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Week 447
You are on Week 448
Week 449

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Four Hundred Forty Eight Ends Friday, February 12th

Laetitia stared into her empty mailbox with a sigh and then slammed it shut. Valentine's Day was only a few days away, and she still hadn't received one Valentine.

"A lot of good sending mine out early did me," the Poogle muttered as she shuffled back up the path to her Neohome. She'd put so much work into the Valentine's greetings she'd sent to all of her friends, sprinkling them with glitter, spraying them with sweet-smelling perfume, and attaching tiny bags of candy to each card. "I might as well have saved the Neopoints I spent on postage."

The days went by and still no Valentines arrived, even though Laetitia faithfully made the trek down to her mailbox every morning. Each day, she was greeted by the same sight: an empty mailbox. And, each day, she went back to her Neohome, muttering to herself, and would tear down another piece of the Valentine's decorations she'd painstakingly put up.

Finally, Valentine's Day morning dawned in a sunrise as pink as a Valentine's card. More out of habit than actual hope, Laetitia trudged to her mailbox. To her shock, it was overflowing with pieces of pink and red paper, some speckled with glitter, some edged with delicate paper lace. There were even tiny gifts, bound up with shiny bows! The Poogle's heart leapt as she gathered the Valentines into her arms. Her friends really did care! They'd just waited until the last minute to get their Valentines absolutely perfect. How could she ever have doubted them?

But when she actually looked at the Valentines, her heart plummeted nearly down to Moltara. They all had the right address on them -- 26 Casandia Circle, Faerieland -- but not one of them was addressed to her!

"Who's 'Arthur Parksworthy'?" Laetitia murmured, reading one card. "Or 'Mintae Chombington'? Or 'Kyrella Letley'? I've lived here all of my life, and I've never heard of any of these Neopets, much less lived with them. How could this have happened...?"

Author: *Cue Sad Music*
Date: Feb 8th
They couldn't possibly be former residents -- the Neohome had been new when Laetitia had bought it.

Perhaps the sender had made an error in the address?

This... seemed unlikely, given the sheer amount of Valentines involved. A single Valentine sent to the wrong address might well be a coincidence. But a whole mailbox full?

No. This had to be on purpose.

Someone was playing a cruel joke on her. That was the only possible explanation.

First, none of her friends had bothered to send her Valentines, and now some awful trickster was mocking her by sending a bunch of Valentines addressed to other Neopets!

Steaming, Laetitia gathered up all the cards into her arms and went inside.

She almost dumped them into the garbage... but it seemed a waste to throw away such pretty things offhand.

She dropped them on the table instead, staring at them for a few moments.

Laetitia picked one up. This one was for "Mintae Chombington." She doubted whether any such Neopet existed, so there was nothing stopping her from opening the card.

It read:

Read the flowers.

That was all. No "Happy Valentine's Day" or "Thinking of you" or any such typical sentiment. Just "Read the flowers."

It made no sense. None whatsoever. Especially given that there was not a flower to be seen...

There had been a small box attached to the card. The Poogle opened it carefully.

Inside was a freshly cut Snap Draik...

Author: cookybananas324
Date: Feb 8th
Its green leaves and red petals still held the scent of a garden, and Laetitia breathed the smell in deeply. Snap Draiks were her favourite flowers, their delicate red petals reminding the Poogle over and over of a certain someone whom she hadn't seen for years now.

Has it really been that long? she thought, clasping the flower in her paws. I miss you more and more each day...

Laetitia sighed, replacing the Snap Draik in its box. She had a smile on her face, the Draik-like flower digging up memories the Poogle had thought were long lost in the back of her mind. Laetitia reached across the table for another card that had a box attached. This card was encased in a brilliant golden envelope, its edges decorated with pink lace and red hearts. The name and address were written in the neatest scrawl she'd ever seen, and it was addressed to one 'Kyrella Letley.'

