Annie’s father was a truck driver. He was a big, rugged man with broad shoulders that seemed to fill the doorway when he walked through it. He had wavy brown hair and twinkly blue eyes. When she was little, Annie thought he looked like a movie star. She still did. She also knew that he loved her with all his heart. So at his knock on her door, she happily called for him to come in.
“Guess what!” he exulted. “Remember that show you’ve been wanting to see? I have tickets for it tonight!”
Annie giggled as her father bowed deeply, adding, “Might I have the pleasure of your company tonight, mademoiselle?” He straightened up. “What do you think? Afterward we might even stop for greasy hamburgers at that place where the waitresses wear roller skates.”
“I’d love to, but”—she paused—“Rhonda’s having this big spur-of-the-moment slumber party tonight, and Mom just said I could go. It’ll be such fun—you understand, don’t you, Dad?”
“Sure, Annie,” he said with a rueful smile. “I understand. You go and have fun. We’ll make it another time.”
No matter how hard she tried not to, Annie couldn’t help feeling a little bit guilty. Her father seemed disappointed, even though he’d said he understood. She’d make it up to him somehow. She looked around her room at the clutter. I know! she thought. For starters, I’ll clean up this mess without even being asked.
She bustled around the room, dusting and putting things away. She saved her collection of stuffed animals for last. It had been a long time since she’d played with them. She picked up Rosie, her teddy bear, and twirled around with it in a make-believe waltz. Smiling to herself, she sank onto her bed. Rosie brought back a lot of memories . …
When she was five years old, her whole life had revolved around her stuffed animals. They were real to her, and Rosie was her favorite. Unfortunately Ruff the dog liked Rosie almost as much as Annie did, and between the two of them, most of Rosie’s fur had been rubbed off. So she had patches everywhere. She had one green eye and one blue eye, and a well-worn nose. Her dress had been borrowed from a baby doll and was pinned in the front. Rosie hadn’t seemed to mind her appearance, so neither did Annie.
Annie was a pretty little girl with a pixie face and big dark eyes, but she was shy and very quiet. Rosie Bear was everything that Annie was not. She was the leader of all the stuffed animal adventures. She had all the exciting ideas and knew the best games, and she routinely saved everyone from disasters and villains. Annie loved her teddy bear and took her everywhere.
Because her father took their car to work, Annie and her mother had to rely on the big green city bus for transportation. One day they had several things to get. They went from store to store, then stopped at the sidewalk cafe for lunch. With its colorful red-and-green striped awnings, the cafe reminded Annie of the circus. The air was filled with the delicious smell of hamburgers sizzling on a grill, and her joy knew no bounds as she sipped a lemonade and watched little sparrows picking up crumbs near her feet. When they finally piled back on the bus, Annie leaned against her mother and fell fast asleep.
“Come on, honey,” her mother said, gently jostling her awake. “This is our stop.”
Annie sleepily began to search for her things. “Mama, where’s Rosie?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her for a while.”
Annie was wide awake now! She looked through their packages and under the seat. Rosie was nowhere to be found! She fell to her knees and frantically searched up and down the aisle until the bus driver turned around to ask what was wrong. Her mother apologized and explained the delay as she pulled Annie to her feet. He was understanding and said that if any teddy bears turned up, he’d be sure to let them know. They thanked him, and Annie reluctantly followed her mother off the bus.
“Mama,” Annie quavered as the bus lumbered on down the street, “I must have left Rosie in one of the stores. She’s just lying there somewhere. What if someone else finds her and takes her?” Terrible visions began to crowd into Annie’s mind. “Mama, I have to go back and find her—I can’t leave her there!”
“Leave her where, honey? We don’t know where she is, and it took us all day to go to those stores.” Her mother glanced at her watch. “We can’t get back on the bus and go look for her now. I’m sorry, Annie,” her mother added quietly.
Annie knew her mother was right, but as she trudged home, she grew more and more upset. Her best friend was lying patiently on a shelf in one of those stores, waiting for Annie to come and get her. She’d lie there hour after hour, and pretty soon she’d realize that no one was coming and she’d start to cry . …
Annie ran the rest of the way home with tears streaming down her face. She burst into her room and threw herself sobbing onto the bed. She needed her daddy. He always understood and made her feel better.
Annie cried herself to sleep. When she woke up, she heard silverware being set on the table for dinner. But she didn’t hear a newspaper rattling. Daddy worked hard loading and unloading heavy boxes from his big truck all day. He always hurried home to be with his family. He’d take a shower, then sit contentedly in his chair and read the paper while dinner cooked. He was never late.
But tonight, when Annie needed him most, he wasn’t there. Annie decided to sit in his chair and wait for him. Finally she heard the car pull up outside. When he walked through the door and held out his arms for a hug, Annie ran into his arms and poured out the terrible story of how she’d left her best friend to perish.
He looked at her solemnly. “That’s a pretty sad story,” he said. “Do you think that if you had another chance, you’d take better care of Rosie?”
“Oh yes, Daddy! I’d never let her out of my sight again. I’d make sure she was tucked into bed every night so Ruff wouldn’t chew her. I’d even make her some new clothes that fit.”
Her father looked lovingly at her tear-streaked face. He nodded. Then with a grin he reached deep into the pocket of his big coat and pulled out a small, ragged, brown bear.
Rosie! How could this be? Annie had left Rosie in a store downtown. Her father had been at work. It just didn’t make sense.
“I guess Rosie got tired of lying on the shelf with the dolls,” Daddy told her. “She must have walked over to where I work and hopped into my pocket so that she could come home.”
Of course! she thought. Rosie wouldn’t just lie there and cry. She would hurry to ask Daddy to take her home. Annie was so happy that she danced around the house all that evening.
A sharp knock on the bedroom door shook her from her reverie. “Annie, are you in there?”
“Come in, Mom.” She grinned at her mother’s happy reaction to her tidy room. “I just felt like cleaning.” She held up her beloved teddy bear. “Mom, do you remember a long time ago when I lost Rosie, and Daddy came home from work with her in his pocket?”
“How did he end up with her? I mean, I know now, of course, that she didn’t really get up off the shelf and go jump into his pocket.”
“Well, you’re right about that,” Mom said as she sat down on the bed beside Annie. “I felt terrible when I realized just how upset you were about losing Rosie that day. I called your father at work and told him the whole story. Do you know,” she said, laughing softly, “that he went to five different stores that night before he finally found that bear! He loves you, Annie. He’d do just about anything to make you happy.”
Annie was quiet for a minute as the significance of her mother’s words began to sink in. She felt tears welling up in her eyes, and she jumped up off the bed and raced down the stairs.
Her father was in his favorite chair, reading the paper.
“There you are,” Annie said, a little out of breath.
“And here I’ve been,” he said with a smile. “What’s up?”
“Well, is your invitation for tonight still good?”
“Sure,” he said with a glance at his watch, “if we hurry. But what about the slumber party?”
“I just decided that I’d rather spend the evening with you than with my friends.”
The joy on her father’s face made her happier than going to the slumber party ever could.