Who Needs a Royal Paint Brush? III: Part Two
A number of events happened in quick succession.
Xrai had flung open the closet door, but her
head turned so quickly that Cuni was almost positive she hadn't been looking
into the closet to begin with. There was the sound of thundering footsteps,
and Cuni heard them stop. Leaning forward slightly, she saw Alec halt at the
foot of the stairs. In the blink of an eye, though, he sped off in a blur of
yellow, and Cuni had a fleeting image of her sister's furious expression before
she, too, had vanished, leaving Cuni alone, quite unable to believe her luck.
Feeling dazed and rather overwhelmed, Cuni crawled
forward slightly, got to her feet, trotted out of the closet, and glanced into
No one was there.
Her eyes darted for the living room in the next
Nobody occupied that room, either.
Her heart soaring in accomplishment at last,
Cuni bent low to grab the paper bag. When her pink hoof was mere inches away,
however, she heard a distant thud, thud and knew, at once, that someone
was aproaching the door. And with a sinking feeling, she thought she knew who
Panicking, Cuni jumped to her feet, slammed the
closet shut, and had taken three steps toward the kitchen before the doorknob
turned and the door itself swung open.
"Hewwo, Couwtney," said Cuni in a voice of determined
calmness, wheeling around to gaze at the girl who had appeared.
"Hi, Cuni!" replied her owner enthusiastically.
"Listen," she added, avoiding pretense, "the guild's donating clothes to the
homeless and the Money Tree and the Pound tomorrow, you know, doing a good deed
and such, so anything in your room you don't wear anymore, can you give to me,
Courtney brushed aside her long dark hair. Her
pale face was rather flushed from the cold as she walked into the house, slammed
the door shut behind her, and stomped slush from her boots.
"Sure," replied Cuni. Courtney smiled at her,
took off her jacket, and Cuni had a moments' worth of panicking while her owner
opened the closet and hung her coat on the rack before closing it and departing
for the kitchen. Apparently, she hadn't seen the paper bag at all.
Cuni breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at
the closet in hesitation. It did not seem safe to get the bag at this point,
as Alec, Xrai, Snickers, and the Petpets were still on the loose... and Courtney
was just around the corner, in the kitchen. She knew it would look suspcious
to be hovering around the closet until the coast was clear, and even with the
nagging worry about the Paint Brush, she shook it off. Shrugging to herself,
Cuni trotted up the steps two at a time, planning vaguely to empty her closet
and rid it of clothes she had grown out of.
She worried slightly, but her concern vanished.
She was sure no one would take anything from the bottom of the closet right
now; Xrai was too deeply immersed in her revenge with Alec, Courtney had just
returned, and Snickers did not have any reason for leaving the house. Besides,
he was an inside sort of pet.
"Hi, Cybana," chirped Cuni, glancing at the Snowbunny,
who seemed to be taking refuge underneath a small table in the hall that supported
a potted plant.
The next few hours were devoted to emptying her
closet, making piles that turned into mountains of clothes, and before she knew
it, the hours grew and lengthened and as they stretched on, the main thought
that floated in her mind was that Royal Paint Brush. Breathless, she grabbed
a stack of jackets and crouched down to sort through them.
Her heart always seemed to skip a beat when she
thought of it. Who had left it there, and why?
Her face falling instantly, Cuni dropped the
blue, tattered sweater she'd been clutching and her eyes widened suddenly. Blinking
and feeling dazed, Cuni sank into the pile of shirts to her right and hugged
her knees, biting her lip.
She remembered two red Acaras, the younger one
by the name of Syl, that she had run into on her way back from home from the
Toy Shop. Her crayons had scattered in the snow, although those were not the
only things she had found on the ground. Apparently, the two Acaras had dropped
the gleaming Royal Paint Brush, but they had long gone by the time Cuni had
straightened up and looked around.
Her stomach gave a guilty squirm.
"Cybana!" she called out softly, standing and
cantering out of her room. She skidded to a stop and gazed intently at the Plushie
Snowbunny, who was gnawing on what looked like the piece of a board game.
Cuni bent low and dropped to her knees.
"Oh Cybana," she whispered, stroking her older
sister's Snowbunny, "Xway told me dat dare was a medicine dat could cure you
Her sister had mentioned, before Cuni had set
off that day, that Cybana was losing her eyesight and may soon be blind, but
the cure was much too expensive and she shook her head, telling Cuni not to
"It's so impowtant to Xway," muttered Cuni, cocking
her head, "and to you! Wiffout dat cure, you might never be able to see again
-- and we can get the cure by selling dat Woyal Paint Bwush!"
Cybana blinked, absorbed in her chewing.
"You know, Cybana," Cuni said softly, "I awmost
did somefing weally bad -- I awmost took dat Woyal Paint Bwush da day I found
it in da snow, even dough I had a feeling it bewonged to dose Acawas." Cuni
mistook Cybana's reproachful look, which might as well have been intended for
the interruption at her gnawing, and Cuni added hurriedly, "But I only did it
because I could sell it and get da cure for you! I wasn't gonna use it!"