She peeled off the back of the envelope slowly, revealing an equally beautiful card. It was also gold, but as Laetitia opened it hundreds of little confetti hearts fell on the ground around her.

Read the flowers, it read simply.

With frustration the Poogle placed the card beside the one she had opened earlier. The writing and quality were contrastingly different, yet they both bore the same message. Laetitia carefully picked up the second box, and as she opened it more wondrous garden scents filled her nostrils. This flower was an Aurora Lily, its golden and orange petals bright in the sunlight that filtered through the window.

Read the flowers.

Laetitia didn't have the foggiest idea as to how she should 'read' the flowers, but as she placed the Snap Draik and Aurora Lily side by side, an idea began to form in her mind.

"What if it doesn't mean literally 'reading' the flowers?" the Poogle said out loud as she reached for the final tiny gift box she could see in the mass of Valentine's.

This one was addressed to 'Arthur Parksworthy' and was inside a plain white box. This time a Mighty Marigold was revealed, but it wasn't fresh like the others. Its usually bright golden petals were a dull brown, and the green stems still had dirt-covered roots attached.

Laetitia placed the final flower beside the other two, her eyes sparkling.

It's like a riddle, she thought. A riddle only I can solve! But where to begin?

The Snap Draik and its attached letter had been encased in typical mass-produced pink envelope and box, while the Aurora Lily had been in ones of stunning gold, pink, and red. The final flower, the dying Mighty Marigold, had been in a plain white box. While running these thoughts through her mind, Laetitia came to a sudden realisation. She hadn't read the letter attached to the Mighty Marigold yet!

Reaching for the matching plain white envelope, the Poogle tore it open with ferocity she hadn't realised she had. Instead of the message she'd been expecting, however, a different, longer passage was scrawled in messy writing on the inside...

Author: sadinei
Date: Feb 9th
Although smudged and nearly illegible, Laetitia could just make out the note's scribbled message:

The key to finding love where none may be obvious is to learn to look with new eyes. You must learn to read the flowers, to taste the poetry, and to nurture the sweets. Do this and friendship will be yours in abundance.

The Poogle creased her brows into a frown of deep consternation. She flipped the page over, hoping to find more to the cryptic message, but the back of the note was blank save for a few smudges of pencil lead. She placed the note on her counter and smoothed it out flat, rereading it several times, her lips silently forming the words.

"Read the flowers?" Laetitia asked the empty air. "Taste poetry and nurture sweets? Now this is a riddle." She scratched the back of her left ear absent-mindedly, staring at the ceiling of her kitchen for inspiration. "Well," she considered, "what if it is a literal message? I didn't actually try reading those flowers." Even as she said the words, Laetitia thought it was a ridiculous notion, but she decided that an attempt would at least eliminate the possibility.

Turning to the flowers, she held the Snap Draik up to the bright sunlight that shafted through her window and scrutinised the petals and leaves. As she had anticipated, there were no words or symbols hidden on the beautiful flower, and she indulged in another long draught of the flame red flower's heady perfume. Once more her mind was transported back to an earlier, happier time in her life. And once more she did not allow herself to examine that memory too closely.

She reluctantly replaced the flower on the counter and selected the Aurora Lily next. Examining it, Laetitia confirmed that it was also free of written messages, but as she thoughtfully turned it in her paws, she could recognise that it had a beauty that seemed lonesome and fragile. The Poogle knew that lilies grew in bunches, and this single blossom, while glorious in scent and colour, was a pale example of its kin growing wild and free in clusters of outrageous splendour in the world outside her window. "Just like me," she whispered. With a slightly shaking paw, the Poogle gently placed the Lily beside the Snap Draik.

Turning her eyes to the last flower, the withered Mighty Marigold, Laetitia had to force herself to reach out her paw and take it once more into her grasp. She half-heartedly glanced at its dead petals and limp leaves, knowing that a foreign hand did not write the message of these flowers. The once sumptuous scent was long gone from this flower; it now reeked of decay and rot. This ever-blooming perennial lay supine and flat, never to bloom again or to provide sweet nectar for the Buzz to turn into honey. Running her eyes along its pathetic length, Laetitia gasped when she focussed on its roots once more; the clumps of earth that yet clung to the desiccated roots spoke of a flower cruelly picked in bloom and left to rot, unwanted, unnoticed.

