For All the Abandoned Hues:Part Four
Part IV: When the Stains Fade Away
Melise and I were sitting on our favorite beam, telling each other stories.
"Once, a little Meerca asked me if I was a queen." Melise giggled, but there was an aftertaste of sadness in her voice. "That was when-when I was still royal." She took a deep breath. "I said, 'Anyone can be a queen if they believe it in their heart. You are already.' I know what I said was cliché...but...I met her in the pound, and she was clinging to a little toy tiara. I just had to say it."
"Melise, that's a beautiful thing to say. If I were her, I would have loved someone to say that to me." I smiled. Melise should have been born a princess-as I got to know her more and more, she seemed more perfect every day. Such a wonderful ruler she would have made.
"Okay, your turn," she said, and stretched out on the beam. My stories were always long, and it was best to get comfortable.
"Once upon a time..." I began hesitantly. She looked a bit confused-I never started my stories in this way. But this story was special. "Once upon a time...there was a Uni."
"Okay," She said, an eyebrow raised.
"A Uni...sitting at the Pound." I had been thinking for a while and had figured something out-or so I hoped. "She was sitting with her first owner, her Jennie."
Melise recognized the name and nodded her head like she knew where this was going.
"She sat, and looked across the Pound, waiting with her owner. And to her right, she saw a Kougra. A royal Kougra. She somehow managed to look gorgeously miserable, proud yet haunted, dignified though burdened, and righteous, all at once. She stood, refusing to lower herself to the dirty, trampled floor."
Melise spoke for the first time-"Were you...the Striped Uni...who looked like her sky had fallen atop of her?"
"Yes." The sky had fallen that day.
"I...suspected somewhat, but I wasn't sure. I didn't know how to ask."
"Me neither. I thought for a long time--and decided to take a chance. I knew it was you."
"Is that really how you saw me?"
"Those were the exact words that went through my head."
"Wow. That's exactly how I felt."
"I looked at you...and I saw someone who was completely perfect in every way. And I knew that if even you couldn't stay with your family, then I had no chance."
"Wow. That's so sad."
We both sat thinking for a while.
Finally, Melise broke the silence. "I'm glad you're here with me." She said softly. "I lost part of myself, all alone, hungry, and-and hideous like this. But when you came, I rediscovered who I was."
"Melise, you're still beautiful-your heart will never change."
We sat upon that beam for the rest of our time together. That may sound really long and miserable, but to this day, I wish I was still sitting on that rafter with her.
For the first time in a while, the sun was streaming in through the windows, and the clouds were banished. Melise and I were both awake, and both trying to find the strength to giggle at one another's breathlessly executed stories. As I wrapped up my hilarious King-Skarl-Meets-Xandra-and-Kaboom story, Melise stiffened. I frowned, about to ask why, and the door jerked open. There stood Tybalt.
All of my animosity towards him bubbled up, and Melise slapped a paw over my mouth so that my angry words didn't make it to him.
"Come down from there!" He ordered with a scowl. "What, no hello?"
All I wanted to do was leap off and land on his arrogant head, but Melise stopped me and together we flapped down. Neither of us was looking forward to this, but we both hoped that he was just here to finally feed us.
He threw something on the floor. Omelette. Despite my revulsion to its cold, congealed taste, my hungry body gobbled it up while I wanted to scream.
Then he dropped the bomb. "Saphira_15, come with me."
"No way!" I shouted. "No!" Gasped Melise, at the same time. It was the first thing she'd said. “You can't-I need-you can't take her!"
"I won't go!" I said resolutely, but without much hope. Coding wouldn't allow me to resist. But Melise...she needed me. I needed her. This couldn't happen!
"I-" I started, but didn't get to finish.
"Look, you're my pet and I decide who comes and who goes. Now, we are going to Neopia Central," he said, and held something up for both of us to see--a paintbrush. "And Saphira here is going to be painted camouflage."
"And--you'll come right back?" Melise said nervously.
"Sure. Come on, Saphira."
"Promise me you'll come back!" Melise whimpered.
I looked into her eyes. "I will make him bring me back." I said quietly. There was a glint of steel in my eye. I guess she believed me, because she stopped trying to argue and just concentrated on hugging me.
Tybalt clipped the leash to me and I had to follow him. "Bye, Melise!" I yelled, as I was practically dragged away. The last time I saw her, she was sitting at the window, crying, watching me leave her forever.
Tybalt did actually paint me-we went to the fountain, he tossed the Camouflage paintbrush into the pool with a splash, and shoved me into it with an even bigger one. Naia frowned his way but didn't say anything. She was busy with an owner who was just sure she had a Speckled paintbrush in her inventory somewhere.
I didn't resent the paint job-actually, I enjoyed it. The water was swirly and warm, washing me all over, soft and luscious. I loved being able to see myself again, too--there's something about being invisible that really gets to you.
But the whole time, I thought about Melise, sitting at that window, waiting for me to come home.
Originally, I think Tybalt was actually going to bring me home. That was good, because otherwise, I don't know if he'd still have a nose. My hooves are awfully sharp when I'm angry.
We were heading home, and he stopped at a food stall. "Two Chokatos."
"Coming right up-hey, is that a camouflage Uni?"
