A purple rabbit, fur matted and coarse, sits on the shelf of a young woman. He gathers dust day by day, wondering if he will ever see life beyond his shelf. Not that he minds it all that much; he enjoys watching the sun rise and set every day, watching as his beloved owner returns from school wearing the brightest smile, and reading the books he is placed in between. Life on a shelf is much better than being dragged across the floor by Fuzzy Boots, their gray-speckled cat. Only sometimes does he wish he would see the outside world.
Perhaps, one day, he just might. He watches the sun rise now just above the trees, shining in on the sleeping Melody. A loud, piercing sound goes off in the room and Melody reaches over to shut it off. She awakes at the start, arms stretching above her head and her smile bright. The rabbit shifts in excitement, ready to talk to his favorite roommate.
“Good morning, Mr. Rabbit. How did you sleep?” She asks, brightly. He doesn’t respond, he never has, but he is sure his sewn eyes say it all. “I am having a fantastic morning myself,” she says. For a second, a shadow of despair or pity flashes over her face, but it disappears quickly. “You are going on a journey today, Mr. Rabbit. One filled with the beautiful outside nature and our family van and many cuddles along the way.”
He is not sure why she is talking to him like this; Mr. Rabbit never leaves his comfy place on the shelf. He was once Melody’s favorite toy. His job was to keep the monsters at bay during the night and comfort her when dreams were frightening. But then she grew up. She placed him on a shelf promising she would see him after school. For a while, she kept her promises. He would get played with every afternoon, but soon those dwindled off as well. Now, for over eight years, he rarely stepped foot off the wooden shelf.
Melody quickly gets dressed, then walks over to Mr. Rabbit. When she places both hands around him, it feels as if his entire body is trembling. His stuffed heart feels warm and beats frantically. She tucks him with care under her arm and makes her way down the stairs. He is placed in a neat, wooden box and packed in the backseat, right along with Melody.
Mr. Rabbit grins to himself and positions his head to gaze out the window. Frost-tipped trees pass by and music floods the car. Melody places a hand on Mr. Rabbit’s head and strokes him gently. There is a warmness about the gesture, as if she were catching up with an old friend. That is how he feels, anyways. He recalls the times he used to wait in this very car for Melody to return from school. He was instructed not to move an inch from his seat by the window and he always listened. Never even a thought crossed his mind about moving from his seat.
There were also the times that he was smuggled into a sparkly, pink backpack. He was brought into the school with much secrecy. Melody and Mr. Rabbit always felt like they had a special code between them. One only they could hear and communicate with. However, their scheme would always be busted by the second-grade teacher. She had always been a buzzkill.
Mr. Rabbit turns to Melody now and tries to reminisce about their fun adventures when she grew up. All that comes to mind are long phone calls with her best friend, Ainsley, and the rotten boys she would be obsessed with. It is strange, as Mr. Rabbit thinks back, that he does not have many memories of Melody as she grew older. But perhaps watching someone from a distance only gave you half the image of who they really were. All that will change, now. As Melody looks at him with shining blue eyes, he knows his life upon the shelf is about to transform.
The car ride lasts only a bit longer before they arrive at a rest stop and, for the first time, Mr. Rabbit gets out with them. Their mother enters the rest stop building, but Melody takes him to explore the park, instead. She carries him by the arm, walking to a tall, broad tree and sets him against it. She soon sits down next to him, sipping a chilled bottle of water. She is silent for a long time, only staring at the sky, and then whispers quietly, “Look at the clouds, Mr. Rabbit.”
He does. The clouds are massive and fluffy, scattering an ocean blue sky. They used to sit like this quite often when Melody was younger and once only a year ago. Their parents had gotten in a tremendous argument, throwing things and screaming so loud the walls shook. Melody had taken Mr. Rabbit off his shelf and laid him on a blanket beside her. They laid there for hours, no talking, just staring at the clouds.
“They are humongous, always moving.” Mr. Rabbit startles at her tentative voice, being lost in thought. “I admire that. The way they move, I mean. I want to be able to move that way. My life seems it is moving faster than I am and I think it is time I catch up. Do you see?”
He does not, but he lets her finish. “I am a cloud, Mr. Rabbit, and it is time I flow along with the earth. It is time to move along with my life. I will be a senior in high school next year, practically a grown up. I want to make new memories with new people. I…am moving with my mother. Now that her and father have gotten a divorce.” Her voice turns thick and Mr. Rabbit sees her wipe a cheek out of the corner of his eye. “I want you to make new memories, too.” With this last sentence, she turns to face him with a smile. It is bright, as always, but is also incredibly sad. Her eyes fill with tears and it is evident that it pains her to say this.
Mr. Rabbit still does not comprehend her words or does not want to comprehend them. They sit there for a moment longer and he watches the clouds pass like she described. They do move awfully fast and it makes his head spin. Why would anyone want to move that fast?
After a few silent minutes, Melody picks him up by the same stuffed arm and carries him inside the rest stop. He is carefully put back in the wooden box and is placed on the counter of the help desk. He tries turning around to see Melody or see why he is on a shelf once again, but it is useless. The only thing he sees is a sign directly beside him that reads: DONATIONS. His stuffed heart begins to race and his little body trembles. Surely, it is a mistake.
“Goodbye, Mr. Rabbit.” Melody smiles sadly and a single tear rolls down her cheek. She turns around and walks to the door, turning only once to get one last look at her childhood friend. He wants to yell, if he could, saying that Melody left him behind. He isn’t supposed to be here, he is her friend! Why doesn’t she want him anymore?
The questions of why pile up in his mind, becoming overwhelming, before he realizes Melody’s words to him. She is moving on. Without him. He falls back against the wooden barrier and feels his stuffed heart ache more than ever.
Months pass as Mr. Rabbit sits in his wooden box, piling on dust every day and being surrounded by more abandoned stuffed animals. They all ignore him, seeing that he is much more worn than the rest of them. People from all over stop in with their families, both small and large. They peep into the donation box and whisper, How long has he been here? Why would anyone want such a ratty, old rabbit? The rabbit simply sits, staring into nothingness, and lets the words roll over him. The memories of his Melody fade until they are almost dreamlike in his head. Perhaps this is the end of the rabbit’s story, fated to rot in an ugly box for the rest of eternity. Always being ignored, never loved. That is, until one particular day.
“Mama, mama! Look! A dusty, old bunny! Look at how adorable he is!” A girl’s voice, sweet and high-pitched, sounds from above him. He stays completely still as the young girl picks him up.
“What is it, darling?” An older woman asks, presumably the mother. She strolls over to them, clutching a travel brochure, and gazes at the rabbit. The little girl holds him out so they can see him clearly and the rabbit is taken aback. Through his time in the donation box, he has gotten used to distasteful looks and grimaces thrown his way. But never, in over eight years, has he been looked at like this. The mother and her daughter’s eyes sparkle as they look him over, taking in every flaw and stitch in him. The mother smiles widely and says, “I think he is perfect, Ira.”
The little girl’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise and jerks the rabbit towards her chest. She hugs him oh so tightly and jumps up and down. “Thank you, mama!”
“What will you name him?” The mother asks, rubbing Ira’s shoulders.
“I think I will name him Cotton, like the giant clouds in the sky! They always look like cotton balls to me, mama. Beautiful, fluffy, and gentle. Just like this rabbit!” Ira squeezes him closer and the rabbit is struck with a sudden memory. He does not dwell on it, though. Instead he thinks of his new home and new family. Like the clouds, he is moving on, too. And he is okay with that.
“Let’s go home, Cotton!” The rabbit smiles to himself. Home. He likes the sound of that.