I remembered Shari as a bright young Kougra, ready to learn, and experience. She had talent, and excelled at whatever she did. She had courage, she had vitality, and she planned to live her life to the fullest. She had an infectious smile and big dreams. Everyone had high expectations of her. It all seemed almost too perfect... and I suppose it was.
A user adopted her, took her in. I had never seen Shari so excited; she was ecstatic. She knew how rare it was for an average, basic coloured pet like her to be adopted. She said her goodbyes to all of us, and wished us well. I was sad to see her go... she had been such a joy, the only fiercely burning candle in the darkness, in hard times. We didn’t hear from her after she left; ready to face the challenges life had to offer with a supporter and a friend, who we hoped would care for her and cherish her.
I was walking home that night, watching the stars gleam. A train of thoughts overcame me, like it did always on dark, quiet nights, and I barely glanced at my surroundings. My feet unconsciously led me to my Neohome; my mind was lost in thought. All of a sudden, a thought leapt into my mind. What had become of that Kougra, that bright little spark, whom I had seen nearly four years ago? Shari, yes! That was her name! I hadn’t thought of her in ages!
As I reached home, my curiosity led me to search for her name in the pet records. I found it, and immediately began to read. The first line itself shocked me...
- Shari the Grey Kougra
- Gender: Female
- Age: 5 years
- Level: 3
- Height: 69 cms
- Weight: 128 lbs
- Nature: Likes reading books. When meeting others, Shari would act very friendly.
- Previous owner: unknown
- Current owner: This pet is a Pound escapee. If you know where she is, please contact the Pound located in the Neopian Plaza.
- Current whereabouts: unknown
I stared at the words. Previous owner, unknown... grey pet, pound escapee... it didn’t make any sense! Suddenly, I felt memories flood my mind. Memories of Shari as a young cub, so happy and carefree... how could a pet like that be painted grey? I was shocked and stunned. I sat down, letting the memories flow. Ten minutes later, I made a decision. I was going to find this pet, no matter what it took!
The next morning, I set out. The first place I visited was the Pound. I had stopped volunteering some time ago, now I had become an occasional visitor. I walked down into the Central, and from there, took a left turn to the Plaza.
The Neopian Pound was in an extreme corner, looking as prim and proper as it did when I had visited last month. The door swung open and I was greeted by the usual throng of users, looking for their dream pet, a painted pet, or just looking to adopt. I made my way through the crowd, till I found someone who looked familiar.
Liana, a frequent volunteer at the Pound whom I had befriended a few months back while visiting to check the status of things, grinned at me. I waited patiently while she showed a user a perky looking Yellow Xweetok, and got her to sign the adoption papers. The user cuddled her new pet and they went out, talking animatedly all the while.
I walked to a quiet corner, and after a bit, Liana joined me.
“How’s everything going?” she asked, as we shook hands. “Adopted a pet yet? You’ve been around for quite a while you know...”
“Yes, I know. But I’m waiting for the right one. How is everything going around here? Doesn’t seem to have changed much. Anyway, I’m here for a reason, Liana. I want to ask you about a particular pet... her name is Shari. Do you remember her?”
Liana frowned, and was silent for a while before replying. “Yes, I think I do. The young Grey pet? A Kougra, wasn’t she?”
“Yes... is it true she ran away from the Pound?”
“It’s true. But why the sudden interest in this particular pet? I only ever remember her because she was Grey, and she ran away. She hasn’t been found yet. And the only advertising this lot will do is to mention it in her name listing in the pet records. Is that where you found it?”
“Yup. I knew her back when I was a volunteer. She was a wonderful pet; all the volunteers adored her. But then she got adopted... and now I hear that she’s been painted Grey! Shari would hate that more than anything else...”
Liana looked thoughtfully at me. “I liked her. She had spunk, that one. She was quite a character. But why this sudden interest in her?”
“When did she run away?”
“A month back. She’s one of the few pets the Pound, or Judge Hog, haven’t been able to track down. She had a tough time here... the Pound was going through a rough patch. Not too much food, lack of volunteers, financial problems... it wasn’t being run too well. And Dr Death was being extra mean and taking it out on all the pets. Plus she had a... difficult roommate who wasn’t too nice to her.”
