“Are you positive this is the proper place to bury him?” asked Piglet, wary of establishing the gravesite so close to his front door.
Eeyore, Rabbit, and Kanga were digging with their hooves and paws. The young kangaroo kicked at the dirt playfully.
“Aw, come on, Piglet,” teased the boy, “it’s not so bad.”
Piglet stared at the corpse as Kanga and Pooh wrapped it in a bed sheet. He looked around nervously for an ally, but finding none, resigned himself to the fact that his home would forever be haunted by the murder of Christopher Robin.
Pooh suddenly felt a rumbling in his tummy. It was typical Pooh, of course, but the symptoms were anything but. Rather than hanker for honey, the bear yearned for something richer. Something…meaty. As he helped Kanga with the makeshift shroud, his snout brushed against the cadaver. He wiped the sweet smelling blood from his nose, and as Kanga carefully wiped Christopher’s dirty face clean with a rag, he licked his paw. Guiltily, Pooh quickly scanned the group.
His eyes met Piglet’s, and then Owl’s. As the young pig’s mouth began to water and the bird’s talons tapped the tree branch, they silently conspired to meet again, hidden by darkness, to pay final tribute to their friend. He would not have died in vain, they told themselves.
“Chris! Chris, honey, wake up,” Sheila whispered, shaking her husband’s shoulder. He was having another nightmare.
Sheila, an attractive brunette with a wide smile and glittering turquoise eyes that distracted from the crow’s feet that had begun to appear in her early thirties, first noticed a change in her husband’s sleeping after their daughter was born. Beth, a tiny ten-week old replica of her mother, stirred in her bassinet.
Sheila had counted herself fortunate for dodging the postpartum depression her friends had warned her about. She suspected, however, that Chris was silently struggling with the change in their family structure. The playfulness and imagination that had attracted Sheila to her husband-to-be five years earlier had mutated into hyperactivity and paranoia. She secretly hoped he would take it upon himself to seek psychiatric treatment or counseling, and had feigned interest in seeing a therapist herself in order to leave hints in the form of business cards around the house.
Chris shot out of the bed like a pistol. A stunned Sheila turned toward the baby instinctively. She heard him march toward the nursery, his breathing loud and uneven.
Sheila slid out of bed and tiptoed into the hallway. Peering through the doorway of the nursery, she gasped.
Chris tore at the plush toys adorning the windowsill. He had saved them, all these years, for his future children. The donkey with its pinned-on tail, the rabbit that had once been snowy white but over the years had accumulated a grimy coat, the mother and baby kangaroos, the owl, tiger, and his favorite teddy bear. Stuffing spilled out of their seams as limbs flew across the room.
Exhausted, Chris sank to the floor in tears and sweat. Sheila opened her mouth to speak, but her frightened voice was too quiet for him to hear over his own weeping. She called his name once more, and he turned his head, his brow raised in desperation, his eyes pleading.
“I don’t know,” he managed between sobs.
“You loved those toys. What happened?”
His eyes settled on a walnut sized knot in a floorboard in front of him.
“I don’t know why I kept them.” Chris shivered. “They were gifts from my dad.”
Sheila caught a gasp before it escaped her throat. Chris had alluded to his strained relationship with his late father, and she had guessed the reason. She’d had a friend growing up whose uncle had done the same thing, and that friend had had the biggest collection of Barbie dolls of anyone in their class.
“I can’t end up like him. We can’t let that happen.”
She stroked his back and held him close. They sat on the floor, among the carcasses of his former friends, silently united in their dedication to their newborn baby girl. No, they would not let it happen to her.