Thing: Part One
Sango rolled onto her stomach on the couch, pressing a pillow to her head to block out the deafening noise coming from upstairs, but no matter how hard she pressed, the relentless squealing guitar chords and furious, angst-ridden screaming still reached her ears.
It had been this way for three weeks now. Well, three weeks and two days, in fact. She had been counting. Three weeks and two days since her Xweetok's beloved petpet had been killed by the Turmaculus. Three weeks and two days since her Xweetok had plunged headlong into a sea of depression.
And three weeks and two days since Sango had gotten one wink of sleep.
Dark shadows rimmed her bloodshot eyes, standing out against her porcelain skin, and her dark blonde hair was unbrushed and unwashed, spread out over the arm of the couch. She was exhausted. The only thing on her mind was sleep, but she couldn't. Not when Xana was upstairs, playing that blasted Twisted Roses twenty-four hours a day on full volume to drown out her own thoughts.
There was a knock on the front door. Groaning with the effort, Sango dragged herself onto her feet and went to answer the call.
"Sango, let me in or I'll have to break the door down."
She fumbled clumsily with the chain and unhooked it, then let the door drag across the carpet to reveal her friend Hayley at the door, worry painted on her face.
"You're alive! Thank goodness. Why haven't you neomailed me? Gosh, girl, you look awful. Are you ill?" she shouted over the pounding of the heavy music.
"Just come in, I'll explain later."
Hayley's hands flew to her ears the moment she stepped inside and she winced as the deafening noise threatened to knock her off her feet. She took a step back towards the door.
"Can we go outside?" she shouted. Sango could only nod.
Shutting the door behind them, the pair made their way to the back garden, as far away from the noise as possible. Sango could still hear the music, but it was only a faint, rhythmic pounding, almost relaxing.
"Right," Hayley said as she fell back onto the grass. "Explain, or I'll assume you were ignoring me."
Sango collapsed next to her friend, letting her head fall back onto the ground. "Fine. You know Xana's Zomutt, L?"
"Well, we were on holiday in Meridell, and..."
Hayley rolled over to face her friend as the realisation dawned on her. "Oh, no. I'm sorry, Sango."
"Don't be; it's not your fault. But it really hurt Xana. L was her best friend. Now he's gone she's become so depressed, she's locked herself in her room and hasn't said a word for three weeks. I don't know what to do about it; it's like it's out of my control. But I hate seeing her so upset! I want to get her a new petpet, but I can't afford one. I can barely afford food right now, let alone a new petpet," she said, her voice rising hysterically.
Hayley looked at her friend sympathetically, but otherwise chose wisely to leave her alone. There was a pause that could have lasted an hour, but probably only a number of seconds, and then Hayley took a deep breath. She sat up and began to get to her feet.
"There's only one thing I can do, then," she said. Sango looked at her friend, confused.
"Hey, where're you go--"
But Hayley was already gone.
The room was plunged into darkness.
Xana liked the dark. She liked it so much, in fact, that she had begged Sango for black bin bags to hang over her windows. Now, whenever it was windy, they would fill with air and flap in the wind, rustling noisily. She liked that. Usually, it would cheer her up.
But today, nothing could cheer her up. Nothing.
When L had gone, he had taken a piece of her with him. She felt empty. It was horrible; no Zomutt snoring on her lap or licking her face to wake her up in the morning. Sango said she would get over it, but that had been twenty three days now, and the hole her beloved petpet had left the moment he disappeared into that oversized Turmac's mouth was showing no signs of healing any time soon.
You would think that, after twenty three days, she would have no tears left. Yeah, she thought to herself as her eyes misted with tears, melting the faint colours in the dark room into a broken splash of black, blue and red, I should be so lucky.
She didn't even notice the music any more. It was almost a part of her; when it was there she barely heard it, but she missed it when it was gone. She could sing every lyric of every song to herself, predict every guitar chord and every drumbeat. When one song ended, she could sing the next. But she didn't sing. The only purpose of the music now was to drown out her own troubled thoughts.
