Clohofe's New Siblings
Clohofe was starting to feel resentful.
For years, it had been just him and Roiniy. A faerie Ixi brother and a skunk Usul sister. Obviously they weren’t an orthodox family, but they got along better than most siblings, and even managed to run a successful store. Their owner, Emma, was more like a friend to them—she didn’t treat them like children, and let them live their own lives.
Occasionally there were others, sure. Clohofe had fond memories of their foster-siblings, who often stayed for years. They came into the family lost and unwanted, and left with beautiful new coats of paint and loving new owners. Clohofe didn’t have a problem with that. Everyone understood the arrangement.
Then things had begun to change. Clohofe wasn’t exactly sure what had happened. Roiniy was bringing home those lost and unwanted pets, just like always, but instead of leaving once they had new owners, they were staying. Emma was giving them petpets and reading them stories. Roiniy was decorating bedrooms and baking them “welcome home” cupcakes.
Before Clohofe knew what had happened, he wasn’t part of a family of two, he was part of a family of five. Four brothers and sisters! It was almost unheard of—most families he knew stopped at four Neopets at the most. That was considered reasonable. Five, now, that was just getting ridiculous.
“You okay, Clo?” said a voice at the door.
Clohofe looked up from the bed, where he’d been sitting. It was Aribual, the first new sibling who'd turned up. Clohofe didn’t trust Aribual. Roiniy had met him down at the docks, and the Usul was a pirate! Sure, he said he’d given all that up, but in Clohofe’s opinion, once a pirate, always a pirate. He was even wearing his pirate hat now.
“I’m fine,” Clohofe said, more harshly than he’d intended. “Shouldn’t you be helping at the shop?”
“Roiniy gave me the day off,” Aribual said, meekly. “Thought I’d come and see if any of you guys wanted to hang out.”
“Well, I’m busy,” said Clohofe. He trotted over to the door and shut it. Aribual could hang out with the other new siblings, if he wanted. Not that Iclana was ever there—the zombie Usul who Roiniy had found crying by the river. He couldn't see what a zombie would have to cry about. Did they even have tear ducts?
She spent most of her time rowing, anyway. Clohofe wondered why Emma’d even bothered adopting someone who spent most of her time out of the house.
Kasnu, of course, wouldn’t be much fun to hang out with, Clohofe figured. He hadn’t actually met the baby Shoyru yet. He didn’t want to. What hurt him most was that Emma had actually adopted Kasnu herself. What, like him and Roiniy weren’t enough for her anymore?
There was a knock at the door. Clohofe ignored it. He figured he’d get out some old photo albums, find some good ones of him and Roiniy, and put them up in the living room. That way everyone’d know whose house it really was.
“Clohofe? It’s Emma. Open the door.”
Clohofe ignored that, too. So Emma was here today, huh? Probably brought some presents for the new pets. They already all had petpets, so it had to be clothing. She was really enjoying helping them find outfits.
Clohofe had already found his own, ages ago, not that he even needed Emma’s help. He put his green forest cloak on absent-mindedly.
The door opened. “Hi, Clo,” Emma said, leaning against the door. She was a short human, but still three times as tall as Clohofe, and she looked oddly giant in a house designed with shorter ceilings. “I’d normally give you privacy, but it’s not like you to sulk. What’s up?”
“Nothing,” Clohofe muttered. “Just tired.”
Emma shrugged. “Okay, if you don’t want to tell me. I’ve got some news for you, anyway. I bought you a new house.”
Clohofe stared. He hadn't expected that. "What?"
“Well, thing is, we’re adopting another Usul. His name’s Lapnia, and he’s a soldier in the Meridellian army, but he’s a young one and he’s unhappy, so he needs our help. It’s getting crowded here as it is, so I thought you and Kasnu could move to the new place. That way it’s all Usuls here. What do you think?”
Clohofe couldn’t speak.
Emma knelt down to him. “What’s wrong?”
“Roiniy?” Clohofe choked out. “She’d stay here?”
“Well, I thought so,” said Emma, looking a bit surprised. “That way you and Kasnu get some peace and quiet.”
Clohofe gulped back tears, and trotted over to the window. Everything had been said that needed to be said. Emma didn’t want him anymore, and that was that. He opened the window, and spread his wings. He wanted to be alone.
Clohofe looked at Emma sadly. She looked so concerned. He remembered back when he could tell her everything, but how could he tell her how he was feeling now? He knew he was being selfish and an idiot. What could he say? I don’t love my new siblings? I hate how they’ve stolen you and Roiniy away from me?
