L.C: So since I can't come up with a good long story / can't feel inspired to write one, I've been practicing with shorter stories. It's so much fun! This is a response to a SKoW prompt. Hopefully you'll enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Happy New Year, everyone!
And a friendly reminder from me, constructive feedback is always welcome!
by: Lenah. C
She named me Red.
By "she", I'm referring to Kerrie, my Owner / Human. Our friendship began like any other: when her mum plucked me off the store shelf and wrapped me in a box with a pretty bow. I was to become Kerrie's 6th birthday present. And . . . I suppose you can say that it was love at first sight.
The moment my eyes landed on that adorable six-year old, I felt my stuffing tingle. There she was with her strawberry blonde hair tied in two cute braids, her baby blue eyes wide open with wonder as she beheld me in rapture for the first time.
She named me Red because of my mop of yarn hair, which was dyed bright red and because of my red and white striped stockings, which she adored. The moment I was named, I became hers.
It was the start of a beautiful friendship, I thought then, and I couldn't be any more right. Kerrie was my whole life. She was my love, my pride, and my joy. I was happy when she would tuck me in bed beside her after saying "goodnight!" I was ecstatic as she led me by the arm and skipped on the sidewalk.
I love everything about Kerrie, even her faults. We understood each other like two peas in a pod. When she would ask me if I wanted some more tea, I'd reply: "only if it's still hot!" to which she would nod and pour me another cup.
Contentment settled in my heart as I watched her live, and in seeing her happy, I thought that I could be happy for the rest of my life. It was just the two of us. We were a team, and together, we were complete.
But then it had to happen and he just had to come into the picture.
By "it" I mean the Big Move.
One day, without warning, a big truck came and parked on the road in front of the house next door. Kerrie said that we were going to have new neighbors. We both spied as the cargo men mounted furniture onto their hands and shoulders one after another. There was a lot of boy stuff: big toy cars, a blue bicycle, train sets, and a myriad of sports gear. We watched everything with keen interest.
That was the first time we laid eyes on the McDimmons. They were a lovely pair—doctors the both of them—dressed up like Barbie and Ken from the tennis set edition. Kerrie's parents welcomed them with a baked apple pie, and since then a strong friendship was struck between the two households.
By "he" I am referring to Andrew, the McDimmon's eight year old son. I knew he was trouble the moment I spotted him speeding down the sidewalk in his roller blades screaming like a child possessed, his jet-black hair rumpled beyond the hopes of any comb.
That week of the Big Move, Kerrie's parents brought her (and me) to the McDimmons' for a fancy dinner. The new neighbors took to Kerrie with cooing smiles, and I beamed inside. Kerrie looked like an angel in her pink dress, lacy socks, and shiny black shoes.
She was introduced to Andrew, and it was at that moment that I spotted the biggest and most horrid jerk alive grasped in his hand. Even his name was too egoistic for words. He's called Superman! Only a toy (he was an action figure) of the vainest kind would have a superlative as part of his name!
He had given me the same head-to-toe inspection his Owner had given Kerrie. And without any sense of manners at all, he looked away as if my existence wasn't worthy enough for acknowledgment. Andrew didn't fare better in the manners department either.
"You don't even have boobs yet," he said with a disappointed huff.
It was a statement that shocked the adults in the room. To add to that, Kerrie responded by kicking him on the shin—hard (it would be in later years when she would learn that there exist a much more sensitive spot in the male anatomy).
While Kerrie's dad was quick to reprimand his little girl, it was a treat to witness how Mrs. McDimmon had twisted Andrew's ear so hard we thought it was going to snap right off his head. Too bad it didn't.
Andrew and Kerrie didn't speak again for the rest of the evening while the rest of the adults chatted on animatedly about every boring topic known to mankind. Meanwhile I could only keep my chin up and ignore Superman who, in turn, continued to ignore my insignificant existence. I hated everything about him from his square jaw to that annoying lock of black hair that grazed his forehead.
I thought him a stupid fellow—all muscle and no brains. For one thing, he was wearing his undies wrong! I saw his eyes narrow when I laughed at his bright red briefs, which he wore over his skintight blue suit.
He insulted my existence; I insulted his fashion sense.
It was an unspoken oath of war.
