Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 91,831,644 Issue: 177 | 11th day of Awakening, Y7
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Loretta: Part Three

by blizzard_rose


There was a knock at the door.

     I looked up in surprise. It was pouring with rain! Who on Neopia would be out in this weather? When I opened the door, I got the shock of my life.

     Standing in my doorway, fur sodden, Faerie wings drooping, was Loretta. Tears streamed down her face, merging with the rain.

     "Oh, Sorelle!" she sobbed. "I'm so, so afraid! I managed to escape, but…"

     "Loretta! What are you doing here? What's wrong?" I was shocked to see her stripped of all her jewellery, and that the quietly imperious way she had of holding herself had melted away. She staggered in and collapsed to her hands and knees on the ground. A puddle of rainwater swept out from her bedraggled form.

     "It's happened, it's finally happened," she wept, over and over again.

     I went to her and knelt beside her, unsure of what to do. A deep, terrible fear clutched at my insides. "Loretta! Please, tell me what's going on!" I pleaded.

     "He dumped me at the Pound," she murmured, a new flood of tears flowing down her face. A chill crept down my spine. "He wanted me to stop meeting you, he thought you were below us, then when I said I wouldn't, he told me that I was now… I was now as low as you."

     "Oh, Loretta! I'm so sorry," I whispered, aghast. Uncaring of her soaking wet fur, I pulled her body to mine, and hugged her tight. I let her cry against me, felt her deep, terrible sorrow flow up from her wounded soul. I didn't know what to do, but, somehow I found my voice filling the small room.

     "It's all right, it's okay

     Don't cry, don't cry

     It's all right, it's okay,

     There's no need to feel sad

     It's all right, it's okay,

     Your heart knows the way

     At the end of the day

     It'll all be okay

     Yes, your heart knows the way

     It's okay."

     Slowly, tears stopped flowing down her face, although her breaths still shuddered horribly in her body.

     "Sorelle," she said finally, and her voice was thin and fragile. "I don't know what to do. I don't belong anywhere."

     "You can stay at my house until the rain stops," I said firmly. "I know it's not much… but it's a roof to sleep under, and a family to comfort you."

     Loretta looked around, at Raine watching her worriedly, at Maeya staring with her eyes wide and paws pressed to her mouth, at Tina with her arms around them both, and back to my face.

     "You have a real family," she whispered.

     Only I understood what she meant.

     "For now, we need to get you dry, honey," said Tina, moving towards the small sooty fireplace. "In fact," she added with a small smile, "We need to get you both dry."

     Loretta and I pulled apart - with a small sniffle on her behalf - and I saw that Tina was right; I was now almost as wet as Loretta herself. As Tina kindled a small fire that I knew would make the cold house warm and cosy in minutes, the ever-practical Raine presented Loretta and I with a basket containing a couple of old but warm blankets. We each gratefully took one, and wrapped ourselves up. I moved over to sit in front of the fireplace, and Loretta, after a bit of urging, tentatively came to sit beside me.

     Tina placed herself down on my other side, and Raine sat beside her. To my intense gratitude, curious little Maeya went to sit beside Loretta instead of Raine, and so we made a little semi-circle on the moth-eaten rug in front of the warm fire.

     "So, you're Loretta, are you?" asked Tina in that kind, welcoming way she had.

     Loretta nodded bashfully.

     "We've heard a lot about you," Tina said thoughtfully.

     "Really?" said Loretta. She glanced at me in surprise, and I grinned sheepishly.

     "Yeah!" said Maeya excitedly. "You lived in a huge mansion, with servants and everything! Well, you did," she added.

     "Maeya!" I cried.

     "What?" she said, looking a little alarmed.

     "Yes, I did live in a huge mansion," Loretta said to Maeya. "And I'm not going to miss it, not one bit. My owner never spent any time with me at all."

     Raine protectively cuddled Tina, as if to make sure she didn't dash away out of sight. Tina absently stroked his head, affectionately ruffling up his fur. I saw Loretta see her doing that, and turn her face away, as if reminded that her old owner would never have done it to her. I put a hand on her shoulder, and she turned her face to me. Her eyes were sad again. She did not speak, merely acknowledged my action with a slight nod of her head.

     "I'm sure that your new owner will be far kinder to you," Tina assured her.

     "I sure hope so," Loretta replied.

     There was a long silence in the room. For Loretta, it was a sorrowful silence; for Tina and I, it was a thoughtful silence; for Raine, it was a sleepy silence, and Maeya? She was already drifting off to sleep.

     "Time for bed, I suppose," said Tina eventually. She gently scooped up Maeya. Raine stumbled over to the mattress in the corner, and set himself down on it. Tina placed Maeya beside him, and covered them both in a blanket.

     "Goodnight," she murmured. "Sleep well."

     "Goodnight," two small, sleepy voices replied. They were both snoring quietly in moments.

