Hey lovelies! WHOA! I'm already at 100 followers in one day?! Thank you so much, everyone!! That is, quite frankly, mindblowing and I love you all to the moon and back. :D To the new additions to our family - welcome! We're so glad to have you. :)
As promised, a short story for you, the companion to the poem I posted yesterday. This one is also entitled "Perfection". There are some very minor tweaks from the poem version, but it's mostly the same. :) As always, let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Feel free to let me know what you think - and thank you again for 100! You guys are amazing!
It was a dark evening. The toyshop was dank and cold; the rain drummed heavily on the windowsill. The only person there was the bent old shopkeeper behind the desk who muttered about taxes and hurricanes as he peered through fogged glasses at his crinkled newspaper. Lighting crackled and thunder boomed, eerily illuminating the faces of the toys for split seconds at a time. It was a night best spent at home with a large mug of hot chocolate and a good book.
One old teddy bear sat on the top of the farthest bookshelf behind the shopkeeper. The terrible storm made no difference to him. He had been here for years; unlike the younger toys that jumped and looked around nervously with their painted eyes, he was not in the least frightened; just resigned. In time, he knew, the toys would settle down and regain their composure, their bravado, and their dignity.
Dignity was something he would never regain, though it had nothing to do with the rain. He was defective, he knew. He was broken. No one would ever buy him. He would never feel the loving caress of a child’s tender hand. No, he knew that he was doomed to stay up here on the top of the back bookshelf forever. Yet, although he recognized it was the truth, a part of him died every time one of the newer, brighter toys was bought by an excited child and taken home to a future of joy and happiness.
It had not always been that way. Once, long, long ago – so long ago he had almost forgotten – he had been one of the newer toys. Once, he had been one of the hopefuls that spent each night after the shopkeeper had gone home brushing their fur and re-tying their bows. Once, he had dreamed and hoped of the little boy or girl that would take him home and love him.
But it seemed Lady Luck had not smiled down upon him as she had done on so many of the toys he had seen come and go over the years. For over time, the bear got pushed further and further back on his shelf, further and further away from his chosen destiny. But he never lost hope that one day the right person would come and rescue him – never lost hope until the ghastly night the dog had come. And whom had the dog maimed? Not the beautiful toys at the front of the shelf, to be sure. No, it had dug through the months and years of toys to reach the very back. To reach him.
It was a night that would be etched forever in his memory; a night that may have faded in the others’, but a night that he could never, ever hope to forget. It was the night that had destroyed all his hopes and dreams, everything that had kept him going over the long years of waiting. And that year, during the annual spring cleaning, he lost hope entirely. For that was the year that the shopkeeper placed him on the top of the back bookshelf.
The back bookshelf! A place of mystery and horror; a place shrouded with myth no one knew from truth; a place that spawned vivid nightmares in the youngest toys; a place where only the bravest dared to venture and from which few ever returned.
And he was there now, at the very top – furthest away from civilization. He was one of the feared and shunned toys that were faulty, toys that would never be bought. He would stay for eternity or until the shopkeeper decided he was taking up too much space and threw him out – whichever came first.
Even after all this time, he still ached inside as he thought about it.
The ringing of the shop bell interrupted his dark thoughts, and he turned to see who was coming in. Surely it couldn’t be… but it was. What is a child doing out in this weather? he wondered.
And then he had to work not to raise his furry eyebrows for fear the shopkeeper or the girl would get suspicious. What was she sitting in? In all his years, he had never seen something like it. It looked like some sort of chair, yet it was silvery and metallic – and on wheels. She pushed the huge wheels and the chair moved; it was as if she had no desire to walk by herself. Yet, it made her go so much slower than the average human – indeed, the tall man who had come with her was walking at a sluggish pace. It intrigued him very much, this strange contraption and the girl inside of it.
But then the chair was pushed towards his shelf, and he had to work again – this time to stifle a gasp of shock. He knew now all too clearly what the strange chair-on-wheels was for. This girl had no choice but to use it, for her legs were grotesquely twisted and bent at odd angles. There would be no way she could walk.
For the first time in a long, long time, the bear felt an emotion other than hopelessness and self-pity. It was compassion.
He watched as the man wheeled the girl through the small toyshop. And then he heard it, as the girl got closer to his shelf. She was singing in a clear, sweet voice; singing quietly and under her breath, but definitely singing. It was as if it was a second nature to her, as if she hardly even noticed it.
