Hatred Because Of Love: Deyna's Story - Part Four
“Shadowtail?” I whispered through the open window, and silently slid into his room. I frowned and cast a glance around the dark room, looking for the blue Xweetok teenager. Where was he? I looked at the bed that sat in the right corner of the room from where I stood. Empty and neatly made. I padded over to it, wondering where my best friend could be. As I stopped in front of the bed, a neopet pounced on me with a playful growl and promptly knocked me over. “Wha—?!” I yelped and hit the floor with a heavy weight on my back. I heard a soft laughing in my ear.
“Shadowtail!” I hissed. “Do not just jump on me like that!” I flipped over and shoved off the Xweetok. He was still trying not to laugh loudly as he got up and helped me up. “Your so-called excellent hearing doesn’t work with me, eh?” He grinned.
“Very funny,” I grumbled. “Hey...” I said, looking at Shadowtail. “You’re not blue!” The shadow Xweetok smiled at me cheekily. “I told you I’d be a shadow Xweetok some day. My name match better now, Deyn?”
“Yeah, guess so.” I patted him on the shoulder. “Congrats on the color! So how was Krawk Island?”
“Awesome.” He grinned. “My younger brother and sister liked it as much as I did. You know how Redstrike is. He loves adventure, even if it IS on a vacation. Heck, I was surprised Jenara had fun! I thought she was too girly to have fun on a piratey kind of island...”
“Piratey? Does that even count as a word?” I laughed.
Even though I myself was a few inches taller than Shadowtail, he somehow still gave the appearance of being a tall Xweetok. Come to think of it, he probably was a tall Xweetok, I just never noticed it being near my owner’s height. Shadowtail had been my best friend since I was ten years old. He was a year older than me (as in he was created as a seven year-old the year before I was created), but I skipped a grade like my older sister had (although she did it ‘cause she was so smart) so I could be in the same class as him. He was very optimistic, very sincere, and could be crazy fun. Shadowtail and I were nearly inseparable, and he was one of the few neopets who called me “Deyn” for short.
“So,” started Shadowtail as he sat down on his bed, “what was it that you wanted to talk about?”
“Oh, that,” I said glumly, and flumped down beside him. “One of the biggest problems I’ve ever had.”
Shadowtail frowned quizzically at me. “Well, then what is it?”
I looked at him, mildly surprised. “You mean you haven’t heard it from Raventail?”
“In case you forgot, she’s Jenara’s bestie, not mine. What is it anyway?”
“Brightmask created a new neopet.” I sighed. “A blue Xweetok girl, around ten years old, and her name is Xena_Alinae.”
Shadowtail’s blue eyes widened in surprise. “She wouldn’t.”
“She did,” I replied flatly. The two of us sat in silence for a moment. Then Shadowtail spoke up.
“Well,” he said cautiously, “how do you feel about her joining the family?”
“I absolutely hate it! How dare my mom create a new neopet in place of Xena? And with practically the same name! How can that little pipsqueak just move in and take Xena’s place?” I said furiously.
“Shh, keep your voice down, Deyn.” Shadowtail cast a quick glance at the door.
I lowered my voice. “It’s like my owner is trying to make an exact copy of Xena, except for the fact the kid’s younger and looks only slightly different. She’s wrecking everything! I hate her so much I never call her by her name, and heck, I am certainly not nice to the little brat and I don’t want to be nice either. But Seamus and Raven are okay with her. I mean, how can they? Am I the only one who misses Xena?”
“Of course you’re not the only one who misses her!” whispered Shadowtail. “Maybe others are just better at hiding it. After all, it’s been a year and a half, Deyna...” Shadowtail must have noticed me tense up, because he continued talking.
“Okay, okay, look. I’m not saying that you should forget about your sister or say ‘Oh well, that’s the way things go.’ I mean, look at it this way.” He shifted his position and crossed his legs. “So, you don’t know what happened to Xena. That’s obvious enough, but that’s the point. You don’t know. True, something really bad could’ve happened, BUT, there is still the possibility that she’s okay. And for all you know, she could be even more than okay. Don’t automatically assume that she’s really gone or whatever until you actually KNOW. And it might be a long time before you know. But you shouldn’t be so negative about it.”