The Poogle dropped it quickly from her paw and drove the heels of her fists into her eyes, saying, "This is ridiculous. I'm not going to cry over this... flower. They're all just flowers." In her heart, though, Laetitia knew that she had read her past, present, and future in the blossoms. In her mind, she knew she had to investigate further the strange and messy note. "What came next then? Tasting a poem?" She sighed and added, "Whatever that means."

Taking a deep breath, the Poogle reached for a pink envelope festooned with multicoloured hearts and bows. She read the unfamiliar name on the front -- Cogston Hurbarter -- and gingerly took out a card that was mounted on a white paper doily. Scanning the message quickly, she muttered, "I guess this counts as a poem." She wondered if she would be able to "taste" the poetry better if she said it aloud, so Laetitia cleared her throat and read...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Feb 9th
"You tried to read the flowers, sweet,
But they seem reluctant to unfold
Their slow petals of meaning:
Then you learned to let them
Speak instead,
You let the Snap Draik sing
Of happier days of yore,
You let the dawn-drawn Aurora Lily tell
Of your present, solitary and wan,
You let the Marigold whisper
A tale of a years cut short
With the caress of its lifeless petals…"

Laetitia paused after having slowly and clearly enunciated these words, dragging each on her tongue as though it were a Faerie Bonbon. She waited expectantly in the hope that this act would trigger another analytical epiphany along the lines of her previous one, where each flower had revealed itself to be somehow representative of stages of her life.

Alas, no epiphany was forthcoming, only silence and the slow-fading perfume of the blossoms on the table.

Laetitia reached for the messy note that had been attached to the Mighty Marigold and reread it.

"Taste the poetry..."

With a quick glance around to make absolutely sure that nobody was watching her, Laetitia picked up the pink card with its enigmatic poem and, after a moment's hesitation, licked the pink paper.

"CANDYFLOSS!" was Laetitia's first, happy thought, because the paper tasted exactly like it -- one of her favourite treats, though few among her friends knew it.

But that was not all: just as candyfloss dissolves on the tongue, so too did the poem on its page. And in its wake was another message:

You have learned to look with new eyes upon things mundane to see their hidden meanings. You have read the flowers and found there your life-line. Now you have tasted poetry and discovered a sweet surprise. Sweetness comes in many forms, though, and this next one you must nurture despite an appearance uncouth. Remember to look with new eyes; a fresh gaze will yield what you seek.

Laetitia waited only briefly before reaching over to the pile of Valentines letters and plucking up the next in the sequence; a dull taupe envelope with a ratty pink trim that was peeling off of the edges. It was addressed, in quite ugly handwriting, to an equally ugly name: Hortense Swampgill.

Laetitia did not rip open this envelope with the alacrity that had characterized her previous letter-opening, because it was such a dreary, ugly-looking thing.

Her first thought was that there was nothing in the envelope at all, and that she had reached a dead-end in terms of this rapidly-developing game of riddles.

However, further inspection revealed a small nut-like object wedged into the furthest corner of the envelope. Laetitia tapped the envelope sharply upon the table and finally managed to dislodge the thing: it was a Bad Seed.

"Ew," said Laetitia, just as thousands of people before her had said upon first seeing a Bad Seed.

"What am I supposed to do with this thing?" she asked to nobody in particular, holding up the seed between her thumb and forefinger to view its ugly features more closely. "Nurture the sweet?"

The fact that the Bad Seed was the least sweet thing she had ever seen did not deter Laetitia for long: a moment later she had fetched a small pot, complete with a handful of soil, and placed it on the counter.

