Wandering: Birth of a Foster Parent
Author's Note: This story is best understood if you read "Wandering: Xell's Story" located in Issue #510 of the Neopian Times first. Thanks to out to Kathleen (Kathleen_Kate) for proofreading. If you haven't looked up her amazing Neopian Times submissions, I really suggest you read them! Enjoy the tale. :)
The Hissi known as Xellaration stood in the strangest of places for a desert born Hissi like himself. He stood in the living room of a small, fixer-upper neohome, and watched as the human girl he called "Sunny" walked around and commented on the small repairs it would require.
"New wallpaper, a bit of new paint on the trim, and the walls will be fine. I'll have to earn some Neopoints to get the tiles fixed, but surely someone here in Neopia Central knows something about stuff like that," she said, smiling.
Xellaration had noted some odd quirks about the strange human he'd decided to help. It was then, a month ago he'd been wandering the desert. Then he had found Sunny lying in the sand. That girl was new to Neopia, and needed someone with experience to help her out. His thoughts had been correct. She knew nothing of the world that she had just entered, and needed someone to teach her the ways of Neopia. Well, it ended up being him. One of his owner's odd quirks was the fact that she was extremely scatterbrained. She lost stuff often, and Xell often had to remind her to reply to various neomails. Keeping someone so impulsive and forgetful in line took a lot of effort.
Another one was Sunny's accent. When she spoke, you couldn't really hear it, but she drawled words like "Shower" or "Hour". She sounded like those Kau herders out in West Brightvale, always talking and drawling out their words.
But despite his owner's odd quirks, he enjoyed being with her, and helping her learn about Neopia. He liked listening to her talk about her plans to eventually have a big family of pets, and to have a neohome full of laughter and fun. But most of all, he enjoyed hearing her play. She was a pianist, and whenever she played, Xell was enchanted by how wonderful it sounded. She played waltzes, with their elegant and graceful tones. But she also played tarantellas, quick and lively folk dances, and even songs with a distinct desert flair. How she managed to get her small but nimble fingers to play such melodies astounded him.
He stood there looking at his owner's eyes, emerald green and full of life, as she described their home. "One day, this place will be full of laughter, and all sorts of noises. Feet pattering in the hallway, the murmurs and tenors of voices at the table. Just think of it, Xell," she said.
"Sunny, I believe it's time for you to go. You were planning to play some games, correct?" Xell said, smiling.
"Oh shoot, I forgot. Let me grab my hat," Sunny replied, hurrying to the closet nearest to the door. "I always forget these things. I don't know what I would do without you."
The Hissi wished his owner luck as she grabbed her straw, broad brimmed hat, and made her way out to earn some neopoints. Normally he'd go with her, but today, he had an agenda.
The cobblestone streets of Neopia Central were alive with sound. Pets of all colors, from basic green to the extravagantly painted royal, were walking with their owners, headed for the various shops and businesses located around. It was the Christmas season, and they all had some shopping to do. Xell clutched the small amount of neopoints he had, and made his way to the Neopian Pound. "Let's hope this idea works," he thought to himself.
He pushed the glass door open, feeling a burst of heat hit his face, quite unlike the frosty air around him. He dusted the small bits of snow from his clothes, then proceeded to the large counter.
"Welcome to the Neopian Pound, how may I help you today?" the pink Uni said cheerfully.
"You here to abandon a pet or what?" a very grumpy yellow Techo exclaimed, scaring Xellaration half out of his wits.
"Or perhaps, Hissi, you are here to be transferred to a new owner?" the robotic Hissi next to the pair said, his eyes glowing.
"No, no, no. I... well... My owner only has myself, you see," Xell explained, "and, well, she needs some new family members, but we don't have that many neopoints on hand, so I was wondering how much it costs to adopt?"
The Uni looked Xell over, from his plain brown clothes to his walking stick, which he never left home without. "Well dear, it appears you do have enough to adopt, but your owner would have to sign the forms, and if your situation is as you say, it might just be best if you do not adopt," she replied, shuffling her papers on her desk. "You see, when a pet is adopted, it needs to be cared for, and not just food wise. Toys, a petpet, books – even little things cost neopoints. However, if your owner does need a family... Why doesn't she become a foster parent?" The Uni handed Xellaration a flyer, which read:
HELP PETS IN NEED. BECOME A NEOPIAN FOSTER PARENT. ZAP PETS WITH THE LAB, ALLOW THEM TO BECOME BEAUTIFUL, THEN FIND THEM A BRAND NEW HOME! JUST ORDER OUR FOSTER PARENT'S KIT, INCLUDING AN ALL ACCESS PASS TO THE LAB RAY, ONLY FOR 200,000 NP!
