Marcus and Lillian | Teen Ink

Marcus and Lillian

May 31, 2019
By jokeefe BRONZE, Stratham, New Hampshire
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jokeefe BRONZE, Stratham, New Hampshire
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Marcus had always been interested in the concept of dreaming. The idea of involuntarily drifting in and out of imagination in its purest state. The euphoric few minutes before waking, stretched into a lifelong adventure. Though self taught, he’d always considered himself an oneirologist. From a young age, Marcus would use every resource in his grasp to expand his knowledge in the world of dreams. He’d walk down to his public library to use their single computer and read books. Unfortunately, growing up alone for most of his life in New York meant he couldn’t afford school. This particular night, Marcus dreamt about everyday life; more specifically, his job for which he had a great deal of passion. A smile stretched across his face as he slept.



Lillian was a true member of the neighborhood. Even in a city as hectic as NY, Lillian knew the names and interests of the people around her. She’s the kind of person that lights up a room, the kind of person around whom you feel inclined to do good. There is no doubt in the minds of her companions that she is a happy person; always smiling, always giving compliments. Tonight she sleeps like a baby in her one-bed one-bath studio apartment. Tomorrow, she’ll experience the most terrifying day of her life.


Thirty years ago, a mother called her son.

“Marcus, dinner!”

Marcus walked down the steps and took a seat at the dining room table. He was a secluded, introverted kid. He wouldn’t order his own food, let alone go out to eat willingly. That said, when he became close with someone, he wrapped his coils tightly.

“Eat your peas.”

Marcus didn’t respond, but complied.

“Ma, how come grownups get to do whatever they want, but us youngins have to go to school, and do the dishes, and clean up our bedrooms and eat our peas? How’s that principled?”

He said this with intent to impress, but winced a little after hearing himself. He’d spoken in the tongue of “rich old bastards” as his mother says.

“Now where did you learn that word?”

“The library.”

Marcus’ mother looked down in disgust. He hated that. They were silent for the remaining portion of dinner. This was one of the more dull parts of the night; as with any kid, Marcus had his hobbies. He preferred spending his days indulging in those, as he was out of school. He ate quickly and quietly, cleared and washed his plate, then headed off to bed.

“Night, Ma.”

“Sweet dreams” she said with both hints of half-heartedness and sarcasm.

They will be, Marcus thought begrudgingly. He entered his room, got under his sheets, and closed his eyes.



Marcus awoke in his NY apartment. The smile on his face had faded, but he was happy to start the day. Despite his love for dreaming, he’d found it easiest to force himself out of bed, to slap himself in the face a couple of times, get a good stretch, and get up, lest he stay in bed for days on end. Today, he did just that. He went spread eagle, stretching each and every tendon in his body. He gave the loudest yawn he could; a man living alone has no one to disturb. As he opened and closed, opened and closed his eyes, he admired the routine of his daily life. A plan gives you an uncluttered mind, an uncluttered mind makes for a meaningful day, and a meaningful day allows for a good night’s sleep. Waking up, having a productive day: these were the polar opposites, the other end of the spectrum, the contradictory extremes to dreaming. Nevertheless, they all work in harmony.


After a restful night of sleep, Lillian got up promptly at 6:00 am. To the distaste of her little brother, Julian, her favourite catchphrase was, “early bird gets the worm!” At least that’s what she shouted at Julian every time he refused to get out of bed.

“Five more minutes...”


Lillian was insistent on not being the cause of Julian’s tardiness on his first day of secondary school. Though just an older sister, Lillian frequently displayed maternal characteristics. However, she would never let that damper the entrepreneurial side of her that she fostered and took great pride in.

“Come and get your breakfast.” She said quite softly. They shared one room after all. Julian trudged to the counter, slowly acknowledging the smorgasbord before him. Eggs, sausages, waffles, french toast, everything a kid could ask for!
“Woah, thanks!” Julian could tell that Lillian had had a little fun with herself.

