Heilley slipped out the front door to go play Cheat
while I sat back and waited for MonoKeras and Kallisari to come home from the
water faerie. I sat and worried about whether she'd be over her ugga-ugga. I
sat and worried about what they'd be saying about Heilley when they found out
she'd left. It was a relief when the front door finally opened. One look at
Kallisari and I knew things were OK again. She had her hat tucked down straight
and that sparkle in her eye.
She laughed. "Hi, blchocobo." We gave each other
"All better now?"
"All better! Now just where is that sneaking
I followed them into the room. "Uh... she went
off to play some Cheat."
MonoKeras snorted. "Didn't even wait to see
what would happen, obviously."
Kallisari's eye glinted dangerously. "Well it's
nice to know where I stand- somewhere below a deck of cards, and other rotten
"Sister. Hah! Just plain trouble is more like
it. Throw her to the Jetsams and be done with it, I say."
MonoKeras growled his agreement while our owner
"Uhhhmm... I'm sure Emerald will be glad to
see you well again."
Kallisari failed to grin at my rather lame try
at diverting her. "Oh yeah, I'll be glad to see her, too. But as far as I'm
concerned, that Kyrii can be tossed out into the trash with the rest of the
slime around here. Oh well," she shook herself. "Enough of that, she's not worth
it. I'm going to see what I can fix us up for dinner- I'm hungry!"
She and MonoKeras headed into the kitchen. I
looked after them rather mournfully as I heard a sigh behind me. I looked up
at our owner.
"She really hates Heilley doesn't she."
"Looks that way," I admitted. "I guess I can
see why, too. It's not like Heilley shows a lot of sympathy."
"Yeah, but..." he struggled for words. "She's
not really a bad sort. She just has a 'tough girl' image that she keeps up,
I nodded slightly. "Probably. It's hard to know
"Maybe so. But I've never put a pet in the pound,
and I don't intend to start now. Think you can talk to her?"
I hesitated. "I guess. I don't know what to
say, exactly, though."
He grinned and patted me on the shoulder. "I'm
sure you'll think of something. Anyhow I better run, I've taken off enough from
work for one day already."
I just nodded as the front door shut behind
him. I sat down in one of the recliners and thought. The sounds of happy talk
and laughter floated out of the kitchen and disturbed my thinking. Maybe it
was just as well- the more I thought about it, the worse I felt, but I didn't
come up with any ideas on what to tell Heilley. MonoKeras eventually came out,
gave me a breezy goodbye and headed for his office. The sounds in the kitchen
told me that Kallisari was busily fixing up all sorts of stuff to eat. I hoped
it would be edible She's learned a lot, but sometimes she can pull a real doozy.
I have to admit she's never poisoned any of us, though. Unlike Heilley, I added
As if thinking of her name was all it needed,
Heilley chose that moment to come in the front door.
"Hey there... is something wrong?"
Heilley switched her glare from the floor to
me. "Stupid Kau," she grumbled. "That Meerca sits there yelling his head off
at Brucey, and between the two of them, all she had to do was drop her cards
down any way she wanted. Some game."
"Oh, there was luck all right- all of it bad!"
She snorted. "Never been so humiliated in all my life. I think I'll grab something
to eat and figure out a way to make sure it won't happen again."
"Uhh...." Heilley ignored me and sailed on into
the kitchen- and straight into trouble. I winced at the shouting match that
sounded back through the doorway.
"HEY! STAY OUT OF THERE!"
"Wha... OUCH! OK, OK, I get the idea!"
"Oh you do? Well let me give you a few MORE
ideas! STAY OUT OF MY KITCHEN! I'LL NOT BE POISONED BY YOU AGAIN!"
"Oh cool it, I didn't do anything on purpose."
"I DON'T GIVE A KAU'S TAIL! NOW GET OUT OF HERE
BEFORE I LOSE MY TEMPER!"
I groaned and rolled my eyes as Heilley shot
back out of the kitchen, sputtering angrily.
"Stupid fishtail! What does she think she is,
anyway, the faerie queen?" Leaning back in she shouted, "HAVE YOUR DIRTY OLD
KITCHEN SEE IF I CARE!"
It was only her quick reflexes that let her
dodge the bowl that came flying through the doorway. I winced as it whacked
against the wall while Heilley ran up the stairs and slammed the door to her
room. I stared at the bowl as it oozed its gooey contents all over the living
room carpet. Kallisari's crying broke the unnatural silence. "I hate her, I
hate her, I hate her," came the choked sobs from the kitchen.
Before Kallisari could come out to retrieve
her bowl, I slipped up the stairs as quickly and silently as I could. I paused
outside the door to Heilley's room long enough to take a couple of deep breaths.
I knocked as softly as possible, then a bit louder. No response. I listened
closely, but didn't hear anything. Puzzled and concerned, I turned the doorknob
and let the door drift open.
Heilley was sitting on her bed, staring up at
her Jazzmosis poster with a blank expression. I couldn't tell that she'd been
crying. In fact, I couldn't tell much of anything. She slowly turned her head
when she heard the door open.
I stepped inside. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to decide what to take with me to the
"The pound? Who said anything about that?"
A shrug. "That's what comes next. First time
you have a big argument with one of the other pets, you get dumped in the pound.
Oh well, at least I had some fun before it ended this time."
"Mmhmm..." I fished desperately for inspiration.
"Hey, why don't we go for a walk? It'd do you more good than just sitting here
staring at the wall."
