Kadoatery Khronicles: Part Three
That evening the Kadoaties had their usual gossip. Naturally this time it was about Freddie, and nobody was exactly thrilled with their new “friend.”
“He hasn’t said a word to anyone except Vash!”
“I know. During our introduction, he just nodded at me!”
“Is he just shy, or... what?”
“He must be stuck-up!”
Freddie slumped to the floor of his cage, listening to everyone talking about him as if he wasn’t there with a gloomy expression. “I wanna go home already.”
“Hey, don’t just sit there!” Vash meowed in the friendliest tone he could muster. “Tell everyone what you’re really like!”
“No way,” Freddie grumbled. “You gotta admit, it would be embarrassing to shout, ‘Ladies and Gentlekads, my name is Freddie, and I am not an aloof snob!’”
The spotted Kad had a point. There had to be something else he could say, something that would actually help. He realized he knew someone who was an expert at breaking the ice. Looking into Firefly’s cage, Vash asked, “Any tips for making friends?”
Firefly woke up from the nap he was taking, lifting his large head away from the cage floor. “What? Hm... Try showing Freddie a special trick. Like...” He took a long yawn, and then his eyes brightened. “Oh! Show him how to open his cage!”
The pink one shouted to Freddie, “Hey! The Kadoatie who used to be in your cage showed us how to open our cages.”
He paused to make sure the other was paying attention. The spotted Kadoatie was on his paws with his head tilted and an expression that did hint at interest.
“See... you grab the lock on your cage, like this, see?” He made his paw movements as big and easy to see as he could. “Then you push on the front of your cage, like this... Now twist it to the left! Oh, see? There it is!”
Vash then told Freddie how to lock his cage, again with large, very obvious movements. He watched him check out both the opening and closing. At first there was only the rattle of the lock, but then the cage door squeaked almost nonstop as it swung open and shut. “Thanks,” he meowed, half laughing. His tone was the warmest that Vash had heard from him so far, which was a definite good sign. “Now I’ll go for those snacks if nobody feeds me!”
“Hey, buddies! It’s almost bedtime! I’ll give you your dinner first,” chirped George as he swept into the room and began passing out the Kad snacks.
Freddie’s mouth fell open as if he had expected George to starve them, which made both Vash and the Neopet chuckle a little. When the blue Zafara saw the Kadoatie’s shocked expression, he scratched him under the chin and said reassuringly, “Yes, you get fed! So no breaking out of your cage at night if you don’t get a Blue Draik Egg. Not that you know how... ha-ha!”
“If only he knew,” Freddie purred to his new friend. Vash smiled back.
George fed the others, switched off the lights, and left. Vash curled up in the back of his crate, somehow much more relaxed at having taken care of something he was worried about. There were a couple of voices.
“Er, hey. You...” That was Freddie.
“Yeah?” The second voice was a female’s, and sounded a little annoyed.
“It’s just... could you tell me your name, again?”
“Oh. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too!” Winona sounded a little shocked. “And... good night.”
Vash couldn’t help but smile. In a couple minutes, he learned that Freddie snored. Loudly. Ren gave a grumble below him. Unlike Ren, the snoring didn’t make it harder for him to fall asleep. He was satisfied. After all, he was glad he'd finally befriended Freddie.
For the next several weeks Vash only chatted with Freddie in an attempt to open him up, rarely Suiko and Ren, and never Firefly, his first Kadoatery buddy. For a while, it seemed to be nothing but good. Not only was Freddie starting to be a bit more social, but when the other Kadoaties saw what good friends Vash and Freddie were, they all decided to get to know the spotted Kad. As Vash could have predicted on Freddie’s first night, he and Winona were the best of friends. More and more attention was directed away from Firefly. Even his closest neighbors tried to stick their gigantic heads out of their cages to shout to Freddie.
