Perfectly Imperfect – Short Story

So here we go. I have had ideas for a few short stories, something to help hone my writing, improve my skills and thought process, and also help motivate me when I am struggling with my main story.

This is the first story that I’ve had an idea from, and it’s been floating around, sad and lonely, inside my head for some time. I really enjoyed the process of taking a thread of an idea and just building and developing it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it, and please leave me any thoughts or feedback, or send them through on the contact page! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

***

Sally was beautiful. With her porcelain-pale skin, flowing fiery hair, big joyful eyes and red lips, she was the envy of all around her. And she’s tall, taller than almost all of the other toys she shared a home with. That’s right, Sally is a toy. But not just any toy. Oh no, the girl she lived with loved her unconditionally. They had been together since the girl was born, and they were inseparable. That explained another feature of Sally; she was dotted with stitches where she had been loved so much over the years. Even her dress shows signs of wear – a patchwork creation, continually fixed over the years by the little girl’s mum.

Sally was a treasured doll, and loved the little girl with everything her manufactured body allows. She has been by the side of the little girl ever since birth. As her first toy, Sally was everything she should be; carer, protector, silent friend. When the little girl was afraid as a baby, she was there, silent and passive, but something, someone to be cuddled. As a baby the little girl never left Sally out of reach of those chubby, clutching little fingers.

As she learned to crawl, the coveted doll was sure to be found, dragged along by her flowing hair. It didn’t take too long before she started to look a little worse for wear. Being dragged around, chewed on and squeezed to within an inch of the seams bursting is bound to do that. But none of it was through neglect. Sally was loved. A few little holes had started to show in her clothes, and more than once her arms or legs had begun to pull at their seams, but the little girl’s mother was always on hand to patch, stitch and clean Sally when needed.

Throughout the years, Sally was protector and comforter to the girl. When her parents left her at school for her first day, Sally was there. Her compassionate hint of a smile and endless capacity to be hugged helped her through her first day, but stayed with her for the first two years the girl was at school.

***

As the years ticked by, the girl played with Sally less and less. But when she did come to find her, Sally was always ready for her. For the first time in a number of years Sally went outside with the girl, usually left inside in lieu of other toys. They went to the park to celebrate her tenth birthday. It was a glorious Indian Summer day, blue skies with just a few wispy clouds drifting overhead. The girl and all her friends had gathered for games in the park, with a massive picnic laid out for all of the children to enjoy.

As the squeals of joy from the assembled kids filled the air, Sally sat contentedly to the side of the picnic blanket. She watched over the children running around, playing party games and having a day of fun. She sat by as everyone sat and enjoyed the spread of food, and as everyone sang Happy Birthday, and the girl blew out the candles on her cake.

Then came presents; a veritable mountain of colourfully wrapped packages adorned with ribbons and bows. The girl shrieked with delight as each gift had its wrapping torn from it, revealing new and wonderful toys for her to enjoy. But Sally didn’t mind. She had grown to accept the girl leaving her to one side as the years go by, knowing that other toys would come and go, but she would always return to Sally, she was certain of this.

As the afternoon drew on parents arrived to collect their now-worn out children. The girl’s family began to pack up the picnic tables, left-overs and blanket into their cars as the girl herself danced and whirled around with her new presents, heading to the car. And there by the tree, Sally sat and waited. She waited for the girl to realise she hadn’t picked her up as she got to the car, or when the engine fired into life. She even hoped the girl would realise just as the cars pulled away. But all of the hope Sally had waned and faded away as the hours passed, darkness surrounded her and it began to rain so heavily even the lofty tree above her couldn’t shelter her. The certainty the girl loved her as much as Sally loved the girl faded.

***

Many hours passed and Sally gave up. Hours stretched out, day becoming a wet, cold night. Night gave way to a grey day. Late summer was finished, autumn downpours taking over. The constant rain saturated Sally through and through. She became dirty, tatty. If you happened upon this ragged looking doll, you might be forgiven for thinking a tear was rolling down her cheek, but toys can’t cry, can they? It must be rain drops.

The days passed her by, and Sally began to feel an emptiness inside. A sensation she had never known flowed through her; sorrow. She was truly and painfully alone. And so she sat, discard against the rough bark of the lofty tree as the autumn rains fell. Sally’s will broken, she accepted this as her fate.

One night, she couldn’t remember how many had passed since she was abandoned, Sally awoke in the early hours. A sonorous rumble of thunder ricocheted across the sky, but that wasn’t what stirred her from what slumber a doll enjoys. Something nearby, but shrouded by the darkness, was snuffling and growling. Whatever it was, she was afraid, chilled to the core.

Resolving out of the shadows, a large stray dog approached. Sally could do nothing but lay where she had been left days before and hope the dog didn’t find her. It snuffled and snarled its way through the dense leaf litter lying around the foot of the tree, before happening upon the discarded rag doll. Initially a few tentative, experimental prods with nose and paw told the dog this unusual object was of no danger to him. Growing bolder the dog snatched Sally up by her left leg, shaking his head from side to side.

