Six Names, Six Lives, Six Owners, One Terrible Tale: Part Two
The following days and weeks were the most horrible so far. There were pets to my left and my right. All of us were abandoned, cast off, unwanted, and unloved, but I acted as if they did not exist, and they returned the favor. Sometimes, Neopians would come in with their own neopets. At this time, the more hopeful animals would paw at the door of the cage and whimper pitifully. Those were the animals that got adopted. The rest of us? No chance. We curled in the back of the cage and either hid or growled at visitors. We were those who had lost trust, kindness, and love. We had been abandoned by good owners who we thought loved us. Now we knew better.
My only problem? I was a level two. Laura had never been a big Battledomer, but during our summer vacation we visited Coltzan's Shrine, where I was lucky enough to get leveled up. Anyway, amidst all of the level one pets, a level two pet stood out, but I didn't want to be adopted, not by them. I wanted my Brownie.
I would lie at the floor of my cage. I would ignore the world, but if anyone so much as glanced my way, I would fly to the front of my cage and growl, hiss, or shout. Soon, my bad reputation got around, and I was left alone.
One day, a new pet was put in the cage next to me. I glanced up, and my gaze met hers. It was another Xweetok, painted bright red.
“Hi,” she said cheerily. “I'm Bhima. What are you called?”
“I'm Xander,” I said glumly.
“And who are you?”
“Xander,” I repeated.
“Surely that is just what you are called,” she said with a smile.
“I am CALLED Xx_0837593_xX,” she said. “but Bhima is who I am.”
“I.... I'm Azarel.” I meant to say 'I don't know who I am'. But the word 'Azarel' seemed to choke me, forcing me to spit it out.
“I thought so,” Bhima said. “You have the eyes for it, after all. And your ears are the right shape, too. Small paws, fluffy tail, broad blue stripe, yes, you're Azarel all over.”
“And... and you're Bhima all over,” I said, and I realized that I was right. Bhima WAS her name, I could just tell. I think if I had looked at her longer before I new she was Bhima, I would have guessed it anyway.
“Thank you,” she said. Finally, I asked the question I'd been meaning to ask.
“Why are you so cheerful, Bhima? I mean... the pound isn't the best place to be.”
“Who is to say what places are better or worse than others?” Bhima asked calmly. “After all, while you may not think falling from two miles up in the sky would be any good, a Shoyru or other flying neopet would have no worries. You may also think being stuck at the bottom of the ocean would be any fun, but a Koi or Peophin would be content. You do not think the pound is a nice place, I disagree.”
“I... I guess that makes sense,” I stammered. Bhima didn't say any more, and I drifted into an uneasy sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, Bhima was gone. She was probably adopted in the night, but to me it seemed as if she had disappeared into thin air.
Despite her short stay, Bhima had inspired me. After that, I sat up straight in my cage. A girl and her Shoyru looked at me, and I purred as the girl stroked me and tickled my chin.
Another two weeks passed, and neopets were abandoned and adopted every day. I took on Bhima's cheery attitude, however, and greeted each abandoned pet within a few cages of me. I helped them get over whatever they had been through, and in return I got to see smiles rather than glum frowns.
One day, very early, I heard the door being unbolted, and my eyes opened as Dr. Death entered.
“Don't understand why this couldn't have waited until morning,” he muttered angrily as a girl entered behind him.
“Sorry,” she said. “I'm just sooooo excited to get my second pet! See, I think my first pet needs a brother or a sister. Oh wow! There are so many!”
“Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever.” The Techo waved his hand absentmindedly. “Pick the one you like and then talk to Magenta about adoption papers.”
“Okay, thanks, Mr. Doom!” she called as he shut the door. “Oh my gosh! You are all sooooo cute! I wish I could take all of you home!” She patted a few pets, and then came to my cage. “OMG!” she said. “You are soooooooo adorable! What kind of neopet are you?” Before I could answer, she kept talking. “I think you're a Wocky, right? I think you are! You rock! I'm totally getting you!” She poked her head out the door. “Fuchsia or whatever your name is!” she called. “I'm totally ready! I picked out this cute blue Wocky!”
“My name is 'Magenta', Kiki,” Magenta said, “and that is a Xweetok.”
“Sorry, sorry, yeah, I know,” Kiki said. “anyway, she's soooooo cute!”
“HE certainly is,” Magenta said. “Now if you'll step out here, we can fill out the adoption form.”
“Oh, okay, smashing!” Kiki practically skipped out. Some of the pets were staring at me. Some of them had on their 'sick-with-envy' looks. The rest of them had on their 'you-my-friend-are-in-serious-trouble' looks. I shrugged as Kiki came back in and opened my cage.