He was silent for a moment as I contemplated what he said. “Anyway, enough about the past,” said Shadowtail. “What about this new Xweetok girl? What’s she actually like? She can’t be all that bad if she’s anything like the rest of your family.”
“She—” I halted confusedly, trying to recall anything really negative about her. As far as I could tell, she’d been a happy little ball of sunshine around the house over the past three weeks.
“Well?” asked Shadowtail, swishing his dark tail.
“I don’t know, nothing really... But she’s scared of me...” I said uncertainly, as if I was wondering if that could be considered as something wrong with her.
Shadowtail turned to look at me. “Okay, let’s see.” He held up one finger from his right paw. “You hate the ‘little pipsqueak...’” He lifted a second finger. “...You are ‘certainly not nice’ to her...” Third finger. “...She’s done ‘nothing really...’” He dropped his paw. “...and it’s a shocker that she’s scared of you?”
I dropped my gaze sullenly. “I guess not...” I mumbled.
Shadowtail shook his head slowly at me. “I’m sorry to break it to you, Deyna, but it looks to me that the kid hasn’t done anything and you’re the one with the problem.” Shadowtail walked past me over to a wooden bookcase next to his door, and pulled out a blue hardcover. His back to me, he carefully opened it and flipped the pages for a moment and then stopped. Curious, I tried to look over his shoulder to see what was on that page, but he shut it with a small thud before I could see properly. The shadow Xweetok stood there in silence. A dark silhouette in a dark room. Taking this as a dismissal, I got up from my seat and slowly padded over to the window. Moonlight glowed on my fur, and cast my misshapen shadow on the floor of Shadowtail’s room. I paused as I crouched on the edge.
“If it’s anything to you, Deyna,” said Shadowtail quietly from where he stood, “I know how having a loved one disappear feels too, and I’ve never really gotten over it.”
I waited for a few moments on the windowsill in a hushed silence and I knew he wasn’t going to tell me anymore. “See you later?” I asked tentatively.
The shadow Xweetok nodded, not moving from where he was. “Yeah. See you.”
I turned on my spot, and faced the outside. I estimated the distance to the tree branch. Taking a deep breath, I leapt out toward it.
I didn’t get back home till 1:30 AM. The meeting with Shadowtail had taken the energy out of me, so I walked home instead of running. Thoughts cluttered my head. The most curious were about Shadowtail’s words of losing someone he cared about. As far as I knew, his family had never been struck by some kind of tragedy. I remembered other words of his, ‘Maybe others are just better at hiding it...’ He might’ve been good at hiding how he was feeling whenever he lost whomever it was that he cared about. He never told me about anything like that, though, which I found really odd. Was it a family member he lost? A friend before I met him? Who was it that he had lost?
Of course, no one noticed I had gone. The only thing that my mom might have been suspicious about was my absence at breakfast. But I doubted it because it wasn’t unusual for me to sleep in now and then.
It was about 4:00 PM when a knock came on my door and Brightmask poked her head inside. “Are you feeling all right, Deyna?” she asked.
I grumpily replied, “What do YOU think?”
She gave me a slight frown. “You’re looking tired, that’s all.”
“I just didn’t fall asleep till late, Mom. That’s all.” I yawned and rolled over onto my stomach.
“Okay, as long as you’re not feeling sick. Anyway, I’m going to be out a couple of hours, so I’m just letting you know.”
“Gotcha.” I nodded and dropped my head onto my pillow. I lay still until I heard her go downstairs and close the front door as she left the house. Stretching my limbs tiredly, I sat up and stared out the window. Over at the edge of the forest, I could see two figures. Looking closer, I saw a blue Lupe sitting against a tree with a puppyblew in his lap, while a smaller neopet sat next to him. Hmm... Seamus and the Xweetok girl.
