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Newcomer in the Nursery

by nurseryteacher28


Crash! Bang! Thump! Waaaaaahhh! I sighed and looked up from the baby carrots I was busy peeling over the sink and hurried into the living room to see what my mischievous pets had gotten themselves into this time.

      I found Shasta the Ogrin staring up at me sheepishly from the middle of a pile of scattered blocks, his enormous yellow eyes pleading innocence. “Hey Papa,” he said softly. His brother, Tyto, the most un-vicious Grarrl you'll ever meet, was sitting a few feet away, bawling his eyes out. Now, you might find this a bit odd ordinarily, but my little ones have an exception that mitigates their childish behaviour; they're all babies. I started a nursery several years ago, and have been trying mostly successfully to raise my three tiny tykes ever since. What I didn't know at the time was that all that was about to change. But that will come later; first, let's return to the blocks fiasco.

      I scooped up Shasta in one arm and Tyto in the other and sat down with them on our plain blue couch, then took a deep breath and began, “Alright, guys, what happened this time?”

      Before Shasta could so much as inhale to start his sentence, Tyto wailed, “He knocked over my blocks tower! I been workin' on it all day an' he wrecked it!” He then proceeded to nuzzle his large red snout into my shirt, soaking it with tears.

      I turned to Shasta. “Well?” I asked, in as neutral a voice as I could muster. “Did you knock over Tyto's tower?”

      Shasta dropped his gaze to his tiny front paws and shrugged guiltily. “It was a accident,” he said slowly. “Me an' Lucy was playin' Defenders of Neopia, an' I was runnin' away from her when all of a sudden Tyto's tower gotted in the way.”

      As if on cue, my third tiny charge poked her head around the corner, and, sensing it was safe to come out, stepped into the nursery, a long red Defenders of Neopia cape trailing from her tiny shoulders. I beckoned the little Kacheek onto the sofa beside me and her brothers, and she struggled, but eventually made it up.

      Tyto had finally stopped crying, and as I mopped the last of his tears away with the front of my shirt, I said, allowing myself to sound as tired as I felt, “Lucy, Shasta, you two know the rules. No running in the house, you could get hurt, or you could end up hurting other people, like Tyto; it upset him when you knocked over his tower. Can you see that?”

      Shasta nodded guiltily, his little ears drooping, and Lucy spent several minutes picking lint off her little yellow bib before finally sighing, “Yeah, I guess.” Then, as a rebellious afterthought, “But how come Tyto's gotta be such a baby? He comes cryin' to you every time we do any little thing wrong.”

      Tyto, his eyes welling with tears again, snapped back from the safety of my lap, “Well, how come you guys always gotta play so rough? Papa said no running in the house, how come you don't listen?”

      Shasta, who was still perched on my other knee, headbutted his brother abruptly off the sofa then galloped off up the stairs hollering behind him, “'Cause it's fun, that's why! Betcha can't catch me, fraidy-Kadoatie!”

      Tyto picked himself up off the floor and tore off after Shasta, but not before snatching his New Year's dummy off the floor and plugging it into his mouth. Most baby Grarrls I knew would take one look at something like that and eat it, but not Tyto; like I said, he's as un-vicious as they come.

      Lucy jumped off the sofa and got tangled in her cape, but eventually squirmed her way free and took off after her brothers shouting, “Hey guys wait for me!”

      I leaned back on the sofa and closed my eyes, drawing my hands over my face in exhaustion. I loved my babies, more than anything in the world, but good grief, sometimes it felt as if three were just too much to handle. Listening to the banging and crashing going on upstairs, I made my way back to the kitchen and resumed peeling the baby carrots I had left in the sink.

      I hadn't got through so much as half of one before I heard the familiar clink of the letterbox and the footsteps of the postman walking away. I went out into the front hall and found the gold envelope of a neomail waiting for me on the welcome mat.

      Curious, I picked it up; it was from my friend Jen down the lane. She ran a foster care system and always had all sorts of lost pets in and out of her house looking for good homes.

      Pulling the letter out of the envelope, I allowed my gaze to travel languidly down the page, only taking in the important stuff before going back and rereading it. It read;

      Dear Adrian,

      I know this is rather short notice, but this little guy only came to me this morning; someone dropped a baby Shoyru off on my doorstep without a word of explanation. As you know, I'm already past full capacity here at the shelter as it is, so there isn't much room for the poor thing here. I know how good you are with babies, and I was wondering if you'd be willing to take him. He's very sweet and I'm sure you'll like him very much; just be sure and warn Tyto about it ahead of time. :) Just drop by and let me know. All the best, your friend,


      I looked up from the paper and stared at the wall. Me? Take in another infant? Could I handle it? Could my kids? I went back into the kitchen and tossed the letter onto the counter, hoping to get back to my cooking and think about things a little more. My peace was not to last:

      At that moment, Tyto came running into the kitchen and latched onto my leg, sobbing incoherently. For the third time that afternoon I put my carrots down and gently detached him, carrying him to the kitchen table and resting him in my lap.

