The sequel to Rusting Window. Can Hayley ever find her true home?
Hayley timed it perfectly. Her owner, Mika, was busy with Ingrid, Queenie and Sam. It was a cold winter’s morning so Sam, a snow Blumaroo was making the most of it. Ingrid and Queenie who were both royal painted, squealed in the snow and ran away from Sam as he pelted them with snowballs.
The yellow Kyrii was watching from her rusting window, everything in her small bag packed. She still couldn’t believe it was only a month ago Mika had stolen the royal paint brush it had taken her a year to earn and used it on Ingrid instead, causing Hayley so much sadness that she realised she couldn’t live with people she didn’t trust. It was time to run away. The neopets, her siblings, were so oblivious to her hatred for Mika... even Queenie, who she had once loved.
‘Hayley, where are you?’ Mika called, not a hint of guilt in her voice. ‘Come out and have fun in the snow!’
Sighing, Hayley gave no reply. All she was going to take was the small bag she had and the contents inside it, two omelettes, a jelly, a blue hissi plushie and her diamond locket. The locket was her only friend now. A fat salty tear fell down her cheek but she wiped it away furiously. This was her dream, after all. That and becoming a royal Kyrii, but that ship had sailed.
There was no way Mika would let her play games for a year again, and even if she did, who’s to say she wouldn’t steal the paint brush and use it for someone else, anyway? Perhaps she wanted Sam to be royal too. Hayley couldn’t take that chance. The only one she could take was this. To run away from her owner, her siblings, and find herself a brand new life, just her.
Her plan was to escape out of the back door and never look back. No matter how bad things got she wouldn’t give in. Taking one look around the room she had spent her life in, she walked out of her door, away from the rusting window she had peered out of so many times. The only person she left a note to was Queenie. It read:
You were, after all, kind to me, but how could you not see that Mika had tricked you? I didn’t stop wanting to be a royal Kyrii, and I didn’t want Ingrid to take my brush and use it herself. I have to go now, but thanks for being there anyway. Though missing you will be hard... though not as hard as the others. Sam, Ingrid, you were good siblings. Mika, I hope to forget you now.
It was left on her bedside table for them to find eventually. She wondered if Mika, if she found it first, would tear it up as it revealed her true colours. Probably. Hayley smiled slightly. She was now downstairs and could hear the chuckling and voices coming from outside louder now. Without a second glance, she opened the back door, walked out, closed it and hopped over the fence into the free land of Neopia.
At first she just stood there, blinking, unable to believe what she had just done. Then she jumped up and down in glee, running down the road towards the Money Tree, where she was sure to meet some nice needy Neopets, like herself.
When she got there, however, she was greeted by grabby owners who shoved her out of the way to get the item they desired. Every so often an expensive one showed up and it was chaos. The person who received it had to fight their way out of the angry crowd. This wasn’t how Hayley had imagined her first free day as a neopet.
‘Lousy stray,’ she heard someone mutter. It was a faerie Peophin, flying behind her with a smirk on her face. ‘Go to the pound, where you belong.’
Hayley stood firm, frowning. ‘No. I belong here, there, everywhere. I can go wherever I want and I don’t have an owner to stop me anymore!’
The Peophin gasped. ‘You’re a runaway?’
An owner looked up and grabbed her Peophin away from Hayley. ‘Don’t go near that awful Neopet. Imagine, betraying your owner like that. No better than a Lutari!’
More people were crowding around her now, shouting stuff. Hayley ran away and found a patch a grass unspoiled, far away from the mayhem. She hadn’t realised runaways were despised. Didn’t people think that maybe their lives weren’t happy ones with owners? The pound wouldn’t do them any good. But she couldn’t spot another Neopet that didn’t have an owner. Maybe she was the only one left.
Eating one of her omelettes in one hand and clutching her diamond locket in the other, Hayley sat on the ground, tired, but not yet defeated. She couldn’t go back to Mika and the others; they’d all laugh at her. Maybe Neopia Central just wasn’t right. All the runaways from here probably went to different parts of Neopia, that’s all. She’d find someone.
For now, though, all she wanted to do was finish her omelette and sleep.
It was the middle of the night. Something was waking her up. She felt herself being moved across somewhere. Opening her eyes, she found herself in the arms of a mutant Uni. Startled, she screamed.
‘Quiet,’ the Uni murmured. ‘Go back to sleep. You’ll be in the pound in no time.’
The pound? Hayley balled her paws into fists. The one place she didn’t want to go! How did they find her? Then she remembered because she was so upset over the scene that had occurred earlier she had forgotten to choose her resting place carefully and had sunk into the first patch of grass that freed her from noise.
