The teddy bear looked up at her with one glass eye and a stitched smile. The pink thread of his nose had long ago faded and there was a hole growing under his arm where the stuffing was peeking through. The bottom of his left foot was singed black and the fuzzy fabric had melted a little there.
He was the only thing Lisa could remember having before her short little life had been turned upside down; the only thing she could really call hers, four years and seven families later. She had only been at the last foster house for two weeks before they had called and had her removed.
“Her violent outbursts are unacceptable. She attacked our middle child. We just can’t have that; she needs counseling and probably medication.” Not a word about him being the one who started it; not a word about him pushing her in the mud and trying to light Teddy on fire.
Now, a week later, she sat outside her case worker’s office in the Child Protective Services building and waited to go to her eighth house.
“Please,” she pleaded softly, Teddy being the only one left to hear her prayers. “Please let them be nice this time. I promise, I won’t fight or break anything or wet the bed. I promise.”
Teddy smiled back at her. She hugged him tight, curling her arms around her knees and burying her face into her arms as she tried not to cry. When her case worker came around the corner leading a young couple, Lisa slowly got to her feet and looked up at them.
“Lisa, this is Mr. and Mrs. Knowles.” The case worker’s curt manner and tone hinted at how tired she was of dealing with this girl.
But Mrs. Knowles held out her hand and said, “Hello Lisa, I’m Molly.”
She did not answer. She did not take her hand. She did not dare to get her hopes up. Mrs. Knowles saw her teddy and smiled gently.
“What is your bear’s name?”
No one had ever asked her that before, not ever. They would ask when they would get paid, or say she was such an unattractive little thing, or ask why she didn’t have more clothes. No one ever asked about her bear.
Lisa hugged him tight and said, “Teddy.”
“He looks like he could use a little help,” she said. “Would you like me to sew him up for you?”
Lisa looked down at Teddy, then looked back at Mrs. Knowles, and finally reached out and took her hand.