Purple and Orange
Pecka was lonely. And while this wasn’t an unusual experience, the fact that it was raining did not help.
Everybody was gone. Fingal, her Pirate Lutari brother who read her stories when she was sad or bored, had left for the Altadorian Archives. He was the old Archivist’s apprentice, and was usually in and out of the house all week. Maily was gone at her bakery- it was small and quaint, and Pecka loved it just as much as the Altadorian locals, but she didn’t like that it kept her Plushie Aisha sister away from home for long hours at a time.
Rai, a Christmas Kougra, was delivering something for Taelia- she was the Snow Faerie’s personal messenger, and had left early that morning. She usually disdained to play with Pecka, but the Fire Xweetok was as fond of her as she was any of her siblings, and always thought the house was quiet without her Twisted Roses music blaring through the hallways.
Blue had gone to Shenkuu with Lark. The Aisha wasn’t often away, but their owner had needed to make a visit to the boarders’ house- a small, Shenkuuvian neohome that she rented out to Errowynn, a beautiful and gentle Faerie Eyrie. There was room for four pets there, but only Wynn had moved in thus far. Pecka knew that the two would probably be gone for a week or two at least- it wasn’t a long way to Shenkuu, but when Lark made the occasional visits, she usually ended up staying for long periods of time so she could take care of everything she needed to.
Pecka missed them dearly. Not even Jai, her last sister, was home. She was with Maily at the bakery because the Plushie Aisha had asked her to come along- she had said it was going to be a busy day, and she needed an extra pair of paws (or hooves, since Jai was a Faerie Peophin).
With a melancholy sigh, Pecka shifted on the window sill, watching the rain trace its way down the glass. She couldn’t even go outside and enjoy the fresh air.
“What’s the problem, squirt?”
Well, not everybody was gone. Pecka glanced up, ear twitching at the bored undercurrent in the speaker’s voice.
“...Nothing.” she answered. “Are you going somewhere, Ame?”
Ame was a Darigan Eyrie, his dark purple feathers sleek and well groomed. His huge, broad wings were tucked tightly against his back, crimson eyes calm and almost disinterested. He was an intimidating sight, but Pecka knew that he wasn’t nearly as dangerous as he looked.
“Yeah. I was heading out to the coffee shop,” and he buttoned his coat up to the scarf he had tucked around his neck, as though to prove his point.
Pecka had a sudden inspiration. “You should stay here and do something with me.” she said, and frowned. “Nobody else is home, and I’m lonely.”
Ame sighed. “Like what? I’m not going to read you a story or bake cookies with you, squirt. Maily and Fingal can do that.”
“Maily and Fingal aren’t here.” Pecka protested, pouting at him and flattening her ears. “I don’t have anyone to do anything with. Not even Blue is home, she went to Shenkuu with Mom.”
Ame stood undecided for a split second, surveying the tiny Fire Xweetok huddled all alone on the windowsill, before his wings drooped in defeat. “Well, I probably shouldn’t leave you home alone, anyway. Do… do you want to come with me?”
Pecka’s face brightened. “Really? You’d bring me?” A shadow of worry flickered through her eyes. “I shouldn’t go outside into the rain.”
“We can bring an umbrella. They do exist, you know.” he answered, strains of amusement coloring his voice. “Go find a coat and put your shoes on.”
Pecka took a running leap off of the window sill, pattering across the room and up the stairs to find her coat, which she knew was somewhere in her room. A few moments later, she reappeared, coat on, hopping up and down while she tried to put her rainboots on, fiery curls poking out from beneath a black beanie.
“Slow down, squirt.” Ame cautioned. “It’s not going to hurt to stand in one place while you put your shoes on.”
Pecka frowned at him, lashing her tail. “But we have to hurry.”
“Why?” he frowned right back, tucking the umbrella he was holding under his arm and grabbing the collar of her coat, forcing her to stand still while she pulled on her boots. “We have all day. It’ll only take fifteen minutes to walk to the coffee shop.”
“Because I want to go!” She struggled free, running to the door and bouncing impatiently on her heels. “I haven’t been out in days because it’s been all rainy and gray! I want to do something fun.”
He smiled despite himself, and then hid it with a scowl. “Alright, fine. Come on.”
