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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 21st day of Eating, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 59 > Short Stories > A Prison for the Heart

A Prison for the Heart

by amyli_emitar

"Amyraea, trust me, this is for your own good." The girl, perhaps in her early teens, stared down at the Zafara who stood at her side. She didn't sound convinced by her own words, and swiftly passed a hand over her eyes, brushing away unbidden tears.

     The little pet, usually so bright and cheerful, would not meet her owner's eyes; even her disco coat seemed to have lost light and lustre. "I thought you'd never leave me." It was almost an accusation.

     Her owner shrugged helplessly, uncomfortable. "Amy, you know I've been busy. I just can't take care of you, anymore. I need to move on, and so do you." She clenched her fists tightly, almost fiercely. "And I want you to have the best life you can."

     Amyraea did remember, all too well, her friend's long periods of absence; those long hungry nights spent waited sleeplessly for the sound of a key in the door of their little cottage. And lately, the visits had been less and less frequent; the girl didn't seem to have time to play with her anymore. Their time together consisted of a walk to the soup kitchen, and lately, not even that.

     Still, she refused to be convinced. "You're my owner... I need you!"

     The girl shook her head sadly. "No, Amy. I love you; that's why I want you to get a better owner, who will take care of you." She knelt at the little Zafara's side, arms extended to hold her; Amyraea turned away, hoping against hope that if she refused to say goodbye, her owner would not go. The girl sighed, and straightened, handing a small, heavy sack that clinked metallically to the Techo warden. She did not look down at Amyraea, who clung piteously to her legs, but merely detached the pet before hurrying away.

     Amyraea's blue eyes widened with shock when the girl did not look back, tell her that it was all just a horrible, tasteless joke. "Don't leave me!"

     People passed between them, almost obscuring her owner from sight.

     "Oh, please..."

     And in a moment, she was gone entirely.

     "Nooooooo!"

     Amyraea screamed wordless despair, huddled there on that cold, dank floor, until her throat ached; and she could only sob brokenly, choking on the hot tears that leaked from her eyes; and finally fell asleep, there, before the wooden desk of the pound.

     Hours later, Rose discovered her there, a little broken heap with sodden fur and eyes closed to the misery of her life. She took pity on the smaller pet, and moved her gently onto a woven mat, behind the cold steel bars.

***

Amyraea awoke, hungry and sore, wondering why she was lying on the floor. Had she slipped off her heart-shaped bed? She called out, expecting her owner to come to her side, but no reply followed.

     It was only then that she rubbed sleep from her eyes with awkward paws, and recalled where she was. And why she had been abandoned there...

     This thought was enough to evoke a new round of sobs from her; this time, however, she found a course-furred paw clamped none too gently over her mouth, and stared up into the face of an old Mynci. "Yew shut yer trap!"

     She fell silent, fearing him, but her small body shook with suppressed emotion.

     Half an hour later, a bowl of steaming gruel was plunked in front of her. She turned her head away, revolted by the hot, grey sludge-like mass. Rose paused by her cell, and pushed the food closer with a forehoof. "Come on, love, you need to eat. The pound is opening soon, and you're so scrawny the adopters will think we mistreat you."

     Amyraea put her face in her paws, and ignored the advice, hardly noticing when her less-picky Lupe cellmate wolfed the rapidly-cooling gruel down.

     But she found that she couldn't hide forever; half an hour later, the first of the prospective adopters drifted into the pound. She would have been happier if they had let her alone, her dulled and faded fur reflecting her mood, but no; they had to shine a light full in her face, and look her over, as if she was an item to be bought or sold at a moment's notice. That wasn't a comfortable thought, especially when she realised the truth in it.

     A blue Shoyru, noticing her unease, nudged her with a wingtip. "Smile, and get out of the shadows. They won't ogle so if they can really see you to begin with."

     She realised the sense in his advice and complied, though her 'smile' would have looked rather forced if the passers-by had cared to notice.

     Ten minutes and at least a year later - or so it felt to Amyraea - a girl in her late teens stopped by her cell to read her stats card as so many others had. "Hmm... painted, and only 150 Neopoints. I'll take her." This last was directed to Rose, who nodded, and handed the adopter a key in return for the money.

     As the older girl snapped a leash onto her collar, Amyraea chanced a glance at her new owner. She was pretty enough, but her gaze lacked compassion, even interest. Only greed and a sense of luck in finding a painted pet were reflected in those brown eyes.

     Amyraea shuddered and stayed at the full length of the confining leash. Her owner did not notice, or perhaps did not care.

     She didn't have to walk far; her owner dragged her down a side street near the soup kitchen, stopping by a dingy white house. Unlocking the door, she tossed Amyraea in by the scruff of her neck, and shut the door after her.

     Amyraea scrambled to her feet, feelings injured far more seriously than her body, just in time to hear the lock click.

     And as she stared at the heavy wood that blocked her only escape, she was once again in the prison of the Pound.

***

Amyraea realised, a week later, that her owner would not return.

     She wasn't sure what had happened; perhaps, the girl had been excluded from Neopia for breaking some rule. What rule? The little Zafara couldn't say.

     It was so, so hard to think of anything for long, to concentrate at all, when she hadn't eaten in so long...

     Her body had given up complaining, she supposed. She wouldn't die, but it seemed that she would not eat, either. Thinking about it was futile.

     But her love-starved heart did not follow the same logic.

     She dragged herself up onto a windowsill, to watch the people pass, unaware of the little observer who watched loyally for the one she needed. This, too, was futile, but - what else was there to do?

     A family step suddenly sounded on the walk; the gate closed quietly behind someone entering, and its echoes resounded in her heart. She looked suddenly up, and caught sight of a familiar face in the window; that of her owner.

     She sprang up; almost slipping off the windowsill, calling out hoarsely to the girl who watched. In that moment, she forgot her mistreatment, forgot that she herself had been forgotten in her joy at seeing a familiar face.

     The girl gave her a mere glance, before turning and walked resolutely away.

     And the gate slammed shut with a certain finality that jarred through Amyraea's heart.

The End

At the time of writing, no pet called Amyraea exists, but her story is that of thousands of other Neopets. It is dedicated to them; the pets of all those who have left Neopia.

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