The scream echoed throughout my body and rattled furiously against my bones. It was one of those cries which had the power to send all parents into hysteria.
I ran upstairs to where the sound was coming from, struggling to determine which one of my girls needed me; The oldest twin Lucy, with the ability to make even the grumpiest of child-loathers smile, or beautiful Rachel, who adored being outside, even in the rain.
“No! Leave Mister Bear alone!” That answered that then.
Mister Bear had been Rachel’s best friend “in the whole wide world” for just over a year now. She told me she had found him under her bed one morning, just before the frost on our windows melted and the sunrise had faded for another day.
When she describes him to other people, the look on her four-year-old face is adorable. She will sit down, look you straight in the eye, and say: “Mister Bear is brown and squishy and furry with big massive giant eyes and a big massive smile”.
She takes him everywhere she goes.
No one is really sure how he got under her bed. Lucy believes that Father Christmas left him there by accident. Rachel claims that he has been hiding there since she was a baby. To keep the peace, I tell them it’s magic.
The girls often played with Mister Bear but it was obvious he belonged to Rachel. Now he appeared to have been the cause of World War Three, seemingly declared on Bluebell Street in the bathroom of our little two-up, two-down terraced house.
“He’s mine. Give him back now! I’ll save you Mister Bear! Get off him Lucy – he doesn’t like the bath time.”
Less than ten minutes ago they had been happily playing in the bedroom they shared – which was long overdue for a make-over from the Winnie The Pooh wallpaper – but had now decided to move into our small bathroom, where I could hear the slow stream of the cold tap running.
I barged through the door and sent the handle smashing into the already dented wall. I was greeted with a war zone.
“Mummy! Mum-mee! Stop her! She’s washing Mister Bear and he doesn’t like the water. He doesn’t like it at all. Stop Lucy, stop!”
Lucy was happily dunking Mister Bear into the cold, bubble-free water and, ignoring her sister, was rubbing him with a sponge. Deep in thought, her tongue was sticking out as she made sure the bear was as clean as a whistle.
I tried to hide a tiny smile of amusement while I became flooded with relief; thankfully neither of the twins had killed their sister – yet. Poor little Rachel had given up and was sitting on the floor sobbing as her precious friend endured a thorough soaking.
“Oh dear. Shall we get Mister Bear a nice towel to dry him off?” I said.
Between sobs, she whimpered “yes” and held my outstretched hand while I opened the door to the airing cupboard.
“Which one would he like sweetie?”
“He needs a soft one mummy.”
I pulled out the top towel from what I called The Tower and passed it to her, which sparked off a fresh stream of screams.
“Noooo! Not that one! It’s too rough, too rough!”
Fearful of more tears, I rammed it back into the cupboard fast enough to send the other towels flying; So much for bothering to iron. Rachel must have found out about my collection of ‘good’ towels, saved for when I needed pampering. I grabbed the softest one I had.
“How about this one sweetpea?” That did it. Her tear-stained face lit up like the lanterns in Disney’s Tangled.
As we headed back into the bathroom, Lucy decided to return to their bedroom, bored.
“Where’s Mister Bear, Lucy?” I called.
“Still in the bath.”
“Come on Rach, let’s get him warm.”
The next thirty minutes were spent getting Mister Bear out of the bath and dried. The process ended with him snuggling my special towel, sitting on top of a freshly-made hot water bottle, clean, warm and happy.
I turned to watch Rachel pat his invisible head, which was apparently “poking out of the towel”.
For an imaginary friend, Mister Bear was certainly well looked after.