Rose Teddy Bear
I used to be an explorer, once. It was many years ago and I was recognized by the Scientific Community as one of the greatest scientists of my time, having discovered many new species of animals and plants in places no one had yet dared to visit, most of them desolated and cruel to the humankind. But I did not want the fame or glory that my job had given me, I wanted the adventures, the tales that I would tell the grandchildren I never had… The discoveries and the conferences that came along were just nice additives, but what really compensated my hard labor, right before (and the reason why) I gave up this erratic life, was a story that didn’t last more than a month and stayed in my heart forever to this very day when I’m writing this, for my dearest friend has vanished from this world and I am now soon to see him once again.
This story began long ago, back when I was a fit forty-five-year-old male with his head full of dreams. I was at the top of my career and was planning to leave it soon after I finished my scouting at the last tundra that I had to visit, for my body was tired, full of scars and aching muscles, and my eyes had already seen all the strangest things the world had to offer. This, I told myself throughout the trip, is going to be the greatest story of all. I arrived at the last town in sight, a small settlement that stood a few kilometers away from my final destination, to pack some more supplies and get an idea from the locals how was the other side, hoping that they could help me picture the place before going, but no one knew much about it.
“It is lonely and cold, those who go never come back,” the locals would say, “some say evil creatures are lurking the lands, but no one knows for sure.”
So I left the village the next day, very early in the morning, not knowing what to believe. Of course, some villagers would have their legends about the places that I went to, and most resulted in having a small piece of truth hidden in the core of their stories, so I commenced my journey slightly worried that a dangerous, undiscovered animal, would attack me on the way there.
The sky was slightly gray, the snowstorm of the last couple of days had added a few more inches of the coldest, purest white on the ground, covering most of the dry, discolored thicket that grew sporadically throughout the place, but out of all of those bushes, there was one particular flower that had captured my interest, for it was the rarest of all the ones I had seen before. I walked closer with a wary step, careful not to attract unwanted attention from any wild animals, and looked at it, immediately marveled at the sight of one of the most gorgeous miracles of nature. Standing alone and strong through the storms and the cold, growing in a straight line and unwilling to let the unforgiving weather wither its petals, was a rose. It had its stem and petals covered in several coats of frost, resembling an ice crystal rose, so I thought at first that it was a piece of the most astounding craftsmanship standing alone as some sort of warning, mark or something similar, but when I took a closer look and detailed better I realized that it had a faint blush color, comparable to the soft frostbite of the nose in winter, combined with a deep green at the stem that reminded me of the pine forest back at home. Curious and unwilling to let that stunning, mysterious flower die alone and unprotected, I dug in my backpack in the search of anything that could serve me as a flower pot and found a small, old cooler that I forgot to leave at home, so I did my best relocating the plant from the cold, merciless floor to a warmer place, knowing that it didn’t belong where I found it.
I walked for a couple more hours, protecting the rose as best as I could, careful not to break it or damage the specimen in any way, until late in the afternoon. When the colors of the sky started changing and took an orange hue, I decided it was the perfect time to settle the camp I would be using throughout my adventure. It took me a while to pull up the tent for a strong wind started blowing from the south, indicating me that we were going to have a rough night that day, so I turned to look at the frozen rose and smiled, whispering “you’re lucky I found you,” and then chuckling, not quite believing that I was talking to an unanimated living thing that didn’t even hear me. After everything was set and I had rested for an hour or two, I started thinking how was I supposed to take care of that beautiful rose, after all, it was now my responsibility for I had another life to take care of. And then it hit me, the curiosity. I wondered how a single rose managed to grow in such an isolated, cold and infertile land where nothing could grow more than a couple discolored bushes here and there that worked more like a bonfire material than a decorative element, how it stood through the frost, the snow and the inclement winds that lashed the vegetation of the area. I examined the rose closer when the last pieces of frost melted away, revealing its true form and surprising me even more. The petals that formed the rose were the softest pink that I had only seen once when my sister said yes in the aisle in front of all of her family and friends, her love for her partner in life making its way through her face by coloring her porcelain cheeks… the veins of the flower were slightly redder, reminding me of the gentle heartbeat of my niece when she was born, small and hard to listen but once found was the sweetest sound I had ever heard in my life. The stem, however, was another story. It was strong, unmoving, resilient. It reminded me of my younger days, back when I was studying Geography and Biology at college after many tried to lure me out of my dream career, finding it worthless and a waste of time and effort. It reminded me of my strong will to continue with it, my unmoving passion for the unknown that had taken me to so many different places, made me meet so many new faces, understand new languages and dialects, and my resilience that helped me to stand up again after many had declined to help me with my life project, after losing almost everything and everyone… the rose suddenly had a meaning to me and I had to think of how I could protect it from any harm.
