Losers: Part Three
Potions were too scary for Ella. She didn’t want to be turned into an entirely different pet. She just wanted a disguise.
The Uni disguise was made of blue cardboard. It wasn’t the easiest secret identity, but Ella would say she was hurt as a child in a “horrible accident”. She didn’t have an idea about what the “horrible accident” was, but she’d figure that out later.
“It’s just a scientific study, mostly,” Ella said to July when her costume was finished. “I really want to see the world... through another’s eyes.”
“So you want to pretend that you went back to the pound and I adopted this... new you?” asked July. “And I can’t tell your sisters?”
“Exactly,” said Ella. “After a few weeks, I’ll be done and I’ll know more about others.”
“Okay,” July said, turning back to her work. “If you’re so into the idea.”
“Yay!” Ella squealed. She ran to hug her owner. “Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, July!”
July turned around. “I just have one question.”
“Do you have a new name, or should I call you Ella?”
Ella knew exactly what her new name would be. “Lacey,” she said. “It was the name of one of my friends at the pound.”
Lacey wasn’t really Ella’s friend. Ella only admired her because of her wonderful name. The red Usul had a different group of friends. She also was adopted three days after she was abandoned by her old owner.
Ella was ready to start her experiment. The first pets to fool would be Addie and Marla.
“Come in,” Addie said when she heard the knock on her door. She was surprised to see a crippled Uni come in. “Who are you?”
“I’m Lacey,” Lacey said. She made her voice a little lower and more feathery. “You are Addie, right? July just adopted me and gave away the green Blumaroo.”
“Ella?” asked Addie. She perked up a little. “Do you mean Ella?”
“That’s right,” said Lacey. “She had a very pretty name.”
“Oh,” Addie said. She was quiet for a moment. “Do you know how to play Ratscrew?”
Lacey nodded. “My old sister taught me when I was very young.” She sat down next to Addie and passed out sixteen cards. Lacey put an Ace down and a jack facedown. Addie put down a two and a three.
She hardly misses Ella, thought Lacey. All she wants to do is play games with her new sister. Cheer up; you’ll start winning soon. Ella wanted to become Lacey so she could start winning. Winning was in card games and in life.
Lacey won the game. It was better already because she was starting to win.
When Lacey went to Marla’s room after the game, a few tears escaped Addie’s eyes. “I shouldn’t cry in front of Lacey,” she told herself. “But I miss Ella too much.”
“Where’s Ella?” Marla asked when Lacey entered her room.
“Oh, she’s back at the pound,” Lacey said. “I’m Lacey, by the way. You must be Marla.”
“Yes,” said Marla quietly. “Hello.” She held out her hand for the new girl to shake.
“Do you want to hear a story?” Lacey asked, testing the Cybunny.
Marla smiled. “I love stories.”
Lacey told a story about a princess who abdicated the throne. Marla thought it medium-boring. When she left, Marla cried as well.
“I never told her that I really liked her,” Marla said to herself. “And now she’s gone, and a boring Uni is in her place. I wonder what happened to make her look like that.”
That day at school, Addie wanted to show Lacey around.
“No, thanks,” Lacey said, smiling. “I’d rather meet my own friends.”
Lacey went up to two very popular girls and said hello.
“Who the heck are you?” asked one popular girl. Her name was Tory.
“I’m Lacey. I’m Addie’s sister.”
“What happened to that Blumaroo girl?” asked the other popular girl. Her name was Rainbow.
“Gone,” Lacey said, trying to look sad. “She never did like it here.”
“That’s for sure!” Rainbow and Tory said together. They were both Starry Kyrii. The friends high-fived each other.
“So, what happened to you?” Tory asked. She gestured towards Lacey’s cardboard body.
“Oh, something happened when I was a little girl,” said Lacey. She made a tear roll down her cheek. “I don’t like to talk about it.”
“Let’s go,” Rainbow said. She held out her arm.
Lacey linked her arm and the three girls walked away.
I’m already winning, Lacey thought. I’m with the two most popular girls in school! Boy, did I make the right choice!
Already that day Lacey told a lot about her past. She had a sister named Clarabelle, the name of another girl at the pound. She loved Terror Mountain more than any place in the world, even though the real Ella had never been there in her life. Lacey also said that her old owner got rid of her because of her “terrible accident”. She felt as if it were her fault.
