Thyla's Tale: Part One
I'd been out on the streets for hours, searching for a bit of bread to feed my family. I came back empty-handed, my thin, ragged cloak wet from the rain, and my green Zafara fur wet as well. Nobody was out to give a crust of bed or a spare neopoint to a bedraggled beggar with no home to go home to. My name was Thyla, and I was the oldest of three siblings who lived on the streets of Neopia Central, fending for ourselves.
Our old owner had dumped us in the pound when she'd had enough of neopets, but we hated it there more than anywhere else and lived in constant fear of being separated, so we'd managed to escape. We never had enough to eat or a comfortable place to stay, which was tough on us. We grew used to it, however. We were forever moving from place to place, trying to find a permanent home somewhere, trying to get food from the richer Neopians hurrying around the streets. We sometimes ate at the Soup Kitchen, but only if our luck was really bad, because we hated making the lines longer for the young neopets who squealed pitifully as they waited hours for a bowl of soup to warm them up and give them at least a little sustenance.
The Money Tree could sometimes provide a bit of food, but more often it provided another piece of cardboard to lie on or a filthy boot to clothe our feet for a bit until it wore out. Other pets grabbed the good stuff before we could get to it. To be, as the pets more familiar with the Money Tree call it, a "Tree Tackler", you had to be strong and agile so you could push and dart through crowds, and you had to watch the Money Tree all day and wait for something nice to come in. My siblings and I had tried that a couple times, and we found that we weren't good enough at it to make up for the time and effort it took. But we got by.
As I said, I was the oldest, a fifteen-year-old green Zafara. Then came Troi, a red Bori, and then the youngest, Iyka, a blue Zafara. She was still a little preschooler, just four years old, and it was hard for me and Troi to bear watching her struggle with being homeless. It just wasn't fair for her. She barely had any memories of our owner, but perhaps that was a good thing, because she was so little that almost all her memories would have been bad.
This particular day we were camped in an alley behind a couple abandoned buildings in the Neopian Plaza. It was a dirty, depressing place, but we were used to dirty, depressing places, and besides, this one had more cover from the rain than most of the places we camped out. The roof came out at an angle over what used to be the back door to whatever the building had originally been, and it provided just enough space for us three to sit without getting too wet, though of course we did get damp from the rain dripping from the canopy and the wind blowing the rain at us. We were drier than usual, however.
We didn't really carry much with us from place to place, just our collection of a few thin, ragged blankets and clothes tied on our backs with squares of cardboard in these sacks of cloth that we used for various things like sitting on when the ground was too damp, as well as whatever food we had, which usually wasn't much at all, just a crust of bread or an almost empty sack of chips that were grounded to a pulp in the bottom of the bag. When we reached our destination (usually an alley or a dark corner somewhere) we'd dump down our sacks, arrange what was there into a sort of nest, and then we'd either eat or one of us would go out for food and, if we were lucky, some money, which was what I was coming back from that day. I walked into the alley we were camping in and curled up in the nest next to my siblings with a sigh.
"Nothing," I said bitterly, rubbing my hands to try to warm myself. "Not a neopoint or a crust of bread. Almost nobody is out on the streets today, and they are all intent on what they're doing."
"Well, we've at least got this hunk of bread here," said Troi, holding up a slightly moldy hunk of bread and attempting to smile. "It's better than nothing."
"Yes, it is," said Iyka in her sweet way, sliding up onto my lap to warm me up. "Rainy days are no fun."
I nodded glumly.
"I'd like—" I began, but then I stopped, because I didn't want to sound like I was whining. My dreams and wishes weren't realistic.
"What, Thyla?" asked Troi.
"Well, I'd like a restaurant," I mumbled. "I really enjoy cooking, and—and if my restaurant was good, we would have money."
"That's a great idea!" said Iyka.
"But there's no way I could start one," I continued. "I'd have to have funds, and—"
"We can save up!" cried Iyka.
So our dream was born, and every time we got neopoints, we put half of them in a jar we had for restaurant funds, no matter how little we got. And we were sure that some day, we could open our restaurant. But we'd have to go through a lot for that dream, especially me. I didn't realize it, but I had a long way to go.
