Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 187,324,720 Issue: 515 | 7th day of Collecting, Y13
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by mangoslittlecoco

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Melany pursed her lips and lowered her gaze, trying with no avail to ignore what was happening in front of her.

     It was something that occurred startlingly often; in the afternoon, as they gathered around the softly burning fire, she would curl up into her favorite chair, delicately shoved into a far corner. It wasn't that somebody didn't wish to see Melany and placed it there- quite the contrary, she just didn't want them to see her and drag her in. Instead, she shifted her vision to the project on her lap, and sewed with soft stitches, precise and neat. It didn't matter what it was really- sometimes a sock with an unfortunate tear in the heel, or a shirt with a sleeve half-hanging off. Her family wasn't poor, per say, but merely not rich, and with such a relaxing activity such as sewing, why not repair instead of replace?

     This brought Melany to the source of her troubles: her family.

     It wasn't very large, to say. Just her owner, her, and her older sister. Both she and her sister were Kacheeks, her sister a vibrant Electric, and she an inconspicuous white. But her owner and her sister often clashed head-to-head. While her owner, Anne, preferred to be more conservative and formal, her sister, Zae, had dyed her hair bright blue to match her fur, and wore heavy boots with ripped, black clothes that she didn't let Melany anywhere near. Melany loved her sister dearly, but sometimes she just wished that they would stop fighting. It happened every night, for goodness sake!

     Tonight was no exception. Anne and Zae were bitterly arguing, over something as little as Zae's new jacket. It changed every night, see, but always over something Zae had done 'wrong'. Black tips to her blue bangs, an extra earring in her left ear, or a just-too-short pair of shorts.

     "...Can't believe you would even think of such a thing! You know what, enlighten me! What were you thinking?"

     "I was thinking that I needed to express myself and not be so restricted, which, may I add, you are not helping with!"

     "I don't want you to disgrace our family! Do you know what people say on the streets? The sly whispers behind my back when we go out? This isn't just you affected! Think of me! Think of your sister!"

     And there was the blow she had hoped to avoid. Both heads swiveled in her direction, and she curled up smaller, trying to let her auburn hair cover her face and swallowing a pitiful squeak.

     "Well, Melany?" Zae asked. "Do you think that I'm 'disgracing our family'?"

     Melany tucked a strand of her hair behind a drooping ear, and took a deep breath.

     "I just think," she said carefully, weighing each word before she spoke, "that we need some peace around here. Just one night without you guys arguing. Please."

     "See?" Anne spit out, tuning to Zae. "She agrees with me."

     Zae sputtered. "Agrees with you? She's on my side!"

     And again Melany was in the spotlight, hopping on invisible coals as she tried to appease both her fuming owner and sister. "N-no! I'm not on anyone's side! I just want you both to give it a break! If you care what I think, then make peace with each other for my sake!" She felt tears beginning to prick at the corner of her eyes, and so she grabbed her sweater that she had been mending with cheery green thread, with a needle stuck halfway through a seam and leapt to her feet, pounding up the stairs, not hesitating until she had reached her room and opened her door, swinging it behind her with her foot to close it, but pausing when she realized what loud a noise that would make.

      Instead, Melany grabbed it with her paw, and slowly lowered it closed.

     She retreated to her soft, grey bedspread with her head hanging, opening the curtains to let in the soft, orange glow of the streetlights. With the dim light bleeding in from her window, Melany finished repairs on her sweater, then flipped it right-side-out and folded it carefully, placing it back in her drawer.

     She sat for an undeterminable amount of time on her bed, her paws clenched tightly on her lap. Stupid, stupid, stupid! She reprimanded herself. I wasn't supposed to get involved. Not ever. I probably made it worse...

     And that made the tears that had been threatening to drop to begin falling with urgency. Melany cupped her paws over her face so that minimal noise would be heard, swallowing sniffles and hiccupping as quietly as she could. When it was done, she withdrew to her bathroom, scrubbing her face so no sign remained.

     She glanced up at the mirror, to make sure. Back at Melany stared her reflection, a somber Kacheek with straight, auburn hair falling to her small shoulders and framing her narrow face, which was dominated by a wide pair of blue eyes. Such a contrast to her sister, with her spiked blue hair with black tips, surrounding a bright face never lacking in a confident smirk that was echoed in her vibrant, green eyes.

     Just then, she heard the door open.