"Yes," Tybalt said. "Why?"
"Well, I have this camouflage Jetsam that I don't really want anymore, and-"
"You want to trade a Jetsam for a Uni?"
"My Jetsam has a worse name. Plus, I'm sick of him."
I knew it was all ending right then. "No!" I yelled, and tugged on the leash. Obviously, coding ensured I didn't get anywhere.
"I can relate." He glanced at me, trying futilely to chew through my leash. "I think I just might say-"
"No! You can't! You said we'd go home!" I finally gave up on the leash and started tugging at his jacket. "You-you-you promised!"
I went berserk. But it didn't help. It was over. To the Pound I went, where I bucked and kicked and no one listened to me, to the Hissi, where I was given a new collar and leash, and who also didn't listen to me, and to the other owner, who looked a bit shocked. I was kicking and screaming and basically throwing the biggest tantrum of my life.
I whipped around and glared at Tybalt. "You nasty piece of work, you! How could you do this?! Melise and I are family! I was all she had when you left us! You can't do this!"
He shook his head and walked away.
"Come back! You-ARRGGHH!!! I HATE YOU!!!"
I probably looked insane to the rest of the Pound, but I didn't care, and still don't. I hope Tybalt got frozen or something.
After that, there was no going back. I never made friends with anyone who took me in and was as hostile as possible--which is pretty hostile, considering the fact that I have four sharp hooves and a long pointy horn. Some people were 'nice' to me; I just didn't care anymore. At night I closed my eyes and saw Melise's face.
I wondered what had happened to her. Did Tybalt leave the camouflage Jetsam with her, or did he bring him to another account? Did he tell Melise that he traded me off, or did he just disappear into the sunset, never to be seen again?
It was nights like that when I didn't have to wake up come morning.
None of my owners liked me. The reasons were pretty obvious; I don't blame them. Even though I was painted beautiful, expensive colors, I often found myself pounded and traded within days.
The terrible cycle of being abandoned went on for years. I never open up to new owners and usually within a couple of weeks I'm back in the pound. In three or four months I turn twelve and that's pretty old for a Neopet.
A couple of years ago I was in and out of the pound every day (pounded, checkup, adopted, traded, pounded, checkup, adopted, pounded, checkup, etc.) for a week. That's when Dr_Death decided that I couldn't be healthier and that really, why keep me in isolation when they had just checked me out that morning. So I became legendary in the pound.
But I was a forlorn pet, one that you could look at three or four times and not notice, even with paint on my fur. I was depressed, I was closed-minded, I was short-tempered. I was the picture of unhappiness.
Until I was painted white.
I have been painted or zapped almost everything by well-meaning (or sometimes not) owners. I have yet to be Blue or Striped again, but I've been Christmas four times, Starry twice, Electric once. I've been Speckled, Snot, Zombie, Tyrannian, and Strawberry. I've had more color changes than knots in my tail, I would say.
About a year ago I was picked up by a middle-aged woman. I knew her type: Pick 'em up, paint 'em, let 'em stay for a while, get their hopes up, then dump 'em. I didn't engage her and within a week I was back where I started, only white.
Never had a color looked better on me. White made my eyes stand out, my body seem more agile, my coat thicker, my tail longer. It made me want to groom myself again and restored some of the proud airs I used to put on, way back in the early days. White was perfect. Apparently, this is widespread knowledge because I haven't been painted since. My past outweighs my pelt, though, because the newbies always look at me, and then at my history and stats, and decide to move on to newer pets.
I have much experience with newly pounded. All of that time waiting in line has paid off; I can name the top three most experienced emotions Kougras face while getting abandoned, and how those differ from, say, a Pteri's. I can read the signs on an owner's face and sense the turning point of a trade. I know how it feels to be abandoned, and what will and will not comfort you. I have a lot of knowledge, and I know that it could probably help someone. I just don't have the energy. Mostly I ignore their cries and go back to chewing my Omelette. But those kinds of things can ruin your appetite.
I don't think I'll ever be adopted, or at least not for long. I think some of it is the system's fault--why should you be able to throw a pet out anyway?--but most of it is mine. I never say a kind word, or give a look of gratitude. Mostly I act like a grumpy rock or tree stump. Although at first I hoped I would find the right person, years ago I gave up, and I'll never be adopted. And even though I've experienced some pretty kind things, I'll never, ever be the same naive Neopet I was before Jennie pounded me. Sometimes I wonder how much of a bad thing that really is, though.
I can see why some owners abandon, but really, Isn't there another way? I'm tired, I'm old, I just want a peaceful life. Is there anywhere I can go where I can be alone? I've pondered this question many times, and there is no clear answer I can see. I'm going to ask the next person who picks me up to take me to Shenkuu, where perhaps a wise old Gnorbu will look upon me with kind eyes and teach me the ways of the moon. But until then, here I am, writing a story that maybe no one will ever read.
Most pound pets just want a good life. Most are willing to compromise, to work with you, to adapt. There are so many pets out there. Not many are, thankfully, like me. Some like poor Melise. Some just don't have a fancy pelt or fancy stats. No matter who they are, they all just need a chance.
For their sakes, please give them that chance.