"Here goes..." she whispered, and buried the little Bad Seed in the loamy earth…

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Feb 10th
The Poogle held her breath, expecting magic, but when nothing happened, no flash of cloud and light, she eventually had to release the air in a long whistle of disappointment. As her shoulders slumped, Laetitia muttered to herself, "This is ridiculous. I'll nurture a Bad Seed, if that will somehow lead to love and friendship, but the clock is ticking and Valentine's Day is half over." Shaking the clay pot slightly, hoping to dislodge some magical property, she added, "If this doesn't grow faster, what am I supposed to do then?"

Feeling panicky, she looked around the kitchen for inspiration and her eyes came to rest on her Earth Faerie Sink. With a shrug, Laetitia filled a cup with water and dumped its contents over the potted seed. Other than overflowing its sides with muddy silt, the Bad Seed had no reaction to her efforts.

Just as the Poogle reached for a towel to sop up the overflow, her eye was once more halted midscan; the growing puddle of water had seeped onto the next envelope, revealing a hidden message in the corner where the return address should have been: taste the poetry.

"OK," Laetitia said, apparently to the envelope itself, "I guess I'm back to this." She picked up the damp envelope, noting that the name on its front was now an unreadable blue blur of wet ink, and she carefully pulled a dark brown card out of its sodden enclosure. The poem, written in a childish scrawl in red crayon, said:

"Flowers three describe a fate too soon revealed, too late embraced, a flower's bloom is not its seed taste it, taste the poetry"

Laetitia pondered the words, shaking her head at the fact that they revealed nothing new. "I wonder," she asked herself, "if the message keeps repeating because these cards are in no particular order. Just as every box instructed me to 'read the flowers,' perhaps every card will tell me to 'taste the poetry?'"

Remembering the second message that was revealed when she licked the first poem, and remembering too the delicious flavour of candyfloss that she had savoured, the Poogle stuck out her tongue and dragged the card along its entire length… and proceeded to spit the nasty taste out of her mouth, running back to the sink to drink directly from the tap, pawing at the surface of her tongue until it felt, at last, clean.

"Blech blech blech!" Laetitia complained. "What was that?"

She picked the card up off the floor, from where she had carelessly thrown it in her haste to cleanse her mouth, and she read a new message:

"You have begun to see with new eyes, to look beyond the obvious. Nurture the sweet, where sweets are not seen. As love takes many forms, that which nourishes us may seem foul at first. Learn to look beyond."

"Look beyond?" Laetitia scanned her kitchen once more, trying to see everything as though for the first time. It was then that she spotted an unfamiliar box wrapped in plain, brown paper wedged beside the refrigerator that she must have dropped when she first came in from the mailbox.

The Poogle retrieved the box and gave it a slight shake beside her ear, but the contents provided only a slight and unhelpful thud. She took off the paper, and then the lid of the small box, revealing that the contents were wrapped once more in pink tissue paper, with a notecard sitting on top. On the card were three words: nurture the sweet.

"Well, I think I'm on the right track, anyway," Laetitia said as she set the card aside.

The Poogle gently parted the tissue wrapping and gasped at what she saw: so carefully wrapped within the tissue was a perfectly formed Dung Heart. Her first instinct was to run to her door and fling the cruel parody of a Valentine outside, but she stopped herself in midstride. "That which nourishes us may seem foul at first." Laetitia recalled. "Learn to look beyond. Well, I don't know if this will nourish the sweet, but I suppose it can't hurt."

Laetitia held the box between two fingers at arm's length and dumped its contents onto the top of the soggy soil in the clay pot. Her eyes grew wide with astonishment as…

Author: mamasimios
Date: Feb 10th
The Dung Heart seemed to melt into the soil. And then nothing. There was no more magic, no more surprise. It was just... gone.

Laetitia felt her heart sink. Where was the magic? With a sad sigh, she returned to the table and looked at its contents. There were two unopened cards and an unopened box left.

