Abandoned: Part Two
The white Usul stood at the edge of the bay window that overlooked the landscaping of the Neopian Pound. For a place that had such an ominous meaning, it was definitely designed very brightly. Every inch of the building that she had seen so far was decorated with expensive furniture, all in good taste. But the beautiful décor couldn’t shake the feeling of hopelessness that had settled over Taite. The reality was the same, no matter what the room looked like. Her owner was gone. Her beloved, loyal Belinda, whom she had known since birth, had taken off and left her here. Just like that. Now, she felt like an orphan, an outcast.
Taite sighed and turned away from the glass window. She picked up her Chesterdrawer’s luggage and strolled toward the Regal Oak Wood Bed. She collapsed onto it, praying that her tears would stay in her in eyes. She couldn’t cry about this. Belinda hadn’t cried. Belinda had barely shown any emotion at all. And Taite would do the same. She wouldn’t let her owner’s cruel decision get her to break down.
At that moment, the oak door leading into the bedroom burst open. Three practically identical pink Unis sauntered in, their voices filled with laughter. Taite stared at them, in awe at how well they pulled off the Neovian attire. The one in the center paraded into the room in a Fancy Pink Gown. The Curled Blonde Wig that her pink ears poked out of would have looked ridiculous on any other pet, but it gave the girl a sophisticated, vogue look. Atop the curls sat a Pink Sun Hat, much similar to the one that now lay by the bay window. To the right of the wig-wearer was a slightly smaller Uni dressed in a Long Orange Dress. She clutched a cup of coffee, as well- Golden Juppie Delight, if Taite wasn’t mistaken. The girl to the left had the same drink, although she was dressed much less extravagantly than the other two in a simple Long Blue Dress. She was also nibbling on a Lemon Tart. Apparently the three had been to Neovia recently...
“Yes, my mother was horrified when I told her she had to buy a Uni Morphing Potion and a Pink Paint Brush, but what was she going to do? She didn’t really have a choice!” cried the one in the orange dress.
The Uni in the center answered her. “Well, we all know Tasha would do just about anything to get you out of the house! She’s very blunt about that, you know. Anyway, Daddy didn’t much care that he had to pay for those things for me. It was his idea for me to work here in the first place! ‘Give back to the community’ and whatnot.”
Finally, the third girl began to speak. Taite noticed that her voice was softer and less self-assured than the other two. “I should think that Banner was fairly happy that I only needed a pink paint brush. She’s been shopping...” She tapered off as she noticed the white Usul stretched out on the bed, staring blatantly at them. “Do we amuse?”
Taite opened her mouth to respond, but the middle Uni cut in before she could get out a word.
“Pardon Cardea. We’re still working on her manners. I’m Kiran and this is Asha.” The pink pet nodded to the girl on her right. Then her voice dropped and she whispered loudly, “Cardea here is still getting used to being upper-class. Her ego’s grown ten times since her owner won the Neopian Lottery.”
As Kiran broke off, Asha stepped up. She tilted her head and studied the Usul and her luggage. After a moment, she spoke. “We didn’t realize you would already be up here. We volunteer here as maids, and we were just coming up to turn down your sheets and leave some lunch for you.” She paused for a moment before adding, “It’s our first day on the job.”
Taite gave them a small smile, unsure of how to act. They were obviously of high society, the kind of pets Taite was used to, and yet they were volunteering here. Why...? Taite and her friends had never dreamed of donating anything- time, money, items, whatever. It had been out of the question. And yet, the three elegant Unis seemed right at home as they laid out a meal on the dining table and set the dinner plates- four of them. Apparently, she wasn’t eating alone tonight. Taite wasn’t sure what to do, so she decided to talk to them. They seemed nice enough, and maybe she could even give Cardea a second chance.
A melodic voice called from across the room. “Liv told us to keep you company! She thought you might be a little lonely. I hope you don’t mind!” Kiran laughed, and Taite wasn’t sure if she cared or not. However, it seemed that she didn’t have a choice.
“Of course not. Make yourselves at home. Oh, I’m Taite, by the way.”
Asha straightened up, apparently finished laying out the appetizers. She strolled over to the Usul and grabbed her by the arm, dragging her to the table. “Well, Taite, it’s nice to meet you! Now sit, eat, relax, be merry... And for our appetizers this fine afternoon, we have a Hummus for all of us to split and individual Altadorian Olive Salads. To fit in with the Altador theme, we have Nectar of the Heroes to drink.”