After reading the flyer, Xell's face fell. They barely had two thousand neopoints! In fact, he barely had enough to buy Sunny a Christmas gift. He sighed, then said, "I'm... sorry. I guess you cannot help me. Good day to you, and happy holidays."
I had been working, endlessly playing games, from Turmac Roll all the way to Berry Bash. Finally, I had enough. It wasn't much, just a little over twenty thousand neopoints, but it was just enough to buy Xell a Christmas gift.
I walked over to the small store I had spotted a week or so before. The owner was apparently from Meridell or Brightvale, for the red Acara had quite a hand at woodworking, and her simple appearance, and the golden earring in her right ear spoke of her homeland and class. I set down the small bag of NP, gave her the description of my order, and watched as she whittled the wood and whistled to herself. I set down my hat, and waited at the counter as she worked.
"Got any plans for Christmas?" I asked, trying to fill the quiet shop with sound.
"Nay. I'll be here, more'n likely. Business has been slow lately, you know? Not too many people like woodworking like mine. Got no place else to go," the Acara replied, peeling another shaving of wood from the long board she was whittling.
"Oh. You don't?" I said, surprised. "I thought you had a family somewhere."
The Acara smiled, but it was a smile fringed with sadness. "Nay. Nay. Lost them in the last war Meridell had. All I've got is m'self." I had no reply for that comment. So for a minute or two, there was a tense silence in the room.
"Don't worry, lass, 'tis not the worst lot a girl can have. At least I'm not on the street, or thieving like some orphans do." She smiled warmly. "Thank ye for the concern, though."
"You're... welcome. I suppose," I replied slowly.
"Anyway," she continued, "here's ye gift. Wrapped and ready for the Holidays." I smiled, thanked her, and gave her the rest of the small bag of NP as a thank you. I headed for home, excited to give my Hissi the Christmas gift of a lifetime!
The Hissi known as Xellaration was, for the most part, a street smart person. He took the shortcuts he could home, even if they were in the less "well-to-do" parts of town. He had his dagger on his person and a worn desert staff, so at least he wasn't fully without a proper weapon if needed.
He turned into a small, but quite littered alleyway, when he heard his name.
"Xellaration! You crazy Hissi!" the voice said. Xell turned then, his dagger drawn, but his frame relaxed as he realized who was coming towards him.
"Konmer! What in Neopia are you doing here?" the brown Hissi exclaimed, as he rushed forward to shake his old friend's hand.
"Well, I've been working on expanding my business, you know? I've always been one for natural remedies, as well as other odds and ends. So I tried to see if it might work out here in the Central," Konmer replied.
The Central was a phrase used all around Neopia. Neopia Central was a mouthful to some people, so locals, and sometimes even Neopians from other places, used "The Central" as a term for the bustling city in the heart of Neopia.
"Well, I hope it works out for you, Konmer, but I really have to get back home, you know?" Xell said, remembering that Sunny never liked it when he was tardy.
"Ah, that human girl you've joined up with? I heard you'd stopped wandering," Konmer said, a teasing tone in his voice.
"Well, yes. But Sunny needed someone to help her out. Fool girl went chasing after some Dust Devil and about got herself in a tight spot," Xell replied, laughing.
"Anyway, why are you leaving from the eastern side over there?" Konmer asked, tilting his shadow colored head. "The only thing important over there is the Pound. And you know, that's not the nicest place to visit."
"Well, honestly, Konmer, I was looking for a gift for Sunny. We don't have that much funds wise, and I was hoping, well, she's been wanting a larger family... and... well..." Xell stammered, trying to explain.
"Ahhh, I see what you mean. Follow me," Konmer said, waving.
Now Xell wasn't always a very trusting Hissi, but in this case, he knew that his friend was trustworthy. Although he didn't understand why the shadow Aisha would be leading him anywhere, he followed his friend through a small door in the alley into a tightly spaced, but cozy shop.
"I just got this in stock, and well, it might make a nice gift for your human friend." The Aisha lifted a small, but seemingly heavy box from behind a long counter. Xell opened the box slowly, and was surprised to find an entire foster's kit inside, just what he was thinking of.
