“Day six-hundred and fifty six,” Pemma reminds me before she leaves to pick up more antibiotics for her arm. I keep meaning to ask her about what happened the night she disappeared, but we’re in a good place right now and I don’t want to ruin it. The hours pass by uneventfully, although Pemma should’ve returned from the pharmacy hours ago. She’s a grown woman, and is probably better at self-defence than I am, so I don’t worry.
However, I do worry when I hear Pemma head-butt the door to the apartment, instead of knocking like a normal person.
I’m quite comfortably perched on the sofa, with no intention of moving.
“Pemma, the door isn’t locked; just get your lazy ass in here.” I yell from the living room.
In return, a more feminine, strained voice yells back. “I can’t. Come and open it for me, you lazy ass.”
I groan, as my joints click from sitting in the same place for too long. How dare she make me do exercise, while my days are so numbered?
To my simultaneous joy and horror, Pemma has brought a zoo with her, along with their containers. The short girl is surrounded by a bird cage, a hamster cage, a cat bed, a fish tank, and a small animal cage, with the rest of the gang behind her, sheepishly carrying all sorts of boxes of food, and what I presume to be living animals.
“Surprise.” She remarks with a toothy grin, arms full of what looks like a cat box? I guess that’s why she couldn’t knock.
“What on earth have you done, Pemma Jackson? You’re allergic to practically anything with fur.”
“Luckily for you, Glenn Adkins, animal allergies aren’t terminal. Me and Darcy had been planning this for a while,” which earns a wink from Darcy behind her, “and we thought we’d rope in the other guys too. I’ve heard that Colin is quite the Dr. Doolittle.”
As she pushes past me with her parade of animal equipment, she makes a list of what hellish things she’s brought with her, counting them off on her fingers.
“One tabby kitten from the local shelter, with a carrier, bed, litter tray and food.”
I interrupt her immediately. “You’re deathly allergic to cats, especially.”
“Nothing a little antihistamine won’t fix. We’ve got one parakeet, and according to his previous owners he’s a complete asshole, so I’m sure you two will get along just fine. We’ve also got a really fat Syrian hamster, and two adorable bunnies. And before you say anything, I take full responsibility for if the hamster goes missing or the rabbits chew your socks.”
She wears an expression which makes me think that this is the most normal thing in the world to be doing. After the others put down all the things, they bring over the animals to the dining room table.
“Oh! I almost forgot. How could I forget the fishes? They’re my favourite part. One betta fish and six neon tetras. They look incredible.” Pemma proudly holds up two bags filled with water, one containing a mesmerising indigo and orange-finned fish.
“Sorry to burst your bubble Pemma, but this is ridiculous. How will all these animals get along? How will we afford it? How will we have time to care for them all?” The worst case scenario for all of these is rushing through my head.
“One. Technically only the bird, rabbits, kitten and hamster will have to get along, two of which will be kept in cages anyways. They’re all fairly young so apparently they should just grow up in harmony. Two. We can afford it because everyone is chipping in for it, and it’s not like your parents don’t give you a hefty sum each month anyway. Three. You’re pretty much going to be housebound soon, because the doctors don’t want you leaving the house much when you lose your sense of touch, because apparently that will go in all bad directions. So, this will be your hobby. Running your own zoo. It wasn’t meant to be a zoo to begin with, but I just couldn’t say no to all these cuties. Shall we take a look?”
I look at the others with bewilderment, while only Eden shares my expression of exasperation. This is all ridiculous, but that’s what Pemma does, apparently. Even the ever so sensible Colin has joined in on the shenanigans. Pemma carefully lifts out a small black, orange and white tabby, with tufts on its ears, before giving it to Joel to lovingly cradle. Then, the parakeet, who instantly snaps at Eden, to which she screams at. Colin steps in like a knight in shining armour to take the jerk of a bird away from her, and it calms instantly. It has orange cheeks and a yellow body, pretty stereotypical.
“I like this bird. I’m going to name it Colin.” I grin, earning a snort from Eden.
“Hey! You can’t use a present we bought you just to bully me, y’know.” Colin retorts, but I can tell he’s overjoyed.
The golden-furred hamster comes out next, and instantly put into its cage.
“I want to name him Gravy.”
Everyone looks at me with faces of pure confusion, before shrugging it off and carrying on to the last animals left.
Pemma carefully coaxes out two lop-eared bunnies, each quite small. One is pure black, the other a mix of beige and grey, both have striking blue eyes.
I immediately announce that these two rabbits will be called Thunder and Lightning, to which Pemma’s eyes shoot icy daggers at me. I let Pemma name the kitten out of irony, as it’s the thing she’s most allergic to, and she names it Snarf, which I find hilarious. I never thought of her as a Thundercats fan.
After all the commotion has gone down, Pemma and I sit on the sofa, with the rabbits bouncing around on the floor, sniffing everything they come across, and a timid kitten still lurking behind us. If any time was a good time to talk about sensitive subjects, it was now.
I turn and look into her dark, round eyes. “Pemma. What happened on the night you disappeared?”