The Teddy Bear

"I had that nightmare, again, last night." I said.

She stood in front of our stove scrambling eggs and frying slices of bacon. The scent of the bacon caused my stomach to rumble deeply. She had on a pair of gray sweat pants and an old Aerosmith T-shirt I had bought for her at a concert two years before. She was still attractive; I traced her legs and butt in the tight sweats. She looked at me with questioning eyes. It was a reoccurring nightmare I'd been having since the baby was in the second trimester. I had never had nightmares before.

"Did it change any?" She asked.

I said, "Well, it still wasn't that scary, just you sitting on the couch holding that old teddy bear you gave to Julie."

Julie was our three-month-old daughter. She was the light of our life. She woke with a smile every morning and was beginning to use her hands and coo incessantly. She had my hazel eyes and my wife's, Betty, little pert nose. Her hair was a smidgeon darker than our dirty blonde but she was beautiful.

"You looked like you were pissed off at the teddy bear. Your eyes were bloodshot and then you started to tear the bear apart. Oh I can't explain it" I said.

I felt a dread wash over me as I described the scene. It was like cold water from a morning shower. I remembered how I stood at the doorway of our bedroom staring at Betty scowl at the stuffed animal with a rage I'd never seen on anyone's face.

"Oh it was just a nightmare, babe. Don't worry about it." She said.

We fixed our plates and sat down to eat. As I ate, I couldn't help the awful feeling I had. I just didn't have nightmares.

I asked, "Do you have anything planned after work?"

I was attempting to change the subject and forget that stupid dream.

She replied, "Yeah. I have to go to the chiropractor today. I should be home about five."

"Ok, I'll pick up Julie and have dinner on the table for you. How is your back anyway?" I asked.

"It still bothers me and my shoulder begins to ache before I get off." She said.

Three weeks before, we had a rear-end collision that really shook her up and she had been having back and shoulder problems. We were traveling home from work on the freeway when traffic jammed. A numbskull didn't see the traffic slow down and plowed into us at the speed limit. I didn't get hurt but Betty was driving and saw the Truck coming. She tensed up and got a severe case of whiplash.

We were both employed as federal food inspectors at Sunshine farms near Fremont, California. That is where we met. Betty was six years older than me but she still had a sexy appearance. And great boobs, too. She divorced her cheating husband and I ended a two-year affair with a married woman when we met. Neither of us wanted a serious relationship but love blossomed and we moved in together.

In our four years together, Betty had two miscarriages before Julie was born. We were really beginning to worry about not having a child because of Betty's age. Her biological clock was ticking in overdrive. I still reel from the needful and determined adventures in our bedroom. We had both reassured ourselves that if she were meant to get pregnant she would. Then, one day as we were leaving for work she vomited. We were watching the morning news and she jumped up, her hand clamping to her mouth as if her breakfast were about to explode out of it. After she heaved every drop of food out of her belly, she brushed her teeth and said she felt good. I went to her and kissed her forehead just like my mother had done so many times. She didn't have a fever.

I thought about it all day while looking up chicken butts. It was a tedious job glancing down at thirty birds a minute, trying to see if there was any crap or signs of infection. I had come to the conclusion she might be pregnant.

I asked her, "Do you have any pregnancy tests left?"

She eyed me suspiciously.

"Yeah, I do. Why?"

I said, "Well you might use one. I have thought about it all day and there isn't any logical reason for you to be throwing up. You didn't feel sick afterward did you?"

She replied, "No."

Recognition transformed her countenance into an expression of wonder. Her face lit up with the hope of maybe this time it might happen. When we arrived home from work that day she immediately entered our bathroom and ten minutes later she was hugging and kissing me.

She phoned and made the appointment with the gynecologist after her attack of affection subsided.

It was a troubled pregnancy. She bled throughout the first trimester. We went to the doctor several times worried out of our minds about losing this baby. Every time he explained the placenta had pulled away from the uterus and the blood needed to go somewhere. It was touch and go for the first three months.

