The bear sat at the bottom of the stairs. Its beady eyes flashed as Emily turned on the light. Facing the door like that the bear had startled her when she walked through opened the door. “I don’t remember putting it there”, she thought closing the door behind her. The bear had been a gift from a maiden aunt who, rummaging in a charity shop one day, considered it to the perfect gift for her 24-year-old niece. Black and white with a green ribbon tied around its neck, the bear had a lopsided look. “You were certainly at the back of the queue when good looks were given out, weren’t you?”, she said. But the bear didn’t reply. The maiden aunt was Emily’s favourite. She knew you weren’t supposed to have favourites and her other five aunts would be dismayed if they knew but, even so, her aunt was her most trusted confidante. So as oddly shaped as the bear might be, it would have to stay.
Bending down carefully, Emily picked up the bear and pressed it close to the soft swell of her belly. “Look, baby, can you see your first toy”, she said and a faint smile passed across her lips at the thought of what the baby would make of the bear. She hung her coat and scarf in the hall and carried the bear by one of its paws into the living room. Sinking wearily into an armchair, she sat and looked at the bear. “Now, how did you manage to make your way downstairs?” she asked. The bear continued to stare with its almond-coloured eyes and remained silent. Patting her stomach gently, Emily put the bear on the floor.
A noise upstairs made Emily jump. It sounded like something had fallen onto the floor. Turning, her eye caught sight of a flapping curtain and she then noticed the open window. Her hand flew to her throat. She felt weak at the knees and staggered slightly, only managing to stop herself from falling by grabbing the back of the chair. Fear coursed through her body and her breathing came in small, ragged breaths. A floorboard creaked and Emily’s blood ran cold. She was rooted to the floor, unable to move. Her mind a blank. Her attention focused tightly on what was going on upstairs. All thought had gone and a primal instinct kept her still and quiet. She listened intently. But no sound came. Her senses slowly flooded back and she glanced sideways to see the phone flashing red. Flash. Flash. Flash. A message, she thought. She moved towards the phone and, stretching out her hand to pick it from the cradle, collapsed onto the floor as a sharp pain hit her on the back of the head. The last thing Emily saw before darkness took over was the bear. Looking right into her eyes with its steady, beady stare.