She could hear voices downstairs, excited voices and laughing. When was the last time she heard Sango laugh, anyway? Ever since the... incident, twenty three days ago, Sango hadn't even smiled. When Xana was upset, so was she. She should feel guilty for making her innocent owner suffer, but she couldn't. All she could feel was sadness and hate.
And then the door opened, and Sango came in. And she was grinning from ear to ear. Xana could tell she was trying to hold back her excitement for her.
"Uh... hey, Xana. How are you, darling?"
Xana rolled over on her bed to stare at the wall, watching as a tattered Twisted Roses poster rustled in the wind. The red Xweetok curled into a ball, closing her eyes to stop the tears from escaping. If there was one thing she would never dream of doing, it was exposing her weakness to anyone. She couldn't let anyone see her cry. Not even the people she loved most.
Sango didn't seem bothered by the lack of a reply. She sat down on the bed and began to run her fingers through her pet's hair. "Don't you want to let some light in?" she asked, trying to make conversation. Xana shook her head faintly.
There was another long pause as Sango stroked her pet slowly from her ears to her tail, running her fingers through her thick, scarlet fur. Then she spoke, her voice quiet and calm.
"L wouldn't have wanted you to be so upset," she said. "I know it hurts, honey, but one day you'll have to accept that he's gone."
Sango didn't seem to mind. She began to tickle Xana under her chin. Xana swatted at her angrily at first, but it wasn't long before she was rolling around to face her owner, laughing. She hated getting tickled, but she hated even more that she couldn't help laughing when Sango did it.
Though, somehow, it did cheer her up just a little. She didn't roll over to face the wall again.
Sango ran her finger under the Xweetok's long eyelashes and caught a tear that had been hanging there. She brought it up to her face as it balanced on the tip of her finger, then blew it away. It ran gracefully down her hand and disappeared, leaving only a faint trail in its path.
"I've got something for you that I think might cheer you up. Do you want to see?"
A long pause, as Xana tried to find the words. When she finally spoke, she was surprised by her own voice. She hadn't heard it in so long. "Okay," was all she said, but she may as well have recited poetry in Qasalan, because Sango's face lit up and she bundled her pet into her arms and hugged her tightly. Xana didn't resist. She liked the feeling of knowing there was someone there for her. She was surprised to find she wasn't even crying.
With her free arm, Sango reached down onto the ground and produced a wide cardboard box with holes punched in the top. There was a faint scuffling coming from inside. She sat it on the bed next to her.
At first, Xana's mind didn't register with what was inside. But when Sango reached into the box and brought out a tiny Zomutt puppy, yawning and wagging its tail, glowing green eyes fixed on her, anger flared inside her. She broke away from her owner's embrace and jumped to her feet, her hands balled into fists.
How dare she try to replace L like that? How dare she?!
"What do you think you're playing at, trying to replace him!" she yelled over the roar of the music, "How dare you even consider bringing that mangy fleabag into my room?! I don't WANT another petpet! I want L! And he's... he's gone now." She took a deep breath before continuing, "If I can't have him, I don't want anyone!!"
And she turned and fled from the room.
After the thud-thud-thudding of Xana stomping down the stairs faded, Sango got up from the bed, the Zomutt in her arms, and switched off the music.
When silence finally returned, she felt instantly better about the whole thing. It was easier to think rationally when you weren't having to put up with an angry Zafara screaming her heart out right in your ear.
She fell back onto the bed, sitting the Zomutt on her lap. He really was adorable. How could Xana resist that face? It really was so sweet of Hayley to bring him round. She couldn't help giggling when he stretched out across her legs, tucking his head into the crook of her arm and letting out a long, relaxed yawn, revealing lines of tiny white baby fangs. She knew he would grow, that was unavoidable. In a year or two he would no longer be the adorable baby he was now. He would be huge and strong, with fangs you would only have to glance at to feel them sinking into your skin. Perhaps Xana'll like him when he's scary, she thought sarcastically.
She would get over it. Everyone did in the end. Sango took comfort in that.
To be continued...