When they arrived and the mutant Uni put her down, she ran, trying to escape her fate, but the doors were already closed and this time a pink Uni was greeting her, blue eyes twinkling.
‘Don’t be afraid of my pet savers,’ she soothed. ‘They find lost neopets and put them here so they have a chance at a better life.’ She lowered her voice and leant close to Hayley. ‘If you have an owner, but you have run away, please say now so we can contact them.’
‘No!’ Hayley immediately cried. ‘They threw me out! They hated me!’ It was almost true. Mika did hate her and that had basically meant she must leave, but Mika, being clever, wouldn’t do it herself as she would appear mean then. But Hayley hadn’t wanted to go to the pound. Her dream of frolicking in Faerieland soon vanished.
The pink Uni stared at her for a moment, then shrugged. ‘Okay. Now, we’ll just hand you over to Dr Death...’
As if this was a planned cue, the mad Techo came barging in, demanding to know why there were so many Grarrls in the pound with “bgc” in their name? Then he stopped and spotted Hayley. He rolled his eyes and snapped at the kind Uni, ‘Another one? You gave me the last one five minutes ago! Neopets just keep flooding in.’ Then he turned to Hayley and his tone became even more scary. ‘Don’t just stand there looking idiotic! Go through the door on the far right, Mr Simmons will deal with you then.’ As Hayley went through, she could still hear him yelling at the Uni.
Mr Simmons turned out to be a rather large green Skeith, who noted down her name and placed her in a small dank room with bars on the walls, just like a cage. ‘Your roommate is currently being considered for an adoption; they’ll return shortly if the owner doesn’t want them.’ Before he went, Mr Simmons added, ‘You’ll get used to it, I’m sure.’
Fighting back tears, Hayley lay on the hard bed covered with just one white sheet and a scarab eaten blanket, alone.
A blue Kacheek was stood in the doorway. Hayley couldn’t help noticing the terrible name this Kacheek had, fluffybonjodrums_9012462AA. Her nickname appeared to be Kat, though, so she settled for that.
‘Hello, Kat. Didn’t you get adopted?’ Hayley felt a tiny bit relieved. If someone with a name like that could even be considered, then maybe there was hope for her after all. Her name wasn’t quite as bad as Kat’s but it was bad enough. She was always called Hayley instead, right from when Mika created her ages ago.
Kat grinned. ‘Yes, I did. But what with me being a pet you can get an avatar with, I’m back in here in a flash. They have this room on a permanent reserve for me. I was created by someone years and years ago, pounded a week later, then I’ve been in and out of the pound since.’ Her tone seemed upbeat but it darkened a little as she continued. ‘A year or so ago I got an amazing owner called Rachel. She took such good care of me and was even saving up for a royal paint brush.’
Hayley shivered; did royal paint brushes come up everywhere? It was like a reminder of how close she had gotten all the time. Still, what Kat had said shocked her. She’d never had a proper home, ever? ‘What happened with Rachel?’ she forced herself to ask. Despite being upset right now at the disbelief she was actually in the pound, Hayley wanted to know about Kat and hopefully make friends with her.
‘I... don’t know exactly,’ Kat admitted glumly. ‘One minute she was pounding me, then she was gone. For good. Her account was gone.’
‘Oh... Kat, I’m so sorry,’ Hayley was genuine. It sounded such a sad story. She had finally found a wonderful home only for it all to be taken away again.
Mr Simmons knocked on their cage and Kat was taken off again. Hayley waved her off, wondering if this was goodbye for good, but in a few short minutes she was back again.
Night fell, and the pound closed. Neopets in all the cages were slowly falling asleep, dreaming of new owners who would take care of them no matter how bad their name was. All except Kat and Hayley, who were still swapping life stories and gradually becoming friends.
‘So that’s what happened with me,’ Hayley finished, heaving a great sigh. ‘I ran away from Mika, but ended up here. Is there really no hope for the two of us?’
Kat chuckled. ‘There is hope for you, definitely. Me, I’ll always be here, floating in and out of homes, going to the beach for the billionth time. I don’t even get to spend time there. I step on the sand, they get the avatar, then I’m away, back to the pound, to this cell...’ Her eyes glistened with tears, but she held them back. ‘I’m tired. Goodnight, Hayley.’
