Exercising the craft—February 11, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: You’re searching through your closet and find an old stuffed animal or doll from your childhood. It starts to bring back a warm memory of a specific night that’s near and dear to your heart. Suddenly, your stuffed companion begins to talk and says, “There’s something you need to know about that night.” Write this scene.—from Writer’s Digest Online

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/theres-something-you-need-to-know-about-that-night

Amanda dropped her duffle bag on the floor of her bedroom, letting it drop with the same force as her heart.  She still couldn’t believe why she’d come home.

Was it really so bad?  Couldn’t Dad have talked to somebody?  Why did he have to end it all?

Her breath began coming in shallow spurts again as the thought crossed her mind.  It had done that every time she had thought directly of her father’s suicide.  But then she supposed all people felt that way when they’d heard only a week earlier that a parent had died.

As if Mom didn’t have enough issues; now she’s got to deal with this too.

She blew some stray hairs out of her face and frowned when they came right back down in her line of sight.  Pushing them back behind her ear, she shifted from one foot to another suddenly feeling uncomfortable in the bedroom where she grew up.

I guess I…I better find something to wear to the…to the funeral.

Even thinking the words made her slightly queasy and she immediately turned her attention to putting one foot in front of the other as she moved toward her closet.  She really didn’t want to make a decision about an outfit.  Making a decision meant she would have to go. Having to go meant seeing her father lying in a casket, and seeing him there meant he really had died

Why?  What went wrong? she thought for the hundredth time in the last 24 hours.

As she blew those errant hairs out of her way again, her eyes continued examining the contents of her closet.  Suddenly she spotted a brown teddy bear, worn after 18 years of love and hugs and playing pretend.  She picked it up and slowly ran a hand over its head.  Her father had put the bear in her room the day her mother had brought her home from the hospital.

Suddenly the bear blinked, and Amanda felt her heart constrict.

“Hello, Amanda.  I’m glad you’re home.  It’s lonely here in the closet.”

“Aah!” Amanda screamed, stepping back and running into the door jamb.

“Amanda, please.  I need to talk to you.  There’s something you need to know about that night.  The night you were born.”

Her shallow breathing had returned, but the bear’s statement had piqued her curiosity.  Glancing over her shoulder, she backed slowly out of the closet.  She held the bear at arm’s length and began searching for a spot where she could set it down.  Just because she wanted to hear what it had to say didn’t mean she had to touch it while it—it talked!

Finally she placed it on the window seat, almost gingerly, and then she backed away from the seat as fast as possible.  The backs of her legs bumped into the bed, and she sat down hard.

“Okay,” Amanda said, her voice wavering.  “Say what you have to say.”

“That night there were two of me…just like there were two of you.”

Amanda had read and heard about shock before, but now she felt it.  If she hadn’t already sat down on the bed, she would have fallen on it.  As it is her legs still started to shake, and she felt them go weak.

“Wha—what?”

“You had a twin, Amanda,” the bear said kindly.  “Your father bought two bears because he and your mother were supposed to bring home two babies.  But only one of them made it.  The other one…the other one didn’t.”

Amanda covered her mouth, and tears began leaking from her eyes.  “I had a twin?”

As if the bear nodding hadn’t flabbergasted her, now it nodded and brought its short arms together until the tips touched.

“You had a twin,” the bear repeated.  “We both did.  But when they found out only you had survived, they got rid of mine.  And your mother isn’t your biological mother.”

“What?!”

And suddenly the whole story came out—how her parents had tried for years to have children and failed; how they finally decided to go with a surrogate.

Somewhere through the process of several IVF treatments with the surrogate, her father had begun an intimate relationship with her.  And Amanda and her twin had been conceived naturally, without the use of any drugs or painful needles.

Her father loved his wife, truly he did.  But the process of wanting a child had driven a wedge between them: the stress of trying, of spending the money, of choosing a surrogate, of convincing themselves that allowing someone else to carry their future child didn’t matter because the child was still theirs.

A man in the best of circumstances had the occasional potential opportunity to stray.  Her father had the opportunity and the motivation.

The bear’s eyes narrowed slightly in what Amanda recognized as a sorrowful expression as he described how everything went wrong the night her biological mother went into labor.  The bear didn’t know everything, but he had heard enough to know that major complications had taken the life of Amanda’s mother and brother.  Only Amanda had survived.  And the grief and guilt of losing his son, his lover, and his fidelity had eaten away at her father little by little through the years.

“I don’t know all the details,” the bear said with regret.  “You and I spent a lot of time together, and it was all wonderful.  But sometimes when you would leave me downstairs by mistake at night, I could hear your father talking to himself.  He had a difficult time accepting his loss, Amanda.”

Her tears had started coming with increasing intensity, and by the time the bear had stopped talking Amanda found herself in a full-blown sob.  Had her mother known about her father?  She must have; why else would she have cut herself off from the entire world?  Why else would she have distanced herself from Amanda and Amanda’s father?  Why else would she have looked at Amanda with that hint of accusation in her eyes?

But another question dug into her heart more than the question of whether her mother knew.  Now that Amanda knew, what would she do about it?

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