The Transfer: Part Two
When they arrived home, Maj silently took Alex's letter from the table and disappeared into her room. Two hours later, she reappeared and announced that Alex sounded really nice, and that if she had to be Transferred, he was the best choice. Hiding the extent of her relief, Ellorna sent off a neomail, and in a few minutes she had her answer. She glanced up at Maj. "He's extremely excited. He wants to do the Transfer tomorrow."
Maj's eyes widened. "That's so soon!"
Ellorna nodded. "I know it is. The two-year anniversary is in a week, so we don't need to do it for a couple of days yet if you don't want to."
Maj nodded, looking relieved.
"All right. I'll let him know." Ellorna hitched a smile onto her face. "I'll be glad to have a few more days with you."
Maj sighed and draped herself over the back of the chair across from Ellorna. "Elly, what's the Transfer process like?"
Ellorna tapped her chin with the pen in thought, then started writing the new Neomail. "Simple. You, me, and Alex—and his pets, if they want—all go into the Transfer room. You and Alex and I sign some papers, and you become his fourth pet."
Maj wrinkled her nose. "It seems so... cold."
Ellorna laughed. "Well, I guess it is, but it's important to make everything tidy and official. Anyways, I'd be really surprised if Alex doesn't have a party or something afterwards to celebrate."
Maj nodded. "What am I going to be signing?"
"Just some papers saying that you're being Transferred of your own free will and so on. It's really great—that didn't used to be a requirement to be Transferred, but over the past few years TNT has given Neopets a lot more rights than we used to have." She glanced at Maj. "The Pound is a lot better than it used to be, too."
"It must have been horrible," her sister said softly. Then, "What are you and Alex going to be signing for?"
"Oh, just to show that we actually want the Transfer to happen. It's mostly to protect the pet and the owner who's giving the pet up."
"But Mark won't be signing," Maj said quickly.
"No. I'll sign as your guardian. " Ellorna smiled. "I don't think TNT ever intended for a Neopet to be a guardian, but there's a loophole and I'm going to use it. They won't be able to do anything about it after the Transfer's complete. The signature provides proof that the owner, or guardian, meant to Transfer the pet. And the fact that the person getting the pet has to sign ensures the safety of the pet in question. They can't say later on that they never wanted the pet or that the Transfer was a mistake."
Maj looked down, and Ellorna reached over to squeeze her hand. "Don't worry about it. You're perfectly safe—we both know Alex loves you already."
Maj nodded, but said, "That's not it. It's—Elly, those signatures are necessary?"
Elly peered closely at her, trying to see her expression. "Yes, of course. Are—are you having second thoughts about this?"
Maj shook her head abruptly, but didn't say anything.
Ellorna bit her lip. If Maj was thinking about refusing to sign... They were almost out of time. Alex was very nearly Maj's only hope for not being placed in the Pound. "Maj..." she said carefully, slowly. If she pushed, Maj would push back, but she needed to know.
"No," Maj said quickly, looking up. "I'm not having second thoughts. It's just—Elly, if the owner or guardian of a Neopet needs to sign things so their pet can be Transferred, who's going to sign for you?"
Ellorna caught her breath. She hadn't been expecting that question, and Maj had led the conversation straight to it. When had her little sister grown so smart? She hesitated, looking at Maj and trying to figure out what to say.
Maj swallowed and moved to sit down in the chair, leaning toward Ellorna urgently. "Elly, who's going to adopt you?"
Ellorna sighed. "No one, Maj. You're right. I can't be Transferred."
"No! But—but the two years is almost up! You'll go to the Pound, and—" Maj cut off, biting her lip, but Ellorna understood. She was a basic-coloured Ruki with a poor name and unimpressive stats. She would be in the Pound to stay. Maj didn't need to say it; Ellorna had thought about it herself enough times. She took a deep breath and shrugged.
"No!" Maj said again. "That's not fair! What about—um—I know! Ashley could Transfer you to Alex, too! Or—or to some other user, since he has three pets already."
Ellorna was already shaking her head. "No, Maj. I know you and Relli are best friends and that her mom really likes you, but Ashley would get in serious trouble if she tried to Transfer a pet that wasn't hers. Even if she would agree to the risk, it's not right to ask her to do it."
Maj looked down again, forehead wrinkling. Ellorna knew that look; Maj was sure to ask Ashley.
Ellorna sighed. "Don't try it, Maj. Even if by some chance Ashley agreed, it wouldn't end well. Ashley would be found out sooner or later, and both Relli and I would be put in the Pound. You don't want that, do you?"
After a moment, Maj shook her head reluctantly. "But what are you going to do?"