He pulled the door open for her, and then locked it as they stepped out onto the porch, before opening up the umbrella and holding it over their heads as they walked down the steps into the rain. *
Thunder rolled overhead, and Pecka felt like the house was shaking beneath her paws. A moment later, a brilliant white flash of light illuminated the hallway, and she saw the window, a square of blackness set into the wall.
She held her brother’s door open, peeking through it into the darkness of his room. She could see him, a bulky form beneath the blankets piled onto his bed.
“Ame?” she said again, and her voice, only a whisper, was loud in the silence.
“...What?” His voice was muffled and laced with annoyance. He sat up, squinting in the soft orange light that Pecka always gave off, especially in the dark. “You’re glowing.”
“I always glow. I’m a Fire Xweetok.” she answered. “You can just tell better at night because in the daytime it’s not as bright.”
Another clap of thunder shook the old stone house. She let go of the doorknob, squeezing her eyes shut and shoving her paws against her ears in an attempt to stifle the noise. A moment later, she felt her brother’s paw descend on her shoulder, steering her out of the doorway and down the hallway, to where her room stood empty- normally she shared it with Blue, but the Aisha was still in Shenkuu with her mother. Cautiously, she opened her eyes, just in time to see lightning light up the darkness. Letting out a small eep, she turned and threw herself against the Darigan Eyrie, hiding her face in his pajama shirt.
“Take it easy, it’s just a thunder storm. I know it’s loud, but it won’t hurt you.” he said. He shut her bedroom door and pushed her away from himself, steering her across the room and sitting her down on the bed. He reached over to turn on her lamp, and she blinked in the sudden light.
“Why didn’t you just go and get Fingal, or Jai, or Maily?” he grumbled, sitting down on the bed next to her.
“Fingal and Maily were both out late, so I didn’t want to wake them up.” Pecka explained, huddling miserably into one of her blankets. “Fingal was helping Finneus, and Maily was baking for the contest that they’re holding in the city tomorrow. And Jai is always really grumpy when I wake her up at night. Besides, you brought me to the coffee shop. I thought you might not mind.”
“That was five days ago! I’m not your best friend all of a sudden just because of that.”
“But you’re my brother.”
He sighed. “Yeah, I’m your brother. Well, what do you want me to do?”
She looked up at him hopefully. “Read me a story?”
He groaned, reaching up to try to smooth down the feathers that were sticking up on his head. “You know, I’m not cut out for this ‘comforting little kids’ business. Are you sure you can’t just go get Fingal?”
Pecka nodded, adamantly, and then pulled the blanket over her head as thunder roared outside.
Ame waited for the noise to die down before letting out a tired sigh. “Alright, I’ll read you a story. What do you want me to read?”
He read to her until she fell asleep. Then quietly, he pulled the blankets up to her chin and turned off the lamp, leaving her to her dreams.*
“Be good,” Maily said. She leaned over to peck her little sister’s wild curls. “It’s sunny today, so you can play outside.”
“It’s not fun to play outside by myself.” Pecka answered, despondently. She handed the Plushie Aisha her tray of cupcakes.
“I’m sorry, sugar.” Maily said, sympathetically. “Blue will be back in a few days, I know you miss her.”
“She and Mom have been gone for three weeks.” Pecka answered. “It’s so lonely without them.”
“I wish I could stay home with you.” Maily said. “We can do something sometime, okay? It’s just been so busy at the bakery because so many people are having parties.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Maybe Jai will do something with you.”
“Jai never wants to do anything with me.” Pecka frowned, and then sighed. “You should probably go. When will you be home?”
“I’ll be back in time to make dinner.” Maily promised. “Fingal’s picking me up from the bakery, so we’ll be home around the same time. Alright, I’ll see you later. Try to have fun.” She left through the front door with her tray of cupcakes, waving over her shoulder.
Pecka shut the door behind her, groaning softly. Then she went in search of Jai.
The Faerie Peophin was lounging on her bed in the room she shared with Rai, reading a book and applying hoof polish. She looked up when her sister knocked on her door, a neutral expression on her face. “Need something?”
“I’m bored. And lonely.” Pecka answered. “Will you do something with me?”
Jai sighed. “I was going to go hang out with friends in a bit. Sorry, Pecka. Blue will be back soon, and then you can do stuff with her.”
