Laceylolly: A Fairytale for a New Generation by Shawn Bilodeau

Once upon a time, in a land far away (but not as long ago nor as far away as you might think) there lived a young girl with her Wicked Stepmother.

Well, the young girl (whose name was Lily,) _thought_ her stepmother was wicked, anyway. Her Wicked Stepmother, the Queen, was constantly forcing Lily to do things she didn’t want to do. Things like classes in Deportment, and History, and Economics, and Languages. Classes in Diplomacy, and Military Strategy, and Governance.

The Queen insisted that Lily learn these things, because some day it would be Lily’s turn to be Queen. Lily did not, however, _want_ to be Queen.

Lily wanted a number of things, but none of them were to be Queen. Lily wanted her father back. She wanted her mother not to have died in childbirth. She wanted to make her art. She wanted to design her own clothes. She wanted to run wild in the streets with no supervision. She wanted to fix motorcycles. She wanted to be a tattoo artist. Most of all, what Lily really wanted was to NOT be Laceylolly.

Laceylolly. That’s what the two ladies-in-waiting her Wicked Stepmother had watching her called her, behind her back, during Deportment class. Mostly behind her back. Of all the classes that Lily had to take, she hated Deportment the most. And of all the people in the castle the two she hated the most were those ladies-in-waiting: Grace and Crystal. Grace, the Countess of Airedale, and Crystal, the Marchioness of Malodour.

Grace was simpering, and Crystal was fatuous. Crystal was vague, and Grace was flighty. Grace was mean, and Crystal was meaner. Both were bullies. Their favorite pastime was building themselves up by running others down. The Queen might be Wicked, but her ladies-in-waiting were just plain evil.

Never openly, of course. The Queen, a point in her favor, had caught them tormenting a page once. She’d pointed out that they really wouldn’t enjoy the loss of family titles and family wealth, should they be caught doing it again.

Grace being flighty, and Crystal being vague, they took the Queen’s admonishments to mean that they should be more circumspect with their pleasures. They became adept at finding their targets alone; in a hallway here, or an empty chamber there. They invented nasty little nicknames that they passed onto their sycophants to use. The accidental bump that spilled wine down a rival’s white dress. The slightly misplaced foot that sent a sweet young noble tumbling head over heels. Grace and Crystal were quite inventive in their malice.

Lily was a favorite target of the ladies-in-waiting. Tall, gangly, awkward, and newly come into her growth she was an easy target, too. Particularly during Deportment class. Grace and Crystal were the teacher’s pets, and had her social-ladder-climbing self wrapped around their little fingers. Lily’s back was never straight enough, her turns never graceful enough, her enunciation never clear enough.

Lily’s real torment began the day that the ladies-in-waiting pointed out to the Deportment teacher that tall, gangly Lily, in her outgrown lace gown and bustle, looked much like an upside down lollypop swaddled in lace. Thus, Lilly became Laceylolly. In whispers, and giggles, and the occasional ‘Oops’ out loud. The sycophants laughed and pointed, and the teacher smirked and ignored. Lily hated it.

She hated it, and blamed her Wicked Stepmother, because she knew that the ladies-in-waiting tormented her the most because they couldn’t torment the Queen. If the Queen had just kept her mouth shut, Lily felt, Grace and Crystal would have left her alone. You must remember, of course, that Lily was young.

There was one bright spot in Lily’s life. Personal hour. Her Wicked Stepmother gave her one hour a day in which she could pursue other courses to round out her education. Usually, Lily would draw. Animals, particularly tigers. The human figure (but when she did, her drawn versions always wound up with tattoos that the models had never had.) Sometimes it would be music, where she discovered that her favorites were the great punk bands: The Crash, Ramens, Black Frag, The Dead Carmodeys. One day a week she spent with the Royal Artificers (tho’ she felt quite sure the Queen would not approve of how hands-on that education was.)

