Blossoms and Babies
"Zathy?" The little red Pteri scooted closer to her sister. "Zathy, can you hear me?"
The Aisha's reply came out muffled, the hand in her mouth preventing any coherency. Cherry, nervously ruffling her wings, frowned and stood stock still on the kitchen counter.
"Are you just ignoring me again?"
Although they were the only ones in the kitchen and connected living room, Cherry glanced around for any support. Usually she could tell what her sister, Zathandria, was thinking, but now she was left without a clue.
As Cherry's red tail slid across the counter, Zathandria suddenly batted at it. She pounced with a squeal and grabbed its end, trying to fit the feathers in her mouth. Cherry laughed, and she playfully fought back.
A sudden small commotion from the bathroom took her away from her melted anxieties, though. Behind the door in the hall came the faint running of water and a slightly hysterical cry. Cherry only listened for a second before turning back to Zathandria with a sigh. Her owner, Twillie, had clearly been shaken by the transformation of her oldest pet.
Twillie hardly said a word when she returned with the day's "surprise." Carrying in her formerly blue Aisha, only the faint tremble of her lips showed her disappointment. Although initially shocked, however, Twillie quickly turned jubilant—perhaps a bit mad— when presenting the Baby Top Hat she had bought while out. To make her owner feel better, Cherry agreed that it matched Zathandria's new color. The hat lay on the counter now, in solitude and forgotten.
Then, without even another sound, Twillie strolled to the bathroom with a smile still plastered onto her face. She had stayed in there for ten minutes now. Zathandria started playing with her feet when the bathroom door lock clicked.
"How is she?" Twilllie muttered, coming out with a hand to her forehead.
"She's really happy," Cherry said cheerily.
Twillie kept her grin for just a moment. She furrowed her brow as she brushed back her brunette hair and picked Zathandria up.
"I don't know if she's still herself..." she murmured.
"She's been acting like a regular baby," Cherry told her.
"Hm," Twillie rocked Zathandria, to which the baby giggled and kicked her feet. "Oh..." Twillie's face melded to blank shock. "She's not..."
"Gloomy? Grumpy? Attitude... ey?"
"...the same." Twillie's already weary eyes filled with tears, spilling down her dismal face.
Zathandria went quiet at the sight of her owner's tears. She kicked her feet again with a pitiful whine, starting to cry as well.
"Mom?" Cherry looked at both of them, unsettled by the sudden sob fest. "Mom, you're making her cry too!"
Twillie didn't pay her any mind; she only whimpered and buckled her back with sobs. Zathandria made a much larger display of shrill wails.
"Mom! Mom, wait!" Cherry quickly grasped her talons and flew to them, haphazardly dropping the Baby Top Hat on Zathandria's head, "Look, it's okay! See?"
Zathandria's crying cut short when the accessory fell on top of her, and Twillie looked down with wet eyes. She couldn't help but smile.
"Cherry..." She set the baby back on the counter, "Yes, it's okay." Her fingers brushed away the trails on her cheeks. "I promise it'll be fine."
Twillie grabbed a hold of Cherry and squeezed her, the same embrace Cherry received every time she was afraid. Cherry smiled with her owner. Zathandria had settled down as well, tumbling onto her stomach and rolling the top hat away. She started batting at her dangling ears.
"And you know," Twillie suddenly brightened, a thought coming to mind, "I think we've got a concert to go to this week."
"Really?" Cherry gasped.
"Yup. How about this Friday?"
As a treat for Cherry, Twillie always took her to the Tyrannian Concert Hall once a month. Although she wasn't born there, Cherry still felt a strange connection to the prehistoric land. She claimed it was a pride that all Pteri shared.
"We can leave mid-morning to get tickets," Twillie told her. "That way we can..." Her face suddenly fell. "Leave Zathandria..."
Cherry frowned. "What'll we do, Mom?"
Twillie bit her lip and looked to the floor. She thought aloud, "We'll need a sitter and baby supplies... I don't even know who to ask, though, and it's too late to get anything today..."
Cherry's eyes filled with disappointment, her tail idling below the counter's edge.
"Hey, don't worry, we'll figure out what to do," Twillie quickly told her. "We've still got a few days. If this Boochi problem is under control by Friday, we can still go."
