Truly Rainbow Lane
Bandit smiled to himself as he took another huge bite of the sausage in his fat paw, his brown winter scarf tied tightly around his fat neck. He gazed around his family’s backyard with a wave of happiness washing over his heart. In the middle of the rain-soaked lawn was a huge bonfire, its yellow flames reaching up to lick the sky and sparks dancing on the slow wind. On the opposite side of the crackling fire stood his owner, Amy, and his eldest sister, Charmy. From what his pointed ears could pick up, Charmy was chattering about a ‘fantastic’ necklace she had seen in a NeoCash Mall catalogue. Bandit smiled. He and his sister were extremely close, but how Charmy had changed. Once a food-loving tomboy, now she spent hours grooming her luscious Kacheek tail and pointing out what styles would look good on the rest of her family. Bandit turned his head. Sakura, one of his younger sisters, was playing with her food, mashing up the inside of a jacket potato with anguish. And finally there was Bandit’s younger sister, Bonitoe. She was flapping her yellow Korbat wings gently, hovering above the ground, huddled in a sweater that was a tad too big for her. Bandit had been edgy about Bonitoe when she had first arrived less than several weeks ago but he was warming to her.
Just then, a trail of sparks screamed upwards into the gloomy sky and exploded in a shower of green and blue lights.
“FIREWORKS!” Sakura screeched, leaping up and down, her huge white feet sinking into the mud as she landed.
“Wow,” Charmy breathed, her void-like eyes glittering. “So pretty. I wish we had some fireworks.”
There came a serious of far off booms and crackles.
“Aw, come on,” Amy replied, pulling her red jacket further over her thin black camisole, rubbing her hands on her hugely baggy jeans to warm her legs up and tilting her hat upwards to watch the explosions in the sky. “We have our roaring fire, our proper fireworks food, and we have each other! Don’t they say that’s the most important thing about family life – togetherness?”
Bandit smirked. Amy was barely a teenager. She was more like a sister than an owner. Charmy met Bandit’s gaze suddenly, her huge earrings winking in the light of the fire. They grinned at each other, and then raised their eyes to the murky horizon. Almost every house along Rainbow Lane was celebrating with fireworks. Screams and booms rose above the red roofed houses. Colour spread across the starless sky. Rainbow Lane was truly living up to its name.
Suddenly, Charmy moved towards the house.
“Going in for a drink,” she explained.
“I’ll come,” Bonitoe piped up, flying after her.
“Aw, what about the fireworks?!” Amy piped up.
“We’ll only be a couple of minutes.” Charmy laughed, opening the side door.
“I want juice!” Sakura decided suddenly, after them.
Amy’s stance slumped. Bandit laughed and beckoned her after him as he followed his sisters to the house. Might as well get a drink if everyone else was. Already Bonitoe was sitting at the kitchen table with her nose in a tall glass of water, tiny feet bouncing and elbows rested on the checkered table-cover. Charmy was bustling about with a recipe book in hand, making banana cream coffee, and Sakura was charging around the tiny kitchen searching for juice.
“Sakura, juice is in the fridge,” Amy said, pouring another glass of water.
Bandit had found a dog-eared paperback novel that he’d been reading earlier on the table and sat down before burying his large Lupe nose in its pages.
“I want hot juice,” Sakura barked. “It’s a cold night.”
Amy hung her jacket up on the side door and adjusted the chains on her black collar.
“Bandit, can you boil some water for Sakura’s juice?” she asked.
“OK,” Bandit replied, folding a page in his book and pushing away from the table.
Bandit was a Lupe of few words, somewhat like Bonitoe.
”I think I’ll make mushroom soup tomorrow,” Amy announced, smiling. “Or some Shenkuu dish. I feel like Shenkuu food. Something with rice and bamboo... or fish...”
“You’ve never made Shenkuu food before,” Bandit said quietly but sceptically.
“But you know how much I LOVE Shenkuu.” Amy grinned, waving her hands excitedly. “The art, the landscape, the food, the culture, the dress...”
“They do have fabulous decor,” Charmy added, stirring the hot liquid in her mug with a teaspoon.
Sakura gazed out of the window, her hazel eyes soaking up the sights of their back yard and tiny vegetable patch. She watched out carefully for fireworks reaching above the trees. It was rare for Sakura to stop charging around like an angry Tenna and actually take in her surroundings. Now she stood quieter than a Yullie, so shockingly calm that the whole family couldn’t help but just pause and follow her gaze out the window. But after a minute’s silence with no visible fireworks, the silence was shattered by Sakura’s yelling of, “I’m going to my room!” before she stampeded out of the kitchen once more.
It wasn’t long afterwards before Sakura came thundering back through with a thin box.
