I have never understood Lily Payne. The only feelings I have ever held for her were abhorrence and fear. I've wondered so many times: what made her so different? She was my twin sister, but never did I feel any sisterly love from her unless adults were on the scene. Then, with a sickly fake smile, she would pat me on the head and proclaim me a "sweet, endearing child". My parents never saw her behavior and dismissed my lisps for mercy. My first memory of her senseless and horrific nursery rhymes and maniacal laughter began the moment she learned to talk.
"Baby, baby, rocking in a cradle
A cradle as big as a soup spoon ladle
If you're not careful, they'll dip you in a pot,
And cook you till you're red, and eat you, nice and hot!"
I had nightmares because of Lily Payne. I would wake in the middle of the night, choking on a pillow, because when Lily Payne heard me crying, she buried me with blankets and suffocated me until I stopped. Because of her, I never slept well, and mothers at church always exclaimed what an unusually skittish and moody child I was. They would tisk and scold me, admonishing my fears as sins, telling me that the Lord would deny me access to Heaven and I would be put in Hades for my unbelief. Then they would wonder why I was the way I was. Certainly, Lily Payne seemed a happy child. Why was I so melancholy? "It's because of my sister!" I wanted to sob, but instead I held my tongue. If my mother didn't believe me, why should anyone else?
Besides, everyone adored Lily Payne. She was a beautiful blonde, the mirror image of Shirley Temple. She bounced around to smile at all of the old ladies. Charmed them out of their socks, she did, and they gave her candy for it. She'd come home each Sunday with pocketfuls of hard candy, and then she'd throw it at me, piece by piece, with the force of a machine gun, giving me bruises. Then, with methodical chewing, she would eat the candy, wrappers and all, in front of me, smacking her lips with relish as I cowered and rubbed my bruises.
"Sugar, sugar, if you eat a lot,
Your eyes fall out and your lips will rot,
Your spine will shrink, and your skin will grow
And then they'll sell you to a gypsy show!"
Lily Payne chants, throwing another piece of brightly colored hard candy at me. It strikes me in the stomach, stinging like a bee. Lily Payne laughs as I swallow my yelps of pain. 'Only two more pieces…' I think to myself, bracing my legs up against the wall as another cherry flavored candy comes hurtling at me. It hits me in the eye, and I can't open it to see the other candy piece, which strikes my fingers as they rise to rub my eye. Suddenly, mama throws open the door, and Lily Payne is all sweetness and dutiful but reluctantly tattling sister as mama enters the room.
"What's going on?"
Lily Payne sighs and hesitantly brings one of her tales forth. "Well, mama, I don't like to tell, but Rose Anne was gobbling up my candy as I came in." She calls me by the name I'd given my favorite doll. When she looks at me briefly, I can see malice hidden behind those baby blue eyes. "I would have shared it with her, had she asked, mama, but you see how greedy she has been." Her voice is succulently sweet, dripping honeyed lies from her pink lips.
Mama kneels down before me, pulling my hand from my eye. I can open it now, but it feels like it is swelling,
"What happened to your eye, Rose?" I open my mouth, but Lily Payne beats me to it.
"I really didn't mean to," She says, overly contrite, "but I lost my temper for a moment and hit her in the eye. Really, mama, I would never have done that, but a demon took over my thoughts and it made me wild. Thankfully, I was able to control myself from further hurting my dear sister." She pats my hand; the hand with five bruises on it, and smiles condescendingly at me.
Mama purses her lips. Then she grabs my hand. "You ought not to do such things, Rose. I am afraid I shall have to punish you." Mama lays me over her lap, my bottom up, and pulls down my panties. Then, with a book of fairytales, she hits me once, twice, thrice… each blow does more damage to my heart than my bottom. I do not cry; I only stare into the eyes of Lily Payne. Those eyes are now filled with satisfaction, and a smirk rides upon her rosy lips. My only thought is 'help…'
I had to hide my toys from Lily Payne, or she would take them from me and ruin them in some way. She had an art to tearing things apart. It was always the head first, then each arm, then whatever was left of the animal or doll. I had had precious few toys as it was, but my mother never bought me more because I did not deserve a new toy if I so maliciously ruined the old ones.
I crouch in the corner as Lily Payne comes through the door. There is no way to hide my doll, my last Raggedy Anne, except to hurriedly stuff it up my shirt. That doesn't fool her though, she rips it from my shirt and smiles at the sewed on smile, the triangular eyes of the Raggedy Anne. She gallops it down the floor and back up again, chanting,
"Little Rosie Payne,
Was skipping down the lane,
When from above a tree,
Fell so suddenly,
Bopped her on the head,
And then she fell down dead!"
She laughs, a high, cackling giggle, and rips the head from my doll, throwing across the room and screaming as she tears out the stuffing. Then she drops the doll and kicks it over the floor.
