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I shove my suitcase into the car trunk and slump into the front seat. I had hoped to go to my best friend’s sleepover, but those plans were ruined by my parents’ impromptu business trip. And a business trip means I get shipped off to my extended family.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Grandma, because I usually stay with my aunt, who has a daughter my age. Unfortunately, Grandma is the only relative available. Suffice it to say, I’m not looking forward to spending my weekend having awkward conversations and eating the products of my grandma’s horrible cooking.
As we speed farther into suburbia, I see children playing in their pools, envying them for being able to enjoy the sunny weather. I stare out the window for a while, watching the untouched plains go on for miles.
“Naomi, we’re here,” my dad says. I sling my tote bag over my shoulder and open the car door. A wave of hot, humid air engulfs me. We walk in silence up to the grand, yet dilapidated house. My dad rings the doorbell. Paint is chipping off the deck and flimsy patio furniture is littered throughout. The door unhinges slowly.
“Hello, Philip and Naomi! Please do come in, it’s quite hot out there,” Grandma says, quickly ushering us out of the heat. As I settle down in front of a rickety fan, my dad tells Grandma when he’ll be picking me up and thanks her for the last minute accomodations.
Grandma and I make small talk about school and sports, as she tries to catch up with me. Eventually I slink away to my mother’s old room and unload my bags.
Around the middle of the afternoon Grandma knocks on my door. She comes in wheeling a vacuum that looks like it’s from the 70’s.
“Naomi, would you mind helping me clean out my attic? There are some funny pictures up there, I know you’d love to see,” she says. She continues, describing the treasures hidden among the endless stacks of dust covered boxes, conjuring up images of the sentimental items we’ll find.
“We’ll have a great time. There’s so much stuff up there, I’m sure you’ll find something interesting,” she adds. I give in after several minutes of her begging, and we make our way up to the attic. We sift through empty box upon box of my mom and uncle’s old stuffed animals, award winning school essays, and baseball trophies. As we unload items from floppy cardboard boxes, Grandma reminisces about “how proud Uncle Martin was when his team won the baseball tournament” and how Mom “would never let go of her porcelain dolls.” As I flip through an album of photos labeled “Summer ‘72,” Grandma tries her hardest to extirpate the dust from every nook and cranny of the attic. By the end of the day, I’m so tired I willingly eat the mushy green beans and suspicious meat Grandma made for dinner.
I wake up to the sound of rapping on the bedroom door. Grandma pokes her head in to remind me about cleaning. I roll over, trying to ignore her badgering, but she wastes no time in hustling me up to the attic. As we clean, I decide to set aside a photo of my mother with her friends and her worn copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to take back home. While rifling through one box, I notice an old teddy bear. One ear is missing, and the fur is patchy and stiff. I pick it up, examining the relic. One of its eyes is missing.
“Grandma was this yours?” I ask, suddenly fascinated by the strange toy. Grandma stares at it for a while, looking the bear up and down. She has a puzzled look on her face when she responds.
“Well...let me think,” she says, eyebrows scrunched, accentuating her wrinkles. She hesitantly says, “If I remember correctly her, that belonged to Uncle Martin. He was always trying to get rid of it, but I thought it was cute. Maybe ask your mother when you go home. My memory isn’t what is was.”
The car ride home feels eternal. As we throttle down the highway, I constantly fidget with my earbuds and the seatbelt, waiting for the moment when we turn into my neighborhood. I keep myself amused by imagining Mom’s reaction to the stuff I collected from Grandma’s. I flip through the stack of pictures again, giggling over Mom’s ridiculous teased hair and tie-dye clothing. As the car pulls into the driveway, I hurriedly haul my suitcase and box of attic-finds up the walkway.
Mom greets me by staring at the box, puzzled by where I got it. We gather around the dining table as I pull out the items. One by one, Mom gleefully recounts stories of her childhood. The last item I take out is the bear.
“Why’d you bring home that ratty thing?” she asks.
“You don’t recognize it?” I inquire, surprised. She takes the bear from my hands, inspecting the patchy fur and worn stitching.
“No, I do. I remember Uncle Martin never liked it at all. I wonder why your Grandma kept this,” she says, laying the bear on the table. “This thing is in pretty bad condition. Why don’t you just throw it out?” she adds, slightly disgusted.
I can’t help wondering about it as I pack the photos, toys, and books back in the box and walk up to my room. Why would Grandma have kept it? What distinguished one jaded teddy bear from my mom and uncle’s other important sentimental items?
Monday afternoon I pull out my planner, scanning over my homework for the next day. The list seems never ending. I’m making good process until I hear something clatter to the floor. I look for the source of the noise, and see my water glass has fallen from my bedside table. I quickly grab a towel to clean up the spill. As I attempt to dry up the spill I notice the bear lying on the ground.
