The Page's Promise: Part One
Trayanne the blue Kacheek sat on the hard, damp floor. The lack of comfort did not bother her, as her pencil scribbled away on the paper. Nothing bothered Trayanne when she was writing; nothing. Not even the fact that she was ownerless and in the Pound. Trayanne was in her zone.
From the back the room, on an Orange Grundo Chair, sat another pet, a yellow Nimmo. The Nimmo followed Trayanne’s pencil with her eyes as it flew over the paper. At last, bored, the Nimmo asked, “What’re you writing, Ray?”
Trayanne didn’t answer. She kept on scribbling away. After a few moments, Riley sighed and stood up from her chair. Her full height was about six feet five inches, the typical height for a Nimmo.
In long, silent strides, Riley came over to where Trayanne sat, her tail twitching back and forth excitedly.
“Ray!” Riley poked the Kacheek in the shoulder. Trayanne shot straight up into the air as if she were a Faerie pet. She landed less gracefully.
“Riley!” she scolded. “Don’t do that.”
“Then don’t ignore me.” Riley shrugged. “Anyway, answer my question. What are you writing this time?”
“Something secret,” Ray answered. “But it’s going to be huge. This is the one, Riley.”
Riley raised her eyebrows. “Really? You mean this is...”
Her voice trailed off. It seemed to be a sort of code. Ray nodded. “This is the one it’s all been leading up to.”
“Let me see,” Riley walked over to the Grundo Wardrobe they shared and opened a drawer. It was full of shiny trophies shaped like feather pens, all lined up and polished lovingly. Riley pointed to them as she counted. “Nine,” she said. “So what’s so special about ten? Just because it’s double-digits?”
Ray gave a secretive smile. “That’s a little of it,” she said. “But at your tenth story in the Neopian Times, you are awarded a NT star avatar.”
Riley looked at her roommate blankly in answer.
“Hello, Riley? A Pound pet with a rare avatar?” Ray pointed out. “Instant adoption, right?”
Riley’s face fell for a minute, then she smiled. “Yeah. That’s... perfect, Ray!”
“What’s wrong, Riley?” Ray asked curiously.
“It’s just,” the Nimmo looked worried. “...I’ll miss you, Ray.” She shook her head. “Oh, what am I saying? Adoption! That’s what you’ve been waiting for, Ray! Go for it!”
Ray laughed. “Riley, do you really think I’d leave without taking you with me?”
Riley’s eyes widened. “Really, Ray? Oh, thank you!”
“No problem,” Ray dismissed it. “I never thought of it any other way. Nine...”
She wandered over to the wardrobe where Riley still stood and opened the drawer next to the one with the trophies in it. It held past issues of the Neopian Times. There was some time between each issue, so some were faded while others were almost new.
“Could it really be nine?” Ray repeated, staring at the nine issues of the Neopian Times that held her own beloved stories in them.
Trayanne the Kacheek had been abandoned at seven years of age. Her owner had finally gotten that Plushie Paint Brush, and Ray was all set to finally be painted when her owner realized that she liked plushie JubJubs better. So her owner, who had a strict one-pet limit, dumped her faithful Kacheek in the Pound and created a JubJub. And nobody had ever brought Trayanne home since.
Riley was different. She was an only pet until her owner splurged on three Baby Paint Brushes. Home came the baby Yurble, the baby Ogrin, and the baby Gnorbu, and into the Pound went Riley as her owner got busy with the new pets. Riley was a laid-back sort of Nimmo, and she had only cared for a couple months before deciding living in the Pound was better than not getting taken care of at home.
Months after being abandoned, Trayanne had started to write. It was a way to vent her emotions, mostly the sorrow of her owner’s leaving her. Soon it became a hobby, and Ray wrote every chance she got. Riley had been the one to read her roommate’s stories from the first day she finished one. But for some reason Ray didn’t want to submit her stories under the name of ‘Trayanne’. She signed them, ‘The Page’. Quickly her stories became popular, and most every avid Neopian Times reader wanted to know who the Page was. But nobody figured out that it was just a lowly pet in the Pound.
