The Family Reunion: Part Four
“For Parker,” Delilah repeated with a smile. “Come inside while I get us ready! We can leave before Skye comes home tonight and sees you.”
I didn’t feel terrible, surprisingly, about missing an opportunity to see Skye. Instead I began to brainstorm where Parker might’ve fled to. I didn’t have to think for long – all it took was one memory of Parker in his room to convince me of where he was.
I was about to say something when down the stairs of the mansion walked a Lupe. He had deep, chocolate colored fur and eyes that matched. He had an old-looking, leather-bound book in one hand and a laminated bookmark in the other. He paused on the stairs to study the scene below: a Xweetok chatting away while tossing things into a bag, and a Zafara standing uneasily nearby, with a beat-up backpack she’d had since Kindergarten on her shoulders. Delilah stopped talking and looked at him briefly.
“Oh, hey,” she said, returning to her packing. She began throwing a notepad and pencil into the duffle bag. “Can you go get a box of granola bars from the kitchen?”
“Where’re you going?” the Lupe asked instead of complying.
“Camping,” replied Delilah absently.
“Without Skye’s permission?” the Lupe asked warily with a raise of his eyebrows. “And who’s this?”
He gestured to me and I looked at the floor.
“Uh, um, my friend,” said Delilah.
“I’ve never seen her.” The Lupe shook his head. “Who is she really, Delilah?”
Delilah groaned and stopped packing. “Are you gonna get the granola now?”
“No,” the Lupe said. “Not until you tell me who this is and where you’re going--” Delilah opened her mouth to reply that they were camping, when the Lupe interjected, “—because it’s definitely not a campground.”
Delilah looked at him for a while. At last, she said with a sigh, “Do you remember that list I found in that heap of papers Skye dropped a couple weeks ago?”
“The list of old accounts?” The Lupe nodded, and continued, “Yeah, you showed it to me. And then Skye said how she’d left them all and you made her write all those Valentine’s letters.”
“Exactly,” Delilah said. “Well... meet Dolceannia Tyler.”
There was a dead silence which I hated. I shifted my backpack higher on my shoulders and felt sweat beading on my forehead, unable to decide what the Lupe’s reaction might be. The Lupe looked from me to Delilah several times before managing to say, “Tyler? She’s one of the Tylers?”
Delilah nodded. “She’s the second Tyler. She followed the return address on the Valentine’s envelope all the way here.”
“Whoa.” The Lupe was shocked, to say the least. “Uh, nice to meet you.” He turned to Delilah. “I guess technically she’s my little sister, right?”
“Not even technically,” Delilah laughed. “Directly.”
“Little sister?” I asked with round, shocked eyes as I looked at Delilah.
“Yep,” the Xweetok said. “Dolce, this is Pablo, my older brother.”
Pablo and Delilah. The first thing that came to mind was not a comforting thought. P for Pablo – but also for Parker. And D for Delilah – but also for Dolceannia. Had Skye replaced us? It didn’t seem far-fetched, but I said nothing of it to Delilah or her – our – brother.
“So,” Pablo said. “Let me get this straight, Lilah: You claim to be going camping with one of our long-lost siblings?”
Delilah, I could tell, was blushing under her plum-shaded fur. “W-well, no...” she said with a nervous laugh. “See, her brother Parker was really mad at Skye for leaving them, so... Dolce, can I show him the letter? I understand if you don’t want me to.”
“No, it’s okay,” I assured her, finding the photo album in my backpack again. “Uh, here.”
I handed Pablo the album and he grimaced as he read it. “Skye’s so shallow,” he said. “How could she let that happen? And you’ve been alone for two years?”
“Yeah,” I said, for some reason ashamed of my past in the midst of these pets, even though it wasn’t my fault I’d been alone. “But Delilah says we should go look for him.”
“It’s a good idea,” Pablo said. “It’s a problem that needs to be fixed. That’s what you’re packing for, I take it.”
“Uh-huh,” said Delilah. “Can you tell Skye I went camping for a few days with Lula and Sophie – pretty, pretty please with Juppies on top?”
“Fine,” Pablo sighed. “But don’t be gone for too long, or she’s going to start wondering about you. Where are you headed?”
“Hey, Dolce.” Delilah looked at me. “Where are we going, anyway?”