So Lily endured her classes. And her tormentors. And her Wicked Stepmother. Lily endured because she dreamed of tigers, and tattoos, and pounding, wailing, vital music that set her free from everything.

Then one day, it came to be known in the castle that the Great Bananaroo Traveling Music Festival was coming to the kingdom. Bananaroo! Part concert, part carnival, part circus, complete and utter and glorious chaos and everything that young Lily’s soul yearned for.

Which, she was sure, was the reason her Wicked Stepmother wouldn’t agree immediately to let her go when Lily brought it up. It had nothing to do with the Queen’s concerns about her safety. It had everything to do with her Wicked Stepmother needing to crush her soul. Such is the logic of youth.

The day of the Festival drew nearer, and Lily grew glummer. The Queen hadn’t yet agreed to let her go. Grace and Crystal’s needling became more pointed.

Lily was sure that it was deliberate that the morning of the Festival was a Deportment class. Not just her Stepmother, but the entire world was Wicked. A belief that she felt was completely confirmed when Crystal bragged about the tickets to the Festival she’d scored and Grace called her ‘Laceylolly’ right to her face.

Lily had never been so angry. There was no thought involved in her next action. The ‘Laceylolly’ went in her ear, and immediately came right back out the fingers of her right hand as it slapped Grace’s face so hard her head rocked back a good eight inches.

Crystal was livid. So was the hand print on Grace’s cheek. The Queen was speechless. Lily was grounded. And desolate. She threw herself down on the floor of her bed chamber and cried herself to sleep.

—————

“Gonna sleep through the Fest, chick?” were the words that pulled Lily from her grey dreams, hours later.

She jerked upright. She was no longer alone in her room. She simply stared at the apparition sitting on her bed, kicking the four-inch heels of her knee-high, button-up, black Doc Marten boots idly against the floor. Lily wondered if she were seeing visions. “Whuh..?” was all she managed to get out.

“I’m your Fairy Gothmother,” the dream said.

“Godmother?” Lily asked, unable to take her eyes away. The spirit was a study in chiaroscuro. Her hair was nearly as pale as her skin. Her eyes were smokey and her lips were as black as the little black dress that clung to her form. The lace at her throat, and the mice climbing up and down her body, were white.

“Gothmother,” was the reply. “I’d like you to call me Amaris Darkshadow. I’m here to help you get to Bananaroo.”

“Amaris Darkshadow?!” echoed Lily, still not quite awake.

“I said I’d like you to call me that, not that it was my name.” sighed the fairy. “Fuck it, my name’s Ethel. Let’s get down to business.”

“You mentioned Bananaroo, Ethel” said Lily, with a hint of desperation in her voice.

“Right. The Fest. We need to get you dressed, get you transportation, and get you right down front of the stage. First, dressed. What’s your style?” Ethel asked, glancing at the Laceylolly dress that Lily still wore, much the worse for having been slept in.

“Not this!” Lily squeaked. “Uh, Punk.” she added, impulsively.

“Punk? Ur-Goth. I can work with that.” She pulled a little black bag seemingly out of the air, and began to rummage around inside it. “Just a sec. Need the right tool.” She pulled out a broken drumstick, held together with black electrical tape, and safety pins. “Terry Chimes,” she added, before waving it in a circle around Lily’s head three times. “Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah,” she chanted.

Lily felt a tingling, a rush, an electrical charge move through her.

“Yeah!” chortled Ethel, jumping to her feet. “Take a peek, kid.”

Lily turned to look in one of the mirrors that populated her bed chamber. “Is that me?” she gasped.

What she saw was a tall, lithe vision in black and orange, from the high-back orange Chucks with black laces on the feet, to the black and orange striped Mohawk that added at least another eighteen inches to the elfin height. Her legs were encased in run-scored black and orange striped tights, her hips barely wrapped in a torn black denim skirt, her torso encased in what was left of a black t-shirt with the left arm ripped off. Turning, and glancing over her shoulder she saw that back of the shirt said “Never mind the Blossoms, We’re the Sex Pistils!”

