Mother's Balloon: Part Three
Featuring Medis, his Family and their Very Small House
Reyela hoped she didn't make the wrong decision by calling out to the Kougra. She had acted so impetuously. What would she say when the Kougra asked where she had come from? That she had been brought to his farm by a magical purple balloon that had rudely floated away on her the second she had her back turned? That was the full truth, without a single exaggeration, but if she told him that, he was sure to think she was lying, or even insane.
The Kougra's eyes were locked on hers. Reyela had half a mind to run. But before she could make a decision, the Kougra was marching up the hill on his way to meet her. When at last they stood face to face, Reyela wished she had never gotten his attention.
"I'm looking for Brightvale City." she blurted, knowing it was too late to turn back now. "Can you point me in the right direction, please?"
The biscuit Kougra stared at her as if she were an alien from Kreludor. "Where did you come from?" he hesitantly asked the question she was dreading to hear.
"I'm... lost," she said slowly, her mind racing to come up with a believable lie. "I was travelling with my father, and I wandered off the path. We were headed to Brightvale City..."
It suddenly occurred to her that she may not even still be in Brightvale. She and the balloon had started their journey in the morning, and now it was late afternoon. She held her breath waiting for the Kougra's reply, hoping she hadn't ruined her cover already.
"You're darn right you're lost, missy." The Kougra scratched the tuft of hair between his ears. "Brightvale City's about a two day's walk from here, and that's for people with full-grown legs."
Reyela shot him a look of disgust. "Are you implying I have stubby legs?"
"Uh, no." the Kougra smirked. "What I meant was it's a two day's walk for adults. It would probably take you longer, only on the account of you being a kid and all. You are a kid, aren't you?"
"Oh." She calmed down considerably. "Well, yes, I am a child, but not for much longer. I'm ten years old, today in fact. Practically a lady."
"Well I'm eleven, going on twelve, and I know I couldn't make that walk by myself, not in a million years."
Reyela contemplated what he said for a moment. "That's ridiculous." she decided. "Of course you wouldn't be able to do it in a million years! By then you would be a million and eleven, and you would be far too old to walk! Why, you would be dead!"
"As would you be if you tried to walk that far." He shrugged. "Unless you're planning on flying there."
"No, I am not." She glared at her wings, thinking again how useless they were.
"Didn't think so," said the Kougra. "But don't worry, missy. I bet my parents can help you get to Brightvale City, if you really need to go there."
Reyela's face lit up. "Oh, I do! I really do! Do you think your parents could really get me there?"
"I reckon so, but you'll have to ask them and see. Come on, missy, I'll take you to meet them."
"Please," Reyela spat, as the Kougra was starting to walk away. "Do not call me missy. You haven't known me five minutes, and already you've come up with a nickname for me? That's hardly any way to talk to a girl you've just met."
The boy was not at all frazzled by her comment. "Sorry miss, but you never did me the honour of telling me your name."
"Oh." The girl shrunk back, if only a little. "My name is Reyela. Do not call me Rey, I hate it. If Reyela is too hard for you to say, then please don't call me anything at all."
The biscuit Kougra chuckled. "I can say your name just fine, and I wouldn't wanna call you Rey even if you wanted me to. Reyela is a pretty name, if I ever heard one."
The scarlet Draik turned an even deeper shade of scarlet, but for the first time in her life it was not because she was outraged. She had always thought she had a very pretty name, but she had never heard it from anyone else before.
"Thank you. It is pretty, isn't it?" she smiled. "My mother gave that name to me."
The Kougra smiled back. "My name's Medis Worthington. This is the Worthington family farm."
"Medis Worthington?" Reyela echoed. "What a singularly strange name!"
Medis shrugged his shoulders again. "Yeah, I know."
"It sounds like the name of prince or an earl!"
Medis laughed. "You're right! Medis was an earl, actually. The fourth earl of Brightvale, and a hero of some sort. My parents thought it would be kinda neat if they had a son named after a famous fella like that."
"That's very interesting." she said, realizing Medis had already started to walk. She ran to catch up with him, and the two children walked side by side to the Worthington residence.
"Have you ever been to Brightvale City, Medis?" Reyela asked as they walked.
"No," Medis shook his head. "And I don't believe they'd let me in either. With the fancy clothes and stuff they have in that part of Neopia... Well, let's just say I wouldn't fit in."
"Have you ever been to any city? Maybe one much closer to your home?" the Draik asked.
"Brightvale City is the closest city to my home."
Reyela gasped. "But you said it was a two day's walk from your house! Medis, exactly how far out in the country is your home?"