"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again…"
She picks up the headless body and strokes its foot. "So they ate him for breakfast." She sticks the doll in her mouth and growls like a dog. Bits of stuffing fly everywhere as she shakes the doll like a wild animal, and her face turns red, her blue eyes flashing as she stops suddenly and glares at me. The doll drops from her mouth and she slowly advances.
"Little Molly had a dolly,
All sewed up in green.
It came to life and pulled a knife
And killed Miss Molly clean!"
Just as she reaches my corner, I hear papa calling for her, and she narrows her eyes at me. Then she pats my head.
"Bye bye, prissy pussy!" She giggles low and runs off, slamming the door behind her.
When we grew to the age of dating, Lily Payne and I were hotly pursued by any and every boy in town. Me, for my fairy looks, Lily Payne for her light laughter. Lily Payne was favored more than I, partly because of her golden goddess looks, partly because I was too brooding once a guy got to know me. Lily Payne picked up and dropped men like lightning, every outing being with a new man. Mama and papa were only too pleased that their dearest daughter was pursued, and they greeted each new conquest with kindness and spirit. When I brought home my one and only boyfriend, Jack James, they regarded him with a cold eye of indifference, treating him as they did me- like a bag of dirt.
I clung to Jack as if my life depended on it. He and only he understood my real plight, and he constantly assured me of his love and devotion. I was amazed that he stood with me through all of my storms; he understood when at first I flinched when he tried to touch me; he listened to my constant fears, and he comforted me, even at midnight, when I called to cry about another nightmare.
Lily Payne grew no less horrific. If possible, she became worse. She woke me at nights, chanting her sadistic rhymes over voodoo dolls, grinning at me with her perfect rosy mouth, throwing pillows at my head. She read of lists of men she had dated and made up poems about them; poems of ripping off their heads, cutting off their hands, and any other torture she could imagine.
She tried to steal away Jack, using every possible charm she had, but he only blew off her advances as if she were an annoying fly. This made her mad, and she took it out on me.
Lily Payne picks up the phone. Her face is all sweetness as the caller's voice identifies himself. "Why, hello, Jack." She croons, sickeningly sweet. "Rose? Oh, she's not here right now, can I take a message?" She smirks at me, and I don't dare take the phone from her.
" A gift? Oh, why don't I come and pick it up? I'd be glad to see you, Jack, you know how I like you."
A frown creeps onto her face, and she flinches in anger. "Fine. Goodbye Jack." She slams the phone as I quickly retreat to our room. The door is almost closed when she shoves it open and slaps me.
"Little Rosie Payne
Met a man in Maine
He claimed to be her love
But then gave her a shove.
Pushed her in a lake,
And killed her with a shake!"
She cackles, her eye twitching. "You keep him to yourself, sweetie." She shoves her face into mine. "I… don't… want him!"
Two years passed by, and Jack asked me to marry him. Lily Payne was furious; she screamed at me in rage, promising that she'd kill us both if I accepted him. That didn't stop me, it only made me more fervent in saying yes. If I married Jack, I could get away from Lily Payne. Freedom whispered so sweet in my ear, and I rejoiced, loving Jack all the more.
Our wedding day came, and freedom was so close I could taste it.
I walk up the aisle, my eyes solely on Jack. He is nearly crying with joy; his soft brown eyes glimmer with all the love he's shown me in these past years. I feel like I am walking on clouds as I step up to the church's platform and take Jack's hands.
"I love you" He mouths, and I smile, too full to say anything.
"If anyone knows of any reason that these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace." The pastor says, and a sudden fear strikes my gut. I hear a rustle and I know it is Lily Payne.
"I have a reason!" She shouts. "That woman", She glares at me, "has slept with every man that asks her. She's a prostitute! I would not wed her, if I were you, Jack. Whatever lies she has told you to cover up her sins, be made known of them now!" Her voice thunders through the church, and a gasping silence lies over the small gathering of guests. I look up at Jack, pleading with my eyes. A slight look of shock is on his face, and he glares at Lily Payne. When he looks back at me, I see only love in his eyes. Then he faces Lily Payne.
"Lily Payne, you're a liar. Get out of this holy place; you do not belong here!" He turns back to the pastor. "Go on."
The pastor looks from me to Jack to Lily Payne. Then he nods and proceeds. In no more than ten minutes, I am married to Jack, and no longer a Payne.
My new life was happy only for the week of my honeymoon. From the moment we arrived to our new home, we were plagued with terrors from Lily Payne. She left beheaded dolls at our door, red nail polish doused over their headless necks, ropes binding their poor hands. Jack and I threw these things away, but her pestering only grew worse.
"Rosie, Rosie, pick a posy, dry your heart with shame.
You've gone and left, mama's bereft, and you've forgot her name."