This time, though, it would be different. Trayanne would sign her name as, ‘Trayanne, also known as the Page’. Sooner or later the readers would find her, and she’d get adopted - along with Riley, of course, her best friend, roommate, and editor.
Trayanne looked proudly at her finished work. It was on batted paper supplied graciously by one of the Pound keepers. Trayanne carefully signed her name: Trayanne, also known as ‘the Page’. It was complete. She sealed it in a neomail envelope and asked the mailman, a red Scorchio, to deliver it to TNT, The Neopets Team. It was some time, and some anxious waiting, before the Scorchio returned. When he did deliver the reply, it was late at night. Ray did not discover the letter until she woke up the next morning.
She ripped along the seam of the envelope, biting her lower lip in anticipation. Riley washed her face at her sink.
“Hey, Ray, how’d it go?” she asked, her voice muffled as she rubbed it with a washcloth. “Did they - ew, soap in my mouth - did they like it, Ray? They had to. It was your best work yet. Ray? Are you listening? How’d it go? Blechh, soap in my mouth again.”
She turned around to asked her friend again, but she noted that Trayanne’s arms shook as she held the paper. She strolled over to where Trayanne sat. The Kacheek’s deep-sea-colored fur had gone pale, at least on her face. Riley plucked the letter straight from Trayanne’s paws. Ray was too shocked even to notice, and her hands stayed in the same position as if she were still holding the paper.
“‘Dear Page,’” Riley read aloud. “‘Your Neopian Times entry was rejected because there were too many good entries this week and we did not have room for them all. Please try again next week. Yours sincerely, The Neopets Team.’”
Riley snorted and stomped her thin foot on the ground. “Oh, don’t listen to them, Ray. They don’t know anything about good literature.”
“But Riley, they do,” Ray said in a weak tone. “They publish the Neopian Times. They know good stories from bad any day. I didn’t get accepted because my story was no good.”
“Now, Ray, that isn’t true!” Riley said strongly, trying to convince her friend. “It says right here: ‘there were too many good entries this week and we did not have room for them all’. They’re saying your story is good, but there were other good stories, too. Send it in next week - you never know, Ray.”
Ray was forced to admit this was true. “Couldn’t you have let me wallow in self-pity a little longer, Riley?” she asked, smiling a little. Riley beamed triumphantly.
The next week, first thing Monday morning, Ray again sent in her returned story. The response was even faster this time, and Ray eagerly ripped open the response.
“Now, Ray,” Riley warned. “Don’t get your hopes up too--”
“I DID IT, I DID IT! I’M IN!” Ray cried, leaping into the air and dancing around. She waved the letter “They’ll publish me this Friday! And look, it came - my tenth Neopian Times trophy!”
Trayanne stroked the shiny gold of the brilliant trophy. “It looks the same as the others, but somehow it’s different,” Trayanne said.
“See, Ray? What’d I tell you?” Riley cracked a smug grin. “Try, try again! Every Pound pet knows that.”
“I guess I just needed to hear it again,” Ray said. “Thanks, Riley.”
Friday took weeks to come. Ok, maybe not, but to the author getting published, that’s what it seems like. Take my word for it.
Ray would spend the better part of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday bouncing excitedly around the room. Adopting owners would say they weren’t sure if they could handle that much energy in a pet.
But truth be told, Trayanne was actually a very mild-mannered Kacheek. Even when her previous articles were being published, she was never that high-energy. But this was different. The big 1-0... it was barely believable. Riley knew her roommate well, and even she was surprised by Ray’s excitement. But the idea of being adopted... it made the Nimmo a little impatient, too. But the ever-relaxing Riley would become immersed in a book and take her mind off things.
At last, the big day arrived. Trayanne was up at dawn, waiting for the mailman to come by. It took a couple of hours, but finally he arrived at the entrance of the Pound. Trayanne heard him come in. The Scorchio dropped the Neopian Times issue on the lobby desk. The receptionist took the paper directly to Trayanne and Riley’s room. The kind old Gnorbu was the only one who knew of Trayanne’s writing Neopian Times stories, and she kept it secret. The receptionist creaked open the door.
