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Analise's Big Move: A story for young hippos, aged two years and up

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It’s so weird to think of it now, but i didn’t want to move. At all. I wanted to just find a way to get through renovations, even though my parents said that was ridiculous, we’d never know what would get torn up and we’d mostly just have pizza crusts and nothing on weekends. I didn’t care, I said we should move in with Sandra’s family down the block till it was over (even though that was Sandra’s idea and I’d never talked to her parents or anything). They said that since a developer bought the house, we had no idea what it would happen and we had no way to find out, they might tear the whole house down. I cried.

 

Moving was terrifying. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t look for another house nearby that didn’t have any hippos in residence, but mom was deadset on moving into the city, and eventually I just gave up and refused to talk to her until we moved. It was only close enough that humans could drive there in less than an hour, so it wasn’t actually hard to move with them without getting caught.

 

Mom always listened to the humans a lot, way more than me, and looked through their things, and told us that we were moving to a nice apartment building with a concierge. I didn’t know what three of those words meant, and since by that point I was pretending that I couldn’t perceive her anymore, I just let it go. So, yeah, it was a huge surprise when we moved into the seventh floor of an apartment building that didn’t have more than a square foot of grass visible from the front, just these sad little trees with metal fences wrapped around them. My parents didn’t really know, but I spent a ton of time adventuring in the backyard. They were really worried about dangers, but honestly most of the animals they were worried about just weren’t around much like when they were young. Sandra and I ran around all the time, playing heroes and villans, humans and hippos , peacocks and turtles. I knew I wasn't taking Sandra with me, but this... I didn't know anywhere in the world had this little green. Were there even hippos here? Did they all stay sensibly back where there was life? But there was no way out, not then, not without getting spotted, so I just went along with it and worked not to cry or scream.

 

They filled almost an entire bedrooms with boxes, piled near as tall as the ceiling. There was a box full of old towels in the far corner with loose tape, and it would make a fine enough home until we got settled. I refused to eat anything, not even the whole big piece of a peanut butter on cheese flavored cracker sandwich mom had hidden somewhere, even though it was my favorite. She decided to let me be, and I thought I'd stay awake all night, miserable and anxious, but I fell asleep before I knew it.

 

I woke up to the worst noises I had ever heard. I flew past all my anger and resentment and ran to find my parents, to see if they were alright, to see what was wrong. And then they smiled at my confusion, and all the bad feelings came back again. Apparently, somehow, this was normal, this is what humans found acceptable and lived with everyday, these were just the sounds they made, out in the streets, all together in this place. Mom said we should be lucky we were on the seventh floor, it was probably so much worse down closer to the street, as if that should be funny, as if that made things okay. I remembered why I'd stopped talking to her and stormed back to our stupid towel nest.

 

I managed to go back to sleep for most of the day. I'd only gotten ten hours and the day before had been exhausting. I couldn't imagine that things would be better when I woke up, but there wasn't anything else to do.

 

When I woke up again, Mom and Dad were asleep next to me, and for a single moment I thought I was home again, until I heard another terrible honking noise from somewhere. I couldn't stay there, so I stormed off.

 

I couldn't hear any humans, and the lights were all out, so I wandered from room to room, exploring. Everything was painted white and smelled fake. Back home we had creaking wood, deep and dark and full of stories written in scratches and stains. There were ways in and out of the walls everywhere, and there were endless worlds in those walls, at least for me. Everything here was... perfect, and terrible. I couldn't feel anything in this... place, not even a house. I had no idea how to get into the walls, and I was afraid I would leave hoofprints on these stupid floors.