“Eat up, you’ve got a big day today”

What she didn’t tell Julian was that she was freaking out, and getting up early was a way of feeling in control of the day. She had been a computer science major in university, and had long awaited a job with a goal worth working towards. It also helps if it’s not run by overconfident self possessed idiots, as many entry level software engineering firms seemed to be. Then along came Davids and Gallagher Engineering, LLC. She’d seen an ad online, and called ASAP. After narrowing the position down to five candidates, they’d invited her in for an interview a week and a half ago. If there’s one thing Lillian prides herself on, it’s preparing every night as if you’re studying for a college final the day of. Even with this preparation, and though she never showed it, she was very anxious about this interview. It was the kind of nervousness that only showed up the morning of, that gave your hands the jitters, made you gulp until your mouth was dry, and gave you armpit sweats. It was the kind of nervousness that went away as soon as you began an interview, or as soon as you got some words out. Lillian told herself that everything was going to be okay, that in 12 hours she would be right back in her apartment with a glass of root beer watching Game of Thrones.

The clock struck 7:00 am, so she grabbed Julian, and left the apartment, making sure to lock the door behind her. She waved hello to the woman 2 doors down watering her plants, then stepped out into the cold (and smokey) NYC air. She took a deep breath.

“C’mon. We gotta hustle or you’ll be late for school.”

Again, this wasn’t true, but she needed to feel in control.

They walked three blocks, hand in hand, before Lillian noticed something peculiar.


Marcus awoke at 6:00 am. He typically does, but that’s not to say that he’s up at 6:00. He was laying in his bed, staring upwards at the outlines left by the glow-in-the-dark silicon stars he’d had when he was younger. His mother had tried to get the stains out, but to no avail; the goo was as stubborn as it comes. Marcus enjoyed his uninterrupted several hours before getting up. It gave him time to think, time to be still. Despite this truth, Marcus preferred sleep… he had another tendency to go to bed quite early, then fall asleep quite late. At a certain point, he’d just accepted the way his body functioned, and decided to make the best of it. This worked in harmony with his early wake up time to create a kid with little energy and ten pound bags under his eyes.

“Are you up yet?” Marcus’ mother yelled from upstairs as he put on some sports shorts and a Duran Duran t-shirt.

Marcus, aiming to extend his alone time, didn’t respond. Instead, he rifled through his cabinets and fetched some weetabix and jam. He read as he ate, making sure not to make too much noise. He slipped on his ankle-high socks, the trademark of any 10 year old boy, stepped into his sneakers, grabbed a jar, and walked out the front door.


Marcus was out of bed now. He strolled into the living area in such a way that one might think he was warming up for a sports game. He wiggled his legs like they were jelly. He jumped up and down while shaking his arms out, and slapped his face a couple of times. For good measure, he puffed up his cheeks and let out a deep breath. He flicked on the television. First, a left wing headline about the mishaps of the GOP. Specifically, a congressman making derogatory comments about a fellow member of the House. This didn’t interest him, so he changed the channel.

“Believe it or not, you’re using soy beans in all the wrong ways. Here to expl-” Next, he thought.

On channel 15, their local news, was a story about a string of murders. In every case, the suspect had been described by witnesses to wear a plaid green button down with the top button undone. Ugh. Marcus shut off the TV. Today’s media made him sick, so he set the remote down and went to his cabinets to find breakfast. He pulled out a box of Honey Nut Cheerios and a carton of whole milk. That’s right, he’s living the big life. No more weetabix and jam. He read as he ate, feeling like he had too much alone time.


“Stay here” Lillian said with a tinge of fear in her voice.

“What’s wrong?”

Lillian didn’t register his response. She crept forward, locked in to the scene before her: a convenience store on a vacant street that had gone to hell. The cash register had been emptied and left open. The shelves had been raided, though it didn’t look like the perpetrator had taken anything. Julian could sense her angst, and this made him uneasy. He’d never seen his confident big sister this way. Lillian stepped through the shattered glass door, looking around at the carnage. She waded through the empty supply shelves, then froze. Her hands began to shake. Her body felt red hot. She wanted to yell to Julian, tell him to run, but couldn’t seem to get the words out.  In the center of the store was an ad. This ad was pinned to a sole bag of chips that occupied an entire shelf while its bunkmates lay chaotically on the floor. This ad, freshly printed, read, “Davids and Gallagher Engineering. Apply Today!”


