I woke up to the banging of pots and pans down in the kitchen. I groaned, but didn't complain. The smell of fresh omelettes and bacon soon drifted up the stairs, pulling me out of bed. I stumbled over to my vanity table and sank down into the chair. The vanity had been a horrible pink thing when Tay first brought it home, but we soon painted it a dark blue and replaced the two side mirrors with cork board. Pinned up on the cork board were pictures of me and my new family. In one, Seth and I sat on the front steps of the house, with bored smiles on our faces. In another, Tay, Akari, and I were laughing at a rather grumpy looking Seth, who we had bribed into wearing a pink party hat. It was weird, looking at those pictures. It was as if I had always been a part of the Fang family, when in reality I had only been living with them for three months.
"Lo, you up yet?" Akari called from outside my door.
"Yah, I'm up and having a minor panic attack!" I said, trying to sound sarcastic. My voice broke.
"Oh, come on. It's just your first day of school!" she said brightly, poking her head through the door. Akari has to be the most beautiful faerie Eyrie alive. If I looked like that, I wouldn't have been panicking so much. Sadly, I am but a tomboy-ish shadow Xweetok. Life is never fair.
"Yes, just my first day of school, when my social status will be determined and any mistakes will haunt me for the rest of my school career!" I hissed, banging my head on the table.
"Oh, relax. Here, I made you something." She giggled and dropped a gift on the table in front of me. Looking down, I saw a beautiful wing-shaped charm made for twisted silver wires, attached to a choker-length deep red ribbon.
"Ree... it's so... but I don't... thanks," I stuttered. Sure, I live in a house of artists, but I haven't quite gotten used to the beautiful gifts they shower me with.
"It's nothing. Here, let me put it on for you!" She snatched it up and tied it around my neck. The effect was dazzling. Somehow the beauty of the necklace muffled my tomboy appearance and gave me a more delicate, feminine look. I gave Akari a grateful smile.
"Come on, breakfast is ready," Seth spat. He is definitely not a morning Kougra. Then again, he's not very happy at any time of the day. Ree and I swear his heart was painted Darigan along with his fur. I love him, though. He's a great big brother, as long as you stay on his good side.
"We're coming!" Akari and I chorused. Once in the kitchen, we took our normal seats around the table and attacked our food. Tay is an amazing cook, but she must have the vents fixed so that we can always smell her cooking around the house. It's torture in the morning, waiting for the food to get to the table. When we were done, I ran upstairs to change into my new uniform, then ran back downstairs to meet up with Ree and Seth.
"Bye, Tay!" I called as I slipped out the door. I just caught Tay's goodbye as I ran down the driveway. Ree was already halfway down the street, flocked by her friends. Seth and I walked behind them in companionable silence. We were a bit early, so Seth decided to take a detour to the music store. Typical of him, putting music before all else. I sat on the bench outside the store, sketching the faces of those who walked by. It's amazing how diverse facial expressions can be. One old Lenny walked past looking like someone had just told him his favorite Petpet was missing, while a little pink Acara skipped in the other direction, looking like she had just won the lottery. I didn't even recognise the Lupe until it struck me how familiar my sketch looked. I glanced up in surprise, and sure enough, there stood Damon.
"About time! I thought you'd forgotten me." He grinned, realising I had seen him.
"Of course not. How could I forget?" I said with false enthusiasm. Damon was one of the runaways I had hung out with after escaping one of my former foster homes. We had it pretty rough back then, but he had always looked out for me. Then one day someone came looking for me, and he tattled like a toddler.
"Listen, I hope you're not still mad. They gave me four thousand Neopoints. That's enough to feed all the kids for a long time!" he said bluntly.
"No, I'm not that mad. I'm in a good home now, anyway..." I shrugged. I used to hate him, but ever since I became a Fang I was almost grateful.
"A good home? What have they done to you? Where is the rebel I once knew so well? They have you dressed up like a reject Usuki!" He laughed. My hatred came back.
"This is my school uniform, Damon. The Fangs let me wear whatever I want. If you're going to be mean, go away." I glared at him. His sneer dropped away and his eyes widened. For a second I though he was afraid of me. Then I felt Seth's paw on my shoulder.