 

I recognized some furniture, but a lot of the human’s things were missing. I didn't know if it was coming later, or if they just got rid of the four poster bed that my grandmother loved to tell me stories underneath, or the dresser with the hole in the back that had been just big enough for me to squeeze into until last winter. The rugs in this place were... not even rugs, not to me, all flat and scratchy, not warm and deep enough to roll around in. I climbed up on one window, and it just looked out... into another window, right there, just a few feet away in another building. I looked up and saw mostly clouds, but I couldn't see any stars beyond them. I looked down and wobbled a bit, I'd never seen so much down before in my life. I planted myself firmly on all my legs and looked up - right at an orange and white cat, staring right at me. I froze in place, and started breathing again when I made sense of the cat being almost impossibly far away, in that other building, also 7 stories up. I slowly backed away and behind a curtain, then got as far away as I could. It's not that I'm scared of cats, I'm just not dumb. I got all the way back to the room of boxes, where my parents were asleep, when I remembered how annoyed I was at them, and turned around.

 

I went looking for water. Back home, literally every single faucet dripped at least a little bit. Here... everything outside was so loud, but everything inside was too quiet, just the humming on machines. I couldn't hear water moving in pipes, I couldn't hear the wood, I couldn't hear the earth under the house. I realized how far I was from the earth, farther than I'd ever been. Would I ever feel dirt beneath my hooves again? Would I die up here?  It was too much to handle and I was still thirsty so I focused on that. In the end, I wound up in the kitchen sink, drinking out of a bowl that had been full of... I don't know. It was a pain to get all the way up there, on those too slick countertops, and the water tasted weird and different up here. I wondered how long it had been since this water had been in the earth, and if it missed it too.

 

In the end I made my way into the other side of the same box and made my own nest there. I'd never made my own nest before. I made it fairly obvious, so they wouldn't wake me up searching for me in the morning. I was hungry, but I didn't care anymore. I didn't know if they even ate food this far up in the sky.

 

----

 

When I woke up again it was light out. I had no idea what time of day it was, because everything was wrong, and for all i knew the sun came up the wrong side. My parents weren't around, but they must be somewhere else in the... not house, whatever this was, so I decided to explore the box room. It was smaller than I'd originally thought, it was hard to tell with all the boxes. There was a door I hadn't paid attention to the day before that looked like it went... outside? I didn't know how that made any sense, but I was able to push it open to take a look. The air was different here, so different, but it was still outside. It wasn’t big, but there was a floor and a railing around it, and two folding chairs.  I walked outside, just outside the door, and closed my eyes and breathed in the air, and felt the sun on my hide. I don't know how long I stayed there, just slowly breathing in and out, but with each breath I felt more like myself.  

 

I slowly breathed out one last breath, and open my eyes, and again nearly wobbled, because there was a bird perched on the railing, silently watching me. "Oh no oh no oh no oh no" I thought as I tried to decide what to do. If I stood still, would it go away? I was just outside the door, and it was only open enough for me to get out, I didn't think the bird could follow me in, but could i do it fast enough? Birds can move so fast, and while this one didn't look like a hawk, i had no idea what it wanted. I was about to take a step backwards, when suddenly the bird was down on my level, and I knew I was going to die, alone, a million miles above the earth, and I was so sorry the last thing my parents would remember was me hating them, and I hoped it would be fast, and then the bird said "Hello! My name is Rocky, what's yours?"

 

Well, that was not what I expected! I didn't answer at first, still frozen, and the bird cocked their head at me. "Oh, do you not talk?"

I croaked out "no". 

"No you don't talk? But you just talked! Or no you don't not talk? Okay!"

I stared at the bird. I'd never spoken to a bird before. I'd never spoken to an animal before, at least one that actually spoke back, worms never say anything.

The bird was still waiting. "Well, what's your name? And what are you, actually? You're kind of weird looking."

I was still pretty freaked out, but I wasn't going to let that go. "Well, I think you're pretty weird looking! I'm a house hippo, and where I come from we don't talk to birds." I felt bad right away because the bird, Rocky, dropped their head down. "No, wait, I mean we never have, not that we wouldn't, but birds were mostly up in trees? And if owls showed up that was super bad, but as long as you were back inside before it started getting dark at all it was okay. Not that my parents wanted me out, but it was fine.”

