The Uni and the Lupe
The familiar howling of a baby Lupe cut through the silence of the Lost Desert. Even though I was seven feet down in the hole I was digging in the backyard of my owner’s Neohome, the howling was as annoying as ever. I stopped digging, stood up on my hind legs, and pressed my front hooves over my ears, using my wings to keep my balance.
“What is wrong with that Lupe?” I grumbled to myself.
For a long time my owner, BG, and I had been the only full-time inhabitants of our street outside Sakhmet. There were other Neohomes, but they were all abandoned for one reason or another. Then, a few weeks ago, a new family moved in, consisting of a young human female and a baby Lupe. For the most part, they were good neighbors: quiet, peaceful, and tending to keep to themselves. But every three days or so, the girl left the Neohome, leaving the Lupe behind, and didn’t come back until late at night. On those days, the Lupe howled pitifully all day long.
And today was one of those days.
I was trying to block out the howling when a shadow fell across my hole. I looked up to see BG standing there. He looked over at the neighbor’s Neohome, then down at me. I took my hooves off my ears so I could hear him better.
“Do you have any idea why that new owner leaves her Neopet behind like that?” I asked crossly.
“It’s only once every few days,” BG replied, taciturn as ever.
“But it’s annoying!”
He gave me a look that was half amusement, half resignation. I flew up and out of my hole to land beside him.
“I’m so glad you don’t do that to me,” I sighed, rubbing against his legs.
BG nodded and picked me up. How a human of his size can pick up a full-grown royal girl Uni like me so easily is beyond my understanding.
“Let’s go inside,” he said. “You can get back to your digging tomorrow.”
BG had a good point. But even once we were indoors, I could still hear the baby Lupe’s sad howls. And they continued until it was almost bedtime.
Another week passed. I finished up my hole and filled it in, then decided to wait to start another one. So one morning I was sunbathing in the backyard when the howling began again, louder than ever before. I glared over at the next door Neohome and saw the baby Lupe poking his head out an open window, howling to the sky. As I got to my hooves to go inside, he saw me, and the howling stopped abruptly.
I couldn’t help but look more closely at the baby Lupe. He seemed very sad, but the glossy sheen of his fur told me that he was well taken care of.
“It’s not a case of mistreatment by an owner,” I thought to myself. “It’s a case of feeling abandoned.”
I felt a bit of pity for the little guy, as BG wasn’t my first owner. I had been abandoned by my first owner, then BG had saved me. I walked slowly over to the window as the Lupe watched my every move. After a minute we were practically nose-to-nose. Then he spoke up.
“Hello, pretty Uni,” he said quietly. “Will you play with me?”
I was quite surprised.
“Why are you howling?” I asked.
He looked sad.
“My owner is off earning Neopoints,” he said. “She says I have to stay here and guard the Neohome until she can afford to get a security system put in. But I’m lonely without her...”
Now I understood. And I was no longer angry. I gently pushed the window open a bit wider so the Lupe could squeeze out. He tumbled into the sand with a happy yelp, then looked up at me.
“Thank you, pretty Uni!” he said. “My name’s Di... or that’s my nickname. My real name is a jumble of letters and numbers, so my owner calls me Di. What’s your name?”
The two of us wound up talking for a few minutes before Di challenged me to a foot race. We went back over to my Neohome’s backyard and began to run around. After the race we wrestled, chased each other, and played hide-and-seek and a lot of other outdoor games. Di was a lot of fun to play with, and he seemed to respect me. It had been a while since I had played with another Neopet who liked getting dirty. After all, most Unis hate getting any kind of dirt on them, so I’m the exception. And when you’re the exception, the “normal” Unis don’t like you.
After a few hours of play we were both quite tired, so we lay down in the shade of BG’s two-man Virtupets space fighter, which was parked in the backyard, and rested. BG chose that moment to come outside and join us. Di was a bit uneasy when my owner approached, but he quickly settled down again, and then fell asleep. I told BG what Di had said about his owner’s absence.