"This guy bugging you, Lo?" Seth growled, his red eyes flashing dangerously. I looked back at Damon, who was sulking away already.
"No. He's just an old acquaintance, back from my past to haunt me."
"Don't be so bitter, Loki. They may have you buying the story now, but where will you be in a few months when they get sick of you? The gang will always have a spot open for you when the going gets rough," Damon called over his shoulder.
"Ignore him, Loki. You're a Fang now, no matter what," Seth muttered. We began to walk toward school, but I wasn't worried about that anymore. All I could think about was what Damon had said. Where would I be in a few months? The Fangs were the best thing that had ever happened to me. I couldn't imagine losing them. This was the longest I had ever stayed with a family without something going wrong. What if I messed up? Would they send me back to the Pound?
When we got to school, Seth led me to my homeroom and left me there. Suddenly I was on my own, with a bunch of kids I had never met before. I took a deep breath and smiled at everyone as I took my seat in back. The girl next to me, a pretty ghost Usul, turned toward me and smiled.
"You're Loki Fang, right? Akari and Seth's new sister?" she asked.
"That's me," I said, banishing my foul thoughts.
"You're so lucky. Ree is like, the most popular girl in school, and Seth is so cool and..." she trailed off and blushed. I realised that this must be a Seth Fan Girl. Odd, but amusing.
"They're great. It's nice to have a family for once."
"What do you mean, for once?"
"I used to be a foster kid. I've been in a lot of bad places, and roamed the streets a couple times. This is the first place I've really felt at home in," I said, surprised at how shocked she seemed. The rest of the day went somewhat like that first conversation. By the last period of my classes, I overheard someone saying that I was an ex-thief who had lived on the streets her whole life until the Fangs took me in and calmed me down. Funny how rumors start. Strangely, though, it had a positive effect on my social status -- everyone wanted to meet the "Bad Girl" from the streets.
It made me miss being that bad girl.
That night, I sat back in bed and looked up at my ceiling. It had been carefully painted with dark blue, then speckled with glow in the dark paint to look like the night sky. Damon's words kept playing through my head, taunting my newly built walls of safety. Everything I had come to take for granted was being torn apart in my mind. I sighed and got out of bed, then crept down the hallway. I could hear faint music from Seth's room, and Tay muttering nonsense in her sleep. I loved this family, but how much did they really love me?
Finally, my mind cleared enough for me to make the biggest mistake of my life. I went back into my room and flipped on the lights. My notebook lay open on my desk, so I ripped out a blank sheet and began to write.
Dear Fang Family,
These last few months have been amazing. I have come to love you all, and I could never express my gratitude enough. Sadly, I am unsure of how long this feeling will last and I would rather leave now and have only happy memories, instead of waiting for things to go bad. It isn't your fault, it's mine. I am not the good kid you deserve. I don't want to bring any unhappiness into your house because of the mistakes I have made in the past. Please forgive me.
Loki... forever a Fang
I stuffed my sketchpad, a couple of pencils, and my favourite clothes into my backpack, then left through the back door. I slept on the bench in front of the music store that night. After sleeping in a comfortable bed for so long, I couldn't relax outside in the crisp autumn air. Morning came all too quickly. I decided against finding a better spot to stay and pulled out my sketch pad. The Neopets who were rushing about, opening their shops and running early morning errands, proved quite inspiring. I was deep in thought when someone sat down next to me.
"Nice morning," Seth said. I jumped and spun to face him. He regarded me with his garnet eyes, his expression both sad and hurt. "Lo, I told you not to listen to that kid yesterday."
"He was right, Seth. I'm bad luck. Everywhere I stay, something goes wrong!" I croaked, blinking back tears.
"That was before you joined our family. Loki, we'd never, ever give you up. Why won't you believe that?" He looked away, as if I had done something unbelievably cruel.
"I do believe that you love me. I just don't want to ruin it," I whispered.
"The worst thing you've ever done is leave, Lo. Tay and Ree have been crying all morning. I don't know what we'd do if we really lost you!" Seth grabbed my shoulder and gave me a pleading look. I couldn't find any words to tell him how sorry I was. Instead I hugged him tightly, wishing I never had to let go.
"Come on, Lo. Let's go home." He smiled down at me. I love my big brother.