Remembering Rue: Part One
(This series is a parallel series to 'Finding Crystal'. While you could read either of them alone, I would suggest that you read both of them to fully understand the story.)
That day the bandages came off, and she got her first look at the world for a long time, nothing was the same. Nothing ever would be again.
They fell away in her hands as she placed them on the bed; folded them neatly on the blanket. It was strange—they’d made her world black, but here they were, thin and white as a cloud. She smoothed her hands over them absentmindedly, gazing off into the distance as her vision cleared.
A Gelert suddenly appeared, and took the bandages from her gently. She looked up at him vacantly and when he smiled at her, she smiled back, the slow movement spreading across her face like sunlight on water. He patted her hand and left the room.
“Rue? Rue, my dear?”
She turned her head toward the sound, and a Krawk came toward her. Her hands folded and unfolded themselves nervously as she sat down on the edge of the bed. Her scales were red, which clashed horribly with her rather ragged-looking bright orange dress. The patient lifted her own hand and examined it. Her own scales were purple, and, upon looking in the mirror on the wall opposite her, she discovered that she too was a Krawk.
“Rue, dearest, are you feeling all right? Is your head hurting you at all?” The Red Krawk looked flustered. When the patient looked back at her with a pleasantly vacant expression, politely bemused at the older woman’s concern, the Red Krawk looked surprised.
“Rue?” the patient repeated.
“Yes, dear. . .” the other Krawk said, patting the patient’s hand hesitantly.
The patient looked behind her. There was no one else there, so who could the Red Krawk be referring to? “I’m sorry,” she began, “are you speaking to me?”
“Of course,” the stranger answered.
“But my name’s not Rue. . .is it?” At the moment, she couldn’t seem to recall her name at all. Was her name Rue? Or was it something else?
The Red Krawk gave a small gasp of astonishment. “You mean. . .you don’t remember. . .your name?”
“No,” the patient answered.
“Do you remember me?” the Red Krawk pressed.
“No.” The patient paused. “And what should I call you?”
“My dear,” the Red Krawk began in a tremulous voice, “I am your mother.”
. . .
She—Rue—walked along slowly, her feet shuffling on the ground. Ahead of her, the Red Krawk—her mother—looked back impatiently. Rue could hear her struggling to not sound annoyed.
“Rue, sweetie, we really must hurry; we can’t afford to miss the boat. I haven’t got enough money to buy a new ticket.”
Rue sighed and quickened her pace. The day before, the Krawk had appeared, claiming to be her mother, and had whisked her off to the docks of Neopia Central to take her back “home”. Where that was, Rue couldn’t imagine.
Her mother gave an impatient sigh and took hold of Rue’s hand, walking quickly toward a ferry. The Red Krawk still wore her tattered orange dress, and her only luggage was a small and very battered-looking carpet bag.
“Where are we going?” Rue asked, staring around her. The smells of delicious food wafted into the air, and it didn’t help that most of the people around them were eating while walking. Rue hadn’t had anything to eat since yesterday evening, when her mother rushed out of the room crying that her own daughter didn’t remember her, and the nice Gelert in the white coat gave Rue a tray full of food to eat.
“Happy Valley,” her mother answered, shoving her tickets into the hand of a Yurble in uniform and began to pull Rue toward the ferry.
“Hold on, ma’am.” The plump little Yurble waved his hand as he glanced down at the ticket. “You’re Ruth Grace, and this is your daughter, Ruth Grace Jr.?”
“Yes, yes,” the Red Krawk answered, stepping onto the deck of the ferry and pulling Rue behind her.
“Right, then,” the Yurble sighed, pocketing the tickets, “we’re off. Tim! Let her go!” The last bit he yelled at another Yurble in uniform, and the latter pet nodded and leaned over the side of the boat, undoing a knot of rope that was attached to both a ring on the ferry’s side and a post on the dock.
“This is a nice boat,” Rue remarked as her mother dragged her through a door and then down a flight of steps.
“I suppose,” Ruth Sr. answered curtly. “It’s the same one I brought you here on. Do you remember coming here?” she added, casting her daughter a sideways glance.
