Difficulties: Part Seven
Faster, faster! I urged myself, swimming with all my might. Elisabeth, my owner, and my new sister Kylie were due at the ferry dock in less than five minutes, and I had barely left my cavern. It was a fifteen minute swim! I was sure to be late, and I knew Elisa wouldn’t be very pleased about that. She was always on time for everything, so naturally, she expected everyone else to be as well.
She’ll probably forget I was late once she sees me, I decided, a smile spreading across my face as I pictured our reuniting moment. She’ll be so happy to see me again that she’ll forget. In fact, she probably won’t even realize I’m late because she’s looking forward to seeing me so much. Then she’ll be eager to introduce me to my new little sister... I felt like I knew my owner so well.
I had been on my own for almost two weeks, and I hadn’t seen Elisa since the day she dropped me off on Mystery Island. I hoped she hadn’t changed much in that short time (although, to me, it had seemed like an eternity).
Humming to myself, I swam gracefully through the water until I was finally able to see Mystery Island. I popped my head above the surface to take a peek. As usual, there were tons of humans and pets on the beach. Some were swimming in the shallows, but most sunbathed on the sand. I strained my eyes until I spotted a blond girl and a yellow Kacheek walking down the beach, carrying armfuls of beach supplies. That had to be them!
I dove back down under the water and swam as fast as my tail allowed. I zipped over the coral reefs, zoomed past the fish, and nearly ran into a Maraquan Shoyru who was floating near the surface lazily. “Sorry!” I yelped, and swooshed under him before he had a chance to respond.
At last, the sand grew higher up to the surface of the water, I was pushed forward with the swells. I rode a wave up the beach and took a tumble in the sand before landing right at Elisabeth’s feet.
“LELA!” she shrieked, scooping me up and hugging me, despite the fact that I was soaking wet and she was dry. “Oh, I missed you so much! I didn’t even see you swim in – your color blends right in with the water! Oh, it’s so good to see you!”
I laughed and gave her a wet, salty hug back. “I missed you so much too!” I told her.
“Oh! Lela! How rude of me.” Elisa set me gently back on the sand. “This is your sister, Kylie. Kylie, this is Lela! Oh, Lela, you should’ve heard her on the way over. She was asking me dozens of questions about you.”
The yellow Kacheek smiled at me shyly. She was wearing a cute pink Kacheek bathing suit, and a pale pink bow was fastened to the top of her head, just above the left ear. It wasn’t hard to guess that pink was her favorite color. I hoped she liked purple, too.
I reached into my leather bag and pulled out two necklaces. “I made these for you guys,” I said, handing Elisa the one made with a tangerine trumpet and Kylie one with a purple scallop shell.
“Oh, Lela, this is gorgeous,” Elisa murmured, tying it around her neck. “Where did you buy these? They must’ve cost you a fortune.” She tied Kylie’s scallop necklace on, and the Kacheek admired it with a delighted expression.
“Actually, I made them,” I said, my cheeks turning red in embarrassment.
Surprised, Elisa looked at the necklace again. “They’re beautiful... you know, Lela, I’m sure you could sell these to Mystery Island tourists for neopoints. They’d love them.”
“You think so?” I asked. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?
“That’s a good idea,” Kylie said quietly. It was the first she’d spoken so far. “These are really pretty. I’m going to wear mine forever.” She offered me a shy smile.
I grinned back at her. “Maybe you’d want to help me?” I asked. “I can never decide what shells look best. I have a bunch of necklaces back in my cavern.”
“Could you go get them?” Kylie asked eagerly.
“Well, I could, but I wouldn’t be back for over an hour,” I said slowly. “It’s a long swim between Maraqua and Mystery Island.”
“Oh.” Kylie sounded sad. “I wish I could swim.”
“She can’t swim?” I asked in surprise, looking up at my owner.
“Not yet,” Elisa answered. “I was hoping you would be able to teach her, since you’re the professional now.” She grinned. “I also brought us a picnic. I’m going to go set the umbrella up over there, okay?” She pointed to an empty space on the sand. “Not too close to the water, but not too far away, either.” She smiled. “I brought your favorite – blueberry jam sandwiches and peppermint pizza for desert!”
Just the names of the foods made my stomach rumble. During my time underwater, the only thing I’d eaten was fish. Some types were okay, like butterfish, but some of them were disgusting – like rockfish. Kelp salads were pretty good – I was working on perfecting them.
* * *
Kylie was hesitant to get in the water at first. Making up excuses, she claimed it was too cold and too deep. When I insisted that the water temperature was just fine and we would stay in the shallows, she decided that the water was too salty to swim in.
Finally, after fifteen minutes, she stepped into the water. I spotted a rather large swell coming our way and yelled, “Quick! Plug your nose and dive down!” But she didn’t. The wave hit her smack in the face, then pushed her halfway up the beach.
I hurried up to her. The poor Kacheek had saltwater dripping from her nose, her eyes were red from the sand, and she started to cry. “Why didn’t you dive under the wave?” I asked frantically.
“Because,” Kylie sobbed, “I don’t know how to dive! And I don’t know how to hold my breath! Or even swim!” She began wailing so loudly that Elisa heard her and rushed over.
“What happened? Oh, Kylie, are you okay?” She picked up the wet little yellow Kacheek and rocked her in her arms. “Lela, what happened?”
“A wave caught her,” I said defensively. “I told her to hold her breath and dive under, but she didn’t.”
“Lela!” Elisabeth squawked. “Of course she didn’t! She doesn’t know how to swim! I was counting on you to teach her how – and keep her safe.” My owner sighed. “I think we’d better go,” she said. “I’m sorry, Lela. Maybe we can come back next weekend. I’ll try to teach Kylie to swim in the bathtub. Maybe James and Lucy will let us use their pool, once she’s ready for a bigger area.”
“B-but...” I stammered. Leaving? Now? “You just got here!”
“I know, sweetie, but I think I’d better get Kylie home and cleaned up. This was a little... traumatizing for her.”
Traumatizing? “Elisa! It was one little wave!”
Elisabeth just shook her head. Kylie had ceased to sniffles, but her eyes were still a stinging red, and she had a little sand burn on her elbow. Her bow was lopsided and slightly ripped.
Elisa set Kylie down on a flower-printed towel and began closing up the umbrella. I hobbled over to them and tried to reason with my owner again. “Elisa, I haven’t seen you in two weeks, and you haven’t even been here for an hour... Are you really leaving so soon?”
Elisabeth paused and looked me in the eye. “I’m sorry, Lela,” she said. “I really am. It’ll be better next week, I promise.”
And that was all.
* * *
I swam back to my cavern, crying my eyes out. It was rather annoying, because it was almost as though I wasn’t crying at all. Apparently, it was impossible to cry underwater.
Why, oh why, did she have to adopt another pet? I asked myself. Everything would have been perfectly fine if Kylie wasn’t there. Or if Elisa had at least adopted a pet who knew how to swim! I let out an angry growl and wished Leilani or Kasey was with me. How was I supposed to survive without my two best friends? One I hadn’t seen in two weeks, and the other I hadn’t seen in nearly two months!
I didn’t feel hungry, but I hadn’t eaten all day (Elisa even packed up the special picnic she’d brought me!), so I made myself a Koi kelp wrap. It wasn’t very tasty, but it helped settle my upset stomach.
Sighing, I picked up the necklace I had started the previous day. A few bright yellow beads were already strung onto it, as well as some clam shells. It made me think about what Elisa said. Could I really sell these?
That night, I made four more necklaces before going to bed. That made a total of eleven, and I decided to take them to Brenna first thing in the morning to see if she would be interested in them.
To be continued...