When Mr. Weatherby Forgot How To Say No: Part Two
My life's work for two thousand Neopoints.
I was in trouble.
"So, if you could just sign here... and here, and here, and here," Charles said, his paws darting at lightning speed across all seventeen pages of the paperwork he'd brought for me.
I signed where he indicated, and with each signature I became a little bit more depressed. I was literally signing away everything I had to a stranger, and when it was all over, he left me with a small bag of Neopoints, and kicked me out of my shop. My home. The building I had inherited from my mother, who had taught me everything I knew. The place I had been when I'd made my millionth Neopoint.
Now my bank account was empty, and I had nothing. Nothing but two thousand Neopoints and a tattered waistcoat and bowtie.
My first act as one of Neopia's poor was to purchase a shack on the outskirts of Neopia Central, because I had seen what it was like to be a homeless, ownerless pet in this day and age, and it was not pretty.
As I forced open the door to my new home (it was rather stiff), I felt more saddened than I ever had in my entire life.
It was one room. There was no carpet, but a thin layer of straw coated the otherwise bare earth. The walls were stone, the wind rattled the glass in the one window, and there was a hole in the roof. One bed, with a few blankets, all gnawed at by Petpetpets, stood in the corner, legs straining under the weight of the mattress. There was an armchair, and a dining table with no chairs, as well as a dented tin bathtub, whose rusty tap was dripping.
I shut the door but didn't lock it, as this place didn't have anything I would have minded being stolen, and then crossed the room to the bed, climbed in, and fell asleep in despair.
When I woke up, I could feel something cool and damp on my cheek. I rolled over, trying to bat the sensation away with my wings, but it kept up. Something wet slipped down the back of my head, and I jolted upright in horror. There was a little Spardel sat beside me, drooling on my head, the wind was whipping in through the open door, and within a second he had bolted, a green blanket in his mouth.
"Hey! Get back here, you awful little beast!"
I shot out of bed and took after him.
I suppose it might've looked rather comic to anybody that wasn't me. I careered through the winding streets of Neopia Central's suburbs and into the countryside, shedding feathers out of stress. The Spardel kept ahead of me, though, its huge ears flapping as it drooled with delight all over my tatty blanket. I faltered, not sure if I really wanted it back as I saw it glistening with saliva in the early evening light, but I kept after the Petpet anyway. Heaving with the effort, I picked up my pace, and was just about to leap at the Spardel when suddenly, I heard something past the pounding in my ears. It sounded like a baby wailing; the Spardel zig-zagged for a confused second and then dashed off in the direction of the noise, so I followed.
We jogged along the edge of a forest for a short while, until the Spardel took a sudden left and disappeared between tree trunks. I wasn't far behind, and as we ran on, the sound of the crying intensified. I started to worry, in spite of myself. Babies certainly shouldn't be left to cry alone in the woods at night, I thought, as we emerged into a clearing.
Lying in a shivering heap in the centre of the sparsely grass-coated clearing was a yellow Xweetok. His fur was all askew and he looked as though he needed a good bath. More than that, though, he didn't look very well. He didn't look very well at all. His eyes were heavily-lidded and very red, and he was barely moving. A baby Lupe, a little girl, was headbutting his side and wailing at the top of her tiny lungs. I could see her fat tears splashing the ground.
"Todd! You godda ged up, Todd, pweeeeease," she howled. The Spardel trotted up to them, triumphantly, head raised, jaws offering the blanket.
"Thanks, Scamp," Todd croaked, as the Spardel draped the blanket over him, tucking the Xweetok in with his nose. Then, three pairs of eyes turned to me. The baby Lupe stopped her crying, suddenly, and she wiped her eyes with one over-large paw.
"Who are you?" she sniffled, and her lip wobbled.
I was taken aback. Very much so.
There was such hope in their huge eyes.
"My name is Mr. Weatherby," I said, and cautiously stepped closer. The little Lupe gave a tiny mewl and snuggled closer to Todd, but she kept her eyes on me. "What's your name?" I asked, gently.
She looked at Todd, and he gave her the weakest smile I had ever seen: an encouragement, although a faltering one.
"I'm Daisy," she said, suddenly brave, "and he's my big brother, Todd! And... and this is our best friend, Scamp." She pushed Scamp forward with a paw and he barked excitedly, running in wonky circles around my ankles.
"Hello, Daisy, Todd, and Scamp," I said, and then hunkered down beside them to get a better look at Todd.
"Is he ill?" I said, although that much was quite obvious.
"Uh-huh. The d-doctor said he had Neo... Neo..."
"Neomonia," Todd rasped.
"Yeah. But we don't have enough Neopoints for the special soap to cure it," Daisy said, looking at me with her huge eyes.
"Don't you have an owner? Or somewhere safe to stay?" I asked, and Daisy shook her head.
"Alright, then. Why don't you all come home with me?" I turned my head to look at Todd down my long beak, and he looked back at me. There was great distrust and a challenge in his red-ringed eyes, but he was in no position to disagree, so he begrudgingly nodded.
I gathered him in my wings and carried him all the way back to Neopia Central. Daisy and Scamp followed close behind, frolicking with joy at the idea of going home.
On the way back, we stopped at the Soup Kitchen, because Daisy's belly had been holding up a non-stop grumble for the whole journey. The line was quite short, as it was late at night, so we were inside very quickly. The savoury scent of soup had never smelled quite so appealing, and as the Soup Faerie filled up four steaming bowls for us, I found myself salivating. We found a quiet corner of the Soup Kitchen with a worn old table and three wonky stools (Scamp sat on the table, his tail pounding a delighted beat against its surface), and ate. Todd was shivering, the blanket draped around his shoulders, as he spooned soup into his mouth.
