Marie sat beneath the Christmas tree, clawing away at the wrapping paper with an untamed ferocity, sending a shower of confetti flying across the living room. Her parents sat hand in hand on the sofa, anticipating the look of joy on their daughter’s face upon seeing her present. After digging through layer after layer of gaudy paper, tape, and ribbons, Marie finally locked eyes with prize that she had been waiting a whole 12 months for and-
“What is this?” Marie said, jostling the box. The smiling brown teddy bear inside still stared back.
“What do you mean?” Her mother asked. “It’s the bear that you wanted.”
“Mom!” Marie shrieked, smacking the ground with her hands. “I wanted the Mister Fluffytumpkins’s Beary Special Day Tea Party playset! Not this!”
“Marie, your mother waited in line for three hours to get you this. The least you can do is say thank you,” her father pleaded.
“Uhg, fine. Thank you for getting me the toy I didn’t want,” Marie sighed, her eyes almost rolling into the back of her skull.
“Don’t you act snippy with us, young lady!” Marie’s mother snapped. “Now, go take your toys up to your room and think about all those kids out there who don’t have anything under the tree this year.”
Marie stuffed as many toys as she could under each arm and stormed away.
“Uh-uh, the bear too.”
Marie snatched up the corner of the box with her fingers and stomped up the stairs.
* * *
Why won’t she love me? I… I’m just as good as the other bears, aren’t I? I’m soft and happy and huggable… at least… at least I think I am. Is there something wrong with me? Is it something about my face or my eyes? Oh god, I’ve never even felt one of those other guys before. They’re probably so much softer than me. Of course, that’s the only explanation. I’m just not as good the other bears. But maybe she’d like me if she just gave me a chance. I’m a nice bear. Please, little girl. Just… just humor me. Please. Just one hug. Where’s my hug?
* * *
Marie’s mother knocked on the door a single time. “Hey kiddo, can I come in?”
“Yeah, sure, I guess.”
Marie’s mother opened the door and leaned against the frame.
“I’m sorry about getting you the wrong present, Marie,” Marie’s mother hummed in a soft voice. “I thought this was the one you wanted. And I’m sorry I got so upset with you.”
“It’s cool. I can deal with this one I guess.”
“I mean, if you aren’t going to play with it then what’s the point in having it? So me and your father were talking and we were thinking that we could bring this toy back and pick you up the right one sometime next week. Does that sound good?”
Marie cracked a little smile but it quickly morphed back into a frown as she tried to downplay her enthusiasm. “I mean, yeah, I guess that would be cool.”
“Good to hear.” Marie’s mother walked over to the bear, still in its box and sitting on the floor, and picked it up. She walked to the door. “Let me just get this put away. Merry Christmas, Marie.”
Marie’s mother closed the door behind her. She held up the box to her face and studied the bear. It looked back with two cold, black marble eyes.
“Wow, this is one ugly bear. I can’t believe I thought that this was the one that she wanted.” Marie’s mother opened the closet and chucked the bear onto the highest shelf.