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Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived with her grandmother in a cabin on the edge of the forest. It was, in the way of these things, a magic forest, though to the little girl, whose name was Ellie, it did not seem so magical as the things that went on there were the things that had always gone on there. It was not so much that they were boring, because they weren't, but neither were they exciting just because they were magic. Some things happened that were exciting, some things happened that were not so exciting. And that was the way things were.

One day, a bear spirit popped up beside her, and called to her.

This was not yet all that exciting. It had happened in the past and, she supposed, would happen in the future. Still and again, it was not the usual sort of thing that happened to her, either, so her interest was definitely piqued.

"Hello there, bear! What is your name?"

"My name is Kip, Ellie, and I would like to ask a favor of you."

"Well... you can ask, I suppose. What sort of favor?"

"My mistress is very sad and I have been unable to console her. She has lost a friend and feels ever so alone. She wants so very much to have another girl to talk to, instead of just a silly bear like me!"

Ellie was a little surprised. None of the bear spirits she had ever talked to before had ever referred to themselves as having a mistress, at least not that she could recall. And who would be the mistress of a bear spirit, anyway?

"Is it far away? I'd have to pack and tell grandma and everything."

It was the bear's turn to be a little surprised. "Pack? I hadn't really thought about that. Hmm... it is fairly far, but I really don't know that you will need to pack. Still, I suppose it won't hurt. Is your grandmother home?"

"Oh yes!" And with that, Ellie ran to the house to tell her grandmother that she was going off with a bear spirit. Now this could be exciting!

"Grandma, Grandma! A bear spirit wants to take me to meet his mistress! His name is Kip and he says it's far away, but she's sad. Can I go, please, please?"

Her grandmother, whose name was Elizabeth, made motions with her hands as if to suggest settling down. "Patience, patience, my girl. Who wants you to go where to do what with whom?"

More slowly, Ellie launched into what little she knew. When she finished, Grandmother turned a steely eye on the bear. "Well, young Kip, what do you have to say about this? Does your mistress even know you are here? And... hadn't you best explain to Ellie exactly what you are asking of her? It hardly seems fair for her to go without knowing. I know that's been your types' way for as long as you have been around, but in this part of the forest, we do things a bit differently."

"I'm sorry, you are very right. I forgot my manners in my haste." He turned to Ellie. "If you like my mistress, and, more to the point, if she likes you, it might be a good long while before you come back here for any length of time."

"What?! You want me to abandon my grandmother and my home, without even knowing where I am going? I'm not some spirit with no attachments, you know!"

Kip looked over at Elizabeth and she back at him. "It's no good your looking at me, Kip. You're the one who raised the issue, you are the one responsible for the telling," said Elizabeth.

A little nervously, Kip explained. "Well, Ellie... you do have attachments, but as it turns out, you are a spirit, just like I am. Umm... okay, not just like I am, because you are not a bear and I am. But other than that, we are very similar. Where we are going, I am a little stuffed Teddy Bear."

Ellie's eyes had grown wider and wider as the bear continued. Where to start? She thought to herself, I'm not a spirit! I'm a little girl. And I have been, all my life!" Then she paused, as she thought about what she had just said. "Am I the spirit of a little girl, then?"

"Actually, you are the spirit of a little girl doll, but one whose age seems about the same as my mistress's age. And no, Elizabeth," turning to the woman, "My mistress is not expecting Ellie, but she really needs her."

"Then I shall go!" declared Ellie. "And it shall be a grand adventure." She hugged her grandmother, with a couple of tears and some exchanged love and reassurance that her grandmother would keep in touch with her. Ellie looked at Kip.

"Where do we go? What do I do?"

"Just relax and hold my paw." Even as the bear spoke, Ellie saw the room around them fade away. For a while, she saw nothing, and then a room appeared, very different from the cabin she had just been in. She was on a giant bed, and staring up at a very large, but obviously little girl.

"I don't want a new doll! I want my friend back! Bring her back, bring her back, bring her back!" And she flung the new doll as hard as she could away from her.

Ellie screamed - and realized she had no voice - as she flew through the air and bounced, shaken, off the wall and onto the floor. No sooner had she landed than the girl's voice cried out.

"Oh no! What have I done? I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry! Are you all right?" And she picked up Ellie and cradled her in her arms. "I'm Michelle. I'm not usually that mean, and I am really sorry, but I will tell you all about it. What's your name?"

Michelle cocked her head as if she could hear the doll, and Ellie shouted her name as loudly as she could. In her head, Kip's voice came to her "You don't have to yell! She would hear your name if you whispered it."

"You're name is... Ellie! pronounced Michelle, as if reaching a momentous decision. "This is Kip. He's my bear! We're going to all be great friends!"

And that was the way things were.
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Chapter 1: On The Shelf

Zip looked down at the room from his position on the bookshelf. This was a new angle on things, he thought. He was as high now as he ever had been when carried around the room, if not quite as high as when he'd been tossed in the air. He could see the top of the bureau and the desk, which were not normally in his view from the bed.

And the bed. Wow! It looked smaller in some ways, from here, not stretching out before him like a plain. There was Belle and Pug. And on the pillow, in the place of honor, was a stranger, an unknown bear, brightly colored in all purple plush. Zip sighed as he wondered if he would know the place of honor again. He doubted it, because while he had never been here before, he knew the place well. This is the stopping place where stuffed animals went before they left altogether.

As far as Zip could tell, after moving here life slowly left you until finally, lifeless, you left the room once and for all. It was not like sleepovers or trips. You left and were never seen again. This idea did not appeal to him at all.

What was she thinking, to put him over here? He still had life and lots of love to give! He loved her, didn't she know that? Didn't she love him? Pug called over to him.

"Zip, it'll be okay, really it will!" Pug was older than Zip, quite a bit older. While Zip had been with their mistress for as long as he could remember, Pug was old when Zip first arrived.

"Why am I up here, then? It can't be that I am too old - you are older than me! What will happen to me? What happens to us when we leave the room?" He started crying to himself.

"Oh, Zip. I'm so sorry. It will be okay. I'm sorry I am not there to give you a hug. Do you remember the story I told Piglet last year when he went on the shelf? Or the Velveteen Rabbit, the year before?"

This was all too depressing for Zip. He remembered them and remembered them fondly. He had been sad when they left and worried about them, still. But, "Every time you started to tell that story, I fell asleep, Pug! I tried to listen, but I just couldn't stay awake."

Pug thought for a moment. "I forgot that part. You are so young that this won't be a reminder for you, but your first time. Hmmm... I think you may be ready to hear it now."

Through his tears and in spite of himself, Zip was curious. What was this story that he was too young to even know about? He was 15 years old, not a young stuffed animal at all! With a quaver to his voice, he asked "Would you please tell me the story?"

And Pug began, "I learned this story when I was a young stuffed animal almost 100 years ago..."


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