"Konmer, I cannot pay for-"
"Take it, Xell," the Aisha said, cutting him off. "It's my gift to you. Just promise me that when you get what's coming to ya, you won't forget people like me, aye?"
Xell turned, his eyes hardening. "Konmer!" he said sharply. "You mention that one more time, and you won't be very happy at all."
The Aisha gulped then said, "I-I just.... I know that you're-"
"We're not going to discuss this subject, Konmer, for our friendship's sake," the Hissi said, not giving the Aisha a chance to reply.
"Fine, Xell. Have it your way... Anyway, that's for that girl you're caring for. I'm certain she'll have more use for it than I will." Xell smiled, and thanked his friend. They waved to each other as he headed down the alleyway towards home. Perhaps having friends in high places wasn't such a bad thing after all.
Xell smiled as he yawned and sat up. It was Christmas morning. Time to give Sunny her gift! He looked out the window, and it was still partly dark outside, but the first rays of morning were lighting up the sky. He slithered down the hall, checking to make sure his owner was still asleep, and crept down to where the gifts lay under the Christmas tree.
He had forgotten to put the finishing touches on his gift the night before because he had gotten home so late from the store with his wrapping supplies. He searched through the kitchen, rummaging around the drawers and cabinets until he found what he was looking for – a bright blue bow, Sunny's favorite color!
He plopped it right onto his gift, and then (because even though he had a dry sense of humor, he still had one) he slithered over to the upright piano in the corner of their neohome, and proceeded to POUND on the keys. If one thing was bound to wake his owner up, it was music played badly.
After I was woken by my Hissi's "lovely" concert, I proceeded to walk, bleary eyed and staggering, into the living room. I managed to find a chair and sank down in it for a second, after sending my Hissi a glare that Jhudora would be proud of to make him stop pounding the keys. Wearing my Cybunny slippers, and with my hair going in all directions, as well as almost looking like I had been run over by a herd of Ixi, I managed to mumble to my Hissi, "Give me one reason why I shouldn't hurt you."
He smiled one of his serpentine smiles that accompanied his very dry humor, and replied, "Well, you might knock over the tree, and it will fall on your Christmas gift, of course." Even though my Hissi is very droll at times, I could detect the slight sarcasm in his voice.
"Fine, fine. But, disturb my beauty sleep again with that off key pounding and you'll be wandering again," I replied.
"Well, it isn't my fault that I don't know how to play that.... that... thing," Xell stated, his eyes gleaming with mirth at my obvious sleep deprived state.
"If you can get the NP to take lessons, fine by me, but I'm not talented enough to teach ya," I replied.
Xell smiled, then said, "Let's get to the gift giving, yes?"
I smiled back and replied, "Yeah, it is Christmas, after all."
Xell grabbed the pair of presents under the tree, and sat down in a chair next to me. "You're the pet, so you go first," I said, yawning as I did so. Xell grabbed the (poorly) wrapped package, and began to open it carefully. When he finally got it unwrapped, he was speechless.
It was a new walking stick, carved beautifully out of wood. He looked at it for almost a minute, then said, "Sunny... I-I love it. How did you know?"
I smiled, then said, "Well, you didn't complain about your current stick being worn, but I could tell it was. So I got a new one carved for you. Read the other side of it." Xell turned it over, and read the inscription. It read: "Wherever you Wander, I'll be in your heart."
Xell smiled, then said, "That's sweet, Sunny. Thank you. Now open your gift." I grabbed the gift, smiled at the bright blue bow, and proceeded to open it. Finally, I tore open the wrapping paper, and there was a small box. It read: "Official Foster Parent's Kit" on the front in big bright letters.
I was speechless. "Xell-" I began... but he cut me off.
"Sunny, you want a family, and I think that's our ticket to one. We can help pets be loved by someone, if only for a little bit, until they find families of their own. A friend helped me get this for you, so please take it. You will use it, will you?"
I smiled at my Hissi, gave him a big hug and replied, "Yes, I promise, Xell. And I think I know just the pet to start with."
A Hissi, his owner, and a red Acara sit by the fire. The Acara is whittling, whistling to herself, and smiling as the owner hands out some candy-cane shaped cookies.
They celebrate with good cheer the Christmas season, but more than that. They celebrate a new birth. The birth of a Foster Parent.
(Merry Christmas, from Sunny, Xell, and the family!)