Anna gave her new teddy bear one more hug and then set him on her bed facing the semicircle of her other teddy bears.
“All of you start becoming friends now,” she instructed. “I’ll be back after I eat dinner.” And she skipped out of her room.
Five light-furred teddy bears looked at the newcomer in their midst. He was shaped much like they were and had a similar smile on his face. But there the resemblance ended.
His fur was dark brown.
“You can’t be a teddy bear!” Fluffy said. “You have dark fur. We’re teddy bears and we all have light-colored fur.”
“But I am a teddy bear,” the newcomer protested. “I was with other teddy bears at the store, and Anna called me a teddy bear.”
“What’s your name?” Puffy asked.
“Anna named me Cocoa.”
“I’m Puffy. This is Fluffy, that’s Muffy, and they’re Fuzzy and Wuzzy.”
“What’s the big idea of making introductions?” Fluffy demanded.
“Anna told us to become friends,” Puffy said.
“I don’t want to make friends with an imposter,” Fluffy said. “Teddy bears — real teddy bears — have light-colored fur.”
“Maybe some teddy bears have dark-colored fur,” Fuzzy said.
Fluffy rounded on him. “Don’t be absurd! I want some proof that he’s a teddy bear.” He turned back to Cocoa. “Do you have any identification?”
Cocoa looked blankly at Fluffy. “Identification? What’s that?”
“Proof!” Fluffy said. “Proof in writing that you’re a teddy bear. Like this.” And Fluffy turned to show the tag sewed into his lower back. “Can you see that? It says, ‘T. Rosefield Teddy.’ That’s proof I’m a teddy bear.”
Wuzzy spoke up. “Cocoa, you’ve got a tag, too. Turn around so we can see it.”
Cocoa turned, hoping whatever was written on his tag would settle the issue and he could start being friends with these other bears in his new home.
Fluffy gasped as he looked at Cocoa’s tag. “I can’t believe it!”
Muffy read the tag: “ ‘T. Rosefield Teddy.’ Looks like you’re one of us.”
“But…” Fluffy sputtered. “Why would T. Rosefield make a dark-furred teddy? It makes no sense. Teddies have always been light-furred.”
“The place I came from had lots of dark-furred teddies just like me,” Cocoa offered.
“Lots!” Fluffy shouted.
“We were born in a big building and sent to the place where Anna picked me to live with her, and with all of you. There were … I don’t know … bunches and bunches of us dark-furred teddies.”
“Bunches of dark-furred teddies,” Fluffy said, mostly to himself. “I just don’t understand it. Why would T. Rosefield do such a thing?”
“Anna picked you to live here,” Puffy said, “so you must be very nice. We’ll be friends.” And Muffy, Fuzzy, and Wuzzy agreed.
“Thank you,” Cocoa said, feeling a little less sad. But he looked at Fluffy, who just sat and stared at the bed. “Fluffy? I showed you that I’m a real teddy bear. Can we be friends?”
Fluffy looked at Cocoa and remained silent.
“Fluffy,” Muffy prompted, “Anna wants us to be friends. And T. Rosefield made us all, so a dark-furred teddy must be as good as a light-furred teddy. Don’t you think?”
“Maybe T. Rosefield did make him,” Fluffy admitted, “but obviously with substandard fur. He’s a lesser breed of bear.”
“Fluffy!” Wuzzy scolded.
“That’s all there is to it,” Fluffy insisted.
“What about Anna?” Muffy insisted. “She wants us to be friends.”
Fluffy looked down, sadness mixed with stubbornness in his eyes. “How could she do this to us? After all the love we’ve given her, she’s brought in a dark-furred teddy. What’s next? A yellow-furred bear? A red-furred bear? A rabbit?”
“Oh, dear,” Fuzzy said. “I’m afraid Anna’s next teddy bear party is going to be awkward. Don’t worry, Cocoa: you have four of us as friends, and you have Anna.”
“That will be very nice,” Cocoa said quietly. “That’s what I’ve wanted my whole life, is someone to love me and some friends.”
But Cocoa and Fluffy continued to regard each other across the short distance on Anna’s bed, one sadly, the other suspiciously.