Cherry hesitated, but eventually nodded.
"Are we gonna change Zathy back soon?"
"I don't think so." Twillie frowned. "Blue paint brushes are awful expensive right now. I'll probably have to look for some other color."
"Do you know what?"
The little Aisha on the counter sucked the ear she caught. As Twillie picked her up, she said, "Until I find something else, we'll just have to deal with whatever happens. What that'll be... I don't know. I wasn't expecting on having a baby."
The next day, Twillie walked through the front door with a couple bags.
"I know, I took longer than I should have." She sighed. "Going to the store doesn't have to take over two hours, we shouldn't have to use a shovel every time we go out, living on top of a mountain is a stupid idea..."
"Mom?" Cherry flew over with a concerned look.
"But I still don't think we need to move somewhere warmer, or less isolated, or practical—"
"Mom!" Cherry cut in. "Who are you talking to?"
"I—" Twillie's face went blank. She looked at Cherry, and then she swept her gaze across silent kitchen to the bags in her arms. Another second, and her face broke out into a large grin.
"Nothing," she said. "It doesn't matter."
She set her bags on the counter, heading into the living room.
"What did you get?" Cherry asked, inspecting the bags.
Twillie had a slight smirk as she picked the baby up from the carpet.
"Some groceries, and also some baby supplies for Zathandria. I just know she'll appreciate them."
Twillie turned another page of Baby Mynci Book. As she explained to a confused Cherry, no one had a basic baby care guide, so she bought the book in the hopes that it would still give applicable advice.
"This doesn't feel right," Twillie murmured as she read.
"Why?" Cherry asked. She playfully waved her tail in front of Zathandria, both of them sitting by Twillie's feet beneath the couch.
"Zathandria's the one that usually reads these. Now we have a perfectly good book that won't go to her Neopian Book Award effort."
Zathandria gave a small hiccup when Cherry playfully grabbed her foot. A sob followed it.
Zathandria kicked away and let out another whine.
"Mom, I think something's wrong!"
"Does she need to be changed?" Twillie didn't look away from the book.
"Try feeding her. There's some bottles in the fridge."
"Mom, I can hardly hold a spoon with my feet."
"Fine..." Twillie uncrossed her legs and stood up with a sigh. "But you really should work on your talon opposability..."
She scooped Zathandria up while tears dribbled down the baby's face. As she nestled in Twillie's hold though, Zathandria's crying quieted. Her face softened, and she made a little gurgle as though pleading. She pressed her head against Twillie's chest, and Twillie tensed her arms.
"I guess she just wanted you." Cherry smiled up at her.
Twillie didn't say anything. She only watched as her baby nuzzled her while warmly rumbling in her throat.
Cherry saw Twillie put on the most gushing smile.
"Are you okay?"
"Mhm." Twillie started to rock the baby.
"I... I was in the back room, looking for ribbon, and I—Mom!"
"What?" Twillie made a first glance at Cherry.
"Were you listening?"
"Yeah, yeah of course. You went to look for ribbon and saw a window or something..." Twillie lowered her gaze again.
"There was something by the window. It was a really weird tree, really short with pink leaves. It couldn't have been in the storage room for long—"
"The storage room!" Twillie interrupted. She slapped her forehead and slouched in the kitchen chair.
"What?" Cherry stepped back in shock, skirting the kitchen table's edge.
"I forgot about there," Twillie sighed. "We probably could've found baby stuff for Zathandria, or at least something useful."
"But what's that tree?" Cherry pressed. "Someone must have put it there, and it was glowing—"
"Cherry, I haven't been back there in months," Twillie said shortly, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Well, maybe you could come see..." Cherry didn't bother finishing. She could tell her owner was no longer listening.
Twillie instead continued to busy herself with Zathandria, murmuring encouraging words as the baby tried solid food. Zathandria batted at the spoon as it came near her mouth. Across the table, silent and ignored, Cherry whipped her tail.
"This is incredible, I haven't heard Zathandria purr in years," Twillie cooed.
"Yeah." Cherry didn't waste time to head to her room, her face downcast.