“You lovable little thing!” Kiki said as we left, her carrying me. “I'm going to call you Babycakes!”
“Okay, first of all, I can walk,” I said. “Second of all, my name is Xander.”
“Too hard to pronounce,” Kiki complained. “No, to me, you'll be Babycakes. My other pet is Cutesy-sweetums; you'll like her.”
“I hope so,” I said.
“I wish you'd stop interrupting! I can hardly get a word in edgewise! Gosh. Anyway, I just got her yesterday. She's my first pet, like EVER!”
And that is how my life at the pound ended, and my life with Kiki began.
That night, I attempted to count my blessings, but for every good thing there seemed to be half a dozen bad things.
“At least I have a home and an owner again,” I told myself. “But the home isn't half as nice as Laura's, and my owner doesn't seem to honestly care for me.
“Well, at least I'm not in the pound,” I thought. “but there were friendly, likable pets in the pound, unlike Cutesy-sweetums.”
My first day with Kiki had not been an enjoyable one.
As soon as we got to Kiki's neohome, we were pounced on by a young yellow Kacheek.
“Kiki! You're back!” she proclaimed. “Can we go shopping for clothes now?”
“Sure!” Kiki said. “I got some neopoints just for adopting you, so we can go to the store and get some right now! And let's get some of those usuki things I heard about, too!”
“Oh boy! Let's go!”
Without a word, Kiki dragged us both out of her simple house. After five minutes, it became apparent that Kiki had adopted me not because she really wanted another pet to love, but because she wanted another toy to dress up.
Kiki dragged us to three different stores, and I did not enjoy a single one. Usukis and dresses galore soon filled Cutesy-sweetums's bag, and she obviously couldn't have been happier. Kiki also made several attempts to buy hideous clothes for me, but I managed to evade those horrible flowery hats and other embarrassing articles.
Back at Kiki's almost empty house, Kiki dressed and undressed Cutesy at least two dozen times, trying to find the best clothing combinations.
By the end of the week, it was getting harder to think of blessings. Kiki pampered and spoiled Cutesy to no end, and had the neopoints to do so, ever since she discovered Usuki Frenzy. She got herself into the high scores in no time.
I must admit, though. It was better than having no owner at all. Kiki clearly liked Cutesy more than me, but she still bought me a bed. It was pink, flowery, and garish, yes, but it was a bed nonetheless. I also got my three square meals a day. The meals were overly-sugary and usually pink, yes, but three meals nonetheless.
Cutesy was my real annoyance. She wasn't mean. She wasn't even snobby, but she was... I suppose she was perfect for Kiki. She was very quiet, unless she was asking Kiki to take her shopping (for the tenth time that week) or commenting on her 'faboo' and 'smashing' wardrobe.
I, however, was clearly a disappointment to Kiki. I avoided silly dress-up outfits like the Neoflu, and, when asked, would rather Bash Kass than play with a bunch of usukis.
Finally, though, I got into a routine. I'd wake up in the morning and immediately get dragged into town, where Kiki and Cutesy would go on a shopping spree.
Afterward, we'd either get pizza in town or go back home. If we went back home, Cutesy would put on a virtual fashion show before running off with Kiki to play yet another round of that usuki game, leaving me alone.
This was my favorite part of the day. As soon as they were gone, I would head back into town and babysit petpets for an hour or two. With the money, I would treat myself to a new book from the book store and head back home to curl up and read it. When I finished it, I would slip it under my frilly bed, where a library slowly grew.
Sometimes, if I finished reading, I would visit the family next door. The four young Ixi living there were always happy to see me, along with their owner, Jourdan. Over time, Pixi, Trixi, Bixi and Rixi became my fast friends, and Jourdan would often have cookies or other treats to share. I wished more than once that I could live with them, for they were always welcoming and kind to me, but for the time being I was stuck with Kiki.
One day, as I was reading, I glanced at the clock and was surprised at how late it was. Kiki and Cutesy were usually back earlier.
After another hour, I heard Kiki at the door and quickly hid my book as they came in.
“Oh my gosh! She's adorable!” Cutesy said as she came in. “I'll name her Angel!”
A gasping angelpuss struggled to break free of Cutesy's death grip of a hug. “Isn't she cute?” Cutesy asked me.
“Uh, sure,” I said, wondering how anyone could love such a weird little creature.
“I know what you're thinking!” Kiki said. “You're wondering where yours is!”
“Of course you are! He's right here!” Kiki produced another gasping animal out of her backpack, this one half-suffocated from being stuck in a hot bag all day.
