Who Needs A Family?: Part Two
She smiled back at me and leaned in to whisper, “Brace yourself. Things tend to get a little out of hand when Lex isn’t around.”
I didn’t have time to ask her what she meant. Lex had pushed open the front door and ushered us inside. I stopped short a couple of paces in. Shouting, yelling and the occasional crash could be heard echoing through the house. Behind me Zee snickered and Lex sighed resignedly.
“Wait here a moment while I deal with this,” she muttered to us as she stalked past and disappeared through a doorway to the left.
Zee was still sniggering as she took my paw in hers and followed Lex. “I’ve got to see this,” she whispered to me.
We stopped in the doorway and I, for one, stared. The place was wrecked. Chairs and tables had been overturned, cushions, books, toys and ornaments were scattered all over the floor. A yellow and green blur rolling around in the middle of the floor appeared to be ground zero. There were several other pets in the room, watching the action.
Lex stood to one side of the door with her hands on her hips. “Ahem,” she said, somehow managing to make it sound annoyed and impatient. Everyone froze.
“You’re back!” someone exclaimed excitedly.
“Yes, we are,” Lex said, still glaring at the room in general. “We’ll deal with this in a moment. Please come and greet your new sister.”
The pets shuffled towards us, their expressions holding varying degrees of embarrassment. It was then that I got my first proper look at Lex’s family. My jaw dropped slightly.
The yellow and green wrecking-ball was, in fact, two Lutari, who were now wearing identical sheepish grins. To their left was a Maractite Hissi cradling a Baby Meerca, and to their right stood a Spotted Gelert and Faerie Xweetok.
“Everyone, this is Molly,” Lex said, glancing back at me with a kind smile.
“Hi, Molly!” they chorused, causing me to blush as I mumbled a greeting back at them and waved awkwardly.
“I’m Alice and this is Jojo,” said the Hissi, holding up the Meerca so he could wave enthusiastically.
“I’m Nix,” said the Faerie Xweetok smiling shyly.
“Zook,” said the Gelert quietly.
“And I’m Dex and this is Bex,” finished the Green Lutari, gesturing to the Yellow Lutari beside him.
“I can introduce myself, idiot,” Bex said, shoving Dex slightly. Dex immediately shoved back and I suspected they were heading for a rematch until Lex cleared her throat loudly.
Both Lutari looked at her. “You want me to go find you some Kikoughela Syrup for that throat?” asked Dex, smiling sweetly. There was a round of quiet snickering as Lex glared at him.
“No, I want you to explain to me why this place looks like a swarm of rabid Meepits have stampeded through it,” she said, glaring at them.
The pets all looked at each other for a beat before starting to talk all at once. Lex sighed. “You know what? Never mind. Just get this place straightened up and then go bring the groceries in. I’m going to start dinner. Zee, why don’t you show Molly to her room?”
“Um...,” Alice started hesitantly. Lex turned to look at her. “I... err... we... erm. We’ll make the dinner tonight. Why don’t you take a nap?”
Lex narrowed her eyes at the Hissi. “What happened to the kitchen?”
The Hissi looked uncomfortable and Dex and Bex shuffled their feet. “You don’t really want to know, do you?” Alice mumbled quietly. Beside me Zee was shaking in silent laughter.
Lex sighed again. “No, I probably don’t. Okay you guys take care of dinner. I’ll go work on the plans for that extension.” She left the room and all the pets let out a collective sigh of relief.
“Nice one, Alice,” Dex said appreciatively. Alice shrugged, which is a really interesting thing to watch a HIssi do.
“Okay, guys, you know the drill,” Alice said, putting Jojo down on the floor.
“Ummm, Alice?” Zee said. “If you’ve got this, I’ll go show Molly the rest of the house.”
Alice smiled and nodded and Zee dragged me from the room before anyone could object.
“Come on, I want to see the kitchen before we go upstairs,” Zee said, pulling down the hallway.
We stopped in another doorway. The room had once been a kitchen. Probably. Now it looked like a kitchen would look if it had been hit by a hurricane. With treacle on its fingers. I was suddenly glad that Zee had gotten us off the damage control crew; I was sure it’d take weeks to fix up.
Zee had actually sunk onto the hallway floor, she was laughing so hard. Dex, Zook and Jojo all trudged past us into the kitchen – obviously they’d drawn the short straws.
“It’s not funny,” Dex muttered to her as he passed.
“Yes, it is,” Zee gasped out between giggles.
Dex threw her a dirty look but Zee ignored it and took my paw again. “Come on, I’ll show you your new room,” she said, towing me along the hallway and up some stairs.
