Of course, she didn't answer to Susie now. Once the raucous din replaced the inoffensive pop, her blonde hair turned black and she insisted everyone call her Wrath. Her posters of dolphins and Brad Pitt disappeared and new ones were put up in their place. These posters were of angry looking men in black leather, and winged demons William wouldn’t look at when the light went out. Susie refused to open her curtains, and spent hours hunched over her computer in the dark. Her mother occasionally attempted to straighten up the mess, and if Susie was out, she would even lift him down to dust him. Once or twice, Mom even spoke to him. William relished the rare bursts of human contact.
One night, William overheard Susie talking on her phone. He realised the following day was Susie’s birthday. He sat back against the wall and smiled to himself. Susie’s grandmother gave him to her the day she was born. Now, here they were, about to celebrate their seventeenth anniversary. Susie will remember. I know she’s forgotten the last two, but she’ll remember this year, thought William.
The old bear spent all night fretting about the big day. He watched Susie paint on her makeup before she left for school. William was glad when Susie’s mother came in to tidy the room, and remembered to dust him. He wanted to look his best when Susie got home. He planned it all in his head. Susie would come home, and she’d take him downstairs. He’d sit at the table with her while she ate her birthday dinner with the family. Evening would arrive and they’d watch movies together in the den. At night, she’d take him back upstairs and she’d fall asleep cuddling him.
A slamming door and thudding footsteps on the stairs told him Susie was home. He sat up and tried to fluff up the threadbare patches on his tummy. The door flew open and Susie stomped into the room. She glared at the tidy room before heading back out onto the landing.
“Mom! Where are my old cat ears? Mom! I need them now! I’m gonna be late for the party!” she shouted.
“What do you need them for?” Mom’s voice drifted up the stairs.
“I want to look cute for Plague! Mom, where are they?”
“Try the shelf with all your old kid’s stuff on it.”
Susie ran back into the room. She climbed onto her bed and came face to face with William. His heart leapt as her hand snaked around his stomach and picked him off the shelf. With a flick of her wrist, Susie tossed William over her shoulder. He tumbled through the air, landing on the floor with a soft thump. He watched Susie rake through her childhood things until she found the cat ear headband. She pushed it into her thick mass of black hair. William thought she looked far from cute. She looked fierce.
William’s furry little heart broke as she ran out of the room.
He lay on the floor, snuffling to himself. The other toys left her room long ago, and he didn’t even have the will to pick himself up. Everyone else went on to new homes and new lives, but not him. Susie kept me, but she doesn’t really want me, he thought. She threw me away.
Hours later, the door opened again. Susie slunk into the room, her eye makeup running in black streaks down her face. She threw the cat ear headband at the opposite wall. It slid behind her computer desk. William didn’t want to look at Susie, but sobs spilled out of her narrow frame. She shuffled across the room, and her foot connected with his tummy.
Susie bent to see what she’d kicked. She squeaked as she spotted William on the floor. He thought he was dreaming when she picked him up. Susie sat on her bed, hugging William to her chest. She buried her face in his fur, smearing eyeliner across the back of his head. William didn’t mind – she’d experimented on him with makeup before. It would just mean a spin in the washing machine again.
“I’m so sorry I threw you on the floor. I didn’t mean to, I was just in such a rush. I’m sorry, William. At least you still love me,” whispered Susie. “You still love me and you don’t care what I look like or any of that stuff. You’re not going to invite me to a party for my birthday when you know I like you and then make out with someone else in front of me. Stupid Plague. He’s just a stupid moron who’s really called Jason. Stupid Jason.”
William didn’t know what to say, or what to do, to comfort her. He chose to do the only thing he knew he could.
He cuddled back.
* * *
This one is actually inspired by my own photo prompt 14! It's dedicated to all the many stuffed dogs, bears, lions, pandas, elephants, dragons, kiwis, meerkats and many more than I've owned over the years. No one is there for you quite like a teddy.