils removed and had to stay in hospital for the night. She was there when Lily fell from the tree and broke her arm. She was there everyday. Every night. And she loved Lily and Lily loved her. And that’s something no one could ever argue with.

 

Roxy likes the bakery but she is lonely here. Although the bakers are nice to each other, they don’t see her. And they shouldn’t. They walk around with their blue hair nets, with their white uniforms that make them look like funny birds but given the opportunity, they would bin her. She doesn’t really belong in a bakery, this much she knows. She’s not stupid.

            Every night, the bakers make gingerbread men. Biscuits in the shape of cats with jam dot eyes. Bright pink sugar mice. Rabbits with ears of yellow cream. At first Roxy didn’t make much of it. But then she remembered that film. The one where a wooden puppet turns into a real boy. It was one of Lily’s favourite.

            She thought: that’s it.

            This is what I need to do.

            She slides across the white, clean floor. It’s like ice-skating. Like in Frozen. She heads for the big refrigerator and uses her head and her tail to lever the door open. She hops to the second shelf and jumps into the giant tupperware. Inside, the cookie dough gleams in the white light. She presses a claw into it, it feels tender. Elastic. Like skin, almost. She scoops out a big portion, as much as she can carry in her articulated arms and she lops back onto the counter.

 

Lily loved Jurassic Park so for her seventh birthday, her parents had bought her Roxy. She’d come to her in a cardboard and plastic box with the words DINO SHOWDOWN written at the front. Lily had ripped the plastic apart and held Roxy in her arms. She’d said: “She is perfect, I will call her Roxy”. And from then on they’d been inseparable. Until the day in the supermarket.

            Roxy remembers that day.

            She’s played it over in her head.

            Again.

            And again.

            So many times that she’s not even sure what happened exactly or what she re-imagined, but the memory still blisters.

            It is hot. Lily holds Roxy by the tail. They are choosing cereal bars. Their favourite is the one with yoghurt and chocolate. Lily also wants to buy sweets. The long snake shaped ones that stretch between the teeth. But Lily’s dad says no. No sweets, we still have some at home. Lily can be difficult sometimes so she throws a tantrum. She cries. She screams. The people in the shop stop pushing their trolleys, they watch, they shake their heads. Lily’s dad gets angry. He slaps her. Lily cries louder. She stamps her feet on the ground and she launches Roxy on the floor. Roxy lands underneath the cereal display. She sees Lily, her face, red and her eyes, green but also red underneath the tears. Then she sees Lily’s dad take her by the hand and drag her out of the supermarket. They walk through the door, they disappear. Roxy is still where Lily threw her, beneath the cereal boxes on aisle 17.

            That day, Roxy waited a long time but they didn’t come back. There were no announcement about a lost dinosaur. No one came looking for her. It’s like Lily didn’t care, but Roxy knows that’s not true. Lily does care. It’s Lily’s dad who left her behind. Lily’s dad made her go. Not Lily. Lily’s dad. It’s because of him that Roxy stayed under aisle 17 for days. Without moving. Without making a sound. Just listening. And watching, in case they came back. But they didn’t and Roxie knew that she couldn’t stay there. There were always children around. What if one of them found her, what if one of them grabbed her. She had to find somewhere to be ready for when Lily came back. Or somewhere to be safe. So she wandered the supermarket and she found the bakery.

            Raptors are pack animals and Roxy had never slept alone. She was afraid of the dark. At least now in the bakery she is always surrounded by the bakers.

            And the breads.

            And the animal cookies. 

 

 She climbs back onto the counter with the dough still in her arms. It’s not easy but she’s agile and she can take her time. She’s got a good few hours. She tears a scrap of baking paper from the roll and lays the lump of cookie-mix in the middle. Like all toys once owned by a little girl, Roxy has often encountered play-doh in her life. She is an experienced sculptor with a flair for shapes. She can make a perfectly lifelike caterpillar and she’s great at noodles. And she remembers the puppet boy story. She knows these things are possible. You just have to wish for it hard enough.