“Oh, thanks,” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic as I took the poor creature from my owner.
“What are you going to call him, Babycakes?” Cutesy asked, using my annoying new name.
“I don't know yet,” I said, trying to calm the panicked petpet who had unsheathed his claws and was clinging tightly to me. I gently stroked his white head and pried his paws from my shoulders. He purred and rubbed against my neck.
“I'll call him Azarel,” I decided, remembering my conversation with Bhima back at the pound.
“Ayzeereel?” Kiki asked. “What is it with you and these complicated names?”
“Azarel,” I repeated. Kiki shrugged.
“Call him Devil, for all I care,” she said. “Come on, Cutesy, let's go see if usuki clothes fit Angel.” On that note, owner, pet, and petpet left the room, Angel furiously trying to escape.
Azarel yawned and arched his back happily, and curled up on my lap, purring. I retrieved my book from under the bed, and Azarel, who was a very intelligent petpet, listened to every word I read.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're waiting for me to say that I lived happily with Azarel for the rest of my life, despite my annoying owner and her fashionista pet. Maybe you're even hoping that Laura will swing open the door and exclaim that she never meant to leave me and has given Mavis away to a dark faerie to work in her service forever. In fact, you know what? You can put the paper down right now and imagine that's what happened, and not bother reading the next episode of this story. You do that, go on, because I'll tell you right now that that is not what happened. The truth, in fact, is much worse. Go on, put the paper down, or at least take my original advice and read the comics.
I can see that all my convincing has done no good. You really refuse to run off and read the comics, huh? Oh well. I suppose I must continue, whether I like it or not.
Anyway, for another month or so, things continued as usual. Well, actually, Kiki painted me red, and then green, and then back to blue, but that's beside the point. Everything except the color of my fur went on as usual. Kiki and Cutesy would blow their neopoints shopping, and I would hide away in my room, reading with Azarel.
However, one day, that all changed.
Kiki burst inside happily. “Awesome news, Cutesy!” she said.
“What am I? Chopped liver?” I asked. I was ignored.
“I bought us another neohome!” She waved her arms in the air, squealing happily.
“What's wrong with the one we have now?” Cutesy asked, looking confused.
“Nothing, nothing, but I've decided to turn this place into a side account!”
“What's that?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“It means that I'll play games and go shopping and stuff in the new neohome, and only use this place sometimes.”
“When do we leave?” Cutesy asked.
“As soon as possible!” Kiki declared. “Load up, Cutesy, and leave no skirt unpacked!”
“What about me?” I asked, worried.
Kiki shrugged. “I can only transfer one neopet every month, and I decided that Cutesy would go first. I'll be back for you soon.”
“What will I eat?” I asked. The thought of being without food for four weeks was not a pleasant one at all.
“I'll come back here as often as I can,” Kiki said dismissively. “Or at least send some food through neomail. Come on, Cutesy!”
“I managed to fit everything into seven bags, Kiki!” Cutesy called.
“Hey, Babycakes,” Kiki said (referring to me). “Go help Cutesy with her bags, and hurry, we have to go.”
I angrily lugged five of the seven bags from Cutesy's room to the front door. The sixth probably weighed three ounces and was carried by Cutesy. The seventh was Angel in her pet carrier, who I would have picked up under normal circumstances, but the petpet was incredibly angry at being stuffed inside a cage, and I'd like to hold onto my limbs, thank you very much.
Anyway, in no time I was alone in the house again, but this time was different. The whole place felt empty and desolate. Azarel rubbed up against my legs, as if reminding me that I wasn't alone. However, despite Azarel's presence, I felt more alone than I had in a long time.
The next day, Kiki came back to the house as she had promised. She had brought me enough omelette for a few days, and dropped it unceremoniously in the fridge before waving at me and leaving me alone once more.
That's how it was for over two weeks. Kiki would come every couple days, drop off some food, and leave again. I really couldn't wait for the end of the month to come.
The third week began, and I shared the last of the jelly with Azarel. Kiki usually came with food before it completely ran out, but I guessed she was just late. Two more days passed, however, and Kiki did not come. All that was left in the fridge was rotten omelette, which Azarel ate happily but I could not stomach.
Finally, as the sun went down on the third day and my stomach had shrunk to the size of a grape, an urgent knock came on the door.
That's weird, I thought. Kiki never knocks.
Hesitantly, I opened the door a crack and discovered a white weewoo on our front step.
“Hey, I thought you didn't exist,” I said.
