She wakes up.
Her eyes flutter open and there is light filtering in through the window above her. There is a commotion outside, but she can’t tell what’s going on. Maybe she should get dressed in case she has to leave. In case she has to relocate again.
Pulling on a T-shirt and jeans, the Ogrin peeks out her door, and her eyes open wide. There is the pink Uni, leading a human along the long hall. She tries to slow her heart down for fear of it getting smothered once more, but she can’t. No matter how she tries, whenever she sees that pink Uni, whenever another human begins exploring her hall, she can’t help but hope that she is picked. This time won’t be different than any other, she thinks to herself. Even though I’ve been here the longest, that just means I’ll be least likely picked out of anyone. No one wants me.
Her eyes stay locked on the Uni and human as the near her door. It looks like they’re going to head straight past it, but the human turns his head. Blue eyes sparkle as they playfully gaze at hers. Slightly frightened, she closes the door.
A few seconds later, it is open again.
The pink Uni and the human come in, trying not to wake the others up, and she sits down on her bed, heart beating so hard that it threatens to break through its set boundaries. Her ears straighten themselves out, and she is so nervous she can barely speak. “Hello,” she says, her voice dry, as the human boy pulls out a chair and sits down.
“Hi,” he responds. The Uni is standing near the doorway, not wanting to interfere with the flow of the conversation. “What’s your name?”
The Ogrin looks straight at the human and feels her throat clenching up. “Ceci,” she says softly, running a trembling hand through her soft, blue fur.
“Ceci,” the human repeats. A lock of his blond hair falls down across his face. “Ceci, my name is Andrew, and I think I’m going to adopt you.”
It is nighttime.
The fresh smell of pizza pervades the air as the three of them wait for their food. “I hope it comes soon,” Andrew says as his stomach lets out a little cry for nourishment. Ceci nods in agreement.
“It’s pretty busy tonight. We should be patient,” the speckled Zafara across from her says. “We probably won’t get pizza for another few minutes.”
She smiles and nods at her new big brother. “Still, you can’t not be hungry right now, Ryan. We’re sitting at a table in the middle of Pizzaroo. All of the people around us are eating pizzas, and do you smell that delicious odor?”
“Be quiet. You’re making my mouth water,” Ryan says, grinning. “Man, you’ve only been with us for a few weeks, but it feels like I’ve known you for my whole life.”
The table falls silent as they remember what life was like three weeks ago. Ceci thinks back to her hopelessness, to her low self-esteem. That was her; that was what she was. She never wants to go back to that horrible place. Even though the rumors about it make it sound worse than it really is, she never wants to go back there. She’s happy where she is.
A Blumaroo hops over, carrying a tray with drinks and a pizza. “Here you go,” he says politely, passing out the drinks and placing the pizza carefully in the middle of the table.
“Thank you so much,” Andrew says, and the Blumaroo walks off. “Well, what are we waiting for? Aren’t we all so hungry we can barely stand it?”
Ceci laughs and takes the first slice of pizza. As they eat and talk, she cannot help but take a few glances out at the night sky. One star is shining brightly, and she feels her heart jump. She wants to show Andrew and Ryan how happy she is. She wants to shine brightly like that star, to show her happiness to the world. The Ogrin lets out a contented sigh and turns back to her owner and brother.
She loves her new family. *
It is Saturday night, and they are sitting out on the front porch. The moon watches over Neopia serenely as Ceci and Andrew sit silently, thinking about whatever comes to mind.
A gentle breeze blows through the two of them. Ryan is inside, reading, but Ceci wants to be outside. She hates being inside. Inside reminds her of where she used to be; of who she used to be.
“Andrew?” Ceci asks softly, almost afraid of breaking the peaceful silence that has built itself up around them. “Why aren’t we at Pizzaroo tonight? It’s a tradition. We always go to Pizzaroo on Saturdays, so why not today?”
The blond-haired boy sighs, but does not answer. He still stares at the moon, the light winds pushing a lock of his hair across his face. The pale light of the nighttime sky echoes off his skin, and he reclines in his chair. “Well, Ceci, Ryan and I decided that it would be better if we only went every once in a while. You know, to make it more of a special treat. Pizza’s not very good for you anyway, Ceci. It’s just nice to have a Saturday to ourselves, you know?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” the Ogrin agrees, her ears drooping down to her shoulders. She likes going to Pizzaroo. It is what she looks forward to at the end of every week. It is a reward for trudging through mountains of schoolwork and the hardships of being the new kid.