"Pretty far, Miss Reyela." the Kougra chuckled again. "Pretty far."
The Worthington family's house turned out to be little more than a shack. When Medis led her up to the tiny beige building she had previously believed to be a shed, Reyela didn't know what to expect. Was the building bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside? Perhaps what Medis was calling the front door was only a door you had to go through to get to the main building, which was hidden somewhere behind the trees? How could a mother, father, and son all live in a house that looked like it was only meant to store farming equipment?
"Here we are." Medis held the door open for her to go inside.
When Reyela didn't move from the step, the Kougra assumed she was being shy.
"I'll go first then." he said, motioning for her to follow him down the dark and narrow hallway.
They had to walk single file to reach the closed kitchen door.
"You hide here behind the door, okay? Then when you hear me tell my parents that I've brought someone to see them, you come out of hiding. They'll be so surprised when they see you're not a petpet!"
"Of course I'm not a petpet!" Reyela scowled. "And why do you want me to hide behind this filthy door?"
"Because it will be fun!" Medis could see that the Draik was not convinced. "You don't have to if you don't want to."
"I'll do it," she reluctantly agreed. "If it will make them want to help me more."
When the biscuit Kougra opened the door, Reyela was backed into the wall, with the steel doorknob pressing into her stomach in the most uncomfortable of ways.
"This had better not take long." she grumbled, the battered door muffling her voice.
"Ma, Pa, I made a new friend today. Is it okay if I give her something to eat?"
Reyela went to step out from behind the door, but Medis pushed her back.
"What on Neopia is he doing?" she wondered, as she listened from behind the door.
"All right Medis, what is it?" she heard a female voice say. "Is it a Dogelfox like the last time? Or is it something bigger, with a bigger appetite?"
"It ain't a Dogelfox, Ma." said Medis. "It's something bigger, and she probably has a pretty big appetite after all the walking she did today."
"So it's something big, that walks everywhere it goes. That means it don't have wings or fins." a male voice, a bit older sounding than Medis, tried to read between the lines.
"You're right it hasn't got fins, Caleb, but it has got wings."
Reyela couldn't see what was happening in the kitchen, but she imagined Medis' grin was growing wider and wider. When she heard anther female voice, this time the voice of a young child, she was curious as to how many members the Worthington family had.
"I hope you didn't bring home a Tigermouse. The last Tigermouse you brought home bited me on the finger."
"That was because you were pulling its tail, sweetheart." said a man's voice, presumably belonging to Medis' father. "A Tigermouse is a small petpet, and Medis said this one's a big one, with wings."
"Do ya'll give up?" asked Medis, unable to contain his excitement any longer.
"We give up, son." spoke the mother again. "You might as well show us what you're hiding behind that door."
"You can come out now, Reyela!"
The Kougra moved the door away, and allowed the Draik to step into the kitchen.
"Sweet Fyora!" Medis' father, the brown Kougra whom Reyela recognized from the barn, fell back in his chair. "You didn't tell us your new friend was a neopet!"
"And a young girl, at that!" exclaimed his mother, a blue Yurble with shoulder length blonde hair tied back in a ponytail.
"Draik!" squealed a small biscuit Usul, hopping up and down in her seat.
And another blue Yurble, this one a teenaged boy simply laughed and shook his head.
"Ma, Pa, Caleb, Bettina, this is Reyela."
Medis called the red Draik forward so that she was standing in the middle of the kitchen, and from there Reyela could fully appreciate how excessively small the square room truly was. Most of the space was taken up by a rectangular table, which stretched from one end of the room to the other, leaving little space to walk between the chairs and the stove and sink. In the corner by the window was a miniature icebox, far too tiny to contain enough food for the Worthington family, even if it had only been Medis, his father and mother, which she could now clearly see that it was not. The few pieces of furniture in the postage-stamp-sized room were not new or expensive by any means, but they were remarkably clean for the condition they were in. There was not a speck of dust on the table or the icebox, and the sink and the handles on the stove practically sparkled with polishing, the kind of shine you would expect to see on an appliance that had just been bought.
Why do they even bother cleaning their furniture to look like that? Reyela wondered. I'm quite sure they are not going to fool themselves into believing it's all new.
Little Bettina Worthington startled her out of her daydream when she asked her the question she had hoped she wouldn't have to answer more than once.
"Where did you come from, Reyela?"
"I..." she hesitated. "I certainly didn't fly here."
"That's right, Medis said you walked here." recalled Caleb. "But where did you walk here from? Our farm is a little out of the way to come here on a pleasure stroll, ain't it?"
