Short Story: In-Draft / In-Progress: “Paper Dolls”

[Some of] the Issues

As of right now–the beginning is what it is, though I would prefer to start mid-action.

There are other obvious issues with this story that I’ve yet to attend to… not to mention the fact that I have not written an ending!

Though I can’t imagine how this can end, without violence.


Paper Dolls

It took her next to no time to realize that her husband was having an affair.

She added eggs and flour to a bowl. Stirred.

It was nothing too difficult to figure out really – his extra time at work, his less-than-chatty demeanor, the amount of steak he ate.

George hated steak.

Allie tried to think of when specifically it might have begun, and then it was very clear to her. Her sister’s birthday party. Amelia worked for the same firm as George, and they had many friends in common. She invited them. They drank all the wine. She remembered that red stain all over their teeth, the chewing gum in her sister’s hair, a piñata hung upside-down from the living room chandelier.

Her name was Sara. Allie remembered how she had gone to Amelia’s that morning, decorating and baking while her sister got a French-tip manicure. Then, two hours before the evening party, came the knock at the door, the disproportionately thin and wide-hipped and long-haired girl behind it. She had two wide brown eyes, waiting at the door, her knees bent inward, imploring to borrow a dress –

“I’ve gained weight in the past months, and I just can’t fit into my little black one.”

Allie wanted to decline when Amelia said yes and hurriedly led her new acquaintance up the stairs and into the bathroom to look through a variety of hair accessories while she looked for the perfect dress. Allie closed the door. She had been to enough office parties with her little sister to know that this disproportion had to be new to the firm.

By the time the party began, her sister’s brown hair shone with glitter in the French-braided crown around her head – her purple dress embroidered with stars. Her green eyes were stark and beautiful. Entering next to her was a familiar, short red dress. Sara wore the same black heels and deliciously sexy pattern-embroidered hose as she’d worn with her skirt upon arriving. Her hair was done in careful waves that Amelia had curled and combed and curled again. Her lipstick was too red. Allie had seen that dress on her sister before and wondered if those unnaturally wide hips had overextended the fabric.

Allie was willing to admit that it was the typical office-based birthday party. And Sara’s interactions with men were just as she’d expected. What Allie didn’t accept, though, were the interactions she’d had with her husband. The strange flux of the small woman’s hips, his coincidentally red tie. They had looked like a couple by the end of the night.

She kept kneading the dough, adding oil and more flour, glancing at the pan it was to be baked in. Thought of the smell of bread filling the room.

It was early in the afternoon. Her husband had left several hours before. She breathed the scent of developing dough through her nose. George used to come home for lunch. Now he’d come home with wine stains in his tie and shirt – white wine that left more of a greasy stain.

She placed the dough in the oven. She dusted. She looked out the windows.

There was brown bark and green leaves, small blue spots like ornamental robin’s eggs.

It occurred to Allie that the windows weren’t white enough, there weren’t enough clouds, she needed to create clouds, she needed to make George think of steak.

Smelling the bread growing, the sweetness, Allie gathered a pile of paper and scissors and red pens and cut the paper into odd, white shapes.

The small women floated against the tan carpet, accumulating. She blew softly, watched some of them walk in a stutter-stop motion. Reminding her.

All she could hear was the low, breathing drone from the oven and the snipping of scissors. Watching a pile of legs and growing, Allie bent the paper girl in her hand in half, cut out a circle. Picked up another, cut out a diamond. A square. A ridge. One by one the dolls moved to the other pile, splintered. Breathing and snipping.


George slowly turned the key in the door and was greeted with the smell of burnt bread. He could see the loaf on the stove on the opposite side of the living room, with a floor that was covered in small clusters of clouds.

Matching paper cut-outs hung in the windows like white tinsel. Holes at the center were rimmed with red where the hearts should have been. The little paper women were identical, with the occasional protruding hip, elongated arm. The red was think like lipstick.

“You’re home early,” he heard his wife comment. He turned to see her drop torn paper dolls across the bread like shredded Italian cheese. The red was more prominent. She wore the small red dress.


About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in Indiana, where she works as a virtual assistant, editor, and freelance writer via her self-started business, MLT Creative. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Third Coast. She previously completed her B.S. in Secondary English Education and B.A. in English, with a Concentration in Writing, at Indiana University South Bend, where she worked as the Managing Editor for 42 Miles Press. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Encore Magazine, Thank You for Swallowing, The Spooklet, Sleet Magazine, and Analecta, among others; and her book reviews and essays have appeared on The Rumpus and Motherly. When not writing, she enjoys art and music, and the simple mathematics of being a wife of one, a mama of two, and a cat-mom of three. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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