Alex was fourteen when she got her first pet. All her school mates had gotten their first at age five or six and some even had more than one. For years, she had demanded, asked and begged her parents to get her a pet boy or girl, but they wouldn't listen. It wasn't a matter of money or space. They both worked for the government and were very high up and their house was bigger than most. The problem was of a more delicate, ethical nature.
Her father was one of those few people who cared about pet rights and her mother agreed to some extent. They claimed that keeping people in cages was... well, inhuman. She had tried to make them understand that she would be kind and that she didn't want to keep her pet in a cage and wouldn't mistreat it for her amusement like some of her friends did. She just wanted some company, some human company that is.
Alex did have some "friends" at school, but she could barely call them that. They didn't understand her and had virtually nothing in common with her. She liked to read and write poetry, draw and paint landscapes and listen to classical music. She wasn't into make up, parties or fashionable clothes like they were, and found them plastic and plain cruel. Most of their conversations revolved around what their pets could do, what they made them wear and what they did to the poor creatures, so she was usually left out. On top of that, they made fun of her for not having a pet. What she wanted was someone she could talk to about the things she enjoyed, someone who would share her interests, listen to what she thought about music, art and life in general and wouldn't laugh at her. Someone who would treat her like an equal and not just a social pariah with no fashion sense.
None of her arguments had been able to persuade her parents to give in to her wishes. They were too busy with work to care about the frail feelings of a fourteen years old who was probably just going through a phase anyway. Her aunt Carla, however, had a more understanding nature and, as a birthday present, she promised to find a way to grant Alex her wish. She was a successful lawyer and had loads of money, so buying a pet for her only niece was something she could easily afford.
When people from The Company showed up with her new companion in the back of a truck in the morning of June 12th claiming to have a birthday present for Alexa Vince her mother was confused. Alex's birthday wasn't until October the first and neither her nor her husband would ever order such a distasteful gift for their beloved daughter. She told the driver that he must have mistaken the address, but he showed her the ownership contract. It wasn't just any contract. Legally speaking, it was perfect.
The paper said the companion was to be delivered to Alexa Vince as an advance birthday present from her aunt Carla, but the girl would be in no way legally responsible for the pet. Neither would be her parents, as was the usual case with minors. Instead, her aunt Carla had written a special contract where she was the official owner and Alexa was added in the contract as the legal care taker. She would be paid a sum every month to take care of her aunt's pet, as she was too busy to look after it herself.
It was brilliant and Alex hadn't expected anything less from her aunt. She knew Alex's parents had been insisting on her taking a part-time job to learn the real value of money, so this was the perfect solution. The law said that her parents, as her guardians, could refuse a gift meant for Alex, but there was no way they could ban from the house a pet that wasn't their legal responsibility, especially if it was a job. They were always talking badly about people with double standards and, since they had already assured her that they would accept ANY job she chose as long as she did choose one, Alex had them right where she wanted.
The three men from The Company carried the cage into the house and all the way up to the attic, where Alex's parents had built her a room so fancy it looked like a miniature apartment except for the lack of a kitchen. The place had the most expensive furniture and was decorated in a trendy way that reflected Mr. and Mrs. Vance's personalities. Alex hated it. She was asleep when her mother knocked on her door and asked her if she was decent. Alex immediately jumped out of bed, took off her pajamas and put on the first clothes she could find. A few moments later, three huge men placed a relatively small cage in the middle of her bedroom's living room and left.
The cage was covered with a thick black fabric and, considering that it was supposed to contain a person, it was shockingly tiny. She thought there was no way someone her size could fit in there standing and shivered despite the excitement she had felt just a moment before. Suddenly, she understood what her parents meant by inhuman and almost regretted having asked for a pet, but she knew there was no turning back. Carla had gone through a lot of trouble to get her a companion and would have to deal with her parents' resentment for a long time. She couldn't just back off after her aunt was willing to make that kind of sacrifices for her.
For a few minutes, Alex just stood there, looking at the covered cage from a safe distance, without daring to go near it. Then, a thought occurred to her: maybe her aunt hadn't been able to get the pet she had asked for and had gotten her a younger one instead. Yes, that made sense. It was probably a six year old and that explained the tiny cage. She should have felt disappointed for not getting the fourteen year old boy or girl that she had asked for but, for some reason, she was relieved. The idea of someone putting her in a space that reduced almost upset her stomach.
Alex gathered courage and, taking a deep breath, she removed the black cover that hid the cage. Nothing in the world would have prepared her for what she saw. It was the most heart breaking thing she had ever seen and an uncomfortable ball formed in the pit of her stomach at the sight of her new companion. Curled in the floor of the miniature jail, there was the saddest and most beautiful human being she had ever seen.
It was a skinny girl. She was around her age, dressed in a plain white dress with silky pale skin and fair hair. Her face was round, with delicate feminine features, rosy full lips and a perky little nose. Her eyes were closed but Alex guessed blue or green. All of that was highly uncommon among pet companions and she knew that her aunt must have spent a small fortune in that girl. "Hell, she looks even more high society than I do!" Alex thought knowing that her raven black hair wasn't really popular among wealthy people like her parents or school mates who, by the way, would have died to call such a perfect creature their own.
The portrait in front of her both scared and fascinated Alex, forcing her to keep staring at the girl who was as beautiful as an angel but looked like an unfairly mistreated martyr. The idea of having a person caged like that made her feel sick and cruel although it wasn't her fault but she just couldn't take her eyes from the cage. She sat on the floor and just stared away, trying to decide what to do with the gift she wished she had never asked for.
Twenty minutes went by before the girl in the cage dared to move. Until then, she had been laying still, pretending to be asleep. The poor thing had dreaded that day her whole life and now that her worst nightmare was coming true, she just wanted to avoid looking at her master for as long as possible. Please, let it be a woman, she begged God. The girl in the cage next to hers had been adopted by a man who returned her to The Company a few weeks later. Every night, while she was curled up trying to sleep, her neighbor would describe to her the most horrific tortures and then promise she would have to suffer the same fate sooner than later.
Her leg was cramping badly, making tears well up in her eyes, but she resisted the urge to change positions for as long as she could before giving in. When she did, she opened one eye and then the other. There were heavy drapes and beautiful carpets all around her. That didn't resemble the dark cold cellar her friend at The Company had described, but didn't prevent her heart from racing inside her chest. There was someone sitting a few feet away but her teary eyes didn't let her focus. She blinked and saw a girl. Thank God! It was a girl with long black hair sitting near her cage. Her green eyes were looking at her but she could tell her mind was somewhere else.