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Lydia and the Red Lilies
By Jessica Dylan Miele
When Lydia was caught kissing boys at school, she didn't return home for fear of her mother's terrible temper. Instead, she headed to her grandmother's house, and along the way bought a fat bouquet of red Stargazer lilies, her grandmother's favorite. A wolf approached as she was walking out of the floral shop, gazing at her with shiny black eyes and drool on his lip.
Lydia was so frightened she lost control of her body in a fit of sneezing, and the wolf handed her a white handkerchief from his pocket. He asked her where she was going in a voice that was so deep and thick it permeated the air with the smell of musk. Lydia sneezed once again, and then she told the truth because she didn't know yet how to lie.
“Why are you walking?” asked the wolf. “It's quicker if you go by car. Come. I'll give you a ride.”
“I like to walk,” said Lydia. “Might as well use what you got.”
After the wolf had gone, Lydia turned the corner and found a Help Wanted sign outside a cafe. She inquired inside and was hired on the spot. Being a waitress was exhausting work, and she was frequently harassed by male customers. She also had to share her tips with the cook, an unfair deal especially because the cook refused to give her free meals.
As the years went by, the males stopped paying so much attention to her, and her tips became lighter and lighter. She started taking long detours on her way home from work, stalking lovers whenever given the chance. Why, she wondered, did men love to hold and hug some but not others? Her dresses became shorter and tighter, to show off the toned muscles of her legs.
There came the day that Lydia could no longer afford her rent, and her only option was to find her grandmother and ask for money. The bouquet of lilies she had bought had died long ago, but when she entered her grandmother's house, they sprang to life, each blossom's red petal as ripe as a strawberry in June.
The wolf smelled the lilies and woke up. He had been waiting a long, long time and felt weak. Slipping into a clean dress and placing a wig over his ears, he stumbled down the stairs. He paused when he took in the girl he had been waiting for, who was older and yet still not very tall. Her hair was longer and her skin was a lot less pink. “My darling,” said the wolf. He had spent a long while practicing the voice of an old crone. “My darling, you are here.”
Right away, Lydia knew who was in the dress, and she was glad. She had always regretted that she hadn't let the wolf eat her the first time they had met, because with him she had been the closest she’d ever felt to falling in love. Experience had taught her that he wouldn't bite if she was an easy hunt, and so she slipped off her shoes and told her grandmother how happy she was to see her.
“What took you so long?” asked the wolf. “Your mother and I were so very worried.”
“My mother!” said Lydia, and her face grew sour. After all this time, her mother nor anyone else in her family had ever tried to find her and bring her home. Even her grandmother, whom she knew the wolf had eaten, would never have made the effort to rescue Lydia from her lonely fate.
“Your mother calls me several times a week,” lied the wolf. “She calls and she cries and cries. She cries so much a new ocean has been made from her tears.”
“I love it when my mother cries,” said Lydia. “I love it so much I would like to drink her tears for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
“What a terrible thing to say!” said the wolf, and so astonished was he that Lydia would say such a thing about her own mother, he dropped his grandmother act and spoke in his true, musky deep voice.
Lydia said, “I’m not so terrible. Look, I brought you a bouquet of lilies.”
“Bah,” said the wolf. “What can I do with flowers?”
“You can light them on fire and they will warm you up,” said Lydia. She threw a handful of the red petals into the fireplace and when she lit a match, a fire swelled and smoke filled the room.
The wolf coughed and with tears in his eyes said, “I don’t like the way those flowers warm me up. Put out that fire, and throw the lilies away.”
Lydia doused the fire with a bucket of water and opened a window to let out the smoke. But she couldn’t bare to throw away the rest of her lilies and so she plucked some of the petals and placed them on the dining room table. “Try eating your lilies, Grandmother. Eat them and they will make your belly feel happy and full.”
Without bothering to sit down, the wolf hunched over and gobbled up the petals. They tasted sweet and soft on his rough tongue, but in no way did they make his belly feel satisfied. “Those flowers make for a terrible meal,” said the wolf. “I feel even hungrier than I did before I started eating.”
“You are probably just tired,” said Lydia. “I will put the petals on your bed, and as you lay on top of them, they will help you sleep.”
Before the wolf could protest, she ran upstairs and spread the last of the red petals on her grandmother’s queen-sized bed. The wolf lay down, and Lydia pretended to trip and fall into bed alongside him. “You knew all along, didn’t you?” said the wolf, licking his teeth. “You clever girl.”
“I’m not a girl,” whispered Lydia. But as the wolf opened his mouth, she quivered like a child.
#Unreal #FairyTale #Innocence #Ekphrastic #Lilies #Girl #Woman
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