Finley’s Birthday Bear
A Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door
By Abby Jones
Once upon a time, the word went out through all the land that a baby was to be born. It sifted through trees to the Land of the Lost. It reached the Unicorn Woods. The rock dragons heard it and trumpeted for joy. The proclamation twitched the ears of a white fox. Out on the ocean, the word past from ship to dragon-headed ship, and even old bears and white daisies heard it. But the news mattered most to one big family: Great Gran, Grampa and Grammie, their five children, their five children’s spouses, and all the cousins rolling around on the floor. A new baby. A new baby. A new baby! “Nine nieces and nephews isn’t quite enough,” the oldest Auntie said. “I think we could use at least one more.”
Then began the big wait.
One special, significant morning, a new baby opened her small dark eyes. She blinked up at all the faces leaning in over her. They smiled. The baby frowned. She didn’t know these faces. Tears flooded her eyes and her lip bulged with a cry.
“Finley?” A voice she recognized came from the mouth of a red headed girl. “This is our family!”
The baby searched the faces again. They cooed and said her name. The voices. She recognized all the voices. She’d heard that man boom when he said “Bruce” before. She’d heard those ones singing on Sunday. The faces went with voices she knew well. They were loud, teasing, laughing, long conversations, books being read, and Christmas songs sung. They were love. They were her family.
From the general clamor came the sound of little Remi and Imogene, baby Finley’s sisters. They leaned in close and felt her tiny toes, her little hands, and her nose. They wondered at their new sister, at the magic of having a baby to touch and smell and teach. Their Mama smiled down at them. “She’s here.”
“She’s here!” Imogene shouted.
“She’s here!” Remi mimicked as best she could.
“Remi, let’s go get our gift.” Imogene took Remi’s hand and darted off down the hallway. They tumbled into their room, dug under their bed, in their closet, in their reading tent, and finally found a small package in their doll house. It was wrapped in paper they’d colored, but mostly tape. Brown fur poked out here and there.
With a squeal, they charged back into the crowded, but hushed living room. Poking and prodding their way back to their Mama’s side, they handed the gift to Finley.
“You’ll have to open it for her. She can’t yet,” Mama said.
Imogene handed the present to Remi. “You open it for her.”
Remi tugged and tugged on the tapped paper, but couldn’t rip it. She passed it to Daddy. He made quick work of it with his pocket knife. Oh so gently, Remi spread the paper apart reveling a brown, baby bear. She lifted it out of its sticky bed and presented it to Finley.
Finley’s eyes focused on it. Her little legs kicked. Her tiny fist wiggled.
“I think she likes it, girls.” Mama nestled the bear in next to Finley.
“I think she does!” Imogene crooned.
“Well, she is Finleybear,” Daddy said. “Of course she likes it.”
The little bear, freshly born from its package, blinked his little eyes and smelled with his nose. He smelled Finley and thought her the best smell in the room full of smells. Happy nestled in beside her, the bear went to sleep. Finley and the bear, both so young, fresh, and new, slept while their family tended to Mama, and their bigger family visited with food and treats. They woke to new days and new abilities until one day they could sit up, grab hold, and even recognize people in the wider world. Each day Finley grew bigger, and her bear grew braver. He was her stuffed animal, and as such, it was his job to keep away bad dreams and make the covers safe. Each night he curled in close to her and watched over her while she slept. Night watching is a big job, but Tock, as they called him, didn’t mind.
Sometimes, when rainbows came out, Tock would take Finley to watch the real bears’ weddings. She would hold him close and peek through the underbrush. He made sure she wasn’t seen. The real bears don’t like people to watch their marriage days.
Over the years, Mama patched Tock up. Once his tail came off. Finley had dragged him through the house by it, screaming and laughing after her sisters. Both his ears and one eye also had to be sown back on. By the time Finley no longer needed Tock, he looked quiet shabby. But Tock smiled. Each worn spot, each miss-matched stitch, each loose limb proved he’d been a good guardian.
One day, Tock slipped away to find a quiet spot. He’d felt the calling of Holiday—the magical place stuff animals go to when their owners no longer need them—for several days, but he wanted to make sure Finely would really be fine without him. He watched her and watched her from the dresser where she’d stuck him months ago. She hadn’t picked him up once since then. He hadn’t slept in her bed or guarded her dreams. They’d had no silly adventures since long before he started sitting on the dresser. Yes, it was time. He was wearily to his bones. It was time to go to Holiday.
Tock slipped away one night, leaving a kiss on his dear, grown Finley’s cheek. He walked through the shadow of the moon to a tiny door that opened on the backside of a waterfall. Tock shook water droplets from his coat as he stepped out into a field. A happy, babbling brook rolled down on his right and wide rolling hills ran away on his left. Holiday. It was a good land. A good place.
“Hello!” called a yellow bear in a red shirt. “Welcome to Holiday. Have you seen my honey pots?”
With one glance back at the door, back at his Finley, Tock tumbled off to help the silly old bear find his breakfast.