It was brown and fuzzy with beady black eyes and a red bow tie around its neck. It sat on the shelf in a store, rather plain next to the extravagant stuffed horses and kittens, along with modern Barbie dolls and vintage Madame Alexander dolls. It seemed all but invisible beside the other treasures. Its mouth was stitched into a permanent smile, but it wanted to frown. I must look happy for the children, it thought gloomily. Even if they never look my way. The price on its tag fell month after month, aching to persuade customers to purchase it at a dirt-cheap price so that the store could finally be rid of its smiling face.
The child couldn’t have been older than six or seven. Her eyes were bright and brown and regarded the world with a prevailing curiosity. Her curly, honey-tinted locks were pulled back into a bright blue bow, matching her pretty summer dress. The girl’s hand grasped her mother’s tightly, finding security from the world in that clutch. She stopped in front of the teddy bear, which was right at her level, and looked at it directly in the eyes. Her gaze never wandered to the new-fangled dolls or action figures. She looked up at her mother and pointed to it mutely. Her mother smiled kindly and took the bear off the shelf, handing it to her daughter.
The girl clutched it close to her chest and whispered, “Best friends forever!”
Wherever Annabelle was, so was the teddy bear. It was in her cubby when she was at school, it was in her lap when she swung on the swings at recess, and it was in her bed as she curled next to it every night. Its smile was no longer a mask to hide its loneliness, for a friend had finally found it. A friend who had promised forever. Its beaded eyes would sparkle for the next six years.
In middle school, Annabelle excelled at many things—she was the top of all her honors-level courses; she placed well in every track meet; she had many friends. The bear could still be counted upon to be sleeping next to her every night. It smiled happily to itself (underneath its black stitching) when Annabelle visited her friends without it, because it knew that she was happy. Besides, they would be best friends forever; Annabelle had promised. She only forgot about him sometimes; after all, she led a busy life.
As years passed, the teddy bear watched Annabelle grow up, watching as she became a fine young lady who was soon to be out of the grasp of those dramatic, underage-teenage years. The bear became worn and was loft often. By the third time Annabelle had lost the teddy, she was sixteen. It was caught underneath the leg of a chair in her room.
A year later, she finally came across it and observed the damage blankly. One of its black eyes was missing, the red bow tie was hanging by a thread, and the stitches at the corner of its smile had come loose. Annabelle found a sewing kit and sewed its eye shut with the logic that if she didn’t, stuffing would be everywhere. When she was finished operating, she tossed it into the corner of the room. It watched her with its one-sided gaze, wondering just what it had done wrong.
In the middle of the night, the teddy still lay motionless in the corner of the room, where it had to watch her disdainfully as she gave up her innocence to a boy who had claimed for the first time that he loved her. Later, the two were curled up together on the bed, Annabelle sound asleep with her back to the boy. A smile was on her peaceful face. Carefully, the boy inched away from her enough to leave the bed without disturbing her. He tip-toed to her desk and silently searched the drawers. The teddy bear watched curiously, wondering what the boy was doing. He had found a pen and a piece of paper and was now scribbling a message. The teddy wanted to read it. The boy finished writing and looked up, catching the bear’s eye. His eyes sparked as though with an idea and he reached for the teddy.
The teddy bear was able to read the note now: Belle, I’m leaving you now. You’re not the right one after all, sorry. Tonight was great though, right baby?
Poor teddy wanted to lament for his best friend, but his lips were sealed.
In the morning, Annabelle stretched and yawned, searching for her lover next to her. All that was there were the bed sheets, which she clutched to her chest as she looked confusedly around the room. Her eyebrows raised as her eyes fell upon her old stuffed animal that seemed to be holding a piece of paper. Annabelle clambered out of bed and snatched the note out of the teddy’s grasp. Her eyes flew across the page several times before emotion registered on her face. She shook her head from side to side, looking between her half-smiling teddy and the note. Her face was angry and tearful; she ripped the note into tiny pieces, crying out with each shred. She flung them around the room as sobs shook her body. The teddy watched, desperately longing to comfort her like it had been able to when Annabelle was a child. As each bit of paper floated to the floor, teddy imagined that all the pieces of Annabelle’s heart were falling with them.
It had been exactly one week. A week and one day ago, Annabelle was happy, contentedly sewing up her mauled teddy bear and then physically expressing her love to a boy who only wanted one thing. But a week ago, Annabelle’s blood had tainted the floor, the knife, and all the torn pieces of paper that littered the floor. Her teddy’s red bow tie was now spotted with darker shades of burgundy. Another bloodstained letter now lay upon her desk, written in her pretty curlicue handwriting.
It was addressed to Teddy.
The stuffed animal wanted to scream and cry and run away, but all it could do was smile.
Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. Since the day they cleaned the room and read the mysterious letter addressed to a stuffed animal, Annabelle’s parents had not entered the room. The sun rose and the sun set, as unfazed and routine as Annabelle’s room. Teddy still sat on the desk, befriending the dust mites that gathered around him.
Finally, Annabelle’s family decided that it was time to move. Her room had to be packed up; disturbed at last.
Everything was in boxes, the only thing left to go being the desk and all its contents. Including the teddy bear. Annabelle’s mother picked up the teddy, remembering the day her daughter picked it out. Her eyes welled with tears as she observed the damage that had befallen the poor animal. She clutched it tightly to her chest, much as her daughter had, before placing it back on the desk. She would finish packing later.
As she turned to leave the room, teddy saw a phantasmagoric girl clutching the mother’s hand shyly. She wore a bright blue bow that matched her pretty summer dress. Her eyes were big and brown and curious as she looked back at the teddy bear and whispered, “Best friends forever.”