But the next day, however, something oddly surprising happened: a small white bear cub appeared near the area where my camp was settled. I wasn’t scared, but I was worried about our safety, so I watched it for a couple of hours from the inside of my tent and with my binoculars to see if its mother was close by or if it was safe to go out and help it, after all, a cub without a mother was certainly in danger. Then I saw small dots of red that ran across its fur, noticing that they became progressively bigger as the cub tuned slower and more unsteady. Worried for the animal’s safety, I got out of the tent and ran across the snow and into the heart of the tundra to help the agonizing mammal, so after revising the most obvious wounds, I held it in the most comfortable way possible and brought it back with me to the camp, where I attended its wounds and fed it. I realized soon after I finished healing its wounds that the white bear was a male cub, probably with his mother gone forever as one of the three wounds he had was made by some type of shotgun, noticing that I wasn’t the first one to arrive here, or that the little one had walked too much and got lost in his escape from the mean creatures that were hunting him.
It took the cub a few weeks to get back to normal, but he remained to limp until the end of his days, which left me a sour feeling in my heart for I could have healed it better… if he hadn’t been so stubborn. But what caught my attention was his behavior around the rose I had found. When he was still wounded I had to take him inside my tent so the snowstorms wouldn’t hurt him more than he already was and, when he saw the rose, he couldn’t take his eyes off the mysteriously beautiful plant. He seemed hypnotized by it for some reason and after he fully healed, he started sleeping very close to the flower every night at my tent. I didn’t know what to think at first for he couldn’t get used to sleeping somewhere that wasn’t his natural habitat, but every time I told him that he was not getting inside the tent, he’d look at me with the saddest eyes and start cooing so I let him in, winning the battle by using his manipulative nature. To prove himself worthy of staying beside the flower he now slept with and cooed to, the animal would accompany me to all my pertinent wildlife and soil investigations, staying very close to me and defending when necessary, which had forced me to get him a name… so after a lot of thinking I decided to call him Bear White I. When we returned from our scouting routine every dusk, he’d eat whatever he had hunted along with me and return to the tent immediately after, cuddling with the rose and sleeping contently, letting me cuddle as well in the nights where the cold was unbearable. There was something about Bear’s delicacy around the flower that had me very intrigued, for he sometimes even looked like he was talking to it due to the sounds he was making at it, the way he turned his head to the side in a curious way to move joyfully from one place to the other and his intriguing ways of caressing the petals with more gracefulness than a human. All those things led me to ask myself questions that came to a dead-end due to either lack of evidence or lack of logic until I finally made the right question that received the answer I needed: was Bear in love with the rose, just like I was mesmerized by it? Yes, he was.
My adventure was coming to an end when the week three started, leaving me a week and a half more to finish all my research on Greenland’s tundra when I saw something strange that not even all my years as a scientist could explain. Bear had shrunk in size considerably and, apart from having grown a rose or two on his wounds, I couldn’t understand what had happened. We spoke a special language that had predominately stare-communication involved, so when I gave him a questioning look, he would just simply ignore me by making a copy of the shrugs I did to him when he asked questions like mine as well, but he answered my inquiry a couple of days before I left the tundra, showing me what was going on.
