The Paw Print

The Student News Site of Colts Neck High School

The Paw Print

The Paw Print

A New Life (Part 1)

A New Life (Part 1)

He woke up on a bed with nothing but his slightly torn pants and his dirty T-shirt on. His head ached but he looked around anyway. He was in some bedroom. Small yet accommodating with the bed he was sleeping in pushed in the corner, a table with two drawers next to it, a dresser on the right side of the room, and a longer table in front of the bed with two unlit candle sticks on it. As he looks, he sees a window on the wall behind the bed and the left wall. From the orange color outside both windows, it was nearly late afternoon and the sun was starting to set. That, or he was asleep for so long that it was morning and the sun was just rising. He looked at his body and saw bandages wrapped around his chest, left leg, right arm, and even his tail! He also felt them wrapped around his head. Reluctantly, he got up and out of bed. He got on his feet and his wrapped leg was flooded with pain! He immediately put more weight on his other leg, it was still stinging, but at least the pain was dulled.

He walked awkwardly to the dresser and opened it. It was filled with two shirts, two pants, some pairs of boots, a long skirt, a long-sleeve, a cape with a big hood, and some belts. They were all too big for the otter to wear and his clothes weren’t in there. Despite that, he took the big hooded cape. He turned back to the nightstand and saw his satchel lying there. He lifted the cape off the floor as best he could walked back over and grabbed his bag, turning to the long table in front of the bed after. It stretched along almost the whole wall with a little space on each side. A door was on the same wall as the long table, and the otter walked over and opened slightly, he saw no one. He wrapped the hood around his body and held it closed with his hands, thankfully it didn’t hurt his wrapped arm too much to move it. He walked out and ended up in a hallway. He saw more doors to his right, three doors on each side of the hallway with a picture at the end of the hallway.

He looked to his left and saw stairs going down. He walked over and went down as best as he could. He had to make a right but when he did and was about halfway down the second flight of stairs, he saw a male human at a front counter looking through papers. His hair was light brown and he was in a tank top and leather pants. Before the otter could go back up, two female humans came through the door in front of the counter. One human being is an adult with red hair at shoulder length and a fine dress, the other is a child with long pink hair in shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, and a white head scarf covering her ears. The adult woman saw the otter on the stairs and she said, “Oh! You’re up.”. The humans all looked at the otter who was holding onto the railing of the stairs, looking a little nervous. The man walked out from behind the counter and said, “It’s ok, we’re not going to hurt you. You probably don’t remember but, it was us that brought you here.”. “W-what?”, the brown otter mumbled to himself. “We were all walking in the woods when we saw you crawling on the ground! You didn’t respond to us but when you collapsed we knew he had to help you, especially considering how young you were.”, the woman spoke.

They weren’t wrong, the little otter was 7 years old! He was the same age as the little girl, who was standing next to her mom. The little girl walked a bit forward and told the otter in a high happy voice, “Sorry we took your clothes, they were all dirty and torn. So I washed them and my mom stitched them up!”. The otter looked down at the cloak wrapped around him and felt ashamed. “Don’t worry, It’s our fault for not getting you any extra clothes while you were out.”, the man said and continued. “We had dinner a while ago. There’s some leftover soup and you must be hungry. Would you like to eat? If you do, would you want to eat in your room or our kitchen?”. The otter thought for a moment. He walked down the stairs and gave them his answer. “Kitchen, please?”.

The otter sat on a chair at a rectangular table with a bowl of soup with seasonings and herbs for a good taste, cut carrots, potatoes, and vegetables so they could be chewed easily if they were hard. He didn’t just get soup, he had two bread rolls on a plate next to him still warm. On the other side, there was a glass of water with ice in it. The otter didn’t sip or slurp his soup, he put the spoon he was using in his mouth and swallowed everything on it. The kid was sitting across from the otter and the parents were sitting on the short sides of the table. “You have really good manners.”, the little girl said. The otter looked up at her and smiled. The father broke the silence more and asked, “Hey, little guy. I don’t want to get…personal right off the bat but, What were you doing out alone in the woods?”. The otter just looked at him with hesitation and the little guy started to shake. The father apologized as the otter looked back at his soup and put his spoon down. He then took one of the bread rolls. The mom tried and asked, “Why were you hurt? Did a beast of some sort attack you?”. The otter shook his head, dipping his roll into the soup. The little girl asked out of the blue, “Can you speak English? Do you speak Spanish, Latin, or halving?”. “Laura”, the mom gently said to her daughter, holding her hand out.

