Friday, 7 January 2011

Friday Flash - A Girl's Best Friend

There is a mystical bond between a child and its first bear. Or so believed William, clinging to the belief as he now clung to the top shelf in Susie's room. Wedged between a pile of old board games and a lamp with no bulb, the old threadbare teddy leaned against the wall and tried to reassure himself that she still loved him. My Susie knows I'm here, he told himself.

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.

42 comments:

Sam said...

Oh, I love this! Reminds me of my first bear. I was given him the day I was born (apparently), and passed him onto DD the day she was born. He has a special place in the mountain of stuffed animals she's given a home to over the years. You're right, nowt like your first teddy.

Icy Sedgwick said...

My first teddy was called, imaginatively enough, Teddy. She still sits on my bed back home...and yes, she does have makeup on her. Bright blue eyeshadow, to be exact! I do also have a bear called William, too - here!

Ruchiraa said...

Lovely. Really. And I love teddies!

afullnessinbrevity said...

I still have the teddy I was given when I was born (going on 3X-something years) and when my daughters were born, they were also given teddys.
A beautiful link with the past.
Adam B @revhappiness

emmakerry said...

Lovely! My son now has my first teddy (called Treacle?!)

Julie Lewthwaite said...

What a great story - teddies are the best!

Carrie said...

This was touching. I've often wondered about the imaginary life of a toy. It seems we keep them alive for a time. Good tale Icy.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Ruchiaraa - Thanks - teddies are ace.

Adam - My brother still has HIS teddy from when he was born. Teddies are brilliant.

Emma - Aw, cute name!

Julie - Thanks!

Carrie - Normally people are terrified of inanimate things coming to life but in the case of teddies, we actively encourage it.

Michelle said...

I loved this story. It warmed my heart.

That was a great way to strat the day. Thanks!

outofthewastebasket said...

I loved your first line. I had (strangely enough) a stuffed rabbit that I took everywhere. My husband had a red teddy and we still have both in all their threadbare glory. My kids have all kinds of animals but they love their teddies best. Sweet story, lovely writing.-Tiffany

G.P. Ching said...

Adorable! My daughter has a pup like this and it will be heartbreaking the day she doesn't need him anymore.

Laura Eno said...

Aww, so sweet! And a happy ending...are you feeling all right, Icy?

Tony Noland said...

A sweet and moving story, Icy.

demonesprit said...

So lovely, the way it turned out; was halfway afraid of a "Velveteen Rabbit" ending, but you really touched me. Sadly, I never had a teddy. Mom didn't believe in stuffed animals, for whatever reason and I don't know if my birth mom had one for me that got lost.

Thanks, Icy. I may just buy myself one, now. There's days when I need it. :)

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

Awww I love this Icy. I was seriously getting scared for poor William. I'm glad he got the happy ending he deserved.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Michelle - My pleasure!

Tiffany - Yeah, there's something about teddies that other animals just don't quite match.

Genevieve - Oh she'll always need him, even if she doesn't admit it.

Laura - Hahahahaha! I might have killed Jen if I'd given this a sad ending.

Tony - Thanks!

Demonesprit - Yes! Buy one! There's nothing like settling down to read a book or watch a film, cuddling a teddy.

Rachel - Aw, I couldn't have done anything bad to William. Hell, I apologise if I knock one of mine over!!

Jim Bronyaur said...

Aw Icy, I love this one. I was waiting for the bear to attack because that's how my mind works... but look what your've done now... you've settled my mind into saying "Aww" and making me think of my first stuffed animal - a monkey I still have. ;)

Jim Bronyaur
http://jimbronyaur.com/?page_id=121 (#fridayflash)
www.twitter.com/jimbronyaur

Gracie said...

I love this, Icy! And let me add to the chorus of awwww.

I was a bit worried for William, but glad she rediscovered him in the end. Nothing like a good cuddle with something soft and furry.

FARfetched said...

There will always be a cuddle for a teddy bear. Susie may not keep him in the end, but she'll pass him to someone who will love him. And maybe now Susie will rediscover herself.

Maria A. Kelly said...

Aw, this is so sweet! Love the whole thing. From the goth descriptions to Susie/Wrath's treatment of William, before and after the party. I has a bear. He has a Universal Studios hoodie & I put play sunglasses on him and he hangs out on top of the monitor of my Mac. Maybe I should go give him a hug.

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

Awwwwww. I use my husband for cuddles now, but I do have a lot of stuffed animals. The one from the day before I was born is named Brisby.

I'm glad she hadn't stopped loving William.

John Wiswell said...

Is this what disturbed you? That first line tickled me strongly, haven't gotten such a kick out of an opener in a long time. Also, "I want to look cute for Plague!"

Icy Sedgwick said...