She found herself moving toward the box. Like the one before, it was a simple, white cardboard box. The label on the front read "Dari Gonorn" and beneath that, in bold, red letters were the words "Handle With Care."

Picking the box up and sitting it on the table, she carefully pulled the lid off of the box. Her paw flew up to cover her mouth as she let out the smallest of gasps.

Inside the box was a large, multi-coloured glass heart. "It's... beautiful!"

Picking the heart up and moving over to her kitchen window she watched in wonder as the heart caught the light, filling it with the colours of the rainbow... and revealing the small, Rainbow Dung Heart within it...

Author: _unknown_voices_
Date: Feb 11th
Right in the centre of the heart was a tiny replica of a Rainbow Dung Heart. It too was made out of glass and seemed to sparkle with its own radiance. "I suppose this is... sweet," Laetitia said hesitantly. For though a Dung Heart is quite a foul object, this one was not.

Laetitia's kitchen was filled with the multicoloured reflection of the glass heart. The heart cast a shadow onto her wall. Where the Dung Heart was carved, the shadow seemed lighter and more pure. Laetitia gently placed her paw against the heart, feeling the smooth texture.

The Poogle let out a gasp as the heart slipped from the window and shattered into pieces. With a tear in her eye, Laetitia went to sweep up the remains, when something caught her attention.

"It can't be..." she said in amazement. A large piece of the heart had remained intact. It was the section containing the Dung Heart. The Rainbow Dung Heart had been perfectly separated from the rest of the heart and seemed to have not a scratch on it.

"This can't be a coincidence," Laetitia murmured to herself. She placed the tiny heart upon her windowsill and swept up the rest of the pieces.

Laetitia returned to the pot of soil, thinking about the contents within. She was suddenly struck with an idea. Carrying the pot over to her sink, the Poogle dumped the contents out. There was no trace of the Dung Heart, not even a smell. She sifted through the soil until she found the Bad Seed.

"I understand." she whispered, more to herself than the seed. "I don't have to nurture you physically. It's in my mind. Though your appearance may not seem sweet, to me you are beautiful. Just like the glass heart, you have your own shine."

No sooner had the words left her mouth, when the Bad Seed cracked open, revealing...

Author: mstaylorlautner
Date: Feb 11th
...five long, delicate petals that sprouted up through the unlikely seed. They were a delightful sky blue covered with powdery, little puffs of white. Once the petals reached their full length, their tips hung down ever so gently so that they resembled... Meerca tails.

The Poogle held in her hand a Cloud Meerca Flower.

She dropped it to the floor with what had to be her tenth gasp of the day. Backing away from the flower, Laetitia pressed her eyes shut tightly, trying to suppress the memories that she had kept dormant for years: Memories that had been creeping up on the corners of her mind throughout the day. Her efforts were in vain, for the past now hit her like an icy cold blast from the Snowager. Keeping her eyes closed, Laetitia finally relaxed her face and allowed herself to be brought back to a time long ago, a time before she had even moved to Faerieland...

Sitting beneath her favourite Candy Floss Tree, a young Poogle breathed in the intoxicating scents of the lush garden around her. The playful Mighty Marigolds planted to her left giggled and bounced in a mesmerising rhythm, while the elegant Aurora Lilies to her right sighed and swayed gracefully in the breeze. All was right in Neopia.

The Poogle's eyelids drooped slightly as the comforting and familiar garden seemed to lull her asleep with a sweet lullaby. Like everyday, she sat in this particular spot waiting for her best friend. However, today was not just any other day. It was Valentine's Day.

In her hands, the Poogle fondled a single Snap Draik, turning it over and over and admiring its eloquence. She held it up to her face, examining it more closely. It really did look like a Draik. The small Poogle smiled happily as she snuggled closer to the trunk of the Candy Floss Tree. Surely her friend would be impressed with such a thoughtful gift. Yawning, she let herself close her eyes as she nodded off into a peaceful sleep...

***

"Laetitia!"

