Stuck: Part Five
As soon as Dr. Death had locked the back door, Terri flung open the front one and ran forward, hugging me so tightly that I was afraid that my coconut would split into two pieces. And then it would make clip-clopping sounds when I walked, which would get very annoying after a while.
“Terri, calm down, I’m fine!” Terri’s spontaneous hugs were sometimes very awkward for me, since I didn’t have arms. “Seriously. It’s okay.”
Off to my left, I heard someone snickering. I glanced over and saw that it was Chall; she looked away innocently, but I had seen the humorous twinkling in her eyes.
“Are you alright? Do you need to eat? And... sorry, dear, but you need a bath, no offense intended. Did that sniper treat you alright? And were the pets not too crude here at the pound?”
I growled under my breath, surprising her. “Terri, stop worrying so much. Jeffrey was quite decent, and the pets here at the pound were fantastic-”
Someone coughed loudly, probably covering up a laugh.
“- they really aren’t mean at all. A bit rough, maybe, but-”
“Let’s get going, honey. I think you need a good night’s rest in your own bed.” Terri hugged me tightly again, then headed out of the cage, glancing back to make sure I was following. I hesitated, then turned toward Chall’s cage.
“I will come back and talk to you guys, alright?” I murmured to her, trying to make it look like I was just pausing for a moment from Terri’s perspective. “And I promise, I won’t forget what you’ve taught me.”
“Which is...?” Chall prompted, grinning at me slyly.
I grinned wickedly back, and followed Terri out of the cage.
“I was so worried when I found out that you had gotten stuck, and I wanted to spend as much time as I could just sitting outside your cage so that I could talk to you, but that awful Techo said it wasn’t allowed, so I just spent a lot of time in the main lobby. Your siblings waited with me a lot too, but they had Neoschool today, so they couldn’t come. I convinced Shelle that I wasn’t going to try another transfer, so you’ve nothing to worry about on that side. Oh, and your teacher says not to worry; she’s made out a list of the assignments you need to make up, but she’ll make sure that all your absences are excused.” I grimaced at the thought of more schoolwork. “And you gave me such a shock when that sniper got you; I had gotten into the pound just two minutes later to find you weren’t there, and how about we get lunch at Hubert’s?”
She was already walking down the hall, chattering at the super-fast rate she only used when worried. I paused outside of Mellon’s cage, giving him a pleading look.
“Good luck out there, Raree,” he muttered, not meeting my eyes, a rather angry look on his face. “Seems like you’ll need it.”
I sighed and followed Terri.
So Terri paid for my exit, and the two of us headed out. We ate the biggest hot dogs Hubert had in stock for lunch, hiding from the rain under one of Terri’s gigantic umbrellas, and Terri made me get two baths in a row once we got to the house. Of course, my two sisters were extremely happy to see me when they got back from school; Janet, a strawberry Usul, screeched loudly enough for people to hear in Kreludor and hugged me almost as tightly as Terri had, and Mira, a jelly Ixi, laughed quietly and patted me on the head.
I was glad to see them; I was gladder to sleep in my own, warm bed that night. But something was still missing. While lying in bed, I figured out what that missing thing was. And once I realized what it was, I started to plan.
The next day was Saturday, and free from Neoschool. Terri asked if I wanted to go and hang out with Melle, since I hadn’t seen her for so long. But I had other plans, the plans I had developed the night before.
When I told those plans to Terri, she was surprised and a bit upset; however, I eventually got her to agree. I knew what I was going to do was good, and nothing she said would make me change my decision.
“Hello, young lady, and welcome to the Neopian Pound. May I ask what kind of pet you’re looking for?”
I gave the little girl shifting from one foot to another in front of me a calculating glance. She seemed like the type who would like a Kacheek.
“I want something cute! And fluffy!”
I grinned widely at her, making her giggle. “Don’t worry, we have plenty of pets like that. In fact, I know one which you might really like...”
As I headed through the door, the girl following me, Sue (the Uni) winked at me. She may have been a bit rule-driven, but she did appreciate my help.
“So, why are you here?” the girl asked chipperly, skipping behind me.
“Oh, I volunteer here. I help match up pets and their owners, and such. Are you new to Neopia?”
She gasped. “How did you guess?”
Yes, she had the definite mark of a newbie. “Luck. Now, we have many species of Neopets here. I think you should start out with...” I looked at her again, and amended my earlier thoughts, “a Zafara.”
“Fluffy and cute?”
I did my best not to crack up at the expression on her face. “Yes, they’re very fluffy and cute.”
Well, Mellon had told me that a Zafara had been put in the cage next to his the night before when I had done my rounds that morning, and introduced me to the pet. She had seemed just as hyper as this girl.
A little time passed, and we reached the appropriate section. A few of the pets called out raucous greetings to me, Raw demanding that I bring him some food right then, and I grinned back at them. Some of the pets I had met during my stay at the pound had been adopted by now, all of them having been matched up by me. But Mellon was still there, along with Mug, Raw, and Sols.
“You might be interested in this pet,” I told the girl, leading her to the cage of the new Zafara. She had red fur and a name with many numbers in it, but the girl didn’t seem to mind.
“Ohemgee! You’re so cute! Would you like to come home with me?” the girl babbled at the Zafara.
“Of course!” the Zafara practically yelled. I smiled proudly as the newbie opened up the cage and led her new pet down the hall, holding her head up proudly. In the next cage over, Mellon snickered.
“You know,” I murmured to the Blumaroo who had, over time, become one of my best friends, “I could find you a human just as sarcastic as you are to be your owner, if you’d let me. You wouldn’t have to get a screeching newbie.”
“I feel just fine right here, thanks anyway,” he drawled. I sighed. I had already tried to match Mellon up with various humans several times, but he always refused. He turned his laughing eyes toward me. “Heard from Chall recently? Or Vent?”
“Vent absolutely loves her new owner,” I drawled as levelly as he had, managing to keep a straight face. Vent had been positively ecstatic upon finding out that her new owner managed the part of a mall which dealt with beauty products. “And I ran into Chall at the Pizzaroo the other day. She seems pretty happy.”
Mellon shuffled his feet uncomfortably for a moment, then looked up at me. “You know, you made the right decision.”
“Not staying here permanently.” I looked up in surprise; I had thought that only Dr. Death and I knew about that possibility. “Oh, don’t look so shocked. Anyway, you wouldn’t have felt right here, always hiding away. What you’re doing now is much better.”
“At least you think so,” I mumbled, not letting him see that I was happy to finally meet his approval.
“Having a tough time with that owner of yours?”
I nodded glumly. I had been volunteering at the pound for a few weeks now, but Terri still wasn’t comfortable with me spending so much of my free time away from home. Especially at the pound.
“Don’t worry about it. She’ll get over it with time; they always do. Trust me, I know. Now, back to your duties, Mister Pseudo-Poundee.”
I laughed a bit at his new title- he thought them up on a constant basis- and headed off down the hall. There were still more owners out there to help, after all, and I wouldn’t give up until all the pets in the pound had been adopted.
Even the ones who liked to pretend that they didn’t want to go.