Bear

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short one for Valentine's Day

Submitted: February 14, 2008

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Submitted: February 14, 2008

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‘Go through to the bedroom’ he said. ‘There’s a surprise for you in there’

 

He smiled. She did as he asked, dizzy with expectation.

 

As the door opened, she saw it on the freshly made bed. An enormous stuffed bear. A teddy bear, almost as big as her, with the words ‘I love you’ embroidered across its chest within a scarlet love heart. She leaped onto the sheets and buried herself in its white fluffy body. Like her wonderful boyfriend, it was warm, as it enveloped her. He jumped onto the bed behind her and all three embraced, the lovers giggling in the all-consuming group hug.

 

When they returned from the restaurant, in her nightclothes, they lay together on his couch in the front room of his flat. The teddy bear was at her feet. From behind it looked alive, she noticed, as she ruffled its soft, clean hair. The three of them absorbed the late night movie - a romantic comedy, placed in the schedules for Valentine’s day, He stroked her back as she stroked the bear.

 

When it was time for bed, the bear was left on the couch, sitting upright. She pulled her coat over its belly so that it appeared to be tucked up in a little bed of its own. As she did so, she decided on a name.

 

‘I’m going to call him Valentine’ she said. ‘I love him - but not as much as I love you’.

 

They went to bed and slept in each other’s arms after making love.

 

He asked her to move in after that. She did, and slowly, over the next few months, a routine developed. She, working from home, would use his computer while he was in the office. His flat was far nicer than hers had been, with space to stretch and enjoy hour-long breaks with fresh coffee and the newspapers. She would clean his apartment for him, when she had a spare moment. He would return, appreciative and with takeout food. They would eat it together with music playing faintly in the background or a movie he had rented. They always had something to talk about, sharing memories, discussing work, making jokes. They had sex every other night, sometimes skipping a night if he had worked late. The routine was reassuring.

 

By mid October the bear had been left on a wooden chair in the bedroom, where he observed the couple, their relationship maturing before his plastic button eyes. One morning as she lay in till ten, long after he’d left for work, she woke up softly. The bear was the first thing she saw, directly in her line of vision as her eyes adjusted to the morning light. She considered that, perhaps after all this time, now that Valentine’s had been and gone months ago, it might be time to put the bear away. Rising slowly from the warm sheets into the cold air, she gave him a fireman’s lift, carrying him from one side of the room to the other, hoisting him from her shoulder into a space in the top corner of the cupboard, where he was pushed atop a pile of unworn clothes, crammed into a small space. She pouted as she looked up at his fixed, dopey expression.

 

‘Take care, Valentine’ she said.

 

When the Winter came, after they’d been for a meal with his ex-girlfriend, things began to turn sour, curdling with every word they exchanged. She was unable to decide whether he was seeing the ex for clandestine meetings without telling her. There were hints - missed calls and unexplained absences.

 

He had also become suspicious of her. He had checked her emails, without fair reason or warning, while she was out, visiting a female friend. One night he came home drunk, accusing her of going behind his back, of talking about him to her friends in a negative way. He smashed a glass that night. A bloodstain remained on the rug where his clenched fist had dripped, the open wound unattended as he refused her treatment, urging her to stay away from him.

 

As winter turned to spring, they only fucked every other week. Less sometimes. The frustration faded to acceptance, tinted with longstanding resentment. One morning, while changing in the morning, she opened the cupboard and noticed the bear looking down at her, hunched and compacted in the corner where she’d stuffed it months ago. Its button eyes looked down at her, and she took an old t-shirt, covering Valentine so that only a paw poked out at an angle.

 

He came home that night, drunk, more drunk than she’d ever seen him before. His shirt was unbuttoned to the navel, his eyes rolling around nonsensically, his hair tufted and wet, randomly crawling around his ears and down his forehead. His collar was scorched with a fierce cigarette burn and his hands smelled of ethanol. He shouted abuse, uncontrolled words pouring forth from his dripping mouth, which contorted from sneers into pursed annoyance.

 

‘Where is he? I KNOW he’s here’ he said, convinced there was someone else, some other lover he’d invented to offset his guilt.

 

He checked the utility room. Finding it empty, he ripped the fridge from where it stood, leaving it upended on the cracked tiled floor. He burst into the bathroom, ripping the shower curtain from the ceiling as he checked it for a stranger that didn’t exist. Finally, before he left for good and stormed into the warm evening, hunting for more booze, he ripped the cupboard doors off. Nobody inside, so in his anger he began throwing the items out, one by one, directly at her. She cowered on the floor, sobbing slightly as clothes landed around her knees. Finally, the bear hurtled through the air, landing in a bundle of splayed limbs, half eaten by moths, its button eyes looking across the floor and down the corridor to the fire escape.

 

 


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