Finding Kayla: Part Four
Ever since we were little, Kayla had always been invited to little social gatherings. Whether it was parties, or outings or sleepovers, she would always be invited. She would accept the invitations in the same way: bright, happy smile, a nod of her graceful head and then the probing question.
“Can Karina come too?”
She was the socialite of the party. The queen of the dance floor; she had no peer, and I was left trotting in her shadow. Or rather, I was the shadow.
We were walking home from a party one night when she received a sudden Neomail.
“Oh, no,” she had mumbled. “Karina, I have to go somewhere urgently; you head home first.”
“I’ll come with you,” I replied. “Then we can walk home together.”
She shook her head furiously. “You can’t come!”
Taken aback by the change in her tone, I nodded my head. “Okay, I’ll just wait for you here then.”
She bit her lip, pondering. “No, that’s not a good...” She stopped when she saw the stubborn light in my eyes. “Okay, fine; you just stand there and wait.”
So I stood there and waited. And waited. And waited. I never stopped waiting for her.
Until now, when she came back to me.
But Kayla was not Kayla.
I had dived into her shocked arms the moment I saw her in that room. She seemed more surprised than happy at my sudden appearance.
“Leave us alone for a while,” she told someone standing near us as I sobbed into her arms.
“Karina, let go; people are watching,” was the first thing said directly at me.
“Why did you leave me?” I cried out, distressed.
She told me that she didn’t leave on purpose, obviously, and that Helen had wanted a rare Draik more than a common Uni. That day we left the party was her last day in our family, and she had been aware of that at that time. I sobbed and asked her why she didn’t tell me so.
“Because I was afraid you would try to follow me, but you did anyway.”
All the time she talked to me I listened closely but kept her even closer. She didn’t seem like the Kayla I knew. Her bright sparkle was toned way down, and she seemed to have mellowed. Her eyes were dimmer, and she spoke in a dull, wasted voice.
“Why did you follow me?”
“Why?! Because I missed you and you left so suddenly...” I gushed at her ridiculous question.
“No, what I meant to say was...” She paused, looking at me squarely in the eye. “Why do you always follow me?”
Her question rendered me speechless. It was something I always took for granted: being with Kayla 24/7. The entire neighborhood knew Kayla and how she was never without her little shadow.
“You’re not my shadow,” she told me, rather harshly, snapping me out of my stony silence.
“Kayla, why are you acting like this?” I asked desperately. “Why have you changed?”
She didn’t answer me immediately but kept her eyes on the floor.
“I didn’t change,” she whispered. “I’ve always been like that. I’ve always been changing myself to please others. At home, Lycan wanted a cute baby sister he could mollycoddle and pamper; and so I became that. Len wanted an older sister he could depend on; and there I was. You wanted someone to follow, so I let you follow me. The outside world wanted a cheerful, sociable pet they could talk to and hang out with. And so, I became that pet for them.”
She shuddered and took a deep breath before continuing, “This is the Pound, Karina. Those lofty ideals we grew up with are useless here. There’s a proper way of acting.”
She looked at me like she expected me to understand, but I didn’t.
“I’ve always admired you,” I whispered back, my voice thick.
She giggled, and for a moment, looked like the old Kayla again.
“Admired me?” She sounded incredulous. “I’ve admired you. You stood true to yourself your whole life even when no one liked you for who you really were. I guess you were like a rock, unchanging no matter what, and I really respected that in you.”
I laughed despite myself. “And what are you then?”
She thought about this. “A piece of cut grass?” She said the word ‘cut’ like it pained her.
“Hmm... I think you’re more like the wind.”
She chuckled again. “That sounds like something Len would say.”
I was relieved that Kayla was warming up to me again. “Where do you stay in the Pound? I’ll come see you every day.”
Kayla glanced away from me again. “Karina... I’ve been adopted. The reason why I haven’t been around the Pound these few days was because I’ve been seeing my new owner. Today was my last day. I just came back to sign a few official documents.”
I felt like crying again. I had just found Kayla... only to lose her again.
“Hey, don’t cry,” she told me gently, cupping my head in her hooves and tilting my head so I was facing a hanging mirror.
“You’ll be perfectly fine without me,” she said. “You’re Karina and I’m Kayla. We’re different, and one day we’ll eventually have to part with each other.”
I stared at the two reflections at the mirror and two Kaylas stared back at me. Slowly, one of them dropped her head, ducked down and disappeared out of the frame. I continued looking into that shining mirror, and the lone figure reflected inside. And slowly, that figure seemed to smile at me.
I turned my head and saw Helen staring at me from the doorway. She opened her arms to hug me and I rushed into them, breathing in her warm smell.
“Let’s go home,” she told me. “Everyone’s waiting for you.”
I took her hand and let her guide me home. I hadn't found the Kayla I was looking for. The Kayla I had been searching for was proud, unbridled, and free. She would always be there for me and never leave me. The Kayla I found was humbled and tired. It would have been a fruitless search, had I not found something even better than Kayla herself.
I found Karina.
Needless to say, Helen gave me a real chewing out once we were back home. Lycan was shaking his head disapprovingly and the Y.O. contented herself with pulling raspberries in my general direction. Len rolled my eyes at me and I couldn’t help but smile at him.
“I found Kayla!” I shouted to him.
He gave me an exasperated sigh and I thought his eyeballs would disappear under their lids.
Helen's annoyance at my sudden departure didn't last long. She was probably happy that her family was reunited again. She never mentioned it, but now I knew she loved me, as much as she did the two Kaylas.
Lycan, unfortunately, was still under the Y.O.'s hypnotizing spell. All she had to do was say 'jump' and he would ask 'how high?'. It was infuriating, but not intolerable. Len E. was as silent and solitary as he always was. You never saw him, but he was always there, and I relied on him, but not in the same way I used to rely on Kayla.
As for me, I bore on with life as a person, not a shadow. It was like she told me: she was Kayla and I was Karina. And once again, she was proven right.
”Heleeennn,” came a wail that I sadly knew all too well, “you promised me that you would bring me to the Rainbow Pool and paint me faerie today.”
A faerie Y.O., I thought grimly, how delightful.
We walked in the sunshine towards the Rainbow Pool, the Y.O. prattling non-stop about how she was going to be the ‘pweettiest widdle faerie Draik around’. Lycan chatted amiably and Len was tuned out to the world outside his head, as usual.
“Pity you're going to have to stay that ugly red color your whole life,” she hissed when everyone was out of earshot. “That sister of yours must be a real mess like you.”
I stool still for a while, and she smirked, happy to see that I had been duly submissive, and proceeded to flaunt off.
“Hey, Kayla,” I called after her in an uncharacteristically cheerful voice.
“What?” she snapped, barely getting the word out of her mouth before my hoof connected with her body, which went sailing into the heart of the Rainbow Pool.
She landed in front of a Cybunny in the midst of being painted and scared her so much that her arms went flailing, so that a poor nearby Gelert ended up with a Royal stripe across his nose. Lycan’s cries of “Kayla!” went unheard and Len chuckled; something he quickly disguised as a cough.
I laughed openly and smiled triumphantly at my reflection in the pool. And in those clear, crystal waters, Karina smiled back.