The Poogle's eyes snapped open as she heard the familiar voice. Sitting up, she drowsily looked around. A tap on the shoulder steered her in the right direction, as she turned to face the kind eyes of a red Draik. Laetitia smiled at her best friend.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he said, grinning back at her. "I see you decided to take a little nap."

"Oof!" Laetita muttered as she remembered her friend's gift. Searching around frantically, her heart dropped as she looked down to see that she had rolled over upon the now crushed Snap Draik. Her eyes welled up with tears as she held it up to him.

"I... got you a present, but... I ruined it," she said softy, her watery eyes down-turned so that she didn't have to look up at her friend's face, which was sure to be disappointed. "It was a Snap Draik, and it... reminded me of you," she muttered.

"I love it!" the Draik exclaimed with a gasp. "It's perfect!"

"What? But it's... ruined," the Poogle said, perplexed.

"Of course it isn't," the Draik answered, gently taking the sad, little, smashed thing from her paws. "In fact, now it's even better. Now this little flower has a story behind it, a hidden meaning. Others may look upon it with clouded eyes, seeing merely a crumpled blossom, deprived of its former beauty. But I may look upon it with knowing eyes, seeing it for the wonderful treasure that it is. I may look at it and think, 'My very best friend gave me this. She saw it, and she thought of me. How lucky I am to own such a prize!'"

The Poogle's eyes dried up at the heart-warming speech. He had always been able to surprise her like that, to look at the world more clearly than she, somehow seeing beauty in everything.

"I got something for you, too," the Draik said once he saw that his friend was again in good spirits. He pulled out of his pocket a small white box and gave it to her. "It reminded me of you."

"Oh thank you!" Laetitia said sincerely, opening the plain, white box. Inside sat a Cloud Meerca Flower. The Poogle carefully pulled it out to look it over. The flower was quite stunning, and she was ecstatic to receive such a gift, but she wasn't quite sure why it had reminded the Draik of her. She wasn't painted cloud, and she most certainly wasn't a Meerca.

Seeing the confusion on his friend's face, the Draik chuckled a bit.

"You always told me you wanted to live among the faeries," he finally said, "up in the sky."

"Oh!" the Poogle gasped. "It's so lovely! Thank you!" she exclaimed, giving her dear friend a hug. How she wished that she could perceive Neopia as he did, seeing the hidden meaning in everything...

Laetitia slowly opened her eyes, letting herself come back to the present. She heaved a great, melancholy sigh at the memory. Though she had had many nice friendships since then, none had compared with the kind of friendship the Draik and she had. The Poogle shook her head violently, trying not to remember his name, trying not to remember that horrible day when she had last seen him. She took a deep breath, reminding herself that that part of her life was over, and she wouldn't ever get it back.

Looking at her table that was scattered with the strange array of gifts and wrapping paper, cards and torn envelopes, the Poogle considered throwing the last two unopened cards away and never looking back, but something stopped her...

Author: favonianbreeze
Date: Feb 12th
A neat scrawl, written in fine purple ink upon a pink envelope caught her eye. She still stood, her eyes wet with tears as she starred at the fine writing. It was addressed to one 'Mikael Rutherford', but deep inside Laetitia knew this one, in a greater way than the others, was meant for her. She reached across the table, pulling both the pink envelope and its dull brown companion toward her. Though there was nothing about the brown envelope that particularly stood out -- it was addressed to 'Sammi Goldwin' -- Laetitia decided to open that one first. Its message upon an equally drab brown card was as she had expected: taste the poetry.

Laetitia sighed, knowing this message wasn't required, but she dutifully brought the brown card to her lips and swiped her tongue along its edge. A powerful flavour hit her, one she couldn't discern as any food product. Deep down she knew it was the flavour of memories, not something you ingest with your digestive system, but with your mind.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Laetitia whispered as she placed the card back down on the table. "I was fine without your meddling."

