Every night before bed, I begged my mother to make sure my closet door was snugged tighter than my own cover. We had fallen into a typical nightly routine of her tucking me in, then examining the closet door, even pushing it with her hip to be certain it was closed.
I know she’s always thought I was being a silly little girl, but she humors me anyway. She has been a pretty good mother. At least, she’s a good mother when she is single. I know she doesn’t like it too well, but the men in her life were always needy; always wanting her time; always wanted MY time.
I wasn’t old enough yet to experience the world all on my own, and with my dad dead, I needed my mother. I needed her to watch over me, to feed me and take me to the park, to grab me an ice cream when I did something good. I needed her to be my mother; and only my mother.
When I was 12, my mother began dating Chase. He was a nice enough guy, always buying mom flowers and candy and always, without fail, bringing me some smaller version of what he gave her. My mother thought this was “just precious”, her words, I would never say anything so stupid.
I remember hearing Chase ask my mother one night when I got up to use the bathroom, why she was still single when they met. He exclaimed that he just couldn’t believe someone like her, a beauty beyond compare, (yes, eye roll), could never be snatched up by some Persian Prince or some other foolish and ridiculous thing he liked to say. My mother always gushed and giggled; I always rolled my eyes.
I listened a moment to hear her response, a wicked smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “I don’t know Chase. Apparently something is wrong with me, because just as soon as things start getting serious, they all run off.” Her voice sounded melodic with a touch of sadness. I dropped my smile as quickly as it had formed.
Why was she sad? She had me! I was supposed to be her number one; her most important thing. Yet, here she was sounding sad at the loss of mere men that baby talked her daughter all while trying to steal her away from me.
I heard her say it over and over. Even before I was born she told me that she would always rub her belly and say that I was the most important thing in her life; in the world to her! She kept saying that until I got to about 7 and she started dating Donald. Suddenly, she was missing some of my nightly tuck ins some nights and even forgetting to buy me ice cream when I cleaned my room all by myself.
It was infuriating. When I would ask her about it, she said that, “Of course you’re still my favorite thing in the whole world, but I like, (insert name of creep here), too.” She then went on to say that she was lonely; LONELY! Of all the things she could have said, even with me, “her most important thing” she said she was lonely! When I prodded, saying that she had me and didn’t need to be lonely she actually stated: “Ah, my little Mayflower, of course I love having you around, you make everything better, but mommy needs someone just for her too. Someone who loves her and will take care of her like she does you.”
I became depressed and stopped eating. I refused to leave my room until my mother came in and told me it would be alright and that she would get rid of Donald and we could be happy again. But she didn’t. She actually got mad at me and told me I was being childish and selfish! SHE was the one that was being selfish, she was the one that was leaving me alone in my room while she had wine on the couch while she watched a movie with Donald!
That’s when Teddy arrived. I was sitting in my room one night, listening to my mother and Donald laugh and talk while watching some cheesy movie. Donald liked the worst old movies ever. I was imagining how I might get him to go away, when I heard it. There was a giggle coming from my closet.
I was really scared at first; I had always worried that there was a monster in my closet, but now I was hearing one for real! I got ready to scream for my mother, maybe then she would get rid of Donald and spend more time with me again if she knew there was a monster in my closet. But then I heard a raspy voice whisper, “Don’t scream, I’m your friend.”
I wasn’t sure what to think. There really was a monster in my closet, but he said he was my friend. I’m braver than most children, so I didn’t scream. Instead, I watched as the door opened and a big monster man wearing dusty black clothes and an old fishing hat from those stupid movies Donald liked, slowly emerged from the darkness.
“I’m Teddy.” The impossibly dirty monster said raising his head slightly to look at me. I saw only one eye, it was dark and bloodshot. The other one was under an equally dirty eye-patch. “What happened to your eye?” I asked him. His long faded black coat swiveled against the ground as he shuffled slowly toward me. “I’m a pirate.” He stated blankly. “Need one good eye for the dark.”
