I Have Wings
Bright shafts of light decorated the walls and furniture as Yevi the island Aisha bounced through her Neohome. She barged right into her owner’s bedroom and threw herself on top of poor Brianna.
“Time to get up! It’s such a beautiful day! We just have to go to the beach! Can we, please?” she said, all in one breath. Brianna took the opportunity to groan, roll over, and stuff her head under the pillow. Yevi shook her head. “You are not a morning person.” Then she took a deep breath and yelled, “Bri! Come get these tigerbuggle fruit pancakes!”
“Awesome!!” Bri shouted as she sprang from bed. She got as far as the bedroom door before she slowed and said, “I fell for it again, didn’t I?”
“Fell like a Skeith trying to balance on a stack of dubloons!” Yevi laughed. “Tell you what. Why don’t I make the pancakes while you brush your teeth and get dressed?”
“Deal,” Brianna said as she stumbled towards the bathroom. By the time she reemerged, Yevi had laid out a pancake breakfast for two. “So why exactly am I up so early today?” the still sleepy owner inquired.
As they both dug in, Yevi replied, “It’s gorgeous outside and all you’ve wanted to do lately is curl up on your bean bag chair and read to me. Can’t we please spend today outside?” Bri directed her gaze out the open window, towards the beach of Mystery Island. The surf crashed rhythmically against clean white sands. The sky was clear and the air was filled with the fresh scent of the ocean and the sounds of laughter and birdsong.
“Why not?” she concluded. “I can bring my book with me.” Yevi cheered and ran to get her red sandcastle set.
The pair had only just begun the walk to the beach when they noticed a new family moving into a Neohome across the street. Without speaking, the two agreed to go introduce themselves. As they approached, they got a glimpse of a slim yellow tail disappearing around the side of a large cart. A girl near Brianna’s age replaced it. She smiled, extended a hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Coral. How are you?”
Bri took the hand and said, “Fine, thanks. I’m Brianna and this is Yevlana.”
“But everyone calls me Yevi!” piped Yevi.
“It’s great to meet both of you. I’d love to introduce you to my Gelert. Let me see if I can coax him into the open.” She sighed and walked back around the cart as Yevi and Bri exchanged confused looks. “Come on, sweetheart. They’re going to be our neighbors and they’re perfectly nice. Don’t you want a fresh start?” Slowly, she and a sickly looking yellow Gelert came into view. “Brianna and Yevi, this is Fruble525600. I adopted him recently, but I can already tell you that he is one incredible pet.”
Fruble525600 gave her a nervous smile and turned to face Brianna and Yevi before it winked out.
Yevi returned his smile warmly and said, “Welcome to the neighborhood! Would you like to come to the beach with us?”
Coral shook her head. “I’d love to come, but I really should start arranging some of our stuff. Would it be too much trouble to ask you to take Fruble along with you? I think it would be good for him,” she added under her breath.
“What do you say, Fruble525600? Want to come?” Yevi asked eagerly.
“Um,” he mumbled as he looked up at his owner. When she only nodded encouragement, he said, “Okay. Thank you,” and looked at the ground.
The walk to the beach was uneventful. Yevi tried to talk to Fruble525600, but he could only mumble and then lapse into awkward silence. When the group finally reached the beach, he perked up. “It’s so beautiful!” he said. Fruble525600 leaned into the stiff sea breeze coming in. It set the trees behind them swaying and seemed to brighten his spirits.
“Look, there are some of my friends!” Yevi pointed to a small group of pets sitting near the water further down the beach. “Come on, Fruble, let’s go!” She poked and prodded him to go faster all the way. “Hey, everybody! What’s up?” A baby Kougra, baby Scorchio, and electric Ixi turned towards them.
The Scorchio shouted happily, “Yevi! Where have you been all summer? Auma’s been so lonely.”
The Kougra smiled and said, “My brother neglects to mention his own loneliness. Doako was just telling me this morning that we would have to stop by your house and kidnap you one day soon.” Yevi laughed. She and the siblings had been friends for years and knew each other like the backs of their paws. She had sorely missed them over the past couple of weeks. The third seated pet was less familiar to her.