The weewoo ignored that little comment and tipped his hat cheerily to me. Then, he clicked his (or her. It's hard to tell with weewoos) beak. Reaching into his (or her) large bag, he (or she) pulled out a copy of the Neopian Times, along with a small package. Tipping his hat again, he (or she. Or it. That weewoo. Unless it was a robot that looked like a weewoo. Never mind, it doesn't matter.) flew off.
I opened the box in confusion, and discovered a week's supply of broccoli.
“I suppose we just have to make the best of it,” I told Azarel, who looked just as unhappy as I did about eating nothing but broccoli for a whole week. However, with my limited cooking skills, I boiled, baked, and even burnt the broccoli, just in an attempt at variety.
It had now been one month since she had moved Cutesy to her side account, and she still didn't come. I waited another three days. Nothing happened.
Azarel and I were actually preparing to leave the house by the fourth day, when suddenly another knock came on the door. Assuming it was the weird, wasn't-supposed-to-exist-but-did weewoo, I opened the door.
It wasn't the weewoo. It wasn't Kiki. It was Jourdan, from next door.
“Oh, hi, Jourdan,” I said, disappointed.
“Hi, Xander,” Jourdan said. (It was awesome to hear my real name for once.) “Is Kiki here?”
“She hasn't been here for weeks,” I explained forlornly. “She's with Cutesy in her new neohome.”
“Are you here by yourself then?” Jourdan asked, looking confused.
“Azarel's here,” I said, picking up my petpet.
“Azarel can't feed you,” Jourdan pointed out. “Don't you worry, I'll send a message to Kiki by neomail right away and then get back to you, okay?”
I nodded sadly and shut the door as Jourdan walked away. Now, more than ever, I wished I could follow him back to his neohome and live with him and his pets, but the rule was four neopets or fewer, and I knew Jourdan could never abandon one of his Ixi.
The next day, another knock on the door announced Jourdan's arrival. I opened the door and looked up at him worriedly. He was rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
“What is it?” I asked. “Did you hear back from Kiki?”
“Uh, yeah,” Jourdan said nervously. “But...”
“But what?” I asked, my eyes widening.
“She's not coming back for you.” Jourdan sighed. “And she won't be sending you more food.”
“So... what do I do now?” I asked, hugging Azarel close to me. “I can't live by myself forever, can I?”
“No, you can't.” Jourdan didn't meet my eyes, and he shuffled his feet. “She... uh... she wants me to take you back to the pound.”
“No, Jourdan!” I said. “You can't do that!”
“I'm sorry, Xander,” Jourdan said, placing a hand on my shoulder, “but it's her decision to make, not mine.”
“Wh-what about Azarel?” I asked as the angelpuss rubbed against me, oblivious. “He can't come to the pound, can he?”
“Don't worry,” Jourdan said, talking as if I was way younger than I was. “I'll take good care of him. Pixi's been wanting a petpet of her own, and I'm sure she'd love him.”
I held Azarel close to me and looked into his eyes. He was oblivious to our conversation, and happily purred.
“Xander,” Jourdan went on. “You can come with me to the pound, or I can drag you there.”
“O... okay,” I said. I slowly gave Azarel to Jourdan. I knew in my heart that I would rather be in the pound than starving in an empty house, but I was still hesitant to leave. Bhima's advice no longer seemed any good. I didn't want to go back to the pound, positive attitude or not.
Jourdan dropped Azarel off at his own neohome and came back for me. I could tell that he really regretted doing this, and I almost got down on my knees and begged him to let me stay, but I refused to swallow my pride so easily.
“Let's go,” I said. As if the weather matched my mood, it began to rain, and my pelt was totally soaked by the time we entered the pound once more.
I didn't move at all once we were inside, just sat on the floor as a puddle formed around me.
Dr. Death, who was near the reception deck, giggled. “Back again so soon, Xander?” he asked, sending a chill down my spine. I didn't answer as Jourdan spoke to Magenta, explaining the situation.
Finally, Jourdan turned around and hugged me, sopping fur and all.
“I wish more than anything that I could adopt you myself, Xander,” he said. “I really do, but I can't give up any of my Ixi. You understand that, right?”
I nodded, choking back tears.
“You'll be fine,” Jourdan promised, sounding like he was convincing himself as much as me. “You'll find a new family. A forever family.”
I nodded sadly again.
“It's okay, Jourdan,” I said. “You're right.” But it wasn't okay. It wasn't even a little bit okay. Jourdan patted my head one more time, opened the door, and left me alone.
Dr. Death snatched me up, stuffed me in a cage, and left me alone, unwanted, and unloved right back where I started.
To be continued...