“Mommy! Tell me more about the white bears!” Nyla calls out, seemingly desperate for another description of the polar bears as her bedtime story, for at least the fifth time this week. My hand is on the doorknob, ready to exit her room, and I had just flipped the light switch to off, but I consider her request.
“Ok, fine, but this is the last time.” She laughss in satisfaction, and I sigh, stumble back over to her bedside, tripping over the occasional shoe or toy she left in the middle of the floor. She’s wrapped up in her hello-kitty blanket, eyes shining with excitement and waiting for me to begin talking. When I reach her bedside, she wriggles over to opposite side of the bed, allowing me space to sit down comfortably. She sits up, looking curious as to what I’m about to say, and I begin.
“They were big, bold, and beautiful. Everyone says that they were white, but their fur is actually clear, or colorless. I don’t blame them though- they looked whiter than your pillowcase. They were the sweetest things, too. They handled their cubs with such care, and were super protective. They weren’t like the normal bears we have today, those are plain and normal. These were extravagant- they were like the lions of the jungle. They ruled the land of ice, taking over anything they pleased. They were powerful, fierce, yet gentle when needed to be and sweet. It’s a shame you can’t see them now; you would’ve loved them.” As I talked, I occasionally heard an “oh” or “ah” coming from where Nyla sat. I glance over, wondering if the beginning of my talking might’ve bored her to sleep, but she’s nowhere near even remotely sleepy- eyes wide open, propped up by her elbows, staring at me, nodding her head as if to urge me to go on. So I keep on. I go on and on about their beauty and power, and her eyes begin drooping slowly. Soon enough, they closed all the way and her pretty little head fell back onto her pillow.
Oh thank god. I thought she’d never fall asleep. I tuck her in, making sure she isn’t in any awkward position so she doesn’t wake up sore, and slowly tip-toe out of her room, close the door behind me, and walk into the living room. When I walk out, the bright light temporarily blinds me, and I bring my hand up to my eyes as I adjust to the brightness.
“Is the beast finally asleep, baby?” Ashley whispers from the sofa, sitting with her legs crossed and suppressing a giggle.
“I bored her to sleep talking about polar bears. When did you come in? I didn’t hear you.” I whisper back, cautiously making my way over to where she’s sitting.
“Polar bears! They used to be my favorite animal. I think I still have a stuffed animal of one. And of course you didn’t hear me, I’m a ninja.” she replies, no longer being able to suppress her giggle, and welcomes me with her arms open. I try walk over to hug her in return, but I’m still slightly disoriented and I trip over my feet. I mean, I think it was my feet. It could’ve been anything. I end up missing her entirely, landing on the floor beside her. I brace myself for all the playful insults to be throw at me, and I end up getting back up and hugging her correctly after all the banter has come to an end. But it doesn’t end soon- we go back and forth, on and on, keeping on coming up with new insults.
“You’re such a mess, I swear to god.”
“Me? I’m the mess? You’re the one who almost killed us all when you confused butter spray with bug spray when you made pancakes!”
“At least I know how to make pancakes. You can’t cook to save a life. Do you even know how to work the stove?”
We continue conversing- telling each other about our day, complaining about coworkers, discussing Nyla and her presentation about polar bears tomorrow, etc. We talk for hours, never tiring of hearing each other talk, even if it’s over small and unimportant things. I start yawning, and I decide to check the time, for I had to have an early start tomorrow. I catch a glimpse of my watch, and I jump off the sofa.
“I have to be up in four hours!” I gasp, dashing off to get ready for sleep.
“Oh crap! Run! You have to drop off Nyla tomorrow!” Ashley calls out after me, careful not to wake Nyla. Brush my teeth, take off my contacts, put on my pajamas, and get in bed. Quick, quick, quick. I speed through all the things I needed to do in an astonishing six minutes, give Ashley a quick kiss, and I collapse onto my mattress, letting sleep wash over me like a wave onto the sea-shore.
Too shortly, the shrill dinging of my alarm blasts through the house. I try opening my eyes, but it’s as if a person is pushing down on my eyelids, and I fall back asleep. Again and again.
“Mommy! Wake up, you have to take me to school!” Nyla yells into my ear, but I just mumble a quick apology and pull the cotton covers over my head, blocking out any source of light.
“Mommy!” she whines, dragging out the word, giving me no mercy.
“I have to present my speech today. I can’t be late! I could win a prize!”
I groan, unhappy with the fact I won’t be able to sleep for longer, but I know my priorities and I mustn’t let my sleepiness ruin my daughters grade. She runs off, still getting ready for school, and I pull the covers off my head and kick them away. My eyes open, struggling to not let them close again.