“…Apollo, and sorry, for not talking sooner. And it’s ok, her asking me that stuff”, the little otter said in a small, quiet voice as he pointed at Laura with his nose. He took a bite out of his soup-soaked bread roll. The family smiled and the mom said, “It’s ok Apollo. We know it must be scary but I promise you, we mean you no harm.”. Apollo smiled a little as he chewed. The mom continued with, “I’m sorry for the…uncomfortable questions we’re asking you. We just want to understand what’s happening.”. The otter’s smile faded as he chewed and eventually swallowed. “Hey, it’s ok. You don’t have to tell us if it’s too hard for you.”, the dad reassured him, but the otter put his bread roll on the plate then grabbed the glass of water and talked. “I was at home. It was nice and happy but, one day, like any other, it was attacked. It was scary. Dad stayed to fight, but I wanted him to run with me. I ran and ran and ran even when my side started hurting. I was grabbed a few times but I squirmed and bit until they let me go. I got hurt but it wasn’t too bad so I kept running. When it got dark, I crawled into a log and slept. I kept walking when I woke up, but I was so hungry and thirsty that I started to slow down. I saw, you guys I think? But when I did, I got scared, and I thought I was captured. Now, I don’t know if…”, his bottom lip started to quiver but then it stopped soon after and he took a long drink from his glass. The family was shocked. This little otter was a very strong kid. They didn’t want to hurt him by saying anything more, and they didn’t want him to be alone after what he’d been through. The family agreed without saying a word to each other and the dad said, “Apollo, we don’t know exactly what happened and we don’t want to pry any further. But for now, you can stay with us as long as you want. Only if you want to, it’s your choice.”. Apollo put his water on the table and sat there for a moment. He slowly smiled and rubbed his eyes with his right hand. He answered them, “Y-Yes please. Thank you.” as a tear rolled down his cheek.


1 week later, Apollo the otter was still living with the nice family that took him in. He learned about the family at that time. Like, the mom’s name was Nora, the dad’s name was Nate, and they owned and lived in a tavern/inn for travelers and adventurers, They had a daughter named Laura who was the same age as him. The family took good care of their new ‘guest’. Not just by giving him meals and protection, but they’d always ask him if he wanted to join in their activities and outings and anything else that wouldn’t make him feel lonely. This time they were all going into the woods with the dad, Nate, leading the way. He was wearing pretty much the same thing but with a thick long-sleeved shirt over his tank top and shoes. The mom, Nora, was walking behind wearing a better dress and thigh boots. Laure, the daughter, was on her mom’s shoulders wearing her long-sleeve shirt with a vest, long pants, ankle-high boots, her hair styled in a ponytail, and still wearing a headscarf but green now.

Apollo walked between the parents wearing a new pair of pants, his cleaned shirt, and his tunic that Nora and Laura fixed up. It was dark black, the sleeves ended at his elbows, and he wore a belt on his waist over it. Despite trusting the family, Apollo still felt out of place with them. However he wanted to be nice and get along with them all, so he always said yes if they asked if he wanted to come with them. Apollo didn’t say anything as they walked but Nate asked the otter, “You doing good Apollo? It’s a bit of a tough walk.”. Apollo just nodded. He was pretty shy but even though he talked to the family from time to time, he felt like he was still…out of place, Not supposed to be here. He didn’t know the right words. Eventually, after what felt like a day-long journey (when it was an hour and a half walk), they all made it to a fairly open part of the forest. More sunlight shined through the trees and leaves and it had a lighter and happier look to it. Nora took Laura off her shoulders, the little girl ran to Apollo and said, “Hey Apollo, you excited?”. “Excited for what?” Apollo asked, raising his eyebrow. Laura ran to a tree and started looking around it. Nora and Nate came up behind Apollo and got on one knee to talk to him. “You wanna know what we’re doing here Apollo?”, Nora asked gently. Apollo turned his head to her and shook it. All Nate said to him was, “Just watch.”, as he pointed to Laura. The little girl ran around some more trees and eventually got to a tree with a hole in it. She jumped up and stuck her head into it and it almost sounded like…she was talking to something in it.

Laura stuck her head out and when she did, little lights started coming out of the tree hole! Little lights coming out of tree leaves, coming out from behind trees, coming out from bushes! They were all small but some were bigger and smaller than others. Some were different colors like white, yellow, green, red, purple, pink, even blue and gray. Looking closer at the lights, Apollo was able to see what they were. “Faires!”, the little otter said in surprise and happiness. He heard about them in stories from travelers and his parents. He also read about them in books and learned more about them, and that made him want to see them! He didn’t know where to find them though but this family who took him in knew. Apollo got visibly happy. He had a wide smile on his face, his eyes were filled with excitement, and his tail was wagging in the air. To the family, this was the first time they’d seen Apollo happy, and it was nice to finally see that. Without a word, the otter ran and tried to say hi and talk to the fairies, but they just flew away from him whenever he tried. None of the family wanted to see Apollo sad so the parents gestured to Laura to talk to him. Apollo didn’t talk to Nora and Nate too much but he seemed to talk more with Laura, probably just because she was his age.