“Yeah, she’ll be back soon, but she’s not back now.” Pecka cried in exasperation. “It’s not my fault I’m lonely, I’ve been doing things by myself for nearly two weeks.” She turned on her heel. “Fine, I’ll get Ame to do something with me.”
“He has the sign up on his door.” Jai warned. “Besides, he won’t want to play with a little kid.”
Pecka tossed her head, the little kid snub bruising her pride. “I’m not a little kid, and he won’t mind.”
Her confidence began to fail, however, when she reached her brother’s door. The sign was merely a piece of paper with the words Keep Out scrawled on it, but he had expressed several times, very forcefully, that when it was up, he wanted to be alone. The whole family had learned to respect his alone time, and it was only very, very rarely on important occasions that anybody ventured to bother him when the sign was up.
But she had told Jai what she would do, and she was determined to stick to it. Raising her paw, she rapped sharply against the door.
There was a loud groan of annoyance from inside of the room. A moment later, Ame threw the door open, crimson eyes dark with irritation.
“What do you want, squirt?”
Pecka gazed up at him wordlessly for a moment. Then she said, “I’m lonely.”
Ame leaned on the doorframe. “I brought you to the coffee shop once. Once. That does not mean I’ll play with you every single time you’re bored.”
Pecka frowned up at him. “I feel like you’re going to tell me that Blue is going to be home soon so I can do something with her. And yes, she will be. But she’s not home now, and I’ve been doing things by myself for two weeks while everybody else ignores me. I think I have the right to be lonely.”
“Sure, but that doesn’t mean I have to do anything about it.”
Pecka’s frown morphed into a full-on glare. “You’re rude. I hope you know that.”
He sighed. “I do. Is that all you want?”
“No.” she crossed her arms. “I want you to have a picnic with me.”
He looked at her like she’d sprouted a second head and a double set of Alien Aisha ears. “...I hope you’re kidding.”
“No.” He turned away to close the door. “I’m not having a picnic with you, squirt.”
“Please, Ame.” Her voice was pleading. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw the expression on her face- wistful and lonely. “I’m tired of being by myself.”
Like he had weeks ago, when the rain was coming down in sheets outside and Pecka was sitting on the windowsill, he sighed and his wings drooped in defeat. “Fine. But this is a one time thing. Don’t you dare forget that.” He turned around again and trudged out of the room, leaving the door swinging on its hinges. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“Thank you.” There was genuine gratitude in Pecka’s voice. Then she brightened. “It’ll be fun, I promise.”
She grabbed his paw, pulling him down the hall. Jai, sitting on her bed, watched in wordless astonishment as the tiny Xweetok tugged the irate Darigan Eyrie past her open door.*
“Isn’t this fun?”
“Don’t lie, you’re enjoying yourself.”
“No, I’m really not.”
Pecka frowned at him, handing him a cup of chocolate chips. “Well, stir these into the dough. I’m going to preheat the oven.”
“Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you have to force me to make cookies with you.” Ame told her, but he took the chocolate chips and poured them in, smashing them viciously into the dough with a whisk.
“Well, I wanted to. And there’s no way that Rai or Jai would’ve made them with me.” Pecka retorted. The Christmas Kougra had returned home sometime after Blue and Lark did, exhausted but satisfied with her work. Even now, Pecka could hear Twisted Roses music exploding from her and Jai’s room- and the Faerie Peophin did not sound happy about. “And Blue is cleaning her side of the room. She dumped her suitcases out all over the ground when she came home, and Mom is making her put everything away.”
“Maily is the baker. Couldn’t you just get cookies from her?”
“But I wanted to make them myself.” Pecka rescued the dough from her brother’s paws. “At least stir it carefully, Ame. You’re getting chocolate chips everywhere.”
He scowled. “I was stirring it fine.”
“No, you weren’t. Maybe I shouldn’t have made you bake with me. You’re not very good at this.”
“Exactly. Can I leave now?”
“No.” Pecka placed the bowl of cookie dough on the counter and opened a cupboard, rummaging around in it to find some trays. “Help me put the cookies on trays. Then we can bake them.”
“The more time I spend with you, the bossier you get.” Ame growled. Pecka ignored him.