She noticed a flash of black and orange around her neck, and realized that it was the tattoo of the tail of a tiger coiling around, flowing down her left shoulder. The rest of the tiger’s lean body was tattoo’d down the length of her arm. The head was her hand, its eyes two cat’s eye amber rings, its fangs her sharpened nails, its mouth the pink of her palm. The entire rim of her right ear was encircled by a crystal tiger, anchored in the numerous piercings she’d so far managed to hide from her Wicked Stepmother.

“I’m… I’m…,” she stammered.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re punk,” Ethel snorted. “But you’re a damn fine punk,” added, grinning. “Transpo next, right kid?”

“Lily,” Lily said. “My name’s Lily.”

“Not tonight it ain’t, kid,” Ethel said. “Tonight, it’s Tigerlily, kick-ass punk.”

“Yeah,” the young woman said. “Tigerlily!”

“Gotta get you to the Fest, tho’.” Ethel reminded her. Picking up a black plastic pig from a sideboard, she coaxed the mice from her dress to the floor around it. “Transmaniacon MC,” she muttered tapping each mouse lightly on the head, and then twice on the plastic pig. There was a flash of light.

Tigerlily blinked, blinked again, and found herself and Ethel in the courtyard, with six Harley Davidson motorcycles, each suppporting an albino in black leather, wearing a black denim jacket, “Mus Musculus” embroidered on the back. Ethel patted the seat behind the lead rider, and Lily climbed aboard.

“That’s your ride to the gig,” Ethel stated. “All we need is access now.” She tapped Tigerlily’s right wrist, murmurred “Cameron Crowe”, and smiled as the words appeared as text, wrapped themselves around Tigerlily’s wrist, and shimmered into a golden VIP wristband.

“Now, you know the rules a magic, right? None of this’s permanent. It’s all gonna fade. Get your butt back home before it does.” Ethel instructed.

“Midnight, right?” the black-and-orange young woman asked.

“Hell no!” Ethel exclaimed. “You’re Tigerlily! Punk bad-ass queen a the night! Midnight? No way! You’ve got until the sun comes up, and chases the night away.”

Afterward, Lily was never able to remember the details of the next few minutes. What stayed with her was the sound of thundering engines, the feel of her mohawk cleaving the wind, the utter certainty that the night was hers.

Moments and miles later Tigerlily and Mus Musculus pulled up at the gate for the main stage at Bananaroo.

—————

“Do you know who we _are_?!” was the first thing Tigerlily heard when the sound of the hogs died.

Glancing at the source of the indignation still ringing in the air, Tigerlily flinched. It was Crystal and Grace, at the head of the line, attempting to browbeat the gatekeeper into letting them in immediately. Lily’s first thought was to slip by them, as quietly as possible. But then Tigerlily had a thought, a thought that put a very wicked grin on her face.

“I don’t care if yer the Queen hers’lf,” the bouncer was saying, as Tigerlily swept up, all of Mus Musculus in tow behind her. “Yer not gettin’ in with counterfeit tickets. Come back when yer got real uns.”

“’s okay, bro,” Tigerlily said, stepping up to the bouncer, her eyes on a level with his own. She lifted her right hand, turning her wrist so that a light flashed off the golden all access pass coiled around it. “They’re with me. I’ll take care of ‘em.” His eyes glinted with dark humor as he heard her slight emphasis on “take care”.

“Rightcha are, miss,” he said, grinning and opening the door embedded in the gate.

“Ladies, gentlemen” Tigerlily growled, “follow me.” She danced through the gate, excitement bubbling through her.

“Who _is_ that?!” she heard Cyrstal whisper behind her.

“Who cares?” Grace whispered in return. “She’s getting us in!”

“Girls,” Tigerlily said, turning to face her tormentors, “have you ever been to a punk rock concert before?”

