The Page's Promise: Part Two
The next two years were one long dream for Trayanne. She had good food, an even better Neohome, and a still better family. Her sisters, Sarah, Janet, and Jay, were wonderful. She wrote a story every week that she would read to them on Friday night at the dinner table. They accepted her immediately as their sister. And as a gift for her first birthday with them, Trayanne received a Plushie Paint Brush. At that moment, her eyes had filled with tears. The Kacheek had felt a sense at being painted - a sense that all was fulfilled. She was the plushie Kacheek of a loving owner like she should’ve been years ago. All was perfect.
But something had been tugging at Trayanne ever since she first came home with Wendy. She’d had dreams of a figure speaking to her every night, though she never remembered who the figure was when she woke up. As time passed, the dreams grew stronger in image. She could remember bits and pieces of what the pet had said to her. One night, all the pieces were put together. Trayanne dreamt about a yellow Nimmo, who spoke to her distantly, longingly.
“Trayanne, do you remember me?”
“I don’t,” Trayanne answered nervously.
“You aren’t telling the truth,” the Nimmo said.
“I-I don’t know you!” Trayanne repeated.
“You do, Ray,” the Nimmo pressed. “Remember me? Your old roommate. Ray and Riley, remember?”
“Stop talking to me!” Trayanne screamed. “So what if I do know you? Go away!”
“We were best friends,” the Nimmo continued. “I kept you strong when your owner left you in the Pound. And later, I edited your writing. I encouraged you. I supported you. I was the one who told you to send in that story again.”
“What story?” Trayanne had asked, avoiding the Nimmo’s ghostly eyes.
“Your best story,” the Nimmo said. “The tenth one. I told you to send it in again. That was my downfall.”
“What do you mean?” Trayanne asked.
“You promised me, Ray.” The Nimmo locked eyes with the Kacheek and Trayanne trembled. “You promised that I would go with you when you were adopted. I was so happy, Trayanne. I was getting out. But you left me. The day that story came out, I woke up and you were gone. I didn’t know what had happened. The receptionist told me you’d been adopted. I was heartbroken, Ray. My best friend had betrayed me at the last moment. New roommates came and gone, ones I didn’t talk to, ones I didn’t trust. They were all adopted. But I never left that room.”
Trayanne said nothing.
“I’m still there, Ray,” Riley continued. “Still waiting for a home. I’m still wondering why you left me.”
“Riley, I’m sorry!” Trayanne cried. “I was going to wake you up! But when Wendy asked me if I wanted to come home, it didn’t matter to me anymore. Riley, I’m sorry - I--”
“Promised!” she finished, sitting straight up in bed. Jay mumbled from the other side of the room they shared.
“What’s up, Trayanne?” she asked sleepily.
“Nothing,” Trayanne answered distantly. “Just... a bad dream.”
“Oh,” Jay smiled weakly. “Try to have those closer to dawn, ok?”
With that, she migrated back under the covers and fell asleep. Trayanne still sat up, panting lightly. She’d left Riley there. Why had it taken her so long to realize the wrong in that?
“I can’t go by what Riley said in the dream,” she thought. “But she might still actually be there. As soon as it’s light out, I’m going to the Pound!”
And so Trayanne stayed awake until she saw the sun rise. It must’ve been six in the morning when she slipped on her wellington boots and fall jacket and quietly left the house. She walked down to the Pound at a steady pace, for it was cold and damp. She found herself in front of the glass doors. Trayanne banged on them, which doesn’t make much of a sound considering she was painted plushie.
“We don’t open until nine,” called a muffled voice. It was the Gnorbu receptionist, who stayed there night and day. That was where she lived.
“Ms. Roberta! It’s Trayanne!” the Kacheek shouted.
Inside, the Gnorbu opened her eyes. “Trayanne, dear? What are you doing here?”
She got up from her seat behind the desk and strode over to the doors, where she unlocked them and let Trayanne inside.
“Why, dear, look at you!” she said, smiling warmly. “All painted! It’s a becoming color for you, I must say.”
“Thanks, Ms. Roberta!” Trayanne said, returning the grin. “I need to ask you a question: Does Riley still live here?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Ms. Roberta, frowning. “Nobody’s even looked at the poor thing. She’s been heartbroken since you left, Trayanne. She says you promised her something and then went back on it.”
Trayanne’s heart settled in the pit of her stomach and the uncomfortable feeling of guilt took over.
“May I see her?” the Kacheek asked sheepishly.