I giggled a little at this, and Teddy seemed pleased. “Do you live in my closet?” I asked him. He glanced around my room silently before saying: “No, I come from somewhere else. I’m only here for food.” I perked up then, my mother had made a really good chicken casserole that I just knew he would enjoy. “Cool, I can go get you some food from the kitchen, my mom makes…” He brushed my words off with a single flick of his, rotted gloved, hand. “That isn’t the kind of food I’m looking for.” I could almost hear him drooling under those heavy dark clothes. “Did you come to eat me?” I asked him matter-of-factly. “Thought about it, but I like you; I think we really could be friends.” I lit up; I had never had a friend other than my mother.
“Okay.” I squealed. I was incredibly excited to have a friend. To finally have someone to play with, to talk to, to tell how mean my mom was when Donald was around. A week passed and Teddy visited me very often. I told him everything and before long, he didn’t like Donald either. He told me to get Donald to come over to watch a movie one night, and gave me two pills; one for my mom’s drink and one for Donald’s. Teddy said that Donald would go away and my mother and I could be happy again.
I did what Teddy told me to do and was excited to see him when he came out of the closet that night. My mother and Donald had fallen asleep early on the couch. I was a little disappointed when Teddy told me to stay in bed and that we wouldn’t be talking or playing that night.
Teddy told me to roll over, close my eyes and not to open them until morning. I did until I heard some shuffling and then heard heavy footsteps making their way slowly back to my room. Teddy usually walked quietly, so I slowly rolled over a little and peeked one eye open to see what it was.
Luckily it was just Teddy, but he had Donald thrown over his shoulder; carrying him like a fireman did in the movies. Teddy looked my way and smiled a big yellow-toothed grin in my direction. He put his fingers to his lips to make sure I stayed quiet and then disappeared into my closet.
I only stayed there until I couldn’t hear anything anymore. Silently I tip-toed across my room, my pink pajama bottoms making a small swish as they rubbed against my legs. I slowly; oh so slowly, opened the closet door. Teddy was gone, and so was Donald. I heard my mother shifting around a little in the other room and darted back to bed.
Hours later, my mother came to my room to ask me if I had heard Donald leave. I said no; I lied, sort of, I hadn’t heard him leave, but I knew he had; just not the way she wanted to know.
She seemed a little upset and kept trying to call him. I wasn’t surprised when two weeks went by and nobody knew anything about Donald. I was surprised, however, at how sad my mother seemed to be. I asked her if she wanted to watch T.V., play a game or go get ice cream; all the things we used to do that made us happy, but she said no.
My mother moped around for months. She called everyone that she knew, everyone that Donald knew, but no-one had seen him since the night he left out house. His cousin said that there were some clothes, a sleeping bag, a tent, and a suitcase missing from Donald’s house, but other than that; nothing. Donald’s car had disappeared with him, and police officers came to our house to ask us questions, then everything went back to normal.
My mom started spending more time with me, and soon Donald was just a thing of the past. I was almost 10 when Shawn came into our lives. My mother had sworn off men after Donald took off and had been the wonderful mother I had always known and loved.
Shawn, however, just kept asking my mother out until she finally said yes and started dating him. I was furious. Shawn always wore really ugly clothes, my least favorite was a green Christmas sweater that he wore all year apparently; not just at Christmas. It was the ugliest sweater I have ever seen, and I hated it almost as much as I hated Shawn.
Teddy still came and talked and played with me at least once a week. He was really happy to see that he had fixed my problem.
Then my mother hired Linda to watch me while she went out and had fun with Shawn.
Once again I was left behind because of a man in my mother’s life. Linda was mean and made me go to my room at 6 and to bed at 7. I didn’t like her; Teddy didn’t either.
My mother came home one night and found me alone, a note from Linda sat on the kitchen table that said, “I can’t do this anymore. Where is my life going? I’m sorry.”, I have never seen my mother so angry in my life. She called Linda’s parents, but they hadn’t seen her. Everyone started trying to reach her, but couldn’t. Linda’s car was gone, her phone and a few of her favorite things were missing as well. The police said it looked like a typical teenage runaway situation and that was pretty much it for Linda.
A year later, after my mother had been bringing Shawn over to our house or taking me to his for their “date nights”, she told me that they were going to get married. My jaw hit my chest, bouncing slightly as I stared at her in disbelief. I didn’t know what to say; I was angry, hurt, betrayed; I was being replaced! I stormed off to my room and cried.