"Help! Heeeeelp meeee!" I resisted the urge to gag. I wasn't supposed to move an inch in fear of falling down to the volcano that would fry all of my stuffing to ash. Kerrie already made sure that I was secure on top of the slide, but she looked positively worried for my sake. Steaming hot lava wasn't a nice place to fall into, after all.
"Do not fear! Superman is here!" Andrew bellowed in a deep tone. And with all the pomp and glamour the two kids could imagine, Superman flew to where I sat, supposedly paralyzed with fear, but I only looked at him crossly.
We shared a hostile look, and just as we had rehearsed so many times before, I allowed him to scoop me up in his arms and fly me to safety.
"You weigh like a boulder," Superman muttered.
I huffed at him. "Some super strength you have."
I always thought that adults were unnecessarily cruel. Completely ignoring how their children would rather eat vegetables than be with one another, they arranged multiple play dates for Kerrie and Andrew.
Often times, I would be brought along, and, without much of a choice, I'd have to suffer through an afternoon "date" with Superman (or should I say, Superjerk). He took after his Owner the way he was always so bossy, controlling, and stubborn.
Superman—being the sexist arrogant jerk that he is—loved playing the hero people fawned over, leaving me with the loathsome role of "damsel in distress" who had nothing else better to do but to get in trouble. Andrew often took control of the story plot while Kerrie watched on.
They fought a lot, especially when Kerrie would want to play something else and Andrew didn't. Apparently, playing teatime would make Superman "gay".
"What's gay?" Kerrie asked, letting curiosity override her anger. To be honest, I was curious myself.
Andrew stuck his chin up, proud that he knew something that Kerrie didn't. "It's when . . ." Suddenly, he looked unsure of himself. "Uhm, it's when a boy gets really sick with cooties from spending too much time with stupid girls like you!"
My heart sank seeing Kerrie's lips quiver. She hated the word "stupid", the sensitive soul that she is. It was a mean word.
I gave Andrew a frosty glare, just as Kerrie found the courage to confront the eight year old. "Well, you must be gay then because I think you spend too much time with me and Red! You even like playing with Red and making all those girly voices."
Andrew suddenly looked like he got sunburn on his cheeks. "Nu-uh!"
"Yes, you do! Gay! Andrew's gay and sick with cooooooties!" Kerrie shouted in the playground.
"No I'm not! Shut up! You're a liar!"
Extremely provoked, Andrew grabbed me by the hair and threw me on the sandbox. This caused Kerrie to cry inconsolably and, in turn, made Andrew cry with overwhelming guilt.
By a twist of fate and a very powerful act of miraculous magic, Kerrie and Andrew started getting along.
It started when Kerrie entered second grade in the same school as Andrew. Due to some unknown drop of humanity in Andrew's heart, he defended her "rights" to the swing from Tommy the resident 4th grade bully one afternoon in the playground. And as dramatic as it may sound, that random act of compassion and courage changed everything. For one thing, it was enough to make their relationship status change from mortal nemesis to good buddies.
While before it was just Kerrie and I—best friends forever—now there was Andrew McDimmon and that stupid Superman.
We went to the McDimmon's place every weekend to play. Andrew's room was a toy emporium, filled with trains and toy planes and all those stuff boys loved playing. And while we still played rescue stories, Kerrie started leaving me with Superman while she went off to play video games with Andrew.
Trying not to let my abandonment issues show, I tried my best to be friendly toward my own nemesis. "So this is your place, huh," I said, looking around the room, which was typically painted navy blue. "Not bad."
Superman didn't bother communicating with me. I caught him looking intently at me though, except when I met his blue eyes, he swiftly turned the other way.
I rolled my eyes. Boys are so weird.
"Fine. Be like that," I said with nonchalance. It was a strange feeling knowing we were expected to be on friendly terms now that our Humans have become friends. I explored Andrew's room with no help from Superman.
I was having a grand time by myself until my clumsiness took center stage. I slipped on the blanket, teetering at the edge of the bed. Superman came to my rescue by grabbing my hand, and in a blur of motions, I landed on top of him in an undignified manner. That was the manner in which the kids found us once they returned from their play, and Andrew wasted no time in being immature.