Laura walked, well she chased Apollo because he kept trying to run after fairies. She caught him and explained, “This is how all fairies act when seeing someone. If you want them to approach you, you need to be gentle, calm, and relaxed. Just walk up to them in a slow, normal way and be patient when you get close to them. Let them come to you and you’ll be able to talk to them. I promise.”. Apollo mumbled “Ok.” and did as she said. Apollo saw a little group of fairies near a tree but he didn’t run to them. He walked slowly and calmly without making any sudden movements or sounds. When he got close enough, he just sat on the ground and looked at them patiently. After a few minutes, a yellow light started flying closer to him. Apollo moved his hand up to the fairy and she landed on it. He lowered his hand down to his face and he was greeted with a, “Hello.”, from the fairy. Time felt like it flew by as Apollo was having a nice chat with the fairies. Laura and her parents were even talking to them too. Apollo was ecstatic for the next few hours as he asked the fairies who approached him questions he couldn’t find answers to like, “How are you? What do you do all day? What do you eat? Where do you live? Adventurers don’t capture you to use you to heal them, do they? How did Laura and her parents know about you?”. They understood he was just a kid and this was his first time seeing fairies. They laughed a few times but they did answer all his questions. “I’m doing fine, thanks! We usually talk with each other and watch animals and travelers from afar. Mostly berries and plants. We live in trees and abandoned birdhouses if we’re lucky. They do but we don’t give up our lives for them like most think, we just sprinkle a little fairy dust on them to heal their wounds. They come here daily to say hi and check on us, but it’s Laura who knows about fairies more than her mom and dad.”.

After hours passed, Nate yelled to everyone, “Sun’s going down y’all! Let’s start heading back!”. “Got it Dad!”, Laura yelled back. Nora replied with, “Thanks honey. Apollo! It’s time to go.”. Apollo looks at Nora, a little sad but he understands. He told the fairies he had to go and they flew away. Some of them landed on him! Mostly on his dark brown tail which had a light brown tip at the end, and it felt funny feeling them fly off him. The sun was setting and the sky was just starting to turn orange. Nate picked up Laura and put her on his shoulders. They all started walking back, but Apollo was following behind them. He was tired, so much so that his tail was dragging on the ground. He tried not to show it but he didn’t do a good job at it. Nate stopped in his tracks and Nora walked back to the otter. She got on her knees and asked him, “You want a ride too?”. Apollo looked at her with half-open eyes and answered, “Thank you but, I think I’ll be fine.”. “Are you sure? It’s a long walk.”, Nora said in a cheerful tone, clearly having a little fun with him. Apollo looked down at his feet and thought to himself for a moment before saying, “…Yes if that’s ok.”. Nora picked up Apollo putting him on her shoulders, holding his legs making sure he’d stay there. Apollo kept his balance well and started looking around while high up. Laura and Nate were ahead of them and the leaves looked like they were close enough to grab. The sunlight that shined through the leaves made everything look so peaceful and cozy. It was the first time Apollo felt this safe and at peace in a long time. He started to doze off and when he felt like he was falling asleep he said, “Thanks Ma’am.”. Nora, Nate, and Laura heard him and Nora replied in her usually kind and sweet tone and said, “You’re welcome Apollo. You can call me Nora though, it’s fine by me with you staying with us and all.”. Apollo was half asleep but even then, he said, “Thanks Ms. Nora.”.


1 month later, Apollo was in his room (the one he woke up in when the family took him in) reading a book he had in his satchel. He was just lying in bed wearing more comfortable clothes. Just a pair of pants made for wearing at home rather than on an adventure, and a long white sleeve. The otter read his book out loud to himself due to a loud noise now and then coming from downstairs, that loud noise either being a big group laugh or just really (REALLY) loud talking! The Family’s house wasn’t just their home, it was also their business. The second floor was all spare rooms for people to sleep/rest if they paid and the first-floor entrance was a tavern, both used by people traveling the world or adventurers seeking excitement. Apollo was told this after the first few days he stayed there. They closed the place for a while so Apollo wouldn’t feel overwhelmed but after a while, they had to open up to make money. The otter didn’t stay downstairs when they opened up cause he was kind of shy. Though he always admired adventurers and travelers. How they’d embrace the unknown, see so many different sites, sleeping and waking up somewhere new every day, fight monsters and creatures to get stronger, meet new people, find rare treasures, it was a life Apollo couldn’t live…for several reasons, but he always wanted to meet someone like that! He was too scared though. A few minutes pass and the little otter looks at his book then puts it gently in his satchel. If he was going to stay here for a while, he might as well talk to some of the people downstairs. While gathering his confidence and courage, he put on his black tunic and threw on his satchel to look a little more like the adventurers and travelers he’s seen from afar and in books, then marched downstairs.