Rocky nodded at me. “We have some dangerous birds here too! There’s red tailed hawks and falcons that would come after me, and some that wouldn’t bother me but I think might go after someone your size, though, like the kestrels. Oh, and maybe gulls and crows? But you’re not very brightly colored or anything. Make sure you don’t run across the middle of open places, stick to the side, you’re less likely to get caught. But really it’s pretty peaceful in this area, I’m around here a lot and I haven’t seen many of the scary birds at all.”

“Oh, wow, thanks. I don’t really know what’s out here… what kind of bird are you?”

“I’m a rock pigeon! There’s tons and tons of us in the city, it’s pretty nice. I get bored just talking to other pigeons though, so I go exploring, and I saw you! I’ve never see anyone like you before. Where are you from?”

 

“Well, we just moved here, um, yesterday? It’s been so busy and strange. My name’s Annalise. We came from a nice old house with a yard and lots of places to run around and rooms they didn’t ever even use, and my friend Sandra lived next door and we had lots of adventures, but I’m never going to see her again because my parents made me move here, and I don’t even know why and everything is different.” I’d started out fine, but got kind of upset at the end. Rocky looked worried.

 

“Hey, um, it’s kind of nice here, I promise! I like it, I can show you the nice parts, please don’t be upset!”

 

“I’m sorry, it’s not your fault, it’s just been a lot. I’d like to see some nice places, actually. Where do you like to go?”

 

Just then I heard noises coming from inside, and quickly said "I think that's my parents, I have to go, come back later, okay?" and slipped back inside just in time to get away from the door before my parents saw me.

 

My parents looked a little wary when they looked at me, and I remembered how upset I'd been at them, but I wasn't now, not as much, and I didn't feel like fighting. So I said, "Hi, where were you?"

 

My dad looked really excited and told me they had something exciting to show me. I followed them into a closet, also mostly full of boxes, and to one of the vents, which had a screw loose so we could just get through to the other side. It was some kind of tunnel, that mom said was a duct, and it was pretty dark, but right when I started to get nervous we came out to an opening, and as surprising as everything had been so far, this was more than it all put together, because I was looking at more hippos than I'd ever seen in one place in my entire life! They all raised their heads in greeting and I thought I was going to cry!

 

----

 

Mom explained that this building had at least 20 different little homes in it, and a lot of them had house hippos! It never occurred to me that any other hippos would live in the city, so far away from everything I knew. There were several young hippos. One really young, and several older than me. They came to meet me right away. All of them had been born in the city, which was hard to even imagine - they spent their entire lives in here, and had never had a backyard? But when I said I was sorry for them, they didn't even understand what I meant. Luisa told me that they would take me out and show me how cool it was here, but not to tell my parents. Luisa seemed to make most of the the decisions and was almost grown up, and I realized I didn't want to admit that it sounded kind of scary. I used to sneak outside all the time at home, but this was different - going out onto the balcony was bad enough, and I didn't even know where they were going to take me. They didn't want to say with adults around, and I just gave up. This was my first chance, maybe my only chance, to make friends here, and I wasn't going to throw it away because I felt like a scaredy hippo!

 

Mom pulled me away to introduce me to the hippos who lived on our floor. They seemed nice. The family just next to us had Jamal, who was a little older than me and who was in Luisa's group, and the one down the hall had the baby, Lina. She was really cute, and they said I could come play with her whenever I wanted. I hadn't seen a baby hippo in a while! After that everyone sat around in a circle and they told us all the things to watch out for, all the best ways to get around the building, how the trash chute worked, which apartments had cats. Jamal whispered to me that their family had gotten a kitten back when they lived on the third floor, but our floor had an opening so they just moved up. So easy! It was a lot to take in, but mom's good at that sort of thing and I knew I could ask her if I forgot things. I asked if there was anywhere with plants at all, and I saw some of the adults turn and look at each other and whisper. I got really anxious, what had I done wrong?

 

"Well, there is a little garden on the roof, but..." Isabela, one of the older hippos, paused for way too long, "it's very exposed, and there are a lot of birds out here in the city."

