Lily arrived by accident one day, a dark haired doll among a box of blonde angels, and Mrs McGarry had never quite known what to do with her. For a time, Lily had shared a shelf with them, and late at night after the shop was closed, she’d tried talking to the other dolls. They never replied, just staring straight ahead with their glassy stares.
During the day, they all sat on their shelf opposite the door. Lily watched each day as another little girl came empty-handed to the toy shop, and left clutching her brand new doll. Occasionally one of the girls would pick Lily up, and she would smile her best smile, wondering what sort of owner this little girl would be, and then she would be put back on the shelf having simply been moved to make way for the blonde dolls behind her.
Mrs McGarry sold the last of the blonde dolls one rainy Thursday afternoon. Lily watched the doll disappear out of the door in the carrier bag of a father eager to please his daughter on her birthday. With the shelf to herself, Lily felt sure she’d be chosen now. She’d be a good doll, happy to play dress up and accompany her owner where she went.
A large cardboard box arrived on Friday morning, and Mrs McGarry unpacked a new shipment of dolls. Lily’s heart sank at the sight of so many new blonde rivals. The dolls were arranged on the shelf, and Mrs McGarry lifted Lily higher, to the top shelf. Her new companions were unfashionable tin soldiers, a scruffy teddy bear and enough dust to stuff a pillow.
“The same thing happened to us, you know,” said the bears, a brown gentleman with gingham patches on his paws.
“Don’t worry, ma’am, we all take care of each other up here,” said one of the soldiers.
“Why didn’t any of the little girls choose me?” asked Lily.
“You can never tell what children are looking for. Mostly they just want the same as everyone else,” replied the brown bear.
Days passed and Lily continued to watch the new arrivals leave the shop with their new owners. Once or twice, little girls looked up and saw her, perched on the edge of the shelf looking down, but none of them returned her smile. The days turned into weeks, and soon Mrs McGarry was decorating the shop for Christmas. An elderly woman spotted the brown bear and bought him for her friend who had apparently never had a teddy of her own. Even the tin soldiers were taken down from the shelf, bought by an antiques dealer for his Victoriana-obsessed son.
Two days before Christmas, Mrs McGarry arrived at the shop early. She saw the shelf opposite the door and screamed. Every single one of the blonde dolls, arranged so beautifully for her seasonal display, had been maimed. Tufts of hair lay all over the floor, and deep cuts mutilated the vacant expressions of the dolls. The ornate scissors that she usually kept behind the till for cutting wrapping paper lay on the floor.
An hour later, her daughter arrived. Glenda was not the hysterical type, and she packed away the butchered dolls while Mrs McGarry created a new display with toys filched from other parts of the shop. At the centre of it sat Lily, fetched from the top shelf and dusted down. Glenda straightened the doll’s dark curls and wiped a smudge of dirt from her nose. She couldn’t remember Lily’s smile being so hopeful before.
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