I shrugged. I didn’t think that was the reason. “Well, do you have any idea where she might have gone?”
Liana rolled her eyes. “If I did, we would have found her by now! Answer my question, what do you want with Shari?”
I smiled. “She was a great pet. She deserved more. Any idea why she was pounded?”
“Why are pets always pounded? No, I don’t know, but I can guess. Her owner got tired of her, or wanted another pet and decided to pound the fourth, or couldn’t take care of her, or decided to leave Neopia for good, or-”
“Okay, I get the point. Thanks, I’ll get going now.”
“Sure, see you around. I hope you find her. If you do, don’t bring her back here.”
Nodding, I waved and made my way out. I felt a sudden chill, and a sudden sense of determination. I wanted to find her! Maybe she would be the pet I waited so long for. I could never adopt or create a pet, never knowing why, but just trusting my heart. Now, I would trust it again.
I spent a week searching for Shari. I had no pictures of her to convert into posters, but I asked all my friends, and they spread the word around. I had two people blink and ask, “Why search for a pet whom you haven’t seen for so long? She’s just like any other pet.”
But I would smile and shake my head. No, Shari was special. There was something in her which other pets didn’t have. I asked around at random Neohomes, but no success. No one had even heard of her. And certainly no one checked up the pet records! To them, she was just another pet in the whole of Neopia...
I am trudging back home at the end of the long week, thoroughly exhausted. I am hoping for a miracle – it is all I have to fall back on. And so I cling to it.
It is dark, and the stars whisper conspiratorially, their unheard secrets wafting with the wind. I feel a bit melancholy, though I am unsure why. I am unsure of nearly everything these days, but my quest keeps me going.
Then, I see her. Slinking out from a sharp turn in the road, a Grey Kougra appears. Her dark red eyes are sparkling like rubies against her matted fur, her tail swishing. She is the Shari I remembered and loved. I can’t believe my eyes!
She smiles. If ever you see a Grey pet smile, you are lucky.
“Shari? Is it you?” I hear myself say, as a confirmation.
“Of course! Who else could it be?”
It’s nearly midnight, and Shari and I are in my Neohome, sipping cups of hot chocolate.
“My owner was a nice enough person to begin with,” Shari explains. “However, she wasn’t warm; she didn’t care for me. She looked after me, groomed me, and played with me to keep me happy. But she didn’t love me. She made feeding and grooming and playing sound like a chore. I wasn’t able to do anything. I just sat at home. She didn’t have any books for me to read. It was a nightmare, but I kept reminding myself that there were loads of pets that didn’t have homes... I was lucky.”
I stroke her head as her ears droop. After another sip of hot chocolate, she continues. “And then she painted me Grey. I hated it... I felt depressed all the time. The colour has the effect on you, and I still feel awfully miserable at times, though I’m getting used to it. Then she put me in the Pound. I don’t know why, but I was a bit glad. I thought you were there, or maybe some of the other volunteers would be around. But they weren’t. After two weeks in there, I was lonely, crushed, and felt defeated. I wasn’t thinking straight. Dr Death... he... he had left the door to my room ajar, he didn’t suspect anything. I just ran. And I’ve lived on the streets ever since. It hasn’t been as difficult as it sounds... I hang around the Money Tree, and can get small snacks or neopoints to buy food. I just don’t know what to do now.”
I take a deep breath, and smile at her. “Shari, I’ve been looking for you.”
“Would you consider being my pet? You and I, we have so much to learn, so much to give to Neopia. You’re brilliant; you aren’t going to use it by living on the streets. I... have never adopted a pet before, because I wanted a pet that my heart would choose. That’s you.”
Shari is beaming. In the dim Neohome light, I see her happier than I had ever seen her, in all her five years. “I am brilliant,” she says, grinning. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Yes is only three letters, Shari.”
It seems like one of those happily ever after stories, but it never is. Life has lots of surprises up ahead, and Shari and I will face it together. But I still say that I have never seen Shari’s eyes sparkle as they did then, and as they will forever. Maybe it was because of what I could detect deep within her soul. It was hope. Rekindled hope.
This is my first entry in the Neopian Times! *happy dance*