A Lonely Place
Chase looked up at his owner with his little baby Lupe face. “Do I have to go?” His owner nodded and gave Chase one more hug and in the next minute, he was all alone in the giant lobby.
Chase looked around. The pattern on the carpet made him dizzy. This place was too fancy for him. The comfy chairs and the giant chandelier hanging from the ceiling. He was already homesick.
“Excuse me,” an elegant voice said from behind him.
The baby Lupe’s ears perked up and he turned around to face a tall Lenny in a fancy black uniform. “Might you be Chase?” the Lenny asked.
Chase nodded slowly, but what he was thinking was, Who talks like that?
“Follow me to your room then, sir.” The Lenny began leading him to an elevator.
Sir? Chase thought to himself. Too fancy. A part of him wished his owner had paid for the Mountain Lodge. He had been there once, before his brother went off to Neocollege. They had a snowball fight, they went skiing and snowboarding, they had brainfreezes eating five snow puffs in a row... It was so much fun.
But now it was just Chase and the elegant Lenny.
At least here at the Presidential Palace, he got room service, access to the pool and the restaurant. It wasn’t the same, though. He was still by himself and still lonely. And a bit scared; he had never stayed overnight at a lodge by himself.
The Lenny opened the door to his room and went inside. Chase followed. “Here’s your room key,” the Lenny said and handed the room key over. “If you need anything, here’s the buzzer to the lobby.” The Lenny pointed to a button next to the bed post. “No one is to be out of their rooms after ten PM. Enjoy your stay.”
Chase was again by himself.
He jumped on the bed. It was a nice bed. But he’d rather be in his funky blue and orange bed at his neohome in Altador.
Chase didn’t know how long he was sitting on the bed before he realized his stomach was growling at him. He slid off the bed, grabbed the room key and went to find some food. Preferably sushi.
Where was a map when you needed one? Chase had gone up and down at least three flights of stairs, and at least five elevators. Finally he found his way to the lobby. He spotted the Lenny and went up to him. “Um, excuse me, sir,” Chase said. The Lenny turned around. “Where’s the restaurant?”
The Lenny raised a wing. “Down that hallway and to the left.”
Chase thanked the Lenny and went on his way. His stomach wasn’t just growling at him anymore, it was shouting and screaming at him.
He burst through the glass double doors and then realized that he was in “high society” here. So he slowed to a walk. He looked around. Everywhere there were siblings eating dinner together, families sharing a big chocolate cake, laughing and smiling together.
He was envious. His brother was away at Neocollege and his sister was spending a Neoschool semester in Krawk Island, learning the ways of the pirates.
“Buffet or sit-down?” a voice asked.
Chase turned around, this time facing a Blumaroo dressed just as fancy as the Lenny.
“Buffet,” Chase answered. They were less formal than sit-down.
The Blumaroo led Chase to a table by the window. Chase grabbed a plate and went up and down the food tables. Noodles. Vegetables. Chicken. Soup. It’s not like those were bad, but he had a craving for sushi. He always had a craving for sushi.
Chase decided that being picky wasn’t going to help his stomach, so he made do with the food the restaurant had.
He sat down and ate slowly. He was picturing his sister sitting with all her pirate friends in a Krawk island restaurant eating... whatever it was pirates ate. He pictured his brother having dinner with his Neocollege friends.
And there he was eating chicken noodle vegetable soup by himself in a corner of a fancy restaurant. He looked out the window. Somewhere out there was his empty neohome. What he would give to be there right now...
Chase woke up with a sore paw. He hadn’t slept well. He was up thinking about what he was going to do for the next two days. Sometimes he had times when the days were too short and he wanted them to last forever. These days at the lodge were lasting way longer than forever, and he wished they would be shorter.
He decided that he might be able to swim some hours away. He grabbed his towel and his room key and headed for the pool.
Chase had hoped that he would have the pool to himself, but it didn’t turn out that way. There were two pea Chias and a baby Bruce playing Water Hoops. He tried not to think about it, but he always played Water Hoops with his siblings. He set his towel on one of the chairs and jumped into the pool.
It was a bit boring since the Chias were using the ball. Chase sort of just splashed around but didn’t really do anything.
“Do you want to play with us?” a tiny voice asked. It was one of the pea Chias.
Chase shrugged. “Sure.” He swam over.
“I’m Pete,” the pea Chia said. He pointed to the other pea Chia. “That’s my twin brother George. The Bruce is Sami.”
Chase waved to them all. “I’m Chase.”
“You can be on my team,” George said in his little voice.
Chase nodded and took the ball. He passed it to George. The pea Chia jumped out of the water and head-shot it into the basket.
“One point for us!” George cried. He gave Chase a high five.
They played for at least two hours. Then finally Pete said, “We should get going. Our older sister is going to meet us in the restaurant for lunch. Maybe we can play later!” He and George got out of the pool.
Chase and Sami played a little one-on-one until she had to go too. “Bye, Chase!” she said and she was gone.
Chase got out and started drying himself off.
“You made some friends, huh?” a deep voice asked.
A grey Grarrl with shades was sitting on the chair next to Chase. He hadn’t even seen the giant neopet sitting there. Chase wondered why he was wearing shades inside.
“Yes, sir,” Chase said.
“Call me Miles,” the Grarrl said.
The name clicked right away. “You’re Miles? The former Jazzmosis saxophonist? But weren’t you a black Grarrl?”
Miles chuckled. “That’s me, but my son’s got it going pretty good, don’t he? And my color’s faded over the years.”
Chase nodded. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you wearing sunglasses inside?”
“I had an accident a few months after I retired from the Jazz biz and I became blind. But I used to wear these shades to every concert. It gives me memories,” Miles explained.
Chase nodded again, but realized that if he was blind, he wouldn’t be able to see. “Oh.”
“You seem sad,” Miles said.
How does he know that if he’s blind? Chase wanted to ask.
As if the Grarrl had read his mind, he said, “I can sense it.”
Chase sat down in his chair. “Well, my owner went on vacation yesterday. So I have to stay here. I miss my brother and my sister. I know I made some friends today, but it’s not the same. I used to play Water Hoops with my siblings.”
Miles nodded. “Where are your siblings?”
“My brother is away at Neocollege, and my sister is spending a semester in Krawk Island for Neoschool. I miss them and I miss my home.”
“There ain’t no place like home and family,” Miles said. “Always remember that, kid.”
Chase spent that day reading some of his favorite books, and the next day, he went to the arts and crafts event in the lobby with Pete and George.
Around six o’ clock, he saw his owner walk through the lobby door.
Chase dropped the colored pencils and markers and ran over to give his owner a big hug.
“You ready to go home?” she asked him.
“I was ready the minute you dropped me off,” Chase answered.
When Chase walked through the door of their neohome, he saw his brother and sister at the kitchen table with a giant plate of sushi in the middle.
He gave them both giant hugs.
Yes, there was definitely no place like home and family.