A few minutes of silence passed, before Lark wandered in. She was wearing a coat and hat, and an umbrella was tucked under her arm. Her dark eyes widened in surprise when she saw the two at the counter together, but she didn’t comment on it.
“I was going to ask you if you wanted to come do the dailies with me, Pecka, but it looks like you’re already doing something.” she said. “Well… just make sure Blue finishes cleaning her side of the room, alright?”
“Okay.” Pecka agreed. “Ame and I are making cookies. You can have some when you come back, Mom.”
“Alright.” the girl said. She smiled, even though the surprise was still evident in her eyes. “I’ll see you two when I get back.”
Forty minutes later, a distraught Fire Xweetok was standing over two trays of charred and smoking cookies, her eyes filled with tears as she wailed in distress, “I didn’t set the timer! I ruined them.”
Ame appeared at the top of the stairs, summoned by the sound of her sobs. “What happened now?”
“The cookies! They burned because I didn’t set the timer. We can’t even eat them now, and I wanted them to be perfect!” Pecka turned away from the blackened cookies, refusing to look at them any longer as tears dripped down her face, leaving tracks in her black fur.
Ame sighed. He came fully down the stairs, grabbing a box of tissues from the counter and handing them to her. Then he carried the two trays over to the garbage can and dumped the pathetic cookies unceremoniously in. Satisfied, he placed the trays in the sink and disappeared into the walk-in pantry that branched off of the kitchen.
“The whole house even smells like burnt cookies now!” Pecka wailed.
“Well, it won’t soon.” Ame’s voice was grim. He returned from the pantry, arms full of things he had retrieved- flour, sugar, chocolate chips, baking soda, salt. The Xweetok gazed at him in confusion, eyes streaming, and he sighed impatiently. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“...What are you doing?” she asked.
“What do you think I’m doing?” he answered, exasperated. “We’re making another batch of cookies. Will that make you stop crying?”
She looked at him, dumbfounded. “But… But you don’t like baking.”
“Well, I’m not going to just stand here and watch you cry. And you wanted to make cookies that Mom could eat when she gets back. Come on, help me. What do we do first?”
She came, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “Well, we have to get the milk and butter…” *
Pecka was lonely.
Lark was running errands. Fingal and Maily were home, but the Lutari was in his room reading, and the Aisha was making dinner. Rai had left again to make deliveries for Taelia, and Jai was washing her hair. Blue had a cold and was sitting in their room, coughing miserably but still trying to convince anybody she saw that she was fine and wanted to go outside.
It wasn’t raining. On the contrary, it was gorgeous outside. The sun was setting, and the sky was a wash of reds and pinks. Pecka sat on the windowsill, her legs hanging out the open window. She could hear Maily singing softly in the kitchen over the cooking noises and delicious smells rising in the air. She knew her sister would let her help if she wanted to, but she wasn’t in the mood.
“What’s the problem, squirt?”
At Ame’s voice, Pecka pricked her ears up, glancing over her shoulder. The Darigan Eyrie’s paws were tucked into his jean pockets, broad, powerful wings tucked tightly against his back.
“Nothing,” she said, remembering that rainy day, so many weeks ago when they had had this same conversation. She smiled a tiny smile in spite of herself. “Are you going somewhere?”
“Yeah. On a walk.” he glanced out the window. “I should be able to get a little way before it starts getting dark.”
Pecka turned around on the windowsill. “Can I come with you?”
He looked her over, scowling. “I don’t know. You don’t look sad and lonely enough.”
Pecka flattened her ears, pouting and looking up at him with Puppyblew eyes. “Better?”
“I guess it’ll do.” he answered, sighing. “Go get your shoes on.”
She jumped off the windowsill, padding off in search of her shoes, and reappeared with a breathless word cast over her shoulder at Maily. “Where are we going?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. We’re just walking.” He pulled open the front door and stepped out into the cool air- it was summer, but summers were never hot in Altador.
Pecka ran after him, stopping to give Lark, who had just come home and was armed with two brown paper grocery bags, a quick hug. “I’m going on a walk with Ame, Mom. Maily’s making dinner!”
The last sentence was cast over her shoulder as she jumped off the porch and darted off to catch up with the Darigan Eyrie. Lark didn’t even have a chance to answer. She just stood wordlessly in the doorway, watching them walk away together until they became smudges of purple and orange against the crimson sky.