“Ceci.” The Ogrin looks over to her owner to see his lips turned down into a frown. His eyes are dancing in every direction, searching for a place where they won’t look melancholy.
“Andrew, you seem solemn all of a sudden. Sad. What’s wrong?” Ceci asks. She sits up, her arms falling over her legs and into her lap. “You seem sad.”
“It’s really nothing... nothing you should worry about right now, Ceci.” Andrew looks away from the Ogrin. “Nothing that you need to worry yourself with. You’ve got school to catch up with, friendships to make. Don’t worry.” He is mumbling now.
“But Andrew, this is my family. I am worried. I’ll be more worried if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”
Andrew sighs deeply, almost as if he is asleep. Ceci leans back again, sensing that the conversation is over.
Andrew gets up and goes inside. *
It is morning, and Ceci is supposed to be asleep.
There is no sound in the halls, and the Ogrin gets up out of her bed, putting on a shirt and pants. The sun is just coming up over the line of trees in their backyard, and normally, at this time, no one’s awake. It is Sunday, serene, and even though she has no homework to do, she is dreading the week to come. It’s going to be much harder; she can tell somehow.
She wants someone to talk to, so she goes down the hall and opens the door to Ryan’s room. The bed is messy, the covers sprawled across the floor, but the speckled Zafara is nowhere to be seen.
And then she hears. There are two voices, very low, coming from upstairs. Andrew’s room. Furtively, she sneaks up the stairs, careful not to make a sound. The door is open a little bit, and, making sure no one sees, she leans up to it, trying to hear what the two of them are saying.
“Listen, I know that this is very hard for you,” Ryan is whispering, “but you’ve got to make a decision. You know what you can and can’t do. It’s non-stop. I’ve even taken a night job, and I get absolutely no sleep. Listen. I don’t know if you can survive like this, but I can’t. And when Ceci feels the effects of this... it’ll just be better for all three of us if—”
“Ryan, do you have any idea what that would do to her? Do you have any idea what she looked like, what she was like, before she came into this family?” Andrew’s voice is escalating now, but he manages to keep it down. “Do you have any idea what she was like before she came here? I can’t do that to her. Listen, listen. I’ll practice on games so I can get more Neopoints, and you’ll get promoted, and we’ll survive. We can make it through this. I know we can. And I know I can’t bring Ceci back there. Her eyes were... so hopeless. I don’t care how dirt poor we are.”
The Ogrin’s eyes widen. Is that what’s wrong? Are they really dirt poor? Why haven’t they told her?
“But think about this! If she keeps living here, she’s going to be way worse off. She’s going to have to have soup every day! She’ll have barely any clothes... don’t you understand? She’ll be better off away from here! Maybe someone else will adopt her, someone who’s financially stable.” Ryan sounds exasperated, and a tear forms in Ceci’s eye.
“Let’s just... let’s just see what happens. We should go wake her up now. The sun’s risen.”
Ceci hurries back down the stairs silently as Andrew and Ryan begin to stir. She is safely undressed and under the covers by the time the two of them come into her room. “Ceci, it’s time to wake up,” Ryan says, as Andrew shakes her lightly.
Sighing, she turns to face her owner and brother. “Good morning.” *
“Andrew, I really need to talk to you. And I don’t want you to leave this time.”
It is Saturday night again, and Ceci and Andrew are both on the front porch. Clouds hang below the moon, and the owner does not want to face Ceci right now. There’s too much on his mind, and Ryan is out working...
“Andrew. Come on. Please. This is really important. It’s been bothering me all week, and there hasn’t been time to talk until now.” The Ogrin looks like she doesn’t want to talk either, but something in her eyes, something in her heart is telling her to.
“Fine,” Andrew sighs.
“You... you can’t afford me, can you? There, I said it.” Ceci looks guiltily down at the wooden planks below her, and she can feel Andrew slide over. He laces his arm around her shoulder.
“Ryan told you?” he asks. “Whatever he says, I don’t care. I’m not going to put you back in that horrible place. We’ll just have to—”
“No. I heard you talking upstairs a few days ago. Why didn’t you tell me? If you can’t afford me...” The blue Ogrin looks back up at her owner and she sees only distress in his eyes. He can’t deal with this. It’s too much.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to keep you here, Ceci. Don’t worry. Ryan won’t convince me—no one can convince me—to abandon you. No one.” Andrew may be trying to comfort her, but his eyes speak differently. She can see the horror in them, the overwhelming feeling. And, biting her lip, she makes her decision.
