For Better Or For Worse
Even though it's been three years, I still wonder how my friend is doing, since he's been adopted. I'm glad he's out of this place known as the Pound. Some times, I wonder how we actually got used to it. We were in cages and all. I guess we'll never know.
I quickly turn my head, looking to the source. False alarm, I think in my head as Ted waves to me from across the room. Whew. Thought it was that pink adoption Uni (I never could remember her name). Honestly, her positive attitude and girly shrieks annoy me. Always saying stuff like "Come on, everybody! The potential owners are coming!" to get our hopes up. Does she really think everybody will get adopted? Apparently.
Well, anyway, Ted was my good friend. Well, my only friend, I should say. The red Mynci was pretty lonely, seeing as his roomies ignored him. I guess I felt sorry for him, so I started having conversations with the kid. At least he wasn't too dull. We formed a small friendship over some topics such as our old owners and siblings. Kinda cliché, but if it means having somebody to talk to, then fine.
"Casey the blue Grundo, are you listening? HEY!" Ted yells, and I snap out of my thinking.
"Sorry, I was thinking," I apologize.
"Seriously, you're always thinking. What goes on in that head of yours?"
"I'm wondering what's for dinner tonight."
"Sure you are," Ted laughs. The dinner at the Pound is usually something less than appetizing. Usually gruel with water, or grilled soup with chocolate Achyfi (I know, gross). If business was good for the day, we get ice cream or some other kind of treat. Same goes for breakfast and lunch.
"Anyway," he says, "heard from him lately?"
"Nope," I reply.
"Oh come on," Ted whines, flailing his arms. He looks dumber than he should, which is kinda funny. I try not to laugh as he adds, "Strife was your best pal. He must have written at least ONCE."
"That owner of his must be pretty nice," I mutter, leaning against the wall. "You know what they say: Neopets change. For better or for worse."
"...I guess." Ted starts talking to himself as I sigh. I will admit, I have been wondering why he hasn't written to me. Unless he's forgotten about the promise already. Yeah, that must be it. And just when I thought he would.
-Three months earlier-
"What do you think will happen if one of us gets adopted first?" Strife asked. He was a yellow Lupe. His fur was a bit unkempt, but it was still okay. His hair looked ridiculous back then. Really messy brown hair that covered his eyes. Strife looked real funny.
"I think we'll forget about this place. I know I would," I answered.
"Even our friends?" he questioned. Oh yeah, I forgot. The guy's naive and acts like a kid.
"That’s life." I shrugged. He'll learn about this soon enough. Everybody does.
"Casey, can you promise me something?"
"What is it?"
"If you get out of here before I do, will you write to me?"
"Only if you do."
He must be really happy about having a lasting friendship, I thought. As a reminder, I gave him a silver dubloon necklace with a gold star charm. He was really happy, I could tell.
Thinking back then, I guess I was naive too. I actually thought we could keep that promise. Then again, it was three years ago. I should have expected him to forget. He was a kid, after all. For a kid, though, he changed his attitude and personality in less than a month. Living at the Pound could change you pretty fast.
I turn my head back to Ted, who was still having a conversation with himself. Before I could interrupt him, the adoption Uni's voice rings out, loud and clear.
"Everybody, it's time for your afternoon walk!" she exclaims. Some of us groan and slowly stand up. Others start talking excitedly. An afternoon walk means getting out of the Pound for twenty-five minutes. Of course, everybody takes turns for walks in groups of five, though. To be honest, the fact that we can get out of here isn't the only reason some of us are happy. It means we get the chance to see our old friends and possibly old owners who we might try to persuade and adopt us back. The older folks (including me) know that's impossible, though. Once you're in the Pound, you're stuck here until someone else adopts you. It's a rare occurrence that your old owner comes back for you.
"435teddy, casey234, hihi_444, 2633234, and 9k4fif! It's time for your walk!" the Uni calls out. A green Kyrii, yellow Tonu, and green Ixi rise up as me and Ted stand up too. Before we get out the door, they give us these bracelets that show how many minutes we have until it's time to go back. If we don't show up back on time, I think they give us a smaller bowl of food for dinner. I do remember that it shows we're from the Pound, so that people don't try to send us back before our time is up. Other than that, they're impossible to take off unless we have the key. Yeah, I don't get it either.
We step outside and the three Neopets dash off. Playing a game or something, maybe. Ted and I just stroll around, taking in the sights that we've forgotten. Smell the scents of hot dogs and pizzas, listen to the little kids and their owners playing. It's almost a pleasant time, until I see it.
The silver dubloon necklace. With the golden star charm. It's him, I know. He's not the same, but it's still him. It's Raen_Strifemoon.
He's not the kid Lupe I know. This Strife is a silver Shoyru, and he's more mature now. More mature in appearance and behavior. The guy has changed. For the better? Maybe. But before I can tell Ted, Strife turns around and looks at me. He looks doubtful for a moment. Does he actually remember me? That promise a few years back?
* * *
It's now after dinner. After that moment back at the park, Ted asked me if it was Strife. I told him yes, it was. He was different, sure, but it was him. Ted wanted to meet him, but we had seven minutes left. The Pound was ten minutes away, five if we ran. Somehow, I convinced him that we had to go back. I think I told him that if we were late, then our dinners would get taken away. This was reason enough for him, so we quickly headed back to the Pound. Lucky for us, we made it in the nick of time. After dinner, I crawled back into my cage and took a small nap. Now I'm awake, and my head's full of thoughts. That look back there. That doubtful look he had, it turned back to normal.
He didn't recognize me at all. I, his best friend in the Pound, his friend for who-knows-how-long, was forgotten. In the blink of an eye, nonetheless. Weren't we friends? I kept wondering. Always, always wondering. That's when I suddenly thought of something. I shouldn't be surprised.
Neopets change. For better or for worse.