It was too good to be true. Zara hadn’t had a successful trip out since Emily realised she could say words and get out of her pushchair. And today was no different. It was going well right up until they passed a dirty old teddy in the middle of the road. Zara had planned to walk straight past it but of course Emily had spotted it. ‘Teddy,’ she said.
‘That’s right,’ Zara agreed, ‘teddy.’
She walked on hoping that that was the end of it, but Emily was a strong-willed little girl. Like mother like daughter. And deep down she knew where this was going.
‘Teddy, Mama, teddy,’ Emily said more urgently.
‘I know Emily, but it’s not yours, we must leave it here in case the owner comes back for it.’
‘Mine. Teddy mine.’ Emily arched her back and tried to free her arms from the constraints of the straps. Zara stopped and pushed her back down. An Emily tantrum was imminent. Zara had seen this many times before but she was never prepared. She was about to move again when Emily let out the most ear-piercing scream Zara had ever heard. She was sure that Emily’s screams went up few decibels with each new tantrum. It echoed down the cobbled street. It bounced off the walls and off the ground and spread across the rooftops. The whole town had probably heard the commotion. ‘My teddy, Mama. My teddy.’
Emily kicked her legs and thrashed her arms; the pushchair shook from side to side. Tears rolled from her eyes and into her little mouth. Zara gave in as she so often did; anything for a quiet life. She walked back to the teddy and picked it up, wincing at the thought of all the germs that had probably made a home in its fur. She shook it off and gave it a wipe with her sleeve. The teddy’s face was familiar. Didn’t Emily have one like this? Didn’t it have a missing eye though? Then the label caught her eye because Emily’s name was written on it. Zara couldn’t believe it, this was Emily’s teddy. She lost it a few weeks ago on this very route. She’d spent ages retracing her steps to find it but it was lost, and now here it was. She’d forgotten all about it. Poor Emily she thought; now riddled with guilt that she hadn’t listened to her daughter. No wonder she was so upset. She handed the teddy to Emily whose tantrum had now reduced to a sniffle, but she was smiling. ‘My teddy,’ she said as she squeezed him tight.
Zara was relieved it was all over, another tantrum she could tick off the list. But as she was about to move off she felt a tap on her shoulder.
‘Um, excuse me.’ Zara turned to see a woman standing in front of her, she was holding a little girls hand. ‘I think you’ve picked up my daughter’s teddy, thank you for finding it.’
Zara looked from the woman, to the teddy, to Emily and imagined the shit storm that was about to occur; and she ran.