Rico was nearing Marlene’s habitat when he saw Skipper rushing out of the tunnel.
He didn’t even acknowledge Rico’s presence as the two passed. Lucky for him, for he had feared that his leader would have most likely sinabi something about the doll under his arm. Rico turned back and watched as Skipper disappeared into the night’s shadows. It was a bit strange, but he decided to ignore this. He was tired, anyway, and wanted nothing madami than to lie down with his doll. Therefore, he turned again and marched into Marlene’s tunnel with a smile across his beak.
The otter’s tahanan was dark and quiet. However, he heard a faint noise that sounded as though it were creeping from the other end of the shady tunnel. As he moved deeper into the vicinity, he came across what he believed to be Marlene’s main room. The faint noise had now uncovered itself to be a quiet song that was playing from the stereo. It sounded as though a high-pitched man were repeating the words ‘if I didn’t care’.He noticed a few candles that were still dimly aflame. They didn’t provide much light, but it was enough to reveal Marlene, who was sitting on one end of the red table.
Rico set his doll on the ground and carefully took a upuan at the other end of the table. The hayop ng oter was resting her head on the stone surface, sniffling. This immediately caused Rico to slowly shake his head. He knew something had gone wrong. Of course something had gone wrong! Nothing can ever go the way it should, can it?
The ibong dagat suddenly had a nearly unstoppable urge to turn and leave the area. He didn’t want to see this. What had Marlene done to anyone? All she wanted was for everyone to be happy; even Julien, at one point in time. Did she not deserve to feel happiness, too? Perhaps not, in these times. In these times, you’d probably be better off in simply expecting the worst; nothing more.
What ever happened to everyone?
Why were they so distant and afraid of one another?
They had once lived in peace, only having to worry about little things that would have eventually led the residents even closer together. The time when Julien Nawawala his crown, or when Marlene heard noises at night. No one was ever put in any real danger. Now, it seemed as though everyone was merely concerned with romance and other serious problems. In fact, it appeared as though one of them was nearing its approach.
“Rico?” Marlene raised her head to examine who had entered her home.
He only shrugged, giving a weak smile.
The hayop ng oter shut her eyes, allowed a sigh to escape, and then rested her head once again.
“What are you doing here?”
Rico didn’t know how to answer this question. He had always accompanied Marlene in her cave, hadn’t he? Of course he temporarily escaped, but the hayop ng oter didn’t seem to notice, though.
“Never mind.” she whispered, “I forgot about you…”
The ibong dagat sinabi nothing.
Eventually, Marlene sniffed and looked up from the table. Her gaze was now fixated on a candle that was sitting in the center of the red table.
“I don’t know what I did wrong. He just left when we danced.” she paused, maintaining her gaze, “Skipper started shaking. I asked him if he was all right, and he…he sinabi he couldn’t do this…”
Marlene stopped and shut her eyes, feeling hurt sa pamamagitan ng the memory of Skipper leaving the cave like he did.
“I wish he would have at least told me why. He wouldn’t say…anything…” the hayop ng oter broke down and covered her face with her hands.
She was ashamed of pagganap this way in front of Rico. This song probably wasn’t helping her, either…
“I just wanna be alone…”
And so, Rico quietly left the red mesa and turned to leave the otter. But that was when he noticed that a drenched Private had been witnessing the entire scene. The young ibong dagat froze, looking very frightful. Rico also noticed that Private was holding the doll under his flipper.
The angry ibong dagat narrowed his eyes at the sight, demanding an explanation.
“Um…sorry, Rico. Skippa says he wants the doll back. Nothin’ personal. Just orders, is all.” Private slowly backed away, hoping that his unstable teammate would cooperate.
Unfortunately for Private, Rico had no intentions of doing so. Instead, he began coughing; a sign that he was nearing the regurgitation of a weapon. In a matter of seconds, Rico was now wielding a familiar grey crowbar. He had not originally planned on using the crowbar in this manner, but he was desperate. At this point, he wasn’t sure if Marlene was even paying attention to what was happening. She wasn’t making any sounds from behind, though.
This was most likely Skipper’s method of trying to punish Rico for sneaking away from Marlene and stealing from the HQ. Only, Rico didn’t plan on allowing this to happen. He was finished with letting everyone step on him. This was his time to stand up for what he wanted most; no matter the cost. Rico took several steps forward, trying to intimidate the young Private.
Rather than drop the doll and flee, Private turned and began to run for the exit, taking Rico’s possession with him.
Rico decided to act now.
The heavyset ibong dagat charged after the young penguin, managing to reach him with ease. Once he had caught up with the slow-moving one, Rico lunged forward, tackling Private to the ground. However, he continued to scramble from Rico’s crushing weight and attempted to rise to his feet in an escape. He still had Rico’s doll, which induced the following tragedy.
Rico crawled after him and swiftly threw the crowbar towards Private. The weapon hit the young one in the back of his head, causing him to immediately lose his sense of balance and awareness. After dropping Rico’s doll, Private stood there for a moment, swaying left and right. Then, he fell forward, flat on his beak.
The bulky ibong dagat dropped the crowbar and quickly hurried to Private’s side, only to grab his doll and give it a big, loving hug. With a smile across his beak, Rico continued to embrace the doll, seemingly unaware of what he had just done. This was when Marlene finally took the time to notice what had just happened. After drying her tears, the hayop ng oter rushed to the scene.
“Rico, what did you do?! Private, are you okay?” she asked, kneeling down to the still penguin. She then looked back up to Rico, “What happened?”
He responded with wide eyes and a simple shrug, still embracing his doll.
“Agh, never mind. Stay here, Rico!” Marlene demanded while she hoisted the soaking wet ibong dagat over her shoulder and rushed out of the cave, into the rain.
That night, Rico began to regret what he had done. In a way, he was still happy to have reunited with his doll. But, he didn’t want Private to be in any danger from what he did to him. He began to wish that he could simply go tahanan and apologize; act as though nothing was wrong.
But it was too late for that, now. Kowalski would feel too uncomfortable around him, Private would be afraid of him, and Skipper would never forgive him for everything that had happened. Plus, he wasn’t so sure how long Marlene could keep up this babysitting duty; and he wasn’t about to stay with Julien, either.
No, he was far beyond the point of no return…