Taite slid into a chair and the others followed. Eying all the delicious food, Taite was suddenly ravenously hungry. Needless to say, she hadn’t been in the mood to eat her breakfast this morning. Now, she felt as if she could eat the Giant Omelette! Things were already looking up, so long as she didn’t try to think about Belinda. To keep her mind off this certain sore subject, Taite turned to the comfort of all comforts- food.
The Usul dug into her salad, and she noticed the three girls doing the same. There was something about them she liked, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was. Maybe she just desperately needed friends right now.
“I’ve been craving this for the past three weeks!” Cardea spoke for the first time since Kiran and Asha had scolded her. She was daintily biting into a piece of bread piled with hummus. One wrong move of the hand sent the dip smack onto Cardea’s muzzle, and all four of them laughed at the charade.
Taite grinned and grabbed some hummus for herself. She nibbled it, noticing that it really was good. With three potential friends and a banquet of expensive foods waiting to be eaten, the Usul could finally keep her wandering mind off the more pressing matters in her life. She watched the other girls giggling and eating, and Taite leaned comfortably against the back of her chair. ‘Maybe it won’t be so bad here after all,’ she thought.
“I propose a toast!” Kiran proclaimed giddily. She raised her goblet, filled with Sparkling Grape Juice, and waited for the others to do the same. Asha groaned and laid a hoof over her stomach. She grumbled something about being too full, but reached for her glass anyway. Taite and Cardea followed, lifting their golden cups.
“To our new friend Taite,” Kiran paused to gesture toward the Usul, “that she may find what she needs in this oh so lovely place.” Taite smiled, but something about Kiran’s sarcasm about the pound worried her. So far, everything seemed elegant and cozy. What was Kiran referring to? But the Usul decided not to bother herself with it. Maybe Kiran was just used to being pampered...
Everyone clicked their chalices together, and Cardea and Asha spoke their agreement. Once again, Taite smiled. It meant the world to her that these girls had accepted her, but even their presence couldn’t erase the gnawing in her stomach.
Taite moved her compact mirror around, studying herself from many different angles. She felt absolutely relaxed. Her fur had been shampooed twice, conditioned, and then blown dry. Following that, she had been thoroughly brushed from head to toe and sprinkled with Cloud Usul Perfume. Her nails had been clipped and painted red, to match the bands at the base of each of her ears and the bow tied at the top of her tail. She had a fresh coat of makeup, impeccably brushed teeth, and had been scrubbed with the Usul Exfoliating Brick to remove any dead skin. Now, she was reclining in a lounge chair with a Relaxing Eye Mask covering her face as some Adoption Center Spa worker rubbed moisturizing cream into her face and feet.
She lay there quietly for what seemed like an hour, listing to the soft music in the background, before someone broke her trance. A worker bent over to remove the mask from around her head and gave her a sad smile.
“Sorry, sweetie, it’s over.” She had a Krawk Island accent that aggravated Taite slightly. The woman beckoned to a Lupe, who trotted over. “She’s done and so are the Faerie Acara, Maraquan Shoyru, Yellow Ogrin, Blue Yurble, Ice Chomby, and Shadow Moehog. Take these seven to Liv.”
Liv. There was that name again. Taite’s ears perked up as she realized that she might finally find out who this person was. Was she a prospective adopter? A social worker? Some Neopian Times reporter who was doing an expo on the Neopian Pound? The Usul was dying to see who or what she was.
“All right everyone!” the Lupe barked. “My name’s Tristan and I’ll be bringing you to the Director of Neopian Adoption who runs the Adoption Wing here. It’s a bit of a walk and I expect you all to follow some behavioral rules on the way there. First of all, no talking. The area we will be traipsing through contains many business offices where people do dreary work that demands concentration. I will not allow any of you to break that concentration. Got it? Secondly, stick with the group. No wandering around, poking at this or that. If you get lost in this place, you will never get out. Third and finally, do not ask the Director any stupid questions. She is a very busy woman and doesn’t need to answer a hundred pointless questions. That’s it. Let’s go.”
