“What do you have to be upset about?” her mother muttered. “You weren’t the one abandoned in the woods by your mommy.” She stacked Jenny’s books on the floor next to the bed.
Jenny watched her mother for a long moment then began to cry. “But I didn’t mean to. Oh, poor Herman.”
“Why are you crying, Rabbit?” Her father poked his head in the door.
Jenny wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “My bear… I left him…”
He sat on the bed with a creak. “Herman decided to have a little adventure, huh?”
Her mother sighed in irritation. “She probably forgot him when she went chasing butterflies.”
“There were frogs in the pond.” Jenny snuffled.
Her father nodded slowly. “We don’t get out there much. There’s a lot to see.” He stood up. “Come on then, let’s get our boots on.” She looked up at him hopefully.
Her mother snorted. “It’s bedtime. She’s in her jammies.”
He shrugged. “It’s hard to sleep when you’re worried about a friend.”
“It’s an hour drive.”
He gave her mother a long look.
“Fine, but you’re putting her to bed when you get back.”
A little while later, her father pushed aside his dirty work gloves and boosted her into the passenger seat of the old pickup. They rode in silence for long minutes. As her father left the town limits, he glanced over at her. “Bears live in the woods, you know.” He turned the heater up a little. “Maybe Herman made some friends.”
Jenny mulled this over, watching the ghosts of trees flicker in the headlights. “I think he might be scared of other bears.” She shuffled her feet through discarded coffee cups to push her feet against the floor vent.
Her father nodded solemnly. “Hmm. Then I think he might ask them to tea.”
“He only had cookies,” she sighed. “I was getting tea from the frog pond.”
“Even better,” her father rumbled. “I’m sure he made friends if he had your cookies to share.” He pulled into the woodlot and asked her, “Will you come with me and hold my hand so I don’t get scared in the dark?” She hesitated, then nodded. Their shadows loomed large in the headlights. His hand wrapped warmly around hers.
“There he is!” Jenny scooped up her bear from a hollowed stump and hugged him fiercely. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
Her father picked her up and she hugged him too. “I’m glad we didn’t leave him all alone, Daddy.”
“We never would, little Rabbit.”
She yawned and put her head on his shoulder. “Let’s go home.”