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A Weak Heart: Part One


by literalluau

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I woke up and he was gone.

      The moon still shone brightly through the window of our shared room and a chilly breeze, which had awakened me, was coming through the open shutters.

      Shivering with the cold, I crawled out of the warm comfort of my green and white checked sheets and hurried across the room to close the window. My feet scratched on the chilly wooden floor and I longed to go back to my comfy bed.

      I reached the window and pulled the shutters closed. His bed was unmade, unusual for him. But he often disappeared for a midnight fly around the village, so his absence didn't worry me.

      A great yawn captured my face and I hurried back across the room and returned once more to the world of slumber.

      I slept late the next morning and found my brother's bed still unmade, which excited my worries. I reasoned with myself that he probably fell asleep in the berry patch again, and the old farmer would have him sent home in no time.

      Coffee sounded good. Strong, black coffee with a dab of sugar. I stumbled out of bed and toward the kitchen to make some.

      I was halfway through my second cup and just beginning to wake up when I heard the front door burst open.

      "Dwennon!" A shrill, loud voice called my name.

      "In here?" I had no idea who belonged to the voice, except whoever belonged to it was female.

      A Plushie Mynci came hopping into the kitchen. Her eyes were agitated and she was wringing her hands furiously. "There you are."

      "I'm sorry. Do I know you?"

      She looked slightly offended. "I'm Abbi."

      I must have given a blank look because she sighed, exasperated, and put one hand on her hip. "Your brother's best friend? You do know you have a brother, right? His name is Darin? He's an Eyrie like you, but he's yellow instead of red--"

      I cut her off. "Yes, no need to be sarcastic. I'm sorry, I've just haven't seen you around much."

      "Yeah, well." She cleared her throat. "I guess Darin doesn't hang out around home much. He's more of a wanderer." She perked up. "Like me."

      I snorted a little and she shot me a look.

      "Well, we've only met once before," she said, picking my wing up off the table and shaking it with her own fluffy hand. "Nice to meet you. Again."

      "Likewise, I suppose." I shook her hand. "Anyway, what brings you here this morning?"

      She leaned in, looking around first as if she was about to tell a deep, dark secret. "Something is wrong. Darin isn't anywhere to be found." She wrung her hands together in rapid, jerky movements.

      I took another sip of coffee, only slightly perturbed. "So? He fell asleep in the berry patch or is enjoying a rousing game of Cheeseroller."

      "Not this time. Oh, he's disappeared before, but this is different. I can tell something is wrong." She said the last sentence even more dramatically than she had said the others, her eyes shifting back and forth in her head and her voice dropped to a shrill whisper.

      I took another sip of coffee, then realized my manners. "I'm sorry. How rude of me. Did you want some coffee?" I asked her.

      "Aren't you the least bit concerned?" she cried, flailing her arms.

      "Look..." I tipped my mug upside down and swallowed the rest of my coffee in one gulp. "If it'll make you feel better, we'll go find him." I got up and grabbed my jacket off the back of my chair. "Though he won't like it," I muttered.

      We stepped outside into the morning sunlight. Everything took on a greenish hue as my eyes adjusted to the light. I turned to Abbi. "You look in Merry Acres; I'll fly over the eastern part of Meridell and look for him. Okay?"

      "Agreed."

      She took off running lopsidedly in the direction of Merry Acres.

      I soared over Meridell, cutting the crisp morning air with my wings. Looking down, I could see all the neopets just waking up and coming out of their homes. I swooped down lower so I could make out individuals. When he stayed out all night, he'd never fly home. He'd trudge along, shaking his head so he could stay awake long enough to make it through the front door.

      I didn't see him among the straggling early birds that were already on the roads. I could feel it in my heart that he'd be playing Cheeseroller, silently rolling his Spicy Juppie down the hill with complete concentration.

      I landed at the top of the hill. Jerry, the Cheeseroller manager, was with a customer.

      "What? I've never heard of that kind of cheese. Look, if you're going to play games with me, you'll need to be going." He saw me over his customer's head and smiled at me. "What? No, you'll need to come back. We're fresh out of that." He shooed his customer away and came over to me.

      "Silly amateurs. Anyhow, what can I do ya for, Dwennon? Special price on Spicy Juppie today." He nudged me in the ribs with his elbow. "Only 150 np a go. What do ya say?"

      "Jerry. It's 150 NP every day."

      He just winked. "Ya know me too well. Going to give it a shot anyway?"

      "I was actually just wondering if you'd seen Darin today?"

      He thought for a second. "Actually, I don't think I have. I saw him yesterday, though. Lost three times in a row and stormed away in a horrible mood. Why? Ya need him for something?"

      "No, I just haven't seen him and a friend is looking for him."

      "Well, if he shows up, I'll send him your way. After he's played a few games, of course." He winked again. "Sure you don't want to play one round?"

      "Sorry, the search continues!" I called as I flew away with a heavy heart and a fluttering stomach. I stayed close to the ground so I could examine faces, all the while admonishing my heart for tricking my brain. Apparently, it was hope I had been feeling.

      He's getting some food. It's midmorning and he's been out all night. He just needs something to eat. I flew over to the Ye Olde Food Shoppe as fast as I could go.

      "Morning!" The door to the shop opened and a small, grinning Red Meerca peered out at me. "Breakfast?" I noticed that she smiled even while she talked.

      "No, thank you," I began.

      Her wide smile melted into a disappointed frown and she began to close the door.

      "Well, I suppose a raisin twist loaf does sound all right."

      She brightened immediately and gave me a warm parcel wrapped in cloth. I dug out my swag bag that I'd picked up on my recent trip to Krawk Island and paid her.

      She took my money and said in one breath, "Ooh, that's a fancy coinpurse. I want one like that, but Papa says not until I'm older. Papa's away on business. I'm in charge of the store until he gets back. I'm a good salesmeerca, huh?"

      "Indeed you are. Have you seen a yellow Eyrie this morning?"

      "Actually, no. Not a one. I gotta go now. Mama is calling." She hurried back inside the shop.

      I knew there was nowhere else he would be so early in the morning. He had sold his petpet to the neighbors, he and Illusen had had a nasty fight a few months beforehand when he found that her cream cookies aren't as valuable as he thought, and he hated every game but Cheeseroller.

      I flew home slowly and took the scenic route, studying every face I encountered on my way. Having no luck, I decided that there was nothing else to do. I came back home to wait for Abbi. I could only hope she had found him in his usual spot, sound asleep in the farmer's berries. But my gut told me differently. The lump was rising in my throat and the fluttering feeling was moving from my stomach to my chest. To calm down, I got a glass of water and sat at the kitchen table.

      Fifteen minutes later she came bursting through the door and into the kitchen. "I ran," she gasped, "all the way."

      I got up and offered her a glass of water. She drank it thirstily between pants.

      "So, no luck then?" My throat tightened and my stomach jumped. I sat down again for fear of falling over.

      "Nope." She swallowed the last of her water and slammed down her glass. "You didn't have any luck either, it would appear. I just knew something wasn't right today." She glared at the empty space by my chair as if she thought glaring could make him appear. After a minute she said, "Oh, Dwennon, what if he's hurt?"

      Thoughts raced through my head. I knew there were dangers that even a mostly-grown, steely-dispositioned Eyrie like my brother couldn't handle alone. And he would be alone. I stood up suddenly, surprising Abbi and myself.

      "I'll find him." The words just tumbled out of my mouth. I had no plan, no strategy, no clue where to look for him.

      Her eyes got wide and then she stood up, too. Her hands were clenched tight at the ends of her straight arms. "We'll find him."

To be continued...

 
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