“Can we play a game?!” she asked loudly.
Bandit peered closer to what Sakura was holding up proudly. It was clearly a board game. Amy nodded, and Sakura rushed into the lounge to set her game up on the glass-topped coffee table. Charmy moaned and looked over at Amy disdainfully.
“Oh, come on,” Amy retaliated. “It’s not often we spend time together like this! It’ll be fun. When was the last time all of us played a game?”
“When was the last time you played a game, full stop?” Bandit added.
Charmy paused, and tweaked at the cream-coloured bow atop her head. She sighed. “When you put it that way...” she mumbled, and wandered into the living room to help her sister set up the game.
After some time, Sakura yelled at her family to come through and play. On the glossy coffee table was a rather battered edition of ‘NeoQuest II: The Board Game’, the counters and cards neatly set up.
“I’ve never played this game,” Bonitoe said, biting her lip with a tiny fang. “It looks awfully complicated...”
“We’ll walk you through it as we go along,” Amy said.
Bandit began explaining what to do to a completely confused Bonitoe. Charmy was sat on a scratchy straw sofa, her eyes skimming the pages of a NeoCash Mall catalogue. She curled a page round and pointed it towards Amy.
“See,” she said. “This is the necklace I was talking about. Isn’t it gorgeous?”
“Yeah, that would really suit you! Too bad we don’t have the money...” Amy said, taking the catalogue for a closer look at the shiny garment.
“HELLO,” Sakura barked with an obvious air of annoyance. “Family fun time. NO FASHION STUFF.”
Amy laughed, and Charmy reluctantly threw down her catalogue and crawled to the carpet to play the game. Sakura was extremely competitive. She loved sports and racing her friends in the street outside her home and up along Cairn Close, where her best friends resided. And if she didn’t win, she’d throw a tantrum. Sakura really was a good Kyrii at heart. She was always ready to defend her family. Except when it came to running or an amateur game of Yooyuball.
As the game commenced, she would moan if somebody made a wrong move and cheer smugly when she was winning. Charmy snapped back whenever Sakura complained, especially to Bandit.
And after a half hour of playing, the two were having a huge dispute over the table. Amy had tried to stop them, but their heated conversation had turned into a loud argument. Amy caught Bandit’s eye and they couldn’t help laughing. Bonitoe, however, was terrified – probably irrationally scared that the family would split up and she would be dumped into the Pound. It was her greatest fear in life.
But Amy took Bonitoe’s tiny, cold hand and led her to the kitchen, closely followed by Bandit. Bonitoe tweaked her faded gypsy girl headscarf as she finished the glass of water left behind from earlier in the evening. By now it was late and the muffled sounds of fireworks outside had almost completely come to an end. Bonitoe stretched her mouth in a tiny yawn.
“You know how much I hate to play the ‘mother’ role but it’s past your bed time, sleepy,” Amy said.
“Korbats are nocturnal,” Bandit stressed.
“Not this one.” Amy smiled.
“I’ve probably gotten used to sleeping at night now,” said Bonitoe, rubbing her eye with a tiny fist.
“Go change,” Amy said, giving Bonitoe a friendly and gentle push out the door into the hallway.
When Bonitoe returned in her warm footsie pyjamas, Sakura was still yelling at Charmy, Bandit was dosing at the kitchen table with his huge eyes shut and his cheek rested on a book, and Amy was sitting upon a cabinet.
“Hey!” Amy yelled into the living room. “You two are like a couple of Devilpusses. Bonitoe’s got to sleep now. Pack up.”
Charmy twisted round to look at the sliced bread wall clock on the creamy wall.
“Good Fyora!” she exclaimed. “Did we argue for that long?”
“It’s a household record, now shoo,” said Amy playfully.
Bonitoe made her way to the open living room door. Being a Korbat, she preferred to sleep hanging upside-down. And this is why she slept in the living room. Just then she flapped up, twisted over and latched her yellow feet onto the doorframe. She stretched her butter-yellow wings wide then curled them around her body and closed her eyes, her massive ears hanging down.
“You should go to bed too, Sakura, go on,” Amy continued. “I’m tired too. Charmy, you make sure you get to sleep before eleven, ‘K?”
“You know I get to bed early; it’s Bandit you need to talk to,” Charmy said without colour.
“Well, I trust you guys,” Amy replied, stretching. “Night, everyone.”
“Mm,” Bonitoe mumbled drowsily.
“See you,” Charmy waved dismissively without turning to look at anyone.
And within minutes, the living room was silent. As the grey clouds slowly began to float away across the vast skin, a chink of moonlight danced across the sofa, and a final distant firework shattered the darkness.