 

"Oh, like kestrels? There are birds everywhere. It's not too bad if you stay on the edges mostly hidden, right?" I realized people were looking at me - did I say too much? "I think I heard that once..." I finished lamely. I decided to just keep going and hope no one would comment. "Do people go up there? How do you get up?"

 

My mother looked at me and said, "It's too dangerous, maybe we'll take you sometime, we'll talk about it at home." My heart fell and I looked down at my hooves. Actual plants, right above our apartment, and they didn't want me going, they never wanted me doing anything. I thought back to Rocky, and how amazing it would be to fly, to be able to get anywhere you wanted, high or low, even over the water. I guess I stopped paying attention, because next thing I knew my mom was trying to get my attention, and asking me something about going to school?

 

Apparently every other day, all the young hippos gathered in the area above the elevator shaft, and grownups took turns teaching us things about the world, and being hippos, and I wasn't sure what else. I'd never heard of such a thing, and I told my mom I guess it sounded okay? Jamal said he'd take me there around sunset the next day, and I just nodded.

 

After that people broke off into little groups to talk. Luisa came by and told me that they'd see me at school tomorrow, and slipped off.

 

---

 

Mom and Dad talked to people for awhile while I watched. They seemed really happy to meet people, which was nice, but I was feeling overwhelmed again. Dad came to check on me, and I said I was just tired, and he said we could head home. When we got upstairs, I spent awhile looking out the door, but I never saw Rocky and eventually Mom was waking me up, telling me to get in the nest and not sleep on the floor. I didn't protest, and fell back asleep immediately.

 

Then Dad was shaking me awake, and I tried to complain that I was still very tired, and he told me to shush, and I listened. He sounded serious. He quietly snuck out of the box, and followed him out, into the closer again, and through the vent. Once we'd walked a little while, he stopped, and explained that the humans were back and had started unpacking, so we needed to get out until things settled down. He took me to Jamal's house, and his mother took me to a very comfy part of the nest - way nicer than towels! - and I went back to sleep. Everyone else in their house was awake, so it didn't feel too weird.  

 

When I finally woke up for real, I found Jamal's mom, and she offered me food, and it was more kinds of food than I'd ever seen! She explained that these humans really liked takeout food, which meant that other people cooked and they took it away? I think? And they ate food from all over the world, kinds of food I'd never heard of. I had some bits of something called scallion pancake, and it was so tasty! I told her I guessed there were some good things about the city and she looked amused.

 

A little while later Jamal took me to school. He said it was early but he wanted me to have a chance to look around before everyone else showed up, which I really appreciated! He explained how elevators worked, and all sorts of things about machinery and the building. I guess it wasn't as big a deal for him, having lived here all his life, but he knew so much about things I didn't even know existed!

 

School was okay. It was Jamal and Lusia, and also Minali and Danica, who lived on the first and second floors and were younger than Luisa. Minali's aunt was teaching us about cats and how to deal with them. Sandra's family had a cat, so it wasn't really anything I didn't know. I stopped myself from saying "where I come from, everyone knows how to deal with cats", because that would be rude. Afterwards, everyone said they would walk me home, but I could tell that wasn't true. They showed me how to ride down on top of the elevator, and took me to the basement. There was a pipe we could walk on top of that went... I didn't know where, but it came out somewhere else underground. They said we were going to a party, and I asked what kind of party and where, and they said I'd see.

 

The party turned out to be in something called a subway station. It was up in this little area that was kind of like a tiny room with no doors - Jamal says sometimes that happens when they are building places, there's just some area that gets blocked off. There were some other hippos there, and also house elephants! I knew my mom had met a house elephant when she was young, but I never had! I tried to play it cool, because I didn't want to be weird in front of my new friends. Someone put on music from some sort of electronic thing in the corner, and everyone started dancing. I had never danced before. I thought dancing was just a human thing, but I tried my best. I really wanted to ask the house elephant more questions, we'd barely gotten to talk at all, but it was just too loud to really talk. Then, before I knew it, everyone was tired and we were walking back home. I was kind of grumpy because I didn't like dancing much and would have liked to actually talk to the other people there, but I didn't want them to think I was a whiny hippo, so I decided to just talk about something else.

