It is a strange kind of life, being a teddy bear. I sit propped up on the bed, staring vacantly at the world through my glassy teddy bear eyes, feeling the touch of the sheets through my nylon fur. The sheets are still slightly warm, for Janet has only recently got up. I can hear her now in the kitchen making coffee, trying desperately to wake herself up. It is eight o'clock in the morning, and despite the fact that she has only had three hours sleep, Janet must go to work. I find this absurd.
I also find it a little sad. After all, I am the one who is in charge of Janet's sleep. I spend my days planning new ways of arranging myself in the bed so that she might sleep comfortably. I pride myself on my sensitivity to her moods and her needs. If she needs something to cuddle, I am always there for her, immediately. If she needs space, I try and make sure that I do not get in her way. I like to think that I fulfil my function, and it is a little sad that despite my best efforts, Janet cannot always sleep as well as she would like, or for as long as she would like.
Lately she has been sleeping badly. Last night is the third night in a row that she has not slept well. I feel that I am missing something. I feel that there is something that I do not know, that she is not telling me. This makes me sadder still. Normally, she tells me everything. Up until three nights ago, I thought that I knew all about Janet.
When I first arrived in Janet's flat - I shall not mention the ignominious and interminable days I spent on sitting on shelves in the factory or in the toy shop - I knew immediately that an important part of my role would be that of confidante. She was obviously an unhappy woman, and although it took her some time to become used to my presence, I eventually broke the ice with her, and induced her to open up to me.
I think that it is partly due to my eyes. They may seem to be nothing but half-spheres of dark translucent plastic held in my face by pins, but they are essentially friendly and calming. I know this because Janet has told me so many times, in what became our nightly conversations.
After I had been with Janet for a few weeks, she moved me from the corner of her bedroom, where I had been propped, and from which I had been staring at her constantly with a determined sympathy, into her big double bed. Lying beside her, I felt her naked body pressing against the length of mine, and realised for the first time that I was actually taller than she was. She buried her head in the fur on my shoulder, and I felt a wetness. She was crying.
I let her hold me for as long as she needed to, feeling her sobs ebb and subside. Eventually she pulled away, and stared into my eyes for a long time. It was a critical moment. She was either going to start crying again, to push me away, or to start talking. I put as much sympathy into my expression as I could, and held her gaze evenly. Her face was red and blotchy from tears, and I wanted to pass her some tissues, but I did not know where they were, and she got there first. She blew her nose, and began speaking.
That night, she had been suffering from extreme loneliness. The company that she worked for had just relocated, and as one of the lucky few who had managed to keep her job through the move, she had felt that it was incumbent upon her to grit her teeth and bear it. There had been a handsome relocation package and a pay rise, of which, it turned out, my arrival in her flat was a direct consequence. However, it was not easy for her, living in a new city where she knew nobody at all outside of work. Worse still, none of the people who she had been friendly with at work were there any more. Only one had kept his job, but he had turned it down, because he had been lucky enough to receive a better offer elsewhere.
She had been trying to meet people, but sometimes people are difficult to meet. I could sympathise with this. As she spoke, memories of being on the shelf in the toy shop came back to me, and I thought of the sea of small mewling faces that would stare blankly at me and at the other bears with undisguised sticky-fingered covetousness, and that would be eventually dragged away, often screaming, by larger faces that rarely looked in my direction, and even if they did, barely saw me at all. I knew exactly how difficult it was to meet people, sometimes.
I also knew how it was to be lonely. On the shelf with the other bears, there was little sense of camaraderie. We were waiting and waiting, and none of us wanted anything but to be saved from the interminable waiting, for someone to come and take us away. Each of us was terrified of being passed over for another - we are, after all, so similar - only the size and the colour of our fur changes. So, petty jealousy was rampant, and we existed in the heavy and mistrustful silence of our loneliness and our waiting.
Later Janet told me more. She told me about her friends from home, and how she missed them, and she told me about the friends that she had made when she had been at university, and how she did not see many of them very much any more, because they had all dispersed over half the globe and had lost touch. She missed them too.
