Standing on the porch reminded me of the note. It had been taped to the front door. The envelope didn’t have postage or an address. Someone had to have delivered it. They wanted Trudy to see it, but I didn’t understand why they didn’t leave it in the house.
Leslie McMillan and her children were no longer outside. I walked next door and rang the bell. A moment later, Leslie opened the door with a puzzled look.
“Sorry to bother you, but I was hoping I could ask you a couple of more questions.”
“Oh, sure. Come in.”
I followed Leslie into the house. All the children were in the living room. The baby was asleep in a playpen against the wall. Anna and Jeremy were seated on the couch. Jeremy was holding a worn stuffed brown bear. One ear was missing, and there was a large stain on its tummy. The boy looked me a moment and then held the bear up toward me.
I like kids. They don’t worry about small talk or social niceties. They do just fine with my default communication style. I ask questions. They answer. They want to know something. I tell them. It’s easy.
“This is Teddy,” he said.
Not very original but the toy was obviously well-loved. I took a step closer, tilted my head, and studied the bear. Jeremy watched every move like he was afraid of what I might say. Leslie sighed softly behind me. I had a feeling I had stepped right into the middle of a battle of wills over the existence of the stuffed animal. When I was four or five, I had a cheap stuffed dog my mother had picked up at a thrift store. It was old and ragged when I got it, but I had taken it with me everywhere. It had been left behind in one of the many moves we made. I can still remember the feeling of loss that almost overwhelmed me when I realized it was gone.
“Hi Teddy,” I said to the bear. “How are you?”
Jeremy smiled. He turned the bear toward him, waited a moment, and then turned it back toward me. “He said he’s fine.”
“Good to know.”
Anna giggled, and Jeremy whispered something into to Teddy’s lone remaining ear.