Finding Kayla: Part Three
I didn’t see Kayla in the days that followed. But I did see a lot more of that red Grarrl and his cronies. The Grarrl took pleasure and my pain, and so did his most faithful servant, that yellow Acara, who reminded me too much of the annoying Kayla, that Y.O.
I remember far too vividly the first time I ate lunch at the Pound. Bacon Omelette with jelly as dessert. I wolfed down the bland egg as fast as I could, eager to resume my search for the elusive Kayla.
“Chokato, eh?” I cringed at the sound of his raspy voice.
The motley crew walked up towards me, with the red Grarrl leading them.
“Hmm... I do so love chokato...” He nonchalantly strolled up to my plate and seized the jelly, as though grabbing platefuls of food from unsuspecting pets was a daily occurrence.
“Hey, that’s mine!” I protested, but only got a shrill cackle from the yellow Acara as a response.
Annoyed, I beat him with my hooves, demanding that my food be returned to me. Finally, my poundings must have penetrated his thick hide, for his patience grew thin. Turning to me menacingly, he glared at me and I glared back at him.
“It’s your lucky day.” His lips parted in a sly smirk. “I didn’t like the flavour of jelly I was given today, so I’ll give it to you as an apology. And I absolutely insist that you finish it all up.”
He beckoned a blue Zafara bearing a plateful of brown substance before me. My nostrils curled at the sight of it. Dung jelly.
“Eat,” the Grarrl hooted happily. “Eat it all up!”
I responded by grabbing a chunk of the rancid stuff and throwing at it him. It bounced uselessly off his front. Furious, he grabbed my mane and thrust my head into the vile concoction. I was engulfed by the dirt-coloured dessert. My nostrils stung and my mouth burned, but I didn’t cry out or shed a tear, taking the humiliation emotionlessly.
After all, this was nothing compared to the turquoise waters and Kayla’s echoing screams that day.
I survived in the Pound. Just barely, but I survived. I endured every punishment and humiliation that gang wrought out on me. I was the brunt of the jokes at the Pound, and even if some pitied the way I was treated, they still laughed at me, for fear of being the new victim in the eyes of the Grarrl.
Once, I was approached by a timid looking blue Kacheek.
“I’m not here to laugh at you,” he immediately clarified, when he saw that I had tensed up.
I graced this clarification with a grunt.
“I’m here to tell you to stop acting so... so...” He gestured wildly in the air, “You know. Then they’ll eventually stop teasing you.”
“I don’t know. Enlighten me.”
His brows knitted in frustration, “Stop acting so... out of things. You might have had a caring and loving owner before you were abandoned, but this is the Pound, and things are different here.”
I stared at him quizzically and he pressed on, “There’s a proper way of acting. With you acting so stubborn and high-strung, there’s no way you’ll ever fit in here.”
“I don’t want to fit in here.”
He was genuinely angry now. “That’s the kind of behavior that’s earned you such treatment! Try to fit in for once! Try and act like us. It hasn’t been all that great, but at least it keeps us out of trouble!”
“But I’m not you,” I told him quietly. He looked like he was resisting the urge to hit me. For a little guy, he could be quite intimidating.
“I know what your problem is now.” He scowled at me as he left in disgust. “You’re being yourself.”
I wandered into the empty courtyard of the Pound. It was evening, and most of the pets were gathered in the various rooms doing pointless things that I cared nothing about. It had already been a week. Where was Kayla?
My silent question was answered by a quiet sob in the bushes. Despite myself, I was curious and went to investigate.
My investigation led me to a yellow figure huddled near the drain by the fence. It was an unused drain, rendered useless anyway by neglect. Weeds and foliage had long grown over it and pets were told to steer far from it, for fear that they would fall in.
“It’s dangerous here.” I pointed out to the lone figure, and she whipped suddenly around to face me.
It was that yellow Acara, and she was crying.
“What do you want?” she snapped harshly when she saw it was me. “Stupid.”
Her tone was less fierce, less cocky and less cruel now that she was alone. I suspected that, in this situation, she feared me as I feared her, only more so.
She ignored me and glanced in the direction of the drain. Peering inside, I noticed a dirtied yellow ball embedded among the thicket of thorns that grew there.
“You dropped your ball?”
“Into the drain?”
She glared at me, but remained silent.
“Was that ball important to you?”
This time, I provoked a response. She shook her yellow head fiercely, “No, it was just the first toy my owner got for me when I was born. It’s dirty and ugly and I was about to throw it away anyway.”
“Then it’s important to you,” I told her and jumped into the drain.
“Hey! What are you doing, stupid! You could get killed!” she shouted after me.
I ignored her and focused my attention on that little yellow ball. My hooves closed around it and I felt a rush of triumph. Laughing, I emerged from the drain, dusting stray leaves off my back and nursing several thorn cuts.
“Wipe that smirk off your face,” she told me angrily. “All that for a tiny ball. How stupid.”
“Maybe.” The smile persisted on my face. “Catch.”
I tossed the ball at her direction and she caught it deftly, albeit dumbfounded. She mumbled something inaudible and I strained my ears to catch it.
“I said, thank you,” she called back, louder this time, “and I won’t say it again.”
Then she bounded off hurriedly. I watched her. She reminded me of Kayla, the one I loved.
Presently, things resumed in their usual fashion. I was still a target of the Grarrl gang, and continued to be alienated by the general pet community. Even the Kacheek who had advised me on proper Pound etiquette could not resist cracking a joke at my expense.
I showed no emotion to the torment that relinquished on me. I gave them what they needed: a punch bag, but not what they wanted: a victim. Eventually, they grew tired of my lack of response to their usual taunts and got more creative. I was resilient to any physical blows they had for me. Years of living the life that I led had toughened me to this form of bullying. However, they tortured me in the place where I had built no defence: my mind.
They knew Kayla. Thanks to me, everyone in the Pound knew Kayla, but no one I had spoken to had ever seen her.
“Kayla hated you,” they told me. “It’s true. I heard it from someone.”
I ignored them. Kayla would never hate me.
“Why do you think she hasn’t bothered contacting you? Everyone in the Pound has access to Neomail.”
I stiffened at that comment, but outwardly showed no weakness.
“Don’t you understand? Kayla only put up with you because she pitied you.”
“That’s not true,” I found myself saying. I was furious at them for being able to spot my weak point so clearly. I always feared, that, the only reason that bold, beautiful Kayla put up with me, the lonely reject, was out of pity.
They smiled, for the battle was in their favour. “Of course it was only because she pitied you. She was your younger sister, so she would be obliged to help you. That’s what it was. Obligation, not love.”
I covered my ears, but they wrenched my hooves away from my face and forced me to listen.
“Poor, poor, Karina,” they cooed cruelly. “She came all this way to find a sister that (doesn’t love her). Oh, pardon me, but she’s not your sister anymore.”
Desperate, I faced the yellow Acara, seeking comfort in the eyes that once reminded me so much of Kayla. But malice was written across her face and she waggled her tongue out at me.
It was then I remembered the Kacheek’s words. (This is the Pound, and things are different here... There’s a proper way of acting.)
Unable to stand it, I broke away from the jeering crowd. Why did I come to this place to be subjected to such tortures? Why did I leave the lonely solitude of my room for this harsh reality? Why did I come here, knowing full well what would happen?
Then, as I burst into the main entrance of the Pound, and as clear as day, I got my answers. There she was.
Kayla, at last.
To be continued...