“So what really happened?” asked Rainbow.
“Okay, I’ll tell you,” Lacey said at last. She used the time to think of a good story. “I was trying to grab a Codestone from the Money Tree, but a huge Grarrl knocked me down. I fell onto the jagged rocks surrounding the Rainbow Pond!”
Instantly, everybody felt sorry for her.
“That is so sad,” Tory said.
“My owner, Courtney, felt so bad because she made me get a Codestone!”
“Wow,” Rainbow said. “That’s terrible!”
Lacey hung her head and said, “I’m stuck with looking like cardboard because of the operation.”
Rainbow and Tory gave Lacey a hug and said, “It’s okay, Lacey. Now you’re with us and everything is fine.”
You don’t know the half of it, thought Lacey. She smiled, surrounded by new friends.
In L. A. class, there was a problem.
“I’m sorry, Lacey,” Ms. Bailin said. “Everybody is so far into the interview assignment.”
“It’s okay,” Lacey said. “I’ll work with somebody. I bet a group will volunteer.”
Every single pet in L. A. class raised his or her hand, including Addie! Lacey felt great!
“You can just skip this assignment,” said Ms. Bailin. “You can just catch up on things we did earlier in the year.”
The pets put down their hands reluctantly.
Lacey wasn’t keeping the LOSER or NON-LOSER list, but it felt good that everybody wanted to be with her.
“So, what was it like before your accident?” Tory asked as the three girls were walking home from school.
“I was a Rainbow Uni,” said Lacey. “Courtney got that paintbrush for my sister, Clarabelle, but Clarabelle didn’t want it.”
“What games were you good at?” asked Rainbow.
“I was awesome at Sophie’s Stew,” Lacey said. “It was because I have good paw-eye coordination.”
Lacey was really glad she rehearsed answers to questions in front of the mirror the night before! She was glad her answers sounded believable.
The girl’s got to Lacey’s Neohome. “See you, Lacey,” Rainbow called.
“Don’t forget come to my slumber party!” yelled Tory.
July made her first mistake. “Hello, Ella,” she said.
Lacey rushed to grab July’s mouth. She looked around to see if Marla or Addie was around. “July! My name is La-cey!”
“Sorry,” July said. Her voice sounded muffled because Lacey’s paw was still on her mouth.
“Did I hear the word Ella?” Addie called from the top of the stairs.
Lacey nudged July.
“N-no,” July lied. “I was just so used to saying ‘Ella’ that I called Lacey by the wrong name.”
“Oh,” Addie said. She was disappointed that Ella didn’t magically appear. She didn’t really like Lacey that much. Lacey liked to hang out with Rainbow and Tory, girls who always were mean to people they used to be nice to.
Lacey went to Tory’s house for the slumber party that night.
“Hello, it’s El-Lacey,” she said. What an idiot I am! Lacey thought. I almost blew my cover!
“Hey,” said Tory.
“Hey,” Rainbow repeated.
“What do you want to talk about?” asked Lacey.
“Let’s talk about geeks,” Tory said slyly.
“Oh, we always do this,” said Rainbow. “We like to make fun of the weird people. Who do you want to start with, Tory?”
“How about that old Blumaroo, Ella?”
“Do you mean the girl who used to live here?” Lacey stammered. They’re talking about me. I mean, they’re talking about Ella. Don’t worry; they’re not talking about Lacey. Lacey wasn’t sure who to call herself in her mind.
“She would always linger by herself,” Tory started.
“Yeah, and she was always scribbling in her little notebook, too,” said Rainbow.
Tory laughed. “She would always talk about how poor she was. I don’t think she even was poor. I think she just wanted attention.”
Lacey had to find a way out of this! “I don’t think we should talk about Ella,” she said.
“Why?” asked Rainbow.
“We-ell, because I didn’t know her. It wouldn’t be fun for me.”
“Whatever,” said Tory. “Let’s talk about someone else.”
Relief spread through Lacey’s body. She had to find a way for nobody to say mean things about Ella. There was only one solution, and it pained Lacey to do it. She had to wait for school the next day.
In the hallways, Lacey was in the center of the crowd. “I have something to say,” she said. “And it isn’t easy.”
Rainbow, Tory, and everybody else were waiting for the announcement.
Lacey reluctantly closed her eyes and took off her mask.
To be continued...