"Are you sure you left it in Aunt BJ's car?" Kate asks. BJ looks up to see Kate and Maddie coming through the door. Maddie nods, worried, and they head straight for the bar. “BJ... Maddie needs to look for her teddy bear.”
BJ sighs and grabs her purse from below the bar. "Here. But find it by seven. I have a date." She dangles the keys out for Kate to take.
But they continue to dangle, untaken. Kate tilts her head, wincing with apology.
"What, surely you're joking?" BJ looks up at the clock, which reads 5:30. "The aforementioned date... in approximately ninety minutes... which I recall telling you about only a few moments ago... I don't think you're understanding the seriousness of this."
"No, BJ, I do. Really," Kate says, glancing at her daughter. "But this is serious, too."
Maddie's face is as stone-serious as a five-year-old's can be. Maybe a ten-year-old's. "It is."
BJ levels Maddie with an unimpressed stare. "A Teddy?"
"Mr. Snuggles," Maddie adds without blinking.
"Well, then," BJ says with a slight roll of her eyes. "That's completely different. Allow me to clear my schedule." She lifts her phone from the counter and begins to type (not really).
Kate and Maddie watch her.
"You're just--" She sets the phone back down. "Really?"
Kate's apologetic look is gone. "She can't sleep. And when she can't sleep, I can't sleep. And when I can't sleep--"
"All right, all right, I get it. No need to beat me over the head with it. Come on, let's get this over with." She grabs her keys and phone and signals for Maddie to follow, while calling to Kate over her shoulder: "You're covering for me, yeah?"
"Of course!" Kate calls back. And it would be the next couple of unwanted shifts, too, if BJ had anything to say about it.
As soon as she unlocks the passenger side door, Maddie scrambles in and over the armrest to the back seat.
BJ watches her from outside the car. Maddie digs around in piles of rubbish - clothes, discarded food wrappers, bottles. After a few minutes, BJ asks: "Do you see him?"
Maddie pops up her head for a second, frowning. "No," she says, and dives back in.
"You know, when I was your age, I had a teddy, too. Well, a sort of security blanket that my mum cut into the shape of a teddy."
Maddie pops up again to squint at BJ.
"She got sick after New Years' and used it to clean up the mess before passing out."
Maddie's eyes go wide and concerned.
"But did I boo hoo over it? No. Because my mum taught me an important lesson that day. That nothing helps one go to sleep faster than just a little warm milk.”
Maddie shrugs and goes back to looking, this time in the passenger seat.
“With a whole lot of scotch to wash it down, of course.”
Maddie ignores this, grunting softly as she tries to reach under the seat. She makes a face of disgust at what she feels there, but keeps searching.
"This must be a really important bear, huh?"
"Yes," Maddie's voice drifts up. Then she sighs, frustrated, and plops herself down on the seat. "It's not here." Her voice rises into a whine. "It's not anywhere..."
"Oh!" She reaches a hand toward Maddie to awkwardly pat her on the head. "There, there. I'm sure it will turn..."
Maddie suddenly pops forward to unlatch the glove box.
Right there, in plain sight, is a small, threadbare teddy. Maddie snatches it and hugs it for dear life.
“Oh is that Mr. Snuggles? Huh.” She runs a hand through her hair, slightly embarrassed. “I thought that was my teddy bear bong.” There had been a close call with a policeman earlier in the week.
Maddie looks up at her, eyebrows drawing down. “What’s a--?”
“BJ? Maddie?” Kate calls from the alleyway door. “Did you find it?”
Maddie bounds up out of the car and runs for her mum. “Yes!”
“Thank you, BJ.” Kate says while hugging her daughter. “You have no idea.”
BJ nods graciously, shuts the car door and saunters around to the drivers’ side. “You’ve got the rest of my shift, right? See you later.” She starts the car and pulls out of the alley before Kate can respond.
But looking back in the rearview mirror, she smiles at the sight of Maddie dancing around Kate’s legs with the bear. It’s nice that she can help Kate out sometimes. She’d have to remember to share some of her mother’s parenting advice another day.