“I don’t remember putting you here. Maybe Mom moved you,” I say, fishing it out from under my bed and returning it to the windowsill.
That night, I lie in bed, trying to fall asleep. I’m worn out just by thinking of the long week I have ahead of me. As I slip into a state of sleep, I hear footsteps in my room.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
They are empty and hollow, uneven and slow. I flick on the light. Suddenly I see something dart out of the room. I slink out of bed, hoping not to be heard by my parents. Peeking out of my door, I see the teddy bear lying in the hallway.
Could it have been the one moving around? No. Never. There is no way a teddy bear could be moving, or even alive. I’m too tired to investigate further and pick up the discarded bear. This is all just a strange dream.
I wake up hoping for it be Friday, but check my phone and see it’s only Tuesday. I sigh and stumble out of bed, tripping over the old teddy bear.
“How did you get there? I thought I brought back into my room” I mutter as I pick it up and place it back in the windowsill. I rush around the house, stuffing cereal in my mouth, brushing my hair, and run outside just in time to catch the bus. I regret staying up so late. The day goes by as if in slow motion and I find myself counting down the minutes until I can get home.
Finally school has ended and I walk up to the door and turn the key, but the door refuses to open. I check to make sure I brought the right key and try again, but the door won’t budge. I walk around to the side door and try my other key, hoping to get in. That door is locked too. I lean my entire weight against the door, but nothing happens. That’s when I spot the bear.
Looking through the upper window of the door, I can see it moving. I rub my eyes, to make sure I’m not hallucinating or dreaming, but it’s still there. I stare in shock, wondering what the bear is doing. I feel my forehead start to ache as I try to accept that my crazy dream from yesterday is reality. How could this even be possible? What is it doing? I take a look through the window again. It moves towards the kitchen, then hops onto the counter. I watch in fear as it makes its way towards the knife block.
My hands shake as I call Mom. She picks up, exasperated. I explain that the both the doors are locked and my keys aren’t working, but leave out the bear from my story. She tells me I will have to wait for her to get home.
It’s no wonder Uncle Martin was always trying to get rid of that thing. When Mom gets home, I rush straight into the kitchen. The bear is lying on the ground, its one glazed eye stares at me.
I sweep the bear off the ground and whiz to the trash bin outside.
“Naomi! Where are you going?” Mom shouts after me, but I’m too focused on getting rid of this bear. I chuck the bear into the trash bin and then put a nearby rock overtop of the lid, just in case.
Before I know it, the week is almost over. It’s Thursday night, and I’m working on a Spanish project. I’ve barely thought about the bear since Tuesday afternoon, but I’m glad it’s gone once and for all. I take a break from my project and go downstairs for a snack. As I’m cutting strawberries, I hear a knock at the door. I check the time, it’s 9:23. Weird timing for anyone to be coming to the door. I spy out the peephole, but no one is there. I open the door, looking around. I look down and see something which makes me instantly stop in my tracks, my entire body freezing.
“Who’s at the door?” my father shouts.
“No one!” I yell back. For a few seconds I stare blankly at the bear, unsure of what my next move should be until my father walks by.
“Would you pick up that bear and close the door? It’s quite cold out there,” he says, tapping my shoulder. I snap out of my state of utter confusion, pick up the bear, and close the door.
I rush back up to my room. I can’t put the bear in the trash again, it’ll just get out again. But where else can I put it? My eyes scan the room and land on the open closet. I stuff the bear into my trunk and hurriedly slam the door shut.
That night I lie in bed, unable to fall asleep, knowing the bear is in my closet. I need to get rid of it as soon as possible, but without anyone seeing me. I stare up at the ceiling, devising the plan. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up, get to school early, and throw the bear away there. Since the trash cans get emptied everyday, there’s no way that bear will be able to escape.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
I freeze, breaking out in a cold sweat. It’s just a dream I tell myself, shutting my eyes and clutching the duvet. It’s not the bear. But when I feel the duvet cover tug against my grip, I know this is too lifelike to be a dream. I squeeze my eyes tighter. Before I know it the bear is on me. The moonlight shines in from my window, illuminating the scruffy bear. Both of its eyes are gone now. Something glints in its hand and a wave of fear rushes over me.
I scream, leaping from the bed, tossing the duvet on top of the bear. I dash to my parent’s room.
“Mom! Dad! There’s something in my room,” I yell desperately, pointing towards the hallway. “Please!”
My parents groggily hop out of bed, look at me dubiously, and walk towards my room. Paralyzed, I stay in their room, rooted to the floor.
Everything goes quiet for a minute. Until my father’s scream breaks the silence.