 

"So, do you guys ever talk to anyone who isn't our size? Like mice or, um, birds?" I tried to sound casual.

 

"Oh wow, Annalise, birds? Do people actually do that where you come from?" Luisa sounded like she couldn't believe I'd asked such a dumb question.

 

"No, of course not, we don't, but I knew there were different kinds of birds here so I thought I'd ask, I don't know what it's like out here." I tried not to sound defensive, but it was hard.

 

Danica was right behind me, and she said, "Hey, don't worry, it's a fine question. No, we don't. You shouldn't ever trust a bird. Other mammals, maybe, but birds just aren't the same as us. They lay eggs, they fly, and you can't ever know where they've been or what they're up to. My cousin, their family got a parakeet once, who lived in a cage, and he seemed really nice at first, but turned out he was a total jerk. He started squaking whenever any of the hippos were out, trying to get them caught, and they had to move. He was really smug about it too. So, yeah, birds are jerks, stay away from them."

 

Everyone else agreed with her, and I was quiet. Minali started talking about a fight she'd had with her mom, and it was easy for me to just follow them along and not talk. I'd listened to what Danica had said, but I still wanted to talk to Rocky.

 

---

 

I went to sleep as soon as I got home. The humans had settled down enough that my mom had a temporary nest set up. My parents were awake, but apparently someone had told them we were all at Luisa's place after school so they weren't worried. I kept waking up all night, because I wanted to get up around dawn, to see if Rocky would come by. Finally, one of the times I woke up it was starting to get light out, so I snuck out without waking my parents and went to the box room. I waited for a few minutes, and saw some pigeons fly by, but none stopped. I was getting pretty sad, when I saw one land on the railing, and it was Rocky! I snuck outside and said hello and excitedly started telling them about all people I'd met and the things I'd done and the new foods I'd eaten. It was really nice to tell things to someone, instead of feeling like everyone else knew so much more than me, and Rocky was a good listener, asking questions sometimes but letting me talk as much as I wanted.

 

After I'd finished complaining about how no one would let me go to the roof garden, Rocky looked up, and said "I'll be right back!" and flew away without any explanation. I felt really awkward out on the balcony by myself, but I waited. Rocky came back down, and said "Okay, um, hmm, I can't tell how much you actually weigh, but let's try this!"

 

I just stared in confusion. "Try what?"

 

"Get on my back, and I'll see if I can get off the ground. I won't go high!"

 

I was really unsure about this whole thing, but Rocky looked really intent on it, so I very awkwardly scrambled onto their back.

 

Rocky flew up off the ground, and it was the most terrifying and amazing thing in my entire life. I must have sounded really scared, because Rocky came right back down. I got off, and didn't feel nearly as wobbly as I thought.

 

"Okay! I'm sure I can get you up onto the roof. Do you want to go? I can keep and eye out and protect you if anyone shows up."

 

My heart lept. I knew my parents would be furious, but I just didn't care. "Yes! Let's go!"

 

Flying the second time was not as scary, but it was still really intense. It wasn't long, though, because our apartment was on the top floor. When I looked out on the roof, I gasped. It wasn't wild and open like the yard at home, everything was in boxes or rows, but it was beautiful. Some vegetable plants, some fruits, a lot I didn't recognize at all, and it was so green and it smelled wonderful. Rocky kept watched while I explored, rubbing up against plants, feeling dirt under my hooves again. It was amazing.

 

There was a table out there with chairs, and we sat under the table, out of view. Rocky told me all about different parts of the city, and different birds and foods, and explained what a subway was, and answered all my questions without making me feel dumb at all. Eventually I noticed that the sun was getting higher in the sky, and I said I should make sure my parents were looking for me. Rocky promised to come back at dawn the next day, and I snuck back inside and slept many hours more, soundly this time.

