Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 111,611,307 Issue: 221 | 22nd day of Celebrating, Y7
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Searching For Paradise: Part Three

by cpmtiger


Ricki nodded to the angry Ixi. She turned to Tye, and jerked her head toward the door. They headed out of the kitchen and toward the staircase. Tye's hooves clopped glumly on the hardwood floors.

     They were halfway up the stairs when another servant, this one a tuxedoed blue Zafara, started down the sweeping staircase. He was carrying a large, silver tray, with an empty bowl and cup, as well as three dirty forks.

     The Zafara seemed surprised to see Ricki there. "Ricki!" he said, setting down the tray. "I thought you'd be in bed by now!"

     "Yes, well, I've got orders to watch Tye here."

     The Zafara studied Tye's face. "You ran off again, eh? Doing something useful, I hope?" Tye nodded. Jack was one of her favorite servants, too.

     "Usually you're done with work by now," Ricki pointed out. "What're you doing up here at this hour?" she asked.

     "The mistress," he said, the word mistress with disdain and an accompanying facial expression, "got a sudden urge for a large, tomato-and-broccoli salad. I just finished cleaning up the mess." The servants in Tye's household spoke like this in front of the faerie Ixi in all the time. They knew how she felt about servants.

     Tye and Ricki didn't speak until they were in Tye's room. Then the green Bori turned around to address Tye. "What were you doing out at three in the morning?"

     Tye sighed. "Helping a friend of mine. Sort of a friend, anyway. How'd they know I was gone?"

     Ricki whispered, "Your older sister-Ellen. She was passing your room, saw your open window, told your folks. My guess, she heard you go and wanted to get you in trouble."

     Tye flopped onto the bed. "What else is new?" she grumbled.

     Ricki sat down on the blue satin rocking chair by the door. "You've got new ones," she said, examining the large oak shelves.

     Jeralyn and Ellen's rooms were full of statues of themselves, jewelry boxes, tiny glass and ceramic figures, and other ridiculous objects. They had silk and satin curtains embedded with small jewels, and massive water beds with fake Koi in the mattress. The beds were covered with thick wool quilts and fluffy pillows.

     Tye's room was full of large oak shelves, all covered in books. Tye loved reading more than anything else. She got new books all the time. She leant them to the four servants, who would otherwise spend their evenings bored in the five roomed cottage. The only other furniture in Tye's room was the small bed by the window, a bedside table, a red lamp, and the large rocker Ricki was sitting on.

     "Go ahead," Tye said, seeing Ricki's eyes traveling over the book titles.

     Ricki gave Tye a searching look, and asked, "So who's this friend of yours?" she asked.

     Tye didn't answer right away. She had told Ricki several secrets since the Bori had come to the mansion. But those secrets were ones that got her yelled at. That was much better than what would happen to Allehya if she was found out. And while Ricki had lived in the house for more years than Tye could count, she might not realize just how uncompassionate Tye's parents were to kids. In trying to help, she might end up dooming the shadow Kougra.

     But Tye knew that Ricki might think of the kid vandals, who Negged houses and switched yard signs. And if Ricki told Tye's parents that, Tye would be locked in her room for the rest of her life.

     "Okay," Tye said, turning to look Ricki straight in the eye. "I'll tell you about my friend, but only if you swear not to tell my parents. They can't know about this, not ever."

     Ricki nodded and held up her right paw. "I won't tell anyone," she promised.

     Tye explained how she'd met Allehya, and about the dinner argument, and about how she'd promised to take Allehya food every night.

     "And your parents won't notice that food is disappearing from their kitchen?" Ricki asked skeptically.

     "Well, I can't buy two hundred Neopoint turkeys every night," Tye pointed out.

     "But she seems to be doing fine on her own."

     "Yeah, but still… I mean, you and the other servants have better lives than her."

     "Could she get employed here, then?"

     "She's fifteen! Your kids only got to live here because you were here."

     "But if you vouched for her-"

     "That'd only encourage them NOT to hire her."

     Tye and Ricki were silent for a moment.

