The Family Reunion: Part One
Ding-dong! The doorbell rang happily. I rushed to the door to see through the glass the mailman, a chubby Elephante. What was he doing here? I hadn’t gotten mail for who-knows-how-long. Confused, I watched as he pushed a single pink-tinted Neomail through the mail slot. It floated to the ground; it was light. I picked it up from the ground. It was carnation pink, with a heart-shaped sticker on to seal it on the back. Hastily I set it down on the nearby bookshelf and flung open the door.
“Wait!” I shouted after the mailman. He stopped walking down my sidewalk and turned.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Well,” I said, somewhat sheepish. “I never get Neomail. There must be a mistake. It’s got a return address and a stamp and everything.”
“It’s your lucky day.” The Elephante shrugged and continued down the street with his hulking mail bag.
I went back inside and stared down the precious envelope before carefully ripping it open at the seams. Mail, for me! Imagine.
I told myself to wait a moment before reading the note and read the return address so I’d know who it was from. The print was small and neat and...
I had to squint to read it. I read the first line once, then twice, until I was scanning it over and over and over again. The reality of it hit me like a Gormball – this was really happening! It couldn’t be. I shakily pulled the small piece of white, unlined paper out of the open envelope. It was bordered with pink and had printed roses on each corner. The handwriting was the same, tiny and perfect. It was a short note, to my dismay, and centered in the middle of the page.
Dear Dolceannia and Parker,
Happy Valentine’s Day. Hope it’s first-class.
The note drifted from my hands and hit the ground soundlessly.
I stood up and clomped up the stairs, leaving the note where it was. I was shocked, like I’d stuck an Electric paint brush in my mouth. It had to all be a dream.
Because Skye Tyler is my owner.
And she abandoned this account three years ago.
I was sitting on my bed, pondering the meaning of the note. What did this mean? Was Skye coming home at last? Would she apologize? Would she love me again? Would I once more be her “Ladyburg”, her “little Ona”, her Dolceannia? Or was this note just a note, and didn’t mean a thing at all? I cringed at the last thought. I missed her, was sorrowful and angry at her all at once. Well, I wasn’t really angry after the first year she’d been gone. I only wanted her back.
My brother Parker was different. He was Skye’s first ever pet, a blue Gelert. After a while, they took a trip to the Pound, and came home with me. I was five at the time and only remember that place for its dank smell. But Parker was nine (he was eight when Skye created him. Not all created pets are babies at first) and he remembers every minute of the day they adopted me. We played together, all three of us, and lived in the most wonderful Neohome, and had so many photo albums stocked on our bookshelves.
But things took a twisted turn of events somewhere, though really I am not sure when the change began. But Skye spent more and more time playing Key Quest and less with us, and she started selling her prizes at her shop and at the Trading Post. I recall one day, she was out for unusually long. She came home with this Royal Paint Brush sitting on a satin pillow, and something called a Rainbow Pool catalog. She flipped through it, glancing from the page to Parker and back to the page and then at me, as we sat eating cereal at our kitchen table. And I remember how scared and awful I felt when she looked from the page to my brother and me – Parker was twelve and myself only eight - and muttered, “Nah.”
That was the night she left us.
She emptied the safety deposit box of all our remotely valuable items, packed a few suitcases with all her stuff, and walked out the door without a single word to us. She left all the “cheap” items – our toys, the food in the kitchen, our simple beds, the things in our rooms... and our many memory-stocked photo albums. Until the day that Valentine’s note came, I’d never heard from her.
And I say, “I” there and not “we” because Parker isn’t here anymore. He left as well. While my anger at Skye had turned to longing after a while, Parker stayed furious. He had put all his love and faith into his “mom” and she left him. One morning, right after the one-year anniversary of Skye’s abrupt leaving, I woke up to find this note on the kitchen table. I’d spent an hour calling Parker’s name and had been reduced to crying before I spied the message. My heart, already broken in two because of Skye, was smashed with a hammer and crushed to a million pieces upon reading that letter from my brother.
Skye’s not coming back. This is the person I least expected abandonment from, but I guess that tells you never to trust someone too much. I’m sorry, Dolce, but I can’t take this anymore, loitering around the house waiting to hear the front door open. I was thinking, and even if Skye ever came back, I could never accept her as my owner again. She betrayed us! She’s shown how much she really cares for us. I’d never be able to accept her as Mom anymore. You shouldn’t, either.
I’m sick of waiting, Dolce. I’m going out to find something to do in Neopia – get a job, a real life, instead of wasting all of mine waiting for our shallow, stuck-up owner to come back home. Please, please don’t come looking for me. I don’t want you to get yourself in trouble. You mean everything to me, little sis, even though my leaving you isn’t the best example of that. You’re just too young to understand fully. I need to get out of here. When you get older, you should set off too. There’s nothing left in that house, no more good times to be had. Let’s meet again someday, when you’re old enough to leave on your own.
I’ll miss you, Dolceannia.
I saved that letter, and read it almost every day. It was tucked inside a photo album, the very last one that was completed before Skye left. The note is displayed right beside Parker’s twelfth birthday pictures. Neither of us had another birthday party after that.
But now here I was, little seemingly-forgotten me, staring shakily at my hands, as if they’d touched something radioactive. Skye had remembered me – a little too late, alas, because Parker was already gone – but she’d remembered all the same.
“I wonder,” I thought out loud to nobody in particular. “I wonder what Parker would say if he saw that note. It was short, and it didn’t have any meaning or any hint that she would come home, but still... He’d probably be mad, now that I think about it. He’d call her careless, and thoughtless and rude for sending the pets she abandoned a Valentine.”
I clapped a hand over my mouth at the last sentence. Obediently, I dropped a 25-Neopoint coin in a big glass jar on the outside hallway table nearly full to the brim with identical pieces. Written sloppily on a masking-tape label were the words, “Parker’s Jar”. I knew it was silly to drop the coins in, but it felt right. I’d established a rule a couple months after Skye left – any time Parker used the word “abandoned” to describe what our owner did to us, he had to put some Neopoints in the jar. I hated to hear him talk like that about Skye, even if what she did was really... rotten. She didn’t abandon us, is what I’d say to him every single time he said that word. She’s coming back. She has to, because she’s our mom and she loves us.
That awful thought had been popping into my head since after my brother left. Didn’t she love us enough to come home and not let Parker leave? I wondered every day where my brother was, alone in Neopia. If he was truly in trouble, he’d come home, too...
...but I’d been waiting for Skye for three tearful years, and she hadn’t come back, either.
“I’m tired,” I announced loudly to myself, “...of being alone. I’m tired of staying here by myself, waiting for them. I refuse to wait a moment longer.
“I sound like Parker,” I thought suddenly. “Like what he said in his goodbye note. Is this what he felt like?
“No,” I corrected. “He had me, and he shouldn’t have run off. But there’s nobody I’m leaving behind now. So I’m going to go find Skye - and Parker, too - and we’ll all be back together and Parker will trust her and she’ll never, ever run away again.”
Decidedly, I stood up and proudly strode down the staircase. I picked up the envelope from where I’d left it on the first carpeted stair and spied in the corner the neatly written return address.
And I knew what I had to do to get my family back.
To be continued...
This is, so far, my longest series. Enjoy! (And I love feedback, *hint hint*)