So, one of my favorite ways to come up with short stories is to use my Dixit board game. For those who don’t know, Dixit is comprised of a whole bunch of very unique pictures, and when playing the game, you are supposed to come up with a word or phrase to describe a picture and then people have to guess which picture it is. Anyway, what the game makers didn’t realize (or perhaps they did?) was that their pictures are perfect for inspiring creativity beyond just a word or a phrase. So, this week’s picture was the following:
The picture of the teddy bears, to be specific. And in this case, a picture really was worth a thousand words, because I’m about to share with you my resulting 940-word story! I jotted it down and it is pretty much in its raw form, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t good enough to get published anywhere, but still cute enough that I want to share it. Enjoy!
The Teddy Bear
It stared at me, as forlorn as a bear without life could be. Part of me wanted to reach out, take it in my arms, and make its eyes fill with hope. But the glass of the display window stood between us and breaching that barrier seemed like too much work.
I turned, my arms heavy at my sides, and strode forward, my quick step belying my spirit. A touch of cold wetness landed on my cheek and I pulled my beanie lower and my scarf higher until all that remained were my eyes, likely peering out at passersby with as much animation as that stuffed bear. I swung around a corner and ooph. Straight into a man’s chest.
“Sorry.” I mumbled the obligatory word as I stepped back and slid around him, only to be jolted to a stop by a vise tightening around my upper arm. I jerked against the man’s hold even as I lifted my eyes to glower at him. If he thought I was just another easy victim, a young woman out by herself, he had yet to realize how dangerous someone without hope actually was. But my glare froze as fast as it formed.
Sea-green eyes pierced me with an intensity I hadn’t seen in ages.
He shook his head and I gritted my teeth. Great. Now I was seeing things.
I stopped in my renewed fight to regain my arm. Allan. I blinked. “But. You’re dead.”
Clouds hovered over the sea reflected in his eyes. “I was.”
A few minutes later we were installed in a coffee shop with lukewarm, colored water that real coffee would probably kick out of its basement, silently assessing each other while we pretended to enjoy it.
“I didn’t expect you to be the first person I ran into.” His grip tightened on his Styrofoam cup.
“Ruth,” I reminded him, in case he’d forgotten. He’d probably forgotten.
“I haven’t forgotten.” His mouth turned up then, in the mildest reminder of the devastating grin he used to employ on girls.
Warmth started crawling up my neck until I remembered that he didn’t deserve a blush. Or a smile. Instead, I narrowed my eyes. “Then why—”
“It was better for everyone.” He cut me off, the edges of this mouth dropping along with his eyes.
He didn’t look up but I saw the stiffening of this shoulders at his twin’s name.
I clenched my jaw and gave up trying to drink the witch’s brew in front of me, sitting back. “Tell me right now, or I’ll walk out of this coffee shop and you will never see me again.”
At that, his head lifted and my ire all but dissipated at the agony in his features. “My plane went down.”
“We know that,” I snapped, unwilling to let him know that he’d softened me.
“I was one of a handful of survivors.”
“You weren’t on the list.”
“Because I snuck away.”
Something tightened in my chest, and I furrowed my eyebrows at him.
He heaved a sigh that shook the tiny table and refused to meet my gaze. “When you and Drew got engaged, I had to get out of there, Ruth. If I hadn’t…well, I don’t know what I would have done to him.” He turned his head to me and I sucked in a breath at the despondency in his eyes.
“Ruth. I would have loved you far better than Drew.” He held up a hand as I opened my mouth, which was for the best since no sounds would come out anyway. “I don’t care how well he has treated you—I would have loved you better. And I know I shouldn’t say this, especially about my own twin, but…” His voice lowered to the rumble of a large waterfall that is fascinating to watch from a distance but dangerous to get too near. “I hated him for stealing you. I had to hop a plane…to get away. When it went down, I could only think that God, or the fates, were giving me a chance to start anew. So I did. And I stayed away until I felt I could face you both without hating anyone. Without hurting anyone.”
He let out a breath and I watched him, my head swirling with his confession. Then he reached out and put a hand over mine. “So, what I said was true. I did die—the me you knew—and only when I felt life come back into me did I come back. I might never be truly happy for you two, but I—I’d like to be a part of your lives again.”
I studied the hand on mine. Calloused, yet gentle. Large, but inviting.
“Drew left me.”
His head jerked up and his hand back as the words came out of my mouth. He stared, open-mouthed as I shrugged. “You are right. You would have loved me better.”
Something crashed in the back kitchen. Conversations buzzed around us. The hiss of an empty pot filled the air as someone tried to pour the last of the pitiful excuse for coffee.
“I still could.” His voice was deep, as kind as his eyes and as gentle as his hand.
I swallowed, pressing my lips together, breathing in deep, something in my stomach churning like a warm geyser ready to erupt. Was I ready? Was it possible? To hope again? To trust again?
Finally, I let a tiny smile curve my lips, and I stood. “Come on. There’s a teddy bear I want you to buy me.”