 

---

 

After that I mostly settled into a routine. I got really good at waking up at dawn, and would go up to the garden with Rocky and talk. It was the easiest part of my day - comfortable, not confusing. I'd sneak back in before my parents woke up. I spent time with my parents, and every other day I'd go to school, and the other hippos would either take me out, or sneak off somewhere and gossip and tell wild stories. I started to actually like them. Luisa liked to talk big and act important, but she really loved her parents and loved to sing, and was great at it, but was anxious about how she sounded. Jamal, I already liked, he was always considerate and was happy to share all the things he knew. Danica understood everyone really well, sometimes better than they understood themselves, and was very good at stopping fights. Minali was often quiet, but she was absolutely the funniest hippo I had ever met! It all felt very different than back home, things here were faster and both smaller and bigger, it felt like. I missed home and Sandra, but it was starting to feel okay, if not like home.

One morning a few months after we'd moved, Rocky and I were in the garden, talking about nest building, when I heard a hippo crying out from the other side of the roof. I ran over, and looked down, and saw Lina, the baby hippo. She was trying to hide behind a potted plant, and there were two horrible calico cats swiping, trying to get at her. I roared, as loud as I could, hoping her parents would hear me, and tried to think of what else I could do. Rocky flew down right away and started pecking at the cats, trying to get them away from Lina without getting taken down. I was more scared than I'd ever been in my whole life, but I knew I needed to get down there. There was a little awning over the door onto the balcony, and an umbrella open sticking out of a table, and I don't know if I thought at all, but somehow I made it down to the table in one place. I started roaring at the cats, trying to get their attention, and somewhere in there, Lina parents heard or saw what was happening. It must have looked so weird, me on a table roaring at cats while a pigeon attacked them. Then they must have seen their baby hidding behind a potted plant, because they ran out, and her dad ran to the plants while her mother joined me in roaring at the cats. She moved so that there was a clean path to the house, and the cats ran back in.

I looked over at Rocky and saw blood on their wings and cried out. "Rocky! You're bleeding! Are you okay?" Rocky flew up to the table, and looked okay flying. I franticly ran around, trying to see if anything was wrong, not that I knew that much about how to find bird injuries.

"It's okay, it's not my blood, I just got one good hit at one of those cats and got some on me, it's alright, it's alright, is your baby hippo okay?"

I'd almost forgotten about why we'd started fighting to begin with. I looked down at Lina's parents, and they were looking up at me in total horror.

"...Analise... what are you doing with that bird?" Lina's mother asked in horror.

"No, it's okay, Rocky is my friend, we were on the roof and heard Lina crying and came down to stop the cats and--"

"You were on the roof? With a bird? Analise get inside now, do your parents know about this?" She turned to Lina's father "I've got Lina, can you go get Analise's parents right away?"

I saw it all then, my parents horrified expressions, all my school friends looking at me with disgust, every hippo in the building thinking there was something wrong with me, never being allowed on the balcony again, let alone the roof, and if I got down off the table there was nothing I could do to stop it. I looked at Rocky. "Are you sure you're not hurt? Absolutely sure?"

Rocky nodded "Yup, absolutely fine! And you're okay?"

I looked down again, and Lina's mother staring up at me, about to say something else, and I turned back to Rocky and said, "Let's get out of here."

---

We'd never flown anywhere except to the roof and back, but the net building was so close by, that it was no work at all. They had a little garden too, different plants but the same style, except with an area with a lot of little rocks carefully arranged. That was interesting, so I climbed around on that for awhile. Rocky tried to ask me what was up, why we were going somewhere else, but I said I didn't want to talk about it, and Rocky let it be, thankfully.

We fly to other buildings, and then started going across alleyways, and smaller streets. We were pretty comfortable flying together. We trying flying in circles around the top of one building to see when Rocky would get tired, and gave up when we got bored. "Can you take me somewhere really cool? I don't care where, but I need to see something cool." I knew I had to go home eventually, and that I might never see Rocky again, never leave the building again, and I couldn't stand the idea of never having gone anywhere. So we flew, up to tall building, down to what Rocky called fire escapes on smaller buildings, and eventually to a big green place. I stopped breathing when I saw it, and didn't say anything until Rocky landed.

