The pound is a harsh place for an uninviting pet. It is especially difficult to find an owner when one is painted an uninviting colour. Usually the rainbow pets are the first to be chosen. Of course, because they have the benefit of being painted a combination every colour, they are usually bright and cheery.
They spend most of their time wagging their tails or flicking their ears or chirping cutely with happiness. They're in and out of the pound about as quickly as baby pets -- or even faerie pets, with their flying and fluttering.
But grey pets ... well, they aren't as excitable. They won't flit around their cages or even try to look lovable when a potential owner walks by. They won't do much of anything to attract attention. Even an invisible pet in the pound is noticed more than a sulking grey pet.
The front door of the Neopian Pound opened. A small bell chimed a merry tune as it welcomed a new guest.
"Someone's coming! Look sharp, Marlow!" a pink Usul chirped as she marched up to the glass display window. She stood beneath the list of adoption prices and straightened her nametag. It read HOLLY in tall, bold letters. A heavy sigh came from the far corner of the cozy enclosure.
"It's no use," muttered Marlow, the grey Bori. "Nobody wants a pet with bags beneath his eyes and a frown on his face." Marlow remembered a time when his heart would flutter with hope whenever he heard that cheerful welcome bell, but that seemed like a very long time ago.
Marlow lived in the pound for months now. He was simply unwanted. Holly had arrived the morning before. Her former owners were unable to save enough neopoints to care for her. Being at the pound made both their hearts heavy, no matter how cheerful or comfortable their surroundings were.
"Don’t worry! Just because you've been here a while doesn't mean someone can't adopt you tomorrow, or the next day..." Holly trailed off. Her ears perked up as footsteps were heard nearby. "That could be someone right now!"
I wish she wouldn't say that, Marlow thought. It's what they all say to me, and then they get adopted and leave me here. The Bori sighed and wondered if the friends he made would ever come back to the pound to visit him.
A well-groomed pink Uni came into view. Her blue eyes sparkled as she smiled at a white Wocky following close behind, cradling a sleeping Snowbunny tucked in her paws. The Uni motioned toward the entrance of the pen in which Holly and Marlow lived.
"This is your new home for now so please make yourself comfortable! I know Dr. Death can be pretty intimidating, but you'll be under my care from here on out," the Uni laughed. "If you have any trouble, just let me know. I work at the front desk down the hall."
The Uni left as quickly as she came. The Wocky stood dead still for a moment. Her watery eyes were fixated on the decorated door in front of her. From her appearance, it was obvious she spent more time in the Grooming Parlor than the Battledome. Her fur looked as though it were brushed with the utmost care every day. She certainly didn't seem like the sort of pet that would end up in the pound. With tears streaming from her big, green eyes, she opened the door and entered her new home.
"Oh... hello," the Wocky whispered. "I thought I would at least have a room to myself in this place."
Marlow glanced up at Holly who had already rushed up to their new roommate with a big smile.
"Hey there, don't worry. Everybody's got to share the space around here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It's so we can make friends and support one another." Holly’s eyes lit up as she spotted the sleeping Snowbunny. "That's the cutest petpet I've ever seen!"
The Wocky snorted angrily and snatched her petpet from Holly’s view. "You will not touch Peanut Butter! Don't even look at Peanut Butter! She's MINE!" the Wocky screeched.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't know." Holly frowned and once again took her place beneath the adoption prices on the display window.
"Holly's very nice; I'm sure she didn't mean it. We just want you to feel welcome," mumbled Marlow.
"There's no way I'm going to feel welcome in this place. My home was a spotlight winner! We got an enormous trophy by the way." The Wocky dried her eyes and set Peanut Butter on a comfy pillow seat. "All I have to do is wait for my owner to come back and get me and I'll be out of here."
Marlow's frown deepened. He was always most sad when he lived with pets who thought their owners were coming back for them. They never would.
"I used to think my owner would get me out of here too, but I don't think they'll be coming back for us," Holly sighed.