“Ash! Make me coffee?” I murmur, hoping she already has. There’s no way I’m going to be able to walk without it, much less drive or get out of bed, for that matter. She appears at the doorway in an instant, smiling, holding a cup of my favorite- french roast, black, and strong. The scent fills my nostrils, and instantly I’m up out of bed, next to her chugging it down. It takes me a minute or so to finish it, then I give her a peck on her cheek and run around the house getting ready. I throw on fairly decent clothes, wrestle my knotty hair in an extremely messy bun, brush my teeth, and slide on my glasses.
“Nyla!” I yell out, expecting an immediate answer.
“Yes?” she answers from a few rooms away, sounding quite worried.
“Door!” I command. I walk briskly over to the front door, jumping over scattered toys and loose papers, with more coffee in one hand and my keys in the other. I hear her small, light footsteps trotting over to where I stood, and she soon stands in front of me, adorable as ever. Brown hair in two french braids, pastel blue school dress, black flats with ankle-high white socks.
“Clay polar bear?”
Nyla gasps, and I rub my temple. I swear to God himself, if she lost it or we arrive late I’m going to cry. She runs around, which I assume is her looking for the poor bear. Ashley and I join her, hoping she didn’t lose it. We are all panic-stricken, tearing the house apart looking for some piece of clay that we aren’t even sure if it’s in the house. I was practically running from room to room peering under beds, inside cabinets, in-between cushions of the sofas and chairs. We each checked one floor- me the first, Ashley the second, Nyla the third.
“Nyla!” I scream, worried we won’t make it on time for her school.
“Yes?” she yells back, obviously out of breath and most likely out of patience.
“You were working on it in the backyard yesterday, no?”
“Did you bring it inside after you finished working on it and letting it dry?”
She didn’t even answer me, she just slid down the banister and sprinted out the back door, shortly followed by Ashley, then by me. The colors in my peripheral vison blurred into each other as I hurried out to the back patio, but I slowed once I saw both my wife and my child on their knees, yelling about the heat and hands flying around something on the floor. My run turns to a slow walk, and I try catching my breath. I arrive to where they’re both kneeling on the floor, and in front of them on a piece of paper, is a puddle of a white and grey substance. Nyla is clearly worried- there’s a line between her eyebrows, and her mouth is shaped into a slight frown. Ashly is just kneeling there, groaning and flipping off the sky.
“Why do you have to be so hot? Jeez, all I did was leave it out here to let the paint dry, but no. It effing melted.” She went on and on, getting angry with the sky at nine in the morning. I stooped down to her level, and told her our neighbors are most likely trying to sleep. Five minutes passed, then she stopped yelling at the sun. I guided the girls inside, wiping away the beads of sweat on my upper lip, and sigh in satisfaction when I feel the air conditioner once I’m fully inside with the backdoor shut and locked behind us. I threw away the remains of her bear, and pondered about any possible replacements for it. Nyla is sitting on one other the grey dining room chairs, pouting and sipping ice water. Ashley stood alongside me, arms crossed and foot tapping, a clear frown on her face. I mentally review what had just happened, and I start trying to come up with replacements. Could we make a new clay one? Or have Nyla draw one?
“Well, we can’t just stand here. Either we get up and leave, or get something to turn in in place of the clay bear.” I say, breaking the silence, out of patience and fed up. Ash looks at me, tilts her head to the side, as if thinking about what I just said. Nyla just puts her hands in her head and sighs, seemingly out of hope and fearing what comes next. We sat in more silence for what felt like three minutes. Do I have any polar bear coats? I don’t even know. Maybe a stuffed animal or a 3-D printed one… Stuffed animal!
“Ash! Your stuffed polar bear!” I practically yell out, making the two girls jump. Ashley looks at me once more, and her eyes widen bigger than plates. She hurried off down into the basement, looking determined to find what was needed. Nyla jumped up and ran over to me, in clear surprise that we had such a thing.
“Stuffed polar bear? For real?” she asks, bouncing on the balls of her feet with her braids bouncing with her.
“Yeah! Mami mentioned it last night, but I didn’t think it was important. Why don’t you go help her look?” And with that, she ran off, giggling and bouncing. I listened to the both of them shriek as boxes fell over, and their quick footsteps pitter-pattering against the cement floor. Before long, I heard squeals and laughter, more boxes falling and crashing, then quick feet hitting the wooden stairs as they came back up.
“It’s so pretty! Just like I thought it would be!” Nyla’s voice echoed across the mostly-empty basement, loud enough for me to hear it. Ashley was laughing with her mouth wide open, carrying Nyla on her hip, and Nyla was holding a big stuffed polar bear in triumph.
“Thank you so much, Mami!” Nyla said to Ashley, then hugged her tightly. I blew Ashley a kiss, mouthed “thank you”, then grabbed Nyla’s hand and my keys and my coffee. I looked at the clock on my wrist and sighed.
“We’re late, and all we’re doing is standing here.” Nyla stated, and I rubbed my temple again. I’m going to cry. I kissed Ashley goodbye, and with that, we ran out the front door and into the blistering sun, shielding our eyes with our hands.