Monica picked up the shredded remains of what used to be April’s favorite teddy bear. Its eyes had been savagely ripped as hints of cotton still clung to it. Its legs and arms were ripped off while its stomach was sliced open jaggedly exposing the soft-white cotton stuffing inside. Monica winced as she studied the mutilated bear, a former image of its beautiful machine-stitched self.
The bear lay forgotten on the dirt near Monica’s garden where the hydrangeas were in full bloom. She had been tending to them when she spotted the stuffed toy and she immediately forgot her reason for being outside.
‘She must have thrown it out her bedroom window,’ Monica thought as she glanced up to where April’s room was. There was a flicker of a hand and a ruffle of the curtains as April’s white form dashed out of view.
Monica was getting increasingly worried. April had been a quiet little girl, but this, this was too much.
She pinched the bear at what she thought was the only part of the toy that was still intact and gingerly carried it with her as she entered the house and traipsed up the stairs to confront April.
April’s room was at the far end of the corridor of her family’s two-storey, semi-detached house. They had been living there for a good two years after they moved from Connecticut where her father used to work.
It was a quaint dwelling by any standard. A large yard cordoned off by a white picket-fence her father had painted by hand and a swing that dangled from a big oak tree in front of their house. It was the typical white suburban home.
April was sitting on her bed. She was 11 years young and while little girls her age were having tea parties attended by their stuffed animal friends, April was staring at her door, box cutter in hand.
She saw the door gradually open as her mother’s face peered in.
“Sweety, can I come in,” Her mother asked.
April found it annoying each time her mother did this since technically she was already in her room. It was just routine, and the more her mother did this, the more it angered her. She clenched the box cutter in her left hand tightly.
“Honey, I found this down by the garden. Why would you do this to your favorite teddy bear?”
“It’s not my favorite,” she snarled. “None of them were.”
Monica grimaced. She remembered the first time she’d found one of April’s stuffed toys marred beyond recognition. John, her husband had recently found another job working as a traveling salesman. His job forced him to be away from them for several days at a time, meeting clients and tending to booths at conventions. The continued disappearance of April’s father must’ve been hard on such a young girl she thought.
Since his absence, Monica was forced to deal with this issue alone. She never got used to it.
Soon after, there was not one teddy bear, stegosaurus, giraffe, octopus or any other type of stuffed creature that didn’t suffer a gruesome or creative death at the hands of April. Monica kept telling her, “Daddy will be home soon. Then he’ll tuck you in at night and read you a bedtime story.” She wished her husband never brought back anymore stuffed animals for April. She would always be the one to find it the next morning.
“Okay… but why would you do this? We’ve been over this April,” She raised her voice. “Too many times than I’ve cared to remember.”
April saunters over to her dressing table and places the box cutter on its polished teak finish. Even though it was new, there were faint scratches all over it.
“And what, young lady, are you doing with this?!” Monica’s voice was pitched. Every time she took the box cutter away and hid it, it would always end up with April.
April glared at her mother and walked off.
Monica was at her wits end. The amount of times they’ve had this exact conversation, after which April would throw her mother a dirty look and walk away. Monica never knew what it meant. She just knew that no mother should have to receive a look of such hatred from their daughters let alone one as young as 11.
‘Eleven year olds shouldn’t be acting like this even if they miss their fathers,’ she thought. ‘And her father will be home tonight.’
She walked over to April’s dressing table and picked up the box cutter but not before examining the spot where she left it.
The piece of furniture was fine indeed. Hand chiseled from teak, the table was lightly carved with a large mirror in the middle and two pointed tips that resembled church spires at the top. It came with a matching stool and an embroidered cushion although neither, Monica thought, were as lovely as the table itself.
She ran her fingers lightly over the surface and could just make out the faint lines and indentations of scratches etched into it. “What a shame,” she whispered, but there was no one in the room to hear her disappointment.
In the kitchen, April was sitting lopsided on the hard wooden stool. Her dainty fingers playing with the straps of her overalls while she twiddled with the metal hoop that fastened them.
She heard her mother coming down the stairs and braced herself for the scolding she would get later. She never should have given her mother that look, but she never did have full control of her emotions to begin with.