“Oh, sure, lots of times,” said Grace. Crystal nodded enthusiastically in response. Tigerlily’s grin broadened. She knew them well enough to know they were lying.

“Then you know the best place to be at one is right down in front of the stage, in the mosh pi.., ah, the dancing area, right?”

“Right!” the two ladies-in-waiting agreed brightly.

Tigerlily threw an arm around each girls shoulders, and started forward, practically dragging them along with her in her eagerness. “It’s going to be a great night,” she said, and laughed. “Boys?” she said, raising an eyebrow, and Mus Musculus formed a flying wedge and led the three girls through the crowd to the stage. And the mosh pit.

“Uh, are you sure…” began Crystal, facing the writhing, whirling, flailing mob. “…this is best place for the show?” finished Grace, half-shouting over the wailing, screeching sound of the current band on stage.

“Definitely!” replied Tigerlily. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” With a hand in the middle of each girl’s back, she shoved, hard, and then plunged into the melee after them.

Inside the mosh pit it was like being caught in a riptide of human bodies. Bodies made mostly of hard boney parts: fists, knees, elbows all pushing, banging, hitting.

For the ladies-in-waiting, it was like being slowly, oh-so-slowly, tenderized. Every time they turned to leave the crush, it strove to crush them in return. In the first seconds, Grace was clipped in the nose by an elbow. Crystal caught a fist in the stomach. Both had their feet stomped on, toes mangled, arms twisted. In no time at all, it felt like every single part of their bodies was bruised and swelling.

Tigerlily, however, was in heaven. She danced through the mob of shouting, hitting, wailing humanity that was the mosh pit. The music roared, and Tigerlily’s soul roared with it. People moved around her and she moved with them.

She turned, twirled, bent; leapt, spun, soared. No fists hit her, no elbows pummeled her, no feet assaulted her. Elbows brushed her lightly, feet provided launch pads to lift her higher, hands caressed her. With each touch, she felt lighter, more powerful, at one with everyone around her. It was as if each person in the mosh pit was sharing their energy with her. She danced until the energy filling her pored back outward again, and then danced some more, a human sun moving beneath the moon.

—————

Hours passed as Tigerlily ruled the mosh pit, until deepest night was turning into pre-dawn. Two or three hours into the evening, a small part of her mind had noticed Grace and Crystal being dragged out of the dance area, and left semi-conscious near the front of the stage. She hoped they’d learned something from their evening’s adventure, but suspected nothing could teach them what they really needed to learn.

Everyone was taking a chance to catch their breath, or staunch their wounds, as suited them best, as the most recent band left the stage and a new act took their place. Tigerlily simply stood in place, in the middle of the pit, and felt the entire Fest around her, a part of her.

“Hey, hey, hey, listen up, listen up!” boomed the loudspeakers. “Hey, hey, hey, listen up, listen up!” they repeated.

“Hey, hey, hey, listen up, listen up!” screamed the crowd in united response.

“It’s time for the final act of this year’s Bananaroo,” roared the loudspeakers. “Put your hands together, put your bodies together, and let ‘em know how you feel about it. It’s time for a brand-new local group: Prince S and the Slam Dancers!”

On the final syllable, the darkness of the stage exploded in light. As Tigerlily’s eyes adjusted, fighting the glare, she saw a carmel-colored statue in the center of the stage. A carmel-colored woman, oh most definitely a woman!, wrapped in a black sports bra and boy-cut shorts, feet encased in neon-pink ballet toeshoes, complete with matching calf-embraching criss-crossed ribbons, chin resting on chest. The statue was that of an athlete, the shape of every muscle visible, crisp, clearly-delineated. A microphone was clutched in its left hand.

The semi-silence of the night exploded into the scream of defiance that was an untuned guitar. The eyes of the statue clicked open, black pupils nearly swallowing the surrounding white. Tigerlily’s heart lurched as something filled it. The microphone lifted until it kissed the statue’s lips.