"Hey! Red is sleeping with Superman! You're such a perv, Kerrie."
I didn't know what was so wrong about "sleeping", but the way Andrew said it made me cringe.
"But I didn't put her there! I bet you did!" After a while Kerrie stared at our intertwined form and looked at Andrew. "But what if they're sleepy? Maybe Superman was sleepy and didn't want to be alone because he's scared."
Andrew gave her an exasperated sigh. Now a boy of nine, apparently he knew all about the "ways of the world". "You're such a child! They're not just sleeping together, they're making babies!"
I felt Superman tense under me, and I gasped with utter horror. We were both having heart attacks as we speak.
"EWWWW." Kerrie paused. "But how can you make babies by sleeping together?"
"I dunno. That's what my dad said when I asked how Daniel came to be inside mummy's tummy. He said he just slept with mum."
"Ohhhhh. That's weird. Does that mean I'm pregnant?"
Andrew made a sour face. "Why would you be pregnant?"
"Because you slept with me in my room for the night when you're parents went away!"
My compromising position with Superman was altogether swept aside and forgotten once our Owners went into a frenzy over the possibility of their becoming parents at a ripe age of nine and seven.
But for some reason, once Kerrie took me back home, I could never forget how Superman had held me to him tightly. He had whispered to me with concern in his voice "are you okay?" while I replied with a shy "yes". It was our first sincere conversation.
The way he had held me then made me feel strangely warm. He rescued me—without any of those constructed plot, without pretenses. Playing the scene over in my head, I felt my stuffing tingle, and not totally in a bad way.
After that, I began to notice things I never really paid attention to before. Like how Superman was made of hard muscle—all abs, biceps, toned calves—and when he would carry me in the air during "rescue", I'd blush, even when I didn't want to blush. When he spoke, I felt my breathing quicken.
It was all so strange.
It's funny how little girls often giggled about the word "crush". Apparently, a lot of girls had a "crush" on Andrew, mostly girls in the same grade as him.
I found it odd why people called it a "crush"—it was a sentiment I shared with Kerrie. After all, isn't "crush" a painful experience? I remember getting "crushed" under a pile of Lego bricks, and that wasn't exactly a nice feeling.
Once Andrew made it to fifth grade, there was this girl named Laura who became friends with him. She was his seatmate and lived two blocks from our home. Laura had beautiful gold hair decorated with a pretty purple headband with flowers on it and a pale face with a pretty blush to her cheeks. During playtime, she stuck with Andrew, and they would play together, leaving Kerrie to push herself on the swing and to play alone with me in the sandbox.
I should have been the happiest doll alive now that I had Kerrie all to myself again like old times, but I wasn't. And I couldn't understand why we were both sad and hurt.
Laura had a pretty Barbie doll. In many ways, she was like her Owner: blonde and very, very pretty. She wore a fashionable sundress that seemed too tight on her and dainty sandals with heels on them that made me wonder how she could walk. I saw how Superman had ogled at her.
Without giving the issue another thought, Kerrie and I concluded that boys are stupid and aren't worth our time. Besides, Andrew has changed and none for the better! He has gotten much taller, so much that it was becoming difficult to play under the bed. Good riddance to them! But despite the attitude of indifference we forced ourselves to have, I couldn't help but feel betrayed.
That was the first inkling that I had about how everything had changed forever. My world no longer revolved around Kerrie anymore. Now there was Andrew and his Superman. They had infiltrated our bond of friendship. And why shouldn't I care? I thought with a defined pout. With the many times that I was forced to play damsel to Superman's hero, it was only natural I'd develop a friendship with him too!
Andrew and Superman didn't show up on our porch that weekend like he always did. Kerrie vowed to hate him forever and ever while I vowed to hate all action figures for the rest of my life.
The next weekend, Andrew finally came knocking on our door, wanting to play cops and robbers. Kerrie slammed the door in his face, with a final remark of "go play with Laura!" I stuck out a menacing tongue out at Superman before the door closed. That'll teach them a lesson!
That week, Kerrie found new playmates during recess, and even if I didn't feel like it, I played teatime with Bobby the imaginary friend. It would've been more fun if I could actually see him though. He had a knack of appearing and disappearing—only I didn't bother telling Kerrie who was too engrossed creating a nice story with Tommy. Still, I could sense that Kerrie immensely preferred Andrew's adventurous plotlines.