Again, Cybana blinked.
"So den," continued Cuni, "I overheawd dem, and
I knew I had to do da wight fing, you know? So I gave it back to dem, even dough
I felt weally bad dat I wouldn't be able to help you --"
The baby Uni's hoof felt around her neck until
it closed around an acorn-sized golden Snowbunny necklace piece that the older
Acara had presented her with in thanks.
"But now," she said, "I fink dose Acawas gave
it back to me!" Even as she said it, she felt a mixture of amazement and guilt.
"How could dey have done dat, dough!? I mean, I don't know -- dey wooked weally
poor, I didn't know, but why give it back? I weturned it to dem! Dey should
keep it, it's wightfully dares, isn't it?"
Cybana's head gave a jerk as she began gnawing
on the game piece which Cuni mistook for a nod.
"Wight! It's not mine! I just can't bewieve dey
gave it back! But den," she added as an afterthought, "what if dey didn't give
it back to me at all? What if it has nuffing to do wiff dem -- "
But she could think of no other possible reason
for a Royal Paint Brush to randomly appear on her doorstep in a paper bag. She
gave a defeated sort of sigh. "Yesh, I suppose it does haff to do wiff dem.
But I gotta give it back, den, wight? B-but..." her voice faltered as she abruptly
saw the difficulty in this. "I don't know where to find dem! Dey could be anywhere
-- I dunno where dey live, or -- "
She stopped speaking at once as Courtney's voice
rang in her ears, floating up from downstairs. "Cuni!" she called from what
sounded like the foot of the stairs. "Can you bring those clothes down here,
please? Xrai -- if you do that to Alec again I'll have to ground you -- Snickers,
come down here too, please!"
Cuni's felt her heart skip a beat as the skunk
Kougra emerged from the room he and Alec shared across the hall from where Cuni
sat. She stared at him, her eyes wide in fear. Without so much as a glance at
her, Snickers passed and thundered down the stairs with a heap of clothes piled
into his paws. Had he heard anything Cuni had said?
Leaving Cybana to chew on the game piece, Cuni
darted into her room and realized with a jolt of panic that she had not sorted
her clothes very well. Snatching up anything and everything that looked ugly
and throwing it into a large paper bag, Cuni zoomed around in the room in a
matter of seconds, reminding her irresistably of Sally from Usuki Frenzy.
Heaving the bag, Cuni scurried out of her bedroom
and nearly tripped in her haste to get downstairs. Dropping the bag so that
it slid the last few steps, Cuni took a great leap and landed next to it.
"Hello Cuni!" said Courtney brightly. She was
wearing a navy blue jacket, a hat, and gloves. Slung over her shoulder was a
sack of clothing, and in one hand she held the straps of two other bags tightly.
Xrai was at one end of the hall and Alec at the other, both glaring at each
other and shooting each other frequent nasty looks.
"Erm, Alec -- d'you think you could help me bring
these --?" asked Courtney rather awkwardly. Without taking his eyes off Xrai,
Alec folded his arms and nodded, and ugly look set on his face.
"Excellent," said Courtney briskly. "Here, you
take that one from Cuni -- there --"
Alec bounced towards Cuni, snatched the bag from
her and, grimacing, took a jacket from in one of Courtney's bags, looking outraged.
"I like this one!"
"Well, you never wear it," replied Courtney.
"Put it on, then; we'll be off. Xrai, you're in charge 'til we get back."
Xrai nodded and slipped into the kitchen. Alec
stuck his tongue out after her, put on the jacket and slid into his boots. Slinging
Cuni's bag over his shoulder, he yanked open the front door, stepped out onto
the doorstep into the howling wind and fierce snow that looked worthy of a blizzard
and trudged on. Snickers moved forward and closed the door behind them.
Snickers gave Cuni a nod and the Uni nervously
smiled; did he know?
Quietly, Snickers departed into the kitchen after
Cuni's blue eyes darted from the kitchen to the
closet. Now that Alec was gone, it seemed that less tension would be created
with Xrai, meaning Cuni had a better chance of snagging the Paint Brush. But
did she dare to do it while Snickers was right in the room next to her?
Noiselessly, Cuni placed a paw on the closet
door's handle. She heard Snickers open the fridge and leaned backward just a
bit so that she could see him bent double as he gazed at a carton of milk.
Seizing the opportunity, Cuni turned the knob
and the door swung open.
Her gaze dropped and Cuni let out an audible
gasp, clapping her hoof to her mouth.
The light above her flickered as Cuni's shoulders
sagged and her jaw dropped. She crouched down to examine the bottom of the closet,
hardly able to believe what she was seeing. The scene that met her eyes caused
her heart to plummet.
The pile of fallen jackets, coats, gloves and
scarves had gone. In its place was the carpeted floor. Cuni's eyes widened,
realizing what it meant. She wondered, dazed, between her panic and fear, what
a homeless pet would think when he took a jacket from Courtney, only to look
in one of its pockets or something and see a Royal Paint Brush...
To be continued...