It was as sunny day about two years after the day in the alley, and our spirits were high. We were almost full, and actually with some okay food, and we had gotten a bag of 500 neopoints from the Money Tree. We were walked through Neopia Central, talking and laughing, when suddenly somebody stopped us. It was a short girl with short red hair who looked very friendly.
"I'm new here," she said, looking at us eagerly. "So, yeah, I'm new, and I need a neopet—not to be rude, but do you three have owners?"
I stared at my siblings in surprise.
"N-no," I said.
"Oh!" she said, looking surprised, but happy. "Well, I need a neopet—but just one. Would any of you—you know—be interested?"
I stared at my siblings again, at loss for words.
"You mean you'd just take one of us?" I asked.
"Well, yeah, I can only afford one right now," she said, looking apologetic.
Again, I couldn't speak. We had to stay together! Troi spoke up for me. He was almost thirteen now, and he could handle situations like this pretty well.
"Sorry, no," he said firmly. "We've got to stay together."
"That's okay," she said, disappointed. "I figured."
We walked away. I felt like some one had grabbed me and shaken me up hard. I hadn't had an owner in years, since Iyka was no more than a little baby. Now Iyka was six. It had been five years. Five years! Even considering having an owner again was a bit scary. All I wanted was my restaurant. That was my dream. Ever since that rainy day in the alley, I'd let my dream grow. And an owner wasn't in my dream. I turned my mind to our restaurant fund. We had a good amount now, not much, but enough for me to start thinking. Maybe in a bit, we could get a building! We'd have to try hard to get neopoints, but it could happen fairly soon. Then we could get everything ready, and get money for food, and we'd start it! It would be amazing! I smiled. I was so happy daydreaming that I didn't look where I was going, and I ran into another neopet.
"Oh—I'm sorry," I said quickly to the pink Uni I'd run into.
"Quite alright, dear," she said in a familiar voice. I stared at her. "Oh, yes, I'm the Adoption Uni," she said with a dazzling smile. "Where has your owner got to, sweethearts?"
I turned to my siblings and pulled them closer to me, trying to signal to them that we had to pretend we had an owner.
"I'm not sure," I answered shakily. It was true. I wasn't sure. She could be anywhere.
"Wait a moment," said the Uni suspiciously. "What's your name?"
"Th—Tarina," I said quickly, making up a name. "This is my brother, Feloi, and my sister, Chyfi. Our owner is getting some shopping done. We'd better go find her. Come on, guys."
I turned to leave.
"Hmm," said the Uni. "No, I don't think so. I recognize you. You're Thyla, with your siblings Troi and Iyka, and your owner hasn't been in Neopia in a long time. You ran away from the pound, years ago. I remember you because you were such troublemakers. You tried to get out so many times, and then, one day, you finally did."
I didn't even think about trying to deny it, I was so upset.
"How did you know?" I asked. "I mean—I mean, yes, we were troublemakers, but I'm sure lots of pets are that way! And," I said quickly, thinking hard, "and you can't put us back in there, because we have an owner now! Yes, I made up the names, but I—"
"Firstly, I'll answer your question. I have a way with faces," she said briskly. "And secondly, I know you have no owner. You are all coming back to the pound right now. What an interesting lunch break for me. Come, come."
I was horrorstruck. We could NOT go back in the pound.
"No!" Troi yelled. "We're not going to go back in the pound! We hate it there!"
"Come," she said, grabbed Iyka, who was trying to escape, by the shoulder. Iyka whimpered. She was older now, but I still couldn't bear knowing she would soon be facing the horrors of the pound.
She steered us into the pound and pulled our packs off our backs. She began searching through them. And she found our jar where we were saving for the restaurant.
"This will nicely cover your fee, and more," she said, a grin spreading on her sickly-sweet face.
"Don't touch that!" I shrieked. "That's our private property!"
"I think not," she said. "We are doing you a favor by taking you in."
She put the jar in a compartment in her desk.
"Dr. Deaaaath!" she called in a nasty, singsong voice.
A creepy yellow Techo came up. I remembered him from last time. I'd hated him, and Iyka had been frightened of him.
"Come along, let me show you to your room," he said in a low cackle.
He dragged us into the pound, which was the same horrible place it had always been, and we were each thrown in a separate cell. I blacked out when I hit the cold floor.
To be continued...