Two big eyes stared outside the window, looking at a child that was about his age, a young girl dressed in a frilly, if a little old, red dress.

He continued to stare, even as the girls mother nodded and she took his hand, leading him out of the shop to play with her, while her mother spoke to his caretaker at the shop.

She led him by the hand to her house and introduced him to her other friends. There was Taffy, the sweet girl in the pink dress who smiled prettily from behind a small tea cup, Conrad, who wore stiff clothes and looked slightly older than both Taffy and him.

“Do you have a name?”, his new friend in the red dress asked him.

He pondered her question quietly as he looked down at his torn shirt and old, tattered pants. Before he could shake his head, she piped up

“I know! How about Sandy? Since that’s the colour of your hair!”

He grimaced slightly at the name. Not that she noticed at all, excited as she was.

“But Sandy is a girl’s name!”, he wanted to whine. He kept quiet though. It wouldn’t do to anger his new mistress so early on.

He found himself being seated on a stool and he found a teacup placed in front of him. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head.

She was offering him tea! No one had ever offered him tea! His previous master had simply left him to his own devices before sending him off to the shop. The caretaker was always kind to him, but he’d never offered him tea.

He began to drink, blushing a bit when Taffy giggled at his lack of response. Once she was sure he had finished every drop, she lead him and the others to a small room in the house.

There, on the big bed, were 4 pillows.

“My older sister used to sleep with me before, but she left for boarding school and I’m lonely so..”

He watched her shrug and smile at them. He smiled back and accepted her help in climbing into the bed, which was ridged in the middle. On one side she and Taffy made themselves comfortable and on the other, he lay down next to Conrad.

“Mom said she’d buy you new clothes next month”, he heard his mistress say before he fell asleep.

The next few weeks passed similarly, his mistress was kind to him. He learned that she wore her sister’s old clothes out of sentiment and treated everyone with kindness. He met her father once when he’d joined the tea party and had brought cupcakes with him.

All in all, he loved his family. Taffy was quiet by nature and she had a smiling face and Conrad was a bit strict but kind and loved the mistress like his own younger sister.

He loved her too. A bit different from Conrad though. His heart would swell when she smiled and he would feel like smiling too. They were best friends, she would tell him.

Best friends, he would repeat as he dropped off to sleep.

When she got sick, which wasn’t often ( Thank the Lord!), all of them would huddle close to her and try to cheer her up. Their lives revolved around their little mistress.

They endured so many springs and winters together, until the time came for her to say goodbye.

She had to leave for boarding school and she wouldn’t see them for a whole 6 months. He watched with his face pressed to the window, alongside Taffy and Conrad as she left.

Little did they know that that was the beginning of the end.

When she came back after 6 months, she didn’t come to see them immediately.

They awaited her visit, having seen her arrive in the car from the window, but she did not come.

Taffy’s smile now looked forced, Conrad looked resigned and his heart felt like it would shatter as a month later they watched her leave for school again. Without a visit.

When the door opened this time, his heart jumped, wondering if she had come after all, only to shatter as her mother stepped in.

Rounding the three up, she softly spoke to them, ruffling his hair slightly.

“She’s all grown up now, my little girl.”, she started fondly, “She won’t be able to play with you anymore.”

She didn’t notice three faces fall as she ushered them out of her once-bedroom and led them into another, much smaller room, with the red dress they so loved.

A month later, Conrad found his place with the mistress’ younger brother and Taffy left with him.

Only he remained, waiting for her.

Fifteen years later, he met her again. The look on her face was priceless as she hugged him tightly.

Her pretty face smiled at him once more and he blushed.

“Oh Mom! He’s perfect! I didn’t know you’d let him stay all this time”

A face poked out from behind her skirt, shy and hesitant.

He smiled softly at her.

He watched his mistress introduce him to her daughter.

“This is Sandy, he was my best friend when I was your age and now he’ll be yours”

He felt a smile tug at his lips as the young mistress, also in a red dress tried to pronounce his name properly.

The Teddy Bear with Sandy hair had found his place once again.

© Sonali Mukherjee