I sighed, feeling frustrated, and flopped back onto my bed. Why was it everybody else sided with her? Even my best friend was on her side! Didn’t anyone see her the way I did? I shut my eyes, and drifted off into a doze, vaguely wondering where my anubis was.
I came up out of my nap when I heard a soft knocking on my door. “Will anybody just leave me alone?!” I shouted angrily. Agitated, I got up and opened the door to see the blue Xweetok girl holding my anubis. “What do you want?” I snapped at her.
The small Xweetok looked up at me, frightened, and seemed to lose her voice for a moment. “I—I—Jabor was all muddy, so I washed him and thought I should give him back to you.” The kid held up the anubis to me.
I glared at her, wondering why she had to be so helpful when I was doing all I could to ignore her. I picked up Jabor and said roughly to her, “Whatever, kid.” I shut the door and stomped over to the petpet bed, promptly dumping Jabor into it.
I stood still for a moment, and heard the kid’s small hindpaws quickly patter away, shortly followed by the thud of a closed door. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard a faint sobbing. My anubis looked at me indignantly from his bed and gave a small bark.
“What? Don’t tell me you’re on her side too,” I grumbled at the petpet. All the same, I felt a small wave of guilt wash over me. I didn’t know that I’d hurt her that bad.
I slowly walked over to my bed and started making it up. I brushed the wrinkles out of the blanket and fluffed up my pillow, sorting out my thoughts. Suddenly, I was feeling different. The muffled sound of her crying had woken up something I hadn’t felt in a long time. It wasn’t exactly pity, nor was it the feeling of guilt that had come over me. It was something that I couldn’t exactly identify. I walked over to my desk and pulled out the chair. As I sat down, I noticed I didn’t feel angry anymore. Through the wall, I heard the sobs subside into a soft snuffling. I had sudden urge to hold her and comfort her, telling her that everything was all right. I realized it was exactly what Xena would have done. I knew it was the right thing to do too, but I didn’t have the guts to get up and do it.
I wasn’t entirely sure why I had this urge pop up out of nowhere. Maybe it was because hearing her crying made me feel more that she was a being who was her own self. She could feel sorrow like any other person. She was just this innocent little girl who was connected with a complicated family history that was unknown to her.
I thought of the conversation I had with Brightmask, and the other conversations I had with Seamus, Raventail and Shadowtail, and I remembered pieces of what they each said to me.
“I got her not as a replacement, but because this family was broken. And a new pet, a bright little light untouched by tragedy and loss, was what I believed could heal all of us.” Brightmask’s words echoed in my mind.
Then I remembered what Raventail said. “Just because she looks like the other Xena doesn’t make it her fault. Also, what does it really matter that she has the same name? Mom gave her that name out of respect and memory.”
“You were someone I looked up to, and everything I wanted to be. Now it’s like you’re a totally different person! You call Xena_Alinae an outsider, but if anyone isn’t a part of this family, it’s you!” Seamus’ accusation hurt, and now I could see that he was right too.
Last, I remembered Shadowtail’s words. “I’m sorry to break it to you, Deyna, but it looks to me that the girl hasn’t done anything and you’re the one with the problem.”
All of them were right. Brightmask, Raventail, Seamus, and Shadowtail.
I didn’t know how long I sat like that, maybe for an hour. All I knew was that eventually I left my room and headed downstairs to see Brightmask and Seamus getting ready to go out.
“Seamus and I are going over to Swiftriver’s house for the evening,” stated Brightmask, who was trying to put a jacket on my brother.
“Mom, I’m fine, I’m not going to be cold,” he grumbled as he ducked the jacket.
“What time is it anyway?” I frowned quizzically.
“6:30. Oh, and Deyna? Could you keep an eye on Xena for me? She was asleep when I last checked on her.”
“Yeah, sure, Mom. I will,” I replied.
Brightmask looked at me, surprised by my cooperativeness. “Well, if you’re sure you don’t want me to stay home...”