Taite deflated. The Director of Neopian Adoption... That’s all Liv was- not some advocate for abandoned pets. She ran this place, supported it. Taite sighed and followed after the Lupe, along with the other pets. They made their way out of the spa and headed down a broad corridor. They walked for a while, sometimes breaking off onto other pathways to wound about the building. What Tristan had said was true. She did not want to be lost in this place.
A knock at the door drew Liv’s attention from her paperwork. “Who is it?” she called in a sing-song voice.
“Come in, come in!” The pretty pet smiled cherubically as the door swung open, presenting Tristan in front a small group of Neopets.
Taite almost rolled her eyes as she saw the long-awaited Liv. ‘Gee, shocker... Another pink Uni.’ She almost said the words aloud, but thought better of it. If this was the person in charge of finding her new owner, she definitely didn’t want to make her mad.
“Well, welcome! I’m Liv, the Director of Neopian Adoption. Part of my job is to settle in new pets, like all of you. The other part of my job is helping the pets that stay here to find happy new homes. Today, each of you will receive a different room than the ones you stayed in last night. You will have one or two roommates. When I call your name, please raise your hand and I will tell you where you will be staying and who you will be staying with. Tide?”
A small blue Yurble stood up straighter and raised his hand.
“You will be downstairs in the Adoption Wing in a room with Henri, a Tonu, and Churro, a Chomby. Dominique?”
This time, a yellow Acara with elaborate pink wings energetically waved her paw in the air.
“Your room is on the third floor of the Adoption Wing. Belle the Aisha will be keeping you company.”
It went on like this for a few minutes as she called out the other names. Phenn, Garnet, Cache, Eclipse, and finally...
The white Usul responded by raising her arm unceremoniously. After all, she was the last one left.
“You’ll be rooming on the first floor of the Adoption Wing with a Shoyru called Dior.” She paused for a second and took them all in. Then, she went on to give instructions. “Tide, Phenn, Eclipse, and Garnet, follow Tristan. He will take you to your rooms. Cache, Taite, and Dominique, I will personally lead you to your rooms. All of your stuff should be dropped off within an hour of you getting there. Any questions?”
A withering stare from Tristan silenced them all.
“Nope? Good! If you ever need anything, ask one of the workers to get me. I don’t mind helping anyone out. Okay, then! Off we go!”
Taite raised her eyebrows, but followed Liv out the door all the same. She held her breath, hoping that the group would run into Kiran, Asha, or Cardea on the way.
Liv and Taite walked alone down a narrow hallway. They had already dropped Cache and Dominique off in front of tiny, old doors that undoubtedly led to tiny, old rooms. But Taite hadn’t gotten so much as a peak of what lay beyond either wooden door, so she was only left to assume. All she knew was that strolling in silence with Liv was awkward. The Uni kept making attempts at a conversation (What room did she stay in last night? Which maids waited on her? Had she enjoyed the spa?), but all such attempts failed. Taite kept answers as short as possible and put as little emotion into them as she could. No matter how cheerily Liv conversed with her, Taite wasn’t here by choice. This wasn’t a vacation, a getaway. This was her life and it was being slowly but surely ruined- by Belinda, by Belinda’s sister Bridgette, by that annoying little overachiever of a pet...
Liv stopped short, focusing Taite’s attention once more. They stood in front of a door very similar to the others she had seen. Liv smiled softly and nodded. “This is it. Your stuff should be here soon.” With that, she turned on her heel and walked away. Just like that. Taite sighed. So this was it... This was how it was going to be from now on. So be it.
Taite grabbed the key Liv had given her and turned the lock. She opened the door and stepped over the threshold, finding herself in yet another corridor. This was a long, thin one that bore straight ahead. Since there were no other options, Taite walked numbly down the dimly lit passageway until she came to the end. It opened into a small room, which was guarded by a twisted iron gate that seemed as if belonged in the garden of some haunted mansion. The gate was unlocked and Taite felt herself open it, step inside.
As she stared at the grey walls, dung-like furniture, and small, dirt-caked window, the Usul collapsed to the ground. In front of her, a Spyder scuttled to its web with something in its mouth. ‘This is my home...’ That one dismal thought sent her into tears. Water streamed from her eyes, hitting the dusty floor. This place, this stupid place, was no better than the cages they kept the Kadoaties in. And yet, this was the room that she was going to sleep in, live in. She crumbled even more at this realization. Her life, once quite glamorous, had fallen apart so quickly. This place was all she was now. She was this and only this. Alone.
To be continued...