The Family Reunion: Part Two
“Well, goodbye, Kadoatie Drive,” I said, looking back at my neighborhood. “I’m leaving you at last.”
My backpack, though heavy, seemed light on my shoulders. For three years, I’d never left that suburb. There was an oddly-placed corner store just three blocks from our house, so when we needed some cheap omelette, all we had to do was go down there. I hated leaving our house or lawn when I was younger, just in case Skye came back and I wasn’t home to let her inside.
I shook off those memories. This was a brand-new start. I was off to 3306 Bluchard Lane, Shenkuu, the return address on my Valentine’s note. Nobody was going to convince me otherwise.
I admit, considering I was leaving my house to go on a far-fetched, dare-I-even-try adventure, I was feeling pretty good. Then again, I always do when I’m wearing my Zafara socks, my fashionable Zafara Blouse, berry Zafara Skirt, sun hat, and school girl shoes. It’s my lucky outfit, though it doesn’t quite match my magenta Zafara fur. Can you tell I’m proud of my species?
Anyway, after that last long look at good old Kadoatie Drive, I set off for Shenkuu using an old, beat-up map. It looked pretty far from Neopia Central. Across a mountain range?! The first thing I thought was that Skye had sure tried her hardest to get away from us. I shook my head in disgust at myself. Mean, confusing, and thoughtless as her actions had been, Skye would never try to avoid the pets she loved.
I was wondering how I could ever get across the mountains as I headed in the general western direction. An Eyrie cab, perhaps, or maybe I could rent a bike! I laughed at my last idea. I could see the Neopian Times headlines now: Wonder Cyclist Special Edition: Zafara girl rides to Shenkuu on blue bike! Belongings kept in basket between handlebars! Says owner: “I never remembered her riding without training wheels”!
I decided to take the Eyrie cabs.
I found the Eyries in the area to the right of the General Store. It looked more like an outdoor café than an Eyrie cab station, but sure enough a banner across a snack hut read, “Neopia Central’s Finest Flyers”. The magnificent creatures sat sipping coffee with marshmallows and eating hot soup, probably rip-off food bought from the General Store but sold by that snack hut overpriced. Anyway, I had no interest in such trivial things; I just needed an Eyrie to take me to Shenkuu. If he ate overpriced soup with Neowaiian bread that was fine with me.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Will any Eyrie here take me as far as Shenkuu?”
“What do you take us for, scrawny Pteris?” one Eyrie growled, his mouth full of tangy Tyrannian cheese and crackers. “Of course we can fly that far! Did’ja not see the sign? ‘Neopia Central’s Finest Flyers’!”
“I saw the sign,” I shot back at the offended Eyrie. “It just seems to me as if you’d rather be eating soup. Now will anybody please take me to Shenkuu? It’s very important!”
“I can take you,” an Eyrie at the same table offered. “Just let me finish my bread and I’ll come. It’s a long flight, you know, mustn’t fly on an empty stomach. And don’t mind Old Jerry; he’s just being a crab.”
I giggled and thanked the Eyrie, asking his fare as he gobbled up the crust of his Neowaiian bread.
“Er, let’s see,” he said thoughtfully. “That’s a thousand per five miles, two for ten miles, and since Shenkuu is X-and-X miles away times X-and-X breaks, with a flight time of ten hours divided by the so-and-so, with the discount of so-and-so... hmm, that comes to fifteen thousand Neopoints, miss.”
“Fifteen thousand?” I gulped. “I have one thousand here, and that’s all that was left in the house... but I can play some games.”
“Better start playing, then,” warned Old Jerry. “The price goes up for night flights.”
I nodded and ran off, looking for easy games I could play that would also get me a fair amount of Neopoints. I spent about four and a half hours in that game room – National Neopian, Island Chef Academy, Ice Cream Machine, Wingoball, you name it, and I played it. I ran to the first game in sight and after finishing that one, ran to the next. I earned a grand total of sixteen thousand Neopoints, which, plus my original thousand, gave me seventeen thousand for my trip to Shenkuu. I figured I might need more for food and such if there were delays or I got lost.
With my profits in my bag, I sprinted back to the Eyrie cab station. I found the Eyrie I’d been talking to earlier – he was immersed in a big fat book called Popular Destinations, probably for purpose of his job as an Eyrie cab. He smiled at me upon looking over the binding of the book.
“Glad ya came back!” he said. “Fifteen thousand is a lot to earn in a day.”
I explained my destination and reason for leaving and he looked at me with a serious expression. “The most I can give you is an added discount of two thousand Neopoints. I’d do it for less, but I’m not allowed.”
“I didn’t need a discount,” I said. “But thank you. It’ll help a lot.”
With that, I climbed onto the Eyrie’s back and we took off right there. I found out his name was Bernard and he’d been working for the cab station for about five years. Old Jerry, he said, had been his mentor, but the Eyrie was getting too aged to fly anymore. He stuck around though, refusing to work the snack hut, and just reading the Neopian Times at one of the tables. He usually just scolded the “freshmen”, the “rookies”, the new Eyrie cabs. But nobody wanted to get rid of him because he had that quick a temper and could easily erupt into a speech of, “I’ve worked here for three-fourths of my life, mentored the young, flown 865 passengers before retiring, stayed with this station through all its rough patches, never looked for another job, and you’d dispose of me in the twitch of a Snowbunny’s tail?!”