He shook his head. He couldn’t say that
“Goodbye, Em,” he said, instead, and flew out. He didn’t look back.
That night, Clohofe slept in the park. It was a warm night out, so he didn’t mind much, but sleeping itself was the tricky part. The day’s conversations darted over and over through his mind, his stomach twisting. When he finally fell asleep, he didn’t dream.
“Clohofe?” said a voice.
Clohofe rolled over on his bed of leaves. “Mmm.”
“It’s me, Aribual. Emma sent me out to look for you.”
“Figures,” said Clohofe, his eyes still closed, trying to get back to sleep. “Leave me alone, I’ll go home in the morning.”
“You fell asleep under a bench,” said Aribual, gently. “It’s already morning.”
Clohofe opened his eyes, to see the wood planks of a park bench above him. “Oh.” He rolled out, and sat up, blinking in the piercing sunlight.
“I think we need to talk,” Aribual said. “Emma told me how her conversation with you went. I don’t think you understood.”
“Oh, I understand,” Clohofe said, bitterly. “I’m being kicked out. What else is there to understand?”
“Emma loves you, that’s what else.”
Clohofe shook his head. “She has other pets now.”
“Yes, but she still loves you just as much as she always has,” Aribual retorted. “If you’d bothered to talk to her about how you felt, you’d understand that. Now, I want you to listen to me, for once, and I’m going to tell you exactly what’s going on, and how you’re a selfish idiot.”
“I already know that,” Clohofe said wryly. “But sure, go ahead.”
“You’ve had years and years,” Aribual began, “of being loved unconditionally by a caring owner who worked hard for you. Yeah, you had a sister, but you guys grew up together and you knew you were both loved equally.”
Aribual glared at Clohofe. “You have no idea what it’s been like for me and Iclana. No idea at all. I had to fight for my entire life, in a pirate-eat-pirate world, and she’s a zombie. Love? Family? We knew they happened to other people but didn’t think they’d ever happen to us. Then we met Emma and Roiniy.
“Now , Emma and Roiniy just can’t understand why you’re so unhappy all the time these days, moping around the house and snapping at everyone that dares to breath the same air as you. Emma thought it was all the Usuls making you feel left out, so she adopted Kasnu.
“But that didn’t help, so then she thought that maybe it was the crowded house making you feel all cooped up. Cabin fever, in a pirate’s terms. And you know what she did? She went and bought you a new house. Because that’s how much she loves you!
“But I’ve seen cabin fever, and that’s not what you’ve got. It’s just jealousy, pure and simple. And if Emma and Roiniy weren’t so blinded by the love of you to realise that you’re really that selfish, they’d see that, too.
“You know what Emma thinks now? That maybe it’s having to look after Kasnu that’s the problem. So she wanted to keep him with us, so you can go live in this beautiful new woodland cabin all on your own. That’s what I got sent to tell you.”
Aribual looked at Clohofe. “But that’s not what you want, is it?”
Clohofe looked back, and burst into tears.
“Hey, now,” Aribual said, more kindly. He put his non-hook paw on Clohofe’s shoulder. “I know you're not a bad Ixi, and I know you just aren't used to sharing. But love isn't divisible; there's more than enough to go around."
Clohofe wiped his eyes, and tried to stop crying. “You’re—you’re right. I’m sorry for being a jerk. I think I need to talk to Emma.”
“I think so, too,” said Aribual. He grinned. “Wanna go play Gormball later?”
Clohofe laughed through the sobs. “Yeah, okay.”
So, Clohofe went and told Emma the simple truth: that he wanted to stay with Roiniy, and that he had been jealous of the new siblings. It was surprisingly easy, because he could see that Emma really was happy to have him back.
Eventually she said, “Oh, Clo. I’m so glad you finally told me. And you know what? I think I have a plan.”
So the next week, Clohofe and Roiniy moved into the little wooden cabin, by the river, and only a few minute’s walk from the old house. The sun streamed into the windows, and Roiniy grinned at her brother. “Let’s get to decorating. I’ve got buckets of paint outside.”
Clohofe smiled. “Sounds great.”
Roiniy hesitated. Then her words tumbled out over themselves: “By the way—I met a Gnorbu yesterday in the park. He’s a writer, and he doesn’t have a family. I thought maybe he could come by and give us a hand today? You could see how you like him?
Clohofe thought about this for a moment, then smiled. “Of course. Shall we ask the others if they’d like to come help, too? The more the merrier.”