That night, after my mother actually remembered to tuck me in, Teddy came from the closet and sat on the side of my bed. Teddy always smelled really weird, like he never took a bath and lived with dogs and fish, but I didn’t really mind. He always wore the same clothes and hat, and moved his eyepatch to his other eye when he came to see me. He was my best friend.
I told Teddy everything and he said he would make it all better. A month later, Shawn left my mom and his family a note, saying something about not being happy, things moving too fast and needing some time alone to think. He took his truck, most of his clothes and his dog and was never heard from again. My mother cried for weeks.
Finally she came back to me and we started trying to be happy again. On our way to grab ice cream from our favorite place in town, I saw something that caught my eye. It was an ugly green Christmas sweater. A very skinny man with an overcoat a little like Teddy’s, but not as long, was sitting in the park by a tree, eating some kind of meat. It was dirty and torn, but obviously still the same horrible sweater.
My heart sank. Shawn was back.
As we walked by the man, I struggled to look at his face, in the hope of making sure it wasn’t Shawn waiting on us. I looked onto the tired eyes of the, obviously homeless, man and he seemed to understand my worry. He pulled his dusty brown coat over the sweater and winked at me before going back to his meal. My mother never saw anything and I felt a massive relief wash over me; Shawn was truly gone forever and Teddy was a good monster man because he helped people in need.
He solved my problems and it appeared that he solved homeless people’s problems too; there was no telling how far his goodness went. Certainly he couldn’t really be a monster, since he was so good. It was at that moment that I knew I would be alright, and I skipped home, joyfully eating my chocolate ice cream as I hummed my favorite song.
Teddy didn’t visit much for a while. He said that he had some other things he had to do and would be gone for a bit. I was upset; Teddy is my best friend and I didn’t want him to go away. He assured me in that raspy whisper he speaks in, that he would be back soon, and for me to enjoy some quality time with my mother.
I heard my mother giggle again. Chase had said something stupid about no man in their right mind ever leaving her, and my mother had responded with how much it had hurt, how lonely she was until she met him.
She still had me, but she wouldn’t do all the things we used to do when I was little. Not until after those nasty men are gone for a long time. Even then she doesn’t always want to play a game, or go get ice cream like we used to.
Teddy came back, he said that he was sorry for going away and that he would never do it again. He said that he had had another friend, another little girl like me, but that she was in a lot of trouble, that she was being hurt really bad by her mom and dad. Teddy said that he had to take care of her, so her did, and that was what had taken him so long.
I was a little jealous that Teddy had another friend; he was my only friend in the world. The kids at school were all mean little brats that liked to dress up with makeup and “trendy” clothes. They would think that Teddy was gross and not real. The other girls think I’m a freak and don’t talk to me, and the boys are all interested in the pretty girls.
I don’t mind playing alone though, it gives me time to think. Today I’ve been thinking about my mother and how sad she’s going to be tomorrow. I hate it when she is sad, she cries a lot and doesn’t spend much time with me. When she does, she is always sad and no fun. But, hopefully with a little time and me staying close to her and telling her how much I love her and that I am the most important thing in her life; the only thing she needs, she will come back around.
Teddy said tonight he would bring me the sleepy pills again and I would give them to my mother and Chase, just like last time.
After that, Chase will disappear like everyone else and I will finally be able to be happy again without him always calling me “squirt” or “kiddo” and trying to mess my hair up.
Teddy is coming to get him and take him into the closet. I don’t know where they go from there or what happens, and I don’t care. Teddy is my best friend and I trust him to fix my mother’s and my relationship.
I just want my mother back. I want the mother that took me out and played with me. The mother that played with my hair while we watched a movie and ate popcorn. I want the mother that pays attention to me when I need it, but she’s always different after her men leave her.
I just hope I can get her turned back around. I really miss spending most of my time with her, and the rest with Teddy.
I know she wouldn’t like Teddy, because he smells bad, dresses weird and takes people away. I wish they could be friends too, but my mother has a certain type she looks for and Teddy’s thick and filthy beard would repulse her immediately.
I’m really starting to think I should have tripped her down the stairs instead of my dad.
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