Zeke's Gift: Part Three
“Corrie created me very soon after she brought home Zar,” Awtchey said. He wondered if he would remember everything, seeing as he hadn’t thought about his past in such a long while, but as he continued to talk, everything came back to him, as though it had all happened the day before. “She told us that we were her boys and that she loved us both very much. Of course, she had many other pets, but she said that we were her favorite.”
“Corrie created you?” Zeke wanted to know and Awtchey nodded. “But... she told me that I was the first Xweetok she had ever created.”
Awtchey stiffened. She really said that? “Well, then she lied to you, kid,” he said, trying to keep the growl out of his voice. A snarl spread across his features. After the incident, she probably vowed never to speak or think of me again. That is so like her. After I left, she probably acted as though I never existed. And after a time, it probably was as though I never had.
Zeke straightened visibly. “No, Corrie would never lie to me! She probably just forgot all about you! After all, it’s been... how long since she last owned you? Long enough anyway. Yeah, that’s it, she just forgot. She would never lie. She even promised me that.”
Awtchey rolled his eyes. That girl and her promises.
Zeke still rambled on. “...to Zar too. She always says that the truth shall be upheld in this family... or something like that. Once, I thought that she was lying to me when she told me that-”
Awtchey clamped one paw over Zeke’s mouth, abruptly halting the stream of words. “Do you want to hear the story or not?”
Zeke nodded his head very quickly and Awtchey slowly released his paw. “Now, don’t interrupt me again, got it? No more questions and for goodness’ sakes, be quiet!” Zeke nodded again and Awtchey leaned against his pillow, ready to continue.
“With her, pets were always coming and going, but Zar and I never left. We never feared that she would give us up. In fact, I don’t even think we knew what the pound was at that time. I remember thinking that Corrie just had lots of pets, but only a few stayed with her at a time. I knew that the rest went somewhere else, but I never bothered to figure out where. After all, we were her favorites. We would never leave.”
Awtchey sighed and shook his head. The memories came back with renewed pain over what had occurred and he almost lost the will to continue. But he remembered Zeke and knew that the young Xweetok would have to know sometime, so he went on. “But then I noticed that... she and Zar started to spend more time together. She took him everywhere... and left me at home. At first, I didn’t really think much of it. But then I started to see that her affection towards us... was different. It was obvious she still like me a lot, but she doted on Zar.
“He told me that he was trying to get it so we would receive an equal amount of attention and I knew that he really was. I watched him try to get Corrie’s focus on me, but she never seemed to pay attention to anything... but Zar. She loved him.
“Then it happened.”
“What?” Zeke leaned forward expectantly.
“She brought home... three pets. All girls. There were now five of us, the most of us that there had ever been at one time. Corrie took me and Zar into a room and she told us...” Awtchey shook his head, feeling the lump in his throat growing larger. “She told us that... one of us had to go. But me and Zar... we both knew that in her mind, she had already chosen one of us. It was me.
“I was a bit eager because I was becoming less and less fond of her each day and getting away from her would be good for me. Not only that, but now I was going to see where all of her old pets had gone. It was a mystery that I had pondered over for quite a while and though I had asked her multiple times, she had never told me.
“So one day, she took me to Neopia Central and she...” I’m not going to cry. “She checked me into the Pound. At first I thought it was a hotel, but I was soon told otherwise by the thousands of other pets who lived there. I thought for certain that Corrie would come back for me, but weeks passed, then months, and then a year. She never returned for me.”
“How old were you?” Zeke inquired softly and Awtchey heard the slight disbelief in his voice. He glared, but at nothing in particular. This is a side of Corrie that he’s never heard about before. She never wanted him to know the terrible things she had done when she was younger. He’s not going to want to believe it when I tell him what happened next, but it’s the truth.
“I was eight years old.” Awtchey sighed. “Over time, I figured out that all of her old pets... had also been given up and taken to the Pound. I actually met quite a few of them and most of them scorned me because I had been her supposed favorite. They said things to me, teasing me and asking me that if I was really her favorite then why had she given me up. These things made me grow more and more hateful towards Corrie. She had brought all this upon me. I had had no say in the matter.
