Never Go Back

Fiction By LoriAnn // 2/8/2012

 I cannot go back.

Nothing is left for me there—the flames charred everything down to bare bone. I cannot go back, and I wouldn’t if I could.

I am going far away from that place. I am going to a city—I do not know exactly where, but I have heard about it. They say that its walls can keep out any danger and that the king lives there in a castle stronger than adamant. I am going there, and there I will be safe. I will make myself a home and perhaps a shop. I have some money—a lot of money, really—and I can make toys. Cunning toys, so sweetly made and clever that adults will play with them as much as children. But the children will be the ones I love—the ones for whom I make the toys.

I could never make toys back there. Not the way I wanted to. He always stopped me from making them just right, he wanted me to leave that something out. He said it was for my protection. He was right.

I don’t think about him.

In the city, I will find a nice street, where there are many bright shops, and I will buy one with beautiful windows and brilliantly painted walls. Or if the walls are not painted, I will paint them myself—blue, maybe. The color of the sky on a summer day, like when he and I used to go down to the little stream that ran past the village and fish for fat trout for dinner. Or maybe yellow, like the buttercups he picked for me on spring mornings, when we went walking in the fields behind his father’s manor.

But not red. I will never love red again. Not roses, not sunsets, not flowerpots or cherries or sweet apples. I’ve seen enough red to last my whole life.

I cannot go back.

In my shop, I will have shelves—low shelves with balls and blocks and books for the children to see and touch, and high shelves for the china dolls I will make and the snow globes I will create. He knew that I could, but he wouldn’t let me. He said it was dangerous. And he was right, of course, he always was. I was a fool.

And the little girls will come into my shop and they will see my dollhouses and princess dresses and the books and the tea sets and the jump ropes and jacks and telescopes and toy butterflies that can really fly on a string. But what they will love most is the dolls on the high shelves. And they will stare with big blue eyes up at the dolls and their fingers will itch to stroke the soft velvet dresses and the smooth china cheeks. And I’ll wink at their mothers and carefully bring down one of the dolls, and place it in the little girl’s arms. And she’ll cradle it like she’s seen her mother do with a real baby, and her eyes will be wide and her mouth will curve in a smile like a crescent moon, and I’ll know that I have made her happy.

Like he made me happy. Once, I dreamed of holding a baby of my own—not a china baby, nor even a soft rag baby that can be cuddled tight for comfort—a real baby, that would laugh and cry and need me to love it and care for it, and that would grow up straight and strong and beautiful and run in the long grass with the sun on its face and its eyes always open to wonder.

I can never go back.

Even little boys will love my shop, because I will know that they’re not too big for toys, even when most folks say they are. I will have balls that bounce like frogs in a pond, painted with bright stars and spots and stripes, all blue and green and yellow and orange and purple and even strange colors like teal and mauve. But no red.

And there will be toy swords and pop guns and little toy cannons that actually shoot marbles, and suits of wooden armor just the right size for a boy. And wagons and Noah’s arks, and all sorts of toys that make arms and imaginations grow strong.

He was so strong, even to the last. When he carried me away from the fires, his face streaked with soot and blood and his gait uneven with a limp, he was stronger than anyone else. He was stronger even than the baron, because the baron died in his bedroom protecting his gold. He must have died in the streets, protecting a family of children. I don’t know if they escaped or not. I’ll never know. I will never return.

I will spend the rest of my days in the sunny streets of a fair city, though it may take me a while to find it. All I know is that it’s south. So I follow the stars at night and hide in the sheltering elm woods by day and keep my little dreams close to my heart.

There, I think, in that city, no one will notice if my toys are a little brighter than the usual. That the dolls have a certain sweetness to their smile that human hands cannot paint, or that the balls bounce a little higher than wooden balls ought to bounce, or that my jump ropes never break or my jacks never get underfoot when you have to slip out to the privy in the middle of the night. I will become a renowned toymaker, and no one will ever connect the prosperous shopkeeper with the scared girl who fled the witch hunters in the north. Most people in the south probably won’t even hear about it. And I will certainly tell no one.

