A story inspired by a beautiful song. Went through loads of character and plot tweaks before I settled on this.
There once were two doll sisters who grew up in the toyshop together - Elisa and Ilisa.
Since they were little, Elisa always fantasised about living the life of dreams - meeting big fancy toys, bright lights, bustling cities far away from the toyshop. Ilisa, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than the simple pleasures of being cared for by a Child.
Different as day and night, both waited patiently for the day they could venture their lives down the paths their hearts chose.
It came sooner than expected.
One morning, Ilisa woke up to see Elisa scrambling out the door, suitcase in hand. She stopped just long enough to explain that she was joining a traveling toy fair leaving for the next town today. A hasty goodbye later, she left the shop for good.
Ilisa would never see her again till three years later, when the fair returned to their town. By then, so much was different. Ilisa had eventually found her Child and moved to a cosy new home, where she spent her days dressed up for pretend tea parties with other toys.
Elisa, on the other hand, was quite changed. Decked in fine jewellery and expensive clothes, she spoke with a posh accent about places and people Ilisa could barely comprehend. She described her travels on a cruise liner along the isles of Scilly where the people sipped champagne and danced the Viennese waltz all night long. Ilisa's eyes widened as she elaborated about the gourmet wonders of Toulouse and glitzy street carnivals of Andalusia.
"I tell you, sis," she paused to powder her face. "You have no idea what you're missing out on."
Ilisa wanted to share about her Child, but was cut off by the loud chime of a bell.
It was time for the fair to get moving, taking Elisa away.
This time, another five years would pass before they met again. The Child had now outgrown Ilisa and passed her down to her Sister, teaching her the little games they once shared for hours. The Sister was a loud, boisterous girl who fancied rougher games and was careless with her toys, but Ilisa loved her all the same.
The passing of time, however, had been much kinder to Elisa. Looking hardly a year older than the day she left, she bubbled over about meeting the Queen in Copenhagen and the larger than life toys of Amsterdam. Through the peaks of Switzerland, over the unending pastures of Scotland to the serene bliss of floating on the Danube under the stars. Truly her life was a never-ending storybook of dreams lived and loved.
"Wow," sighed Ilisa. "It all sounds so lovely."
"You should follow me, sis. Look at yourself. You're becoming so...shabby."
"It's okay. I have my Children."
"I've seen more Children than you'll ever have, dear sister. And they're all the same. You're not going to be around forever. Live the sweet life while you can."
With those words they parted ways once again. This time, they never met again for many years, more than both could remember. After the Sister, Ilisa had several more Children. She was sold at a flea market to a Child who kept crying for her Brother's toys, then given to some Orphans who always had grimy hands.
The seasons changed swiftly, silently, each turning her into an old doll and making Elisa an increasingly distant memory. Nonetheless, she loved every Child she ever played with and could only reflect with a smile on the days gone by. Such is life - you spend your days of youth looking ahead and days of age looking back.
Elisa and Ilisa's final meeting came in the most unlikely of places with the most improbable of endings.
After an unfortunate accident that left her squashed beyond repair, Ilisa was chucked to the dumpster where she calmly awaited her fate. Looking left and right at the sprawling pile of unwanted objects, she prepared to shut her eyes one last time when another doll landed beside her.
It was Elisa!
She was still dressed to the nines, but a far cry from the ever-smiling, ever-youthful Elisa of days gone by. Where there once was radiance in her eyes, now only hollowness remained.
"My sister," Ilisa cried. "What happened to you?"
Elisa shook her head, weeping bitterly. "I woke up one day, and there was this younger and prettier doll in my place. The People at the fair said I had gone out of style. Nobody wanted to see me any more. So they threw me out."
"All those years, I never realised how lonely I really was. After I left the fair, I had no one to turn to. No Children or homes or other toys. Just my pretty clothes and precious memories."
Ilisa smiled at her sadly. "You'll always have me."
"Thank you. I missed you."
As the two sisters sat there in embrace, life's final lesson dawned upon them - their life of dreams existed not in People, Places or Toys. It was there all along - in their hearts.
"You know what, sis? It was all a lie. In the end, none of those cities or adventures mattered. I saw all these Children and People crowding around me, taking pictures of me. They admired me and talked about me. But none of them ever loved me. All those other toys - living lives as empty as mine. Putting on our best faces and enjoying the attention while it lasted. But deep down, I simply wished to have wonderful Children like you did. Children who would love me in return."
Ilisa shut her eyes, nodding.
The next morning, a man dutifully collected both dolls for disposal. Some say that Ilisa was never seen again, but Elisa was passed to the Orphans who cared for her till she too left the world.