“Of course, dear,” Ms. Roberta answered. “She’ll be glad to see you, though she may not even recognize you at first. I have to say, I didn’t either.”
Trayanne nodded. She followed the Gnorbu receptionist down the eerily familiar halls, past room after room of pets she’d known. She felt eyes staring at her from behind the tinted windows and shuddered. What had she done?
At last the awful walk came to an end as they stopped in from of a room. Softly, Ms. Roberta unlocked the door and it creaked open. The Gnorbu urged Trayanne inside.
“I’ll see you in the lobby in twenty minutes,” she said. “Good luck, sweetheart.”
With that, Ms. Roberta closed the door behind Trayanne. The Kacheek was left alone in the grey-walled room with her old best friend.
The Nimmo sat on Trayanne’s old cot, as lumpy as it had been the day Trayanne left. The Kacheek did not see her at first; it was so dim in the room. When Trayanne did see Riley, she took her by surprise - she was sure Riley would be in the other room. Riley did not look up or even acknowledge Trayanne. The Kacheek looked around the room.
The Grundo wardrobe sat where it always had. A picture Ms. Roberta had taken of Riley and Trayanne was still stuck with tape to the mirror. On the wardrobe sat Trayanne’s old Golden Moon Comb, and Riley’s only plushie - Talons the Lenny - still beamed cheerfully at all who walked past. The room seemed not to have changed at all, except for maybe the atmosphere that seemed drearier.
At last, Trayanne accepted the inevitable and prepared herself for the impending conversation. She cleared her throat loudly and Riley still did not look up.
“Hello,” the Nimmo said, her head resting in her bony hands. There was a strange weight in her voice Trayanne had never known. “You must be the new pet.”
“Erm...” Trayanne tried not to delve into this topic. “So... who are you?”
She decided this was the best way to find out about what had happened with Riley.
“I’m Riley,” the Nimmo sighed. “This is my bed. Your bed is in the other room.”
“Are you always so friendly?” Trayanne said sarcastically.
“This is the Pound,” Riley answered, her gaze sharpening as she lifted her head to study the Kacheek. “I haven’t been out of this room in eight years. What did you expect, a welcoming party? I’ve had seventeen roommates, for Sloth’s sake! You’re painted, anyway. You’ll be out of here the second the Pound is open.”
Trayanne was taken aback. This couldn’t be Riley! Had she come into the wrong room? This was not the Nimmo she had known.
Riley sighed again, leaning her head back on her hands. Tiny tears, sparkling like gems, had formed in the corners of Riley’s beady but comforting eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she said, almost like she was going to cry. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that... well, no, it’s nothing I can’t get over. I didn’t have the right to act out like I did.”
“No problem,” Trayanne said, pitifully glancing at Riley. She directed her gaze towards the picture of her and Riley. “Who is the Kacheek in the picture?”
“That was my friend,” Riley replied without moving to look at the photo. “My first roommate. She should have been my only roommate. Since she left I’ve had eight roommates every year; but I’ve always stayed.”
“Oh Riley, I’m sorry,” Trayanne said. Then her voice changed. A lump hurt her throat as she spoke. “I’m really, really sorry. Oh Riley!”
The Nimmo looked up at her and smiled, tears streaming down her smooth yellow skin.
“Good morning, Trayanne,” she said. “How have you been?”
Trayanne couldn’t find the words. She threw her arms around Riley and sobbed.
“Riley, I shouldn’t have left, I’m so sorry!” Trayanne cried. “Just the prospect of having a family again, I...”
“I understand,” Riley nodded.
“Will you forgive me?” Trayanne asked sheepishly. She looked own at her feet. “I don’t expect you to, I mean, I’ve been so horrible, and I really don’t deserve to--”
“Trayanne,” Riley interrupted. “Look at me.”
Riley rose from the cot. She had grown inches since her friend had last seen her. Trayanne looked at her soft eyes. Riley grinned.
“I forgave you a long time ago.” she said.
The ending goes somewhat like this: Trayanne talked with Wendy, all the time reminding her that she could not leave Riley in the Pound. However, Trayanne did not want Wendy to abandon one of her three original pets. And so Wendy created a side account specially for Trayanne and Riley, and in turn adopted another pet from the Pound to fill Trayanne’s spot. Trayanne continued to write stories, edited by Riley, of course. Riley even wrote a few of her own, and the girls were in a few of the same issues together, known as the Page and the Pen. You see, it all worked out in the end. Everyone got what they wanted and needed. And all it took was some friendship and the willingness to forgive.
There’s a lesson in that, folks.