Little Shoyru Homeward Bound: Part Two
Danby remained upstairs for almost an hour, and when he finally returned and ambled into the kitchen where I was preparing lunch, I noticed him hauling his blue Jeran backpack behind him, and it was evidently as full as it could get with his possessions.
“What are you doing, little one?” I asked, scooping jam onto the blueberry jam sandwiches I was preparing.
Danby sighed heavily. “I-I'm goin' to find Mama,” he said a little sadly. “I-I hafta find her.”
I sighed sadly. I had heard about the reenactment games traumatised children sometimes played, and knew it was all part of the healing process. As long as it didn't go on for so long that it became detrimental, I figured it would just be better to let him get on with it.
“Alright, little one, you go find her if that's what you need. Why don't you at least have lunch with us first, though?” I said, carrying the plates to the table.
Danby appeared to consider this carefully, then finally assented. “Okay,” he said quietly, depositing his backpack on the floor by his chair and clambering up to sit at the table.
I called my other three into the kitchen, and they scrambled in from the nursery.
Shasta and Lucy, I noted with some amusement, were still wearing the pillows I had tied to their heads earlier that morning.
“Why are you two still wearing those?” I asked as I passed the kids' bottles around.
Lucy smiled. “We found out they help us stand on our heads!”
Shasta interjected, “Yeah, they make it so you don't fall over! Plus...” He dropped his gaze and grinned a little sheepishly, “We can't get 'em off.”
I laughed as I untied them and deposited the makeshift helmets by my chair. “You guys are too cute.” I smiled, sipping at my Borovan.
Lucy smiled sweetly. “We know,” she said matter-of-factly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
After lunch, Lucy, Shasta, and Tyto scampered off into the nursery to resume their games, but Danby slid off his chair, hoisted the enormous backpack onto his shoulders, and made his way over to me, trying not to fall over with the weight of the bag.
“Well, Papa,” he sighed, “this is it, I'm goin' now. C-can I have a bottle for the road?”
I smiled and opened the refrigerator door. “Sure, little one, what would you like?”
Danby squirmed in front of me and studied his choices for a minute. “Apple juice,” he said finally.
“Coming right up,” I said, pulling the jug from the shelf as I simultaneously fished around in the adjacent cupboard for a Bruce bottle to fill.
“You can do it yourself this time, right, little one?” I asked softly as I crouched down and handed it to him.
Danby nodded silently and reached out to hug me. I reciprocated his embrace and sighed; I hated seeing him so sad.
With that, my little Shoyru adjusted the straps on his backpack, picked up his bottle, and walked off, leaving me to make my usual racket washing the dishes.
Once I was done clanging, splashing, and humming badly in the kitchen, I stepped into the nursery to check on my kids. As I passed through the front hall however, I noticed something odd. The fern that usually sat on a round wooden end table in the corner next to the front door had been knocked off, and the soil now lay strewn about the floor.
The more disconcerting thing, however, was the fact that the table that used to hold the plant had been pushed in front of the door, as if somebody had used it to climb up and reach the door handle.
As I reached for my blue broom in the hall closet, I called to my kids in the next room, “You guys need to be more careful! I told you before not to play on the furniture; it's dangerous and you could get hurt!”
Shasta poked his head in and surveyed the mess. “Wasn't us,” he said simply.
I sighed. “Well, it had to be one of you; the fern didn't knock itself over, did it?”
Shasta shrugged. “I dunno, I guess not, but it wasn't us. Me an' Lucy have been playin' Moon Walking on Kreludor the whole time, an' Tyto's just been playin' with 'is blocks, same as always.”
“What about Danby? Wasn't he playing in there with you too?” I asked, suddenly getting an uneasy feeling.
Shasta chuckled and looked at me like I'd lost my marbles. “Papa, Danby's in the kitchen with you, 'member?”
My blood ran cold. I stammered, “Y-you mean he's not in the nursery with you?”
Shasta shook his head.
I ran through the room and up the stairs calling his name, “Danby? Danby where are you?!” Racing down the hall, I threw open all the bedroom doors one by one. “Danby? DANBY!!”
My heart raced and I could hear the blood rushing through my ears. I'd lost my son. I'd lost my baby. What if I never saw him again? What if he got mistaken for a petpet, kidnapped, and fed to the Snowbeast by those crazy villagers on Terror Mountain? No, no, I couldn't think like that. He couldn't have gone far. Where would he go?
Then I remembered; Mama. He was looking for his mama.
I ran downstairs again and threw my jacket on before I realised I had no idea where he would go to find her. If I were a baby, where would I go to find something? How on earth would I know that? I had to enlist some help.
Rounding my kids up, I sat on the sofa, and, remaining as calm as I could, lest I scare them, I asked, “Where would you go if you wanted to find something, or, you know, somebody?” I asked.
Shasta, Lucy, and Tyto all looked at one another, as if they couldn't believe I'd asked such a stupid question.
Lucy shrugged. “The Shop Wizard. He can find anything,” she said simply.
The Shop Wizard, of course! Quick as I could, I scooped up my kids and bolted out the door.