The Poogle lifted the last envelope, its writing that of her Draik friend, to her face. She hated that someone could taunt her so, knowing full well that he wouldn't have been able to write this message. With careful hands she peeled open the edge, expecting the same thing about poetry but instead she had to squint to read the cursive lettering.

This one's for you, Laetitia. I've forced you to remember our time together, the times we were friends. You let that friendship's dreadful ending stop you from ever connecting with friends again, and now the proof is in your letterbox. You claim you have friends, sure, maybe you do, but not in the complete essence of the word. To you they are more acquaintances than anything, you haven't had a true friend since me.

Laetitia sniffed, tears running from her eyes. What sort of cruel prank was this? She knew she'd only ever really had one true friend but... it was impossible that he could have written this!

"Show yourself!" she screamed, casting her gaze around the room. "You're tarnishing Ryan's memory with this sick prank."

The room remained silent, not a single sound in response. No Petpetpet chirped in a cliche way; her neighbour's Warf wasn't even barking like usual.

She threw the last card across the room, her anger evident. A small voice in her head said: You shouldn't be angry on Valentine's Day, of all days! but Laetitia ignored it. It wasn't fair that someone should tarnish Ryan's memory so...

Suddenly a loud noise, that of a thunder crack, sounded from Laetitia's front door. She spun on her heel, running toward the source of the sound. She ran from the room with fury in her eyes, but when she reached the door Laetitia screeched to a halt. An eerily transparent figure stood just within the doorframe, which remained closed. The figure was a Draik, his wide ears perked up and eyes knowing. The Draik reached out for Laetitia, but she pulled away.

"How is this possible?" she murmured, her eyes wet.

"Just accept that what is, is," the Draik replied. "I'm kind of like the ghost of Valentine's past."

"You are... the Snap Draik," Laetitia said, but the Draik shook his head.

"No, the Snap Draik represents your past. I'm just here to show you what you did wrong."

"Did you... did you do all of this?" Laetitia whispered. "Did you send the letters, the gifts addressed to others?"

The ghost Draik nodded.

"Why?" Laetitia asked.

"To show you the mistakes you've made, the ones you have to fix," the Draik responded. "But first there's a memory you have to let yourself remember."

The Poogle shook her head viciously. "I don't want to, Ryan!"

"You can't stop it," Ryan replied, placing a cold, clawed hand on Laetitia's forehead.

The Poogle screamed as she fell to the ground, her eyes shutting of their own accord as images began to play behind her eyelids...

***

"Catch me if you can!" Ryan cried as he ran along the cliff's edge.

Laetitia followed him closely, but just as she reached out to 'tag' him the Draik flapped his wings and hovered in midair.

"That's cheating!" Laetitia shouted, humour in her voice.

She knew Ryan was the worst flier ever and that he would soon tumble to the ground anyway. She wasn't far off either, just seconds later Ryan fell the ground or rather... he fell on top of Laetitia.

"Hey!" the Poogle grunted, shoving her friend. "Get off!"

Ryan jumped up, rubbing one of his wings.

"I think I landed on it funny," he said, wincing as Laetitia reached out and touched it.

"You really should lay off these flying attempts until you finish your lessons properly," Laetitia laughed. "I'm happy I don't have to learn that, it seems so difficult!"

"That's just the thing; it's not supposed to be difficult... for me. I'm a Draik, we're supposed be able to do this sort of thing naturally. My little brother did, remember? He wasn't even a year old when he first flapped his wings and took off!"

Laetitia sighed, reaching over to put a comforting arm around her best friend's back.

"You'll get the hang of it eventually."

The wind gusted strongly around the two and Laetitia shivered.

"Maybe it's time we started to head home," she whispered and Ryan nodded.

"Just let me go pick up my things," the Draik said, tilting his head toward the basket of food and, beside it, a bright red ball.

Laetitia nodded, pulling her arm off her friend's back and coiling both around herself.

"Who knew it could get so cold so quickly?" she mused, watching Ryan go get his things.