“Hi, Glaive,” she said shyly. The Ixi smiled and patted the sand next to him. In the minute or so that Yevi was getting reacquainted, Fruble525600 was backing up step by step, feeling a bit like a fifth wheel. But as Yevi moved to sit, a tickle in his throat caused a small coughing fit and she was reminded of her manners. “Oh, I’m sorry!” Yevi apologized. “Everyone, this is Fruble525600. He just moved to my street. Why don’t you come and sit, Fruble?”
He hesitated for a moment, but Fruble525600 truly wanted to be included, and so he sat down slightly behind Yevi on her free side. The friends proceeded to catch up on the minutiae of each other’s lives, as young pets will. Fruble525600 appeared content to remain part of the scenery. He listened with rapt attention to everything that was said, occasionally having to suppress a cough.
Some time later, Doako moaned, “Oh, I’m getting hungry.”
“You’re always hungry,” his sister replied.
Everyone laughed. Glaive, still smiling, said, “My owner gave me some neopoints to spend. Why don’t we get some lunch, my treat?” The friends all cheered, Doako whooping the loudest of all.
“It’s not that far to Ruby’s Place. Since you’re paying, Glaive, why don’t I go get the food? We can all have a picnic right here!” Yevi suggested.
Glaive gave her a beauty contest-winning smile and handed over the neopoints. Auma, who was always prepared, pulled a shimmery notebook and water faerie pencil from her bag. These were passed around until everyone but Fruble525600 had written down their order. “Umm,” he said as he stared at the short list. “I don’t... That is, I-”
“Why don’t you come with me, Fruble? You’re the only one who’s never been. This way you’ll have a whole menu to pick from.” Fruble525600 nodded and stood quickly. Yevi just smiled and led the way in the direction of Ruby’s Place.
A short distance up the beach, the pair passed Brianna curled up under an umbrella with her book. Yevi grinned as her owner looked up in time to smile and wave before the pets moved on. In an attempt to dispel the slightly awkward silence between them, Yevi decided to learn a bit more about her new neighbor.
“How long have you been with Coral?” she asked. Just as Fruble525600 was about to answer, a stamp flying disc came straight at them.
“Heads up!” someone shouted. Yevi deftly snatched the disc from the air before it could smash into Fruble525600’s face. She looked around for its owner. “I’m so sorry about that!” said the fire Kyrii that was running up to them.
Yevi shook her head. “Not a problem,” she assured him. “Nice disc,” she added as she handed it back to her. The Kyrii apologized again, then turned and jogged away. Yevi sighed, “That was close!” and got moving again. When they reached the open shack-turned-restaurant that was their destination, Yevi introduced Fruble525600 to the neopet behind the culinary magic that was worked there. Ruby was an older cloud Eyrie, but there was quite a bit of fun in her eyes as she greeted the Gelert.
“I’m very glad to meet you, Fruble525600,”she said with a smile. He blushed and looked away, but a smile played at his lips. Once everyone’s orders had been placed, Ruby said, “This shouldn’t take too long. Why don’t you two have a seat? I’ll even pack it all up in a basket for you.”
With that settled, the young pets sat down at a booth-style table with a big umbrella in the middle to wait. Fruble525600 was actually starting to look a bit more relaxed. “You never got a chance to answer my question before. How long has Coral been your owner?” Yevi inquired.
Fruble525600 coughed a bit before replying, “Actually, it’s only been about two weeks.” He hesitated before adding softly, “But I can already tell you that she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Yevi smiled, thinking of the pet and owner together. “That’s wonderful! I’m so glad you found each other. But,” she wondered, “does that mean you had another owner that was less ideal?”
“Of course, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” She said it, but Fruble525600’s reaction had really piqued her interest.
“It- it’s okay,” Fruble525600 said. “I’d like to talk about it. My first owner, Jason, wasn’t around much. When we had food, it almost always went to the stronger, smarter, painted pets. I would get sick a lot and eventually he decided I was too expensive to keep around.” He paused for a moment, letting the memories rise to the surface. Yevi could tell most of the things he was reliving were painful. “I thought maybe things would be better in the Pound. I figured I wouldn’t be the only plain one anymore, that I’d be fed every day at least. But I was wrong. There wasn’t always enough to go around and I was always, always cold. Even the pets who had never been painted were stronger or funnier or something else I couldn’t match.” He took a shaky breath.