      “What's the matter, Tyto?” I asked, drying his eyes with the shirt that was still damp with the tears of his last mishap.

      For several moments all he could get out were choked sobs, but finally managed to wail, “Shasta took my teddy bear! He's holdin' it hostage under his cot 'til Lucy gives 'im back the neopoints he stole from the National Neopian bank!”

      I stifled a chuckle as I hugged my poor, sensitive tyke. Hoisting him onto one hip as I rose from my chair, I reassured him, “Don't worry, Tyto, I won't let the nefarious villain get away with teddy bear-napping.”

      As we passed the counter, Tyto spotted my letter and asked, still sniffling, “What's that, Papa?”

      Quickly reaching out and cramming it into my back pocket, I smiled nervously. “Nothing, Tyto, that's just something from one of Daddy's friends, that's all.”

      Being just an infant, Tyto was satisfied with this, and nestled his surprisingly big head into my shoulder as I carried him upstairs to search out the perpetrators of the heinous teddy bear kidnapping.

      Thoughts of the baby Shoyru left my head until late that evening, when I had finally managed to get my rowdy lot bathed and ready for bed, which was no easy feat considering the amount of mayhem one bottle of bubble bath soap can cause.

      When I was finally settled in for the night and secure in the knowledge that my babies were safe, Jen's letter ran itself through my head again as I thought of the amount of cruelty it must take to abandon something so small and innocent on the doorstep of a stranger. This thought implanted in my mind, it didn't take long to reach the conclusion Jen had hoped I would reach; we were adding a new member to the family, one more baby to care for. This decision made, I sighed then rolled over, closed my eyes, and fell fast asleep.

      I decided to break the news to my kids that morning over breakfast; I figured the sooner we could get the newcomer out of Jen's overcrowded home, the better.

      “So, guys,” I said, prodding my fork into my streaky bacon absently, “you all know Jen, the rescue lady down the lane.” Three little heads nodded and I continued, “Well, she has a baby Shoyru that needs a home, so I told her, well, I told her we'd take him.”

      Tyto gasped and started to choke on the milk from his bottle. Shasta managed to drop his spoon, sending Kougra custard splattering all over the tiled floor, and Lucy's eyes flew wide. “What?” she demanded, spraying Forest Fruit baby food halfway across the kitchen table. Looking back, the instantaneous simultaneous reaction was quite remarkable and I had to stifle a small chuckle as I made my way around the kitchen mopping up spilled food and slapping Tyto on the back to clear his airway.

      “Calm down, you guys. Jen told me he's really sweet, and he's just your age, so you should get along nicely.”

      Tyto, recovering from his coughing fit, asked anxiously, “He-he won't steal my toys, will he?”

      I patted him on the head and smiled. “No Tyto, we'll make sure he has his own toys to play with, don't worry.”

      “What's his name?” Lucy asked, dribbling baby food from her spoon onto the table I'd just wiped clean.

      “I don't know,” I said as I started clearing up dishes. “We'll have to go and meet him and find out.”

      And that's what we did. With Tyto in my left arm and Lucy swinging from my right, Shasta gallivanting off ahead of us then returning just as quickly and almost tripping me up, we made it the three blocks to Jen's house in one piece. Putting Tyto down, I knocked on the door and presently it swung open, revealing my friend, whose eyes lit up when she saw me.

      Ushering the four of us inside eagerly, she asked, “So, Adrian, did you decide you want him?”

      I smiled and nodded, wincing as Shasta headbutted me in the leg, a pastime he found quite agreeable. “Yes, I told the kids, and they're all very excited about it, aren't you guys?” But Shasta was busy threatening his reflection in Jen's floor-length mirror, Lucy was swinging from a potted plant (goodness knows how she got all the way up there) and Tyto was crying, wailing, “Papa, that Elephante just stepped on my tail!” as one of Jen's fosters lumbered past.

      I groaned and buried my face in my hands and Jen chuckled, resting a hand on my shoulder. “You are a saint, Adrian. I know it's a lot of work, but you do a beautiful job of it. Here, let me go and fetch Danby for you.” Danby, so that was his name.

      Jen was back almost immediately with a tiny bundle wrapped in her arms. From said bundle emerged one of the sweetest, most innocent faces I had ever seen. Danby stared at me with huge, unblinking eyes. Dressed in a yellow and blue polka dotted onesie, he sucked a blue dummy slowly as the eyes that were nearly half the size of his face gazed at me searchingly.