“No,” Rue replied after a short pause. “I don’t remember anything.”
It seemed to Rue that she should remember something, at least, but a thick white fog seemed to fill her mind whenever she cast it back into the past. Her first memory was of waking up, speaking to her mother, and taking the bandages over her eyes off.
“Well,” her mother answered, sounding somewhat sad, “well.” She couldn’t seem to think of anything else to say.
“Um,” Rue said, as the Red Krawk took her into a small room and closed the door behind them. It was a plain room, with a small bed on one side and a small bed on the other, with a nightstand between them.
“The journey will take only a bit,” Ruth said briskly, turning her head away. “I know we had to leave the hospital early this morning, so you might want to take a nap. There’s a sandwich shop on the ferry, and it will arrive at the Happy Valley docks tomorrow morning. It’s a fast ship, for its price.”
“Ah,” Rue said awkwardly, not sure of what else she should say. She looked down self-consciously—before she and Ruth had left Neopia Central, her mother had swapped out her hospital gown for a red dress that was equally as ragged as Ruth’s dress. A few Neopets had snickered at her and her mother’s apparel on the way from the hospital to the ferry.
“You’ve been on a ferry before I took you here,” Ruth said, her back to her daughter. “We lived in Meridell, on a farm. That’s where I met your father. He was originally from Happy Valley, but he came to Meridell to research crops.” She bristled suddenly, and her voice grew sharp. “He had more brains than plenty of businessmen, but it was money he really needed, and his family never had that. He’d spent his last Neopoint on the trip to Meridell. I lived on a farm there. I, too, was poor.” She said the last word with extreme distaste. “Then we met, and he helped out on the farm, but it was already failing, and my parents had to sell it. Your father and I worked wherever we could. But we never had enough. We were always at the bottom, always had the secondhand clothes and rented-out homes. No one cared about Jean—your father—and his genius mind. All they saw was a poor Krawk with old, patched clothes and a smell of hay and manure.”
It was the longest speech Rue had heard Ruth make. The former looked up at her mother with interest, watching the already ruddy Krawk turn bright red, turn around, and begin fiddling with the carpetbag.
“Anyway,” Ruth said after a pause, “I imagine you’re hungry. I’ll go get us some sandwiches.” And she left, taking the bag with her, closing the door behind her. Rue looked after her mother, wondering.
. . .
Rue was up early the next morning, leaning on the edge of the ferry and looking out at the lightening sky. She’d slept in the old dress that Ruth had given her, and was wearing it still—Ruth didn’t seem to have any changes of clothes with her.
She had left her mother sleeping in their room and come out to watch the land of Terror Mountain grow steadily nearer. The mountain was easy to see—it was a great mound of snow, ice, and rock that stood out against the pink sky. The valley below it was more difficult to make out from here.
The Purple Krawk looked down at the scone in her hand and, after some hesitation, bit into it. It was dry and crumbled to bits in her mouth. It had been one of the cheaper items at the little food shop aboard the ferry, but it had still seriously depleted the store of money that Ruth had with her.
The young Krawk turned, finishing the scone in another quick bite as her mother came up the steps that led to the rooms below. Her mother smoothed her dress with one hand and shifted the carpetbag strap farther up her shoulder with the other, glancing around at the horizon. “We’re nearly there, aren’t we?” Ruth asked.
“Yes,” Rue answered, dusting the crumbs off her hands. “I can see the mountain, and even the valley’s easier to see now.”
“Yes,” Ruth said after a pause, leaning forward and squinting. “I think I can see the dock. Are you all ready to go?”
Rue looked down at her dress, ran a hand through her hair, and looked back up at her mother. “I suppose so.”
“Good.” Ruth bustled off in the direction of the shop, dropping the carpetbag from her shoulder and swinging it from one hand.
The Purple Krawk continued looking toward the direction of her new home, watching it steadily grow closer and closer, not even looking up when her mother joined her again, chewing and swallowing the last of her breakfast. They were very close to their destination now.
“There it is,” Ruth announced, shading her eyes and pointing out the land. “Happy Valley Harbor.”
To be continued...