I fed Daisy first, blowing on each spoonful so that it was just the right temperature. And, of course, I did the "here comes the train -- choo choo! Open wide!" thing that is essential for any baby's feeding time. I was sure the Soup Faerie was watching us, and smiling, and the past version of me might've felt embarrassed. But the new me did not.
Once all three of my newfound responsibilities had filled their bellies, I quickly downed my soup, thanked the Faerie, and led the way out of the Kitchen and back home. Todd was clinging onto my wing for support by the time that we'd made our way back to the shack, and the stars were glistening high up in the sky.
I unlocked the door and pushed it open after a brief struggle, and flicked the light switch. It flickered, and then the room lit up, dimly.
"Wow," Daisy said, and she meant it. I looked around as I closed the door behind me, and I smiled.
"It's not much, but I daresay it's better than sleeping outside," I said, as I led Todd to the single bed and piled blankets and sheets over the top of him. Daisy sprinted up to climb in bed beside her brother, and Scamp curled up at the foot of the bed.
"Mr. Weatherby... thank you," Todd said, quietly, and I waved a wing at him.
"You're very welcome, Todd. Now, you need to sleep."
"We can't pay you back, Mr. Weatherby," Daisy whimpered from somewhere in the nest of covers.
"Don't worry about that, little one. Quiet, now," I said, as I turned the light off and made my way across the room in the dark, to settle in the uncomfortable armchair. I fell asleep almost instantly, for it had been a very, very long day.
I woke up at the crack of dawn, just as new sunlight was flooding the room. Todd, Daisy and Scamp were still sleeping soundly as I quietly tiptoed out of my armchair, and fetched some paper and a pencil. Quickly I scrawled, 'Gone to pick up a few things. Will be back with breakfast, and Medicinal Soap.' and left the note on my armchair. I then left, clicking the door shut behind me, and locking it so that the three of them would be safe.
And then I descended into hysteria.
I barely had enough money to feed myself, let alone three little ones with endless stomachs -- and how I thought I could afford Medicinal Soap I had absolutely no idea, seeing as the market price was seven thousand Neopoints and I had barely a fraction of that!
These thoughts buzzed like Moquots in my mind as I walked purposefully through the streets of Neopia Central. My target was the Money Tree. I knew that people often left their unwanted food there, and often there were some unexpectedly tasty morsels.
Barely moments after I arrived, I snatched up a loaf of Baked Pumpkin Bread, and then upturned a haphazard stack of tin cans to find a small basket of green grapes, which I grabbed, and then left quickly.
Holding the basket under my wing, I felt quite accomplished. And then harsh reality hit me again: I still had to buy Medicinal Soap, and my wallet was looking rather empty. I wouldn't have been surprised to see little Spyders scuttling around in there.
And that was when I saw her, standing on the edge of the Rainbow Pool.
I looked up from my wallet, and there she was. Aaliyah the Dark Faerie, the one who was responsible for getting me into this awful predicament, the very reason that I was now too poor to help out an awfully ill Xweetok and his baby sister.
Oh, she was going to get a good talking to. She was due for the sternest telling off of her entire life! I marched right up to her, my beak already set in ranting position, when my gaze dropped to the waters, where a Blue Kyrii was frolicking. And slowly, the Kyrii's fur was changing colour, darkening to black. She looked at me. Her eyes were unmistakeable, even if her fur was shifting. She was, of course, the Kyrii I met on the day that our story began.
Aaliyah turned around, to see what her Kyrii friend was looking at, and her grin twisted into a smirk.
"Mr. Weatherby! Fancy seeing you here. I don't suppose you can afford a Paint Brush, though," she said, snickering. I did not rise to her taunting, for even in my darkest hours I pride myself on my civility.
Although really I wanted to push her right into the pool waters.
"Hello there, Aaliyah. Actually, you're right, I can't afford very much of anything anymore. I stopped off at the Money Tree a few moments ago to find food to feed myself and the three starving orphans that I've acquired since you ruined my life," I said, and without missing a beat, I carried on, "but, you see, one of them has quite a horrific case of Neomonia and I fear it's going to get considerably worse unless I somehow acquire seven thousand Neopoints to pay for the cure."
There was a very long, drawn-out silence, as we stared across at each other. I clutched my basket of food a little closer to myself with one wing, as the Kyrii clambered out of the water and shook herself dry. Her black fur glistened luxuriously in the sunlight. She looked up at Aaliyah, who was still staring at me, mouth twitching.
"Well, Liyah, you can hardly say no to that, can you?" she said, reaching into Aaliyah's pocket and retrieving a broken watch. She fastened it around her wrist with a little difficulty, and smiled at me, very knowingly.
Passers by were now gathering around to see what was going to happen. Word of my predicament had spread quite quickly, it seemed, as we were attracting quite the crowd. There were murmurs -- and none too quiet: "She can’t say no to that... can she?"
Another voice proclaimed, "You'd have to be utterly heartless."
Aaliyah's cheeks burned bright red. "Fine! Alright, Weatherby, you win. Take the Neopoints. I've got more than enough of them anyway," she said, reaching into her bag and withdrawing a rather large sack, which she threw at my feet. It jangled loudly.
"You'll never change, Weatherby, you greedy old miser," she spat.
I smiled at her, my thoughts turning to Todd and Daisy and Scamp. How many more were there like those three, lost, hungry, homeless, abandoned, ill?
And then, I turned, and I left, feeling more 'cool' than I ever had done in my life.
To be continued...