            Every night before the bakers arrive, Roxy sculpts a new dinosaur cookie. It wasn’t right at first. The tail was too long, or the head too large. But she got better and she knows that if she can create the perfect shape, it will eventually work. So she does her best and by now her dinosaurs are flawless. She spends every night carving the paws, the legs, the head. As much detail as she can fit in. Then she leaves the creature with all the other animal cookies, ready for the oven.

            So far none has come to life. But she knows it’s only a matter of time and tonight, her cookie is beautiful. It looks alive already. With her left claw she scratches stripes on the tail. She takes a round brown sugar chip from a jar and adds an eye. It smiles back at her. Softly, with her teeth, she pulls it onto a tray with the other biscuits. Soon the bakers will return.

            She climbs back to her shelf and looks out the window. There is one star. She knows the story so she rubs her paws together and she sits on her tail and she prays to the star.

            It’s too dark to see the skyscraper but she likes to imagine it. Sometimes she even thinks that’s where Lily lives. It’s late now so Lily is asleep. The walls of her room are pale yellow, they look grey in the night. There is a shelf with books and toys on it. A chest of drawer next to the bed with bright red drawer knobs. Lily sleeps peacefully, holding Roxy in her arms. But Roxy is not there. So who does Lily sleep with? Is it the stuffed dolphin, has Roxy been replaced?

            No.

 

At 5am the bakers come in, chatting loudly, whipping cream and sugaring pies. Roxy keeps a close eye on her dinosaur and one of the bakers slides the tray into the oven. Inside, a fire burns bright amber. She tiptoes closer to watch.

            She knows what happens to abandoned toys. Something in them dies. They fall asleep forever. It happened to Max, Lily’s old Bear. Forgotten under the bed for too long, he became a shadow of himself, he disappeared inside, he became just empty.

            But Lily hasn’t forgotten Roxy. For some reason she hasn’t been able to come back, and often Roxy gets worried. She hopes nothing bad has happened. She doesn’t know what kept her from coming back to get her but sometimes, she thinks that once the other dinosaur is here, they will leave the bakery together. They will go find Lily. They can’t be too far from the house, she doesn’t remember the car journey being that long. And Roxy isn’t brave enough to go on her own, but if there were two of them she could go.

            And she will. Lily will be so happy to see her.

 

She keeps her eyes on the oven and minutes after minutes, the dough turns from beige to gold, all animals ears and tails rising. She keeps still. She stares. In the middle of the rack, her cookie is beautiful. Any minute now, any minute and it will happen, any minute and it will awake.

            But what if it doesn’t? She doesn’t want to fall asleep forever. To collect dust on the shelf until someone throws her away. Sometimes, when the fire burns, she imagines herself making her way towards it. Feeling the heat of the grill as she edges closer. She knows what would happen if she jumped in.

            She would land on the top rack, above the cookie tray. Inside, the heat would be piercing. Her paws and belly would stick to the grill. She would feel herself melt onto the rack. Soon her forelegs would be gone and she wouldn’t be able to hold herself up anymore. When her belly starts melting too, she would slide her snout between the grid and she would let go. Her body would liquify, it would run along the rack, along the bars, up and down the grid. And slow drops of green plastic would land onto the animal cookies. The day after, maybe Lily’s dad would take her to the supermarket. And maybe they’d buy cookies. And when they get home, as they chew threw them, they would feel under their tongues, little specks of molten plastic. Green, like Lily’s eyes. And then Lily would remember. But how long has it been, really?

            Weeks?

            Months?

            Years.

            Roxy tries not to think about it but the nights have turned into a blur. How old is Lily now? Does she still play with toys? But she shouldn’t think like that. Lily is waiting. Roxy just has to find a way to make the journey and everything will go back the way it was. There will be more car trips. There will be more countryside walks. There will be more Toys R Us shopping sprees. And she won’t have to sleep alone anymore. But she looks at her dinosaur again. The minutes pass and it still sleeps. Roxy feels her eyes water. Raptors don’t cry, of course, so she doesn’t. But her tail droops and she nuzzles her paws.

            One more minute, she thinks. One more minute and it will come to life.

 

END


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