Happily Ever After - Stories from the Pound
"And then, Chip, they lived happily ever after."
I stared adoringly up at Lily, a green Kougra. She smiled back down at me, and I said in my childish, five-year-old voice, "Tell me more, Lily."
"Not tonight, Chip. I'm done with stories for tonight," Lily responded, shaking her head. She patted my feathers. Sighing, I got to my paws, climbing into my bed. My own small little bed at the Pound. Lily began to sing, her sweet voice beckoning me towards sleep and dreams. My eyes were closed and my breathing getting deeper, when I faintly heard, "An Eyrie like you shouldn't be in the Pound, Chip..."
Or was it my imagination?
"Happy birthday, Chip!" Lily was standing behind me. She caught me into a hug. "I'm glad I have a sweet little roommate like you, Chippy." I smiled, and she put me down.
"Maybe today I'll get adopted!" I said, brightly. I didn't see the flash of fear on Lily's face as she thought of losing me.
"Maybe, Chip. Don't get your hopes up," she said, after a slight hesitation. Then she smiled again. "That would be a great birthday gift, right?" I nodded vigorously.
"Right!" My Yellow Eyrie feathers ruffled on my head. Lily smoothed them down.
My sixth birthday passed without one person looking into my cage.
"You're getting so big, Chip." Lily's voice broke into my thoughts. "I can't believe that you've been seven for a month." I turned my head, and smiled slightly.
"I bet that today will be your lucky day, Chip." Lily whispered.
"Chip, please don't get discouraged."
"I've been here for four of my seven years!" I cried, tears beginning to glisten in my eyes. "Please, Lily. It's like you said. Don't get my hopes up." Lily put her arms around me.
"How's it feel to be eight and one day?" Lily asked, taking her tray from the Pound volunteer. I took mine also.
"I don't know," I said. Lily's smiling face turned worried, so I smiled. It was a fake smile, but maybe Lily wouldn't notice. "It feels good."
"That's... good," Lily said. She had noticed. She always did. "I... bet you won't be here much longer." I shook my head.
"Lily, I don't think I'm going to leave anytime soon," I said. Then, trying to brighten the mood, I added, "And I want to stay with you."
"No, you don't, Chip." The Kougra's eyes filled with tears. "You want to go home. You've always wanted to go home ever since you were abandoned."
Suddenly I had sprinted over to her. I had my arms around her.
"You're right, Lily," I whispered. "But I hope I stay with you for a long, long time."
"Chip?" Lily's voice sounded behind me. I didn't turn. "What's wrong?" I turned, tears streaking my feathers.
"I hate my name." I gulped out. Lily stared at me with wide eyes.
"Chip," she said, reaching out. "Don't say that."
"Do you think _chip with a jumble of numbers after it is a good name?" I spat.
"Chip, the numbers don't matter. I love your name. Look, Chippy, my name is _lily_1_9_0. My name has a lot more numbers after it, too. Names don't matter. What matters is the person the name belongs to."
I felt my vision blurring with tears.
"I hate my name," I whispered again.
"You're nine, Chippy, you're too old to worry about names. I love you just the way you are. You're as good as a sister to me."
After a few more sobs, I looked up at Lily, giving her a weak smile.
"Thanks, Lily," I said, quietly. "When I get adopted, I'll bring you home with me." It was her turn to smile, now.
"Tenth birthday!" Lily cried. She pulled a blue Ixi plushie out from under her pillow, handing it to me. "Happy Birthday, Chip!"
I smiled, taking the plushie. It was sweet of her to think about me.
"Thanks, Lily!" I said with fake cheer. "It's so cute!" Lily looked at me.
"Not again, Chip." She sighed. "Please be happy. And I mean really happy. It is your birthday, after all."
"How can I be happy when all I'm doing is celebrating my seventh year in the pound?" I said, sulkily. Then I smiled, a real smile. "You're right, Lily. I'm done sulking. For today, anyway."