     "Why doesn't she try and find a Human? They take in strays all the time," Ricki said at last.

     "Well…I don't really know. I suggested it to her, and she said she'd never live with a Human again." Tye turned from the window to look at Ricki. "But why wouldn't she want to live with one, if her other option's living on the streets?"

     Ricki's brow had furrowed. "Did you say she said never again?"

     Tye nodded. "You think she lived with one before?"

     Ricki replied, "I'll bet. A Human probably mistreated her in some way sometime back. That kind of treatment leaves deeper scars than any alley scratch."

     Tye didn't say anything after that. She just lay down, staring out at the sky until she fell asleep.

     The next morning was bright and cheery-the opposite of Tye's mood. She wondered if she should go to breakfast and fill her stomach, or to stay in her room and not risk her father's anger. In the end, her stomach won out, so Tye headed downstairs, dreading a fresh argument.

     Her parents and sisters were already at the table, eating toast with fancy jellies from Mystery Island along with their plates of deviled Neggs and breakfast salads. Tye sat at the table, relieved that nobody had seemed to notice her arrival. Tye saw her father look up quickly, then busy himself with reading The Neopian Times.

     Ricki returned from the counter with a plate of fresh scrambled Neggs and two pieces of toast with Tchea Fruit Jam on them. She set it down in front of Tye, not looking at her either. Of course, it was dangerous for a servant to get to like Tye. They would be fired if they revealed it.

     Tye took a bite of toast, barely noticing the sweet taste of the Tchea Fruit. Ellen was busy poking through her breakfast salad, popping raspberries into her mouth, and occasionally picking out her jewelry. Jeralyn was giving Ellen sour looks as she used her fork to neatly spear the blueberries in her salad, the way her mother was. Tye's father had disappeared behind The Neopian Times.

     As Ricki began to wash the pots and pans, Tye got up from the table. She brought her plate to the sink and rinsed it off, as always. Tye thought she saw her mother wince. She turned to leave the room, but as soon as her hoof hit the swinging door, her father barked, "Tirana!"

     The Faerie Ixi gritted her teeth, wishing she dared to ignore him until he called her Tye. But she didn't. Tye turned to see that her father had set down the newspaper. Every bit of his attention was focused on his daughter.

     "I thought I'd let you know that all the locks on the doors and windows were changed this morning," he growled, a satisfied smile creeping over his face. "So if you try and sneak out again, you'll be locked out of the house!"

     Tye's eyes narrowed and her anger rose. Ellen sniggered, and Jeralyn turned around and smiled wickedly at her. Every escape was cut off. She had only twelve hours to figure out how to steal some food, get out of the house, and meet Allehya.

     The faerie Ixi gave Ricki a small but meaningful look and headed to her room. After a few minutes, Ricki opened the door and slid in. She looked worried, and as soon as she closed the door, revealed what was bothering her.

     "I haven't been able to stop thinking about that alley Kougra you told me about. All night I was so worried about her."

     "I know the feeling," Tye muttered, pushing aside a book about Tonu ghosts. "And now all the locks have been changed, and I'm not supposed to leave my room." With a groan, Tye buried her face in a plain, cotton pillow. Unlike her sisters', Tye's pillows weren't embroidered with fancy pictures of their owner, surrounded by vines and ponds and castles.

     "I talked to Jack," she said quietly, voicing the name of the blue Zafara who'd been on the stairs the previous night. "He and I decided we might be able to help you."

     Tye pulled her face out from the pillow. "But if you help me, and my father finds out, both of you'll be fired!"

     Ricki grinned mischievously. "Then we won't let them find out."

     "I wasn't planning on letting them know I snuck out last night," Tye pointed out.

     Ricki didn't budge. "How about just hearing my plan first," she suggested. Tye shrugged.

     "Guess there's no harm in hearing about it."

     "Good," the Bori replied, lowering her voice to a whisper. "This plan's definitely going to work!"

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Searching For Paradise: Part One
» Searching For Paradise: Part Two
» Searching For Paradise: Part Four
» Searching For Paradise

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