     "Melany?" Anne's voice called softly.

     "Yes?" she answered, fighting for control of her trembling voice. She didn't know why, but suddenly Melany was scared, frightened that something terrible was about to happen.

     "Why... why don't you come over here, and sit with me on the bed?" Anne's voice was too calm, she realized. Something bad was going to happen.

     Melany walked with small steps from her bathroom, hesitating before settling on the edge of the bed. "Yes?" she answered again, in a very small voice.

     "Melany... we've been thinking about what you said, your sister and I. About how you wanted us to stop arguing. Well, we could only think of one solution."

     "No," Melany whispered, with a dark, sinking feeling. "No, no, no, no..."

     Anne clutched her paws, holding her there. "Melany, we've decided that the best thing to do would be to find Zae a better home. A home that accepted her. We... we're giving her up. Tomorrow, we'll bring her to the Pound."

     ***

     Melany couldn't help it.

     She knew that Zae wanted to leave with dignity, but she couldn't help but grab her paw and not let go. It was a brisk fall day, with Melany dressed in a cream sweater and a red skirt with matching scarf. Zae had ditched her rugged black clothes for a tamer pair of jeans and a grey jacket, but kept the boots. Anne trailed ahead of them, leading the way to their dreaded destination.

     Melany had dragged her feet at first, but then deemed that childish and instead walked with tottering steps, half blinded by the tears that streamed from her eyes, dripping onto her scarf.

     But even with her vision blurred, she was able to recognize the looming building that was Zae's home for who-knows-how-long. She squeezed Zae's arm tightly, not wanting to let go, ever.

     Anne pushed on the smooth glass door, opening it so that tendrils of heated air could curl out.

     "Well?" she asked with a trembling voice. "Here we go."

     Melany and Zae loitered in a corner, watching silently as Anne quietly asked for the abandonment forms, and then proceeded to fill them out with a shaking hand.

     "Listen," Zae said, breaking the silence. "Don't forget me, okay? Even if Anne tries to move on, you'll remember me, right?"

     Melany looked up, startled. "Of course. I could never forget you. You're my big sister."

     Zae smiled a weak smile. "Thanks. I just... wanted to make sure."

     "When... when you get adopted," Melany said, "Come visit us, okay?"

     "Of course," Zae said, smiling stronger. Melany saw through that, though. She was just trying to make her feel better, less hopeless, but really, it was just making her feeling of dread claw her harder.

     Anne appeared by Zae's side. "Zae," she said, "It's time to go."

     "Yeah," Zae breathed. "Yeah, yeah, okay."

     Zae carefully unlaced her fingers from hers, or tried to. Melany grabbed her electric striped paw with both of hers and refused to let go. "Please," she cried, not knowing to whom she was begging. "Please."

     Anne was saying something and Zae was too, but Melany couldn't hear, sobbing. She saw Zae's face crumple into tears as well, and suddenly she was out the door, watching Zae being led away by a crisply dressed official. She pressed her palms to the glass, but Anne was pulling the door so it stayed shut, and was pulling her paw, too, so that soon Zae and her new 'home' were just shadows in the trees.

     ***

     After they had delivered Zae to the Pound, Melany retreated to her room, and didn't speak another word. She pulled out her entire sack of clothes-to-be-mended, and worked through them all, slowly but surely. She debated sneaking to Zae's old room and mending those clothes, but decided that Zae had hated it when she'd tried to do that, so she couldn't.

     Dinner was a morose thing, with her and Anne simply toying with their cooling soup, not speaking a word and avoiding each other's eyes. Instead of their usual retreat to the living room to sit by the fire, Melany had returned to her room, pulled the blankets over her head, and falling asleep.

     The next week was a blur.

     She knew that she went to school, ate, and slept, but couldn't remember. All she knew was that they never went and sat by the fire, and, for some reason, a time on Tuesday when she had been walking home and slipped on a frosty puddle.

     Melany knew it was a mistake to have finished all of her repairs, because now she had nothing to do but fidget with her paws. She had taken to spinning a pencil between them, deftly threading it over and out of her calloused fingers, but it wasn't the same. She often had dreams of days spent with Zae, lounging in the backyard, pointing out clouds and drinking Neocola.

     Abruptly, on Saturday, she awoke knowing what to do.

     For the first time since Zae had left, she entered her room. She grabbed whatever she saw- shirts, thrown haphazardly over each other, a knotted shawl, and a purple jacket, that had sparked Anne and Zae's last argument.