"I know my owner's coming back to get me. Do you know how many Beauty Contests I've won? The trophies are all lined up in my room with my name engraved on them. 'Ellie, Beauty Contest Champion' they say. That's how I know my owner's coming back," Ellie fluffed the pillow on which Peanut Butter slept.
Marlow frowned at Holly, who looked almost as despondent as he did.
"What is there to do in this place? Where is the spa?" demanded Ellie.
"There is no spa, Ellie. But I do quite enjoy the board games they have for us here. Would you girls be interested in a game of Don't Splat the Korbat?" Marlow asked with a trace of enthusiasm in his voice.
"How boring. You're the most boring Bori I've ever met! I bet you've been in here a while, haven't you?"
"Y-yes... I have been here a while," Marlow grunted, caught off guard by the Wocky's callous comment.
"That's not nice, Ellie. For us to live here peacefully, we should really try and get along," pleaded Holly. The Usul kept her eyes on the ground, however, fearing another fiery comment from the spoiled Wocky.
"I bet the reason he's been here so long is because he doesn't even want to get adopted! I mean, I don't have to worry because my owner will be coming back. But you were trying to be adopted by someone new, you would at least try to make yourself a little more interesting! Right, Holly?"
Marlow's heart sank even lower. He wished more than anything that Ellie would stop.
"I guess you have a point. Nobody wants a boring pet, I suppose..." Holly's determination to stand up to Ellie's cruelty faltered and her need to be liked prevailed.
The Bori's heart broke and he hid his face as tears fell from his puffy eyes. The cozy pen, with all its cheerful decorations, fell silent. Marlow didn't hear the welcome bell chime, or the footsteps echoing through the hall.
Holly's disheartened demeanor vanished and she stood at the window, wagging her tail and doing her best to look adorable. The pink Uni appeared once again and nodded toward the enclosure with Holly, Marlow, Ellie, and Peanut Butter inside.
"Is this the kind of pet you're looking for, ma'am?" the Uni asked cheerfully. A slight female figure wearing a tattered grey robe startled Holly as she came into view. The hood of her robes was pulled over her head and her face was shrouded in shadows. Holly wasn't sure if she would want to go home with this strange woman.
"Yes. Exactly the kind," said the lady, her voice was soft and sorrowful. Ellie sat aloof and paid no mind to the guest. Holly shrank back and stopped her cute act. Marlow didn't even look up, and continued to cry silently.
"Marlow, this nice woman would like to adopt you," chirped the Uni. Marlow's world seemed to snap back into focus. His heart fluttered for a moment, but he didn't look up. He was unsure if he heard correctly.
"Yes, I very much would, Marlow. You are perfect and I would give you a wonderful home." The woman's haunting voice was as mysterious as her appearance. "That is, if you would like for me to adopt you." Holly scampered over to where Marlow lay motionless.
"Marlow! I knew you would get adopted! I'm so sorry for what I said!" Holly placed her paws gently on Marlow's shoulders. It seemed to be the right thing to wake him out of his daze, for he stood slowly and looked at his new owner for the first time.
The Bori wasn't sure if he was dreaming or not, but he rushed past Ellie and Holly to the door of the pen. He opened it cautiously and stood in front of his new owner. Though he could not see her face, he could feel her warmth and kindness. The two embraced and for the first time in a long time, Marlow's hopelessness melted away.
The woman lifted her hood, revealing her worn features. Her skin was pale and there were bags beneath her eyes just like the ones beneath Marlow's. Her hair was grey and so were her eyes. The Grey Faerie stood before Marlow and smiled.
"Let's go home. I have lots of pets just like you," the Faerie whispered. The pink Uni strode ahead and Marlow took his new owner by the hand as they followed close behind.
"Will there be board games at home?" the Bori asked innocently. The Grey Faerie laughed joyfully and nodded. Marlow and the faerie left the pound and a small bell chimed a merry tune as it bid them farewell.