Jim - No, I can't do horror where teddies are concerned. China dolls, on the other hand...

Grace - I can't part with any of mine. I've got a full set of Gummy Bears in the attic at home!!

FARfetched - Yeah, Susie's finally had the wakeup call she needed. I think she'll always have William though.

Maria - I love the way everyone who's read this has been going to hug their teddies! I wonder if bears worldwide will venerate me as some sort of saint? Oooh we should have Bear Appreciation Day!

Raven - I've just ended up collecting them - if I see a really cute one in a shop, I can't leave it there. I have to buy it...

John - Yeah, this is the one that upset me when I was writing it, partly because I've been in the sort of place where the only thing you can do is cuddle a teddy, and partly because I don't like even dropping mine, let alone throwing them around. I know, there's a warm gooey bit somewhere inside the iciness...

AidanF said...

I loved how you played with my emotions on this one. I thought she wouldn't find the cat ears and would take his or use his to make it "fiercer". Nice heart-warming ending (sad for Susie/wrath; but I'm sure her heart will mend). I liked the touch on the names.

louisebroadbentfiction said...

Teddies are better than boys - fact. Does a teddy ever wake you up with a prodding in the lower back? Does a teddy ever expect you to make dinner when you've been working and he hasn't? Does a teddy ever have pointless arguments with you? Exactly.

Stephen said...

"He cuddled back."

Sometimes, that's all you need to do. One smart bear.

A enchanting story, Icy. Thanks for reminding us of the quiet love we can share with each other.

julito77 said...

Wow. This is such an excellent piece and there is so much here that I love. The opening line, the bear's POV and the last line, powerful stuff, Icy. Great piece thanks for sharing!

daniellelapaglia said...

That's a great story Icy. I died when my mom through out my old pink teddy bear. I wish I still had it. Sometimes we just need something to hug.

On a side-note, my daughter has her first stuffed animal, a little dog, which she named....Puppy. :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

Aidan - Yeah, a few people on Facebook were worried about William's ears but I couldn't bring any harm to the little guy.

Louise - Teddies also don't leave the toilet seat up, lay claim to the remote, or lecture you about football!

Stephen - I'm just pleased by how many people have gone home to hug their teddies. Hopefully we'll all hug a close one too.

Julio - I love my bears, and I've always looked after them, so I wanted to give them a voice!

Danni - A lot of my toys are in the attic back home - they're in black bin bags, which have small holes in them so the toys can breathe. >.< And I LOVE the names kids give their first animals!

daniellelapaglia said...

She also had a pig she named Sweetie. :)

flyingscribbler said...

I also thought she was going to find some other ears for the party. So glad she didn't. Man's best friend is his dog? Rubbish. Teddy all the way.

Steve Green said...

Lovely story Icy, we own a bear named Ed, his mouth is stitched wrong and it gives him an evil look, my wife insisted on buying him as he was the only one left and no-one seemed to want him.

Laurita said...

Oh. My non-furry little heart broke for William. You really pulled out all the stops for this one, Icy. Excellent.

Al Bruno III said...

I'm really enjoying your work. Another great story.

~Tim said...

What a wonderful opportunity to see the "warm gooey bit somewhere inside the iciness..."

ganymeder said...

My heart ached for William. I'm so glad to got to cuddle in the end. I actually gave an audible 'Awwwww' when I read the last line. *sniff*

Eric J. Krause said...

Cute story! At 17, everything is the end of the world. But she'll soon realize she was better off for not catching the Plague.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Flyingscribbler - Exactly! Teddies don't leave presents on the carpet, either.

Steve - I've got bears like that, where they were the last ones in the shop. I have to buy them to give them a good home!

Laurita - Thank you!

Al - Aw, thanks!

Tim - Yeah, it's a rare display. I hope it doesn't become a trend!!

Catherine - I upset myself writing this. On one hand, I'm glad I've elicited an emotional response from readers, but on the other hand, I don't want to make them cry!

Eric - Hahaha, yes! She's better off without him.

laradunning said...

This piece brings back so many memories of childhood toys that felt so real and so loving. I like how he looks forward to seeing her everyday and when the mom comes into tidy up, which the daughter is obviously annoyed by. I'm so glad it ended on a good note. I was worried when she trapsed off to the party that his poor little stuffed heart would be forever broken. Great piece Icy, as always.

Benjamin Solah said...

Finally got to read it like I said I would. Great little tale. I liked the point of view a lot. I like it when people do something really unique like this.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Splendid.

sinisterechoes.com said...

oops, my comment didn't show...let's try again, and hope I don't end up double posting...

That was just a great story, very touching and it captured that sense of nostalgia we all feel when recalling more innocent times, when a soft cuddly toy was able to comfort us.

Alannah

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