Then one evening, the by then popular Freddie was too preoccupied with talking to his neighbors to chat with Vash. For a while, he just sat bored, waiting for someone to talk to. He did remember his Suiko and Ren, but they were even talking to the spotted Kad. That’s when the pink Kadoatie remembered Firefly, and faced the cage he hadn’t faced for a while. “Hi, Firefly,” he mewed, peering inside.
The cage didn’t look how he expected or vaguely remembered. It was pretty much the dirtiest, dustiest cage he could picture. The green Kadoatie was curled in the cage’s corner with his tail pulled over his mouth and his eyes as dull as his fur. Vash tried to lighten himself up by thinking, What’ll his owner say about these conditions? But that just made it worse.
“Huh?” The cage’s occupant sat up with a start.
“Hi, Firefly!” Vash repeated. “Want to talk?”
“Oh? Wait. You are who, again?” Firefly moaned.
“Um, it’s Vash. You know, the Kadoatie you said hi to a couple weeks ago?”
“Oh, yeah. Hi, Vash, I guess.”
“So, would you like to chat?”
“Sure. It’s about time. Nobody else talks to me. Thanks to that Freddie.”
Vash looked down. “Well, okay.” He lashed his tail nervously. “I-uh-I hope you haven’t been too upset. You know, since nobody’s hanging out with you.”
“No worries, I’ve been having the time of my life,” Firefly growled sarcastically. “It’s no problem being completely ignored, having George forget to clean my cage, and having my best friends forget about me because of a cool newbie!”
“Uh, change of subject! So, has anyone fed you an item lately?”
“Have you honestly been ignoring me that much?” He jabbed his tail at the sign in front of his dusty cage that read “Half-Eaten Berry.” “People have been ignoring me so much that Neopets won’t even feed me a super-common item!” Firefly shook out his fur and was surrounded in a cloud of dirt. “How many times has Freddie been fed so far, again?”
“But two of those were Blue Draik Eggs!”
The green Kad let out what was half a growl and half a sigh.
Vash gulped. He wondered if it was too late to tread lightly. Everything he said just made his old friend even madder. The only idea he had was to give some good new. He desperately racked his brain. “Well... ulp... on the bright side, everyone’s definitely warmed up to Freddie.” He smiled cheerily, but his fur bristled with the effort as right then he realized that was the worst thing he could say.
“Freddie!” Firefly spat, “He’s all anybody thinks about! You’re no exception!” He sat right back down, giving Vash a glare colder than he ever could have imagined from his old best friend. “I don’t want to talk to you! Good night!”
Vash was shocked at the reply. He opened his mouth to apologize, but thought better of it. The last thing he wanted was to make anything worse than it already was. Maybe the green Kadoatie wanted some alone time. He let Firefly curl back up and turned around, quietly meowing, “Well, good night to you, too.”
As usual, George stopped by later to turn the lights off, then went home. Vash tried to sleep, but he just couldn’t. There was something that seemed wrong. Something he was used to was missing. Maybe it was the silence. Yes, there was something strange about the silence. He just couldn’t figure out what it was. Of course, it was broken after not too long.
“Hey,” Ren mewed sleepily. Vash nearly jumped as he was jolted out of his train of thought. “Sorry. Could you wake up Freddie and tell him not to snore? If he does, I’ll never get to sleep.”
“Oh, Freddie’s not snoring,” Vash replied. A lightbulb flicked on in his head. That couldn’t be right.
In the middle of a yawn, Ren gave a sort of gasp. “Wait. Hold it. Freddie isn’t snoring? You’d better check on him!”
Of course! That was the reason for the silence. Freddie always snored when he slept, and he was always asleep by now. Could something be keeping him up or... was something more serious wrong?
Vash unlocked his cage, leaped onto the floor, and put his forepaws on the level of Freddie’s cage.
“Freddie?” he whispered, “Is everything fine?” He focused his eyes, and then gasped at what he saw.
He heard Suiko give a concerned mew. “What’s the matter?”
To be continued...