Apollo walks down the stairs enough to see what’s going on so he won’t be seen himself. It was a lot louder than he expected but he made a decision and he wasn’t going to turn around! Yet it was still pretty loud. So loud he could barely hear the record player in the corner of the room, the same side of the wall the stairs were on. Apollo saw it used a few times, It was a record player with a horn to help the music be heard. It had a handle at the side to turn it and play the record, but it was turning on its own! However, Apollo knew that they used magic to make it do that so no one would have to do it themselves. He looked around the room and saw a lot of intriguing faces; A discreet dog with a large coat and a hood to cover his face, a young stone-faced tan-skinned girl with metal armor on, a lad with warm weather cloth and a small trained monster next to him that looked like a badger, a well built lion wearing a very stylish long sleeve tunic, an older women with a ponytail wearing a robe, and other travelers and adventurers in different cloths, sizes, species, and breeds. Apollo saw the family and they were all working. Nate was behind a counter at the side of the stairs wearing thick pants, boots, a white shirt, and a brown leather apron. Nora was walking around serving drinks to everyone wearing pretty much the same thing as Nate, but replacing the apron with a vest. Laura was wearing the same pants, boots, and shirt as her family but her headscarf was brown. Apollo was convinced she never went anywhere without wearing one.

Apollo just kept looking amazed. He was looking at people doing things he admired. However, something overcame Apollo. He started walking down the stairs. His brain didn’t tell him to but his legs just moved on their own. Even when he tried to stop it didn’t work. He stayed as calm as he could and when he made it down the stairs no one noticed him at first. Laura, who was talking to someone, saw Apollo first and ran up to hug him and Apollo returned the hug. Now people were starting to notice Apollo and the loud chatter quieted down to silence. Nate and Nora noticed this and got everyone’s attention. “Everyone, we can explain. This is Apollo! We found him in the woods on the ground so we decided to take him in.”, Nate yelled for everyone in the tavern to hear. Nora kept going from there and said, “We told him he can stay as long as he wants here with us. As long as he stays here, he shall be treated kindly and respectfully like everyone else here!”. She raised her voice a little at the end to emphasize she was serious. Every adventurer and traveler raised their drinks and shouted, “Hi Apollo!”. The little otter stumbled back a little but then shouted “HI!”, to everyone in there which made some people laugh. He felt a little embarrassed, but he still wanted to talk to some of the people. “Don’t worry, a lot of the people are very great to talk to. I’ve talked to a lot of them so I can introduce you to some people if you want.”, Laura told Apollo in a cheerful tone. Apollo talked to Laura and her parents a lot more after the fairies, so she knew Apollo wanted to talk to some of the people here. Apollo thought about it for a minute and then told her, “Yes please, but, no one scary looking.”. Laura nodded and walked around while holding Apollo’s hand.

Apollo looked around the big room and saw 5 big round tables, they looked like a big spool of thread on its side. 3 on one side, and 2 on the side of the building with the stairs. Looked like about 8 people could sit at each table. The tables were pretty tall but Laura or Apollo could easily just walk under them if they bent down a little. The otter looked at the front desk that Nate was standing behind as he cleaned out an oak mug with two metal rings around it and a handle connected to each ring, also metal. Behind Nate were shelves with glass bottles in different shapes, colors, and labels and all of them filled with drinks or herbs. The desk served as a check-in desk for the rooms upstairs but it was also a bar, at least that’s what Apollo thought due to the seats up front with people in them. The bar was a lot taller than the tables, Laura and Apollo couldn’t even sit on a chair at the bar without some help. As he looked around, Apollo saw that everyone had a weapon on them. Wands, staffs, bows, swords, knives, all of their weapons Apollo saw from books he read. He wasn’t surprised, they travel the world so they need some protection. Honestly, Apollo never saw or had been in a real tavern until now, and even though he was nervous, he was more excited and happy than anything! Laura stopped walking and made it to the middle table on the other side of the room and 3 people sat there. Two of them were male and female humans wearing the same thing, probably twins. Apollo couldn’t see the third person because of sunlight shining through a window and onto his back, casting a shadow on the front of him. Laura took Apollo closer to him and as they walked towards him, he turned to the two kids and spoke. “Hey Laura!”, he said in a pretty deep voice as he raised his hand in a friendly gesture. He was easier to see and Apollo immediately froze. It was a tiger, a white tiger with black stripes on his face and body. He smiled as he waved his hand, showing his sharp teeth. The tiger looked at the otter and said, “Oh, and you must be”.

Apollo ran under the table the tiger was sitting in and sat behind the big wooden pillar in the middle of the table, horrified. “…Apollo? Did I say something wrong?”, the white tiger finished saying and then asked the pink-haired child. Laura shrugged her shoulders, not knowing why Apollo did that. To answer, the tiger scared him. He was tall and intimidating to him. Apollo saw his friendly smile and hand wave as a menacing grin and showing claws as if telling him what would happen next. He knew this wasn’t nice and he couldn’t stay under a table forever, but he just couldn’t move! Fear had taken over his body. All he could do was hug his satchel. He was starting to hyperventilate. But just as he was starting to, Laura walked under the table and rubbed her hand on his shoulder. She asked him in a gentle tone, “Hey, are you, scared of him?”. Laura hesitated to say scared but then she did. “Y-yeah, I am! I’m sorry I just…I…I just had…last time I saw a tiger he…he!”, Apollo answered, his voice getting higher and more scared. It sounded like he was on the verge of tears. Laura hugged him with both hands and rubbed his back, comforting him. “It’s ok! It’s ok. We all have fears, some are bigger than others. I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were scared of tigers. I Promise, he won’t hurt you. He’s a really friendly guy! He’s been coming here before I was even born. If you don’t want to talk to him, we can see someone else.”, Laura told him. She didn’t want to see him cry. Apollo thought for a moment. He trusted Laura and her parents. If she said he was a good guy, then he believed her. “I wanna try talking with him.”, Apollo said as he walked out from under the table and Laura followed him.

