The Sisterhood of Terra and Phee: Part Four
"Terra," the Pink Uni says the next day. Her face is the closest I've ever seen it to being sad. "He's back again." She knows, of course, what Terra will say. The same thing she said the last two times the boy showed up.
Terra freezes, but doesn't put her book down. "You know I already told him no."
The Pink Uni glances at me, and gestures with her chin to Terra.
"I think you should give it another try," I say. "At least to listen."
"I'm not going," she says, remaining adamant. She's getting to be about as stubborn as I am.
"Please," I say, tipping the top of her book away from her face in order to look her in the eye. "At least hear him out."
She sighs. "Fine. But it doesn't change anything, okay?"
I nod. "Of course."
But she doesn't know what he's going to say, and I do. ---
She comes back looking dazed.
"Are you okay?" I ask, putting down her book that I'd picked up while I waited. I didn't manage to actually read a single sentence. The words were all jumbled in my head, shaken up by nerves.
"He wants both of us," she says, eyes alight. "He can't right now. But he said he'll save up. And come back later. If that's what we want."
I smile. Put the book down. Pat the bed beside me. She sits down, looking half delirious.
"Terra." At the sound of my voice breaking through, she turns to me and comes back down to Neopia. "You should go."
She jerks away from me. "Not without you. We already had this conversation."
Something in my voice makes her listen, really listen, for the first time. Maybe she can tell I'm serious. Maybe she can tell my mind is already made up, as much as hers is. Maybe more so.
"Go. Please. I couldn't be happy here with you. Not because I don't love you. Because I do love you. And I can't sit here, knowing I'm the reason you can't have a family. It would tear me up. I can't do it. I can't." I emphasize the last word so strongly, my voice nearly cracks.
"You are my family," she insists. Her eyes are unreadable as she searches mine. "What if I never see you again?" she asks.
"Impossible," I say. "I'd track you down."
She gives the ghost of a smile and nudges me with her shoulder. Her wings flutter slightly. "You know what I mean. Be serious for a minute. What happens if...if he changes his mind?"
"Do you think he will?" I ask bluntly. "When you look him in the eyes, does he seem like a liar to you?"
She thinks back, closes her eyes to picture him more clearly. When she opens them, she shakes her head. "No." A smile begins to form, but only barely.
"Then go. Please."
I cut her off, something I haven't done in a while. "For me. Show me that there's hope. If you're with him, he has to come back for me. If not, neither of us may ever get out of here. Is that what you want?" I feel immediately guilty for using this tactic. But while it may be somewhat cruel, it is also true.
She looks at me. All of me, from my eyes to my wings to my tail and everything between. Memorizing me. It's how I know she's made her choice. Not because of her own happiness, though I know she's wanted this for so long. It's the not knowing that gets to her. Not knowing if I'll get the opportunity to be happy if she doesn't take this chance for both of us.
"Okay," she says, so quietly I can barely hear it.
"Okay," I reply.
And we cling to each other for moments and decades and eons. Eventually, she lets me go. Eventually, she asks the Pink Uni if the boy is still there. Part of me remembers talking to the boy again -- Carter is his name. Remembers him assuring me that they'll be back as quickly as possible.
Once the Pink Uni goes along her merry way -- once Terra and Carter are on their way to their new life, and it's all over with -- I'm left standing outside the Adoptions door. The grumpy Pound Techo spots me. The glass door on the right opens, and he does the unthinkable.
Right in the middle of the hallway, for all to see him ruining his cranky facade, he hugs me so tight, I'm not sure if it's loss or his hug that makes it impossible for me to breathe.
But even that fades in comparison to the main memory in my mind. Most of me doesn't remember the Techo's hug. Memories of the moments leading up to it are vague. Most of me remembers the joy in Terra's eyes when Carter paid the fee and signed the papers, making her officially his pet.
Because none of the rest of it matters.---
Four weeks later, I'm visiting with Terra at the cafe on that same Simple Red Sofa.
Four weeks later, I learn that things actually can, in fact, go wrong even when you have a steaming cup of Borovan in your hands.
Four weeks later, I discover how quickly even promises we mean can be broken. And just how right Lana had been about being prepared for everything, even the improbable things. The things we could never imagine.
Four weeks later, Terra tells me that they're moving.
"Carter said that his stocks aren't moving like he expected them to. And he hasn't been doing well with the games. I want to help. The Employment Agency would let me do that. It would only be for a while. Phee, I'm so desperate to have you home with us. You'd love it so much, I just know it."
She takes my hoof, and I smile. But beneath me, the ground of Neopia is cracking.---
It was because of her that I took a job at that cafe when I got permission to be out on my own, to soak up the ghosts of laughter past while she was away. For one month. Two months. Three. Neomails were incessant at first, and then less frequent as she got busier and so did I.
It was because of her seemingly inconsequential questions in that cafe what seemed like forever ago that I asked myself questions I never would have thought to. Like where I wanted to be. I realized I wanted to be everywhere. I wanted to see it all. The food, the culture, the pets, the owners. Everything.
It was because of her suggestion and that job at the cafe that I realized I would never be a chef, only an admirer of them. But I learned in this process that I had a strong sense of taste and a good eye for presentation. I learned I could speak well when I was a server, and learned to write well when put in charge of the daily specials and the menu renovations. I learned in the gift shop that I am not a salesman, but that I do have a contagious passion for things that can be seen as very persuasive.
Because of my sister, I stood up to bullies at the Pound while maintaining dignity and grace. I learned to love myself not because I did, but because my Terra let me borrow her eyes while she was away. In time, mine grew more like hers and I didn't need to use their point of view anymore. I grew more in our time apart than I had in our time together, because I couldn't rely on her like I once did. But I wouldn't have been able to do that growing if not for the foundations she'd help put in place.
Because of all these things, I started doing something I loved. I began writing for a public journal critiquing the restaurants in my area of Neopia, such a small little corner. And then, when Lana sneakily entered my work to a contest, I became a regular article writer for the Neopian Times. It was suggested that I travel to better widen the scope of our audience. I didn't have the Neopoints for it, but the Times had a fund for this, and the Pink Uni thought it was a wonderful idea.
"You'll always have a place to come back to!" she chirped. She was right in that. This place would always be here.
The so-called grumpy Techo gave me a cracking smile, slighly off from years of disuse. He patted my shoulder. We have an understanding to look after one another, he and I, after that day when Terra left. I'll miss him. Not quite as much as I miss Terra, but a good amount nonetheless.
I'm so ready to go home to be with Terra again. So ready to see Carter keep his word. But it's been six months now. She says they're close. That Carter has finally figured out the Food Club and she has finally figured out which Job Coupons are worth using and which are better traded instead. She says they're doing everything they can, from dailies to games to setting up a shop to sell things in. But part of me can't help but wonder if it's not going to happen. Part of me wonders if this is how it was always going to be.
To be continued…