It had been twelve months since Hayley was taken to the pound, and not once was she even looked at for longer than a second. She had grown used to life in the pound, and Kat was now her best friend. Hayley still could not help glancing wistfully at the royal pets that came in for a brief moment, then were gone again. If only she had managed to paint herself royal! She’d be so much happier. Though she would still be with Mika, and not realise how mean she could be.
She wasn’t the only one who wanted to be royal, though. Kat longed to be a royal Uni, not a boring blue Kacheek. She was sick of being dragged out of the pound only to be brought back in again. Every now and then an owner got cross because they had already pounded that day so she had to stay the night, and she had a glimmering taste of what life with a family could be like again. It was hopeless to wish this, though.
‘Kat, I saved some of my birthday cake for you,’ Hayley beamed, handing the slice over. On a pet’s birthday, they are given a yellow acara plushie, a birthday cake and seconds at dinner time.
Before Kat could reply, the door opened and Dr Death stood there, an evil glint in his eye again, a sneer crossing his lips. ‘You! The Kyrii! You’ve been here exactly a year now. It’s time to hand over your belongings.’
‘What? My - my belongings?’ Hayley felt her world crashing down. ‘Why?!’
‘I don’t have time to explain myself to an insignificant neopet like you!’ Dr Death snarled. ‘Just give me your possessions and this transaction is over with.’ He cackled, sounding almost like Dr Sloth himself. Little did those two know every night he practiced this laugh, trying to sound like him, his hero.
Kat whispered, ‘After a year, it looks like you’re in here for the long run so anything you own is taken away to be sold as you’re stuck in here anyway. All you get to keep is your birthday present.’
Hayley gasped. She didn’t care about anything other than her diamond locket! She had to make sure it didn’t get sold. But how? Dr Death was sure to know she was hiding something and when it was found out the pendant would be sold for millions of neopoints, resulting in a great profit for the pound. It was the only item she had ever truly owned, after on her first day on Neopia a beautiful air faerie floated down and gave it to her, with the promise it would bring her great joy someday.
That air faerie must have been wrong, Hayley thought, suddenly cross. It hadn’t given her any luck, had it? Just that she’d found her best friend Kat. Guiltily, she backtracked. That was amazing luck. Kat was the most amazing thing to ever happen to Hayley.
‘I don’t have all day,’ Dr Death hissed. ‘I expect it to be brought to Mr Simmons in two minutes sharp.’ In a flash he was gone, too impatient to be bothered waiting around for some yellow Kyrii.
Kat, who had been informed of the importance of this locket long ago, had a plan. ‘Stash it in my bag, but quickly and quietly!’ she whispered almost silently. Hayley did as she was told, then gathered the rest of her things, and called out for Mr Simmons to collect them. She wavered a little as her yellow hissi plushie was taken, but stood firm.
‘Thanks,’ Mr Simmons said. Then he lowered his voice. ‘Hold on to that locket with everything you have,’ he added in a murmur.
Hayley and Kat blinked. ‘How did you-?!’ they both exclaimed, but Mr Simmons had already walked away, chuckling to himself and checking in on the other neopets every now and then.
That night Hayley fell asleep clutching the locket, feeling the smooth metal rub against her fur. It was safe. She was safe. Kat was safe. All that was left now was to find an owner for them both and get painted royal. Easier said than done, though, right?
‘Wake up! Kat and Hayley! You’re wanted!’
Hayley sprang right out of bed in shock. She was... wanted?! This was the first time ever her name had been called! Kat’s too! Kat shrugged it off, she was used to this. Mr Simmons let the two of them out and Hayley couldn’t help but feel wistful.
Kat warned her. ‘Don’t get too excited. After all, we aren’t exactly the best named pets in the world.’
When they were both told the same person wanted to see them, however, even Kat seemed surprised. A user wanting to adopt two badly named basic pets from the same cell? It all seemed a bit ludicrous, but perhaps it was true?
The person, a girl with blonde bunches in her hair and big blue eyes, waved to them both excitedly. ‘Hello! My name is Hannah and I will be your owner from now on.’ Her voice was soft, and gentle. Hayley seemed sure she had heard it somewhere before but she couldn’t place it. The girl filled out the forms and the three of them were off; out of the pound, maybe and definitely possibly for good.
Hayley wished for Hannah to remain this nice; this smiley. She hoped against hopes that her and Kat would find happiness here.
‘First of all, we’ll make a stop to the beach,’ Hannah announced, making Kat’s heart sink and Hayley’s face fall. She was just going to pound her after this after all. Hannah noticed their expressions and grinned, reading their minds like books. ‘Don’t worry, Fluffy, I won’t pound you straight afterwards. Like I said, this is your home now, with me.’