The motionless-ness of the mosh pit exploded with a renewed frenzy, as the statue’s mouth opened and single word leapt from the speakers. “Dance,” it crooned, in a voice that came from a noir angle, bourbon-soaked and cigarette-baked and straight from heaven. Tigerlily’s heart overflowed, throbbed once, and then again, and she danced. Danced with every fiber of her being.

The honied voice continued to pour out of the speakers:

“Oh, fighter girl,
come dance with me.
Be my battle queen,
be my battle scream,
come dance with me.”

“Oh, dreamer girl,
come dance with me.
Be my loving queen,
be my loving scream,
come dance with me.”

Tigerlily’s head snapped around, staring at the stage, only to discover the singer staring straight back at her.

“Oh, tiger girl,
come dance with me!”

coaxed the singer, and Tigerlily’s mind went completely blank for a moment. Then all thought exploded into fireworks and Tigerlily dashed towards the stage. A lifted foot, and then a rising knee provided the first rungs in a human ladder. A swinging hand and a solid shoulder next gave Tigerlily sufficient height to launch herself high above the stage.

She soared until gravity stole the last of her flight, arched back, felt herself falling as she turned. She landed in a crouch, her right knee bent, her right hand flat on the stage, her left arm held high and back, her left leg stretched out behind her.

Tigerlily felt her left hand taken, felt herself lifted and turned. Found herself staring straight into eyes darker than any she had ever seen before. The singers voice purred from the speakers:

“Come dance with me?”

Tigerlily swallowed around a lump in her throat. Nodded once.

The singer tossed the microphone carelessly over her shoulder and began to dance, never releasing Tigerlily’s hand. And Tigerlily danced with her. They danced for what felt like hours to the young punk, as the guitar screamed and the bass throbbed, and the drums beat out the rhythm of a young heart madly in love for the first time.

Hours, or minutes, what matters to the young, or those in love? Hours, or minutes, it meant nothing to Tigerlily, who was both. She danced, with her love.

Danced until a rooster’s crow sounded over the music in her ears, cut through the music in her heart, echoed a dim meaning deep in her mind.

A rooster’s crow meant something. Meant dawn. Meant first light and the end of the night. And Tigerlily froze, pressed hard against the singer, her love. Her magic ended at dawn! She couldn’t stay here any longer. She had to flee before Tigerlily became Laceylolly in front everyone.

While these thoughts had dragged through her mind, the singer, Prince S, had also stopped dancing. Her hands had lifted to each side of Tigerlily’s head, holding her gently. She’d leaned in, and finding no resistance, now kissed Tigerlily deeply, passionately, fiercely. And Tigerlily returned the kiss in kind, and in full, love pouring out of her with each beat of her heart.

Returned the kiss for a moment, and then remembered the rooster’s crow, and the approaching dawn. Remembered it, and quailed for fear at the thought of her Prince seeing her as Laceylolly. She struggled against the kiss, fought her lips free, and cried “I’m sorry, I must go!”

“No!” wailed her singer. “Stay with me!”

“I can’t!” apologized Tigerlily, pulling back. She felt the backings on her tiger ear cuff pop free, felt the cuff tugged off as the singer refused to let go. “I can’t! I’m sorry!” She turned and ran for the edge of the stage.

“Mus Musculus!” she roared, and the boys were there, a solid knot of black and white cutting through the mosh pit. She threw herself at them, was caught, and borne back through the crowd to the gate in mere moments. The rooster cried again, and the sky was curdled with the light of near-dawn.

Moments later, or a lifetime, the roar of engines dying in her ears, Lily found herself standing in the courtyard of the castle, dressed once again in her Laceylolly outfit. Mice scattered around her, and she held a black plastic pig in her hands. She sighed, and slipped into the castle, heading for her bed chamber.