Because of Betty's age, we scheduled an amniocentesis. I watched as the doctor stuck that seemingly miles long needle just below her navel. It was after that appointment I had the first nightmare.

"Ahhh!" I shouted

I was kicking and screaming like a rage had overwhelmed me. My chest heaved with rapidly inhaled breaths. It felt like I was fighting for my life.

"What's wrong? What's wrong?" She shouted.

She was staring at me from her side of the bed with a look of concerned fear. Her abdomen had just begun to pooch out. She looked really cute naked. The flatness of her stomach curving outward, a reminder of what we had dreamed for all of our adulthood.

"I just had a nightmare." I said.

I wasn't even sure it was a nightmare. My memory of it didn't seem to be that frightening but I sure was terrified.

Julie was a fighter. She had several close calls but she was delivered by cesarean on April twenty-first by a petite little Hmong doctor. We went in for a regular appointment and with one look at the ultrasound screen; our gynecologist announced the baby was going to come today.

I saw Julie pulled from my wife's stomach. She was covered in white viscous goo that didn't even gross me out, as so many had explained would. The nurses urged me to go over and see my baby girl. She was so tiny I didn't want to touch her. They washed her off and I couldn't take my eyes from her. The sound of her crying uplifted me to a place I'd never felt before.

That night in the hospital room I had the nightmare, again. I was on the cordless phone standing just outside the doorway to our bedroom. Betty tore at the little brown teddy bear with tight curly fur. It really scared me the anger she displayed at the harmless stuffed animal. I awoke thinking I was stupid and overreacting. I never thought to remove the stuffed animal from Julie's bassinet.

We brought Julie home and she was such a good baby. She didn't wake up and cry for her Enfamil but once a night. Everyone who tried to advise us was completely wrong. 'Oh, you'll see!' They would say. Midnight scrambling to heat up the bottles, changing stink filled diapers at three in the morning.

It was enjoyable to both of us. Watching her grow so quickly. Betty couldn't wait for her to start walking and talking. I wanted her to stay just as she was, a little newborn. We shared the duties after Betty had recovered from the C-section. Betty had a little trouble with the incision but she healed just fine, eventually.

We interviewed several babysitters until we found a woman who satisfied us. She was an ex-pre-school teacher that had moved from San Francisco after a bitter divorce. Betty and I both loved her at once. I noticed she really seemed to love Julie by the tone of her greetings when we dropped her off every weekday morning.

That morning we traveled to work like every day. We tried our best to argue with our idiotic supervisors about the line speeds being too fast to properly inspect the chickens but money and production was the name of the game.

We arrived at the babysitters and listened to the accolades about how Julie was grabbing her hands before any child she had been around, even her own grandchildren.

Betty and I lay down for the evening and made love passionately. I dreaded going to sleep because of the nightmares, but I drifted off after I fed and changed my gorgeous little girl.

"Oh My God Rick! She Isn't Breathing!" Betty screamed.

I jumped out of bed and ran for the bassinet. My wife had Julie pounding on her back. I jerked the baby out of her grasp and began to search her mouth and tried to look down her throat.

She was limp, lifeless and blue.

I set her down on the couch and tried to perform CPR. I began to cry as I puffed little breaths into her mouth hoping for some sign of life. I placed a fist onto her solar plexus and pushed.

A little plastic object flew from her throat.

I couldn't tell you how long I tried to breath life into my baby but it must have been at least an hour. I got up and returned Julie to her crib, gently placing her on the thin mattress as if I didn't want to wake her.

I went into the bedroom to retrieve the cordless phone I kept on the nightstand next to our bed.

"I need an ambulance. My baby is dead." I told the operator.

While on the phone, I stepped back outside of the bedroom. I was exactly in the place I had dreamed about. Betty sat on the couch tearing at the teddy bear. Her expression the awful scowl I had seen so many times.

I thought, 'They were warnings!'

With the phone to my ear, I looked for the plastic object that dropped beside Julie as I pressed on her stomach.

I found it.

It was one of the eyes to that damned old harmless teddy bear.

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