Apollo and Laura walked back to the tiger and greeted him. “Hi, I…I’m sorry about that.”, the otter said in shame but sincerely. “Aw it’s ok. I know some people are scared of some animals. I was scared of bears! I’m sorry I scared you, but I hope we can get along well.”. Apollo smiled and nodded, but he still felt guilty. Laura sat on the left and offered Apollo to sit next to her, but Apollo wanted to sit on the other side of the white tiger. He had a little trouble getting on the chair, but he made it on. Though his satchel fell off him as he got on. “Oh, sorry but, you dropped this.”, the white tiger grabbed it and brought it onto the table, but the book Apollo was reading fell out. The tiger apologized but Apollo reassured him it was ok. Apollo put his book in his satchel but the tiger and Laura saw the author of the book. The tiger asked the brown otter, “Do you read that author’s book often?”. Apollo looked at his satchel and replied, “Yeah. He’s my favorite author.”. “He’s my favorite author as well.”, the tiger told him. Laura said in a cheerful voice, “Mine too!”. The conversation started going from there as the 3 of them talked about what books they read from the authors they all loved and what they thought about them. Apollo’s fear completely disappeared with every minute he spoke to the tiger. After a while, it was getting late. Nora stood on the first few steps on the stairs and yelled in a bright voice, “Alright everyone! It’s closing time. If you have a room, go upstairs. But if you don’t, finish your drink, grab your things, and head on out!”.

The kids and the white tiger heard this. Leaving Apollo and Laura saying a disappointing, “Aww.”. The tiger looked at them both and comforted them both by saying, “Hey don’t worry. I’m staying in town for a while so I’ll come back later. We can talk a lot more tomorrow!”. The two of them smiled and the white tiger got up to leave, Apollo noticed the white tiger was in boots up to his knees, casual pants, a gray t-shirt, a silver ring on his tail, a sword on the back of his waist, and he stood at 6 feet tall. Before the tiger could leave, Apollo wanted to give him something. To end this on a good note and to apologize for his actions before. He ran up to the tiger and stopped him. Apollo took the book he was reading showed it to the tiger and said, “You said you didn’t read this book, so I want you to read it and you can let me know what you think.”. The tiger took it and replied, “Thank you, I’ll give it back when I finish it. I promise.”. Apollo was happy because he did want his book back. After all, it was important. Before the tiger left, he said, “Sorry I didn’t tell you my name. I’m Nix.”, with a smile at the end but then he quickly covered his mouth, worried Apollo would be scared again. But he just smiled and told him, “It’s ok, you don’t scare me anymore. I’m sorry I was.” as he rubbed his arm. Nix told him with a smile, “It’s ok, don’t worry about it. Fear is something we all have and I’m glad I helped you get over yours.”. Apollo smiled back. They said their goodbyes and Nix left. As other people started to leave and a few went up the stairs, Laura walked to Apollo and smiled at him, helping make Apollo feel better. Nora and Nate walked up to both of them and Nate asked, “You kids have a good time?”. They both said yes but Apollo kept going and said, “I liked Nix. He was friendly and his name sounds cool.”. Nora smiled a little and said quietly, “Fun fact about him, did you know his name is actually ‘Snow’ in Latin?”. Apollo’s jaw hit the floor and said in shock, “No!”. “Yes! He doesn’t like that about his name so we help him keep it a secret.”, Laura said back. After a little talking between all of them, they all started to make their way to the kitchen for dinner. But Apollo was still excited to see his new friend again.


6 months later, it was Laura’s birthday. She was turning 8 and everyone in the tavern was at the front desk (or bar, whatever you wanna call it) singing to her. Laura was behind the bar with her parents. Apollo was on the other side with everyone else, Nix included. After they were done singing. Laura blew out the candles on her cake then everyone clapped. Afterward, everyone got a free drink, it was a special little tradition they had done on Laura’s birthday since she turned 4. After the cake was cut and served, the record player came to life and started playing some upbeat music. The kind that got you moving and made you tap your feet too. Laura moved out from behind the counter and got up on one of the bar chairs. She got on with relative ease now that she was around 4 and a half feet tall. Everyone at the tavern stayed at the bar with Laura sharing stories, talking, and just having a fun time. Laura didn’t feel awkward sitting with a bunch of people who were older than her because she knew them. Her parents built this bar when they were adventurers themselves. They traveled in different groups before they met in the same town and fell in love. They left their groups and decided to settle down in the same place they fell in love. They built a two-story house which was bigger than they needed, so after finishing, they decided to turn it into a place for other travelers and adventurers to rest, relax, and just get off their feet. After a few years, they had Laura, and the rest is history. Laura grew up in this tavern her whole life, so there were always people here and she made friends with most of the people who come in here. The whole day was filled with laughter and some games Nate and Nora planned out. You’d think this would be a little much for Apollo, but no. After breaking out of his comfort zone, he loved this place and got along well with almost everyone just like Laura. As they all had fun, it started getting dark. Everyone left their presents, said their goodbyes, told Laura happy birthday for the last time, and left as the record player started slowing down and stopped.