—————

She woke with a throbbing head. No, not her head. A knocking at her door. An insistent knocking. A relentless knocking. Her Wicked Stepmother’s knocking. Lilly groaned, and dragged herself upright in the bed.

“Come in,” she said, somewhat weakly.

The Queen swept into the room, a smile on her face.

“How are you this morning, dear?” she asked. “Sleep well last night?” she continued, her voice filled with an odd tone that Lily couldn’t place.

“Uh, I guess,” she stammered.

“Anything special happen recently you’d like to talk about?” her Wicked Stepmother asked, that odd tone still there. This time Lily thought she recognized it. Teasing. The Queen was teasing her.

But why would the Queen be teasing her? Unless she knew about the Fairy Gothmother, and Bananaroo. But how could she know?

“You know about…?” Lily asked her Wicked Stepmother.

“About last night’s visit from your Fairy Godmother? And the Fest?” the Queen replied.

“Gothmother,” Lily muttered.

“I know because I arranged for it,” the Queen continued blithely, smiling. “It’s a slightly early 17th birthday present for you. Having had something similar happen to me in my youth, I thought you might enjoy it. You’ve certainly earned it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, my dear, my lovely girl. Of how proud I am of how well you’ve done with all of your classes, with all of your training. You’re going to be a marvelous queen!”

“But…” started Lily.

“How?” her Wicked, no, maybe not so wicked after all, Stepmother asked in turn. “Let’s just say I know…people…who know…people. So, how was your evening? Did you not just love your gown? Did you meet anyone special?”

“Uh…” Lily essayed, then cleared her throat. “I, ah, I loved how I was dressed. Will have to see if I can replicate it for my own closet.” She cleared her throat and thought for a moment. “And, uh, yeah, there was this one Prince I danced with last night…”

“Prince? Oh, marvelous!” her stepmother beamed. “You’ll have to introduce us once you’ve gotten your crystal slipper back.”

Lily thought that perhaps that was a conversation for a different time, just yet, but decided against saying anything about it. Which made her think that perhaps she was growing up, after all.

There was another knocking at the door. A page entered at the Queen’s cheery “Enter!”

“Your Highness, there’s someone at the gate, claiming they have to see every young woman in the castle. Something about finding someone who fits something… I’m not sure why the guards haven’t just turned them away, but…”

“Oh, just what we were speaking of!” exclaimed the Queen. “Dear, why don’t you go meet your destiny? And make sure to bring them so I can meet them, please.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Lily said, standing and bowing.

“Dear, you’re nearly a grown woman now, and you’re going to be queen. Why don’t you just call me Ella?”

“Yes…Ella,” Lily smiled.

—————

Lily had made her way down to the courtyard, and the gate. Two guards stood there, with a slim young girl. Lily looked around, seeking sight of her singer. While doing that, she absent-mindedly tucked her hair behind her right ear.

The slim young girl started, her eyes riveted to the pattern of piercings evident there. She lifted one hand, the light glinting off what she held there. “Tiger?” she asked, tentatively, her bourbon-soaked, cigarette voice that of a noir angel.

Lily’s head snapped around. “Prince?” she squeaked.

“Stephanie. Steve, to my few friends.” She smiled, a white crescent in her caramel-colored face. She put the crystal tiger ear cuff in Lily’s hand, her fingertips a feather’s caress across Lily’s own.

“Steve. But last night…” Lily began, fastening the ear cuff on.

“Fairy Gothmother.” Steve smiled. “I’d always wanted to be lead singer in a punk band. And you?”

“Yeah, me too. Fairy Gothmother.” Lily smiled. Her hand crept of its own accord into Steve’s. “There’s someone I need to introduce you to. And then we should probably introduce ourselves to each other. And learn a little more about each other, too.”

“There’s no rush on that,” Steve said, contentment stamped upon her face. “We’ve got the rest of our lives for that.”

And the two girls started back to the castle, hand-in-hand, to spend the rest of their lives living happily ever after.