"Rocky, what, what is this? Are we still in the city? What is this?"

"This is a park, and isn't it beautiful? I've wanted to take you here but you didn't seem to want to leave your building, but you asked so we're here!"

"It's so big! And there's a pond? and all these trees and flowers!"

Rocky took me to an area dense enough to mostly hide in, and kept watch while i rolled around in dirt, got into some mud, stayed in some mud for awhile. There was a garbage can nearby with great crusts on the ground, and water to drink, and I felt like I cold stay here forever. Maybe I would, maybe I would stay here with Rocky, it was so much nicer than that stupid building anyway. We went around to different parts of the park, and it was the best day I'd had since we moved. I did my best to not think about hippos, just about the park and Rocky. Rocky introduced me to some other birds, who all seemed totally nice and not like jerks at all. 

I started to get really tired - I'd be away for at least 8 hours. I was wondering where I could find to sleep, when I realized Rocky hadn't spoken in awhile.

"Rocky, what's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Um, Analise, isn't it... time for you to go home?" Rocky wasn't even looking right at me. Oh no, I thought, Rocky doesn't actually want to spend this much time with me. I'm in the way, and keeping them from all their friends and their life, and I have to sleep too much and I'll just be in the way and I don't fit in anywhere. Somewhere in there I guess I started crying, and suddenly Rocky was next to me, with their wing around me, keeping the rest of the world out.

"I'm sorry," I said between sobs, "I don't mean to be in your way, I'll go home, I don't think they'll let me see you again though, they are all horrible and they hate birds for no good reason and I just didn't want to lose you, I'm sorry."

Rocky tried to comfort me, but I was a mess, and eventually Rocky just kept their wing around me until I was just down to sniffling. 

"It's not that I won't want you here, or don't like spending time with you, I do, you're my best friend, but I know how much you love your family, and they miss you, don't they? I don't want to never see you again, but... I don't know what to do."

I tried to pull myself together. "Okay, let's go back. We'll stay on the railing, and try to talk to my parents, but if they freak out, I don't know, I don't... okay."

So we flew back, and I tried not to cry, and to memorize what that amazing park looked like, so it would always be with me. We were going to go straight to our balcony, but we saw hippos on the roof, which I had not expected. They saw us, though, so there no getting around it. We landed on top of a table, a little ways away from them. Most of the building was there. My parents walked over to us, while everyone else pretended not to stare. I had a million things I wanted to say, but decided to just wait and let them start. My mother looked up, and down, and at my dad, and then up again and said "Sweetie, is this your bird friend? We'd like to meet them." I managed to not fall over, but it was hard.

---

It turns out that Jamal had known for weeks about Rocky and hadn't said anything, which I felt really weird about. He had seen us on the roof, and had been really worried for me, but I seemed happy, so he was watching us sometimes. He wasn't going to tell anyone else, and didn't know how to tell me, or if he should, so he just didn't. When everything exploded that morning, he went to my parents and explained everything. There had apparently been a lot of fighting all day long, and some people were still really not happy about it, but in the end it was really my parents' decision, and they decided to give Rocky a chance.

It wasn't easy, but Rocky got some friends to keep watch so hippos could meet Rocky, and get to know each other. Luisa totally blew my mind by being the first one after Jamal to give Rocky a chance - apparently she'd never really understood what was so wrong with birds, but went along with it. Danica's mother admitted the story about her cousin might have been exaggerated, and we, well, we learned to get by? Turns out other hippos were really jealous of me flying around, and started taking turns, on Rocky and Rocky's friends. Once people took trips to the park, well, I knew it as going to work out.

Rocky and I still have our alone time too, our little trips at dawn, seeing the city together. Life in the city isn't anything like what I expected, and I wouldn't change the past for anything, but, well, I guess it's home now!