Bunny Slippers (Part 1 of 2)
Brianna squealed as she tore off the red and green sparkly wrapping paper—four bright blue eyes stared at her through the cellophane-covered box. “Bunny slippers!” she cried. “Just what I’ve always wanted!” She jumped up, waded through the pile of discarded Christmas paper strewn across the living room floor and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. “You’re the best mom in the whole wide world,” she declared, smothering her face with kisses.
“And you’re my most favorite daughter in the whole wide world,” Mom replied, hugging her seven-year-old tightly.
Brianna pressed her nose against her mother’s cheek, smelling the faint scent of nutmeg. “That’s because I’m your only daughter,” she said, giggling.
“So it goes without saying. Now go give Dad some love, too. He’s getting jealous.”
As Bing Crosby belted out another round of “White Christmas” on the stereo, Brianna fell into her father’s lap and nuzzled her face against his chest. “And you’re the best dad in the whole wide world!”
“You ain’t so bad yourself, sweet pea,” Dad said, stroking her disheveled hair. He set his coffee cup on the end table. “Want me to open it?”
“Yes, please.” Brianna picked up the shoebox and handed it to him. “Here ya go.”
He fished around in his pocket and pulled out a knife.
“Seriously, Dad?” she said. “You carry your pocket knife in your pajamas?”
“And my car keys, too,” he replied. “It’s every good father’s uniform. I put it on each morning.”
Dad unfolded the knife—a pearl-handled beauty Mom had given him for his birthday. He grinned. “Would you like to open it, sweet pea?”
“Can I really?”
“You bet,” Dad said, giving her the knife while Mom snapped a flurry of pictures.
“Be careful with that thing,” Mom warned. “Dad keeps it razor sharp.”
“I will, Mom, no worries.” Brianna slid the blade under the clear tape and freed the lid with two quick slashes. She handed the pocket knife back to her dad and lifted the lid off the box. “They’re amazing,” she breathed. Grabbing the slippers, she fluffed them with a quick shake. The bunny ears flopped from side to side. “You two are awesome.” She gave her dad another quick hug and slipped her feet into the soft slippers.
She didn’t take them off until spring.
She didn’t remember exactly when she quit wearing the fuzzy pink bunny slippers, only that the weather had become too hot for her to traipse all over town wearing imitation fur. Brianna had replaced them with a brand new pair of purple flip flops decorated with yellow bunnies, even on the soles. She’d thrown the scuffed and stained slippers into the back of the closet to hibernate until fall.
That’s why she yelped when she awoke one morning to find four bright blue eyes staring at her from on top of the covers.
“Mom!” she screamed. She threw the blanket off, launching the mangy slippers across the room. One landed under her desk, the other ricocheted off the wall and thumped against the trash can. She scurried out of bed and ran to her parents’ room. “Mom!” she bellowed again.
“In the bathroom,” Mom called.
“Mom!” Brianna flung open the bathroom door. “Did you put my bunny slippers on my bed last night?”
“No,” Mom said, drying her hair with a fluffy towel. She looked at Brianna with a slight scowl. “What happened?”
Brianna stood breathless, heart pounding. “When I woke up,” she panted, “both of the slippers were sitting on my chest, staring at me. … They scared the bejeebers out of me.”
“Hmm,” Mom said, hanging the towel on the rack above the toilet. I’ll call Dad after I finish, to see if he’s playing a trick on you. You know what a prankster he is.”
“Okay,” Brianna whimpered. “Tell him it wasn’t funny this time, and he’s not gonna like what I do to get him back.”
Mom gave her a sympathetic smile and returned to fixing her hair.
While Mom grunted her way through each rat’s nest, Brianna remembered her dad’s last practical joke, when he’d replaced an actual hamburger patty on her dinner plate with a rubber one. He’d even melted a piece of cheddar cheese over it, totally faking her out.
To get him back, she’d dumped all the salt from the shaker, replaced it with sugar and watched with anticipation as Dad sprinkled it over his fried eggs. His grimace alone was worth the prank, but winning the tickle fight afterward made it even better. A fake hamburger was one thing, though, but bunny slippers? On her chest? Jeez, Dad, she thought. Not cool. Not cool at all.
After ten more minutes her mother finished with her hair, and Brianna followed her into the kitchen. Mom snapped on the coffee maker and rummaged through the cupboard for a mug. Like her dad, it took at least two cups of black coffee to get her mother going in the morning. Adults are so weird, she thought.
“Mom,” Brianna prompted. “Remember?”
“Oh, sorry … hang on.” Mom placed the cup in the coffee maker and punched the brew button. As the brewer gurgled and sputtered, she dug through her cavernous purse for her phone.
“Mom . . . .” Brianna whined.
“I’m looking for it, sweet pea,” she assured. “Oh, here it is.” She slipped the cell phone out of a side pocket and tapped the screen. After a moment she smiled. “Hi, honey,” she said. She looked at Brianna. “No, nothing’s wrong. Brianna wanted to know if you played a trick on her this morning. … Well, she woke up and both of her bunny slippers were sitting on her chest. They scared her, and she’s really upset.” Mom shook her head and frowned. “Okay, hon. Love you. … Bye.”
“So?” Brianna choked. “Did he do it?”
“He said he didn’t, but you know Dad, always playing tricks.”
“And pushing our buttons,” Brianna said. She thought for a moment, then added, “But if he really didn’t do it, then who did?” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “‘Cuz it wasn’t funny.”
“Oh, baby, don’t cry,” Mom cooed. She stooped down and hugged her. “Maybe you got up during the night and took them out of your closet without remembering. You know, like sleepwalking.”
“Sleepwalking? Me?” Brianna’s fear gave way to fascination. Her dad sometimes walked in his sleep, and she thought it was kind of cool, in a weird sort of way.
One night, not long ago, Brianna and her mom had watched Dad shuffle from his bedroom, through the living room where they were watching a movie and into the kitchen without saying a word. He sat on the floor next to the pantry, closed his eyes and let off a loud snore. Mom had to jostle him pretty hard to wake him up and send him back to bed.
“How awesome,” she said, excited to go to school and tell her best friends, Ariel and Anna, twin sisters, about her sleepwalking shenanigans.
But it soon became clear Brianna didn’t sleepwalk.
Copyright © 2015 by David C. Hughes