The Draik was a few metres in from the cliff as he picked up the basket, but a sudden strong gust of wind blew his ball closer to the edge.

"Ryan, forget about your ball! It's dangerous to go so close, especially with winds like these!"

But Ryan ignored her. Whether it was because the wind was strong and he didn't hear her, or because he simply didn't want to hear her, the Draik progressed to the cliff's very edge where the ball had rested beside a rock. He reached out, placing the basket down to do so. Suddenly the wind grew in strength again, and Ryan struggled with his footing as the draft hit him.

"Ryan!" Laetitia called, but it was too late.

The wind had whipped Ryan over the edge along with his ball, and forgetting her own warnings Laetitia ran with great speed to the cliff's edge. Ryan was fighting against the wind, his wings flapping furiously. Laetitia could see he was tired and hurt... on top of that, his inability to hover for long saw the Draik tumble and fall down... down into the water's murky depths...

"Ryan.... no!"

***

"...no!" Laetitia screeched as the image faded, her eyes opening to the ghost Draik.

She was lying on her couch, the Draik hovering over her, the three iconic flowers held in his grip. He held out the Snap Draik, and Laetitia took it into her paws as she sat up.

"The Snap Draik... I've dealt with that one now, it represents the past."

Ryan shook his head. "You're not finished with that one, not just yet."

"Why not? You made me face my worst memory, something I worked so hard to block out..."

"That's not the end," Ryan cut in. "After that, you unconsciously pushed away anyone who wanted to be your friend."

"I... I did?" Laetitia murmured.

"Yes," the ghost Draik nodded. "Those names on the cards on gifts, they weren't random. They were the names of all the pets over the years who could have been your friends."

He walked across the room to the table, where he picked up a discarded envelope.

"'Kyrella Letley'," he read, "was the Kyrii on your first day at Neoschool who offered you a seat beside her, an offer you declined."

He picked up another.

"'Mintae Chombington', the Chomby who offered you a coffee when he saw you sitting on a bench in Neopia Central crying. You declined his offer because you were too busy thinking of me."

Laetitia shook her head. She didn't want to think about this.

"'Arthur Parksworthy'..." Ryan began, but then he paused. "Perhaps you remember this fellow."

The Poogle squeezed her eyes shut, thinking even though she despised bringing up these memories.

"He was a Mynci... he wanted me to go with him to a Jazzmosis concert, even though he didn't know me," Laetitia whispered. "He just wanted to get to know me, but I refused because it was the anniversary of... of your accident."

She sniffed, wiping a stray tear from her cheek.

Ryan returned to his position beside the couch, offering Laetitia the Aurora Lily.

"As you figured out, the Aurora Lily represents you now. While they are lovely flowers, you really can't see their true impact until you see them in a bunch, together," Ryan said.

Laetitia nodded. "I understand; I've been a fool to think that you didn't want me to be as close a friend to anyone as I was to you."

Ryan reached to wipe a tear from the Poogle's face, and she shivered as his transparent fingers passed through her.

"Finally..." he began. "We have the dying Mighty Marigold, your future if you keep going on like this."

"I don't want to be like that; they're usually such beautiful flowers but this one..." Laetitia said as Ryan handed her the final flower.

"You don't have to end up like that," Ryan replied, revealing another flower. "You could end up like this, how you wanted to be."

He handed her the Cloud Meerca Flower, and Laetitia finally smiled.

"Yes, this is how I want to be."

"Then you need to get out there, and let others in."

"I will," Laetitia exclaimed, jumping up from her seat.

She ran to the door with ferocity, her mind focused on one thing: not becoming the dreary old Mighty Marigold, but the fantastically bright Cloud Meerca Flower she still had clutched in her paw. As she reached to open the front door Laetitia took one glance back at Ryan.

Her eyes were met with nothing, his shimmering shape gone. Though she was sad to see him leave once again, she knew her old friend had done his job, that now he could go back to living in peace, watching over her.

The End

Author: sadinei
Date: Feb 12th



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