Birthday Bear by Becky Jeeves
I only wanted to hold Birthday Bear and sit quietly while the adults talked, but Aunty Maureen had asked me to show her my new toy. She took the Care Bear from my outstretched hands. “Be careful,” I said “he’s new.” But she didn’t hear me.
“Birthday Bear,” she sang, bouncing and jigging him around up close to her face like a baby. “Birthday Bear! Birthday Bear!”
"Be careful,” I said again, but quieter this time. More to myself: something was telling me not to let on that I cared. Aunty Maureen lifted Birthday Bear up, holding him firmly around his torso; her red painted finger nails pinching his stomach.
I grabbed the air, trying to reach for him back.
Then up towards the ceiling he suddenly flew. Twisting and curling skyward through the air, spinning back down into her hands again like a trapeze artist or tumbling gymnast.
My eyes stayed glued to the soaring yellow sun-ball. He flew high above our heads. And every time he landed, the knot in my stomach tightened and tightened.
Aunty Maureen caught Birthday Bear with one final big swoop and a dip, but instead of passing him back to me, she took ahold of the single piggy-tail curl—his hair—on the top of his head—and started spinning.
Around and around.
“Oh look,” she laughed. “Birthday Bear’s having fun!”
I wanted to laugh like the other adults in the room. Think the same things were funny.
Birthday Bear was suffering. Every time his face came around to the front, our eyes locked and I knew his smiling happy bear-face was calling Help!
Birthday Bear hung precariously in the air.
Faster and faster, she spun. I wanted to shout, Stop! Don’t do that. You’ll hurt him. But I feared Aunty Maureen's reply would be: “Oh Becky. You don’t think I’m hurting him—do you? He’s not alive you know!”
But he was alive. He was feeling everything. The same way I was feeling powerless to stop everything. The cruel joke.
“Oh Mum,” Mercedes said walking into the room carrying a tray of sandwiches. “For heaven’s sake—what on earth have you got there?”
Mercedes—Aunty Maureen’s daughter—was my favorite cousin. Even though she was older than me by fifteen years, and an adult, we were still friends.
“It’s a Care Bear,” Aunty Maureen jeered.
“Well, it’s not yours is it Mum?” Mercedes said winking at me. "Give it back to the birthday girl will you and stop teasing?”
Aunty Maureen lowered Birthday Bear.
“Oh goodness,” she mocked. “Don’t be silly. We were only having a bit of fun weren’t we Bec?”
But I didn’t reply.
I lifted Birthday Bear from her lap and pulled him in close to me. Everything’s okay now, I whispered under my breath, stroking his head.
And then later that evening, as I fell asleep, I vowed never to him out of my sight again. Care Bears have real feelings you know.
Just like people.
Becky Jeeves was born and raised in England and now resides in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in HerStry and The Write Launch and is forthcoming in Months to Years and Happiful Magazine. When she is not writing she is busy curating artwork, vintage collectables and Asian porcelain for her antiques booth. Find her on Instagram: @becky_jeeves
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