“Papa, where are we going?” Tyto asked, clinging to my shirt for fear of being dropped.
“To the Shop Wizard, I think he might have seen Danby!” I said, not slowing my pace.
Finally we reached the centre of town, and the hat-shaped starry building came into view. I ran down the grimy cobblestone path and rammed into the red triangular swinging doors, collapsing at the front desk with my kids still in my arms.
The Shop Wizard, who had a moment ago been poring over a mountain of paper and muttering to himself incoherently, peered up at me, adjusting his wide brimmed pointed hat with a large orange foot as he did so. “Good afternoon, sir,” he said cordially. “Can I help you find something today? Oh, but first I must ask, do you have any quests from the faeries? Because I'm not allowed to help you if you do.”
“No!” I snapped. “I'm not helping the faeries. I need to know, did a baby Shoyru come in here earlier? He would have been wearing a blue Jeran backpack and looking for his mother.”
The Shop Wizard pondered this for a moment, scowling thoughtfully. Finally he looked up and smiled brightly. “As a matter of fact he did. Not twenty minutes ago. He came in here and told me he was looking for his mother and asked if I could find her. Naturally I told him that I only found items, not people, but then I asked if he was lost, and he said no.”
“So? What did you tell him?” I demanded, receiving a swift elbow to the arm as I tightened my grip on the kids.
The Shop Wizard shrugged. “I told him to go to the Neopian Pound, that he'd find a nice mother or father to look after him there.”
I stared, speechless and horrified, for about five seconds before finding my voice. “You-you WHAT?!” I shouted.
I didn't bother waiting for a reply as I wheeled around and took off full sprint towards the pound. As I ran, I couldn't help but imagine the worst, that he'd been adopted and I was too late.
Finally I burst in through the front door and screeched to a stop in front of the pink Uni at the front desk. “Did you just admit a baby Shoyru?” I panted breathlessly.
The Uni, surprised by my explosive entrance, stared at me a moment. “I-I'm sorry?” She asked.
“A Shoyru, a baby Shoyru, did you just admit one?” I demanded, my grip on the kids becoming uncomfortably tight again.
The Uni came around the front of the desk and edged past me nervously, “Y-yes, just a few moments ago, why, are you looking for one?”
“Yes! He's my son! He got lost and I need to bring him home!” I said, irritated beyond all measure at her lack of urgency.
“Very well then, follow me,” she said as she led me past the rows of cages.
I tried not to look at all the miserable hungry pets huddled in the corners of their cages as I walked down the dark, dank stone hallway, but it was hard. I felt like I just wanted to take them all home and feed them.
Finally the Uni stopped in front of a cage door near the end of the hall, and I peered inside.
In the corner, wrapped in a dirty blanket, sat a tiny, shivering form with its back to the door.
“Danby?” I murmured.
Hearing my voice, the tiny form turned around, and, upon seeing me, a tiny Shoyru, stripped of his onesie, rushed towards the cage door and thrust his tiny arm through. “Papa!” he cried.
Putting Lucy, Shasta, and Tyto down, I took his paw and squeezed it. “It's him,” I told the Uni. “It's my Danby.”
She unlocked the door and Danby leapt into my arms. His brothers and sister smothered him from all sides and I found myself in tears as I held him tight, determined never to let him go. “Danby,” I sobbed, “What were you thinking? Don't you ever do that again, you hear me? Don't you ever! I don't know what I'd do if I lost you. You are everything to me, little one, you and your siblings. If I ever lost one of you, I wouldn't survive. I love you, Danby, I love you more than anything, and you can't just go running off like that because what if I'd been too late? What if somebody else came and took you away and I never...” I trailed off, unable to finish as the sobs wracked me.
“I'm sorry, Papa,” Danby cried, his voice muffled as I pressed his head into my shirt. “I'm sorry, Papa, I won't never run away again. I just wanted to find my home, an' I di'n't realise I was there the whole time. I changed my mind; I don't wanna live with some old lady who don't really want me. I wanna stay here with you an' Shasta an' Lucy an' Tyto.”
He didn't stop crying, not even when I reined in my emotion and composed myself enough to walk up to the front desk and pay his adoption fees.
It wasn't customary for an abandoned pet to have his confiscated items returned to him upon adoption, but since Danby had only been there such a short time, and since we were so obviously his original family, the pink Uni relented, and handed back his clothes, his backpack, and his bottle.
I accepted them as graciously as I could, trying to forget the fact that I'd just spent the past twenty minutes sitting in the middle of the floor and sobbing my eyes out in front of her, then hoisted Tyto into my Shoyru-free arm, and herded Lucy and Shasta out the door.
Danby refused to leave my side that night, and so we spent the evening reading stories as he nestled into my lap.
Around about the sixth one, I happened to glance at my watch, and saw that it was almost time for bed.
Putting the book down, I picked up Danby, who was dozing in my arms, and prepared to carry him upstairs.
As I shifted him to my shoulder and prepared to carry him upstairs before returning to attempt to coax Tyto to put his blocks away, I heard Danby sigh.
Slowly, he wrapped his arms around my neck and murmured, “Thanks for bringin' me home, Papa.”