“She’s right to be concerned about intruders, since we’re this close to Sakhmet,” he mused, gesturing towards the city walls, which were less than a mile away.
“But BG,” I cut in, “You’ve been keeping an eye on the street for over a year now. Do you think you could persuade Di’s owner that you’ll keep everything under control?”
He was quiet for a minute before speaking again.
“I could, yes,” he replied. “I have an idea.”
A few days later, the doorbell of BG’s Neohome rang. When he opened it, Di and his owner were standing on the front steps. BG and I had invited them over to talk and so we could get to know each other a bit. The human girl introduced herself as Hayley, and the four of us sat down in the main room.
“Tell us a bit about yourself, Hayley,” BG began.
Hayley seemed a bit shy, but she began to talk anyway. She actually didn’t say much about herself; she mostly talked about Di.
“I was, and still am, new at taking care of Neopets,” she said. “Before I adopted one, I decided that I wanted a Lupe. But actually adopting one from one of the many adoption schools seemed wrong to me, especially when I heard about how many Neopets were stuck in the Pound with little to no hope. That’s where I met Di.”
I was shocked. Di was a Pound Rescue, like me?
“You were in the Pound?” I asked the baby Lupe.
“Yes,” he whimpered, obviously not fond of the memory.
“So was I,” I said quietly. “I know what that’s like.”
Both Di and Hayley stared at me. BG broke the sudden silence.
“I was just like you, Hayley,” he said. “Adopting from one of the schools just didn’t make sense when the Pound was as full as it is.”
I climbed into BG’s lap and lay down as he petted me.
“I don’t know who Di’s original owner was, but I do know that he was treated well before he was abandoned,” Hayley went on. “According to him, he was abandoned because his previous owner couldn’t take care of him anymore, and wanted him to have a better life.”
She looked at me.
“What’s your Uni’s story?” she asked.
I looked up at BG, silently pleading with him not to talk about it. I didn’t like the memories.
My owner saw the look in my eyes.
“She doesn’t like to talk about it, so let’s not,” he said, petting me.
BG changed the subject to Hayley’s concerns about intruders. The girl told him that she was worried about thieves and the like raiding her Neohome.
“I can’t afford a good security system like you have,” she said. “I’m working on that, but it’s slow going. I feel a bit safer leaving Di behind when I go to earn Neopoints, because at least then someone is around to watch the house. Still, I really dislike leaving the poor baby behind.”
Di whimpered in agreement.
At that moment, BG revealed his plan.
“Hayley, I’ve watched this street for well over a year, keeping it safe from unsavory types,” he said. “I can do the same for your Neohome. Take Di with you when you go to earn Neopoints; you can do quite a bit of bonding when you’re out doing things like that. I’ll keep an eye on the house for you.”
Hayley seemed quite surprised. Di quickly spoke up.
“Please, Hayley?” he begged, pawing at his owner. “I trust BG. He’s always been nice to me when I’m playing with him and his Uni. Please?”
Hayley couldn’t say no to her baby Lupe’s pleading. She agreed to let BG keep an eye on her Neohome while she and Di were away.
A few days later, I was poking around the garden in the front yard of BG’s Neohome when Hayley and Di left their Neohome. For the first time, they were going to earn Neopoints together. Di saw me and gave me an enthusiastic wave as he scurried after his owner. I smiled and waved back, then lay down for a sunbath. It felt good seeing them go off together, and it felt good knowing that I would never have to deal with Di’s howling again.
I had been too quick to judge Di. Even though I wouldn’t admit it openly, I had learned a lesson. I promised myself that I would try not to judge others that way again, then settled down for my sunbath. I fell asleep quickly, and dreamed about all the fun Di and I would have tomorrow.
I was looking forward to it.
Author’s note: Di and Hayley were made up by me. Any resemblance to other Neopets and owners is purely coincidental.