     Returning to her room, she pulled out a pair of shining silver scissors and got to work.

     She used Zae's old bedspread as a base, the stitched over it. She cut the jacket, shirts, and other objects she had salvaged into neat squares, but layered them in a carefully sloppy manner, with bright bits of blue silk from one of her own scarves peeking out from the gaps.

     She worked hard, but it took very long. It was late November when she finished at last, with bits of snow dusting the ground. She dragged her project down the stairs, and spread it in front of the fire. When Anne came, her mouth opened in an 'o' of surprise.

     "I made this," Melany said, grinning, "so we would never forget her."

     She had expected Anne to beam, or maybe yell at her for cutting up Zae's clothes. But instead, she did the unexpected.

     She burst into tears.

     "I loved her, I did," she hiccupped. "I just wanted what was best for her. Oh, Melany, what have we done?"

     Melany stood up and embraced her, feeling Anne's tears fall onto her auburn hair, pretending that the tears that traced down her own cheeks were Anne's and not hers.

     ***

     They left right then and there.

     The sky was darkening, the snow falling harder, but they didn't care. Their feet left a trail, showing a different story from when they had last walked there. Now, they were strong and confident, marching up to the front doors.

     "Hello," Anne said, smiling at the front desk. "We'd like to adopt."

     "Alright," said the receptionist of the Pound. "Right this way, please."

     She showed them to the dorms where the pets were kept, a nasty, dark hallway crowded with doors too close together to have comfortable space inside. Flickering fluorescent light drew a path down the hall, shining off cracked linoleum floors.

      "Have a look around, and we hope you find one that you like."

     Anne and Melany nodded at each other, and went down the hall silently, peering into the doors to try and find Zae. But as they drew farther and farther back, with no avail, she became less hopeful. They reached the final door, and looked in.

     Melany's heart leapt to her throat. There, under those blankets, was a slumbering patch of blue hair. But the sleeper mumbled and turned, and it was shown in the light of the hallway that it wasn't, in fact, Zae. It was a striped Acara, with powder blue hair, no doubt dyed to match her coat.

     Melany moved to Anne.

     "She's not here," she whispered. "She must have been adopted."

     Anne turned without a word, holding a hand over her face.

     They retreated remorsefully down the hall, their confident stride replaced with that of a losing army. Melany watched her feet, wondering how so little of a move could go so wrong.

     It was all her fault.

     If only she hadn't spoken that night. She could have hemmed and hawed and not answered, and stayed out of it. They wouldn't be in this position if she had just returned her gaze to her sweater, one that with a jolt she realized she was wearing now.

     "Eh... excuse me..."

     Melany looked up, realizing that she had stopped walking in the middle of the hall. The speaker was a Christmas Aisha, fidgeting with the hem of her long nightshirt, with curly, nut-brown hair pulled back into a braid. But it was her eyes, green eyes, that though she was so different, reminded her of Zae.

     "You... what's your name?"

     The Aisha scrunched up her brow. "Felli."

     "Are you a pet here, in the Pound?" Melany didn't know why she was asking, or why she even cared.

     "Noooo," Felli replied, rolling her eyes. "I'm sleeping here because it's a five-star resort, duh."

     Melany grinned. "Hey, Anne!" she called, not caring that she had probably woken several Neopets from their peaceful slumbers. Anne turned, surprised. "This... this is Felli, Anne."

     Anne walked back, her steps unsure, staring at the Aisha. "...And?"

     Melany bit her lip. "Felli... we came here to adopt. Do you think... I mean, would you want us to adopt you? I'm Melany, this is Anne. I'm her only pet."

     Felli narrowed her eyes. "Even though I'm sarcastic and blunt?"

     "Especially so," Anne replied.

     "I must warn you, I'm a rule breaker. And I hate Babaas."

     Melany smiled even wider. Zae had loved Babaas. Somehow, this made her like Felli even more. It made her feel... it made her feel less like she was replacing Zae.

     "Excellent."

     Even if she hated Babaas, she hoped that she would like to sew. And she hoped that she would have something to contribute to the quilt.

     They weren't going to forget Zae, nor would they replace her. They would move on, but they would remember, and add to the blanket Melany had sewn in remembrance of Zae.

     And one day, they would find her.

     But today, that wasn't too important.

The End

 
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