I headed back home with Heilley walking beside me. She
had a slightly brighter look about her. I realised that for the first time since
I'd met her, she was actually showing the emotion of hope. When we stepped into
the front door, though, hope changed to fear- or something like it.
Heilley heard Kallisari humming happily in the
kitchen and suddenly she gripped my arm. "I'm gonna go up to my room," she muttered,
"see you at supper." Before I could object, she was gone.
I headed on into the kitchen and wound up helping
Kallie with her cooking projects. We cooked up enough dishes to last us for
several days. I tried to throw in a few good words about Heilley, hoping to
ease the tensions between the two, but it didn't help much. I couldn't make
it too obvious, since Kallisari was still fuming about eating the rotten omelette
that Heilley had brought home. I had to admit she'd had a bad time with ugga-ugga,
and I could see why she was upset. Heilley's habit of brushing off anger hadn't
helped matters any, either.
In short, we got more done on the pies than
on our relationships. My only hope was that Kallisari's natural good nature
would get her over her temper.
We were all sitting down to supper that evening
when Heilley finally made her appearance. I stared at her. For the first time
since I'd known her, Heilley had put up her hair. Instead of the wild and loose
mass of bright red curls that reached the floor, she'd pulled it back tight
into a huge bun at the back of her neck.
I wasn't the only one staring. "Now there's
a different look," MonoKeras remarked.
Heilley nodded a bit nervously as she sat down.
"Thanks, glad you like it."
"Oh, I don't know about liking it, I just said
it was different..." he drawled
Heilley bit her lip . "Oh. Well..." she stopped.
We all waited expectantly.
I finally broke the silence. "Well?"
Heilley's gaze darted desperately between MonoKeras
and Kallisari. "I... kinda have something to say. I know I've sort of been acting
like a jerk lately...."
I glared at MonoKeras while Heilley looked almost
ready to cry. "I know," she said softly. "But I really am sorry about all of
this. Honestly, Kallisari, I hated to see you get sick. I didn't like it, either,
but..." she stalled again.
"But?" Kallisari inquired sharply.
"But I guess I just don't know how to show it,"
Heilley finished in a rush. "You see, I've been in and out of the pound so many
times that, well, I just got into the habit of trying not to let anything get
to me. You have to, really, it's sort of a self-defence thing."
Heilley glanced over at MonoKeras with something
of her old brassiness. "Yeah, huh. Believe me, I know- I found out the hard
way. The thing of it is, I realised today that you lock out other people from
caring about you, too, so getting rejected kind of becomes a self-fulfilling
Heilley ignored MonoKeras' comment and looked
at Kallisari. "Anyhow, I wanted to apologise for not seeming to take you seriously,
Kallisari. I really do care- or I try to- it's just I got to the point where
I didn't dare to anymore."
"Dare to care," MonoKeras mumbled to himself.
There was a hint of softening in Kallisari's
posture. "Well thanks for caring, I guess. But I have to admit I don't really
understand all of your reasons. I mean, if you feel something, you show it."
Heilley's laugh was more than somewhat bitter.
"Trust me, Kallisari, showing what you feel can be suicidal in the wrong situation.
Just be thankful you've never had to deal with some of the creeps that I've
Kallisari shook her head with a baffled expression.
Our owner cleared his throat to get our attention.
"Well I'm glad to hear you say it, Heilley. It makes me a lot more comfortable
in my mind, and I feel a lot better about giving you this..." He reached under
the table and dropped a paintbrush in front of Heilley.
Heilley blinked and picked it up. "Wow! A skunk
paintbrush... for me?"
He grinned. "Yep. For you. I figured you'd like
it after your reaction to that Jazzmosis poster."
"Well I..." Heilley laughed awkwardly. "I don't
know what to say. I mean, I've always just been plain old red. I never even
"Hey, you deserve it. Besides, a good part of
the money I spent on it came from those Cheat winnings you gave me."
Kallisari sat up sharply. "What? You gave him
your Cheat winnings??"
Our owner didn't give Heilley a chance to reply.
"Yeah, she did. That night after everyone else went to bed, she gave them to
me to help buy you some sporkle syrup for your ugga-ugga. Of course, as it turned
out, the water faerie cured you and you didn't need it."
Kallie's eyes turned wet. "Oh, Heilley, I'm
sorry for all those mean things I said. You really did care!" Heilley gave her
trademark shrug. "Hey, relax, it was just money. I do it for the fun of it,
It was MonoKeras' turn to use the slightly sarcastic
'I know it all' tone. "Just money? Heilley, when you've dealt in the world of
business and pets as much as I have, you'll find there's no such thing as 'just'
money. If you ever want to see where a pet's heart is, just watch where their
money goes. Trust me on that one!"
Our owner laughed. "And trust you to make that
point, MonoKeras. And now that everyone's had their mouths hanging open, why
don't we use some of these utensils to put some good food in them? Hang onto
that paintbrush, Heilley, and we'll get you painted after supper, OK?"
"Yeah!!" Heilley's paw immediately grabbed up
her brush and she slammed it against the bun of her hair. We all stared at her.
"Uh... hehe, sorry, old habits..." it promptly disappeared into her lap and
we all proceeded to enjoy our supper with good appetites.