She led me past several doors before stopping outside one that was closed. She turned to me grinning. “Welcome to your new home!” she said, pushing the door open with a dramatic flourish.
I stepped inside. It was a lot nicer than most of the rooms I’ve stayed in. There was actually a bed, along with a wardrobe and a desk and a couple of bean bag chairs.
“I know it’s not much at the moment,” Zee said, stepping in behind me. “But once you decide how you want to decorate it, we’ll get to work.”
“Decorate it?” I asked, puzzled. Wasn’t it already decorated? I mean, it had furniture and everything.
Zee looked at me oddly. “Yeah, decorate it. You know, what colour you want the walls and floor and what kind of furniture you want.”
“But I have furniture,” I said, gesturing around the room. This conversation had ceased to make sense. Was she not seeing what I was seeing?
Zee shook her head. “No, no, no,” she said. “This is just what Lex persists in calling the ‘starter kit’. You know, to give you something while you decide what you really want. It’s what she always puts into the room of a new pets until they decide for themselves on the colour scheme and stuff.”
“Oh,” I said, still not getting it. Starter kit? Why on Neopia would she listen to my decorating tips?
Zee must have sensed I was still confused. “Like, that desk was in my room until I decided it didn’t go with the whole pink and purple vibe I’ve been working on, so she took it out and bought a pink vanity desk instead.”
I looked at the orange and black striped desk. Okay, I couldn’t really see it in a pink and purple room either. “So she lets you pick out your own furniture?”
“Well, duh!” Zee said. “We’re the ones living in the room, so we should get to decorate it to our tastes, right?”
It made sense from a lavish point of view. I mean, I was used to sleeping on the floor of a new home and being dumped back in the Pound before the owner could afford more than a straw mattress.
“You can look through some catalogues and magazines for inspiration before you decide anything,” Zee said. “See what’s available, if anything catches your eye.”
I nodded absently. This family was nuts. First their owner adopts a plan green Usul into a family of super-expensive and rare pets, then they give me a fully furnished room and tell me that I can decorate it myself?
“You’ve got that look,” Zee said, watching me closely. I looked at her questioningly. “That ‘at any moment they’re going to tell me it’s a huge practical joke’ look.”
“Aren’t you?” Even I could hear the scepticism in my tone.
Zee frowned. “Why would we?”
“I’m a boring green Usul and you and the rest of your family are so much better,” I explained quietly. “I mean, a Faerie Xweetok? A Maractite Hissi? Two Lutari?!!” My voice got more incredulous as I went on.
Zee looked a little embarrassed at that last one. “Yeah, Lex went a little crazy last Lutari Day when they were finally released. She probably should have thought it through.”
I raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything.
“But that doesn’t mean anything. Lex has painted each and every one of us. Alice was a blue Bruce when Lex adopted her from the Pound,” Zee went on, trying to defend her family.
That gave me pause. Lex adopted Alice from the Pound? I felt a swell of hope but ignored it, I’d been disappointed before.
“Please give us a chance,” Zee pleaded quietly. I could see this had really upset her, so I nodded and she smiled.
I changed the subject. “I thought owners were only supposed to have four pets?” This had been nagging me since I’d got here.
Zee nodded. “They are, but they can have other accounts. Dex, Bex, Zook and Alice are all from Lex’s ‘side’ account. They actually have their own house in the Haunted Woods, we just get together for holidays and special occasions.”
“So, why are they here today?” I asked curiously.
Zee snorted. “To meet their new sister, duh!”
I blushed. They’d all come here just to meet me?!
“Lex wanted you to meet them all straight away so you wouldn’t be so shocked when they just turned up one day for someone’s birthday or something,” Zee explained. “We can be kind of overwhelming.”
I grinned. Yeah, it was probably wise to get the introductions out of the way sooner rather than later. “Good thing she only bought you to the Pound with her, though,” I said.
Zee snickered. “Yeah, the Pound workers probably would have had a panic attack if she’d let Dex and Bex loose in there. So, what do you want to do until dinner?”
I looked at her shyly. “Can I see your room?”
Her expression brightened instantly. “Sure! It’s this way,” she said leading the way out of my room and back down the hall. She stopped outside a door with a big pink and red flower on it. I smiled; it suited her.
“Ta-da!” she sang as she opened the door with a flourish. As the door opened, there was a high pitched squeal and a pink Alkenore ran past me and flung itself at Zee. Zee giggled and caught the petpet in midair and hugged it to her chest. “This is Mimi. Mimi, this is my new sister Molly.” Mimi peeked at me from her owners arms and made a chirping sound. Zee smiled indulgently and waved me into her room, I turned and got my first look.
