The Sound of Love: Part One
Meg looked up from the latest issue of the Neopian Times to see her Baby Gelert, Dan, with his front paws resting on her lap, his large brown eyes as warm and soft as ever. Meg smiled. “Yes, dear?”
“Can you hear love?”
“What do you mean, baby?”
Meg folded the newspaper and set it aside, careful not to knock over the mug of hot cocoa on the small table beside the sofa. She patted the couch cushion to invite the Gelert to sit with her. He obliged, jumping up and landing none too lightly on the couch beside her. Dan rested his head against Meg’s shoulder. “Love. Can you hear it?”
Meg sipped her hot cocoa thoughtfully. “Well, I suppose you can hear it sometimes.”
Dan looked up at her, his big brown eyes almost melting Meg’s heart. “How?”
Meg smiled as she put an arm around Dan. “You can hear love in laughter, in crying, in shouting, in whispering... in pretty much everything, if you listen.”
“Really?” Dan frowned. “I can’t hear love when you yell at me for doing something bad.”
Meg laughed softly and hugged the Baby Gelert closer. He nestled his head against her shoulder once more. Meg spoke softly, “Love’s there when I yell, baby. And you can hear it. You just have to listen.”
Dan yawned sleepily. “I’ll listen, Mama. Maybe next time I’ll hear it.” And he began to snore softly.
Meg smiled as she carried the sleeping Gelert into his room. Gently, she laid him on the bed and pushed a tattered Rainbow Gelert Plushie into his tiny paws. As she kissed Dan lightly on the head she murmured, “I sure hope so, baby.”
“Mama, hurry up!”
Meg hurriedly gulped down the rest of her orange juice at the sound of Dan’s voice. “I’m coming!” She managed to shout before succumbing to a horrible coughing fit. Dang orange juice. Why did she agree to leave this early?
Dan was waiting for her in the hall, his paw already on the doorknob. “Let’s go, let’s go! Are you okay?” he inquired. Meg was still coughing.
“I’m fine, baby. Just remind me never to drink orange juice that fast again.”
Dan giggled as Meg grimaced, pulling her coat on. He stared at her incredulously. “Why do you need a coat?”
“Because it’s a lot colder in Meridell than it is here in Mystery Island. You should bring yours, too.”
Dan made a face that clearly said, “are you out of your mind?!” but as he skipped off into the brilliant sunshine, Meg grabbed his jacket and stuffed it in her backpack.
When they finally arrived in Meridell, Dan endured five whole minutes of shivering before Meg took pity on him and handed him his jacket. Dan was considerably cheerful all through shopping, though, and in his joyous mood, he succeeded in making King Skarl laugh hysterically. This cheered up Meg quite a bit too, as her bag of neopoints felt considerably heavier after this and after a short picnic on the edge of the forest, the pair was almost ready to go home.
“Are we done now, Mama?”
Meg checked her list, a slight crease between her eyebrows. “Not yet, baby. We still have one more stop.”
Meg grimaced. “The Darigan Citadel.”
The smile on Dan’s face faded in an instant. “Aw, do we have to? That place gives me the creeps!”
The corner of his owner’s mouth twitched. “Yes, we do. Don’t you remember? Illusen said she needed a Darigan Bubble Blower. Where else am I supposed to get one of those? I hate to shop in the Neopia Central market place...”
Dan mumbled something indistinct, but Meg was sure she caught the words “not worth it.”
“Not worth it? This is quest number nineteen! One more and I can get a nice shiny prize and then we’ll be done with it, okay? This won’t take long.”
Dan sighed and shook his head but, resigned to the worst, he reluctantly followed Meg all the way to the Darigan Toys shop. Though unusually quiet, he did not complain until they were out of the shop, Meg now having purchased the Darigan Bubble Blower.
“That Moehog ripped us off.”
Meg laughed. “Well, what did you expect? This is the Darigan Citadel after all... let’s go this way.” She gestured to an alley on their left.
Dan looked up at her, startled. “Why?”
“It’s a short cut, baby. I thought you wanted to get out of here quickly?”
Dan bit his bottom lip, apparently torn between wanting to leave quickly and walking down a dark, creepy alley. Finally he said, “Fine, but let’s walk fast, okay, Mama?”
“Alright.” Meg chuckled softly to herself as they turned left into the alley. Soon they found themselves in almost total darkness.
“We’re nearly there, baby, just a few more—”
But before she could finish her sentence, Meg ran into something furry and extremely solid. With a cry of shock, she fell over backward, almost flattening Dan, and hit the stone floor. Hard.
“Mama!” Dan shouted. “Are you okay?”