“Oh, Fruble! I had no idea!” Yevi told him as she laid her paw on his in an attempt to offer comfort. Fruble525600 looked up at her with unseeing eyes and continued.
“I did get adopted a few times, but it never lasted very long. After a while, I figured there must be something wrong with me. For a long time, I hardly moved from my bed. I was hungry all the time, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat. I could hear the others talk about how strange I was. It was as if everything else was a distant dream. I couldn’t believe it when they brought Coral in to see me. I thought I was hallucinating...” He stopped, and his eyes focused on Yevi again. “She’s helped me so much, but some things are still... hard. I’ve been alone for so long,” he told her.
Fruble525600’s words had made Yevi shiver. He wondered if she would pull away like so many before her. But then she gave his paw a squeeze. “Believe me, Fruble, you don’t have to be. Things will be better from now on.” She smiled at him and was rewarded with the slight twitch of his lips. It was then that Ruby called them over.
On the way back, the two took turns carrying the heavy load. Suddenly, Fruble525600 asked a question that had been bothering him for some time. “Do you think they even like me, Yevi?” he asked hesitantly.
“Who?” she wondered.
“Your friends,” he supplied. “I mean, what if it’s just like all the other times? What if they think I’m too weird? What if-”
“I don’t think you need to worry about any of that, Fruble. I’m sure they like you just as much as I do,” she assured him. They continued on, again passing Brianna and the disc-throwing Kyrii. Just as they were about to reach the top of the last dune that blocked the others from sight, they heard voices.
“-such a strange name.”
“I know. Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous?”
Fruble525600 sank to the ground, a look of shock and pain plastered across his face. “Just as much as you do, huh?” he gasped. Then he turned and ran.
It was some time later that Yevi found herself back at Ruby’s Place. She hopped up onto a stool and rested dejectedly on the counter. Ruby, having just finished serving the last customer in line, immediately gave Yevi her undivided attention. “What’s the trouble, dear?”
“It’s my new neighbor,” Yevi began. “I just don’t know how to be his friend. And there’s so much wrong with him that now I’m afraid I’ll lose the ones I’ve already got if I try!” Yevi looked to be on the verge of tears.
“Do you mean that nice Gelert you were with earlier? Now why would you think a thing like that? The two of you seemed to be getting along just fine.”
“Yes, but my friends aren’t so sure about him. They got me thinking about all kinds of things. What if I caught a disease from him or something? What if-”
“What if you decided to think for yourself? Listen to your heart. If your friends are telling you something other than what it says, then maybe it isn’t your relationship with Fruble525600 you should be worried about.” Yevi wandered off towards a more deserted section of the beach to think over what Ruby had said. She had really liked Fruble525600, but how could she choose between him and her dearest friends? She tried to put all the “what-if”s aside and make a decision, but she was torn. Eventually, she came around a bend and saw something that wiped all the confusion from her mind and replaced it with wonder.
There was Fruble525600, but he was different. The Gelert looked happy and confident. He was running up and down the beach doing the most incredible thing. In his paws he held a string. Yevi followed the length of this string with her eyes until they were met by a Beekadoodle. For just a moment, she wondered how he’d gotten the creature to sit still long enough to attach the string to its leg. She quickly realized, though, that this was nothing to call the PPL about. Fruble525600 was flying a Beekadoodle kite as if it were alive. It swooped and dived and did loop-the-loops, taking advantage of every breeze. Yevi just stood there and watched for some time.
When Fruble525600 finally let his kite fall, Yevi jumped up and down, clapping. “That was wonderful!” she cried. Fruble525600 froze immediately. Then his shoulders slumped.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Just one more strange thing about me.” He turned away and began to reel in the rest of his string.
“I don’t think it’s strange, Fruble. I think it’s amazing. And I don’t think you’re strange either. I’d really like it if we could be friends.” She held out her paw and saw that Fruble525600 truly wanted to take it, but he hesitated.
“What if your friends don’t want play anymore?”
“I’m through with what if.”