But he noticed it. Oh, he noticed it all right. And he knew the others did too, as they straightened up and put on their biggest and brightest smiles when she came closer. Her voice… it was like the sound of pure, sweet happiness, and it made him smile, too. He suddenly felt very protective of this girl; when he saw the shopkeeper notice her legs, he felt a surge of hot hatred as a look of disgust passed over the shopkeeper’s face. How dare he stare like that? Couldn’t he see the girl was hurting? Couldn’t he see that she knew he was gawking?
And when the hatred had passed, he felt a tugging in his heart that he had never felt. For some reason, there was something about her that made him experience something entirely new. He struggled to pinpoint it, and finally knew what it was.
It was love. Already, even after knowing her for just a few minutes, the bear loved this strange girl who sang and pushed herself around the shop, loved her with all his heart, so fiercely it startled him.
And he didn’t just love the girl. He wanted her. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted anything in his life. He wanted her to pick her up and cuddle him, wanted to hug her until the world ended, wanted to whisper words of comfort into her ear.
And even though he knew it was impossible, knew it would only end in heartbreak, still the bear watched as she wheeled slowly through the shop. Time and time again, the tall man would point to a bookshelf, and time and time again his heart leapt as the girl interrupted her singing to answer “No. It’s not that one.”
So in this way the tall man and the young girl made their way steadily through the shop. He watched as the dolls, the trains, the books sagged as she rejected them all and wondered what she was really looking for. What did the girl see that made her keep searching? What was it that she wanted?
And finally, finally she reached the very back bookshelf. Oh, why was the world so ironically cruel? The back bookshelf, where he sat, would be the shelf that would end it all, where she would choose some lucky toy who would get to love her forever, and he would stay on the top shelf and never see her again.
He suddenly felt like crying.
The girl stood in front of the shelf, her eyes sharp and probing. And finally they lit up, brighter than the stars he sometimes saw twinkling in the night sky outside the shop’s window. And the entire shop full of toys stiffened, knowing with the instinct that all toys have that finally, finally this girl had come to her decision. She was going to choose.
And despite himself, the bear found himself screaming in his head, talking to whoever it was that ran things around here – the great toy in the sky, or a toy who was everywhere and everything at once, or just some guy operating pulls and levers behind a dusty curtain. He didn’t know who it was that worked things, yet he still talked to them, begged them – please. Please, just this once. I promise I will never, ever ask for anything more if you just let her choose me. Please.
So he watched as the girl lifted one thin arm and pointed.
And it wasn’t him. Of course it wasn’t him. Why had he even bothered to get his hopes up? This time a fat wet tear really did slide down his furry cheek as he turned away, not bearing to see whatever toy it was embracing his girl. The girl he had chosen, who was meant for him.
But the rough, calloused hand of the old man was travelling up, up, up the back shelf – to the top shelf. Could the world be any more brutal? he wondered despondently as he watched the hand feel the toys around him, searching for the one the girl had chosen.
But the hand was coming towards him, and the bear felt one last dying glimmer of hope.
And then it grasped onto him.
He was shell-shocked as the hand gripped him tightly, dragging him through the different toys. Some tried to block the hand from getting past, jealousy glinting in their eyes – but the tall man was too strong for them.
And now he was in the arms of the girl and oh! Such bliss he felt… such pure and total happiness that he was sure his heart would burst. And he knew that it had all been worth it, those long years of waiting – just for this one moment of finally, finally being chosen.
The next few minutes was a blur for the bear, but a golden blur – a blur of peace and joy as the girl sang in his ear and grinned happily and hugged him so tightly that he knew she loved him as much as, and maybe even more than, he loved her. And at last he was not an outcast or a defective object. At last, he had been chosen – not assigned to, not thrown upon, but chosen.
All three – the tall man, the small girl, and the teddy bear – were in the car when the tall man asked the question. It seemed innocent; but it caught the exultant bear by surprise and immediately made him wary.
“Why did you choose that one?” the tall man asked. “There were so many nicer toys in that shop. This one is so old and faded. And it’s broken.”
Immediately the bear tensed up. It was a good question, one he had never thought to wonder about. Why did this girl choose me? Is she going to throw me out? Was I mistaken when I thought she loved me?
And the girl reached down and fingered the bear’s single leg – the other having been torn off in a freak accident involving a dog – and she smiled in the manner of one who must explain the most obvious of things to someone who perhaps isn’t the smartest.
“Oh, Grandpa. How could you say that?” the girl said.
She smiled down at the bear.