They are lined up in the girl’s closet, a family of foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies. The boy stares at them in disbelief. It’s several weeks after Easter and the girl has refused to eat the bunnies.
“Are you saving them? We should eat them,” he says, “Ask your mom if we can eat them.”
“Noooo!” The girl steps in between the boy and the bunnies, carefully arranged among her stuffed animals.
“Why not? Don’t you like chocolate?”
The girl gingerly picks up one of the rabbit-shaped confections. This one is the papa and his foil wrapper is printed to look like it’s wearing a yellow and red plaid shirt and blue pants. The girl says, “I love my Peter Rabbit. I can’t kill him.”
“But you’re ‘sposed to eat him,” the boy reasons.
“No,” says the girl.
“You mean,” the boy’s voice takes on an incredulous tone, “you’re not going to eat them? Like ever?”
The girl shakes her head and cradles the chocolate bunny as if it were a human baby.
“He’s not a toy, y’know?” The boy says testily. He can’t believe how stupid she is being. Why wouldn’t she want to eat the bunnies? Doesn’t she know there’s chocolate under the wrapper? That must be it, he decides. She doesn’t get these aren’t toys. She must be stupid. They’re ugly and don’t even look like real toys.
He quickly reaches down and picks up one of the baby bunnies.
“Here. Look. It’s chocolate,” he starts to peel away the foil from the rabbit’s ear but he’s barely uncovered the waxy brown body underneath when the girl emits a terrified bleat and snatches the candy effigy from his hands.
“You’ll hurt ‘im!” she bellows.
The boy looks at the foil dolls in the girl’s hands and knows what has to be done if he’s going to get a chance to eat the chocolate. He grabs for one of the bunnies, the papa one, and they enter a frenzied tug-of-war. In the struggle he intentionally pokes his thumb through the hollow bunny’s head.
Suddenly the girl stops fighting and stares at the broken rabbit with her mouth silently agape. She can still see the bunny’s face on the foil where the boy pushed it into the thumb-sized wound. Behind its torn nose and eyes is a gaping, empty darkness framed by shards of milk chocolate.
She begins screaming again. This time it isn’t a short, sharp exclamation but a continuous shrill wail like a siren. The boy is genuinely surprised to see tears on her cheeks. In no time at all, the girl’s mother has entered the room and has the girl in her arms asking her what the matter is.
“He hurt Peter! He broke Peter!” the girl shrieks. The mother looks at the fragments of chocolate bunny in the boy’s hands and then into the boy’s eyes. He feels like he is about to get into a lot of trouble but instead the mother just closes her eyes like she might be feeling tired or sick and nuzzles her blubbering daughter. Then she opens her eyes, sighs and takes the broken chocolate from him with her free hand.
“Get washed up for dinner,” she says as she turns and carries the girl out of the room, “I guess you two can have some bunny for dessert.”
© 2010 Jakob Rehlinger