Marcus left his house into a hot summer day. It was the kind of day that makes your face feel grimy, even after a shower. It makes your bed a cauldron of magma, a cauldron that can’t be cooled by pulling off the sheets. These kinds of days make students wish it was fall again, even if it meant enduring another eight grueling months of school, and Marcus was no exception. His underarms quickly felt wet and darkened his Duran Duran shirt, even though his school teacher said this was only supposed to happen to older boys. Regardless, he marched on. He had come to a decision: he was going to leave this town. He wouldn’t return home to his mother, as she turned everyday life into self resentment and anger. He passed his neighbors houses swiftly, as he wasn’t too keen on starting a conversation right now. His neighbors never brought about stimulating conversations. It was always the same:

“Hey there, Marcus!”


“How are you?”


If he was fortunate his neighbors would let him leave right then. To Marcus’ despair, however, their were always one or two people who would invite him inside for biscuits.

Marcus walked for forty minutes before reaching the library, picking up roly polies and roaches along the way. He put these bugs in his mason jar, and he had a plan for them. All this walking made him a sweaty spectacle for the library staff to glare at.

“I won’t sit on anything” he assured them.

This seemed to ease their nerves slightly, at least enough that they continued going about their business. He headed past the VHS tapes of childrens’ movies, past the Dr. Seuss books, to the Research and Discovery section. He stood alone bar one high school student writing a research paper about anatomy. L, M, N… O, here we are. He sat down cross legged, and opened his book. Oneirology: A Study of Dreams.


Marcus wasn’t hungry by his third bowl, but eating was an excuse for lounging. A pointlessly long breakfast was just breakfast, it was justified. He finished his last bowl, and put the milk away. Before proceeding with his morning, he ripped off a paper towel and wiped up the backsplash from his cereal. He could never seem to go a week without making a mess at breakfast. His dining room table was riddled with dark spots from the times he hadn’t cared to clean up. He tossed the soggy napkins, and lumbered over to the bathroom. He stared into the mirror for some time. He was pale. When did he become so pale. He picked up his toothbrush and scraped harder than he ever had.


Suddenly, Lillian heard the click of a lock and the blinds began to close.

“JULIAN!” she screamed, as she was able to overcome her disbelief. She turned as she yelled, but saw an ownerless backpack sitting in the road just before the blinds shut completely. No Julian. No younger brother. Everything was dark. In the heat of the moment, she tried to process what this meant. Perhaps Julian ran away. Yes, maybe Julian saw her panic, and ran, surely he must’ve. But perhaps he was taken. Panic began to set in. What if he was taken. This panic was short lived, as she had bigger issues to deal with. Someone had lured her into a burgled convenience store with unclear intentions. She tried to breath, and felt around in the darkness. She could make out the door, and moved towards the handle. It rattled around, locked, and she considered smashing it. But then she remembered stepping through an already shattered glass door. What the hell? A steel cover had been dropped over the door. She heard motion in the back.

“Who’s there” her voice quivered.

There was more rustling in the back of the store.

“You need to tell me if you’re there” she said, holding back tears with a frog in her throat.

She heard a man unbuttoning his top button as it clinked against his cufflinks. A plaid green button down emerged from the darkness. Lillian yelled at him to stay back as she felt around for something to hit him with. He was approaching with a knife now, so she pulled a loose piece of metal from a shelf and hit him over the head.

“Ah, damnit!” the man yelled

Lillian scurried to another corner of the store.

“God. See, you’re everything that’s wrong with this city. You’ve never had to struggle, Lillian, you’ve never known pain. I’m simply here to enlighten you to the unfortunate reality so many others have to live with. I hope you can understand that, Lillian. Goodnight.”

A tear streamed down Lillian’s face as she let out a final, helpless whimper. In one fell swoop, the man rushed her, and her throat was slit.


Marcus read his book for hours. The high schooler had left, and another had come to take its place. The heat had made him tired, and so he decided it was time to go. He would go to the train station, and buy a ticket. He hadn’t considered where, but he’d never more purposeful than when the thought first crossed his mind. Marcus took his mason jar, the creepy crawlers squirming around, wishing for freedom. Marcus was tired of his life. He wanted to feel something, anything. He emptied the jar along the inside crease of the book, stood up, and slammed it shut. He then began to giggle.



Marcus was nearly ready for his day. He spat out his toothpaste, and took a quick five minute shower. He casually moved to his bedroom. There, he dried off, and got dressed. His mouth curled up at the edged as he pulled a plaid green button down over his head. He looked at himself, thinking something was off. He unbuttoned the top button.

“This’ll do,” he said.

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