“But really,” admitted Bernard, “he’s just a soft old Neopet inside who loves the Eyrie cabs. And even though his advice was dealt harshly, he always had a good point and it proved to be wise to follow his tips.”
I enjoyed hearing about all of Bernard’s adventures, and a lot of Old Jerry’s, too. The old Eyrie had been through a lot more than I had expected! Flying to the top of Techo Mountain on Mystery Island, through the Ice Caves, and to the pyramid in the very heart of the Lost Desert, Old Jerry had had some fascinating customers. According to Bernard, Jerry had even skimmed the Giant Omelette in Tyrannia! He said he’d flown so low over it that he’d just reached down and plucked his brunch right out of the sky!
“I bet Skye would love hearing some of those stories,” I mentioned without thinking.
“So, do you want to tell me more about this Skye?” Bernard said casually. “She seemed pretty... well, mean-hearted for leaving you all alone, in that house by yourselves. And you were only eight years old?!”
“Well,” I began. “Yes. I was eight and Parker was twelve. He always was mumbling about how she had shown her true colors and betrayed us. But I was always certain she’d come back home, because we were still her pets. After Parker left I got really scared and suddenly the house seemed empty and creepy. I couldn’t sleep at night for the longest time after he left, because I kept thinking I heard something and imagined things like the Pound staff come to take me away – even though really, I was still ‘owned’ and couldn’t be taken there, thank Fyora. I guess... well, it’s hard to explain, but I still feel sort of loyal to her, like she’s still Skye and I remember her for the three years of good times we had.”
“I think I know what you’re saying,” Bernard said thoughtfully. “There was only one majorly bad experience you had with her, and to you all the good memories outweighed that one event. But your brother, he only saw her betrayal to you and cast out all those good times from his mind. He saw a changed Skye, and you saw your Skye, your owner who loved you.”
“You know, Bernard,” I said, looking up at the stars in the clear night sky. They shone like the happiness in somebody’s eyes; happiness I hoped would soon be mine. “That’s the first thing that’s made sense to me in a long time.”
“Passengers, this is your captain, Bernard, speaking.”
The Eyrie’s voice woke me from my slumber. Had I really fallen asleep who-knows-how-many feet in the air? I could’ve fallen off, or my backpack could’ve slid off my shoulders! But I found myself to be in one piece.
“Good morning, Miss Dolceannia,” Bernard said. “Sleep well?”
“Yeah,” I yawned. “Wait, did you even take a break during the night?”
“Well... no,” Bernard admitted. “The night air hasn’t felt so clean and fresh in a while, and the sky was clear, no clouds. It felt so good to be flying that I didn’t want to stop.”
“Bernard!” I protested. “You should’ve rested. Are you okay?”
“Better than ever.” The Eyrie grinned. “Anyway, I woke you up because we’re about to begin our descent to Shenkuu. In about twenty minutes we should be landing at one of the city’s ports that they usually use for the famous flying ships. I also thought you might want to see the breathtaking view – it’s always the best during the descent.”
“All I see is mist,” I said, looking down at the fog laid on thick like frosting on a cake. “I guess it’s... uh, pretty.”
“You don’t need to pretend,” Bernard laughed. “The mist is always like this, but while it looks like there’s a lot of it, it’s just very thick. We’ll go right through it and then you’ll have a clear view of Shenkuu.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “I’ve never actually been out of Neopia Central, so this is great! Thanks, Bernard.”
“Not a problem.” The Eyrie waved it off. “I haven’t had a great job like this in a while.”
And so we began, slowly but surely, to drop in altitude. And Bernard was right: as soon as we cleared the layer of mist, there was nothing in the way to block my view of Shenkuu. What a view it was! The whole mystical land was dotted with cherry trees, and a large temple perched in a nest of trees atop a hill. Down this same hill cried a waterfall that seemed never to end. It disappeared into the fog along Shenkuu’s lowest point and I could see no more of it. Flocks of little birds took flight from one grove to another, and faerietale-like buildings resided everywhere. If I had to describe the magnificent land it a word, it’d have to be ‘peaceful’. I saw a life of no worries before anyone who lived there.
“Bernard,” I nearly whispered. The sight was like getting the wind knocked out of me, and I hadn’t fully recovered my voice. This was no Neopia Central. “This is amazing!”
“I haven’t been here in at least a year,” Bernard said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this view, though. Oh, there’s the dock! Hang on, Dolceannia!”
I clutched Bernard’s fur in fright as he landed on the dock. Though it was a smooth landing, my heart still beat fast from the new experience.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure flying with you, Dolce.” Bernard saluted me.
“Thanks again, Bernard,” I said, paying him his thirteen thousand Neopoints. “I can’t believe I’m really going to see Skye!”
“No, thank you,” Bernard replied. “I love Shenkuu. I might even stick around to visit Old Jerry’s best friend. He’s a Gnorbu who works up at the Lunar Temple, and I’ve met him a couple of times. So if you ever need a return flight, I’ll be here.”
“Okay!” I agreed. “Bye!”
“Goodbye.” He nodded. “Now go talk some sense into that owner of yours!”
To be continued...