The setting sun found us at the rainbow pool.
Heilley grasped her paintbrush in both paws and stared nervously up at the huge
rainbow that was beginning to light up the square. "Uhmm... how do I use this?"
MonoKeras laughed. "Make sure you've got a good
hold on it, then just dive in."
Heilley took a deep breath. "OK, here goes nothing."
She splashed into the pool and promptly disappeared.
MonoKeras snickered. "She's in for a surprise when she meets Jack."
"Hey, he's nice," Kallisari protested.
"Oh, sure, just how many pets know he's there?"
"Well I didn't, but then I didn't even know
this was where you used a paintbrush when I hopped in. I was just wanting a
"Uh huh. I was ahead of you there, I knew what
to expect." I cut into the conversation. "Yeah, and you didn't tell me, either,
brother dear. As I recall, your words to me were almost exactly the same. 'Hop
in and see what happens'."
"Hey, why not? It's more fun to let you find
out the hard way."
Kallisari gave him a playful slap. "You know,
dear, you have a strange idea of fun sometimes."
"Ow! Hey, knock it off! I was just kidding."
"Uh huh, just like you were kidding when you
were hitting me over the head so hard I couldn't see straight??"
MonoKeras groaned loudly. "You're never going
to let me forget that, are you."
"Of course not! Someone has to keep you humble
"Sounds like you've nominated yourself for the
job," I remarked.
We continued our friendly bickering as the sun
continued its slow sinking into twilight. It wasn't until the last few rays
were beginning to fade that a disturbance in the pond splashed up to reveal
Heilley. She was sputtering a bit as she climbed out onto the bank.
"Well! That was a most interesting experience.
MonoKeras, Jack says the next time you send someone down there without telling
them what's up, he's gonna tie your paint handle in a knot."
MonoKeras laughed. "That'll be the day!"
Heilley grinned and shrugged. "Whatever- but
Our owner smiled appreciatively. "I already have been. Very pretty, Heilley."
"It sure is," I added. Heilley's brown fur and
red hair had been changed to a milky white shading to dark gray. Her hair was
unbound again, but this time instead of a simple bright red, it had a white
streak down the middle with gray along the edges.
"Okay, everybody, it's getting dark, time to
MonoKeras and Heilley both let loose with a
disappointed "awww" but it was obvious they were just giving him a hard time.
We set off for home at double-quick time.
It wasn't until we walked inside and I saw Heilley's
paint job better that I noticed something else. I didn't say anything at first,
but I made sure to stop by her bedroom door on the way to my own. She was preening
in front of her mirror while whistling softly through her front teeth.
"You're looking nice, you know that."
"Yep." She sighed happily as she looked at her
reflection. "You know what? I love me."
"Glad to hear it. Oh, and I also wanted to say
that your eyes look a lot more alive now."
She giggled. "Is that a compliment?"
"I guess. I just never noticed them as much
"Yeah, you wouldn't. I noticed it too when I
first looked in a mirror. You don't notice my eyes when my fur is brown, but
when I'm all gray and white, they're the only colour I have."
"Uh huh, two golden brown spots in a sea of
She stared at me quizzically. "Blchocobo, you're
either pulling my leg, or you're waxing poetic. Or is it both?"
"Uhmm... neither? I dunno."
A snort. "Oh go get some sleep."
I stepped back to go do just that, but... "whoops!
Kallisari swayed upright again. "It's all right."
She slid around me and into Heilley's room.
"Hey, Kallie, why aren't you in bed, too?"
"Oh I will be, I just wanted to stop by here
first and let you know I really am sorry about all that stuff."
Heilley shrugged. "Forget it, I'm cool. Tell
you what though..." she stared at Kallisari thoughtfully before reaching into
her dresser drawer. "Want to help me get this mane brushed out before I go to
I gaped at the golden comb she held up before
shaking my head. She'd gone all the way from hiding it because she was afraid
someone would take it to sharing it with the one pet that had hurt her most.
It was nothing short of amazing.
"Sure!" Kallisari eagerly took the offering
and soon had Heilley sitting on her bed while she got her mane pulled out backwards.
It took some gentle pulls through that long hair at first to get things straightened
They were both giggling when I interrupted.
"Um, say, Heilley, isn't that the comb I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about
Heilley looked over at me sharply, having obviously
forgotten I was standing at the door. "Hey, what are you doing still here? Go
to bed, this is for us girls!"
Kallisari snickered. "Yeah, go play somewhere
else or something."
I took the not so subtle hint and shut the door.
I wandered up to MonoKeras and Kallisari's bedroom to find him sitting up in
"I just came from Heilley's room. She and Kallisari
are in there."
"Yeah, she told me that she was going to talk
with her. I think she was going to apologise"
"Uh huh. Well, I just wanted to let you know
that I think we've got trouble."
"Trouble?" A worried frown appeared on his face.
"Don't tell me they're arguing again? Last time was bad enough!"
"Nope, it's even worse."
"Uh oh. How so?"
"I think they're ganging up on us," I replied.
I had to grin at the baffled look on his face
as I left and went to bed. Let him stay puzzled, I thought. He'd figure it out
for himself in plenty of time.