She could do nothing. She was defenseless to the onslaught. The damaged teeth of the dog still had enough power in them to hold her leg fast, and she could feel her seams pulling. Finally the threads gave way and with a final shake her body flies into the long grass bordering the park’s gravel path. A sudden burst of energy expended, the mongrel dog trotted away with Sally’s leg in its mouth.

***

This was it. Sally was sure this was the end. Abandoned by the little girl she had shown unconditional love to for so many years, things were looking bleak enough. Soiled and soaked through from numerous nights spent in the rain and the mud, and now missing a leg Sally was damaged, imperfect. She laid in a dirty puddle in the litter-strewn grass, accepting her fate, she was nothing more than discarded rubbish now.

***

It had been a year to forget for Ellie. At the age of eight, she was confined to a wheelchair. A year before her parent’s car was hit. A drunk driver, never saw the red light, never saw the car coming through the crossroads. Everybody got out of the accident, the driver arrested, but little Ellie took the brunt of the impact. Months of surgeries, physio and rehabilitation weren’t enough, and she sadly lost her leg. The once-confident, bubbly and energetic little girl had since become a shadow of herself.

Before the life-changing accident Ellie was a bundle of energy. She loved sports and was always to be found playing football, tennis, hockey. If it involved competition and physical activity you can be sure she had at the least tried her hand at it. Since the accident, her passion for sport, like her leg, had been robbed from her. It was all she could do to sit in her wheelchair and watch the other children running around laughing and shouting with joy. Sadness often made way for anger; hot, burning anger spilling frustrated tears down her cheeks.

Her parents often took her out in the hope of rekindling some of the personality Ellie was losing. On this particularly grey Autumn day, they had taken her to the shopping centre. This was something they often did, taking Ellie for a coffee and a meander around the shops. It was also Ellie’s birthday, so as a treat she was allowed to pick out any toy she wanted. Wheeling her way up and down the aisle, she became more and more upset. Row upon row of perfect, slender-limbed perfectly turned-out dolls stared at her. It made her sad that everything was so perfect and pristine, while in her mind she no longer was. Ellie turned and wheeled out of the store as fast as she could.

***

In the park, Ellie stopped her flight, catching her breath in between tears. Everything was so pristine! The characters on telly or in films, all so happy and vibrant and unscathed, life so rosy. All the toys in the stores embodying the ideal form. None like her, none with a disability. A girl already losing her vibrancy also found herself hating what she now was through no fault of her own.

She could hear her parents calling for her, heading towards the park knowing this is the most likely place their daughter would head. She turned away from them, and something caught her eye. Just off of the path in the long grass she spotted a tatty, dishevelled doll just tossed aside. She bent forward as far as she could in her wheelchair, hooking it by a hand. As Ellie sat back, her eyes widened as realisation set in; she had found the toy for her, the only toy missing a leg, just like her.

***

Ellie’s parents raced along the path to find her cradling a dirty, broken childs’ toy. Her mum reached her first, kneeling beside her to get a better look at what her daughter held.

“Oh Ellie…you don’t want that! The shop has lots of new toys. Come on, put that broken old thing down and let’s go find you something else” as she tried to wrest it from the little girl’s grip. Ellie resisted, a look of anger coming over her face.

“Why? Because she is broken? Damaged? She is just like me! I want to keep her!” And with that, she descended into wracking sobs. Her dad knelt at her side, a comforting arm wrapped around her hitching shoulders.

As his daughter’s tears subsided, her eyes still cast down, he said “Let’s take her home with us.”

***

Once home with Sally, Ellie was instantly changed. Her mood lifted, even when her parents took the ragged doll away from her long enough to clean her up and mend her seams as best they could. While Sally was getting a clean, Ellie’s dad made a miniature wheelchair for the doll, an exact replica of the one Ellie used. The two were perfect for one another. Both doll and girl had suffered a lot, but had found each other.

As the years progressed both were inseparable. Sally was loved, far more than she had ever been even in her past. So much so, that her clothes and seams wore out over and over. But as she got older, Ellie learned to maintain Sally. She patched her up and stitched her seams. One Halloween, while mending Sally’s dress Ellie got the idea to make a matching one for her. That year she went out in costume as Sally, the doll firmly in her hands in her own wheelchair.

As she turned eighteen, it was time for Ellie to be fitted for a prosthetic leg. She was nervous, having spent so long confined to her wheelchair. When her consultant came into the room to fit her new, custom-painted leg he carried a smaller leg the perfect size for a certain little doll. Ellie couldn’t have been happier and forgot all of her fears. As a child, the loss of her leg made Ellie feel imperfect. The chance discovery of her spirit twin Sally showed her that together they were perfectly imperfect.

And no matter the age, the two were inseparable. Ellie patched and replaced and restuffed the doll every time she wore out, so much so it would be hard to imagine much of the original Sally remained. But no matter how imperfect on the outside, it was what was on the inside that made them perfect.

© Steven Smith – December 2017

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