Benny was busy peacefully making coffee in his little kitchenette while Beth was doing something, who knows what, in his bedroom. It crossed his mind that his apartment was eerily quiet, but he didn’t think much of it. Surely, the silence meant that Beth was probably studying chess and was focused.
Still, he used the offer of a fresh coffee as an opportunity to check for himself.
He walked over to the glass door.
“Hey, Beth, I made some coffee…” His eyes landed on leaflets that were spread out on his bed and Beth sitting cross-legged in the middle of the pile. “Would you like some?”
“Oh, no thanks, I’m busy here.” She replied without even looking up.
He let out a nervous chuckle. “Okay, what do you have here?” He stepped closer and stood next to Beth so he could look at all the leaflets and flyers from Beth’s perspective. All of them had one thing in common - toys. They were all flyers from various toy stores.
Benny found a little bit of space on the edge of his bed and sat there, facing Beth. “Uhm, I’m sorry if there were some clues or hints that I didn’t pick up on, and trust me, I do feel like an idiot right now so I hope you don’t mind me asking.” He took one of her hands in his. “But… are you pregnant?”
For the first time, Beth turned to look at him. She blinked a few times and raised her eyebrows.
“Okay…” With a laugh, he took one of the flyers in his hand to look at it.
“Hey, don’t touch that!” Beth slapped his hand lightly and Benny immediately dropped the piece of paper. Beth put it back in its place.
Benny stood up. “What’s going on?” He looked down at Beth and rubbed her back.
Beth looked up at him. “My therapist suggested that I should try getting a teddy bear.” It was Benny’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “Something about reconnecting with my inner child and reducing anxiety. Funny thing is that I think she might be onto something with that. So I’m trying to find the perfect teddy bear.”
“And you think that you’ll find the perfect teddy bear by analyzing all the leaflets in my bed?”
Beth shrugged and nodded carelessly. “I’m doing research.”
Benny laughed. “No, no, you don’t do research on teddy bears. You go to the store, you try every single stuffed toy for size and softness. You find one that will be your beary best friend and you take him home. Or more than one, I could use a bigger bed anyway.” He couldn’t even see his sheets at that moment.
“That sounds… weirdly unsanitary.” Beth scrunched her nose.
Benny rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, you can wash it when we get back.”
Beth looked at him with narrowed eyes and slowly said: “Get back from where?”
Benny couldn’t fight the smirk that crept its way onto his lips. “We’re going to a toy store and we’re getting you a teddy bear.”
Three toy stores later, Beth and Benny were sitting in his car, in front of the fourth one. The previous three were unsuccessful and they left empty-handed. Benny sensed that Beth didn’t want to leave the car just yet, so they just sat there, with the radio on and playing quietly. It hadn’t been long, maybe five minutes since they parked there. Beth was looking at the car in front of them when a child’s laughter made her head turn toward the store. A boy, with a stuffed animal in his hands, and his parents were walking towards one of the cars parked alongside the road.
“It’s so easy for kids,” Beth spoke quietly.
“Hey, that sounds like you think it should be hard for you. Why would you think that?”
Beth sighed. “I don’t know. I do want one. I guess I’m not sure what that... says about me.” She moved a hair strand out of her face, then folded her arms over her chest and cleared her throat.
Benny let the words run through his head before saying something. His eyes never left the redhead next to him, who pretended that she wasn’t thinking about anything. He knew she was always thinking too much, sometimes to a fault.
“Are you ashamed that you’ll be sleeping with a teddy bear?”
“No, it’s not that. I would love to get the teddy bear, but what will it mean for me in the long run?”
Benny adjusted in his seat, so he could face her more directly. “What you’re trying to tell me is that you’re scared of getting better?”
Beth could feel tears tickling in the corners of her eyes. “My childhood was a shitshow. And I’ve been trying to just look past it, accept what it was and move on. I never thought that there was a healthy way to reflect on it and deal with it. I thought it was too late for me, anyway.”
Benny pulled her into his arms. Beth didn’t feel like crying. But the weight of childhood trauma was there and it was numbing her.
“You’ll still be you when you get better, a brilliant chess player and my favorite person in the world. We’re all here for you and we’re rooting for you. As for the teddy bear, we don’t have to get it today. Or at all.”
She pulled away from him and took a deep breath. “No. We are not leaving now without a teddy bear. I am getting one before the day is over.” Beth got out of the car elegantly and marched towards the store. Benny quickly followed, laughing quietly at the sudden shift in Beth’s mood. After he got out of the car and locked it, he was hot on her heels.
He caught up with her when she finally stopped in front of shelves upon shelves full of different stuffed toys.
Neither of them said anything, but Benny watched Beth and how her eyes scanned each shelf from left to right as if she was reading. When she started over the third time, he spoke up.
“You having second thoughts?”
Beth bit the inside of her cheek. “No. I just can’t decide. They’re all so different and cute. How do I choose?”
Benny laughed and wrapped one arm around her shoulder. “I don’t know, kid. Maybe a hands-on approach might help?”
Beth’s eyes opened wide in realization. “Of course.” She stepped closer and took every single teddy bear in her hands, that she could reach. And yet, she still couldn’t decide. They were all very soft and cuddly.
“Beth, look!” She heard Benny’s voice and turned her head to where it came from. “You won’t believe what I found.” One of his hands was behind his back so really, all Beth could do was guess.
“I don’t know, a wild west themed chess set?”
“That would be pretty cool, but this is better. It’s a teddy bear, I’m taking him with me.” When her eyes landed on the bear, she snorted. It was a teddy bear with a little cowboy hat. She never would have guessed that someone made those.
“Wow, looks like there’s two of you.”
Benny looked at his bear with a gleaming smile. “I know, right? How is your search going?”
Beth turned to look back at the display. “It’s not going at all. It’s just hard to choose.”
“Well, we can come back some other time.”
“I don’t kno- Hey!” A guy walked past Beth, hitting her with his shoulder in the process. Beth wanted to say something and Benny was about to let her. But the guy was gone before Beth could scold. What caught her attention, though, was the teddy bear in his hand. He threw him in a basket with some cars angrily with such force, that it bounced up and landed on the floor. Beth immediately went to pick the bear up.
She dusted it off, even though it wasn’t dirty at all. She looked at it for a solid minute. It was dark brown, with some light brown details and black sewing. She tilted her head and held it up.
“I like this one.” She spoke up when Benny came closer.
“Yes. I’m going to give him lots of hugs and not throw him around like that asshole just did.”
Benny chuckled. “Okay, you big softie, ready to go now?”
It had already been six changes of position, Beth was counting.
“We didn’t think this through.” She shifted in bed, trying not to elbow Benny.
“I told you that I have to buy a bigger bed. Now that we’re a family of four, we don’t fit.” Benny grinned at the joke he had just made.
“That’s bullshit, we fit fine, the bears are not that big.” She turned from her side to her back. “It’s just a little weird for me. And how am I supposed to hold you and the bear and sleep in a comfortable position?”
Benny rubbed his eyes. “Come here.” He raised one arm so Beth could snuggle against him. “Got your bear?”
“Yeah.” She spoke, her voice muffled.
“And you’re comfortable?”
Beth nodded and adjusted her head so she could look at him. “Where’s your bear?”
“Above my head, he’s keeping watch.”
Beth rolled her eyes. “You’re unbelievable.”
“And yet, here you are, in my bed and you love me. Now go to sleep.”
“I do” Her voice was quiet. “Good night.”
“Love you too. Good night.”