Ever since Chloe had moved into Victor's Village, Hestia noticed a change in the girl's demeanor. The youngling who had once been all happy and giggly had suddenly turned sullen and quiet. Hestia assumed for the first few days that it was just from sending her parents away, but lo and behold, it just kept going. So, about three weeks after they returned from the Events, Hestia sat Chloe down and had a talk with the girl.
"Chloe, I can't help but notice that you've been really sad since you got back. Is there a reason why?"
"No, no reason," Chloe muttered, looking at the ground and rolling her ankle.
"Oh, come on, you can't tell me that there's nothing wrong. What happened to the happy little girl who got on the train with me in the Capitol? Who got so excited about everything? You didn't even want a giant swirly lollipop yesterday!" Hestia bent down to Chloe's level and looked her dead in the eye. "If you don't tell me what's wrong, I can't fix it and make it better."
Chloe looked at Hestia, thought for a second, then admitted, "I'm lonely."
"Oh. Do you miss your parents?"
"No, not at all."
"Do you miss your friends from training?"
"My only friends from training are Minerva and Marci, and I see them enough, but not a lot because I don't train anymore. But I'm not lonely because I don't see them. I'm lonely because this house is so big and it's just me and you."
"Well, is there something I can do to make you feel better? Spend more time with you or something?"
"No, you're just… I love you but you're like my mom, not a friend."
Hestia didn't know whether to take that as an insult or a compliment.
"I understand that."
"Can you adopt me a sister my age?"
"No, honey, I can't do that. I don't have the resources to take care of two of you."
"Can we move to One and live with Wins?"
"We can't move to One, and I don't know if Wins can realistically move here because of his accommodations at Lavender's dance studio."
"Oh." Chloe looked sadder.
"But maybe we can get a pet?"
Chloe looked up at Hestia. "What's a pet?"
"It's like… a dog, or a cat, or another animal. An animal that you can play with and love and cuddle and spend time with and it'll love you back. Lots of animals are pets."
"I've never had a pet before."
"Would you like one?"
"Yes! Let's go now!"
"Chloe, I don't think we can…"
But before Hestia was finished, Chloe was already out of her chair, in her coat, and halfway through the door. Amusedly, Hestia followed the young girl until Chloe realized that she didn't know where to buy a pet, at which point Hestia took Chloe back to the house. "We'll get a pet tomorrow, but we have to get the house ready so that it's safe for them."
That night, Chloe and Hestia cleaned the house from top to bottom until it was literally glistening. Chloe could barely sleep, but eventually she conked out, images of her dream pet running through her head.
The next day, when they got to the animal shelter, Chloe and Hestia were greeted by a very kind worker, who led her and Hestia back to look at the animals. "Is there a specific pet you have in mind?"
"I want a cow."
Hestia and the shelter worker looked at each other. "A what?"
"A cow. You know, moo moo and all that stuff."
"Chloe, honey, cows aren't pets."
"But why not? You said people have animals as pets. Cows are animals. Cows can be pets."
Hestia chuckled. "Chloe, the cow will be too big to live in the house, and we don't have enough grass for it to live a good life. Plus, all cows are born in Ten, so we'd have to get a cow from Ten to here and that wouldn't work."
"Oh." Chloe was sad again.
"But I have an idea," the shelter worker said. They led Chloe and Hestia to the big dog area. "This is called a Great Pyrenees," he explained, point to a medium-sized white dog. "It's a kind of dog."
"It doesn't look very Great."
"Well, not yet," the shelter worker explained. "But he's still growing. Someday, he'll be like 32 inches tall! That's more than two feet. It's almost as big as a cow."
"That is kinda big. So he'll be my own cow that's not a cow?"
"I guess." Hestia shrugged.
"I want him! I'm gonna name him Milky and he'll be my best friend." This was the happiest Hestia had seen Chloe since she won.
After the shelter worker got Milky out of the cage, they led Chloe and Hestia down towards the counter to do paperwork. But on the way, Chloe caught sight of another white ball of fluff. "Ooh, what's that little thing?"
"That's called a Pomeranian. It's a little dog."
"It's so cute! Will it ever get as big as Milky?"
"No, I don't think so."
"So it'll be a cute little tiny thing forever?"
"I want him too!" Chloe looked anxiously from Milky to the little dog to Milky. It was a truly sad sight to see, watching the little girl have to make the choice between dogs. It was so sad, in fact, that Hestia couldn't quite bear it.
"You know, Chloe, you can have more than one pet."
"Really? I can have multiple?"
Chloe was almost bursting out of her skin with excitement. "I'm gonna name him… Fluffy!"
"That's a very creative name."
"Thank you!" Chloe did not understand sarcasm.
While the shelter worker was getting Fluffy out of his cage, Chloe suddenly caught sight of another ball of fluff. "What's that one? Can I have that one? It looks like Fluffy."
"That's actually a Samoyed," said the shelter worker automatically and mindlessly. "It'll be a medium size dog, between Fluffy and Milky."
"Then I can have big and medium and small white fluffs! Please, one more, Hestia?"
Hestia gave Chloe a look, which instantly turned out to be a mistake; the little girl was giving Hestia the biggest pouty eyes that she had ever seen. "All right, you can have a big and a medium and a small fluff. Now, we're going to check out."
"I'm gonna name him Ghost because he looks like a ghost!"
Bouncing up and down, Chloe ran over to the check-out counter. But she was so excited about all of the animals that she couldn't sit still. While Hestia was filling out all of the paperwork, Chloe wandered off.
"All right, Chloe, we're done… where did she go?" Hestia began to panic; somehow, she'd lost a Victor. "Chloe, we gotta go!" Hestia began to wander around the shelter, looking for Chloe. Luckily, she found Chloe, playing with a bunch of kittens. "Oh, there you are. We have to go."
"But I love these dogs! What kind are they?"
Hestia tried to stifle a laugh. "Chloe, honey, those are called cats."
"Is a cat a type of dog?"
"No, it's another kind of animal."
"Can I have one, please please please?"
Hestia again made the mistake of looking right into Chloe's eyes. "Fine. But just one cat. And that's it."
"Yay! I want this white one and I'll name it Georgie."
This time, Hestia didn't make the same mistake, holding Chloe's hand as she filled out the paperwork, then leading the pack back towards Victor's Village. It must have been a sight to see: a very happy young Victor, three dogs, and a cat, all walking down the road together, all following a guardian who looked both amused and incredibly overwhelmed by all of it.
But at least little Chloe was happy.