      Jen smiled down at him and said softly, “Danby, you remember the man I told you was going to come and look after you?” Slowly Danby nodded, his eyes not leaving my face. “Well, this is him. Say hello to Adrian, he's going to be your new daddy.”

      It took a moment, but soon enough a wide grin split his face and he reached for me. Gently I took him and he nestled into my chest then whispered, “Daddy.” It melted my heart, and I felt tears fill my eyes as I smiled and brought him over to the sofa, then beckoned my other kids over. “Hey guys, come take a look at your new brother.”

      Obediently they looked up from whatever misdeeds they were currently performing and padded slowly over to me as Jen lifted them one by one onto the sofa to get a better look. I rested Danby on my lap, and he stared out at his new siblings in awe. Tyto glanced at him, mistrust and fear flashing in his eyes. Already this intruder had taken his spot on my lap. There was some ground-rule setting to be done; I could feel it.

      “Everybody, meet Danby,” I said softly.

      “Hi,” Shasta mumbled, staring at his feet,

      “Hi,” Lucy said, picking at her bib again,

      “Stay away from my toys,” Tyto said aggressively; it would have been more threatening if he hadn't been sucking his thumb at the time.

      I reached out and shuffled him onto my lap, shifting Danby to my left knee and hoisting Tyto onto my right. “C'mon, Tyto, please try and be friendly. Look, Danby likes you.” Indeed, the tiny Shoyru was offering the little Grarrl his blue dummy.

      Tyto grimaced momentarily, then realised it was a peace offering and took it gingerly. “Thanks,” he murmured as he wiped it off on my shirt and stuck it in his mouth, sucking on it experimentally for a moment then nodding in approval and handing it back. Danby smiled.

      As we headed out the door, Danby in one arm, Tyto in the other, and Lucy and Shasta gamboling at my feet, Jen kept thanking me repeatedly, “You have no idea how much this means to both of us,” she said. “Danby will be so happy with you. You're a lifesaver.” As I thought about what she said, I had to admit, it was true; not many people were willing to adopt baby neopets these days, because despite being externally adorable, they were remarkably hard work, as I had soon come to find out.

      That evening as I milled about the kitchen pretending to get supper ready, I listened in on my pets' conversations, and it turned out Danby was integrating quite well, even with Tyto, with whom it seemed, somewhat ironically, he had already formed a close bond.

      “Here, Danby,” I heard Tyto say, “You can help me put my block tower back together. I had a real nice one goin' yesterday, only Shasta knocked it down 'cause he was runnin' round the house with Lucy.”

      I heard Danby sigh, “They can be kinda crazy can't they?” Indeed, at that moment, the elder two of my youngsters were again rampaging around the house, using the staircase to pretend they were climbing Terror Mountain.

      That night at bedtime, I was expecting my usual bath-time hassles, but I was in for a surprise; as I could not fit all four of them in the tub at once, I had to do them two at a time, and Danby hurriedly whispered something into Tyto's ear, Tyto looked surprised for a moment, then calmly followed Danby into the bath, and I got done with them in record time. Lucy and Shasta, however, were their usual bouncy, assertive selves, and by the time I got done struggling to keep them in the bath and stay dry at the same time, Tyto and Danby had crawled into their pyjamas and were busy playing quietly on the floor in their bedroom where I had set up Danby's new sleeping arrangements just hours before.

      As I lifted Tyto into his cot and tucked the blanket up to his chin, I asked, “What did Danby say to you?”

      Tyto smiled as he wrapped his tiny arms around his teddy bear. “He said it goes faster if you don't fuss,” he said matter of factly. I stared at him a moment, then laughed half in disbelief that that was all it took to get the behaviour I wanted, and half in relief that my job would be made at least somewhat easier from now on. I'd have to ask Danby to pass on his wisdom to Lucy and Shasta.

      The bedtime story of choice that evening was The Baby Shoyru Book in honour of our new arrival, and soon enough everyone was fast asleep, so I slipped back to my own room, being sure to leave the door open so I could hear them if they cried in the night.

      I was awoken at one o'clock that morning by two distinctive piercing howls. As I stumbled out of bed, rubbing sleep blearily out of my eyes, the idea occurred to me that perhaps there would come a time when it would be beneficial to give my kids separate rooms so that when one cried out, the rest weren't awoken by it.

      I was about to push open the door and walk in to see what was the matter when suddenly the crying stopped, and I heard two little voices start to whisper.

      “Why are you crying, Danby?” Tyto asked.

