Why did everything have to happen at 3:30 AM? “Well, he does seem a little different,” I said. “Maybe someone just fixed him up for you. What if we take a closer look in the morning?”
Still sniffling a little, Liv looked at me. “Can we look now? I’m scared.”
I sighed. I was sitting at a kitchen table in the middle of the night with a little girl, preparing to dissect her teddy bear. And that wasn’t even the strangest part of all this. “Sure,” I said. “If you think it will make you feel better. I’ll do it.” The look of relief on her face was enough to tell me that, as bizarre as it seemed, impromptu surgery was the right thing to do.
First, I untied the ribbon, so new it looked out of place on a stuffed animal that had seen some living. Once that was done, I could see why it had been added. The front of the head had been inexpertly and thickly stitched to the neck with red thread, a mimicry—surely unintentional—of a slit throat. I shuddered in spite of myself, then picked up the scissors and, with a growing sense of unease, began snipping threads. If this turned out to be nothing, I would have some explaining (or repairing) to do, but the chances of that being the case seemed increasingly remote.
Finally, the red thread was completely removed. It had extended more than halfway around the stuffed animal’s throat, so as I tilted the bear back for a better look, its head tipped, exposing white, fluffy stuffing. I glanced at Liz, and her eyes were wide, her gaze intent—and perhaps a little shocked. Maybe I should have had her go back to bed before doing this. I hoped I hadn’t destroyed her belief in the protective powers of teddy bears. She seemed resilient, but I had a feeling she would be needing all the comfort she could get soon. Poor kid.
Well, there was no going back now. I gingerly slipped my fingers past the neck opening into the torso. At first I didn’t feel anything, but the bear was a big one, and I had no idea what I was looking for, so I kept shifting stuffing around, digging deeper and deeper. Finally! My fingers touched what felt like paper with something hard underneath. A little more exploring told me the item was too big to palm, so I withdrew my hand and began pulling out stuffing to clear the way.
Once the bear was half-collapsed, I stuck my hand back in and pulled out a rectangular object wrapped in brown paper with torn edges, ripped from a grocery bag, perhaps. On the side facing me was written a single word: Rachel. This mysterious package had been intended for me.
I bet you’re wondering what’s in the package, huh? I know what it is, of course. But I didn’t until about an hour ago. And now you can too, in the next section.