“Mom,” I smiled, “I’m fifteen. I can take care of myself and baby-sit at the same time you know.”
“Great then!” She grinned and walked out of the door. Seamus stopped at the doorway, jacket on, and gave me a curious look. Then he turned and left, closing the door behind him.
I padded silently up the staircase, pausing at the top to glance at the end of the hallway, where Raventail’s and the Xweetok girl’s bedroom door was. It was closed. As I went to open my door, I could hear a soft breathing in the next room. She was asleep, that was for certain. Unlike me, who’d be closing my door more often to sulk. I went into my room, and for once, I left the door open.
It was around 7:00 PM when I was sitting at my desk, once again. I held the framed photo of my older sister and I on her twelfth birthday and gazed at it with sad longing. I probably would never stop missing her. My ears pricked as I heard soft pawsteps approach me from behind, but I continued staring at the photo.
“Deyna?” I heard the Xweetok ask in a small voice. I turned my face to look at the little girl, who was standing uncertainly next to my chair. I felt my heart soften. She was so innocent. And all this time I had kept looking at her as an enemy. I saw her blue eyes move toward the photo in my paws, and she stepped closer to look at it.
“Is that you?” she asked, tilting her head curiously as she saw the green Xweetok in the photo.
“Yeah, that’s me,” I replied in a soft voice. Even more so with the kid next to me I could see how much she looked like my older sister. Then again, OUR older sister. She gave a small gasp as her eyes fell on the image of Xena.
“That,” I told her, “is my older sister, Xena.”
“What happened to her?” she asked me. She almost sounded the same as Xena had when she was ten.
I took a breath, and started telling her. “A year and a half ago, she got a scholarship to go on this trip to Mystery Island. Somehow, she and the other pets that got the scholarship got kidnapped on an expedition through one of the jungles. We tried to find her, and tried and tried again. No one knows where they are, or even if they’re still...” My voice drained for a moment. I couldn’t bring myself to say the word ‘alive.’
“I’m still trying to find her,” I continued. “She may have been taken off the island after all. But I felt like Brightmask bringing in a new pet was her acceptance of Xena being gone. Especially since she made you the same color and species, and gave you the same first name.”
I looked at my little sister and saw her blue eyes widen at this story of the disappearance of the sibling she never knew. I spoke again. “I hated you because I loved her. She was one of my best friends, and my sister. In fact, I still love her and she is still my sister and my best friend. She’s just not here...”
I reached down and picked up the small blue Xweetok, and sat her on the edge of my desk. Close up, I noticed her height only would’ve reached up to my thigh. She was really tiny. Either that, or I was just really tall. Come to think of it, it may have been both. I stroked her blue stripe on her forehead as I talked to her, “You know, you really do look a lot like her. And you are like her too. You try to do good things, help other people, try to learn, many things you have are similar to hers. I think Jabor likes you so much because you’re a lot like her.” The kid looked up at me with an odd expression as understanding dawned on her face. I smiled at her.
“You’re even starting to pick up that lemon blossom scent that she liked to wear. I heard you ask Raventail about those books. Books were the kind of thing that caught her attention too. And yes, those were all Xena’s,” I explained to her.
I could see the surprise in her eyes, not unlike the expression Xena had when she read the letter... I missed seeing that look. To think she was gone all because of that stupid letter. Xena would’ve been home with us if she hadn’t won the scholarship. If I knew her, she might’ve been reading a new book.
I looked at my little sister. But when I looked at her now, I thought of her for who she was, and for what things she had done. She was cheerful and friendly, like when she first came home. She was playful and active, like when she played adventure games with Raventail. And she was helpful and sweet, like when she was assisting Seamus with the muffins. I felt another splash of guilt as I remembered slamming the door in her face after she gave Jabor back to me.
If Xena hadn’t disappeared, I wouldn’t have this little Xweetok as a sister. It was somewhat difficult to imagine what things would have been like if Xena never disappeared and if this little girl had never existed. I couldn’t pick which I would have preferred. My older sister, safe at home, or what the way things were turning out. I blinked my eyes. I was glad that I never had to make that decision.