"Why, yes." stammered Reyela. "Yes it is. I was actually on my way to Brightvale City, when I... took a wrong turn."
"That must have been quite the turn you took." observed Mr. Worthington. "Were you all by yourself out there, or--"
"I was with my father." she spat out her sentence before she forgot what she was going to say. "My father stopped to speak to someone, and I... I was foolish, really, and I started to wander. I didn't think I had gone very far, and I tried to return to my father, but I suppose I just ended up going in circles, and I walked and I walked and," she sighed. "Here I am."
"You poor dear," said a sympathetic Mrs. Worthington. "Your father must be missing you. He's probably out looking for you, but he's not likely to find you out here. Were you planning on staying at a friend's house in the city, or were you going to stay in a hotel? If you know the address of wherever your father might be, you could neomail him from here and ask him to come and get you."
Mrs. Worthington's idea was a good one indeed, but if she neomailed her father he would surely come and get her, and any hope she had of getting to Brightvale City would be forfeited if he came to pick her up. Not to mention she would have to explain to him how she had got there, and Reyela was certain that her father was no more apt to believe the balloon story than Medis and his family were. Also, if the Worthingtons saw the address she sent the neomail to, they would instantly know that her father was not in Brightvale City, or anywhere near it. She would have to come up with a reason for why she was unable to contact him by neomail...
"To be honest with you," she began slowly. "I don't even know where we were going. Father was taking me for a surprise, you see. It's my tenth birthday today, and he was taking me as a sort of treat..."
Bettina suddenly let out an ear piercing squeal. "It's your birthday today? It's my birthday the day after tomorrow! Happy birthday to both of us!"
"Bettina, it's not your birthday yet." Mr. Worthington reminded his daughter. "Today is Reyela's day, and we're gonna help her get back to her daddy. A fella I do business with is fixing to go the city the day after tomorrow."
"My birthday!" Bettina shouted, and was shushed by her brown Kougra father.
"I'll send him a neomail and tell him your story, and I'm sure old Ben'll be willing to take you along with him, if that'd be all right with you."
"It would be more than all right with me!" Reyela exclaimed. "Oh, but where shall I stay until the day after tomorrow?"
"You're welcome to stay with us," offered Mrs. Worthington. "You can sleep in Bettina's room on the spare cot."
"Yes!" shrilled Bettina. "You can stay in my room, Reyela!" She gasped. "I better tell Liza we're gonna get a guest!"
With that, the biscuit Usul ran out of the room. The remaining Worthingtons laughed.
"Liza is her doll." Medis informed her.
Reyela giggled. "How endearing."
"We're having vegetable soup for supper tonight, Reyela. Ma put carrots, and celery, and potatoes and all kinds of stuff in it. Do you think you'll like that?"
"I'm sure I will, Medis." the red Draik nodded politely. "Thank you all very much."
Reyela couldn't understand it. Medis had said his parents would help her get to Brightvale City, and she was not expecting any more from them than that. Why would they, and their children be willing to let her stay with them in their house that was barely big enough for the five of them? They were even going to share their food with her, even though Reyela was positive that it would mean that they would not have enough for themselves. Why did it please these people so to know that they were helping a total stranger? They must have felt bad for her because of the story she had told them. Reyela laughed inwardly, imagining the sympathy they would have given her if she had told them the real story of how she had gotten there. They probably would have showered her with consolation gifts! Though what they would have given her, she had no idea.
"I'd better go give the Snorkels their evening slop. Do you wanna come with me, Reyela?"
Actually, she did have an idea. But she didn't like it one bit.
"Thank you for the offer, Medis, but I think I will stay here, and look around the rest of your house until supper is ready."
"Supper won't be ready for at least another hour, honey." Mrs. Worthington notified her. "You'll have plenty of time to go with Medis and see the rest of the house before then. Our house isn't really that big, you might have noticed."
"Yes ma'am." sighed Reyela. "I've noticed."
"So are you gonna come?"
Her excuse had been dismantled, and Medis looked so anxious to show her his Snorkels... She didn't want to go with him any more than she wanted to be trapped on his farm for the next two days. But she knew she was in Medis' debt. After all, if it hadn't been for he and his parents, her dream would not be coming true the day after tomorrow. She supposed that, ultimately, she didn't have a choice whether she went with him or not.
"I'll go with you, Medis." She started towards the door. If she was going to do it, she was going to do it quickly, and get the smelly experience over with. "Let us not keep the dear Snorkels waiting."
To be continued…