"Kerrie and Tommy sitting on a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" It was a commotion that caught our immediate attention. Standing on top of the monkey bars like some king of the playground, Andrew sat half shouting-half singing lyrics about Kerrie and Tommy "crushing" on each other. He made faces too and seemed to enjoy seeing Kerrie's ears turn as red as a tomato.
"You—you fat ugly pig!"
I shared Kerrie's satisfaction when my Owner took a fistful of mud from Nicole's mud pie and threw it at Andrew. It hit him square on the chest and caused him to lose his grip on Superman.
From the top of the monkey bars, I watched with unspeakable dread as Superman fell to the ground in seeming slow motion. It was like in cartoons—bad stuff almost always happen in slow motion.
Superman's left arm snapped off his body upon impact, and I had only to look at his broken form to feel remorse. Kerrie scrambled to collect the action figure and nearly collided with an angry Andrew.
"You broke him! It's your fault!" he wailed, shoving Kerrie back.
"But I didn't mean it!" Kerrie cried back, genuinely sorry tears running down her cheeks. She didn't like the way Andrew was shouting at her. It made her feel a gazillion times worse.
"I hate you! I hate you! I never want to talk to you again!"
Kerrie looked completely grief-stricken gathering Superman into her hands. I watched as she gently placed him in her backpack along with his arm. I knew how Kerrie was feeling at the moment. It was the perfect time to use the word "crush," because that was how we both felt at that time. Absolutely crushed.
When Kerrie finally descended to a fitful sleep, I wiggled myself off her arms and climbed the table where he was. Under the moonlight, I could see his once proud form slumped with defeat. He was facing against me, which was perfectly fine since I didn't want to see him eye-to-eye.
"How do you feel?"
I knew he heard me, but perhaps it was a misplaced sense of loyalty toward his Owner that he refused to speak to me too. Unfazed, I continued, glancing at his shoulder.
"You know you're going to alright, right? Kerrie's daddy said we can get you fixed over the weekend, and that you'll be as good as new."
I touched his broken arm and placed it beside him as an act of comfort; still, he insisted on the silence.
"Kerrie didn't mean it, but we're sorry for hurting you and Andrew."
"Andrew didn't mean it either—making both of you angry," Superman muttered. His response lifted my spirits somewhat, and when he finally sat up, I sat beside him, contented to bask under the moonlight.
Kerrie shifted under the blanket, and I wondered if she was still troubled. Andrew said some awfully mean things to her.
"Does Andrew like Laura?"
"Everyone likes Laura."
"Is it because she's blonde?" In cartoons, the blonde girls usually get the handsome guys—or as Kerrie's mom would say the "hot studs", whatever that meant.
"No. She shared Andrew a sandwich for recess. She's kind."
"She must be crushing on Andrew then. Because that's what the adults say: a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. And Andrew's stomach must be getting bigger with all the food he's eating."
At this statement, Superman kept quiet. I knew what I wanted to ask him. I'd been wondering all week, but I couldn't find the courage to say it. Instead I just stared at my striped stockings.
"Andrew's growing up."
It was the two taboo words! I gasped. Every toy knew those two words and dreaded it.
"Is it true though? Do you feel it?" The older toys had once talked about it—how the bond between Owner and toy starts waning once puberty starts (hence, the P word was the foulest word in toy kingdom).
Superman nodded. I thought his hair lacked its usual black luster tonight. His stray lock limped on his forehead. "Andrew likes other things now. Like playing more sports with the other boys or playing his video games. The only time he plays with me is when he visits you and Kerrie."
I watched Kerrie's slumbering form with a strange pang in my heart. It wasn't my time yet. Kerrie still had a few more years to go. I reckon I have a bit more time than usual since she's such a sweet little girl with an active imagination.
I cocked my head to one side. "Does he like playing with Kerrie and me?"
"Uh-huh. That's why he felt hurt this afternoon. He thought Kerrie didn't want to play with him anymore."
My sense of loyalty toward my Owner burned within me. "Oh yeah? Well, we thought you two were having a lot of fun with Laura and Barbie." I spat at the word Barbie with distaste. My stuffing was tingling again, though it wasn't very pleasant this time.