     "Goodnight, s," Tina said quietly to Loretta and I. "Go to bed soon." She tiptoed from the main room to the smaller room that served as her bedroom.

     "Loretta," I said slowly. I had been wondering this over ever since she first arrived this evening. "How did you find out where I lived?"

     She looked up at me, her eyes big. "Please don't be angry, Sorelle. But… one day, when you left, I told the servants I was going to Neopia Central, and I followed you home. I was curious as to why you never ever mentioned your own house, or invited me over. Why did you do that?"

     I looked at her incredulously. "Isn't that obvious, Loretta? Look around you!"

     She turned. Her sky-blue eyes passed over the sink, the squeaky floorboards, a boarded-up window, a shabby second-hand couch, and a small bookshelf containing a grand total of three dog-eared books. They returned to my face.

     "Now, what do you see? Compare this with the mansion you were living in at the time," I said.

     She pursed her lips. "I see a cosy, modest home," she said, and her voice had a small tremor in it, "That houses a perfectly happy family, and its love."

     I looked at her, searching for cold mockery, but found only open honestly. I turned my face from her, and watched the flames flicker and dance in the hearth.

     "Ellie, I don't ever, ever want to go back to the Pound," Loretta whispered to me after a moment of silence. Her eyes were blank and staring into the fire, reliving her time in the d place. "It's terrible there. The stench of fear and sadness clogs up the very air, so that it's hard to breathe. I can't believe that owners would do that to their pets! …I can't believe that my owner did that to me."

     "Don't worry, Loretta," I comforted her. "You will be adopted in no time. You're a beautiful Faerie Cybunny - you're sure to stand out from the rest."

     She buried her face in her paws. "I didn't escape it all just to go back! I can't face that place again!"

      "Let's go to sleep," I said. "Maybe you'll feel better in the morning."

     "You're not mad at me for following you, are you?" she whispered.

     I considered. "No. It's okay. After all, if you hadn't, you would still be wandering the streets."

     She gave me a quick hug. Then I curled up and turned away from the fire. But as I drifted to sleep, her words of the Pound fluttered over and over through my head, provoking several dark nightmares.

      The next morning, rain was still washing down the windows, and outside the sky was a grey. A relieved Loretta, having been permitted by me to stay until the rain stopped, remained in our humble abode. All through the day, Tina, Raine, Maeya and I chatted to Loretta, and my family got to know her a little better. She seemed less confident than before, and more than once I caught her staring blankly at the wall, trembling slightly. Not once did she complain about our house; she didn't even hint at discontent.

     By midday, the rain had eased to a light drizzle, and when 3o'clock arrived, it had stopped altogether.

     "Come on, Loretta," said Tina. "The rain has stopped. You must go back to the Pound."

     All four of us protested - Maeya and Raine had grown to like her very much.

     But Tina won the argument, as usual. "It's the right thing to do," she insisted. "And everything will turn out okay in the end."

     …At the end of the day

     It'll all be okay…

     No, it wouldn't be okay, I thought as I glumly followed Tina to the Pound, with Maeya and Raine trailing behind me. For what would happen? She would be whisked away, and I would never see her again.

     We reached the doors of the dreaded building. Loretta clung to me, shivering. Glancing reassuringly back at us, Tina opened the doors, and walked determinedly up to the counter, where a Uni and a Techo stood. We followed her dejectedly.

     "I believe that this Neopet has escaped from the Pound?" said Tina.

     The Uni leaned over the counter and looked at Loretta. "Ah, yes." She seemed slightly sad that Loretta had been forced to return.

     The Techo looked through a couple of sheets of paper of names. "Loretta. Surely you didn't expect to escape for good?" He leered at her. She shrank back, anger and flowing from her. "Come now."

     He turned, and started to lead her towards a set of doors in one wall. Loretta hung her head and followed him. I watched her, tears brimming in my eyes.


     The Techo spun around.

     Tina was at the counter, and she lifted her chin as she spoke to the Uni. "I've been thinking about this for a while now," she said. "And I think that I would like to adopt another Neopet." She turned, and looked directly at Loretta as she spoke. "And I have a particular one in mind."

      Loretta loves her new life with us. Everyone in our family has accepted her and welcomed her with open arms and smiles. Although we all know that our house isn't nearly as flash as the mansion she was raised in (and now, after taking on yet another Neopet, we are even more strapped for cash), she adjusted fine to it. She even sold an anklet and a ring, both that her old owner had overlooked, and together they amounted to a good amount of Neopoints to help us all on our little way in the big world of Neopia.

     Admittedly, the shine in her fur was never again what it had been once; but now there is a new shine in her eyes, one that she had been lacking all her life until she joined our family. And to me, that matters much, much more.

The End

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Other Episodes

» Loretta: Part One
» Loretta: Part Two

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