I read the note and stare at the beheaded Barbie and her little Kellie doll. She's dressed in a dress not unlike Mama's, and the little Kellie doll is dressed like me. The Barbie's nail-polish doused head is held in Kellie's innocent hands, and her little pink smile is menacing. Jack drives up just as I crumple the note in my hand. He pushes open the gate and takes the dolls and the note gently from my hands.
"Lily's not well in the head, Rose. Don't mind the notes and pranks." He kisses me, and I cling to his jacket, drawing strength from him.
"Thank you, Jack." I say when we pull apart.
It was not too far from my twenty fifth birthday when I found I was with child. Jack and I were overjoyed, but secretly I was terrified for the baby. What if Lily Payne found out? We kept the news secret, but in two weeks, the notes from Lily Payne changed, and we knew that she'd discovered what we had tried to conceal.
The baby in the cradle is too grotesque; I cannot remove it from the porch. I wait anxiously for Jack to return home, hoping that he will be able to throw the demonic doll into the garbage. Its face leers at me through burnt skin, and its hands hold a knife, onto which is stabbed a Paper Mache heart, dripping with red paint. The note is attached over the doll's head, but I cannot drive up the courage to read it. After hours of waiting, I finally grab the note. It is nearly five, and Jack should be home soon. He will be able to comfort me if this note should prove as disturbing as the doll.
"There was an old lady who lived in a shoe
She had so many children she didn't know what to do,
So by and by, she cooked up a stew
And killed them and ate them, two by two."
As I grew with child, so did the notes grow worse. Jack held me and kissed my fears away, always loving and understanding. Each day, I clung to him harder, and the more I clung to him, the better I felt. Finally, the day for my child's birth came. To my horror, Lily Payne tormented me as the contractions grew. Jack's anger grew, but try as he might, Lily Payne would not leave.
I scream as the doctor urges me to push again. The pain is horrible, but worse is Lily Payne, hanging over my head, singing her horrific nursery rhymes to me.
"Baby in her womb did stand on her head,
She danced and she pranced and she wouldn't go to bed,
But when it came time to deliver, mommy cried so hard
Because baby from her womb came out blue and dead!"
Lily Payne barely whispers into my ear, then she laughs, her cackle screeching through the room. I turn my head away, concentrating on Jack's face and the doctor's instructions. One more push, and I hear a baby cry. Lily Payne coos and holds out her arms for the baby, giggling all the time. The nurse cleans my baby off and hands her to Lily Payne, despite my protests. Then, at Lily Payne's instruction, the doctor and nurses leave.
"No!" I whisper weakly, as Lily Payne cuddles my baby in her arms, ignoring my baby's cries. She sits on the bed next to me suddenly, and shoves the baby into my arms.
"Baby, Baby, cry too much
You'll end up in the devil's clutch
With horns on your head, boils on your feet
And an empty stomach with nothing to eat!"
I nurse my baby; a girl, and look up at Jack. He is staring at me, but anger is in his eyes. Suddenly, Lily Payne snatches the baby from my arms, and Jack jumps up. He glares at Lily Payne, and shouts at her,
"Demon from Hades! Leave this woman, I revoke you in the name of God! Get out, you vile serpent!"
I cannot think straight. I am confused; Jack is glaring at me, and Lily Payne is cowering before his eyes. My baby is nursing at my breast again, but Jack grabs her from me, holding her protectively.
"Who are you?" He asks me.
I open my mouth. "Lily Rose Payne." I answer. But that is not right; I am Rose James. I can feel Lily Payne, still cowering under Jack's glare; why is he glaring at me?
"Get out." He growls at me. Lily Payne whimpers; what is that sound coming from my throat? Then I feel strange; Lily Payne is quivering, and I can feel her protesting. But suddenly, she stops breathing, and a queer feeling floods over me. I am not afraid anymore. I hold out my arms for my baby, and Jack hesitates, once more asking, "Who are you?"
"Rose James" I answer without pause. Jack sighs with relief and hands me the baby, kissing my forehead.
Like I said, I never understood Lily Payne. Whatever drove her, I'll never know, and what happened to her still eludes my knowledge, but I am glad I am finally rid of her. My nightmares are gone, and I have a restored and beautifully growing relationship with my parents. Jack and I talk about having more children, but for now, we struggle to keep up with our daughter. She is three, and can talk, and she babbles on, normally incoherent. I will never forget her first coherent sentences; they are burned into my mind, branded memory, and they nearly made me faint.
My daughter gallops her horse over the floor, tromping over her many dolls and stuffed animals. In a singsong, chanting voice, she giggles and says,
"Too bad, So sad,
Mama's crying, Daddy's mad,
Fish are jumping from the stream,
Lily roses cry and scream,
That little old lady who lived in a shoe
Is stomping and clomping to step on you!"