The next day, Teddy accompanied Shawna to school, his button eye carefully tucked in her pocket. It was imperative that the other kids know the truth, saw the proof for themselves. She told Katy Wilson about the evening’s events on the bus. Katy had sat with her hand clamped over her mouth the entire time, her rounded eyes peering out over her fingers.
As was expected, word spread quickly to the other children in her classroom; even beyond to other grades, as some of her friends had older siblings. Which is why, at recess, there was a large gathering of children standing in a semi-circle around Shawna, all waiting with mingled excitement and dread. Holding Teddy in one hand, and his lone eye in the other, she raised her arms for everyone to see, eliciting loud gasps from the crowd.
Shawna recounted her tale for the benefit of those who hadn’t yet heard, although judging from the nods and lack of surprise, it appeared that everyone was well-informed.
“What do you think it is?” asked a timid voice from the back.
Shawna shrugged. “Don’t know.” There was a murmur among the crowd as some conferred with their neighbour, speculating on the horror.
“We only have this,” she said loudly, her voice cutting through the whispering, bringing silence. She turned the button eye over in her hand, examining it again, although it was now burned in her memory. Etched onto the back was a large B. Flakes of some green substance were embedded in the scored letter.
“What does it mean?” asked a third-grader, for the button was being passed among the crowd, giving everyone the opportunity to study it.
Shawna shrugged again. “Don’t know,” she repeated.
“What are you kids up to?” Shawna jumped at the voice behind her. Whirling around, she recognized Philip Sanders, a grade-eight student. Not trusting someone who was practically a grown-up, Shawna said nothing, protectively hiding Teddy behind her.
Philip saw the bear, knew what it probably meant. A large crown of terrified kids usually only meant one thing. He reached behind her and, when Shawna struggled, simply said “Let me see the damage.” Shawna released Teddy, looking at the group for guidance.
“It’s ok,” she didn’t recognize the girl who spoke, “he’s my brother.”
Philip held Teddy up for inspection, turning him over several times, running his thumb over the bits of thread that made up his empty sockets. He nodded sagely.
“And there’s this,” said his sister, handing over the button eye.
Philip held it respectfully in his hand, turning it over to see the engraving. He sighed heavily, shaking his head mournfully. He looked back and called “Hey, Billy!”
Oh no! thought Shawna. They’re going to play Keep Away now. This wasn’t going at all like she’d planned.
But before she could rescue Teddy from Philip, Billy joined them and he and Philip were now conversing in low, urgent voices. When they stepped back, Philip handed Teddy over to Shawna, then reverently placed the button eye back in her hand. He sat down on the bench with his elbows on his knees, his head hanging down. Shawna sat beside him and waited a moment, then timidly asked in a quiet voice “What does it mean?”
Philip hesitated, seemingly not able to speak, or perhaps he was too frightened. Maybe he thought she was too little to hear the truth. But she wasn’t. She was six-going-on-seven! She was big enough, she thought, sitting up straighter.
Taking a deep breath, Philip looked down at Shawna, then across the mass of children, staring wide-eyed at him.
“It means he’s back,” he said flatly.