Ellorna shrugged and hitched up her smile again. "I'll think of something. But right now, the most important thing is to make sure you don't end up in the Pound. Tomorrow's the big day, so you'd better get some rest."
With a worried grimace, Maj got up and headed for her room. Then, as if on impulse, she darted back and gave Ellorna a hug. "Okay," she said. "Me first. But I'm not going to give up on you!"
Ellorna hugged her back fiercely for a moment before Maj tore herself away, running into her room and slamming the door shut behind her.
As they approached the Pound the next day, Maj clutched tightly to Ellorna's side. Ellorna stoked Maj's head absentmindedly, trying to soothe her, then reached out to pull open the Pound's front door.
Before she could even touch the handle, though, Maj spun to face her, forcing her arm back down. "Wait," Maj begged. "Before we do this—you have to tell me what's going to happen to you!"
Ellorna glanced around, noting that the plaza was completely empty of people and pets, and knelt down in front of Maj. "All right," she said. "I thought about it for a long time last night, and I made my decision. But you need to promise not to tell anyone—not even Alex, unless he asks you about it directly. You shouldn't lie, but you shouldn't chatter on about me, either. Understand?"
Maj nodded vigorously.
"I'm going to travel. If I leave, they won't be able to find me, and it's hard to put a missing pet in the Pound. I'm not going to live here if I can help it. And, after all, there are plenty of Neopets around who don't have owners. Mr. Chipper, the ice cream Lutari. The Wheel of Knowledge Draik. All the other shops. Maybe I'll head to the Lost Desert and try to undercut the Scratchcard Kiosk. I'll be fine just as long as no one learns that I should have an owner."
Maj's eyes filled with tears. "Will you write?"
"Of course! Of course. And when I'm settled, I'll give you my new address so you can write back. I'm going to want to hear all about your new life. 'Kay?"
Maj swallowed, nodded, and managed a quivering smile.
"Good girl. Come on. Alex and your new siblings are waiting for you."
Taking a deep breath, Maj took Ellorna's hand and followed her into the Pound.
Ellorna greeted Alex warmly when they entered the Transfer room, smiling as he introduced his three wide-eyed pets.
Maj looked down shyly when Alex crouched down to meet her, though she did smile a little at something he murmured to her. Finally, she giggled and nodded, and Alex stood up with a smile. "Great," he said. "Shall we get this show on the road? There'll be plenty of time for getting to know each other better afterwards."
Ellorna glanced at the papers on the desk and nodded, repressing a sigh. She walked over with Alex and read the terms carefully. "Everything seems right to me," she said, not quite succeeding at keeping her voice steady. Avoiding Maj's eyes, she looked about for a pen. "Um..."
"Here." Alex snagged a pen from somewhere and handed it to her. "I brought one with me."
"Thank you." As carefully as she could, Ellorna signed her name, then handed the pen back so Alex could sign on the next line.
Ellorna let out a long breath and steeled herself, looking up at her little sister. Maj was twisting one of her ears, looking anxious. "Okay, hon. Your turn."
Maj pulled her hand down from her ear and held it out for the pen, looking solemn. She silently went over to the table and read over the contract, looking very thoughtful. Finally she blew out a long breath and wrote out, in large letters, "Sara—Red Poogle."
"Maj, what are you..."
"Here." Maj twisted around and handed the contract to Alex. "I'm sorry. You seem really nice, but I can't sign this. There's a Poogle here, just next door, waiting to be adopted. Her name is Sara, and she's really nice. I know you'd like her, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind being painted Faerie."
"But—" Alex stopped. He looked absolutely dumbfounded.
"Maj! Maj." Ellorna grabbed her sister by the shoulders. "Maj, you can't do this. There's only a few days left. I know you like Sara, but—"
"Elly!" Maj twisted away. "This isn't about Sara. This is about me. And how—and how I need to go with you." Her voice broke and her eyes filled with tears. "Elly, I want to go with you. I don't want a new family. I have you!"
"Oh..." Ellorna let out a long breath and knelt and gathered Maj in her arms. She squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them again to look up at Alex, trying to apologize to him with her expression.
He sighed and grimaced, looking at her forlornly, but at last he nodded. Without saying a word, he turned and herded his three pets out of the room, hushing their questions and complaints. Ellorna didn't look to see if he turned right, towards the Pound department. She closed her eyes and held Maj close.
"Maj, are you sure?" she whispered.
Maj nodded against her shoulder.
"You won't be able to change your mind."
"I know. I won't. I just want us to be together."
Ellorna squeezed her eyes shut tighter and wrapped her arms tighter around Maj. "Then we will be."