“Here you are, dear,” she said, smiling. “Congratulations, Trayanne. This came for you, also.”
The Gnorbu handed Ray a snow-white envelope with the gold letters ‘TNT’ printed in the corner. Excited but careful, Trayanne ripped the top of the envelope open and gasped. A shining, sparkling avatar looked up at her. The quill pen, a sparkling gold, radiated a glorious light.
“I did it,” was all Ray could think. Then she thought about waking up Riley. “No,” she told herself. “Let her sleep. I’ll wake her up when people start coming in to adopt us.”
Well, that did not take very long at all. Almost instantly after the Pound opened, humans poured in, asking the poor old Gnorbu where they could find Trayanne. The receptionist directed them to Ray and Riley’s room, which quickly became overcrowded with owners.
“Trayanne, Trayanne! Can I adopt you?” they all cried, shouting to be heard over others. “Such a good writer! And look, look! The NT star avatar!”
Trayanne found herself not as thrilled as she thought, even a little scared. People began to close around her. She kept thinking, “It’s alright. This is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
She thought it a good thing Riley was asleep in her bedroom, a tiny space connected to the main room Ray was in now. Besides, she thought, Riley could sleep through Dr. Sloth’s next invasion. Finally, the old Gnorbu got tired of having all the owners flood into Trayanne’s room at once, and she made them form a line to interview Trayanne. Trayanne found it hard to refuse offers, but she didn’t want to go with the owners that had that look in their eyes like they wanted to trade her straight away. At last, a calm-looking, tall girl came into the room and sat on the Orange Grundo Chair in front if the Kacheek prodigy.
“My name is Wendy,” she said in a soft, soothing tone. “I have three girls at home, all about your age. They all enjoy a good story, too. Trayanne, I have been waiting to meet the Page since her first story came out. And now you’re here, not an owner, but a homeless Pound pet! Trayanne, I’ve been searching for a last addition to my family. Will you come home with me? It’d be for keeps, and you’d never have to come back here ever again.”
This is mostly what the other owners had been telling her, but Ray could see the earnest look in Wendy’s eyes that she’d been looking for. How could she say no? This was every Pound pet’s dream family, at least, it was Trayanne’s. She’d been abandoned for so long, been so long without an owner to love her... she could see herself, that little blue Kacheek, only seven years old, being dumped for a JubJub. She’d thought her owner loved her. For such a long time had she cried, unconvinced despite the old Gnorbu’s assurance that someone would adopt her! And now here she was, with this adoring girl, ready to offer her back the lifestyle every Neopet deserves. So why wasn’t she saying yes? Why wasn’t her mouth forming the words? What was stopping her?
Three. Three girls. Three pets. Riley.
So that was it. That’s what had done it. With Trayanne, Wendy would reach her limit of four pets. But what about Riley? She’d promised her friend that spot in her family. The light Faeries on Trayanne’s shoulder told her, “Refuse politely, Trayanne. You did promise Riley. And after all she’s done, supporting you, you need to keep that promise!” Then the dark Faeries chanted from the other side, “Trayanne, this is the home you’ve been dreaming about! Who knows when the next perfect family will come along? It may never again! And then where will you be? Stuck with a series of owners who trade you, regretting that you could’ve had the perfect family, if only that yellow Nimmo hadn’t been in your way!”
The light Faeries protested, shouting for Trayanne to do the right thing. But Trayanne had heard the dark Faeries, and they made more sense to her. So she pushed the good Faeries aside and answered Wendy, “That’d be great, Wendy! Thank you!”
Wendy’s face lit up. “Wonderful! We’ll pay the adoption fee and be off, then! Oh, and would you mind if we stopped by Pizzaroo before we go home? My girls are meeting us there.”
“I haven’t had Pizzaroo since... forever!” Trayanne exclaimed. She skipped after Wendy as she left the Pound for good, never once looking back. Not at that ugly Pound, not at the Gnorbu receptionist, and never at Riley, who slept unaware of all that had occurred.
To be continued...