"It's not the same. And playing house isn't anywhere near as fun as playing rescue or cops and robbers."
I sat a little bit straighter. "But Barbie's very pretty. She has boobs." I suddenly remembered that awful dinner with the McDimmons when Andrew had blurted out that Kerrie didn't have boobs. I stole a glance at my own flat chest and felt my cheeks burn.
Beside me, Superman shifted in his seat. I did see him admiring Barbie's well-formed shape. The blonde looked like the girls in those Holly-Wood magazines Kerrie's mom loves to read.
"She has long legs. And a thin waist," I say as if I was an expert on the criteria of female beauty. A look at my own waistline and straight legs made me frown. Being a rag doll, I was more on the soft and squishy side of the weighing scale. In solemn silence, I compared Barbie's heels with my dirty sneakers.
"And her hair is long, shiny, and silky—"
"I like your hair."
I scoffed and grappled on a few yarn strands on top of my head. "It's not exactly hair commercial material."
Superman only smiled. "I know." There was something with the way he smiled that made my cheeks flush. "But you're pretty and fun in your own way, Red. Besides, you are a much better actress than Barbie."
It was the first time Superman ever called me by my name, and for some reason it made me feel so warm, I didn't mind the evening chill. And did he just say that he preferred my company?
To break the silence, I extended a hand for a pal handshake. "So I guess I can say that we're friends now?"
He considered my offer, but then his eyebrows arched in a way that can only be considered as arrogant. "I guess you can say that I like you, Red." He took my hand, but instead of the quick one-two-shake, his grasp lingered.
Having his hand on mine made me feel light and fuzzy inside, and while it was uncomfortable and awkward, a part of me didn't want him to let go.
We didn't talk anymore that night. We simply relished each other's company—a stark change from our typical sullen temperament. Superman had his head bowed and was morose again. I knew he was thinking about Andrew.
I was glad I still had time left with Kerrie. I wasn't so sure if I'm ready to be alone—or if I'll ever be.
As promised, Kerrie's dad fixed Superman and made him almost as good as new again that same weekend. It was all thanks to toy kingdom's most wondrous panacea: SUPER glue.
I guess supers must go well together, because a few drops of super glue got Superman looking as good as new with his re-attached arm. The crack could hardly be seen.
Kerrie got so excited seeing Superman patched up that she almost crashed into the ten-year old hanging behind the front door. Andrew took a few steps back and looked at his shoes. I learned from experience that shoes become very interesting objects in times of awkwardness or nervousness.
"I-I'm sorry for making you angry that day, Kerrie."
In response, Kerrie bowed her head in shame. "I'm sorry too for throwing mud at you, and for hurting Superman. Here, daddy fixed him up now; so you can have him back."
He took the action figure back hesitantly. "Thanks." He inspected the once broken arm and glanced at Kerrie's nervous expression. Blushing even more, he muttered: "You . . . uhm . . . you want to play rescue?"
Kerrie heaved a sigh of relief and gave Andrew a toothy grin.
"Help meeee! Heeeeeeelp meeeeeeeee!"
I put some more muscle into my desperate waves to give the kids a good show, but T's bite is getting a bit painful. I was wedged in between Andrew's gigantic Tyrannosaurus's jaws, waiting for Mr. Hero to arrive and save me. I grimaced as one of T's plastic molars dug into my side. It was getting uncomfortable, honestly speaking.
"Never fear! Superman is here!"
Thank goodness for that too. I watched as Superman flew above me, even doing a few air flips and tricks to please our young audience. I glowed hearing Kerrie's cheery laughter.
Superman was pleased to be played with while it lasted. He had that arrogant glint in those blue eyes again that I didn't miss while he was giving T a good body massage with those kicks and punches.
I even felt his old strength in the way he captured me in his arms and flew me to safety. Pressing my head to his chest, I heard his quickened heart beat and felt mine join in on the race.
"And once again, Red is safe thanks to Superman!" Andrew cried in a commentator voice that reminded me of the host in wrestling shows.
Kerrie cheered beside him, watching as Superman laid me down on the bed (a.k.a. my pretend front lawn).
