Who Lost Little Bear?
“Where’s Little Bear?” shouts Daniel from the small bedroom.
“No idea,” I semi-shout back. I am in the living room, feeding Eloise.
“Oh for God’s sake. You know Luke won’t settle without him.”
I shove an exploratory hand down the side of the sofa. It used to be one of Little Bear’s favourite hiding places; lately, he’s been getting more inventive.
“Try the kitchen bin,” I hiss.
“What?” Enter Daniel, perplexed, mouth stretched taut as a letter box. Less than four years ago, we were backpacking in Australia, kindred spirits, searchers, shunners of convention.
We were each other’s answer. Now, one small boy and a newborn later, here we are in Sitcom Land, navigating our mutual irritations.
“Checked it. Don’t say you left him at Story Tots again.”
“I’ve definitely seen him since.” Though I’m not entirely sure.
“Where?” Daniel takes in the pile of unironed washing, strewn toys and higgledy-piggledy trail of squashed rice cake.
“Dunno. Baby brain, okay? But I haven’t lost Little Bear.”
From the small bedroom, on cue, comes the plaintive wail of toddler, thwarted.
“Neither have I,” says Daniel. “And my brain’s working fine.”
We eyeball, silently, as Luke’s protests intensify.
My daughter has stopped sucking, is sated, fast asleep. I know this. And, glancing down at her blue-veined, creamy eyelids, I say, “She’s waking up. You’ll have to go.”
Sighing, Daniel submits, the good dad that my parents, his parents, our neighbours, other mums I meet at toddler club, are ever at pains to tell me he is.
As I place Eloise gently in her Moses basket, something unexpected, something not part of me, grazes against my stomach. I know its identity before I reach into the front pocket of my fleece and my fingers, closing around soft fur, threadbare in patches, prove me right.
Later, when I climb into bed, Daniel is still clattering in the kitchen. You could do a lot worse, I imagine my mother saying.
A flying object narrowly misses my head and thuds on to the pillow next to me. Little Bear.
“Guess who?” Daniel smirks in the doorway.
“Where was he?”
“In the kitchen bin. You must’ve thrown him away. Baby brain, was it?”
“But you checked the bin earlier, didn’t you?”
“You’re right.” Daniel frowns. “How did I miss him?”
“Aha, baby brain,” I mutter spitefully, sticking my head under the covers, longing for my next snatch of sleep. “You know, it happens to the best of us.”