Mackenzie left her closet door open. In fact, Mackenzie often left a trail of wide open doors in her wake. This habit annoyed her mother, but it was quite convenient for a heroine of Rain Boots’ size. Now the sound of Mackenzie’s play (which mainly consisted of dolls fighting over each others’ clothing) filled the room to its corners and blundered into the closet.
As the afternoon light dwindled, play time gave way to tooth brushing and the putting on of pajamas. Eventually Rain Boots heard the sound of Mackenzie sliding beneath her lavender comforter as her mother kissed her good night. There was a light tapping sound in the evening dark, which Rain Boots recognized. Sleepy Mackenzie’s fingers were fumbling across the wooden shelf above her bed.
“Michael Bear,” the little doll thought.
But Michael Bear wasn’t there, just as he had not been there the night before. Sadly, his absence from Mackenzie’s special shelf had stretched from days, to tens of days, to now near a month.
“Hello, friends,” he had said the first time he climbed down into the toy box, “I’m looking for someone who can lend me a hand.”
Rain Boots remembered the way Michael Bear adjusted his lensless glasses as he spoke, and how his words rattled everyone at the dusty bottom of the toy box. It had been a quiet, lonely place before; just Rain Boots, odd bits of broken plastic, and a jumble of forgotten toys.
“A hand with what?” she said as she struggled to pull her arm free from a coil of jump rope.
Michael Bear sat down on the thin white floor of the toy box, scratching at the tuft of faded, orange-brown fur on his head.
“What if I told you there are dangers lurking in this house?” he said.
The sound of the other toys’ whispers hummed in Rain Boots’ ears.
“He’s a shelfer,” hissed a toy from a shadowy corner.
“Don’t bring us your shelfer problems, you shelfer!” chirped a nearby plastic cricket.
Michael Bear ignored the murmurs and fixed his eyes on Rain Boots. “What is your name, little doll?” he asked.
“Rain Boots,” she replied. The other toys laughed at her name, as they always did. But Michael Bear only nodded.
“Was that the name on your box?” he asked. “I mean, was that what you were called whenever you were purchased?”
“Of course not,” she said. The uncomfortable warmth of embarrassment crept up her neck. “It’s silly.”
“My mistake!” said Michael Bear, merrily waving his thin fabric paw. “Though I think it sounds very fine. What was your first name, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Rain Boots pursed her lips tightly and shrugged.
“How did you come by your current name?” he asked gently.
The toys at the dusty bottom stopped their whispers. They all knew.
“Iris gave me my name,” she said.
Michael Bear stepped toward her.
“What if I told you that these dangers in our house were after something that belongs to Iris?”
Rain Boots offered Michael Bear her hand.