It was another story finished, and with a satisfied smile on my face, I anticipated my and Superman's well-deserved rest. Andrew usually got hungry after our games, and the after-play routine usually meant snack time.
Kerrie caught all of our attention when she took both Superman and me by the arm with her two hands. It was the most unexpected twist to our usual rescue plotline when Kerrie smacked our heads together and made a kissy sound.
Andrew watched with horror, which, I thought, reflected my reaction well. Superman seemed equally stunned having our mouths meshed together.
"What are you doing?!" the ten year old whined, his tone revealing disgust.
"Red wants to express her gratitude to Superman for rescuing her."
"Aww, but that's gross!" To get his point across, Andrew took back Superman and wiped the toy's face with the hem of his shirt as if by wiping he could remove the memory of the kiss.
Kerrie pouted. "No, it's not! It's romantic!"
"Ugh! Girls are soooo mushy!"
"Stop being such a baby!"
Andrew gasped in exasperation and stuck his arms out to emphasize: "Red just raped Superman!"
When the definition of rape was explained, Kerrie crossed her arms in defiance. "NO SHE DID NOT!"
The heated debate between them came to a premature end when Mrs. McDimmon hollered over the stairs that snacks were ready. Food was the great pacifier, and though they continued their innocent bickering as they left the room, their tempers had cooled.
Now left alone, I daren't meet Superman's eye. Not when my cheeks felt as hot as a bun in the oven. Besides, my stomach still felt queasy—I reasoned that it was from the flight, not the kiss.
I couldn't explain why and how I could feel so suddenly cheerful. "Yeah?"
"You're stepping on my cape."
True enough, the sole of my sneaker was trapping the red cape in place. I burned even more, making me speculate if I was already as red as a cherry. Remembering last night wasn't helping to bring my body temperature back to normal level. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to treat it as if it never happened.
"Hey, Red?" When I looked up, Superman met my eyes. There was something in his blue eyes. The arrogance was gone, replaced by an emotion I was hesitant to name. But it made me feel . . . happy. "Thanks for acting extra-well today."
He made it sound as if I did it for him when I didn't . . . not really. Okay, fine, I did, but it's not a big deal. I told him exactly that.
"Are you still bummed out about Andrew?"
Superman drew a long and heavy sigh, but I noticed that he had a faint smile on those chiseled lips. "Not too much now. Andrew's growing up, and there's nothing I can do to stop it, Red. In a year or less, he's going to start liking girls and real cars—not just the tiny ones lined up on his table—and . . . he'll probably be interested in growing muscles and styling his hair."
I listened intently, finding Superman's calm somewhat inspiring. "And, he'll probably start liking boobs for real. But somehow I just know that he won't forget—about me, you, and Kerrie."
From downstairs we heard them screaming at each other about who got the most number of chocolate bits in their cookies and we shared an amused look. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I knew it too. Superman was right.
"No matter how grown up Andrew may get . . . I have a feeling that he'll come back to the things that still matter."
Below us, Kerrie's scream carried to the room: "Don't touch my cookies or I'm telling your dad!" And to this, we both laughed as another round of banters ensued.
"Besides, Red, once that time comes, I'll still have you, right?"
He cared. It was the first time that I felt certain that he cared, and it made me so glad that it was hard to keep myself from grinning silly. That's when the idea came into my head.
"Tell you what, when the day comes that Andrew stops playing with you, I'll superglue us together. Someway and somehow, I'm going to do it."
I wasn't sure if Superman wanted to laugh at my idea, but I could see that he was touched by the invitation to practically spend the rest of eternity with me.
Andrew's voice was getting louder, which meant that he was coming upstairs now, with Kerrie in tow. It was now or never. Trying my best not to blush, I calmly asked: "You sure, you don't want a Barbie? Last chance to turn back and choose the one with the gorgeous, skinny blonde with the long legs."
Superman raised his cocky eyebrows, reminding me just how much I had once hated his ego. He still has his ego, of course, but I've come to like—really like—the tenderness in his smile and the comfort in his touch as well.
"I wouldn't trade you for anyone else, Red."
I pondered on his statement for a second. "Because I'm your best damsel in distress?"
"Nope!" Superman quipped, sparing a glance at the opening door. "Because you're my hero."