A Runaway Bunny

By Elizabeth Smith

The Pensieve Editor's Note: This is the third part of a series. The first is The Classified, and the second is The Plate.

    Brett peeked through the bedroom doorway. Annabel sat with her dolls and stuffies in a pretend picnic. Brett tapped the doorframe with his knuckle. The girl looked up from her plastic tea kettle, and a brilliant smile erupted on her face.

    “Come play, Daddy.”

    The man sat cross-legged between the bear and the elephant and helped himself to some invisible tea. He looked at the soft green walls of the room, at the delicate white mural his Rachel had painted when she was expecting. White silhouettes of a river, a flower garden, a tree, a mountain, and a tempestuous sea sprawled across the entire room until, finally, there were two rabbits resting in a burrow by Annabel’s bed.

    Annabel noticed Brett’s glance at the rabbits, and she offered those guests some wooden muffins before sitting on her father’s lap. Brett munched his food and winked.


    The girl poured more tea for the elephant. The man cleared his throat.

    “Annabel, I have something I want to talk to you about.”

    “What is it, Daddy?” Annabel asked in the sing-song cadence of a four-year-old.

    “You know Miss Jade and baby Lief?”

    She nodded.

    “What do you think of them?”

    The girl offered her father a nearby ice cream cone, which Brett accepted before repeating the question.

    Annabel tilted her head to look up at Brett, and her long, yellow curls draped to one shoulder.

    “I don’t know.” She giggled and crossed her eyes. “Let’s play!”

    Brett chuckled shallowly and tried again. “Do you like Miss Jade?”

    “Yes, Daddy.”

    “And Lief?”

    “Oh, he’s my friend.”


    Annabel decided the picnic was over. She leaped up and tossed each stuffed guest into the air with a dance-like spin.


    “Why what?”

    “Why’s that good?”

    Brett shifted to his knees and looked at his silly daughter then, who was now balancing on one foot. To another’s eyes, Annabel would seem small, being short and gangly for her age. But he marveled at the length of her limbs, how her pants, which fit her perfectly at Christmas, now barely covered her calf. He had known and not known when he held Annabel for the first time, in the glaring lights of Victoria General Hospital, that nothing could mark the passing of time better than her.

    “What if they were part of our family?”

    Annabel stopped dancing, and her eyes met her father’s.

    “I don’t know.” She turned toward the wall. “Why, Daddy?”

    Brett shifted. “Why what?”

    “I don’t know.” She mumbled.

    As his playmate offered carrots to the drawing, Brett wondered when Annabel would grow out of Margaret Wise Brown’s bunnies. He reasoned probably sooner rather than later. Rachel never meant this mural to be permanent anyhow.

    “Do you remember your mommy?”

    Now Annabel peered out her window and wished her father would stop talking.

    “Can we go to the fairy tree?”

    “The tree at the park?”

    She nodded.

    “No. Dinner is soon. I need to get cooking.” Brett stood and added, “But you can play in the yard.”

    Annabel rushed down the stairs and through the kitchen to the back door, where she slipped her bare feet into her runners before going out to the fenced lawn. There were flurries in her belly, a feeling she could not distinguish, but she knew she just had to see the fairies under the willow tree—now. It was the furthest place away from anything remotely scary, and it was the closest place to a mother Annabel feared she had forgotten already. The place where the woman had told her stories of tiny make-believe friends, where they ate real picnics together under the shade of a massive willow tree.

    The yard was no substitute for the fairy place down the hill. Annabel pulled her plastic slide from the side of the house to the back gate. As the little one bumped and bumbled with the yard toy, the elderly woman from next door looked up and waved before returning to her hoeing. The girl climbed the short ladder and pulled on the latch, but Brett’s newly installed lock prevented the gate from opening more than an inch.

    The girl looked at the fenced perimeter once more. The black metal bars separating each townhome’s yard from the next were much too tall and slippery for her to climb, even with the slide as a stepping stool. But a gap in the corner was slightly larger than the rest.

    Annabel trotted to the space and determined she could probably fit. She slipped her right arm and right leg through. Then she slid her torso sideways and pulled her left foot and left arm. The child stepped backward, but the bars hugged her jaw. She looked down, and with another yank, the bars sandwiched her head by the ears.

    Annabel tugged again, but she could not move.

    “Help! Stuck!” She moaned. Her breathing was so shallow that her words were hardly recognizable.

    Annabel heard the neighbor’s hoe thump to the ground. Soon the sliding back door slammed open, and her father’s heavy, rapid footsteps approached.

    “Annie! Oh, Annie!”

    His warm, rough hands touched hers as tears dropped onto the grass.


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