After one of our dinners, he led me inside the tent, making soft noises that made me believe he was in some sort of hurry, so I followed him and saw something that was scientifically impossible: he walked slowly towards the rose and gently nudged it with his nose, causing small injuries in it and making the rose to emit a gentle pink light, and the new, small flowers that were starting to form on him finished growing while new ones appeared in other places. Careful, I crawled over to him and touched some of them, but none of them were hurting him and they didn’t seem like they were some sort of parasite, they were just there. I took a closer look to the flower that had shone a minutes ago and also came to realize that it was smaller than when I found it and came to the inevitable conclusion that it was a magic plant, which made a bit more sense now that I remembered that it not only grew in these lands but also survived and remained intact, probably waiting to transfer to something else and continue its life in a new host. But there was something else that I couldn’t put my finger on, something that lured them both into each other, for I didn’t seem to be affected by this attraction.
I continued with my search through the arid lands, devoid of any life, but now it was more for fun and tourism than real research for I ran out of things to study quicker than what I had expected. Little Bear would accompany me, but the more roses he had on his body, the less he could move, so he would wait for me a couple of feet far from the tent, where he would sit patiently for my return. Then, he started taking the rose outside with him, carrying it in between his teeth and careful not to bite too hard on it. The very last day I decided not to go too far from the tent and stayed with Bear, watching him interact with the magical rose that I had found out of coincidence. He wanted to play with it as he used to when he was just getting recovered from his injuries, but the roses that had fully grown in his body had made him slower and with less movement capability, so he would just watch it and talk for hours. I didn’t understand at first what was happening or why he did that, thinking that he was just talking to himself, but when paying closer attention I noticed that the flower would shine in longer or shorter periods, depending on the answer, and the color of the petals would deepen sometimes as well. They looked like my sister and my brother-in-law when they started dating back in high school. He was shy, she was beautiful and sweet, they would talk for hours in the kitchen of our mother’s house and she’d laugh and blush at his occurrences, she’d shine every time he said something to her, and he’d look playful after hearing her laugh, encouraged by her response… and then it hit me: the rose and the bear were in love.
My heart melted at the sight, noticing that they could just stay there forever, Bear looking at the rose and the flower listening to him talk, telling it many different stories, blushing at some more straight-forward comments, and enjoying each other’s company. They behaved like a pair of young lovers yet they seemed to have been together forever, like those sweet old couples I used to see at the café I liked to go to, the ones that would tell each other the same stories every day, drink the same drinks and hold the same hands and yet laugh, enjoy and give loving stares like if it was the first time. The time that the bear would dedicate to the flower was impressive, soon becoming inseparable, wherever the small bear cub went, the rose would come along too, if he was going to sleep he’d take the rose out of the improvised pot and cuddle with it, otherwise, he would find it impossible to sleep.
But the strangest and most beautiful part of their development was when they decided to unite their lives forever, the day I lost an old friend and got a new one in his place. It was very early in the morning and I started to pack up my resting supplies and disarm the tent when I realized that I had not seen Bear nor Rose, but I didn’t worry too much for them, so after I finished my task I went on their search, hoping I could say a final goodbye without shedding a tear or two. I had found them not too far from where we were, on the other side of a tall pile of snow, looking at each other like they always did, but with a different aura surrounding them. I moved closer and Bear saw me, slowly moving a paw full of pink roses up, waving at me as I waved at him the last few days when he’d wait for me and my eyes started to fill with tears. I knew what that wave meant and I understood then that I wasn’t ready for it. Bear then lowered his paw and turned to the rose, standing up with effort and stretching his small front legs towards the flower, bending his right side slightly and touching the plant with the tips of his remaining claws. Then, a blinding light surrounded them for a few minutes in which his remaining small roses grew to their fullest and his body became stiffer as more flowers finished covering the last remaining furry parts, transforming him into a rose-made bear. When the light disappeared I held him in my hands, feeling his last breath mix with the soft breeze that covered my tracks on the snow. He stayed in a sitting position, holding between his paws a small heart made of white roses, where I supposed his own heart full of love continued to beat softly for the rose that now had joined him in both soul and body, a fusion of hearts that could never be separated.