The stark window stared blankly through snow covered panes. As she gazed at it, Cherry felt its darkness compare to her treatment.
Her tail lashed and her wings were bunched together to increase her size. Unfortunately, her small stature looked no more imposing.
Maybe if she knocked something over? Would that be too over the top?
"Cherry, really, I'm over here."
No, really, what was something she could—
"Cherry, please, either come and stay with Zathandria or just go back to bed."
Twillie leaned against her bedroom wall as she gazed wearily at Cherry. The Pteri finally turned to her, trying to put on her meanest scowl.
"Maybe I want to go back to bed," she retorted, although a little shaky. Her tail twisted with the burning frustration inside her, but her words only simmered to a small pop.
Twillie stared with disbelief. "There's no need to backtalk. I just said you could go!"
"Fine! Besides, why don't you just stay with Zathandria? Aren't you the one she always wants?" Cherry was a little surprised by the edge her words had.
"Obviously not now," Twillie almost growled. "Clearly something else is wrong. Now, I'm going to get a bottle. If you're able to, please stay with Zathandria and try to calm her down."
The baby had been set down on Twillie's bed, kicking and screaming just the same for the past hour. Twillie looked ready to fall over from exhaustion, and she had no time for Cherry's struggling defiance.
"Fine." Cherry set herself next to the baby, and Twillie quickly headed out of the bedroom.
Feeding Zathandria proved less than successful as the baby turned away, and Twillie groaned, tensing the arm that held Zathandria.
"Maybe she wants the solid food."
"Babies don't have preferences. When they're hungry, they just eat! I think..."
"What do you think's wrong then?"
"I don't know! Don't you think I would be doing something if I did?"
"You usually know what to do."
The snide in Cherry's voice came out naturally that time. Twillie slowly turned her head to her pet.
"Why are you fighting with me?"
Cherry kept quiet. Her gaze could have come off stone hard, if not for her quivering frown and shaky body. Seeing this, Twillie broke out a tired smile.
"Okay, look, I know it's late. It's Thursday night, and we've had a rough week. And I understand you're tired—I am too—but we can't turn against each other now. It's best just to find out what's wrong with Zathandria rather than argue, that way we can get to bed sooner. So, can you work with me?"
Cherry held her breath. The fight between her shame and frustration was won over though, and she relaxed her hostile stance. Twillie reached in to hold Cherry close. Slowly, Cherry also spread out her wings, returning the embrace. They couldn't keep ignoring Zathandria's unrelenting cries, however.
Twillie looked at her for a moment. Thinking, and with a small breath, she whispered, "Could you get the blankets off my bed, please?"
Cherry nodded quietly. She saw Twillie take Zathandria and sit in a bedside chair. Cherry came over with the blankets, and with a small thanks, Twillie put them around Zathandria.
Wrapped in the blankets, warm and surrounded, Zathandria quieted some. She still had tears building in her eyes though, and Twillie's shushing couldn't stop her sniffling. Cherry took something in her talons and flew to them.
Zathandria's sobbing turned to silence as Cherry settled down on the chair's armrest. The Aisha looked at her sister with wet eyes, half of her head concealed. The Baby Top Hat had been plopped down on top of her.
Zathandria reached out to Cherry. Cherry pressed in closer, and Zathandria laid her head on her sister. Gazing down at her, Cherry smiled softly.
"It's okay," she whispered.
Blankets rustled as Cherry sleepily stirred in her nest. Her eyes blinked open as she took her head from under her wing and saw Twillie softly shaking her.
"It's morning," she whispered.
Cherry ruffled her feathers.
"We slept in, didn't we?"
Twillie looked away before nodding. "Yeah."
"What time is it?"
Cherry routinely smoothed and combed through her feathers. "That's okay."
Twillie jerked back, almost as if she took a hit. She stood in silence, but soon asked, "Really? You do know it's too late to go to Tyrannia now, right?"
"And you're okay with that?"
Cherry continued to groom herself, contenting herself with that one word. Twillie kept staring, though, like their conversation wasn't sinking in. As she repeated Cherry's last word in her head, she started to brighten.
"Good," she said, relieved.
Cherry turned to her. "But, Mom?"
"Can I suggest Zathy's new color?"