It was definitely pink. There were accents of purple but the instant impression was very much PINK. I walked into the room as if I was mesmerised.
Zee giggled at my expression. I shot a glance at her. “This is pretty much the reaction I usually get,” she explained, grinning.
Once you got around the pinkness of it all, it was easy to see that the whole room had been carefully designed and decorated. Each piece of furniture well placed so the space was used as fully as possible and it complemented everything else in the room.
“It’s really nice,” I finally managed.
Zee snorted. “You don’t have to say that. I know it’s not exactly to everyone’s taste,” she said, grinning.
“No, really,” I assured her. “It’s not the colour scheme I would have chosen, but I do like it. It’s very well done.”
Zee beamed at me. “I can help you pick out things for your room if you like? I’ll even keep the pink suggestions to a minimum.”
“I think I’ll decide on a colour scheme before I start looking at furniture,” I replied, carefully avoiding any actual commitment. What I was thinking was, ‘I’ll wait to see if I’ll be allowed to stay.’
“DINNER!” someone shouted up the stairs. Zee grinned at me and put Mimi down. “Brace yourself,” she advised me again, ushering me into the hallway and down the stairs. I headed towards the kitchen, but Zee caught my arm and steered me into a different room.
“After dinner, I’ll give you a full tour of the house,” she promised me as we stepped into what was clearly the dining room.
“You don’t eat in the kitchen?” I asked. I was sure I’d seen a table in there, under the flour and paper and Fyora knows what else.
“We do if it’s just the five of us, but the table isn’t big enough for nine,” Zee explained taking a seat at the table. I nodded and sat beside her. Only Jojo and Zook were already there. I smiled shyly at them.
Jojo once again waved enthusiastically at me from his highchair. “Hi, Molly!” he sang, in what was quite possibly the cutest voice I’d ever heard.
“Hi, Jojo,” I said, smiling wider at the Baby Meerca. At least he seems to like me, I thought to myself.
At that moment Nix and Dex came in carrying plates of steaming food. They set them in the middle of the table and both took a seat. Lex, Bex and Alice came in moments later carrying yet more dishes piled with food and bottles of juice and soda, all of which they set in the middle of the table before sitting down.
Without any signal or discussion dishes and bottles were passed around, plates and glasses were filled and everyone dug in, myself no exception.
The food was delicious, I couldn’t remember ever having eaten so well. There were turkey legs and mashed potatoes, carrots and peas and some sort of pie that was quite possibly the best thing I’d ever tasted.
Dinner passed with minimal interruptions, Dex and Zook bickered about who was going to get the new yoyo Lex had bought home today. But Lex managed to contain it before they upended the table. After that they started discussing where they were going to spend the summer holidays.
I listened intently, Alice, Zee and Nix wanted to spend the summer in Faerieland visiting the various shops there and going to the Poogle Races. Zook and Jojo wanted to go to Altador to see the Altador Cup and Dex and Bex voted for Mystery Island where they could swim to their hearts’ content.
“What do you think, Molly?” Alice asked, turning to me.
I felt myself turn red as everyone looked at me. Why was she asking me? “Um... I don’t know,” I said quietly. “But the Altador Cup starts soon so maybe you could do that first and then split the rest of the time between Faerieland and Mystery Island. I mean even if you don’t get to see everything it’s not like they’re going to go anywhere.”
I realised I was starting to ramble and sternly told myself to shut it. Lex smiled at me. “That sounds like a decent plan. And she’s right; the Altador Cup does start soon.”
Zook immediately perked up. “So we get to do my idea first?”
Jojo threw his spoon at him. “Our idea first,” he corrected. Zook rubbed the sore spot on his head and glared at the baby for all of three seconds. It’s impossible to stay mad at something that cute.
Lex rolled her eyes. “If we’re going to do it, it’s not like we can put it off,” she said reasonably. Alice groaned. “And anyone who doesn’t want to see the games is free to explore Altador itself,” Lex added. “Anyway we’ve still got time to discuss it before we settle on anything.”
Eventually the plates had been cleared of food and I sat back, feeling fuller than I had in ages. Zee and Alice started clearing the plates from the table, I moved to help them, but Alice waved me back to my seat with a smile. “Sit, relax. We’ve got this,” she assured me.