“Hope you had a fun birthday sweetie.”, Nate said to her daughter. Laura replied with, “Yeah, I did. Thank you so much! I love you.”. The three of them smiled and Nora said, “We love you too dear. By the by, if you’re going to open your presents now, remember to thank everyone when they come back.”. Laura nodded and Apollo immediately shouted, “Wait, I didn’t give you your present! I’ll be right back!” before he ran upstairs to his room. “Aww, that’s sweet! He got Laura something.”, Nate said in a cheerful tone. “I kind of knew he’d get me something. I mean, he’s family.”, Laura said happily as she grabbed a present and started to unwrap it. Nora and Nate didn’t say anything for a moment and just looked at each other. Laura saw this, slowed her unwrapping, and asked, “Apollo is family, right?”. They didn’t want to lie to their daughter, but they would also be lying if they said they didn’t grow attached and fond of the otter. “I mean, Apollo’s been living with us for over half a year now. I really like him but if he has another family, we can’t just keep him here.”, Nora said to break the silence. “Cause from what he told us when we first fed him, his family might be…gone. We said he could stay with us as long as he wanted, but if he wants to stay here, what’s stopping us? It’s his decision and I can’t under any circumstances let a child go out into the world with no one there for him.”, Nate said being serious. Laura looked down at the present she unwrapped. It was a book from Nix, a book she wanted for a while. Laura didn’t want Apollo to leave, even if he had family out there somewhere. She would miss having someone around her age living with them, someone else to talk to with Nix about their favorite things, and someone to have fun with every day. Nora then said, “You’re right honey, I can’t allow that either. If Apollo wants to stay here, he can. And if he’s staying for a while, then that makes him-”. “I’m back, I got it!”, Apollo said as he jumped down the stairs, accidentally interrupting Nora. He was walking back with a small thin rectangle in his hand. He got on the bar seat (after a few minutes) and gave it to Laura saying, “I made it myself. I hope you’ll like it.”. Laura took it and carefully pulled back the wrapping Apollo used for it. When the whole wrapping was off, she just looked at it wide-eyed. It looked like a picture frame and Laura’s parents walked out from behind the counter to see what was in it. When they looked, they were amazed.

It was an ink drawing of Apollo, Laura, and her parents. The kids were more in the middle while Nora and Nate were standing above them, and they were all smiling. It wasn’t just some simple drawing though. It was a fairly detailed drawing of all of them, an impressive drawing for a 7-year-old to do! It had details like their hair strands, the folds, and wrinkles in their clothes, and…it was almost too impressive to describe. Laura put it down gently and hugged Apollo as best she could. “Thank you thank you thank you I love it!”, the birthday girl said. Apollo just hugged back. Nora kept looking at the picture and asked, “Apollo, did you make this?”. The otter looked at her and answered, “Yeah. I’ve always liked drawing and I thought I’d make something for Laura for her birthday. But I thought I’d add myself in there because I’ve been living with you guys.”. Apollo rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment and Laura told him, “No No, it’s ok. I love it! I love that you’re in it! It feels better with you in it, you know?”. Apollo smiled and looked down a little. “Apollo, I know we just took you in out of nowhere and we don’t want to pry about what happened to you, so just know, you have a place here as long as you need.”, Nate told him with a smile as he rubbed his head, messing with the fur up there. Apollo just laughed as Laura kept holding the picture and asked, “You’re a really good drawer Apollo, maybe you can teach me how to do it?”. The otter replied, “Sure! It may look hard but it’s not as hard as it looks.”. Nora suddenly interjected and said, “Apollo, did you get taller? It’s hard to tell cause otters tend to be small, but I can’t help but notice something about your height.”. Nora wasn’t looking wrong, Apollo was indeed taller! Just by a little bit though. Depending on the animal, they tend to have different heights and grow at different speeds. Apollo was 4 feet and 4 inches tall now, not as tall as Laura. “I don’t know. I mean, maybe. My birthday was last month.”, the little otter said, which shocked the family. Apollo had been a year older than Laura for over a month.

