Bear awoke with a start, then strained to listen.
Something was wrong, but Bear wasn’t quite sure what, or what woke him up. He swiveled his head left and right, listening.
Then he heard it. It was Girl, and she was weeping.
Bear got up, and padded towards her room, then stopped. The sound wasn’t coming from her room. It was coming from the bathroom. He turned and padded that way, then stopped outside the door.
He heard sobbing. Girl was sobbing.
“Girl?” he said softly.
The sobbing stopped. There was silence for a time. “Bear? What are you doing up?”
“I…thought I heard something, Girl. Are you okay?”
He heard her sniff. “I’m fine. I’m FINE! Now, go away.”
Bear thought for a moment. “I’m going back to sleep, Girl. Wake me if you need me, okay?”
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll do that. Now go away!”
Bear slumped down on the floor, just outside the bathroom door, and shut his eyes. He didn’t actually go to sleep, but dozed, half-listening to Girl, and what she was doing.
He heard her start to get ready to leave, so squinched his eyes tightly shut, and pretended to snore.
The door opened, and Girl came hurrying out of the bathroom – and tripped over Bear, precisely as he had planned.
“BEAR!” she shouted. “What are you doing here?”
Bear lifted his head and looked at her, apparently in surprise. “Sleeping?”
She glared at him…then collapsed on top of him and started weeping.
Bear didn’t know what to do, so he wrapped his forepaws around her and just held her while she wept.
Finally, she stopped.
Bear continued to hug her, then had a thought.
“Get up on my back, Girl.”
She looked at him quizzically. “What?”
“Please, just do as I ask, okay? For once?”
Reluctantly, she climbed on his back and hung on, face down, legs dangling down his sides. He lumbered up onto all fours, walked to the front door, unbolted it, then swung it open and padded down the steps into the meadow.
Walking well away from the cabin, he finally slumped down onto his stomach, Girl on his back.
“Look up,” he said.
Girl twisted around on his back, one hand holding a fistful of fur, and looked up at the stars – only to find they were not as easy to see as she had expected. Instead, there were shimmering curtains of green, with tinges of red and even yellow, often shading into blue, suspended in the air.
“What?…” she began, then stopped, stunned by the beauty of it.
“My friends, the Northern Lights. They come to visit me regularly, and I thought you might like to meet them.”
Girl collapsed back on Bear’s back, looking up, and fastened her gaze on the spectacle above, fascinated.
Time passed, but she had no idea how much. She was enraptured by the shimmering lights, dancing above them. They seemed so close, and so real, yet so…magical, out of her experience.
Finally, they faded away, seeming to wave as they left.
Girl sighed, breathed to herself for some time, then said, “Thank you, Bear. You always know what to do.”
Bear lumbered up and started back to the cabin as Girl re-arranged herself into a sitting position on his back.
“No, Girl, I don’t. But what I do, I do from love. You are my friend, and whatever you need that I can provide, I will.”
Girl leaned forward so her front was clasped to his back, eyes leaking, and put her arms around him.
“Thank you, Bear. You’re amazing”
“You’re welcome, Girl. I know.”
Bear had settled back down by the fire and was starting to drift off to sleep when his ears perked up. Girl walked softly into the great room, her blanket around her shoulders, dragging her pillow behind her.
She walked quietly over to his side, then slid her sock-covered feet across the rag rug as she slithered down with her back against Bear’s side. Finally, she settled into his stomach, between his fore and back paws.
She turned her head forward and almost lost herself in his enormous blue eyes. “Bear?”
He blinked slowly, then she heard, as well as felt, his voice rumble, “Girl?”
“I’m sorry I woke you. I…I think I owe you an explanation.”
Bear’s head moved from side to side. “Uh-uh. No, you don’t”
She bit her lip, “Bear, please let me.”
Bear heaved a big sigh. “Okay, but you don’t need to.”
Girl turned away. “My marriage was not a happy one.”
Bear raised his head quickly, as if surprised, and said “No kidding? Gee, was it when he threatened you that I got an inkling? Or was it when I saw the bruises? Or…”
Girl turned and swatted his shoulder. “Okay, okay. I get it!”
She turned back towards the fire, away from him, and was silent again for a while. “But sometimes the…things…he did flashback on me. And it hurts.”
Bear heaved a great sigh. “I know, Girl. And I truly wish there were something I could do about that. I had a wonderful life, and a lovely wife…”
His voice trailed off, then he shook himself. “I wish I could give you some of my memories, Girl. They are…beautiful.”
Girl was silent for a moment, then scrambled up and walked around to Bear’s head, kneeling in front of him.
A soft smile on her face, she closed her eyes, took his head in both of her hands, and leaned forward until her forehead touched his.
The two friends kept their eyes closed with their foreheads touching for a time. Then Girl slowly got up, let one hand linger on Bear’s muzzle before she walked back to his side, settled in, snuggled up to him, pulled her blanket over herself, nestled her head into her pillow, and said, “Good night, Bear.”
A deep chuckle rumbled in his abdomen, “Good night, Girl.”
And the two friends slept.