      “I'm wet. Why are you crying, Tyto?” Danby replied.

      A moment of silence came, then Tyto said in a voice that sounded mildly ashamed, “I'm scared, I-I had a bad dream.”

      Then a third little voice came from the darkness which confirmed my earlier theory about the separate rooms,

      “Look, either keep cryin' an' finish the job so Papa comes an' gets you outta my hair, or shut up an' go back to sleep.” Shasta sighed and I heard him roll over. There came another momentary silence, then the piercing cries came again so I stepped into the room, hoisting my babies one by one out of their cots. Shasta sighed, “Finally,” and pulled the blanket off his head.

      I chuckled at him as I pulled the door closed with my foot. “Hush now, little one, and go to sleep. You too, Lucy.” I smiled at the big black eyes peeking out at me through the cot bars.

      Carrying my boys down the hall, I pretended I hadn't been eavesdropping and asked, “What's the matter, guys?”

      The tears having stopped as soon as I picked them up, Danby said, “I'm wet, an' Tyto's scared, said he had a bad dream.”

      “Is that right now?” I asked, putting Tyto down on the floor as I lay Danby out on the changing mat and proceeded to strip his polka dotted pyjamas.

      Tyto sniffled, and nodded, and looked down at the floor, “Yeah,” he said softly, “There was a big scary monster in it an' everything.”

      “Hmm, that does sound scary,” I said as I dropped Danby's wet nappy in the pail, taped on a fresh one, and buttoned up his pyjamas again. “Tell you what, Danby, why don't I put you back to bed, then Tyto, you and I can talk about it, okay?”

      Tyto sniffled and nodded again as I scooped him up and carried them both back to their room. Depositing Danby back in his cot and tucking him in again, I peered over the railings to check on Shasta and Lucy; both were out like lights. Smiling gently, I pulled the blanket up over Shasta's shoulder and stroked his fuzzy mane, then exited quietly with Tyto still in my arms.

      Clambering back into my own bed, I switched on the bedside light and set my little Grarrl in my lap. Taking a deep breath, I said, “Okay, little guy, what's up?”

      Tyto stuck his thumb in his mouth and clutched his tail in his tiny paw, then mumbled, “I was playin' in the living room with my toys, it was nice an' sunny, Shasta an' Lucy was there, when all of a sudden it goes all dark, an' then the Snowager crashes through the wall, a-an' he says too many pets have been stealin' his stuff, so he's gonna take all my toys, a-an' then he tries to eat me!” Tyto was near tears again as he replayed his dream.

      I smiled and hugged him hard. “Oh Tyto,” I said, “you're just worried about Danby; you feel threatened by him whether you realise it or not. The Snowager was just representing...” I stopped; remembering I was talking to a baby with no concept of metaphor. I just snuggled him and said, “Well, it was only a dream, little one. You're safe now. You wanna stay with me?”

      Tyto yawned sleepily and nodded, crawling in next to me in my big blue double bed with its less than attractive striped mattress.

      Early the next morning, I felt Tyto fidgeting restlessly beside me, and was soon dragged back to consciousness by my three other little alarm clocks wailing that they wanted to be let out. Glancing at my watch, I blinked and yawned, exhausted by the night before; it was seven in the morning.

      Sighing, I made my way down to the kids' room, followed closely by Tyto, who had been up for a good hour already, then I started an assembly line, as I did every morning, stripping pyjamas, changing nappies, and taking breakfast orders.

      Later that day, I decided we'd spent too much time cooped up indoors; we needed to get outside, so we crossed the rainbow and made our way to Roo Island. I had considered Kiko Lake, but Tyto was scared of the water, and didn't like the glass bottom boat rides, so that idea was scrapped. The kids had a great time going round and round on the merry-go-round, an investment I managed to pay for by winning a few hands of Dice-o-Roo at the king's castle. Deciding to skip the tour of the residential areas, as it was starting to get late and the little ones fussy, we stopped at Hubert's Hot Dog Stand on the way home, which saved me having to cook dinner, and by the time we got back to the house, Shasta asleep in my arms and my other three dead on their feet, I knew we'd had a very good day.

      We skipped baths that night, and I tucked them in one by one, not bothering with a story because they were all asleep as soon as I laid them down.

      I crawled into bed that night and thought about all that had happened; it was as if Danby had been with us all along. Nobody even questioned whether or not to include him; it just sort of happened. I went to sleep happy, and nobody cried out that night.

      Early the next morning when my little alarm clocks went off again, I got out of bed and kept thinking about what I'd seen the day before; would Danby really be alright here? Tyto answered my question as I hoisted him out of his cot that morning; “No more bad dreams, Papa.” He smiled.

The End

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