She also told me about the people that she had been in love with. There were four of them - three men and a woman. She had met Sam at university, and they had been lovers until towards the end of their final year, when Sam had decided that he wanted to travel round the world for a year when the final exams were over. Janet had already got a job lined up for when she finished, and had not really wanted to travel anyway. They had terrible arguments about it, and had eventually split up. There was a deep sadness in Janet's eyes as she talked about Sam. It seemed that he had simply disappeared from her life. After university, he had indeed travelled round the world, but he only wrote to her once, and the letter that she sent in reply had been returned to her. She had never heard from him again.
Peter had been her first boss. He had always treated her with the greatest of respect from the moment they had met, and initially, had kept the fact that they had become lovers away from the office. They had both been very professional about it, Janet said, until she had moved in with him. Then, things went wrong. They had begun to row over the smallest things, and there were times when a row that began in the bedroom at three in the morning on a weekend, after a party, would spill over into the office during the week. When she had tried to get another job, he had made life very difficult for her, and at one point threatened to refuse to give her a reference. He had made life hell for her in the period after she had moved out of his house and before she had found another job. She had sworn that she was finished with men and finished with lovers.
She met Louise in a cafe, and initially, they had just been friends. It turned out that Louise slept only with women, and Janet was intrigued by the idea of being finished with men without having to be finished with lovers. Unfortunately, it just had not worked out for them, in the end. Janet was not sure if it was just Louise, or if it was that sleeping with women was not for her. Louise, on the other hand, was increasingly paranoid about the fact that she was sleeping with a bisexual woman, because she could not bear the thought of being left for a man. After a short, bittersweet while, they went from being lovers to just being friends again, and later still, not even that.
Janet had begun to despair of ever finding love and fulfilment from a relationship with another human being. Her loneliness drove her to put an advertisement in the lonely hearts column of a magazine, from which she received thirty replies from idiots and one from Allan. Allan was an accountant, and was a very sweet man, but he was very sad a lot of the time, and both smoked and drank heavily. It was difficult to be with him, sometimes, because he was often too sad to talk to anyone, or too drunk to move, but they fell in love, and after a year, began to talk about getting married. They had arranged everything when tragedy struck, and Allan, who was in his late thirties, died suddenly of a heart attack. Apart from me, Janet told me, she had not slept with anyone since.
So I know all about Janet. I know about her past love affairs, and I know about the problems she has at work at the moment. I know what perfume she uses, and what colour sheets she likes to sleep in. I know about her loneliness, and about her political opinions. Janet tells me everything, or at least, she has done until three nights ago. I am worried that something is going on. She seems upset. Perhaps she will tell me tonight.
I can hear her clearing up the breakfast things in the kitchen. In a moment she will leave for work, and I will be left alone with my thoughts and the wall to stare at for company. It has always seemed strange to me, however, how quickly the day passes when I am alone. Sometimes it seems that she has hardly left the flat when I hear her key turning in the lock and notice, with a start, that it is dark outside, and that soon Janet will be coming to bed again. Perhaps I sleep. I do not know.
Here now, it is dark. She has returned. Normally she does not come into the bedroom for a while, although occasionally she takes me into the lounge to watch television with her. Here she is, though, coming in to the room, smiling at me, and carrying something. It looks like a belt. I didn't know that she wanted a new belt. She often talks to me about the clothes that she intends to buy. Sometimes she even asks me what I think of what she is wearing, and giggles. I do not know why she finds that funny.
It seems that the belt is for me. A present! It is very kind and thoughtful of Janet, although I do not really need a belt. It has a kind of large prong on it, at the front, a little like a banana, only black, and pointing upwards.
How strange! Janet is coming to bed, and she hasn't even eaten yet! She has taken off her clothes, and is lying me down on the bed, underneath her. It must be uncomfortable for her with the prong there. She seems to want a hug, although she does not seem tired.
And now she is crying again. I do not understand.