Lily laughed. I laughed too.
"Happy birthday, Chip!" Lily's voice echoed in my mind.
She wasn't here to wish me a happy eleventh birthday. Yesterday, Lily had been adopted.
I had tried. Really, I had tried not to be so miserable. It had been Lily's dream to go home to a real home.
"Eleven, eh?" I turned my head at the sound of the new voice. A human boy was peering through the bars.
"Yes," I mumbled.
"How long have you been here?"
"That's a long time."
I turned my head again, wondering if the boy was interested in adopting me. He shook his head.
"You're not the one." He turned and wandered off down the hall. I choked back tears, lying down. Some eleventh birthday this was turning out to be.
"Chip." Lily's voice.
But that was impossible. Lily had been adopted ages ago, the day before I turned eleven. A pound volunteer had just led my new roommate in.
I turned my head. It was a Blue Xweetok. Not Lily.
"How do you know my name?" I asked, harsher than I meant.
"Chip, it's me. It's Lily, don't you remember? It was an unlucky zap from the Secret Laboratory Ray. It turned me into a Xweetok. My owner didn't want me anymore. I'm back Chip. It's really me."
"Lily?" I breathed. The Xweetok smiled sadly at me. She looked tired, as though she had been through a lot, and I had doubted her on top of that.
"How old are you now, Chip?" Lily sighed, and my heart wrenched. Had she forgotten my birthday?
"Twelve and a week," I said.
"I've been away for so long," Lily whispered, and I felt tears in my eyes as I tried to smile. "Chip, why are you still here? Why aren't you adopted?"
"I don't know, Lily," I said. I didn't know. I didn't want to know. A wayward tear trailed down my face and the Blue Xweetok wiped it away with a gentle paw.
"Happy birthday, Chip," Lily said, smiling and brushing my feathers smooth. "thirteen years old. Ten here in the Pound. You've been here much too long, Chippy." How happy I was to hear that sweet voice.
"Thanks, Lily," I said. I stared at the reflection on the metal tray that rested on my lap. The Pound Volunteer had given it to me to eat my food on. A Yellow Eyrie with dreary feathers stared back at me. I looked away from the reflection.
"Do you remember, Chip?" Lily whispered, "You were five years old and I was telling you a story. Do you remember what I said at the end, Chip? And they lived happily ever after. That's how it's going to be someday. We'll be happy. I promise."
"Thanks, Lily," I said again, smiling slightly.
"I think I want that Eyrie."
Our heads jerked up at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. A human girl with golden hair was staring through the bars into our room. The pink Adoption Uni, Rose, stood uncertainly beside her.
"Chip? Chip's... Chip's been here for a while. Her name isn't the best. And she's only basic colored," Rose said. The human shook her head, looking a little bit annoyed.
"I said, I want that Eyrie. Not any other Eyrie. That one. That basic yellow one," she said slowly, enunciating each word. Rose fumbled with the keys and opened the door.
"C'mon... what's your name?.. Chip." I stared at the girl unbelievingly. Then I skidded out of the room after gathering my things into a little bag.
"Chip... B-bye." I turned at the sound of the sad voice. Tears brimmed Lily's eyes and her paws were curled tightly around the metal bars.
"Bye, Lily." I turned and went back towards her, taking her paw in mine for a second. "I'll come back for you."
"Don't make any promises, Chip." Lily tried to smile. I wiped her tears away.
"I do promise. I have to go now. I'll miss you. And just in case..." I dug around in the bag, and then handed Lily a tattered Blue Ixi plushie. "Remember, Lily? Happily ever after. Goodbye, Lily." I turned away, cautiously taking my new owner's hand. She smiled down at me, then led me down the hall after Rose. Turning my head, I caught a glimpse of a Blue Xweetok cradling a tattered Ixi plushie.
And even as a tear trailed through her brown cheek fur, she smiled, and I could see her mouth forming the words, "Happily ever after."