Fluffy? For a second Kat thought she was talking to someone else when she realised Hannah didn’t know her nickname. ‘It’s - it’s Kat,’ Kat mumbled, astounded that she could be telling the truth and she wouldn’t be pounded. ‘Instead of my awful name. And she’s Hayley.’
‘I’m very pleased you’re both part of my family, then,’ Hannah giggled. They stopped at the beach, but this time for a while, and Kat could finally jump into the sea she had always seen but never gotten close enough to. Could this really be happening? It seemed all too perfect. Hayley and Kat with a nice owner, the two of them together, Hayley still had her locket, and Hannah was treating them to Pizzaroo tonight.
‘Now I’d like you both to meet my other pets, Charlie and Jake,’ Hannah told them as they stepped into her Neohome. It was large and well furnished, something Hayley wasn’t expecting. Her thoughts reminisced her old bland room back with Mika and for a moment she wondered how they were all getting on. Did they ever miss her? Queenie might. Or did Mika find the note first, tear it up, and make some story up to the others? Hayley chewed her lip anxiously as she was led to her new siblings.
Charlie was a Maraquan Kau, another thing that startled Hayley. Was Hannah rich? Then she noticed something. Charlie’s actual name was Grarrl_19564_FlowerCharlie764. It was as bad as Kat’s! Did Hannah take in badly named pets and paint them expensive colours? A Royal Paint Brush flashed in Hayley’s minds.
Jake greeted them both with a high pitched sort of sound and then the noise of giggling. He was a pea Chia and he kept bouncing about the place in a hyper mood all the time. His real name was lendmesuap_pleeeease123. This turned a light switch on Kat and Hayley. They had gone from glum to happy in a flick. Hannah really was their dream owner.
‘They chose the colours themselves.’ Hannah nodded. ‘You two can choose yours and we’ll be down their tomorrow to get you sorted as I have to buy the paint brushes first. Kat? What will it be?’
Kat pondered this, in her happy bubble of bliss. Her luck was astonishing. This just didn’t happen to her, normally. Things just didn’t go her way. Though her mind had changed about one thing after going on the beach properly. She’d be living in Mystery Island, so why shouldn’t she be this colour? ‘Island,’ she answered confidently. She knew this was her dream colour now. Royal had just been something of importance.
Hannah nodded while Hayley looked taken aback. ‘And you, Hayley? What will it be?’
Here she was again. So close... but maybe so far? How was she to know it wouldn’t all go wrong this time? Hayley swallowed. She just had to risk it, because what’s life without risks? ‘Royal,’ she stated, and as soon as she said it, her smile broadened.
‘First up, Kat,’ Hannah called. She, Hayley and Kat were stood at the Rainbow Fountain, and Hannah had a Mystery Island Paint Brush in one hand, a Royal Paint Brush in the other. ‘Be quick!’
Nervously, Kat took her place. This was it. She was going to be an Island Uni! The paint covered her from head to toe but as her eyes were closed (you weren’t ever allowed to see the magic of a paintbrush) she felt her body change and her mane grow more down her neck. There was a bell chime that sounded to signal she was done, and as she stood in front of the mirror they gave you at the end, tears sprang to her eyes.
‘Oh, Hannah...’ Kat choked out. ‘Thank you so, so, so much!’
Hannah shrugged innocently, a cheeky grin on her face. ‘Hayley? Your turn,’ she said.
Hayley was trembling as she shut her eyes. Then, in a flash, she was done, the paint all over her and the chime to say she was allowed to open her eyes again. Walking slowly over to the mirror, she glanced in it, then stopped and stared, mouth open.
She was... royal. She had... turquoise hair. She had... a blue dress with fancy accessories. She had... amazing shoes and gloves. But most of all, her eyes shone and her crown placed on top of her head stood out above everything else, sparkling in the sunlight, proving she was royalty.
‘Hannah, words cannot express how thankful I am for this,’ Hayley managed to say, before jumping up and down and screaming for joy. This was it! She was royal! Her dreams had come true! Not only had she found the most perfect owner in the world but she was a royal Kyrii! No one would ever ignore her ever again!
As soon as they got back to Mystery Island, Hayley and Kat ran to the beach, shouting about how happy they were. Hayley took the diamond locket from her pocket, and, the deep stone sparkling more than her crown and the sea, fastened it around her neck.
With the sun setting into the glorious ocean, and Hayley surrounded by her wonderful family, royal, with her diamond pendant around her neck, she truly believed dreams did come true.