Brotherly, Sisterly Love (well, kind of): Part Two
There was the snap of a twig, and Alec emerged into a clearing.
The dense forest was a perfect cover for him. He swatted at flies and heaved his
large sack of candy. The Blumaroo was rather proud of himself. If Courtney
thought she could keep me inside, oh no, was she ever wrong! She can't ground
Of course, he'd snuck out as soon as the rest
of the family had gone away that morning. His first course of action? Take a
trip to the Chocolate Factory, and of course, he'd remained there all afternoon.
The trip was not an easy one... he had gone out of his way to take a path that
would lead him to his backyard, so that he would not run into his owner on the
way home. His only worry was that he had not paid attention to the time... what
if Courtney had returned and discovered he was not in his room? Or what if Xrai
had come barging into his room to taunt him, only to find that the prisoner
had escaped? Courtney would kill him...
His insides squirmed. Nerves overcame him. She'll
never let me out of the house again!
He quickened his pace, tripped on a log, and
his candy scattered over the weeds and bushes. Man, I hate the woods...
As he bent forward to retrieve his pieces of
chocolate, he became aware of a soft buzzing noise... a Mozito, perhaps? No...
it was more like... the mumblings of a vast crowd.... How close was he to his
Neohome? Why would there be a crowd there?
Incensed, he slowly rose and, his candy forgotten,
took off. After only mere seconds, he burst from the forest and his eyes widened
in horror. His Neohome was engulfed in flames!
Oh great. When Courtney finds out, it'll be
all my fault. Now I can't even explain to her that I wasn't here!
And then his earlier thoughts came back to haunt
him. What if Courtney beat me home? Or Xrai, or Snickers? They could be inside!
The Blumaroo lunged for the house, crossing the
yard in three strides. From his view in the backyard, there was one solitary
window that seemed inviting.
But how to get in? It was on the second story...
The ghost of a smile flitted across his face
as he recalled a device that was perfect for lowering water balloons on unsuspecting
victims. His eyes settled on a birdhouse not far away that he had built, in
his words, "to help the environment".
Environment, my tail! It was perfect for
hiding items that would otherwise be confiscated. He leapt forward, reached
inside, rummaged for a second or two, and withdrew his hand to find a very long
rope with a sort of metal claw attached at one end. It was his own creation.
A string was attached to the claw and was as lengthy as the rope. He would pull
the string to open the claws, thus letting the water balloon serve its purpose.
He wedged a small stone in between a few of the
gears, keeping the claw from closing itself. He took his position beneath the
window, whirled the claw above his head, and sent it flying with an almighty
grunt. CLANG! It came back to whack him in the head.
Steadying himself, he shook his head to clear
it of the dizziness that had set in and set his jaw. He was determined. Again
he tried, and this time the claw struck the ledge of the open window. His spirits
sagged... and then soared, for he gave it a firm tug and it held. Within minutes,
he had climbed, Mynci-like, up the rope and had hoisted himself inside.
As he clung to the ledge, the claw gave way and
he let out a cry. The rope crumpled and landed in a heap in the grass below.
He gulped and hoped he wouldn't need that rope getting back out.
The carpet beneath his feet was swelteringly
warm. The room was boiling. The Blumaroo coughed and sputtered, but continued
onward. He recognized the room as Cuni's.
But had he gone to very great lengths at a rescue
attempt to find that there was no one to save?
Xrai was overcome by the smoke. So this is
how it ends, she mused, somewhat entertained. Dying in the attempt to
save your brother... and you never even made it... come on, pull it together!
She crumpled and found herself on her knees in
the dimly lit hallway, brightened by the ominous light of the fire at the end
of the hall. It was spreading fast... a glow illuminated the stairs, but it
had not yet reached her brother's room...
The smoke's too much, though!
The Shoyru did not remember falling to her knees
anymore... everything was a surreal blur of dreamlike quality... the fire's
crackles seemed quieter now, like the Buzz of a fluorescent light... she had
let her brother down, she'd failed her family... she imagined Alec, crouching
in a corner of his room, terrified, as he awaited his untimely demise...
Yeah, right. Alec, terrified. That was
a good one.
She screamed when she felt someone grab her arm.
"Xrai!" hissed her brother. "Get down!"
"What are you doing? You were supposed to be
in your room!"
He grimaced and pulled her away, not wanting
to admit he had snuck out. "What, disappointed? Look, I'm saving you!"
"What? I'm saving you!"
Alec rolled his eyes and pulled her closer to
Cuni's bedroom. "Come on! So is anyone else in here?" The two sank to a crawl
and begin inching towards Cuni's room, eyes watering.
"No way! No one even knows we're here."
Alec was exasperated. "Explain later. Let's go!"
But at that moment, a loud squeak announced the
arrival of a small Snowbunny and her companion, a tiny brown Miamouse. "But,
His next sentence pained him and the tears stung
his eyelids, but he turned away from Xrai, not wanting to admit to his sadness,
though it was perfectly understandable. "No time. Let's go."
Xrai consoled the two Petpets by soothingly petting
them and as they neared Cuni's room, Alec stood, and his sister followed suit.
Each grabbed a Petpet and made a dash for the window.
"How do we get out?"
Xrai swallowed and looked at him, disgusted.
"Please don't tell me you're as stupid as the stuff you say."
He shrugged, and she sighed. "I can fly, smart
one. Wings, remember?"
She handed him the Snowbunny and grabbed hold
of him, grunting through the effort. She lifted off, leaving behind her the
intense heat and smoke... and the memories of her house as it burned to the
Feet from the ground, the weight of what had
happened crushed her. It was a mere thought that struck her, and weakened her:
My house is on fire. The two toppled to the ground as Xrai lost balance
and fell in a heap, piled on top of one another along with the two Petpets.
They scrambled to their feet and scooted as far away from the house as the forest's
boundaries allowed them.
Alec turned to Xrai, trembling. Weakly, he said,
"Shall we go find Courtney, then?" He placed the squirming Petpets on the ground
and watched, but the two did not scurry away. They glanced up to look at Xrai
and Alec, as if looking for a clue was to what to do next.
But neither moved, watching their house crackle
Alec slowly turned to face her. "Remember what
you said this morning? 'The next time you wake me, the house had better be on
Xrai shook her head. "I'm no psychic."
He grinned bleakly. Xrai felt a sudden tug from
her conscience and said in a rush, the words tumbling out of her mouth before
she lost the nerve, "Alec, I'm -- I'm -- look, I -- didn't mean -- " Any apology
she had formed in her mind dried up. Everything that had happened between them
flashed before her eyes and was gone.
"Sorry, are you?" Alec said. Xrai stared at
him, at a loss for words. Alec grinned suddenly. "Sorry I'm going to beat you
to the front yard?"
And with that he was off. Xrai paled and blinked
for a moment.
None of it mattered anymore. The fights they
had had... it had almost been too late for an apology... and she had suddenly
found she did not need to apologize.
She rose and, all of a sudden, she broke into
a run, the two puzzled Petpets hurrying in her wake. She rounded the corner
and was ready to face what had had happened -- in the midst of a crisis, as
always, Alec was right there.
But where had he gone now? The crowd before
their home had expanded... had Alec simply melted in with them? Or had he vanished?
She tripped and was sent sprawling. Alec emerged
from behind in a bush, giggling, thrilled that he had tripped her so easily.
House or no house -- things would always be