In the dim light, the Baby Gelert could just make out the form of his owner, still lying on the ground. But there was also someone moving on his right. Dan heard a quiet curse, and then—
“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
It was a male voice, though slightly higher pitched than usual, that spoke. Dan squinted, his eyes only just starting to adjust to the darkness of the alley. He could make out the outline of a medium sized, furry pet with a pair of bright yellow eyes. Dan stammered, “Wh-who are y-you?”
The unknown pet spoke softly once more. “I’m Thunder and I’m a Lupe. Keep your voice down! You never know who’s listening here....”
Dan turned away from the Lupe and said shakily, “M-mama?” He put his paw on her shoulder and shook her lightly. “Mama?”
“She’ll be okay.” Thunder spoke again, though Dan caught the uncertainty in the Lupe’s voice. After an uncomfortable pause, Thunder said with obvious relief, “Look, she’s coming ‘round now...”
Meg was indeed stirring; Dan could make out that much. She sat up slowly, rubbing the back of her head. “Are you OK, Mama?” Dan asked.
“Never been better.” Meg moaned softly as she felt something wet and sticky on the back of her head. “I... ran into something....”
“That something would have been me,” Thunder said in a small voice. “My apologies, miss. Let—let’s get out into the light, shall we?”
Bewildered, Dan and Meg followed the Lupe out of the alleyway. Even on the main streets of Darigan, the light was minimal; Dan could just make out the general outline of buildings in the distance. In the dim lighting, Dan saw that Thunder was a Shadow Lupe, probably about as old as Dan himself. He looked unhealthily thin, and Dan felt a sudden surge of pity.
“So...” began Meg, looking Thunder up and down, “you’re the one I ran into, eh? What’s your name? You live here?”
The young Lupe bowed his head. “Sort of. My name is Thunder493.”
Meg arched a brow. “What do you mean, ‘sort of’?”
Thunder took a deep breath and said in a rush, “My owner left me in an alley here a week ago.” Then, slightly more slowly, as if weighing his words, the Lupe added, “He—he never came back for me. I’ve been here ever since. I—I haven’t been able to steal much food, and the people and pets here aren’t exactly g-generous—” He broke off, apparently intensely interested in a Spyder crawling up the side of a building. His yellow eyes looked oddly bright.
Dan looked up at Meg and saw that her expression of curiosity and interest had melted into mingled compassion and sympathy. She crouched down so she was level with Thunder, who tore his gaze away from the Spyder with difficulty. Then she said gently, so that Dan could practically hear the love in every syllable, “I’m sure we could make room for you, if you wanted a new home. You know, give a family another shot.”
Thunder’s face relaxed into a small smile at her words. “Really? I—I’d like that.”
Meg positively beamed at him. She turned to Dan. As Dan looked up at her, he smiled, nodding his head ever so slightly. She smiled back, sealing the silent agreement, and then turned to Thunder.
“I guess I never properly introduced myself,” said Meg. “I’m Meg, by the way. And this,” she gestured at Dan, “is Dan. He’s my only pet. Or he was until, like, a minute ago.”
As Meg continued to ramble on, Dan smiled at Thunder, his new brother. As Thunder timidly returned his smile, warmth tingled in Dan, all the way from the tips of his ears to his toes. Thunder, perhaps for the first time, had heard the sound of love.
A tinkling bell sounded in the Neopian Pound, preceding a blonde teenage girl and a miserable looking Spotted Kougra on a leash. Dr. Death cast a quick glance at them before returning to his papers. Not until the pair approached the front desk did he look up with a bored expression.
“You here to abandon?” he inquired gruffly.
The girl nodded, tugging on the leash and forcing the Spotted Kougra forward.
Dr. Death didn’t even glance at the Kougra. “Pet’s full name?”
“Inanna05,” the girl said clearly. The Kougra just glowered at an advertisement for the Book Shop tacked up on a corkboard.
“Right.” The Techo rustled through another stack of papers before finally pulling out an official looking sheaf of paper. “Fill this out. The fee is 250 neopoints. And sign this, too,” he added, thrusting another paper at the girl. The girl nodded and started writing down the required information.
The girl was finished within five minutes. After paying, she mutely handed the Kougra’s leash to Dr. Death and left without another word or backward glance. Pointedly ignoring the tears forming in the Spotted Kougra’s eyes, Dr. Death dragged her roughly through a back door, pushed her into a cage, locked it, and returned to the main room, the Kougra’s muffled sobs still echoing in his ears.
“Hey, guys... you know, I’ve been thinking....”