“Mystery Island,” I replied. “Parker loved Mystery Island. His whole room was island-themed and he had this huge collection of Tiki Tack souvenirs he’d asked friends to buy for him on vacation. Skye always promised she’d take him there, but she left before she ever did. If there was any place in Neopia he’d run to, it’d be there. My best guess is that he’d either try to get a job helping the Tiki Tombola Man or the Cooking Pot Faerie, Jhuidah.”
“Mystery Island it is, then!” Delilah announced. “I’ve always wanted to go there myself. We’ll be back in... uh... how’s three days, Dolce?”
“Three days sounds good,” I agreed. “We can easily find him in that time, if he’s there.”
“Okay, Pablo, so we’ll be gone for three days,” Delilah told her brother. “...Pablo? What’re you doing?”
The Lupe was flipping through the album and glancing with unbelieving eyes at the pictures. He shook his head slowly, eyes glued to the pages, and he whispered under his breath, “Birthday parties, picnics, trips to the park, game nights, and she leaves just like that? ...Dear Fyora, what has she done?”
I swallowed a lump in my throat and said to Delilah, “So... should we finish packing?”
“Sure,” Delilah said. “Let’s head to the kitchen. We’ll need to pack some food and water. Oh yeah, and we’ll need an Eyrie cab! I’d suggest we take a flying ship, but those take forever to reserve.”
“I know just the Eyrie to take us.” I smiled. “He said he was visiting a friend at the Lunar Temple. Where is that, exactly?”
“It’s the big building on top of the tallest hill,” Delilah said. “So let’s head there right after we’re packed.”
I helped Delilah throw some food into a duffle bag – a box of crackers, bottles of water, a few oranges, an Azzle or two, a few sandwiches apiece, and, of course, the new box of granola bars. Delilah changed into some casual clothes and threw a change of outfits for both of us into the duffle bag, just incase one of us decided to slip and fall into a mud puddle or something. We were all ready to go find Parker – and I hadn’t even gotten to Shenkuu two hours ago.
“Back so soon, Dolce?” Bernard grinned as we entered the magnificent Lunar Temple. An old Gnorbu with a cane pointed to a large chart on the wall. It was covered with pictures of Kreludor in different stages – crescent, half, quarter, full, and every position in between.
“Would you like to take the temple quiz?” asked the Gnorbu automatically. “You could win a fabulous prize! – Oh, hello, Delilah! How is Skye?”
“She’s busy as ever,” sighed Delilah. “She’s always at the shop – never seems to have time for us.”
“Tsk, tsk.” The Gnorbu shook his head distastefully. “That young whippersnapper has got to get her priorities in line.”
Wow. I had no idea that old people actually USED the word “whippersnapper” until then. I mean, in all those stories in the Neopian Times and in books, they said that, but I thought it was just a stereotypical old person thing.
“Mr. Janju, please.” Bernard took over. “They aren’t here for the Lunar Quiz. At least, I don’t think they are. I gave this young Zafara a ride here this morning. Mr. Janju, Dolceannia. Dolceannia, Mr. Janju. This is the friend I was going to see.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking Mr. Janju’s wrinkled hand.
“So, have you found your owner?” Bernard asked. “What did you say her name was? Wait, was it Skye? Mr. Janju, were you just talking with this Xweetok about somebody named that?”
“Yes,” Mr. Janju replied, obviously puzzled. “What’s this Dolce-annie-doo-dee-da... uh...”
“Dolceannia,” Bernard corrected.
“Right! Dolceannia,” the Gnorbu laughed. “Anyway, what does she have to do with Miss Tyler? I’m very confused.”
“So am I,” admitted Bernard. “What’s going on?”
“Mr. Janju, I’m from Neopia Central,” I said firmly. “And I’m Skye Tyler’s second-ever pet on her first-ever account. She left it years ago and I came here to find her. Bernard, this is my sister, Delilah. She and her brother are Skye’s nineteenth and twentieth pets, living here with her in Shenkuu.”
The Eyrie and Gnorbu were silent for a moment as they processed the information.
“Dolce,” Bernard said at last. “I’m so sorry. Nineteenth and twentieth pets? How many accounts is that after she left you?”
“Seven,” I replied. “Altogether, she’s had eight accounts and twenty pets. I told you about Parker, my brother, right, Bernard?”
“Yeah.” Bernard nodded. “Sad story.”
“Well, we’re gonna go find him,” Delilah chimed. “And we’re almost positive he’s on Mystery Island.”
“Hang on,” Bernard said, a smile spreading. “I sense a field trip, am I right?”
Delilah and I looked at each other.
“Exactly,” I said.
To be continued...