I arrived back home a week after my adventure and decided to go to my sister’s house to tell her everything that had happened during those weeks I was absent. I had told many before her about the incidents, but no one seemed to believe me and I couldn’t blame them, for if someone came to me and told a similar story I would have called them crazy as well, but it was now frustrating. I knocked on my sister’s door, holding the rose bear in between my arms as if it was some sort of baby, and waited patiently for her to answer. She opened soon after, her face lighting up with a smile as soon as she saw me, hurrying with her arms wide open for a hug and murmuring unintelligible things with her usual high-pitched voice while clinging onto my neck. I smiled back and replied with her same enthusiasm, careful not to do anything to the small bear that had traveled so far. We entered and I placed the animal figure on top of the living room’s table, accepting the tea she prepared before my arrival.
“That’s a beautiful rose bear, where did you buy it?” She asked once she sat down.
“I didn’t,” I replied, “but it has a story that you’ll love to hear.”
And so I told her everything. From the very beginning, where I found the lonely rose until the strange fusion that happened between the two lovers, with all the details involved. She didn’t want to believe me at first, telling me that the story sounded a little bizarre and that the cold temperatures might have affected my perception a bit, but then she saw for herself how the bear suddenly started to shine lightly, almost as if it was laughing at my sister’s words. The woman was shocked when she saw it, her mouth hung open and quickly began apologizing for not believing my story, and asking for more details so she could have ‘something to work with’. I repeated the story once again, my sister paying close attention this time around while looking at the bear, captivated by the story that was being told. Then she stood up from the couch and walked towards her workshop, where she stayed for days without coming out, to the point where her husband and I had to bring her food and drink to the door of the room and patiently wait for her to come out while sitting in the same spot she left me on the couch that day when I arrived.
Then, one day, she exited the room. She had her hair slightly dirty and messy due to the countless hours of work she had put herself through, her clothes were covered with small pieces of paper that hung from a small dot of glue, and her hands had cuts all over, some covered with Band-Aids, which were probably the deepest ones, and some uncovered with already formed scabs. In between her arms she had three models of the same arrangement: a white rose bear with a red heart, a pink rose bear with a white heart and a red rose bear, all identical to my small friend, who started shining in delight once I started describing my sister’s work to him. I could see my vision getting more blurry by the second, then felt a small tear run down my cheek when I translated my feelings into thoughts: my sister had done a perfect job. Her work had an astounding similitude to Bear, she had captured every one of my words and put them into that lovely piece, imitating to perfection the beauty of the roses that composed my friend’s body and the love both of them professed. But, of course, she knew what I was talking about when I mentioned the first, young love, for she had thought about her younger days with her husband, back when they were nothing, as well as I did, and had also put a small piece of her soul, her own story, into the work.
“What do you think?” She asked me with the shyest smile, her cheeks slightly blushed and her eyes shining.
“It’s beyond perfection,” I replied, still surprised by the three small rose bears she was holding, “I don’t know how to put it into words.”
“Would you mind if I send it to a friend of mine that sells objects like this? A love story this sweet cannot be isolated from the world.”
“Sure, but make sure you tell them to share his story, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense.”
She nodded, her smile widening and her eyes glistening. I wanted her to add her own story as well, for she understood the love the rose and the bear had for each other better than I ever could, so she contacted her friend and told her, taking the real Bear with her and narrating my side while adding more details of her story as if it came from me. Her friend was delighted and soon started to make phone calls to start distributing the rose bear, making sure everyone who knew the story added something more to it to create some sort of myth surrounding the magical, mysterious flower and the wounded bear.
As for me, I kept him close and watched him wither slowly with me until my last few days came for me. I smiled to the very end, knowing that I’d be with him after many years of being apart, and now I write the story of my friend without all those embellishments that people have added throughout the years for I wanted to go back to those days, live again in my mind those three weeks all over again.