They piled the plates and carried them carefully from the room. Moments later Zee was back with another stack of clean plates. I looked at her confused. She grinned. “You don’t think you’re getting away without a healthy dose of sugar, do you?”
“Like you’d ever let that happen,” Nix teased her.
“Well, exactly,” Zee replied, remorseless as she passed around the plates and disappeared again.
She was back again before I had time to ask, carrying two plates loaded with cream cakes and cookies. Alice followed right behind, carrying an apple pie and a huge chocolate cake.
Zook and Dex sniggered at my expression. They were seriously going to eat all that after the feast they’d just demolished?!
Before a single crumb could be eaten, Lex stood up and raised her glass of juice. “Today we welcome a new member to our family. We accept her into our home and our lives and hope that every day will bring her more joy than the last,” she said, looking around the table. “Welcome, Molly,” she toasted me.
“Welcome, Molly!” the others chorused raising their own glasses towards me.
I blushed again and raised my own glass to them, murmuring a quiet ‘thank you’. That was quite possibly the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me.
Dessert was passed around and eaten with a great deal of enthusiasm. The sugar didn’t really do Bex and Dex’s behaviour any good, although the excessive giggling probably slowed them down a bit.
Alice helped Lex to clear the table, and Lex browbeat Zook into helping with the washing up. Zee took my paw and pulled me to my feet, I swear I could barely move!
“Come on, I promised you a tour,” she said, dragging me towards the front door. “I’ll leave the garden ‘til tomorrow; it looks a lot better in daylight! Okay, we’ll start from the front and work our way around.”
We started in the foyer and she gave me a tour of the entire ground floor. The layout was a little confusing at first; there were several rooms, squirreled away towards the back of the house. Once we’d covered the ground floor, she started up the stairs. I’d seen from the outside that this place was huge, but I hadn’t realised just how huge!
We started off again, but this didn’t take as long as there were mainly bedrooms and bathrooms up here and Zee explained that she didn’t go in unless invited. So she just pointed to the doors and told me whose room it was. There were several guest rooms where Dex, Bex, Alice and Zook stayed sometimes and occasionally a Neofriend of Lex’s who had stayed longer than they intended and didn’t like travelling at night.
“Will the others be staying over tonight?” I asked as we finally came to the end of the rooms.
Zee nodded. “They’ll stay the night and maybe tomorrow. We like being together. To begin with anyway,” she amended. I raised an eyebrow. “They can be headache-inducing in large doses.”
I snickered. Yeah, I can see that! I thought to myself.
We walked back to my room and Zee sprawled on a bean bag chair while I perched on the bed. My bed. It still seemed weird to even think that.
“So,” Zee started, “what do you think?”
I felt my brow wrinkle in confusion. “About what?”
“About us, about living here,” Zee said. She actually looked a little worried. I stared at her. “Do you think you’ll like it here?”
I couldn’t help it; I gaped at her. If I was allowed to stay, and that was a big ‘if’, I couldn’t imagined I could be happier anywhere else.
“I already do like it here,” I said quietly, hoping she’d hear the sincerity in my voice. Of course you do, I thought to myself. Which is going to make it that much worse when they dump you back in the Pound.
She beamed at me. “I’m glad. We were all so excited about you coming,” she said eagerly.
I really couldn’t fathom her attitude. Why would anyone be so excited about having another pet in their home, having to share their belongings and house and owner’s attention with a pet they didn’t know? I’d come across this attitude so often it seemed normal.
I wanted to ask her why, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to accept her answer so I just smiled tentatively at her.
She opened her mouth to say something, but Lex’s voice cut her off. “Okay, lights out in fifteen minutes!” Her shout echoed up the stairs followed by a series of groans. I raised an eyebrow at Zee.
Zee rolled her eyes. “Translation: bedtime in fifteen minutes. Okay, I’ll go now and let you get ready for bed,” she said, already moving towards the door. “Your bathroom is through there,” she added, pointing to another doorway.
My bathroom? I gawked at her and she winked and smiled as she closed my door.
I scampered into the bathroom and looked around, feeling giddy. Lex had really gone all out on this. Not only did I have a fully furnished bedroom, I had an adjoining bathroom all to myself!
I brushed my teeth before returning to the bedroom and crawling into bed, promising myself a nice long bath in the morning.
Just don’t get too used to it, I told myself. They seem nice enough but you know they won’t want you around forever. Besides, it’s not like you need a family, right?
I drifted off to sleep with these thoughts swirling around my head along with one other: Zee’s voice saying ‘I’m glad. We were all so excited about you coming’. I couldn’t stop myself from hoping she meant it.
To be continued...