Three more times that week Brianna woke up with the two floppy-eared bunnies with bright blue eyes perched on her chest, staring at her.
“Okay, now I’m mad,” she announced Saturday morning. She stood in the kitchen holding the slippers at arm’s length, scrunching her face in disgust, as if she was carrying two dead skunks.
“They were on your bed again?” her mom asked.
Dad looked up from his tablet computer and set his coffee cup on the table. “Bring those to me, sweet pea.”
“Hmm,” Dad said as he turned the slippers over and examined the soles. “No legs, no feet.” He held them up to his ear, one at a time. “And no heartbeats. I declare these slippers to be inanimate objects, incapable of moving without the aid of two stinky, little feet thrust through the backs of their heads. You know, toe jam for brains.”
“Thanks for that assessment, Dr. Brilliance,” Mom said, placing a steaming bowl of scrambled eggs in the middle of the table.
“Dad, what’s ‘inanimate’ mean?”
“Not alive,” he replied. “Never were, never will be.” He looked at her over the top of his glasses. “Wanna take care of this once and for all?”
“Okay, get your shoes on.” Dad looked at Mom and winked. “We’ll be in the back yard for a few minutes, okay?”
Mom nodded. “Okay.” She sipped her coffee. “Go take care of them. I’ll reheat the eggs when you get back.”
Outside, Brianna and her dad walked to the garden shed. Dad pulled out his keys. “Part of my uniform, remember?”
“Yep,” Brianna said.
“Hand me the slippers, sweet pea,” said Dad. “You still want to keep them, right?”
“Uh-huh. But I’ll wear them only in winter, when it’s cold.” She hesitated. “What are you gonna do with them?”
“I’m going to put them up for now,” he answered.
“Okay, sounds like a plan.” She handed over the slippers.
He snapped open the padlock, unbolted the shed door and stepped inside. Brianna watched him set a stepladder under the hole in the attic floor. He then scaled the ladder, bunny slippers in hand, and disappeared into the darkness. Moments later, he climbed back down.
“There,” he said, brushing his hands. “Safely hidden away. We’ll get them back down in the fall, when you start third grade.”
“Yippee!” squealed Brianna. “Third grade—I can’t wait.”
“I bet you can’t,” said Dad. He folded the step ladder and hung it back on the shed wall. “Now let’s go inside and gobble up those eggs Mom made.”
“Yeah,” Brianna said. “After you pour sugar on them.”
“Not funny, sweat pea,” Dad said with a smirk. He pulled the shed door closed, shut the latch and snapped the lock into place. He jerked on it a couple times for good measure.
Relief settled over her. “Whew,” she sighed.
“You okay now?”
Brianna nodded. “Yup, all good.” And she forgot all about the bunny slippers hidden in the shed’s attic behind the locked door.
Until the next morning.
Sunday, Brianna thought. Can’t wait to see Nana and Grandpa. But Brianna’s happy thought was quickly displaced by terror as she awoke to find four bright blue, plastic eyes glaring at her from their perch on the top shelf of the bookcase. A purple flip flop decorated with yellow bunnies hung below the slippers, Dad’s pearl-handled pocket knife impaling the flip flop’s sole. She didn’t feel her feet touch the floor as she raced to her parents’ bedroom, screaming.
Dad put down the hammer and inspected the stout wooden box. “That should do it,” he said, turning his attention to Brianna. “You’re still sure you want to keep these things?”
She offered a half-hearted smile and nodded.
“’Cuz, seriously, sweet pea, they’re really starting to creep me out. I think we need to take them to a priest. Or incinerate them.”
“No!” Brianna moaned. “I know they’re weird. … But I still love them. I just don’t want to wear them when it’s hot outside. They’re winter slippers, not summer play shoes. Besides, I like wearing my flip flops now.”
“Okay.” Dad sighed. He shook his head. “I don’t think keeping them is a good idea, but I’ll hide them where no one else can find them. Let me know when you want them back and I’ll retrieve them.”
She watched Dad climb the stairs to the second floor and turn the corner. Brianna sighed. The pink slippers creeped her out, too, but they were still her favorites, even if they did have a death wish against her flip flops.
Her thoughts drifted back to last Christmas—how excited she’d been, opening the box and wearing the slippers to church, the grocery store and to school. People had complimented her choice of footwear wherever she went. Those pink, fuzzy, floppy-eared, bright-eyed bunnies made her feel good. Yeah, they were a bit strange, in a freak show sort of way, yet fascinating, too.
After five minutes Dad reappeared at the top of the staircase, snapped off the light and hustled down the stairs. “There,” he declared. “Hidden away. Again.”
“Thanks, Dad,” she said, grabbing his sweaty hand. “You’re the best dad in the whole wide world.”
The next day, Brianna’s heart beat a little faster than normal as she climbed out of the car and flung her backpack over her shoulder. “Bye, Mom,” she said.
Her mother leaned out the window. “Have fun on your last day of second grade.” She wiped a tear from her cheek.
Brianna waved as her mom pulled out of the school driveway, then she headed up the sidewalk and into the building with Ariel and Anna. They chattered like three squirrels under a pecan tree, talking about everything and nothing as they walked down the hallway toward their cubbies, flip flops slapping.
“Hey, look!” Ariel said, pointing at Brianna’s coat rack. “Why’d you bring your bunny slippers to school? I thought you said your dad put them up.”
Brianna gasped. Her backpack slid to the floor. Four bright blue eyes stared at her from the shadows of the cubby. She stepped back.
“Are you okay?” Anna asked.
“No …” Brianna whispered.
“What the‒?” Ariel screamed as one slipper, then the other, wiggled out of the cubby and dropped to the floor. Arial took off, running down the hallway, still screaming.
A heartbeat later, Anna followed her sister’s lead, filling the hallway with echoing screeches as she sprinted after Ariel.
Brianna couldn’t move. She watched the fuzzy pink bunnies slide across the floor and nuzzle up to her ankles, like two soft kittens wanting affection. White spots swirled behind her eyes and her knees buckled. She sat—hard—on the cool floor.
The left slipper moved first, nudging the flip flop off her foot and smacking it away from her. The right one did the same. Sharing a comfortable sigh, the two fuzzy, pink bunnies shimmied themselves onto her feet.
Regaining control of her body, Brianna gently wiggled her toes and then, like the slippers, let out a sigh. “Amazing. …” She felt the slippers adjust, ever so slightly, conforming to her feet. “Yes,” she encouraged, “that’s it.” Brianna stood up, placed her backpack in the cubby, retrieved the discarded flip flops, and walked into the classroom. On the way in, she tossed the flip flops into the trashcan by the door.
Brianna sat sideways in her chair and looked down at the pink fuzzy faces. They gazed up at her, bright blue eyes filled with contentment. “I missed you, too,” she said. “I missed you, too.”
Copyright © 2015 by David C. Hughes