“Apollo, your birthday was last month?!”, Laura asked loudly out of shock. Nora asked, “Why didn’t you tell us?”. Apollo had a straight face and answered, “I didn’t think it was important. I’m just living here and I didn’t want to bother anyone.”. Nate got a little lower to get to Apollo’s level and reassuringly told him, “You wouldn’t be bothering us, Apollo, everyone deserves to have their birthday celebrated. If you want, we can celebrate it tomorrow, or we can just do a little celebration tonight if you want!”. Apollo’s eyes shined as he said this. The little guy thought about it for a moment and said, “Thanks, but I can wait till my next birthday!”. The 3 humans were a little surprised by this. They didn’t expect that response from a kid. “Are you sure? We wouldn’t mind.”, Laure said, trying to get him to say yes. But Apollo shook his head and told them, “Thanks, but it wouldn’t be right to celebrate my birthday when it already passed. I rather do it when it is my birthday if that’s ok.”. After some silence, they all agreed without saying a single word to one another and Nora told Apollo, “Of course it is sweetie, if that’s what you want then that’s what you’ll get.”.


11 months later, it was Apollo’s 9th birthday! He was sitting at the table he met Nix at with other adventurers and travelers he made friends with and all of them were singing happy birthday to him too! Apollo looked at everyone who was singing as a big plate with multiple pastries sitting in front of him. They weren’t all for him, Apollo wanted a cake where everyone could get an equal piece. So Nora, the better baker of the two parents, ended up making a bunch of sweet little round buns for everyone to take a few. He was still wearing the tunic he wore the first time he came downstairs, though he was starting to outgrow it a little. But it was one of the last things he had left of his old home, so he made sure to get as much use out of it as possible. When everyone finished singing, Apollo blew out the candles and everyone grabbed some of the pastries on the plate as the record player started playing the same song that played on Laura’s birthday. Nix took 5 pastries, making Nora shout in amusement but still shocked, “Nix! Don’t eat all of them!”. The white tiger, wearing the same clothes with just a bandage wrapped around his bicep replied with, “Sorry, you just make them so good!”. Everyone laughed while Nora rolled her eyes with a smile on her face. Apollo took two buns as he looked at everyone and focused his eyes on Nix, and a bandage wrapped on him. Apollo asked him directly, “Are you ok?”. Nix swallowed the bun he stuffed in his mouth and said, “Yeah, just got scratched by a monster while taking a walk outside of town! I’ll tell you about it later if you want.” ending it with a wink. “I’ll tell ya Nora, you outdid yourself with your baking this time!”, said a woman in full armor covered from head to toe as she held her pastry high. Nate put his arm around his wife and said with a smile, “That’s my woman for you. She knows how to cook!”. Nora giggled and replied with, “Oh thank you all. But I had to do my best for the kids.”. A male cat wearing some well-worn trousers, a thick white sleeve, and a hood that looked like something bandits would wear said, “Hey Apollo, you asked for your cake to be pastries right? You made the right choice, these taste delicious!”. Apollo smiled and said, “Thank you, and thank you Ms. Nora. They’re all amazing!”. Nora smiled as Nate hugged her. Apollo had been referring to them both as ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ and neither of them hated it, they just found it cute that Apollo was still trying to be so formal and polite with them after he’d been here for over a year and a half.

Nix started talking again after he ate his 3rd bun and said, “Well It’s good that you like them! But I bet nothing can beat your mother’s cooking, could it?”. Nate, Nora, and Laura stayed silent. They weren’t worried like you’d think. Apollo didn’t talk or say a word about what happened to him, where he was from, or where were his parents. He only talked about himself to the 3 of them the first day he spent here and they didn’t want to ask questions and make him upset or sad. The 3 of them didn’t know how Apollo would react to them asking so they just…tried to help him feel better. But if someone was asking a question like that, they wanted to know.

Apollo looked at Nix and answered with a straight face and normal tone, “I don’t have a mom. She left a month after I was born.”. As if on cue, the record scratched unnaturally and the needle bounced, not landing back on the record, causing silence. Everyone who was just eating their baked goods or talking to someone else immediately stopped and looked at either Apollo, Nix or each other with eyes as wide as can be and with faces that quite literally screamed the word shock. Neither Nate, Nora, nor Laura were ready for that response. The most shocking thing is that Apollo didn’t frown, shed a tear, or even flinch. Silence still hung heavy, mainly because this was the first time Apollo revealed anything about his parents to anyone. Nix, worried he killed the atmosphere, said gently, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”. Apollo, still looking at Nix replied, “It’s ok. Even if I don’t have a mom and I don’t know where my dad is, I have Mr. Nate and Ms. Nora.”, Apollo leaned to his left side and grabbed Laura’s arm. He looked at everyone and said in a cheerful tone, “And now I have a sister!”. That made almost everyone at the table say ‘Aww!’ and cheer. Nix just took a sigh of relief and smiled. Laure smiled and blew Apollo a kiss. Nate and Nora just looked at each other and smiled. To them, it felt like Apollo was one of the family now. And it showed. The little shy otter who kept to himself when they first met was becoming an outgoing animal who’d always wanted to talk and was smiling a lot more. It felt like Apollo was fitting in, but they remembered what they told him. That he could stay as long as he wanted. But they didn’t think about that. They were throwing a party and they intended to make it a good one!