“I’m guessing lavender was her favorite color?” My little sister smiled up at me in an adorable way. So she noticed Xena’s stuff. Observant little thing, I thought to myself.
I laughed. “You got that right.” But then I sighed sadly. “I’m never going to forget her. And I’m sorry for the way I treated you.” I recalled Seamus’ words; she should know once she’s been forgiven for doing nothing wrong. My brother was right. It wasn’t she that had done any wrong. I was the one who needed forgiveness. “Can you forgive me? Can we start over?” I asked her.
She answered as if it were the most natural question in the world, “Of course.” I smiled and hugged my sister.
“Thank you, Xena_Alinae.”
I was crunching my way through the snow over to Swiftriver’s house while a little striped Xweetok was riding on my shoulders. She was bundled up in clothing, wearing a blue turtleneck jumper, dark red holiday skirt, brown winter scarf, and black wellington boots. The cold affected the small neopet I was carrying more than it affected me.
“So Seamus and Raventail are already at Swiftriver’s house with Mom and the rest?” asked the striped Xweetok.
“Yup,” I replied, “You looked so tired out that we thought we’d let you sleep in this morning. So I offered to take you myself when you woke up.”
“I wasn’t that tired.” A yawn followed the striped Xweetok’s statement, contradicting her words.
“Hey, today’s December 2nd. Know what day that is?” I cheerfully asked the striped Xweetok as we passed several neohomes.
“Xena One’s birthday?” she asked. Xena One was what the little Xweetok said when she referred to our older sister.
“That’s right, sis.” I smiled.
“Deyna?” asked Xena from her high seat.
“Mm?” I said.
“I know this question looks like it’s coming out of nowhere, but how did you guys exactly find out that Xena One and the other neopets were kidnapped on a jungle expedition?”
“We didn’t find out. In fact, we never found out much of anything at all,” I replied.
“But you said they were kidnapped!” said Xena confusedly.
“And I said that because that’s what I believe happened,” I told her. “But everyone else thought it was a crazy idea. Do you?”
I felt Xena_Alinae nuzzle her face into my fur. “I don’t think any of your ideas are crazy,” came a muffled reply. I felt warmth spread through me. She was such a sweet sister, I could hardly believe I ever hated her.
“I wish I could’ve known Xena One,” came a small little sigh from the striped Xweetok.
“You know what, kid?” I no longer said ‘kid’ with contempt like I did when she first came home. Now it was just a fond nickname for my little sister.
“Xena One actually had a favorite name that she sometimes wished was hers. And it’s a bit confusing using her name since you have the same one.”
“Why would she want a different name? I like Xena,” she said slightly defensively.
I grinned at my little sister. “She didn’t mind her name; she just had a certain liking for another one. I sometimes used it as a nickname for her. She didn’t tell anyone else but me, but I think I can trust you with it. So if you’d like, we could refer to her with that name, and you with your own.” I lifted the striped Xweetok of my shoulders and put her down on the sidewalk as we stopped at the bottom of a small hill, on top of which sat a neohome. Two neopets sat on the porch of the neohome; one a baby Lupe boy and the other a cloud Xweetok girl.
“Hey, Skyfur, Aila!” I waved at Swiftriver’s two youngest neopets. Aila, the cloud Xweetok, waved excitedly to the two of us. The baby Lupe grinned and quickly ran inside, hollering, “Sunray! Tangaloor! Seamus! Raven Mad!”
“Quit calling me Raven Mad!” I heard my Kougra sister yell back from inside the house.
“Whatever your name is, Deyna and Xena are here!”
I reached down and took Xena_Alinae’s small paw in my own as we continued walking up the hill to the house. “So what do you say?” I asked her. “Think I can trust you with our sister’s other name? Just between you and me?”
Xena smiled her sweet smile at me, and nodded. I bent down on my knee and whispered it into her ear.