“I want you to disown me.”
His eyes widen, azure color reflecting the dim light coming from inside the house. “Ceci, I could never...”
“I agree with Ryan. I know it’s too much for everyone to handle. You were never very rich to begin with, and I’ve only been depleting your savings. I can’t bear to be this – this weight on you guys anymore. I want to get adopted by someone who can afford to keep me. This isn’t me being spoiled, Andrew. I know very well that I could be in the pound for years. But I don’t want to do this to you, Andrew, no matter how much I love this family. It’s because I love you that I want you to disown me.” Andrew shakes his head, but Ceci puts her paw on his shoulder. “I know that you think I’m going to regret it, but, even if I do, I’ll know I did the right thing.”
“Ceci, don’t get me wrong, both Ryan and I love you,” Andrew argues, grabbing on to her paw. “We love you more than you understand. We’d live in poverty for you.”
“I don’t want you to suffer for me!” Ceci screams, and a tear falls down the side of her face. “I want you to be happy.”
“I’ll be happy as long as you’re with us!” Andrew argues.
“No you won’t. You can never be happy with me,” Ceci mumbles, and, not listening for an answer, she walks inside. *
She wakes up.
It is 2:23 Sunday morning, and Ceci silently slips out of bed. She is already dressed, and she’s pretty sure she knows the way to her destination. Quietly as possible, she walks out of her room, out of her house.
Or, at least, what used to be her house.
At the pound, she felt rejected, desperate. It was as if no one wanted her, no one wanted to love her and take care of her. She wished upon every star that took its place in the sky. She wished for a fleeting escape. She wanted to be part of a family.
It is all different now. She is sad, and she wants to get away: those feelings are the same. But this time, she actually feels like she’s leaving something behind; a little piece of her heart that she will never be able to replace. She knows she will regret it, but she also knows that she has done the right thing.
Even though tears trickle down her face, she can still see the sky clearly. The clouds have cleared partially, but there are very few stars in the sky tonight. There is one up there, brighter than all of the others, that seems to echo in her tears.
Sighing, she remembers Pizzaroo, and what it used to be like. She felt like she could be shining brightly, just like that star. But that was before she knew about everything her family was going through. And now, with the weight that knowledge brings, she feels that she may never become as bright as that star. She only hopes that Ryan and Andrew will, now that she has left.
Turning a corner, the Ogrin stops as she sees something glinting in the street. Careful not to cut herself, she picks it up and examines it. It is a pink shard of glass. A little piece of a heart, she realizes, and she reaches down to put it into her pocket.
Her eyes widen, and then she sighs. Shaking the tears out of her eyes, the Ogrin leans down and sets the piece of glass right down where she found it.
Noiselessly, she walks on into the night. *
It is day time.
A human is walking briskly down the streets of Neopia Central. He doesn’t want to cry yet. She’s probably still there, he thinks to himself, creating a little mantra. She is. I know she is.
He pushes through the double doors to the pound and walks straight up to the pink Uni at the front desk. Luckily for him, there’s no one in line yet, and he is able to speak with her immediately. “Hello,” he says, out of breath, “I need to speak to you about adoption.”
She eyes him suspiciously, but doesn’t say anything. “Do you know the pet you are adopting or would you like me to help you find a perfect match for you and your family?” she asks, slightly uninterested but constantly watching.
“There’s a pet here that I would like to adopt. Her name is Ceci, and she’s a blue Ogrin. 12 years of age, I forget how tall she is—”
“Sir, I know who you’re talking about. Let me check for you.” The Uni turns around towards a file cabinet and begins flipping through folders. The human looks around nervously, putting one of his fingernails to his mouth and biting very lightly. His eyes shift nervously. “Here, sir,” the Uni calls, and the blonde-haired human turns around.
“Yes?” he asks, heart speeding up. He’ll be able to adopt her again. He’ll make sure she knows she’s loved.
“Ceci was adopted about a half-an-hour ago. I’m afraid you’re going to have to pick someone else if you want to continue on with the adoption process.”
He leans back, sighing deeply. His arms drop down past his waist. “Oh.”
“If you would like me to, I can do some research and track down her new owner’s whereabouts and you can go visit her...” The Uni turns around to another file cabinet, poised to start searching once more.
“No... it’s okay. It’s fine, really.” The human turns around. “So, bye then.”
“Have a good day, sir,” the Uni says politely, and then cranes her neck to see the next person in line.
Heaving a heavy heart, the human walks home.