He told some of the other toys, but they all laughed at him. He insisted the Blue Fairy was real, but they just called him names. He stopped talking after his tears matted the nylon fur around his plastic eyes. The stuffed dog kept his vigil alone, and tried to ignore their taunts. He especially wished the Blue Fairy would come at night. He almost missed the clamour and bustle of the shop when the customers were gone, and long shadows pawed the toys on their shelves. He sat in the dark, hoping with all of his little heart to see the tell-tale glow of the Fairy’s approach.
The stuffed dog sat in a wide box among the white rabbits. They were new to the store, and pleasant enough. He hadn’t mentioned the Blue Fairy to them.
The stuffed dog looked up to see a young woman walking over to his box. A necklace around her throat spelled out the word ‘Icy’. Best of all, she wore a blue T-shirt and ripped blue jeans – even the paint on her eyelids was blue. The stuffed dog wanted to jump up and wag his tail, anything to get her attention. This must be the Blue Fairy!
She looked down, seeing the stuffed white rabbits. He willed her to look at him, the solitary brown dog in the box. The stuffed dog was the only one left in the whole shop – his brothers and sisters were bought weeks ago.
The stuffed dog’s heart jumped for joy when her hand closed around his soft tummy. She lifted him out of the box and played with his floppy ears. She spun around, waving him in the face of a young man with long hair.
“Isn’t he adorable?” she asked.
“You’ve got loads of toys, why do you want another one?” asked the boy.
“Aw, but he’s the only one left!”
“Yes, he. He looks like a he. Aw, I can’t leave him on his own,” said the girl.
“It’s only a toy, put it back.”
“No, I can’t put him back. I’ll have raised his hopes by picking him up. If I put him back, I’ll upset him. I can’t do that.”
The boy rolled his eyes but ruffled the fake fur on the dog’s head.
“I suppose he is quite cute. What are you going to call him?”
The young woman looked around for inspiration. Her gaze spilled out of the open door just as a sleek silver car rolled past. Her face broke open in a wide smile as she looked down at the dog.
The boy laughed, and they walked towards the bank of tills along one wall. Aston lay flopped over the crook of the young woman’s arm. She hadn’t pulled his ears or dangled him by his tail like the children did. She’d cuddled him.
The girl behind the till took the young woman’s money and shoved Aston head first into a plastic bag. The young woman glared at the girl, and pulled Aston out, putting him back in the bag the right way up. The boy fought a smile. Aston thought his heart might burst from happiness. This Blue Fairy couldn’t make him into a real dog, but he was real in her head, and that’s all that mattered.
* * *
I posted a photo of my writing space in the Friday Flash group on Facebook, and several people commented on "my editor", the stuffed dog sat on my desk. I've had Aston for a while now (longer than four years but less than six) and I thought I'd give him his own Friday Flash. This is essentially a fictional retelling of how I came across him, sat on his own in a big red box in Hamley's. I was with my flatmate at the time, and while I don't remember what we said word for word, the dialogue sums up the gist of it. And yes, I do put toys the right way up when sales assistant put them face first into plastic bags.