“Then one day, someone familiar came to the Pound. It was Corrie’s younger brother; his name was IpodFreak. He had often come to Corrie’s neohome when I had still lived there and he had always been nice to us. We all called him Uncle IF and he gave us our own nicknames in return. Mine was Butterscotch because my fur was yellow and he said that I was always the sweetest. I don’t remember what he called Zar... something about water...”
“Oh, Uncle IF!” Zeke’s glow brightened. “Yeah, I know him! He’s so nice to us! He gives me chocolate and he brings Corrie chips, but Zar always takes them away from her, but then he eats them. Yeah, he gave me a nickname too. I’m Fireball ‘cause he says I’m so energetic and because he says stars are really balls of fire burning millions of miles away in the sky! I don’t believe it; he always tells wacky stories! Stars are just pretty Christmas lights that someone put there, but no one can ever get high enough to bring them down! And-”
Awtchey cleared his throat and Zeke’s words stopped. “Sorry,” he whispered.
“Anyways... Uncle IF was shocked that Corrie had given me up. I think he remembered all the times she had declared that Zar and I were her favorites. I told him what had happened and he decided to adopt me. I would live with him and he would try to convince Corrie to take me back.”
“Did it work?”
Awtchey heaved a sigh and was glad that Zeke’s glow had lowered because now a tear ran down his furry cheek. He coughed several times, then said, “No. When Uncle IF took me to Corrie’s old neohome in Mystery Island, she pretended that she didn’t know me. She told us that she had never seen me before in her life. Yet, I could see in her eyes that she knew exactly who I was. She just didn’t want to admit it ‘cause she was embarrassed or something. Uncle IF let me stay with him for a week or two, but he eventually took me back to the Pound in hopes that I would find a new, loving owner. I never did and I stayed there for the past five years, getting sick on a regular basis, constantly being passed by when people came to the Pound, and eventually losing all hope of ever being in a regular family.”
The yellow Xweetok sighed and drew the bed covers tighter around his body. It had become very chilly in the bedroom. Zeke’s glow had long since dimmed so that the stars shone only as brightly as guttering candles. For a second, Awtchey suspected that the young Xweetok had fallen asleep, but when he looked closer, he saw Zeke’s wide, icy blue eyes staring at him, slightly wet with tears.
There were a few moments of silence, then Zeke said, “I... I can’t believe Corrie would do that.” He sniffed pitifully. “She’s always been so nice to me.”
Awtchey felt slightly guilty for telling Zeke all that he had. It was a lot to put on an eleven-year-old’s shoulders. He scooted closer to the young Xweetok and put his thick furry tail around him. He could barely believe what he was about to say, but he knew that if he didn‘t, Zeke would be stripped of trust for the person he had loved since birth. He didn‘t want that.
“Don’t blame Corrie,” Awtchey said, trying not to sound disgusted. “I... I’m sure she had a reason for what she did.” Zeke shook his head, tears running down his cheeks. Awtchey knew that he had to say more. He gritted his teeth, than did something he never would have agreed to moments before. Yet, deep down inside of him, (he would never admit it, not even to himself) there was a faint glimmer of sympathy for his former owner and the words he now said to Zeke were ones that he wished that he could believe to be true.
“Zeke... don’t accuse your owner. The Corrie I knew was young, naïve, cocky, and selfish. I’ve seen her tonight and I know that she really has changed. Your owner is not the Corrie I knew. Your Corrie is a responsible owner, loyal to a fault, and... and...” He could barely say it, “she really loves you and cares for you. She apologized to me earlier today and I...” He gritted his teeth. “I forgive her.”
Zeke’s glow brightened. “Really?!” His whisper was excited. “Do you really mean that?”
No. But before answering the young Xweetok, Awtchey examined himself. He wasn’t going to lie to Zeke. Yet, he was extremely astonished to find that, within himself, he felt an urge to believe his former owner when she had said that she was sorry and he felt that maybe, just maybe, he was ready to really forgive her for what she had done.
Awtchey sighed, then murmured. “Yes.”
To be continued...