Perhaps a gentleman will one day dare to ask for my hand—perhaps a fellow who brings his little sister in for a birthday gift. I will have to turn him down, of course, no matter how my heart pangs at his dark chestnut hair and blue eyes, which remind me so much of his eyes, now lost to me. I’ll thank him for his attentions, and perhaps we will forever be friends, even when he marries a lovely, sweet girl with flaxen hair, and has children of his own. They will come into my shop, and I will give them toys even better than the ones that I sell to everyone else who comes there. The tin soldiers will never bend or their paint chip, and the tea sets will never break. The children will love me, and perhaps even call me Aunt, and my heart may at last be soothed.

To be loved is a curious thing. To be loved by a child is a miracle few deserve—and I will always remember that children loved him. In the face of every child who carries a toy away from my shop, I will see his face. And perhaps one day, a child will come into my shop who looks so much like him that it breaks and restores my heart all at the same time. That child, even if I only speak a few words to him, I will love with all my heart for the rest of my days. That child will be the one that might have been mine, running through the long grass and laughing at the way his father catches fireflies with his hands or stands on his head and wiggles his toes at the sun.

And then, at the end of my days, when I have lived out a long and happy life making the lives of the city’s children happier still, I will leave my shop to a child that I have seen grow up. I will watch carefully for that child—I know he or she is there somewhere, though perhaps still waiting to be born. And I will pass along my skill to that child, pouring the love and light of the art into his hands. And he will find that, while I can no longer hold a paintbrush steady enough to put the sparkle in a puppet’s eye, he can now carve onto that wooden face a smile face happy enough to set the king’s court dancing. His jump ropes will never fray or break, and his books will be so well-bound that even rigorous reading and play cannot wear them out.

And then I will be gone, one morning. He will come to the shop to open the door for the day, and I will have vanished, leaving only a shimmer of light and a scent like fresh wood shavings behind me. And he will, perhaps, be sad—but he will know what to do. He will open the shop, and will begin the day by selling a box of dominos to a mother looking for something for her son’s birthday, and he will always know just the toy needed for any child.

As for me, well…I will be gone, away from that place that brought me so much joy in my later years and so much pain when I was young.

And I cannot go back.



That's sweet and sad at the same time. And, might I say, tons better than the stuff we have to read for writing of fiction, because it makes me care about the characters. I actually care about her, despite the lack of a name.

Julie | Thu, 02/09/2012

Formerly Kestrel

Such a feeling of sadness...

What exactly happened in the place she was fleeing?  What did she do that caused it?
And I also have to wonder if this is somehow the ancient backdrop for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Imporium.

James | Thu, 02/09/2012

"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

It seems

  It seems that she was a toy maker in her old village, and made magical toys, until some witch hunters came and burned the whole village down in search for her.

Very well written piece.

Leinad K. Romethe (not verified) | Thu, 02/09/2012

So sad and beautiful all at

So sad and beautiful all at once. It's always a strange sadness reading a story in which a character knows something of magic, or something close to it, and a tragedy happens that their magic can't prevent. And yet, those are usually my favorite characters, and this towmaker is no exception. Lovely piece, LoriAnn.

Kay J Fields | Fri, 02/10/2012

Visit my writing/book review blog at


 It's so sad and powerful and beautiful all at once. One of those scenes you want to walk into and get to know and comfort the person and find out more of the history from their lips.

Kyleigh | Sat, 02/11/2012

Ahhhh man..... this is sad,

Ahhhh man..... this is sad, yet so beautiful! I'm glad I read it, very well written! 

Marlene E. Schuler | Sat, 02/11/2012

Visit yon blob of literary adventureness!


 This is awesome. I love how she goes back and forth to what was and what might be. It's all lyrics and colors and sweet sadness. I love it all.

Anna | Mon, 02/13/2012

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

 This was very sad, but very

 This was very sad, but very well written :) I want to know more, but maybe that would mess up the feel. Great work!

Laura Elizabeth | Thu, 02/23/2012

The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

I really love your writing.

I really love your writing. This is so full of emotion. I like and feel sorry for the character.

Nora West | Sat, 02/25/2012

Mmm... WOW!

Ditto to everyone!
This was so beautiful and sad and sobering and just so... lovely! You did a FANTASTIC job with it! I loved the character and the story she told! I loved, loved, loved it!

Kassady | Fri, 08/10/2012

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
Write On!


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