She noticed her mother looking her up and down. The long sleeved shirt she was wearing underneath her overalls was smudged and creased. But April didn’t care. Such small little details were beyond her. Maybe not for her mother, she thought sarcastically, but definitely for her.
Her mother approached her and casually rubbed the smudges between her index finger and her thumb. Satisfied with the results that they were too stubborn to be erased by hand, she walked off without saying a word, pulled open the stationary drawer and threw the box cutter inside.
The sun had finally set and April was in her bed. She was rarely anywhere else in the house after it got dark, let alone outside. The clock mounted on her pink bedroom wall ticked excruciatingly slow. She was counting each tick and every time the seconds hand would pass the number twelve, she would stare unblinking for fear she would miss the moving minute hand. It didn’t matter that it was just a slight flinch and never mind the fact that she had been doing this long enough until she had the pleasure of seeing the slender hour hand move as well, she was waiting.
Then she heard it, the distant rumble of a car, quite distinctive to her ears. It was her father coming back home from whatever it is grownups go when they leave the house.
She exploded out of her bed, duvet cover flying and tiny slippers pat-pat-pattering down the stairs. Her heart was racing as she skipped, one, two and even a third step as she raced to the bottom, half running, half tripping, before her father could step into the house.
She skids at the bottom of the stairs, hand grasping the railing firmly and launches herself to the left. Instead of going right towards the door, April heads to the kitchen. She reaches the stationary drawer and wrenches it open. Then, she grabs the box cutter her mother tossed inside earlier that evening and runs as fast as she can out the kitchen and up the stairs just as she hears the front door lock pop open. She reaches her bedroom and slams it shut leaping into the comfort of her bed, out of breath and heart pounding against her chest, the rhythmic beating of her heart vibrated her petite frame.
April feels a droplet of cold sweat drip down her back making its way to her buttocks. She flinches as the cold emanates around the area and scuffles herself backwards to wipe the sweat dry.
She hears heavy steps lead its way to the front of her bedroom door as shadows outlining the form of a man, creep their way under the door to the foot of her bed.
It slowly creeks open and the face of a man peers in.
“Hey honey. Mommy’s gone out and I thought I’d come up to see you straight,” the man who strongly resembled her father said.
“Here,” he tosses a stuffed rabbit on April’s bed. “I got you this.”
“Now, it’s time for your bedtime story.”
The man who she thought was once her father turns the knob ever so gently and pushes the lock in as to avoid the audible clicking sound it makes. The monster, a shell of the man her father used to be pulls his denim jeans zipper down ever so quietly and caresses April ever so gently.
This is the only bedtime story she ever gets to hear nowadays; the sound of her father shushing her.
April sits up in bed, duvet pulled up to her neck. Dried up traces of salt her tears left behind form intricate patterns down her cheeks. The rest of them fall forgotten on the cover of her duvet, like rain drops on sand that disappears in time, so too do her tears. The only difference is that each of those tears carries a little of the substance that makes her human.
She grips the box cutter, blade fully extended, that she hid under her pillow oh-so tightly to the point her knuckles turn white. They turn pale, but still they couldn’t compete with the color of her blood-drained face, stark white in comparison. Each time he does this to her, each time he reduces her to nothing, she feels the need to swing the box cutter, blade fully extended, towards his face. A monster should look like a monster, not the face her father once wore.
She glances over to her dressing table. The stuffed rabbit her father bought for her sat atop it, witnessing everything. It witnessed every motion, heard every creak her bed made.
April stifled a burst of tears.
Even her bed protested under the weight of the crime happening on top of it she thought. And yet, yet, this animal did nothing. Nothing!
April walked over to her dressing table and stared the furry creature down. With the box cutter in her right hand, she would do to this toy what she could never bring herself to do to her father.
She stabbed and hacked at the thing almost imagining it to be real. The white cotton it expelled all over the bedroom floor to her almost seemed like blood. She bit the opaque almost translucent glass eye and spat it out her window. The stomach she ripped and the legs and arms of the creature she sawed off, the blades of her tiny weapon grazing the teak of her dressing table.
When she was done, she tossed it out her window and watched as it fell near her mother’s hydrangeas. They were in full bloom.
The next morning she thought, her mother would come upon the mutilated remains of a stuffed toy rabbit and she would never ever know why.