Dan and Thunder exchanged significant looks across the table. The last time their owner Meg had started a sentence using those words, the brothers hadn’t been able to get a decent night’s sleep for a week, owing to the fact that Meg had persuaded Dan to agree to get a Kadoatie. What a nightmare, Dan thought. Thunder rolled his eyes at him. Meg, sipping hot cocoa and reading the Neopian Times, failed to notice the reactions of her audience.
Apparently, their owner had also lost her train of thought. Thunder, going against his better judgment, cleared his throat loudly and said, “Um... you’ve been thinking about what, Meg?”
She jumped, splattering some hot cocoa on the front page of the newspaper. “What?” How she could drink hot cocoa when it was over eighty degrees outside, was beyond Dan.
Dan sighed. “You were saying, Mum?”
“Oh. Right.” Meg finally put down the newspaper, her eyes darting between Thunder and Dan, watching closely for their reactions. “Well, I was thinking that maybe... maybe we could go to the Pound and adopt you guys a new brother or sister today.”
Thunder drummed his paw on the table thoughtfully. “You know, I wouldn’t mind... but I’d better have a say in who we adopt.”
“Of course,” Meg said. She turned to the Baby Gelert. “Dan?”
Dan shrugged. “Sure, it’s fine with me.”
Meg smiled. “I was hoping to adopt a girl. I don’t think I could handle three boys in the house....”
“Like I said, as long as I get a say in the matter,” Thunder said, returning his attention to his hot cakes.
“Same here,” piped up Dan.
Meg grinned at them both, her eyes shining. “OK, let me just get a few things ready and then we can go!” And with that, she finished the last of her hot cocoa and left, leaving the two pets pondering the thought of a potential sister.
An hour later, a bell tinkled in the Pound again, announcing the arrival of Meg, Thunder, and Dan. Meg led Dan and Thunder toward the front desk, where a friendly Pink Uni greeted them. She smiled at them as they approached.
“Are you here to adopt?”
“Yes,” replied Meg, tossing her brown hair back in a businesslike sort of way.
The Uni’s smile widened. “Right this way.”
As she led the trio through a back door, she asked, “Do you have any preferences on whom you wish to adopt?”
Meg threw half a glance over her shoulder at the two pets behind her before answering, “We’d like to find a female Kougra, if we can.” Neither Thunder, nor Dan contradicted her; they had already discussed this on the way to the Pound.
“Alright then.” The Pink Uni led them to a cage that contained a Blue Kougra that appeared to be sleeping. “This one’s name is Taketna. She used to be Speckled, but she turned Blue after a few days in here, poor thing....”
The Uni continued showing them Kougra after Kougra, but Meg made no comment to show she was interested until the sixth cage.
“And this is Inanna05,” the Uni was saying. “She was brought in early this morning.”
Inside the cage was a Spotted Kougra. She blinked up at them all, cocking her head. Her eyes looked red, and a little puffy. Dan thought she looked a little younger than Thunder, who was Dan’s age. It was hard to compare pets’ ages to himself, as he was painted baby, though he did not mind his paintjob in the slightest.
Meg had crouched down so she was at eyelevel with Inanna. The Kougra’s eyes looked hopeful. “How much for adoption?” Meg addressed the Uni without breaking eye contact with the Kougra.
“Let’s see...” said the Uni, checking her clipboard, “about 536 neopoints.”
Meg looked first at Dan, and then at Thunder. They both nodded. Meg turned back to the Kougra, smiling. “We’ll take her.”
The Uni beamed. “Splendid choice!” She unlocked the cage, setting a relieved Inanna free before turning back the way they had come. “Now, if you’ll just follow me, I’ll have your paperwork ready in a moment....”
While Meg was paying and filling out the adoption forms, Dan and Thunder took the opportunity to talk to Inanna. Thunder, who was far better at the social stuff than Dan, handled the introductions.
“Hey, I’m Thunder, and this is my brother, Dan.” Dan smiled at Inanna when she looked at him. She returned his smile gratefully.
“Hi, I’m Inanna, as you obviously heard, I guess.”
“So, you got a nickname?” asked Thunder.
“Nope,” she replied.
“Well, we’ll just have to get you one then, won’t we? I’ll think about it.”
Inanna raised her eyebrows. Dan just laughed. “Don’t take it personally; he interferes with everyone’s personal life.”
“Oh, ha, ha....”
“Okay everyone, we’re ready to go!” Meg called from the door, gesturing for the three Neopets to hurry. “And we really need to get back home, those construction guys should be finished with that new room soon, and I still haven’t paid them....”
“She can talk a lot, sometimes,” Thunder muttered to Inanna. She giggled.
Dan just rolled his eyes, though he couldn’t help but feel good inside. They had just taught someone else the sound of love.
To be continued...