Hayley Crosby scurried underneath the covers of her blanket. She hugged the covers tight up to her face and buried herself underneath the mounds of soft cushiony pillows. The bed was toasty warm and so soft Hayley could just melt into it. Her eyes started to droop close as she yawned with sleep. Her vision started to blur and her breathing turned soft and slow as the waves of sleep washed over her.
Hayley’s eyes snapped opened as she gasped realizing she had forgotten her best and only friend. She had left him lying on the couch downstairs while they were watching a movie together.
Hayley felt horrible she had forgotten him so she reluctantly jumped out of her cosy bed and landed barefoot on the wood floors. She was wearing light pink silk shorts and a singlet as she knew she would have heated up in no time under her thick heavy covers. She sighed as she walked over to the door and looked back at her bed longingly.
But she shook her head, her best friend was waiting for her downstairs and she had to go get him. She grabbed her dressing gown and walked down the corridor over to the stairs. The floors creaked and Hayley suddenly felt very cold. She shivered and breathed out heavily to see her breath turn into white mist in front of her. She wondered why it was so cold, she was sure the fire in the hearth was still glowing with bright orange ambers downstairs.
Hayley turned the corner to the stairs and gasped. She blinked a few hundred times to see if what she saw was real. She shook her head but the view in front of her remained the same. At the bottom of the stairs was not her carpet floored lounge room with the fire place still burning with its brilliant flames. Instead there was a big forest in front of her, one that seemed to go on for miles with a thick coat of snow covering the ground and trees.
Without thinking, Hayley stepped down the stairs. Her eyes were wide and her mouth agape. She shivered and yelped quietly when she felt the freezing snow on her feet as she slowly sunk into the snow. Hesitant to disturb the peace, Hayley remained quiet as she took a few steps forward and touched a tree to feel the rough texture of bark beneath her hands.
She took a quick breath in and spun around with fright to see her house was much further away than a few steps. In fact, she could barely see it in the distance. Hayley ran forward now, away from the house, hoping to find her mums bedroom but she was lost.
Hayley felt like crying now. What could she do? She was cold and lost. But Hayley told herself not to despair and keep going. So she started running again until her lungs burned and her legs ached. She rested against a tree trunk, panting as she called out.
“Mum!” And with that one word she started to sob, sniffles turning into tears as she called out again and again for her mum. She sunk low to the ground and hugged her knees to her chest.
“Hayley?” a distant voice called. It was a soft voice that beckoned her to follow.
Hayley’s head snapped up and she wiped her tears away with the sleeves of her dressing gown. She heard the voice call her name again so she stood up and ran towards the direction of the voice. She looked ahead and saw a distant figure in the snow.
She kept running, her lungs bursting and her legs burning but she didn’t care. She didn’t want to be alone in these woods anymore.
“Hayley!” The voice exclaimed and started running towards her.
Hayley thought it was her mum so when they ran into each other, immediately embracing each other Hayley sobbed her mums’ name.
Her mum pulled away. “Hayley, it’s me.”
She looked to see it was in fact not her mum at all. It was a man. A very familiar man but Hayley just couldn’t remember who this person was.
The man saw the puzzled look on her face and a tear slipped from his eye. “Hayley it’s me, don’t you remember me?”
Hayley looked deep in his eyes and did her best to remember but everything was so foggy now. She couldn’t tear her eyes away.
The man waited a few moments before matching her face expression in a frown. He took a small step back and pulled something out from his thick coat. “I believe you forgot this” as he handed it to her.
Hayley saw what is was and snatched it from his hands and hugged him tightly to her chest. “Benny!” She sobbed again. Her best friend finally found. She looked at the old and torn teddy bear and forced herself to speak. “You’re my best friend Benny. You’re meant to protect me. We can’t ever be apart again.” She cried and hugged him again.
The man put a hand on her shoulder. “I thought I was your best friend.”
Hayley looked up at him curiously, her eyes watering and red, her nose just as pink. “I don’t even know you.”
The man coughed and looked down. He looked down at her again and smiled at her. “I gave you him.”
Hayley gasped and it hit her who this person was! The warm hug, the smell of musky wood and his smile! She thought he was familiar!
“Dad?” She sniffed again.
He breathed a smile as they both reached out for each other at the same time to hug again. “Yes sweetie, it’s me.”
Another wave of tears rolled over Hayley. She started to shake uncontrollably. “Dad! Daddy! I miss you so much! You missed my birthday daddy!”
Her dad hugged her even tighter. “I know sweetie, I miss you more than anything. But I never missed your birthday sweetheart. I gave you Benny so he could look after you in my place. But never forget I am always in your heart. I am always around. I miss you more than anything Hayley. It’s time you went home though.”
He pulled away from her but Hayley refused to let go of his hand. He smiled at her with a smile that made Hayley’s heart flood with warmth. They walked to the house together as he guided her up the stairs and back into her snug bed.
He hugged her tightly once more and kissed her forehead. “I am here when you need me. I love you Hayley and don’t ever forget that.”
Hayley gasped as she sat up in a quick movement. She looked around to see no one there. She looked to her left and saw Benny sitting there with a note. She eagerly grabbed it and read it.
'Hayley, my beautiful sweet Hayley, you were dreaming sweetheart but that doesn’t make it not real. I love you and I am always nearby when you need me. Benny is there to protect you and love you just as I have. Just because I can’t be there physically, doesn't mean I'm not always in your heart.
Hayley refused to believe he was gone again. She grabbed Benny and ran down the corridor to the stairs only to come to see the familiarity of the amber colored carpet and the fire place crackling. She ran down the stairs and into her mum’s room where she lay sleeping.
Hayley began to cry as her mum awoke to find Hayley in her arms shaking and crying.
“Hayley, honey, Hayley what happened?” Her mum asked soothingly, hugging her tightly and smoothing her hair, kissing her.
Hayley took a few deep breaths and cried out “I dreamed about dad.” Just as those words were said she started to burst into tears again.
Her mum sighed sadly. “I know you miss him. I miss him too. But we have each other. And we have Benny here and he’ll always be in our hearts, Hayley.”
Her mum leaned back so Hayley’s head was resting on her mums’ chest as she felt her mums’ soft hand caress her cheek and hair.
And they fell asleep like that, together.