Sometimes when you find a loose thread you can pull it and it snaps off clean. Other times you tug at it, hoping the thread will break, but instead it just keeps unraveling the stitches and the more you pull the more the edge of the fabric comes undone.
From the moment she overheard her father claim that Ethan’s death was due to her mother’s negligence and not just some random, unthinkable accident, everything started to change for Nola. She began to revisit each memory one by one, retell each family story in her head and tug at all the loose threads trying to catch any unraveled fragments of truth she might have missed before.
It started with something as mundane, as seemingly innocent as a ragged old teddy bear tucked away on a shelf. “Bear-Bear”, as he had been known since Nola could remember being alive, was a teddy bear she had since birth, originally a gift from Grandee. Only he barely resembled a child’s stuffed animal anymore, let alone something specifically bear-like. He was little more than a stitched together rag with the remnants of two eyes and a nose. Nearly all his fur was gone, as were his ears, he had a stub where one of his arms had been and like Frankenstein’s monster he was held together by a random pattern of zigzag stitches. Her mother, Kate, used to tell everyone he’d been loved to death like some Velveteen Rabbit. Embarrassed by his shoddy appearance she would repeatedly tell anyone who noticed him that Nola took him everywhere, that he was her favorite toy, that he’d been peed on, vomited on, left in parks on swings and in the yard during snow storms. “Poor Bear-Bear,” her mother would say with inflated sympathy.
Bear-Bear had a special place in Nola’s room to this day, on that high shelf, tucked enough behind her books that prying eyes wouldn’t notice and spare him ridicule, yet a bit of his face peeked out so that she could see him, she knew he was there, like a familiar guardian.
But now as Nola looked at the disheveled remains of her Teddy bear she saw him through different eyes. This was her very favorite toy, her most beloved. Despite what her mother said Nola knew she never left him behind anywhere, couldn’t remember a single time that Bear-Bear wasn’t accounted for. For some reason Nola had just let her mother continue to say those things and in silent compliance she went along with the stories.
Nola’s heart had been broken when Bear-Bear nearly met his demise, and even now she could still feel the pain, the agony as she remembered that horrible day. She had been brought home from nursery school by her grandmother and gone straight to the playroom after changing her clothes. When she opened the door Nola was nearly trampled as her dog Sheba came running out, clearly glad to be let lose from her confinement. Her mother, Kate, had put “that damn dog” in there and left her there all day long; a bored dog was a destructive one, especially a chewer like Sheba. There was shit and piss all over her doll blankets. Fluff and padding from various stuffed creatures, now ravaged, lay all over the floor with body parts of vinyl dolls and scraps of fur strewn from one end of the room to the other. The carnage was shocking, not a single toy was left intact, every object that Nola held dear was utterly destroyed. Nola tried to scream but no sound came out at first. And then she saw Bear-Bear, or what was left of him. He was decapitated and missing limbs, ripped apart like some horror movie victim. Finally her scream found its sound.
Her mother came running and yelled at the dog while trying to clean up the mess, telling Nola to stop crying, it would be alright, they would get her new toys. Only Nola didn’t want new toys, she wanted her own, she wanted her babies and her animal friends and most of all, more than anything else she wanted her Bear-Bear. She needed to rub his fur between her fingers and suck her thumb, she needed to feel him in the crook of her arm as she slept. He was her best friend and now he lay in rags and ruin.
Grandee came and tried to sew him back together, “good as new”, but of course he wasn’t. Still, Nola had been comforted some by her grandmother’s soothing voice as she sewed what bits and pieces she could find back together, creating a new version of Nola’s beloved. He still had the bit of fur on his arm where she liked to rub it, still lay in the crook of her elbow as she slept. Nola was devoted to him for several more years after that, but something had been lost, something had been taken from her forever, as damaged beyond repair as the bear had been. And now today it was as if the pain was fresh, as if the last bit of her innocence had been trashed along with her toys, ripped to shreds by the hungry mouth of her father’s accusation.
Nola always knew it was her mother that was responsible for locking a chewing dog in the playroom, in the room where Nola’s precious friends were, the room she played and sang and chatted happily to objects that listened to her in a way no one else did. Kate hadn’t given a second thought to what might happen. Instead she made up stories of favorite bears being loved to death rather than tell the truth…that nothing can be loved to death, only carelessly ignored with predictable results.
(rework in progress from this previous post)
six words: see ya soon - minor eye injury still needs healing