Abandoned: A Christmas Homecoming
- Angel -
I look at myself in the mirror. I hate you, I whisper to the Christmas Zafara in the mirror. And I do hate her. She's unclothed, and has a name full of numbers and underscores. Nobody likes her, either. Not even herself.
"Move, Nge!" Cleo (Chhleehho), a red Uni, growls. Instead of waiting, she shoves me out of the way and into one of the tile walls. I feel a tingle of pain in my side as I slump down to the floor. Cleo's friends, Lop (Chlopsey) and Arj (Mharjhorieh) laugh along with her. Lop, a spotted Kyrii, picks up my wet, golden-blonde hair in her fingers and tugs at it. "So much beauty wasted," she whispers in my ear. "If I had locks like that, I'd be adopted in no time. Why are you still here, 1_1_Angella_1_1? Oh right, you're Very-Badly-Named."
The sound of my name slipping off her sharp tongue makes me shudder. No one had called me Angella since, well, my n00b owner did. I can almost hear her giggle, saying "You're my number one, Angella! You'll be the only one!" Yeah, right.
I just get up and leave, like I always do, ignoring the stares of the other neopets. I must run fast, because the tears don't start running until I've reached my own room, and locked the door tightly.
- Lei -
I gaze at my reflection in the cracked, rusty mirror. My owner ties a shimmering gold ribbon in my blonde hair, and then braids it down my back. She tucks my sword in its sheath. She adjusts my red shirt, pressing the folds together with her fingers. Then, she gets on her knees to tie my boots, made of soft, supple leather that fits my foot almost perfectly. She brushes a strand of dark brown hair that fell out of its bun and onto her forehead. The last time I'd seen her was when she was so much younger. I've missed her so much.
She gets up, and stretches. "C'mon, Lei, we're going to the pound today."
A knot writhes in my stomach. "Why?" I ask, trying to keep my tone casual, but it comes out shaky.
She looks at me, with an odd look on her face. I haven't seen her for months, and I was worried. I took care of myself, though, and she came back. People tell me I'm lucky.
"I just wanted to see if any pet caught my eye." She smiled. "You always wanted a sibling."
"But what if you-" I bite my lip to keep from talking. What if you leave again? How can I take care of someone else without you? I shout to myself. What if you leave me there?
"But what?" she asks, but when I don't reply, she shakes her head. "Never mind then. You've been so skittish lately, Lei."
My eyes watch the carpet, not saying anything. Not listening. I only clasp her hand as she leads me to the place I might rot in for eternity.
- Angel -
When I wake, my tears have made my face wet and sticky. I get up early and shower, washing the salt from my face, the sorrow from the previous night. Once I dry myself off and dress in my clothes, I comb out my pale golden hair, and stick in a braid down my back. I straighten my clothes, and even try and fluff my fur up, for the owners. My active shift starts at 9:00 AM, thirty minutes from now. After freshening up, I head to the cafeteria for breakfast.
The pound volunteers help to serve the food. Behind glass panels are a variety of muffins, toast, hard-boiled eggs, tea, and coffee. A faerie Kacheek with light brown hair gives me a plate of toast with jam, and a cup of Chamomile Tea. I settle down at my usual table (three from the window sideways, two upward) and put jam on my toast. My tea is nice and hot, and I drink it calmly. The cafeteria is mostly empty, except for the volunteers, three other pound members, and me. When you're pounded, you have options. You are given 14 meals a week, and you can eat whenever you want, if you want to. I normally have breakfast and dinner, because my active period starts at 9:00 AM and finishes at 2:00 PM, and cuts right through lunchtime.
Just as I hand off my plate to a volunteer, a voice speaks on the intercom.
"We are now doing a swap-off of active periods. If you are scheduled for a 9:00 AM active period, please come to the front office to check in. Also, due to the mass amount of pets being pounded, each pound pet will now have a roommate in their quarters. Thank you."
A roommate? Would she/he like me? Could we be friends? Or would they be adopted long before even checking in? These questions buzzed in my mind as I checked in, and sat down on a bench. I watched this particular owner—one with light blue eyes and dark brown hair, holding a plushie Kacheek's paw.
- Lei -
There was something perplexing about that Christmas Zafara sitting alone in a corner. She had pale golden hair and a slight frown, and was playing with the end of her braid. I looked up at my owner, who was smiling at a green Xweetok speaking to another owner. There was just something about that Christmas Zafara that struck a chord in me.
"Mommy?" I asked softly.
"What it is, Lei?" She said.
"The Christmas Zafara in the corner. I want to talk to her," I said.
"Alright," she said, a sigh stifling from her throat. "She's VBN, Lei-Lei. She won't trade well."
"I don't want you to trade her. I want a sibling, remember?" I ask, and just widen my eyes—just a little bit! And sure enough, my owner smiles and leads me to the Christmas Zafara.
"HI!" I say, just a bit too loudly. "My name's Lei. What's yours?"
Did I catch a bit of a smile breaking through her frown? "People here just call me Angel. I don't use my real name much."
"What is your real name?" my owner asked, and Angel stiffened.
- Angel -
Lie. Just lie. Say you have a beautiful name, like Angellena, or something like that, A voice in my head hissed. My whole body turned rigid, and I couldn't speak.
"My real name is Leeiiianddrraa," Lei blurts out. She covers her mouth, as if she wants to take the words back, but then lets her paws fall. What's said is said.
"My name is 1_1_Angella_1_1," I say. "But I just want to be Angel."
"Nonsense." Both Lei and I turn to her owner, shocked. "Your name is beautiful. Just think of it this way: the 1s represent victories. Then your name, Angel, and la is a music note. So, your name means you won four times for musical skills."
"I never thought of it that way," I confess. "I always thought my name was a mistake. A typo."
"Angel, would you like to go home with us? I think you are the pet we're searching for," Lei's owner said.
"The sister I'm searching for," Lei corrects. "Please? I can show you our backyard and our friend's pool and—"
"One step at a time, Lei," her owner says. "We have to sign the papers first—oh, Angel, why are you crying? Are you sad?"
I hadn't even noticed the salty drops running down my cheeks. I could feel more tears swimming in my eyes. I look up at Lei and her owner, and my heart sings. I have found my home. I have found my place. I can barely keep my voice steady, but when I can find my voice, I say:
"I'm ready to go home."
AUTHOR'S NOTES: If you're reading this, I probably made it in! (applause) Thank you for reading, and my inbox is always open for comments and suggestions ^_^