Heilley thought that one over. "I guess. OK,
I stopped her at the head of the stairs and
peeked below. The bowl was gone off the living room floor, along with most of
the mess, so we managed to sneak out the front door without having Kallisari
Once we got outside, I headed straight for a
walking path that was close by. Soon, Heilley was trailing along beside me as
we walked through the greenery. It was a hot midsummer day, with just a hint
of cool breeze rustling the leaves. I could feel the heat trying to undo the
tension in my neck muscles, and I stretched gratefully. I glanced sideways to
see if Heilley was relaxing, too, but she still had that blank expression. I
wondered briefly if that was her professional Cheat expression- if it was, I
saw how she won.
"Nice day out, isn't it."
Strike one. I sighed to myself and tried to
keep the talk going. "Why do you want to go back to the pound, anyway?"
Heilley looked at me strangely. "Are you nuts?
I don't! But hey, I've done it a few times before, I can handle it again."
"Ah. How many times?"
"Oh, I dunno, I lost count."
Her overly casual look gave the lie away. Can't
remember? Yeah right. You could tell me each and every time you saw an owner
walking away, along with a list of whatever meagre possessions you had clutched
in your paws. "I see. Well.... I hate to see it end this way."
"Well... I just do, that's all. Seems like a
"Oh." A shrug. "That's life."
"Yeah but... it doesn't have to be that way."
"What, you know something I don't? I think everyone
around here has had their shots at me- including you."
I winced. "I know. I felt bad about that afterwards.
I guess I just lost my temper."
Heilley shook her head. "I don't get it. I always
try to play it cool, keep things under control, and everyone just gets madder
when I do."
"Well, maybe if you did show a bit more emotion...."
Heilley skidded to a stop, and I had to turn
around to look at her. "Now wait a minute. Don't tell me this is The Talk."
"Oh come on. 'Yeah, Heilley, just start playing
nicer and all the little boys and girls will like you. Oh and if you don't you're
going to the eek eek pound.'"
The bitterness and sarcasm in her tone took
me aback. I floundered mentally, trying to think up a response. "Uhh..."
"What I don't understand is that the owner is
usually the one that lowers the boom on you. Why didn't he do it this time?
"Well... he did ask me to talk to you."
"Hah! Chicken. Couldn't face up to it himself.
OK, get it over with, then I can go home and pack."
"But no one said you were going to the pound."
She threw me a dirty look. "What sort of fool
do I look like? Everyone's itching to see me go- I should know, I've seen it
before. You're supposed to be my last chance, so I have to listen to what you
"Not necessarily. In fact, he said he hadn't
ever put a pet in the pound and he didn't want to start now."
"Yep, I was right. Whenever they say that, you
can kiss your freedom beddy-bye."
"But I don't want to see that happen!"
"Oh, what's it to you. It's not like you've
had to worry about it."
My frustration snapped. "OK, now hold it right
there! You can get away with that line if you're talking to MonoKeras- he was
created by our owner. You can even say that to Kallisari- she got captured in
the wild and wound up in the pound without knowing what it was. But I know full
well exactly what the pound is! I've been there!"
She raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Ohhh, so the
quiet guy finally has something to say. I always wondered what you were hiding
under that mask."
"Well now you know! Yeah, a lot goes on in my
head, and do you know why more people don't hear about it? Because the one time
I came out and said what I knew, I found out exactly what it was like to be
abandoned! Oh yeah, I told her what sort of lying, rotten cheat she had for
a pet, and so guess who winds up behind bars? Not him! Me, for having the nerve
to insult her. Oh boy was I ever naive. I can still remember shaking the bars
and yelling after her, 'But it's the truth!' while the dirty liar pauses to
turn around and flip me one last rude gesture with his paw. Yeah, I learned
what happens when you speak up, all right. I learned a lot of lessons at that
pound. There's plenty to learn there, isn't there? But...." my tirade began
to wind down as I took a shuddering breath "...but the one lesson you don't
learn is love."
Silence followed my outburst while I caught
my breath. I was avoiding looking at Heilley when she finally replied. "Well...
OK, so you've been there once maybe. You still don't know what it's like to
do it again and again."
I almost cried- and that's not a light statement
for me. I'd told her a whole lot more about myself than I'd ever told anyone,
and it still hadn't snapped her out of her fatalistic mood. "OK, have it your
way. But before you lock those pound doors behind you, let me ask you something.
You know what it's like to be abandoned, but do you know what it's like to be
part of a family? Come on, admit it- you don't view any owner as a family, you
view it as just another vacation. I'm telling you it can be different here,
but it's not going to be if you just give up! Which is more important to you,
anyway, to go through life being proved right by being rotten and miserable,
or by really finding and grasping a chance at happiness???"
Heilley didn't say anything at first. She simply
folded in on herself until she was sitting cross-legged on the ground while
she stared into space. When she finally did reply, I had to strain to hear her.
"You really know how to hurt a girl, don't you."
I sighed and knelt down beside her. "Look, I'm
sorry. But I just hate to see someone deliberately make themselves miserable
when they don't have to."
"Mmm... you really think they'll accept me?"
"I don't know. But it's worth a try."
Heilley drooped. I watched her expression shift
with her emotions and realised that I'd finally pierced her shell. Even though
I'd set out to do that, I still felt almost guilty about opening her up this
way. I finally couldn't stand the silence any longer. I put my arm under her
shoulders, and pulled her up. "Come on. Let's go home and see what we can do."
She shoved her way out of my hug. "Well... OK...
but if this is some trick to get us romantically involved, you're gonna regret
I gaped. "Faeries forbid!" I blurted. "One married
couple is more than enough around here!"
She laughed and punched me lightly on the arm.
"Finally, someone with sense! OK, let's try it--it can't hurt any worse this
time than it has before."
To be continued...