After the cake, they switched up the music and danced for hours. Everyone mostly did freestyle but some people ended up dancing with one another like Laure and Apollo, who took the dance floor! After a few hours, they all stopped dancing and got to the bar to share some stories. Stories about their adventures, about kingdoms long ago, heroes that went down in history, tales no one knew if they were true or not, and stories they’d make up on the spot. They were all great and Apollo was having a great time! Sadly, it was getting late and the moon was starting to rise. With that, Apollo thanked everyone as they left the tavern and the party was over. Apollo was getting a little sleepy and could barely sit up straight. He started waking off to his room. “Want me to help you?”, Laura asked. Apollo rubbed his eyes and replied, “No, I can make it there myself but thanks.”. Apollo walked to the stairs and said, “Thank you for the party. I loved it.”, to everyone as he made his way up the stairs with what little energy he had. Laura replied, “Anything for you bro!”. Nora said, “Glad you liked it, Apollo.”. Nate answered, “Glad to know we did a good job!”. Apollo smiled and walked up the stairs. As he did he said, “Night mom, night dad, night sis.”, before disappearing up the stairs and hearing his door open and close. Nora and Nate stood there shocked for a minute. Laura just smiled and told them happily, “See! He is part of the family now, isn’t he?”. Nora and Nate looked at each other, a little baffled. They didn’t expect Apollo to say that. Maybe he was just sleep-deprived and he didn’t know what he was saying. But, Apollo did feel like another kid to them with how comfortable he’d gotten, the friends he’s made, and how he liked spending time with them. Nora nodded at Laura and told both of them, “I say he is.”. Nate smiled and replied, “Yeah, he’s family now.”.


5 years later, Apollo and Laura were in the forest, talking and checking on the fairies that Apollo first met so long ago. The brown otter was 14 years old and stood at 5 feet tall and that was probably as tall as he was going to get since otters aren’t known for their size. He wore pale color pants and a dark blue tunic, the sleeves ending at his elbows. He didn’t wear shoes because animals’ feet are tougher than human’s bare feet. Laura was 14 years old too and was 5 feet and 6 inches tall, so she stood just a bit taller than Apollo. She had green pants, a red long-sleeve shirt with tall brown boots, and was still sporting her white headscarf. Her pink hair was styled into an upright ponytail, her hair held back with a silver ring. They were old enough now that they could travel out of town from time to time by themselves. After some time though, they had to start going home. Apollo said goodbye to the fairies and said, “Hey Laura, it’s time to get going home. We don’t want to be out here after dark.”. However, when Apollo turned around, Laura was nowhere to be seen. He got worried and called her name again. But he stopped as he heard her laughing. She was close by. Apollo followed the noise and came to a smaller clearing than the one they normally went to. Apollo was standing behind a tree looking at Laura on her knees, talking with some fairies. He was a little ways away from her, but he heard Laura say, “I know, I don’t hide them cause I hate them though.”. Hate and hide what? Just as Apollo was wondering what she could mean, she turned to her side. Her headscarf was in her left hand and her ears were on full display. Her ears weren’t round like her parents, they were pointy. Apollo stepped out and Laura immediately saw him. They stood there in silence for a while, but soon Laura said something to the fairies and they all flew away. She probably told them to give her and Apollo some space. She fully turned around to face Apollo and put on an embarrassing smile. “Guess you know now.”, Laura said as she rubbed the back of her head. Apollo was still looking. He walked up to her and asked, “Laura, you have…elf ears?”. He said it in astonishment but he wasn’t upset she didn’t tell him. He was just shocked and wanted answers. She smiled out of shyness and a little less out of embarrassment and answered. “Yeah. Mom and Dad are humans but I’m an elf. Mom has a human mother and an elf father. Dad has an elf mother and a human father. But because they had one parent that was an elf, they had an elf baby. Me. I always liked my ears when I was young, but when I grew older I liked wearing headscarves and started using them to cover my ears. I didn’t do it because I wanted to hide them, I did it because I liked the style, and covering my ears with it made it feel like I was hiding a secret that I had to protect! That was fun to me and that’s why I did it. I’m sorry I kept it a secret from you Apollo. I know it’s not that big, but I should have told you.”, Laura told her brother as she frowned a little at the end. Apollo breathed deeply and sighed. He looked up at her and told her, “You don’t have to be sorry. I know what it’s like to keep a secret for so long.”. Laura saw Apollo look down and frown. Laura stopped frowning and understood that Apollo had something hidden too. She put her hands on Apollo’s shoulders and told him, “Apollo, whatever it is, whatever you’re hiding, it’s ok. No matter what it is, I’ll still love you and I’ll still be your sister. And if it’s too much for others to know, I’ll keep it a secret.”. Apollo put his hands and Laura’s wrists and replied, “Ok, I’ll tell you.”.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Paw Print Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *